Wednesday, January 08, 2014

BOOK REVIEW! GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW by Dennis O'Neill and Neal Adams (DC, 2012)

Sure is swell that DC decided to reissue the entire two year/thirteen issue run GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW series. Given all of the hubbub that these stories created what with the comic book idiom finally discovering the cutting-edge issues of  the day (which wasn't quite the case as a peek into any issue of THE HAWK AND THE DOVE would prove), GL/GA certainly was an important title in the history and development of comic books. Even in a day and age when there's hardly any way we can escape the usual moral relativism and hammered-in socio/politico messages provided by the Entertainment/Academia/Governmental megaglopolix, these stories read as boss late-Silver/early-Bronze Age stories with hot art, good if at times pretentious scripts, and why let subjects like slumlords and racism get in the way of a good adventure anyway?

Yeah it was a stroke of somethingorother to take a title that probably wasn't pumping on all cylinders and revamp it to snuggle in with the mindsets of "today's relevant youth," and even an old whackoff like myself must admit that these GL/GA stories did it just swimmingly. The best thing about DC comics' early-seventies dive into the "relevant" swamp of youth consciousness is that MOST of the time they actually did it right, and subtly enough w/o coming off like BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN mixed with rotational spinnings of "One Tin Soldier" and "Things Get a Little Easier (Once You Understand)." Let's just say that the good writing courtesy Denny O'Neill (even with his lapses into artsy Glade air-freshener prose) and art via Neal Adams take a front seat to the message at hand, no matter how timely or youth-oriented it may be.

Yeah, Green Lantern does emit airs of sick white liberal guilt more'n a few times in these sagas...I mean just look at his shameful response in #76's "No Evil Shall Escape My Sight" when an elderly Don "Bubba" Bexley type confronts the power ring'd one with the pearl "I been readin' about how you work for the blue skins...and how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins, and you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there skins you never bothered with...the BLACK skins!" Lantern's cringing response is something that I sadly must admit is something right outta grovel and emote progressive television script #1,647 or Brian Ritchie's "Christians For a Day"...the sorta shame and self-conscious realization of that evil white privilege which somehow even the lowliest dirt poor white must wallow in that enlightened Hollywood writers just love to infuse into their stories! (Of course they are exempt---I mean well-off scribes who never ever traipse into South Central El Lay are superior to mid-South white trash who work side by side with blacks doing menial labor, aren 't they?)

But don't fret, because even though the pair (along with Earth Two refugee Black Canary, who incidentally is about as white as they come) do battle everything from greedy capitalists taking over Indian land to the population explosion, the stories are for the most part on par with what the Marvel-ites were doing at the exact same time with or without the social consciousness. And, thank God or Julius Schwartz or whoever comes first, they were also a whole lot less didactic (well, some of the time!) than some of the other DC titles which were going out of their way to preach their entire readership into bleeding heart upper class schmooze (if you don't believe me, pick up the WORLD'S FINEST Superman/Teen Titans saga "The Thing That Destroyed a Town," and it wasn't the big monster on the cover but YOU AND ME!).

I will say that by the advent of the 25-cent 52-page issues towards the end of 1971 the hippydippy-meter was starting to click away more'n a Geiger Counter shoved up the Hulk's ass. The two part saga dealing with drug abuse contains way too many suppositions and "heartbreaking" (in a Huffpo way) neo-facts to hold up even if the action part of the story is straight outta Silver Age heroesville. I mean, wasn't it a whole lot more truthful and honest when people did drugs just to have a good time rather'n blame it all on the older generation or society at large? Leave that crap for those street kids who used to play Phil Donahue and Bill Moyers like a violin; at least those down 'n dirty types who just wanted to get high always seemed more with it and hip than those who used 'em to either get back at society or milk sympathy outta the usual bleedheart suspects.

But hey, I guess the pumping up of the teenage emote meter really did help the mag's notoriety...after all while most other comics sported one page of fanmail GL/GA had three, and if I remember correctly one of the fans writing is was none other than New York mayor John Lindsay!

By the time the last issue to feature any original material (#89) popped off the presses, O'Neill and Adams really flew off the handle of tasteful if at-times cloying relevance with an allegorical Jesus hippie ecological tale that tops 'em all as far as dragging every 1971 youth culture cliche out of the high school newspaper office and milking 'em for all they were worth. For years I wondered whether or not the title got canceled because of this particular saga which re-enacted the crucifixion in terms of a dying planet complete with the standard knock 'em over the head moralizing  (c'mon Comics Code Authority, what are we payin' ya for???), though all I gotta say is that if the title just hadda go out for whatever reasons were given they really went out on a bang! But still, seeing O'Neill drag out that ol' Jesus was a hippie routine does kinda make me wanna puke up the last three rounds of Carnation Instant Breakfast I've been downing these last few days.

The following sagas taken from THE FLASH weren't nearly as paternalistically pious, but I guess by 1972 nobody cared about these message laden tales anymore. They do serve as a kinda limp finale to a series that helped change comic books (perhaps for the worse), but their inclusion does sorta stand as evidence of an industry that, although growing ever by leaps and bounds, just wasn't the same as it was a good ten years earlier when it was catering to a buncha Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kids who couldn't care one whit about population explosions or grubby landlords. And hey, maybe we were ALL better about it just because we DIDN'T care!

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