DC Histories: Alan Scott (Green Lantern I)

Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about very first Green Lantern, Alan Scott.

All-American Comics (Vol. 1) #16 (1940) Cover

All-American Comics (Vol. 1) #16 (1940) Cover

The early 1940s was a high point for green named superheroes. The Green Hornet had debuted in 1936, but his first film serial came to cinemas in January of 1940. That same year, the Green Lama debuted in the pages of a magazine titled Double Detective. Green Arrow arrived in 1941. In the midst of all this green rose another hero: The Green Lantern. Created by Bill Finger and Martin Nodell, the very first Green Lantern debuted in the pages of 1940’s All-American Comics #16.

Alan Scott started off as a construction engineer. As he crossed over a bridge his company built, a rival engineering firm blew it up, sending the train, the bridge, and everyone nearby falling to the ground far below. Alan, who had been holding onto an old train lantern, survived the plummet. He was the only person who did.

From All-American Comics (Vol. 1) #16 (1940)

From All-American Comics (Vol. 1) #16 (1940)

The green lantern turned out to have been formed from the ore of a meteor. It called itself the Green Flame and it told Alan the tale of how it had come to Earth centuries earlier. It had first been turned into a lantern in China but it eventually came to America. Along the way, the lantern had killed evil men and saved the sanity of another. It promised Alan power if he would construct a ring out of a piece of the lantern. By charging that ring in the Green Flame, he would weld immense energy. Alan agreed and used the ring to hunt down Dekker, the man responsible for the train crash. After getting Dekker’s confession, Alan designed a costume and continued to fight evil as the Green Lantern.

He discovered that he had to charge the ring every so often by touching the lantern powered by the Green Flame within. Alan took to reciting an oath while doing so.

From All-American Comics (Vol. 1) #18 (1940)

From All-American Comics (Vol. 1) #18 (1940)

At first, Alan’s powers were fairly straight forward. He could fly, he could pass through walls, and his ring shot out a beam which could block attacks. Slowly, the power of his ring began to expand. It became an offensive weapon, able to strike those whom Alan was fighting. Gradually, Alan made constructs with his ring through sheer force of will. Instead of just making a beam of energy, the ring allowed him to create anything he could imagine. It was a very versatile weapon. It did have a single weakness in wood. A wooden blackjack or even a branch easily passed through any of Alan’s constructs. It was a minor, but noteworthy, flaw in his power.

Many superheroes gained sidekicks in the Golden Age. Batman had Robin. Plastic Man had Woozy Winks. And Alan Scott had Doiby Dickles, a Brooklyn cabbie with a thick accent. He was the humor of the Green Lantern book, quick to infuse Alan’s stories with physical comedy.

From All-American Comics (Vol. 1) #27 (1941)

From All-American Comics (Vol. 1) #27 (1941)

During this time, Alan also changed careers. From his start as an engineer, Alan moved over into the new field of television. Soon, his charisma and presence got him both in front of and behind the camera when he landed a job as the General Manager of the Gotham Broadcasting Company. This placed him firmly in Gotham City alongside Batman, though the two heroes never met during this time period.

From Justice Society of America (Vol. 1) #3 (1991)

From Justice Society of America (Vol. 1) #3 (1991)

Aside from Doiby, Alan had a secretary named Molly Mayne who was a constant companion of his. Desperate to get his attention, Molly took to dressing up in a fanciful outfit and calling herself Harlequin. She committed small crimes but nothing too extreme. She joined the Injustice Society at one point, but quickly turned on them once she knew the extent of their plans. In the end, Molly never managed to turn Alan’s head and she eventually gave up her criminal career.

From Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #2 (1992)

From Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #2 (1992)

Around this time, Alan joined the Justice Society of America. There he joined his contemporaries like the Flash, the Atom, and Dr. Mid-Nite in the fight against evil.

Outside of the JSA, one final member of Alan’s entourage appeared in 1948. Streak the Wonder Dog showed up to accompany Alan on his various adventures. Doiby’s second banana status had been usurped by a mutt.

Green Lantern (Vol. 1) #30 (1948) Cover

Green Lantern (Vol. 1) #30 (1948) Cover

By the late 1940s, the superhero fad had faded. Other genres were exploding in popularity and many of DC’s former heroes were falling by the wayside. Alan was no different. His solo series ended with issue 38. So unloved was Green Lantern by the end that he wasn’t even on the cover of several of his issues. Streak was the only hero shown on the cover of Green Lantern‘s final issue in 1949. Two years later, the Justice Society’s adventures came to an end when All-Star Comics was cancelled. Alan Scott was gone from the comic book scene, seemingly forever.

Green Lantern returned in the pages of 1959’s Showcase #22. Unfortunately for Alan Scott fans, this Green Lantern was a brand new character named Hal Jordan. The story behind his powers was completely different than Alan’s. Instead of a magical green lantern made from the ore of a meteor, Hal’s powers were given to him by a group called the Guardians of the Universe. Eventually, it was revealed that Hal Jordan existed on a world known as Earth-1 and Alan Scott lived on a world called Earth-2. These were separate worlds and universes. Over time, a way to move between these universes was found and the Justice Society of Earth-2 met the Justice League of Earth-1. Alongside their respective teammates, Hal and Alan met for the first time in 1963.

From Justice League of America (Vol. 1) #22 (1963)

From Justice League of America (Vol. 1) #22 (1963)

The return of the Justice Society brought a new interest from fans. Thanks to an annual meet up between the JLA and the JSA, fans of the DC’s Golden Age characters grew. Slowly, the members of the JSA began to appear here and there in the pages of backup tales in other characters’ magazines and even occasionally guest-starred alongside their namesakes. For example, Alan teamed up with Hal for an adventure in which a rogue Guardian of the Universe named Krona made his first appearance. The madman found a way to take over Alan’s body and forced Alan to do his bidding.

From Green Lantern (Vol. 2) #40 (1965)

From Green Lantern (Vol. 2) #40 (1965)

As Alan’s story continued in the pages of other people’s comics, more changes were in store for the original Emerald Warrior. Alan began dating a woman named Rose Canton. Rose was an old villain of the original Flash’s who went by the name Thorn. She eventually renounced her wicked ways and appeared to be sane. She and Alan fell in love and were married. However, when Rose found herself pregnant, she left Alan before he learned of her pregnancy. While away from Alan, she had a set of twins named Jeanie-Lynn and Todd. These children were placed in the foster care system and, thanks to their father’s abilities affecting them on a genetic level, went on to be the super powered individuals known as Jade and Obsidian.

From Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #2 (1992)

From Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #2 (1992)

After Rose, Alan found himself reunited with Molly Mayne, his old secretary and former Harlequin. The two made up for lost time by marrying though children remained illusive for the couple.

In the mid-1980s, the Crisis on Infinite Earths affected the entire DCU. At the end of that miniseries, the multiverse was no more. Earth-1 and Earth-2 no longer existed. Now, it was simply Earth. In this new continuity, an explanation had to be made for how Alan Scott was a Green Lantern but not a member of the Green Lantern Corps, which was powered by the Guardians. It was now said that the meteor that came to Earth all those years ago was distilled magic, gathered together by the Guardians millennia ago and sent off into the universe. Only random chance brought the ore to Earth, which eventually came into Alan’s possession. It was the Guardians who indirectly made Alan Scott a Green Lantern, but he was not beholden to their whims.

From Secret Origins (Vol. 3) #18 (1987)

From Secret Origins (Vol. 3) #18 (1987)

In 1994, the Justice Society was put out to pasture. During the events of Zero Hour, original JSA members Dr. Mid-Nite, Hourman, and the Atom were killed in battle. Doctor Fate and Starman were aged nearly to death. Alan, after seeing the absolute annihilation of his friends, decided to give up his superheroing gig. The Green Flame, now known as the Starheart, kept Alan looking much younger than he should have but he still felt old. He wanted to settle down with Molly and peacefully live out the rest of his life.

From Zero Hour #2 (1994)

From Zero Hour #2 (1994)

One cannot simply stop being a hero. Shortly after the events of Zero Hour wrapped up, Alan found that even though his Green Lantern ring and physical lantern were gone, he still had the power of the Starheart within him. Those energies hadn’t left him when he’d taken the ring off. All those years of being exposed to that energy changed him from within and Alan remained as powerful as ever. In order to allow Kyle Rayner to remain the only Green Lantern in the DCU, Alan decided to ditch the Lantern symbol and take the name Sentinel.

From Showcase '95 #1 (1995)

From Showcase ’95 #1 (1995)

Though the Justice Society was seemingly destroyed forever, a new version of the group rose up just a few years later. The only surviving founding members of the team were Alan, Jay Garrick’s Flash, and Ted Grant’s Wildcat. Alongside Jack Knight, son of the Golden Age Starman, and several other heroes, the JSA was forged anew during the funeral of Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman. Though Alan had gone back to having a Green Lantern symbol on his chest, he still went by the name Sentinel.

From JSA #1 (1999)

From JSA #1 (1999)

While with the new JSA, Alan became a founding member of a new group called the Sentinels of Magic. With several other magic users in the DCU, like Zatanna and Blue Devil, Alan was always on call to deal with the magical problems of the world. Somehow, between all of his adventures with these two groups, Alan remained faithfully and happily married to Molly.

A few years later, Alan found himself in a battle against his son Todd. The superpowers that Todd had grown up with were driving him mad and causing him to lash out at the world. The Starheart’s energy was removed from Alan during this adventure. At the last moment, when it seemed as though Todd would kill his own father, the Starheart was returned to Alan, which changed back into its 1940 form of a green ring. Sentinel was no more. Once again, Alan took up the moniker of Green Lantern. The newly restored Alan was able to overcome his son and teach him how to control his abilities.

From JSA #50 (2003)

From JSA #50 (2003)

For much of the next few years, Alan remained a vital part of the Justice Society. Whenever a new hero emerged who was somehow connected to the original members of the JSA, Alan took it upon himself to mentor him or her and allow membership into the world’s oldest superhero family.

In 2011, a short lived change to Alan’s status quo happened. It became apparent that Alan no longer had a physical body. Now, he was comprised completely of Starheart energy and Alan Scott memories. To reflect this internal change, Alan took on a new costume. Since he was a living being made out of Green Lantern energy, Alan changed himself to look like a living Green Lantern. It was a poor choice.

Justice Society of America (Vol. 3) #49 (2011) Cover

Justice Society of America (Vol. 3) #49 (2011) Cover

Only a few months later, this look, and all of Alan’s previous continuity, was wiped away in the New 52. When the new continuity began, Alan and his old teammates were nowhere to be found. Soon, Earth 2 debuted and in the pages of that book, Alan Scott debuted for the second time. This series takes place on a world outside of the mainstream DCU. Now a young, gay Gotham Broadcasting Corporation mogul, Alan stumbled across the power of the Green Lantern in the same way he did in 1940. When the train he was riding exploded, Alan discovered that his survival was due to the choice of an entity called The Green. It was the embodiment of all the Earth’s power and it choose Alan as its guardian.

From Earth 2 #3 (2012)

In the pages of Earth 2, Alan continues to learn about his abilities and his place in the world. It seems likely that sooner or later, the main DCU will crossover with the characters on Earth 2. How will Hal and this new, younger Alan get along? Will they be the casual allies they were years ago or will their be friction in their relationship? Only time will tell. For now, we’ll just have to enjoy the adventures of this new, inexperienced Alan Scott as he finds his place in the universe.

 


Jeff Reid always had a soft spot for Alan even if he never particularly enjoyed his costume. Jeff sometimes posts updates about what he’s wearing on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I’ve never cared for Alan Scott, or even Jay Garrick. I’ve always liked Hal Jordon and Wally West more (and to some extent, Barry Allen). Then again I wasn’t exposed to them very much in the 90s except for Bruce Timm’s analogue of the JSA in JL (Can’t remember what he called it). Still, it looks like Alan has his own interesting history. Although that living lantern one is bad. Really bad, was Zapp Brannigan in charge of designing it? The New 52 one looks much much cooler. Its funny, I thought the new version was made up of a giant metal breast plate and green flames.

    Still, fun article. I forgot Bill Finger helped create him.

  2. A great look back on a great character. I know that it’s impossible for these articles to be 100% thorough but I do have a couple of questions/missing key developments.

    1. In the JSA series it spent some time detailing the history of the Post COIE retconned history of the Justice Society that existed in the 1940’s. That he was among the very first “super-heroes” and guarded America during WW2 only for the team to be brought down by political backlash in the 50’s-60’s.

    2. Somewhere along the line he was de-aged? (It was around the same time that Wildcat mysteriously got 9 lives) to explain how they were still around in the 1990’s JSA team. Anybody remember how that happened?

    3. Didn’t he marry Molly in Post COIE continuity before the JSA reformed and she returned to her villianous roots in the Underworld Unleashed event? Didn’t Neron have something to do with it?

    4. After Infinie Crisis and OYL he was made King of Checkmate right to replace Maxwell Lord. I started that Checkmate series and it was really good but never finished. Did he stay King till FlashPoint?

    • Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      Thanks for reading!

      1. I covered the history of the JSA in the DC Histories article on them about a year ago. I linked to that piece both in the article itself and in the “Related Posts” area. This post was already running long and I didn’t feel the need to retread that ground.

      2. He and Jay Garrick’s ages jumped around a lot post-Crisis. I could have hit that harder in this article, but it had to do with the JSA’s time in Limbo (and the fact that comic writers wanted the characters to remain viable), something I also covered in that earlier article.

      3. That was a small part of the Underworld Unleashed event, yes. It wasn’t a huge status quo shift so I didn’t bring it up here because the piece was already running long.

      4. You’re right. I left off Checkmate by accident. His time with the group didn’t affect him hugely, but I should have at least mentioned it. Checkmate is on my “to-do” list for the DC Histories and I’ll be sure to talk about his time with the group then.

  3. Great article. Great character. I always had a fondness for the original JSA characters, and as much as I enjoy the current Earth 2 (at least until Robinson leaves), I hope we see them again someday. I understand that part of the motivation behind the relaunch was to shed the old and leap into the new, and it’s doesn’t get older than the JSA. But I always liked the idea that they were kinda frozen in time. I think a series that takes place on Earth 2, but features the characters as they were in the Golden Age could be lots of fun. Time will tell I suppose.

    That 2011 Lantern was ghastly. Thank God that flew under my radar.

  4. I didn’t read Earth-2, but “The Green” chose him? Does that him a Green Lantern or a Swamp Thing?

  5. As always, a great article. I realize that it was already a pretty long post and that you couldn’t cover everything, but do you remember the three issue Batman/Alan Scott story by Brubaker that ran in Detective Comics a while ago (I believe it was collected with The Man Who Laughed)? If I recall, Bruce talks about how Alan Scott was one of his inspirations in being Batman. A nice story, I thought . . .

  6. What villain dubbed GL the Green Latrine? The thought got into my head and I can’t get it out. Potty humor. I find it funny…

  7. As much as a love the JSA, I just cannot get into the new Earth 2 book. Its just not my JSA, but i feel pretty confident we will see them again someday. (if DC has any sense that is)

  8. Totally forgot about that HORRIBLE costume of him looking like an actual lantern. What the hell was Guggenheim thinking?

    As a write up on one of my all time favorite characters I thank you for this Jeff. Great research and love was put into this. Gonna bookmark it as a reminder to how awesome Alan Scott is.

  9. Great article, Jeff!
    I can’t believe I never picked up on how the New52 origin involving the train wreck was an homage/echo to the original 1940 origin. I appreciate James Robinson’s take all the more now.
    And yeah, that “Living Lantern” look from 2011… yeesh. I am glad that got erased and forgotten.
    Also, I like that you didn’t make a big deal out of the New52 Alan being gay; it seems like every other historian or reviewer has to weigh in on that, when truth be told, there is so much about Alan Scott to discuss that his orientation need not overshadow the rest.
    Looking forward to your next article.