Hal Jordan once said that John Stewart bears “a chip on his shoulder bigger than the rock of Gibraltar,” and that might hamper his abilities to be a Green Lantern. But as we’ve learned, it’s only helped make him great.
Created back in 1971 by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams, the Detroit native John Stewart was ushered into comics as a third string back-up for Hal Jordan after Guy Gardner was injured in the line of duty. Jordan initially bristled at the idea of Stewart as a Green Lantern given his distrust of authority figures, but that ability to not be dissuaded became the foundation of Stewart’s long history in the DCU. In the 1980s, Stewart eventually stepped into the role of the primary Green Lantern for the space sector containing Earth, being the lead character for two years of the Green Lantern series. In the early 2000s Stewart climbed up another rung of popularity when he was featured as the Green Lantern in the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series — making him “the” Green Lantern for children and young adults who watched and are now growing into adulthood.
With Stewart taking on a major role in the Green Lantern Corps comic series this season, iFanboy is spotlighting this great stand-up character in this week’s Where Do I Start?.
Green Lantern: Mosaic #1-18: In 1992, DC Comics tasked comics historian Gerard Jones and then newcomer artist Cully Hamner with crafting a solo John Stewart series tying into recent events in the main Green Lantern series which saw a patchwork collection of cities from different planets being abducted and transplanted to Oa by a rogue Guardian named Appa Ali Apsa. The concept is a little complicated, but Jones and Hamner developed the series admirably into a social morality tale ala the Star Trek television series, but cloaked in the garb of super-heroics and science fiction. It was a great series, especially for Stewart whose character had undergone some severe impediments in his personal life and his own physical well-being. The series was even a great seller, but was reportedly cancelled due to edicts from upper DC management dealing with the reinvention of the Green Lantern line the rise of Parallax and Kyle Rayner becoming the primary Green Lantern. The series has sadly never been collected, but is available relatively inexpensively in back issue bins.
Green Lantern #87: This is where it all began for John Stewart. The marine-turned-architect was recruited back into the service — in this case, the Green Lantern Corps — in this issue, during O’Neil and Adams’ great run where Green Arrow shared the Green Lantern title amidst a socially conscious and forward-thinking time for the duo. Stewart is introduced at odds with Jordan, showing just how different the two Lanterns were while not turning Stewart into an antagonist. This has been collected in various general Green Lantern collections, but as none are Stewart-specific I’d recommend just saving your money and tracking down this issue on its own in print or digitally.
Green Lantern: The Road Back: Set just prior to the events of Green Lantern: Mosaic, this collects the renumbered 1992 Green Lantern series first eight issues which finds Hal Jordan at the end of his rope when it comes to being a Green Lantern. Written by Gerard Jones and drawn by Pat Broderick and Bruce Patterson, this story titled “The Road Back” deserves a better name such as “The Last Ride of Hal Jordan” as it shows fellow Lanterns like Guy Gardner and Stewart trying to talk Jordan down from his decision to quit the Corps and let himself go to insanity which would eventually result in him becoming Parallax. Although Stewart’s not the main character in this, I’d argue this eight issue run shows how the character works in contrast to the other two primary Lanterns in Jordan and Stewart.
Green Lantern #185: Another John Stewart story sadly never collected, this issue is early on in the 18 issue run of Green Lantern where Stewart is the primary Green Lantern for the Earth Sector. This issue is especially important as it gives a second ,more concrete, glimpse at Stewart’s origin and is told by the excellent team of Len Wein and Dave Gibbons. Told over a dinner between Stewart and a TV newscaster, the story shows how Stewart was recruited and his training under Katma Tui. The issue does get weighed down in some Hal Jordan story for a time, but all in all this is the best single issue story to get to know John Stewart.
Justice League Beyond #7 and #8: This recent one-two punch slipped under the radar for many people (including me), but it tells the story of the final days of John Stewart in the context of the DCU Animated Universe and as the origin of his child, the future hero Warhawk. Written by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs and drawn by Eric Nguyen, it shows how Stewart’s romance with Vixen was cut short and the long road to vengeance and the price for it. It also tells of a surprising hookup for Stewart I won’t spoil here, but for fans of Stewart or the animated Justice League shows in general, it’s a must-have. This is collected in Justice League Beyond Vol. 1, but is also available inexpensively as single issues in print or digitally.