Today we look back on the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the original “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” era of Green Lantern and Green Arrow, where things ended with… a crucifixion?!
It’s “Look Back,” where every four weeks of a month, I’ll highlight a single issue of a comic that’s appeared in the past and talk about that issue (often on a larger scale, like the series in as a whole, etc.). Each spotlight will be a preview of a comic from a different year that was released in the same month X years ago. The first spotlight of the month takes a look at a book released this month ten years ago. The second spotlight is on a book released this month 25 years ago. The third spotlight looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth spotlight looks at a book released this month 75 years ago. The occasional fifth week (we’re looking at weeks in a broad sense, so if a month has five Sundays or five Saturdays, that counts as having a fifth week) look at books from 20/30/40/60/70/ 80 years old.
We go back to February 1972 to The Green Lantern #89 (by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams), the original conclusion to the “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” era of Green Lantern and Green Arrow.
WHAT WAS THE HARD TRAVELIN’ HEROES ERA?
Amazingly, the first issue of the “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” era was precisely two years before the last issue (the book was not published monthly, which is why only two years saw the book go from #76 to No. 89). I wrote about the first issue as a throwback to 2020.
The issue opened up with Hal Jordan while on a regular city patrol where he saw a group of people outside a building apparently going after a lone elderly man. Hal Jordan rushes in and saves the man, but when Hal takes a beat where he expects to hear the audience share their approval for his heroism, he’s shocked when they approach him instead! And into the fray jumps Green Arrow, who joins in the abuse on Hal! He explains that Hal backed the wrong horse here, which he says is emblematic of how truly out of touch Hal Jordan is these days…
Of course, this can’t be a Green Arrow comic if it doesn’t go over the line. “I think you’re on the wrong side here” quickly becomes “You’re basically a Nazi!” This, however, leads to a fateful encounter that changes Hal’s life forever (or at least for the next two years). One of the residents of the building has a challenge for Hal, he basically wants to know why Hal didn’t use his great power for civil rights…
Hal is convinced to work with Green Arrow to help the slum dwellers and when the Guardians show up to yell at him, Green Arrow gives them the deal as well, and one of the Guardians agrees to travel the country with Hal and Oliver. to somehow “find America”. This, of course, would be “Hard Travelin’ Heroes”.
HOW IS IT OVER?
It all ended in The Green Lantern #89 (#88 was all previously produced material). There are conflicting reports on WHY the book ended here (DC’s position was that it didn’t sell well enough, but Neal Adams thinks the comic only seemed to sell poorly because distributors were selling them directly to collectors because the book was SO popular and then reporting unsold books. There have even been suggestions that organized crime got involved because it sold so well “off the books”).
It’s hard to imagine today what it was like to see a fucking CRUCIFIXION on the cover of a comic book in 1972!
The issue, while I don’t imagine it was written specifically as an ending, did a really good job of encapsulating the ideas of the series, especially the personalities of the two heroes.
You see, Carol Ferris’ company was working on a new type of jet fuel that was pissing off environmentalists and an eco-terrorist named Isaac was trying to take them down. Green Lantern and Green Arrow go to the factory, and Green Arrow meets Isaac, who is basically Jesus Christ…
However, one of his eco-terrorist attacks nearly killed Carol Ferris!
And now it’s HAL who actually has the high morals, because while Oliver defends Isaac’s actions, he somehow finds himself at a loss explaining why it was okay for Isaac to kill people in defense of the environment …
Oliver then disables Hal with a gas arrow and hilariously, Isaac then treats Oliver badly too, because his gas arrow has ALSO polluted the environment!
Isaac then protested the plant by crucifying himself. Oliver has finally had enough of him…
The crazed factory workers end up crucifying Hal and Oliver alongside Isaac (Hal was without his ring). Oliver eventually frees them, but not before Isaac’s death.
Carol Ferris is then super heartless about Isaac’s death…
And Hal reacts by destroying the plane that caused the problems…
We see now that Hal and Oliver are on very different grounds, in terms of their worldview, then when they started.
Of course, that was just the end of his own series’ story. The issue stated that the series would continue as a backup in Flash, but that turned out to be short-lived (at least with O’Neil and Adams together). My buddy Alan Stewart also touched on this a bit on his Attack of the 50-Year-Old Comic blog (I try to avoid the comics Alan writes about. He covers about five a month, all the books that ‘he read when they first came out, but sometimes there are choices so obvious I really can’t avoid them).
If you have any suggestions for comics for March (or other later months) 2012, 1997, 1972, and 1947, email me at [email protected]! Here’s the guide, though, to book cover dates so you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional time lag between cover date and release date of a comic for most of comic book history has been two months (sometimes it was three months, but not during the times we discuss here). So the comics will have a cover date that is two months before the actual release date (so October for a book released in August). Obviously, it’s easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago came out, because there was internet coverage of the books at the time.
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