Replacements for the sake of replacements, whether driven by world view or just wanting the name on their shiny new character as cheap promotion, isn’t something new. DC’s uneven history with minority characters caused them to make a big change in the 1990s, replacing heroes like Green Arrow and Firestorm with new minority versions. It’s something I’ve discussed all the way back in 2015. These new versions didn’t take because the originals already had too strong a fanbase.
Oddly, this included replacing the white Hal Jordon with the mostly-white (his father was Mexican and his mother Irish) Kyle Rayner, though he is still pretty light skinned and was raised by his divorced Irish mother. While he is my favorite Green Lantern conceptually the fridging of his girlfriend Alex, literally where the “women in refrigerators” trope got its name, discouraged me from giving him a chance. Firestorm I heard good things about but Jason Rusch and the revolving door of helpers wasn’t Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein. Kyle had something even worse keeping him from being accepted than poor Alex though.
It meant evilizing and ruining Hal Jordan.
I grew up on Superfriends and reruns of the Filmation DC shows, so Hal is the Green Lantern I grew up with, as did many others. Having him turn evil just to replace him and wipe out the entire Green Lantern Corps was a mistake that DC took years to fix, though it actually did so by lessening Kyle’s role in the comic. The following video by Owen Likes Comics goes over the history of Hal’s turn to evil and why the decision was made. I have some thoughts on the end result and aftermath.
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Speaking of previous articles, the destruction of Coast City was a mistake, especially since it happened not in Green Lantern’s book, but in the Return Of Superman storyline, which buries the lead but also has the most traumatic event in Hal Jordan’s life. Coast City was his protectorate on Earth much as Metropolis is for Superman, so having it happen while Hal is away on other Sector 2814 business, and in someone else’s book, just feels like a jerk move. It’s kind of disappointing that in the fall of Superman DC went status quo breaking crazy-go-nuts and just wanted to shake up everything, which is one of the many things that led to the current Eventitis and Epicness obsession in comics. Personally I think they should have gone with that alternate Guardians story because not every story has to be the biggest story ever! Readers can tell when you’re faking it and you’re writing to be epic rather than the story naturally being epic in scope.
If they really had to do this, though, having Hal turn crazy and evil, there was a better way to set up what they wanted with Kyle. Have Sinestro be the one to go crazy in a final bid for power. Have Sinestro be the one who rams through and eliminates the Corp and the Power Battery. Then have Hal sacrifice himself in a last attempt to stop Sinestro, killing them both in the process and still forcing Ganthet as the only survivor to seek out Kyle as the first of a new generation of Green Lanterns. You could still have Hal be confused by the whole thing and becoming Parallax without Hal himself being the reason for his own fall. After all, they retconned Hal’s fall to darkness with a space bug tied to the yellow spectrum.
Meanwhile Kyle was never truly allowed to take Hal’s place. Stories kept bringing him back through time travel or memories. Kyle’s physical appearance in his first DCAU showing looked closer to Hal’s (they did the same to Wally West by giving him Barry’s life) and there was a reference in showing Hal’s plane that would have been a fun Easter Egg were it not for Kyle’s continued treatment, only showing up again in a cameo for an episode of Justice League Unlimited. Then there were Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio, who wanted Hal back in the comics. Hal may have disappeared or died or became The Spectre but he never really stopped being part of the story and Kyle didn’t get the chance to come into his own. Killing Alex, their relationship along with Kyle’s use of anime and video game references in his constructs being what initially allowed me to give him a chance, had chased me off. So all around the plan failed at every step of implementation, and the restoration of the rest of the Corps, including now four other Green Lanterns tied to Earth, led to him being redundant. Frankly, Kyle deserves better because of all that wasted potential and a failure to properly pass the torch.
They even had a replacement for the Corps: the Darkstars, of which John Stewart was a member while Guy went on to do his own thing. Yes, I actually liked the “Warrior” concept for Guy and would rather have seen Kyle restart the Corps, as he was doing at one point, from the ground up. Instead…if you think about it Parallax won. I don’t know if Coast City was restored pre-52 but the Corps and Guardians were de-deaded with a reset button.
There may have been good stories that came out of it but continuity took it in the rear hard. A long-running mainstream hero was evilized and killed, the replacement was never allowed to fully leave Hal’s shadow, and it was all tossed away in the end anyway. The shared DC universe has a long running narrative and short term victories cannot lead one to ignore long term failures and that’s ultimately the issue here. Even the bad stuff had potential to be good but they couldn’t stick with it. The end result is a series of good stories in a bubble but in the longer narrative that is the DC Universe and ones that cost us a good showing of our heroes. In the big picture this was all a mistake no matter how exciting they were at the time, and it’s just as much the fault of the writers and editors back then as it was the ones that came after. Wasted potential and annoying retcons make it harder to go back and enjoy previous stories when they end up not mattering or getting undone in the future.