DC Comics’ Green Lantern has gone through a lot of changes. Originally a blond man named Alan Scott, who had a magic ring, when he was created in 1940, he was reinvented as dark-haired California-based test pilot Hal Jordan in 1959. The ring was no longer magic, but super-science, and we learned of an entire corps of Green Lanterns. After several decades of being sidelined by other ring bearers, Hal Jordan has fairly recently returned to being the main Green Lantern, but with a small change. As of this month, Hal Jordan is now one of the tribe.
In Darkseid War: Green Lantern, a flashback reveals that while Hal’s father was Catholic (already a departure from the era of his creation, where everyone was implicitly a WASP, even if guiding editor Julius Schwartz and artist Gil Kane were not), his mother was Jewish. Intriguingly, the story also gives a pretty strong reason for why Hal is non-practicing. But no spoilers.
In an era when we have an African-American Captain America, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, and a female Thor, it’s easy to dismiss the idea of a Jewish Green Lantern as an editorially driven gimmick. Not so, says the story’s author, Tom King.
“This was a story about God and will power, so prior to getting started, I researched the seemingly simple question of what was Green Lantern’s religion,” he told us. “There were quite a few (conflicting) answers, but I found some compelling blogs that argued that he was half Catholic and half Jewish, though this had never been explicitly stated. I’m half Jewish and half Protestant myself, and I’m married to a lovely woman who is half Jewish and half Catholic, and we have some lovely half Jewish children—so this idea appealed to me.
“I wrote this origin into the script and I never heard another word about it from editorial. I’m insanely proud that I got to add this to Hal’s legacy, though I think it’s important to note that the idea itself comes from the character’s history as culled together by his fans,” King said.
King also noted that much of “the core values of the medium come from the Jewish experience in America, the experience of my grandparents, children of immigrants trying to do good by and in America. Unfortunately, despite their ability to place these values in comics, 75 years ago these Jewish creators could not create explicitly Jewish characters. It’s nice to know that now we can.”
DC has had Jewish characters in the past but they were all basically B-list heroes. Green Lantern, on the other hand, is absolutely A-List. He’s been the star of his own cartoon, will be featured in the upcoming Justice League film, and has a movie coming out eventually. (Let’s all pretend the one with Ryan Reynolds never happened.)
I doubt we’ll be seeing Hal Jordan sitting down to Shabbat dinner anytime soon (unlike Superman, who did exactly that in Action Comics #835), but that’s not the point. The point is that the comic book universe is finally starting to reflect everyone who reads it, and especially those who created it.