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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sibling Rivalry and Harbingers of Doom: Musings on Hal and Guy in Green Lantern

I'm sure it's a shock to no one by now, that I love the Lanterns. I love all of them, though not equally. I love reading about them. And I plan to buy GL, GLC, and Ion when they come. I also like reading older issues as is probably evident, for different things.

Something I particularly look for in older issues is the relationship between Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. It fascinates me. There's a lot of complexity there, for all their surface rivalry. And it always seems like I'm noticing new elements the more I read. And today I'm going to ramble incoherently about them.

It occurs to me that no matter how much of a jackass Guy's portrayed as, no matter how damaged/crazy/irrational/childish he is, he's got very clear and understandable reasons to be furious at Hal Jordan.

Because Hal Jordan is a curse on Guy's existance. Seriously. I love Hal, but it's true. And Hal is a dick which doesn't help.

Sorry, he is. In fact, that's one of the reasons that I never really understood the Hal-is-too-perfect-to-be-interesting argument. Because honestly, reading old and new issues. He's *not*, he's got a lot of very very obvious flaws. And a lot of these can be seen in his interactions with Guy Gardner.

Hal is a control freak. He's largely incapable, especially at the beginning of his series, of having an equal relationship with anyone. He's a taker and he doesn't like yielding any ground. We can see that a lot in his relationship with Carol. When she gets promoted, a lot of his forwardness is to get her back of course, but a lot of it is also to establish dominance. There are many scenes in her office where he's leaning over her, using his physicality to establish a more powerful position. And when he becomes Green Lantern, that identity plays into his little power games.

We see that with Guy as well. When he first meets Guy, it's because he finds out through his ring that he and this young gym teacher in Baltimore were equal contenders for the ring, and Hal won out because of distance. Hal decides that he will meet this guy and make him his alternate. Which seems like a good plan, and is.

But the interesting thing is how Hal goes about it. According to Secret Origins 7, which revisits this meeting (which I presume is back to being canon now that ED/EDII is retconned out) Hal just shows up out of the blue at the gym. He never says the real reason he's there of course, and instead says that some guys at the gym recommended him as a ballgame opponent. That's very telling. Either he's lying, or he's telling the truth. If he's lying, that's another way for Hal to establish his dominance. *He* knows why he's there. He knows their connection, which Guy picks up on a little but doesn't understand. And if it's the truth, well, it still means Hal is establishing dominance...he'd deliberately coaxed information about the person he's coming to see to prepare him for the meeting. Guy would never have that advantage.

Interestingly, despite the rapport between them on that trip, when Hal's having trouble with his ring and decides to go to Oa and chooses Guy to take his place, he does it as "Green Lantern" not as Guy's friend "Hal Jordan". And while I understand the secret identity thing with regards to relationships, he was picking his replacement here. One he knew and sought out specifically because he knew the kind of man he was. But instead of approaching as a friend asking for a favor, Hal goes for the awe instead.

It's also interesting that he gives Guy no training whatsoever for the role, though it's implied that the Guardians dropped some basic knowledge into his head. But for all intents and purposes, Guy Gardner had probably *less* training for the role than Kyle Rayner (who at least got to train with the Justice League, Alan Scott and the Titans).

Of course what happens next, the explosion of the battery, sending Guy straight into Sinestro's clutches, isn't really Hal's fault. He had no way of knowing what would happen. But if you look at it from Guy's perspective, especially after he wakes up from that seven year coma, crazy as a loon and severely mentally impaired, it becomes easy to see Hal as the bad guy. Hal was a friend, that even if they'd only really hung out for a few weeks, had established enough of a rapport that Guy was excited about the prospect of meeting up with him in California when he's with the kids on their class trip. So all the poor guy understands is that this person he'd thought was his friend sought him out under *false pretenses*, handed him a ring with no real preparation or warning, just in time for the battery to blow up in his face the second time he uses it, and then slowly woos his girlfriend and is about to *marry* her, while he's being tortured by Hal's enemy, just to get at *Hal*.

And he's really lost everything at this point. He's just spent seven years in a coma, the kids he's taught, probably in college now. Casual friends, well, they've long since lost touch I'd imagine. And he certainly can't go back to his job. Teaching kids now? When he's pretty much got the mental capacity of an angry ten year old himself?

And it all came about when Hal entered his life.

It's fascinating really, how every occurrance of Guy being depowered comes about because of Hal. Guy ends up losing the Green Lantern ring because Hal comes out of *nowhere* pretty much and decides he wants his job back, then they fight for it.

Then for a while, Guy's got the yellow ring he'd stolen from Sinestro's grave. How does he lose it? When Parallax, through Hal, reabsorbs it. Parallax also killed alot of people Guy had grown to care about by Kilowog who'd become a very good friend, despite explosive beginnings. And indirectly, though I don't think Guy has ever blamed him for this, he's the reason Guy wasn't there when Ice was killed, as Guy was looking for the means to get powers again and help stop Hal.

Even as late as Rebirth, Hal is the Harbinger of trouble for Guy. The re-emergence of Parallax (again through Spectre-Hal) indirectly causes Guy's Vuldarian DNA and powers to turn against him. And this isn't power even remotely derived from Hal, like the rings could be said to have, this power was Guy's *birthright*. It's both inheritance and earned through Guy's own quest. The explosion also destroys Warriors in the process.

Guy's once again lost everything, but the ring and the Corps.

But what's really interesting is that for all this, Guy doesn't hate Hal. Guy's actually, it could be argued *never* hated Hal. He liked to fight with Hal, but GL v3 actually tended to play up the rivalry aspect more than anything else.

And Guy genuinely cared about Hal when he was Parallax. In Emerald Fallout, he was trying to reach Parallax!Hal even as they beat the crap out of each other. And he actually let Parallax!Hal remain at Arisia's funeral, because of what she meant to both of them. Parallax!Hal had a monument in Warriors as well, with the rest of the Lanterns. Guy wasn't like Kyle, he truly believed that Parallax was just Hal having lost his mind, but in a way that makes those things even more powerful. Because he really *did* care.

In Rebirth and Recharge, he pokes at Hal a lot verbally, but it's more like a game than anything else. Like a kid brother trying to get a rise out of the older one. It's fun. Besides it *was* dumb that Hal flew without his damn ring. 'Bout time someone called him on it.

Guy Gardner: Warrior actually made a lot of the Hal/Guy relationship from Guy's perspective make a great deal of sense. In a early story we're introduced to Guy's backstory, through alien induced flashbacks. And there we become acquainted with Guy's older brother, Mace.

Mace was quite a bit older than Guy, somewhere between five and ten years from the look of it, and he was the golden child. Star athlete, good at school. Everyone loved him. From the teachers to his father. Where Guy himself couldn't do anything right. The thing is, Mace had a flawed streak, from when little Guy caught him smoking pot, and didn't tell his father. A few years later, Mace, now a cop, took it upon himself to scare his little brother straight, involving lots of physical pummelling naturally. But it's when his brother is shot and paralyzed, presumably in the line of duty, it comes out that he'd gone bad and was now in disgrace. Mace apparently commits suicide after that, but later turns up as the bad guy Militia. In a metal suit, and pretty much intent on wreaking havoc on his little brother.

The thing is, for all that they fought, they were still family. Whenever Dementor or Major Force targetted Mace, Guy was there to try to stop them. It was clear that no matter what else, Guy loved his brother, even if they never got a chance to reconcile.

The parallels between Mace and Hal are pretty easy to spot. Hal is also, one reckons, about five to ten years older than Guy. Hal was also the golden guy, the exalted, perfect Lantern. Hal was flawed, but no one ever seemed to see those flaws, whereas Guy always ended up stuck being compared unfavorably. Hal finally went bad. When he was good, Hal was overbearing, insensitive and self-absorbed, like Mace. When he was bad, well, the fight in Emerald Fallout's pretty fucking brutal.

They even both like nifty armor.

The difference of course, for Guy, is that where Mace is lost completely (dead, though probably easily resurrectable, I hope they do. Mace is fun), Hal *came back*. Hal rose up from his own ashes, and Guy's gotten *one* brother back.

Now where it'll go from here? Who knows? But I'm really really looking forward to when they both team up in GL...


  • At April 11, 2006 3:50 PM, Blogger Marc Burkhardt said…

    A very thought-provoking study of Guy, which is amazing to me since I've never really given Guy much thought before. I'll look at his character differently from now on...

  • At April 11, 2006 4:44 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Thanks! Guy's fun to analyze. For all that he seems really simple, Guy's, to my perspective at least, easily the most complicated Lantern personality. He's the only one who really isn't, remotely, "what you see is what you get".

    I've theorized before that I think it's really because he was never really created to be a hero. Initially he was just a one-shot counter point to Hal in a quick what-if story. Then they brought him back to hit him with a bus, so they could make John Stewart Hal's alternate. (John, like Hal and Kyle, was specfically created to be a Lantern). Then they bring him back again so he can give Hal angst by exploding, getting tortured and being comatose. *Then* they bring him back batshit crazy to be Hal's adversary/rival. And finally, in his own comic, they make him into a viable antihero.

    Hal was created to be Green Lantern, so was Kyle and John, so there's always going to be an element of "maintaining the status quo" with those characters, I think. They do grow a little over time, Kyle gets more confident for example, but the core of the character remains largely unchanging like most hero characters. Guy, because he started as the token victim (an early incarnation of the woman in the fridge, in a sense :-P) and then moved through adversary to anti-hero gets to be a lot more dynamic. With the outright always-been hero characters the writers have to be careful not to make too many drastic and irreparable changes for fear of alienating the fans. Thus Hal becoming Parallax and the Spectre, Kyle becoming Ion (the god version anyway), John being whatever he was in's all impermanent. They've returned to their default positions. John might be a little wiser, Kyle a little more confident, Hal...well, Hal's Hal...but they're pretty much unchanged at their core. Where Guy started as the sweetest, nicest and most polite thing in the world, a version of the character that died with the brain damage. He then spent some odd years as a buffoon, but even that wasn't permanent and they fixed it. But even though they finally fixed his mind, he's still not that sweet, nice young man anymore. But he's also not the jackass buffoon. Now he's a jackass with *direction*. (And degrees in *psychology* and *education*, that he's now able to use again...frightening thought.)

    Guy doesn't really have a default position/status quo like the others do. Which means the writers can do all sorts of crazy long term transformation/development as long as they can make it make sense contextually. Which ends up giving a lot more fodder for analysis. :-)


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