Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

I'm back! And reading! And maybe even blogging! No promises!

Monday, May 01, 2006

How I think Gray Hair killed Hal Jordan

Like I said in my previous entry, I quite like Alan's eye patch, but it did get me thinking about character design changes that had much less favorable outcomes.

Specifically, I'm thinking of when Hal Jordan went gray. I firmly believe that it was those temples that did him in as a character. And made it so that it was necessary to turn him evil and kill him off, until so many years later Geoff Johns could fix him in Rebirth.

Okay, as a disclaimer, I have nothing against gray hair. I've nothing against superheroes aging. And one of the things I really like about the way they've been drawing Hal in the current Green Lantern run is that, to me, he looks like he's in his early forties. A very dashing, well preserved early forties, but he looks early forties to me. Which is how old, I'm pretty sure, he's supposed to be, so that's good.

I also have nothing against greying temples. I love Reed Richards after all. He's probably my favorite Marvel character after Pete Wisdom. I think the temples work for him.

Not so much for Hal and it killed his sales.

Seriously, I believe this was the big problem. And it has to do with image. Now, people who were and are huge Hal fans aren't going to mind the grey temples. For good reason. It's just a small change. He's still the same guy beneath. Some might even like it. It *is* dashing.

But to those that aren't big Hal fans? Casual readers of the series who liked the concept better than the character? Those kind of people? It was offputting, to say the least.

Part of it is Hal's demeanor. He's too...predatory in some sense. Playfully predatory, but still... Like in those old stories with Hal hovering over Carol, trying to get her to date him. Or the scene with the girl he couldn't remember the name of in this past GL (10). Or even Flight, in the Secret Files and Origins, which was a little suggestive...

Now, imagining those scenes with the massive grey temples...well, honestly, Hal looks like a creepy middle aged pervert uncle type.

Honestly, I'm not trying to be ageist here. Reed Richards is quite a bit older than Sue after all. And like almost all comic women, Sue is drawn to look in her late twenties, regardless of how old she's actually supposed to be. Reed looks a *lot* older. But it's fine with me. And it's because Reed is not a predatory person by nature.

Hal is, which isn't bad when you're in your thirties, and he's still wearing it well in his early forties, but with that hair he looked much, much older. And when he was making time with Power Girl...well, it didn't look good.

Basically, it's like on an episode of Wings way back when, when the ladies' man younger brother has this flash of what he'll be like as an old man still going to bars and chatting up women, and he's not happy. With that hair, Hal looked easily in his fifties, his conquests, like Sue, tended to be drawn in their early twenties, and didn't look that good.

I mean, it's one thing to have a bit of a fetish for older guys, (Reed's very attractive, and the hottest guy on Buffy, IMO, was Giles) but when you combine it with that swooping eagle on high predatory style,'s off putting.

I mean sure, long time fans of the character know that Hal's more than just that aspect, he's actually a good guy and reasonably gentlemanly, and wouldn't take advantage of someone or push her into anything she wouldn't be happy with. But would the casual fan remember that, or would he/she just see the combination and be turned away.

Take the rivalry with Guy too. I've mentioned before how GLv3 tended to emphasize the childish aspects of his personality. And his character design tends to look younger than his age. (The bowl cut and the big boots and big gloves, the cut of the jacket...not so much in Recharge/GLC now. But then?) When Hal fought him before, they were still within 5-10 years of each other, so it was more like brothers fighting. With that hair making Hal look much older? Their relationship stayed the same sort of almost brotherly rivalry/antagonism, but Hal looked like a grown-up fighting a kid. Like a man who is more than old enough to know when to let something go.

He looked like a bully. And while long time fans would have known of the complicated relationship behind the rivalry/antagonism, and how Hal usually was the one provoked...the casual fan would find it hard to remember. Other antagonistic relationships start to look like this too...

So you have a character that long-time fans know as the same good guy as ever, the casual dabbling fan starts to see him as a lech and a bully. And who *really* wants to read about a lech and a bully as a hero? No *wonder* sales took a nose dive.

And there wasn't even any easy way to salvage him they went the easy route: turned him evil, killed him off, and waited until the lech and bully stain is forgotten, and bring him back 12 years later.

Noticeably less gray. :-)


  • At May 01, 2006 4:28 AM, Blogger Diamondrock said…

    I agree with you, sir. And if you would, direct yourself here.

  • At May 01, 2006 6:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Black Adam? Fah! Kevin Matchstick is the only balding man who matters!

    Lesson to guys, though: black shirts and lightning bolts are bad for the follicles.

    As for Hal, he wasn't just drawn older, he was written older in the Gerard Jones run. He was supposed to be physically losing ground to Guy, the Guardians were giving him leadership positions he couldn't duck from - hell, he even seemed to be outgrowing the femmes fatales (a sure sign of encroaching alien possession)! I think the hair was part of a larger plan to make him the GL statesman, and it came at exactly the wrong time - when Superman was getting killed and Bruce was getting his back broken and there seemed to be just a hint of a chance that teenagers would flood the comic stores again. I don't think the fear was that he'd come off looking like a bully (though he definitely did when he took Guy's ring away) as that he'd look like your high school gym coach . . .

    . . . and, yeah, the GL-specific irony isn't lost on me.

  • At May 01, 2006 7:42 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    anthony: I can see that. Grey doesn't bother me that much, but on Hal...bad move.

    diamondrock: hee

    djack: yeah, the statesman thing was another bad move. For one thing, Hal's temperament is ill suited for it. And it still made stuff look bad with Guy. (The ring taking thing was awful...especially considering, Hal tended to have a life beyond GL-dom. Guy...his career's over, he's too damaged to teach kids, any non work friends...well 7 years in a coma tends to make folks lose touch...he didn't really have anything that wasn't being a Lantern. Hmph, Hal was a meanie! :-P)

    But yeah, lech, bully, uptight old guy, no way were kids/new readers going to go for that.

  • At May 01, 2006 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Although,I wonder if youth is the answer...remember when they made Tony Stark a teen-ager again?

  • At May 01, 2006 10:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't think it was the grey. I think it was a combination of post-Crisis events that turned Hal into an unlikeable twit. I mean, to a degree I never really liked him - I always thought he was written a little too stupid - like he'd had one too many knocks to the head or something - I always liked the concept of the Corps more than I liked Hal himself.

    But post-Crisis, well they just went out of their way to make him unlikeable and dull. His new origin turned him into a drunk driving reckless airhead jock (not that he hadn't always been a reckless airhead jock, but at least he'd been a responsible reckless airhead jock). In his own book, Gerard Jones's stories were exceedingly dull - eventually so dull that I dropped the book altogether. So I don't think it was the grey - I think it was the boring and the unlikeable characteristics that pushed the folks on the edge out eventually.

    (I never understood how Jones could be so variable, either - he writes something as painfully dull as Green Lantern while he's writing something as beautiful as GL: Mosaic. I could only presume it was because in the first he was writing Hal Jordan and in the second John Stewart, and that one of these characters is duller than the other....)

  • At May 01, 2006 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It always amused me how Ron Marz got the lion's share of the blame for Hal Jordan's fall, when IMO it was Jones writing him as a mean dullard for so long that got the character where he was. When all those Hal fans went cuckoo for cocoa puffs, I thought, "What, you REALLY were that thrilled with the book before that?"

    Of course, I have a pretty low opinion of Marz too. But the actual removal of Hal Jordan is something he had no control over.

  • At May 01, 2006 11:15 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    anon: They tried that with the Atom or Alan Scott too.

    It depends on the character though.

    jer: I see what you're saying, but I do think the image of Hal contributed a lot to people (like me) who'd normally give him a little more of benefit of the doubt. In early v3, as much of an ass as he could be, I liked him or at least sympathized somewhat.

    But the hair just kind of tipped the balance too far for me. I was fine with him being self-centered, arrogant and a prick before, but with the hair, it just seemed like he should have grown out of that by now.

    dan: I do think Marz didn't have a lot of control over it.

    And actually, his Hal in Emerald Knights really got me to like and look more closely at the character. So I blame most of the rest on being stuck in a hard place by editorial mandate.

  • At May 01, 2006 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Did Hal ever really HAVE decent sales to kill?

    I mean, I've been a GL fan since the days of O'Neil and Adams, and it seemed to me that the book was ALWAYS struggling to maintain a toehold in the market. "Emerald Twilight" was hardly the first time the book had been reworked and retooled.

    I've always said that if all the people who raged about Hal's death and clamored for his revival had actually BOUGHT GREEN LANTERN REGULARLY, nobody would ever have seen the need for "reinventing".

  • At May 01, 2006 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Grey/white hair works only if theirs a reason in the origin ex. Reed, Storm, Ice or the character is acknowedged as validly aged to that point ex. Zatara, Dr. Strange, Magneto Ra's al ghul(enjoy the hellfire bastard:))

    But my personal gripe in this vien is the de-badassing of Aquaman,bring back the hair, bare-chest and beard!!!

  • At May 01, 2006 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    athelind: I think that's the key issue, Hal was on a long downwards spiral and attempts to make the character more interesting, ended up hurting the character. He was someone no one could figue out.

  • At May 01, 2006 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    After reading Identity Crisis #6, in which thousands of exploding earths make Hal think of baseball, I've come to the conclusion that Hal Jordan killed Hal Jordan. He's a perfectly decent character, but his cold-as-ice, unflappable attitude is utterly wrong for the concept of the Green Lantern Corp.

    The Green Lantern Corp is a fantastic concept. They're a few thousand alien superheroes of various shapes and sizes. Some of them are even planets or superintelligent viruses. It's clearly meant to be an awe-inspiring spectacle.

    Which is where Hal Jordan is completely wrong as a title character. He's a stone cold test pilot, when we want someone who will actually react along with us. Does Hal express amazement at Mogo the sentient planet? No, he only seems surprised if a Green Lantern is female. Decent character, but in the entirely wrong concept.

  • At May 01, 2006 2:21 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    athelind: Well, there is that, I suppose. But from the sound of it there was even more of a drop. Which is a shame, I like Hal, but then it brought Kyle, who I like more, so yay.

    green: I'm with you re: Aquaman except for the hair. As someone with a lot of swimming experience I can tell you personally long hair (esp. unbound)+under water=incredibly stupid. It gets everywhere, makes it impossible to see, it's just a bad idea. I was thriled that they cut it.

    lyle: yeah, I'd say that seems like the case to me. The Statesman seemed like an attempt for that that *really* didn't work.

    spiritglyph: Hmm, I see what you're saying, but I don't really agree. Hal's fine as a Green Lantern, for me. Hal's a guy who keeps things underwraps because he's ultra focused on the circumstances at hand. He also really hates to be the one at the advantage, and will thus fake it.

    Neither John nor Guy are particularly inclined to show a lot of the "awe" type emotions either. Kyle's really the only one to really get into it which I think is part of the appeal. But as to which attitude is better, John's cerebralness, Guy's...Guy-ness, Hal's focus or Kyle's approachable awe depends on what story the writer wants to tell.

    That's my opinion at least. :-)

  • At May 01, 2006 2:51 PM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    I'm fond of Hal, but I have to say the character downfall was started with O'Neill. The Questioning Liberal Guilt, Constant Internal Conflict and Rebelliousness was supposed to be a temporary caracter condition, a way to facilitate growth (dear gods did I just use facilitate in a sentence outside of work?) and comment on the storylines.

    I do have to say, that was when Hal was at his most endearing, but it was all downhill from there. Returning to the prior personality was hard to do without seeming to be an obvious step backwards, but as we saw with Jones, you can't have "Wavering self-doubt" as a constant character trait for so many years when your primary concept is based on willpower and fearlessness. It gets old and annoying.

    And when you age the character so much and he's still not sure of where he belongs and he's still acting incredibly immature, well, it doesn't work.

    Self-doubt and immaturity worked better with Kyle because they played up the "He was a mistake" angle so much at the beginning, and he's so damned young.

  • At May 01, 2006 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kal: -nod- but as an artist underwater long hair can be made to make an image better than short hair. Iget the point though being a swimmer myself.

  • At May 01, 2006 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's odd, they always show Xavier either Real young w/ full blond head or completely bald even in college

    Xavier being blond now thats fun to think about:)

  • At May 01, 2006 4:27 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    ragnell: I think the long-term linking with Ollie didn't help too. There's only so much being called a nazi that one man can take. :-P

    Actually though, for me a lot of the problem was that at the beginning of GLv3, Hal, well, did NOT seem to want to be there at all. And while I liked Guy being cute and little brother-y and trying to poke Hal back in, it was getting old. Then all of a sudden he's all "I want my old job back, gimme!" Hmph.

    Liberal guilt Hal still was courageous and strong-willed, and liked his job. Sure he quit for a bit, but that was understandable. The wishy-washyness in v.3 made it really hard to like him sometimes.

    But I maintain the gray temples were the straw that broke the back. A younger man wishy-washy is a bit more forgivable than an old, wishy-washy, bully lech. :-)

    green: Nah, I can't suspend disbelief enough to allow for the hair. As someone who used to have long hair, I can tell you, it's utterly ridiculous. Mera's too for that matter.

  • At May 01, 2006 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mera's too for that matter

    Couldn't she just use her water-controlling powers to keep her hair out of her face?

  • At May 01, 2006 6:29 PM, Blogger Marc Burkhardt said…

    Loooong list of comments, but I must add my two cents!

    First of all, it's tough for me to accept that Hal is all wrong for the concept of a Green Lantern Corps since he was the vehicle that introduced readers to the concept in the first place.

    For me, who was introduced to Green Lantern through Broome/Kane reprints in the early '70s, Hal was the epitome of a Green Lantern - fearless, confident and somewhat ingenious.

    (He was never in the same league as Barry Allen or Adam Strange when it came to ingenious, Silver-Age solutions to evil...)

    In a very muted way, he was also a bit cocky and competitive for a DC hero. There's many an early JLA adventure where Hal kicks himself for not being the one to save the day.

    Although DC in the 60s could never have an anti-establishment hero- he was as close as you could get back then to a James T. Kirk-style cowboy or a maverick cop. It's a portrayal that fits in well with Johns' current approach.

    I agree with ragnell - except in the use of the word "facilitate" :) - that Hal went downhill after the GL/GA run. Ever since that point, the character lost much of his confidence and constantly worried about his place in life.

    I remember one issue in the late 70s/early 80s where Hal worried that an angry Superman would rip him a new one over an imagined slight. Hal was completely exaggerating the situation in his own mind - a scene that made him look absolutely impotent.

    The Gerard Jones stuff and greying temples were just the final nails on the coffin. Hal as an old guy was the wrong thing at the wrong time - thanks to the Image explosion.

    He was always a good character, just as the GL Corps was a good concept. Neither were preserved well past the sci-fi Silver Age, however, since DC had few people other than Jack Kirby in the '70s who could do "cosmic."

    I would have loved to see Jim Starlin in his prime tackle the character.

    Finally, I don't think old-school Hal fans would have been quite so angry about Emerald Twilight had Hal's downfall been planned out a little better. It was so out-of-character and so abrupt that readers could tell editorial just wanted to gut the concept.

    Green Lantern without a legacy or a Corps was never a good idea, one DC seems to acknowledge now.

    As I had come to accept Kyle from Grant Morrison's JLA, I'm also glad he is being treated with more respect than Hal was the last time there was a changing of the guard.

    Still waiting for Kyle to fulfill Dream's prediction that he would surpass Hal Jordan - maybe Ion's the ticket!

  • At May 01, 2006 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The thing about the Denny O'Neil approach to Hal is that - as I remember it, anyway - there was a while when it seemed it just wasn't going to stick. I started reading GL with the very issue Ollie got booted from the book, and I'd guess Marv Wolfman was writing in the stretch when I really got addicted. The Hal in those days was the dude who'd lose his ring, walk across an arctic wasteland, and pick a fight with Dr. Polaris while blind and powerless `cause, dammit, he was Hal! The stories themselves weren't necessarily all that great, but (IIRC) angst was at no more than the usual early/mid `80s dosage.

    Then that turned out to be a blip, and subsequent writers just seemed to dig deeper and deeper holes. Strange to say now, but I was actually grateful for Gerard Jones's run at first - boring statesman Hal was way less creepy than Steve Englehart's quasi-pedophile Hal, or even the dullard Hal that had been featured in Action Comics while GL was on hiatus. The first arc of v.3, at least, seemed at the time like it was meant to bury mopey, uncentered Hal once and for all.

    `Course, it didn't work out that way.

    Fortress Keeper:

    1) Round of applause.

    2) I'm with you on Starlin. Heck, I wouldn't mind seeing Walt Simonson or Keith Giffen or John Ostrander take a shot at some corner of the Corps either - though the feel in each case would be very different.

    3) Emerald Twilight? I'm personally glad it's been undone, but I think you're right: the abruptness was far and away its worst sin. [Well, that and the way Hal was eventually written as Parallax.] If it had been less of an event and more of a story about Hal, I could've lived with it - and I was content with his send-off in Final Night, more or less.

    4) Kyle needs to be written by Grant Morrison again somewhere, in some context. That's all. Ion should be fun, and I think the boy does well with Ron, but . . . sigh. Oh, Grant, will you never come home? Space opera needs you!

  • At May 01, 2006 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sure, Guy doesn't really show awe, but at least he reacts. That's what makes him so fun.

    And, well, John is a blank slate. Everyone with a consistant personality looks good compared to him.

  • At May 01, 2006 8:43 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    anon: bit of a waste of concentration...

    fortress: I always thought the Parallax thing was where Kyle once and for all surpassed Hal. Hal gave in, where Kyle remained the character too pure for it to ever touch. (Rebirth was pretty awesome because in a certain point of view, Hal was established as the weakest of the Lanterns...Parallax in the battery that long would have tried anyone to get out. John, Guy, Wog, Katma, et al, never gave in. Heck, Guy used a yellow ring and never gave in. Hal in a moment of weakness...understandable, though he's not the only Corps lantern to lose everything...gave in. It really gives him a fascinating dimension. I think I blogged about that a bit with my review of GL9. Oh well, I constantly repeat myself. :-P)

    Basically the genius of Johns's approach in Rebirth, and GL 1-9 by extension, is that the took the character lots of newer fans (mistakenly) argue as too "perfect" or too much the heroic ideal and recasts him as, basically, the mistake. The flaws Hal's always had (arrogance, self-centeredness, occasional stupidity, blindness, control-freak) all become highlighted in this way, but also, so do his strengths. His will, his indomitability, his sucking-it-up-and-moving-on attitude, his determination to being a damn good Lantern...

    While Parallax as a possessive force removes a lot of the personal responsibility from Hal, it does leave him with the culpability of weakness. This happened because he gave in. Thus now, Hal will have something to prove. And it suits him, IMO. :-)

    (And looking at the earlier comics, v2-v3 with the notion of Hal as the "mistake" Lantern is pretty fascinating. It puts a whole new, and even in some ways, more coherent element on the whole thing...and oddly makes Hal more likeable. The deck was stacked against him at the start, in a sense, but he did a damn good job for a long time)

    djack: I get what you're saying. Especially about ET being so abrupt. To be fair, I don't think Marz had much warning or choice in the matter. But yeah. And I agree that the beginning of 3 was finally going somewhere, but then they screwed it with the statesman stuff, IMO.

    spiritglyph: Guy shows awe by swearing. That's also how he shares joy, affection, horror and anger. :-)

  • At May 01, 2006 9:46 PM, Blogger Marc Burkhardt said…

    Kalinara -

    I've read your earlier posts on Rebirth and, as always, found them quite perceptive.

    For me, the story established Sinestro as the world-class bad-ass he always should have been.

    He was disgraced by Hal Jordan, so he exploited Hal's own weaknesses and ultimately brought upon his nemesis' downfall. Rebirth may have erased some of Hal's culpability, but it created a great tale of revenge and left Hal with something to prove - a great place for him to be, as you said yourself.

    I never blamed Marz for Twilight as much as The Powers That Be - the same shadowy power that forever ruined Katar Hol.

    P.S. What do you think of Ion?

  • At May 01, 2006 9:55 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Ion intrigues me. Lots of confusing parts. Kyle seems to be doing well though...or is completely out of his mind. Either way, when Hal shows in Ion 4, things should get *real* fun!

  • At May 02, 2006 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm not sure if the grey temples did in Hal so much, although they certainly didn't help.

    Speaking as a reader of v.3 when it came out, I never thought they contrasted with his personality so much that it hurt the character. It's that Hal's personality just wasn't interesting, period.

    In retrospect I think it would have been wiser to portray Hal, or whichever Green Lantern, as more of an ambigous personality. No thought balloons or narration captions at all, a minimum of dialogue and even that contradicting and obscure, but just let the character reveal himself through the way he or he uses the ring and the way that he tackles problems. Mark Waid and Ty Templeton did a pretty entertaining short in an old GL Quarterly called "Two Minute Warning" I think, but I'd have like to see it used long-term and not just for comedy.

    Can't comment on GL: Rebirth, as I didn't read it. Geoff Johns scared me away. But yeah, I think a "show don't tell" approach would have been better and more attractive than any questions of characterization and demeanor and would have let the concept prosper.

  • At May 03, 2006 9:19 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I don't necessarily think a peek into their heads is a bad thing, but I see what you're saying. GL, I think should be in that comfortable middle ground between say Bat-stories (with heavy introspection) and say Fables (with none really). With a single protagonist it'd be a shame to not get into his/her head sometimes, but GL as a concept should, even more than others, be a show not tell concept.

  • At May 24, 2006 4:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Not so much for Hal and it killed his sales."

    Just as an FYI, this isn't accurate. Sales on GL volume 3 were great to start, and even decent towards the end, although the last 12-15 months of Jones' run saw some sharp decline, leading up to ET.

    But let's remember - Emerald Dawn and the relaunch of Volume 3 spawned 3 spin-off titles. Which is kinda like now, with Rebirth and Volume 4, and 2 spin-off titles.

    My take on the hair:

    It wasn't really the hair, or what it represents. There were a couple of final nails in that coffin:

    1. The quality of the stories being told in the series pre-ET. They blew chunks.

    2. The era.

    1992-3 was the era of "shocking" event stories. And also the height of anti-heroes, and deconstructionism.

    Wrong place at the wrong time for characters like Superman, Hal Jordan, Captain Kirk and any other alpha-male character. They all got depowered, minimalized and eventually killed off in the early 1990s.

    Is that a coincidence? Keep reading:

    Their era - one of moon landings, the space race and the rise of Soviet Russa - was an era of swashbuckling heroes with a sense of adventure. But by the early 1990s, all that was seen as being over. Passe.

    At DC, Hal was just the next-most visible character after Superman and Batman, who they could REALLY tinker with. And of course - he was replaceable, whereas Superman was not. (If they could have, I suspect that in 1992-3 a lot of the Superman team would have *loved* to permanently shelve Clark Kent, Lois Lane, et al and create a new Superman.)

    But the post 9/11 world is a different place. We want our heroes back, larger than life. Dynamic. Cocksure.

    Hal is back in the comics. Superman is coming back to films. And rumor has is Captain Kirk. It would seem that larger-than-life alpha-males are back in vogue, at least a little.

    'Tis a good thing, in my book.

  • At May 24, 2006 6:25 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I see what you're saying and you're probably right with regard to producer motivation.

    But I do think the gray hair affected the fan reception of the character. It just wasn't a good change. And made Hal into a much less likeable character, through no fault of his own.

  • At February 13, 2010 1:02 AM, Anonymous Term Papers said…

    Wrong place at the wrong time for characters like Superman, Hal Jordan, Captain Kirk and any other alpha-male character. They all got depowered, minimalized and eventually killed off in the early 1990s.

  • At June 10, 2010 9:09 AM, Anonymous Custom writing said…

    I completely agree with the above comment, the internet is with a doubt growing into the most important medium of communication across the globe and its due to sites like this that ideas are spreading so quickly.


Post a Comment

<< Home