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Why Doesn't Green Lantern Eliminate Evil?

I posted the following messages in CompuServe's Comics Forum beginning in February 1994. As I recall, the occasion was the destruction of Coast City, Hal Jordan's subsequent killing spree, and the introduction of Kyle Rayner. I used the occasion to start some conversations about whether the Green Lantern concept worked and how to fix it.

I saved some of my correspondents' messages, but not all of them. Their short comments are in brackets; their longer comments are indented. Mine are in italics or the regular font. If something isn't clear, I've tried to annotate it to make it clearer.


First, on Hal Jordan's killing people.

The point is that anything in comic books, including death and more, can be reversed, so I wouldn't worry too much. Which is not to say that I agree with every change. I don't believe that Clark Kent, Hal Jordan, Steve Rogers, or Peter Parker—i.e., any true hero—would go off the deep end for any reason. But then, I've never seen my city destroyed, so that's a bit beyond my comprehension, too.

Just to be contrary, I must say that Green Lantern has never struck me as the most exciting or meaningful book in the past. I enjoyed the stories where Englehart et al. destroyed and then rebuilt the GL Corps. Maybe this will turn out well, too.


Why has the second GL series failed?

I think it's because GL is a tough character to make interesting and appealing. Basically, if he has or uses enough will power, he can do anything. He could alter everyone's brains and make them happy (or at least not mentally disturbed), teleport any opponent into a jail cell, etc. Writers have to "dumb down" his stories and put artificial limitations on his intelligence and abilities, just as they did with the pre-Crisis Superman. Then the stories become bland and unbelievable and have to be spiced up by sensational stunts and gimmicks.

IMHO, it's easier to write about human characters like Batman or Wolverine than about demigods like Superman, GL, Thor, or Silver Surfer.


When, if ever, did the GL series work?

Well, I'd have to favor the Adams years, myself. I'd say GL really needs the humanizing influence of Green Arrow, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, the rest of the Corps, or even Itty. I just don't think he works as a solo character.

From GL to the New Gods to "Star Wars," there haven't been many successful sci-fi/space opera comic books, have there? I think it's because these series inevitably favor plot and action over characterization.

Anyway, a temporary insanity plea will cure this phase. Check back in about five years. Or how about this: The green power has a corrupting element/influence that drives anyone who uses it insane. Look at John Stewart in "Cosmic Odyssey," Guy Gardner, Sinestro, the Old Timer, or the Guardians themselves. Once this impurity is removed, everyone's healthy again and no one is blamed for his actions "under the influence."


GREEN LANTERN #50 upheld
Okay, I'll stick foot in mouth and invite a horde of ring-slingers....

I agree with this statement in the letters page of GL #50: "In all the years that Hal has been in existence, there has been little change, if any, to the character." So where's the beef?

That Hal went crazy? People, Hal's been a lackey all his life. The Guardians have told him when to jump, and he's asked how high. He's been ordered to ignore personal responsibilities to attend to crises. He's been exiled to space for a year. He's had his power stripped. Face it, he's been used...toyed with...manipulated to extremes.

Now Clark Kent or Barry Allen might have tolerated this, but Bruce Wayne or Oliver Queen never would have. In other words, a stronger character would have rebelled long ago. Part of being a hero is saying no. Hal destroyed seven million dollars' worth of planes when one man died (GL #89, original series); how should he react to the death of a city? He's been pushed too far, and now he's rebelling.

That Hal killed? Superman killed the Phantom Zone criminals a few years back. Don't ask when, but I suspect Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Wonder Woman, and other DC heroes have killed before, if only by letting people die through inaction. If one favors capitol punishment, one could argue that Sinestro deserved it.

As for Kilowog, that does seem inexcusable and unnecessary. But Hal said he had left enough power for the others whom he had attacked to survive. Do we know for a fact that Kilowog's race can't regenerate from a smidgen of protoplasm? Do we know that Hal didn't blast him just for dramatic effect, then restore him off-panel? No death is irreversible if a writer doesn't want it to be.

Besides, Hal was clearly spaced out, demented, not in control of his faculties. He was ranting like a fool at one point. A good lawyer could easily get him acquitted on the grounds of temporary insanity. And, of course, he could have contracted "green power ring disease," for all we know.

That Hal is no longer Green Lantern? Tell it to Barry Allen, Bruce Wayne, and Dick Grayson. That he has a new costume? So does Batman, Hawkman, Alan Scott/GL, and Green Arrow. A new name? Okay, "Green Flame" (?) is mediocre, but how about Nightwing, Valor, the Legionnaires, and Arsenal (Speedy)? It happens, people; it's not the end of the world.

GREEN LANTERN needs a drastic change, IMHO. The changes in the past have not been enough, and subsequent writers have mostly undone them. The Guardians of the Galaxy are an inhibiting and almost unworkable concept: If they exist, GL should spend 99% of his time patrolling his sector, and the GL Corps should intervene every time Mongul, the Dominators, the Missile Men, or whoever invades the Earth.

Hal Jordan is arguably the senior statesman of DC heroes; therefore, doesn't he deserve to be more than just one of a group? Doesn't he deserve to be unique? His book often teeters on the edge of cancelation; doesn't that suggest it's time to do something different? Change is usually good for a book. Superman proposed to Lois; Robin, the Titans, and the Legion grew up; Supergirl, Flash, Karate Kid, and Jericho died. We're all still here.

Sometimes characters need to get stronger and nastier (Guy Gardner, Hawkman, Doc Magnus, Storm, Hulk, Invisible Woman). Sometimes they need to get weaker and more vulnerable (Superman, Batman/Bruce Wayne, Flash/Wally West, Wolverine). Change has worked for years at Marvel (look at almost any book). DC is finally catching up.

The Guardians have claimed in the past that they know the future of the universe, that everything is part of their master plan. Perhaps this is, too—especially since it seems established that a GL Corps will exist sometime in the future. I, for one, am not going to burn my entire comic book collection in front of DC's headquarters. I'll keep reading.

(You understand that this is all idle rhetoric, I hope. Please don't send me hate mail. I liked the old GL, and I'll watch the new one with curiosity.)


Is the ring limited or unlimited?
I wish the ring were limited in power, as it would make for more dramatic stories. GL can travel faster than light with it, which is akin to teleportation. He shrank himself to atomic size and slipped between the molecules of a gold casing once. He communicates with the ring and with other races telepathically, so mind control seems eminently possible. As I said, the character has always been too inherently powerful his own good, IMHO. Same with Superman—with his super-speed, he could put almost any villain out of commission before the bad guy could blink. And note that GL can also travel at super-speed, though no one ever employs that aspect of his power.


Should DC try something radical with GL?

They already partnered GL with a mere mortal, gave his ring to someone else, destroyed and rebuilt the GL Corps, etc. Isn't it time for something radical? (Or maybe it's simply time for a top writer. I'm sure Alan Moore or someone like him could do wonders with the GL concept.)


What would *I* do if DC put me in charge?

Well, now, that's a tough, and open-ended, question. I don't know if there's enough time in the day to tackle it. But perhaps together we can come up with anything.

First, since the Corps and rings are going through so many changes, I don't think you have to violate or ignore past stories. Simply say that GL has wasted or leaked some of the green energy away, and the rings will no longer do what they could before.

How about this? Let's say that the ring should only be able to create solid objects—i.e., shapes that have physical substance, hardness, density, or whatever. That's primarily what Hal Jordan has used it for, anyway (others have used it differently, pointing out Hal's lack of imagination). In this case, the ring could create a protective bubble, but not a magnetic field. It could cause a fire by rubbing two sticks together, but not by generating heat directly. GL could travel through space by creating a space vehicle, but not by willing himself to go faster than light.

This would remove GL's ability to change matter directly and to generate various forms of energy (including telepathic waves). We might also leave the ring the ability to "think" independently, so it could supply information or translate speech. It would act much like a sophisticated computer, and have just that much ability.

Now it's your turn. I might add that Quasar, whom I consider Marvel's GL, has the same problem. But at least his writer, Mark Gruenwald, has written a whole treatise on what Quasar's quantum bands can and can't do.


I think if a character sucks, and lesser remedies have been tried, radical changes are necessary. I'd argue that DC's Flash, GL, Hawkman, Atom, Aquaman, and quite a few other characters sucked and were in need of surgery. Does anybody recall the Terminator's battles with GL, Superman, et al.? There was a real character, with pain, blood, and flaws, dealing with cardboard cutouts.


Is Kilowog dead?
A message written soon after Hal Jordan "killed" Kilowog and other Green Lanterns.

I still wouldn't count Kilowog out. Surgery will take care of Boodikka just fine. The Guardians have acted confused before, only to claim later that it was part of the plan. (Call it a continuity glitch if you wish, but there you have it.)

As I said, I don't know if this change will work, either. I would have tried something less daring myself, if I had been in charge. Or simply put a better writer on the job. (When O'Neil and Adams were on the team, I had no doubts about GL's viability.) But I won't blame DC for trying something radical, only for doing it in an apparently tactless or unfair (to Gerald Jones) way.


More on the 24-hour limitation.

I think we could live without the 24-hour charge, as it only serves to give GL a chance to recite his oath dramatically. But I don't mind it. I liken the ring to a computer because it performs certain functions automatically or upon orders but doesn't think independently.

As I said in another message, I would suggest limiting the power of the ring further to increase the dramatic possibilities of Green Lantern.


More on how the ring works.

Knowledge of how to do something obviously isn't necessary, unless Hal Jordan has taken classes in celestial navigation, warp creation, or faster-than-light travel. You give the ring a goal; it figures out how to do it. Sometimes, that is. A flaw of the "limitless ring," IMHO.


As I said in another reply, I would cut down on the ring's main capability, rather than imposing artificial limitations. I don't know what "they" will do in the series. Both those limitations do seem artificial to me when I think about them. Couldn't GL program his ring to teleport him back to his power battery, say, after 23 hours? And, as he's done once in a while (i.e., inconsistently), can't GL always coat a yellow object with soot, dust, or dirt and thus change its color?


Hal Jordan has done any number of effects that can't be explained by his "knowledge." I'm sure he's willed up planes, cars, skyscrapers, bulldozers, blast furnaces, and acetylane torches, none of which he presumably knows how to construct. Furthermore, he's shrunk himself, built force fields, etc. He doesn't "know" any of this; he thinks "car" or "force field" and the ring supplies the knowledge, the energy, and the mechanics. So, since the ring can "do anything," how much more far-fetched is it for the ring to cure disease (by destroying microorganisms), wipe a mind (by rewiring brain cells), or eliminate someone's immortality (by eliminating whatever the immortality factor is in the subject's cells)?


Shades of the old Iron "I only have three ergs of energy left" Man! Thor's one minute, Aquaman's one hour...I don't think any of these artificial limits has ever worked. Can anyone give an example of one that has?


Those comic-book gimmicks
I don't mind those limitations either, but I have a vague sense that they've never really worked well. Haven't latter-day writers striven to do away with the time limits on Thor and Aquaman, as well as Iron Man's heart attacks, the Surfer's being bound to Earth, and even Superman's kryptonite? I suggest that a character should be compromised by his own fear and ignorance, not by some plot device.


What about those times when GL does something other than create a solid object, though? Like the time he shrunk himself—does he have to know how to do it, or does he just give the order and let the ring figure it out? If the latter, then I think you're on really shaky ground. Why couldn't he dream up an anti-crime or an anti-poverty machine and let it do its stuff? He wouldn't have to know how it worked, according to you, just what the result was. The same with the suggestion about a GL's eliminating someone's immortality—does he have to understand the mechanics of immortality to do away with it, or simply the desired result? Could he will himself to be immortal, just by thinking it? Could he bring someone back to life? (Life is a chemical process, after all, so if GL doesn't have to know the exact mechanics of it, he ought to be able to will it into existence.)

As for "rewiring brain cells," that was supposed to be a pretty nonscientific explanation. Okay, could GL change the serotonin levels of certain synaptic receptors in the hypothalamus region...? IMO, the details don't matter, but brain activity is a electrochemical function, and therefore GL's ring should be able to affect it.

And we know it can, because he's made people forget unpleasant things many times. Why not make them (heck, the world) "forget" how to commit crimes permanently?

Comment (5/24/02):  Kevin Smith's recent GREEN ARROW only cements the point. Green Lantern/Parallax either brought Green Arrow back to life or created a new Green Arrow, depending how you look at it. So why not bring some or all of Coast City's residents back to life the same way? Bring them back to life, undone all the wrongs done, and erase the "evil" from your mind? Hal doesn't have to lament the past, since he can recreate it.

Similarly, why not end death for some or all of humanity? If someone dies and GL deems the person worthy enough, he brings the person back to life just as he did Green Arrow. Violá...GL has undone God's handiwork. God kills, GL reanimates.

Kevin Smith has made the implicit explicit. Green Lantern literally can be a god if he musters enough willpower. But is a comic about God foiling a bank robbery likely to make sense? Or to sell well? No to both questions.


How lame is the ring's yellow weakness?

Good comment about "yellow pigment." Really, in addition to covering any yellow object with dust motes, GL can either darken a room or place a green filter between the light source and the yellow object. Voila, no more yellow object! As Metamorpho said in his battle with Guy Gardner, there's any number of ways to stop a yellow character. (Too bad Guy was too stupid to think of any of them.)


So you think the brain is too delicate for a ring to "operate" on? But, again, if GL doesn't have to know the methodology, just the result, it would be up to the ring to manage the intricacies. GL wouldn't have to think about it on a conscious level.


Hal Jordan/Parallax's new oath

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No GL shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship lantern's light,
Beware my power: Hal Jordan's might.


Customized GLs?
I'd like to see something that a few GL writers have hinted at—namely, that each ring acts according to the philosophy/world view of the bearer. Only I would make that a limitation, the only thing the ring could do.

For instance, Hal Jordan is a pragmatist and thinks in terms of things he can see and touch. I would go with this and limit him only to creating solid objects. No heat beams, magnetic beams, telepathic beams, etc. Kilowog, who I believe was a physicist, would be just the opposite. His ring could create or negate heat, magnetism, gravity, etc. but could not create solid objects. A GL who was a poet, OTOH, wouldn't be able to do either of these things; instead she could create abstract patterns of green light that could alter one's emotions, perceptions, and thought processes. And so forth.

Under this scheme, each GL would be (somewhat) unique and each would have some limitation on his power. It would work best with about 12 GLs, each with a different approach. Seeing how each GL solved a problem would become a fascinating exercise rather than a predictable bore.


I don't mind a character who grows weaker after using his power, but I think the minute or hour cutoffs are poor. "Ohmithundergod, is Thor going to turn into Don Blake and die?" Well, probably not. Whereas if a character, especially a team character, grows weak, it allows other characters to move to the fore. I imagine this is how it would actually be in a team effort.

Chris Claremont did great things with characters whose powers initially "wore out," giving them training so they gradaully and realistically extended the scope of their abilities.

The Mimic I would accept because employing his power required continuing strategy—stay in touch with one hero or switch to another. Same reason I think Ultra Boy is a "good" superhero—his power requires thought and planning to be used to best effect. Having to pop a pill, spin a dial, or jump back into the water doesn't strike me as analogous. It's a do-or-die, no-brainer choice, not a continuing catalyst for strategizing. "Gotta find water, gotta find water"...and next time, it's "Gotta find water, gotta find water" again.


Moving on to March 1994's messages. At some point I discussed an Alan Scott story in which he willed the ring to "remove evil." It removed every person from earth. I suggested this dodged the issue and a clever GL really could eliminate evil.

That raised a firestorm of protest. A correspondent suggested GL has to know exactly what he's doing before he does it. So he couldn't just alter people's thought processes.

So you assume that some GL in the past knew the actual physical means of shrinking oneself, and has passed it on? That's certainly possible, but it's also possible that Hal Jordan invented the strategm, that (if some writer says so) the ring can do it just because Hal wills it. How do we know?

As for the human psyche, it is subject to will power, isn't it? It's also subject to chemical manipulation (drugs), which is not beyond the power of GL's ring. He once emitted kryptonite rays, which are nothing but a series of subatomic particles. Why not serotonin molecules as well? In fact, the human psyche is subject to mechanical means; surgeons sometimes remove part of the brain and alter a person's personality, which a GL ring could do also. And psyches are subject to electrical stimulation, as in electro-shock therapy, which a GL ring could certainly duplicate.


GL ring needs rules
Someone thinks I've digressed from my own subject.

I'm discussing everything the ring can or can't do, which is not merely limited to creating physical objects. The questions I'm responding to asked what people thought were the canonical abilities of the ring and if/how they should change. No one limited the discussion to physical objects, least of all me.

My contention is that without strict definitions, any other contention about GL's powers is flawed. If he could create a defibrillator, whose mechanics he probably doesn't understand, why not any other machine whose mechanics he doesn't understand as well? Could he create Orion's Mother Box? Omac's Brother Eye? The Legion's Miracle Machine? I don't see why not, since he's created spaceships that must be almost as complex.

And are you insisting that he is limited to physical objects, when he has obviously emitted light, heat, and other forms of energy from his ring? All biological and chemical processes involve matter and energy, and he can clearly manipulate both.


Someone again suggests that GL's will isn't enough. "He may have the will to create the Miracle Machine and so forth, but the skill is another matter." Or words to that effect.

"Having the skill" is not another matter, IMHO. He doesn't have the skill to do most of the things he does, unless you contend that Hal has advanced degrees in physics, engineering, geology, architecture, munitions, navigation, etc. The ring supplies the skills in many if not most cases. As in the Alan Scott story about removing evil from Earth, Scott had no idea how to remove evil himself. The ring interpreted the command and executed the wish, removing all the people from Earth. So what if Alan Scott had said, "No, stupid ring, leave the people on Earth, but remove those parts of their brains that are causing the negative thoughts"? I assume the ring could do it.


More on customized GLs.

"My" idea is based partly on the Alan Moore story about the female GL who intervened on a totally dark world. Since light couldn't penetrate there, the ring was useless, but she made it into a Green Bell that emitted sound waves rather than light. Just think, we could have a Green Lantern, Green Bell, Green Pepper, Green Jeans....


Again someone thinks GL needs precise knowledge of what he's doing.

To create the illusion of a working car, fan, or something that just moves, you make a copy and move it. To create a copy of an energy effect, you have to know how the energy works (within reason—heat and light are somewhat simple, and are probably understood by the ring).

So to create a ring-powered machine to destroy evil, you have to know how to destroy evil. Therefore, it isn't done.

If GL doesn't have to create a working car, if he doesn't even have to know how it works, if he merely creates a shell made of energy, then why couldn't he construct an anti-evil machine (i.e., a Miracle Machine—in other words, such a machine is possible in the DC universe) and power it with his will? I don't see the difference between that and a car; they're both machines. What it all seems to boil down to is that Hal could do as I've suggested if he had enough will; there are no physical limitations.


Kyle Rayner's oath

In, uh, day, evening, night,
How 'bout Green Lantern's light?
Dude, let's do it right,
You know, fight, fight, fight!


Limited heroes = good idea
Someone suggests many IRON MAN and THOR stories didn't overuse the characters' physical limitations.

Dang, I must have read all the bad IRON MAN and THOR stories and missed all the good ones.

I agree with you completely about the value of "limited" superheroes—the few I've created and the ones I'd like to write would be all like that. That's my problem with characters like GL or Thor—they're basically unlimited in power. I just don't think the arbitrary limitations work as well as what I'd call "organic" or "natural" limitations. Saying the Flash can run at Mach 5 (or whatever) is a natural limitation to me. Saying he couldn't run on yellow brick roads would be arbitrary.

For instance, if we limited Hal Jordan to creating physical objects only, he'd have to think of new and inventive ways to overcome problems all the time. In contrast, the 24-hour limit imposes the same storytelling problem every time: He's got to run away and recharge. Of course a good writer can think of clever variations on the time-limit problem, but I think you'd find, as time went by, that you'd use up your 24-hour-limit stories and start ignoring the device. Because that's what it seems to me, a device.


I think you articulated the problem well. It doesn't exactly drive me up a tree, but I think it weakens the character. You never know whether he'll take charge in any situation or "forget" all the wonderful tricks he can do and thus get himself hurt or captured. When the reader can outthink the hero, come up with better solutions, it interrupts the suspension of belief. It's much like the 24-hour limit. Anytime the writer wants, he can say, "Whoops, 24 hours are almost up. GL's in trouble." And he can also say, "All GL can do is hammers, tongs, and flyswatters. Looks like the bad guy's got him beat."

When the same guy can beat Mongul and lose to Deathstroke the Terminator, something's wrong, IMHO.


Another correspondent tries again to explain GL's ring.

GL knows what a defibrillator does, even if he doesn't understand the process by which it does it: It sends an electric shock to the heart muscle.

He DOESN'T have the slightest idea what the full abilities of the Mother Box are, or Brother Eye, or the Miracle Machine. He might be able to duplicate any function or set of functions he has seen them perform, but not duplicate the entire range of functions.

Unless, of course, he has—in the past—asked the ring to analyze and store the inner workings of such devices, and then asks the ring to duplicate them in toto.

But GL has created spaceships before, hasn't he? He just happens to know the physical principles of faster-than-light travel? And Allan Lappin has said he creates only the shell of a car, for instance, not a true working car. So is GL creating a working defibrillator, or a shell of a defibrillator (i.e., is he shocking someone with his ring directly, but simply making it look like a defibrillator is acting for some arbitrary reason)?

Comment (5/24/02):  These correspondents need to get their stories straight. Then they need to rethink them. We all agree GL can create a modern-day machine: a car, a jet, or a television. Does he have to know exactly how television works? Does he have to know roughly how it works (machines deassemble a picture, transmit it, and reassemble it)? Is it enough to create a "shell" of a television and let the ring fill in the technological details? Or can he simply think "television" and let the ring do the rest?

Our correspondents don't agree. If they did agree, their answer would be wrong, since GL has created things when he didn't know how they worked. He's created animals such as elephants and lions, as well as energy duplicates of himself, for example. Does he know an elephant's biochemistry? Its anatomy and musculature? Of course not...yet the power-ring elephants behave just like actual elephants. That's because he imagines a result and the ring fills in the details.

GL also has done things that are flatly impossible, such as shrinking himself to subatomic size. It doesn't matter whether he knows how to do this or tells the ring to produce the final result, since the task violates the laws of physics. Physicists are at least talking about wormholes and time travel being theoretically possible, which makes them more possible than shrinking. Yet GL can shrink himself even though he can't know the unknowable mechanics of shrinking.

Upshot: GL doesn't have to know how a defibrillator, a Mother Box, or a time machine works. If a ring can create a space warp or telepathic waves, it can create anything he can imagine. The evidence seems pretty clear on that point. (If nothing else, GL could order his ring to scan Mister Miracle's Mother Box and create a duplicate of it.)


How would GL eliminate evil?
Someone asks exactly how GL would remove evil.

How? The brain doesn't function like that. There isn't an "evil" cortex ala Doc Savage; you can't remove a specific ganglia and leave the person alive with skills and memory intact, but the personality altered so that he'll never look at the woman next door with lust in his heart again.

Worse, how do you define evil? Is killing a man who was trying to strangle your wife to death evil? Is eating meat on Fridays during Lent evil? *That* was the beauty of the Alan Scott story.

I don't know about "evil," but think of it as a metaphor for other things. Doctors have cured someone (perhaps accidentally) of violent tendencies by removing part of the brain. Doctors treat depression by directing chemicals to a particular part of the brain. These actions may affect the person's skills and memories or they may not. I don't expect a ring to literally excise every "evil cell" and leave every "good cell" intact. But I imagine a ring could affect those parts of the brain that cause sad, negative, or violent thoughts and dampen them enough so a person would become functional.

Comment (5/24/02):  The so-called beauty of the Alan Scott story is stupid if you think about. So it's tough to define "evil"...so? The ring defined it by removing the entire person, implying they were evil through and through.

Is a newborn baby evil? Yes, according to some Christians, but not according to others. How about an unborn fetus? An unfertilized egg? A chimpanzee clever enough to disobey a human master's rule? How about a dog? A trained parakeet? Trained fish? Trained flea? Etc. Evil, or not?

No good answer is possible, but I'd love to hear someone try. The Alan Scott story failed to address the issue in any meaningful way. A better solution might've been for the ring to explode or implode—because the definition of "evil" was so paradoxical the ring couldn't handle it.

Tell me how GL communicates telepathically with Oa or travels faster than light and I'll tell you how he removes evil. By magical fiat, that's how. If that's not sufficient, the ring excises whichever brain cells and chemicals that create the thoughts and feelings that Alan Scott deems "evil." End of story.


>> Did Hal really create kryptonite radiation with his ring. What issue was this. Under what circumstances did he do it? <<

ACTION #437. An evil magician was blackmailing Superman into doing his bidding, and summoned GL and Flash for "sport." Superman won in the end.

Interestingly, Supes determined that GL's kryptonite radiation was "artificial," and thus could be blocked by his yellow "S" emblem. That seems to raise as many questions as it answers. Could a yellow wall (or sheet of paper) block artificial magnetism from GL's ring? Artificial heat?


Power ring facts
Here are some things a Green Lantern can do with his power ring. He can:

  • read someone's mind;

  • have his ring search a city for someone he has only a (mental) picture of;

  • make his body nebulous enough for solid objects to pass through;

  • shrink himself;

  • transmit matter into other matter (his clothes, for instance) or create matter out of thin air;

  • control people's minds and tell them what to do;

  • trace gravity and other energy waves to their source;

  • distinguish a single person's footsteps from all other vibrations;

  • emit kryptonite rays;

  • stop a world's core from blowing up.

    All this courtesy of GL (original series) #60, #67, and a few other selected issues.

    Given this, I submit that GL can do literally anything he wants if he has enough will power. Hal Jordan, for instance, has no physical or mental idea of how to accomplish the above tasks. He simply "wishes" for a result and the ring does it without Hal's having the slightest clue how. (Indeed, most of these actions are beyond human understanding.)

    Therefore, there is no reason Hal couldn't order a single person, if not the entire world, not to commit an evil act again ("evil" being as Hal defined it). There is no reason he couldn't create food for everyone or eradicate all disease. I don't think there's any reason he couldn't bring someone back to life or will himself to be immortal, either. None of these seem inherently more difficult than transmuting matter or preventing a world from exploding.

    Comments, anyone?


    Rob introduces a contest about GL's ring, 3/12/94.

    "How does Green Lantern escape?"

    You are Green Lantern. You've been very, very naughty (perhaps you've wiped out most of the GL Corps). You are imprisoned in a cell in interstellar space beyond the gravitational field of any solar system. The cell is a solid cube with a hollowed-out interior and walls at least a foot thick, colored a luminescent yellow inside and out. Your ring has a 24-hour charge but you have only 12 hours of air left. What do you do?

    (Hint: There are at least ten different ways for GL to escape this cell. Good luck!)


    Answers begin coming in
    >> Hmmm, how about you use your power ring to slash your wrists and splash your blood around your cell. This turns the cell's interior into a different color (red) and then you use your power ring to bust out (If you have any blood left!) <<

    Yes, that is solution #1! It includes all the obvious alternatives such as using his hair, skin, feces (ugh), costume, or boot (a little less messy, IMHO). I'd also point out that he could collect dust particles from the air and plaster them against the wall, or even change the color of the air molecules themselves before plastering them against the wall. I consider all these variants of solution #1—and that's only one solution! (Think how many there'd be if we counted them separately!)


    A thoughtful correspondent comes up with many of my answers.

    1) Time travel back in time before it was built/moved to that spot.

    2) Shrink down into the subatomic level and go thru the wall.

    3) Transmute the air inside into antimatter and explode the walls, while safe in a force field.

    4) Take off part of costume, put it on floor/wall, then hit it with something to break thru.

    5) Turn himself intangible, then walk thru the walls.

    6) Use the hard surface of the ring to scrape the yellow surface off the walls, then blast out.

    7) Go into another dimension (Qward?) and then move a few feet then come back outside the cell.

    8) Expand the molecule of the air in the cell and have it burst the cell open.

    9) Transmute the air into microblackhole and have it tunnel its way out, then shrink yourself down and go out the resulting hole.

    10) Open up a spacewarp to another place in the universe.

    Thats as many as I can come up with off the top of my head. What answers do you have?

    I'm withholding my answers, such as they are, until this thread matures a little (it is supposed to be a quiz, after all). But you got most of them and thought of one or two not on my list. Some comments:

    I'm not certain that GL can do either your 1) or 5), but that's part of the fun of this quiz, IMHO.

    I'm assuming this cell is made of a yellow material down to the molecular level (it's not just painted yellow), so I'm discounting your 6).

    I would argue that your 7) and 10) are variations on the same answer, since we don't know if a space warp proceeds through another dimension, hyper- or sub-space, or what.

    Your costume idea is similar to Lucio Perez's blood bath.

    I like your 3) and 9) especially. I hadn't crystallized my thinking on how GL could use a black hole yet.

    I'll give you credit for eight answers.


    More answers
    Someone suggests GL creates a miniature sun to superheat the air and explode the walls...a black hole to implode the walls...or dual black holes to form a wormhole through which he can escape.

    The expanding air theory I buy. Could GL suck in the walls of the prison without collapsing it upon himself, though? And the dual black-hole theory, while creative, seems like another variation of the space warp principle to me.


    Someone suggests GL creates a radio and calls for help.

    A radio! That's so simple I forgot to think of it! Of course, one could question whether GL can create matter out of thin air, but I can accept this as another valid answer.


    Someone objects that a green energy-imbued phantom couldn't pass through yellow walls.

    But does the green energy come in contact with the yellow walls/molecules, or go between them? Or does becoming a phantom mean removing oneself to another plane beyond our material one?


    Someone agrees GL can create a radio.

    I suspect you're right. GL has been depicted creating both green-energy and non-green-energy constructs (i.e., matter made out of one of the 105+ elements). I think it falls under "the ring can do anything" category.


    An existential thought on GL's purpose in life.

    If you were a GL, would you sleep soundly? If it were me, I'd be up nights thinking of ways I could eradicate evil, poverty, hunger, etc. That GL has barely addressed these possibilities shows how limited comic books are, IMHO.


    The meaning of "yellow" is questioned.

    >> My biggest question is are yellow things really yellow? In other words, our sun looks yellow to us because of the limited range of our vision. If a being with a much wider range of vision looked at it (or for safety's sake a picture of it <g>) it might see it as *&%*&% (whatever word it uses for ultraviolet). So what I'm really asking is, does the ring only not work on what the wearer PERCEIVES as yellow? Would a blind GL have any yellow problems? <<


    What is "yellow," anyway?
    Someone else responds to the previous correspondent.

    It depends on what you mean by "yellow," I suppose, Phil.

    An object looks yellow either because it absorbs all other frequencies of visible light and reflects only the yellow frequencies, or because it radiates mostly in the yellow portion of the visible spectrum.

    Obviously, a creature unable to perceive light in the yellow portion of the spectrum would see such an object differently. If its perception were otherwise identical to our own, it would view the reflective object as black, just as we see an object that absorbs ALL visible light as being black. If its perception were otherwise WIDER than our own, it might well perceive the ultra-violet or infrared radiation the object reflects.

    I'm not as certain what would happen with the radiating object. Certainly, in the case of the being with wider perception, either UV or IR would come into play, but I'm not sure about the being with our perception minus the ability to see yellow. Since there would probably be some residual radiation in the rest of the visible spectrum, he might pick it up as one of the other colors, but more dimly than we see it, since yellow is the predominant frequency being radiated.

    If "yellow" means from the bearer's perspective, then yes—those objects would not be "yellow" to those bearers. But if it means the scientifically quantifiable property of reflecting or radiating in the yellow portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, then the object is still "yellow," no matter how the bearer perceives it.


    Someone suggests we overlooked the obvious. I'm not sure what the "obvious" was—either that the cell would be dark, or that GL could close his eyes and not "see" the yellow, then do his standard tricks. The basic claim was that yellow is a function of perception.

    I think I said this cell has luminescent yellow walls, which means they supply their own yellow light without any outside interference or power source. So the room is lit "normally," approximately the same as if it had a big yellow light bulb in it. If it were dark, your analysis would apply.

    Color is a phenomenon of perception and not matter? If a tree glows yellow in a forest and no one is there to see it, it isn't really yellow? Seems to me color has as much "objective" reality as any other property of matter, but I'll leave that question to the more physically- or philosophically-minded among us.

    The more interesting point you raise is: the yellow limit is based on GL's subconscious?!? So if he's not consciously aware of it, it effectively doesn't exist? If he's led unknowingly (e.g., blindfolded) to a yellow wall, he can punch right through it? That's a new one on me, so I'd love to hear what all you GL scholars out there think about it.

    Note to a previous respondent: Oops, I was wrong to suggest that GL's creating a radio was a valid way to escape. He's trapped in interstellar space, which means any radio signal would take several years to reach the nearest civilization. GL would be a corpse long before then. Nor do I accept that "sub-space radio," as on Star Trek, exists in the GL continuity. But (hint) "radio" suggests other possible means of escape.


    Yellow limitation = subconscious?
    The subconscious theory is interesting, but it would seem to change things. A person or an alien race that couldn't perceive yellow (e.g., someone color-blind) would have no weakness!

    Comment (5/24/02):  Actually, a GL story—maybe one of the backup stories in FLASH—established that the Guardians added a physical yellow impurity to the physical substance of which they made the rings. They did this intentionally to limit the Green Lanterns' power. Otherwise, the Lanterns might become too big for their britches. According to the canon, therefore, the yellow limitation was physical, not mental.


    >> GL's limited approach to eradicating evil doesn't show how limited *comic books* are. They demonstrate how limited an idea an omnipotent power ring is, or perhaps how limited some of GL's writers have been, but there's nothing about the limitations of a story idea which indicts the comic book medium. <<

    Okay, they show how limited the writers are, and also how limited comic books are in the real world of publishing. By that I mean that unless you mortgage yourself to put out your own comic book, you have to bow to the wishes of the publisher and the marketplace. And, as we all can probably imagine, a big-time publisher wouldn't be too happy with Superman or the Avengers fighting poverty or helping famine victims most of the time. Even though that's what superheroes would do in the "real" world, IMHO. In other words, I wasn't solely addressing comic books as an art form, but also as a commercial product.


    A response to "If you were GL, would you sleep soundly?"

    Knowing that I defended the weak, maintained order, and promoted good, I'd sleep the sleep of the just.

    "If it were me, I'd be up nights thinking of ways I could eradicate evil, poverty, hunger, etc."

    Well, you seem to eschew the notion of free-will, thinking of sentient beings as meat robots that can be reprogrammed. You similiarly have very naive notions about the causes of poverty, hunger and injustice, and failed to consider the impact of any of your proposed changes.

    "That GL has barely addressed these possibilities shows how limited comic books are, IMHO."

    Here's Hal Jordan, confronted with the reality of the universe, and the knowledge that a race of incredibly wise, utterly powerful, ancient immortals and millions, perhaps *billions* of members of the GLC haven't been able to do this. How should he be able to do what they couldn't?

    You really should consider renting a life, with an option to buy.

    Rob needs a life?
    No need to get nasty, Allan. I thought we were all friends here. Where you get any idea about what I consider to be the causes of poverty, hunger, or injustice, or what I would do to address them, I don't know. Certainly you've gone way beyond the text of my messages.

    Seems to me there's been enough GL stories in recent years portraying the Guardians as shortsighted, biased, and just plain stupid that we can no longer consider them omniscient. That Hal Jordan has taken so long to open his eyes and see the Guardians' limitations, which Green Arrow and others saw in a flash, has been an ongoing theme for decades. You didn't miss any of those stories, did you?

    About the only story I can recall discussing the Guardians' attitude toward social causes is the one where GL stopped to clean up a pollution spill rather than rush off into outer space. The Guardian claimed that using the ring for one planet rather than for the entire universe was selfish. This suggests that the Guardians might oppose social tampering on a large scale, but the issue hasn't been addressed, to my knowledge.

    Since I've read the newspaper cover to cover for the last 25 years or so, plus numerous books and magazines, I'm willing to match my knowledge of current events to that of anyone on this forum. I'm extremely aware of the possible effects of such social tampering. If, for example, GL eradicated malaria with a power ring wish (which I believe he could do), more people would live, leading to increased overcrowding, hunger, resource depletion, etc. So? GL's dealing with the consequences of his actions, perhaps learning ultimately that he shouldn't have acted, would make a fine story—an epic unmatched in comic book annals, IMHO.

    Comic books such as WATCHMEN, MIRACLEMAN, and SQAUDRON SUPREME have tried to deal with these issues. I've written my own comic book epic (unpublished, of course) that also deals with them. That no one who has edited or written GL (with the exception of rare individuals such as Denny O'Neil) has ever even considered these issues (in print) shows their naivete and shortsightedness, not mine.

    Comment (5/24/02):  Since this posting will be available to generations of Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan fans, and since it addresses my beliefs about how juvenile most comics are, I consider it a worthy use of my time.

    In GL #76, Oliver Queen pointed out how blind and self-serving Hal Jordan was to ignore the world's problems and "sleep soundly" instead. His critique of the GL mentality remains spot-on. Indeed, every hero who ignores "real-world" problems is guilty of GL's moral lapses.

    In reality, a conscientious superhero would be like Samaritan in ASTRO CITY. He'd race from calamity to calamity 24 hours a day, with a bare minimum of time spent eating and sleeping and no "down time" or personal life. Kurt Busiek showed the folly of most superheroes with that creation, IMHO.


    More on the nature of color.

    Okay, so color is both an objective and subjective phenomenon. I believe GL's ring is powerless against anything that is objectively yellow, regardless of his subjective perception of it. (In other words, if an object is emitting photons of a certain electromagnetic wavelength, his ring won't work against it.) What do you think?


    I have to assume that the Guardians established a certain span of electromagnetic wavelengths as the yellow weakness and that it applies equally to all GLs. But I don't know, of course. If the Guardians instead attuned each ring to each individual's perception of yellow, that's a whole other can of worms. In that case, two GLs whose rings didn't work against what they perceived as yellow could switch rings and both rings would work. It's an interesting idea and, unfortunately, something GL writers have never been brave or bold enough to address.


    Rob supplies the missing answers
    And now...more GL quiz answers, to stir up your blood!

    1) Nobody mentioned one obvious trick, that GL could create a torch or emit pure heat and melt through the cell. If you agree GL can create matter out of nothing (which I don't, necessarily), he could similarly douse the walls with ring-created acid (or whatever chemicals the wall would react with). If you don't believe GL can create matter from nothing, you still might concede that he could draw enough atoms from the air and his body to create a viable chemical. (This all assumes the walls aren't made of inertron or something similar.)

    Likewise, GL could create a diamond drill (either from the carbon dioxide in the air or from nothing) and bore his way out. If you believe he can create something from nothing, he could create any number of machines to drill/dig/cut himself out, in fact.


    But wait, there's more!

    2) Just as the transporter on Star Trek does, GL could teleport himself outside the cell. This would involve him transmitting his atoms through the atoms of the walls. It would thus be different than either forming a space warp or turning himself into a phantom (though one could argue about the mechanics of phantomization, obviously).


    And more!

    3) GL could transmit radio waves, or any other wave of the electromagnetic spectrum that could pass through solid matter, but they wouldn't reach any civilization in time. He could, however, send a telepathic message to the nearest rescuer with translight capability and order him to come at translight speed. If you want to argue that the yellow walls would block telepathic waves, I submit that as far as we know, they're no different than radio waves (i.e., able to pass through solid matter). It's true, however, that GL might not have the will to send a telepathic message, even at "the speed of thought," far enough or fast enough to reach a potential rescuer before his time was up. It's not the solution I would try first, therefore.

    4) I also suggest that GL could simply send a beam through the yellow wall—either by converting the green energy to x-rays or some other wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum, or by willing the beam to narrow itself to the thickness of a single particle/wave. Once outside, the beam could fulfill GL's request to find the nearest rescuer and bring him back pronto. Or, if you want to get really outlandish, the beam, once outside the cell, could form a space warp around the cell (without touching it) and deposit the cell somewhere else—say, on Oa or in JLI headquarters.


    And yet more!

    5) Finally, I submit that GL could simply change the walls from yellow to some other color. How? By bombarding them with either energy or matter (perhaps high-velocity subatomic particles) from his ring. As in a cyclotron, the right combination of matter and energy would strike the walls and add or subtract protons or electrons until the wall transmuted into a different substance, one that was not yellow. GL could then use any other method to burst through that non-yellow portion of the wall.

    My conclusion? A GL is pretty much omnipotent, even against the color yellow. The next time you see a GL battling a Daxamite, Mongul, or Darkseid, ask yourself: Why doesn't GL just zip a tiny black hole into his brain, or push him through a space warp, or turn him into a phantom, or send him back through time? And next time you see GL square off against someone like Goldface, you can laugh yourselves silly. Let's see: How many ways can GL defeat a person in a yellow costume...?

    Comment (6/5/02):  Something is yellow because it absorbs light of every wavelength except the yellow wavelength. GL could defeat a yellow villain by filtering the sunlight before it struck the villain. That would change the villain to another color, perhaps green, and then GL could ring him.


    Correspondent thinks GL stories didn't happen
    "...there's been enough GL stories in recent years portraying the Guardians as shortsighted, biased, and just plain stupid that we can no longer consider them omniscient."

    And every one of those stories—including the so-called classic GL/GA stories in, IMO, dead wrong. As dead wrong as any story that portrays Superman as less than a Boy Scout. As dead wrong as any story that portrays Batman as carrying a gun.

    The point is, Robert, that a lot of us really OLD Green Lantern fans do not accept the idea that the Guardians are a bunch of shortsighted and mean-spirited busybodies.

    And, while the story ideas you cite are good ones, once they've been done, then what? Where would GL go from there? Sounds like a recipe for creating a character who, having been defeated on the big issues, sees little use in fighting the small ones.

    Where would GL go after fighting my prospective storyline? Depends on the conclusion: whether it was positive or negative, whether political bodies such as the UN or other superpowered groups (e.g., the JLI or even L.E.G.I.O.N. or the Darkstars) got involved, etc. Where does GL go now after a fight? He flies airplanes/sells toys/sells insurance, saves the universe from exploding, then goes back to flying/selling as if he hasn't had the slightest shred of emotion or thought about anything. If I wanted to read cardboard, I'd stick to my Cheerios box.

    Comment (5/24/02):  The only thing dead wrong here, friend, is your insistence that we should regard only the most simpleminded GL stories as canonical. I suggest you stick to Archie or Disney or DC's ADVENTURES series if you want stories that are figuratively black and white.

    If anything, we should write the simple-Simon (and Kirby) stories of the '40s, '50s, and '60s out of the canon. In fact, that's what we've (partly) done.


    >> Teleportation would require alteration of his molecules in some way by the green energy of the ring, probably investing them with some of it. Since the green energy can't pass through the yellow walls, I'd doubt his energy-imbued/altered molecules could, either. <<

    I imagine he could construct a transporter-type mechanism in the middle of the cell, then use it to "beam" his unirradiated molecules just like any other object in a teleporation machine. But I do believe that yellow is an attribute of the wall's molecules, not the space between the molecules, which makes them permeable to green energy (if a ring-wielder is smart enough).


    Critic tries to poke holes in solutions

    #3 assumes telepathy works at translight speeds and at interstellar distances. There is no evidence of that, I believe, in the DC Universe as currently constructed.

    #4 assumes that either a) the beam can change its own nature or b) that the material of the walls of the cell is not so dense as to prevent even a particle-sized beam from penetrating it. <<

    #5 also assumes that a substance that is transformed into another substance by green energy is not somehow still imbued with the green energy. I recall instances in which GL could not do almost exactly what you propose—because the green energy would cease to have effect once the object hit the yellow wall.

    As for why GL doesn't do any of the things you suggest:

    Well, putting a black hole through someone's brain will probably kill them. Most GLs have not been depicted as murderers. And, in the heat of battle, how likely are YOU to remember all these nifty ideas? If somebody's coming at me with a sledgehammer, chances are my first instinct is to protect myself from the hammer, not think of ways to send my opponent to the other side of the universe.

    Yes, well, most of these solutions assume something. If the walls are made of something stronger and more dense than GL's will, many of the solutions will fail (that's why it's good to have backups!).

    I believe GL has received telepathic transmissions from Oa and across interstellar space. Presumably they were happening in real-time since the crisis hadn't been over for a hundred or thousand years by the time GL arrived.

    GL has changed his green energy to heat, magnetism, x-rays, kryptonite radiation, and so forth, so I'm not sure what you mean by the beam's "changing its own nature."

    The cyclotronic concept presupposes only that GL can create such a device and use it to shoot normal, nonirradiated molecules (from the air, etc.) at the wall. If you're saying that anything GL's energy creates or touches is imbued with the green energy during the contact...or after the contact...I don't think so.

    Okay, how about a black hole in the foot to cripple someone like Mongul when he's about to squish your brains? I think that would fall within the GL rules. And if I were GL, I would practice regularly against super-demons and attack squads in yellow uniforms, maybe in some sort of "danger room"—naw, that's a silly idea.

    Comment (5/24/02):  If someone's coming at you with a sledgehammer, you go ahead and hit him with a power-ringed boxing glove. I hope that's enough to keep him from caving in your skull. Meanwhile, I'll teleport him to a jail or, better yet, excise his sledgehammering thoughts instantly and make him a productive member of society. You and Hal Jordan may not have the will to do these things, but I do.

    I gave several solutions besides putting a black hole through someone's brain. The other solutions were nonlethal, which is probably why you didn't address them. Apparently you didn't get my general point: that GL can do anything a writer says he can.


    Again someone questions the contest's purpose. My response:

    It seems like a good thing to explore. I'm not of the school that says we should accept these little miracles and coincidences just because they originated in the Golden or Silver Age. A good explanation or elaboration can make an old story point richer without invalidating it.


    More on telepathy
    >> In one Flash/Green Lantern story they had someone make some duplicates of Hal, who then attacked him. All of the Hal's got arrested and taken to the police building where Barry Allen worked. He walked in and saw them and then got a telepathic message from the real Hal. (But he could only tell which one had sent the message by the fact that the real Hal's ring glowed while he sent it. Thats the only time I can recall Hal using telepathy. <<

    Aren't most of the messages from the Guardians telepathic? The dialogs in outer space? I'm no GL scholar, but I can point to GL #67 off the top of my head, in which a criminal usurped the ring's power to order people to commit crimes. That would have to be telepathic unless he rewired their brain chemistry, which seems unlikely.

    Comment (5/24/02):  In either case, the story proves my point. If a ring-wielder can order someone to commit crimes, he can order someone not to commit crimes. He doesn't have to know the definition of "evil" to do so. He doesn't have to know why people commit crimes on a philosophical or biological level. He can order the ring to scan and digest the country's laws, then "order" people not to break those laws. Again, end of story.

    Not only can he stop people from committing crimes by filling their heads with an inviolable command to obey the law, he can prevent any crime at the source. Bank robbery? He transmits an impregnable green-energy vault to every bank in the world. Wife-beating? He gives every woman a personal energy shield she can activate at will. Plane-jacking? He has the airlines retrofit their jets with a panic signal his ring monitors constantly. Etc.

    For any crime, you could come up with a dozen proactive solutions that would prevent it from ever occurring again. Really, individual solutions aren't even necessary. GL simply could order his ring to monitor every activity in the entire world simultaneously. If someone robbed a bank, struck a woman, or hijacked a plane, he'd order the ring to respond. The ring would freeze the criminal in place and summon the authorities—without GL's knowing anything about human philosophy or biochemistry. End of crime worldwide, permanently.

    Instead, your typical GL responds to crimes after the fact. Your typical GL is stupid. Fearless, perhaps, but a blithering idiot when it comes to creative thinking.

    Saying GL has to know how "evil" works is a complete dodge of the real issue. Namely, that GL as written is either immoral or incompetent because he doesn't use his power wisely. The same could be said of his writers, editors, and publishers.


    A silly comment.

    >> Ha! You claim to be well informed, but you are not! You think GL could eradicate malaria? Never! It's *yellow* fever! <<

    Yes, and GL probably couldn't cure jaundice or anything else that turns the skin yellowish. Or "gold fever" or "yellow journalism," either.


    Someone concedes my point.

    >> The Power Ring and Lantern is limitless power. <<

    If that were true, then the Guardians would simply use that limitless power to accomplish whatever ultimate purpose they had in mind, without use of a "corps."

    Comment (5/24/02):  GL's power is limitless when it serves the story, limited otherwise. If he needs the energy to keep a planet from blowing up, he's got it. If he needs the energy to knock out Solomon Grundy, and the story still has a ways to go, he doesn't have it.

    In short, the concept of GL's ring is tragically flawed. It needs a definition and limitations to even begin to work, story-wise. The lack of definition is a big reason why GL has never succeeded as a character. And why most adults don't read comics.


    Someone makes a good point.

    Good point! Why didn't those goofy Guardians simply will the universe's problems out of existence, rather than create a Corps, etc.?

    The contest, 2002 version
    In Spring 2002, I wrote to Captain Comics (Andrew Smith) and suggested he run the Green Lantern contest as part of his column in Comic Buyer's Guide. He did. Some additional thoughts on Green Lantern and his ring:

    Comment (7/2/02):  DC's powers-that-be may have offered explanations for how Green Lantern's ring works, but all such explanations are suspect. Consider:

  • GL has to know the "principles" of the things he creates or does. This is clearly false. Take the most basic GL operations: making himself lighter than air...creating force shields...generating life-support in outer space...creating constructs such as blowtorches or monkeys. Although a few people could construct a blowtorch from scratch, I doubt many of them could construct a monkey. Our most advanced biochemists barely understand how to clone an egg cell; they haven't a clue how to construct a working adult animal.
  • And the other tasks are simply beyond human knowledge. Neither Hal Jordan nor any other human knows how to do these things. At best Hal is doing what Kyle supposedly does: visualizing the result and letting the ring figure out how to do it.

  • GL can do anything he can visualize. This is again clearly false. Think of a GL doing something like keeping a planet from blowing up. What exactly is he visualizing? A planetary explosion must involve a near-infinite number of physical and chemical processes. A human can't even comprehend these processes, much less visualize solutions to them.
  • If the answer is he's visualizing the planet as a whole, not as a gazillion components...well, that applies to creating objects like motorcycles and blowtorches too. If he doesn't have to know how a planet "works" to keep it from blowing up, he doesn't have to know how a motorcycle works to create one. At best Kyle is imagining (not visualizing) a result and letting the ring figure out how to do it.

    We're back to where we started. The ring can do anything the wearer (and writer) imagines. If DC wants to stick with the visualization claim...well, Green Che Guevara and I can visualize food and medicine appearing before each of the world's six billion people. We can visualize ourselves shrinking, teleporting across the galaxy, or traveling through time. So let's see it happen.

    A more limited explanation for how the ring works would make GL a more plausible character, but I haven't heard a workable explanation. Any such explanation will have unintended consequences—eliminating stunts we've seen GL do thousands of times. That's okay by me, but I doubt DC will let itself be bound by the hobgoblin of consistency.

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