Some 1940s Green Lantern reviews…

Comic Cavalcade #6

Green Lantern – “They Are Invincible”

Alfred Bester, Paul Reinman

Anyone remember the old “What if?” series that Marvel used to publish? I read the occasional issue back in the day, and the book would take some well-known Marvel story and then ask “what if it happened this way?” and the run with an alternate version of events. The alternate version would almost always end in disaster or have Wolverine save the day, but anyway… this Green Lantern story from the Spring 1944 issue of Comic Cavalcade is a “What If?”. The author, an unnamed Al Bester (sci-fi writer from the 40s – 70s) speaks to the reader, saying that his wife complained to him that Green Lantern and Doiby Dickles always win through luck rather than by being smart, so he’s decided to prove that the opposite is the case. He posits a “hypothetical story” to make his point.

GL and Doiby return from a case and head to the apartment building where they live. It’s a densely foggy night, so they’re a bit careless, and two thugs spot them entering the building. The thugs can’t believe their luck… they think they’ll be able to learn just who Green Lantern really is under his mask and put an end to his crime fighting. So they hang around waiting for the two men to come back out of the building, and once they do they follow them. Here’s where the “what if” comes in, because Alan and Doiby reach an intersection where they can walk left, right or straight ahead. The story has them do all three. First they go left, and a sequence of events plays out. Then Bester winds back the clock and they go right, and again we see a different sequence of events. Finally they go straight, and a third sequence of events happens. Each time Alan and Doiby manage to beat the thugs and preserve Alan’s secret identity, though circumstances are entirely different each time. Doiby even starts griping that the author won’t let him punch out the thugs before switching narratives, and Alan tells him to just be quiet and pretend he doesn’t know they’re in a comic book story. You’d almost expect Deadpool to pop up and start talking about the little yellow boxes and how much he’s missed them.

In the end, Bester insists that it’s all been just a hypothetical story, and that Alan and Doiby never actually left the apartment. They were enjoying a hot dinner, courtesy of Alan’s well-stocked fridge, and the two men that came out of the apartment were someone else entirely, so the thugs end up foiled. Bester’s editor shows up, declares the story a failure and fires Bester. The end. It’s a lighthearted and fun little story, and a nice change of pace from the stories with villains and death traps that Doiby wishes they were in.

Oh, and this is apparently the first appearance of the modern day Green Lantern oath, the one that Hal Jordan still uses to this day. “In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night…” etc. I knew it first turned up during the 40s, but wasn’t sure when.


Green Lantern #30 – Feb/March 1948

“The Saga of Streak”

Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth

Alan, you shouldn’t have adopted this dog as a pet. He’s going to take over your book. It’s the beginning of the end, pal.

I’m not sure this story was the best one to choose to represent the latter years of Alan Scott’s run as Green Lantern. In any case, only in the 1940s would we get a story narrated by the dog, as Streak tells us the story of his life. He’s not a talking dog (because that would just be silly, right?), but the book has his internal narration by Streak as we go through his life. He’s the pet of brother and sister Luke and Sara Dale. He goes with Luke, and after some time witnesses Luke gunned down by gangsters. Enraged, he attacks them, only to be shot by the thugs, and then rescued by Green Lantern, who takes him to the vet to recover.

Through a series of events, GL learns that Sara Dale is being targetted by former Nazi scientist Dr. Malorgo, who puts him and Sara on a giant death trap. Yay for giant death traps…  Streak attacks the guards and distracts them long enough for Alan to get free and take out the bad guys. Sara asks Green Lantern to take care of Streak for her, and he says that while he can’t, his friend Alan Scott can. Streak is of course aware that Alan and GL are the same person, but he says he’ll never tell…

I wonder what readers at the time thought of having a Green Lantern story that revolves around a dog that can think like a human? I think I’d have felt a little ripped off. A lot of the stories in the Green Lantern 75th anniversary book are of the “first appearance of…” variety, so maybe the editors wanted to put Streak’s first appearance in the collection, regardless of the quality of the story. It’s not a bad story per se, but it’s hardly the type of thing you’d expect to see in a superhero comic. I think they were trying to adapt to whatever was popular at the time in order to keep these books selling, but the final issue of Green Lantern was a little more than a year later in 1949.

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