It’s the story that changed everything and led to a whole new age of comics…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Green Lantern #76 awaits!

Green Lantern #76 CoverGREEN LANTERN #76

Writer: Denny O’Neil
Penciler: Neal Adams
Inker: Neal Adams
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 15 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4000.00

Previously in Green Lantern: Launched in 1959, Green Lantern’s comic focused on harder science fiction stories and alien landscapes, with occasional forays into weird psychological stuff (like when Carol Ferris became Star Sapphire or a scientist was transformed into the Invisible Destroyer.)  During his tenures with the Justice League, though, Hal Jordan became bland pals with fellow emerald-wearer Green Arrow, which means that when he finds himself in the vicinity of Star City in the line of duty, Green Lantern decides to drop in on his pal…

The setup here is a common one in old-school comic books, with an older man in a suit being accosted by a multicultural group (as all gangs in comics were; had this comic taken place in the 80s, there would likely have been a guy with a green mohawk), making it clear that someone was about to get mugged.  Green Lantern naturally intervenes, but this familiar comic book premise is actually a red herring…

Green Lantern goggles that his Justice League cohort is defending those who are obviously breaking the law, but there’s much more to the story, if you’re familiar with the ins and outs of Star City sociopolitics…

I first read this comic something like 30 years ago, and even then I was aware that it’s a very preachy, very obvious polemic about race and class, trying to balance the long-underwear antics of the JLA with the reality of life in 1970.  Even so, I felt it was a powerful and unusual comic book read back then and even with the overt nature of the themes here, it doesn’t overpower the message that Denny O’Neil is conveying…

…buuuut it does come close.  That iconic moment is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that DC historically had zero people of color in their comics.  Whether that was by design or accident is difficult to ascertain, but here at the dawn of the Bronze Age, the old man’s piercing question carries extra weight.  Most of us have seen that series of panels dozens of times, but what’s not usually seen is the response, as Green Lantern asks what to do, and the gentleman responds with “If you want to bad enough, you’ll find a way.”  Still caught in his traditional mold, Green Lantern takes to the skies to entreat the landlord’s better nature…

Turns out he doesn’t have any.  But, what Jubal Slade does have is money, and people willing to take that money to do his dirty work, threatening to unleash his lawyers on the Emerald Gladiator.  Before that threat, though, the Guardians of The Universe summon their underling back to Oa, where they take him to task for attacking a fellow human being, a brother.  As Hal sputters that Slade is no brother of his, the Guardians shut him down with the proverbial quickness…

Sent to a remote part of our solar system to deal with a minor astronomical issue, Hal stews angrily before ignoring his orders and warping back to Earth, where Green Arrow is already plying a more streetwise attempt to bring Jubal’s corrupt business down…

Green Arrow gives an address for Jubal to bring him a hefty bribe, but the original Fatcat instead sends his gunsels with instructions to wipe out the Ace Archer once and for all.  Despite what that beard might imply, Oliver Queen is no dummy, and has set up a recording to get evidence of Jubal’s murderous ways, expecting a double-cross…

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out like he planned.  The next morning, he meets up with a returned Lantern to fume that his plan didn’t work, but Hal has an idea of his own…

For all the moments in this comic that one could consider iconic (the cover, which has become emblematic of relevant comics; the ‘Black Skins’ line; the last pages and even Green Arrow’s upcoming moment in front of the council of Guardians), I always remember this silly moment the most.  Green Lantern dragging a loveseat over the Star City rooftops with a smiling Green Arrow trying to calm a man in a suit who clearly isn’t used to flying…  I don’t know why it sticks with me, but it always has.  One power ring disguise later, Jubal has admitted to paying his men to murder Star City’s protector, and the identity of the man in the suit is revealed…

Green Lantern easily disarms the thuggish landlord, capturing him in a power ring rattrap without so much as an ounce of effort, and the clear indication (whether intended or not) is that the superheroes could easily defeat crime and corruption and the mere humans wouldn’t have a chance.  In a lot of ways, that low-key theme is frightening, and a decade or so later, it would become part of the narrative thrust of Doctor Manhattan in ‘Watchmen.’  I can’t tell if O’Neil and Adams meant for that to be the takeaway or not, but when the Guardians telepathically contact Green Lantern to berate him, Oliver Queen makes an impassioned argument against that same thing…

The remote, clinical approach of the Guardians, Oliver opines, does no service to the planet that Green Lantern is supposed to be protecting, and entreats the Oan overlords to “learn where we’re at… and WHY!”  This oh-so-70s colloquialism causes the Guardians to go into council for an entire week, debating whether or not they’re out of touch, and leading to an unprecedented moment in their eons of blue-skinned history.

And thus begins the ‘Hard-Traveling Heroes’ arc, and also The Bronze Age of comics, if you ask me.  Interestingly, though the cover touts this book as “Green Lantern co-starring Green Arrow’ the official title in the indicia never changes, making this much-vaunted team-up book technically still just Hal Jordan’s comic with a beardo hanging around.  Still, Green Lantern #76 hasn’t lost all of its power to changing times and even at its most preachy, it still makes relevant points about human nature with Neal Adams working at the peak of his powers, and frankly, the questions of racism, class warfare and corruption are no less meaningful in modern parlance, earning the book 4 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s easy to dismiss this book as a polemic of its times, but for my money, it still holds up as a strong read and a necessary bellwether of change at DC Comics…

It's the story that changed everything and led to a whole new age of comics...  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Green Lantern #76 awaits! GREEN LANTERN #76 Writer: Denny O'Neil Penciler: Neal Adams Inker: Neal Adams Colorist: Uncredited Letterer: John Costanza Editor: Julius Schwartz Publisher: DC Comics Cover Price: 15 Cents Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4000.00 Previously in Green Lantern: Launched in 1959, Green Lantern's comic focused on harder science fiction stories and alien landscapes, with occasional forays into weird psychological stuff (like when Carol Ferris became Star Sapphire or a scientist was transformed into the Invisible Destroyer.)  During his tenures…
The beginnings of capital-r Relevance in comic books, with both story and art going somewhat over the top for a modern sensibility... Still holds up, though.

GREEN LANTERN #76

Writing
Art
Coloring

The beginnings of capital-r Relevance in comic books, with both story and art going somewhat over the top for a modern sensibility... Still holds up, though.

User Rating: 3.75 ( 1 votes)

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.