Friday, January 14, 2011

Action Comics Weekly #608: The one where Hal Jordan goes on Oprah

This is the cover of 1988's Action Comics Weekly #608, which features the first appearance of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner—a full six year's before he was actually introduced in Green Lantern #48! That, or whoever colored Paul Smith's cover decided to give the brown-haired hero jet-black hair. Post-Kyle though, that totally just looks like the younger, cooler, better Green Lantern flying around, doesn't it?

Once again, the Green Lantern strip, now being written by Peter David and illustrated by Todd Smith and Dan Bulanadi, is the highlight of this particular issue of DC's shortlived weekly anthology series. The title of this particular installment is "Where the Heck is Green Latnern?," and appears being shouted by Oprah Winfrey at the sweatiest TV show flunkie in Chicago: I love everything about this panel, and it's only the first panel of the story. How do I love this panel? Let's count the ways.

1) It has Oprah Winfrey in it, rather than a weird fictionalized analogue character; in the late eighties, DC wasn't as shy as they are today about tossing real public figures into their fictional narratives. 2) Oprah is shouting so loud that her dialogue bubble accounts for nearly a quarter of the splash-page, and here "Heck" is in a big, blocky red font while her "Green Lantern" is in green, flaming letters...and yet as loud as she's yelling, she still chose to say "heck" instead of "hell." 3) She pronounced the little "registered trademark" symbol after "Green Lantern." 4) Her face is radiating a halo of...exasperation? Soundwaves? Oprah aura? What? What are those lines all about?!. 5) The look on that guy's fce as he's flipping through the pages on his clipboard, as if he's going to find Green Lantern stuck to the back of one of those pages. Even if you ignore all the white sweat pouring down his brow, just look at the existential horror on his face—is Oprah Winfrey going to throttle him then and there if he can't produce Green Lantern? What a set-up! The look on his face alone makes this one of the most intense and suspenseful openings of a superhero comic I've ever read!

So, where the heck is Green Lantern? He's still asleep in the hotel room he's been living in with his teenage space alien girlfriend, despite the fact that he was supposed to be on Oprah's set at 9 a.m.! And it's already 8:45!

He smashes his alarm clock with a blast from his power ring, and then flies into the bathroom to get ready: This is another great panel, full of frantic energy and rich, weird details. But do you notice anything wrong about it, aside form the fact that space-faring superhero Hal Jordan is doing his part to destroy Earth's ozone layer by using aerosol underarm deodorant? (Not very green for a guy who calls himself Green Lantern...)

Check out the foreground, were we see his Green Lantern shirt is laid out over a chair, while he's already wearing his Gren Lantern pants and boots. In the next panel, he's pulling on his gloves, and in the one after that, he dashes out of the room while putting on his mask.

This scene seems to imply that his costume is merely cloth and spandex, something he takes off and puts on like normal clothes. Yet in the previous issue we saw him putting on his costume thusly: That's the way I usually see Green Lanterns changing their clothes—using ring-power to make their street clothes turn into their Green Lantern uniforms, or vice versa.

How does that work exactly? I've always wondered. Do they use their ring's energy to reassemble their street clothes at a molecular level, transforming, say, a bathrobe into a GL uniform? Do they make the street clothes disappear—teleporting them to their laundry room, perhaps—and either make their costumes appear on them or weave their costumes out of thin air, using the rings' matter-creating abilities? Are they always wearing their GL outfits, but they use the power of the ring to render them invisible, and then when it's time to change, they just turn their street clothes invisible and make their uniforms visible?

This is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. Yes, agonizing over how a Green Lantern gets in and out of his or her clothes sometimes prevents me from sleeping. This is not a blog post, this is a cry for help.

At any rate, Hal apparently did whatever he does to create his uniform, but only put it on piece by piece. That seems kind of dumb if you're getting dressed in a hurry. But this is in keeping with Hal Jordan's character, because Hal Jordan is dumb.

Once dressed, Hal flies off to make it to Oprah's studio, but must first spend a few pages stopping an armored car hijacking he happens upon. In the process, one of the criminals shouts, "Hey, Lantern! Welcome to Chicago!" and then shoots at GL with a high-powered rifle. The clever crooks have painted their bullets yellow, and since yellow is the Green Lantern's only weakness, the bullet whips through his force field and slices through his shoulder.

But not even a bullet wound will stop Green Lantern! From appearing on Oprah! He arrives in the nick of time:Note that Oprah isn't exactly portrayed in a flattering light. In the second panel on this page, her body appears to be little more than a rectangle with limbs and a head balancing a top of it (In fact, she looks an awful lot like Amanda Waller from that angle and distance). Also note that she's wearing yellow, which we were just reminded was Hal Jordan's only weakness. Is this a subtle clue to the nature of the effect the interview will have on Hal? Or did Colorist Anthony Tollin, credited as the "colorer," just coincidentally choose to put Oprah in a canary yellow blazer? Whatever the reason, the fact remains—if Oprah were to button up her jacket and attack Hal Jordan during the interview, he'd be no match for her in hand-to-hand combat.

After the interview, Oprah walks up and down the aisles of the audience, allowing her viewers to ask some questions. When one asks Hal if she can become a Green Lantern, he explains that there's only one Green Lantern for the planet Earth—him. After a panel of stunned silence, the crowd reacts: To say that Hal is surprised by their reaction seems like an understatement. Check out his expression, he looks like he was just stabbed in the stomach by his best friend: And that's where the story ends for now.

Also of special note in this particular issue is the Wild Dog story, "Moral Stand." The installment opens with an image of Wild Dog's logo/mascot... ...which for some reason reminds me of that asshole dog from Duck Hunt... As you may or many not recall/care, in this story the Punisher-like vigilante who calls himself Wild Dog is up against The Legion of Morality, a reactionary, Moral Majority-like group that speaks out against smut—which they define rather broadly to include just about everything—and has a military wing that commits arson and terrorist attacks while wearing matching uniforms with a red circle with a line through it as their symbol.

Wild Dog has been attempting to infiltrate the militant wing in order to expose them, and had previously halted their attempt to destroy a newspaper's printing plant. One of the footsoldiers was captured, but was blown up by an explosive charge in his belt before he could reveal any information to the police.

But all the action of this installment has to do with older people doing it.

The Legion's leader Lyle Layman is having a business dinner with local volunteer Helen, and he puts the moves on in a weirdly aggressive manner— Putting your hand on a lady's leg is one thing, but doing it when sitting across the table from her? That's...that's pretty bold. And awkward.

The next morning, some of Wild Dog's police pals interview Helen for information about Layman, but she stonewalls. When they leave, we see that Layman was there all along—and not wearing a shirt!That's enough to imply that Helen and Layman spent the night together last night, as is their dialogue there, but if all that's too subtle, check out the reflection in the mirror in that final panel...they're totally in bed going at it again! Ew!

(Man, what if Lyle Layman was Peter Parker's uncle? "With special responsibilities come special privileges"...)

This issue also includes the conclusion of the first Blackhawk storyline, by Mike Grell, Rick Burchett and Pablo Marcos. This final installment a heavy avalanche of exposition explaining that blond gal that Blackhawk's been trying unsuccessfully to bang's backstory, plus some fisticuffs and a dramatic air battle. It ends with Blackhawk commenting on the nun's nunnishness: I suppose the look on his face in that first panel is supposed to suggest roguish incorrigiblity or rakish rapscallionocity, but it just looks like menacing sexual predator to me. Brr!

The next issue of Action Comics Weekly is the one with the killer Brian Bolland cover in which Black Canary rejects her 1980s costume in favor of her classic look——but unfortunately the used book store I bought this pile of ACWs from didn't have that particular issue, so we'll have to jump ahead to #610 in our next installment of Caleb Just Posts Scans Of Panels From Action Comics That He Thought Were Funny Instead Of Actually Reviewing Anything.

What can we look forward to in that issue? Kyle Baker drawing The Phantom Stranger, Black Canary wearing another new costume, then-president Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in the same story as Satan and Deadman and Hal Jordan getting hit in the head!


SallyP said...

Oh Hal. I do believe this was the period where he and Arisia were mooching off of poor John Stewart and his lovely bride Katma Tui. And the look on Hal's face when they all laugh at him? He's obviously not wearing his Sex Panther cologne.

CalvinPitt said...

That Blackhawk panel is supposed to be a Blues Brothers homage, right? With the dark sunglasses and the "on a mission from God" line? I'm not imagining that?

Garnet said...

The GL run in Action was up and down, but at least I remember being engaged by the character. The ersatz-Chaykin Blackhawk, though, and Terry Beatty's stiff, stiff work on Wild Dog, which is supposed to be an action tale ... really, Action Weekly's only legacy is to permit Action to get ahead of Detective in the numbering.

googum said...

If DC Direct loved me, I'd be able to buy a Wild Dog hockey jersey.