This week sees the release of Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super-Spectacular. While the most well known Green Lanterns are still Hal Jordan and John Stewart, the first Green Lantern, Alan Scott gets the lead story in the issue. However, this may not be the Alan Scott you remember, at least not entirely.
Who Is Alan Scott?
Alan Scott first appeared in All-American Comics #16 as The Green Lantern! Created by Martin Nodell and Bill Finger (of Batman fame), Alan was an engineer on a train that is sabotaged by a rival businessman. In the wreck Scott finds a mysterious green lantern that gives him the power to control a mysterious green flame from the lamp with his willpower. Often aided by the earthy “Doiby” Dickles, Scott would go on to become a founding member of the Justice Society of America and have a long life and career on Earth-Two the alternate Earth on which DC’s Golden Age characters lived.
In the ’80’s it was revealed he had an unknown son and daughter- Todd Rice and Jennie-Lynn Hayden. Both would go on to have costumed identities, Obsidian and Jade, respectively. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Alan and fellow JSAers were folded into the history of the one new Earth and were depicted as the first generation of super-heroes. Alan eventually married former villain, Molly Mayne, the Golden Age Harlequin. Scott remained one of the few Golden Age heroes still active into the 2000’s, the mysterious flame of the green lamp slowing his aging. Scott and his Golden Age compatriots were put away in 2011 to make way for DC’s “The New 52,” a relaunch on all of DC’s characters that wiped away all previous continuity.
“The Dark Things Cannot Stand the Light” – The 80th Anniversary Story
Gary Frank beautifully draws James Tynion IV’s tale of Alan Scott, post train accident as he visits an unknown woman. The story reveals in flashback what Alan Scott was doing on that train before he found the Green Lantern that would give him his super-powers. The story is clearly set in the 1940’s. The fashions of the day are wonderfully depicted in Frank’s rendering of Alan’s suit and the unknown woman’s dress. Plus, Derby (“Doiby”) Dickles’ taxi is unmistakable. Additionally, the details of the sabotaged train are taken directly from Alan’s first appearance in All-American Comics #16.
As Scott introduces himself to the woman, we learn that her son, Jimmy was a casualty of the train wreck that birthed the Green Lantern. Alan has come to pay his respects to Jimmy’s mother. In flashback, we see that Alan and Jimmy were on the train together, and through some clever scripting and subtle staging, we learn that they were lovers. It might not be obvious on the first reading, but taking the time to understand the panels and the dialogue make it clear.
Alan Scott Has Been Gay Before…
Back in 2012 as part of the second wave of books in “The New 52” publishing initiative, DC’s Golden Age characters were reintroduced in Earth 2. These were modern reworkings of the characters as new young heroes. In addition to brand new character designs, some of the origins were changed significantly. This version did not go anywhere fast as some strong world building in the beginning by writer James Robinson gave way to the destruction of Earth 2 for a line wide crossover event, “World’s End.”
In the first issue there is a similar story of Alan losing his lover, Sam in the train wreck. This change to Scott’s character was covered in the national media and caused some controversy. Outside his initial arc, Scott’s sexuality ceased to have any real impact on the series or the storytelling. It now appears that Tynion and/or DC editorial has picked up on this idea and made it part of the new continuity that’s been in development. While the story in the Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super-Spectacular is Alan’s first appearance in a full story set in the 1940’s in the new continuity, he did have a cameo in the new continuity introductory story seen in Wonder Woman #750.
What’s the New Continuity?
When DC Comics began its “Rebirth” initiative back in 2016, they teased the return of the Justice Society of America. “Rebirth” was meant to be a return of the elements that fans missed in “The New 52.” One of the biggest criticisms was the lack of legacy characters. In a protracted plan, the JSA was slated to return in the pages of Doomsday Clock. And while they eventually did, the publishing delays left the door open for Scott Snyder to bring them back first in the pages of Justice League near the end of 2019. Bleeding Cool reported in September that analysis of Alan Scott’s dialogue in Justice League #32 may reveal that Alan is going to be depicted as a gay man. This new story in the Anniversary issue seems to corroborate this conclusion.
This change along with Wonder Woman’s placement as the first hero indicates that some of the planned changes will be quite significant. It may make sense to place Diana as the first hero, and while it does alter some of the previous history, it doesn’t alter her character or even any of her stories. It opens the door for some new ones, but it doesn’t eliminate any of the existing ones in her nearly 80 year history.
Alan Scott’s situation is a bit different. Changing a character’s sexuality necessarily changes a fundamental aspect of that character and informs the characterization and the stories told about him or her. Introducing diversity by it’s very definition indicates that this is different, this isn’t what you’re familiar with. It’s difficult to imagine Alan Scott’s 80 year history intact with this retcon. A gay man in the 1940’s will certainly face a different set of challenges than his straight teammates in the Justice Society. He won’t be able to live openly, as it was still a criminal offense in every one of the (48 at the time) States in the U.S. Additionally, it’s hard to imagine Alan marrying Molly Mayne later in life …and of course…
What About Jade and Obsidian….???
Jennie-Lynn Hayden and Todd Rice were twins raised apart in adoptive homes. Alan Scott had no knowledge of their existence. He had been married briefly to the villainous Thorn who gave them up for adoption never telling Scott the truth. Alan’s children have provided plenty of story potential and character development. One of the most significant chapters in their lives was the reveal of Todd Rice’s sexuality. In the late ’80’s / early ’90’s, gay characters were nearly non-existent. Todd’s development and reconciliation with his father was a significant arc in comics of the era. Not only did it depict Todd’s struggles, but it also showed Alan, who was from a different era learning and growing. It was a successful analysis of the complexities of relationships, especially between parents and their children. Rice was later used in Marc Andreyko’s Manhunter series in a supporting role that also used his diverse representation to positive effect. It would be a real shame to lose this aspect from the tapestry of Alan’s life and the DC Universe.
5G and Beyond!
With the uncertain fate of the 5G initiative. it’s unclear what exactly will be coming in the new continuity. Obviously, there are stories out there that play into it. Alan’s story from the Anniversary is obviously meant to fill in a gap, and it follows subtly from Wonder Woman’s story in her own Anniversary issue, Wonder Woman #750. At this point Dark Nights: Death Metal would appear to be the most significant place to see the new continuity emerge. It’s always possible that some of the plans could be changed or eliminated entirely. While outing Alan could remain, there’s an equal chance of it being eliminated if the powers-that-be want to go in a different direction with the Justice Society of America. There’s a lot to unravel and unpack still…but, no matter what, this story ushers in a new era for Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern.