Christmas comics? Sure. Halloween comics? Plenty of ‘em. Thanksgiving comics? Not so much—but there are a few. One example is today’s subject, Green Lantern/Green Arrow #93 (Mar. 1976), “War Against the World-Builders!”
I rediscovered this long-lost gem when I was writing up my Denny O’Neil post a few months back. I took some notes and saved them for this occasion since it is a Thanksgiving tale. These O’Neil-Grell collaborations really were a treat and I enjoyed revisiting them a great deal. The cover is a real eye catcher as well.
Let me note that while I still consider these to be Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics, technically it’s just Green Lantern with Green Arrow’s name added to the cover title. So if you go hunting for back issues, you’ll probably find these listed under just “Green Lantern.”
Hal Jordan sits down for a Thanksgiving meal with Tom Kalmaku, Carol Ferris, Ollie, and Dinah, but the meal is interrupted by a message from the Guardians warning of an alien invasion in Coast City. GL takes on this menace solo (that’s not counting Itty, GL’s starfish-like, alien companion), which was a fun change of pace from the previous issues—hey, Green Arrow doesn’t have to join him on EVERY adventure, right? Besides, GA is not really a good fit for extraterrestrial menaces like this.
When GL arrives on the scene, there’s this doughnut-shaped spaceship sucking up people like a vacuum cleaner, as depicted on the cover. GL’s initial attempt to stop this mass abduction is foiled by a yellow ray from the alien ship. (I don’t know if such is still the case in the present, but back in the good old days GL’s ring could not directly affect the color yellow; this was his weakness.)
This forces GL to do some strategizing. Seeing that their next target is Hong Kong, he gets ahead of the aliens and hides among the people they abduct there. All of them get taken through a warp to a lifeless world, where one of their alien captors reveals that they were brought here to “rebuild and colonize this barren planet!” The captor goes on to explain that they will be supplied with tools and food, and that if the colony survives seven years, they will be given “complete freedom… plus a bonus!”
One of the Coast City abductees, a homeless man named Abner, finds these terms to his liking. Green Lantern disagrees and reveals himself. He penetrates the alien ship without much trouble and disposes of their red shirts in humorous fashion.
GL was such a fun comic in those days. I loved watching him whip up some mundane object with his ring to wipe out his foes like this. Creating a hammer to smash something, a baseball mitt to catch something, and so on.
Reaching the leader’s chamber, GL finds he’s protected by a yellow force field. Confident the field offers full protection from GL’s power ring, he reveals his plans. The mission of his race is a “noble” one, he says, and that is to populate barren planets. GL retorts that, “there’s no nobility in depriving people of their freedom!”
And this is where GL scores some major badass points. He does so by removing his ring and stepping into the yellow field to settle things on equal footing, man to man. The alien leader, unimpressed, slaps his face. Hal returns the favor and the fight is on.
Afterward, GL lets the people know that they’ll be transported back to their home planets, but Abner objects. He feels he has no future on Earth and sees the alien colonization program as a chance for a fresh start. So GL offers the others a chance to stay as well, if such is their wish. A bit shockingly, “approximately half of the crowd separates from the rest.”
This feels like O’Neil was trying to write another “relevant” story, much like the ones he did with Neal Adams a few years earlier. I guess he’s trying to point out how there are a lot of unhappy and unfulfilled people living among us that we mostly pay no mind to, but I don’t know that any such people would seriously abandon their lives on Earth for a slim chance to maybe, possibly improve their lot. Even if it were just a couple people willing to do this it would feel like a stretch; you’re trying to tell me half the crowd is willing to go? A full half of these people are ready to utterly abandon their old lives for what is essentially a labor camp?
But okay, it’s a comic book. It’s a world of the wildest fantasy imaginable, so let’s just accept these choices as reasonable in such a world. It ends on a seemingly happy-enough note as GL sits down to break bread with the new colonists. (Or at least the Green Lantern part of the story ends well. There’s some trouble back on Earth for Green Arrow, but that has more to with the next issue than this one.)
It’s a fun (if slightly flawed) story with really great art. Mike Grell was just amazing in those days, and his depiction of that alien ship sucking up innocent people left me spellbound as a kid. Kudos to Terry Austin for his work as the inker here, too.
Fun fact: A couple months back, Mike Grell accepted my invitation to connect on LinkedIn. When I got the notification I was so overjoyed I screamed out loud like a giddy schoolgirl.
Grell did full art for the first two issues of this relaunch, #’s 90 & 91, with Bob Smith picking up the inks on issue #92, and Terry Austin getting the assignment on this issue and the next, #94. Then Vinnie Colletta took over inking Grell’s pencils for the six issues to follow, 95-100, which may have been one of the worst artistic crimes in comics history. Colletta just obliterated all of the sweet, beautiful detail of Grell’s pencils, turning the work of a genius into that of less than a journeyman. I literally wanted to cry when I went back and re-read this stuff. Did Vinny ever ink Neal Adams? If not, this job with Grell would have to top the list of worst pairings of pencilers and inkers ever. (And if Colletta ever did ink Adams, don’t tell me!)
Comics and Mortality
I’m pretty sure I bought this issue at the Village Smoke Shop in the fall of ’76. Probably prior to Election Day, so Ford was still president. The recently-passed Chadwick Boseman had not even been born yet. In case you couldn’t tell, revisiting this comic all these years later has really got me feeling my age. Even after touching up these page scans, they still have a faded look to them, at least to my eyes.
This was one of those comics I carried around for a while, taking it with me when the family went out somewhere so I’d have something to read if I got bored. Then it got tucked away, first in dresser drawers, then in long boxes, for many decades. When I read it now, it brings back memories of reading it as a kid—a kid who is a very different person from the one I am now. At some point in the future I might be re-reading this blogpost and feeling like it was also written by a different person.
Honestly, I don’t even know what I’m trying to say here. Maybe I’m not trying to say anything; maybe I’m just expressing what I feel at this particular moment without any deeper agenda.
Maybe the takeaway should be that none us can ever really know what the future holds, so let’s be thankful for however much time we’ve been able to enjoy on this Earth so far.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.