by Robert Greenberger
Truth be told, Green Lantern was in horrible shape in the early 1980s. Somewhere around issue #150, Mike W. Barr took over as writer and had Hal Jordan exiled from Earth for one year, which wound up taking closer to two years of real time. During this run, the editorial reins were given to artist turned Editor Ernie Colon, and while Joey Cavalieri wrote most of the lead stories at this point, the book was all over the place creatively. Some fine work was done with the Tales of the GL Corps backups, introducing us to a wide variety of talent, including a Brit named Dave Gibbons in issue #161. Still, the book was floundering until Ernie finally decided to return to the drawing board.
“I wanted to do it,” Len Wein explained to me way back in The Comics Journal #100. “That’s really how it all came about. I edited Green Lantern probably more often than any other book I’ve ever edited. I’d do an issue here, two issues here, an issue there; they would come and go off my desk sort of like the prodigal son. It just kept popping up. When it had gone through a particularly odd period of its incarnation, and the creative staff was about to change, I went in and said to Dick [Giordano], ‘Hi, if you need to find new people to do the book, I want to be it. I want to write this character.” And Dick said, ‘OK.’ And I looked at some samples of artists’ artwork, liked very much the work I had seen of Dave Gibbons, and called him up and ‘Hi, want to do Green Lantern?’ He said, ‘Oh, boy!’ and we did.”
Gibbons was of a generation of talent that grew up on DC’s Silver Age heroes and was delighted when he got to draw a steady stream of GL Corps stories, but he really wanted the lead and gave Wein a one year commitment. The product of that collaboration is finally being collected in Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Volume One. The trade collection includes Green Lantern #172-176 and 178-181.
To get things rolling, Wein spent a week with Gibbons discussing the cast of characters, how to bring Jordan’s exile to an end and where to go next. New characters and villains were conceived and work began in earnest. “We’d get on the phone once or twice a week, as the screams from down the hall when they saw the phone bills will attest. We had no problems. My plots are very concise, very page and panel breakdown-y, easy to follow. Dave never had a complaint that I’m aware of, and I never had a complaint with him. I had a marvelous time working with him.”
Hal came back and tried to pick up the pieces of his life as a pilot, working with Carol Ferris at Ferris Aircraft, trying to reignite their romance only to discover she’s dating Clay Kendall, a new man. Wein smartly introduced a handful of subplots (remember subplots in comics? I miss them.) including the arrival of Bruce Gordon to the cast, telegraphing to the readers that sooner or later Eclipso was going to be part of the story. But first, GL had to contend with the Shark and there’s a nifty replication of dialogue in four pages that echoes events in The Flash #332 and then came the Demolition Team. The new foes were designed by Gibbons and gave the hero a run for his money.
Many threads were woven into the book including setting up the Predator, who was destined for a series of his own, to be drawn by Ross Andru, which never materialized. And while there were hints for a character teased as the Image, that too went nowhere.
Wein was having trouble making the deadlines which caused Gibbons to rely on an inker for the first time in his career, beginning with Mike DeCarlo, before recruiting Mark Farmer to begin working with him in England, which made for a better look. Issue #177 wound up as one of the last reprints they would use to plug a hole in the schedule (another appeared in #184).
The final story in the volume has Jordan quitting the Corps, trying to make a fulltime to commitment to Carol, helping her rebuild Ferris after GL and the Demolition team essentially destroyed it. That set up a cycle of stories that introduced Jon Stewart as the sector’s new Green Lantern (explaining why Hal effectively sat out the Crisis on Infinite Earths) but also saw Gibbons depart the book ahead of schedule, after #186.
When these two were clicking, the book soared to heights unseen in several years and provided some exciting stories that hold up well even today.