by Robert Greenberger
After the heyday of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ tenure on Green Lantern, low sales saw the series canceled with their last collaboration parsed into a three-parter as the Emerald Crusader was given a back-up slot in the pages of The Flash. While O’Neil remained the writer, Adams departed in favor of, mainly, Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano.
The stories, collected in Showcase Presents Green Lantern #5, were fine but clearly the cosmic cop needed breathing room. At one point, talk began about giving him his own book again. Mike Grell recounted in Comic Book Artist #8: “I happened to be in a hallway one day when I overheard a conversation where Denny O’Neil was talking about bringing back Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and I walked up to him and said, ‘Who do I have to kill to get this job?’ He said, ‘Are you interested?’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah!’ Thereby hangs fate! That as a real kick. I learned more about storytelling from Denny O’Neil than anyone else in the business. He’s still the best storyteller there ever was.”
Before convincing management GL deserved his own title, O’Neil and Grell strutted their stuff from The Flash #237 (Nov. 1975) through issue #243. Finally, a revival was approved and the two moved over to Green Lantern #90 and now that overlooked run is being collected in Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Space Traveling Heroes. This book collects Green Lantern/Green Arrow #90-106 (sadly, not the Flash back-ups for completeness). Interestingly, they share the cover billing as they did previously, but the interiors don’t acknowledge the partnership until issue #106.
We open with the Green Lantern Corps being issued upgraded power rings before Hal Jordan returned to Earth, where he partnered with Green Arrow to stop an alien escapee. From there, Hal and Ollie, accompanied by Black Canary and Itty, pick up their partnership and adventuring.
Itty, you ask. In Grell’s second story, the Ayrie race was introduced and the young worm-like being with a starfish-like head latched on to GL’s shoulder and accompanied him back home. He remained a regular fixture ever since. O’Neil possibly added the sidekick so he had someone to talk to while in space, but fans seemed to like him so he remained.
O’Neil and Grell continued to tell a mixture of space-based and Earth-based stories, occasionally, splitting them apart for separate cases, which might then dovetail. Sinestro was quick to reappear as a threat, arriving in issues #91-92, although he wound up working with the emerald partners to free an alien world from a tyrant worse than Sinestro.
There were few connections in their ongoing exploits with their appearances elsewhere in the DC Universe, which did not prevent the Phantom Stranger and the Atom making cameo appearances. Backup Lantern John Stewart is called back to duty in issue #94 when Hal falls ill, something that speaks of a larger threat. In fact, when a wounded Katma Tui arrived on Earth, we get a sense of the problem.
Unfortunately, the threat is called The Mocker, so it’s a little hard to take him seriously, but he remains the overarching opponent for the remainder of the volume. We will come to learn Ffa’rzz is the sole survivor of his homeworld after a plague (hmmm). Aboard his city-sized spaceship, he is out “to prove that life is brutal, pointless and stupid.” GL and GA have to convince him otherwise although you have to wait for volume two for this storyline to come to a complete conclusion.
After starting to ink himself, Grell focused on storytelling with a mix of inkers — Bob Smith (92), Terry Austin (93), Austin/Giordano (94), Vince Colletta (95-99) — helping out. His commitments to Warlord, though, meant a run of issues without his interior work, though he remained on the covers. Stepping in, with issue #100, is newcomer Alex Saviuk, who clearly tries to emulate Grell’s kinetic style.
The centennial issue also introduces Air Wave II, also named Hal Jordan, and we learn that Larry Jordan, the Golden Age Air Wave, and Green Lantern are related. Air Wave will remain an occasional participant in subsequent stories. The backup feature in the issue is a Green Arrow/Black Canary tale rescued from the unpublished First Issue Special #14.
Issue #101 is a total fill-in from one-time scribe Frank McGinty, Saviuk, and Colletta, pitting GL against long-time opponent Hector Hammond.
O’Neil returns with #102 along with Taupin, an escaped slave, who comes to Earth and enslaves Black Canary among other humans. GL is on the case but stuck in a null-time field, complicating his rescue mission. In issue #104, it also appears Itty dies in combat, and a funeral is held. Instead, he was metamorphosing into his adult form, which at first seems monstrous, but becomes something wondrous. He eventually leaves Earth and finds a mate, Lasma, giving hope to the resurrection of his race.
The final issues wrap up most of the Mocker story and there’s a two-parter with the villainous Sonar and a beauty pageant. While relevance has been shelved in favor of traditional superhero action, O’Neil and Grell offer up plenty of variety in terms of content and characterization. These previously uncollected tales are well worth a look.