Monday, March 3, 2003

Looking To The Stars: The Nit-Picker’s Guide To Green Lantern

As mentioned last week, this column (as well as the brand spanking new Reader’s Guide) was prompted by a letter from a fan of the Marz run who had several complaints about the Winnick run and how it upheld the continuity of the early Kyle Rayner issues.

With that in mind, this week we’re going to discuss what complaints I remember in the e-mails of he who shall be called… Fan G.

Old Supporting Cast vs. New Supporting Cast

One charge leveled by Fan G is that Winnick has completely ignored the supporting cast of the Marz run on the book in favor of his own original characters. He has a point here. None of the tenants of Radu’s apartment complex introduced in the Marz run have appeared in the book since Winnick took over. Radu himself, who knows Kyle’s secret identity, has only appeared three times since the story where it was revealed he knew Kyle’s secret identity. Of these stories, only one (GL #134) was written by Winnick. The other two were in GL #148 and GL Secret Files #3.

In fairness to Winnick, Ron Marz did not make extensive use of his own supporting cast in the later part of his run. Kyle’s agent Simone had a whopping two appearances total. Rachel the poet had a scant three appearances in the books, with lines in only one of them. Richard the film student faired slightly better, actually having his character become tied to a subplot in GL #92 but being limited mostly to background shots in Radu’s.

One issue later (#93), Lesbian couple Lee and Li would have a big part as Lee nearly became the victim of a lesbian-hunting serial killer. (The hate-crime issue being tackled in the book years before Terry Berg was even in the book, it might be noted.) Jazz musician Cleveland had several appearances, mostly trading music with Kyle in Radu’s café and showing up at Kyle’s shows.

But perhaps as noticeable as Radu’s disappearance is the absence of Allison Chandler, a model in Kyle’s building. Allison’s main role in the book was to act as a source of romantic tension between Donna Troy and Kyle in the early issues. She was greatly expanded in GL #97, where she talked with Kyle about how he was feeling after the break-up with Donna. It was obvious that she had some kind of feelings for Kyle, which were (in my humble opinion) better developed than his sudden whirlwind romance with Jade, which began a few issues later. Tragically, with a whole new love triangle introduced, Allison didn’t have a speaking role after GL #97 and only made one more appearance twenty issues later, being hit on by Plastic Man at Kyle’s gallery opening.

And lest anyone think harshly of Ron Marz for not making better use of his own supporting cast, let me add that Judd Winnick has not faired much better. Aside from Kyle’s gay teenage assistant Terry Berg (who has been in nearly every issue since #129) most of the original characters Winnick created for the series only feature in the book on rare occasions. Kyle’s editor at Feast Magazine, Rena Stone, for example, has only appeared in the book three times.

So has Winnick ignored the old supporting cast? Yes, but no more than his own supporting cast and no more than Ron Marz ignored them.

Now in regards to other questions of continuity that I’ve been asked in my position as an expert on Green Lantern history of the last few years, lets go into a more traditional FAQ format…

Jade, Her Powers and Her Family

Q. What is the heroine known as Jade’s real name?

A. Depending on the writer… Jenny Hayden, Jenny Hayden-Scott, Jenny-Lynn Hayden, Jenny-Lynn Scott .

Q. What are her powers?

A. Originally, she was born with a natural ability to create solid projections of green light, like her father. Later, during the Heart of Darkness mini-series lost this power. She wore a corps style Green Lantern ring on two separate occasions (#107-#112 and #137-148), but had her original powers restored by Kyle Rayner during his Ion phase in GL #148. Basically, she did a full circle in 65 issues and is back to what she was before appearing in Green Lantern. The only permanent change has been to her costume.

Q. Doesn’t she have plant powers too?

A. Sort of. She did manifest the ability to control plants in a short story in Green Lantern Secret Files #2 but that was immediately declared null and void by Ron Marz. More recently, she has admitted to having plant-like connections in her DNA and that her body does have some photosynthetic reactions, but these are limited to making her feel better when exposed to sunlight. This may explain why her body now maintains a permanent greenness when in Infinity Inc she could look like a normal human, but Jenny has shown no signs of manifesting plant powers besides that.

Q. Are Jade and Effigy related?

A. No, they’ve never even met before Issue #142 in any story that I know of. Lord knows what was going on in when Kyle said Effigy was her brother and they called him by the name Martin, despite never having known his real identity.

Q. What’s the deal with Jade and baseball?

A. She makes two references to Sandy Koufax in GL Secret Files #1 and in GL #119 and knows that Koufax was a lefty. And yet, in GL #137, she doesn’t get the sports reference when Kyle makes a reference to bad odds and the odds of the Cubs winning the World Series.

Q. What kind of baseball fan knows a lot about a specific player, but not something as widely known as the bad luck of the Cubs?

A. The kind being written by two different writers across a six year span, who don’t think anyone will care about something so trivial.

Rings and Lanterns

Q. What are the differences between the ring Kyle Rayner has and the standard rings used by the Green Lantern Corps?

A. The major differences are that Kyle’s ring no longer has the inability to effect yellow or unlimited energy for 24 hours after being charged. The ring now functions like a car, having a tank that must be refilled periodically but has no time limit restrictions on when it must be refilled. Additionally, the ring is keyed to Kyle’s DNA so that only (or a close relative or Hal Jordan) can make use of it.

Balancing these improvements, Kyle’s ring lacks some of the abilities that the old GL Corps rings had, such as the ability to be duplicated, a built in navigation computer and a feature that prevents a Green Lantern being fatally wounded. However, since some of these abilities were tied to the Central Battery, which functioned like a network hub to the ring computers, these powers may merely be absent.

Q. Is there any way that Kyle could have these abilities and just be unaware of what he can do with the ring?

A. Possibly. In GL #124, he is able to duplicate a power of the GL Corps rings and summons it to his hand when separated from it. He thinks “I didn’t know that I could do that!” and how he probably wouldn’t have tried if it not desperate.

Some Green Lantern fans have speculated that the yellow weakness of the Corps Ring is psychological and that all Green Lanterns are told this during their basic training so they will believe the ring to have a weakness. Since the ring feeds off what the wearer believes to be true, this could be possible. It has been shown (in the case of Sinestro and Hal Jordan) that the rings can be used to kill, despite an apparent program in the ring that prevents them from being used to take life.

Q. Why, after the rest of the Guardians “die”, does Ganthet go to Earth to find a new Lantern to stand against Hal Jordan? Surely there are planets closer that might have worthy beings to become GL’s?

A. Ganthet went to Earth to offer the ring to Guy Gardner, perhaps assuming that the ex-Lantern would be all too eager to be a GL again and would have the experience and drive to stop Hal Jordan. When Guy refused the ring out of spite (he didn’t want to help the Guardians, feeling insulted that they just NOW realized his worth), Ganthet found himself on Earth loosing his powers and running low on time. This is when he found Kyle and offered the ring to him.

Q. How does Kyle’s lantern function with the Central Power Battery destroyed?

A. Short answer: it is directly connected to The Source: an energy field that empowers most gods, cosmic beings and some superheroes, like the Green Lanterns.

Long answer: it depends on who and when you ask.

Ganthet says in GL #62 that Kyle’s lantern was formed from an energy-charged piece of the planet Oa.

In GL #78, Kyle says that the ring is a piece of the Central Power Battery.

Q. Isn’t that contradictory?

A. Not really. The individual batteries and rings as well as the Central Battery were created from a metal called Oaite, found only very rarely off the planet of Oa. So either answer is technically correct in regard to the other.

In GL #106, the young Hal Jordan creates a copy of the Corps style ring for Kyle. How is a rookie Hal able to do this when it has been said before that it requires great experience for a Lantern to be able to copy a ring?

Perhaps the idea of the Corps dying after him gives the younger Hal an extra strength of resolve to push himself to new limits?

If this ring is a standard Corps-style ring, like the one used by all GL’s before Kyle, how is it still able to function? After all, in issue #56, Adara’s ring and lantern stopped functioning after the destruction of the Central Battery and she killed herself when she found she could not use Kyle’s ring.

At no point in the series before Kyle’s giving this ring to Jade did any GL ever try to draw a charge off Kyle’s battery. We can assume that Hal Jordan did use Kyle’s battery while he was in the present, since he was in the present day for more than a few days time with a ring that had a 24 hour time limit. Since he was having no problems with having his ring going dry and since there was no other way he could charge the ring, we can only assume that the Corps rings can be charged off of Kyle’s Battery.

Q: According to GL #107, Kyle can shave bits off of his lantern to create new lanterns for other Green Lanterns. Given that the old Corps rings can draw a charge off the new batteries, why didn’t Kyle try to track down some of the old Corps members and give them Lanterns so they could rejoin the new Corps he was trying to start? Or some of the Darkstars?

A: There’s no reason he couldn’t have done this save that it wouldn’t be a very effective use of time. It would be near impossible for Kyle to track down all of the old Corps who might still have rings without help. After all, his ring lacks the mapping/guide functions the old Corps rings had thanks to the computers in the Central Battery. Probably John Stewart or Guy Gardner might be able to guide him to a few planets and tell him people to look up, but with most of the Corps dead at Hal’s hands, it just wasn’t feasible to track down the dozen or so GL’s with dead rings left. As for the Darkstars, it is suggested in GL #82 that the last of the Darkstars (all former GL’s) are killed by Fatality on Rann, though there is no way for Kyle to know this. Chalk it up to sloppy research on Chuck Dixon’s part and his wanting to use his own characters and not old Corps members.

Q. What happened to Kyle’s New Corps?

A. One member, Hammeroon, was killed. Kyle took the rings of the remaining three members, saying the time was not right for a new Corps. These members (Sool, Anya Savenlvich and Garl Rathbone) decided to form their own crime-fighting organization. An entry in GL Secret Files #2 indicates that they took on new members, but they never did make any appearances after GL: The New Corps #2. Probably for the best, considering the poor quality of the series.

Q: Why did Kyle take their rings back? Didn’t he think the surviving Corps worthy of the rings?

A: Ask Chuck Dixon or Kevin Dooley. Aside from Kyle not trusting his own judgment anymore, there’s no good reason why Kyle couldn’t have let them keep their rings and make lanterns for them. Editorially, there’s no reason other than a desire to see that Kyle remain the last Green Lanterns.

Q: What happened to Jenny’s Ring (IE: The original one Hal gave Kyle in GL #106) ?

A: It was ripped off her hand during the fight with Fatality in GL #112. It is presumed lost or vaporized in the blast that John Stewart created trying to fight Fatality, but it turns up later on the hand of sometimes Batman villain and would-be hero, Anarky. In Anarky #1-3 (of his thankfully short-lived solo series), Anarky discovers a living incongruity in space/time that requires more power than he has. He goes to New York looking for Green Lantern, but finds the abandoned ring and grabs it during the struggle with Fatality. The ring then disappears into nothingness as Kyle (who helps Anarky with fighting the incongruity) asks for the ring’s return.

Q. So where did the ring that Kyle gives Jenny in #136 come from?

A. Kyle says he got it from Batman, who “had it for safe-keeping” and that it was the same ring Jenny had before. No explanation is given for how the ring disappeared in Anarky #3 or how Batman got his hands on it.

Perhaps Anarky, who had access to Boom Tube and teleporter technology had the ring sent away just in case he needed it later? Kyle may have mentioned the incident to Batman, who could probably track Anarky down and intimidate him into returning the ring. However, this is all personal theory and to my knowledge, there is no story detailing how Kyle got Jenny’s ring.

Kyle’s Parents

Q. Who are Kyle’s parents?

A. Maura and Aaron Rayner.

Q. Aren’t they dead?

A. No. Both are still alive and well.

Q. I thought Kyle said his mother was dead?

A. He did say that in issue #58, but he was lying to avoid burdening Donna Troy with the long and painful story of how he and his mother had a lot of issues when he barely knew her. She first appeared in GL #88 when Kyle took Donna to meet her.

Q. What does she look like?

A. In the Marz issues, she’s short and rather well-rounded with curly red hair. When Kyle visits her with Jenny in GL #133, she has slimmed down (Atkins diet and a tummy tuck, she says) and apparently dyed her hair blonde as well as straightening it. Oddly, Secret Files #2 depict her as having black hair.

Q. Any connection to Kyle’s mom from South Park? She was round with red curly hair too.

A. Uh… no.

Q. Does she know Kyle’s secret identity?

A. Yes. She figured it out when she saw him in costume on the news. But he showed her the costume in GL #88

Q. What about Kyle’s dad? Isn’t he dead?

A. According to the early Marz issues, Kyle’s dad was a career military man in the Army who went off on a mission to Southeast Asia and never returned. He was never listed a dead or MIA, so Kyle believed that his dad was still alive somewhere while Maura believed that they had been walked out on and got upset whenever Kyle mentioned trying to find him.

Q. I thought there was a story where Kyle found his dad?

A. That would be Hard-Traveling Heroes: The Next Generation. Kyle went looking for his father and got tangled up in the plot of some shadowy government types to destroy Washington DC. One of them claimed to be his father and did have a family resemblance to Kyle, but later claimed (as he was dying) to be Kyle’s uncle Zachary.

Q. But doesn’t Kyle’s dad really appear in that same issue?

A. According to GL Secret Files #2, his dad DOES make his first appearance here. At the end of the issue, we see another man with a resemblance to Kyle receiving a message regarding the death of his brother.

Q. So why did Aaron leave Kyle and Maura?

A. Zachary, while pretending to be Aaron, tells Kyle a story about joining the army and working his way into the “3 letter government organizations”. He was offered a position that would require to him to leave his old life behind, and he chose duty over love, justifying it by saying he could ensure that his wife and child would be safe in his new job. It could be this is the true story of what happened to Aaron Rayner, but there’s no way to be certain.

Q. Isn’t there a story where Aaron Rayner meets Hal Jordan?

A. Yes. In GL Secret Files #2. There is a story where a government agent name Ray White is sent to investigate reports of a UFO crash in the desert around Ferris Aircraft. Ray claims to be an ex-Marine who moved into to the FBI. He mentions a son who would be about 15 and a wife he left behind to serve his country. It turns out that he is not really with the FBI but is with a government agency nobody knows about. He finds out Hal’s secret identity but agrees to keep the secret since Hal saved his life when it would have been easy enough to let him die and keep his secret safe. In a show of respect, he tells Hal HIS biggest secret… his real name: Aaron Rayner.

Q. I thought Aaron Rayner was in the Army, not the Marines?

A. Maybe he was a bit of a method actor and created Ray White as a persona and Ray was a Marine?

Q. Does Aaron know about his son?

A. It’s been suggested that he does. The aforementioned story showing that Aaron met Hal Jordan ended with Kyle getting a mysterious letter saying “I know your secret.” There is no indication who it comes from, but given that it follows this story, it probably comes from Aaron Rayner.

Q: So basically, what do we know about Aaron from the Marz run?

A: Six things.

Scot-Irish heritage

Remained active in some government capacity to this day.

Had a brother name Zachary.

He truly did leave his wife with little explanation.

He knows his son’s secret identity.

Served in the Army.

Q: I heard that this changed a bit since Winnick took over the book.

A: Pretty much all of it has, except for the fact that Aaron knows his son’s secret identity.

Q: What is the new story of Aaron Rayner?

A: In GL #150, Kyle uses his increased powers to track down his father. Aaron Rayner, it turns out, is an alias and the man who fathered Kyle is really name is Gabriel Vasquez. His parents immigrated into Texas from Mexico when he was a baby. Gabriel was an only child who joined the Army fresh out of high school and was recruited in the CIA a year and a half later. He went into Deep Cover, posing as a weapons dealer in the IRA. It was while stationed in Ireland that he fell in love with Kyle’s mother. His cover was blown and he hurriedly left the country, bringing the woman he loved with him. They married and settled down in Washington DC, where he took a desk job. He goes on to talk about how Kyle was born and how he left a year later, being unable to settle down.

Q: So how much does that change?

A: The story does actually fit most of what we know about Kyle’s dad; a military background moving into a covert government organization; he met Kyle’s mom in Ireland and brought her back and we even get a specific East Coast location for Kyle’s birth. The only sore points, in fact, are the age Kyle was when he left (12 months as opposed to 3 years old) and the fact that Gabe was an only child.

Q: How do we explain Aaron’s brother Zachary, then?

A: You can’t, unless brother was used in the metaphorical sense that all enlisted men are brothers of a sort. That’s a pretty big stretch and wouldn’t explain why “Zachary” calls himself Kyle’s uncle.

Q: Anything else that was changed by Winnick?

A: A bit. Kyle uses his recently gained telepathic abilities on his father. It is there that he finds a stunning new development. It seems that Aaron/Gabe is lying about abandoning him and his mother and that he had little choice to go on the run and that he was not really working for the government when he abandoned his wife and child.

Q: So what is the truth?

A: Gabe was quite happy to settle down with a wife and child, but his bosses wanted him to go back into Deep Cover. Gabe refused, and when the encouragement to assume his old position became more threatening, he packed up wife and child and went into hiding. It was then that someone in the CIA, deciding that if they could not have him they would see him dead, leaked Aaron Rayner’s identity and location to a past contact who had reason to see him dead. Kyle senses that Gabe is lying to him for fear that Kyle would grow to resent his mother for having forced him to make the choice he made. Knowing that he could never save himself but that he could give his wife and son a normal life, Gabe came up with a plan. He beat up his wife and she went to the police, saying that she was leaving him and that he had become drunk and abusive and that she wanted him dead. This story would hopefully convince “the company” and all the other people gunning for him that she was of no value as a bargaining chip to him and they would hopefully leave him alone. He never saw her again and had been in hiding ever since.

Q: So quickly recap… what has been changed?

Marz Run:

Scot-Irish heritage

Remained active in some government capacity to this day.

Had a brother name Zachary.

He truly did leave his wife with little explanation.

Knows his son’s secret identity.

Served in the Army.

Winnick Run:

Hispanic heritage

Has been in hiding from the government for over 20 years.

Was an only child

Left his wife in order to protect her.

Knows his son’s secret identity.

Served in the Army.

Q: How does he know Kyle’s secret identity?

A: It isn’t explained how, but we see “Aaron” read through a scrapbook full of clippings about Kyle… as a famous artist AND as Green Lantern, after Kyle leaves.

Q: Doesn’t this pretty much negate all the stories we have read that give us the major details about Aaron?

A: Yes. It’s kind of hard for Aaron/Gabe to have been a government agent at the time Hal Jordan got the ring if he’s been on the run since Kyle was born, even with DC’s wonky timeline. It’s even harder for him to have a brother impersonating him when he was an only child.

Q: Is there any way this can be reconciled?

A: Winnick has written an out. The sequence with Aaron/Gabe ends with these words.

“Gabirel Vasquez is a man of many secrets. Even more than his son has found out today. Kyle Rayner’s ability to read a person’s thoughts is very new to him. Very raw. He could only see the images that were on top. The memories that were stirred. Or maybe Kyle just found what he was looking for and dug no deeper. If he had, he might have found out so much more. Gabriel Vasquez is a man of many secrets. He knows his son has a few as well.”

Q: So is Gabe really secretly still working for the government?

A: Most of the evidence says yes, and it would explain everything except the brother he claims not to have.

Q: What about his turning from Scot-Irish to Hispanic? Kyle’s never shown any physical signs of being mixed-race.

A: Yes, but in a universe where Connor Hawke turns from looking Caucasian to African/Asian/Caucasian in the pages of the same book…

Tune in Next Week! Same Matt Time! Same Matt Website!

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