I don’t think I went over exactly what I intend for A Question of Character to be in the first entry. That is partially because I converted what going to be an unrelated post into the inaugural AQoC post.
With A Question of Character, I plan to examine the history of a comic book character with the somewhat flimsy pretense of answering a question about who they are. This question can range from this month’s Why is Guy Gardner such a jerk? to something as simple as Who the hell is Wildcat? While I would certainly welcome questions from readers–assuming I have any–this is largely an excuse for me to write about some of my favorite lesser-known superheroes. Like Video Game Archaeology, this is going to be a monthly feature on my blog. Hopefully. I mean, this entry, for instance, was for June, though it wasn’t actually posted until August.
As was probably clear from that month long series of panels featuring him, I am a big fan of Guy Gardner, the one true Green Lantern. Also, even just from those panels, it should be obvious that good ol’Guy is a pretty big asshole. Like the majority of the human race, I’d say Guy has a pretty good reason for being kind of a dick to everybody. Not that is really excuses it, but you can see where he is coming from.
So why is Guy such a jerk?
When Guy first appeared 43 years ago in Green Lantern 59 he was far from a jerk, though the cover would lead you to believe otherwise. In that story Hal Jordan (the other Green Lantern, recently seen in a mediocre movie) talks to the Guardians of the Universe, who show him, though magic space TV, what would have happened had he not been given the ring. Instead of Hal Jordan, the dying Abin Sur (if you don’t know what the previously mentioned crappy movie) would have given the ring to the other human capable of wielding it, who is Guy Gardner, of course. In this story, the only thing differentiating Guy from Hal is Guy’s red hair. Also, that Guy is a P.E. teacher, not a test pilot. He fights the same villains, has mostly similar adventures until he caught a yellow space virus that kills him because GL rings can’t affect the color yellow. SO the dying Guy gives his ring to the only person on Earth capable of using the ring, Hal Jordan. After the Guardian’s story ends, Hal returns to Earth and befriends the real Guy Gardner. Not a bad little story, but hardly anything consequential. The only thing Guy really does her is meet Hal Jordan, but even Hal comments that Guy seems like a nice guy.
So three or so years down the line DC decides to introduce new back-up Green Lantern John Stewart. Somewhat unfortunately for Guy, someone remembered they already had a back-up Green Lantern. So the issue that introduces Stewart also sidelines Guy. It shows him risking his life to save some children on a collapsing bridge during an earthquake. Green Lantern eventually shows up and saves Guy, but not before he is hit by a falling school bus. He is badly enough injured that the Guardians assign Hal a new back-up to train, even though Guy was never given any training.
So for a few more years Guy disappeared. But he returned in 1979. In his third appearance, Guy finally got to use a Green Lantern ring for real. You see, Hal was having trouble with his ring, so he left Guy with the battery and a back-up ring while he went back to Oa to get it checked out. Guy pals around with Green Arrow (Ollie Queen), who teamed up with Green Lantern based on their love of the same color, quickly getting the hang of using the ring, both saving Ollie’s life and defeating the villain they had been chasing. While he feeds Guy possibly poisonous chili, Ollie has dreams of Green Lantern’s battery exploding in his face. He doesn’t tell Guy because he assumes that the Green Lantern of his dreams (ha) is Hal. And because Ollie is kind of a thoughtless douche. Meanwhile, Hal learns that it is not his ring that is malfunctioning, it is his battery! He races back to Earth and tells Ollie, who only then realizes that his dream was some sort of premonition and it might have been about Guy. Unfortunately, it is too late to save Guy, as they burst into his room just in time to see the battery explode, apparently killing him. Displaying a supreme lack of self-awareness, Hal moans that there is “no one to blame, no one to hate.”
Clearly feeling guilty about being largely responsible for Guy’s death, Hal then proceeds to romance (by which I mean bang, of course) Guy’s girlfriend Kari Limbo. Kari doesn’t come out smelling like roses either, getting with the man who she knows is at least partially responsible for her supposed love’s death. Hal and Kari are quickly engaged. At the wedding, Kari, who has some sort of gypsy fortune telling powers, has a vision of Guy being tortured in the Phantom Zone by the Green Lanterns greatest foe, Sinestro.
Hal, to his credit, postpones the wedding to go save him, bringing Superman along for the sales added firepower. While they are successful, the months of torture Guy went through have left him brain-dead in a coma. Kari stays with her comatose love, while Hal goes back to adventuring.
Jump forward another half dozen years, to 1985 and the gear-up for DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Guy suddenly wakes from his coma and feels compelled to find a Green Lantern ring. He starts to dig up Abin Sur’s grave despite this making no sense, as there would be no ring there and he wouldn’t know where he was buried. Hal, also ringless due to the soap opera nature of comic books, shows up and upon seeing his until recently comatose friend digging up an alien grave realizes something is wrong. He proceeds to punch Guy in the face, as any rational person would to someone they thought to be sick and probably deranged. A Guardian shows up, stops the scuffle and gives Guy a ring, telling him he needs him to save the universe. Hal immediately tries to take the ring because it should be for him, but the Guardian is having none of it. Guy soon learns that the Green Lanterns have given up saving the universe and that this Guardian is rogue. He also learns that the Guardians could have healed him from the coma at anytime, but they decided he wasn’t important enough.
Guy is justifiable upset about this, and about the fact that the rest of the Green Lanterns try to stop him from saving the universe (it does turn out that had Guy been successful it would have destroyed the universe, not saved it, but neither Guy nor they knew that at the time.) So Guy proceeds to treat the rest of the corps, and everyone else, like crap for the next 20 years.
So the easy answer to why Guy is a jerk is brain damage. Repeated head injury turned a mild man into a raging douche. His every interaction with the Green Lanterns until this point had involved Guy getting the crap beat out of him. Also there is the fact that the world seems determined to crap on him. But Guy, being a true hero, never lets it get him down. In fact, he eventually became the worlds greatest hero. But that is a story for another month day.
- Character Bio – Hal Jordan (grumbleltd.wordpress.com)
- Reader’s Guide to the New DC Universe: Green Lantern Corps (tor.com)