Monday, December 22, 2014

Hanging The Green #11 - Dopes!

The eighty-sixth issue of Green Lantern and Green Arrow is the second of two issues which deal with the very real problem of drugs among the youth of America.

When Green Arrow discovers his ward Speedy is a junkie, his reaction is anger, as he realizes a lot of it misplaced, but a fury which is rained down on  Speedy himself. Disgusted he abandons his ward.

Meanwhile the junkies who first accosted Green Arrow in the first part of the story are enjoying their reward to having turned over the heroes to the dealers and one of the them overdoses on the exceedingly pure drug.

Green Lantern discovers the body of the dead junkie and finds Speedy in throes of his addiciton. Speedy is taken to the apartment of Dinah Drake who takes the boy in while he tries to go cold turkey.  Green Arrow meanwhile is hunting the dealers, despite his injured arm, and is soon enough captured and sent to the bottom of the ocean with an anchor for company on the orders of the top boss a successful socialite businessman named Salomon Hooper. Green Lantern saves GL and while Speedy painfully recovers tended to by Canary, the duo locate the drug lab and bring down the operation.

At the funeral of Speedy's junkie comrade he confronts his mentor Oliver Queen and lets him know that drugs are a complicated response to a painful world and that Ollie needs to own his contributions to the problem. Walking away defiantly  Speedy rebuffs his mentor, and Green Arrow sheds of regret for his role, and pride for the way his ward has grown up.

This one was a dang pretty good story. The battle against drugs is ongoing and sometimes gets swamped by the moralism which attempts to treat the issue more as sin than disease. In a society which is as medicated as our own, its difficult to understand why people don't understand how the young learn quickly enough that substances are a way to deal with pain and suffering. They see it all around them all the time.

I'm not sure I agree with all the speeches in these Green Lantern issues but certainly the attitude that drugs are a taboo subject does no one any good.

More to come.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hanging The Green #10 - Snowbirds!

The eighty-fifth issue of Green Lantern and Green Arrow kicks off the most famous two-part story the series would create and cemented the reputation of the series for all of comics history. The drug issues made an impact outside the ghetto of comics fans and made the series part of the larger pop culture of its day.

Green Arrow finds himself up against some very small-time drug dealers who try to shake him down and in the process he himself is shot by an arrow which penetrates his shoulder.

He recognizes the craftsmanship on the arrow as his own and suspects his ward Speedy is working undercover, though he doesn't say this at the time. He calls upon Green Lantern to help him and the duo begin to unravel a drug operation which goes from poor junkies to predatory dealers.

They though themselves are subdued and injected with drugs which have powerful effects on our heroes.
The gather themselves and head home only to find Speedy in the process of shooting up, a moment which famously startles Green Arrow.

This one is a biggie, the cover probably one of the ten most famous images in comics history having been swiped and homaged dozens of times over the decades. When comics discovered the drug problem it was met with a range of attitudes. Over at Marvel we get a more paternalistic attitude with comics produced by men who are somewhat isolated from the then current drug culture. This effort seems more interested in the junkie's perspective offering up a really sympathetic image.

But there's more to this story, as we'll see next time.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

What Really Stings!

It's a pity and a shame that Kim Jong-un didn't have a hate on for this Seth Rogen movie instead. He'd have saved all Green Hornet fans from some distinct unpleasantness.

I think I'll try to find a few hours this weekend to watch this classic bit of cinema.

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Hanging The Green #9 - Plastic Men!

The eighty-fourth issue of Green Lantern and Green Arrow is a curious story indeed. Produced by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, this issue is inked by up and comer Berni Wrightson. Wrightson had done one page in an earlier issue, but does the whole issue this time.

The story begins as Carol Ferris goes to a place called Piper's Dell which is run by a charismatic fellow named Wilbur Palm.

Later Lantern hears that the dam of Piper Dell is threatened and goes to solve the problem. Wilbur Palm appears to give his thanks but actually attaches an odd device called a "Kaluta" to his chest which spurts a strange perfume in his face. Lantern is invited into Piper Dell, a company town that manufactures and celebrates plastic. Lantern is later attacked by the zombie-like denizens of Piper Dell but manages to send his ring away to Green Arrow.

Arrow eventually discovers it and goes to the rescue. Meanwhile Lantern learns that Wilbur Palm is actually his old enemy Blackhand and the whole of Piper Dell is a malevolent experiment in citizen control by means of the chemicals and technology. Ferris was brought there only to lure in the Lantern. Lantern is able to escape and finds Carol and the pair try to leave Piper Dell and only the timely arrival of Green Arrow who shoots the power ring to Hal Jordan allows them to succeed. Quickly he subdues the denizens of Piper Dell and encases Blackhand in his own favorite substance--plastic.

This issue seemed to be mostly a tirade against plastic, and the kind of supposedly false society it supports. Given how plastics have developed since the early 70's the criticism seems moot, but given the ubiquitous use today maybe it's not.

More to come.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Hanging The Green #8 - Nattering Nabobs!

The eighty-third issue of Green Lantern and Green Arrow is the only issue of the run I actually bought and read during the original run. I don't know what prompted me to pick up this issue by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, but I doubt it was the unmistakable mug of Spiro Agnew on the cover.

In this one Carol Ferris, longtime romantic interest of Hal Jordan falls victim to a weird little girl named Sybil and her evil mentor Grandy (the guy who looks like Agnew). For the record, Sybil reminds one of Richard Nixon himself, an odd choice indeed. Sybil paralyzes Ferris for some momentary slight to Grandy.

The story picks up some weeks later as Dinah Drake is headed to a job at a private school. She is chaperoned by Green Lantern and Green Arrow and the trio immediately come under attack by a flock of birds. A portly postman gives the hint where the inspiration for this attack came from. At the school Lantern and Arrow are given short shrift while Canary remains behind.

Later Hal Jordan finds Ferris in her wheelchair and his old feelings surface. The new trio come under attack when their car falls apart sending them over a cliff and only Lantern's ring saves the day.

Meanwhile Canary becomes suspicious of the all-too quiet children and offends Grandy who sicks his mentally-slaved minions to attack her. Sybil subdues the Canary who is thrown into a room with wasps. Lantern and Arrow arrive to save the day but fall victim to Sybil themselves before Arrow manages to send off an arrow which distracts her. Quickly they save Canary as Sybil revolts against the pernicious demands of the evil Grandy. In a desperate act of defiance she brings the school down on their heads while everyone else escapes.

Green Lantern then finds his feelings for Carol remain and the story ends a bit openly as the pair walk away into the rain.

This story has always been a most memorable one for me, it's so completely weird. I can only assume that the use of Agnew and Nixon suggests some broader implications for the metaphor of mind control in the story, but I don't really parse exactly the point being made. Their use might simply be playfulness on the part of O'Neil and/or Adams.

More to come.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hanging The Green #7 - Harpies!

The eighty-second issue of Green Lantern and Green Arrow features the most important but unlisted member of the team Black Canary. By the team of Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, this one is an odd one indeed.

Ollie attempts to woo Dinah Drake with flowers when suddenly there appear a pair of malicious harpies who disappear as soon as they appear. Arrow calls in Green Lantern who promptly encounters them himself along with their apparent mistress, a red-skinned menace who calls herself the "Witch Queen". But Lantern detects a familiar threat.

Later Arrow and Canary encounter some very buff Amazons who are much impressed by Canary's fighting skills and then tell of their home dimension was the scene of a battle between a troll-like Wizard and the Witch Queen which banished them. The amazons are out to make all men pay for the Wizard's crimes.

It turns out the Witch Queen is actually the sister of Sinestro and this is a plot to lure Green Lantern into a trap. While Green Arrow and Canary fight with the Amazons to free him, the Lantern is trapped in a distant dimension fighting Medusa. It all comes to a hasty conclusion.

This wasn't the best story of the series, but did have some terrific moments. The relevance seemed to take a back seat to the fantasy, though women's issues are of the moment through out.

It's worth noting that Berni Wrightson inked a single page of this story, a harbinger of things to come.

More to come.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hanging The Green #6 - Make Room!

The eighty-first issue of Green Lantern and Green Arrow picks up right after the last. In this one Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano have fashioned a cautionary fable of another world in which there just too many people.

Old Timer, the Guardian who traveled with our heroes and who was brought before his fellow immortals for judgment faces his sentence, to be made mortal and to live out his now numbered days on Maltus, the planet from which the Guardians sprang.

But Maltus has changed. Fearful of a faltering of children, a woman named Mother Juna instigated a program of cloning which has resulted in a planet overrun with people of all sorts. To stem this tide of humanity the heroes along Black Canary seek her out and put an end to her programs. The Old Timer chooses to remain on Maltus and help his people rediscover their way.

This is wild one, full of some creative derring-do. We see Green Lantern limited by his classic weakness of yellow and his diminished ring (thanks to the Guardians) struggle to fend off cloned super-warriors. Green Arrow and Black Canary have to use their skills and wits to survive not only the warriors but also the crowds which teem about the planet and rise all too quickly in rage and panic.

At the time this was written it was generally assumed that the world's population would soon overwhelm its resources. But revolutionary changes in farming have forestalled that fear. Recently I heard that these advances are once again reaching their limits and we are faced with a world which might produce more people than it can fend for. So this fable is once again, as it was before timely.

The name of the planet "Maltus" is choice as the "Malthusian Theory" posits that the world will end up just as described in this tale of a far distant planet.  I was struck too by the absolute lack of foresight demonstrated by the Guardians who have failed to look after their home world. It is suggested their immortality makes them negligent since they have forgotten urgency. An interesting notion and it is  reinforced by Old Timer who says that he does not fear death, but has now a sense of purpose he formerly lacked.

Nice stuff.

More to come.

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