Has a condemned Hal Jordan been sentenced to death by goofiness? – Green Lantern #55
Cover bait is a time-honored marketing tool in comic books. The core ethos of comic covers is quite simple: put your character in a startling/inescapable/preposterous situation, and compel the reader to buy the book — or risk a vendor’s wrath by reading it surreptitiously next to the spin rack. What we have above is about as pure an example as you can get: Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of Earth, branded as “Cosmic Enemy Number One!” and facing a firing squad of his alien colleagues. Plunk your dime and two pennies onto the store counter, child of the 1960s!There are so many questions sprung to mind by this cover. What did Hal do? How would a Green Lantern firing squad work? What does “power-ringed to death” entail? Would they all just zap with a blast of verdant energy, vaporizing the executee? Would each member of the firing squad choose their own method of death, so that one, say, clubs the condemned over the head with a giant mallet while the other flattens him with a big green steamroller?
You’re probably a little hyped to know the answers, right? Well, SIKE! You don’t get that. A corollary to the cover marketing elucidated in this post’s opening paragraph is that many times the cover scenario is flipped on the inside, and the story is only tangentially related to what was advertised. This is one of those times. But at least they get the switcheroo out of the way quick. We open in this John Broome-written, Gil Kane-illustrated tale with Hal already facing the music, and blasted to hell:
But, in a trick that’s been used oh so many times in instances like this, it turns out it was only a scene being filmed for a TV show — and in a twist to a twist, the actor playing Jordan actually died in this mock execution:
You think we’re done with the twists? Not even close. When Hal learns of this accident, he immediately bops over to the studio — he befriended the actor playing him, Charles Vicker, so he has a personal interest in the case. But Vicker is alive!:
If you have whiplash now, you’re probably not alone.
This Silver Age plot unspools apace, featuring the umpteenth attempt by some mysterious foe to eliminate the Green Lantern Corps member by member. That said, this arch-villain has the merit of being one of the goofier Lantern enemies to ever spring from sector 2814: Al Magone, a blatant caricature of Al Capone, who was captured and imprisoned by Abin Sur back in the 1920s and has nurtured a grudge ever since:
So if you ever wanted a Green Lantern/Boardwalk Empire crossover, this comic is about as close as you’re ever going to get. And Kane was born to draw Edward G. Robinson-esque gangsters. (Were the Guardians of the Universe really all that concerned with protection rackets? This is like putting the FBI on the trail of litterers.)
There isn’t much more to say. This brief storyline was concluded in the next issue, and Al Magone sadly disappeared from the DC Universe after that, never to be glimpsed again, not even in the assorted Crisises or as a cigar-chomping Black Lantern. But there’s at least that cover, holding unlimited potential, and masquerading the somewhat rote (yet pleasantly odd) shenanigans within.