Some weapons become more iconic than the fictional characters that use them. Others are a vital aspect of a character’s personality. In this column, we take a look at some of the greatest fictional weapons of all time.
It’s called the most powerful weapon in the universe. It’s also a piece of finger jewelry. But trust me, the Green Lantern Power Ring is awesome when it’s in the right hands (ring bearer and writer alike). It’s storied history and strange capabilities make it one of the all-time greatest when it comes to comic book weapons.
From its original appearance in the Golden Age of Comics as a magic-based ring used solely by Alan Scott (All-America Comics #16 in 1940) to its rejuvenation in the Silver Age as the science-based weapon of a universe-spanning police force (Showcase #22 in 1959), the Green Lantern Ring is as old as comics themselves.
The Green Lantern Rings were created by the Guardians of the Universe, a group a big headed blue aliens, who decided to bring peace to the planets through a powerful police force. Members of the Green Lantern Corps are selected by computer-like rings based on their ability to overcome fear, making them the ideal candidates. Green Lanterns have great will power, which is how they control the ring and unlock its true potential. The ring gives them the ability to create anything they can imagine and with these light constructs, they battle evil and police the universe.
It’s a rather unconventional idea for a weapon, but it’s one that has kept the characters that take up the mantle of Green Lantern fresh and original for decades. No two Green Lanterns are the same, as their personalities not only define their characters, but how they use the ring. While every Lantern uses the ring to shield themselves in a protective aura, give themselves the power of flight, and allow outer space travel, the life that they give to their thoughts make each one different when written and drawn well.
It’s Weak Against WHAT?
For being an all-powerful weapon, the Green Lantern Ring certainly has had some odd limitations over the years. First and foremost, Lanterns were unable to use lethal force for most of their history, with sentient rings locking down to prevent such actions. However, these limitations were removed during desperate times.
Additionally, the weapon must be recharged at a ring bearer’s personal lantern every 24 hours while reciting the corps’ famous oath (seen at left). Over the course of 24 hours and depending on how much power is spent, the ring will slowly lose its charge. Recharging restores 100 percent power.
The original Alan Scott ring was powerless against anything made of wood. A strange caveat, but even the most powerful weapon in the universe needs a weakness for the sake of dramatic tension. Wood just seems like a random choice. But not as originally random as the weakness created in the Silver Age: the color yellow.
Green Lantern Rings are weak against anything colored yellow, typically limiting their effectiveness and penetrating their defenses when coloring a weapon. This weakness was attributed to a defect in the main Green Lantern Power Battery on the home planet of Oa for decades. However, writer Geoff Johns managed to retcon this idea in a brilliant manner. The Green Lanterns draw their abilities from willpower, which is but one of seven emotions on the Emotional Spectrum, each powering their own corps with unique abilities. However, yellow is the color of fear – the ultimate undoing of any Green Lantern. If you are unable to fully conquer your fear, yellow-based weapons and defenses will work well against you.
It was this reimagining of the concept that led to one of the biggest additions to the Green Lantern mythos.
The Emotional Spectrum
Since the resurgence of Green Lantern in comic books in 2004, writer Geoff Johns and his many collaborators have vastly expanded the mythology of the Lanterns. For decades, there was only the Green Lantern Ring and a few spare offshoots and evil versions. But through the years, the mythology was expanded to show that the Green Lanterns are only one of nine different corps that harness what is revealed to be The Emotional Spectrum.
The Emotional Spectrum consists of seven emotions, each with their own group, and two factions representing life and death. Each has its own corresponding color, powers, and weaknesses. Additionally, each of these Corps draw their power from a spiritual entity that represents the central emotion, some for better, some for worse. These Corps have teamed up and fought each other as they struggle to succeed in their respective missions.
The Emotional Spectrum Corps are:
Red Lantern Corps – Rage – Members are berserkers with little coherent thought and are usually unable to speak. Lead by Atrocitus, these Lanterns fire blasts of red energy and vomit their burning, rage-powered blood. Removing the ring results in death, since it powers their body in place of the heart.
Agent Orange – Avarice – Made up of one member, Larfleeze, who is so overcome by greed that no other is allowed to join his corps. Creates constructs with his ring, most often to recreate the people he has killed in order to assemble his own army, and can drain energy from other rings.
Sinestro Corps – Fear – Founded by former Green Lantern Sinestro, this corps is the most direct threat to the Green Lanterns as their fear-based color of yellow is the main weakness of the GL ring. The yellow ring is powered by preying off a victim’s fear. Their power can be drained by Blue Lantern Corps members.
Green Lantern Corps– Willpower – The center of Emotional Spectrum, Green Lanterns are powerful due to their ability to control and overcome their emotions. Green Lanterns are weak against Sinestro Corps members until they confront and overcome their own deep personal fears. They can be supercharged by Blue Lanterns.
Blue Lantern Corps– Hope – Formed by defecting Guardians of the Universe, these Lanterns are meant to bring peace and inspiration to the universe. They have little offensive power, but can heal wounds, even regenerating whole limbs. Blue Lanterns unlock true power in the presence of Green Lanterns, supercharge Green Lanterns, and de-power the Red, Orange, and Yellow rings.
Indigo Tribe – Compassion – A nomadic tribe instead of a militaristic corps. Member charge their rings with staffs instead of batteries, can copy the abilities of other rings, teleport, and force compassion onto others. Rings form parasitic bonds with bearers and cause a degree of brainwashing.
Star Sapphires – Love – Like the extreme emotions of the Red Lanterns, Star Sapphires are heavily influenced by their rings. Besides energy constructs, rings create crystal prisons and can resuscitate the recently dead by unlocking power from the heart.
Black Lantern Corps– Death – An army of ring-wielding zombies who kill in order to fuel their central power battery and raise Nekron, the embodiment of death.
White Lantern Corps– Life – The embodiment of life. Members can eradicate Black Lanterns, return the dead to real life, and create many kinds of life.
The Greatest Lanterns
The Green Lantern Corps is a universe-wide police force that attempts to fight evil and keep the peace on every known planet. As such, the universe was divided up into 3600 sectors by The Guardians of the Universe (big headed blue men who run The Corps), with one Lantern assigned to each. However, after the destruction and rebirth of the Green Lantern Corps, two members were assigned to each, resulting in 7200 total members at all times. Whenever a Lantern is killed in action, his sentient ring flies across space, looking for the best and closest replacement (“you have the ability to overcome great fear.”)
That means there are a lot of members. In fact, far too many to ever be named or even shown on the page. But there have been many standouts over the decades. Specifically, Earth-based members are the most prominent figures and the ones who have the greatest impact on The Corps.
Because of the size of the Corps and the need to inject new blood into the everlasting monthly cycle of comic books, many characters have been the star of Green Lantern and its companion books at one time or another. Some of the biggest and most memorable Lanterns include:
Every Green Lantern fan has his or her favorite. And with multiple monthly comics dedicated to these heroes, they each get their time in the spotlight.
If the power ring can create anything, then why do so many Lanterns just make a big green glowing fist? Or a beam of green light? It’s simple. Writers get tired and fists are simple to draw.
Think about it this way. You’ve written or drawn 30 issues of Green Lantern and in each issue at least a dozen Lanterns show up with unique personalities and they each create a different weapon. Even if you’re incredibly creative, that big fist is looking pretty good right now.
It’s not much of an excuse, but it makes sense.
But there have been a ton of amazing Green Lantern constructs over the year, especially as comic art has become more detailed and dynamic over the decades. These may be things made out of hard light, but their translucence and dynamic movements can really look amazing when in the hands of a good artist.
The best constructs should reflects the personalities of their creators, which in turn better define the traits of a character. Kyle Rainer is an artist, so his constructs are fluid and imaginative. John Stewart is an architect and former soldier, so he has a structurally sound focus that’s also tactical. Hal Jordan is a daredevil and test pilot, so his constructs are dynamic and often involve machinery. Any established character should make constructs that are at least slightly different from fellow members. This is what makes the Green Lantern Power Ring such a wonderful and unique addition to comic books.
There’s a reason why Green Lanterns and their rings have not only stayed relevant in comics for decades, but have flourished in recent years. Their weapon captures the imagination and find no equal in any other comic. Put in the hands of the right writer, decades of comics history can be respected while still forging new paths ahead for the might Green Lantern Corps. And at the heart of it all is a little green ring with the power to reshape the universe, one thought at a time.