Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame, Part One
“Chapter One: 1989”
Writer – Neil Gaiman
Pencils – Eddie Campbell, Mike Allred & Mark Buckingham
Inks – Terry Austin
Letters – Todd Klein
Colors – Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Editor – Frank Berrios
Group Editor – Bob Schreck
Executive Editor – Mike Carlin
No time to bask in the celebratory glory of a job (well?) done. Even though there is no more Action Comics Weekly to look at… that doesn’t mean our time together, or this project is over with!
Today, as promised, we’re stepping through the looking glass into a reality where Neil Gaiman’s original script for Action Comics Weekly #642 actually saw print back in ye old 1989. We’ll be talking about the how’s and why’s as we go… but, for this pre-ramble portion, I just wanted to humbly and sincerely thank everyone for their support over this past 10-11 month long journey we’ve taken together. It hasn’t always been easy… Lord knows with some of the content we had to trudge through, but I am pleased and proud to say, we’ve made it!
As with any “milestone” posting, I almost expect confetti and fireworks to rain down and the dancing girls to cha-cha through my kitchen once I hit the “Publish” button… but, as always… it was a bit more low-key than that. Just a deep breath… a tear in the eye… and preparing for what’s next.
Speaking of which, let’s get right to it! The REAL Action Comics Weekly #642!
Prologue: 1949 opens in… well, 1949… Berlin. Janos Prohaska and our main man, Weng Chan venture down a flight of stairs. At the bottom, they discover a bunch of Justice Society paraphernalia… including Wesley Dodd’s Sandman costume. As they keep sifting through the wreckage, they happen across some feathers… and a certain old Lantern.
Chop-chop experiences something not unlike deja vu… he feels like he should recognize the Lantern… but, for whatever reason, he can’t. Jan razzes him a bit before they head back up the stairs… passing by an hourglass as they go.
We shift into the “present”… which is to say, 1989… I guess, and we’re at The Daily Planet. Hal Jordan pays a visit to Clark Kent, who he will refer to as “Big Fella” like a dozen times throughout this issue. So, here’s the thing… in this version of 1989, Hal Jordan knows that Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same… which is why this story didn’t see print until 2000! We’ll talk more about that in the “down below”. Anyhoo, Hal’s just seeing if Clark’s got any plans that evening… and besides “the usual” (ya know, patrols and such), he’s free. They decide to grill some burgers and just hang out. Before the ink dries on their hang-out contract, however, Lois Lane pops in… and she wants a favor!
Ya see, she’s supposed to go to a Museum Preview that evening for a Lifestyle Feature… but, she’s otherwise engaged. If Clark could do this little thing for her, she would be most appreciative. Lucky for our heroes, the invitation to this event is for two! Hal looks to Clark, and is all “sounds good to me, Big Fella”, and so… Clark agrees to the fill-in gig.
As they leave the Planet, Clark… get this… apologizes for how their last conversation went. Ya know, that scene from Action Comics Weekly #606 that I’ve referred to a whole bunch of times lately? Ya know… this one:
So yeah, ya see Gaiman did the research and read through ACW! Too bad Editorial changed their minds about the continuity without letting him know! Clark feels bad about how that all went down… and Hal gets it, he knows everyone has their bad days. Heck, he might know better than anybody. Clark asks how Arisia is doing… and learns that Hal and her had split by this point.
They cut through the Park on their way toward the Museum… and continue with the small-talk. Clark asks how Ollie’s doing… because the two of them never really gelled that well. Hal says he misses the guy, but is willing to take a step-back as to not ruin the good thing he’s got going with the “Bird Lady”, which is to say, another ACW Alum, Black Canary.
They stop and chat a bit more… Hal appears to be having a bit of an existential crisis. He goes down his laundry list of loss… the Guardians are gone, the Corps is basically done-for, his love-life sucks… Mogo won’t return his calls, ya know, the usual. Clark hates to interrupt, but he does… because, get this: they’re in the process of getting mugged!
This doesn’t work out so well for the would-be muggers.
We finally arrive at the Museum, where our heroes join the media tour. Among the group is a certain Selina, who was hoping to get a peek at the Catkin Pearl. Heyyy, it’s another ACW Alum in Catwoman! Gaiman did a great job getting as many Action Comics Weekly characters a bit of panel-time (or at least a mention) here!
Clark and Hal break away from the tour group, and sneak down a little hallway to, I dunno, continue their chat from before perhaps? Whatever the case, they stroll down an aisle of the joint that kind of looks like it’s comprised of flea market display cases. In one of those cases is… a certain Lantern that was recovered in Berlin in 1949. Hmm…
Hal stops in his tracks to get a better look at the thing. Clark even engages his x-ray vision to scan the Lantern… and it appears to give him rather a headache! Hal finds this curious… and even wonders aloud if this might have anything to do with Alan Scott. He continues along that line of thought, and wonders how it managed to survive the Main Power Battery going boom.
Hal wills up a “mental block” to stop the other Museum patrons from venturing down that particular hallway. Didn’t know he could “will up” such a thing, but who am I to argue with Neil Gaiman? He gets into costume and decides to… recite his Oath, and attempt to charge his ring via this found-Lantern!
Then, everything goes a bit ca-ca…
Pretty good stuff here, right? I mean, it’s Neil Gaiman, and I don’t think I’m even allowed to criticize it even if I wanted to, am I? I’ll have to check with the rest of the community, I guess. I kid, I kid… this is already so much better than the (for all intents and purposes) fill-in story we got instead back in 1989.
So you might be asking, what’s the deal with this one? Why is it a thing… and why wasn’t it a thing back in the long ago? Well… I’ve tiptoed around that scene in ACW #606. Heck, feels like I’ve posted that scene like a half-dozen times over the past couple weeks. Ya see, when Gaiman was approached with writing the final weekly issue of Action Comics, he did what all great writers ought to do when writing serialized fiction: he familiarized himself with what came before.
From his Introduction piece in this very Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame, he writes: “I even prided myself on using plot threads from ACTION COMICS WEEKLY – like the one where Green Lantern – who was then the Man Without Fear, Hal Jordan – undergoing an emotional crisis, telephones his oldest friends, and none of them want to speak with him – not even Superman, whom he phones at work at the Daily Planet.”
All well and good, right? Here’s a fella who did his due-diligence… something I wish more writers would actually do, especially today. What could possibly go wrong, right?
Well, that’s the question, ain’t it? From Neil’s Intro: “There had been a continuity miscommunication discovered regarding DC’s earlier reboot of Superman, in the week between my writing the story and its arriving on [Superman Editor] Mike Carlin’s desk. The change-winds had blown, and the nature of reality had shifted.”
Okay… so, what’s the problem?
“It had been decided that too many people knew Superman’s secret identity. It wasn’t special anymore. So from now on, the only people who would know it would be Mr. and Mrs. Kent and Pete Ross, and maybe Mr. Mxyzptlk. Nobody else. Certainly not Green Lantern.”
Neil was offered the opportunity to rewrite his story… but, let’s be honest, by this point in time Gaiman was already ignoring his Miracleman scripting duties… there’s no way he’s going to rewrite something for Action Comics Weekly.
Now, the most surreal part of this is… just the fact that a Neil Gaiman superhero script was ever rejected… and for all things, continuity issues! This was most definitely a pre-Sandman world.
So, where do I stand on all this? Well, I’m of two minds. First, Editorial never should have been in such a state of disarray that the original scene in ACW #606 ever took place at all! They really should have had a firmer grasp on the new-look Superman… his trappings, and most importantly (at this juncture) who knew the secret!
On the other hand, I’ll give it to DC for holding firm (once they figured out what it was they’d be “holding firm” to). It would have been easy to waver, and just run the story… not that any of the readers would have noticed anything “wrong” with it. Had this happened today, I’m sure the story would have run… and any fan who might’ve raised issue with it would’ve been mocked. I think that’s what editors “these days” do, right? It sure isn’t curating continuity!
But I digress.
Tomorrow we’ll talk more about the actual story… but for today, I just wanted to set the table with they why’s and how’s of the situation. All I’ll say for now is: So far, so good… Big Fella.
Tomorrow: To Hell Wit’ Em… and, ugh… the Phantom Stranger