When Comics Get Political #23
In this column, I will dive into times, throughout superhero history, that comics got political. There seems to be a constant debate if political discussion has a place in the medium. I hope to show that politics and superhero comics go together. This time we look at Green Lantern/Green Arrow again.
The issues of the comic we have covered before (which dealt with evil landowners, and drug use) have shown that this is a politically charged series that was not afraid to make a point. In fact, it was a highly celebrated series and has been held up as one of the best runs of either title character, and in many ways defined Green Arrow forever after. This issue deals solely with environmental issues. Ferris Aircraft Inc. (owned by Green Lanterns girlfriend Carol Ferris) is developing a new aircraft that uses a cheap and dirty fuel source. An environmental activist, named Isaac, is taking the fight to the company in a more direct way. He snuck in as a painter in one location and literally smeared sewage on the walls. Later in the issue, he tampered with a piece of machinery which almost crushed two employees. Isaac takes these issues so seriously because he suffers from a lung condition that he received through pollution (the same one that also killed his parents). During a protest, where he ties himself to a jet engine in order to stop the use of the plane, Ferris Aircraft Inc literally crucifies him and he dies. Green Lantern, after seeing Isaac die, finally turns against his girlfriend’s company and destroys their airfield. It is a powerful story that ties political issues with religious symbols.
Arrow vs Lantern (Blue State Vs. Red State)
Traditionally this comic plays out with Green Arrow playing on the left side of politics and Green Lantern on the right. This issue is no different. Green Arrow is supportive of Isaac and his actions against Ferris. Green Lantern places his faith in law and corporate interests. He thinks that Ferris Aircraft Inc will simply solve their dirty fuel problem. His capitalistic attitude assumes that the free market will basically fix itself and no harm will be done. However, Green Lantern becomes inspired by Isaac’s actions and is the one to turn on Ferris in the end.
Clearly, the creative team is playing on who they feel is right here. Green Lantern is the one who learns his lesson here and is proven wrong. Isaac may make a mistake with almost endangering lives with one protest, but is ultimately proven correct and moral.
When Comics Get Religious
The most overt aspect of this comic is the religious symbols. It is clear that directly on the cover that Isaac is a Christ-like figure, and his story follows some of the same beats. His name is the same as the first son of Abraham (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all trace their roots back to him). His features mirror the way the western world views Jesus, though making him blond. His crucifixion is almost 1:1 with the Bible. The man who can help Isaac “washes his hands” (just like Pontius Pilate) and leaves him to die. Green Arrow and Green Lantern are also strung up on “crosses” to Isaac’s left and right (mirroring the two criminals that were crucified along with Christ). And Isaac’s death is what ultimately teaches Lantern a lesson and allows him to follow through on what is morally right, destroying the aircraft that will harm the environment.
It is important that they used Christian imagery. The creative team can assume that the readers would be familiar with the faith, and would connect with the clear symbols in the book. This book is not a critique on Christianity, but rather using it as a moral compass (that is common in American literature) to show what is truly right and just. Having Isaac as an environmentalist is telling the readers that we need to protect The Earth at all costs. Having Ferris Aircraft as the antagonist here (and they are traditionally the ones who work WITH Green Lantern) shows that corporate progress is not worth the environmental destruction. There is no clearer message to an American reader than “What would Jesus Do?” And even if you are not a person of faith you can still see the reasons behind using the dominant faith of the nation in order to show the error in their ways of thinking.