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Green Lantern / Superman: Legend of the Green Flame - Neil Gaiman

Written by Arion on Wednesday, March 19 2014 and posted in Blog
Green Lantern / Superman: Legend of the Green Flame - Neil Gaiman
 Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the 80s were, in fact, DC Comics golden age. Before the “English invasion”, DC had been suffering the afflictions of stagnation and lack of creativity. And then, all of a sudden, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, John Wagner and many other British talents were reinvigorating the DC Universe and redefining the American comic book landscape.
Green Lantern / Superman: Legend of the Green Flame - Neil Gaiman
Frank Miller

Although Alan Moore acquired a living legend status after such seminal works like Watchmen and V For Vendetta, he also wrote many stories firmly set on the classic DC Universe. And his superhero work was extraordinarily imaginative and captivating. So it’s quite easy to understand why Neil Gaiman decided to pay homage to Moore’s work when he was asked to write the final chapter of Action Comics Weekly. 

Action Comics Weekly was a weekly anthology that featured characters such as Green Lantern, Phantom Stranger, Deadman, the Blackhawks and, of course, Superman. Neil Gaiman had already surprised readers and editors with his deep and enthralling takes on Black Orchid –a long forgotten superheroine who was once a member of the Suicide Squad–, Lex Luthor and Poison Ivy. And when editor Mark Waid suggested Neil for the last story of Action Comics Weekly, everyone was excited about it.

Gaiman decided to explore the friendship between Green Lantern and Superman. In the opening sequence, Hal Jordan goes to the Daily Planet to visit Clark Kent. There is something unique and almost magical in the way Neil shows us how these two superheroes get along, not just in costume as Green Lantern and Superman but also in their civil identities as Hal Jordan and Clark Kent. But then, with the continuity changes established after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was decided that not a single superhero would know Superman’s secret identity, and therefore Neil’s story didn’t fit in and was simply filed away.

Lucky for us, in 2000, DC decided to rescue this unpublished script. Reading it I just couldn’t stop feeling nostalgic for something that was never meant to happen. In my head, I tried to imagine what would have happened if Alan Moore would have written more Superman and Green Lantern stories or if Neil Gaiman would have had a long run in Action Comics. Because, in a strange way, there is a special connection here. Moore wrote stories such as “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” for “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” and, after writing several Superman comics, he also announced his ideas for a ‘Superman in Hell’ saga (which never came to fruition). 
Green Lantern / Superman: Legend of the Green Flame - Neil Gaiman
Clark Kent, Hal Jordan & Lois Lane (art by Mike Allred & Terry Austin) 

And Neil Gaiman recovers all these elements, and combines them with Moore’s vision of hell as shown in “Down Amongst the Dead Men” (Swamp Thing Annual 1985). In fact, Neil also had the excellent initiative of having John Totleben (one of the main artists during Moore’s run in Swamp Thing) to magnificently illustrate Superman and Green Lantern’s journey through the land of the recently deceased.

The author of Sandman reunites characters that apparently have nothing in common such as Deadman or the Blackhawks from WWII. And he makes it work brilliantly. For instance, in the 40s, the Blackhawks discover a mysterious lantern that half a century later ends up in a museum exhibition attended by Clark and Hal. This lantern sends Superman and Green Lantern to the afterlife, and it’s there where they must fight for the survival of their souls.  

Long before Gaiman had written about the Eternals in Sandman, long before Death and Lucifer, there was this unforgettable story. So faithful to Alan Moore’s ideas and, at the same time, so close to Neil’s heart, back then a young writer still working for the DC Universe instead of focusing on his own creations. The love Neil feels towards DC superheroes is unmistakable, page after page, we run into subtle references, homages and little details that reminds us the richness of the DC Universe and the noble adventurers that have populated their pages since the 30s.

Many of the most renowned artists of DC (and Marvel and Image and Dark Horse) participate here: Eddie Campbell (“From Hell”), Mike Allred (“Madman”), Mark Buckingham (“Peter Parker: Spider-Man”), John Totleben (“Swamp Thing”), Matt Wagner (“Grendel”), Eric Shanower (“Age of Bronze”), Jim Aparo (“Batman”), Kevin Nowlan (“Tomorrow Stories”) and Jason Little; Matt Hollingsworth is the main colorist, and Terry Austin and Arthur Adams are the inkers; and the cover is by Frank Miller (“The Dark Knight Returns”). The art alone turns this one-shot into a must have.
Green Lantern / Superman: Legend of the Green Flame - Neil Gaiman
Against the Green Flame (art by Mark Buckingham) / contra la llama verde (arte de Mark Buckingham)

I can only imagine what other amazing stories Neil would have written for Superman or Green Lantern, but at the same time, as we can see in the final pages of Legend of the Green Flame –and paraphrasing Geoffrey Chaucer– “all good things must come to an end”.

A veces es fácil olvidar que los 80s fueron, de hecho, la era dorada de DC Comics. Antes de la "invasión inglesa", DC padecía de estancamiento y falta de creatividad. Y entonces, de repente, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, John Wagner y muchos otros talentos británicos le devolvieron el vigor al universo DC y redefinieron el escenario del cómic estadounidense.
Green Lantern / Superman: Legend of the Green Flame - Neil Gaiman
Deadman in the land of the dead (art by John Totleben) / Deadman en la tierra de los muertos (arte de John Totleben)

Aunque Alan Moore adquirió el status de leyenda viviente luego de obras tan influyentes como "Watchmen" y "V For Vendetta", también escribió muchas historias firmemente asentadas en el universo DC clásico. Y su trabajo de superhéroes fue extraordinariamente imaginativo y cautivador. Así que es bastante fácil entender por qué Neil Gaiman decidió rendir homenaje al trabajo de Moore cuando le pidieron escribir el capítulo final de "Action Comics Weekly". 
Green Lantern / Superman: Legend of the Green Flame - Neil Gaiman
Trapped in hell (art by Eric Shanower & Arthur Adams) /
Atrapados en el infierno (arte de Eric Shanower & Arthur Adams)

"Action Comics Weekly" fue una antología semanal que presentaba personajes como Green Lantern, Phantom Stranger, Deadman, los Blackhawks y, desde luego, Superman. Neil Gaiman ya había sorprendido a los lectores y editores con su profunda y atrayente interpretación de Black Orchid –una heroína largo tiempo olvidada que fue alguna vez integrante del Escuadrón Suicida–, Lex Luthor y Poison Ivy. Y cuando el editor Mark Waid sugirió a Neil para la última historia de "Action Comics Weekly", todos estaban emocionados.

Gaiman decidió explorar la amistad entre Green Lantern y Superman. En la secuencia inicial, Hal Jordan va al Daily Planet para visitar a Clark Kent. Hay algo único y casi mágico en la manera en la que Neil nos muestra cómo se llevan estos dos superhéroes, no sólo usando el uniforme como Green Lantern y Superman sino también en sus identidades civiles como Hal Jordan y Clark Kent. Pero luego, con los cambios de continuidad establecidos después de las Crisis en tierras infinitas, se decidió que ningún superhéroe conocería la identidad secreta de Superman; por lo tanto, la historia de Neil no encajaba y fue simplemente archivada. 

Afortunadamente para nosotros, en el 2000, DC decidió rescatar este guión inédito. Al leerlo no pude dejar de sentirme nostálgico por algo que no estaba destinado a suceder. En mi cabeza, intenté imaginar qué habría pasado si Alan Moore hubiese escrito más historias de Superman y Green Lantern o si Neil Gaiman hubiese tenido una prolífica etapa en Action Comics. Porque, de una extraña manera, aquí hay una conexión especial. Moore escribió historias como “Mogo no socializa” para “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” y, después de escribir varios cómics de Superman, también anunció sus ideas para una saga de ‘Superman en el infierno’ (que nunca se concretó). 

Y Neil Gaiman recupera todos estos elementos, y los combina con la visión del infierno de Moore, como apareció en “Abajo entre los muertos” (Swamp Thing Annual 1985). De hecho, Neil también tuvo la excelente iniciativa de hacer que John Totleben (uno de los principales artistas de Swamp Thing en la etapa de Moore) ilustre magníficamente la travesía de Superman y Green Lantern por la tierra de los recientemente fallecidos.
Green Lantern / Superman: Legend of the Green Flame - Neil Gaiman
The final challenge (art by Kevin Nowlan) /
El reto final (arte de Kevin Nowlan)

El autor de "Sandman" reúne a personajes que aparentemente no tienen nada en común como Deadman o los Blackhawks de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Y logra que todo funcione de manera brillante. Por ejemplo, en los 40s, los Blackhawks descubren una misteriosa linterna que termina, medio siglo después, en exhibición en el museo al que van Clark y Hal. Esta linterna envía a Superman y Green Lantern al más allá, en donde deberán luchar por la supervivencia de sus almas.

Mucho antes que Gaiman escribiese sobre los Eternos en Sandman, mucho antes que Muerte y Lucifer, existió esta inolvidable historia. Tan fiel a las ideas de Alan Moore y, al mismo tiempo, tan próximo al corazón de Neil, en ese entonces un joven escritor que trabajaba para el universo DC en vez de enfocarse en sus propias creaciones. El amor que Neil siente hacia los superhéroes de DC es inconfundible, página tras página, encontramos referencias sutiles, homenajes y pequeños detalles que nos recuerdan la riqueza del universo DC y a los nobles aventureros que han poblado sus páginas desde los años 30.

Muchos de los artistas más renombrados de DC (y Marvel, Image y Dark Horse) participan aquí: Eddie Campbell (“From Hell”), Mike Allred (“Madman”), Mark Buckingham (“Peter Parker: Spider-Man”), John Totleben (“Swamp Thing”), Matt Wagner (“Grendel”), Eric Shanower (“Age of Bronze”), Jim Aparo (“Batman”), Kevin Nowlan (“Tomorrow Stories”) y Jason Little; Matt Hollingsworth es el colorista principal y Terry Austin y Arthur Adams son los entintadores; y la portada es de Frank Miller (“The Dark Knight Returns”). Sólo por el arte este cómic es imprescindible.

Únicamente puedo imaginar qué otras asombrosas historias hubiese escrito Neil sobre Superman o Green Lantern, pero al mismo tiempo, como podemos ver en las últimas páginas de "Leyenda de la llama verde" –y parafraseando a Geoffrey Chaucer– “todo lo bueno debe llegar a su fin”.

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About the Author - Arion

Arion, who is either from Chile or New York (it’s not really clear) writes a blog that the Outhouse steals on a regular basis.  Arion is by far the nicest of all the staff writers and the most well behaved only having been banned from one country.  One thing we really appreciate about Aroin is that he writes his reviews in English and Spanish and we hope someday he’ll translate this blurb for us.  We’re not so good at languages, just look at how well we write in English if you need proof.  You should bookmark Arion’s blog - – and actually look at it.  There will be a quiz at the end of every month.


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