REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS GREEN LANTERN (ALAN SCOTT)
Before Hal Jordan was Green Lantern, before Barry Allen was the Flash, before Ray Palmer was the Atom, there was the Golden Age of the DC Universe. Enjoying its heyday largely in the 1940's, the classic characters comprising this time period would later be revived in the 1960's, existing on an alternate Earth, as the foundations of the Multiverse were begun. Later, following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, these early heroes would be seen as the original heroes of Earth, the elder statesmen of the Justice Society, predecessors of the legendary Justice League, which is how they remain viewed today, as they carry on in their own "JSA" title, even as the modern heroes have their own adventures in the "JLA" title. The Justice League is seen as the primary team of super-heroes in the DC Universe, while the Justice Society is largely seen as the inspiration from which all others have come, and raising up a new generation of heroes.
If you were to ask a comics reader in the 1940's who Green Lantern was, he'd say Alan Scott. The Flash was Jay Garrick. The Atom was Al Pratt. Such a reader would have never heard of Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, or the Guardians of the Universe.
Something else such a reader would have never heard of would have been action figures. Show him a figure of Hal Jordan and try to tell him that this was Green Lantern, and he'd tell you that you were out of your mind, and what the heck was that thing, anyway? Show him a figure of Alan Scott, and he'd certainly recognize the character, but he'd still wonder what the heck you were showing him. Not that there weren't toys of popular super-heroes, but certainly nothing like modern action figures.
Of course, since, the advent of modern action figures, the primary Green Lantern has not been Alan Scott. It's been Hal Jordan, or Kyle Rayner. Jordan missed out on the marvelous days of Mego, although reports are that he was in the works. The first Green Lantern action figure, which was of Hal Jordan, of course, actually came along in Kenner's line of Super Powers figures, in the 1980's. He nearly got his own spinoff line, too -- the irony of that being staggering in light of Mattel's current similar plans.
And, since that time, both Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner have received quite a few plastic incarnations. So did John Stewart, once it was decided that he would be the main Green Lantern in the Justice League animated series. Even Guy Gardner popped up here and there. They all represent the modern-day Green Lantern mythos.
But not Alan Scott. Let's be blunt, the characters of the Justice Society are simply not as well known today as they once were. They're still around, they're still active, but they're just not as well known as their contemporaries. And Alan Scott's connection to the modern-day Green Lanterns is a bit tenuous. He's on good terms with them, of course, but he's not really a close part of their universe, a little bit of retconning notwithstanding, which I will be addressing.
Fortunately, Mattel's superb line of DC Universe Classics action figures has taken to bringing in an increasing number of Golden Age heroes. They've done Wildcat, Guardian, Dr. Mid-Nite, Starman, and most recently Hourman and -- ALAN SCOTT, officially listed on his package as Green Lantern, which may be causing a little confusion in the toy aisles even though the DC Universe Classics line is listed as being intended for "Adult Collectors" these days. Alan Scott doesn't look like Hal Jordan, and his costume is nothing like those of the modern Green Lanterns.
I, for one, am delighted to see these characters finally get their action figure due. I'll readily admit, when I first encountered the Justice Society and the concept of the Multiverse, I had virtually no knowledge of comics history. I think I was eight, so give me a break on that. I read this crossover story, and rather liked the idea of a second team of heroes on a slightly different Earth, but I was under the impression that this "Justice Society" was something that had just been created for the sake of such stories, sort of like the Mirror Universe of Star Trek (although arguably Earth-3's Crime Syndicate is a better example of that). Here were characters with the same names -- Green Lantern, Flash, Atom, etc., that just happened to be different people and looked radically different. I had no idea that they actually pre-dated the Justice League by a couple of decades.
Later, I did figure this out, as some of their stories would occasionally be reprinted in various DC comics. Now, in all fairness, those stories don't always hold up that well. The artwork is simplistic and the storytelling is achingly straightforward. Now, I read comics for good escapist adventure -- I don't need allegories to real-world politics or social rhetoric in my comic books. But I do at least expect intelligent storytelling and good characterization. These, unfortunately, weren't significant priorities in the 1940's. Comics were written for kids, with the expected limited comprehension and attention span thereof. Nevertheless, I had to certainly respect DC Comics for finding a reasonable way of bringing these near-forgotten characters, essentially swept aside in the foundation of the Silver Age of Comics, which brought is the likes of Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, back into some measure of the limelight, and they have remained ever since.
And I have to give Mattel and the Four Horsemen that much more credit for being willing to make such high-quality action figures of them in their DC Universe Classics flagship line.
Alan Scott is part of Wave 14, which is a Walmart exclusive, but unlike Wave 5, the first Walmart exclusive wave, availability has been much more reasonable. Before I get into the figure, let's consider the character and his background, in some summary, because the esteemed Mr. Scott has had quite the history.
Alan Scott -- full name Alan Ladd Wellington Scott (and I can't exactly blame him for not referencing those middle names too often) was first introduced in All-American Comics #16, in July of 1960. He was created by a young artist named Martin Nodell, who was inspired by the sight of a New York Subway employee waving a red lantern to stop a train for track work, and a green lantern once the track was clear. With the name in hand, Nodell created a mystical crimefighter who got his powers from the flame of a strange lamp.
Thousands of years ago, a mystical "green flame" fell to Earth. The voice of the flame prophesied that it would act three times: once to bring death, once to bring life, and once to bring power. By 1940, having fulfilled the first two of this prophecy, the flame had been fashioned into a metal lantern, which fell into the hands of Alan Scott, a young railroad engineer. Following a railroad bridge collapse, the flame instructs Scott in how to fashion a ring from its metal, to give him fantastic powers as the superhero Green Lantern.
Scott uses his ring to fly, walk through solid objects, paralyze or blind people temporarily, to create rays of energy, and so forth. Occasionally, he uses it to create solid objects and force fields in the manner usually associated with Hal Jordan. His ring could protect him against any object made of metal, but would not protect him against wood or plant-based objects.
During the 1940's, Green Lantern's adventures seemed to alternate between serious adventure, particularly when his arch-nemesis Solomon Grundy turned up, and light comedy. Scott was a member of the JSA in 1951 when the team was investigated and accused of possible Communist sympathies and asked to reveal their identities. The JSA declined, and the team disbanded and retired.
One piece of retroactive continuity fills out the early history of the character. It was explained that the JSA fought a being named Ian Karkull who imbued them with energy that retarded their aging, which is why a number of JSA members (and their spouses) remain active to this day. The team re-formed in the 1960's with Scott as a member, although little us known of their adventures except for their cross-Earth team-ups with the Justice League. In his secret identity, Alan Scott runs the Gotham Broadcasting Company.
The retroactive continuity of the Crisis on Infinite Earths offers some further explanations. In the "Last Days of the Justice Society" in 1986, it was told how Adolf Hitler, in 1945, caused a massive wave of destructive energy to erupt over the single Earth that was left in the wake of the Crisis. Scott and the JSA entered into a limbo dimension to fight an eternally occurring catastrophe.
Later, the team is brought back by the time-hopping Waverider, and must get used to living in the modern world once again. Subsequent to this, Alan Scott is brought closer to the world of the modern Green Lanterns. He had long been a friend of Hal Jordan, but also befriends Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner.
Various adventures over the following years would see him temporarily take on the name Sentinel, have his age regressed further so that he appeared to be a man in his 30's, and later to advance once again, once again taking on the name Green Lantern.
As to his modern origin, following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the source of Scott's power would be revealed to be the mystical "Starheart", the magical characteristics of the Earth-One universe gathered by the Guardians of the Universe, thus linking Scott to the modern Green Lanterns. This collective force was hidden in the heart of a star, and became sentient. This force also helps retard Scott's aging process. Considering that Scott derives his power from the Starheart, and does not need to recharge his ring, he is perhaps the most powerful of all the bearers of the Green Lantern name. The Starheart has caused Scott some problems over the years, as it does have a malevolent side, which has also affected Scott's offspring, the heroes Jade and Obsidian, and on at least one recent occasion has taken control of Scott himself. Doctor Mid-Nite has remarked that Alan Scott may be more powerful than Superman, given the magical nature of his powers, and as such one of the most powerful beings in the universe. The weakness to wood remains, however. Scott's physical appearance varies somewhat according to his personal health and well being. At the peak of his powers he looks like a man in his early 40's, but he shows his age when his powers are adversely affected. He, Jay Garrick, and Ted Grant (Wildcat) are all in the range of 90-100 years of age.
So, how's the figure? Really outstanding, and very distinctive. And, he doesn't look like he's between 90-100 years old, either.
Now, the headsculpt is most impressive. Alan Scott has blonde hair, also setting him apart from Jordan and the other modern Green Lanterns. His hair has been painted a somewhat dark blonde, and the headsculpt makes it look like it's receding -- a bit. And the face has a few more wrinkles on it than normal. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to say that this figure looks elderly. It does not. I would say that the headsculpt has been designed to look like someone who is typically in his late 40's or early 50's.
Interestingly, the mouth has been sculpted slightly open. I'm not entirely sure why, and to be honest, I tend to prefer more neutral expressions. However, it's not as severe as some early images I saw of what was clearly the prototype version of this figure, which had a far more open mouth. This mouth is slightly open, just enough to show teeth and the aperture of the mouth beyond, but little more. It's been well sculpted, and certainly well painted.
I still hope this isn't too much of a trend, and I still don't quite understand why they would do it with this character in particular. Whenever I think of open-mouthed super-heroes, I am reminded of some of the truly ghastly headsculpts given to some of Toy Biz's Marvel-based Famous Covers line of 9" super-heroes from a number of years ago. About the only one in that line that got away with the open mouth was Nightcrawler, which helped to showcase his fanged teeth. The rest of the ones that were plagued with it, especially Captain America, Hawkeye, Cyclops, and Daredevil, just looked plain horrible IMHO.
Granted, Mattel has a much better team of sculptors and designers in the Four Horsemen, but it's still a difficult memory to shake, and it's not something that I'd want to see entering the DC Universe Classics line all that much.
Alan Scott has an interesting uniform. Certainly it doesn't look like the modern Green Lantern uniforms. It consists of a red shirt, green leggings, red boots with yellow straps, and a high-collared cape that is purple on the outside and green on the inside. Scott also wears a purple mask. I can't begin to imagine what the impetus was, even all the way back in 1940, for giving a character named "Green Lantern" this much red in his costume, but -- it is what it is. It's actually a very cool uniform design in its own right, and certainly sets Alan Scott apart from the main Green Lanterns.
The shirt itself is distinctive for one notable reason -- unlike most of the spandex set, it's not form-fitting. Now, this has depended on the artist over the years, and during his Sentinel day, Scott did wear a form-fitting costume that strongly resembled his traditional outfit, but wasn't a precise match for it. And there were those 1960's adventures, where pretty much everyone wore tights because it was just easier on the artist. But in his earliest adventures, the shirt was clearly rather loose-fitting, and that has been restored in his modern adventures.
As such, the entire torso and arms had to be sculpted distinctly for this figure. Credit to the Four Horsemen as always, they did so while still maintaining the scale and physique, as well as the consistency for which this line has become known, without sacrificing or modifying the articulation.
Alan Scott's shirt has a slight collar to it, almost hidden under the cape clasp, but it is there. Typical wrinkles appear mostly near the waist and along the arms. Overall, it looks excellent. An area in the center of the chest was smoothed out a bit so that the Green Lantern emblem common to Alan Scott could be stamped into place. Unlike the Green Lantern emblem common to Hal Jordan and friends, this emblem features a yellow circle, with an illustration of an actual lantern, green in color, complete with handle, within it.
Alan Scott wears no gloves, and his ring is on the second finger of his left hand. Much like the shirt emblem, the ring is quite unlike the symbol of the modern-day Green Lantern Corps, instead resembling a miniature version of the Lantern itself.
Green Lantern is wearing a fairly broad, black belt, which has been given a little sculpted texturing to make it look like leather, with a fairly large, yellow buckle. The buckle could have been painted a little more neatly than it has been, but it's not too bad.
The leggings are Green Lantern's costume are green, and are form-fitting. As such, I am certain that they use the standard molds common to many of the male characters in the DC Universe Classics line.
The boots are another story, however. They're definitely distinct to this figure. They are red, pointed at the top, and have yellow strips wrapped around them in a somewhat decorative pattern. These strips, like the belt, have been given some texturing to make them look as if they're made from some sort of leather. The work is really extremely impressive, and I am always pleased to see when distinctive parts like this are made for a DC Universe Classics figure, that still fit within the established design and construction format.
There's just one little glitch about the boots. The left boot has a fine indented line of "stitching" across the top. The right boot doesn't. It's a minor complaint, and is barely visible, but I have to say that somebody at the Four Horsemen goofed, which is something I never really expected to have to say, and you'd think someone along the way would've caught it before production. It's not that big a deal, but I mention it so attention can be paid to prevent this from happening again.
Green Lantern has a fairly standard mask across his face, that also covers most of his nose. Except for the purple color, it's actually pretty similar to what a lot of modern Green Lanterns wear, certainly Hal Jordan.
And he is wearing a cape. The cape has a high, upswept collar, and a decorative yellow clasp across the front. The cape is purple on the outside, and a fairly bright green on the inside, as if somehow radiating the energy of the Starheart. It's an excellent sculpt, and I like the attention to color detail. It's not that often we get a two-colored cape like this in the line. I think there's this guy and Robin, not much else.
I will say this. I don't object to capes on these action figures, certainly, nor do I mind that they're molded from plastic rather than made from fabric. Fabric accessories on figures much smaller than, let's say 8", just don't work that well, and capes seldom look "natural" on small to medium scale action figures. As long as the cape isn't pre-posed like it's blowing in a strong wind, and is made from a sufficiently flexible plastic that it doesn't impede the articulation of the figure, I have no problem.
There have been a few exceptions to that. There are a couple of "windblown" capes, and Mister Miracle's cape is so stiff that the laundry must have dumped an entire box of starch in it. Alan Scott's is very decently flexible, not at all pre-posed, and looks superb.
However, I will say that a cape can make a figure a serious pain in the neck to extract from his packaging. Somehow, the packagers are able to wedge the cape through a slot on the interior packaging bubble onto which the figure is mounted. As if those restraining transparent rubber bands aren't enough of a hassle. I'd be very curious how they manage this, and then in order for me to extract the figure without handling it too roughly, I have to actually cut the cape slot wider than it already is, making very sure I don't hurt the figure in the process.
Fortunately, Wave 14 doesn't have that many capes in it. Wave 15 was the real hassle in that regard. There were more figures with capes than not in that batch. Still, I do recommend a certain amount of "Handle With Care". The capes are not detachable.
Overall, the paint work is excellent, and of course Green Lantern is superbly articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles, just as he should be. One leg swings outward a little too easily, something I also noticed with a couple of other figures in this wave, but I suppose I'd rather put up with that than a completely stuck part.
Green Lantern does come with an accessory, and as you would expect, it's his green lantern. Although it is the same metallic green as those of the modern Green Lanterns, the design is entirely different. It is at once more detailed, but also more antique-looking, resembling to a fair degree an old-time railroad lantern, with visible rivets and other features. It's really very well made and very cool looking.
So, what's my final word here? I'm truly delighted that Mattel has seen fit to bring many of these Golden Age heroes into the DC Universe Classics action figure line. There simply weren't action figures in the 1940's. One imagines that if there had been, certainly these characters would have received them. So -- better late than never, especially considering the exceptionally high quality. Now if they'd just get around to Jay Garrick, I think we'd be pretty well set from that era.
Alan Scott is probably a little more prevalent than some Golden Age characters, and certainly has earned this action figure. And Mattel and the Four Horsemen clearly were attentive to the detail, and the end result is certainly superb. If you're a fan of the DC Universe, possibly even all the way back to the 1940's, when Alan Scott was the ONLY Green Lantern, then you'll enjoy this figure. Any knowledgeable DC fan will.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of GREEN LANTERN - ALAN SCOTT most definitely has my highest recommendation!