Stand By Your Guy
by Erik J. Boklund
Well, yes, Ive heard it all before. Guy Gardner is a joke. A comic relief at best, a jerk at worst they would say. Yes, I know. He is funny, and he has the character of a jerk. And hes probably the most shallow and simple-minded character in the entire DC Universe, they would continue. A-hem!!! Cough cough cough! Wrong answer. Guy is actually a very deep character with a very complex background. You dont believe me, huh? Well, let me take you for a ride through his history. When were done, hopefully you should be a more wise person (And who knows maybe youll actually start to like and understand Guy?)
The first time we meet Guy is in Green Lantern #59, 2nd series, from 1968. This story reveals that when the mortally wounded Abin Sur, Green Lantern of Sector 2814 crash-landed on Earth and had his ring seek out a successor to the position as GL, the ring found not just one, but two equally suited candidates: Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. Abin Sur chose Jordan (that weenie) because he was dying and Jordan was closer than Gardner. See? It was a matter of geography Guy was every bit as suited to be GL as Hal was. Now, at that point, Guy didnt know any of that. He was in college in Baltimore, and no one (at least not comic book writers) thought of him, until 1968, that is. He graduated as a physical educator, but was hit by a bus while saving a kid from being run down. His back was damaged, and he had to use a cane for walking for a while. Learning about this accident, the Guardians of Oa decided to chose another back-up for Hal, a young black architect. His name was John Stewart.
Well, to cut a long story short, Hal learned about his alternate on a trip to Oa. At a later point, Hal had to go on a mission to another planet, and he sought out Guy, telling about how he was chosen as his back-up.
Guy got out from the hospital, and met a young fortune-teller, Kari Limbo, with whom he fell in love. The feeling was mutual. The psychic Kari had a vision of Guy becoming a great hero clad in green. Winter came, and Kari returned to St. Louis, where she had an occult shop. Gardner went with her. While in St. Louis, Jordan sought him aout, and told him about how he was chosen as his substitute. He asked Guy if he wanted to fill in for him while he went to Oa to get his ring repaired. Guy accepted, and Hal gave him a spare ring. Guy instinctively knew how to use it, since such knowledge had been implanted in his memory by the Guardians. Hal also told him how to recharge it, namely by using the Power battery, which he had stashed in Ollie Queens apartment in Star City.
Ollie dreamt that the power battery exploded, and was disturbed by that dream, but he didnt tell Guy, since he was afraid to spook the Greenhorn Lantern. Meanwhile, on Oa, the Guardians found out that nothing was wrong with Hals ring, but that the flaw was in his Power Battery. Back on Earth, Guy was enjoying his time as a hero, and when his ring was about to run out of power, he secretly went to Ollies apartment to recharge it. Hal tried to get back in time to stop him, but he was too late. A split second before he could prevent it, Guy was shattered by emerald energy, and no trace of him was left. Hal went to tell the news to Kari, and she moved in with Dinah Lance aka Black Canary. She helped the heroic trio on several occasions, and soon Hal fell in love with her and she with him.
Guy had in fact not died, but was thrown to another dimension (The Phantom Zone), from which he saw how Hal and Kari had become lovers. He was enraged. On the day they were supposed to be married, Kari had a vision of Guy still being alive and in agony, and decided that she couldnt marry Hal, realizing that she still had strong feelings for Guy. Meanwhile, Superman was drawn into the strange dimension by emerald tendrils. As Hal came to Supermans rescue, he was attacked by ring created objects. It was Guy, who was enraged by the fact that Hal had stolen his girl, and furthermore, he was being used by the ghostly inhabitants (Read: Prisoners Of the Phantom Zone). He was determined to kill Hal, and Superman and Hal had to retreat.
Guy believed that Kari and Hal had planned the battery explosion as a mean to get rid of him. Renegade Green Lantern took him to Qward and used him for his evil purposes, giving him a ring, which Sinestro secretly controlled. Jordan rescued him, but by that time, Guy had gotten severe brain damage, and was brought to the hospital, where he stayed in a comatose state for many years.
In the meantime, Hal became famous for his many deeds as a Green Lantern, and eventually, he resigned, or rather took a leave of absence, in order to find himself. John Stewart was sworn in as Green lantern instead.
Then came Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Those of you who have read Crisis, will have noticed, that only a few GLs appears in the main story namely John Stewart (Of Earth-1) and Alan Scott (of Earth-2). The rest of the Corps doesnt appear in Crisis except for Guy. In 5 panels or so, it is shown how he was brought back to active duty by a faction of the Guardians, who were led to believe that the destruction of Qward would effectively solve Crisis. In a tie-in, Guy leads a force of villains he has recruited for the purpose in an attack on Qwards moon, but the good Guardians send Hal after him, and Hal successfully prevents a disaster the positive matter universes cant exist without their anti-matter equivalent.
Guy was brought to trial on Oa, but since Guardians recruited him he was permitted to continue as active GL. After Crisis came Legends, a 6-issue crossover by John Byrne, which paved the way for a whole new take on the Justice League. Byrne portrayed Guy as ruthless and a quasi-maniac, and that road was followed by Keith Giffen, who took over the Justice League, reformed it with an almost entirely new roster, and renamed it JLA, later JLI, later yet with the addition of JLE. Giffen managed to give Guy a comedic twist, making him an easy victim for laughs and pranks (Basically, a superpowered Donald Duck, complete with temper and all). This was funny, but those writers had completely overlooked the depth of Guys character. So far, he had his love stolen, had his back injured, had accidentally been thrown to a strange dimension, with years of coma as a result, and finally been charged with crimes by the Guardians, which other Guardians had recruited him to do. None of this was his fault. No wonder he was bitter
Anyway, Guy was the Green lantern of Earth while Hal tried to find himself. John Stewart became GL of Oa, in charge of training recruits. He was ridiculed by the writers because of his brain damage. For example, he lost his temper in an early issue, and challenged Batman to a fistfight. Batman knocked him out in one punch. Upon recovering, he banged his head on a computer console. This caused him to change personality to a cheesy goody-goody Guy, who was perhaps even more intolerable than the old Guy. Luckily, Lobo changed his personality back by bonking his head again. We had our old, funny, hotheaded-but-also-shallowly-portrayed Guy back. Although I generally love Giffen and his take on JLA, I must admit, that this was the only mistake he made. Portraying Guy like this was to get around him way too easily.
Guy was a member of the JLI for a long period, and became romantically involved with Tora Olafsdotter, Icemaiden, later known as Ice. Ice was one of the few people who were actually able to look past Guys macho surface and see the person he really was. She saw the pain he carried, and she saw that he actually did have a heart of gold. Another one was Guys childhood hero, General Glory, who was believed to be a comic book figure, but actually had been a great hero during WWII. In the Bound for Glory five-issue story, which ran in JLI, he was revived, and joined the JLI. General Glory and Guy went on more than one adventure together. In the beginning Guy looked up to him and Glory treated Guy as his sidekick (Guys nerdy haircut was inspired by Glorys comic book sidekick, Ernie). Later, they became buddies on an equal basis.
Hal decided that he finally had found himself, and now he wanted his old sector back. He and Guy fought over the issue, and alas Hal won. Guy let him win, if yask me he had a better plan.
Guy hired Lobo to help him invade the moon of Qward. As reward, he promised Lobo the old yellow ring of Sinestro (who was dead at the time) supposedly the most powerful weapon in the Universe, since it didnt have the yellow flaw of the GL rings. Guy wanted to keep the ring to himself, and figured that if he just got his hands on it first, he could deal with Lobo later. The two of them invaded Qward, but it turned out that Sinestro wasnt buried there he was buried at Oa. So they went to Oa instead, with Qwardian armies chasing them, and found the ring. Guy got to it first. Guy told Lobo, that the deal was that Lobo should recover it on Qward. He never said anything about Oa. Here, Guy reveals that hes actually a very cunning dare I say it Guy. He outsmarts Lobo (yeah, I know, not the hardest task in the world) and saves the day. And he is ready to go solo. This all happened in Guy Gardner: Reborn!, which was a 3-issue mini series that launched his own series. Guy had indeed gone solo.
Guy went solo with his yellow ring for a while. These were, in my opinion, his Glory Days. He was still a member of the JLA, and fought at their side in the Death of Superman story. And his own series was cool! Finally a writer that took guy seriously Chuck Dixon!! Dixon gave Guy the character that everyone else had always ignored. The peak of the series was in my opinion the 4 issue story Yesterdays Sins. In that, Guy is kidnapped (together with a couple of obscure GLs) by the Draal, a bunch of hive minded alien slimy insectoids. who replaced their prisoners with clones they controlled, while probing their victims minds. This story reveals many facts about Guys childhood and youth. Guy was the second son of Roland (Rollo), who had a serious alcohol problem, and Peggy Louise Gardner. His older brother, Mace, was Rollos favorite. Guy was looked at as sloppy seconds, more or less. No matter what Guy did, Rollo didnt approve of it which was all that Guy ever wanted. Rollo would sooner beat him than treat him with love. And his mother never defended him. When Guy worked hard on a science project, and came home with an A+, his dad accidentally (he was drunk as a Scotsman) pushed the project, so it fell to the floor and broke. His father blamed it on Guys clumsiness, and beat him for the umpteenth time.
Rollo had high hopes for Mace, dreaming of the older brother going to college. He was a high-school football star and every girls dream of a prom date. Mace wasnt all that wonderful behind the surface, though. Guy walked in on him one night, while the older brother was smoking a joint. Guy could have destroyed Mace by telling on him but didnt. Guy loved his brother. Anyhow, Mace decided that hed rather become a police officer. Guy thought that Mace had finally screwed up, but Rollo became proud instead. My son the police office. Guy gave up and rebelled. He stole cars, brawled, got drunk, and became a little punk. The night he turned 18, the police caught him while stealing a car. But instead of bringing him downtown, they brought him to his brothers old football stadium, where Mace was waiting. Mace kicked the living crap out of him, give him $60, and told him to find a job and get a life. And get home. Mom worries, were his final words. Mace had given him a chance.
Guy worked at burger restaurants, heck, he took any job he could get, saved enough money for going to college at Michigan U, and became a football star. He also befriended John Henry Irons, aka Steel. Guy scored the winning touchdown in the finals for his team. He returned home in triumph, only to meet his devastated parents. That very same night, Mace had gotten shot, and was paralyzed. Furthermore, it wasnt in the line of duty, but happened due to a dispute between Mace and some drug dealers, which he had intimidated in order to get drugs for himself. Rollo began to drink even more. Guy finished his degree and got the hell outta there. You already know the rest of the story. Now, if this isnt depth, I dont know what depth is. Talk about tough childhoods. Guy had always been number two, and no matter what he did, he couldnt change that. This even continued into his GL days.
Anyway. DC decided that the GL Corps had become obsolete, and some writers were trigger happy. So, in the Reign of the Supermen, the Cyborg Superman nuked Coast City, Hal Jordans hometown. This pushed Hal over the edge. He tried to use his ring to recreate everything, and The Guardians decided to give Hal a reprimand. They summoned him to Oa. Big mistake. Hal eventually killed the Guardians, with the exception of Ganthet, and several GLs, including Kilowog, his old friend and trainer. Finally, he destroyed the Central Power Battery, absorbing the power himself, which turned him into Parallax. The GL corps had ceased to exist. Ganthet got away with one ring, which he gave to the young Kyle Rayner. Guys yellow ring stopped working too, since it was driven by tapping into the power of GL rings. With no GLs around, Guy was pretty much screwed.
He tried out an armor of Blue Beetles design, but that didnt really work out either. Trying to stop Hal from his rampage, Guy was severely injured, and the armor destroyed. Instead, he joined a group of adventurers on a hunt for the fabled Warrior Waters. They found it, Guy drank the water, and was turned into the Vuldarian Warrior. The rest is history, which I dont really feel like going over here. The whole Warrior thing, combined with Zero Hour (Evil!!!) and the death of Ice, pretty much destroyed Guy as the character we used to know, if you ask me. Guy got regenerative powers, which eventually cured his brain damage, he went into semi-retirement, and became a bar owner. Today, he rarely appears in DC Comics.
But think about it. This is the Guy, who always came in second. When he was a kid, when he became GL, always. Not because he wasnt good enough, but because he was being treated unfairly. And because he was unlucky. The two greatest loves of his life are both dead. The yellow ring stopped working. He got beaten as a child. Even when he came home in triumph, as a national football hero, that moment was taken away from him too. But he kept coming back. Always.
And you say that Guy Gardner is a shallow character? You say hes a jerk and a comic relief? You say he has no depth? Think again, buddy. Guy Gardner is a very well defined and deep character, with as much personality as any DC character heck, he has more personality than most.
Still dont agree? Well to quote Guy himself ..
Wanna make sumthin of it?
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 2000 by Erik J. Boklund
All artwork is © 2000 by Melissa Wilson.
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2002 by the author listed above.
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