Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Barry, what's wrong with your head?"

Hal Jordan, otherwise known as Green Lantern officer 2814.1, has been around since the Silver Age era of comic books. Everyone loves Hal Jordan:

Well, okay ... Everyone loves picking on Hal Jordan. Admit it.

In Silver Age stories, one of Hal’s best friends is Barry Allen, the Flash. In addition to being very fast, Barry is smart and talented:

He also cooks a mean souffle, folks. Honest.

Usually, Barry and Hal together are an effective and efficient super-hero team. Usually:

Friends though they are, Hal and Barry are very different characters. However, they do have one very strange thing in common:

Both are regularly subjected to convenient plot devices (which have long since become running gags) tailored for each of them by writers wanting to give bad guys a chance to stop ‘em fairly easily without having to rely ONLY on excuses like, “Oh, the power ring doesn’t work on anything YELLOW,” and other such Kryptonite-like absurdities.

Whew. Okay. For example...

In order for Hal Jordan to use his super-power (his power ring), he has to be able to concentrate. Now, how do you wreck a super-hero’s concentration? Why, you whack him in the head, of course:

There. That’s easy. No need for the bad guys to look around for anything yellow in order to take Green Lantern out of commission. It makes the writer’s job a whole lot easier, and it lets the (often suspiciously gleeful) artist find creative ways to whack an arrogant super-hero in the head.

What if you aren’t in a good position to whack Hal Jordan in the head? No problem, because writers have found a way around it: You can just wait for Hal to run into something. Don’t worry –- you won't have to wait long. Sure, his ring might glow, but Hal himself isn’t too bright sometimes:

(Ever get the feeling that Hal Jordan must be related to George of the Jungle? “Hey, HAL! Watch out for that--! Oh, never mind ...”)

Now, let’s look at Barry Allen. Taking out the Flash is a bit trickier than taking out Green Lantern, but there’s a common plot device for doing so. Consider this: How do you stop a super-speed runner? Simple -- just prevent him from running. The real question is, what’s the best way to do that? There are many ways to stop the Flash from running, but writers have come up with two particularly popular approaches:

Approach #1: Find a way to get the Flash to gain a ridiculous amount of weight. It doesn’t matter how you do it. You can either fatten him up ...

... or you can go with more efficient (and potentially less messy) methods, like this one:

Or this one:

Now, here's popular Approach #2 to stopping the Flash from running, and it's a very weird approach indeed: Make his head huge. We can all blame Hal Jordan for establishing this trend, because he did it first:

Um, couldn't you have just tied Barry's feet together or something, Hal? Been hanging around with Hector Hammond a little too much? Oh, well. Once Hal started the giant-headed-Barry trend, EVERYONE wanted to try it:

It's even happened to Wally West once or twice:

Poor Barry. Poor Wally. Poor Flashes. Why, oh why, oh WHY did you have to start this abominable trend, Hal? Were ya just jealous that Barry never got hit in the head? Huh? Were ya? Huh?

Oh, never mind ...


SallyP said...

Oh...my...God! It's true! Hal IS George of the Jungle! Pretty, accident-prone, and not too bright!

And frankly, making Barry's head huge, is just being mean.

I did love the Alex Ross sequence however, the whole "wishful thinking" bit, just sums up the two of them so well.

Sea_of_Green said...

I'm finding that it's much harder to break away from making fun of Hal than I thought!

I love that Alex Ross sequence, too -- that's the Barry-and-Hal team in a nutshell. It occurs in JLA: Liberty and Justice by Paul Dini and Alex Ross. Grab a copy if you can -- it has one of the single most beautiful illustrations of Hal Jordan in existence.

Here's an odd and somewhat related thing: I was talking comics with my brother the other day, and I mentioned Hal and Barry. He thought I said, "Halle Berry." :-\

SallyP said...

I DO have the Dini and Ross books, so I know what you mean. Ross does do an awfully purty Hal.

Halle Berry? Oh snap!