Way back in Ye Olden Silver-Age Days (also known as the 1950s and '60s, kiddies), there was a strange tradition stating that it was only, really socially acceptable for women to propose marriage to men during Leap Year. (Supposedly this tradition dated all the way back to 5th century Ireland, but never mind.) You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with Green Lantern? Ooooh, it has PLENTY to do with Green Lantern. In particular, it has plenty to do with one of the funniest Green Lantern stories of all time: Leap Year Menace, the backup story from Green Lantern #3, 1960.
(And, what the heck, 2008 is a Leap Year, so picking on this particular Green Lantern story right now is quite appropriate. February 29 is coming up fast!)
The story begins with our hero, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), making a promise to a Mrs. Cranston to appear at the "launching of the Coast City Community Chest Drive." Dear old Mrs. Cranston is just thrilled to pieces: "Thank you, Green Lantern! Your presence will draw a big crowd -- and big donations!"
Mrs. Cranston, as it turns out, is quite right about Green Lantern drawing a big crowd. It seems he can't help but draw a big crowd no matter where he goes -- in particular, he draws big crowds of girls. In fact, just as he steps outside the charity headquarters, he gets mobbed by the "Green Lantern Fan Club! They've been hounding me for weeks -- but I've always dodged them up to now--!"
Yes, as Green Lantern, Hal is regularly mobbed by girls, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he has a tremendous ego. However, Hal at this point is interested only in Carol Ferris -- but only on his terms.
Background info: In his early history, Hal had a habit of proclaiming loudly and frequently that he wanted to marry his boss, Carol Ferris. (Translation for modern audiences: "Marry" in this context usually, really meant "sleep with," because in 1960, the socially acceptable and Comics-Code-Authority way for two adults to have full-body contact was to get married.) However, Hal had a slight problem. Carol didn't know that Hal was Green Lantern, and Hal didn't want her to know that he was Green Lantern. Also, Carol was in love with Green Lantern, but not with Hal Jordan -- and he wanted her to prefer Hal Jordan to Green Lantern. Hal could never quite bring himself to completely brush off Carol when he was Green Lantern, though, so he was caught in a bit of a quandary where his love life was concerned.
Back to the story: Green Lantern manages to fly out of the girls' clutches, and he heads for the office of Carol Ferris, to meet with her as Hal Jordan.
Hal switches to his civilian identity (he even dons a suit and tie) and heads into Carol's office. She informs him that she wants to discuss something "personal" that has nothing to do with him being a test pilot or her employee. For a moment, Hal has high hopes that Carol has finally fallen in love with "Hal Jordan" instead of "Green Lantern," but Carol dashes those hopes in a heartbeat.
"Hal," she says, "I regard you as my friend -- as just about the best friend I have ..."
Friend? Hal thinks. Hmm -- This doesn't sound too promising ...
Carol then tells Hal that because it's Leap Year, she's going to propose to Green Lantern since GL seems "too shy" to propose to her. Carol's plan is to meet GL at the charity drive and corner him so she can propose. Hal's only response to this is a rather grumpy, "Uh ... HUH ..."
"You don't seem very enthusiastic about my idea ..." says Carol. (Carol thinking that a guy who she knows is in love with her would be interested in hearing about her proposal to another guy is downright odd. This is the sort of behavior that has led many Green Lantern fans over the years to suspect that Carol knew Hal was Green Lantern all along -- and she did these sorts of things only to mess with him or make him jealous.)
Hal tries to talk Carol out of her plan: "I don't think you ought to marry Green Lantern, Carol! He's -- ah -- too much of a celebrity! You ought to marry somebody who's less of a public figure! Somebody --"
Carol immediately nixes that idea and orders Hal out of her office. As Hal leaves, he ponders his predicament. He wants to prevent Carol from proposing to him, so he won't have to flat-out tell her NO, but he isn't quite sure how to do it.
Soon it's time for the charity function. Green Lantern shows up on time, and stops a rainstorm from spoiling the outdoor gathering by conjuring up a giant green umbrella. Thus indisposed, GL is pretty much stuck, with no way to escape, as Carol arrives, "... and from that determined look in her eyes, she means business!"
Once the rain stops, Carol asks GL to walk in the park with her, but he says he can't because he's guest speaker for the charity. Carol elects to wait until he's done speaking. When GL gets behind the podium to speak to the crowd -- which consists mostly of girls -- they all start screaming at him like he's Elvis or something. Green Lantern wraps up his speech in a hurry.
Carol drags GL to a nearby park bench that's mostly private, except for two young boys playing with a toy R.C. airplane nearby (and apparently completely unimpressed that there's a superhero in their midst). Carol and GL sit down, and things quickly get VERY awkward.
(Note: Hal placing his fingers on Carol's chin is a gesture he used very, VERY frequently all during the Silver Age, with just about every woman he met. This sort of touchy-feely behavior around women was NOT commonly employed by other superheroes of the time. These days it's generally interpreted as condescending and chauvinistic. In a modern comic, Carol would probably deck him right about now.)
"I've never seen you carry on like this, Green Lantern," says Carol. "You're usually so ... quiet! Are you sure you're all right?"
Hal, of course, is relieved that Carol is talking about something other than marriage, but then he immediately comes up with the lamest of excuses: "I haven't been feeling too well ... Probably something I ate--! Maybe I ought to--"
"--ought to get married!" says Carol. "That's your trouble, darling ... Living by yourself -- eating goodness knows what for meals!"
(Note: So, here we have Carol assuming that Green Lantern is a stereotypical bachelor. Well, in all fairness, he really IS a stereotypical bachelor, but it's awfully chauvinistic of her to assume so.)
At this point, Hal cuts her off, claiming he can't hear her above the noisy buzzing of the toy airplane. No doubt about it, Hal is desparate to escape this situation. However, rather than merely excuse himself and leave, Hal comes up with a truly bizarre plan:
Hal very quickly and sneakily starts to conjure up a monster while Carol starts speaking louder so he can hear her above the toy plane: "This is Leap Year -- AND IT's a WOMAN's PRIVILEGE TO--"
"Carol!" Hal interrupts, trying to divert her attention to the monster. "LOOK--!!"
As Carol turns to look where Green Lantern is pointing, he suddenly gets thwacked in the head by the toy airplane:
Carol doesn't seem to notice Hal getting thwacked in the head. In fact, she doesn't seem to notice a whole lot: Either she's looking past the monster instead of directly at it, or monsters just don't impress her.
Turning back to Hal, Carol resumes her pursuit: "Oh, never mind the buildup! I'll get right to the point! Green Lantern, will you marry me?"
There, she thinks smugly. I've said it! Now he's got to answer -- one way or another!
Green Lantern doesn't answer -- he just sits there with his head bowed. Carol is at first worried that she's struck him "dumb," but then she gets rather miffed and nudges him for a reply:
Yes, that's right -- Hal has been knocked out by a toy airplane. How embarrassing for a professional pilot AND superhero! While Carol frantically flags down a cab to take Green Lantern to a doctor, the monster that Hal conjured goes wandering off.
Now, this is one heck of an impressive monster, even for a power ring construct. It's as tall as a large building, it's very strong, it's bullet proof, and it also happens to be semi-sentient. (It was also pretty darned considerate of Hal to give the monster a nice, red pair of swim trunks.) The monster wanders into Coast City, having no idea what it is, where it is, or how it got there.
As the monster walks through Coast City, it unintentionally knocks over buildings ("Ooops") and generates chaos everywhere it goes. The monster gets rather annoyed by all the noise and chaos, and soon it really just wants out of the city.
The armed forces are called out, but their weapons have no effect on the monster because it's invulnerable. Very soon, REAL panic ensues as the monster starts treading toward the city's atomic stockpile. (Hey, didn't you know that ALL cities had atomic stockpiles in 1960?)
Oh, don't worry, General Willis -- Coast City won't be blown up THIS time. That won't happen for many years yet. However, I digress.
The scene shifts to Carol, who has gotten Hal to a doctor's office. Hal wakes up just in time to hear a radio announcement about how his wandering monster is on the verge of blowing up the city.
"Green Lantern!" says Carol. "Are you all right?"
Hal immediately leaps up and flies out the window to deal with the monster, without saying a word to either Carol or the doctor.
"He didn't answer!" says Carol.
"He must be all right --" the doctor responds. "Look at him go!"
Green Lantern finds the monster and uses his ring to dissolve it, "in the very nick of time." He then finds himself surrounded by very grateful soldiers and citizens.
"Green Lantern, you're a hero!!" General Willis gushes, much to Hal's embarrassment. But is Hal about to confess that HE caused the problem? Oh, heck no.
I feel a little funny accepting all these congratulations ... for destroying something that I myself created! he thinks. That reminds me, I'll have to undo all the damage caused ...
Just at that moment, Carol shows up. Even Hal is surprised that she got there as fast as she did.
"Carol!" says GL. "How did YOU get here?"
Just as Hal is trying to figure out how to get out of his predicament, a mob of girls shows up.
"Sorry, girls!" says a greatly relieved Green Lantern. "I--I just can't marry you all -- so I'll marry none!" He flies away, leaving behind a very ticked-off Carol Ferris.
"Well!" says Carol in disgust. "What a way to squirm out of my proposal!"
No wonder Hal Jordan is still a bachelor!