Monday, March 16, 2009

The Other Hal Jordan

Just what is it with kid sidekicks in comics? Blame it on Batman -- he started the whole thing -- and kid sidekicks have been around ever since. Some people would have you believe a hero isn't worth the page he or she is printed on unless there's been a kid sidekick somewhere down the line. However, not every hero has had a kid sidekick -- and not all attempts at having a kid sidekick have worked out. Hence the subject of this article.

Throughout Green Lantern comic book history, the closest that Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan ever came to having a kid sidekick was when he teamed up (briefly) with Air Wave in the late 1970s. Well, a version of Air Wave, anyway.

Originally, Air Wave was a Golden Age super-hero who used a radio system to listen in on police reports and hunt down bad guys. He also traveled by (I’m not kidding) roller skating on telephone lines. After the original Air Wave died protecting his family from a bad guy, his wife briefly donned the costume to bring his killer to justice. Then, once her son reached the age of 16, he became the new Air Wave. Sonny-boy, however, had an advantage in the super-hero arena that his father didn’t have -– he could transmute himself into energy and travel along the actual air waves. No more roller skates!

In addition to having a pretty interesting family history already, young Air Wave also turned out to be a member of one of the most extended of extended families in super-hero comics –- that being the Jordan family, of Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan fame.

In fact, Green Lantern is young Air Wave's cousin -- though when the two first meet (in Green Lantern-Green Arrow #100, 1978), they don't know it. In fact, their first meeting doesn't go at all well. As with most personal introductions to Green Lantern, it starts off like this:

After Green Lantern and Air Wave finish pounding the heck out of each other, Air Wave admits that he's very new to the super-hero game and desperately needs pointers. Green Lantern offers to help him out a bit, and Air Wave succeeds in helping GL defeat that victim of 1970s fashion, the villain Master-Tek.

Hal decides that, awwww, he kinda likes Air Wave, and wants to take him under his wing. Besides, it turns out that Air Wave gets along well with another attempt of Hal's at having a sidekick, the alien Itty. But there are surprises galore in store for Green Lantern. Not only does Air Wave figure out that GL is Hal Jordan ...

Heck no, elder Hal doesn't mind. In fact, he thinks it's GREAT to have two super-heroes with the same real name (as long as it's HIS name, mind you). So, it at first appears that the team-up of elder Hal and younger Hal is destined for great things.

However, younger Hal DOES have some self-confidence issues -- not exactly something that the supremely self-confident elder Hal is well-equipped to handle. Not only that, instead of taking young Hal with him on missions, elder Hal usually just leaves him behind to babysit for Itty:

As for training Air Wave in the finer points of being a super-hero, Green Lantern leaves all that to Green Arrow. Ollie is more than happy to oblige -- but given his poor track record with Roy (Speedy) Harper, is leaving Air Wave with him really a good idea?

At long last, Air Wave gets an opportunity to go out and play super-hero for real. However, things go terribly wrong, and he ends up getting trapped, and rendered invisible, in his energy form:

Oh, but not to fear -- the older heroes notice he's missing and do everything they can to find him, right? Well ...

That's right -- no need to worry about the kid. He'll turn up eventually. In the meantime, let's party at Carol Ferris's mansion! Woo hoo!

Eventually (an issue later, in fact), elder Hal gets to thinking that, gee, his younger cousin has been gone an AWFULLY long time, and maybe he'd better try to look for him:

However, situations involving Sonar and Itty interrupt Hal's search, and Air Wave ends up having to get free all by himself. Once he does, he finds out that the Hard-Traveling Heroes are ALL in trouble. When he attempts to help them, though, they blow him off:

Things finally DO get straightened out, and all is well again. However, young Hal Jordan decides it's time to move in with elder Hal's much-more-stable older brother, Jack.

So, what becomes of Hal (Air Wave) Jordan after this? Well, for a while, he stars on-and-off in a backup feature in Action Comics, and a story about his dad appears in DC Comics Presents #40, 1981. He also has a couple of team affiliations, first with the Captains of Industry (where he briefly goes by the code-name Maser), and then as a Justice Society reservist. (Why he was never made a Teen Titan is beyond me.)

The last time anyone sees Air Wave is during Infinite Crisis, in which he seemingly vanishes:

Currently, Air Wave is missing, presumed dead. Ah, but Air Wave has been trapped in energy form before, and survived. So, who's to say he won't reappear some day, perhaps even in a Green Lantern story?


MetFanMac said...

Wasn't Tom Kalmaku considered Jordan's sidekick?

Sea_of_Green said...

Well, sort of. He was never around as consistently as, say, Doiby Dickles was for Alan Scott. Tom probably DOES come closest to being an actual Hal/Green Lantern sidekick -- but he was never called as much (except mockingly, by Guy Gardner). I'm not sure Tom would consider himself a super-hero sidekick, anyway -- he was really just Hal's friend.

Though Tom did keep a "Green Lantern Casebook," he was really more of a "Hal Jordan" sidekick than a "Green Lantern" sidekick, if that makes any sense.

TF said...

Airwave's story made me sad.
The guy really deserves a break!

googum said...

I'd only seen maybe one Air-Wave story, so I'd forgotten about him! I just finished a strip where Hal tries to find a sidekick (so he can get out of monitor duty!) but I was thinking of that Brave and the Bold Mark Waid issue, where Hal makes Wally Kid Lantern.

It's not self-centeredness, not really; but I think Hal has his own problems that would keep him from being great with kids, or sidekicks. Maybe he'll grow out of it.

Sea_of_Green said...

I agree that Air Wave needs a break. Poor kid. :-(

Hal IS self-centered (he's even said as much before). He isn't bad with kids -- kids tend to like him -- but he isn't exactly a good "parent" figure.

SallyP said...

I don't think that Hal and a sidekick would work togther particularly well, unless the said sidekick was willing to spend ALL his or her time applauding Hal.

As you said, a good parent figure, or mentor, he is not.

Now,Guy on the other hand...!

Erica said...

What a cool retrospective.

I really like that Air Wave I character concept -- skating over the telephone lines to get to crime scenes, that's just cool. ANYBODY can just FLY there, but skating on electrified wire...

Steven Commander said...

He actually teamed up more with Green Arrow, Black Canary, and the Atom than he did with Cousin Hal. DC never really seemed to like him much, he never appeared in the SPECTRE series with Hal, or when Hal became GL again. Instead of looking after him right before his death in INFINITE CRISIS, Hal dumped him off on Alan Scott!

After BLACKEST NIGHT I don't think he's coming back, since he was a Black Lantern - although in the New 52, a lot of "dead" characters have been given a second chance at life!