Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Helen Jordan, “the Spectre’s niece”

When he first appeared in the comics, Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan had just about the largest family ever seen in super-hero comics. Hal’s parents, Martin and Jessica, were deceased, but gatherings of the surviving members of the Jordan family were commonplace in Green Lantern stories throughout the 1960s up through the 1980s. Regular Green Lantern readers quickly became acquainted with Hal’s brothers, Jack and Jim, and a myriad of uncles, aunts, and cousins. Over time, Hal’s brothers were married and had kids, making the family even larger.

When Hal’s hometown, Coast City, became destroyed during DC’s “The Return of Superman” storyline, it appeared (at least for a time) that Hal’s entire family was destroyed with it. Hal became possessed by Parallax, then died and became the Spectre -- and only then were readers clued in as to the fate of Hal’s family members.

In Spectre stories, readers were shown that Hal’s older brother, Jack, and his wife and young daughter had survived the destruction of Coast City -- supposedly the only Jordan family members to do so. Curiously, though, in the Spectre stories, Jack’s daughter underwent a name change. Originally, she was named Jennifer -- but her name suddenly changed to Helen Katherine. Prior to the name change, there had been another Helen in the Jordan family -- the mother of the other Hal Jordan, Air Wave. The first Helen Jordan had been Air Wave herself, briefly, after her husband died; then her son took on the mantle of Air Wave after she died.

(Hal's brother Jack appears to have had a VERY interesting marital history. Jack was originally married to Jan and they had two kids -- Jason and Jennifer. They appear to have been divorced at some point, because in a later Green Lantern issue, Jack was married to someone named Sonja, and the kids were nowhere to be seen. Still later, Jack was suddenly married to Jan again, and they had only the one daughter -- Jennifer, who was suddenly called Helen after meeting the Spectre. This confusion is all obviously the result of sloppy writer research, but there's a [convoluted] way around all of it:
- Jack divorced his second wife -- or she died -- and he remarried Jan.
- Helen is actually Jack's daughter from his second marriage.
- Jason was grown and had moved out before Coast City was destroyed -- and became a Coast City casualty.
- Jennifer was also grown and had moved out, becoming yet another Coast City casualty -- and Jack [being only human] sometimes mistakenly called Helen "Jennifer.")

Sadly, Jack Jordan and his wife didn’t live long after surviving Coast City, and little Helen Jordan was soon orphaned. Being the only relative she had that was surviving (at least in a Spectre-ish sense), Hal Jordan became Helen’s guardian, and Helen came to live in the strange existence Hal had carved out for himself.

It must be noted that, though the Hal Jordan Spectre series was initially much maligned by readers who didn’t want Hal Jordan to be the Spectre, Helen Jordan was very well-liked by the readers who did embrace the series. Unlike most child characters in super-hero comics, Helen wasn’t depicted as super-intelligent or excessively precocious or bratty in any behavioral sense. She WAS gifted with an ability to understand and interact with the Spectre’s metaphysical world, but it was purely on an instinctive level rather than by any conscious or “know-it-all” level. She was a very sweet, likable, and brave little girl who truly loved her Uncle Hal and viewed the Spectre’s world with wide-eyed wonder. And Hal, despite his awkwardness with children and emotions in general, truly loved her in return, and was fiercely protective of her.

A big problem with being a niece of the Spectre, though, is that the Spectre’s existence doesn’t easily lend itself to things like, well, a kid’s birthday. Give Hal Jordan points for trying, though, because in Spectre #24 (2003), he DOES try to give Helen a birthday party. And who does he invite? Why, members of the super-hero community, of course -- including a just recently brought-back-from-the-dead (by the Spectre) Green Arrow, who is still trying to get a handle on how things changed while he was dead. Other party-goers include Superman, Wonder Woman, and the angel Zauriel from the then-Justice League.

The story opens with Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen, who for some reason is driving in search of the Spectre’s “home” -- not an easy feat, considering Hal has set up house in the middle of a desert in the American southwest, AND he has mystically hidden it from sight. Why Ollie decided to drive a Jeep is a bit of a mystery -- but maybe he didn’t want to have Superman carry him.

Ya shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque, Ollie.

The other party-goers meet up with Ollie, who panics slightly upon meeting Zauriel for the first time.

With Zauriel's help, the party-goers are able to finally see the Spectre's "house," which looks like an eclectic collection of temple ruins.

After making their way through a sort-of Spectre version of a funhouse, the party-goers finally find Hal, who is thrilled to see them.

Also present is Materna Minxx, member of a cosmic/spiritual race known as The Risen, who have taken it upon themselves to help Hal raise Helen. Minxx is Helen's self-appointed nanny. Hal likes Minxx well enough and appreciates the help she gives him, but she's very much a Mary Poppins from hell -- and she doesn't at all like Ollie assuming that she's Hal's girlfriend.

One invitee to the party who doesn't show up is Batman, which Hal finds a bit disappointing.

Ollie then pulls Hal aside to grill him about Materna Minxx.

Meanwhile, Superman finds himself having a conversation with a group of Hal's other Spectre selves, including Female Hal (that's right -- FEMALE HAL), and Giant Catfish Hal.

After beating the hell out of Ollie, Materna Minxx gets into an argument with Wonder Woman over just who is more "enlightened," the Amazons or the Risen. Minxx also doesn't approve of Wonder Woman's "separative, sexist nonsense" ("... all of us ... are far more than male or female ... than any limited identification with specific forms--!") Hal intervenes before things can get too out of hand and asks Materna to fetch Helen and bring her to the party.

Helen isn't exactly expecting a party, let alone Hal remembering her birthday -- but, boy, is she EVER thrilled to see Hal's friends.

Then, Helen notices Zauriel: "An angel!" ...

... and THEN she notices Ollie:

His pride wounded, Ollie stomps off in a huff, but Helen is soon busy opening presents. Wonder Woman gives her a snowglobe depicting Themyscira (Paradise Island). Superman gives her figures of the entire, original Justice League that he himself carved out of wood. Zauriel gives her a glimpse into "a beloved aspect of Heaven" and a feather from one of his wings.

Helen thanks everyone for their gifts and then goes looking for Ollie.

"Uncle Hal told me what a great sense of humor you have," says Helen, "so I thought I'd play a little joke on you."

Ollie thinks it IS funny, "maybe a little." He then hands Helen a very badly wrapped package: "You're just gonna rip the paper off!" Of course, his present for Helen a toy bow with a suction-cup arrow.

Helen says, "I love it, Uncle Ollie!!" This, of course, just MELTS Ollie's heart. And, of course, he's very proud after Helen lets the suction-cup arrow fly and it hits Minxx squarely between the eyes. ("Nice job, kid! I couldn't have done better--!")

After everyone has cake and ice cream, Helen notices a small package lying on the floor. Hal panics a bit, wondering who could have snuck it in without his noticing, but the answer becomes apparent soon enough.

So, what becomes of Helen Jordan? Not long after the birthday party story, in the pages of JSA, Hal loses control of the Spectre and it reverts from being the Spirit of Redemption to being the Spirit of Vengeance. Hal is then brought back to life in the Green Lantern: Rebirth storyline, free of both Parallax and the Spectre -- and Helen Jordan, it seems, has disappeared.

Not only has Helen Jordan disappeared, it turns out that Hal's younger brother, Jim, and HIS family, are the ones who have survived the destruction of Coast City -- NOT Jack and his family. Hal also claims that he doesn't remember very much from his time as the Spectre.

So, what has become of Helen Jordan? There's an assumption that the current Green Lantern writer, Geoff Johns, has merely eliminated her via a retroactive continuity change (retcon). However, Helen Jordan HAS appeared in the comics at least once since Hal Jordan was brought back to life. In Action Comics, Superman encountered an older version of her from the future -- and she was a Green Lantern. The character seems to have survived one way or another.

Reader speculation as to the fate of Helen Jordan include the following:

1. When Spectre Hal reverted back into the Spirit of Vengeance, Materna Minxx took Helen away to be raised among The Risen, for her own safety.

2. Helen (along with various other things from Hal's time as the Spectre) was created by Parallax or even by the Spectre itself to keep Hal busy for whatever reason.

3. Hal's entire time and existence as the Spectre wasn't necessarily chronological, and Helen is actually someone from either the Jordan family's past or its future.

Perhaps the Blackest Night storyline will supply the answer -- eventually.


MetFanMac said...


1st scan: glad to know my instinctive response was the same as yours. Great minds and all that :)

2nd scan: boy howdy, those sure are some funky expressions.

4th scan: Wonder Thong!!!!

7th scan: more funny faces!

11th scan: we need more giant catfish saying "Oh, shut up" in comics. Just sayin'.

16th scan: it's official--Oliver Queen is king of the funny faces. Made even goofier by the fact that he's wearing a hat ON TOP of a hat.

17th-18th scans: Ollie's not wearing his mask. Why did he take it off? Conclusion: Helen made Ollie cry!!

And the answer to the retcon conundrum: Superboy PUNCH!!

Sea-of-Green said...

Ah, but -- you see, the "Superboy punches" argument doesn't really work well in Green Lantern continuity -- because the entire Green Lantern Corps (including Hal) remained VERY conscious of the changes that resulted from the original Crisis, and GL continuity has remained pretty much unaltered throughout DC Comics history. GL continuity errors (pre-Geoff Johns) are from a lack of editorial and writer research -- or from a total disregard of GL history.

Here's an example: Long before the original Crisis -- in the 1970s, in fact -- John Stewart knew exactly who Hal Jordan was, and that Hal was Green Lantern. Then, in the early 1980s -- BEFORE Crisis -- John didn't have a clue who Hal was, let alone that he was Green Lantern. That's a very rare continuity error in Green Lantern history. VERY rare.

SallyP said...

Oh Ollie. It always has to be about YOU. This is a rather sweet story, all things considered. I really should go back and start getting the Spectre issues with Hal.

LissBirds said...

""Uncle Hal told me what a great sense of humor you have," says Helen, "so I thought I'd play a little joke on you."

That is just too precious. I wish there were some more warm fuzzy stories like this in comics today.

Is this about the same time period where the Phantom Stranger shows up to play Candyland with Helen?

Volcano Todd said...

Thank you for this post! I remember feeling like I was the only wondering what happened to Helen when Rebirth came out and eventually let it go as a retcon (like the storyline with Sinestro's ghost).

I LIKED the Hal/Spectre series. Have all the issues and would love to go back and reread them again. Very smart, amazing art, sweet, funny, and tackled some metaphysical issues hardly touched in mainstream comics.

BTW... do you happen to know what issue of Action Comics Helen appears in? I was unaware of that meeting of Supes and future GL Helen.

Kandou Erik said...

There's a real easier answer as to what happened to Helen Jordan. (I thought I was the only one who wondered about her)

Remember, there was that English woman who became a supporting member of Hal/Spectre's world? (I can't rememer her name. She was one of those mystical people, like the Phantom Stranger) She was very interested in Helen and her potential as she grew up. So she's taking care of her, no doubt.

If Helen does ever reappear, she should be older and perhaps be a powerful mystical player, as further taught by the English woman.

There - solved it, and without any "Superboy Punching Walls" theory. Where's my No Prize?

Anonymous said...

Since Hal's resurrection, Jim Jordan gained a daughter who is roughly Helen's age, and who, during the "Sinestro War" story, had a prophetic dream about Hal. So I am satisfied that Jim's daughter is essentially Helen Jordan (I mean "essentially" in a literal way), but as with so many things during the "Spectre" run, the details turned out to be jumbled. Good enough for me.