I've heard a lot of suggestions on ways the Green Lantern movie could've been improved. I thought I had heard them all. Then, an email from former Congressman Alan Grayson suggested the film could've been improved by including an exchange from Green Lantern #76. A (poor) African-American man approaches Green Lantern and Green Arrow and asks them why, if they spend so much time fighting for people with orange, purple, and blue skins why he doesn't do anything for people like him.
This exchange obviously rubbed off on the young Alan Grayson, who told us he wrote this particular email blast himself. "That particular issue was a real breakthrough. . . connecting what teenagers like me were experiencing in the world." Grayson also has taste. Green Lantern #76 was awarded the comics equivalent of an Oscar or Emmy for the best story that year.
Grayson admitted he read this run on Green Lantern for several years, one which included Green Lantern and the Robin-Hood-esque Green Arrow fighting slumlords, drug dealers, and your typical aliens and Nazis. In fact, writers Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams are credited with bringing a new social conscience to comics, and saving a title (Green Lantern) from cancellation due to lackluster sales, revitalizing it with new, fresh storylines and relevance.
When I contacted Denny O'Neil about whether he expected his story to inspire so many, or even a future Congressman, he was completely modest. "No, I wasn't anticipating anyone being inspired. I might have hoped for that, but it seemed a lot to really expect. I mean...it was just a comic book, As to how I feel...A little amazed." Adding to Congressman Grayson specifically, "I hope our stuff does you some good."
Grayson as a Congressman was know for his terse and bombastic rhetoric, a quality he may have learned from comics. His social conscience, obviously, was also impacted by this. "It's important enough for me to remember it in 2011 and write about it."
This clash of populism and superheroism that is depicted in the issue is so iconic, I would agree with the Congressman that it was what was missing from the recent film, though O'Neil gracefully reminds us about the Ryan Reynolds vehicle, "there's nothing wrong with turning out a good popcorn movie."
I asked O'Neil about what issues someone today could confront Green Lantern with, and he had several ideas:
"A legislative process that seems to be hopelessly broken.
Exploitation of kids.
Abuse of power."
I could not agree more. And this is exactly the message Grayson picked up on and used in his plea for help: that those in power, if confronted about the lack of jobs or health care or the numerous other problems in our country would be forced, when asked to account for their selfish actions by We the People, would have to answer. . "I. . . can't. . ."