Friday, May 29, 2015

Follow the Path – John Stewart’s Marine Background

via Comic Book Resources

This is the first installment in a new feature where I spotlight changes made to comic book characters that are based on outside media. I’m sure you can think of other examples, so feel free to e-mail me at if you want to suggest some other examples for future installments.
We begin with the surprisingly late introduction of John Stewart’s marine background into Green Lantern comics.

NOTE: Again, I get that you can think of other examples, but please don’t post them in the comments section. Just e-mail me at if you have any suggestions for other examples.
John Stewart’s background as an architect was present right from his first appearance in Green Lantern #89 (by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano)…

And that was the case for the rest of his comic book career, even as the 21st Century began.
In 2001, Warner Bros. launched a Justice League cartoon, and on it, the Green Lantern was John Stewart.
In October 2002’s “Metamorphosis,” we first learn that John Stewart was a member of the United States Marine Corps.
In a Season 2 episode, “Wild Cards,” even see his Marine Corps tattoo…
Even as the cartoon went on the air, John remained just a supporting character in Green Lantern. Here, in Green Lantern #147 (by Judd Winick and Dale Eaglesham), we get to see John’s history, showing no signs of a military background at all (he is being hypnotized to get over a mental block preventing him from walking)…
You’ll notice that his haircut was also not the same as the cartoon.
As the cartoon continued, though (it branched into Justice League Unlimited and ran until 2006), DC made a move to get John back to being a Green Lantern….
and then become a member of the Justice League. It was in the pages of JLA, oddly enough, that John’s haircut became the same as his cartoon counterpart…
Even when Geoff Johns brought the Green Lantern Corps back, he stuck with the architect deal with John, like in Green Lantern: Rebith #1 (art by Ethan Van Sciver and Prentiss Rollins)…
and in Green Lantern #1 (art by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino)…
John’s comments there seem even odder with his future military background.
Go to the next page to see when the Marine changeover took place!


I take it this feature is more than just ‘oh, they put Captain America in a new suit without the wings on the helmet, like in the movies?’
Minor point but “remained just a supporting character” doesn’t seem quite right-—John had risen to star of his own book back in the 1990s. The quote makes it sound like he’d never been anything but Hal’s backup.
That said, good idea for a feature.
Wow, I didn’t realize the cartoon introduced his background. It does make him a much more interesting character; all the more reason why he should be the primary Green Lantern.
Drawing Strange Patterns: The number of times the Green Lantern Corps. went defunct?
Almost as many as Wonder Woman writers have decided killing off the Amazons is a good idea.
Well, gosh. Now I’m conflicted. I’ve always meant to finally check out that cartoon because I’ve heard good things, but I really can’t stand how John’s whole personality in the comics has been reduced to the military man. I was so much more interested in John-as-architect as explored in Mosaic. The Marine thing is one of those later GL obsessions that Johns and other writers have beaten to death already, like Hal’s daddy issues. (And if I never hear the nickname “Highball” again, it’ll be too soon.)
Let’s face it, the cartoon was seen by a heck of a lot more people than the comics. This is simply DC trying to court that audience, though sales would suggest they didn’t get that big a percentage of it. Stewart’s not alone in that; both DC and Marvel have been tweaking their characters to match other media appearances. It’s not even a recent phenomena, as they did the same thing at other times, like when Wally West’s costume was altered to bring it closer to the tv show.
Buttler –
I watched the first season of the cartoon, and liked it. They took the Marvel approach to the Justice League: giving each of them a sharp, distinct personality. Superman is the goody-too-shoes, Batman is the brooding loner, Flash is the goofy comic relief, Green Lantern is the no-nonsense military, Wonder Woman is the naive straight man, Martian Manhunter is the sensitive outsider, and Hawkgirl is female Wolverine.
When you have 7 heroes in a 20-min cartoon, the approach is necessary.
Jeff –
The problem is that the early 1990s were the last time audience in other media translated to comic book sales. Popularity of the characters isn’t enough to surmount the problems of price and access to the shops, that limit comics to a specialized audience.
I think the only bad thing about Jon Stewart becoming popular due to the TV show was that poor Kyle got shafted from the JLA roster. And then some jack-wagon thought it was a good idea to bring back Hal from the dead. Ugh.
@ Buttler: As for the military background thing, I think they just had there (in the show) so to provide a connection with Rex when he was introduced. I don’t know much of Metamorpho’s background though.
@ buttler:
If you look at the Top Tier of Green Lantern runs, then you get Broome/Kane, O’Neil/Adams, Englehert/Staton, Marz/Banks and Geoff Johns with … Doug Mahnke (I guess?) They tend to have one aspect of the central character(s) that gets beaten into the ground. Broome/Kane tend to show Hal Jordan as a bit of a dolt, who is constantly bashing his head on things and sexually harassing Carol Ferris. O’Neil/Adams sort of extend that into a generally conservative worldview so allows him to be the straw man that the hipper Green Arrow can argue against. Englehert/Staton converted that into a more general passivity and surrounded Hal with a more defined, proactive cast that included a hyper-aggressive Guy Gardner who proved to be the break-out star of that run. Marz/Banks made Kyle relentlessly sensitive. Geoff Johns brought Hal back and tried to justify his personality with Daddy Issues.
I enjoyed all those runs, but they are one note hit repeatedly.
Since John Stewart has never been the center of any Green Lantern title for long, he has evolved more organically. He has been used when writers have stories that require him and Dwayne McDuffie had a lot of John Stewart stories. The dude in the Justice League/JLU cartoons is totally recognizable from the comics, but McDuffie added some background stuff that fleshed him out. It doesn’t preclude the other aspects of his character at all.
Honestly, the great irony of John Stewart’s background evolution is that he has become a much better candidate for being the protagonist for the Green Lantern franchise than any of the others. He is actually an interesting, three-dimensional character with internally driven motives. He is a straight-laced professional who treats being a superhero like a job. His backgrounds as a Marine and an architect are not mutually exclusive. The Service Academies tend to have technical majors that might yield a person exactly like that. (Although the sniper business is highly unlikely.) Stewart is always very rules driven, which can lead to over-confidence. He tends to become romantically involved with others in the superhero world. He is prone to self-pity, but never lets it get in the way of his duty.
That is a rich, well-rounded character.
Triniking –
“I think the only bad thing about Jon Stewart becoming popular due to the TV show was that poor Kyle got shafted from the JLA roster. And then some jack-wagon thought it was a good idea to bring back Hal from the dead. Ugh.”
I also would have prefered for Hal (and Barry) to stay dead. But I blame Hal’s return on the “smart” editors who tried to make Hal extra-super-duper-unusable by making him a mass murderer. Real “smart”, because that is precisely the way to make sure that Hal returns one day: to create a story that is offensive to old-time fans of his, so that a vocal group demanding his return would always exist.
If they had given him a respectable hero’s farewell, like with Barry Allen, Hal would probably not have returned (and would not have brought Barry Allen with him too, after his return proved to be immensely popular).
@Triniking: Metamorpho’s background was as a soldier of fortune before he became a superhero. The idea of him having been a Marine before that doesn’t come from the comics, as far as I know, but it’s not such a leap of logic.
@Dean Hacker: Obviously I don’t agree about John becoming more well rounded after the recent changes. “Rules driven” isn’t the John I know–not even remotely. A continuing theme of Mosaic and of his ’70s and ’80s stints as Green Lantern was his tendency to think outside the box. And for me, the get-the-job-done, makes-the-tough-decisions military man is much less interesting than the multilayered John who wasn’t reducible to that kind of easy definition and I guess was too daunting for some writers to use because of that.

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