Let's Assemble Us a Classic Skittle Lantern Corp
Dreaming Up Some Golden Age Lanterns
Comic books fans, especially those you follow DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s., likely know of Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern. Debuting first in All American Comics before being spun off into his own comics, the original run of Green Lantern, Alan became a founding member of the Justice Society of America. Using the powers of his magical lantern (and his fabulously flamboyant costume), Alan defended his city, and the world at large, during the Golden Age of Comics. You know, right up until the mid-1950s when superhero comics weren't cool anymore and westerns became the thing to read. Most of the major comics ended their runs during this western phase (except for BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen., SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s., and Wonder WomanLong considered the third pillar of the DC Comics "Trinity", Wonder Woman was one of the first female superheroes ever created. Running for as long as Batman or Superman (and without breaks despite a comic downturn in the 60s that killed superhero comics for about a decade), Wondie has the honor to be one of the longest serving, and most prolific, superheroes ever.), and it wasn't until the 1960s when superheros became cool again (leading to the Silver Age of Comics).
Of course, the Silver Age had different versions of classic heroes. The flamboyant, magical Alan Scott Green Lantern was swapped out for a sci-fi cop Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, who used his own Willpower (and not magic) to power the ring, and that version of the character would become the predominant one for the rest of DC's history. Alan Scott did eventually come back, first as a hero on an alternate Earth, and then (when continuities were merged) as an elder statesman of the current continuity. And then, much more recently, other lanterns were introduced: Red (Rage), Orange (Avarice), Yellow (Fear), Blue (Hope), Indigo (Compassion), and Violet (Love). Dubbed by some as the "Skittle Lanterns", this group of people battle each other, and at times larger threats that could destroy the universe, all while having cool adventures in space.
I had a thought, though. What if the Skittle Lanterns had been introduced back in Alan Scott's magical heyday? This was during World War II, when so many of the superheroes were depicted as having battles overseas, leading the charge for America against Hitler. If the Skittles have been introduced back then, what would they have looked like? Who would they be? I had to think this out, and these were the Lanterns I came up with:
Aleksandr Medvedev, The Mighty Bear
While we're taught in the U.S. that it was us against the Nazis, it was World War II and part of that name was "world". Other countries fought the Axis, and one of those countries was Russia (eventually, after the Germans tried to invade and Russia, and Winter, said "no"). While it would have been easy to go with a Cold War theme for the Red Lantern of this time period, that wouldn't really have been accurate; communism was alive and well in Russia, sure, but the Red Scare didn't really pick up until after we all were done defeating the Axis first. As such, instead of making our Russian lantern into a villain, a cypher for the "Commies", I instead wanted something more heroic for this lantern.
Aleksandr (meaning "defender") Medvedev (meaning "bear") was a mighty, but gentle, man, large but quiet and kind to all. He worked in a small village along the Western border of Russia, a blacksmith by trade, living in a this quiet hamlet with his two children. That is until the Germans marched through and, during the ensuing battle, his wife (who picked up her own gun and was fighting right along side the rest of the villagers, as was common for the Russian populace during the war) was killed. His children, too, died in a mortar blast that took out the building all the children were hiding in. Taken over by grief and rage, Aleksandr went into a berserk state, lashing out at all the Germans that came near him. The quiet man, struck by the double-losses he suffered, became a different beast entirely.
When he awoke hours later he was up in the mountains, alone and freezing. However, a red light attracted him. Drawn to a meteorite that was glowing in the forest, Aleksandr found a magic rock, red as blood, that seemingly spoke to his mind. He took the rock home and set it in his workshop. He buried his family, along with many of the other casualties of the battle that had taken so many, and then set to work on the meteorite. The remaining villagers heard the sounds from his workshop but stayed away due to the red glow that emanated from the windows. Days later, Aleksandr emerged wearing a chest plate of steel with the sparkling red gemstone mounted in the middle, a glowing red hammer in each hand. He was reborn, the Mighty Bear, Red Lantern of Rage and warrior of vengeance against the Axis.
In the original comics, a green meteorite fell to Earth and, eventually, was crafted into a lantern. It was then re crafted, much later, into a railroad-style lantern before, even later, falling into Alan Scott's hands. I went with a similar crafting motif for Aleksandr, letting him forge his red meteorite into appropriate armor for a warrior. This is actually akin to an alternate version of Alan Scott, from Kingdom Come, who crafted his lantern into armor he would wear. I added the dual hammers of red rage because Aleksandr is a blacksmith and this seemed appropriate.
I did hesitate about having his wife and children die, mostly because I didn't want to be accused of fridging the wife. At the same time, the Red Lanterns are driven by rage, usually over a loss so deep they can't recover, turning them into avenging beasts who froth blood from their mouth. The loss of his loved ones felt like the only rage big enough to drive Aleksandr mad like this. I also thought about making him a woman so I could at least invert the fridging trope but the character felt wrong gender-flipped somehow. That might just be my own maleness getting in the way, I dunno. But that's why I at least made the wife into a freedom fighter in the war; if she was going to die I at least wanted her to have a noble death.
William Gentry III, CEO
The first son of William, Jr. and Amelia Gentry, William III (Billy to his friends) came from a wealthy family. New money, born of the railroad boom, William's family grew fat on their gains (many of the ill-gotten, done through every back room shady deal possible). If there was a deal with the government, and the Gentrys were involved, you could be sure there was graft. Of course, they were never punished for it as they made sure all the lawmakers that might care were cut in on the deals. That's how William, Sr. did it, that's hour Junior did it, and that's how the third Billy grew to know business. He learned from the best in the shady business and then, ascending to his rightful place in the family business, he cut his father out, leaving the elder family penniless while Billy took the family company, and the fortune, all for himself.
Railroads might have been where the family had made their money, but Billy saw a new frontier on which to get rich: war profiteering. Even before the U.S. was involved in World War II, Billy took Gentry Industries into the war business, playing for both sides as he bought and sold supplies for the war effort. Buy low, sell high, and make sure to have as much graft in there as he could to pad the pockets of himself and the board. He traveled the world, made contacts with ever government, and made sure to line up lucrative deals wherever he went. He was a master at lining his pockets; the world was filled with money and ever last cent deserved to be in Billy's hands. It was his for the taking.
Speaking of things he had to have, it was on his travels through Italy that he saw a watch, gold inlaid for glowing orange gems, that instantly attracted his attention. He had to have it, needed to have it. Almost like the watch called to him, Billy knew the watch must be his. The only problem was that it was owned by a prominent business rival, Giuseppe Rosso, and they weren't willing to part with it. Billy knew, in his heart, that wouldn't do so he arranged a late night dinner for himself and his rival and, at that dinner, he arranged for Rosso to be poisoned. His rival dead, he pocketed the watch, prizing it above anything else he owned. He fled the country, the police nipping at his heels, and traveled back to the U.S. where he started consolidating his company, buying up everything else he could find. His company had to be the biggest, it had to have it all. He had to have it all. The watch unlocked his greed like never before, but deep down Billy had always been the avatar of Avarice, the Orange Lantern.
The modern Orange Lantern is Larfleeze, and there's only one Orange Lantern. That's because he's greedy and won't let anyone else have his power. I wanted something similar for Gentry, a need for him to constantly take, to always be collecting and stealing everything for himself. He's a greedy sonuvabitch, and that felt right in line with Larfleeze.
Of course, with World War II as our backdrop, making a war profiteer made perfect sense. Unlike Aleksadr, Gentry is not a good person. His greed can't be spun to making him a folk hero; he's just a bad guy. Not everyone on this list will be a hero.
James Franklin, Reporter
Once a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, James Franklin fell from grace when one of his stories, a report on bankers on Wall Street and the alleged scam loans they were using to line their own pockets, was proven to have falsehoods. Fired from his job at the Star City Courier, Franklin had to take and reporting gig he could, which is what led him to take a spot as a war correspondent for the London Sun. Working overseas allowed Franklin two things: to write the loquacious pieces he enjoyed so much, and to indulge in his yellow journalism.
Being so far away from watchful eyes afforded him plenty of opportunities to lie in his stories, and these stories also proved to be his most popular. Tales of the atrocities on the war front, alleged scandals conducted by both sides, got the newspaper's readers all in a tizzy, and that sold more papers. Franklin's stories were in demand, and so his articles became bigger and more sensational. The lies compounded on the lies, and the fear he created caused more papers to be sold. It was the perfect cycle for Franklin.
And to think, he only started telling his tales when his uncle died. In his will, the uncle left Franklin a small chest of old items the older man had collected in the first Great War. Photos, newspaper clippings, and various trinkets, all things the uncle thought James would appreciate, items that might inspire stories. One item in particular stood out, though: an old, rusted amulet with a piece of yellow topaz set within. His eyes were drawn to the amulet, and he immediately put it on, the rest of the chest forgotten. The amulet has never left his neck, a kind of good luck charm (so he's thought) that's carried him ever since.
In the current Earth 2 continuity in DC Comics, Alan Scott is a media conglomerate owner, a man who loves the news and believes in the power of the press. That was my inspiration for Franklin, to take something indelible to Alan Scott (even if it's just a version of it) and turn it into a dark mirror of itself. It's like Hal Jordan and Sinestro, both of whom served as Green Lanterns, but Sinestro turned away from the power of the green, took on a persona of fear, and became a Yellow Lantern. Similarly, Franklin was a good reporter, but the power of the yellow amulet took him over and he started peddling tales of fear and propaganda.
Also, the fact that I can have the Yellow Lantern do a play on yellow journalism was a bonus for me. A solid double entendre.
Rabbi Meir Blumenfeld
Considering the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jewish people, that last place you'd expect a Rabbi to venture would be deep into the heart of enemy territory. But not only was that where our good Rabbi wanted to go, he enlisted in the U.S. Army to ensure he was placed as close to the front line as he could be. Naturally, the Army saw he was Jewish and put him as far away from the front line as they could because they didn't want one of their chaplains getting captured and killed by the Nazis for being Jewish.
So, once he was overseas, tending to the soldiers, Blumenfeld went AWOL so he could get closer and find a way to help the Jewish people. He wanted to find the camps where they'd been placed, find ways to free them. He wanted to show them that there were people out there fighting for them, that they needn't lose hope because someone would come to their cause. He wanted to be a beacon of light in the dark times.
While the other Lanterns we've discussed have stumbled across their power stones, sometimes not even realizing what they had in their possession, Blumenfeld was drawn to his source of power. Sneaking along the front lines, he followed a Germany convoy back to a mine they were working at. He had aligned himself with a group of freedom fighters and he was doing recon before they attacked the mine and blew up the base there. But while exploring the area, Blumenfeld heard a voice call out to him. Finding a way into the mine complex, the Rabbi was drawn into a secret area where, within it, he found a sacred flame, burning bright and blue. The flame called to him, told him he had the capacity for great hope and, when Blumenfeld reached out, the flame crafted itself into a ring. It made him into a Blue Lantern, and the Rabbi gratefully accepted the power and responsibility.
For the Rabbi, I wanted a name that would translate nicely for a Blue Lantern. Meir means "to give light", appropriate for a Lantern, especially since the Blue Lanterns help to charge up Green Lanterns and restore their light. Blumenfeld literally means "field of blooms" so put together his name is kind of "field of light" which I liked. Plus, there's the pun of "blumen" sounding like "blue".
The Suicide Squad
Although the United States did not officially enter World War II until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that doesn't mean there weren't unofficial operations working behind the scenes. One of those operations, codenamed Taskforce X, was sent to the European theater in 1939. Built out of a group of reformed criminals and villains -- Inkblot, Master of Shadows; The Sparrow, Siren Songbird; Jade Eagle, Tai Chi Expert; Tom Bomb, the Human Explosive; and Magic Hat and Killer Rabbit, the World's Greatest Magician and his Lovely Assistant -- this "Suicide Squad" was tasked with infiltrating the front line and causing as much trouble for the Nazis as they could manage.
When they got to the front line, ready to cause mayhem and destruction, what Taskforce X found was a war-torn land, villages in ruins and people desperately clinging to life. It was the first time many of them had seen this kind of carnage, and for the Squad, it changed them. Just saying they were "reformed" wasn't enough, they had to prove it to themselves and the world. They made it their mission to protect as many of the people in the war as they could, to stop the injustices, the suffering. They had to make things better for anyone they could, and they'd use their special set of skills and abilities to get the job done.
And then they became Lanterns. While protecting a caravan of the Romani as they fled the front, the Squad were invited in for a round of food and drinks by one of the elders of the group. That was when she offered them a special beverage that had been passed down through her family over the centuries. It was said to have been first made four hundred years prior when a purple meteor fell from the sky. For whatever reason, the man that had found it, a Romani elder, had been compelled to work refined dust from the meteor into a blown glass bottle, giving the container a lovely purple hue. Beverages stored within the glass would take on the color but, more importantly, when drunk by someone of "truly compassionate nature" would bestow upon them special abilities.
For their help, she offered the drink to each of the Squad, which they graciously accepted. Although the alcohol didn't immediately seem to affect them, soon the members of Taskforce X discovered they could create constructs of purple light. Plus, their various powers and abilities were enhanced, making them true masters of their craft. Imbued with these new abilities, the Squad charged back to the front line, ready to continue the fight for all that needed them.
Yes, the Suicide Squad is a real DC Comics creation. They were introduced in 1959, a Silver Age creation that really didn't catch on until the idea was resurrected in the late 1980s. There wasn't a Golden Age equivalent, which made them a good fit for this project. Plus, the Indigo Lanterns were all about taking villains and using the power of the Indigo Light to remake them into warriors of compassion. In that light, the Suicide Squad felt like a great fit for the Indigo treatment.
None of the characters listed are real DC characters (at least that I know of). I just invented a bunch of characters that seemed like they could have come from the Golden Age of Comics: simple concepts with, at times, very goofy names and abilities. Personally, I like the idea of a Tai Chi master doing his thing on the front line, and the name "Tom Bomb, the Human Explosive" made me giggle out loud. That's the way it should be for Golden Age characters.
Considering that they ingested the Indigo Light (via the special bottle), I don't know how long their powers could last for. They don't have the actual bottle (not here in the origin story, anyway) so maybe they would have revisit the Romani once in a while to re-up their powers. That's a nice parallel to the modern Lanterns each having a oath they have to say before a power battery to recharge their rings. It also means that members of the Suicide Squad could be killed off over time (as per the concept of the team) and new members that joined could gain the Indigo Light if they were worthy. Also, it would mean that if any team members became unworthy they'd be unable to recharge.
Marlene Beaufort, Singer
As you probably know, France surrendered to the Germans on June 22, 1940, six weeks after the Nazis began their invasion of Western Europe. Marlene, up to this time, had been working as a singer at a club, a gig she didn't hate but it certainly didn't leave her feeling fulfilled. Singing romantic songs to strangers so they'd buy more drinks (and leave her a fat tip in the process) was as waste of her talents, she felt. She'd wanted to be a star, famous with her name up in lights, but she's spent the last four years working at one crappy club or another, her voice often drowned out by the din of conversation in the clubs.
And then France surrendered and suddenly there were German soldiers everywhere. These men proved more appreciative of her singing talents as they were soldiers far from home, out looking for a pretty face and maybe a bit of fun. That, in itself, was a problem though as the Nazi soldiers felt themselves above the law and Marlene attracted unwanted attention, and advances, from these men. Walking home late at night, one of the soldiers followed her, accosting her outside her place. Who knows what would have happened to her if two other woman, armed with guns, hadn't arrived and helped Marlene fight off the soldier. The other women killed the soldier, dragging his body into an alley where it would soon disappear. They introduced themselves as members of the resistance, freedom fighters looking to save France from the occupying force. Sensing a mission more fulfilling than just singing in clubs, Marlene quickly joined their ranks.
She then went right back to singing at the clubs, but for a different reason. Her position afforded her the ability to attract the attention of powerful men, her voice a lure and her smile the hook. She'd tempt these men, strike up conversations, learn about them, and find people she could bond with so she could infiltrate their lives and steal their secrets. She was a spy, working right under the noses of the German high command in France, and they didn't even know it.
It was one particular general, Heinrich Wagner, who unwittingly made her into a Violent Lantern, the "Star of the Sea". He'd come across a particularly beautiful pendant, a violet-hued diamond set among sapphires, wreathed in white gold, and had instantly thought of Marlene (almost as if a voice told him who it belonged to). When next he saw her he gave her the pendant as a gift, and the second she put it on she felt a voice calling to her, guiding her on her path. She had a mission, it said, and now she'd have the powers to aid her in her duty. She would be the light to guide the resistance, the star to guide their forces and free France.
Marlene means "graceful star of the sea", a name that seemed appropriate to me for someone that would be the Golden Age version of a Star Sapphire. I paired it with Beaufort which means "a stronghold at a place of beauty". Considering the Star Sapphires hold themselves as avenging angels fighting against broken hearts, this felt like an appropriate last name for our character.
I resisted the urge to make Marlene a French whore, an idea that briefly flitted across my brain simply because that felt fitting for someone that would become a Star Sapphire. Instead I went classier, and I like this version a lot more.
I've contemplated these characters for a little while. Having written all this down I'll let these guys sit for a bit but I wouldn't be surprised if I revisit them at some point in the future. If nothing else I eventually have to devise White and Black Lanterns to join this Corp.