The Light and the Dark of the Spectrum
Dreaming Up Two More Golden Age Lanterns
A while back I wrote a piece going over my musings for a team of "Skittle Lanterns" for the Golden Age of 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.. If you aren't a giant nerd (like me), you might not know that there are two major eras in DC Comics' history (okay, there's really, like six or seven at this point, but let's keep this simple). When the comics first started up back in the 1930s and 1940s, DC eventually created a team of heroes -- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman (among others). Then, after World War II, superhero comics fell out of vogue and most of these heroes went away. This period, as it was later known, was called the "Golden Age" of comics.
Eventually, in the 1950s and 1960s, superheroes came back into popularity at the newsstands and DC took an opportunity to reintroduce all the heroes that had faded away (only Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman remained in constant publication during this fallow period). New versions of heroes like Green Lantern, the Flash, and Hawkman were introduced, creating two distinct versions of the characters. The classic, Golden Age heroes eventually were said to live on Earth 2, while these new "Silver Age" heroes lived on our primary world, Earth 1. Yes, eventually they crossed over and had adventures in each others' worlds before, as is DC's way, there was a Crisis and the worlds were merged with the Golden Age heroes existing as past versions of more contemporary heroes (and then, of course, DC continued tinkering with that as well).
This interests us primarily because, after a lot of back-story not worth getting into right now, the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, went evil, died, and then eventually came back as a good hero again in a fantastic comic: Green Lantern: Rebirth (seriously, go read it). After this run, the newly reintroduced Green Lantern continued on in his own book, and during this period colors of other lanterns than just Green (and Yellow, which was seen in the Silver era, as a color used by bad guys) were introduced. It gave us a whole "spectrum of lanterns" (jokingly called the "Skittle Lanterns", even by DC): Red (Rage), Orange (Avarice), Yellow (Fear), Green (Willpower), Blue (Hope), Indigo (Compassion) and Violet (Love). And then, during the big crossover event Blackest Night two more Lantern colors were introduced: Black (Death) and White (Life).
This all concerns the modern version of the Green Lanterns, of course, but we do have the previous Green Lantern from the Golden Age, Alan Scott, still bumming around. Where Hal Jordan was a space cop, an ace pilot granted a sci-fi ring and then sent out into space to be a hero, Alan Scott got his ring via magical means. He found a lantern (that had been crafted from a previous lantern, that had be crafted from a glowing green meteorite) and he made a ring out of it to wield power. His ring was not powered by space aliens (not originally, although that might have been retconned) but by magic instead (magic also explains how he could dress as if he fell out of bed into a circus performer's sex closet, put on the first thing he found, and no one around him batted an eye), and he has his own weird and wild adventures.
That all brings us back around to that article I wrote a while back (see above). My musings led me to think about what it would have been like if the idea of "Skittle Lanterns" had been introduced in the Golden Age. What would these guys have been like in an era when Alan Scott was the Green Lantern. With Alan representing the center of our spectrum, I made the other six main colors to go with him but I never touched upon Black or White. Now though, having found a bit of inspiration, we continue our look with the Black and White Lanterns of the Golden Age, a creative writing experiment by yours truly.
Carrion, the Night Raptor
Born in 1920, Carrion (real name Edward Harold James) was a quiet, small, unassuming boy. Where other kids were active and playful, Carrion was reserved. He was picked on by the kids in his small town, ridiculed for his size, told he wasn't even worth it for the birds to pick clean if he died (thus where he got his nick name). He stayed away from the other children, preferring to read and work on the family farm (especially around the animals which he took an... interest in). He would have been happy living on the farm and never going anywhere else if he could have.
Unfortunately the Great Depression happened and, before too long, his family was deeply in debt and sinking fast. His father killed himself, unable to face the family over the pending eviction. His mother packed up herself and her boy, moved to the city to live with her sister and then, a month later, disappeared. Where his mother had been tender and loving, his aunt, Maggs, was cruel and mean. She verbally abused the boy, treated him like scum while giving her own kids everything. By the age of fifteen, Carrion had fled to live on the streets just to get away from the vile woman.
Forced to fend for himself, Carrion rather took after his own nick name, feeding on the scraps he could find, even dead animals. He killed when needed, sensing some kind of joy in the hunt, the death, the feeding. The thought of what he was doing sickened him, but also, deep down, thrilled him. He felt a mastery of death, that he could control it, rule it. His mother would have called this evil, and he could hear her voice in his head every time he went out, but that didn't stop him. In a way it fueled him.
It was inevitable that eventually he'd turn to hunting humans, stalking the streets at night for sport. He'd toy with his pray, crying out the sounds of carrion birds, noises he'd learned to mimic back in his days on the farm, scaring his victims so that he could give chase. He wasn't the first serial killer (not by a long shot), but he was certainly one of the more prolific. The newspapers took to calling him "The Night Raptor" after third-hand reports came in of strange bird noises sometime before a body was discovered. And the bodies were left in, well, a horrible state.
It was on one of his regular hunts that Carrion was near the park, looking for some poor pedestrian who was out where they shouldn't be at that time of night. He did spot someone, a lone man walking into the park, out after a night at a speakeasy. Carrion stalked the shadows, waited for his prey to get deep enough in the park that he wouldn't have time to flee to the safety of a public place. But as the hunter was about to start his little game, a meteor blasted down into the park, throwing both men in opposite directions. The meteor, deep in a crater, cooled and cracked, leaking energy out that touched the two men, both of whom had been knocked unconscious by the blast.
When he awoke, Carrion discovered that he was cloaked in literal shadows, a ring of the night, cool to the touch and almost like ice, sat somehow comfortably on his finger. When he rose he discovered he could run faster, like he was dashing through the darkness. He was stronger, tougher, even taller, but his powers were at their strongest at night. He could be the nighttime stalker he deeply wanted to be, a force for death that would scare the city... maybe even the world. He was the new Black Lantern of Death, and he reveled in it.
Considering the twists I'd given to the previous lanterns (in the last article), it seemed like I should take some liberties here with Carrion. He can't raise the dead (at least, not yet) but he does have an affinity for death. He's certainly the most evil person I've written into the Skittle Lanterns, probably irredeemable, although we'll see about that if I ever write further stories with these guys.
Really, the name for the character is what came to me first, and then I just let the creative juices flow for this one. I really like the name "The Night Raptor." It's goofy and weird, like the best Golden Age names should be.
Tom Donaldson, Saint of the Streets
Growing up on the streets of New York, Tom was like a lot of kids: happy, loved, with a big heart and a warm family. Yes, they might have been poor, an African-American family living in a less desirable part of the city, but they had each other. Even when the city was in the throws of the Great Depression, and his family all had to scrape to get by, they still kept together and never lost sight of what made them stronger: each other.
As Tom grew up, he turned to charity work, trying to help others in the city get through the hard times so they could survive until the country turned itself around. He helped plant community gardens, organized co-op kitchens, and worked to keep the peace and make sure everyone in his community could get by. Keeping together, like his family had through all these years, was what the city needed. Even when a killer started stalking the streets, Tom never let the people around him lose hope.
He'd actually just finished up at a community function one night when he noticed a person following him. Heading into the nearby park to try and get what could be a dangerous person away from other people, Tom lured the man into a secluded section, expecting to confront the man, scare him off, save a few lives. But whatever plan he had was interrupted by a sudden explosion. A meteor struck nearby the two of them and both of them were thrown from the site, knocked out cold. When Tom awoke he saw that the other person was gone.
But, more surprisingly, Tom felt like he was glowing. Like, literally glowing with white light. He could control it, hide it, and bring it out if he wanted, all with a thought. There was also a warm white ring on his finger now, one he didn't remember grabbing and one he felt compelled to not remove. He felt strong, powerful, and alive, and he knew what he had to do: he had to use his gifts, his light, to try and help those around him even more, fighting against injustice, fighting for hope, fighting for life itself. He became a true hero to the people, the Saint of the Streets.
Carrion was the character that came to me instantly, but once I had him I knew I had to make his opposing force. If we were to do a Golden Age Blackest Night we'd need a White Lantern to fight the Black Lantern. That's just how that goes.
While writing Carrion I actually thought about twisting it and making him a bit of a hero. Maybe have him pair up with the Saint of the Streets and they could be like Cloak and Dagger. In the end, though Carrion went too evil and I knew they had to stand opposed to each other. However, I kept one element of their concept: the fact that they both gain their powers from the same meteor (which is different from the other lanterns in that respect). From there I just had to write someone different from Carrion, and that's how we got the Saint of the Streets.
With all of our characters ready to go at some point I do want to come back and actually write a comic book script or two for these guys. Clearly DC isn't even going to hire me to do this for real but I like these guys so much I'll at least, eventually write some scripts and post them here for all of us to enjoy. Its a really cool concept and I just can't let it die. But there are other projects to tackle first, so we'll get back here some day...