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REVIEW: DC RETRO-ACTION SUPER-HEROES GREEN LANTERN
By Thomas Wheeler

There can be little doubt that the king of the action figure world throughout much of the 1970's was Mego. The company developed a very straightforward, efficient, and effective way to create action figures -- come up with a good basic body design that wouldn't often need much modification, one that any individually-sculpted head could be easily attached to, dress the figure in an appropriate cloth outfit, and -- done!

This process served Mego exceptionally well for many years, as they carved out a massive share of the action figure world with their 8", cloth-costumed creations of -- well, just about everything that could arguably have the term "pop culture" attached to it. Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Robin Hood, Wizard of Oz, even some "in-house" creations such as various Pirates, Western characters, Knights, and more.

But the "bread-and-butter" of Mego was always the World's Greatest Super-Heroes line. Mego managed to secure the licenses for both DC and Marvel, a feat that for something as extensive as a significant action figure line would be likely impossible today. Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America -- all part of the same action figure line, all entirely compatible with each other. It was amazing!

It's small wonder that, despite the fact that we have had hosts of action figures from both the Marvel and DC Universes since Mego closed its doors, that Mego remains very highly thought of by the action figure collecting community -- especially those of us old enough to remember it.

A couple of years back, a company calling itself EmCe Toys, with a strangely familiar logo, came along, with the distinct support of Mego creator Marty Abrams. They acquired the licenses to Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, recreated the precise Mego bodies and even the head molds, and took off. What they created was amazing, especially in the Star Trek line, not only re-creating the original figures, but finally giving us Sulu and Chekov, who had never been part of the original line, not to mention a vastly improved all-new Gorn.

EmCe Toys is continuing with characters from concepts that either Mego didn't consider at the time, or which didn't even exist at the time. Obviously, EmCe Toys was not able to produce figures from either Marvel or DC. Those toy licenses are currently under the auspices of Hasbro and Mattel, respectively, both of which are doing a good job with them.

But Mattel, taking a -- dare I say it -- rather classic approach with the DC license in some respects, clearly saw the value of nostalgia, as well as how popular EmCe's offerings were. They have worked with some of the people at EmCe Toys to craft a new line, called RETRO-ACTION SUPER-HEROES! These 8", cloth-costumed figures, and even their packaging, look veerrrry familiar.

And one of the first figures out of the gate, is someone that Mego, rather mysteriously, never got around to -- GREEN LANTERN!

Let's keep in mind that these Retro-Action Super-Heroes are meant to almost be a time-travel trip. In the 1970's, Hal Jordan was Green Lantern. Alan Scott had been around, but John Stewart and Guy Gardner were barely blips on the radar, and Kyle Rayner hadn't even been invented. Hal was pretty much IT. Let's consider some of the history of this character, up to the present day.

Created by John Broome and Gil Kane, he first appeared in Showcase #22 (October 1959). The revamp of Green Lantern as Hal Jordan was one of many DC Comics characters to emerge in the Silver Age of comics.

After achieving great success in 1956 in reviving the Golden Age character The Flash, DC editor Julius Schwartz looked toward recreating the Green Lantern from the Golden Age of Comic Books. Like The Flash, Schwartz wanted this new character to have a different secret identity, origin, and personality than his 1940s counterpart. A long time science-fiction fan, Schwartz wanted a more sci-fi based Green Lantern, as opposed to the mystical powers of Alan Scott, the 1940's Green Lantern.

Like E.E. Doc Smith's Lensmen, the new Green Lantern was a member of an intergalactic constabulary made up of many different alien species who were given a device that provided them with great mental and physical abilities; however, both Broome and Schwartz have denied a connection between those stories from science fiction pulps and the Green Lantern comic book stories. Gil Kane drew from actor Paul Newman in creating Hal Jordan's likeness, and redesigned the Green Lantern uniform into a very sleek form-fitting outfit of green, black, and white - quite the opposite of Alan Scott's red, yellow, green, purple, and black costume with a puffy shirt and cape.

The character was a success and it was quickly decided to follow-up his three issue run on Showcase with a self-titled series. Green Lantern #1 began in July-August 1960 and would continue until #84 in April-May 1972.

He was given the power ring and battery (lantern) by a dying alien named Abin Sur, whose spaceship crashed on Earth. Abin Sur used his ring to seek out an individual who was "utterly honest and born without fear" to take his place as Green Lantern. Jordan became a founding member of the Justice League of America and as of the mid-2000s is, along with John Stewart, one of the two active-duty Lanterns in Earth's sector of space.

In comics published in the early 1980s, Jordan was exiled into space for a year by the Guardians in order to prove his loyalty to the Green Lantern Corps, having been accused of paying too much attention to Earth when he had an entire "sector" of the cosmos to patrol. When he returned to Earth, he found himself embroiled in a dispute with Carol Ferris. Faced with a choice between love and the power ring, Jordan chose to resign from the Green Lantern Corps. The Guardians called upon Jordan's backup, John Stewart, to regular duty as his replacement.

In the 1994 Emerald Twilight storyline in Green Lantern vol. 3, #48-50, the villainous alien Mongul comes to Earth in a plot to take advantage of the death of Superman. Jordan defeats Mongul, but not before Coast City (Jordan's former home) is destroyed and all of its inhabitants murdered. He tries to use his ring to recreate the city, but the Guardians condemned this use of the ring for personal gain and demand that Jordan come to Oa for trial. Angered at what he saw as the Guardians' ungrateful and callous behavior, Jordan goes insane and attacks Oa to seize the full power of the Central Power Battery, destroying the Corps in the process. He then renounces his life as Green Lantern, adopting the name Parallax.

In Green Lantern: Rebirth, it is revealed that Jordan was under the influence of a creature known as Parallax when he turned renegade. Parallax was a creature of pure fear that had been imprisoned in the Central Power Battery by the Guardians of the Universe in the distant past. Imprisonment had rendered the creature dormant and it was eventually forgotten, becoming known merely as the "yellow impurity" in the power rings. Sinestro was able to wake Parallax and encourage it to seek out Hal Jordan as a host. Although Parallax had been trying to corrupt Jordan (via his ring) for some time, it was not until after the destruction of Coast City that it was able to succeed. It took advantage of Jordan's weakened emotional state to lure him to Oa and cause him to attack anyone who stood in his way. After killing several Green Lanterns, Jordan finally entered the Central Power Battery and absorbed all the power, unwittingly freeing the Parallax entity and allowed it to graft onto his soul.

As Parallax, he initiates the Zero Hour: Crisis in Time, attempting to rewrite history to his own liking, but he is eventually defeated by a gathering of heroes. Jordan is replaced by Kyle Rayner as the Green Lantern of Earth when Rayner comes into possession of the last power ring, created from the shattered remains of Jordan's. In the 1996 Final Night miniseries and crossover storyline, Jordan returns and sacrifices his life to reignite the Sun (which had been extinguished by the Sun-Eater).

In the 1999 mini-series Day of Judgment, Jordan becomes the newest incarnation of the Spectre. Soon after assuming this mantle, Jordan chooses to bend his mission from a spirit of vengeance to one of redemption, also making other appearances through some of DC's other story lines, such as advising Superman during the Emperor Joker storyline (Where the Joker steals the reality-warping power of Mister Mxyzptlk) and erases all public knowledge of Wally West's identity as the Flash after his terrible first battle with Zoom. A new Spectre series based on this premise, however, lasted only 27 issues.

The Spectre bonded with Jordan in the hopes of freeing the former Green Lantern's soul from Parallax's taint, but was not strong enough to do so. In Green Lantern: Rebirth, Parallax began to assert control of the Parallax-Spectre-Jordan composite. Thanks to a supreme effort of will, Jordan was able to free himself from Parallax, rejoin his soul to his body and reclaim his power ring. The newly revived (and youthened) Jordan awoke just in time to save Kyle Rayner and Green Arrow from Sinestro. After the Korugarian's defeat, Jordan was able to successfully lead his fellow Green Lanterns in battle against Parallax and with help from Guardians Sayd and Ganthet, imprisoned it within the personal power batteries of Earth's Lanterns, rendering the Green Lantern's rings free of the yellow impurity, provided they had the power of will to do so. Hal Jordan is once again a member of both the Justice League and the Green Lantern Corps, and along with John Stewart is one of the two Corps members assigned to Sector 2814, personally defeating Sinestro in the Sinestro Corps War. Jordan is designated as Green Lantern 2814.1.

Following up on the Green Lantern: Rebirth miniseries, DC Comics subsequently began a new Green Lantern (vol. 4) series starting with issue #1 (July 2005), with Hal Jordan once again the main character. Trying to rebuild his life, Hal Jordan has moved to the nearly deserted Coast City, which is slowly being reconstructed. He has been reinstated as a Captain in the United States Air Force, and works in the Test Pilot Program at Edwards Air Force Base.

The Green Lantern Corps also has been successfully rebuilt. Despite the revelation that Hal's past villainous activity was because of the influence of Parallax, many of Hal's fellow Corps officers (except Kilowog, Salaak, Stewart, Gardner, and Rayner) are unwilling to trust him. Despite being freed from Parallax, his experience also has led Hal occasionally to lack of confidence and self-doubts. Hal also become friends with Kyle Rayner after their first battle with Parallax.

Green Lantern has generally been regarded as part of the "second tier" of prominent DC heroes, after the "trinity" of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, arguably on a par with characters like Flash and Aquaman. It's something of a mystery as such that Mego never got around to him. Granted, they never got around to Flash, either, but they did get around to Aquaman right out of the gate, and also produced a figure of Green Arrow, a close friend and traveling buddy of GL's during a series of leftist "social conscience" storylines produced in the late 60's and early 70's.

According to some historical data, both Flash and Green Lantern were being considered by Mego for further additions to the World's Greatest Super-Heroes line, but neither figure ever happened. Needless to say, I'm not sorry that Mattel has finally gotten around to a pretty close counterpart to what Mego would have likely produced back in the day.

So, how is the figure? Very impressive, really. I think the highest compliment for any of the figures in this line, especially those that didn't appear in the original Mego line, would be to say that the figure looks very much as it would have if Mego HAD produced it back in the day -- and that's certainly the case with Green Lantern.

Mattel has created a body that is NOT a duplicate of the original Mego body. Precisely why they have done so, I really don't know, although I would imagine that that particular design, which is still being used by EmCe Toys for their own products despite their assistance to Mattel for these new Retro-Action figures, is pretty much reserved for EmCe's use.

The new body design is a good one, although in my opinion it has one unfortunate flaw. The lower torso piece is a little too small for its own good. This results in a somewhat odd-looking physique, and somewhat loose legs. Now, Mego figures sometimes had loose parts as well, so I'm willing to excuse it for the most part. But really, the lower torso piece should have been crafted somewhat bigger. In the case of Green Lantern, the point between upper and lower torso is a little off somehow, causing the figure to have a little trouble standing up straight. He tends to want to bend forward or backward. However, it's not impossible to get him to stand straight as he should.

The headsculpt looks exactly what one would expect a Mego-style Green Lantern to look like. The face is nicely detailed, the hair well-sculpted, and properly painted brown. The green mask matches the costume color, and covers the eyes and nose properly. Strangely, the eyes are a little uneven. I'm not sure how this happened, and it's rather unfortunate, but isn't too egregious.

The uniform is made superbly well. Green Lantern does not have a typical uniform, and I find myself wondering if it might have been an above-average challenge for Mego. Unlike Batman, Superman, or Aquaman, whose costumes, regardless of color, pretty much consisted of shirt, trunks, and legs, Green Lantern's had the top pretty much tapering to the trunks, these being in green; the sleeves and part of the sides of the costume being in black, and then the leggings were black as well. His costume also has a rather high collar. That's going to create, if nothing else, an above-average-in-complexity fabric and sewing pattern.

I'm not saying Mego couldn't have done it. I'm sure they could. Some of their figures over the years had quite complex clothes. And Mattel has also done an excellent job with it. The high collar was sewn on separately, looking a little like a turtleneck. The areas of black and green are just as they should be. The Green Lantern emblem imprinted on the front of the costume is perfect.

Now, Green Lantern's costume also includes white gloves. Mego had a couple of methods for doing gloves. One early solution was to give the figures what looked like a cross between gloves and oven mitts. Molded from thin flexible plastic, they had thumbs but lacked fingers. And, honestly, they looked a little ridiculous. Batman, Robin, and Aquaman were saddled with these. Somehow Captain America escaped the indignity.

The second method was to mold hard(er) plastic gloves that had a sort of hand shape molded to them. This was, at least, an improvement. The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and most of the Teen Titans had this style of glove. Iron Man's were particularly cool.

The third style, in my opinion, worked the best. It featured a hand that was molded in the color of the glove, and then some fabric or leather-like "upper glove" was attached to the sleeve of the costume. This allowed the entire hand to be free while still looking like it was wearing a glove. Green Arrow in particular benefited from this, as did several others.

And, as does Green Lantern. I am pleased that Mattel chose this method for glove wear. Green Lantern's hands have been molded in white, and there are white leather-like upper gloves sewn to the sleeves. Admittedly, in Green Lantern's case, it's virtually a necessity because of the presence of his power ring. That would've been a little difficult to accomplish by any other means. While Green Lantern's left hand is a "standard" hand, a reasonable facsimile of the Mego hand, the right hand is clenched in a fist and has the power ring placed on the second finger, and painted in green. I admit I find myself wondering just a bit how Mego would've handled this thirty-five years ago or so.

Of course, Green Lantern also has plastic boots, molded in the proper shade of green. They look like trimmed down versions of a larger type of boot that Mego made use of outside of the super-hero series. Frankly, the design reminds me of the boots they designed which were used by the Klingon figure in Star Trek. They still work well enough here, though.

The uniform is secured in the back with two snaps, and is removable, if you want to for some reason. I was very pleased to see the snaps, again in keeping with Mego's original design, rather than Velcro.

Green Lantern does come with his lantern power battery! Honestly, I'm not sure this is something Mego would've done. They might have, but they weren't that big on accessories unless it was absolutely necessary. Thor came with his hammer, Green Arrow came with some archery equipment, but accessories tended to be pretty sparse. The lantern is nicely made and looks pretty much like it could have come from the 1970's, but interestingly enough, it has an adjustable handle. That's something I really question whether it would have had way back then. That's NOT a complaint -- just an observation.

Green Lantern is, of course, very nicely articulated. He is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles, although the boots tend to prevent that last one a bit.

These Retro-Action Super-Heroes, which are a Toys "R" Us exclusive, seem to be proving to be very popular. A supply of them blew out of my nearest TRU in rather short order, and I have heard similar reports from elsewhere. Part of me is surprised. These are very clearly a nostalgia product, directed rather specifically to those who remember the days of Mego. Apparently there's more of those out there than I would have thought.

So, what's my final word? I would have loved to have had this figure 35 years ago. I always liked Green Lantern, and I had a ton of Megos as a kid and as a teen. I was always sorry that Green Lantern -- among others -- was never part of the mix. Well, now he is, in a manner of speaking, and I'm delighted to have him. These Retro-Action Super-Heroes are not precisely like the Megos of days gone by, but they certainly evoke the memories of them, and I hope they'll be around for a long time.

The DC RETRO-ACTION SUPER-HEROES figure of GREEN LANTERN definitely has my highest recommendation!