Addressing Arguments Against Using John Stewart as the Cinematic Green Lantern

on October 24, 2014

Green Lantern JS!

With the announcement of a new Green Lantern movie scheduled for 2020, many people are getting into figurative camps, supporting which Green Lantern they think should be the focus of the film, and a member of the Justice League. It always comes down to two characters above all others; John Stewart and Hal Jordan. Naturally, I am 1000% behind John Stewart. In browsing the net, I have seen some arguments in favor of Hal Jordan, and I’d like to address a couple of the more consistent ones, and bring out why I feel they don’t hold much water.

First up is that Hal Jordan has more stories to adapt than John Stewart.

I will concede that is true! Hal Jordan does have more comic book stories centered on him than John. However, this argument seems to carry the implication that comic book movies are direct adaptations of the source material. It is actually very rare that they are. This argument also implies that people cannot simply write new stories that accommodate the John Stewart character. As if writing stories for this particular character is virtually impossible. If that was truly the case, we wouldn’t have episodes of Justice League that are focused on him, like “Blackest Night,” “Hearts and Minds,” and “Starcrossed.” None of those events ever happened in comics, and yet they’re famous stories. The show had writers that wrote for the character. It was really simple. I don’t see why the films must be different.

I think we should consider why Hal Jordan has been focused on much more than John Stewart. There are layers of reasons, such as Hal Jordan being created first, writers and editors preferring Hal Jordan, and so on. However, underneath all of those, the core reason is because the products that DC Comics has been putting out for decades upon decades have been made primarily by, and primarily for, White males, which Hal Jordan is depicted as being. For this great length of time, appealing to other demographics has not been anything they strived to do with any great effort.

Given that the comics that birthed Hal Jordan were the product of a society that was very much rooted in racism, it was virtually impossible for John Stewart –a Black character- to be a huge showcase in that climate. When the Green Lantern series was rebooted in 1960, in the United States, people who looked like the John Stewart character had to drink out of specialized water fountains away from the normal ones, had to sit in the back of buses, and were refused service at certain eating establishments, all because of the way they looked. What are the chances that there would be an idealized superhero that looked like John Stewart and was the star of a popular comic book series back then?

The question, then, is should this system where only Whites are idealized heroes be preserved? Should Black characters be denigrated because they never had the opportunities of the considerably more privileged White ones? This system, which is deeply rooted in the industry and the fanbase, is built on the notion of White male power fantasy.

Now it’s 2014, and we live in a different time, when people are fortunately much less ignorant, on the whole. In actuality, people of today have even accepted and been acclimated to a Black Green Lantern, more so than the White one. This is because progressive people (Bruce Timm, James Tucker, Dwayne McDuffie, et al.) gave the Black character an opportunity, instead of holding him back because of an outmoded “tradition,” which is ultimately rooted in racist ideals.

If Black characters are continually held back for White ones, because, “That’s the way it was sixty years ago,” we may as well come out and call superheroes a White male pastime and be done with it.

Another argument I see is that too much time and money was spent on making Hal Jordan viable. Therefore, WB should stick with him.

This one is, frankly, very foolish to me. First of all, a lot of time and money was spent building up John Stewart in Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and related merchandise, yet DC and WB didn’t have a problem completely shafting him when the 2011 Green Lantern movie was made, or in their numerous direct to DVD animated films, or in Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and so on. So, why should Hal Jordan get preferential treatment now?

What is even more unfair about this reasoning is that a lot of time and money was lost in backing the Hal Jordan character! The big budget film lost money, the merchandise didn’t sell, and the cartoon didn’t last long. Why should WB risk throwing even more money down that funnel? Why should Hal Jordan continue to get all these chances when John Stewart has never failed them, and when legions of fans are dying to see him on the big screen?

This argument just smacks of White privilege to me. It seems to support the idea that a White person/character can fail, and continue to get opportunity after opportunity, yet a Black person/character can actually SUCCEED and still get all their opportunities taken away.

This is why I will boycott the DC films if Hal Jordan is chosen over John Stewart. I simply will not accept that racist exercise. John Stewart has only ever succeeded for WB, and for him to continue to be disenfranchised… well… it smacks of racism! It smacks of trying to hold onto that outdated principle where Black characters do not get opportunities, because that’s the way it was a long time ago.

There is no logical reason not to use John Stewart. There are reasons rooted in passion and personal preference, but no good reason born of rationality, fairness, and just good business sense. John Stewart is this generation’s Green Lantern. He’s never failed. The Hal Jordan projects bombed hard, and many people wondered why Hal Jordan wasn’t John Stewart. That, in itself, is extremely telling.

The fans are dying to see Green Lantern John Stewart and he’s primed for success!

10 responses to “Addressing Arguments Against Using John Stewart as the Cinematic Green Lantern”

  1. Hudson Faber says:

    Excellent post addressing the usual BS, Desh! There’s no reason for why John shouldn’t be the central cinematic Green Lantern, and there are more than a few reasons that he should be.

  2. Clyde says:

    Earlier today I was on the cinema website as it relates to the discussion “5 heroes DC could choose from to be Green Lantern”. There’s a person named Al who has posted nothing but disrespectful comments about John Stewart. So I would like to post an excerpt of one of his many comments and my reply to him:

    AL -> Clyde • 12 hours ago

    How exactly is John the best known for new school ? He was featured in the JL and the JLU animated series in 2001 to 2006. That’s it. Everything else comic or animation wise has been Hal or Guy or Kyle. I think you guys are overestimating John’s popularity.

    Clyde -> AL • 6 hours ago

    Overestimating his popularity…really! Al people like you don’t even think he’s worth the pages he’s been drawn on, let alone being created as a Green Lantern to begin with. You think he’s boring, he has zero potential and no hope of being anything. The only credit you seem to give him by no surprise, is that he was in the animated JL series, which I’m waiting for you to put on record that he didn’t deserve to be in. I’m waiting for you to state for the record that they should’ve gone with Guy or Kyle and that DC should’ve pulled the trigger and killed off Stewart in 2011 (no pun intended there). Your logic is so warped that the only thing that you acknowledge John for is destroying a planet filled with billions in life, killing Mogo, being crippled and being overall inferior in every way. While at the same time if anyone points out what Hal did, you have an excuse to cover up his actions. Boy, the Hal character is so fortunate to have had caucasians be in total control of creative writing, therefore he’ll always be the man, he’ll always be in the best stories, he’ll always come back to life after committing such atrocities, and even when his live action movie flops, he’ll always have the support of the race in charge of it all. Let it have been John Stewart in the 2011 film and I guarantee you that you would’ve been calling for a new Lantern, like I’m doing now with Hal.

    The creative writers at DC comics has the power to make or break any character that they choose. They could make him/her whatever they want him/her to be, and yet Cyborg is a half man/half machine token black guy. Or as I look at him, half man/half handicapped. Simon Baz’s origins story wreaks of racist connotations and the middle eastern community should be outraged. And John Stewart is more disrespected than Aquaman. At least Aquaman was acknowledged by being made fun of, John wasn’t acknowledged at all. At least Aquaman was defended by director Zack Synder, John Stewart was rewarded for doing a good job in the animated series by almost being killed off. While you sit there and choose to ignore this blatant act of racism. I will keep bringing it up and keep pointing out what DC/Marvel has been doing for years. Your argument is that you don’t care as long as they make a good story, well the three monkeys decided to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil, and as long as you have that mentality, either nothing will change, or it’ll take several more decades before something does. Al all I want is for every real life race on the planet to be represented in comics to be just as good as the mainstream caucasian depicted heroes.

    • Hudson Faber says:

      Nice post, Clyde! The only thing I would have added is that /john is currently being written well and respectfully. Thanks for defending our guy!

  3. Will Pray says:

    “This argument just smacks of White privilege to me. It seems to support the idea that a White person/character can fail, and continue to get opportunity after opportunity, yet a Black person/character can actually SUCCEED and still get all their opportunities taken away”.

    It’s like your in my Brain lol but this is the way of the world not to knock Tyler Perry but if your not exploiting black stereotypes to make them laugh at us while in a dress then your not going to make it cuase thats what they Hollywood wants

    • PadThai2 says:

      With the Internet, I don’t see why we still need to rely on Hollywood. I mean, say what you want about Will Smith, Ice Cube, Spike Lee, Shonda Rhimes but they at least push back a bit against that crap despite the so-called liberal media bashing all of them at some points. I mean, webseries like The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl show that you can make shows geared towards a Black audience without having to worry about catering to the sensibilities of the “If it ain’t white it ain’t right crowd”.

    • Desh Derringer says:

      If that’s the way things are, then they need to change. And people need to stop playing into the image of Black people only being good for being laughed at. Including Black people! If Black people don’t believe they can be heroes that are taken seriously, then no one else will.

  4. anonsaga says:

    Hal’s so-called status as the ‘main’ Green Lantern exists, not because the mythology has been crafted ‘around’ him (it hasn’t), but rather because the focus has been ‘on’ him. That focus can shift to other characters and the Green Lantern brand will still survive – like you said, this has already been proven multiple times. The argument that the focus should stay on Hal because it’s been on Hal (aka tradition) is ‘regressive’ and the #1 reason that legacy characters are never able to fully inherit their legacy. I’m not just talking about John Stewart. I’m also talking about Kyle Rayner (GL), Ryan Choi (Atom), Cassandra Cain (Batgirl), Jason Rusch (Firestorm), Wally West (Flash), Tim Drake (Robin), and countless others. Tradition… needs to be changed. Because this isn’t 1959! Some might argue Hal Jordan’s rich history, the richest of the SEVEN Green Lanterns from Earth (Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz — getting kinda crowded, huh?). That any other Lantern rivals Hal’s popularity, when he in fact ‘does’ have the richest history by far… is very telling. It is not a testament to Hal’s success but rather his failure. It suggests the self-perpetuating cycle of tradition that has been able to keep a character afloat despite OVER FIVE DECADES OF SUB-STANDARD CHARACTERIZATION!

    In “Addressing Arguments Against Using John Stewart as the Cinematic Green Lantern – Part 2”, Steve Rogers notes that it is John Stewart’s name and images that pop up the most when you type ‘Green Lantern’ into the search bar. That’s a very good point that Hollywood execs should pay attention to. While I do think it’s appropriate to pay tribute to Hal Jordan’s legacy because he is an important and beloved character in the Green Lantern mythos, it should be acknowledged that his time is over. It’s very clear he did not and has not connected well with the masses like John Stewart. I both admire and respect DC’s loyalty to Hal… but it’s misguided, irrational, and financially unwise. Everyone’s time comes and goes. Eventually, there will come a time when people tire of John Stewart and hunger for someone else… maybe even Hal again. But for right now, Hal is ice cold and John is red hot. At this point in time, John is the obvious choice, the most lucrative choice, and he’s the right choice.

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