on October 4, 2013
THE CREATOR of Green Lantern John Stewart. The legend of our favorite Green Lantern is all thanks to this visionary, brilliant comic book artist. Neal Adams is the artist who drew the classic, award winning Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics from the early ’70s. His realistic art style was greatly influential toward progressing comics away from the generally more cartoon-y appearance often seen in the Silver Age of the ’50s and ’60s. In fact, Neal Adams is one of the primary figures behind ushering in what is known as the Bronze Age, which differs from the Silver Age not only with more realistic looking art, but also darker plots and more mature themes involving such topics as politics, drug abuse, and racism.
He first began working with writer Denny O’Neil on Batman. The duo is responsible for taking The World’s Greatest Detective back to his darker roots and getting rid of the camp of the character’s Silver Age self. They would continue working together on Green Lantern and change the direction of the book by focusing on Earthbound stories dealing with relevant topics. It was within this time in the early ’70s that Neal Adams got the idea to create John Stewart.
He felt that Hal Jordan should have a backup, but it turned out he already had one with the Guy Gardner character. Neal Adams didn’t feel the idea of another white American male Green Lantern was very engaging or realistic, as members of the Green Lantern Corps are supposed to represent the most fearless and honorable beings in the universe. Having only white men represent humans within the Corps presented an extremely skewed view. Therefore, Neal presented the notion of having someone of a different ethnicity be Green Lantern. The editor, Julius Shwartz, approved the idea, and thus, John Stewart, known as the Bronze Age Green Lantern, was created with the help of writer Denny O’Neil.
Green Lantern John Stewart, by Neal Adams.
It was an incredibly progressive move to have a character like Green Lantern as a black man. What’s also surprising is that the story in which John Stewart is introduced also reveals the Silver Age Green Lantern’s bigotry.
“Yeah, well I didn’t much like the way that the black Green Lantern, John Stewart, spoke to Hal Jordan at times but I really liked Hal Jordan’s surprise that somebody had suddenly nailed him for being subtly bigoted. It’s like, “Screw you. How about that?” “Oh? What? I didn’t do anything?” “Yes you did!” “I didn’t notice it!” “Well you did you jerk.” It’s one of those shocking things that in those days white people needed to hear that whatever you think you’re doing and you think is okay isn’t. Don’t do it anymore. Stop it. “Oh no! I’m not…” “Yes you are a bigot. You just don’t know it.” And it’s not just this bigotry where people have this outlandish bigotry. It’s this quiet learned bigotry.”
Despite working on Hal Jordan more than John Stewart, Neal Adams feels closest to his creation, and is very happy that this generation views John Stewart as the Green Lantern, due to the success of the cartoon series Justice League, and John Stewart’s prominent role in said series. Also from comicbloc:
“Interviewer: Well I know a lot of small kids today, their first connection with Green Lantern is through the Justice League cartoon and to them the Green Lantern is black. They don’t know who Hal Jordan is.
Neal: Right! Who’s that black guy? That’s Green Lantern. And does it seem to bother anybody?
John Stewart has made such a difference to many of us, young and old, and he continues to do so. He is DC Comics’ best minority hero, and minorities deserve to have heroes that represent them, too. It’s understandable (though still unfortunate) that practically all heroes created in the ’40s to the ’60s were white. It was a different world back then, and the creators obviously weren’t targeting minorities. Neal Adams was one of the first people to challenge that by giving readers a minority hero with the prestigious Green Lantern name. What is also interesting is that John Stewart became a stellar crusader as opposed to just stereotypically fighting crime in the hood like some other black characters.
Neal Adams is aware of the difference John Stewart has made. From graphicpolicy.com:
“John Stewart has made such a difference…. I’ve had black guys come to my table and cry because it’s made such a difference.”
John Stewart in action!
Neal may not have worked on John that much, but he created him, and to this very day, he still has a lot invested in the character and looks out for him and his fans. When Neal Adams heard about the John Stewart death decree from DC Editorial, looking out for his creation, he decided to look into it himself.
Also from graphicpolicy.com:
“I had Jim Lee called and I had Dan Didio called. Ok. Because I can do that. They said “No that’s bullshit. That’s total bullshit.” Now that could still be a lie. You know. It could happen.”
Neal Adams is my personal favorite Green Lantern artist, not only because he created my favorite Green Lantern character, but also because his work is so beautiful to behold. It is timeless, expressive, detailed, distinctive, original, and glorious. Neal Adams was justly inducted in the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1999.
He is, without a doubt, one of the most legendary comic book creators of all time, doing so much to evolve the industry and leaving his large, unforgettable mark on characters like Batman and Green Arrow. Of course, what I value the most from him is his advancing, generous, and considerate thinking when he created Green Lantern John Stewart. It is also touching how he continues to champion this character.
Thank you so much, Neal Adams. I wish there were more comic creators and officials who are like you. If so, this industry would likely be much more accessible, progressive, open minded, and successful. It’s because of you that this website is even here, and John Stewart fans all over thank you from the bottom of our hearts for creating this wonderful, enduring character.
Watch the video below to hear Neal Adams reflect on memories of John Stewart’s creation, and also the large impact he has today. Special thanks to Hudson Faber for bringing the audio file to my attention.