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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #81

Green Lantern Week, part the fourth: featuring the greatest ever Green Lantern of Earth!


81. Guy Gardner

Guy Gardner 1.jpg

Guy Gardner is my favorite human GL. Why? I blame Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. They’re the two fellas who really made me care about the character. The rest of his portrayals haven’t been that great.

Take a look at his history. Guy (first appearance: Green Lantern #59) was the #2 choice for Abin Sur’s replacement, because Hal Jordan was closer. Guy was an upstanding guy (heh) who eventually become involved in the Corps, but got terribly injured and horribly brain damaged, then woke up as the bastard we all love (I’m not really happy with the fact that it started with a brain injury, though. That’s… not a good portrayal of people who have suffered similar damage). He had a great stint in the Justice League before he lost his GL status and ended up with Sinestro’s ring. Now, that one I didn’t mind, and it led to the good Gerard Jones series.

Guy Gardner 3.jpg

It didn’t last long, though, and Beau Smith, “manliest of men,” was brought in to write the book. Guy became “Warrior,” wearing silly armor. He quickly lost the armor and started looking even sillier, with strange war paint and weapons growing out of his body and stuff, along with a retconned-in “Vuldarian” background, whatever the hell that was. Damn Zero Hour. And let’s all do our best to forget that time he turned into a woman. Crimeny. It was also around this point that he opened a bar called “Warriors.” I suppose that wasn’t a bad idea.

Guy Gardner 5.jpg

Later, he got killed off, but quickly came back. Finally, somebody decided to bring back the Classic Interpretation of Guy, thank God. (Giffen and DeMatteis had done the same and even had the return of his yellow ring in I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League, but, of course, that’s been completely ignored by editorial.) He’s a Green Lantern again, finally, and leading a “SWAT team”-like group of GL “Honor Guard” in the new Green Lantern Corps series.

Yeah, so, I like Guy. My favorite interpretation of him, the jerk with a hidden heart of gold who seems like a loose cannon but will pull it together when the chips are down, worked wonderfully in JLI. I loved his relationship with Ice, and how she saw something in Guy no one else did (it led to a terrific and heartbreaking moment in JLA Classified #7. I can’t find the link, but it was Greg Burgas’ favorite issue of whatever year it was, I think). I loved Guy’s hero worship of General Glory, his childhood comic book idol. I thought it was hilarious when he got a bump on the head and became a sickeningly sweet fellow. I love his unrelenting heroism, even if he’s easily hatable.

Guy Gardner 2.jpg

Yeah, Guy’s pretty awesome, and he’d agree with me when I said I’d rather he be Earth’s GL than that boring (and occasionally homicidal) Hal Jordan, or the undercharacterized John Stewart, or that sometimes-annoying Kyle Rayner who goes through the same character arc every other year. Guy Gardner is the man, man. He’s slogged through a lot of crappy stories and survived. Let’s hope they don’t ruin him again.

Naturally, no look at Guy is complete without the “one punch” moment from Justice League, and I present it to you courtesy of Dave’s Long Box. In fact, he had an entire Guy Gardner Week. Check out his October and November 2006 archives for more.

There’s also the woefully incomplete Guy Gardner History and the far more complete but not as detailed Guy Gardner Wiki. I live to serve.

Guy Gardner 4.jpg

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if they updated his costume, because his current one is too reflective of the 80’s era in which it spawned, and, you know, that was twenty years ago. [Edit:] This recent redesign at Project: Rooftop is pretty nifty. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it in the books. (Thanks for reminding me about it, chdb).

So that’s my bit on Guy. What does everyone else think? Fandom always seems split on this character and I’d like to hear your reactions.


I didn’t know he got a brain injury and turned into a jerk, which is kind of annoying, because “horribly injured” indicates serious problems, and Guy doesn’t seem to have any. However, from reading up on the subject, brain injuries often do completely change the personalities of the injured, so I guess it’s not that big of a stretch. It’s still vaguely unsettling.

There is only one true Green Lantern. And his name is Guy Gardner. He’s one of DC’s best characters ever, for all the reasons listed above.

I still like the costume, though. A bit dated, yes, but it’s still the best looking GL costume out there. And I say they keep it (so long as the boots stay under control, there was an issue of Justice League Quarterly back in the early 90s where Guy’s boots were thicker than his torso).


March 22, 2007 at 2:03 pm

The JLI Guy Gardner will always be the best. I, too, have a soft spot in my heart for Guy. Although it broke my heart when he ended up being “Guy Gardner: Warrior.” There was something so wrong about that.

Really, Steve Engelhart was using brain-damaged Guy as a fairly blunt — and really not very effective or interesting — satire of the Rambo mentality that was all around pop culture in the 1980s.

Giffen and DeMatteis took that characterization and simply allowed the absurdity of the caricature to work in a less “serious” context, so that Guy went from hamhanded political humor to riotous character comedy without having to be changed too much.

Project: Rooftop just put a fantastic redesign of Guy’s costume that, frankly, DC should adopt post-haste.

Whoa! Project: Rooftop is AWESOME!

Thanks, Dean. If I ever write Supergirl– admittedly, a snowball’s chance in hell at this moment in time– I’d want you to draw it.

And yeah, Apodacalpaca, Project: Rooftop does kicks ass.

Excellent post on Guy. Interesting that many people feel Giffen was the one who made him more of a one-note boor than deepened the character like they did to you.

Guy broke out of the Opie and Archie redhead stereotype (and maybe into the other fiery, hot tempered redhead).

While I like the brooding Kyle, and the leader Hal, it’s still Guy as GL for me.

I was no fan of Guy, for the longest time. But after reading the first issue of the Keith Giffen-J.M. DeMatteis Justice League, well, I definitely love him now.

Andrew Collins

March 22, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Wow, Guy wasn’t half bad as a woman…yet it’s still pretty creepy :D

Guy is pretty damn cool and reading him in Giffen & DeMatteis’ Justice League gave me a whole new appreciation for him. His “date” with Ice is one of the best issues of that series, and the issue of FKATJL you referenced indeed had one of the single most genuinely touching moments I’ve ever read in comics. The only good thing that came out of her pointless death…

The Kirbydotter

March 22, 2007 at 3:38 pm

I worship Giffen and DeMatteis’ Justice League (and all related projects like JLEurope, JLQ, etc.).

I’m surprised current DC writers have Guy Gardner back in the spotlight. Since he was such an integral part of the “fun Justice League” I can’t help myself wondering how come he’s still alive??!! (they killed Maxwell Lord, the real Blue Beetle, Ice…)

Booster Gold is even getting a new series!

Maybe not everything was that “bad” after all in the good old JL with no “A”…

I miss the “fun” part of super-hero comics (I am tired of gritty, dark, serious, and “Identity whatsover” and all other long running crossovers).

Guy Gardner is the one true Green Lantern. Just ask him, he’ll tell you. But yes, his history has been quite convoluted. He was a Green Lantern for all of a DAY, taking over for Hal Jordan, when his ring was malfunctioning. Actually, it was his lantern, and it blew up in Guy’s face, the second time that he used it. They all thought that he was dead, but he’d been blown into an alternate dimension…which didn’t stop Hal from makinng time with Guy’s fiancee, Kari Limbo. In fact, they were about to be married, when she finally figured out that Guy wasn’t dead. Then he was tortured by Sinestro for a while, before being rescued by Hal, which caused the brain damage and put him into a coma for three years.

The Guardians woke him up during the first Crises, but left the brain damage, because they figured that he made a meaner Green Lantern that way. I did love the issue where he decides to get all the other Lanterns on earth drunk, because they won’t go out and party with him on New Year’s Eve. And G’nort of course, thinks that he’s the bees knees.

I do think he has the best costume…now that they’ve reduced the boots to normal proportions. And given him a better haircut.

According to Beau Smith, he never intended for Guy to ahve either the silly armor or the Vuldarian powers. He wanted Guy to be more like Indiana Jones: a globetrotting, completely human badass. But DC demanded that Guy have powers of some sort.

Look, it’s very simple. Sure, they killed off Blue Beetle, Ice, Rocket Red, and Sue Dibney. Wusses, all of ‘em. But are you gonna risk the comeback you’ll get if you try to kill off Guy Gardner and fail? DC wouldn’t have editorial offices left! Dan DiDio would wind up hanging off of a flagpole in his boxers, and Geoff Johns…well, the less said the better, but it involves a rubber hose, the hardcover copy of ‘Infinite Crisis’, and a certain bodily orifice Not To Be Named.

The guys at DC might hate the Giffen Justice League, but they ain’t crazy.

Best human Green Lantern? Not to take away from Gardner, but personally my money always goes on Alan Scott, although that’s probably just me. (And he was never attached to the Corps anyway, so maybe he doesn’t count.)

Incidentally, is the current Green Lantern Corps series any good?

Andrew Collins

March 22, 2007 at 5:16 pm

Oops, just wanted to correct my post. I mentioned the Gardner scene involving Ice happened in FKATJL, it was actually an issue of JLA: Classified…

Guy Gardner is awesome. For some reason, I always want to think he has an Irish accent. It just seems like it’d fit him. Where’s Guy’s representation outside the comics. Hal got to be in the Super Friends, Kyle was on Superman TAS, John got to be on Justice League. Even in the episodes with the rest of the Corps, no Guy.

How cool would a GLC cartoon with Guy as the lead character be?

Ugh. Guy freaking Gardner, the best Earth GL? Sheesh. Although I shoulda seen this coming after that dopey G’Nort post. You’ve got poor taste in Lanterns, Bill.

The only way I can imagine Gardner working for me is if he’s relegated to non-ring-wielding supporting-cast status. Imagine if Johns had not been such a wuss (by pushing the reset button for everything) with Rebirth, and left Guy as just a dude running a bar. Then he’d be sort of like Bibbo for the GL comic. (Earth has too many Lanterns anyway.) But if they’d actually take Guy’s power ring away permanently and develop his character from that point, who knows? He might end up being actually interesting, instead of a walking cliché with a horrible haircut.

The Kirbydotter, my friend, I’d recommend you go out and read this week’s Birds of Prey. You might like it.

Guy Gardner’s great. I lost all interest in him when he stopped being a Green Lantern though. It’s good to know he’s back!


March 23, 2007 at 4:59 am

In an annual during the Giffen & DeMatties run some guy looked itno the JL’s future, and Guy Gardner had founded some sort of cult that had millions of members.
It was all about living life with attitude. Guy’s attitude (and haircut!)

I like Guy a lot, and while he’s fine as a “comedy” character, I like the approach of Beau Smith and the current GLC comic better. Characters who are abrasive, arrogant, and often jerky, but *also* often RIGHT, are interesting!

For some reason I always thought it made so much more sense for Guy to have the yellow ring.

I figured the talk about Guy’s costume is the best time to bring this up:

Why does the Green Latern Corps… a police or military unit, not have real uniforms like every other police or military unit? I could see having different classes or something, to make sure all of the main guys get different ones, but it seems like every Latern’s costume is totally random.

Well, Guy was inducted as part of a rival faction of Guardians starting their own GL Corps (this was during the Crisis, and there was a schism among the Guardians as to the best way to handle it)…that’d explain why his was different. (And, of course, the years that followed were chaotic for the Corps, what with the Guardians leaving our dimension, returning, dying, coming back, et cetera et cetera.)

Beyond that, I’d say it has a lot to do with the practical difficulties of designing costumes for so many alien species and cultures. Heck, imagine a society where green signifies death the way black does for Western culture! “Run! It’s DEATH Lantern!”

“Heck, imagine a society where green signifies death the way black does for Western culture! “Run! It’s DEATH Lantern!””

I like the way GLC is dealing with something much like that with the new Korugarian GL. And it’s a neat idea – really, after their experience with Sinestro, having a new Green Lantern would be not unlike having, on Earth, a nice, friendly Superman type show up saying “Just here to help” … and he’s wearing a Nazi SS uniform.

A beautiful apology for Guy. Every word of this is stone cold truth.

My favorite issue of the Giffen/Demattis run was the funeral for Scott Free (well, the malfunctioning robot that replaced him when he… oh, let’s just call it Scott Free, because nobody in the JLA knew any better).

In an issue full of great moments, Guy goes to see Ice. He sits on her bed and pours out his heart, but frames it all by saying that he thought Ice might be upset, and want someone to talk to. He tells her that she probably thought Scott was a good person, and she probably feels all broken up inside, like she wants to punch something.

And Ice just leans on his shoulder, and agrees.

Guy’s expressions were heartbreaking. He and Ice were totally in character. And you could see what Ice saw in Guy, just for one page…

The idea of a superhero who is essentially an asshole has never been better implemented than in Guy Gardener. He’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk and we love him just the same. My only exposure to post-JLI Guy Gardener was in INFINITE CRISIS and it seemed to me that his character was being de-jerkified to the extent that he is now “just another superhero,” which is a real shame :(


March 24, 2007 at 3:57 am

“My only exposure to post-JLI Guy Gardener was in INFINITE CRISIS and it seemed to me that his character was being de-jerkified to the extent that he is now “just another superhero,” which is a real shame”

He seemed to still have it in him in Blue Beetle #1.

“Beyond that, I’d say it has a lot to do with the practical difficulties of designing costumes for so many alien species and cultures. Heck, imagine a society where green signifies death the way black does for Western culture! “Run! It’s DEATH Lantern!””

I thought of that too, but the colors (Green, white, and black) are always the same. Actually, thats the only thing that is always the same. Some Laterns have shoulder-pads, some don’t wear pants, and some just have different patterns and designs of their costumes for no rhyme or reason.
-I just don’t think it works as well as it should.

Rebis nailed it; Guy Gardner, as interpreted by Giffen and DeMatteis, is a lousy, pointless concept.

He had a purpose in Englehart’s GLC (and incidentally, he was a far more casual killer there than anyone seems to remember) but the personality retcon that was silently introduced in “Legends” and “JLI” made the character just another in the list of irritating Giffen JL out-of-character retconned heroes (along the likes of Booster Gold, Batman, Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle). Gosh, I hated those silly stories.

The GLC and the Guardians are supposed to have a fair degree of pomp and circunstance; start having them turn a blind eye to the likes of Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner and their credibility suffers a lot. If you must have an assh*** character, pull a Takion/Firestorm and give him powers in a freak, random accident as those characters had.

I’ll defend the Beau Smith (and Priest) version of Guy!

He took him from being a stereotyped “jerk” character into being one DC’s best multi-dimensional ones.

SMith might not have wanted to give Guy the Vuldarian powers, but he used them well…One of the greatest moments in the 90’s was Guy saves the president and is honored truly as an American hero…but Guy, rather than glorying in it, is more confused and contiplative about how his life has changed, and he has a heart to heart talk with SUPERMAN of all folks, about what it means to be the last of a dead race.

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