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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So is Hal Jordan Really Without Fear or What?

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today, based on a suggestion by Stephane S, we look at the complicated history of whether Hal Jordan is actually “without fear” or not.

When John Broome introduced Hal Jordan in Showcase #22, the dying Abin Sur told his ring to find someone who is “entirely without fear”…

For nearly thirty years, that was Hal Jordan’s bit. He was without fear. No one really gave it a ton of thought. After all, Daredevil is also “The Man Without Fear.” It is sort of just a cool-sounding thing, ya know?

However, after he took over as the writer of the Green Lantern feature in Action Comics Weekly, Peter David decided to explore the concept of someone being “without fear.” He had people react oddly to Hal’s suggestion that he was without fear.

Later, in Action #612, Hal fights a bad guy who can mess with your emotions…

When he got to FEAR, though, nada…

Hal, as you might imagine, was confused by this. How could he literally be without fear?

So he asks the ring…

The next issue, the ring explains what happened…

Hal has the ring remove the change it made to his psyche and suddenly he was scared of lots of stuff as all of that residual fear came pouring in. He eventually learned to deal with it and by the time Peter David left the title, it was no longer a major plot point.

Writer James Owsley (who launched the Green Lantern feature in Action Comics) returned and the whole “fear lobotomy” plot was never referred to again. However, after the Action Comics Weekly experiment came to an end and Green Lantern got his own title, Owsley wrote a Hal Jordan origin story in Secret Origins #36 that made a point to abandon and forsake the Peter David change to Hal’s origin (it also served as a sort of after the fact introduction to the supporting characters Owsley used during his Green Lantern run in Action – that’s one of them flying with Hal as Hal explains his origin)…

(Mark Waid, editor of Secret Origins at the time, confirmed to me that the above sequence was meant to overwrite the “fear lobotomy” change to the origin).

Interestingly enough, less than a year after writing that Secret Origins story, Owsley wrote a NEW origin for Hal Jordan in Emerald Dawn #1. Here, “without fear” is removed and in its place is the ability to overcome fear…

That’s the way it has been ever since.

At the action-packed conclusion to the Sinestro Corps War in Green Lantern #25, Geoff Johns reiterates this…

And in his popular Secret Origin storyline (specifically issue #30), Johns has that as Hal’s origin, as well (and naturally, that was what made it into the film adaptation of Green Lantern, as well)…

So there ya go!

Thanks again to Stephane for the suggestion!


The flight simulator Hal is in when the ring contacts him looks goofily small in Action #613. No way could he fit there, unless his lower body is significantly smaller than his upper body.

Peter David wrote Green Lantern? Why hasn’t this run been collected? I love how Hal goes all Michael Fleisher Spectre on his Rogues’ Gallery. Nasty stuff and very ironic given Hal’s later history…

I suppose it makes more sense to “overcome” great fear rather than not feel it at all, but I grew up with the Broome origin and it never bothered me. Hal is, after all, a fictional character. But I like how Peter handled it here. Wish he’d done more work on GL at the time as he did on Aquaman.

Wow, this brain rearrangement promoted by the ring is scary, glad it was ignored, that would make the Ring all too powerful. If this was the case, the Guardians would just have to lobotomize the entire universe.

Have you done a column on Lord Malvolio yet?

Clutch, I wasn’t bothered by “born without fear” either. It’s not as if fearlessness is an alien concept for adventure heroes–Hal’s just emphasized it a little more (and in the DCU I have even less trouble with the idea of people born without fear). The “power to overcome fear” works well if there has to be a retcon of it. David’s version was clunky to the extreme (generally I thought the entire Action run of GL was a mess)
While I’d count it more an error than a retcon, Denny O’Neill did at least two stories where Hal has to face fear (World’s Finest 201) and a Bronze Age story after GL’s book got revived.
Darwyn Cooke in New Frontier implied Hal had repressed all fear after his experiences in the Korean War IIRC.
Interestingly, there are some people who become fearless due to damage to their amygdala.

Malvolio? I’m guessing not the pompous steward from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night?

The ring detects Hal Jordan is a stalwart fellow who isn’t yellow…which is a good thing, considering…

It occurs to me that Hal’s had a few of these. This, the drunk driving from EMERALD DAWN, Even the gray hair that Gerard Jones & Pat Broderick gave him in the 90s was retconned away (After John Byrne attempted to give it an explanation in GANTHET’S TALE).

Personally, I like the “Overcome Fear” version better. It’s simpler and less convoluted than David’s change, and for comic book superheroes, “less convoluted” is almost always a good way to go.

Ooh, just thought of another – Geoff Johns made a couple more explict changes to the GL mythos — That only certain people are able to generate enough willpower to use the ring and that it can really HURT to do it (As Ollie Queen discovered). Before, pretty much anyone could use a GL ring (I believe Gerard Jones did a story where two truckers stole Hal & Guy Gardner’s rings).

I notice Geoff Johns seems to have retconned away the flight simulator as well.

Even though the ultimate result was a little convoluted, that Peter David story on its own does seem like a pretty god read.

Is the “ring picked Hal over Guy because he was closer” point still in canon?

John, that would be a big Forsaken indeed–they established as far back as the early Silver Age that the ring was accessible to someone besides the wielder (hobo Bill Baggett was the first, I think).
I think the worst attempt to abandon-and-forsake was a Jones story that showed the yellow weakness is arbitrarily instilled by the Guardians to limit the GL’s powers. And that Alan Scott’s ring was a regular power ring that had been altered by the Guardians to be vulnerable to wood instead of yellow.

I have to admit that I prefer the ability to overcome fear better. Remember the part where Hal was on a talk show and babbled about being without fear, and they all laughed at him?

Now…if he could just overcome the total lack of common sense, he’d be a much happier man.

Making the conflict between fear and will explicit and literal in Green Lantern is probably Geoff Johns finest hour. It is a smart change that draws on what had gone before in a clever way.

That said, the Peter David GL run was (like a lot of ACW) a lot of fun and unjustly uncollected. The lobotomy by power ring arc actually fits better with Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s “Tyger, Tyger” than any of the retcons that borrowed directly from it. Fear betrays Abin Sur, so he assumes that is the problem. It also makes the ring a mind blessing in a way that connects the Silver Age Green Lantern to his Golden Age predecessor. If the damn thing will change the brain of th new ring-bearer to meet the specifications of the old, then what won’t it do?

Wow, Peter David’s GL run in Action Comics Weekly was just awful. and most of it had some bad art too. I am glad they never collected that mess!

Well, the problem with the idea of being “fearless” is that it was taken kind of literally. What they meant was that it had to be someone who was brave which is more often defined these days as “able to overcome fear” or “able to proceed despite fear”.

@Sallyp If I remember right the “talk show” was Oprah, complete with a poorly drawn Oprah leading questioning about Hal and fear. When I opened this article I expected to see a shot from that be ause it was so strange.

So strange that it might very well appear in a “Strange” feature at this very comic book blog, hence it not appearing here. ;)

@Dean- the problem is that Hal seemed to think that ALL Green Lanterns were supposed to be without fear. PAD’s retcon made it seem like that was just what Abin Sur wanted. It’s hard to believe that Hal spent all these years among the corps without realizing the truth.
Also, the idea that the ring will Mind Rape people unless the wielder words his commands exactly is not usually how the rings are written.

never liked the man with out fear concept of hal for one if he was able to be without fear then sinistro would not have gotten him infected with paralax who is the enity of fear. and surprised to find peter david did a run on green lantern changing it to the ring lobotomizing hal and making him without fear

If only I could decipher that cryptic comment from Brian…..

God, I miss the days when Green Lanterns (including Hal) didn’t kill people. Sigh…

Thanks for this Brian – except for showing the David GL feature in Action Comics. That was a baaaaad run!

@ Michael:

I am not arguing that the PAD run on Green Lantern was a lost masterpiece, or anything. The art was below average to poor. His decision to bump off Katma Tui was a poor one.

However, PAD had some really interesting ideas that were outside the classic Green Lantern box. Like the Hulk, GL is a franchise that needs some unconventional thinking from time-to-time.

Only version of Hal’s origin I accept is the John Broome story. He’s fearless, and that’s it. If I can accept jewelry making someone almost invincible I can accept some people can’t be scared.

I’ve just always assumed “without fear” meant “doesn’t have a panic reaction”, but sounded cooler. Mentally reedited it that way in the past, and I will continue to do so.

Peter David’s run on GL may not have been perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the current mess.

I remember a scene from Grant Morrison’s run on JLA where Daniel, the son of Dream(in a rare DC/Vertigo crossover) told Kyle Rayner that he would make a better Green Lantern than Hal ever was, “because you know fear.”

Actually, the Star Sapphire storyline which had the death of Katma Tui was written by James Owsley, not PAD. Denny O’Neil was the editor, so let the speculation begin on whose idea it was…


Yet another example of an original throwaway idea being taken and trampled on with club-footed literalism by people who thought they were being clever.

Good to see Hal Jordan before the ‘Johnsification’ of the character.

Geoff Johns also explained why Kyle’s ring didn’t have the yellow weakness…because Parallax (once explained as the fear entity and not just a Hal Jordan persona) was no longer in the central battery. When it was returned to the battery, it became the idea of knowing your fear and overcoming it would allow a GL ring to affect yellow. Nowadays there shouldn’t be a yellow weakness again, since Parallax isn’t trapped (after War of the GLs).

Along the same lines of taking the expression “fearless” way too literally, there was a storyline in the earliest issues of “Marvel Comics Presents” that featured an invisible alien parasite that fed on the emotion of fear. Over the course of four stories, it attempted to feed off several different heroes (Silver Surfer, Captain America, the Thing, and Thor) by making them see their greatest fears, but it failed each time the hero overcame his fear. Finally, weakened from “starvation,” it latched on to another potential victim, only to discover it literally had no fears to feed on…that’s right, it just happened to be Daredevil, the Man Without Fear!

It’s just that “ability to overcome fear” seems more human and credible than someone who is just “without fear”…plus as the old proverb says…”the brave is not without fear…the brave knows how to conquer it”


November 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I remember reading those Peter David stories. Ouch. Great comics writer – just not on Green Lantern. Forgotten storylines for a reason? Probably.

Really, the 80s were a bad time for Green Lantern writers, outside of maybe Marv Wolfman. The 90s too, for that matter; Gerard Jones started stong focusing on rebuidling the GL Corps, but he (and/or DC) lost the plot halfway through. To the point they blew up the whole concept to make it Spider-Man lite. Which worked pretty well for several years, surprisingly.

But Johns has done a saintly job of rebuilding again over the last 10 years.

I’ve just always assumed “without fear” meant “doesn’t have a panic reaction”, but sounded cooler. Mentally reedited it that way in the past, and I will continue to do so.

This reminds me of one of my all-time favorite GL moments from circa GL 192: Star Sapphire hurled a powerless Hal Jordan to Earth from a great height, and Hal didn’t scream or panic at all. He just stayed calm & looked for a way out while he was plummeting to certain death. A striking bit from Steve Englehart and Joe Staton.

I loved Englehart’s run on the title. And on Green Lantern Corps. The “Well Green Lantern is only interesting if he’s the only one” argument for eliminating the Corps still infuriates me.

I haven’t started on the Johns stuff yet, but I thought that Action Comics Weekly run was the best Green Lantern I’d ever read. I really enjoyed it – I didn’t realise it was Peter David.

Though they cocked up the cover by showing the Hall getting scared mid-flight beet a few weeks before it actually happened.

Back in the late 1950s no one would have taken “without fear” that literally. Sensibilities changed a lot since.

Was anyone REALLY wondering about the whole “without fear” thing when Peter David wrote the story? Probably not. It probably just bugged him personally and he made a story out of it, like how someone in the Silver Age decided that there needed to be a “reason” for Jimmy to have been picked as “Superman’s Pal” (SPOILER ALERT: He was his babysitter on Krypton, and Superman remembered him!) and thus made a story out of THAT. It’s such a silly thing that comics do, but it’s also one of my FAVORITE silly things that they do. Worse comes to worst, you can always just IGNORE the silly things, after all.

Except for the Jimmy Olsen babysitter story, anyway. If THAT’S not canon, I’m no longer a fan. You hear me, DC? Either Jimmy once spanked a pre-Superbaby Kal-el or I WALK.

Luis, as someone who started reading in the early sixties, I had no trouble taking it literally with Hal. Not with DD, where it was obviously more a catchphrase.

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