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Things That Turned Out Bad – The Relationship Between Hal Jordan and Arisia

In this column, I will spotlight plotlines by writers that probably weren’t a good idea at the time and have only become more problematic in retrospect. I’ll try to stick with stuff that’s more ill-conceived than flat-out offensive (like racist stereotypes of characters during the 1940s).

Today we look at the odd relationship between Hal Jordan and his fellow Green Lantern, Arisia.

Arisia debuted in Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #1 (by Mike Barr, Len Wein, Joe Staton and Frank McLaughlin), created by Mike Barr (who gave her his own last name, only reversed – Rrab). Arisia is clearly set up as the plucky teen heroine for the Green Lantern Corps (similar to a then-recent creation, Kitty Pryde)…

HalArisia1

Check out Hal’s reference to her as “Little Sister”…

Then, at the end of the issue, when Hal turns down a chance to leave the Corps, check out their interaction…

Literally a big brother/little sister relationship, right?

During his run on the title, Len Wein had Arisia as a supporting cast member and he played up Arisia as having a schoolgirl crush on Hal, like in 1984′s Green Lantern #181 (by Wein, Dave Gibbons and Mark Farmer) when Hal quits the Corps…

Well, soon after, Steve Englehart took over the book and eventually turned it into a book officially spotlighting a group of lanterns as a set team, including changing the name of the book to the Green Lantern Corps.

Englehart decided to further develop the Arisia/Hal relationship, only I think he likely made a mistake in doing so.

First off, he furthered her flirtations, like in Green Lantern #201 (by Englehart, Joe Staton and Mark Farmer, just like all the rest of the Green Lantern Corps issues in this piece)…

Then, in Green Lantern #204, we have Hal explain why he and Arisia cannot be together…

However, Arisia’s body was going through some changes and in Green Lantern Corps #206, she and Hal are trapped in a cave by Black Hand. Hal notices something different about her…

Later, we learn what the deal is…

He even reiterates his position later…

While Hal SAYS that is his position, he obviously does not feel as strongly about it as he says, since by the end of the issue…

The following issue Englehart makes his big push for why it is okay…

HalArisia11

And by Green Lantern Corps #211, it is just an accepted part of the book (Guy has spiked everyone’s drinks, so they’re all a bit drunk)…

The relationship even continued PAST Englehart’s involvement on the book. When Jim Owsley took over writing Hal’s adventures as Green Lantern became the lead feature in Action Comics, the relationship remained intact, as shown here in Action Comics #607 (by Owsley and Tod Smith)…

When Hal and Arisia DO break up (when Peter David took over the writing duties on Hal’s adventures), it’s not even explicitly BECAUSE of the age thing, although it played a role.

In Action Comics #616 (by David, Richard Howell and Arne Starr), Hal is trapped while Arisia is outside, freaking out because she doesn’t know how to help without her ring. When Hal escapes, he reacts poorly to her slow reaction time…

And in Action Comics #620 (also by David, Howell and Starr), she just decides that it is time for them to break up…

And we readers were free to pretty much ignore the relationship from that point on.

54 Comments

Good choice. I remember reading these when they came out and being really creeped out by Arisia aging herself and Hal deciding in the end that a relationship between the two of them was okay. Despite the physical changes I never bought that she was ready mentally for an adult relationship.

Countdown to Carol Danvers…

Difficult choice, I say.

Comic book relationships are very difficult to write in a convincing way, and I must concede that Hal and Arisia’s wasn’t a particularly well written one.

Part of the problem is deciding how time is passing for the characters. Arisia grew quite noticeably between her first appearance and #181, for instance. And she is, after all, an alien.

In real life, #181 was published in Sep 1984, #206 in Nov 1986. How much time passed for the characters themselves, and how much life experience they had in the mean time? Probably a lot less than those two years. But it is very difficult to say for certain. Ultimately, it is a matter of trusting the writers, editors and the characters themselves, or choosing instead not to.

As I recall it, fans of the false Lantern (he-whose-name-shall-not-be-spoken, but whose initials are K.R.) often made a point of attacking Hal by way of his relationship with Arisia. But it really is very difficult to decide how mature she actually was. It does not help that by this point most characters were acting in very immature ways. Hal himself regressed quite a bit, as shown above.

Englehart actually touched on the idea that she was fully mature mentally by her own people’s standards. But then dropped it for the aged-by-the-ring angle which rereading recently I didn’t think worked.
But urgh, those posted pages bring us to the era when all the GLs lost their power because Hal couldn’t possibly be interesting if he wasn’t unique. Hated the rationale, hated the results and I really hated the Action Comics run.

In fact I’d count that as singularly ill-conceived though I don’t know if that’s the type of thing you’re looking for for this series, Brian.

On the plus side, Joe Staton co-created Arisia, and he drew much of the artwork displayed in this piece. Really nice stuff. I definitely count his as one of the all-time iconic Green Lantern artists. Also nice to see some work by Dave Gibbons and Richard Howell.

I love how Hal makes a joke about people thinking he’s a child molester. What a weird, weird time.

Yeah, that line really stands out since it makes it clear that Englehart gets why this seems really weird, but he still goes for it.

What *is* the age of consent in the galaxy?

I’m personally just baffled as to why Engelhart (or anyone) really thought this was a story that needed to be told.

Didn’t Johns establish that Arisia was actually much older than is implied in her earlier appearances, basically attempting to make the whole thing less creepy in a quick line of dialog?

Gotta love Englehart kicking the whole thing off by sticking her in that quasi-schoolgirl outfit.

Yes, XBen, Johns did try to hand-wave it away with something like that, but it just sounded like a guy defending himself in front of a judge. “I swear, your honor, on her planet she’s 18!”

nice to know how that i am not the only one who thought the arrisia hal relationship was even though technicaly Arisia was an alien still bad from the start one from her using the ring to try and age her to be adult enough for hal. even though the one who started the thing said it was due to her planet rotating around the sun differantly. still the relationship was creepy from the start even though Arisia is an alien lady she was and still could be jail bait for Hal a wrong relationship.at least peter had the characters smart enough to relizie its time to end things.

I seem to remember there was a scene in GL Corps. when Arisia confronts Hal that he only paid attention to her after her change.

The ’80s were a Golden Age of young girls hooking up with older guys, weren’t they? Arisia and Hal, Wilson Slade and Terra, even Colossus and Kitty Pryde. I wonder if it has anything to do with so many male writers of the time hitting middle age.

How many of these are going to be John Byrne related? Half? More? You could really just do an entire column dedicated to poorly advised ideas that he’s had (and I say this as a huge fan of his work).

@Ted Craig –

There’s a difference between a midlife crisis and being a pervert.

Don’t forget Wonder Girl and *shudder* Terry Long.

Terry Long: The character for whom dying in a car bombing was too good a fate.

The image of a drunk Arisa leaning over and kissing Hal made me throw up a little in my mouth.

The image of a drunk Arisa leaning over and kissing Hal made me throw up a little in my mouth.

Yeah, I specifically included that image because, well, it certainly spotlighted the oddity of the pairing.

Oh Hal. Poor Arisia.

Hal, you would hump a rock pile if you thought there was a snake under it.

Well, remember, Englehart is the guy behind the Scarlet Witch becoming involved with and marrying an artificial lifeform (which I imagine will be featured here at some future date). Note that while John Byrne caught flack for undoing it, no other writer seemed comfortable with putting the Vision and Scarlet Witch back together again.

Also, what’s the deal with her going from cute tomboy to Mary Worth’s older sister at the end?

Is Arisa’s age ever given? As others have mentioned, her species could mature differently than ours, so I do not have any real problem with this.

Arisa was not portrayed as a girl in Guy Gardner: Warrior and that would have be a year or two (DC time) after Engleheart’s GLC?

On a related subject, are the people bothered by Hal and Arisa bothered by Nelix and his girl friend in Star Trek Voyager? She was around four or six right?

Also @ sallyp
That part of Hal’s characterization could be a column of it’s own; it was never part of his character until the 2000s.

I’m not sure this became more problematic in hindsight. This was pretty creepy from day 1. Doubly worse when matched with John Stewart’s pretty mature relationship with Katma Tui. (You know, before they decided to kill her). Can we blame Parallax that far back?

@kdu2814
The page from #204 has her saying that she is 14 by Earth standards, which presumably means she is 14 Earth years old. (She argues that she is 28 by her planet’s standard, because her planet circles its sun twice as often as Earth. For that to all work out, it means she is 14 Earth years old. Hal’s counter-argument to her claim of being “28″ is that it doesn’t matter how long or short her planet’s years are, she is still 14 Earth years old which is too young for him.)

But as for all the people being creeped out by the relationship, PAD’s breakup story seems worse for both Arisia and Hal than anything that came before it.

@Ted Craig I didn’t feel as creeped out with Colossus and Kitty for some reason … I think it’s because the age difference wasn’t as big (he was 18 or 19 when she was 14) and they really had a “puppy love” kind of relationship. I think they kissed once, maybe twice before they broke up after Secret Wars (and one of those was because of mistletoe). By the time they had a sexual relationship in Astonishing X-Men, she was being depicted as about 20 (which would make him 25/26) .

I don’t know if there was ever an indication of her race’s lifespan or age of maturity or the like though.

If Wolverine dates anyone under 60, is he “robbing the cradle”? He’d be around twice their age or more, after all. When you are over 100 (and also thus born to a different cultural view of age), how much of a difference is there between 20 and 30, or 15 and 20? If Wolverine had started dating Jubilee, would it be creepy, practical (he’d be looking at a potential 60+ happy years together, as opposed to 20-40 years he might get with an older woman), or both?

What is the acceptable relationship age for someone who lives to 300 or 1000? Which, if either, is cradle robbing if a 35 year old human dates a 100 year old elf, if the elf will live to 2000 but has an age of maturity of 100?

It’s not a big deal for me. It’s a bit weird but I’ve consumed much weirder stuff so I’d buy it. We’re talking about aliens after all. Different biology, culture, development, etc. The only thing wrong with the concept is our own perspective (which is often a source of misunderstanding in fiction, iirc :D). Which is why I fear that if we ever actually find some real aliens we will never get along (it’s a good reason why, if they do exist, they’ve never officially contacted us). Imho, the whole thing was poorly executed.

To begin with, even though she wasn’t intended as a true romantic interest for Hal, they screwed up making her so young-looking and specifically saying she was 14 years old. Had she been 16 or 17, they could have done the same stories and it would have been more believable that she would be picked for the GLC. Her schoolgirl crush would have had a bit more poignancy. As in “not a girl, not yet a woman” (kinda hate myself right now :p). Later, their growing attraction to each other would have been both easier to write and more believable.

The schoolgirl crush was ok as long as Hal didn’t reciprocate. They screwed up when they finally let the story go in that direction, not necessarily because they did but because they mishandled it in almost every possible way. They should have known, going in, that the story needed careful, smart management.

At some point (preferably before she “grew up”), they should have done a story set in Arisia’s planet exploring their culture, personalities, biological development, etc., specifically touching on why, from their perspective, a relationship with Hal wouldn’t be wrong. The sudden “you look like an adult woman so it’s ok” change of mind sucks big time. They should aged her more noticeably before the skimpy outfit (which they should have avoided entirely), both physically and mentally.

That was beyond creepy. I’ve never been able to figure out what was going through Steve Englehart’s head when he wrote this relationship. I also don’t get how this got past editorial, or even past the first person he mentioned this to when he was thinking of writing it. What’s most disturbing is Arisia is still very obviously written as a child in her thoughts and actions. The worst part of it all is this wasn’t some one off mistake. It kept going for years.

@kdu2014 Hal’s been portrayed as a womanizer since the early 90s at least. I even get that vibe from him in 70s, but that may just be me projecting the later characterization on to him. At least he sticks to grown women these days.

@Billy We’re not talking robbing the cradle, but a relationship with an underage girl. Or at least one who was in every way but physically, relationship wise. And the prior relationships he had with her. Sure if Hal was 30 when she was 14 and he met her when he was 40 and she was 24 people might have problems with it, but wouldn’t think it creepy just due to the age difference. It’s that he knew her as a child. You want the real world equivalent think of Woody Allen and his current wife. That’s more like what Hal did than just robbing the cradle.

When you’re really old there might not be much difference between a 25 year old and a 45 year old to you, but there’s still a big difference between a 15 year old and a 25 year old. In all sorts of ways. Part of the problem with a character like Wolverine is that he’s physically made to look like he’s always 35 or 40, not 100. And it’s the physical hang ups that usually bug people. When really it’s more often the social dynamics that mean there’s is nothing in common with the younger person other than the physical attraction. Even though Cap is only physically 30-35, how does he even relate to a Sharon Carter who was (now) raised in the era of the Internet? It’s worse for Wolverine because he didn’t even get suspended for decades, he lived and aged and developed through it. His attitude is no surprise….he’d be a hell of a grumpy old man. But people ignore the cultural things when considering these things, and only think of the physical.

Which is why Logan aging slowly makes sense, and is fine if he’s really 50, 60, or even 80. A contemporary of Professor X maybe. But when he’s an old guy when first meeting Cap it just makes his whole persona a stretch.

So this was Jordans Pymslap moment.

@M-Wolverine
People don’t tend to get creeped out when someone writes a relationship between someone with a human lifespan and someone with a much longer than human lifespan, even if the latter is arguably less mature, as long as the latter doesn’t physically look like a human-age kid. But people get creeped out over the reverse.

Someone mentioned the Neelix/Kes relationship on Voyager. Kes was only a few years old, and was given a rather (in human terms) childlike appearance and innocence, and people didn’t like the relationship. On the other hand, the lifespan of Kes’ race was 9 years. Even at her most mature and wisest state, in strict linear age she’d be “too young” for Neelix. But in relative terms, she was just kind of young at the start, and arguably outgrew Neelix (who didn’t really grow up anymore at all).

People tend to feel icky about senior citizens having sex with women in their twenties. The reverse has often seen harsher response, as the “older woman” doesn’t have to be anywhere as old to draw sentiments of disgust.

When you throw in characters like Wolverine, opinion shifts again. He’s human and old, but he doesn’t show that physical age. (But again, reverse sexes and you’ll encounter different opinions about the character.

As for the difference between 15 and 25, go back a hundred or two hundred years, and 15 was “getting old” even in human terms. We are currently in a culture where 15 is “too young” and such a relationship is exploitative. At least if the 15 year old is a girl. If it is a boy with an older woman, it is still “too young”, but it isn’t seen to be as exploitative and is more likely to elicit “I wish I had teachers like that” responses in men, at least if the older woman is attractive enough.

As for Woody Allen, Soon-Yi says that she was 20 when they started dating, and claims that she never saw Allen as a father figure and didn’t even spend time together with him. People got caught up in the idea that Allen was dating his daughter (which she wasn’t. Farrow was married to Previn when she adopted Soon-Yi, and Farrow never married Allen) as well as the perceived age difference (“perceived”, because it was treated as if they had been involved when Soon-Yi was younger), and nothing else mattered, whether true or false.

Let’s dispense with the “age” argument. As some others have noted, how quickly an alien species matures need have no correspondence at all to the number of Earth-years it takes humans to do so.

The real argument against the relationship is that Arisia had been portrayed as a girl, and Hal had known her during that time. To my mind, whether or not that makes it wrong for Hal to have her as a lover after she changed depends on whether or not one accepts Arisia’s statement that “My MIND matured just like my body!” I took that at, um, face value (sorry!) and thought that Englehart wrote her as an adult as much as any of them from that point.

Why do it at all? Duh—because it was a fun plot twist! The same reason (SPOILER ALERT)

he had the Predator turn out to be Carol Ferris, had the Zamarons and Guardians be the same species, brought five alien GLs to Earth, had the Soviets recruit Kilowog, etc., etc.!

(END SPOILER ALERT)

As far as I’m concerned, Englehart’s run on Green Lantern was the best ever, precisely because of the mix of interesting characterizations and great plot twists, and the Hal / Arisia relationship was a good example of that. Whatever other writers did with it after he left isn’t to his credit or fault.

The comments here remind me of a conversation in Arrested Development between between Lucille and her sons Michael and Buster about Buster’s relationship with Lucille’s best friend.

Lucille: I mean, she’s been a family friend for years. It’s just… creepy.
[...]
Michael: Mom, I think you might be overreacting.
Lucille: She changed him as a baby.
Michael: Okay, that’s about the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard.
Buster: That’s why she didn’t look surprised.

This is almost as weird as the early x-men where Proffesor X had a crush on Jean. Thankfully, they didn’t go anywhere with this, but The Proffesor had some creepy thoughts. He even had the classic Stan Lee, “I would ask her to marry me if it wasn’t for my broken legs, poor me” thing going on.

Anyway…

Anybody else catch Owsley’s tribute to Richard Pryor?

@Billy – I’m still trying to see anywhere it says or remember where it was definitively shown that even though she was 14/28 years old, she was more emotionally mature. They always seemed to write her a a kid. We’re not talking an alien race that looks like a child but is thousands of years old (Orkian, you might say). Or aliens that just mature at a much faster rate. She was basically shown to be alien looking but the same as a teenage earthling in appearance and actions. And having a ring age you not only physically, but “mentally and emotionally” without actually having the experiences that form that is a cop out.

We’re not talking about some middle aged 15 year old being married off to a 16 year old and being thrust into an adult life they aren’t ready for. It may have been commonplace for an older man to take a teenage bride but it doesn’t take hindsight to see the imbalance in that relationship. The sexual inequality you allude to illustrates it by the fact that an older women taking a teen husband was far less common. Because the situation would shift a lot of the relationship power to the female, which would have been verboten at the time.

The difference lies in that people mature with time, and different people mature differently, but the difference in maturity and personality between 15 and 30 is far greater than 30 and 45…or 60. That’s why a relationship with a fully formed adult doesn’t seem as strange even if there’s such a big difference in age that 15 years might not seem like much.

And it’s how relationships evolve. Hal obviously treated her like his sister, and thought of her in that way. If Woody Allen didn’t see the daughter of his long time girlfriend as daughter figure it certainly is reasonable to think he at least shouldn’t have been thinking of her as dating material. There are many movie and such where the “little sister” grows up into the beautiful woman and her guy friend now sees her in a different light…but that’s a 16 year old knowing a 10 year old and then seeing her in a different light when they’re 20 and 26 or such. If he hadn’t know her and had the pre-existing relationship, then yes, a 35 year old guy dating a 20 year old wouldn’t seem as odd. But considering that prior relationship, it icks people out.

I assume Xavier love Jean will be on its way soon

@Perry: It’s not just a “fun twist” existing in a vacuum, though. Even if you personally don’t see anything wrong with, it seems pretty clear to me that Engelhart must have known some people would. So – while I admit I’m not a GL expert – I just don’t see what made Arisia so interesting as a love interest for Hal that Engelhart would go ahead with this despite the clear risk of creating unfortunate implications. There’s a big leap between “schoolgirl crush” and “long-term relationship”.

The most depressing part, for me, is that I think Arisia is a pretty cool character when you take out all this baggage. The whole little sister Green Lantern character is a fun archetype, and she’s got a fun design that sort of reminds me of Nei from Phantasy Star II on the SEGA Genesis. Wish there were more comics out there with her that didn’t involve her getting into creepy relationships.

I understand someone at DC at some point decided that Arisia’s planet had a very long orbit around it’s sun (about 18 and a half earth years) so Arisia’s age was around 240 or 250 earth years at the time.

..of course, that means that Hal was aged 1 or 2 of Arisia’s years…(though very mature for his age)
Does that make Arisia a Paedophile?

(My own answer is “no” as I do not consider numerical age to be significantly meaningful when talking about characters in fantasy fiction and am puzzled about the way governments seem to be intent on applying real world laws to fictional characters to protect fictional children from paedophiles [presumably because it's much easier than protecting real children and politicians don't care if they really achieve anything as long as they think they can get votes out of it])

Well, remember, Englehart is the guy behind the Scarlet Witch becoming involved with and marrying an artificial lifeform (which I imagine will be featured here at some future date).

Married, yes; involved, no. The romance began under Roy Thomas’s tenure. In fact, given that Engelhart and Thomas pretty clearly played it all as an allegory for interracial romance, Byrne’s swipe of the pen undoing of the whole thing is arguably much more problematic than the origin of the relationship itself.

Remember, as originally conceived, the Vision wasn’t “a robot,” he was a synthezoid — a fully functional humanoid being made of synthetic materials. Moreover, h’s the same sort of being as the much more human-looking Golden Age Human Torch. Byrne, you’ll note, had the Torch get into a romance around the same time he erased the Vision’s hard-won humanity; neither he nor the characters batted an eye, nor has the Torch’slater involvement with biological humanoids gotten the sort of “he’s a toaster” flak the Vision gets. Ditto Spartan in the W.I.L.D.C.A.T.S. series after Alan Moore revealed he had the mind of John Colt; plenty of romances and even sex scenes there, and no complaints from readers.

Byrne’s reaction, and those of post-Byrne readers and writers, is pretty clearly because the Vision doesn’t look as human as the others. As created and written prior to Byrne’s late-1980s run on West Coast Avengers — sorry, Byrne insisted on renaming it Avengers West Coast — the Vision was basically a stand-in for human beings who are perceived as “different” or “lesser,” and characters who objected (such as Quicksilver) were written as bigots. Sadly, the damage seems done now.

I knew if I didn’t post yesterday Omar would say most of what I was going to say about the Vision. I will add that he’s not a machine, he’s a living being, albeit synthetic. Sure he’s not human, but then neither are Katma Tui, Superman, Starfire, etc.
Avengers 113 in which extremists try to kill the romance because they’re worried it will establish androids as legally human is the most explicit statement of the romance as metaphor.
Re Green Lantern Corps, despite Arisia this was one of my favorite runs on the book. Katma was well handled and it’s such a shame she got fridged just a little while later.

@kdu2814 – “Arisa was not portrayed as a girl in Guy Gardner: Warrior and that would have be a year or two (DC time) after Engleheart’s GLC?”

After Arisia took off, she reappeared a few years (our time) later, in 1992 or so, and if I remember right they established in “The Third Law” that she had been unable to reverse the aging process that her ring put her through. Her body was not substantially changed until after her resurrection under Johns, and during the Warrior era, she was still operating under the influence of the ring.

Arisia and Eddore are planets and races in Lensman, and Barr named two Green Lanterns after them

(Alas, despite the backlash against the 2011 Green Lantern film, the Green Lantern Corps members still appear on shirts, coloring books, candy, greeting cards, etc. while the Lensmen remain underrepresented.)

penguintruth: What *is* the age of consent in the galaxy?

It’s actually 87. That’s why aliens never contacted us to bring us into their galactic federation, they think we’re a planet of perverts and degenerates, and put a field limiting the speed of light in our area so we don’t get out.

The worst thing is, even if we get life extension technologies and change our society’s rules to match theirs, it won’t matter. We’re already on a List. :)

Peter, you made my day.

What makes the interracial allegory being shot down by Byrne even more problematic is the only thing that makes the Vision “look less human than the others” is his red skin. And maybe a gem in his head.

I’m not defending it in the slightest, since it was a real creepy story, I agree. But one should note that the concept of girls between 13-17 years old having a relationship with an older male used to be a LOT more socially accepted, even as late as the 1970s. So to older writers like Englehart or Wolfman, who lived through the 1970s, it might not have carried the same connotation of total wrongness as it does for us.

Note: As a pretty spiritual guy, I do believe there are certain laws that emanate from God’s nature, and that having sex with 14-year old girls is as wrong in the Middle Ages, in the 1970s, or any other time period as it is wrong today. But I do have to point out that lots of people didn’t see it as such a big deal as we do now.

@Rene
Since you say you’re spiritual, why don’t you reread the bible, it’s full of creepy old guys marrying teenage girls. Doesn’t shock anyone.

This is not the end of the story. In Green Lantern Corps Quarterly, Arissa was shown over time without a ring to revert mentally to a child again and even call for her “mommy”. When she appeared in Guy Gardner, Guy compared her to Beverly Hills 90120 tv show (a teen show in the 90s about high school kids).

I got to tell you- I was a teen in the 80s and those stories creeped me out. Hal was an adult and she was a minor. The 90s stories made it worse/ creppier.

Now playing the role of Hal Jordan… is Gary Glitter.

I find it funny that Peter David ended the relationship in this series. Since years later he would get flak for his Jamie Madrox/Layla Miller romance in X-Factor.

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