What Is A Green Lantern & How Do Their Power Rings Actually Work?

Comics DC

what is a green lantern & how do their power rings actually work?
Static Media

When the universe is taking a pounding from aggressive alien forces, planet-cracking catastrophes, and close encounters with parties that could bring about the end of not just one world but several, it helps to have a peacekeeping force in play to ensure none of that happens. That's the main aim of the Green Lantern Corps, a group formed to keep things in check and each member possessing one of the greatest weapons in the universe — a power ring. But just what does it take to become a Green Lantern and once they're in, how do they handle this emerald trinket that with a flick of their finger can put the fear in some of the gnarliest villains in the universe? Well, it's a criterion that stretches back decades, even branching off to create some shady issues in the vastness of space, as well as warring factions that bring a different shade of danger to the situation.

What's worth noting, however, is that just like Scarlet Speedsters, Boy Wonders, and Blue Beetles, no two Green Lanterns are the same. Some may already be familiar with the heroics of Hal Jordan, John Stewart (who Sterling K. Brown is desperate to play), bad boy Green Lantern Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner, but there was another green guardian that fought the good fight long before any of those mentioned, and he had a power that ran on a very different kind of energy.

A different kind of magic sparked the original Green Lantern

what is a green lantern & how do their power rings actually work?
DC / David Talaski

If you asked a comic book fan to name a Green Lantern, die-hard readers might throw a curve ball and mention the name of Alan Scott, who debuted in All-American Comics #16 in 1940. Scott creates his own ring after the Starheart, a magical entity in the shape of a lantern, saves him from a train wreck. This grants him incredible powers like flight, invulnerability, superhuman strength, and the ability to create constructs built from light. Over time, though, the green gears shifted due to DC redirecting the concept of a day-saving super with a fancy ring to Hal Jordan, the first human enlisted into the space-based Green Lantern Corps.

While Hal and his team did gain more prominence over the years, it wasn't totally lights out for Alan Scott. Not only does he stay a Green Lantern in his own right, but he is also a member of the Justice Society, proving that he could still hold his own alongside the best of them. To Hal and the rest of the GLC, Scott is still a respected name and both parties have united on plenty of occasions to overcome a joint threat. In the case of Hal Jordan and the history of the Green Lantern Corps, however, the rings they wield run on a different kind of power and were made by some very annoying little blue people.

The Guardians of the Universe created the power rings

what is a green lantern & how do their power rings actually work?
DC Comics / Ethan Van Sciver

While Alan Scott's ring originates from an ethereal power of sorts, the ones handled by Hal Jordan have a different backstory. They are created as a means of law enforcement by an ancient race of beings who thought they needed to sort things out. Not to be confused with Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, the Guardians of the Universe, while having a slightly bigger title, may have historically caused more issues than our favorite bunch of space pirates.

The power rings are created after a variety of failed attempts to bring order to the universe, and in turn, are the little but very big bosses of the Green Lantern Corps. Unfortunately, over time, a handful of issues that have befallen the GLC have been from the Guardians' own doing. There's the Manhunters, an army of robots that enforced law and order but eventually malfunctioned and went on a killing spree. There's also the Alpha Lanterns, who essentially merged traits of both the Manhunters and Lanterns to create Robocop-like internal affairs agents that tried to take over. That's all after sparking the creation of more bands of Lantern Corps (more on them later) and attempting to control entities that were the embodiment of the emotional spectrum. That's just some of the trouble caused by those up top, but thankfully, the one good thing they did create were the Lanterns, and in turn, an enrolment process that pulled Hal Jordan in.

How do you become a Green Lantern?

what is a green lantern & how do their power rings actually work?
DC Comics / Ethan Van Sciver

Just like that sought-after doo-dad from Middle Earth, Green Lantern rings aren't discovered. Instead, they actively search out a wearer who, in turn, becomes a Green Lantern. Hal Jordan — deemed the greatest Lantern of all — is gifted with a ring after he stumbles across a crashed alien spaceship as its pilot, Green Lantern Abin Sur, was close to dying. It wasn't a matter of luck that Jordan got gifted the ring, either. Much like Thor's hammer, there are set rules as to what makes a candidate worthy of a Lantern, with the prime requirement for a Corpsman being to overcome great fear.

Should the candidate display immovable willpower and overcome fear, then the wearer will be inducted into the GLC, and trained to master their new weapon and the skills that come with it. Besides providing a defensive forcefield around the wearer and the ability to fly, Green Lantern rings can also construct anything the corpsman imagines. Need a cage to imprison a felled foe? The ring has got you covered. Require a cave on some nightmarish planet to be lit up? The ring will lead the way. And should you ever need a comedically large boxing glove to appear and punch someone in the face, the ring can certainly deliver. All the wearer has to do is will it into existence and it will be so. As great as some of those perks might be, though, a powerful accessory like this can't run forever and needs something special to keep it going.

The most dangerous weapon in the universe needs charging regularly

what is a green lantern & how do their power rings actually work?
DC Comics / Ethan Van Sciver

A Green Lantern might well be a force to be reckoned with, but every hero has a weakness, and in the case of a GLC member, it's poor power management. As powerful as a ring might be, it's not an infinite one, which is why every corpsman needs a power battery to keep it fully charged. In the shape of a lantern itself, a corpsman needs to be at arm's length of the power source to charge it up. This brief time out is also a time for a GL to reaffirm their allegiance to their corps by saying the Green Lantern oath: "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power, Green Lantern's light."

While the process might feel like an airtight one, there are still issues with the fancy little gizmo Lanterns wield and more often than not, it's due to the conflicts between other warring corps that bring their own bit of color to the never-ending space battles that seem to flood the DC universe. Green Lanterns might run on will, but there are others that for better or worse, are fueled by other emotions that also come with their own color. Throughout "Green Lantern" history, some of these factions have sided with or against the emerald knights, but they all run on different requirements to pack as much of a punch as Jordan's iconic bit of jewelry.

Mood rings make great weapons of war in the DC universe

what is a green lantern & how do their power rings actually work?
DC Comics / Alex Sinclair

Depending on how you're feeling, there are other Corps you can join besides the Green Lanterns. One of the first and most prominent opposing rings to the green ones our heroes don is yellow, created by Sinestro, a former Green Lantern and longtime foe to Hal Jordan. The rings of the Sinestro Corps run on fear, which has caused an issue for Hal and the other Lanterns, but there are also the Red Lanterns, led by Atrocitus that fuel their rings with rage and are such an angry bunch they literally spew red corrosive liquid from their mouths.

Thankfully, on the other side of the spectrum are the Blue Lanterns, whose rings aren't just powered by hope, but also can increase the power levels of nearby Green Lanterns that they've allied themselves with. After that, there's the Star Sapphire Corps that charge their Violet rings with love, Indigo Lanterns that run on compassion, and the solo Orange Lantern, Larfleeze, who keeps his ring ticking over with avarice, or greed. Additionally, there have also been Black Lanterns that debuted in the DC event, "Blackest Night" and are comprised entirely of the dead. These rings thrive off death and can even raise deceased individuals from their graves to join the army of zombie lanterns. Thankfully, the Black Lanterns were defeated by (you guessed it) White Lanterns, who are powered by life in this color-coded conflict.

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