Green Lantern

by Robert P. Barsanti

I met the Green Lantern this weekend. He looked a lot like me. He is now taller than I am, and has more energy that I can summon, but he had the set of jaw, the piercing look in his eye, and a certain insouciance that I can lay claim to. He also had the ring, the shirt, and he knew 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!!!”

I picked him up at school and drove him into Comic Con in Boston. I have lost the child within me that would truly enjoy Comic Con; he slipped away sometime in college or graduate school and was replaced by something vaguely professional and totally inadequate. For me, I felt as if I was at an amusement park watching the Cyclone roller coaster: I didn’t want to get on, but it looked like the fun that I should have. So it is at Comic Con. People get fully committed; they dress up as Spiderman, Wonder Woman, and many of the less canonical, but still interesting characters of the media stream. Some of the costumes were simple, but most had required construction, tailoring, and a healthy dose of courage. Several Princess Leia metal bikinis walked by in a convention center filled with thousands.

If you need your faith in humanity restored, Comic Con would do it for you. I saw three Wonder Women; one was African American, one was white, and one was male. Of the wheel chair costumes that rolled by, one was a Dalek, one was R2-D2, and one claimed to be a victim of Darth Vader. Autism Speaks was represented ably by the New England Chapter of the Agents of SHIELD. The Green Lantern posed by the impressive and intimidating SHIELD vehicles. As the afternoon wore on, the crowd grew more and more dense and the jostling increased, but everyone was in good cheer and fine fettle beneath ferocious costumes. The nicest people like to dress up as the worst mass murderers. I tasked the Green Lantern with asking five people to pose with him for pictures and he was able to find some of his favorites. Everybody smiled.

My Green Lantern’s main occupation at Comic Con was spending his own, and his father’s, money. In a convention center filled with vendors, this proved somewhat challenging. First, Green Lantern merchandise was not well represented. The Lantern has had a movie made, but it didn’t do well and most self-respecting comics aficionados pretend that it never existed. We did not have much time for some of the other esoterica we found. We didn’t need any special artwork, or personal sketches, nor did we see the need for sweatshirts, leather masks, specialty watches or glasses. We found a graphic novel (which is a twenty dollar comic book), several stickers which he hopes to put on his door, and five Lego figurines.

My soon-to-be-eighteen year old Green Lantern has a plan. He is going to build a Lego City in the basement. It will have a SHIELD headquarters, several police and fire stations, a space port, and several other hard-to-understand buildings connected by roads and bridges. For the past four years he has been building his plans for this the same way that other people map out soccer careers or college applications. While we haven’t started the building yet, the figurines mark the first new inhabitants into his world. The Green Lantern is ready for that world.

However, the Green Lantern Corps did not muster in Boston. We went through the convention hall several times without finding anyone with a power ring. I did not imagine that this task was going to be quite so difficult when I proposed it. I did not think my Green Lantern would be unique, but he was. Rick, Morty, Supergirl, Batman, Deadpool brushed by us, but nobody in green. Finally, after three hours, we stood outside in the food area and found a college student wearing the right t-shirt. Unfortunately, he did not know the Oath. Nonetheless, he smiled and posed with my Green Lantern and our search was somewhat complete. My son dozed off on the way out to Papa Ginos and back to school.

In the comic book mythology, Hal Jordan was a test pilot who was selected by a dying alien to become the next Green Lantern. Out of all humanity, Hal was “utterly honest and born without fear.” The Green Lantern has a ring and a lantern (of course) which connects him to the Guardians of the Universe. The ring and the lantern let the wearer create anything they need in order to bring forth justice, deliver mercy, and defeat evil.

And, as he sleeps, I can see the attraction of the hero for my young man. Through accident of birth, he is utterly honest and without fear. Further, he often seems to be listening to the whisperings of the universe and, through his imagination, creates all sorts of things in his mind. And, on this planet, he is utterly alone.

This year, when I walk for Autism Speaks, I am not hoping to find a cure for my son. His autism has become his power, as cursed and as blessed as any superpower — I do not want to remove that green ring from his finger. Instead, I want to find a cure for our world. We live in a time when evil doesn’t need to wear a mask or hide in the shadows and the good are driven over and clubbed. The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Our world has no place for the Green Lantern, though it surely needs him.