Jun 16, 2011

Matt's Mentionables: The Top 10 Lantern Corps Oaths!

Howdy there, folks. The Green Lantern movie is coming this Friday, so I figured it'd be good to do a Green Lantern feature. I was going to do this myself, but knowing my penchant for unwittingly and unintentionally bashing Green Lanterns (as explained in the first paragraph here), I figured it was a bad idea to do so, and thus I turned to my old buddy and author of Matt's Mentionables, Matt, to help me out here. So without further ado, here you go. The Top 10 Lantern Oaths!

Matt's Mentionables is a column written by Matt for The Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Top 10 Lantern Corps Oaths
by Matt

Lantern Corps oaths are a way to introduce readers to the basic tenets and practices of the various Corps. The first thought that comes to your mind when reading this title is, wait, there are only 7 corps, 9 tops if you count black and white lanterns, and you would be correct. However, there are more versions of the oaths and I have selected my personal top 10. There were some technical disqualifications during the process, mostly by being unconfirmed or incomprehensible.

Disqualified Oaths:

The Indigo Tribe

The Indigo Tribe has an oath, and I’m sure it’s a good one; I just have no idea what they say. The official text is:
Tor lorek san, bor nakka mur,
Natromo faan tornek wot ur.
Ter Lantern ker lo Abin Sur,
Taan lek lek nok--Formorrow Sur!

The only word I follow there is Abin Sur, and while I’m sure this might bother Indigo’s four fans, they are merely disqualified until the oath is rendered in such a way that I can parse and understand it.

The Orange Lantern Corps

Larfleeze and the Orange “Lanterns” are an interesting bunch, and although it’s been alluded to several times, his oath has never been officially uttered. In my research, I did find an oath purporting to be the one used by the Orange Lanterns, but it remains unconfirmed. Even in BLACKEST NIGHT, all we see is Hal shoving Larfleeze into his lantern to recharge while everyone else recites an oath (the above picture). Here is the unconfirmed oath:

This power is mine, this is my light.
Be it in bright of day, or black of night.
I lay claim to all that falls within my sight,
To take what I want, That is my right!

Now, if this were an official oath, it would be a pretty good one and probably would fall in the upper half of my top ten. As it is now, I must disqualify it for other official oaths.

10. Alan Scott

While technically not part of the Green Lantern Corps (or whatever DC is passing off as their decision on how to rectify Alan with continuity and the Corps), he does possess a ring and oath to go with it:
And I shall shed my light over dark evil,
For the dark things cannot stand the light;
The light of...THE GREEN LANTERN!

And while reading it you can figure out why I rank it at number 10. Like trying to fit the Starheart into the emotional spectrum, this oath just rings false. It has no cadence, no rhythm and it is poorly constructed (the phrase “the light” is repeated twice in a row). I appreciate the attempt, but I would’ve preferred they not have bothered.

9. Alpha Lanterns

The Alpha Lanterns are the internal investigation unit of the Corps, if someone is acting out or is just a shade too shy of yellow, the Alphas come in to make everything square. Even though these Manhunter-organic hybrids have power batteries instead of hearts (which is an obvious commentary for a different time), they still have their own oath. As expected, it conforms with the belief that nobody likes these guys.
In days of peace, in nights of war,
Obey the laws forever more.
Misconduct must be answered for,
Swear us the chosen--the Alpha Corps!

Their oath is all about their job, enforcing the rules and keeping Green Lanterns in line. What it lacks in any real meaning (apart from do what we say or else), it does have some cadence and it rhymes, which is worth at least ninth place.

8. Red Lantern Corps

The Red Lanterns are mindless (with a few exceptions) killing machines who spit boiling blood at their adversaries and generally don’t do much construction with their rings. Naturally, their oath is blood soaked and visceral. I see the Red Lanterns as a one-trick pony and their oath strikes that note in the jugular:
With blood and rage of crimson red,
Ripped from a corpse so freshly dead,
Together with our hellish hate,
We'll burn you all--that is your fate!

Blood, corpse, death, hell, burning, the oath gives the picture of the Red Lanterns as hellish attack dogs. That is exactly what they are, and completely lacking in subtly. Despite accurately reflecting who the Red Lanterns are, the oath is not inspired and therefore relegated to eighth place.

7. Star Sapphires

The Star Sapphires are basically a way to work Carol Ferris and her time as a crazed love-starved stalker of Hal Jordan (just read Green Lantern in the 60s and 70s) into an entire Corps of women (thus far) devoted to idea of love conquering all. What I like about the Star Sapphires and their oath is that it makes no promises that this process will be pretty. Star Sapphires are a little batty (it comes apparently with being on the extremes of the Emotion Spectrum). They are a little circumspect on how love is going to conquer all:

For hearts long lost and full of fright,
For those alone in Blackest Night.
Accept our ring and join our fight,
Love conquers all with violet light!

Basically, they have a nice, flowery oath, but really they want to trap opponents in pink crystals until their minds have been sufficiently melded to become Star Sapphires (seriously, that’s what they did to female members of the Sinestro Corps). While the oath has rhythm and theme, it is overly flowery, focuses on a singular event and a little too subtle, making it number seven on the list.

6. Blue Lantern Corps

Created by the two Guardians who aren’t emotionless hardasses, the Blue Lantern Corps is supposed to represent hope in the galaxy and as such, they are primarily boosters of other Lantern Corps (super-powering the Green Lanterns) or serve as a calming influence on others (reducing the blood rage of the Red Lanterns). However, since Ganthet has left them and the end of Blackest Night, the Blue Lanterns have become minor
bit players. Their oath affirms their largely non-aggressive nature and tendency toward smarm:
In fearful day, in raging night,
With strong hearts full, our souls ignite.
When all seems lost in the War of Light,
Look to the stars, for hope burns bright!

The Blue Lanterns get dinged again because their oath focuses on a singular DC universe event and I just don’t think they have the staying power of other Corps. Plus, the focus of the oath seems somewhat antagonistic toward the decidedly dark or angst-ridden current DC universe. Besides, in three years, after the next half dozen events, people won’t know what the War of Light even was. It’s better than some, but decidedly middling, resulting in its place at number six.

5. Black Lantern Corps

In case you were asleep for the past year or two of DC Events, the Black Lanterns are the minions of Nekron. They are basically zombies, the ring animates the bodies and they keep regenerating them, unless a member of the Indigo tribe gets involved. The Black Lanterns pop up from time to time, but since the end of BRIGHTEST DAY, I don’t expect them to show up again. However, despite never needing to really say an oath (the rings sort of do their own thing), these zombies Black Lanterns do have one:

The Blackest Night falls from the skies,
The darkness grows as all light dies.
We crave your hearts and your demise,
By my black hand, the dead shall rise!

I know, I know, didn’t I just say that a Corps whose oath is based around events is not going to do very well in my rankings? True, but there is something appealing about an oath that goes all out for its Corps and is shameless about its goals. It rhymes, it has a definite evil twang and is clever (see Black Hand is the face of
the Corps for most of Blackest Night). Given these factors, I figured it deserved a place in the top five.

4. Sodam Yat (31st Century Version)

Sodam Yat was the most recent (willing) host to the Ion entity. He is also, in the Legion of Super Heroes 31st Century, the last Green Lantern and the last Guardian. Yat is a Daxamite, basically Superman stoppable by lead. Blackest Night and Brightest Day have had Yat turn his home’s sun yellow, become trapped by Scar in said sun, having Ion ripped from him and then brainwashed into fighting Guy Gardner (I question the need for mind control for that one). Yat’s claim to fame in this list is more related to his role as the last Guardian
and his unique oath:

In brightest day, through Blackest Night,
No other Corps shall spread its light!
Let those who try to stop what's right,
Burn like my power, Green Lantern's Light!

I know, I violated my “no events” rule again, so what? The oath is very much a teaser for the years we won’t know about that caused the fall of the Green Lantern Corp, the destruction of Mogo (not really much of a spoiler and we know about it now) and what made Yat the last Lantern and the last Guardian. It is also a good twist on the traditional Lantern oath, making it worthy of fourth place.

3. Rot Lop Fan

Any Green Lantern fan who has spent time with comics produced before the ‘90s knows Rot Lop Fan. Rot Lop Fan comes from a species that has no concept of light, therefore he can’t comprehend the color green or its meaning. Instead, Katam Tui inducts him into the F-Sharp Bell Corps. Naturally, his oath is different from the traditional Green Lanterns:

In loudest din or hush profound,
My ears catch evil's slightest sound.
Let those who toll out evil's knell
Beware my power, the F-Sharp Bell!

Just reading it fills me with goosebumps, it has a style all its own, but clearly linked to the original oath. The use of theme is great, din, hush, sound, toll all are great words for sound and used in a way that allow the oath to still flow and make sense. The reason this oath isn’t higher are two: 1. the third line is the only awkward piece and 2. I thought the top two spots should go to entire Corps.

2. Sinestro Corps

In case you have been asleep at the wheel in the DC universe for the past 5 years, the Sinestro Corps are the
antithesis of the Green Lanterns. Their emotion is fear and their color yellow. In a bygone day, they would be
unstoppable by the Green Lanterns, but when Parallax isn’t relaxing in the Central Battery, they remain a tough opponent that I think has real staying power for future story arcs (the same cannot be said of most of the other Lantern Corps). The Sinestro Corps matches its panache for destruction and terror inducing with a pretty good oath:
In blackest day, in brightest night,
Beware your fears made into light.
Let those who try to stop what's right
Burn like my power--Sinestro's might!

Like Sinestro and his Corps, this oath is an inversion of the original Green Lantern oath. It hits all the right chords, places its emphasis on its emotion (fear) and champion (Sinestro) and comes away letting any Green Lantern know that this Corps is not friendly and that the ring better work on Yellow this time. For those reasons, the Sinestro Corps finds its oath only losing out to their perpetual foes for the number one spot.

1. Green Lantern Corps

We all know the Green Lantern Corps. They are intergalactic cops with rings that make things out of green willpower energy (or emotional electromagnetic spectrum if you want to tote the fake science garbage). Being around the longest has its benefits. One of which is a whole host of enemies just itching for a power ring of their own, another is a pretty awesome oath. But did you know that this oath was first said by none other than Alan Scott in the 1940s (however it’s confusing, complicated, and possibly involves Alfred Bester)?

Here is the most famous of oaths:
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!

To put it simply, I find this oath to be without peer or flaw among the oaths I am judging. It has a cadence and rhythm that make it work. Green Lanterns are super cops, unstoppably patrolling their galactic sectors on the lookout for mischief. It is the only oath I have memorized (sad and true) and it sends a chill through my spine whenever I think it or read it to myself. But enough about my oddities, what sticks out about this oath that none of the others possess is that it unmistakably belongs to a well-heeled group with a long tradition and clear prerogatives. This oath is without peer and well deserving of its number one spot.

Honorable Mention: Duck Dodgers

There is one oath that I didn’t cover that I wanted to give an honorable mention to in the list. It comes from a mix up at the dry cleaners…
Yeah, um, uh... In Blackest Day or Brightest Night...
uh, watermelon, cantaloupe, yada yada...
a superstitious and cowardly lot...
with liberty and justice for all!

All it is is a fun send up of the GL oath, but it wins points for appropriating Batman’s superstitious and cowardly lot line.

There you have it—the top 10 (of 13 I chose to mention) Lantern Corps oaths of the DC universe. I hope you enjoyed saying them along with me as you read through it.


Aris B. Panganiban said...

You know, I recall an issue of the 1980's GLCorps series where the Corps recite their regular oath, followed by the Alan Scott oath at the end.

Bob Buethe said...

Alan Scott actually had several different oaths, which I recently catalogued in my own blog here.

Joseph Thomas said...

I know that you're an Alan Moore fan, so I'm surprised you forgot (or didn't mention) this great oath from one of your favorite GL's (didn't you mention him in your favorite GL list?). Anyway, his name is Medphyl (great name, suggesting chlorophyl), Green Lantern of J586, and his oath is great:

In forest dark or glade beferned
No blade of grass shall go unturned.
Let those that have the daylight spurned
Tread not where this green lamp has burned.

Nice, eh? Oh, Alan, can you do no wrong?

Duy Tano said...

A cool oath, indeed. I actually have that issue, but remember, Matt G was the special columnist for this one.

Does this mean we can have a big event called "Glade Beferned"?

Joseph Thomas said...

Gah! Sorry, Duy. I've been reading Comics Cube off and on for the last few days, starting at the most recent and moving backwards. Should have known that my first comment would be a gaff!

I must have missed the Matt G byline in my delirious hunger for more Cube! Sorry... my poor reading skills coupled with the running joke about you really liking GL despite repeatedly leaving him off lists, along with your several entries praising Alan Moore, all resulted in the above misstep. I should have known you wouldn't have left off Medphyl.

By the way, remember that interview Moore gave a little while ago on Mania.com, where he said,

"It’s the paucity of imagination. I was noticing that DC seems to have based one of its latest crossovers [Blackest Night] in Green Lantern based on a couple of eight-page stories that I did 25 or 30 years ago. I would have thought that would seem kind of desperate and humiliating, When I have said in interviews that it doesn’t look like the American comic book industry has had an idea of its own in the past 20 or 30 years, I was just being mean. I didn’t expect the companies concerned to more or less say, “Yeah, he’s right. Let’s see if we can find another one of his stories from 30 years ago to turn into some spectacular saga. ” It’s tragic. The comics that I read as a kid that inspired me were full of ideas. They didn’t need some upstart from England to come over there and tell them how to do comics. They’d got plenty of ideas of their own. But these days, I increasingly get a sense of the comics industry going through my trashcan like raccoons in the dead of the night.

"That’s a good image, isn’t it? They weren’t even particularly good ideas. For Christ’s sake, get some of your own ideas! It’s not that difficult. You used to be able to have them!"

Your Glade Beferned joke is pitch perfect: just wait, when they bring back Swamp Thing this fall, it'll be a part of the Forest Dark / Daylight Spurned Event!

One last thing: I really have been reading your stuff (and guest bloggers' stuff!) for the last few days. Lovely work. I'm a professor at SDSU, and teach comics and visual literature, along with the avant-garde and children's literature: your analyses and insights about comics and comic culture are just great. Thanks for the engaging material!


Duy Tano said...

Wow, high praise! Thanks, Joseph! If you're on Facebook, add us up. The address is simply comicscube. I'm very flattered.

Though I must say that I've always been kind of on the fence with that Moore quote, because superhero stuff does tend to build off of its history. If Johns found something in "Tygers" to us, then why not use it? Certainly Moore didn't do less when he wrote something like "For the Man who has Everything" and incorporated Lyla Lerrol into it, no?

Don't get me wrong; I agree with most of what Moore says, but using a character's history as a launching pad for a new one doesn't seem to make sense to me... that's what comics have always done.

I hope you enjoy more of the Cube's stuff, and I am glad, thank you, to know that comics are being taught at colleges. Where I went to college, I merely had one semester devoted to it (although I did make it an independent study in my senior year).

Joseph Thomas said...

Hi there. I'll stop commenting after this, although I appreciate the interaction. You're a fun, smart guy.

I just wanted to defend ol' cranky pants Moore. I think his point isn't hypocritical (I know you didn't say that, but the Internet furor over the quote included many such claims). It's not so much taking a character's history as a launching pad that he's critiquing (in my view, considering the rest of the interview and other things he's said & written), because he's certainly self-aware enough to know that his whole career is based on excavating the past and using it for fresh, new artistic aims. As you wrote in your posts about Watchmen and Promethea (I think you wrote them--I didn't double check!), those comics don't just take, say, Wonder Woman tropes or Charlton rip offs and write new stories using them; they took the medium of comics itself to new heights, changing our ideas of what comics were capable of. You know this, I realize, because I've been reading your writing on this very subject for the last few days (again: great writing). Alan Moore, in the quotation above, is assuming (because he, like I, have not read the GL stories based on his Corps work) that the stories inspired by his work are simply telling the same old kind of stories, using the same old kind of techniques, involving the same old kind of characters (plus ZOMBIES!), concerned with the same old themes and, thereby, not challenging us or the medium to think about the world or the art form in new ways.

Even Moore's trifles (like, arguably, those early GL Corps stories) did fascinating things with story telling that just weren't common back when he was writing them. So it's not just the use of his stories that's bugging him, it's HOW they're used. And those stories are being used to float what, at least from what I've read (even on your blog), seems to be a standard EVENT! cross-over that, while maybe pretty and action packed in places, ultimately is a product made to make money not to make us think.

If Promethea was about anything, it was about the power of the imagination to change the world, the ability of art to "end the world" as we see it by making new possibilities available to us. Grumpy old Moore must hate to see (or to hear about) his stories being used for ends diametrically opposed to that kind of generative power, being used, instead, as a scaffolding for a big throw-down with men in tights.

Like I said, I've not read the series, but I've peeked into individual issues and read about the whole thing (Blackest Night and Darkest Day and Brightest Morning or whatever all the seemingly endless permutations are), and, yeah, it didn't seem to be doing much but linking the Green Lantern mythos to the recent zombie craze and providing the occasion for lots of visual spectacle amounting to, ultimately, very little.

One other thing: Is it cool if I link your blog to my links page? I think my students would get a lot out of reading it (and my colleagues will get a lot out of it too: Charles Hatfield is a good friend of mine, and I'll definitely be telling him about your groovy blog: dig his book on Alternative Comics, and look out for his new book on Jack Kirby, soon to be published by UP of Mississippi.).

Okay, enough and enow, by Odin's blood! It's 3:40AM here and I really ought to sleep!

Duy Tano said...

Hey, no problems commenting. I appreciate the interaction, sir! Believe me.

I would never call Moore hypocritical. That seems to be the trend these days from people who are too quick to be offended by a guy who says everything he does with twenty doses of irony.

But this is where expectations come into play. Moore constantly wants something new, something fresh, something different. New ideas or, if you will, new ways to tell old ideas. And why shouldn't he? He tried (and tries) his best to give that to us with every single work he's ever put out.

I have never read Blackest Night, not once not ever. I don't plan to, and I don't really want to, although Ivan Reis is a great artist. But when this conversation comes up, I can't help but think of how Moore disparages his OWN work - specifically, THE KILLING JOKE - on the grounds that it doesn't say anything, that it's not relevant, that it's not important. And I can't help but think, why does it have to be? The Killing Joke was a good Joker story and it provided a good template for the Joker moving forward. Why does it have to be as innovative or original a Watchmen, or inventive as Swamp Thing, or as socially and politically relevant as V?

This leads into another issue, I think. Moore has always wanted his stories to SAY something, and this is out of a genuine desire to say something to the world. It doesn't seem to me that someone like Geoff Johns shares the same desire — it looks to me like he's always just about how "awesome" everyone is (and I think that that has its place - too much John Byrne Superman or Frank Miller Batman can be really tiresome - although it seems to be having too much of a place at the moment). In sharp contrast, it seems that his writing partner, Grant Morrison, wants all his stories to say something, but I never get that it's out of any desire to really say something. It just seems like he wants to be seen as relevant.

The whole dialogue seems to me to be like this:

Moore: You CAN do better.
Johns: I'm happy doing this.

Duy Tano said...

Oh, and link away, sir!

Joseph Thomas said...

The link's up! Check out my page (linked to on my name): if you click CV you can find links to a bunch of my essays on various subjects and other stuff, and a click to the Links page will take you to, well, my links page, which you're site is now linked to, in the Comics section.

Also: it's nice being your four hundred and first Facebook fan! A rare honor indeed!

Much love,

Duy Tano said...

It's an honor, sir! I appreciate that my opinions are read and appreciated, actually. Sometimes I feel like I'm just shooting in the wind. :D

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