From the Golden Age to the Modern Age of comics there have been literally thousands of recorded Green Lanterns, but there have only been a handful from Earth. They are all great legends of the Green Lantern Corps and I feel that an honorable mention of their greatest achievements is required.
While the original Green Lantern story was very different from the one we know today, when talking of the greatest Green Lanterns in comics, Alan Scott is a name that is heard. A mystical “green flame” fashioned into a metal lantern is placed into the hands of young Alan Scott, a railroad engineer at that time. The lantern creates a ring for Alan, giving him amazing powers and a colorful costume as well. Though he had no real archrivals, Alan Scott stopped his fair share of crimes back in the 40’s and was also one of the founding members of the Justice Society of America, along with Hawkman and the original Flash. It is said that without his great achievements and success, the creation of further Green Lanterns would not have been possible.
Recreated during the Silver Age of comics, Hal Jordan is the second Lantern, after Alan Scott. Along with the recreation of Earth’s Lantern came the creation of the Green Lantern Corps. An army of “space cops” who use the green power of will to defeat evil across the universe. The Guardians are the ancient aliens that combined their powers to create the power rings for their soldiers to use. Jordan was the first human to join the Corps and quickly became a legend among their ranks. He was also one of the founding members of the Justice League along with Aquaman and Wonder Woman, and had a large group of rogues including: Evil Star and Sinestro.
Jordan’s character has lasted from the Silver Age to the Modern Age of comics, but has had some odd changes throughout his history. In 1994, Jordan absorbed the power battery’s energy and became consumed with power and rage. He then became the villain Parallax and proceeded to destroy the majority of the Corps. After many years of being the most hated Green Lantern, Hal returns from his exile as Parallax and contributes to the rebuilding of the Green Lantern Corps. It would take time but he is eventually considered a hero once again.
On a positive note, Hal Jordan had some of the greatest Lantern stories of all time, stories that took him to new galaxies, parallel dimensions and teamed him up with other DC favorites such as Superman, The Flash and his best bud Green Arrow. Jordan has lasted the longest out of all of his Lantern comrades, which is just one of the reasons why he will go down as the greatest Green Lantern of all time (minus the whole Parallax ordeal).
Guy Gardner was tough, edgy, a reliable teammate, but man was he over confidant. Almost to the point that he would beat up other Lanterns just to prove he was superior. Many people don’t know this, but when Abin Sur crashed his ship on Earth and needed to find a replacement for his ring, there were two suitable replacements: Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. Due to the fact that Jordan was closer to the ship, he was selected to be Abin Sur’s replacement, with Gardner as Jordan’s back up should anything happen.
Gardner was eventually given a power ring of his own, which he used to assist Jordan in many of his adventures. Gardner was always unstable due to his rough childhood, which led to a frustrating relationship between him and the Guardians. Gardner did prove himself time and time again as a “true” Green Lantern and was even named the official Lantern of sector 2814 when Jordan was busy recruiting new members. Gardner may have been the most obnoxious and arrogant member of the Corps, but when it came to his job, there was no one the Guardians trusted more then Guy Gardner.
Gardner, Jordan’s original back up, was seriously injured in a disaster involving the Lantern’s power battery, so the Guardians found a new back up in John Stewart. He was one of the Lanterns introduced during the Bronze Age of comics along with Gardner. Stewart’s popularity began when he occasionally filled in for Jordan whenever he was out of town and he even had several missions with the Justice League in his early career. Of course most fans know that the creators of the Justice League cartoon in 2001 decided to use John Stewart as the main Lantern for the team, ahead of Jordan or Gardner. He was also one of the surviving members of the Corps after Parallax attacked and he is currently one of the highest ranked members of the Justice League and the Corps.
After Hal Jordan became Parallax and destroyed most of the Green Lanterns, there was one last Guardian who survived the assault. With the last of his power he created one power ring, which he decided to give to struggling graphic artist Kyle Rayner, who then became the “Last Green Lantern”. Kyle designed a new Lantern uniform and quickly became a famous superhero, which eventually earned him the right to join the League. Rayner was the first Green Lantern to be created during the Modern Age of comics. As I said before, with the return of Hal Jordan, they helped recreate the Corps, with hundreds of new members. But none of that would have been possible if Kyle Rayner hadn’t held the fort by himself for many years.