Cover Date: 1992
Story: Larry Niven and John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Cover: John Byrne
Billions of years ago, on the planet Maltus, a renegade scientist named Krona dared to seek the origin of the universe, going beyond the “giant hand” that seemed to block all previous attempts. His arrogance led to the universe being “born old” due to entropy, and the Maltusians’ guilt over this event led to many of them moving to Oa to become the Guardians. In the present day, Hal Jordan is woken up by the surprise arrival of a Guardian named Ganthet. He drafts Hal and a leprechaun named Percival to help him stop the former Guardian Dawlakispokpok, who is attempting to undo Krona’s machinations. Hal and Ganthet are quickly defeated and captured, and “Dawly” explains to his prisoners that it was he who created the “giant hand” illusion in the first place simply to prevent other beings from seeing the true origins of the Maltusians. They were a weak and warlike race just like any other with no real claim to universal authority. Dawly plans to remove the illusion from the timestream so that Krona will not damage the universe in the past. Unfortunately, Dawly and his family end up causing the very accident that Krona was blamed for in the first place. Dawly is killed, but his wife and son surrender. As they are judged by the Guardians, Ganthet makes sure that Hal’s memory of these events is not expunged by his peers, making the Green Lantern from Earth one of few privy to the Oans’ greatest secret. Hal is none too pleased about having learned that the Guardians’ authority is based on a lie, and leaves Ganthet to think.
Ganthet’s Tale is most notable for being the first appearance of the title character, who would go on to be critically important in countless Green Lantern stories down the road; most notably choosing Kyle Rayner as the last Green Lantern, and later founding the Blue Lantern Corps. Ganthet is an excellent character, and even though he acts a bit more like a “typical” Guardian here, it’s great the see the groundwork laid for his future actions.
Hal’s questioning of the Guardians became a major part of his character in the early 1990s, and it made him much more interesting to read about as a result. Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s still a shame that such character development and humanity was retconned away in Green Lantern: Rebirth.
You may have noticed that this story had a lot of hard science fiction in it, such as Hal’s relativistic flight speed and his redshifting of green energy beams to yellow. This should come as no surprise, as Ganthet’s Tale was penned by legendary science fiction novelist Larry Niven, known for his Ringworld and Known Space series. This story spun out of an essay of his entitled “The Green Lantern Bible,” and John Byrne helped turn it into a workable script. (You can find the original piece in Niven’s Playgrounds of the Mind anthology.)
John Byrne’s art is something that fans tend to either love or hate, but it’s a great fit for Green Lantern. The battle sequences and spaceflights look clean and polished, and his experimentation with drawing entropy really looks cool. There’s not a ton of detail, but the art is effective nonetheless. Even the little stuff stands out, like how the pattern on Ganthet’s tie changes in every panel.
Like most Green Lantern stories pre-2004, almost all of Ganthet’s Tale has been retconned into nothingness. That doesn’t make it any less great, however. The mix of hard science fiction and classic Green Lantern action makes Ganthet’s Tale a must-read.
EDIT: Eagle-eyed reader PurpleRanger has pointed out that one of the Green Lanterns featured on the cover to Ganthet’s Tale is a Pierson’s Puppeteer, one of Niven’s alien races from the Known Space books. The alien also appears on an interior page featuring other Corpsmen. I feel like an idiot for not noticing this over the past eighteen years, as I’m a big fan of Niven’s work!
Many thanks to PurpleRanger for the spot!