Guy Gardner is possibly the most distinct, outstanding personality among the Green Lanterns of Earth. His arrogance, his gruff attitude, his occasional jerk behaviour, his contempt for authority, and his unending feud with Salaak make the red-headed Green Lantern tremendously fun to read.
Being the hardiest and most troubled of Earth’s Lanterns makes Guy an underrated highlight of the universe, tragically ignored in a great deal of DC material like animated movies and TV shows. Though introduced as Earth’s second Lantern, he is perhaps the third most popular behind Hal Jordan and John Stewart, yet he still gets some of the most intriguing stories of the mythos.
“Earth’s Other Green Lantern!” (Green Lantern #59, 1968)
Guy Gardner’s introduction to the mythos was not as a full-fledged Green Lantern but as an envisioned possibility for how Abin Sur’s ring might have chosen him as the alien’s successor over Hal Jordan. Jordan was simply nearer. The story has a twist, showing that Guy would have eventually been killed by the Yellow Plague, and Hal would have been chosen as his replacement.
Afterward, Hal went to meet Guy personally, and the two became friends. The comic is a fascinating look at the character’s unofficial origins, and following this story, Gardner became a “backup” Lantern if Hal were to perish. On numerous occasions, he did indeed have to fill in, but he would eventually get his chance to become a full Lantern.
“4” (Green Lantern #195, 1985)
During the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event, the Guardians are in desperate need of more manpower and finally enlist Guy Gardner as a full Green Lantern, returning him his Power Ring. The comic ties directly into Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 which came out the same time, marking the massive DC reboot event as the moment Guy became a Lantern proper in a clear highlight of the 1980s era of Green Lantern.
It is a massive story to be a part of, and Guy finds himself fighting on the frontlines to avenge Oa from the multi-universal destruction that destroys the Central Power Battery and kills most of the Guardians. After 17 years, it is clear that Gardner’s origin in this universe was a lot more complex than a Power Ring merely choosing him by chance one day.
Green Lantern Corps: Recharge (2004)
This five-issue limited series, one of the best Green Lantern stories of the 2000s, written by Geoff Johns and Dave Gibbons and illustrated by Patrick Gleason, follows the first adventures of a round of new rookies to the Green Lantern Corps, mentored by a reluctant Guy Gardner. It was a unique opportunity for Guy to take more of a leadership role and grow as a character into someone other Lanterns could look up to.
Not to mention, anything with Guy in the lead tends to be really fun. From his heated interactions with authority that get him into trouble to his unorthodox methods of keeping the rookies in check, Guy demonstrates what makes him such a valuable and vibrantly distinct Lantern of Earth. Plus, it is a great look at the new faces to the lore who would become mainstays from here.
“Ring Quest” (Green Lantern Corps, 2008)
After the cataclysmic events of the Sinestro Corps War, Guy Gardner is once again put in a leadership position in this arc by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. The story follows his exploits leading the memorable side characters of the Green Lantern Corps once again as they face their worst fears in profoundly deep ways.
The villain of this arc is Mongul, now a member of the Sinestro Corps, using his enslaved Black Mercy plants to torture his enemies with nightmare visions of their worst fears. Fans of the Man of Steel may recall the Black Mercy as the plant formerly used by Mongul to entrap Superman in a dream world in Alan Moore’s “For the Man Who Has Everything” in Superman Annual #11 (1985).
“Red Badge of Rage” (Green Lantern Corps #43, 2010)
This is the chapter of the megacrossover in which Guy first donned a Red Lantern Ring. In it, he is driven to new heights of rage by the seeming death of Lantern Kyle Rayner and unleashing hell on the undead villains the Black Lanterns during the Blackest Night extravaganza. Guy becomes a monster, cutting through the zombies like a sword through paper.
Mad with rage, he turns on his friends before the timely intervention of Mogo, the sentient planet, purges the red energies from his body a few issues later. The incident would have lasting consequences, as Guy would develop an association with the red light of rage from then on and revisit the crimson power on multiple occasions in the future. It goes with his hair.
“Last Will” (Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #1-7, 2010-2011)
Emerald Warriors acts as a de facto sequel to the original Guy Gardner: Warrior series with Guy as the main lead, chronicling his own adventures. In the seven-issue arc starting from Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #1, Guy is joined by Lanterns Kilowog, Arisia, and Red Lantern Bleez in a mystery that challenges every character differently.
As is common around Guy Gardner’s stories post-2000, “Last Will” is dark, violent, and occasionally disturbing with a truly terrifying villain in the form of Zardor, who brainwashes Green Lanterns into capturing telepaths for his evil purposes. This is to say nothing of the crisp and eye-popping artwork by Fernando Pasarin doing justice to the red, blue, and green lights of the Emotional Spectrum.
“Freshman” (Green Lantern Corps #0, 2012)
The New 52 gave Guy a new origin story that did the character justice. Told in flashbacks while a rookie Guy Gardner and his fellow recruits are ripped apart by the galactic supervillain Xar during their training, it is revealed Guy got kicked out of the police department after an incident, and his relationship with his father was strained ever since.
Guy’s family life is further explored through his relationship with his brother, whose life he saves during a gang shootout. The story ends with a look at his first meeting with Hal Jordan, making it the ideal modern introduction to the character. Fans looking for something heavier will also find it uncommonly violent.
“The New Blood” (Red Lanterns #21, 2013)
Guy Gardner has always been an angry man and a bit of a jerk. These character flaws have led him to deviate from the Green Lantern Corps before, but never like this. When his anger finally catches up with him, it comes at the worst time: when he is asked to infiltrate Atrocitus’ Red Lantern Corps. Not only does he infiltrate, but he ousts Atrocitus and becomes their new leader.
So begins a new chapter in the Red Lanterns series with Guy Gardner as the leader of the angriest beings in the universe. Not only is it fun seeing Guy leading and expanding his personal Corps, but it also leads to interesting interactions with the New 52 versions of other DC heroes, including this Guy’s first meeting with Superman and a Red Lantern Supergirl.
“Quest for Hope, Part 3: High Noon” (Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #16, 2017)
Few comics embody the character of Guy Gardner better than this one. In this comic by Robert Venditti and illustrated in bloody detail, Guy’s original backstory as a victim of abusive behavior from his father is restored as the red-headed Green Lantern goes toe-to-toe with Arkillo, the brutish second-in-command of the Sinestro Corps at the time. No rings, just fists.
The fight between the two sparks one of the most unlikely friendships in Green Lantern comics, keeping their respective troops in line in following issues during the period in which Soranik Natu’s Sinestro Corps allied with the Green Lantern Corps. It is easily one of Guy’s toughest moments in his history.
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