GREEN LANTERN WEEK: In Brightest Plastic, In Blackest Cloth…
Welcome to GREEN LANTERN WEEK! On May 17, 1940, All-American Comics #16 gave us the original Green Lantern — Alan Scott — and the rest is history. All week long, we’re celebrating 80 years of the best of GL — from Hal Jordan to John Stewart and so much more. So click here for the complete INDEX of features — and beware Green Lantern’s light!
Chris Franklin is our resident toy maven — he knows more than anyone I know — so it only makes sense that he bring you THE TOP 13 GREEN LANTERN ACTION FIGURES — RANKED. (After all, he’s done this with Batman and Catwoman, Batman ’89, Robin and the Joker.)
By CHRIS FRANKLIN
Green Lantern may be celebrating 80 years, but the concept had a long wait to make it into action figure form. Although he was the subject of two Halloween costumes in the ’60s, Hal Jordan missed out joining his teammates in Ideal’s Captain Action costumes and Justice League of America figurines. Most surprisingly, in the following decade, Mego completely bypassed the Emerald Gladiator, picking his squatting title-mate Green Arrow for 8-inch figure glory instead.
It wasn’t until the fabled Super Powers Collection of 1984 that kids and collectors finally got to squeeze a Green Lantern figure in their hands. It took another decade and a half before Green Lantern figures became truly prolific, but the numbers have grown to make up for the early deficit.
And with a whole Corps of characters, and seven lead Lanterns who have at one point been the lead in their own titles, there is now no shortage of space patrolmen to fill your toy shelves. With an eye toward giving every major corps member their due, lets take a look at the TOP 13 GREEN LANTERN ACTION FIGURES – RANKED.
(Note: I really tried to include something from the Green Lantern movie line from Mattel. The figures are by no mean bad, but they are just kind of… mediocre. So please note they were considered for this list, but ultimately just didn’t make the cut.)
13. 14-inch Figure: Hal Jordan, Mego, 2018. Like Hal Jordan himself once did, Mego rose from the ashes to resume their work a few years back. Licensing restrictions initially forbade Mego from making DC figures in their classic 8-inch or 12-inch formats, but the company got around that by going bigger. Hal and several other DC stalwarts began appearing on Target shelves in 2018, much to the delight of middle-aged man-children like myself. Hal featured a great sculpt by Andrew Covalt, and the all-important Power Battery was a welcome accessory. But the real thrill was seeing a great wrong righted. Mego had finally made a Green Lantern figure. And it only took them 45 years to do it!
12. DC Super Hero Girls Jessica Cruz: Mattel, 2019. OK, this one diverges a bit from what some would call an “action figure.” But let’s face it, the term was created to describe G.I. Joe in 1964 so boys wouldn’t feel weird about playing with dolls. So by my notion, Jessica belongs here. Yes, she’s a relatively new character but she’s had a lot of media penetration here, in the Lego video games, and even in the fabled DCAU in the Justice League vs. The Fatal Five film last year.
This doll captures the design aesthetic of new SHG showrunner/designer Lisa Faust and blends Jessica’s comic book look and the standard Gil Kane-designed GL uniform, with some added sparkle and green hair highlights. Jessica has her trademark Lantern symbol eye tattoo, and even a sweet translucent green burst around her Power Ring. Just like John Stewart before her, it’s no doubt this version of Jessica is going to make an impression on a generation of fans.
(Note: Jessica’s fellow GL recruit Simon Baz nearly made the list, but he’s only had one true action figure from DC Collectibles, and just for sheer variety of scale and releases, he was topped by other figure formats and series.)
11. DC Super Heroes Silver Age Collection 9-inch Hal Jordan, Hasbro, 1999. Before companies like Mattel, Figures Toy Company, and a revived Mego Corp. finally delivered on the promise of a “Mego” Green Lantern, Hasbro gave us their 9-inch cloth-costumed line. Now, why both Hasbro and Toy Biz (with their Famous Covers series) decided to go one inch taller with their tribute lines is a question lost to the ages. But there’s no denying that Hasbro did a bang-up job with this series.
Hal’s head sculpt is more naturalistic, less cartoon-like in its approach. His windswept hair recalls the work of his co-creator, Gil Kane, as does his early Silver Age-authentic costume. The only real head scratcher is the lack of a Power Battery accessory, especially since all of the figures have gripping hands, with articulated fingers. Unfortunately, this line stalled out due to another mind-boggling decision: Hal and his case mates Aquaman and Green Arrow (pre-Neal Adams look) were released everywhere, whereas Superman and Batman could only be found at Target! This fledgling Justice League line never had a chance.
10. Super Friends Hal Jordan – DC Direct, 2003. DC Direct answered the prayers of a generation of Saturday morning kid-vid veterans when it released its Super Friends two-packs. Hal came with his arch-foe Sinestro, who is also one of the nicest figures in the line. But we’re discussing Green Lanterns here, not ex-GLs, so let’s talk Hal. Based on Alex Toth’s note-perfect design, you can just hear Michael Rye’s deep baritone voice coming out of that chiseled face. The only downer is DCD dropped the ball on giving Hal his trademark California tan. But, they sure made up for it by packing in a miniature Hall of Justice AND wearable Sinestro and Green Lantern Power Rings. They even colored GL’s white with a green symbol, just like on the show!
9. DC Universe Classics Guy Gardner – Mattel, 2010. Love him or loathe him, Guy Gardner has been part of the Green Lantern Corps for over 50 years. He’s been pressed into plastic by DC Direct/Collectibles more than any other company, but Mattel captured the irascible essence of the “one TRUE Green Lantern” (his words, not mine) better than anyone. Sculpted by the Four Horsemen Studios like the rest of the line, the DC Universe Classics figure of Guy was only available in a 5-pack of Lantern figures featuring Hal, John Stewart, Tomar Re and Sinestro, but none of those figures reeked of… personality, like Guy. From his trademark bowl cut to his “come at me bro” smirk, Guy is the epitome of ’80s Reagan-era machismo. Clad in his jacket vest and oversized boot combo, 6-inch plastic Guy comes complete with 6 full feet of unbridled attitude. Wanna make somethin’ of it?
8. Justice Society of America/ First Appearance Alan Scott (tie) – DC Direct, 2000, 2004. The original Green Lantern had an even longer wait for action figure glory than most of those who recycled his name. Alan Scott had to hold out until DC started making its own collectibles before he got the respect he was long deserved. Debuting in DC Direct’s early Justice Society of America line, Alan was given a nuevo-classic look by sculptor Tim Bruckner, along with his old-school Power Battery and an adjustable Power Ring YOU can wear.
A few years later, DC went straight back to the source, All-American Comics #16, and the art of Green Lantern creator Martin Nodell. This time they opted for a cloth cape, but no separate Power Ring. I can’t really choose between the two, because they both capture an aspect of my personal favorite Green Lantern: a nostalgic, but funneled look back, and a direct translation of that costume that should have never worked, but somehow does, especially in plastic!
7. DC Universe Classics Hal Jordan – Mattel, 2008. There have been a lot of 6-inch figures of Hal Jordan made by various companies, notably DC Direct/Collectibles, but for simple, iconic purity, once more, you can’t go wrong with the DC Universe Classics line. The Four Horsemen’s Hal is spot on, straddling that fence of looking like a new interpretation, but also harkening back to the works of Neal Adams and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (Praised Be His Name). Maybe their included Power Battery was a bit too chartreuse, but there are other versions out there for you to grab. This figure was reissued a few times, including a version in the GL Corps 5-pack with Parallax-influenced gray temples. Slap a green ring construct on his hand from yet another release, and Hal’s in business. Their John Stewart is no slouch either!
6. DC Multiverse Kyle Rayner – Mattel, 2018. Unlike his predecessor, Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner got his action figure fast-tracked, appearing shortly after his debut in the first wave of Kenner’s Total Justice line. But, the ’roid-raged, pre-posed figures from that series haven’t aged well, and well, this is supposed to a “best of” list, so let’s move on (although the final series Hal-as-Parallax figure is pretty spiffy).
After many figures from Hasbro and DC Direct/Collectibles, it was Mattel, in the waning days of its DC master toy license, that gave us the best version of Kyle. The DC Multiverse line wasn’t as consistently excellent as the DC Universe Classics series before it, but it did produce some gems. Kyle looks like he stepped right off a panel drawn by co-creator Darryl Banks. He comes decked out in his “crab mask” and asymmetrical costume, with his unique Power Battery, and an energy fist attachment for his ring hand.
5. Collector Series 13-inch Alan Scott – DC Direct, 2010.
Two years after that young upstart Hal Jordan got a 13-inch figure, the ring slinger who started it all joined him. As discussed earlier, Alan Scott’s costume shouldn’t work. I’ve seen it described as being “thrown together in the dark”, and in theory, yeah, it kind of looks that way. Only the pants, inner cape, chest symbol and ring feature any green at all, and red and purple seem to be his dominant colors. But again… somehow it just WORKS.
Seeing Alan’s costume interpreted in cloth on a large figure really proves the design isn’t as haphazard as it seems. There’s some kind of majestic power to it that the folks at DC Direct managed to capture. He’s got a removable mask, his old-school, real-world lantern Power Battery, and a whole lot of gumption sculpted into his face. The only real question I have is, why do I not own this?
4. One: 12 Collective John Stewart – Mezco, 2019
Mezco produced both a Hal Jordan and John Stewart figure for their 6-inch, cloth-costumed One: 12 Collective line, but the Stewart figure is the standout. Featuring a unique costume design (like most of Mezco’s DC-based figures), John’s costume harkens back to the Justice League animated look, but adds intricate piping details. Imagine if they made a John Stewart GL movie, and you get the idea. Speaking of the JL cartoon, the figure comes with two heads, so you can recreate the early seasons, or the shaved head goatee look from the Justice League Unlimited days. Like you would expect from an expensive, deluxe offering, he comes with a bevy of ring energy blast attachments, swappable hands, and of course a Power Battery. Take the right fist hand, place the power ring in the recess of the battery, and the battery glows. Add in a flight display stand and some generous articulation, and you have the nicest figure of this character ever rendered in plastic.
3. Collector Series 13-inch Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps – DC Direct, 2008
Back before deluxe 1/6-scale figures cost you a car payment, DC Direct began its line of slightly larger-than-industry-standard 13-inch figures, and Green Lantern Hal Jordan was one of the earliest releases. Clad in his classic late-Silver/Bronze Age costume with the green shoulder points, the figure came with a removable mask and an exquisite head sculpt by DC Direct MVP Tim Bruckner. But rather than emulating Paul Newman, the actor co-creator Gil Kane based Hal upon, Bruckner was apparently thinking more of a young, Rawhide-era Clint Eastwood. Hal came with a light up Power Battery to complete this rather impressive package.
A while later, DC reissued the figure, this time with a few more bells and whistles. In addition to going back to the original, no-shoulder-points look of Kane’s classic design, they also included swappable heads of three other Green Lantern Corps characters: Hal’s predecessor in Space Sector 2814, Abin Sur; his closest friend in the Corps, Tomar Re; and strangely, the rather obscure Nautkeiloi, who looked like he escaped from the Black Lagoon and needed a fishbowl helmet to survive. Of course, you’d have to buy multiple figures if you wanted each of these Lanterns in a group display, but you have to give DCD points for going that deep into the canon.
2. Justice League/Justice League Unlimited John Stewart – Mattel, 2002, 2005. The creative team behind the excellent Justice League animated series chose John Stewart as their Emerald Gladiator to give the show some much needed diversity, but they also infused the character with a strong personality and a sense of honor and duty, ably abetted by Phil LaMarr’s vocal performance. Mattel made numerous variations of the John Stewart figures over the run of the line, and even updated the figure for Justice League Unlimited to match his new shaved head and goateed look. Two of the favorites in this household were the version that came with the ring-construct energy shell you could place the figure inside, and the upsized 10-inch version. But no matter which version you have, a generation of young fans (including my son) considers John the one, TRUE Green Lantern, and have had countless adventures with his plastic counterpart.
1. Super Powers Collection Hal Jordan – Kenner, 1984
It may have taken Hal Jordan decades to earn his own action figure, but he came out of the gate in an emerald flame. The Super Powers line has been praised in just about every one of the lists I’ve made for 13th Dimension, and the reason is it’s simply one of the most finely executed toy lines of all time, and perhaps the best series overall to feature the DC characters. Their Green Lantern figure is one of the best of the best. The sculpt perfectly captures the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (Praised Be His Name) style-guide art that adorns the package, harkening back to a Neal Adams interpretation of the character. Lantern-jawed Hal is given one of the best action features in the line with his “Power Action Ring Thrust!” Squeeze his legs, and his ring arm raises, his coiled fist ready to create a construct a kid can imagine (it’s probably a boxing glove). But the real kicker is the added accessory: the Green Lantern Power Battery. The Super Powers line was kind of iffy on accessories (no Batarangs for Batman and Robin, for instance), but including his conduit to the most powerful source in the universe was just icing on this delicious green cake.
The figure’s perfectly proportioned physique and overall presentation was ahead of its time, so it’s no wonder it still stands as a benchmark of superhero toys even today, more than 35 years later. If Hal Jordan is often cited as “the best of the best,” then this is the best of the Hals, and the Green Lanterns.
Chris Franklin co-hosts Batman Knightcast, Power Records Podcast, Superman Movie Minute, Super Mates and JLUCast, all available at fireandwaterpodcast.com. Chris recently created the first video edition of his “Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?” series on the Fire and Water Network’s YouTube channel, with more to come. Like 13th Dimension‘s own Dan Greenfield, he contributed an essay to the recently published book, Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season One.
— The Complete GREEN LANTERN WEEK Index of Features. Click here.
— INSIDE LOOK: The ‘Mego’ GREEN LANTERN Playset You’ve Waited Decades For. Click here.