Comic Books You Should Collect: Green Lantern #85
Each day in February, Dibbs is showcasing iconic comic book issues that you should collect! Today’s comic is Green Lantern #85! DC attacks youth's greatest problem... drugs!
Be sure to grab some fracs of The Incredible Hulk #181, the first appearance of Wolverine! Our next drop is coming soon with Detective Comics #140 releasing on Thursday, February 24th! Be sure to grab the FIRST DC comic on Dibbs!
Snowbirds Don't Fly
The 70s, 80s, and 90s were full of the media attempting to sway the youth to stay away from drugs, strangers, bullies, etc by way of PSAs, after school programs, and socially relevant television episodes. The era of the moral majority and emergence of the 24-hour new cycle heightened adults' concerns around what kids were doing and what they should be doing instead. These concerns also made their way into comic books, usually by way of a ridiculous, over-the-top story like Spider-Man, Storm, and Luke Cage thwarting the villain Smokescreen from influencing children to smoke cigarettes. Creators were oftentimes not credited with these stories, and they were strictly there to teach kids that “x” was bad. But through all the obvious pandering these books did, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams’ 1970s Green Lantern run setout to make a comic series socially impactful and equally enjoyable.
The Green Lantern series was on the verge of being canceled when Dennis O’Neil made his pitch to DC. O’Neil wanted to use the series as a way of combining serious social issues with the more imaginative genre of superhero comics. DC, having nothing to lose, agreed to give O’Neil and artist Neal Adams the reins on the series. The series would feature the Green Arrow, who represent progressive change, and Green Lantern, who played the role of a more conservative authority that worked directly with the establishment. Through the adventures they tackled racism, pollution, sexism, cults, and eventually drugs.
Oliver Queen is locked into a fight with a few goons on the street and after beating them discovers he’s been shot in the shoulder with one of his own arrows. Oliver crawls his way to the hospital, but manages to pass out before he’s able to reach it. When he comes too, his arm is wrapped in a bandage and a doctor explains for him not to put stress on it. Oliver asks the doctor to see the arrow that hit him only to discover that it was one of his own.
Officially out of commission and needing someone to help him solve this new mystery, Oliver calls Hal Jordan, aka the Green Lantern. Hal comes over to Oliver’s place, but doesn’t understand why he’s so paranoid about the arrow. Oliver reveals that he’s not seen his ward, Speedy, in over a month and fears he may be captured or worse. The two superheroes head to Oliver’s apartment’s basement to discover a kid suffering from heroin withdrawal begging a Mr. Browden for drugs. The duo capture the kid and Browden, and ask them to lead them to the dealers.
Meanwhile, the goons who had attacked Oliver earlier are back at their hideout waiting for their friend, who was captured by the heroes, to bring back their next fix. Speedy is also with them, and they all share why “they shoot up”. Green Lantern and Green Arrow come through the ceiling and restrain the two teenage goons. Oliver sees Speedy, but assumes he’s there undercover which explains why he’s been gone for so long. Oliver tells Speedy to stay there while they go and stop the dealers.
The goons lead Lantern and Arrow to a hangar, where they claim the dealers are. The dealers realize they are being ambushed and start shooting, but only to have their bullets blocked by Green Lantern’s ring. Before Green Lantern can stop the dealers, he is hit over the head by one of the goons with a wrench. They gang up on Green Arrow and knock him out as well. They then decide to force feed the heroin to Green Lantern and Green Arrow, then call the police to ruin their reputation.
As the police arrive, Speedy meets them and explains that they are in the opposite direction. He goes to rescue Lantern and Arrow, but finds them unable to move. Finally, Green Lantern is able to use his ring, but his willpower is polluted by the drugs and he creates a giant monster that tries to eat them all. At the last second, Green Lantern overcomes his “demon” and safely takes the team back to Arrow’s apartment.
Oliver and Hal come down off the drugs they were forced to take, but don’t understand why anyone would want to take them. Speedy explains that someone whose friend ignored them might find comfort in taking drugs to forget. They brush this story off, and Oliver sees Hal off. Oliver comes back into their apartment to make Speedy and himself chili, only to discover Speedy shooting up heroin. A horrified Green Arrow is seen saying “Oh dear god! You are on drugs! You’re really a junkie!” Speedy replies, “Who else did you think I was talking about?”
Due to stale sales numbers, Green Lantern and Green Arrow’s adventures didn’t last too long, with the run ending on issue #122. It did however earn a ton of awards for its topical and hard hitting plotlines. Green Lantern #85’s cover is also iconic and remembered for the jarring appearance of Speedy having just shot up heroin.
Read More Green Lantern
Green Lantern: Brightest Day by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke