Green Lantern has infiltrated Daniel Hirsh's cell in Rikers Island House of Detention. The prisoner levitates upside down with his back against the wall and his face bloated with blood. Seeking justice for the vicious gay-bashing of his teenage assistant, Green Lantern uses his amazing will, desire for justice, and super-powered ring to extract the names of Hirsh's two fellow assailants.
"That," the superhero explains calmly as the young man grimaces, "was me breaking your wrist."
Green Lantern made his debut 62 years ago. He came from the tip of West Palm Beach resident Martin Nodell's pencil. Preceded only by Superman and Batman in the comic book superhero category, Green Lantern is an icon. The Lantern's fans include filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and comedian Jerry Seinfeld; the preternaturally endowed ring and lantern have empowered a half dozen alter egos over the years. Now in the hands of writer Judd Winick (formerly of MTV's The Real World: San Francisco), Green Lantern has become a superhero for the 21st Century, weeding out a new generation of scum, including violent homophobes, for a new generation of comic fans.
Nodell, age 86, says that he first heard of the inclusion of gay characters from his wife. "I knew very little about it beforehand -- the book is made by a new group of writers now, and DC Comics owns it -- it's their show."
But the creator is not entirely surprised that Winick would incorporate a gay story line, recalling that the 32-year-old writer, who lives with his wife in San Francisco, is keen on gay rights and has even written a book, Pedro and Me, about his friendship with the late HIV/AIDS activist and fellow Real World cast member, Pedro Zamora.
"What he's doing, Mr. Winick, I have nothing against that," Nodell says. "Artists exist in a wide-open area where they should think and say what they want to. The more they think in all different areas, the more power to them."
Saturday and Sunday at the Weekend Fall/Con in Pompano Beach, Nodell hopes to meet more fans from the generation acquainted with MTV and comic conventions, or "comic cons," as they are familiarly known.
"In the beginning, it was like a deserted island; [comic book writers] had no association with the general public at all, and they had no contact with other artists," Nodell remembers. "I didn't know of comic book conventions until the late '70s. It was the most ingratiating thing to have the fans say hello and speak with us."
So what does the man behind the Green Lantern and, it should be noted, the Pillsbury Doughboy identify as the secret to creating a lasting character? "My wife," Nodell deadpans. "She's always prodded me to keep working."