When people think of DC Comics hero Green Lantern, they tend to think of one of two characters — Hal Jordan, or John Stewart. But there’s another Lantern from the planet Earth who debuted after Hal, who has his fair share of fans, and has since the mid-‘80s. We’re talking about Guy Gardner, the loud-mouthed insufferable braggart with a power ring. And now, Firefly and Castle actor Nathan Fillion will play Guy Gardner in Superman: Legacy, and even beyond, according to James Gunn. But who is Guy Gardner, and why do people even like this big jerk?
Guy Gardner: Earth’s First Backup Green Lantern
Although he’s thought of as an ‘80s character primarily, Guy Gardner first appeared i n 1968’s Green Lantern #59. In that issue, they established that the dying alien Abin Sur, who bequeathed his Green Lantern power ring to pilot Hal Jordan in his famous origin story, only gave it to him due to close proximity. Guy Gardner was Abin’s other choice, but was simply too far away to be eligible for selection. In this early appearance, Guy was a physical education teacher, and also a football player. He’s chosen as Hal’s backup as Green Lantern of Sector 2814 whenever Hal was incapacitated, but his time as Hal’s replacement was short-lived.
Guy Gardner ended up hit by a bus while trying to save one of his students during an earthquake, resulting in a brain injury. Hal’s new backup Lantern then became John Stewart, who was far more popular with readers. Guy only made a handful of appearances for much of the next decade following John’s introduction. He was eventually knocked into the Phantom Zone, home of Kryptonian criminals like General Zod, who tormented him for an undetermined period of time. Although he was eventually rescued by Superman and Hal Jordan, his mind was shattered. He ended up in a deep coma for years.
Guy Gardner Becomes the Green Lantern of the ’80s
During the ‘80s, Hal Jordan quit the Green Lantern Corps, and John Stewart became the permanent ring slinger of Sector 2814 (which included Earth). Guy was all but forgotten by DC writers, left to languish in a permanent off-panel coma. But during the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Guy awakened finally. The Guardians of the Universe, the Green Lantern Corps’ immortal alien bosses from the planet Oa, offered Guy a permanent power ring at last.
However, Guy’s traumas—his head injury, his time in the Phantom Zone, and his subsequent coma—had left him brain-damaged. He was also not happy to find that Hal Jordan was dating his girlfriend Kari Limbo when he was gone. During this era, they also revealed that he suffered an abusive childhood at the hands of his father while growing up in Michigan. His personality was no longer that of a kindly teacher. He was now brash, antagonist, and rude. They gave Guy a new costume, designed by artist Joe Staton, and he really became a whole new character. One with a fairly ridiculous (yet iconic) new bowl cut to match his new attitude.
Guy Gardner Becomes the Justice League’s Useful Idiot
Guy became super jingoistic, a parody of “rah-rah” ‘80s Americanism. He loved to quote Ronald Reagan, and tried to emulate the action movie characters of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. The other members of Earth’s Green Lantern Corps all couldn’t stand him, so he joined the newly formed Justice League International in 1987. There, Guy’s popularity soared, mainly as the member readers loved to hate. He constantly rallied to be elected leader of the team, even if no one else wanted it in the slightest.
His braggart, bullying ways constantly got on his fellow Leaguers’ nerves, until finally, Batman sucker punched him. Guy awoke from this latest head injury now a sweet, kindly sap. Irritating his fellow Leaguers in all new ways. But eventually, his “jerk” persona reemerged. Despite this, he began a romance with Ice, the only JLI member who saw Guy’s good side buried underneath the bravado. JLI writers Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis wrote Guy as the butt of the joke, but one that readers grew to love regardless.
Warrior: Guy Gardner’s New Superhero Alias
In the ‘90s, Guy underwent several transformations. He decided he was tired of being second and third fiddle to Earth Lanterns like Hal Jordan and John Stewart. He challenged Hal Jordan to a ring-free fistfight over who is the greatest Green Lantern. Hal won, leaving Guy humiliated and defeated. He turned in his power ring, and his role in the Corps. But he was later able to procure the villain Sinestro’s yellow power ring, and became a superhero once more. Finally, wearing the old yellow-powered Sinestro ring, he got his own ongoing series, simply titled Guy Gardner.
Although this iteration of Guy Gardner with the Sinestro ring lasted a few years, even helping Superman fight the monster Doomsday. Passed over to be Earth’s Green Lantern for new kid Kyle Rayner, eventually Guy received yet another makeover in the mid-90s. It was revealed to him that he had alien DNA, passed down from a race called the Vuldarians. These Vuldarians had tampered with mankind’s genetic code, particularly those of Gardner’s ancestors. With the genetic code unlocked, Gardner could now shapeshift his body into literal weapons. The unlocking of his code also cured him of many of his personality disorders, making him far less of a jerk than before. He took on the codename Warrior, and they changed his series to Guy Gardner: Warrior. He also opened a bar for the superhero crowd, appropriately named Warrior’s.
Guy Gardner Undergoes His Own Green Lantern: Rebirth
In the early 2000s, writer Geoff Johns reinvigorated the Green Lantern franchise, turning it into one of DC’s biggest sellers, right next to the Batman titles. He brought Hal Jordan back to life in Green Lantern: Rebirth, after ten years of being dead. He also removed all traces of the Vuldarian DNA from Guy Gardner, and returned him to Green Lantern status. This included his classic costume as well. Guy was brash again, but less of an outright jerk and bully. The Guardians of the Universe tasked Guy with training the next generation of Lanterns, and he reluctantly agreed. He fought in several significant battles during this era, like the Sinestro Corps War, the Blackest Night, and others.
Guy Gardner Trades a Green Ring For a Red One
During this time, Guy Gardner joined the Red Lantern Corps. Rage fueled the Red Lantern rings, much as pure willpower fueled the Green Lantern rings. Although he was seemingly a member of these anger-fueled ring bearers, he was actually still working undercover for the Green Lantern Corps, under orders from his frenemy Hal Jordan. He was a main character in the series Red Lanterns, where he tried to turn the crimson warriors into a force for good. Not long after, he was able to wield both red and green rings. But eventually, Guy’s Green Lantern ring purges the red energy, and Guy became a true Green Lantern again.
Nathan Fillion Will Play Green Lantern Guy Gardner in James Gunn’s DCU
Guy has had limited exposure in most outside comics media. Hal Jordan was the Green Lantern in the Super Friends cartoon, while John Stewart was the resident Lantern of the Justice League animated series. However, Guy Gardner has made a few appearances over the years, including guest starring roles in series like Young Justice, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and the 2011 Green Lantern animated show on Cartoon Network. But now, he’s about to get this biggest audience of all time, thanks to the Man of Steel.
After many years of fans dream casting Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern Hal Jordan He played the role in animation eventually three times. First in Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, then in Justice League: Doom, and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Now, James Gunn has cast his old friend in Superman: Legacy. That means Fillion will be the first big screen Lantern since the 2011 Ryan Reynolds movie. Gunn has promised that Fillion’s Guy Gardner would continue on in the DCU. Although the upcoming Lanterns series will focus on Hal Jordan and John Stewart, it seems that Fillion will at least appear on it once. For someone once viewed as the “third most famous Green Lantern,” Guy Gardner has a bright future ahead.