Green Lantern #54, "Menace in the Iron Lung!"

GREEN LANTERN (2nd series) #54; July 1967; DC Comics (National Periodical Publications); Julius Schwartz, editor; featuring "The Menace in the Iron Lung!" On the cover by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson, a man in an elaborate iron-lung setup watches on. TV screen as a robot reaches out an extended arm to punch Green Lantern. "My destiny is to rule! Activate MISSILE-MAN! DESTROY GREEN LANTERN!"

Review by Bill Henley. Years ago, I had a nearly complete collection of the Silver Age GL title. Then a stack of the issues from the middle of the run went missing. When the third Showcase GL volume covering most of those issues came out in 2008, I put off buying it because I remembered those GL issues as being not all that great. Then when I decided to buy the Showcase book, I found it has gone out of print. Now I've acquired the book from an online dealer, and in rereading the stories I found that some of them are more interesting than I remembered. "Menace in the Iron Lung" is one of these, despite some distinctly goofy-- or should I say Definitely Campy-- aspects.
The book-length story is written by John Broome and drawn by Gil Kane, both pencils and inks. (One of the reasons I remembered this run of issues negatively was because a number of them were self-inked by Kane, which I didn't like. Reading the stories now, I'm not as put off by Kane's inking, though I still prefer his work inked by the likes of Murphy Anderson, Wally Wood or Dan Adkins.)
On the splash page, the seemingly helpless man in the iron lung is watching TV screens on either side of him. On one, Green Lantern is duking it out with a robot. On the other, Hal Jordan is having his lights punched out! "Though Im a prisoner in an iron lung, I have devised the perfect formula for defeating Green Lantern-- DIVIDE AND CONQUER! Split him and his alter ego apart--and overcome each of them SEPARATELY!"
(Checking Wikipedia on "iron lung," I find it was a device in which people with disabled breathing systems, most commonly from polio, were completely enclosed except for their heads so that their bodies could be surrounded by negative atmospheric pressure to assist breathing. The combination of the polio vaccine and improved breathing assistance devices have nearly eliminated iron lungs, but I guess they were still well known in 1967 when this story appeared.)
This story takes place during the period when Hal Jordan had abandoned Coast City and his test-pilot job out of pique when Carol Ferris jilted him for marriage. He's now working as an insurance investigator in Evergreen City in the Pacific Northwest-- and his latest assignment is an unexpected one. A man with the unusual name of Baron Tyrano is claiming that, in the course of his "anti-crime activity," Green Lantern did major damage to Tyrano's million-dollar estate! (Ah, inflation... Nowadays, a modest home in a posh area of the country could cost over a million dollars). "The boss doesn't realize that he just handed this case to Green Lantern!"-- who has no recollection of ever visiting the Tyrano estate. On his way to fulfill the assignment, Hal reflects that he is enjoying his insurance job because it is "full of surprises" and keeps his mind off his lost love Carol Ferris. But it will not be Hal who carries out this assignment. After charging his ring, Green Lantern takes off to inspect the damage he himself has supposedly done!
Kind of an unethical procedure for an investigator, perhaps, but it doesn't matter. For the insurance claim is only a blind for the true scheme of Baron Tyrano-- described as "a life prisoner in an iron lung, but a man of so gigantic an intellect that he has defied the fates and in secret has become one of the most powerful men in the world!" He is surrounded by uniformed henchmen and henchwomen, and at Tyrano,s command, one of them fires "Missile-Man"-- a flying robot resembling Tyrano himself- at the approaching GL! Our hero tries evasive action but the robot reaches out with its metal arm and delivers such a mighty blow that it not only knocks GL to the ground-- his life saved only by his ring's "automatic protection against mortal harm"-- but causes a confused Hal Jordan to appear, separately from GL, on a city street some distance away. Tyrano boasts, "The blow of my missile-creature was so tremendous that it SEPARATED Green Lantern from his alter ego! My device has divided my foe into the TWO SEPARATE PARTS of his personality! Now he can easily be defeated and captured! DIVIDE AND CONQUER! Ha, ha!"
(Okay, let's hold on here. In the first place, it's never really explained how Tyrano learned GL's secret identity.. Secondly, a super-villain might devise some super-scientific gadget to split GL and Hal into two beings, but it makes no sense that an ordinary physical blow would do it. Finally, of all the superheroes to use this ploy on, Hal/GL is one of the least appropriate. A few superheroes, like Billy Batson/Captain Marvel orDon Blake/Thor, are separate physical beings from their alter egos. Other "secret identities" at least affect a different personality from their heroic selves; Clark Kent is "meek" and "timid", Bruce Wayne is an "idle playboy, Diana Prince is a "mousy" military drudge, and even Barry Allen is "slow" and "lazy". Hal Jordan, however, is manly and heroic in both his identities, making no attempt to disguise his personality. I've always suspected that he used his ring to cloud the minds of the people who knew him in both identities, to keep them from noticing that they are the same person. That little mask certainly wouldn't do it.)
Anyway, even if the only difference between GL and Hal is that one has a ring and costume and the other doesn't, that may be enough difference for the gang of thugs Tyrano sends after Hal! Or maybe not! Hal manages to hold his own in an all out no holds barred brawl against the gang, but will numbers finally tell in the end? Meanwhile, Green Lantern has gotten up off the ground to take on the "Missile-Man" once more, but he finds himself dazed and mysteriously unable to aim his power ring beam properly. He attempts to use his fists against the robot while using his ring defensively to form shields, but "another wave of dizziness" weakens GL's will power and causes his shield to collapse. Sensing himself "in mental contact with someone I know well but can't identify," GL probes with his ring and discovers that the contact is with his alter ego, Hal, who is also battling for his life! GL's waves of weakness correspond with moments when Hal is under the most stress in his own cattle! And then a lucky punch connects and knocks Hal Jordan unconscious- and GL falls from the sky! Long hours later, Hal Jordan comes to his senses brutally aching in mind and body"-- but he senses that his alter ego Green Lantern is in even worse trouble. Shrugging off his own pains, Hal rises and rushes off to find his other half; "Green Lantern and I must rejoin each other! Split apart this way... We're vulnerable!"
Back at Baron Tyrano's lair, Green Lantern lies bound and unconscious as one of Tyrano's devices monitors the dwindling power in his ring. Once the power ring is exhausted, the Baron can carry out his master plan! He has a "body-switching machine", and with it, "Green Lantern and I will CHANGE PLACES! He will have my useless body-- and I will have HIS! I will possess the superbly conditioned body of a man BORN WITHOUT FEAR!" (Yeah, but he's blind, which might be inconvenient. Wait, never mind, wrong man without fear.) "I will be FREE of this IRON PRISON at last!"
(A running theme of these middle-period GL issues was that Hal Jordan, emotionally scarred by losing Carol, felt insecure and tried to assert his manhood by fighting bad guys with his fists rather than his ring whenever possible. The element of psychological angst, as well as the greater emphasis on physical action, was an apparent attempt to "Marvelize" the GL series. But anyway, maybe Hal would have been reassured if he knew Tyrano wanted him for his superbly conditioned self and not his ring. Though if it was me, I'd be looking to steal the body of some other superbly conditioned guy who wasn't liable to get me in trouble with the Justice League and the Guardians of the Universe.)
Meanwhile, desperate to find his other self, Hal Jordan returns to his hotel room to retrieve the invisible Power Battery which he keeps in a suitcase. The battery remains invisible even to him, and he can't use it without a ring, but "I've always noticed that there's a faint attraction like a subtle magnetic pull, between the Power Battery and Power Ring!" Hal uses this to track Green Lantern to the site where GL battled Missile-Man, and then to Tyrano's walked estate. There he finds the Baron's armed guards who threaten to shoot him for trespassing! Hal manages to distract one of the guards by dropping the invisible Power Battery on his foot, and then triumphs in another knock-down, drag-out fight... Only to risk disaster when he realizes the invisible Battery has been lost in the scuffle! Fortunately, Hal literally trips over the Battery, and then follows its pull to a window where he witnesses Tyrano making his final preparations!
GL briefly regains consciousness but, bound and with his ring now out of power, he is helpless! Hal crashes through the window and lays about him, swinging the invisible battery around him like a mace to fell Tyrano's henchmen. He reaches GL's side and finds him in a "state of shock" unable to speak, so it is up to Hal to touch ring to battery and finish reciting the Oath, despite new onslaughts by Tyrano's thugs. Hal completes the oath just as Tyrano re-activates his Missile-Man robot, now under his direct control.
Now it is up to Green Lantern to defeat the Missile-Man. At first it seems that GL's will power is not enough to defeat the robot's "fantastic energy", but at last a ring-beam explodes the synthetic creature into a thousand pieces!
As GL summons a specially equipped police squad to arrest Tyrano, one of his female attendants approaches Hal and tries to switch sides; "You can take me in any time, Mr. Alter Ego..." Upon learning what Tyrano intended for him, GL declares, "So you wanted my body, Tyrano? I almost feel flattered!" Tyrano eschews the usual curses and boasting of defeated villains; "I have nothing to say to you, Green Lantern!" But can the Power Ring undo Tyrano's work and unite our hero's two identities? Fortunately, the answer is yes; "A strange feeling... Like coming home!" "There's been a sense of terrible loneliness in the pit of my stomach! It's disappearing"
But as GL makes mental notes on his report for Pieface's GL casebook, and as Hal explains to his boss that Tyrano was guilty of (among other things) attempted insurance fraud, Tyrano himself is not discouraged as he lies in his iron-lung "prison" which itself is ensconced within a jail cell. "I anticipated my temporary defeat by Green Lantern-- and despite it I shall still gain my objective!" Caption: "Can the Baron really carry out his threat? Watch forthcoming issues for the next adventure dealing with the incredible MENACE IN THE IRON LUNG!" However, readers watched in vain till long after the end of the Silver Age; according to the GCD, Tyrano didn't reappear until GREEN LANTERN CORPS #204 in 1986 (a comic book I own, but don't remember anything about).