What of the man sitting on the Grand/State Red Line platform? The one gazing around with thick-rimmed, thick-lensed bifocals, the one with the short gray afro peeking from beneath a baseball cap?
What of that man with the baseball cap with the Green Lantern’s superhero logo? And a hoodie with the Green Lantern’s superhero logo? And two Green Lantern rings, one for each hand? And a massive tattoo of Green Lantern John Stewart on his right forearm?
The train was delayed and he sat on one of the few bench seats, hunched and leaning on the extended arm of the luggage he carried around town.
He smiled when I asked about his hero.
Angry people like Batman. His power is basically lashing out really, really efficiently.
The geeky and unloved love Spider-Man. He’s a nerd of nerds who gets to joke and dance through the skies only when he hides behind a mask.
I like Superman. He’s a Midwestern journalist who can fly. No points there for guessing the psychology.
The Green Lantern is a hero, or technically many heroes, from D.C. Comics comic books. They’re members of a fleet of intergalactic space cops, each given an alien ring that creates green energy constructs that respond to the ring-wearer’s thoughts.
Imagine a cage around your villain and green light shoots out of your ring to form a cage. Create a jet, punch your foe with a giant boxing glove, imagine a life raft out of thin air.
“It’s all about how the individual manipulates the energy that comes from this ring,” the man said, gesturing at the silvery GL ring on his right hand with the more traditional model on his left.
Each of the different Green Lanterns — and there’s a whole corps of them — have a different way of creating with the ring.
Fighter pilot Hal Jordan uses brute strength. Boxing gloves and giant hands.
Artist Kyle Rayner lets his imagination run wild, scattershot imagery and pop culture monsters doing his bidding.
And then there’s John Stewart, the Green Lantern tattooed on the man’s right forearm.
“He was a military man before he was an architect,” the man said.
John Stewart, he explained, would design his ring creations the way he designed buildings. As he told me this, he excitedly leaned forward to mime sketching blueprints.
While he scribbled in the air, I noticed a tattoo on his left forearm as well. I asked if it was a different Lantern, but saw a glimpse of the Grim Reaper holding the earth in its skeletal hand.
“That’s something else,” he said, quickly covering his arm and changing the topic.
He pulled out his phone to show me photos of the tats circling his right bicep, different Green Lantern logos from different eras. I spotted Hal Jordan’s logo, Kyle Rayner’s. He pointed out a few of the more obscure ones, such as the logo of a Lanternish comic book hero that Rayner, in his secret identity of a comic book artist, created. A fictional hero from a fictional hero. *
Different Green Lanterns. Different approaches to turning thought into green, glowing reality.
“It’s all about the individual. That’s what got me,” he said, clearly touched in a way I didn’t understand. “That’s what got me.”
Angry people like Batman, geeks like Spider-Man and I want to take to the winds and save a city.
What of the man adorned in Green Lantern? The one who dreams of taking his imagination and forging it into the world around him?
I’m pretty sure I like him best.
* Note for nerds: A couple of Google searches make me pretty sure he was referring to the Cannoneer from the year 2000 miniseries “Green Lantern: Circle of Fire,” but I couldn’t find an image to confirm this.