For those of us weaned on DC comics in the early 1970s, artist Neal Adams’s dynamic realism on Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman were instant classics. They remain highly acclaimed, and have been reprinted numerous times. Thus, it’s difficult to imagine an overlooked, relatively obscure Neal Adams-illustrated story published by DC Comics, but one does exist. It’s the Green Lantern yarn “The Powerless Power Ring!” that was written by Denny O’Neil and illustrated by Adams for the back of Flash #226 (March-April, 1974). While not a lost masterpiece, it has its visual moments.
In his civilian identity of Hal Jordan, Green Lantern goes on a camping trip and unknowingly eats bad mushrooms with his chili, which causes him to lose control of his will power. In turn, his ability to use his power ring as Green Lantern is affected.
He escapes the charge of a black bear, and barely rescues an endangered mountain climber after getting his focus back just in the nick of time. Additionally, the evening before, GL witnessed a freaky yellow Aurora Borealis-type sky display, which he believes may have corrupted the power ring.
When I was a young Green Lantern fan, I thought “The Powerless Power Ring!” was an awesome story (as were they all)–mainly because I could only get my GL fix once every two months in the bi-monthly Flash and Justice League of America titles. Re-reading this tale decades later hasn’t dimmed the good memories I have, but I’ve shifted my feelings on the story from awesome to . . . at most, it holds up with a flawed charm.
At one point, Hal Jordan power rings out of his hiking skivvies and into his Green Lantern uniform to recharge his ring. Then he goes to sleep in his sleeping bag while still in his costume. Maybe it was a cold night and he required some extra insulation.
Then there’s the matter of the endangered mountain climber. She doesn’t appear to be a mountain climber at all. Rather, she seems to be a ditzy hippie chick with a rope who was either seriously stoned out of her mind or just naturally out of her mind to even attempt such a dangerous climb up the sheer face of a cliff. However, the setting was the 70s, after all. Stranger things happened in that decade–and at least, in her own ditzy way, she revealed to GL that it was the tainted mushrooms that had caused his troubles with the power ring.
Overall, O’Neil’s tale is serviceable, but about as far away from relevancy and space opera as a GL adventure could get at that time. Adams’s pencils and Dick Giordano’s inks make it extra pretty. O’Neil pointlessly extended the story an additional two issues (bringing the freaky Aurora Borealis-type event more into play). Unfortunately, Adams didn’t tag along to save it. Dick Dillin penciled parts two and three, with Giordano inking part two and Frank Giacoia inking part three.
Maybe the obscurity of the Adams-illustrated first part is for the best.