Hal Jordan slipped on the Green Lantern ring in 1959. He’s been called “The Greatest Green Lantern” and “Emerald Warrior,” just to name a few. However, another name has been strongly associated with Hal Jordan over the years — “Man Without Fear.” It’s not that surprising. The Green Lantern Corps thrives on the idea of willpower over fear. One of their most prominent beliefs can be summed up in two words: no fear. Hal himself was a test pilot and member of the Air Force before getting a ring, jobs that both require strong nerves, quick reflexes, and above all, courage in the face of possible death. He is, for all intents and purposes, a man without fear.

Yet that’s also been his downfall.

Hal Jordan’s come across fear multiple times as a Lantern and normal man. He’s always won, for the most part. However, when Hal was faced with his greatest fear, it not only broke him, it led to the end of the Green Lanterns. However, Hal’s dismissal of fear may have led to his own mental downfall as well.

The Stars Go Dark in HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #42

Parallax

Hal’s change began with the destruction of Coast City. This act serves as every superhero’s greatest fear — failing to protect their city. For Hal, it was worse because Coast City was also his hometown. He grew up there and had friends and family still living there. Failing to protect the city, and the people in it, is arguably his greatest fear. Yet Hal built his reputation as a fearless human being, even before he had the ring. The ring, and it’s responsibility, tempered his fearlessness somewhat, but Hal was still a man that seemed afraid of nothing. Then Coast City was wiped off the map.

Fear
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Hal wasn’t even present when this destruction happened, a fact that likely added to his guilt. Seeing this fear come to life pushed Hal into a new, darker direction. He attempted to use his ring to rebuild the city, an act the Guardians rebuked. This pushed Hal over the edge. He began killing other Green Lanterns for their rings, until he reached Oa and dove into the Central Power Battery. He absorbed all the energy inside, and emerged as Parallax, the emodiment of the energy of willpower. Hal tried to use this power to rewrite the universe to his own desires multiple times, until he sacrificed himself to reignite Earth’s sun.

Eventually, GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH revealed that Coast City’s destruction had allowed Hal to be possessed by the living embodiment of fear… Parallax. Trapped in the Central Battery, Parallax had used the crisis to fill Jordan’s mind with fear, resulting in his actions towards the other Lanterns. Hal’s friends eventually expunged Parallax from him, and he returned as Earth’s Green Lantern once again.

Fear And Silence

Hal’s experience seems like a typical comic book story in some regards. The company took an aging hero, gave him a new direction, and then gave the identity to a new character (in this case, Kyle Rayner). However, Hal’s journey shows a dangerous problem of the mind as well. The fear of failing exists in all heroes. Each of them works to protect the people and places they care about. Losing them causes said heroes to snap most of the time. Superman in INJUSTICE is a prime example of this. Hal suffered almost the same type of loss that Superman did in that story. His breakdown isn’t surprising as a result.

He proclaimed himself as the man without fear, a hero full of confidence and determination. It defined him as a character, but it was really a front. Hal carried those same fears of failure like all other heroes did. He merely hid them behind a mask of bravado and confidence, until those fears finally came true. Hal’s breakdown was understandable, but it could have been helped years ago.

Hal belongs to two unique groups — the Lantern Corps and the Justice League. Both contain heroes who fear losing everything. Hal could have spoken with his comrades about his anxieties; imagine the conversation with Batman alone! Heroes from Superman to Kilowog have dealt with loss or the fear of it. Hal voicing his worries with those that understand could have helped him deal with the destruction of Coast City. Instead, he held everything inside. That allowed Parallax to manipulate his fear when it came out. Some of this falls on Hal, but he belongs to a group that taught him “no fear.” This wasn’t the first time that concept had backfired either.

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Birth and Fear

Fans know that Hal’s archenemy Sinestro embodies fear. He’s the leader of the Sinestro Corps, the fear-based opposite of the Green Lanterns. However, Sinestro was also a Lantern himself at one point. Sinestro preached control and order, but Hal found his mentor’s belief had taken hold in another way. Sinestro used his ring to overtake his home planet of Korugar, ruling it in secret. This action drove the Guardians to imprison Sinestro, beginning the chain of events that led to the Sinestro Corps.

However, the Guardians share the blame once again.

Sinestro was already a being that believed strongly in order. The ring allowed him to act upon it. He could enforce order on his entire sector as he saw fit. He too was once called the greatest Green Lantern, and practically exuded an aura of “no fear.” Unlike Hal, Sinestro was colder and more logical, as if fear itself couldn’t touch him. It’s not hard to imagine though, that it was just a shell like Hal’s overconfidence. Sinestro projected a sense of control to mask his fear of disorder in his universe. That seemed to be enough until, like Hal, something triggered Sinestro’s fears.

Fear
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Sinestro has a daughter, Soranik Natu. He wanted to protect her, like any parent. And like any parent, Sinestro likely imagined all the horrible things that could happen to his child. He feared them and, like Hal, he kept those anxieties to himself. Those fears preyed on him though, pushing his obsession for order further. Sinestro needed to make the universe safe for his child, no matter the cost. He didn’t seek out advice from others about the fears any parent would share. He was a Green Lantern, and that meant one thing.

No fear.

Fear Dies in the Open

Hal and Sinestro show how badly secret fears can warp even the best mind. They wanted to promote strong ideals — confidence and order. However, they couldn’t allow anything to even touch that image. So they buried their anxieties, and their fears warped them in turn. It’s sad because it’s something we see all the time and are guilty of doing ourselves. No one wants to admit they’re struggling with something, no matter what it is. Doing so makes you seem “weak.” Truthfully, the only way to kill fear is to bring it out into the open.

Other people can help us understand our fears, to make them into something we can overcome. Keeping said fears sheltered only allows them to grow and twist our actions until we’re consumed by it. The Lanterns suffered their worst losses by not accepting that. We don’t have to. So whatever you might be afraid of in life, don’t pretend it isn’t there. Drag it out of your mind, show it to people that can help you deal with it.

That’s the only way to truly have no fear.

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