Off My Mind: Rewriting Sinestro's Origin—The Best & Worst Green Lantern

Posted by G-Man (39206 posts) - - Show Bio

With all the worries about DC rewriting/rebooting characters with the relaunch of titles this September, a lot of people seem to forget that we've constantly had changes over the years. Golden Age characters are not the exact same as their Silver Age counterparts and the same goes for the current versions. Even in the past decade or two, characters' histories have been tweaked or new hidden events have been revealed.

Sinestro has been the greatest villain for Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. The basic premise to his story is he was a great Green Lantern. Trying to maintain order, he decided to abuse his power and rule over his homeworld as a dictator.

What some may not realize is originally Hal Jordan and Sinestro were never Green Lanterns at the same time. Sinestro was never his instructor or mentor. It was just recently that we saw the Secret Origin of Hal Jordan which showed Hal and Sinestro serving in the GL Corps together. Has this update made Sinestro a better villain or does it serve to allow us to sympathize with him and his downfall?

== TEASER ==

The original Green Lantern stories have been reprinted and it's quite an experience reading them today. When Hal first received the power ring from the dying Abin Sur, he had no idea he was part of the Green Lantern Corps. The Guardians kept their existence and that of the Corps a secret. They transported his astral form to Oa to ensure he was worthy. When his form returned to his body, he had no memory of what had happened. The Guardians did this a couple time before Hal was finally clued in to what was going on.

This is when we first see the threat that Sinestro had become. They tell Hal how Sinestro abused the power and proved himself unworthy. He was banished to the antimatter universe but did not foresee the threat he would become residing over there.

Sinestro and Hal would fight several times over the years but after Crisis on Infinite Earths, Sinestro and Hal's past changed a little.

History had been changed. Hal Jordan now had a teacher instead of getting the ring and lantern from Abin Sur and having to figure everything out on his own. This made more sense in that an average Earthling would probably have a bit of difficulty figuring out everything the ring could do.

I read Emerald Dawn and Emerald Dawn II, which retold Hal Jordan's origin, when they were first published but I don't recall if there was any complaints over the changes.

Not that there was anything truly wrong with Sinestro's origin but this little tweak actually served to improve his character.

Hal Jordan's Secret Origin was later retold again in 2008 in Green Lantern #29-35. Here we got to see more of Hal and Sinestro working together. It turned out that Sinestro was a pretty good Green Lantern Corps member. Sure he had...interesting ways of training and mentoring Hal but he did have the right intentions.

This just further humanized Sinestro. He wasn't just a power-hungry villain. Over the years, the Guardians themselves have been shown to be extremely flawed in their thinking. They made grave mistakes and Sinestro was one of the few that was on to them. Eventually it was Sinestro's need for maintaining order on his homeworld and using fear, the Guardians banished him just as in his original history.

To further humanize Sinestro, we discover that he had a daughter and his wife was actually the sister of his fellow Green Lantern and friend, Abin Sur.

What we can say about all this added history to Sinestro is now he is a character that readers could relate to. His original character didn't offer much. He was simply a villain that wanted to rule his way. He had the power of a Green Lantern and was portrayed as a two-dimensional power-hungry villain wanting to rule the world.

The fact that, in his update, we get to see that he truly was one of the greatest Green Lanterns shows how one can easily fall from grace. It's not often we have a character that started out as truly good and then become as evil as you can get.

I'm not normally one in favor of rewriting a character's past or injecting new secret histories into their past and changing everything we know but with Sinestro, it was the right decision. If you read those original Green Lantern stories (all nicely reprinted in the Green Lantern Omnibus Volume One), Sinestro is a laughable villain. Now he is not only one of Hal Jordan's greatest villains but one of the greatest villains in comic books.

Readers may cringe at the thought of change but there are some cases when the change is for the better.

#1 Posted by longbowhunter (8515 posts) - - Show Bio

Dig Sinestro's hightop fade in Emerald Dawn II. I like change when it is done well and for the right reasons. There are already things about the DCU relaunch I do not like. But alot that I'm anxious for as well.
#2 Posted by JonesDeini (3857 posts) - - Show Bio

One of my favorite things about Johns run was seeing more of Sinetro's past and him making more 3 dimensional. Sometimes Geoffcons are good. Retcons in general especially when they don't toss out but bolster and explore prior continuity. Delving into "hidden" pasts of characters is really a risky move and hard to pull off successfully. Some characters I feel it has definitely harmed. A good example is Wolverine. All the origin reveals throughout the years has definitely all but killed his mystique and aura for me. A good example of this is Emma Frost (terrible as those covers were) that series really made the character connect with me and I saw her in a new light. Same could be said for Black Widow, whom I liked since I was a wee little Jonesy. I can definitely attribute that to my irresistible attraction to read heads (thanks Jessica Rabbit). As I got older and saw more her past revealed, especially in the miniseries before her last solo title, I really came to respect and appreciate her all the more. And she's now firmly seated as my favorite female character of all time. I think Johns did something similar with Sinestro. I was never big on Sinestro before Johns' Run. I hope he doesn't do too much different with him post reboot. Sinestro's one of my favorite things about his run and one of the things he definitely knocked out of the park to me. 

#3 Edited by JonesDeini (3857 posts) - - Show Bio
Bingo. It annoys me to no end how tritely and dismissively writers and pundits whip out the "Get over it, and quit being afraid of change" card whenever fans disagree with a change a writer or company makes. I'm all for change. If not for it I'd never have some of my favorite things in this medium like Tim Drake, Dick Grayson being his own man, Gillen's Journey Into Mystery, Jaime Reyes, or Kyle Rayner. What I'm against is senseless change, change for change's sake, or change due to a writer or editor's wanton whim and cavalier caprice. 
#4 Posted by 12ty12 (71 posts) - - Show Bio

Geoff Johns has mentioned writing a sequel to Secret Origin exploring Sinestro's fall from the Corps.  Sign me up cause I dig this character.  I'd say he IS the greatest comic book villian, but sometimes I think he's more of an anti hero.

#5 Posted by Pokeysteve (9189 posts) - - Show Bio

     For me, it's not what made whoever a villain but more-so what they do once they are a villain. Joker is a great example of this. We know next to nothing about Joker's past but currently he's a sh*t human being lol. On the flip side you have someone like Darkseid with such a rich backstory he's still just terrible. Their pasts don't matter too much. It's not as important as a hero's past. A hero with no backstory would be interesting though. 

#6 Posted by Outside_85 (11795 posts) - - Show Bio

However evil or powerful he may be, I wont be able to take Sinstro seriously as long as he has the 'evil' moustache, seriously he looks like a red-skinned Dick Dastardly.
#7 Posted by Grim (2185 posts) - - Show Bio
@longbowhunter said:
Dig Sinestro's hightop fade in Emerald Dawn II.
exactly what i was thinking
#8 Posted by spider-man 2996 (726 posts) - - Show Bio
@Outside_85 said:
However evil or powerful he may be, I wont be able to take Sinstro seriously as long as he has the 'evil' moustache, seriously he looks like a red-skinned Dick Dastardly.

Exactly what I was thinking!!
#9 Posted by kapitein_zeppos (360 posts) - - Show Bio

There is a fine balance between a good background and just piling on stock ideas or sloppy writing.  Revealing bits about a hero or villain can enrich the character in many ways.  
Retcons can work on some characters, especially older ones that were written in one or two dimensions without any real motivation other than moustache twirling and being bad for the sake of bad. Or it can breathe new life in a character that has become stale and mired in its own mythology and backstory.
But as Longbowhunter pointed out, retcons have almost become the norm in some cases and you can almost set your clock to them.  I love nothing more than dynamic character evolution, see them grow and change, yet I hate reading a good story for a few issues until a new writer steps in and change everything simply because they can and will impose their own view while making the character and story worse ...

#10 Edited by NightFang (10850 posts) - - Show Bio
@longbowhunter said:

Dig Sinestro's hightop fade in Emerald Dawn II. I like change when it is done well and for the right reasons. There are already things about the DCU relaunch I do not like. But alot that I'm anxious for as well.


@12ty12 said:

Geoff Johns has mentioned writing a sequel to Secret Origin exploring Sinestro's fall from the Corps.  Sign me up cause I dig this character.  I'd say he IS the greatest comic book villian, but sometimes I think he's more of an anti hero.

I don't think were gonna get a sequel to GL secret origins, unless they retell Hal Jordan's origin in Flashpoint I think of him Sinestro as a anti-villain.
#11 Posted by Grandmaster_Fro (47 posts) - - Show Bio

Sinestro is one of the greatest all-time villains. Flashpoint may make him better depending on the writing, which will be good

#12 Edited by ninjadude853 (286 posts) - - Show Bio

I think a sympathetic villain is a better villain. They're much more interesting to watch than the stereotypical megalomaniac.

#13 Posted by SleepyDrug (78 posts) - - Show Bio

Complexity is important for a villain intended to last for ages.  The Red Skull is one of the few irredeemably evil villains in comics, but he had complexity and changed over time.  I loved seeing him shift strategies to corrupt America as a wealthy businessman manipulating politicians. 
Sinestro is far more interesting with these additions to his story.  They are consistent, and build on his past without distorting it.   
It's the awful mismanagement of characters like Vision that annoys the fans, IMO.  Avengers Forever showed how inconsistent and blatantly contradictory looks at the Vision's origin were from story to story.
#14 Posted by Sammo21 (726 posts) - - Show Bio

Completely agree. I used to think Sinestro was one of the biggest jokes around...even his appearance in Green Lantern Rebirth was kinda hokey. Honestly since the forming of Sinestro Corps he has really stepped up and they've fully fleshed him out. He's definitely near the top of favorite super villains now...can't wait to see how he is in the movie.

#15 Posted by Golden Cod (535 posts) - - Show Bio

What makes Sinestro interesting aren't his sympathetic traits but the fact that we understand how his brain ticks.   Unlike most DC villains, he operates under an ideology.   There's a rhyme and rhythm to what he does and it leads him to do things that are not in keeping with a traditional villain.   Compare him with the Joker.   Joker is a fairly predictable villain in that he's just interested in wanton destruction.   Sinestro has an agenda, which can lead to interesting actions, political allegiances, and therefore stories.

#16 Posted by The Hottness (4207 posts) - - Show Bio

Sinestro is the man now ... lets keep him that way
Sinestro talking with the Guardians
#17 Posted by Trodorne (2749 posts) - - Show Bio

I just don't see how no one ever thought Sinestro would ever become villain, I mean his name is SINESTRO. Sinister is in his name. its like have a Cop called Murderloss, But back in the day they made things plain as day on who would be a villain.

#18 Edited by SpidermanWins (4142 posts) - - Show Bio

Sinestro has always been a very interesting villain. The best and worst green lantern huh? His backstory reminds me of the fall of darth vader. He was one of the most promising GLs until he fell to the dark sid- I MEAN parallax. They are pretty similar in that regard, no?

#19 Posted by Emperormeister734 (890 posts) - - Show Bio

Sinestro was wanting power of his own not to be given by the Guardians, in the book he kinda reminds me of Magneto he sees the Guardians as a threat to him and his followers. he wanted to gain power for his own purposes. Sinestro rose too the rank to be sown as as model, but became jealous of people like Jordan being known as the GREATEST LANTERN. Him going rogue and starting his own corps was through jealousy of Jordan who caused him to end his career as a Lantern. 

#20 Posted by afrokola (33 posts) - - Show Bio

I love Sinestro in today's stories, old school Sinestro was pretty stinking lame in my opinion.

#21 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6958 posts) - - Show Bio

Oh I'm not arguing that point at all, change. It can be great for some character's histories while detrimental to others.  In Sinestro's case the changes were warranted and necessary and in the end likable.  Man, all these Emerald Dawn references take me back.  I truly loved those miniseries.

#22 Posted by mark5 (1220 posts) - - Show Bio

Interesting article. For all his done, Sinestro is still a bastard villian in my sight though. 

#23 Posted by Shieldbearer (84 posts) - - Show Bio
@The Hottness
#24 Posted by Shieldbearer (84 posts) - - Show Bio

Sinestro and Magneto have a lot in common. That is probably why I like them so much. Sinestro has been made really well rounded and interesting thanks to Geoff Johns. The Sinestro Corps War really upped the ante with his character development.
I really just hope Sinestro is no longer drawn with a huge freakin' head. Reminds me too much of Hector Hammond, epecially with the evil mustache. 
I am a big fan of the animated version of Green Lantern. The Qwardians look otherworldly like ethergaunt, and the latest version of more facial detailed Abin Sur and draconic inspired Atrocitus look fantastic. Plus Sinestro doesn't have a huge head :D

#25 Posted by MrUnknown (1727 posts) - - Show Bio

Look at you, evil Sinestro, touching your evil mustache, standing with an evil pose and thinking those evil schemes in your evil mind! We banish thee evil self to evil land!

#26 Posted by Herx (501 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article. I think that tweeking origens over time like with Sinestro should be done concidering who the main hero is. For example despite the constant attmpts at trying to give the joker a back story it won't really help him as a character as the main appeal is that he's a character who like batman has "one bad day" and became a mass murdering psycho. Lex luthor and superman is the battle between the man who made today with the man who;ll make tomorrow. Sinestros origen develops him from being that 2 dimesnional silver age villain into a possible outcome of what could happen to Hal. A great green lantern who's own ideals of justice made him fall from grace.

#27 Posted by TDK_1997 (15894 posts) - - Show Bio

The DC revamp isn't a good idea
#28 Posted by Wolverine0628 (442 posts) - - Show Bio

I've never read Sinestro before Blackest Night, but I know he's an awesome character in BN.  I think the fact that he personally trained Hal made the betrayal a lot more personal to the readers.
#29 Edited by IronSpidy-Rooney (370 posts) - - Show Bio

Does Sinestro really count as a villein now? I for one feel that hes portrayed as a more heroine character in the Green Lantern books from blackest night on just not in the saving cats out of trees or helping old ladies across the street kind of hero . But then again I could have missed something 

#30 Posted by timetostart (22 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm guessing everyone has that feeling where this movie is like Thor. Loki's performance was truly amazing that he was the star of the movie and everyone liked him more than Thor the actual star. We're probably going to love Sinestro more in this movie than Hal Jordan as stated with Thor.

#31 Posted by goldenkey (3033 posts) - - Show Bio
hence Magnetoooooooooooooo
#32 Posted by MrMazz (1612 posts) - - Show Bio

Sinestro with his added stories has becoem far more interesting than his previous background.

I don't mind adding to peoples backgrounds or generally retconing stuff but only if its good (yea cheap answer)

#33 Posted by Doctor!!!!! (2135 posts) - - Show Bio

This is why you should mostly judge a book by its cover!
#34 Posted by Deadcool (6900 posts) - - Show Bio

He is one of the greatest villains in comicbooks, I loved the changes, good article Tony...
#35 Posted by VanTesla (524 posts) - - Show Bio

He will always be Space Hitler to me.
#36 Posted by untammed (466 posts) - - Show Bio
@The Hottness said:

Sinestro is the man now ... lets keep him that way
Sinestro talking with the Guardians
hell yea!
#37 Posted by DKing_CiCADA (349 posts) - - Show Bio

Sinestro is a respected enemy and I enjoy his past. This past rewriting made him a better character in my opinion 

#38 Posted by lapis2 (40 posts) - - Show Bio

Why does everyone keep saying they dont like the changes dc is making when in fact they dont know what changes are going to be made. For all we know they could just be redesigning costumes.  Other that Babs going back to being batgirl (which admittedly i dont like) we dont know what any of the changes are.  Why cant people just read some of these issues when they come and and decide then?  Its pretty ignorant and reactionary to decide you dont like a book before youve even read it. 
 And yes Sinestro is much better after his retcon.

#39 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (89 posts) - - Show Bio

While I'm not really familiar with Sinestro (or most of the DC universe), I think your article here does a great job of getting your point across. I have so many comics I'd like to catch up on, and this is one of them.

#40 Posted by CommanderShiro (209 posts) - - Show Bio

Yeah I loved the changes for Sinestro's background. It really made reading the Green Lantern comics more intriguing to have a villain like him.

#41 Posted by Mbecks14 (2114 posts) - - Show Bio

Sinestro has definitely become one of my favorite villains

#42 Posted by JarJarMinks (75 posts) - - Show Bio

"Has this update made Sinestro a better villain or does it serve to allow us to sympathize with him and his downfall?"
I think many, myself included, would say that the best villains are the ones you can sympathize with.  
Good article

#43 Edited by Eyz (3184 posts) - - Show Bio

Emerald Dawn....good times^^

#44 Posted by Sky_Jokiel (328 posts) - - Show Bio

Johns has done a spectacular job bringing Sinestro to life and making him an ultimate super villain (that still wants to do good)

#45 Posted by Blurred View (793 posts) - - Show Bio

Sinestro has been the real star of Geoff Johns' Green Lantern run. I agree that he has a lot in common with Magneto. You can sympathize and understand where he's coming from. You can see that he's one of those classic villain types that believes he's the hero of his own story, but anything truly heroic about him is twisted by his flaws. He's arrogant. He's a control freak. He's totally still a murdering villain even though his perspective is a lot more developed and understandable now. 
I'm always in favor of retcons when their goal is to produce more developed and interesting characters, especially when it comes to villains. Comics are full of two-dimensional villains who were created without anymore thought than what their powers and gimmicks were. Very few were originally given anything even close to complex motivations. They were just bad guys and such-and-such was their power.

#46 Posted by Eyz (3184 posts) - - Show Bio

Still a huge fan of the Emerald Dawn story. And in my eyes it doesn't need to be excluded or contradicted by Secret Origins, they can complement each other.

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