For all his bluster, Guy Gardner may not be the Green Lantern he wants people to think of him as. A look at the alternate timeline shows that the traditionally selfish Orderly never had a chance to become the greatest Green Lantern of all.
Hal Jordan may be one of the most famous ring bearers in the Corps, but he was far from the only suitable candidate for this position. The original Lantern of Sector 2814, Abin Sur, was seriously injured in an emergency landing on Earth and was forced to find someone on the planet to whom he could give his ring. Of all the suitable replacements for Green Lanterns, the ring chose Jordan mainly because he was the closest to the crash site of the Sur. But Jordan eventually discovered that a man named Guy Gardner was also supposed to replace Sur. And soon Guy became an official member of the Corps and began a mission to prove that he was the best Lantern who ever wore a ring.
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And while Gardner can talk a lot, the reality is that he never had a chance to be the best. In John Broome and Gil Kane’s Green Lantern #59, Guardians of the Universe demonstrate a machine that can scan the minds of dead Green Lantern Corps members for the Corps’ personal records. After watching the last moments of Abin Sur’s life, Jordan is curious what Gardner would be like in the role of a Lantern. The Sentinel Machine can create a simulation of this particular scenario and shows Gardner becoming Earth’s Green Lantern. Guy also copes well with the role of Jordan, but during a mission in deep space, Gardner falls seriously ill with a disease known as the “Yellow Plague”. Dying, he tries to find a better replacement and eventually gives his ring to Hal Jordan.
This won’t be the last time fans have seen a backup of Hal Jordan. Although Guy Gardner eventually became a Green Lantern, his later images were far from the noble spirit he was originally portrayed with. When Guy had the opportunity to own his own Power Ring, he developed some convulsive tendencies. Despite the big ego he later presented, this look at a potential timeline provides a much-needed reality check for the noisiest member of the Corps.
The idea of who is the “greatest” Green Lantern is a matter of debate, as almost every member of the Corps demonstrates great potential. There are almost ten Lanterns on Earth alone that have proven themselves to be the best. Even the “best” Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, is not universally recognized by fans. But the biggest drawback of Guy Gardner is how confident he is in his abilities. He even expressed the feeling that, due to circumstances, he was trapped in Jordan’s shadow. But the “what if” scenario shows that Guy was never destined to become a Green Lantern, but only one of many. If Gardner really became the Green Lantern first, he would just die early, and the fame he wants so much would still go to Hal.
The truth may be hard to hear, but Guy Gardner just wasn’t destined to be the best Green Lantern.