POP Retro Cover of the Week: dynamic, iconic, beautifully monochromatic: 1970's Green Lantern #76

Green Lantern #76, April 1970, DC Comics, Cover by Neal Adams.

"Green Lantern Vol2 #76" cover by Neal Adams

The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its exploration and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week starting the cycle over again in the Seventies. While there were many iconic covers in that decade, in the first half most of them seemed to belong to Neal Adams. DC had quickly discovered that comics with dynamic and realistic covers by Adams sold more, so they smartly made him their top go-to artist for covers.

With Green Lantern #76 in April 1970, Writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams took over the Green Lantern comic that had been drawn for years by the great Gil Kane. O’Neil wanted to tackle real world issues about race, socioeconomic inequalities, politics, drugs, population explosion, war, and more. Rebooting Green Lantern for the progressive 1970s, and pairing the conservative interstellar “cop” Green Lantern with the recently rebooted, and now liberal, Green Arrow made for interesting reading and lots of national publicity because of its controversial storylines.

The cover image immediately sets the tone of the conflicts to come for and between the two Green-hued heroes. The entire cover is bathed in a beautiful —and unorthodox for the time—monochromatic green light from Green Lantern’s power battery, as he recites the Oath and recharges his ring.

Green Arrow interrupts the oath, and all the authority it represents, with a symbolic anti-establishment arrow that destroys the lantern, signaling a new direction for both heroes.

Although it is not an image or situation that appears in the issue, it is a powerful visual metaphor, a major attention-grabber, and instantly iconic.

Adams’ realistic rendering of the figures and the action is simple and direct, with no background distractions, and a bare minimum of ray effects from the battery, enough to communicate radiant energy and destruction, but not enough to clutter the design.

The cover dress (the comic’s logo, issue number and other graphics) is minimized in size, compartmentalized to the top one third of the cover, so not to intrude on the beautiful art...and also to be easily visible on the era's spinner racks. The comic logo itself had received a dramatic update, including Green Arrow’s name, bookended with Green Lantern’s on either side of his power battery. The names are expertly hand-lettered in one-point perspective, and seem to leap off the cover, along with the arrow that shatters the battery in the foreground.

Next week: A cover from the 1980s!

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