Colorful Heroes of the Wild West
Dreaming Up Western-Era Skittle Lanterns, Part 2
Today (after a few delays due to real life stuff) we finish up our look at Wild West Lanterns. If you haven't read the previous parts (first the Golden Age lanterns, part one and part two, and then the first part of the Wild West Lanterns) let's go over the concept in brief. Essentially, there was a Green Lantern of the Golden Age of Comics, Alan Scott, who had power to create objects and move matter (for everything except wood) while dressing like a Rodeo Clown was mugged by a very aggressive member of the Fashion Police. The Golden Age of comics ended after World War II, and most of the classic heroes went away while publishers focused on Western Comics (which were very big at the time).
A decade later, though, comic publishers discovered that superheroes were popular again. DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. introduced new versions (with new back stories) of many of their previous heroes, and that included new Green LanternMade up of aliens from sectors scross space, the Green Lantern Corp. defends the universe against threats with the power of the Green Light of Willpower. Hal Jordan (man of willpower and the color green), and this Silver Age version of continuity became the main version of Green Lantern lord going forward. Eventually other colors of lanterns were introduced (Sinestro and his Power Ring which controlled yellow light being the first). We had the idea, though, that maybe there could have been other colorful lanterns back int eh time of Alan Scott, and I wrote up a bunch of stuff all about them. Then I thought, "why not do the same for the Old West," and so here we are. Wrapping up that whole thing.
Let's get this train back on track as we finish this up:
The Camohtic Nation
Before the white man came to the shores of the Americas, the land was home to the various tribes of the First Nations. These men and women cultivated the land, making it their home. Their version of civilization frankly wasn't that different from what the Europeans were doing over in Europe, just with different building materials (and a lot less gunpowder). Of course, then the Europeans came, spread smallpox around, and almost entirely obliterated the First Nations' people through disease (even before eventually moving here permanently and claiming the Americas as "their own").
Among the various First Nation tribes, though, there was one group that wasn't directly impacted by the Europeans, at least at first. The idealized version of life in the Americas, that of living in perfect harmony with the land, was true for this group. These people, the Camohtic tribe, communed with the ground, with the animals, with everything. Their numbers were limited but the harmony the found in nature made up for their not pursuing the built up kind of civilization the other tribes, and eventually the Europeans, were building.
When the disease spread across the continent, the Camohtic Nation was largely unaffected. They seemed to have greater health, inner strength and power that made them immune to the ravages of this European-borne plague. While others were dying, the small but hardly numbers of the Camohtic continued on, in remote safety.
The other tribes spoke of this group, how the great spirits of nature gave this tribe their power. The ways of the Camohtic were shrouded in mystery to anyone not of their tribe. That wasn't entirely wrong as the tribe gained their power from an ancient spirit that had come to their lands centuries before. Etching itself on the ground, creating distinctive lines in the soul with a purple hue, the Great Spirit guarded the tribe and kept them safe. Their communion with nature was a sharing with this Great Spirit.
Of course, eventually the White Man moved across the country and tried to drive the Camohtic peoples off their land. Troops from the U.S. Army arrive to push them off, and this led to a battle on the mist-wrapped hills of their territory. Out of the mists can running warriors, glowing purple tattoos on their skin. The troops broke, their morale crumbling, and they fled. The tribe had one that day... and then vanished soon after. A large force from the U.S. government was sent but they could find no trace of the warriors and tribesmen. More curiously, the purple etching in the ground disappeared, as if it had never been there at all.
Rumors persist of these warriors, hiding away in an even more remote stretch of land, but no one knows for sure where the Camohtic Nation and her people went.
While each of the "Skittle Lanterns" have their own Corp, the Indigo Lanterns are interesting because they work almost like a tribe. They're a band of people, powered by Compassion, who travel together. That distinctive grouping seems like a key detail for the lanterns, so whether we're looking at Golden Age versions who are granted gifts by a group of Romani, or Native Americans with the power of the Indigo spirit, that tight-knit, tribal aspect remains.
Also, Camohtic means "purple". It's not a creative choice, sure, but it was the obvious one.
Born a slave, little John grew up on a Southern plantation. Although the children on the plantation were cared for during the first few years, once they were grown enough to deal with crops (cotton primarily), the children were shoved out into the fields to work with the adult slaves. It was hard work, nasty work, with long hours under the eyes of evil men. The first day out in the field was quite a shock to little John's mind.
It's possible that, had matters remained as they were, John would have remained a slave for the rest of his life. Events, though, came together to change John and make him a fighter. To start, when he was fifteen his mother, Mary, was sold to another plantation. His father had already died while John was very young, and this left John without any direct family on the plantation. Any thought he had that the place he lived in was "home" (and, of course, there wasn't much thought for that) was dashed then.
Then, four years later, a couple of other slaves ran from the plantation. They were around John's age, two young men who ran for freedom to the North. They were captured and returned to the plantation, beaten but forced the next day to go back out to work despite their injuries. John couldn't stand this and pushed himself in the way of the whips of the men running the land. He was beaten as well, but it proved to John that he could stand up, to do what's right, despite what he was born into.
Two years later, with the growing war between North and South, John saw the opportunity to finally get away. He'd been plotting with other slaves how to escape, and one night, after troops had marched past the plantation and the owners had gone to sleep, the slaves made a break for it. The snuck out under the cover of darkness and fled into the woods. They had to get away lest they get taken back to the plantation... or worse. Luck with with them for a day as they managed to put good distance between themselves and the farm before their disappearance was discovered.
But then the chase was on. Men, on horses and on foot, along with trained dogs, came after the slaves. Some were captured, some were killed, but the group was slowly whittled down. It was John, in the woods at night, who was the last of the group on the run. But despite the barking of dogs and the shouts of men closing in on him, John still had hope. He felt freer now than he ever had before. He swore to himself he'd never go back, that he was a free man.
Three men found John and cornered him. He stood up to fight, they raised their guns... and then the clearing was bathed in blue light. A ring, made of iron but magically floating in a haze of blue, came down in front of John. "You are capable of great hope and inner strength. Welcome to the Blue Lantern Corps." Imbued with the power of Blue, John was able to fight off his pursuers and remain free. He then worked to help other runaway slaves, battling against evil men, and Confederate Troops, until the end of the war.
Considering the time period, a hero that was a runaway slave seems absolutely necessary (even if it is a tad on the nose). Since I felt like the character needed to be added to the pantheon, the Blue Light of Hope seemed like a fair place for him. If we're talking about on the nose, the Red Light of Rage might have been an even stronger fit, but I don't know. I wanted to go in a different direction for that color. Blue works.
Of course, his name is a play on John Henry Irons (who's name was a play on John Henry). John Irons (the iron of the ring being what he used for his last name) felt right to me somehow.
Growing up in the small town of Red Rock, Nebraska, Ginnifer found that she wanted nothing more than to help people. Her town was poor, but filled with honest people just making their way. They worked, they raised families, and they went to church, all despite a land that was harsh and barren, often plagued by droughts. To survive the people of the town had to band together, to help each other. They had to make their town work because no one else would. Ginnifer saw all this and took it to heart.
Through her youth and teenage years she helped out on the family farm, working with her father to raise the sheep and cattle. She learned how to tend to the animals, aid them when they were sick, how to use the herbs and plants of the surrounding land to treat the flock and the herd. She was a natural at the healing arts, something her father noted. He reckoned she could do with more training so that she could become a healer. Her gifts could save not just the farm, or the town, but maybe even the countryside.
As luck would have it, when Ginny reached her twentieth birthday, a doctor came into town. The doctor, William "Bill" Barksworth, was a fast-talking but ably skilled man. He set up shop in the town's old apothecary (which had been abandoned months earlier when the previous doctor had died, unexpectedly), opening a practice that promised to heal the town. He sold vials of his special tinctures, little liquids to treat what ailed, and he seemed to genuinely care for the people of the town. Ginny's father thought this was the perfect opportunity to get the girl some real training.
After discussions were had (and money exchanged hands), Bill brought Ginny into his practice. She was hired on as his nurse and apprentice with promises to teach her all he knew about medicine. Certainly he had great knowledge of anatomy and could easily diagnose many of the problems with his patients. He was gifted and Ginny learned a great deal about medical conditions and how to diagnose them. The treatments, though, were not ideal.
Barksworth's little tinctures didn't always seem to help people. Certainly they felt better, but then they came back again and again for another dose, another vial. Ginnifer, knowing the local herbs as she did, become curious over time as to just what the good doctor was selling to his patients and, once she investigated, she realized the truth. It was all just hokum; the "good" doctors was nothing more than a snake oil salesman.
Unfortunately for Ginny, no one believed her when she revealed the truth. Worse, once Bill saw Ginny was on to him, he changed things up. He quickly sold a bunch of his tinctures before packing up, disappearing into the night. The next week saw a rash of people dying, poisoned by the vials they'd drunk. He wasn't just a fast-talking charlatan but a murderer as well. Ginny did what she could, tending to each towns-person and saving those who could be saved. Her magical gifts of healing helped her save far more of the sick and dying than anyone could have expected.
It was in her sleep, after the last of her patients was healed, that Ginny heard a voice. It blessed her for her healing, for taking care of the sick and dying and granting them life once again. She was to be elevated, a true healer for the territory, a saint of the sick. When she awoke she found a white ring on her finger, platinum so bright it shined on its own. And in her head she heard a mission: find the doctor and stop him, for the good of the country.
I like pairing the White and the Black Lanterns together. I think it makes a nice dichotomy, a pairing that works really well. A nurse and a doctor seems like a good fit, and while the original thought was to do a nurse and an undertaker, I felt like pairing the nurse with a doctor to learn under (and then reveal as a bad guy) worked even better.
The name Ginnifer Grant wasn't chosen for any specific meaning but more to play on the alliteration of superhero names. Many superheroes have alliterative names (Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Lois Lane, to a lesser extent Clark Kent) so going with a double-G name worked for me.
Dr. William Barksworth
Over his twenty-two years working as a doctor, William "Bill" Barksworth racked up an impressive list of accomplishments. At least, from any wall upon which he hung his awards it certainly seemed like he'd racked up a long list of accomplishments. Considering the events that transpired in Red Rock, Nebraska, though, it should come as no surprise that many of the awards the doctor had won, many of the stories of his great achievements, were all fiction and lies.
In reality, Bill Barksworth wasn't even a doctor. Born Jedediah Jones, the "doctor" was a con man. He'd grown up poor but found he had a gift for words, and he used those words to make a small fortune talking people out of their hard earned money. Although it's trite to say, "there wasn't a con he hadn't run," in the case of Jones this was very nearly true. He racked up a number of arrest warrants in every city, state, and territory he traveled through, staying one step ahead of the law by grace of his keen mind, fast mouth, and a certain way with disguises.
"Bill Barksworth" was just the latest identity he'd come up with, a traveling doctor who sold tinctures on the side while healing the sick. To sell the story Bill had studied a number of anatomy texts, picking up enough knowledge in a short span to be proficient (but also dangerous). Red Rock was the third town he visited, selling his hokum while tending to the needy. His treatments did little to aid the sick, but the snake oil he purveyed made them think they were getting better. Once he'd sold a fair deal, and right before people started to get too suspicious, Barksworth moved on... right to Red Rock.
He wasn't inclined to take a girl on as an apprentice, but when the girl's father offered a tidy sum to the "doctor", the con man saw only money. Ginny was certainly a better healer than the supposed doctor, but she didn't seem to question the remedies Barksworth solid... not at the start. Her suspicions did grow over time, though, and eventually she was forced to confront the con man over the snake oil he was selling. He scoffed at the girl and fired her, but she took the truth to the people of the town and revealed him for the con man he was.
And they didn't believe her. Barksworth felt relief, but also knew his time in Red Rock was numbered. He quickly sold off his stock of tinctures, throwing together whatever he could before quickly packing up and leaving. He didn't stick around to find out that this particular batch was poison, nor that his "medicine" lead to the deaths of dozens in the towns, and the sickening of many more. The body count would have been much higher had it not been for the actions of Ginnifer, but by the Barksworth was gone, a disguise left in the dust as the con man moved on to a new scheme and a new identity.
That might have been the end of it, too, except that as he was camping out in the stars, plotting his next scheme, Jones was visited by a spirit. The apparition condemned him for his actions. He'd been a terrible person for years, stealing fortunes and indirectly leading to the deaths of many (some died immediately, taking their own lives, while others found their circumstances horribly altered by Jones's actions, eventually leading to lives of suffering before early graves). Red Rock was just the latest, and certainly most costly, scheme yet. As the spirit laid it all out, Jones saw the horror of what he'd done... but he didn't care.
"They were all suckers," he said, "and shoulda known better." The apparition smiled. "The words I expected to hear. You can cause great suffering. You will be my avatar," it said, and it made Jones into its Black Lantern, its agent of death.
Okay so a good nurse and bad doctor was the inspiration for this pairing of White and Black... but then I got inspired to make him a fake doctor, which seemed even better. A Snake Oil salesman and con artist is perfect. Of course he'd fake being a doctor if he thought he could get away with it, and Barksworth was just that kind of person. Frankly, this was the easiest character of this whole set to write.
That ends our concepts for Old West Lanterns. Down the road maybe I can come up with others, although I'd have to figure out the right setting. Medieval? Victorian Era? Something might inspire me. We shall see.