John Stewart: Who is the Master Builder?

His Heroics Are a Daily Show

[Green Lantern is talking with an old army buddy.]
Rex Mason:Still in uniform, I see. Though it’s not exactly Marine Corps standard issue.”
John Stewart:I signed up with a new unit.”
Rex:So I heard.

Justice League “Metamorphosis” (Season 1, Episode 22)

A giant robot attacks an alien city. It raises a leg to crush fleeing civilians, but an emerald blast stuns it. A human wearing green flies past, strafing the robot with more blasts. The man points at a pile of debris. Light shoots from a green ring and quickly forms into a catapult, which he triggers. The flying debris knocks the robot on its back.

The robot struggles to its feet, but the man spots a small hole near its center. He lands on a rooftop and constructs a rifle with his ring. Laying prone, he carefully aims at the tear. He slowly exhales and fires. The focused blast hits the target and the robot explodes from within. With the threat over, John Stewart examines the damaged buildings before using his ring to start repairs.

John Stewart is one of DC Comics’ unexpected successes. He was created to be a back-up Green Lantern for Hal Jordan, but became a breakout character. So who is he? How did he get his powers? What makes him so special compared to the thousands of other Green Lanterns? Let’s find out?

Hotshot Hero: John Stewart’s Backstory

[The Justice League has been transported to a world set in the 1950s]
Green Lantern: It’s an honor to fight alongside you.
The Streak: [sincerely] “The feeling’s mutual. You’re a credit to your people, son.”
Green Lantern: [unimpressed] “Uh… thanks.

Justice League “Legends” Season 1, Episode 18)

John Stewart debuted in Green Lantern #87 in 1971. He was created by Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil. John was DC’s second African American superhero with his own series, following Black Lightning.

Stewart was a former U.S. Marine who was working as an architect and activist. He was transported to a planet called Oa where he met Green Lantern Hal Jordan and the Guardians of the Universe. Hal’s partner, Guy Gardner, had been badly wounded and a replacement was needed. John’s courage and imagination made him a great choice to be a new Green Lantern.

The two Lanterns clashed almost immediately. Hal loathed John’s flippant attitude and lack of respect while John believed Hal was too stiff and maybe a little bigoted. It didn’t help that their first mission involved guarding a racist politician.

John and Hal eventually found common ground, and John left Earth to receive Power Ring training. He studied under a Lantern named Katma Tui, who he later married. Unfortunately, she was killed by a villain called Star Sapphire. 

The blows kept coming when John tried to save a planet called Xanshi. A bomb had been planted at its core and John rushed to defuse it, even arrogantly barring his allies from helping, but he failed and Xanshi was destroyed.  

Mosaic: John Stewart’s History

[John Stewart is attempting to rebuild Xanshi]
Ring:Warning: willpower exceeding Power Ring capabilities. [deactivates]”’
John: [narrating] “When I was in the Marines, they used to say “pain is weakness leaving the body. It’s just about out.”

Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns

John Stewart’s failure broke him. He attempted suicide before his friends reached him. As penance The Guardians assigned John to protect a patchwork world made from pieces of other planets. John was bitter at first, but becoming the planet’s protector and leader was exactly the assignment that he needed to mature. He even temporarily became the first mortal Guardian of the Universe.

Marine training prepared John for the many cosmic wars he fought. He led the Green Lanterns in battle with the newly-formed Sinestro Corps, fought armies of Red Lanterns, and helped stop the zombie Black Lanterns during the event Blackest Night. During that last event, he held off the entire reanimated population of Xanshi and his undead wife.

John Stewart recently encountered a new threat in the Ultraviolet Lantern Corps. The Ultraviolets used his repressed guilt to mold him into their agent in an attempt to conquer the universe. The Justice League freed John, and still searches for a way to stop the Ultraviolets.

Building a Better Weapon: John Stewart’s Powers and Personality

[Green Lantern has been framed for blowing up a planet and is on trial]
Flash: “This isn’t right. We can’t just sit here.
John: “
We have to. Think of the others like us. We all have to be held accountable. We have too much power not to be.

Justice League “In Blackest Night” (Season 1, Episode 4) 

John’s Marine experience has made him an expert leader, tactician, martial artist, and sniper. He is also a talented architect. Using both skill-sets together allows him to detect and capitalize on enemy weaknesses. He’s even been known to hit targets from multiple space sectors away.

Like all Green Lanterns, John gets his powers from a Power Ring charged by a lantern-shaped Power Battery. He becomes super strong and fast, can fire energy blasts, and create force fields. The killer app has always been energy constructs that allow Lanterns to create anything they can imagine. John usually goes for rifles and construction equipment because of his background. Unfortunately, the rings don’t work on anything yellow because of a defect.

While controlled by the Ultraviolet Corps, John’s finger was branded with a tattoo that acted as a ring. He had all the Green Lantern powers and the ability to manipulate a victim’s repressed emotions, such as guilt or hatred. John could infect people suffering from those feelings with a new Ultraviolet tattoo. Breaking free from the Corps transformed John’s tattoo into a Green Lantern equivalent, meaning he no longer needs a ring or battery to access his powers.

John Stewart started as a carefree hothead with a chip on his shoulder. Losing his wife and failing to save Xanshi was a wake-up call that caused him to mature into a shrewd and reserved leader. He is often introspective and can quote philosophers from memory. Many of his fellow Green Lanterns are scared of him because of his temper and the Xanshi disaster.

The Actors Who Play John Stewart

Phil LaMarr – Justice League, Justice League: Unlimited, Static Shock, Superman: Red Son
Kevin Michael Richardson – Young Justice
David Ramsey – Arrow, The Flash
Roger R. Cross – Justice League: Dark, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
Lil Yachty – Teen Titans Go!: To the Movies
Aldis Hodge – Green Lantern: Beware My Power

Didya Get All That?

A Green Lantern who can be a destroyer or creator.

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