February 26, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #364: Rot Lop Fan

What good is a Green Lantern when he doesn't know what the color green is? Quite a bit, actually.

Sometimes, when I think I am trying to pick a character for this series, I think of characters that maybe made a big splash, then perhaps didn’t do a whole lot after that.  I mean characters that had a great first appearance and then did nothing noteworthy, but that one first appearance was noteworthy enough for one reason or another.

Take Rot Lop Fan of the Green Lantern Corps.  He doesn’t know what most of those words mean.

Consider, if you will, how the Green Lantern Corps works.  The Guardians of the Universe would recruit individuals who were completely fearless and honest to weld the green power ring and bring justice and order to their respective space sectors.  Essentially, they’re space cops, armed with one of the most powerful weapons in the universe.  Many of the Lanterns are oddball aliens that have distinctive looks and cultures, and many writers and artists over the years have explored what that could mean in different ways.  That can start with bird-people, lizard-people, and wolf-people before moving on to beings who were mostly a head, made of crystal, or possessing less eyes and more limbs.  Heck, there are microscopic Green Lanterns and one living planet that mostly acts as the dispenser of rings and a place for other Lanterns to recuperate after tough missions.

But then there’s Rot Lop Fan, the Green Lantern from a sector of space that has no light in it whatsoever.  He’s an eyeless alien who has no concept of anything that could come from sight.  You know, like what light or color is.

Rot Lop Fan first appeared in a single short story in Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #3 in 1987.  That in and of itself wouldn’t matter much and the character might have been totally forgotten were it not for his creators:  writer Alan Moore and artist Bill Willingham.

I realize Moore might get more of the spotlight, but let’s remember Willingham was there too.

The story went that Green Lantern Katma Tui was looking through a pitch dark sector for someone to bear the ring when she found a worthy candidate in the form of Rot Lop Fan.  While her own ring did translate what the two were saying to each other quite easily, Rot Lop Fan was a sightless alien, so the terms “green” and “lantern” did not exist in his language,  The space sector still needed a Green Lantern, so what was to be done?

Fortunately, the two worked something out.  He may not know what colors or a lantern are, but he did understand sound.  As such, Katma more or less redubbed him along those lines.  Rot Lop Fan became the F-Sharp Bell.  He even had his own oath:

“In loudest din or hush profound,

my ears catch evil’s slightest sound.

Let those who toll out evil’s knell,

beware my power: The F-Sharp Bell!”

I do wonder how Katma explained the weakness to the color yellow to that guy…

OK, regardless, he was in the Corps now, and he’s one of those characters that are memorable enough to be included in crowd shots but maybe not to get a story of his own.  He even appeared in that Ryan Reynolds movie as one of the many alien Green Lanterns hanging around in the background on Oa.  I suppose I could wonder if he appears as often as he does due to his basically cool concept or because Alan Moore co-created him, but I am inclined to guess it’s possibly a bit of both.  Anyway, that’s Rot Lop Fan, the Green Lantern who doesn’t know what green is.