Before they created the Green Lanterns, the Guardians of the Universe were complicit in DC’s most devastating crime.
The Guardians of the Universe, the beings behind the creation of the Green Lantern Corps, are responsible for the greatest crime in the DC Universe. Written by legendary creator John Byrne and acclaimed science fiction novelist Larry Niven, with art by Byrne, 1992’s Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale reveals the story of this terrible deed, while also featuring the first appearance of the Guardian Ganthet, who would become an important character in the Green Lantern mythos.
In the DC Universe, the moment of creation is usually depicted as a large hand reaching through a primordial darkness and starting the universe. Also integral is that no one ever look back at this moment, or else a great tragedy will happen. The story goes that Krona, an early Guardian, broke this rule and, using sophisticated equipment, observed the forbidden, resulting in evil being unleashed upon the universe. Krona was banished for his crime and it ultimately set in motion events that would lead to the creation of first the Manhunters and later the Green Lantern Corps.
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Except in Ganthet’s Tale, readers learn this is not quite how it happened. The Guardians are the descendants of the Maltusians, one of the oldest species in the universe. Knowing they would accumulate powerful enemies, who could potentially travel through time and destroy the Maltusians, they created the restriction on looking at the universe’s beginning as a way to protect themselves, not the universe. Krona still carried out his experiments, but instead of seeing the beginning of the universe, he saw the ending, and this led to the entropy at the universe’s end seeping into the universe’s beginning, an act that instantly shaved a billion years worth of potential life and energy off the newly formed universe. That means countless species and empires will never exist, and the Guardians’ lies and selfish manipulations made them complicit in the greatest mass murder the DC Universe has ever seen.
When they first appeared in early Green Lantern comics, the Guardians were portrayed as just that; Guardians of the Universe who were wise and benevolent in their decisions. But over time, this shifted to depicting the Guardians as less than noble, to the point they stripped their humanity away and have done so for some members of the Green Lantern Corps. Stories like Ganthet’s Tale lie behind that trend, inviting a reckoning with the dueling ideas of whether a species set so high above all others could truly be benevolent. Published at a low point in the Green Lantern Corps’ history, Ganthet’s Tale provided the mythos with a needed shot in the arm, not only darkening the Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lantern heroes sworn to do their bidding, but adding new layers of complexity to the very foundations of the DC Universe.
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