Green Lantern v2 #123 marks the departure of Green Arrow from the series (it was formerly known as Green Lantern co-starring Green Arrow since issue #90) and Green Lantern being the main feature attraction of the series. Why was Green Arrow moved to a different series? The short answer: fan reaction and sales.
Back in 1970, the Green Arrow/Green Lantern team-up worked extraordinarily well. Written by Denny O’Neil and illustrated by Neal Adams, the hard traveling heroes storyline (Green Lantern v2 #76 – #89) injected Green Arrow into the mix as a radical left-wing “voice of the people” to contrast Green Lantern’s “by the book” law-enforcement persona. It was really a Silver Aged crime-fighting version of ‘the odd couple that dealt with socially relevant issues such as racism, corporate pollution, cults, and overpopulation (among other socially relevant issues). While the hard traveling heroes storyline was a critical success and arguably some of the best DC comics stories ever written, it was not a financial success and the series was cancelled after issue #89 in 1972.
The Green Lantern series took a 4 year hiatus and resumed in 1976 with issue #90. The series picked up exactly where Green Lantern #89 left off four years ago – with Green Arrow co-starring, and Dennis O’Neil as writer (and Mike Grell was now illustrating). There was a difference, however, as the series focused less on socially relevant issues and more on adventures of the sci-fi genre. Therein lay the problem: a street-level character like Green Arrow had no place assisting Green Lantern in deep space battling cosmic beings, so stories had to be fine-tuned to ensure that he had a relevant purpose in the adventure. After numerous fan votes (the Great Green Arrow debate) and deliberation by the editorial staff, it was ultimately decided that Green Arrow would be moved to Detective Comics as a back-up feature. Green Lantern would remain the headlining hero of the series until 1986, when the series was renamed to the Green Lantern Corps.
I wouldn’t call it a reboot, but DC was definitely trying to re-create the magic of Green Lantern’s Silver Age debut (ex: fearless Test Pilot, side-kick, Carol Fenris as love interest, sci-fi/outer space-themed adventures) which was a huge departure from his previous “everyman” status (e.g. truck driver who hung out with Green Arrow and foiled earth-based crimes). Additionally, more attention was paid to other members of the Green Lantern Corps – which would play a huge part in the future of the Green Lantern mythos.
His first battle in his new solo series was against Sinestro (a long-time established Green Lantern villain) who had been gaining popularity thanks to recent appearances on the Super Friends cartoon. Dennis O’Neil wrote this issue (O’Neil would stay on as writer until issue #129) and Joe Staton became the new penciler (replacing Don Heck). I’d have to agree with most Green Lantern aficionados that the series got 500% better after Green Arrow got dumped – it just didn’t have the same impact as the original 1970’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow team up and thus was a pale imitation.
A few interesting things happened prior to this issue:
-In issue #116, the replacement Green Lantern known as Guy Gardner ‘dies’ and is later revealed to be trapped in the Phantom Zone (which he is promptly rescued from in issue #123). Guy Gardner would then remain in a ‘coma’ (aka: comic book limbo) until Green Lantern #189 (1985). Guy Gardner would later go on to be a member of Keith Giffen’s 1987 Justice League series and prove to be extremely popular with fans.
-In issue #111, the Golden Age Green Lantern (Alan Scott) teams up with the Silver Age Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Green Arrow to battle (the ?) Starheart. This would set the stage for a retcon that would explain why the Golden Age Green Lantern and the Silver Age Green Lantern are so different in powers and costume (it would also explain why Golden Age Green Lantern isn’t part of the Green Lantern Corps). The real reason? The Silver Age Green Lantern was a Julius Schwartz reboot of the Golden Age version (same name, different powers/costume/character) that was once owned by All-American comics.