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Green Lantern: Why Sinestro is DC’s most criminally underused villain

As DC plans its future for film and television, Sinestro could finally break from obscurity as a larger threat

Sinestro powers up
Image credit: DC Comics

The DC Universe has no shortage of iconic superhero/supervillain dynamics, from Superman and Lex Luthor to Batman and the Joker. One of the more underrated nemesis pairings in the DCU is Green Lantern and Sinestro, and while the latter certainly looms large in the Green Lantern mythos as Hal Jordan’s greatest enemy, has never quite gotten the villainous ubiquity in the public mainstream that even counterparts like the Reverse-Flash or Cheetah have enjoyed. This distinction comes despite the fact that Sinestro appears alongside Green Lantern in virtually every multimedia appearance the emerald superhero has made, including the 2011 live-action film, depicted by fan-favorite Mark Strong.

In the pages of the new Green Lantern comic book series helmed by Jeremy Adams and Xermánico, Sinestro resurfaces for the first time in the new Dawn of DC era. With Sinestro back to his wicked ways and his return seemingly linked to Hal’s own homecoming, here’s a look at the shared antagonism between the two cosmic characters, what makes their dynamic unique in the DCU, and why now is the perfect time to make Sinestro just as important and prominent as any of his DC supervillain counterparts.

A history of violence

The Guardians of the Universe exile Sinestro
Image credit: DC Comics

Sinestro is introduced by John Broome and Gil Kane in 1961’s Green Lantern #7 as a member of the Green Lantern Corps who abused his powers to conquer his home planet Korugar and rule it with an iron fist. Banished to Qward, a world in the Antimatter Universe, Sinestro teams up with the Qwardians to fashion a Power Ring of his own, projecting energy constructs in yellow, the one color unaffected by the Green Lantern Corps’ Power Rings. The 2004 miniseries Green Lantern: Rebirth by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver elaborates on this, revealing Sinestro’s Power Ring is fueled by fear whereas the Green Lantern Corp Power Battery is fueled by willpower.

Across Hal Jordan and Sinestro’s combative history, the supervillain’s backstory suggests several different elements that makes him an effective antagonist for Green Lantern. Sinestro personifies the temptation that comes with the Power Ring, demonstrating how even the most revered among the Green Lanterns has the potential for such an epic fall from grace. This is similar to the role General Zod fills for Superman’s rogues’ gallery, as the Kryptonian using his powers to conquer and subjugate rather than for good, or the numerous billionaire counterparts to Bruce Wayne who use their funds and cunning for evil instead of justice, like Black Mask and the Penguin.

The fall from grace narrative that Hal experiences, taking on the supervillain moniker Parallax and attacking the Green Lantern Corps in the 1994 story Emerald Twilight by Ron Marz and Darryl Banks furthers this parallel. Going rogue with his powers, Parallax does what Sinestro never could by single-handedly dismantling the Green Lantern Corps, culminating in Hal supplanting Sinestro by seemingly murdering him. Rebirth’s reveal that Sinestro faked his death and orchestrated Hal’s heel turn all along is a twist that is as organic as it is patently obvious within that wider context.

The retcon of Sinestro’s Power Ring drawing its energy from fear also places him in direct opposition to the Green Lantern Corps on a primally emotional level. Willpower is the force best-suited to overcome fear while fear is the emotion best-suited to hinder it. It’s more than just the abuse of power that places Hal and Sinestro at diametrically opposite ends, it’s also their choice in power source.

The tragedy of Green Lantern and Sinestro

Sinestro reminds Green Lantern they're friends
Image credit: DC Comics

Geoff Johns’ subsequent run on Green Lantern also leans into an element that previous revisions only hinted at, with Sinestro becoming Hal’s mentor when Hal was first inducted into the Green Lantern Corps. This backstory is deepened with the two forming a friendship during their time on the Corps together, even though Sinestro vocally disapproves of Hal’s more reckless use of his Power Ring. With this friendship set, this makes Sinestro’s inevitably villainous turn all the more heartbreaking as two old friends quickly become bitter enemies as it’s Hal who reports Sinestro’s misuse of his Power Ring on Korugar.

This ruptured friendship and mentor-protege dynamic echoes a similar backstory between Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker and effectively inverts it. While Star Wars posits the reckless student as letting his emotions get the better of him to abandon his principles and become a supervillain, the Green Lantern mythos reserves this heel turn for the mentor figure. This shared history gives a personal element to the conflict that makes the stakes all the more intimate and painful as Green Lantern and Sinestro battle across the cosmos, remembering the lost friendship between them.

Sinestro’s complicated moral path

Sinestro returns to the Green Lantern Corps
Image credit: DC Comics

Just as Johns played a large part in making classic villains like Black Adam and Captain Cold more nuanced antagonists, he takes a similar approach to adding complex layers to Sinestro. Sinestro’s past on Korugar is explored along with the introduction of his estranged daughter and his eventual successor as Korugar’s Green Lantern, Soranik Natu. There are occasional moments where Sinestro flirts with redemption, stepping up to help stop Nekron in the 2010 crossover event Blackest Night by Johns, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado, even going as far as to be temporarily re-inducted into the Green Lantern Corps at the start of the New 52 publishing initiative in 2011.

This all comes with Johns keeping Sinestro’s villainy firmly in sight, with Sinestro something of a noble supervillain in the tradition of Black Adam and Marvel’s Doctor Doom. Harboring a vendetta over his exile and wounded pride, Sinestro will never fully achieve a sense of atonement and return to the light for good. And Sinestro’s violent return in Adams and Xermánico’s Green Lantern run is a strong reminder that, for all his vaunted nobility, he remains just as deadly a threat as ever.

DC’s next great supervillain?

Sinestro embraces his power
Image credit: DC Comics

In everything from Super Friends to Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Sinestro remains a visible fixture in Green Lantern’s multimedia rogues’ gallery. However, mainstream success continues to elude Sinestro, with the 2011 Green Lantern movie’s mid-credits scene teasing a villainous path for the character that would never come to pass for this version of the mythos. DC Studios’ current plans, under CEOs Peter Safran and James Gunn’s leadership, includes the introduction of Guy Gardner in 2025’s Superman: Legacy and a Green Lantern television series for Max, expected to star Hal Jordan and John Stewart.

With Hal’s inclusion on the upcoming Green Lantern television series, Sinestro playing a part should come as something of a no-brainer, given how heavily he looms over Hal’s own superhero story. But more than just transitioning to Safran and Gunn’s cinematic shared universe, Sinestro is a threat for the entire comic book DCU that needs to break out beyond just menacing the Green Lantern Corps. The Reverse-Flash and the Joker have both evolved to become larger threats, and Sinestro is perfectly poised for a similar trajectory, especially given his links to the Secret Society of Super-Villains and Legion of Doom. But no matter how much potential Sinestro has, his feud with Green Lantern is among DC’s most defining.

The story of Green Lantern and Sinestro’s long-awaited rematch continues in Green Lantern #4, written by Jeremy Adams, illustrated by Xermánico, colored by Romulo Fajardo, Jr., and lettered by Dave Sharpe. The issue goes on sale Oct. 10 from DC Comics.

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