Now DC's turn...
4. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) (1 point for Hal as Spectre) - 1091 points (25 first place votes)
Created by John Broome and Gil Kane, the revamped Green Lantern debuted in the pages of Showcase. Hal Jordan was a test pilot who was chosen by the dying former Green Lantern of Sector 2814 to be the next Green Lantern for the Sector (which includes Earth). The Green Lantern Corps are basically space cops, who use these rings that can create anything that the ringbearer can imagine.
Hal basically went on to become the most successful Green Lantern there ever was. He also helped co-found the Justice League of America.
Years later, Hal embarked on a tour of America with his Justice League teammate, Green Arrow. The series of adventures were written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Neal Adams, and are well regarded classics to this day.
Eventually, Hal appeared to have snapped after his hometown of Coast City was destroyed by a bad guy. It appeared as though Hal was now a villain called Parallax. He even tried to recreate the entire universe!!
Hal then sacrificed himself to re-ignite the Sun, which had gone out. He returned as the human host for the Spectre, but soon, we learned that not all was right with Hal.
As it turned out, a big yellow fear monster (A cool point to the person who can find me the earliest internet usage of that term!) had possessed Hal back when he became a villain, and IT was responsible for him being a bad guy.
Once free of the possession, Hal helped rebuild the Corps that he had destroyed as Parallax, and he know is once again - the most notable Green Lantern out there!
Here is why Dan Dick had him #1...
I came to the Silver Age of comics in 1964 -- my first being the October issue of Justice League of America. I was immediately fascinated by the idea of a character whose power and ability were fundamentally limited only by his imagination and strength of will. Oh, sure, the flaw in the ring made him vulnerable to yellow, but by using his brains he could overcome that limitation every time. In many ways for me, he was an amalgam of the very best of both Superman and Batman, but more 'normal.'
Jordan was a fly-boy who thought the world of himself, then had to shift his entire paradigm to think of the world. He wasn't alien, but he was empowered by an alien technology -- something that appealed greatly to the sci-fi geek in me.
The reason GL, particularly Hal Jordan, rises to the top of the list for me is the evolution of the character over time. Green Lantern went from the two dimensional cartoon character of the 60's through the phenomenal Denny O'Neill/Neal Adams partnership with Green Arrow in the 70's, a transformational yin-yang storyline that made GL remember his human side, and helped comics grow-up and take on more serious issues.
The question I carried from my youth into adulthood was always, "If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, what the hell happens when you possess cosmic power?" The trajectory of Hal Jordan's story over the past decade has been a tour-de-force romp through multiple answers to that question. As I reflect on it now, The Spectre should have made my top ten list, but escaped me at the time. I'd put Spectre right up there with Batman (around number 4). So the merger of those story lines was nerd-vana for me.
Lastly, there has always been a slightly mystical/religious aspect to Green Lantern -- with his chanted recharge mojo, and his lifelong battle against those dark urges that burst forth in the Parallax story arc.
I have grown to appreciate the Golden Age Alan Scott, and was on board from the start with Kyle Rayner (I never got Guy Gardner; never cared for John Stewart), but Green Lantern is, was, and always will be Hal Jordan, with every flaw, fault, and misgiving.
Maybe not the most exciting explanation, but the only one I got!
And here is Ryan Kelly's reason....
I started reading comics when I was four, and my very first comic was an older Green Lantern my dad had kept from the Seventies, one of the O'Neil and Adams run, with Green Arrow. Anyway, I didn't get it at the time, but years later I'd go back and read my dad's old comics again and see more than just superheroics in his Green Lantern comics. Instead of just fighting supervillains, they was fighting social injustice. And I think I connected more with Hal than with Ollie because, while Ollie's heart and mind were in the right place, he was absolutely set in his convictions, while Hal's were changing over time, and being younger I felt the same way.
Much later, when I could get the chance to read the Fox, Broome, Kane, and Schwartz run in Showcase volumes, I'd get a chance to see the original Hal Jordan. A fearless pilot (which plays on a lot of kids' power fantasies) with a strong family connection, a friends he trusted enough with his secret (uncommon in Fifties and Sixties comics), and an interesting love life with his boss. I think that era of the book embodies all of the things that make Silver Age comics great.
Thanks Dan and Ryan!!