For many, John Stewart is the first Green Lantern they ever saw. When the Justice League animated series debuted, in 2001, John Stewart was the Green Lantern first introduced to those new to the DC Universe. Comic readers are aware that Hal Jordan became the first Green Lantern from Earth in 1959 with John making his debut in 1971's GREEN LANTERN #87.
As a Lantern, Jordan had fought many different threats but John Stewart introduced him to a different kind of danger.
Hal Jordan and the Guardians of the Universe were about to appoint an alternate Green Lantern on Earth. When an Earthquake struck, Guy Gardner was injured saving a child and would be in recovery for at least six months. The Guardians then directed towards their next choice--John Stewart.
Seeing John having a discussion with some police officers who were harassing a couple kids from the neighborhood, Hal had his doubts over their selection.
Hal's concern was over John's attitude and if he could keep it in check while having a Power Ring. With hesitation, he followed the Guardians' judgement and offered John the job. John was willing to accept it since, "...jobs aren't exactly plentiful for black architects in the Land of the Free these days..."
Hal took John to a secluded area to give him a crash course in using the power and teaching him the Green Lantern Oath.
John immediately decided he wouldn't wear a mask with his costume and has stuck with that decision over the years.
Hal and John eventually found themselves flying by the airport. There was a big crowd as they figured a "celebrity" must be landing. It turned out to be a senator that was running for President.
When a fuel truck went out of control and headed towards the crowd and Senator, the two Lanterns saved them but due to John's "carelessness," some oil got on the Senator's face. Hal was mad because it clearly wasn't an accident. John told Hal that the Senator was a major racist.
The fact that the Senator may or may not be a racist wasn't a concern of Hal's. After all, he didn't have a lot of experience with racism himself. To try to teach John a lesson, Hal told him he'd be guarding the Senator that evening at a rally.
During his speech, the Senator was shot by a black man who yelled out, "You'll die for your lies!" Hal and John witnessed this and Hal ordered John to move after the shooter. John refused, saying he was leaving.
This was the last straw for Hal. He caught the shooter but it turned out there was another shooter outside. That's where John went. It turned out the shooter that Hal caught had blanks in his gun. The one outside was about to shoot a police officer from behind. John had seen the two men with the Senator at the airport. It was all part of a trick to make it look like "...the blacks [were] on a rampage."
In all of this, Hal (and readers) learned a lesson. Racism was a problem and John was a better man than Hal gave him credit for.
It seems John didn't put on the ring for some time. After a few more issues, the GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW series went on a four-year hiatus with the two appearing in the second half of issues of THE FLASH. The GREEN LANTERN series later returned in 1976 with John being called into action by Black Canary, of all people in GREEN LANTERN #94, when Hal had become injured.
John had a few more appearances but when Hal decided to quit the Corps in GREEN LANTERN #181, the Guardians appointed John as his full replacement. John has continued as a Green Lantern, becoming one of the greatest Lanterns the Corps has known.
As John Stewart is the Character of the Month here for February, be on the look out for more articles and features on the character some would argue is the best Green Lantern there is.