In the beginning as the universe coalesced, when all was wild energy and expansion, there arose the Guardians the first beings to inhabit space and time. The Guardians were wise with new wisdom, were strong with new power, and were alive with new life. For the first million years they watched stars and planets and moons and nebulae take shape. Over the next millions of millions of years, they watched life evolve in all its forms and wonders.
Of all peoples and forms of life that sprung from the fertile universe, the Guardians were the eldest and the first to die. Though their civilization endured long, it could not endure forever. When the first sun collapsed into a black hole and began to suck everything into its dark maw, the Guardians knew that they too would pass into darkness. They bent all their will, all their thought, all their knowledge into safeguarding the universe.
With a science that none since has learned, the Guardians manufactured a source of creation which they called a lantern, a caster of light. With this lantern they forged rings, small portals that were linked to the lantern. Each ring, when activated, drew upon the lantern. The function of the rings was to draw energy from the universe, energy that had been consumed by black holes, and make it useful again. The rings could convert the energy into matter, or matter into energy, and thus were unlimited in the scope of their power.
The Guardians long studied the beings of the universe throughout every galaxy and solar system. To those who were deemed worthy they entrusted a ring, that thereby they may guard their corner of the universe.
Each being who received a ring was called a Lantern, symbolizing that as the one great Lantern guarded the universe, they were to be a smaller lantern to guard their space. In the beginning all Lanterns were white, as light that is combined of all other colors and wavelengths is white. As time progressed, Lanterns chose methods of protection that to them seemed more fitting to their race, or their culture, or their strength, and they chose for themselves new colors. As time progressed, the Green Lanterns guarded justice throughout the universe. The Red Lanterns inspired growth and progress in the universe. The Blue Lanterns worked to heal the hurts of the universe. The Black Lanterns guarded the sanctity of death in the universe. Still there remained the White Lanterns, who to all others were looked to as the wisest, and eldest, and in all matters the ones to uphold the tradition of the Guardians.
Thus the Guardians died, content in the knowledge their time was full, and that the universe would be protected for the billions of years yet to come by the Lantern’s light.
The Guardians were wrong.
As eons passed and the universe grew old and worn, the light of the Lantern waned. The purity of its light was corrupted. Its true purpose was forgotten. In dusty corners of distant galaxies legends of the Guardians remained, but few remembered where to look, and even less cared. Science passed into legend and myth and became magic. The Black Lanterns soon courted death and waged wars in her name. The Red Lanterns built to themselves monuments and great halls and honored their own grandiosity. The Blue Lanterns receded into mist, content to heal themselves for eternity. The White Lanterns vanished in the expanding blackness of space. The Green Lanterns endured to their purpose, but each to his own understanding and knowledge of morality. To most they became haughty, self-righteous, and capricious enforcers of galactic law and order. Some were no better than thugs.
As each Lantern, according to their species, died they passed on their ring to a successor. Some chose heirs, some left the rings as heirlooms to be found, others hoarded them in secret places. The light of the Lantern diminished further.
And yet there were a few who organized themselves into the Green Corps. These rebels still remembered the ways of the Guardians and held to the true Lantern’s light. Relentlessly they waged war against their fellow Lanterns, but not a war of death and destruction rather a war of ideals and understanding. Slowly they conquered the wayward factions. Slowly they rebuilt the Lantern’s light.
The eldest of the Green Corps, the leader who first waged war was named the White Lantern and to him it was given the task of governance. He made the Black Lanterns into the Black Corps, an army of last resort when a plague or injury too grievous to heal emerged. As a surgeon amputating a part to save the whole, the Black Corps was to purge the universe. What could yet be saved, the Blue Corps was tasked with restoring. Remaining secluded as monks, they came forth at times of great need. The White Lantern made the Red Corps agents of advancement, tasked with aiding only the most advanced of societies with reaching heights of which they could not yet conceive. They became scholars and masters of knowledge. The Green Corps stayed as they were, guardians of justice and order in the galaxy, mandated to be pure of purpose and will.
Such were the grand designs of the White Lantern. And as man seeks to reach and a child grasps, the various Corps stood to their purpose yet imperfectly. The light of the Lantern shone half brighter than it used to yet still only half as it should.
And yet, to the darkness, even a weak light is a welcome illumination.
To remind themselves of their purpose each Lantern was given an oath to pledge. To this oath they held themselves bound and by this oath were they judged:
In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who twist Lantern’s light,
Beware my power…
Great Lantern’s Might!