How The Green Lantern Power Rings Work

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

ryan reynolds green lantern
Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, aka Green Lantern

The power rings wielded by the Green Lantern Corps are some of the most powerful weapons in the universe. The power ring emits a green energy that can be formed into anything the bearer can dream up, from a complex machine like a supercomputer to an offensive weapon like a chainsaw and even something as simple as a giant fist. The ring’s capabilities are limited only by the wearer’s imagination and willpower. But how do they work exactly?

To explain that, we should first define just what a Green Lantern is. A long time ago, a group of immortal aliens called the Guardians of the Universe—not the ones with Groot, that’s a whole other group—decided to form an interstellar peacekeeping force known as the Green Lantern Corps.

These Guardians travel the known universe gifting power rings to individuals that they find worthy of joining the Corps.

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The Green Lantern Corps

The Green Lanterns function essentially like space cops using their rings to fight evil, settle disputes, and generally make the universe a safer place. Most DC fans focus on the human Green Lanterns, of which there have been several, from the most famous, Hal Jordan, to the most dickish Guy Gardner.

Other DC characters that have worn a Green Lantern ring at one time or another include Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Wally West after he lost his Flash powers, Superman, and even—shocker—Batman.

In order to police a whole galaxy, the Green Lanterns need one hell of a weapon, and the power ring does not disappoint. Fueled by the user’s willpower and energy harnessed from the planet Oa, the power rings are capable of some amazing feats.

The rings can create hard light constructs of any shape and size limited only by the user’s imagination. That alone would be impressive enough, but a power ring is much more than just a lump of green modeling clay.

For starters, a Green Lantern’s ring can be used to fire blasts of pure energy capable of staggering even Superman if the Lantern concentrates hard enough. The energy from the ring can even be used to form a force field around the user and anyone nearby.

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Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Power Battery

The forcefield generated by a Green Lantern’s ring is so impenetrable that most Lanterns fly through space with nothing but a thin, ring-generated aura surrounding them.

The rings are capable of simulating Incredible Hulk levels of super strength, allowing a Lantern to lift objects in excess of 100 tons with little effort. They also allow Green Lanterns to phase through solid objects, fly, create wormholes, time travel, and act as a universal translator. Unfortunately, a device so powerful isn’t without its weaknesses…

The main force driving the Green Lantern ring’s abilities is the wearer’s willpower. If a Green Lantern is concentrating on too many things at once or splitting the ring’s power up between several tasks, the ring’s energy can become weak.

The rings are capable of simulating Incredible Hulk levels of super strength and they also allow Green Lanterns to phase through solid objects, fly, create wormholes, time travel, and act as a universal translator.

If, say, a Lantern is generating a protective aura around themself while simultaneously using the ring to fly and fight a villain, they’re not going to be able to do much damage unless they either shut down the aura or stop flying.

Another potential weakness is mental stability. Since the ring depends so much on the user’s state of mind to function, drug and alcohol use, as well as vertigo or other forms of mental incapacitation, can render a Lantern temporarily unable to use their weapon.

Meanwhile, the energy from the ring itself is not limitless and can run out. Luckily most Green Lanterns carry Lantern shaped power batteries that they can use to recharge a drained power ring. Unfortunately, the batteries themselves can also run out of power and occasionally need to be brought to Oa and recharged from the main power battery located there.

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The Central Power Battery on Oa

The rings used to be powerless against anything colored yellow back when every comic book hero had to have their own version of Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite. These days the color yellow isn’t usually much of a problem—that is, unless it’s coming from one of the yellow rings wielded by the evil Sinestro Corps.

That’s right, the Green Lanterns aren’t the only ones with power rings. There exists in the DC universe a whole Emotional Electromagnetic Spectrum fueled by the emotions of every sentient being in the universe, with green being just one of the colors represented. We’ve already established that green represents will, but what do all the other colors/rings represent?

The Sinesto Corps – Yellow Rings

The Sinestro Corps

First off is the Green Lanterns’ chief rival, yellow, the color of fear. yellow rings are primarily wielded by followers of Sinestro, a former Green Lantern that abandoned the teachings of the Guardians of the Universe and instead seeks to bring order to the universe through fear.

One of these yellow rings was once worn by Batman villain Scarecrow who, despite usually working solely to inspire terror in others, actually used the ring to make himself feel fear again after the ability was taken away from him.

The Red Lanterns

Red Lanterns

Next up, we have the red rings worn by individuals boiling over with anger and rage. The first red rings were created by the original Red Lantern Atrocitus using blood rituals. Atrocitus blames the Green Lanterns for the death of his family and uses his unbridled rage to attack them whenever possible.

Kara Zor-El, better known as Supergirl, once wore a red lantern ring for a short while after letting her grief over the destruction of her home planet Krypton turn into an uncontrollable rage.

The Star Sapphire Corps – Violet Rings

Star Sapphire

On the other end of the emotional spectrum from red’s rage-filled hatred is violet, the color of love. Wielders of the violet power ring call themselves the Star Sapphire Corps. Their goal is to spread and protect love throughout the universe.

When one of the star sapphire rings found their way to Earth it was worn by Wonder Woman, a strong candidate based on her overwhelming love and devotion to her friends and allies.

Larfleeze, The Orange Lantern


The sole orange power ring is wielded by an alien known as Larfleeze. Larfleeze fully embodies the orange emotion of greed and, as such refuses to share the orange energy by making any rings other than his own. His Orange Lantern Corps is instead composed of orange constructs of people he’s killed, generated from the ring by Larfleeze himself.

Despite Larfleeze’s refusal to share, the ring was once possessed briefly by Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor who used the power to steal a bunch of other rings, including the yellow one worn by Scarecrow.

The Blue Lanterns

The Blue Lanterns

Blue represents hope on the Emotional Electromagnetic Spectrum and is the closest color to green. That explains why the Blue Lantern Corp. often teams up with the Green Lanterns whenever they’re in need of assistance.

The Barry Allen incarnation of The Flash once borrowed a Blue Lantern ring in order to help out pal Hal Jordan. Being the hero he is, Barry promptly returned the ring as soon as he and Jordan won their fight.

The Indigo Tribe

The Indigo Tribe

One light that doesn’t come from a ring is Indigo, the light of compassion. Members of the Indigo Tribe carry a coral-like staff which they use as both a power battery and a conduit through which to channel their indigo energy.

The Black And White Lanterns

Black Lanterns

The last two colors/rings are Black and White represent death and life, respectively. The Black Lantern Corps. primarily consist of dead heroes and villains resurrected as zombies by black power rings. White power rings, on the other hand, have the ability to resurrect the dead properly.

Both white and black rings, as well as rings of almost every other color on this list, have been worn by Batman at one time or another—something that comes as no surprise to both Batman fans and those that can’t stand the Caped Crusader.

White Lanterns

There may be a whole rainbow of power rings in the DC Universe, all capable of roughly the same feats, but in the end, you can’t beat the original. Green Lanterns have been an integral part of not just DC but pop culture in general for over 80 years and show no signs of stopping.

To paraphrase the Green Lantern Oath, in brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape their sight. Let those who worship evil’s might beware their power… Green Lantern’s light!