The uniform of the Green Lantern Corps has always been a little bit of a mystery to a great many DC Comics fans over the years for several reasons, and in this article I intend to clarify all misconceptions about what the uniform is made of, how it appears, and what happens to the clothing underneath it, using clear evidence from the comic books themselves with as little assumption as I can.
Now, thankfully, all of these questions can really be answered by analyzing one particular comic book series, the bi-weekly Green Lanterns series, which began with Green Lanterns: REBIRTH #1 last month.
I would like to begin by pointing out the biggest misconception regarding the Green Lantern Uniform, which is that Green Lanterns use their power rings/lantern rings to generate the costume as an energy construct (this idea was the inspiration for the CGI abomination we got in the 2011 Green Lantern movie). I will firstly point out that (though this no longer applies to the current continuity) when Hal Jordan was first introduced, the Green Lantern uniform was clearly stated and shown to be a fabric uniform that Hal was given by the dying Abin Sur, and which he had to go and get changed into:
Nowadays though, the costume appears to be produced by the ring, but that does not mean that it is an energy construct of the kind that Green Lanterns can produce using their rings when they need them. This conclusion is easily made from the pages of the new Green Lanterns series in which newbie Green Lantern Jessica Cruz (coincidentally one of DC's best new characters in my opinion) directly states several times that she can't make energy constructs, as the panel below also shows:
So, if Green Lantern Rings actually aren't energy constructs, then what are they?
The answer to that lies in the way they appear to affect the clothes of the user. For example, if we take Green Lantern Jessica Cruz again as a case study, we see that her uniform is extremely form-fitting, and exemplifies the entire underneath figure, without leaving any trace of the clothing underneath, as shown in the panel and cover from two issues of Green Lanterns shown below:
Before Jessica Cruz used her ring to activate this uniform, she was wearing a tank top overlain by a buttoned up blouse, as well as a pair of leggings. What is interesting about both of these panels is that the blouse she was wearing and its collar are clearly not still underneath the uniform, as her entire muscle-structure is extremely clear and the impression of her blouse has completely vanished, as have any indication of any underwear or bra-straps. This therefore implies that human clothing is destroyed by the application of the Green Lantern uniform.
But it isn't!
As we see throughout the comics, and in this clip below from the animated movie Justice League: War, when Green Lantern Hal Jordan's ring is removed by Batman, the flight suit he was wearing before he donned the ring was still present:
To make matters even more confusing, Hal's flight suit in the above clip looks really well-ironed, and of a material too thick to have just been intensely compressed underneath the Green Lantern uniform, especially not to end up so exceedingly crumpled.
This is apparently confused even further by the fact that if the regular clothes were just intensely compressed under the suit (since as fans of the Green Lanterns comic know Green Lanterns may be summoned any time, so could have been wearing anything), then whatever was in their pockets would be sticking into their flesh and really probably quite hurting them.
If you're stumped, don't worry, so was I , until one panel from Green Lanterns #3 finally answered everything, and it answered it using a Red Lantern supervillainess, called Bleez, who was consumed by rage after her planet (of which she was a princess) was invaded, and became the unwilling servant of the bigger bad Atrocitus. In these panels, we see something which once and for all both demonstrates what happens to the original clothing, and what the Lantern suit is made of. See if you can spot it: The first pic is the cover of Green Lanterns #2:
Now, let's compare Bleez's Red Lantern suit to the outfit she was wearing "underneath" it, i.e. the clothing she was wearing before she was taken over by the Rage of the Red Lantern Ring, which she was then also seen to be wearing once Green Lantern Simon Baz had been able to free her of its grip:
And from a front-on perspective:
Did you see it?
As a Red Lantern, Bleez wears a high-leg, thong-cut bodysuit. This bodysuit should in theory have partially exposed the brass and silver plates which hold on the loin cloth around her lower hips, as shown in the lower panels. The fact that it doesn't demonstrates that the Lantern Uniforms are not actually overlying any clothing, or the plate would have still been visible, and the rest would make an impression underneath the bodysuit. This leaves only one explanation for what Red Lantern uniforms, and by extension Green Lantern uniforms (since both types of power rings effectively work off the same principles but harness different emotions), are actually made of:
Lantern uniforms form out of the clothing that the ring user was wearing before they activate their powers.
As shown in the clip from Justice League: War, clothes appear to exchange for the uniform under the obscurity of a burst of light energy, and as discussed before, they cannot possibly be overlaying anything. As such, it is clear that the green energy of the Green Lantern Ring must infuse the clothing of the Green Lantern, and turn it into the necessary uniform.
But, I hear you wondering, power rings can't transmogrify items, can they?
Of course they can, I just showed you a panel in which the Red Lantern Bleez's wings went from angelic and feathery without her ring on to being red bones with her ring on and then back to being angelic and feathery when her ring was taken off.
As such, we can generally assume that once a lantern ring is removed, the uniforms revert back to their pre-transformed state, hence their regular clothing doesn't look like it's had a million crinkles ironed into it.
You can argue though, "if they aren't energy constructs, why do they glow?"
Well, as you saw in many of the panels I previously attached to this blog, when any green lantern is using their power rings with sufficient energy levels, their eyes start to glow to such a degree that their irises and pupils become invisible. If eyes, which are not energy/light constructs, can glow simply by being infused with the green energy of a green lantern ring, then why shouldn't the costume also glow, having been infused with the exact same energy?
But what about the masks?
The masks, I will say that I believe, vary. In the case of Green Lantern Simon Baz, his mask is built into the hood of his outfit, so it's fair to say that like the rest of his outfit, it is made out of his original clothes. However, if we look, once again, at my favorite Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, we see that her "mask" is simply a green lantern logo which appears in her right eye and projects a light construct of a monocle around her eye. This construct seems to be related to the ring, rather than to her own will, and does not appear to serve any known function yet.
Of note however, is that the way in which the same Green Lantern (or human being in general) will get the same style of mask even if they use a different type of power ring, since Jessica Cruz's "mask" when she was infected by the Ring of Volthoom (which harnessed the power of fear and would have killed her if not eventually removed), was also a monocle projection, as shown here in this panel from Justice League Trinity #9:
It seems very unlikely that Jessica would intentionally have re-created her mask in the fashion of a monocle over her right eye, given that a different power ring that tried to both kill her and force her to kill everyone on Earth had also given her this frame. Therefore, it seems that the "mask" of a green lantern if a different kind of energy projection that relates to a reaction or a specific kind of "harmony" between a power ring and its wielder which is specific to the biology of the wielder.
Certainly, masks have always been a kind of energy projection, as they were the only part of the Green Lantern costume that the original iteration of Hal Jordan hadn't been given by Abin Sur, with Hal himself even saying at one point that his mask is kept on by "the force of the power ring," implying that it and the ring are intrinsically linked:
The fact that the masks often appear translucent, especially in the case of Jessica Cruz, also backs up that they are energy constructs, whereas the rest of the suit is not, but they are both strongly linked to both the user's biology and the user's willpower (the latter of which is by far the greater driving force of the Green Lantern's ability to use their rings.
So, that's basically it. From the comics, based on the art and writing within them, the only explanation possible for what exactly a Green Lantern's uniform is, what it's made of, how it forms, and how this matches up with the clothes that the Lantern was previously wearing.
If I made any mistakes or you have anything to contribute which either backs up or go against this conclusion, please share it in the comments below.