"I think I'll go home and meditate...on murder!"
—The Green Lama in "The Man Who Never Existed" (radio show)
The Green Lama, a superhero invented by writer Kendell Foster Crossen, appeared in comic books and pulp magazines and on radio shows during the 1940s. This offbeat character, first created to compete in the pulp market with “The Shadow” (a highly popular pulp and radio character of the 1930s), is a wealthy Harvard graduate named Jethro Dumont who has become a lama after ten years’ study in Tibet. Returning to the West to spread the dharma, he instead decides to bring enlightenment to the wicked world by fighting crime. To this end he deploys mystic powers such as invulnerability, flight, mesmeric skills, and delivering shocks to vital pressure points.
In the comic strip, the Green Lama uses a red kata (ceremonial scarf) to put a choke hold on the bad guys; however, he prefers to defeat his enemies by nonviolent means, never using a gun and never killing anyone. His mightiest weapon is the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. Upon reciting it, he is transformed into the Green Lama and flies off, clad from head to toe in his favorite sacred color. His medieval-looking outfit includes a hooded cowl, cape, tights, and floppy booties. Saying the mantra backwards returns him to his normal state.
Buddhist readers of the comic may be amused to find the Green Lama quoting from Pali scripture instead of Tibetan or Sanskrit, and occasionally spouting fortune cookie-isms (“Man with long tongue never learn anything”). Nonetheless, the novelty of the Green Lama continues to attract fans—vintage comic issues sell for hundreds of dollars online.
Kendra Crossen Burroughs, a longtime editor at Shambhala Publications, and Karen Ready, Tricycle’s copy editor, are the daughters of Kendell Foster Crossen.