Tuesday, August 7, 2012

1984 Green Arrow Postcard by George Pérez

The Emerald Archer is former millionaire, now crusading newswriter, Oliver Queen. He possesses a quiver filled with specially designed arrows-- created for every conceivable occasion.

Mortimer Weisinger was the Rob Liefeld of the 1940s. A bullying, abusive editor, Mort had a hand in the creations of the Sub-Mariner knock-off Aquaman, the Flash riff Johnny Quick, the Superman swipe Martian Manhunter, and the ersatz Marvel Family formed around Superman. When Errol Flynn was box office gold as Robin Hood, the comics filled up with archers. Mort's contribution was Green Arrow, around the time the film adaptation of the book The Green Archer was in cinemas. Mort's "innovation" was marrying the movie to a naked lift of Batman and Robin, simply trading bats for bows. Green Arrow and Speedy followed an arrow signal in their Arrowcar or Arrowplane to swing into battle against a Jokeresque foe called Bull's Eye. When other heroes folded tents with their companies in the late '40s bust years, Green Arrow just kept on trucking at DC as a mediocre also ran (although Jack Kirby had a regarded run in the 1950s.) When Batman wasn't allowed to play with the Justice League of America in its early days, Julie Schwartz just got Green Arrow.

Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams revamped the character in the late '60s and early '70s. That's where I was first introduced to Oliver Queen as a left wing ladies man with a rockin' Van Dyke and a turtleneck. Basically, everything I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved his devil may care attitude and groovy choice of weapon. Turning Speedy into a recovering heroin addict was a bold move, and the art was so dang pretty. I wanted more, so I bought a Brave and the Bold team-up involving the Penguin, and ended up hating the art and the story. As the '80s progressed, Green Arrow became a direct sales only, mature readers series. Since I was still buying off the newsstand, that meant my awareness of the character was dependent on house ads with sweet Mike Grell art.

Finally, in the early '90s, I started catching up on the Emerald Archer through back issues and reprints. I had no idea how stupid, simplistic and shrill those old O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow were when read as a collection in a modern light. Grell's The Longbow Hunters was mean-spirited, and seemed like a watered down version of Jon Sable with some stupid Eastern elements tossed in. Worse, it was at this point Queen quit using his Batman-style trick arrows. That meant he was running around like a hoodie ninja shooting people with regular arrows. It's one thing to continue employing a World War II era fad as your m.o., since comics are forgiving like that. However, a grim and gritty "realistic" series about an archer in the age of the Punisher? Even if I could suspend my disbelief over his continued survival, that wouldn't make it interesting, no matter how many C.I.A. conspiracies you try to drag into it.

By the mid-90s, Oliver Queen was a wimp in a drab book few people read who had been divorced from the DCU for years. DC jazzed things up using the Knightfall method: develop a supporting character, then ditch the original hero and push the successor model. It got me to jump back on the book, and I found I vastly preferred Ollie's illegitimate son Connor Hawke to Queen. Actually, I preferred Speedy, ex-girlfriend Black Canary, and Marvel's Hawkeye by that point. I followed Connor's book until the end, when it was cancelled to make way for Kevin Smith's planned revival of Ollie. That took a few years to materialize, and while it gave Green Arrow his most relevant comic run ever within the industry, I resented this over the hill douche for spearheading DC's great whitewashing of the '00s.

Aside from getting a kick out of Mike Barr and Trevor Von Eeden's early '80s mini-series, I've found Green Arrow to be one of the most irritating and frustrating characters that I've had the misfortune to read. However, there may be some small redemption. When the producers of Smallville couldn't get the rights to feature Batman on the show, they used Green Arrow in his original role as an obvious proxy. A quasi-spin-off show is upcoming, which will only emphasize the Dark Knight over the Emerald Archer. It's a tired posture in comics, but still better than the self-righteous sleazy hypocrite he's been for decades...

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