WHO IS GREEN ARROW?
Green Arrow is a vigilante crime-fighter in the DC Universe. He has no super-powers, but is an expert fighter and archer. He is considered by many to be a modern-day Robin Hood, fighting for the rights of the downtrodden and abused against the wealthy aristocrats whose crimes escape the justice system. His alter-ego is Oliver Queen.
WHAT WAS HIS FIRST APPEARANCE?
More Fun Comics #73 in 1941.
WHAT WAS HIS ORIGIN STORY?
Oliver Queen was a wealthy world traveler, as well as a son of privilege. During a cruise, however, he was thrown overboard and stranded on the deserted Star Fish Island. Forced to fend for himself, he learned to catch food and survive using a bow and arrow. He escaped the island and upon returning home, became Green Arrow, the defender of Star City.
WHAT WERE HIS EARLIEST ADVENTURES LIKE?
Green Arrow was an adventurer in the classic pulp style. He used his fortune to fight crime with the aid of his teenage sidekick, Speedy (whose alter-ego was Roy Harper). This was during the heyday of the Golden Age Batman and Robin duo, and comics had a very lighthearted feel. The good guys and bad guys were very obviously defined and a hero’s greatest cause was stopping traditional bank-robbing criminals. During this time, Green Arrow and Speedy were substantially little more than Batman and Robin clones. Green Arrow fought crime from an underground fortress known as the “Arrow Cave”. He also had the Arrow Car, the Arrow Jet, and the Arrow Signal.
Green Arrow’s world would be turned upside-down as his system of beliefs would be challenged and ultimately, changed forever. From this, social consciousness would become valid thematic content in the world of mainstream superhero comics.
WHAT CAUSED THE CHANGE?
A change was definitely in the works. Artist Neal Adams would update the character’s appearance and costume in The Brave and the Bold #85. This costume and style is still being used by the character today.
In the 1960’s, social values were changing in the United States. Civil rights and progressivism were on the upswing and young people (college students, particularly) were taking a renewed interest in comic books, in no small part due to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. A writer at DC named Dennis O’Neil decided that the classic character Green Arrow should get a new outlook. This opened up a world of new possibilities.
Oliver Queen lost his fortune. Roy dabbled in heroin abuse. In short, they tore down the pretentious veneer that had covered the superhero genre for so many years. This was pretty revolutionary at the time, as comics were still largely considered to be a kids’ medium and drug use had not been shown in a comic book before. This garnered national attention, as well as changing the character forever. Now Green Arrow had to challenge his definition of what it means to be a hero in the real world. He became a crusader, fighting for the rights of the poor and underprivileged, as well as stopping social cancers such as drug abuse, racism, homelessness, and the deification of wealth.
WHAT’S THIS ABOUT “HARD TRAVELING HEROES”/GREEN LANTERN?
One of the most famous Green Arrow stories involves Oliver Queen teaming up with Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) for a cross-country road trip. It all begins when Arrow reveals a group of poor citizens angrily deriding a businessman to be the victims of an unscrupulous slum lord. Lantern is shocked to find that crime exists in many forms and there are two sides to every argument. The irony of Lantern’s quest for justice is exposed by an old man who says (referring to the aliens and other-worldly beings that GL saves): "I been readin' about you... how you work for the blue skins, and how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins... and you done considerable for the purple skins. Only there's skins you never bothered with... the black skins. I want to know, how come? Answer me that, Green Lantern.” Lantern is forced to admit he can’t.
This all seems old-hat by today’s standards, but it was jaw-droppingly revolutionary when it was originally published. These were some of the first instances of a costumed superhero being questioned and forced to face problems he couldn’t smash his way through with his fists.
Lantern and Arrow decide to take a road-trip and discover the true America. Along the way, they face the problem of racial discrimination against Native Americans among other relevant topics.
Lantern’s place in the story was basically to serve as a contrast to Arrow’s liberal-leaning tendencies. Hal Jordan was a fighter pilot chosen by the Guardians of the Universe to become a member of the Green Lantern Corps, a vaguely militaristic unit that patrolled the far reaches of the known galaxies to stop crime. As a “space cop”, Jordan represented the establishment, that, in the mind of Oliver Queen, must be questioned and never trusted. They wound up being the best of friends despite their differing outlooks on justice.
WHO IS BLACK CANARY?
Dinah Lance. She is also a crime-fighter and the long-time love of Oliver Queen. She appeared in Green Lantern/Green Arrow’s “HTH” arc. During the 70’s, her relationship with Ollie progressed as she opened a flower shop.
HOW ABOUT GREEN ARROW IN THE 70s?
Roy and Ollie were no longer fighting crime together (Roy had to battle his addictions), but they remained close. In the 70’s, Ollie continued to be a comic book character that reflected the times. He listened to jazz and rock music, enjoyed modern art, lived in a swingin’ bachelor pad and generally outcooled every other comic book character. During this period, the most notable GA writer was Maggin… the era of Mike Grell would come a bit later.
Green Arrow would appear frequently in the pages of Action Comics, Green Lantern, World’s Finest Comics, as well as Justice League of America. Ollie was notorious for his arguments with Hawkman, who was very much a conservative.
WHAT CAME NEXT?
Green Arrow quit the JLA. He decided that they were only interested in fighting the bigger battles that occurred between super-powered entities bent on world domination. Quitting in favor of fighting more realistic battles very in-tune with the character. Also very in-tune was his new inclusion in Detective Comics. ‘Tec was originally the title that showcased dark and grim life in the streets. With the inception of Batman in 1938, it became the Dark Knight’s title. Still featured, however, were back-up stories printed after Batman’s adventures. These stories were Ollie’s new home.
WHAT ABOUT OLLIE’S APPEARANCE IN THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS?
In Frank Miller’s famed Dark Knight Returns, Oliver makes an appearance as an elderly man missing an arm. This story is set in an alternate reality where Batman is coming back from retirement. He must become a hero for this dark new world where the streets are run by crime, particularly an evil gang known as “the Mutants”. It’s a revolutionary story in that it questions the true nature of heroism and where the values and loyalties of idolized costumed superheroes truly lie. Superman has become a political liability and Batman and Green Arrow are outlaws. Ollie has done jail-time and is wanted by the FBI. He aids in Batman’s fight against Superman…really, I shouldn’t have to explain too much. Read it if you haven’t yet.
WHAT WAS “THE LONGBOW HUNTERS”?
The Longbow Hunters was a three-issue mini-series written by Mike Grell. It would become one of the definitive Green Arrow stories. In it, Grell wanted to tell a more street-level Arrow story about revenge and the darker side of the fight for justice. We see Ollie as a bit older, reaching middle-age and moving to Seattle with Dinah (Black Canary). Here he would get a new costume, as well as a new outlook. This Green Arrow would take a more violent and bloody approach to fighting crime. I don’t want to reveal what happens to Dinah and Ollie (it’s ugly) so go read it for yourself.