Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dick Giordano Dies

I've just learned, at the Comic Book Resources web-site, that veteran comics artist and editor Dick Giordano died today at the age of 77.  Giordano was best known as the inker who embellished the pencils of Neal Adams on many of the classic Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories that helped to redefine those characters in the early 1970's, and George Perez on the early issues of Crisis On Infinite Earths.  He was also the co-creator, with writer Len Wein, of the Human Target, and served as Executive Editor of DC Comics throughout the 1980's.  Earlier, at Charlton Comics, he was the editor who spearheaded their "Action Heroes" line, which included revivals of Captain Atom and the Blue Beetle.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Battling Bowman In His Own Magazine At Last!

The comics mini-series was a relatively new format in the early 1980's, and was used initially by DC mainly to spotlight some of their lesser lights who had heretofore not proven themselves able to carry an ongoing title.  Thus, in 1983, more than forty years after the character first appeared in More Fun Comics, Green Arrow was chosen to star in his first ever eponymous series.  The four issues of Green Arrow Vol. I were written by Mike W. Barr, and drawn by Trevor Von Eeden, who had been drawing the character's adventures in Detective Comics, with inks by Dick Giordano.
As the story begins, Ollie Queen is drawn into a complex web of murder and corporate intrigue when he attends the reading of his old friend Abigail Horton's will and finds himself bequeathed more than thirty million dollars and control of her company, Horton Chemicals.
The family, including Abigail's daughter Cynthia, a former girlfriend of Ollie's, are outraged, but Ollie doesn't really want the money.   Then an attempt on his life by a would-be assassin who's killed by remote control when he attempts to tell Green Arrow who hired him convinces Oliver that something is rotten at Horton Chemicals and that he needs to get to the bottom of it.  After trying several ploys to discover why Abigail was murdered and by whom, Oliver ultimately learns that she had at last perfected her late husband's formula for an artificial fuel substitute, and was targeted for death by a coalition of oil company interests working with one of her family members as their contact on the inside. He further discovers that the scientist who helped Abby perfect the fuel substitute has also been murdered, taking the formula to his grave and that the one existing vial of the substance is hidden aboard Abby's yacht which sits out at sea, awaiting further instructions.  Following a climactic battle aboard the yacht between GA and Black Canary, aided by an Agent Jones of the CIA and a gang of raiders led by modern day pirate Captain Lash, the fuel substitute ends up lost at sea, but Ollie finally learns who is behind the whole plot.  Although when Green Arrow confronts that person, it turns out that he was just a front for the real mastermind.  After the mystery is solved, Ollie gives up Abby's money, turns over the company to her brother, and goes back to his old life and his back up feature in Detective.

This is the type of whodunnit tale that Mike Barr excels at, though in places it seems a little padded in order to stretch it out to four issues.  The battle with Count Vertigo, especially, seems an unnecessary distraction, especially since he turns out to have nothing to do with the conspiracy to kill Abby Horton.  The new villain, Captain Lash, who dresses and talks like he stepped out of an old pirate movie, is another example of something Barr does really well; the kind of goofy, but nonetheless deadly, villain.
The art by Trevor Von Eeden and Dick Giordano is very good. It's nicely dynamic and tells the story clearly.  I've noticed that when people talk about the important Green Arrow artists, such as Papp, Kirby, Adams, and Grell, Von Eeden is rarely mentioned, although he certainly deserves to be.

The text page of the first issue, which summarizes the character's history up to that point, ends by saying "However GA's life may change, one direction that it will never go is backward!"  This mini-series doesn't really move the character forward either, as in the end he's right back where he was when the story began.  I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing.  Not every story has to be a major turning point in a character's life.   Sometimes it's enough to just tell an entertaining adventure story, and in this case, Barr and Von Eeden do just that.
Unfortunately, this has yet to be reprinted, though it certainly deserves to be collected in trade paperback.  So, if you want to read it, you'll have to hunt for the back issues, though it will be well worth the effort to do so.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Green Arrow in The Brave and the Bold (Part 3)

(I apologize to anyone who actully gives a crap for the week long delay in getting up further Green Arrow posts.  I'll fill you in on what I was up to a little later.  In the meantime, to get up to speed, you might want to check out parts one and  two of this series on GA's appearances in The Brave & The Bold...or you could just leap right into Part Three....)
Apparently unwilling to bow to pressure from new B&B editor Paul Levitz to bring his stories more in line with the rigid continuity of the other Batman books, longtime B&B writer Bob Haney wrote his last Batman team-up story for issue #157.  The remaining forty-three issues were written by a rotating roster of writers that included Gerry Conway, Cary Burkett and Mike W. Barr. Jim Aparo remained with the book to draw the majority of the final stories.
Haney favorite Wildcat, who at the time supposedly lived on a different Earth from B&B's Batman, a matter of continuity that Haney never addressed, made no further appearances in the book, however, Green Arrow, another mainstay of the Haney era, would show up twice more. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Green Arrow in The Brave and the Bold (Part 2)

Welcome to the second installment of my retrospective of the Emerald Archer's many appearances in DC's seminal team-up magazine, The Brave and the Bold.  Should you wish to read the first installment of this magnum opus, click here.  That epic length post took me the better part of three days to compose, so this time, in the interest of getting this post up somewhat quicker, I'm going to limit myself to the remaining Green Arrow/Batman pairings penned by long time B&B writer Bob Haney, and leave the two GA/Batman stories of B&B's post-Haney era for part three.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rise and Fall Falls Hard

When I wrote about Brad Meltzer's "The Archer's Quest," I allowed as how it wasn't the worst Green Arrow story that I've ever read.  This may have inspired you to ask yourself, "Hmm. What, then, is the worst Green Arrow story that Ray Tomczak has ever read?" (If so, please, I beg you, get a life.) 
When I wrote that post, I probably would have said "Heading Into The Light" by Judd Winick mostly because it spins out of Meltzer's execrable Identity Crisis and features as the main villain the new, improved, badass Dr. Friggin' Light. 
That was, of course before I read the Justice League: Rise and Fall Special
As I stood before the racks of recently released comics at the Laughing Ogre on Wednesday taking a peek at the first page of Rise and Fall, the very one shown to the left of these words, I considered not buying it.  There had to be better ways to waste four bucks, like maybe giving it to my ex-roommate who'd put it toward buying crack. Sure, I had sort of promised to read and review the book here, but was I really obligated to follow through?  After all, it's not like this is my job.  I'm not a professional writer, I'm just an opinionated fanboy sitting at a cluttered computer desk in a small, dimly lit one bedroom apartment with a pack of cigarettes, a cup of coffee, and a stack of old comic books at my side.  I am doing this, as the saying goes, "for fun," and that first page, which seemed to confirm my worst fears about the awfulness inherent in the very concept of Rise and Fall, foreshadowed that reading the rest of the book would not be anything even remotely resembling "fun."  Besides, it's not like I've got millions of readers who would be bitterly disappointed and outraged if I just put the thing back in the rack and backed away slowly.
Nevertheless, despite these misgivings, I picked up Rise and Fall and Doom Patrol #8 and headed toward the counter.
While the story didn't get any worse after the first page, it utterly failed to get any better, either. The story is called "Green Arrow Unbound," which apparently means unbound by any obligation to act in a manner at all consistent with how he's been portrayed in the past.  
Do I really have to go into more detail?  Must I relive the horror? Isn't it enough just to know that this book utterly sucks and is to be avoided at all costs?  
Seriously, I'm doing this Green Arrow Month thing to celebrate what it is that I love about the adventures of Oliver Queen, so I will waste no more time with this garbage, and I urge you to do likewise.
On the bright side, Doom Patrol #8 wasn't bad.  It looks like the various subplots Giffen devoted the previous issue to might actually turn into a pretty good story or two.  And Crazy Jane's back, which could be cool if she's handled correctly, which I certainly think that Keith Giffen is capable of doing.

Green Arrow in The Brave and the Bold (Part 1)

(As I've got quite a few comics to cover here, and I tend toward long winded rambling in my blog posts, this look at Green Arrow's appearance in the original The Brave and the Bold is going to be at least two parts.)
To me, it almost seems as if the original The Brave and the Bold was as much Green Arrow's book as it was Batman's.  Not only did he appear in its pages more times than any other super-hero besides the Caped Crusader, but he was on hand for most of the series' milestones.  He co-starred in the fiftieth issue, which launched the book's team-up format, took time out, along with Green Lantern and Black Canary, from wandering around the country to visit Gotham for the celebration of the series' hundredth issue, and when B&B published its very first two part team-up tale, he was one of the participants.  It was in B&B that Green Arrow got a new costume and began the revitalization that saw him transformed from nondescript Batman wannabe to hotheaded liberal crusader for the little guy. The  Green Arrow team ups in B&B are not just important in the history of the book and the character, but a couple of them rank among my favorite GA stories of all time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Final Verdict: "The Archer's Quest"

Though I hate to disappoint my two or three loyal readers, this isn't going to be a full on rant about how much "The Archer's Quest" blows and how Brad Meltzer should never be allowed to write another word as long as he lives.   The truth is that "The Archer's Quest" doesn't completely suck.  It's not the worst Green Arrow story I've ever read, and certainly not the worst thing Meltzer's ever written.  It is however, marred by flaws that seem to be trademarks of Meltzer's work. These include bothersome plot holes, a poor understanding of some of the characters he's writing about, and a shocking revelation at the end that comes out of nowhere and changes everything that has come before.
The story of "The Archer's Quest" concerns Ollie's efforts to clean up a few loose ends left after his death.  In order to preserve his secrets following his death, once upon a time Ollie had hired sometime super villain the Shade to retrieve and destroy certain artifacts when the time came.  Unfortunately, the Shade doesn't seem to have done a very good job, so Ollie and former sidekick Roy Harper set out to retrieve the items he missed. 
Other than the fight with Solomon Grundy in the wreckage of the Arrowcave, "The Archer's Quest" is short on traditional super heroic action.  (The Shade? Solomon Grundy? It almost seems that Meltzer would rather have been writing Starman, since he's borrowed two of that book's major players.)  For the most part, it's a character driven tale of a man recently returned from dead and his ex-drug addict turned government agent former kid sidekick reconnecting on a road trip.  The fact is that Meltzer seems to do a little better with this type of story than he does with more traditional super hero tales or crime fiction.  
Meltzer actually does have a pretty good grasp on Ollie's character and the moments between him and Roy aren't that bad. Once I read beyond the first chapter, the bit with Roy temporarily going back to being Speedy didn't really bother me as much as it did previously, though I still think it was a misstep on Meltzer's part. Where he really falls down is in his portrayal of the Shade.  The cultured enigmatic figure of James Robinson's Starman is replaced here by a bumbling fool.  With his powers, Shade should really have had very little problem retrieving the items Ollie wanted from the Flash Museum and the JLA.  Meltzer attempts to duplicate the Shade's dry wit, having him quip "I look terrible in black," when asked why he hired washed up villain Catman to attend Ollie's funeral rather than go himself. (The Shade, if you didn't know, never wears anything but black.) Rather than sounding wrily witty, however, it comes off as kind of stupid. 
Meltzer never provides a satisfactory rationale for why Ollie feels he has to steal back his possessions that are in the care of the Flash Museum and the JLA rather than just asking for them.  When Roy asks him why he doesn't just ask current Flash Wally West for the item from the Flash Museum, he says, "It wasn't his to give."  This doesn't make any sense to me.   After all, by the same token, it wasn't Wally's to withhold, either.  
Reading over the past couple of paragraphs, I realize my complaints may seem a bit nitpicky, but there are enough moments like the ones I've described throughout the story to keep me from really enjoying it.  Besides, if you really think about it, the rationale for the whole story is a bit shaky.  Ollie's goal in making his deal with the Shade was to preserve his secrets after his death, but it seems to me that the people most likely to have been going through Ollie's stuff post-mortem, Roy, and perhaps the Black Canary, already knew his secrets.
In the case of "The Archer's Quest," Meltzer's trademark late in the game revelation casts a new light not only on the story at hand, but on almost every Green Arrow story going back to at least The Longbow Hunters. Given the way Ollie's character had developed in the Grell era and beyond, however, the revelation, that (blogging etiquette requires me to insert the words "SPOILER ALERT" at this juncture) Oliver had known about his son,Connor Hawke, all along and was, in fact, present at his birth, is not completely uncharacteristic and actually makes sense.  What really bugs me about it, though, is the way it just comes out of nowhere on the next to last page with nothing having prepared the reader to learn that this is what the story had really been about all along.  It's a sign of the sloppy, careless plotting that is also a Meltzer trademark.  
The trade paperback collection includes an intro by Senator Patrick Leahy and an afterword by writer Greg Rucka.  Oddly, Rucka's afterword at the end of the book refers to the story "you are about to read."  What's up with that? Does Rucka not know what "after" means? Or did DC find itself with two introductions, and decided to go with the more well known figure to lead the book off and consign Rucka's piece to the end pages?  The second scenario seems more likely. 
So, overall, while I wouldn't actively recommend "The Archer's Quest," I suppose there are worse ways to waste an evening. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The King And Ollie

Although, as Mark Evanier relates in his book Kirby: King of Comics, he may have objected when Stan Lee pinned the title on him, Jack Kirby truly was the "King of Comics" and his influence can be seen in almost every super-hero title being published today. That includes our honoree this month, the Green Arrow.  
During the late fifties, the comics industry was in trouble.  Many publishers were going out of business and it was just not the right time for a new player trying to break in to the market.  Thus, having failed with Mainline Comics, his joint publishing venture with longtime collaborator Joe Simon, Jack Kirby found himself working once again for DC Comics.  There he created The Challengers of the Unknown and was always on the lookout for new assignments.  Eventually, he was given the assignment to draw the Green Arrow features appearing in World's Finest and Adventure Comics by Jack Schiff, his editor on Challengers.  
Before a falling out with Schiff forced Kirby to leave DC, thus paving the way for his return to what would soon become Marvel and the creation of the Marvel Universe with Stan Lee, Kirby would draw eleven  six page Green Arrow stories to appear in World's Finest and Adventure Comics over the course of a few months in 1958.   A couple of years ago, all of these stories were collected in a slim trade paperback entitled The Green Arrow by Jack Kirby. The book also included, as all collections of Kirby material are apparently required by statute to, an introduction by Kirby's friend, former assistant and biographer Mark Evanier, which, by the way, was my major source for many of the facts presented in this post (the opinions are all mine). 
Kirby always thought big and never did anything half way.  So, when given the Arrow assignment, he set himself the task of taking the character from third stringer to star.  To that end, wrote a story intended to launch Green Arrow in a new direction and, hopefully, straight to the top.  His story, entitled "The Case of the Super-Arrows," was intended to take the Green Arrow series in a more science-fiction oriented direction. In that story, Green Arrow and his sidekick Speedy, on the anniversary of the beginning of their crime fighting careers, recieve a gift of high tech "super arrows" sent  back in time by admirers in the year 3000. 
Green Arrow already had writers, however, but Kirby was allowed to tweak the already written scripts he was handed and given a hand in co-plotting new stories. One story that, although credited to writer Dave Wood, obviously has Kirby's fingerprints all over it, was a two parter that from Adventure Comics.  After investigating a series of giant arrows falling on Star City, GA and Speedy find themselves trapped in an alternate dimension where everyone is a giant.  They soon encounter GA's extra-dimensional counterpart, a bow slinging crime fighter called Xeen Arrow.  After aiding Xeen Arrow in capturing some crooks, they enlist his aid in getting back home.  This is a wild and very entertaining story full of outlandish ideas.  In short, classic Kirby.  In a way, it also reminds me of something Grant Morrison might write today.
The new direction, though, never caught on and was, in fact, quite unpopular with DC's editorial staff, especially the Arrow's creator, Mort Weisinger.  Most of the stories that Kirby illustrated, therefore, were fairly standard, and somewhat bland, tales of Green Arrow and Speedy rather easily defeating  a nondescript lot of garden variety bank robbers and thugs.  
Throwing in my two cents, I honestly think, despite my enjoyment of the "Dimension Zero" tale, that Kirby was off the mark this time.  He was right that Green Arrow was in need of a shot in the arm, but his solution wasn't the right one for the character.  Green Arrow doesn't really work in a science fiction contest. What Green Arrow really needed was a personality.  He needed to stop being a bow slinging Batman clone and become a unique character in his own right. That revitalization would not occur until Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams got their hands on the character a decade later.
Perhaps the most important story, from a historical standpoint, of Kirby's run on Green Arrow is one of his last.  "The Green Arrow's First Case" finds GA and Speedy racing to beat a scientific expedition to Starfish Island, which just happens, as the name implies, to be shaped like a starfish (Don't ask me why, since it has no importance to the story).  Years earlier, after falling overboard during a sea voyage, Oliver Queen had washed up on Starfish Island.  While stranded there, he made a bow and taught himself archery in order to survive, fashioning a variety of trick arrows to help him perform various tasks. Eventually,  a freighter anchored itself off shore. Swimming out to it, Oliver discovers that the crew has mutinied.  After using his archery skills and trick arrows to thwart the mutineers, Ollie hitched a ride back to civilization.  Upon his return, he continued using his new found mastery of archery to fight crime as the Green Arrow. 
While on the island, however, he had kept a journal, chiseled in stone on the wall of a cave.  This is why he must beat the expedition to Starfish Island if he wants to preserve his secret identity. 
The origin story told here is a completely different one from thae one originally presented in a 1943 issue of More Fun Comics.  However, allowing for modifications and updating over the decades, it remains the origin in place to this day. (I'm planning a later post looking at just how GA's origin story has evolved. It'll appear sometime after I get around to reading Green Arrow: Year One.)
Even though, and it's not Kirby's fault, most of the stories are pretty lame, if you're a fan of either Kirby or Green Arrow, or, like me, both, it's worth spending the six bucks to get this book.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When Beards Collide: GA Meets The Warlord in Green Arrow (Vol.2) #'s 27/28

If you look at a drawing by Mike Grell of Green Arrow and one of his sword and sorcery creation The Warlord, you will immediately be struck by the strong resemblance between the two characters.   Travis Morgan, the Warlord, is basically a somewhat taller Ollie Queen with longer, and whiter, hair.  Thus, once Crisis On Infinite Earths established that the Warlord existed in the DC Universe (something which Grell had firmly resisted during his tenure on the book), it was perhaps inevitable that the two would someday meet, and only fitting that Mike Grell would be one to introduce them to each other.  He would be abetted by another artist familiar to Warlord fans, Dan Jurgens, who drew Green Arrow #'s 27 and 28, and was one of the artists who followed Grell on The Warlord.
The only question was how Grell would make it work.  With The Longbow Hunters, Grell established a somewhat more realistic millieu for Green Arrow, banishing all the more outre and fantastic elements of the mainstream DC Universe.  His Arrow operated in a shadowy urban jungle where super powers just didn't fit in.  How, then, could such an environment comfortably accommodate a character who'd spent the last several years fighting demons and wizards in an extra-dimensional fantasy land?
Naturally, Ollie traveling to the Warlord's land of Skartaris was out of the question. Travis Morgan had to come to Seattle, where Green Arrow and Black Canary lived during the Grell days. Thus Green Arrow #27, a story entitled "enter..." in a nod to the catchphrase "Enter the Lost World of The Warlord" which adorned Morgan's old series, begins with a shadowy figure strongly resembling Oliver Queen having himself a drink at a Seattle dive bar. The place is frequented by all manner of low lifes, including a mohawked punk recently released from prison after being nabbed by Green Arrow and looking to get some revenge. All he ends up getting is pinned to the bar by a knife through his hand.
This is just the first of several encounters with people Ollie has pissed off since he's been in Seattle.  These are interspersed with scenes of Ollie and Dinah Lance, a.k.a. the Black Canary, at home, to show that however much this shadowy stranger may look like him, it isn't the Green Arrow.  
Following an encounter with a mob boss whose brother-in-law the actual Green Arrow had a run in with earlier that evening, Morgan, after taking out the guys goons and putting a couple of bullets into his Rolls-Royce, learns just who all these people really want to kill.  Thus, later that evening, as Ollie and Dinah are asleep, there's a knock at their door and Ollie opens it to find himself staring into his own face.  "Whatever you've been doing to piss these people off," Morgan tells Ollie, "KNOCK IT OFF!" He then flattens Ollie with a punch to  the jaw. 
That's where "enter..." exits.
 "Siege" begins in #28 pretty much right where the previous issue left off, with Ollie on the floor rubbing his jaw after being popped by an angry Warlord.  Morgan soon joins him on the floor after making a careless sexist remark to Dinah.  Then, after the violent greetings, its time for the bonding. Morgan proceeds to fill Ollie and Dinah in on some of the details of who he is and where he comes from.
It seems that after two decades of playing Conan, Morgan got an itch to see what was up in the real world. So, after emerging in Alaska, he hitched a ride on a military transport and apparently spent an unspecified amount of time wandering around the country taking in the many ways the world had changed, and the many ways that it hadn't, during his time in Skartaris.  Finally, he'd grown disillusioned with late 80's America and decided to head back home.  Thus, he was on his way back when he was sidetracked by Ollie's enemies.
 Meanwhile, Eddie Finster, the mob boss Morgan assaulted in the previous issue, decides that Queen needs to be taught a lesson.  To do that, he sets off a bomb at a power plant to create a blackout and calls in a bunch of low level thugs to go on a crime spree in order to preoccupy the police, while he leads an assault on Ollie and Dinah's home.  After they, with Morgan's help, deal with the threat, their new friend decides not to stick around to talk to answer any questions from the authorities and heads back for the road to Skartaris.
All in all, these two issues make up a fun, if somewhat formulaic, action  story featuring a team up that fans of Mike Grell must have been just aching to see. Grell managed to make Travis Morgan work in Ollie's world, but its a somewhat uneasy fit.  Because Grell's Green Arrow took place in a more or less "real world" setting where the fantasy elements that were the heart of The Warlord were verboten, these two issues' guest star is never once actually referred to as "The Warlord," only as "Morgan." Even in #28's credit box, Mike Grell is credited with creating Travis Morgan, not the Warlord.  Furthermore, when he's telling Ollie and Dinah about himself, never once is Skartaris mentioned by name and Morgan is somewhat vague on the exact details of just what he'd been up to for the previous two decades.  Grell is depending on the reader bringing that knowledge to the table.  That's not to say you can't enjoy the story without that knowledge.  I once described this story to a friend, and it turned out he had read and liked it, but  hadn't realized that the man every one thought was Oliver Queen was, in fact, the Warlord.  However, to really appreciate the story fully, it helps to have read at least one or two issues of The Warlord. Besides, that was a really good comic, too, so its worth checking out. (There's a recently published Showcase Presents volume that allows you to check out a big chunk of the early issues for not a whole lot of money.)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Rise and Fall" Begins This Wednesday

I'm going to be spending most of the rest of this month looking back at key moments in Green Arrow's past, but today I'm looking ahead with some trepidation to his immediate future. 
 Since his revival from the dead by Kevin Smith in 2001's "Quiver" storyline, Oliver Queen has at last become a major player in the DC Universe.  This is both a good and a bad thing.  It's good because, as a long time GA fan, I've always felt the character had great untapped potential and deserved a higher profile.  However, that higher profile leaves the character vulnerable to ill-conceived, sales driven "event" storylines that promise, or perhaps I should say threaten, to change the character and his world "forever."  In my experience, these stories, think "Emerald Twilight" in Green Lantern as one of the most egregious examples, are almost never very good and usually end up alienating just as many longtime fans as they gain in new readers.  
So now it's Green Arrow's turn, unfortunately.  The event known as "Rise and Fall" officially begins this week with the Justice League: Rise and Fall one-shot and thereafter continues in two storylines,  the six issue "The Fall of Green Arrow" beginning in Green Arrow #31 and the four issue mini-series The Rise of Arsenal.  Despite my misgivings, I kind of feel obligated to pick this up, at least so that I can write about it, since, by sheer coincidence, it happens to be beginning right smack in the middle of Gutter Talk's self-proclaimed GREEN ARROW MONTH.  
Here's what I've been able to learn about the story from on-line sources, most notably DC's The Source blog:
Apparently, the roots of this story are to be found in the recently concluded mini-series Justice League: Cry For Justice.  In that story, Roy Harper, Green Arrow's former sidekick who has recently been going by the ridiculous name of Red Arrow as a member of the latest incarnation of the Justice League, loses his left arm.  This development has actually recieved quite a bit of publicity, so I've known about it for months, though I didn't particulary care, to be honest.  I've also recently learned that Cry For Justice also features the destruction of a good chunk of Green Arrow's home, Star City (again...see the Green Arrow: Heading Into The Light TPB) with Roy Harper's daughter among the thousands killed in the disaster.  The mini-series ended with Ollie seeking vengeance against Prometheus, the villain responsible for these atrocities.

Right between the eyes.  OUCH! That's gotta hurt.
The Justice League: Rise and Fall special features, according to The Source, "Ollie embracing his role as a hunter." That seems to me to translate as "he kills a bunch more people." Then, in "The Fall of Green Arrow," "...the hunter becomes the hunted," as The Source puts it, and the Justice League comes after Green Arrow, and "Ollie's life will be drastically changed."
I'm not a big fan of Green Arrow going around killing people, but his willingness to do so, especially in defense of those he loves, has been a part of his character since The Longbow Hunters.  So, by itself, the killing of Prometheus doesn't bother me too much.  It all depends on how it's handled, I suppose.  

J.T. Krul, who's writing both "The Fall of Green Arrow" and The Rise of Arsenal, is an unknown quantity to me.  I've never read anything he's written before.  Of course, his most oft cited previous work is a Blackest Night tie-in, so that explains that.  I'm just not interested in DC's current mega-blockbuster crossover.  Anyway, I'm willing to give him, and "The Fall of Green Arrow," a chance, though, as I stated above, I'm not really all that optimistic.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ready To Take A Chance Again (The Archer's Quest)

 This whole GREEN ARROW MONTH stunt was inspired by an e-mail from my friend Adam asking me to recommend to him some good Green Arrow stories, which started me thinking about the Emerald Archer and re-reading my old Green Arrow comics.  One of the GA stories he had read was "The Archer's Quest," the six-part storyline by novelist Brad Meltzer which followed Kevin Smith's run on the character, appearing in Green Arrow (vol. 3) #'s 16-21. I read the first installment of this story when it was originally published and didn't care for it, but based on Adam's recommendation, I've decided to give it a second chance.  So he owes me for anything I break should I end up hurling the book across the room.
To be perfectly honest, when I first read Green Arrow #16, I was predisposed toward not liking it.  Upon hearing that Meltzer was going to be writing the series, and never having heard of him before, I decided to seek out one of his novels.  Thus, I picked up a copy of his then current bestseller, The Millionaires, and spent an excruciating few days reading it.
 As you can perhaps tell from my choice of adjective in the previous sentence, I did not enjoy the novel.  The first, and biggest problem, is the writing, particularly the jarring shifts from first to third person that serve only to make the reader aware of the author and thus take him out of the story.  Then there's the story itself.  It's not really all that bad until right near the end, when there is a ridiculous plot twist that not only makes no sense in and of itself, but also causes nearly every thing that has transpired so far in the novel to suddenly make no sense in light of this development.  I won't say any more in case you want to read the book yourself, however I wouldn't recommend doing that.
This rather unpleasant experience serves to explain why I was in no mood to give "The Archer's Quest," or anything else written by Meltzer, the benefit of even the smallest doubt.  The thing about that first issue that really bugged me is  Green Arrow's former kid sidekick Roy Harper, who at the time was calling himself Arsenal, agreeing to wear his old uniform from his days as Speedy, which is what he was known as when he hung around with GA.  Given all the character had gone through, going back to his drug addiction as revealed in the Dennis O'Neil/Neal Adams run of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, in order to establish an identity as an adult apart from his former mentor, this seemed way of character and a step backwards for Roy.  I didn't even believe that Ollie would have asked that of Roy, even though he can be a sentimental old coot at times.
I did read Meltzer's next DC project, Identity Crisis, and that certainly didn't make me want to go back and finish "The Archer's Quest."  I have to agree with author Doug Woolk, who, in his book Reading Comics, calls it the most egregiously terrible comic ever.  The fact that the identity of Sue Dibny's killer is revealed not by the detective work of her husband, the Elongated Man, and his fellow super-heroes, but accidentally discovered through one of the oldest cliches in crime fiction is actually the least of Identity Crisis' offenses against comics and literature in general.  Woolk catalogues these far more eloquently than I can, and I heartily recommend reading his book, but I'll give it a shot.
Basically, Meltzer portrays the members of the Justice League of America and other members of his cast doing things that are wildly out of character, presumably for the sake of realism and sheer shock value.  The revelation via flashback of Dr Light's rape of Sue Dibny and the subsequent "magical lobotomy" performed by Zatanna which is supposedly responsible for Light's being an ineffectual bumbler in most of his previous appearances constitutes an abuse of retroactive continuity. 
To be honest, there is a germ of a good concept at the heart of Identity Crisis.  Psychically and magically powered heroes have casually messed with people's minds throughout the history of comics, mostly to protect their precious secret identities, and rarely, if ever, have the ethics of such actions been seriously considered.  Here, however, the brainwashing is merely a plot device used to accommodate Light's transformation from third rate villain to "serious" threat. Not to mention that it provided the springboard for a slew of other really bad stories, up to  and including the virtually unreadable Infinite Crisis.
Does every villain have to be a so-called "threat"? What's wrong with having a few lightweight, easily defeated, comic relief villains to give the heroes, and the readers, a  break from all the end of the world angst? Frankly, after Identity Crisis, the character of Dr. Light is far less interesting to me than he was when John Ostrander used him mainly for comic relief in Suicide Squad
Meltzer's issues of Justice League of America, therefore,  could be considered his best comics work to date.  Not because they were particularly good, but simply because they are the only thing of his I've read yet which didn't piss me off. 
I'm planning on getting to "The Archer's Quest" sometime in the next few days, probably this weekend. I'll let you know what I think afterward. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Essential GREEN ARROW

Our own special brand of "March Madness", the four week long salute to the Emerald Archer dubbed GREEN ARROW MONTH, kicks off in earnest today with a look at the history of the Battlin' Bowman and some of the pivotal publications that have shaped Oliver Queen's character as we know and love him today.
The character first saw print in the 73rd issue of More Fun Comics.  He was the creation of Mort Weisinger, best known as the editor who guided Superman's destiny through the end of the Silver Age, and artist George Papp.  With issue #77, he took over the comics covers from previous star Dr. Fate. For fifteen issues of  Leading Comics, he was one of eight members of The Seven Soldiers of Victory. (GA's sidekick Speedy and Star-Spangled Kid's sidekick Stripesy were members of the team, but Crimson Avenger's pal Wing, even though he took part in the team's adventures, was not considered a member. My guess is they did it for the sake of the alliteration. Eight Soldiers of Victory doesn't have the same ring to it.) Eventually, all the super-hero features in More Fun moved over to Adventure Comics, and Green Arrow continued to appear there until 1960.  At the same time, his adventures also saw print in World's Finest Comics, where they continued until 1964.  After that, for many years the only place to see GA was in Justice League of America, where he became the team's first new member in the fourth issue, and the occasional team-up with Batman in The Brave and The Bold.
I'd wager that before 1969, no one would have called Green Arrow their favorite super-hero.  The conventional wisdom on the Emerald Archer's early adventures is that he was basically a bland, second rate Batman knock-off.  A billionaire playboy entrusted with the care of an orphaned young boy, Oliver Queen fought crime from his Arrowcave, rode around in his Arrowcar, was summoned to the scene of crimes  by an Arrowsignal, and used a variety of "trick arrows"  similar to the gadgets housed in the Caped Crusader's utility belt.  While Green Arrow, along with fellow Weisinger creation Aquaman, is one of only two DC heroes outside the Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman whose adventures continued to be published in the fallow period between the post war decline of super-hero comics and the start of the Silver Age with Showcase #4, Green Arrow's Wikipedia entry hints that his endurance is more likely due to the influence of his creator than to his popularity. Some of the few stories from this period actually worth taking note of were drawn, and in a couple of  cases written, by Jack Kirby.  One of these stories provided Green Arrow with a new origin which supplanted the Golden Age origin and remains, allowing for some revision and updating over the years, the origin in force today. 
Beginning in 1969, writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams, working separately at first, then finally collaborating, got a hold of Ollie and began to transform him from a bargain basement Batman into an interesting and unique character in his own right.  In a story entitled "The Senator's Been Shot" from The Brave and The Bold #85, Neal Adams updated the archer's look with a new costume and his now familiar goatee.  Next, in Justice League of America #75, O'Neil wrote the story in which Oliver Queen loses his fortune and his company and took the first steps to becoming a liberal leaning defender of the downtrodden as well as beginning his long running relationship with the Black Canary.  Next, in the award winning Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, O'Neil and Adams cemented the character's new direction in a set of stories that featured the title characters travelling around America confronting not super-villains, for the most part, but the various social ills plaguing the country in the late 60's and early 70's.
Following the cancellation of GL/GA, Green Arrow returned to being a back up feature, appearing behind the main story in Action Comics, World's Finest Comics, and Detective Comics. He was also a member in good standing of the Justice League during this time, as well as returning for a  brief time to his co-starring role in the revival of Green Lantern. 
In 1983, Green Arrow appeared for the first time in his own self title comic book. The four issue mini-series was written by Mike W. Barr and drawn by Trevor Von Eden.  
1987's The Longbow Hunters, written and illustrated by Mike Grell, launched a new direction for the Emerald Archer as he moved to Seattle, got himself a new costume and a new attitude, and abandoned the "trick arrows." This led to  an ongoing series which Grell wrote, but only occasionally drew, for 80 issues.  During his run as chronicler of GA's adventures, Grell also wrote an update of the Kirby origin for Secret Origins #38. He followed that up with a "Year One" style tale of Green Arrow's early adventures in Green Arrow: The Wonder Year.
Shortly after Grell's departure, in Green Arrow #0, Ollie met a young man named Connor Hawke. He was soon revealed to be Oliver's son and would take up the mantle of Green Arrow following Queen's death in #101. Hawke would continue in that capacity until that Green Arrow series ended with #137 in 1996. 
Next, film maker Kevin Smith, in his first work for DC, launched a new Green Arrow series by bringing Ollie back from the dead in the ten part story line "Quiver".  Smith left the title after the fifteenth issue. Smith's run was followed first by a six part story by novelist Brad Meltzer, then a lengthy stint by Judd Winick.  That series ended in 2007 with #75, which featured Ollie proposing to Dinah Lance, a.k.a. the Black Canary.
After a four issue Black Canary mini-series in which Dinah finally accepts Ollie's proposal, the two were married in The Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special, which in turn led into the currently ongoing Green Arrow/Black Canary series.
In 2007, Ollie's origins were retold once again in the six issue series Green Arrow: Year One.
And that pretty much brings us up to the present.
I hear that the Green Arrow/Black Canary series is set to change its title soon to simply Green Arrow, and that a new storyline called "The Fall of Green Arrow" promises big changes in the Emerald Archer's life.   Given that these big character changing event stories, ala "The Death and Return of Superman," "Knightfall," and, worst of all, "Emerald Twilight," are rarely any good, and sometimes just awful, I'm honestly not optimistic, but I'll wait and see.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March Is GREEN ARROW MONTH at Gutter Talk!!!

I probably should have posted this yesterday, but I just thought of this silly gimmick this morning. Anyway, as you may have noticed, the year 2010 is already 1/6 of the way over and the mad month of March is upon us.  Besides the ludicrous and overhyped basketball tournament, the month's main attraction is St. Patrick's Day, honoring the patron saint of drunks. 
One of the traditions associated with St. Pat's Day is The Wearing of the Green, and in the world of comic book super-heroes, few have worn the green longer and with more style than my personal favorite among the super-hero crowd: the Battlin' Bowman himself--everybody's favorite Emerald Archer--Oliver Jonas "Ollie" Queen, the lean, mean, GREEN ARROW!
Therefore, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, March 2010 has been unilaterally declared by me to be GREEN ARROW MONTH!!!! Throughout the next four weeks, I'll be looking at the history of the character and posting about some of my favorite GA stories.  The festivities begin in earnest tomorrow with an overview of some of the essential stories that have shaped the character as we know him today, many of which I'll be going into more depth about later on.