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.

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