Friday, March 12, 2010

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.

The Brave and the Bold began in 1955 as a "high adventure" anthology title, featuring tales of such characters as the Viking Prince, the Silent Knight, the Golden Gladiator, and Robin Hood (who, I'd wager, is probably the only one of these characters you've ever heard of before.) With the twenty-fifth issue, it changed over to a "tryout" format similar to Showcase.  During this period, B&B launched the careers of the Justice League of America and the Silver Age Hawkman (as well as the Suicide Squad, although they wouldn't amount to much until John Ostrander came along a couple of decades later). Issue fifty saw the advent of the team-up format, which initially paired two different characters in every issue, and with #74 the book assumed its final form, as Batman became the permanent star of the book, which now teamed the Caped Crusader with a different hero each issue.  
Green Arrow kicked off the team-up format by pairing up with the Manhunter from Mars, J'Onn J'Onnz, to defeat an escaped Martian criminal who had fled to Earth.  Apparently, J'Onn has changed even more than Green Arrow over the decades.  Whereas today we know him as the last survivor of his race, in this story he is seen returning to Mars, which appears to be home to a thriving civilization.  Aside from this bit of curiousity value, the story is otherwise fairly uninteresting.  
 Even prior to taking over the lead spot, Batman was one of B&B's most frequent guest stars.  In #71, he shared the first of ten adventures, presented in eleven B&B issues, with Green Arrow.  Batman is summoned by his old friend John Whitebird and asked to help Whitebird train for a competition against corrupt trucking magnate Tom Tallwolf that will determine who will be the next chief of their tribe. The Caped Crusader calls in Green Arrow to take over for him when it comes to preparing for the archery event.  Aided by J. Jay Jaye, a.k.a. "The Big Promoter," Tallwolf wins the chiefdom by cheating and, in return, is co-erced by Jaye into unleashing an ancient beast called the Thunderbird.  The mutant condor proves uncontrollable, turning on Tallwolf and Jaye and threatening the reservation.  Fortunately Batman and Green Arrow are on hand to save the day.  
Even though Whitebird and Tallwolf are supposedly rich successful businessmen, they still ocasionally pepper their speech with such cliches as "heap big" or "Indian brother" and refer to the white folks as "Palefaces."  I was surprised that no one was accused of speaking with a "forked tongue." At least they speak in complete sentences and the Tonto-isms aren't really that egregious if you can manage to convince yourself they're using them ironically. 
The most notable thing about this issue is that it was drawn by George Papp, the original GA artist of the 40s.  Not having had the chance as yet to read any of those early GA tales, this is the only time I've gotten to see Oliver Queen as rendered by his co-creator.
One of the most oft repeated criticisms of Bob Haney's B&B tales is that the guest stars, and occasionally Batman, were often portrayed acting totally out of character.  In the case of Green Arrow,  prior to 1969, it would have been difficult to portray him out of character as he didn't really have any character.  This would begin to change with GA's next appearance in B&B, "The Senator's Been Shot" in #85. 
Since GA was pretty much a blank slate, when Bob Haney wrote him having doubts as to whether he was doing any good as Green Arrow, which he had, as far as I know, never expressed in any previous appearance, it wasn't decried as being out of character. Instead, it became the character. Denny O'Neil picked up on it and carried it over into Justice League of America #75.  That was also the issue where Oliver Queen lost his fortune and hooked up with Black Canary.  
B&B #85, as has been noted before, was also the issue where GA began rocking the goatee and wearing new threads designed by Neal Adams, who also drew that issue.  However, for all that has been written about the issue's historical significance, I've never read anything about the story itself, which is a pity, because it's actually quite good. It's one of the better Batman/Green Arrow team-ups and, overall, one of Haney's best B&B stories.
After newly elected senator Paul Cathcart is gunned down before he can cast a crucial vote on a new anti-crime bill, the governor appoints Bruce Wayne to fill his seat.  Bruce is torn between accepting the assignment and his promise to capture Cathcart's assailant as the Batman. Meanwhile, Oliver Queen is finalizing plans for a new land development project designed to revitalize Gotham's economy.  His rival for the contract is a company owned by Mikos Minotaur, the corrupt businessman also suspected of being behind the shooting of Senator Cathcart.  Ollie begins to wonder whether he can do more good as himself rather than as Green Arrow, when one of Minotaur's men makes an attempt on his life, which he foils as Green Arrow.
Both GA and Batman confess their dilemmas, and their secret identities, to Edmond Cathcart, the senator's son.  Because of his connections to the two men who stand in the way of his plans, Minotaur has Edmond abducted.  The two heroes team up to save their friend and take down Minotaur, just in time for Batman to make it back to Washington so that Senator Bruce Wayne can vote to pass the anti-crime bill.
The adventure convinces Oliver to continue being Green Arrow.  Meanwhile, Paul Cathcart recovers and Bruce steps down so that the senator can take back his seat, and Edmond undergoes self-hypnosis to forget his friends' secrets. 
 The titles one hundredth issue feature Batman teamed with "4 Famous Co-Stars": Green Lantern, Black Canary, Robin, and, of course, Green Arrow.  After being shot by a sniper on the first page of the story, Batman is in desperate need of an operation that, quite naturally, can only be performed by one doctor on the entire planet.  Unfortunately, Dr. Hellstrom, who resides in Sweden, cannot make it to Gotham until the end of the week, and until then, Batman must remain confined to a wheelchair.  How, then, is he to stop "the Kingpin of international drug merchants...Belknap himself" from bringing in "the biggest heroin shipment ever," which Batman has learned is due to hit Gotham by Friday?
The answer, obviously, is to call upon the erstwhile Boy Wonder and the "Hard Traveling Heroes" to handle the action in the field while he coordinates from his wheelchair.  
After following several false leads and failing to discover where and how the drug shipment is to arrive, the heroes gather at the hospital as Batman is to have his operation.  They soon discover that Belknap is impersonating Dr. Hellstrom in hopes of finishing off Batman.  The drug kingpin is captured and GL flies the real Hellstrom over from Sweden via his power ring.  Before he can begin the life saving procedure, however, Hellstrom discovers that a critical piece of equipment is not working.  Opening it up, they discover that it is being jammed by the big heroin shipment.  Clearing the critical machine of the drugs, Hellstrom successfully removes the bullet from Batman's chest.
There is one scene where Black Canary, more concerned about her appearance than stopping the drug shipment, fails to hear Batman's instructions because she's sitting under a dryer after getting caught in the rain and getting her hair messed up. While out of character for Black Canary, this is in line with the way female super-heroines were often portrayed during the Silver Age.  Interestingly, Haney seems not to realize that Black Canary wears a wig.
Far more controversial was the scene in which Green Arrow kills one of Belknap's underlings who is trying to escape from him and seemingly takes it in stride.  When I first read this story, I didn't give this a second thought, but by that time Mike Grell's run on GA's  series had come and gone and GA killing a fleeing criminal wasn't so remarkable. For 1972, however, this was unprecedented.  Mike W. Barr, quoted in Back Issue magazine, claims that this sequence prompted Denny O'Neil to write a "response" in the form of a story, appearing as a series of back-ups in Flash following the cancellation of Green Lantern, in which GA accidentally kills a criminal and is overcome with remorse, causing him to break all his arrows, crash the Arrowplane, and join a monastery.
Apparently, the fact that Bob Haney helped define GA's character in #85 didn't prevent him from having the archer behave quite uncharacteristically in subsequent appearances in B&B. 
Following the loss of his fortune, Green Arrow was usually portrayed as much happier without it and no longer caring about money.  His next couple of appearances in B&B, however, involve him getting involved in dangerous get rich quick schemes that inevitably place him in mortal danger from which he has to be rescued by the Batman. Despite that, they are some very good stories.  
 "Double Your Money...And Die!" in #106 finds shareholders in something called the Starr Corporation seemingly targeted for death.  Due to inherit a ten million dollar trust fund that coming January first, "jet set playgirl" Salome Starr traded it for five million right away.  A couple of years earlier, she had gotten five rich saps to give her a million bucks apiece in return for the promise of two million when the trust fund kicked in.   Now, as the due date nears, the shareholders are being knocked off one by one, and it just so happens that among those targeted is one time millionaire playboy Oliver Queen, a.k.a. the Green Arrow.
It turns out that the lawyer who helped Starr set up the corporation was Batman's old foe Two-Face in disguise.  He's killing the investors because he'd set it up so that if they're all dead the ten million would go to a Swedish plastic surgery clinic, which Two-Face hoped would be able to find a way to fix his ruined face.
The story ends with Two-Face presumed dead and Ollie the sole surviving Starr Corporation shareholder, and thus the inheritor of the entire ten million dollar pay off.  However, like many developments in Haney's B&B stories, this is never followed up on in GA's subsequent appearances, where he remains a pauper, and by the time he reappears in B&B, he is once again penniless.  Still, this is a great story, and stands as one of the best Two-Face stories I've read.
Well, that brings me to the halfway point of Green Arrow's B&B adventures, so I'll stop here for now.
If you're interested in reading any of these stories discussed above, check out the following volumes of DC's Showcase Presents series of black and white reprints:  B&B #'s 50, 71 and 85 appear in Showcase Presents The Green Arrow Vol. 1, with #'s 71 and 85 also showing up in Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold: The Batman Team-Ups.  The second volume of The Batman Team-Ups contains #'s 100 and 106.  The Green Arrow volume also includes all the stories drawn by Jack Kirby that I discussed a couple of days ago, while the B&B volumes are chock full of Bob Haney Bat-madness with art by such greats as Neal Adams, Nick Cardy, and Jim Aparo.

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