Monday, December 5, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Is She Really Going Out With Him?

Another week has passed and despite the dire predictions of Mein Editor, I have yet (as of the time of this writing) to receive a deluge of mail challenging me on my contention that Birds of Prey author Gail Simone is the only person at DC Comics truly capable of writing the character of Oliver Queen of right now. This is a matter of great import to me, since Green Arrow is one of my favorite heroes and his portrayal of late has been somewhat inconsistent.

I did, however, get some rather surprised mail from someone wondering how I could then say, last week, that Gail Simone has " made my life as a Green Arrow enthusiast much more difficult". Because me saying anything uncomplimentary about Gail Simone is like seeing any other Nexus writer saying positive things about the new Supergirl book; it just does not happen!

Well despite the above language, my love of Simone's writing continues unabated. So those of you hoping to read a scandal-ridden bit of author-bashing, I'm sorry. You'll just have to wait for the Jesse Baker review of Secret Wars #5. The fact of the matter is that while her writing is still top-notch, the most recent issue of Birds of Prey did completely obliterate a theory I had penned regarding the Green Arrow/Black Canary relationship.

As I wrote way back when in Your Cheating Heart, the common wisdom among some comic readers that Oliver Queen is a hound of a man with the morals of an alley cat is hardly accurate. While Ollie was a ladies man during his college years (the time during which Connor Hawke was conceived) and most of his pre-superhero days, he was nothing but loyal to Dinah Lance when they were going steady. All of his famous incidents of infidelity occurred either while he was on the outs with Dinah (as it was with Catwoman and his former sidekick Marriane) or while he was drugged out of his gourd. While it can be argued that he was spiritually unfaithful to the woman he truly loved, Ollie never cheated on Dinah in a technical sense before his death.

Now as a fan, this is an important point to me. Part of the reason I like Ollie is because he has never been portrayed as being totally perfect. He was a flawed man who knew full well that he had done bad things in the past but had turned himself into a hero in an effort not just to make amends for his past misdeeds but to better himself as a person. He may face temptation but he does not give in. His will and his love make him stronger than that.

Ollie's story is one of redemption. Once a spoiled-rotten, happily hedonistic Enron executive who could listen to the Weird Al song "This Is The Life" and not realize that it was meant to be funny, he had a spiritual awakening that led him to fight against everything wrong in the world especially the evils he once helped to spread as a munitions manufacturer.

His attitude toward women changed as well and the good man he had become was as chivalric as his costume suggested. He was still a flirt but while he could still woo a lady when needed, nobody could seriously pull him away from his Pretty Bird and heaven help any other man who got between him and his lady.

This is why Dinah sticks with him despite his bullheaded stupidity and flirtatious ways. And for that matter, it is why he sticks with her despite her need to constantly show her independence but still wanting a shoulder to lean on at the end of the day. They know that despite the flaws, they are damn lucky to have one another and that they can trust each other with their lives.

Mike Grell understood this and his stories showed two people so in love with one another that they were willing to cross ethical lines that they would never consider crossing before in order to save the other. This point has been ignored in recent years, but both Ollie and Dinah killed in order to save the life of their lover during Grell's run on Green Arrow. And the knowledge that the other was willing to change so greatly only served to strengthen the bond of love and trust between them.

That trust that would eventually give way to suspicion but the love remained as strong as ever despite Dinah's worries about what Ollie may have done during his travels around the world. The greatest tragedy of their relationship is that a lack of communication on both their parts. The two are both passionate, emotional introverts given to voicing their emotions but not their motivations.

And now that the psychology lecture is over, let's talk history.

In Cheating, I discussed the development of the GA/BC relationship before Ollie's death. Until recently, there wasn't much to discuss of their relationship after Ollie's death for the good and simple reason that it had never been stated that the two had ever officially gotten back together as a steady couple.

Don't believe me? Let’s go down the timeline, shall we?

Green Arrow #1 - Dinah's remembers her days living with Ollie in Seattle. Her internal monologue shows that while she remembers the bad times with Ollie, she remembers the good times more and still loves him.

Green Arrow #6 - Upon hearing of the news that Ollie is alive and well, Dinah is on her way from Gotham to Star City within hours. Her first response is to throw herself into his arms in relief. She then grills him upon their past, discovering that he remembers nothing of their time in Seattle. While he claims he still loves her, that it's obvious that she still loves him and that wants to be with her, she says she doesn't think it can be that simple.

Green Arrow #11 - His memories restored, Ollie is struggling to work up the courage to pick up the phone and call Dinah. He muses on the irony that with everything else courageous he does on a daily basis, he is scared silly of getting rejected by her.

Green Arrow #12 - The two go out to dinner. Ollie lapses into his old habits, calling Dinah "his girl". She repeatedly says that they are just out as friends and that he should not be saying things like that. Ollie agrees and apologizes but explains that she was the only thing he missed about Earth in the afterlife and that he is willing to wait as long as it takes. The two wind up having a wild night of mad adrenaline-fueled love-making after stopping The Riddler from robbing the restaurant they were eating at.

Green Arrow #13 - Ollie tries to sneak out in the middle of the night, afraid that Dinah will say what happened was a mistake if she sees him the next morning. He is caught by Hawkman (they were staying in her room in the Justice Society headquarters), a fight broke out and it ended with Dinah saying that nothing was going to happen between them for a long, long time. Meanwhile, Connor Hawke (Ollie's son, the new Green Arrow) is ambushed by a mysterious super-villain who only speaks in onomatopoeia.

Green Arrow #14 - Dinah gets the news of Green Arrow being shot in Star City. Thinking it is Ollie, all that happened is forgotten as she demands an immediate JLA teleport to Star City. Despite her protests of the night before, it is obvious she still cares deeply for Ollie.

Green Arrow #15 - As they are visiting Connor in the hospital, Ollie blanks out for a second. When Dinah asks him what happened, he says that he was just distracted by his favorite sound; the sound of family. She doesn't contradict him, but just pulls him closer.

Green Arrow #21 - The final part of Archer's Quest, Ollie uses two of the artifacts he was traveling around the world to retrieve (the diamond tip of the arrow he used to save the JLA and a ring Barry Allen made him) to create an engagement ring for Dinah. We learn that the two have been hanging out a lot together, but that they are apparently not dating exclusively or indeed seeing each other as anything but friends the way Dinah talks about it. He takes her to dinner in the Space Needle planning to propose, but aborts the plan after she tells him not to do anything drastic as he talks about how much he loves her.

Green Arrow #28 - Ollie has a one night-stand with Joanna Pierce; niece of superhero Black Lightning.

Green Arrow #31 - Joanna dies because of her involvement in helping Ollie with a case.

Green Arrow #34 - Dinah shows up and asks Ollie how he is holding up about Joanna's death. Her dialogue suggests that she is sensing there is more than he is telling her about why he is so upset, but she lets it go. The tone seems more friendly than romantic here.

Green Arrow #40 - Dinah and Ollie break up. Ollie says nothing, but it is suggested that Mia and/or Connor told her everything.

Birds of Prey #68 - Dinah goes through fighting practice with Wonder Woman. She internally refers to Ollie as the "stupid cheating archer".

(It gets a bit rocky here, what exactly happened in what order and what is considered hard continuity, so bear with me)

Justice League Elite and the Joe Kelly JLA run - Ollie joins a more extreme superhero team. While on it, he flirts a little with Dawn, wife of teammate Manitou Raven. Apparently the two slept together off-camera.

The Kurt Busiek JLA Run - Ollie and Dinah are openly hostile to one another. They are barely capable of working together in the field.

The Bob Harras JLA Run - Ollie and Dinah are on speaking terms and almost friendly. The affair with Dawn IS discussed, but Dinah seems oddly calm about it.

Birds of Prey #88 - Ollie and Dinah finally have a much needed talk about where they stand. The basic upshot is that while Dinah is not ready to get involved with Ollie again,though she misses how things were and she still loves him and forgives him everything. He apologizes for everything and agrees that he misses how things were.

It should go without saying that I, as well as most of the Green Arrow fans out there, found his portrayal in Justice League Elite to be HORRIBLY out of character. The only trait of Ollie's personality present was his flirtatious nature. Despite this, Ollie has never gone after married women even in his worst days and it flies in the face of everything he stands for as a romantic to do what Joe Kelly depicted him doing.

This is doubly odd, considering that the story had Manitou Raven being rather annoyed at what Ollie had done, despite the fact that he offered his wife and her "use" to his fellow Justice Leaguers back during The Obisidian Age. Then again, I guess Joe Kelly forgot that little detail. Lord knows I tried to forget Obsidian Age...

Ignoring that storyline, I was able to create an explanation of what went wrong. Something that can explain away everything while maintaining the dignity of the characters and the continuity of the stories.

Consider this; Dinah has always longed for independence from her man and traditional women's roles but she gave Ollie the same freedom reluctantly. When he spent a year traveling abroad without her trying to find himself, she told herself it was fine but she really wished she could be with him or keep him with her. She has matured to the point where she recognizes this conflict within herself and has wisdom enough to keep him at bay where he can't color her emotions- much as it hurts her to do so. She wanted to go out and save the world, but expected her white knight to keep waiting for her. She never let Ollie know (at least not recently) that she did love him but that she still wasn't ready to settle down even if he was.

Ollie, for his part, went to extremes as he is wont to do. He was ready to propose to Dinah and she shot him down, encouraging his deepest fears regarding how she didn't want to be with him. So thinking that she didn't want something serious, he turned to other women who showed him the emotion that she was trying so hard to repress. Her time as one of the Birds of Prey made Dinah a lot tougher, emotionally and physically and it was jarring for her to have to once again deal with the only man who made her feel good about going weak in the knees.

In short, he assumed she didn't want a relationship and she assumed that he did. She assumed that he would wait for her no matter what and he assumed that she had moved on. Once again, it all boils down to Ollie and Dinah's biggest problem - the lack of communication regarding their wants and needs.

THAT is what I mean when I say that Gail Simone has made my life as a Green Arrow enthusiast more difficult. Because by having the two talk about "the break-up" in the most recent Birds of Prey it completely destroys any ideas of explaining this all away by saying that the two were never really involved but instead misinterpreted their relationship.

But then again, it's not really that difficult, is it? As I said, the biggest problem the two have always had is that they rarely ever talked about where they stood in a straightforward manner. But then again, how many people REALLY do that with their significant other? The fact that they are finally doing so now shows a good deal of progress and I for one am glad to see it.

Besides, it will all be a moot point in six months anyway when Infinite Crisis changes everything around again. ;)

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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