Thursday, April 12, 2007

Who's Who in the DCU Special- How To Fix Green Arrow

Hello, everyone. I’m afraid that there won’t be a new Looking To The Stars for the second week in a row. Don’t worry – I’m over the flu and those nasty sentient triangles won’t be troubling anyone ever again.

No, I’m afraid the blame for this sits firmly upon the shoulders of one Mister Mathan Erhardt and one Mister Tim Stevens. You see, in last weeks Who's Who in the DCU, they completely ignored the question of one Glen, in order to crack wise about my dislike for Judd Winick’s tenure on Green Arrow.

Now, I don’t mind these two making jokes about me or even insulting me in earnest. I’ve got thick skin. But to completely ignore a reader’s question in favor of making jokes shows a serious disregard for one’s duty as a columnist. It is all the more shocking when they actually do answer a similar question from the same reader in the same column in complete seriousness.

This is a complete dereliction of duty. As such, under Comics Nexus Directive 196156 I have taken command of this column in order to rectify this serious breach of writer’s etiquette.

You’ll never get away with this you mutinous-


Ah-ah. What did I say about trying to get out of the gag, Tim? Now... how do you format this thing?

Ah. There we go...

Glen's the man, going to work. Got his tie, got ambition.

How would you fix the Green Arrow series?

Well, I’d love to write it myself and I could easily come up with a list of story ideas and concepts like my colleague Christopher Bird did with his Reasons Why I Should Write Legion Of Superheroes list. But since I doubt that DC Comics will hand it over to an untested author like myself, let’s pretend that I’m Editor for a Day at DC Comics and get put in charge of hiring and making decisions on book direction.

Get Gail Simone as a writer - Gail has proven herself capable of writing a damn good Ollie during his appearances in Birds of Prey and Villains United. And Double Date, the episode of Justice League Unlimited that she wrote – featuring Ollie as a major character - was one of the best of the series.

Also, given current editorial plans to bring Ollie and Dinah back together and given that one of the biggest concerns about this decision is Dinah being marginalized into the “girl hostage” role in Green Arrow stories, it would help keep fan confidence to have the woman who made it her goal in Birds of Prey to move Dinah past that kind of characterization on-board any book that would feature Black Canary in a prominent role.

Get Mike Grell back as an artist - While some fans disliked Grell’s no-powers run on Green Arrow, few deny that the man is one of the best in the business when it comes to drawing a high-action comic book series. Nobody can draw a menacing man with a medieval weapon quite so well as Grell. Take a look at this piece, a cover for the Pittsburg ComicCon.

Anyone who can make the lame Smallville Green Arrow costume look cool on paper is someone we need drawing Green Arrow on a regular basis. Indeed, let us compare this...

... to this...

Mike Grell has been away from DC Comics for far too long and I think this would be the project to bring him back on.

Focus on The Family - One common theme to every member of Ollie’s extended family is that they all had an extremely dysfunctional childhood.

• Oliver Queen was orphaned at a young age and spoiled rotten by a succession of babysitters.
• Roy Harper was orphaned at a young age, nearly kicked out of his tribe when his first foster father died and abandoned by his second foster father when he needed help the most.
• Connor Hawke’s mother was borderline neglectful, doing her own thing for most of the time and leaving him to his own devices.
• Mia Dearden was abused by her father, ran away from home and was forced into prostitution.
• Dinah Lance was a latch-key kid with both her parents away fighting crime in one way or another.

Kevin Smith and Mike Grell both explored this theme in their run by examining Ollie’s overwhelming need to be a father and Smith put forth the idea that all of these characters are, in a small way, joining together not just to fight crime but to build the family that they always wanted.

With that in mind, I would shift the tone of the book to something more akin to Fantastic Four than Batman. Don’t make it a book about superheroes that live together – make it a book about a family that just happens to be made up of crime fighters.

That may not sound like a big thing but in truth it’s what separates The Arrow Family from The Batman Family. Bruce adopted his respective children for the express purpose of fighting crime and had them grow closer to him. Ollie adopted his respective children because he wanted to be a dad and had them all turn into crime-fighters under his watchful eye.

Relationships - This goes along with the idea of Green Arrow as a family book, but I want to see a lot of exploration of the relationships between all the characters. Especially...

• Dinah and Mia – there have been off-hand references to Dinah having had a hand in training Mia. I want to see this. Mia’s mom died when she was young and she could use a positive female role-model.
• Mia and Roy – again, there have been some off-hand references to Roy having spoken to the young woman who took over his name but no books have actually shown the two talking, as far as I know.
• Roy and Connor – the best issue of Winick’s run featured these two sons of Ollie attempting to bond. Why limit it to one issue?
• Connor and Dinah – they met a few times but there’s never really been much discussion about how they feel about one another. Is Dinah weirded out by a younger, nicer Ollie? Does Connor think of her as a second mom?
• Lian and Sin – Roy’s ass-kicking daughter and Dinah’s adopted ass-kicking daughter. It will write itself.

Bring Back Arrowette - I miss the character and I want to resolve the issue of whether or not Ollie is her dad and it’s hard to do that with Cissie Jones in limbo. Besides, Bonnie King is a never ending source of drama for any story her stage-mom self is dragged into.

Team-Ups And Guest Stars Galore - with all the connections between the various Arrow family characters and other DCU characters, there’s a lot of room for team-up ideas. To toss out a few possible connections...

• JLA - obvious with Dinah and Roy on the team
• Birds of Prey – again, obvious. But I want to see Mia teamed up with Dinah’s friends.
• JSA - Dinah’s an ex-member and should have her favorite uncles come visit
• Checkmate - Roy’s an ex-member and almost wound up on the new team
• Kyle Rayner - Connor’s best friend, I don’t think they’ve teamed up once since Black Circle nearly five years ago.
• Warlord – put the whole family in Skartaris ala Land of the Lost for a few issues and bring back the old Ollie and Travis Morgan are long lost twins gag.

Revamp The Rogues Gallery - Bar none, Ollie has the worst Rogues Gallery of any hero in DC Comics. Most of his villains were one-shot wonders or complete jokes. So, once again, to toss out a few names of forgotten or unused characters who could be used to great effect in a Green Arrow story.

• Lord Kalesque – a British Lord who is obsessed with being the world’s greatest archer, he killed innocent people in an effort to force Ollie into agreeing to an archery contest to prove who was better. He’s a pompous aristocrat with no regard for the little people or human life. Sounds like the perfect foil for Ollie.
• Hatchet – Sure, he had a lousy codename and a lousy costume. That doesn’t change the fact that this man with the downloadable arsenal of solid light weaponry still gave Connor a hard time during his Green Arrow days. Update his look and he’ll be good to go.
• Clock King – give him some of Gabriel Walker’s old gear to play with and bring him back as a time traveling thief.
• Rainbow Archer – a failed artist turned counterfeiter turned evil version of Green Arrow, he used trick arrows that were every color BUT Green. Team him up with Rainbow Raider (another failed artist turned supervillain) and have them make nuisances of themselves on a semi-regular basis. Have Mark Waid guest-write the issue and bring Hal Jordan in to see if Raider’s yellow fear beam has any effect on him (It won’t).
• Ra’s Al Ghul – sure, he’s dead but since when has that stopped him before? Bring him back in style attempting to lure the somewhat politically like-minded Ollie into joining forces.

Secret Identities - This is a rather important point that needs to be sorted out. Most of the recent Green Arrow stories have hinged upon the idea that Ollie and his family members all have secret identities. The problem is that some major past Green Arrow stories, which are still frequently referenced, depend upon Ollie having a public identity, including Longbow Hunters, Where Angels Fear To Tread and Quiver

It is also worth nothing that Connor Hawke, during his time as Green Arrow, didn’t operate with a secret identity and indeed had trouble getting insurance during his brief time as an apartment manager because he was an openly known superhero.

My idea is that we can sort this out in one of two ways. First, we reboot the continuity completely and write everything from this point on to conform to what Andy Diggle says in his upcoming Green Arrow: Year One mini-series and then just rewrite the history from that point to the present. This will be a lot more work for the writer but given the conflicts in the last ten years, it may be necessary.

Or, the second plan, we can do a Times Past story ala James Robinson’s Starman and have it revealed that while he was still The Spectre, Hal Jordan used his powers to erase all evidence to the world at large that Oliver Queen was Green Arrow and that any of his family and friends were connected to Green Arrow.

A cheap cop-out? Yes. But Hal did it for Wally West in The Flash so that he could have a secret identity again and if Hal would do it for his favorite nephew, I’m sure he’d do it for his best friend. And it’s not like there’s no precedent for this kind of thing happening. After all, if Hal Jordan didn’t use his phenomenal cosmic power to screw with the lives of his friends, Oliver Queen wouldn’t even be alive right now.

The Dead-Beat Dad Question - One way or another, we are going to resolve the issue of whether or not Ollie ever knew about Connor before Hal Jordan told him that Connor was his son in Green Arrow #96 or if Ollie was a dead-beat dad who walked away from his son for one reason or another, as suggested in The Archer’s Quest. One more Times Past issue to write in the future.

Now, I have no objection to the idea that Ollie – before he became Green Arrow and had his social conscience raised – be portrayed as a womanizing scoundrel who might have abandoned a one-night stand with a child. Oliver Queen did a lot of bad things during his early life – one more will not make him any worse of a character, so long as we keep in mind that he is a changed man today. I would just like to see the issue settled.

I can easily see Ollie wanting to start a family and proposing but Moonday Hawke pulling the “independent woman” act on Ollie and refusing his proposal, saying she wants to marry out of love - not because she has to. It would fit her portrayal in Chuck Dixon’s run as a fiercely independent romantic and it would fit Ollie’s portrayal as a wannabe dad trying to get the family he lost back. It could even be this loss of his first young love and the son he always wanted that fuels Ollie’s descent into alcoholism and womanizing. Just a thought.

Do something with Mia’s HIV - The most controversial point on this list, to be sure, but something I feel quite strongly about.

I have no objection to the idea of an HIV-Positive superhero. I object to the concept being used only for the sake of cheap publicity and any examination of the concept being limited to pep talks about how it is possible to live a full healthy life with HIV despite the complications.

Let us see some of those complications! There’s a goldmine of potential drama here just waiting to be explored. Let me toss this one into the ring – the entire Arrow family wind up trapped on a tropical island. Now, given the level of survival training everyone has, this isn’t a huge problem. But with Mia out of her medication, suddenly there’s a clock on how long they have to get rescued.

There’s a long tradition of heroes with some form of handicap overcoming their respective deficiencies. It is far past time that Mia be allowed to become part of this tradition. And if nothing can be done with the idea, then she should be cured.

Outrageous? Yes. But isn’t it equally outrageous that Barbara Gordon remains paralyzed because somehow it makes her a more interesting character even though there is technology that could heal her shattered spine? The only reason that Barbara has remained handicapped is that the tragedy behind her transformation from Batgirl to Oracle works as a concept. Mia being HIV Positive does nothing to further make her character more tragic – she was already an abused teenage runaway prostitute. Making her a recovering junkie with HIV is just icing on a very nasty cake.

So assuming we just can’t clear this away with the news that the first test was a false positive, here’s another idea – take the concept above, but use Skartaris instead of a tropical island and put the spin on it that there’s some rare plant that can be found only there which the natives have used as a cure for “the wasting sickness” but how the only known meadow where the plant grows is under the control of a hostile tribe.

The family manage to save enough of the plant to save Mia but the rest of the valley is set ablaze during the battle. You get an ecology message, a preservation message, a cool fantasy story and all the problems with Mia’s inconsistent portray solved in one fell swoop.

I hope that answers your question, Glen. As for me, that’s the news and I am outta here! Be back here later this week when Mathan and Tim return. And come back next week when I return to my usual Monday tomfoolery in Looking To The Stars!


  1. I like a lot of these ideas, especially establishing the book as a family book. Ollie himself said he had almost a Batman-like family. The difference is that Ollie isn't afraid to say those three little words to his family: "I love you". Bruce holds back so much and bottles everything up to push out into his "war" where as Ollie works purely on emotions and instinct.
    Two addendums that I would add to this:
    1) Controversial issues: This is partly why Grell's book worked so well. It was a grim, gritty, truthfull look at issues at that time that NO ONE ever tried in comics before. That's partly why I had been excited for Winick at first. His books tended to get preachy on issues (particularly gay rights and AIDS), which is why I had high hopes that he'd use it as a way to expressing himself through the book in the same manner as Grell. Unfortunately, they were far and few between and he wound up getting caught up in several events and sub-par superhero stories.
    Having the controversy and topical issues was one of Grell's strong points. That and the gritty realism with little to no super villains was the key points of his run. I think a lack of team-ups or guest appearances and making it gritty and real (much like Ennis' MAX Punisher) would make it stand out again. Grell doing the art would only exceed that.
    2) Rogues Gallery: I very much agree with this point. But I would go as far as to maybe look back at some of his other, older villains (I don't know any of them, off hand) from the Silver Age and amp them up. Hell, just let Grant Morrison at the villains and see what he comes up with. He doesn't even have to write the book, just come up with some crazy revamps of old Silver Age characters that he's infamous for.

  2. I sort of covered this in my Rogues Gallery note with Clock King and Rainbow Archer. That's honestly all Ollie had as far as recuring supervillains apart from Merlyn, who doesn't really need reveamping.
    Clock King, originally, was just a bank robber who used clock-themed gadgets while wearing one eye-sore of a costume. He was killed after being enlisted into the Suicide Squad. I suppose you could go the route of bringing him back ala Temple Fugit from Batman: The Animated Series, but I can't see him working well as a villain against Green Arrow. Hence the idea of a time-manipulating thief.
    Rainbow Archer - honestly, I can see him becoming a Gladiator figure, ala Melvin Potter from Daredevil - the no-luck crook who is trying to go straight, but who keeps getting dragged into the business. He was a failure as an artist. He was a failure as a forger. And he was a failure as a supervillain when he turned himself into a poor copy of Green Arrow comitting crimes.
    I figure go the Geoff Johns route - find the supervillains from other groups that nobody is doing anything with - and then have them change cities in the hopes that THIS will be their break.

  3. I like the revamping of Ollie's rogues gallery. But I think Rainbow Raider is dead (killed by Blacksmythe's Rogues I think). And I think that was Clock King who went down in the 1st issue of the Suicide Squad relaunch. Could have been a different clock themed guy though...
    But Count Vertigo was shown as a bad guy again during Villians United...

  4. Another idea was a somewhat obscure villain. I can't remember his name. Crazy Quilt, maybe? He had the power to manipulate colors? I was thinking he could go even crazier, call himself Kaleidescope and become a Joker-like threat. I used to have all sorts of nutty and threatening ideas for him to manipulate colors, but I'm drawing a blank on them now. :(

  5. You're right on both counts.
    But I figure that after Infinite Crisis all bets are off and that anyone could be alive again. After all, we saw several people die during the Crisis who are back alive and well now, although I'm hard pressed to remember names.
    Besides, would anyone really begrudge the Rainbow Flipping Raider coming back from the dead so long as it was for a good story?

  6. Ooh! There's one villain that I completely forgot about that I wouldn't mind seeing again.
    I can't even recall how to spell it, but the villain that Kevin Smith introduced. Omnopedia or or something?

  7. Heh. The nutty thing is that Crazy Quilt WAS The Joker before Joker. Seriously. Nearly beat Jason Todd to death pre-Crisis I.
    Gah. I can't believe I have to explain which Crisis I mean when I give an explanation now...

  8. Onomatopoeia.
    And yes, I'd like to see him too. I'd bring Kevin Smith in to do a guest issue or two with him. And yes, I'd make sure they were finished before soliciting...

  9. I agree with pretty much every point you made here. I'm a big fan of Green Arrow in no small part thanks to Quiver. I love the family aspect and I'd like to see that played up huge. Is Doctor Light a GA Rogue now? In the last book before OYL he was blowing up Star City, but I've not seen much of him since the flip.
    I'd like to see Connor get his own codename. I'm not a big fan of the idea of two guys running around using the same one, especially if they work together. Maybe he could adopt the Arsenal name?