Sunday, June 14, 2009

Be Warned - This One Involves Going Through Lots Of Continuity - Tie A String To The Labyrinth Door!

When it was discovered that Connor Hawke had somehow developed a healing factor and a higher than normal pain tolerance, Batman and Dr. Midnite both took it upon themselves to find out why.

Their conclusion? While Connor had been kidnapped and brainwashed by long-time Captain Marvel enemy Dr. Sivana (as seen in Green Arrow/Black Canary), he had been experimented on and infused with the DNA of an also kidnapped Plastic Man. This gave him Plastic Man’s heightened durability, increased pain tolerance and ability to heal much faster than normal.

It was a plausible explanation. It fit the evidence at hand. It was also, in every important respect, dead wrong.

Even great minds screw up in the rush for answers. And scientific minds will often accept something blindly if the first explanation they can find seems scientifically plausible if not logical. So when Batman and Midnite found traces of Eel O’Brian’s DNA meshed with Connor Hawke’s they assumed that correlation equaled causation while neatly ignoring several larger logical questions. Namely…

1. Why would an infusion of Plastic Man’s DNA give someone some of the secondary effects of being made of living plastic but not the main effect – i.e. stretching/shapeshifting?

2. Why would Dr. Sivana – who seems to have developed a grudge against all superheroes rather than just Captain Marvel – give super powers to a hero who didn’t have any?

There are no logical explanations other than “Sivana is just that good a mad scientist” and “Sivana is crazy enough to do it for the hell of it”, respectively. He was already using Connor as bait to lure a larger group of heroes into a death trap. He was successful in using Connor’s natural genetic talents to create a semi-invincible ninja army. So why not kill Connor at that point when his usefulness had run out?

Because he couldn’t do it.

Even before Sivana decided to use Connor as a test subject (“Waste not, want not. Besides, he’ll be dead along with the rest of the heroes when I spring the trap, so why not risk his life for an experiment now? They’ll come to rescue him – corpse or no.”) he noticed that Connor had shrugged off an amazing amount of damage with no obvious ill effect. Further experimentation determined that Connor did indeed have some sort of healing power and a heavy resistance to pain beyond that of even of an unusually focused monk but that Connor had no Metagene. Indeed, Dr. Sivana couldn’t find any scientific explanation for it. But having spent a good deal of time fighting Captain Marvel he knew that there were many things that science – even HIS science – couldn’t explain.

Conclusion: Whatever powers Connor Hawke has must be based in magic.

Try as he might, Sivana was unable to harm Connor in any significant fashion. Even an infusion of Plastic Man DNA – which he HAD learned how to inflict pain on – did nothing to change whatever the magic was doing to him. Thankfully, Connor’s mind was not similarly affected so it was a simple matter for Sivana to brainwash Connor, place him amongst the hordes of his clone army and simply hope that a gigantic island-shattering explosion as his lab escaped would be enough to destroy what all his engines couldn’t.

The trauma of the incident did have some effect on Connor, of course. Months of torture and brainwashing aren’t something you can shrug off overnight. Yet some of the changes Connor went through after the incident seemed to have little to do with post-traumatic amnesia as understood by the medical community. While it is possible for someone to forget major details of their life and personality following a trauma (the technical term is Dissociative Fugue Amnesia) this is also accompanied by a total loss of memory regarding loved ones and the development of a whole new personality.

Connor, it should be noted, did not forget his loved ones. Outside of the soap operas, that sort of thing rarely happens. So what happened? Why did Connor suddenly develop a taste for meat? Why did he forget his pacifist ways, going out and looking for a fight to test his fighting skills rather than pitting himself against one of the many fighters he knows in a controlled situation? And how on earth does Amnesia cause someone to forget how to use a bow so badly that they can’t hit a target from 10 feet away despite days of personal instruction from the greatest archer in the world?

No answers were forthcoming and Connor took the loss of his talent hard. It was one thing when he was a better martial artist than an archer because of base aptitude and training. But how could he honor his father’s example and be worthy of his name when he couldn’t master a simple bow shot? Naturally, Ollie talked with Connor and told him that it didn’t matter what name Connor used as a hero or if he even tried to be a hero at all – Ollie would love him regardless. It was your typical dad speech and it did make Connor feel better. But what really helped him was the talk Dinah gave him after that.

What Dinah understood better than Ollie was what it was like to try and model yourself on a heroic parent and want to uphold their legacy. But, as she told Connor, you can trap yourself in that way of thinking – thinking you just have to be like them when you can be better. (“You’re a lot like Ollie in all the right ways, Connor. But in a lot of ways, you’re better than he ever could be. If you still want to be a hero, try focusing on what you can do better than him instead of trying to be him.”)

It was Dinah who suggested that Connor take some time to just go out into the world for a time to find himself. So like his father before him, Connor went out into the world on a voyage of soul-searching and self-discovery. And it was there – communing with Buddhist mystics as he tried to reeducate himself in the ways of his lost faith – that they discovered The Dragon’s Mark was burned into his soul and that a Dragon’s Blood flowed through his veins.

And in that moment, Connor’s memory of one particular incident came back. A trip to Japan with Eddie Fyers for an archery tournament, held in honor of a legendary hero who saved Japan with one perfect bowshot into the weak spot of a dragon’s hide. A battle which ended with Connor fighting a murderous villain in a pool of dragon’s blood… which was reputed to make any who bathed in it immortal.

Well, immortal may have been exaggerating a little bit, but the Dragon’s Blood pool did convey a blessing which made whoever bathed in the pool much more difficult to hurt in combat; i.e. pain resistance and healing powers – both abilities long associated with dragons in Eastern mythology. But such magic, even blessings, has a price. And as many dragons had banes regarding what they could and could not do, so did this dragon’s gift had a cost. A warrior would become all but invincible in close-combat but the weapon which slew the dragon would forever be denied to him. No more could the warrior wield a bow without ill luck directing his shafts in mid-flight.

Call it a curse. Call it a bane. Call it a telepathic block. Whatever you call it, that is the explanation; Connor Hawke did not forget how to use a bow. He literally can not use a bow because of the Dragon’s gift. And the hunger for meat and combat? A side effect of the Dragon Spirit’s influence upon him.

The Borrowed Time incident occurred before Connor could come home with the news. Once things calmed down, Connor made a faithful decision. While he took his father’s name and had followed his example, he had realized that someone else had been a greater influence on him once he got into the hero business.

It was Oliver Queen who inspired him to become a hero… but it was Dinah Lance who gave him the tools and training he needed to excel at it.

She gave him Ollie’s favorite bow in the wake of Ollie’s death. She trained and sparred with him, feeling some need to see that Oliver’s legacy didn’t die out despite the bad blood between them before his death. And once she and Ollie made their peace, she was the only one in the Arrow Family who could give him a decent workout when it came to mixed martial arts sparring.

The conversation went something like this.

CONNOR: Dad, you know I love you and I want to honor your legacy. But with what I’ve found out, I don’t think I can be Green Arrow anymore.

OLLIE: Connor, I don’t care what you call yourself. Long as I can still call you son.

CONNOR: I know, Dad. But it also occurred to me that while you put me on the road, it was Dinah who kept me there.


CONNOR: You could have turned me away when I came to you looking for answers after Ollie died. But you didn’t. I don’t know if I would have stayed on the path I was on if it hadn’t been for your encouragement. Between that and all the sparring and training afterwards… I owe you a lot. And it seems to me that I can honor more than one legacy. Besides, it’ll be a few years before Sin is ready to fill your fishnets.

OLLIE:’re not going to…?

CONNOR: No. But I did think a new costume would go well with the new name.

*CONNOR holds up a costume. It is much the same as his old one, save that the green parts are now black*

DINAH: Oh no... you're not...

CONNOR: What do you think of Black Hawk?

OLLIE: ... At least it’s not Hawke Man.

DINAH: Zinda is going to hurt you.

OLLIE: Not if Roy and I start giving him pilot lessons now.


  1. Heh.
    Nice. I always felt the 'DNA Splice' explaination was pretty thin at best.

  2. That explanation seems a lot more thought out than what we were given. Plus it's more respectful to Connor than anyone else has been in who knows how long.
    I always thought someday Ollie and Dinah would have kids that mix and match, Black Arrow and Green Canary or somesuch. Black Hawk might work for Connor, although there are plenty of Hawk people running around already.

  3. Yeah, it seems Winick ignored that Connor Hawke mini completely. Then again, it's not like Winick really pays attention, and it's not like the mini was very GOOD...but it's at least a neato excuse for that whole regen buisness.

  4. He is going to wear fishnets, right? He can team up with Zachary Zatara.

  5. Cute idea, but now you're just confirming that Connor is broken.

  6. I think most fans of Connor would argue that he WAS broken the last time he appeared in a comic.
    Yes, I admit that acknowledging that only legitimizes some very bad stories. But considering the alternatives, I find this to be preferable.
    I could just leave him as Winick left him as he was dashing out the door... run with the dumb Plastic Man DNA idea giving him generic 90's comic hero powers (He can heal! And he feels no pain! And he's a master of martial arts!) and with the idea that he has no memory of who he was, which makes ignoring his unique personality okay. But I don't want to do that and I don't think the vast majority of Connor Hawke fans would like that.
    I could just wave my hand and say that the entirety of Green Arrow/Black Canary didn't happen after my Borrowed Time story, but that would leave me having to explain away too many things that tied into Countdown and Infinite Crisis. Besides, the minute I start trying to wave away stories I don't like without explaining it and saying "Oh... Superboy punched reality and it just changed", I become everything that I was trying to avoid by writing this exercise in the first place.
    See my point?
    Quite honestly, I'd rather not have a powered Connor at all. But since I don't think DC would let me retcon that away, I've decided to keep the idea but change the impetus and go with something that not only fits the Green Arrow mythos better but also allows a half-way decent Connor Hawke mini-series actually do something permanent.

  7. Nope. No fishnets. Look for a photo-manip of his costume in two days.

  8. Yeah, Chuck has written a lot better. But I still find magical dragon's blood to be a preferable deus ex machina compared to Plastic Man DNA.

  9. Yeah, but who is going to argue with Batman? :)

  10. Well, the Hawk thing is sort of a pun on his last name.
    Because - little known fact - Connor is not above punish humor.
    In fact, he pun-ishes the rest of the family with it quite often.

  11. I don't understand why you think DC wants a powered Connor. If I were your editor here, I would nix this whole plan, & tell you to write a story where Connor goes back to normal.
    Also, no to stealing the Blackhawks' name, unless it's a temporary thing, like those Marvel characters who'd change their names for a few months.