Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I seek to cure what's deep inside, Frightened of this thing that I've become

1. Errol Flynn

When you think about Oliver Queen, you need to think about Errol Flynn.

No, not because Mr. Flynn’s name is synonymous with Robin Hood and men who are known for sleeping around A LOT.

It is because both of them are men who were what they were in both their lives. In Ollie’s case, there is no difference between Oliver Queen and Green Arrow except one (usually) wears a mask. In Errol’s case, there is no difference between the man of action he played on screen and the man of action he was in real life.

It is a matter of record that Flynn, at the height of his popularity, fought in the Spanish Civil War - on the liberal anti-Franco side, of course. Originally, he had gone to Spain as a special war correspondent and he joined up with the army after coming to the conclusion that he could not sit idly by while a noble fight against evil was occurring. Later, he tried to enlist in any branch of the American military that would have him during World War II but was turned down because of his heart problems and chronic bad back.

It is a also a matter of record that Flynn spent the early part of his life before being discovered working as a soldier of fortune and adventurer, sailing around the South Pacific in his own boat taking odd jobs that may or may not have included some smuggling. Even those who doubt the realism of every event discussed in his autobiography ‘My Wicked, Wicked Ways’ allow for this much being true.

That same adventurous, wandering, idealistic spirit is the soul of Oliver Queen. The spirit of a man who will try anything once and go for the long shots just to see how close he can get to the target.

As a kid, Ollie idealized the Flynn version of Robin Hood. As a teen, he discovered ‘My Wicked, Wicked Ways’ and began to – without realizing it at first – modeling himself on Flynn. He had money to burn and time to kill so it was easy enough for him to hire experts to teach him how to do the swashbuckling, sailing, survival training and other things that made Flynn a man of action in real life and still have time (and money) to go out looking for girls and having some fun. He even bought the original Sirocco – Flynn’s personal party boat and home away from home – and used it as a platform for his own fundraisers and parties.

Still, underneath all that bluster and boozing, the little boy who lost his parents in a hunting accident was still there. Looking for love wherever he could find it as Flynn looked for love to make up for his own distant and unemotional parents. He was the idealistic orphan who tried to emulate the best aspects of his boyhood hero… only to wind up aping his worse excesses as well.

That changed when Ollie was shipwrecked.

It was a sobering event in more ways than one, for not only was Oliver Queen booze free for the first time in months he also found the peace he had been looking for since his parents died. He finally understood what Flynn had written about when he said he was happier with the stars above him and a boat under him than he was with the stars around him and the Hollywood Hills beneath him. He remembered that Flynn didn’t just write checks or appear at causes to make the world a better place. He actually got his hands dirty.

And when Ollie discovered a village of natives being used as slave labor for a drug ring, he got his first taste of true adventure and took the first step to becoming a greater hero than Flynn ever played.

2. Romanticism

Oliver Queen is a romantic of the old school. When I say that, I don’t mean in the sense of a man who will woo a woman with flowers, candy and poetry (although he is that type, as well) but in the sense of the Romanticism philosophy.

Oliver is anti-aristocracy and against the concept that certain people are just better by right of birth.

Oliver is anti-authority, in the sense that titles and uniforms should demand respect rather than individuals.

Oliver is, in his own words, a patriot who bleeds “Red, White and Blue… just different shades than most of you”.

Oliver, as much as he is a creature of the urban jungle, much prefers nature and the unspoiled wilderness to the big city. But like Henry Thoreau (whose Walden is Ollie’s favorite book), Ollie gave up a permanent life in the wilderness because he realized it is impossible to change society while living apart from it.

Oliver is always trying new things for the sake of trying them. He sings for the sake of singing, when the mood takes him. Many is time the family has been treated to Ollie’s rendition of some showtune or another while he “jazzing up” a new recipe with enough peppers to supply a Mexican restaurant for an hour. He tries for the sake of doing. This is why he is a natural tinker and engineer - he’ll spend an afternoon brainstorming just to see what mad contraptions he can put on the end of a stick and make fly. He lives life to the fullest, so that when death finally comes he will not find that he had barely lived.

Of course, Ollie is also a romantic in the sense most people mean when they use the word.

In a lot of ways, Ollie spent most of his life being the lost, orphaned boy whose parents were both killed while on Safari in Africa. And when that lost boy who wanted to be Robin Hood became a man, Ollie began to ape his idol Errol Flynn in another respect.

Romantically, what Ollie and Errol had in common was that while they were a bit roguish when it came to the quantity of women they became involved with, they were most concerned with quality. When they were with a woman, she was the only woman in the world for them at that moment. What they had may have only lasted a night but it would be THEIR night. Flynn noted in his autobiography that he once chewed out a friend for arranging for twin sisters to be waiting for him in his bedroom simply because he refused to split his attentions from one lady– it was ungentlemanly!

Where Flynn and Queen differed, however is that Queen eventually did change for the better.

Flynn lamented that all his womanizing was the result of a life-long search for the woman who was his perfect equal – someone who could match him; someone who could complete him; someone who could, at the very least, put up with him and keep him in line. Flynn never found his perfect woman but Oliver Queen did find Dinah Lance. And – barring a lapse or two after their break-up but before he died, when he was wallowing in self-pity and mourning the love he thought would never die – Ollie hasn’t looked at another woman since he found his Pretty Bird.

3. Redemption

More than any other superhero, Ollie honestly seems to believe in redemption and that people can change their ways. He has to - it’s the only hope he has.

Oliver Queen used to be a pretty bad person. But he has gotten better. A lot better. And he strives to become a little bit better every day and to make up for every bad thing he’s ever done. Well does he remember the days when Oliver Queen was the Bruce Wayne of Star City and well does he regret them. And yet… even at his worst, he always tried to do the right thing and behaved in a decent and honorable manner.

When he found out that he had fathered a child and the mother – a free-spirited woman named Moonday he had met at some fundraiser - was in labor, he rushed to the hospital with a wedding ring in hand and a promise of support. Only her refusal to be trapped in a loveless marriage with a man who only wanted to marry her because “it was the honorable thing to do” kept Ollie from trying to start the family he’d always wanted right then and there.

Years later, when he found out he had fathered another child (against his will, it should be noted) with the assassin Shado, Ollie offered his support again and respected the mother’s wishes that he not get involved.

This much may be said about Oliver Queen. He makes mistakes but he tries to rectify them. He may wrong people, but he tries to make things right afterwards.

This may be a part of why Ollie has formed so many understandings with a number of villains and earned their trust and respect. Ollie may hate how someone like Floyd Lawton can kill a stranger for money but he can respect and honor the same man’s desire to make a neighborhood safe for his daughter and look the other way on the outstanding warrants for a day or two, so long as Floyd isn’t actively causing trouble RIGHT NOW. Because who knows? That look into his daughter’s eyes might change a killer’s soul. You have to hope, right?.

This may also, I think, be why Superman has such an innate distrust of Oliver Queen – because he tells the lie of one of the few areas in which Superman can be said to be a hypocrite; he actually believes the good game Superman talks about believing in second chances. Clark may believe in that idea to a point, but the minute Lex Luthor shows up claiming to have reformed and mastered the secrets of cold fusion, Superman will be X-Raying the heck out of the nearby buildings looking for where the bombs are hidden.

4. Family and Community

The search for the love he lost as a child and his own search for redemption regarding his own children awoke something in Oliver Queen that he never suspected was there; a natural aptitude for fatherhood. – not just for his own children but for the community and everyone that needs a mentor or a guardian.

This was made abundantly clear to Ollie in the moment of his greatest failure; when he wasn’t there for his adopted son Roy Harper and Roy turned to drugs instead of his adopted father for comfort. Since then, the two have made their peace and Ollie has strived to avoid neglecting his children to the point of almost smothering them.

Being a hero means a lot to Ollie but as he’s gotten older he’s come to appreciate that there are ways to make things better that don’t involve cracking heads and shooting boxing gloves on sticks at people. And with so many children of his own around to help with the vigilante duties, he’s been taking more time off from the costume life to be what Mark Twain called the greatest annoyance in the world; a good example.

Ollie’s still an activist and lends his name to various causes, but remains apolitical in matters of holding office again and endorsing specific candidates (DC Decisions? Did. Not. Happen!). He also pens occasional editorials for the local newspaper – still being fondly remembered/despised for his old ‘Queen’s Gambit’ columns from many years ago.

Ollie occasionally covers the early morning shift at a local homeless shelter, cooking breakfast and getting a toned-down version of his famous chili on to cook for the noon meal. (“Don’t those people have it bad enough?” Mia snarks before ducking a thrown wooden spoon) And while he doesn’t oversee the daily operations at the Star City Youth center anymore, he does still work there. Not as an archery teacher as you’d expect, but as a storyteller.

Oddly, with as many foster children as he has, he’s never gotten to explore that aspect of fatherhood or worked much with younger kids. Surprisingly, he does all the voices when he reads the Dr. Seuss books but he cannot read ‘The Lorax’ out-loud without tearing up at the line “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

Which is ironic because that, more than any other message, is the one Ollie tries to deliver to the world with every day he has left.


  1. Once again, well said. I need to read that Errol Flynn book.

  2. The Lorax bit? Or the whole thing?

  3. It's a good read. Even if half of it is lies, it is (and it might be) it is still entertaining.

  4. Superman might not be willing to trust Lex, but I'm sure there's some right wing politicians Ollie would never trust.

  5. Probably not. But most of those guys aren't actively seeking redemption...

  6. One minor quibble: Franco was the fascist.

  7. Quite right. I left an "anti-" out of there when I was writing the original article. It should have been, and is now, liberal anti-Franco forces.

  8. And Ollie kicked his ass. Even blinded by Blackout Bombs.
    Incidentally, I would have loved to have seen some commentary on that... or for that matter see Dinah and Pieter on a date now that things with Ollie are over (for them moment). But I don't think anyone except us and maybe Geoff Johns remembers Black Canary and Dr. Midnite dated for a while.

  9. Ohhh, Robin!
    My penis is so confused right now.