Monday, August 24, 2015

Green Manifestarrow

So, last time. after considering the historical treatments of Green Arrow, we asked:

If we want to make GA distinct and culturally relevant in a more modern way, how do we do that if we aren't focused on "Green Arrow as Robin Hood" but rather "Green Arrow as Native American"...?

By weaving two concepts repeating in his character and storylines:

simplicity versus complexity; and
unity versus diversity.

Our modern world is increasingly complex and diverse, and in a 'shrinking' world society the ability to manage that complexity with diverse people and approaches is key to progress and betterment.  

Superman is the most humble and human of all superheroes, even though he's the most powerful  Wonder Woman is/has been an ambassador of peace  and goddess of war.  Hal Jordan's an addled mess with a will of iron.  Aquaman, king of the sea, was raised on land.  Flash is the fastest man alive, and Barry Allen one of the most slow and methodical.  Batman combats criminal violence by breaking the law and beating people up.  At the core of most character that maintain our interest long-term, there is some inherent contradiction whose dynamic tension powers that interest.

And J'onn's just...weird.

But, what possible contradiction could fuel our interest in Ollie?  He's a complex man, in a complex world--his wealth comes from its complexity--but he longs to be simple and to have a simple life.  That's why a high-tech billionaire would become an expert on native American culture: a fascination with 'the simple life' it represents.  

In fact, of course, tribal life isn't and never was 'simple'; almost by definition, native cultures have complex societies and systems of belief, ritual, hierarchy, skills, and crafts.  But even full intellectual understanding of that wouldn't prevent an idealist like Ollie from romanticizing Native American culture.  In one of his most recent incarnations (and perhaps his current one, who can tell?) Ollie's "Q Tech" is like the Apple company, priding itself n making high-tech devices that are simple and help regular people streamline their lines.  Making things simple through increasingly complex technology. I'm sure the irony of that would pain a sensitive soul like Ollie's, making his romantic fascination with America's original 'simple life' even more understandable.  

Green Arrow is the man who wants problems to be simple enough to be solved by shooting an arrow -- which is why he develops an arsenal of complex specialty arrows.  Just as Oliver's love of simplicity lead him toward complexity in his armory

Some more complex than others.

I appreciate DC's desire to diversify its cast of characters, both in their socioethnic origins and their styles.  Why, then, not have a hero for whom it's not just an 'add-on' but an essential element?  And why not have that be the logical choice: Green Arrow?

Ollie's a rich white guy fascinated with a group of minority cultures (Native Americans).  His ward is a white kid RAISED by Indians on a reservation.  As suggested by Absorbascommenter CobraMisfit, use Vigilante as his "rival" crimefighter (a laughing singing cowboy who takes very little seriously, compared to the serious CW-like Oliver King).  And Vigilante's sidekick, Jimmy Leong, a.k.a. Stuff, who hails from (Star City's) Chinatown, would serve as a hook into stories about the local Asian communities.

I love that kid.

John Butcher, who has been his ally before.

That.... may not be a good idea, though.

Black Lighting, who moved to Star City and was working with GA during Winick's run

Thus sparking Ollie's growing interest in reaching out  to the black community.
Apparently we should add "Jungle Fever" to the list of 1001 Ways To Defeat Green Arrow.

Thom Kamalku, in Inuit mechanic, has nothing to do since Hal Jordan went away to space. Why wouldn't Ollie hire him to be his mechanic and tech guy?  Ollie could use a "STAR Labs Cisco Ramone" of his own.  

You deserve better, Kairo.

You want Green Arrow to have a friendship with Green Lantern? Of course you do. Well, as long as Hal is off playing space-rebel, while not start pairing Ollie up with ... with.... ugh, Simon Baz, I actually had to LOOK UP his name, because so little has been done with 'the Arab-American' Green Lantern, and what has been done has been... not ideal.

Wouldn't dream of it, handsome.

There are more examples you can think of, I'm sure.  These are just the low-hanging fruit.

All would not be happy with whatever tribe Ollie gather around himself.  That would be part of the point, I should think.  Ollie wants to embrace diversity but....diversity is complex. It's not simple.  Instead of being the all-streetwise liberal big-mouth of the 1970s, Ollie becomes the modern day liberal white guy: desperate to be 'inclusive' but not really having any idea what that actually means.  A well-meaning guy who tends to romanticize other cultures than his own and, in the process, rob them of their own rich complexity.  I can imagine some lively conversations around the Arrowcave, and a good writer can imagine many more.

DC; (once you are done with this new sure-to-be-cut-short attempt at rebooting GA as a horror title) instead of just tossing in a few Bat-wings, Alan Scotts, and Val-Zods in the corners of the DCU, consider building some of the very issues I think you're hoping to address into the best character you have for doing so:

Green Arrow.


Joshua Roots said...

I can see the dialogue now:

Random Bystander: "You use a bow and arrow in a world filled with automatic weapons?"

Ollie: "It's symbolic."

RB: "That's...kinda' stupid, actually."

All joking aside, I love the Comic Book Irony of tech-savvy Ollie seeking to simplify things by uber-teching a simplified weapon system. And by completely missing the mark on the very culture he has romanticized. That said, the soil is fertile to explore concepts that DC seems to be missing the target on recently.

Yes, this Fantasy Comic Book series is rapidly becoming one of my favorite.

Anonymous said...

This is a real good idea for a team book, but we need the right writer on this, or group of writers, or input from the right sources. I have visions of the New Guardians dancing in my head; that's diversity at its worst, and I really have no faith in DC being able to pull this off without outside guidance.

About Tom Kalmaku being an Inuit: that's actually unlikely. The Inuit people are one of many northern peoples, and if you were in Canada, Inuit would be a pretty good guess. But Tom Kalmaku is from Alaska, where there are significantly fewer Inuit, and "Eskimo" would actually be a less offensive term to use. Calling him an Inuit would be like calling all Canadians "Quebecois" -- you're probably guessing wrong and stepping on toes.

SallyP said...

I like this idea! It actually seems like a very Olliesh sort of thing for him to do.

John said...

I love the furious look Ollie is giving Roy in that panel. I also wonder if that panel might be emblematic of how DC treats a lot of franchises. "If only we find the right combination of obscure attributes" (chocolate inside of hot dogs, here, for whatever reason I'm sure I don't want to know), then Green Arrow will be a Good Comic Book. So, they bring in the cigarette girl with the shrill voice. They update the costume to look like the most recent mass-media Robin Hood. They try to make Ollie sound sort of like what a popular rich person would sound like. And then we all glare at them like they just tried to insert chocolate into a hot dog.

And why do all of Hal's associates look like they're eight years old? Did things really not work out with Carol because she doesn't want kids?

I'd like to see a superhero (any superhero) tackle diversity issues, but I wonder how sincere it would come off to have the guy doing it right to basically be an ultraconservative caricature of liberals as "the real bigots." It would take an extremely talented writer to pull off the balance between Ollie being overly-enthusiastic about foreign cultures and a clueless, "whitesplaining" dunce. Done right, it would be a great read that could actually educate readers while educating the hero, though, of course.

But, I mean, isn't that why DC shoves the minority characters to the fringes? It's 2015 and they're only just getting around to realizing that women are almost entirely indistinguishable from human beings...

Anonymous said...

... what if DC operated on a long range plan? What if Green Arrow had some reason to travel the country with, say, Tom Kalmaku, and along the way they met assorted diverse heroes? It would take a while, but it would allow each hero to express a unique perspective in a one- or two-issue story. Then, after the couple years or whatever that it took to do this, they could form a team.

That would be more natural than putting everyone together on a team all at once, where none of them get more than a panel or two of exposition.

Scipio said...

"what if DC operated on a long range plan?"

Best laugh I had all day! ;-)

That's one alternative earth I wouldn't mind living on.

Bryan L said...

"what if DC operated on a long range plan?"

Yeah, DC's plan is harder to figure out that Martian Manhunter. I do like the idea, though, particularly if they used the Mission: Impossible model (the show, that is -- I have no idea what they do in the movies) where Ollie calls in various assets as needed, rather than shoehorning the whole team into every issue.

I've actually been waiting for any team book to successfully use that concept, though.

John said...

Speaking of long-range plans, I've been wondering if a television-like model wouldn't help DC (or any publisher) focus. For example, start with not green-lighting a series unless the story for a year is already mapped out and have someone editing each series so that the tone is consistent even if a particular issue is written by a different writer. And actually commit to a year, half-year, or quarter-year run at a time.

That should make it easier to get individual issues out the door, of course, but also get them in the habit of writing for the long term (rather than writing for the trade, though this would also work in that format) and ensure that readers get a regular "big payoff" similar to a season finale.

On the other hand, maybe don't go by me. When the "Showcase Presents..." volumes were coming out, I thought that would've been a great format for DC, too, publishing a few huge, thematic anthologies every month instead of a bunch of different books that people aren't willing to give a try. And back-catalog stories could be used to fill any scheduling shortfalls...

And I definitely agree, Bryan. Especially the first season "feels" a lot like the DCU.

Bryan L said...

" I've been wondering if a television-like model wouldn't help DC (or any publisher) focus."

I've had the same thought, though I've described it as a "series of mini-series" or the "BBC model." Stop trying to crank out crap 12 months per year. Of course, the problem there is dollars. They'd have to lose the mindset of "must get a monthly income stream even if it's steadily dwindling." Of course, proper scheduling of the various series could mitigate a lot of that. TV channels do it.

I really like the idea of "seasons," and I would love to see them focus on individual issues as "episodes," trying to incorporate a complete story in each. Frankly, I think that's one of the biggest losses in modern comics, the done-in-one story. You can't tell me that what's working for the Flash TV series wouldn't work for the comic. But comics string out a single episode's worth of plot for six issues.

John said...

Exactly. They have example after example of producing multiple installments of twenty-two minutes of self-contained content over the course of a year and can't quite figure it out for a medium where it's far cheaper to experiment.

But more importantly, I think, with the "season" idea (and that's why I went with 12/6/3, reflecting the full-, half-, and bare minimum season commitments that networks make), it wouldn't be hard to make the writers explain the current conditions they're working with, what they plan to do in each issue, and where the pieces will be standing and future springboards at the end.

"What's that it says here? Each issue blends into the next without resolving anything and, at the end of the year, the hero is impotent and the supporting cast have all been rendered worthless to the franchise? Maybe we should try something else. Maybe give Captain Atom a new series. Everybody loves it when we reboot Captain Atom! Well, someone probably does, maybe."

John said...

Oh, and the first episode of Vixen is up, in case I'm not the last person to find out.

It's a little too short to make anything of it, but it's not bad and it looks like they might have fixed a lot of the problems we've all expressed about the character.

Cameron Vale said...

My mind went in a totally different direction with the concept. I figured that Ollie would learn every Native American language, custom, martial art, ritual dance and so on, so I couldn't imagine him being naive about it. I was more intrigued by the world-building possibilities of the concept.

cybrid said...

Emphasizing Speedy's Native American connection would lend his drug addiction an added poignancy, since alcohol and drug addiction are allegedly higher than average on reservations. Depressing but allegedly true.

Scipio said...

That's very, cybrid. I was a student of the late Michael Dorris, who introduced me to the problem.

cybrid said...

It would be dark and edgy and gritty or some darned thing like that if Speedy's addiction was presented from a neutral perspective with neither condemnation nor approval:

"This is one of the things that this guy who's devoted his life to rescuing innocent people, this HERO, does in his spare time. So, what, now he's not good enough to rescue you? You owe this guy your life and now you're JUDGING him? Get over it. We're telling stories here. If you want a role model, go watch sports."

That would of course be entirely unacceptable on multiple levels. I totally know that. Just something that occurred to me.

cybrid said...

On a separate note (this really belongs in an earlier thread, sorry about that, but I doubt that anyone's going to go back to it), look more closely at this villain's entry:

the Polka Dot Bandit: Adventure Comics #183 (December 1952) Clyde Larkin, usurping masked criminal identity used decades earlier by Gus Burns, who was briefly suspected of Larkin's crimes.

So, DECADES prior to 1952, long before even the golden age, a masked criminal called the Polka Dot Bandit was running around Star City. That strikes me as more interesting than I would probably find the actual story in Adv #183 to be. ;-)