Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The "Bizarro Batman"

So what, in these dark times for DC superheroes, CAN one write about that might amuse and lift the spirits?

Why, Green Arrow, of course.

Like the CW, I'm always looking for ways one might make Green Arrow interesting.

For the record, they are way ahead of me on that score.

So I've reviewed Green Arrow's historical rogues gallery (such at is is) to explore who might be brought back (or turned into a custom heroclix figure to help fill out my Green Arrow box).

You know how sometimes when you yourself investigate a commonly held 'truth' like "Green Arrow was always just a second-rate Batman knockoff" to find it's mostly a myth and you're thrilled to share that discovery with the misguided world?  Well...this is not one of those times.  In fact, if anything, the overall impression I get is "jeez the Green Arrow Creative Team really kept their meetings as short as possible, didn't they?"

I was discussing it with CobraMisfit when he hit the target perfectly (like the good sniper he is):  "It's like Bizarro Batman, isn't it?"

Yes. Yes, it is.

Just as Bizarro is an 'imperfect duplicate' of Superman, Green Arrow is an imperfect duplicate of Batman. Star City is an imperfect Gotham City, with no distinguishing features, style, or characters of its own.  And GA has a Bizarro Gotham Rogues Gallery...

Bizarro Joker:
Bull's EyeWorld's Finest Comics #24 (September 1946)Leapo the Clown was in a fashion Green Arrow's version of the Joker; he clashed with Green Arrow and Speedy in over half a dozen stories

Bizarro Penguin:
Mr. WhoWorld's Finest Comics #31 (November 1947)Criminal with owl motif.

Bizarro Two-Face(s):
GreenfaceWorld's Finest Comics #39 (April 1949)When a vat of dye exploded in his face, the man who became Greenface turned to a life of crime
the OctopusWorld's Finest Comics #67 (November 1953)Costumed gang leader obsessed with the number 8.

Bizarro Riddler:
the MasterAdventure Comics#214 (July 1955)Left clues to his crimes ala the Riddler.

Bizarro Catwoman
the CatAdventure Comics#104 (May 1946)Female costumed criminal, wore gender-disguising uniform and mask.
Bizarro Prof. Milo
Professor WurmMore Fun Comics#82 (August 1942)Criminal chemist, developed insanity-inducing pills
Bizarro Clayface/False Face
WaxfaceWorld's Finest Comics #15 (Fall 1944)Malleable-faced villain who commits crimes while impersonating reputable men.

Bizarro Kite-Man:
the Pneumatic ManWorld's Finest Comics #106 (December 1959)Criminal who used a dirigible motif in his crimes.

Bizarro Signalman:
the SwitchmanWorld's Finest Comics #45 (April 1950)Committed train-themed crimes.

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

There are few concepts sadder than "Bizarro Mr Polka Dot", folks. There are a few interesting villains lurking in the corners of GA history (such as the criminal mathematician Mr. Million), but on the whole, that's pretty clearly not the solution to my personal scheme in how to revitalize Green Arrow in the comics.

I'll have to come up with something else soon.... 


John said...

Years back, I had "the Green Arrow talk" with a friend. Turns out it was by e-mail some time (around 2007), so I actually have it on-hand...

I suggested that Ollie should be sort of a relic of the pre-Superman era, a costumed vigilante who was widely regarded as a complete loser and mostly a failure as his city went to Hell, probably while he was having sex with groupies or something. He looks himself hard in the face and decides to change, because he's become the very problem he wanted to fight, a rich jerk who didn't pay attention to the suffering around him.

So, he updates his costume and arsenal to something sleek. It's less important, because "heroing" would be almost a sideline for him, instead intent on reaching out to help the most troubled of young heroes, starting with his own ex-sidekicks.

In other words, embrace all the stupidity and hypocrisy of the past to turn Ollie into a likable patriarch (almost certainly inspired by your Dynastic Centerpiece ideas) who can spearhead a "Brave and the Bold" kind series (the Outsiders?) on one hand and can guest star in a book to help rehab any character who goes too far off the rails. The Green Arrows of the World would obviously be a Big Brothers/Big Sisters kind of organization.

He definitely needs all new villains, though. The guys you list are the good ones! The Roper, for example, makes Mr. Roper look formidable.

Bryan L said...

Holy cow. That Wikipedia list is dumbfounding. I had no idea Green Arrow had that many rogues to his name.

But now I am sad. All I can think about is how the Ape Archer should have guest-villained on Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

cybrid said...

I'm the one who dug up and added many of the villains on that list (also on Aquaman's and others). You're welcome. :-)

Remember, Green Arrow (and Aquaman) coasted from the golden age on through to the silver age without pause (a distinction that they share only with The Big Three (and Robin)). That's why they weren't reinvented for the silver age like Green Lantern, Flash, et cetera. In that respect, they have a lot more years' worth of stories than Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, et cetera.

Some on the list are Green Lantern/Green Arrow villains. Some are Justice League of America villains, but in that field, I tried to limit myself just to storylines in which Green Arrow played a relatively large part.

Marginally related, I also fleshed out the entry on the Seven Soldiers of Victory a bit.

John said...

Some phrases to highlight as I scan down the list:

"In the vein of many of Arrow's archaic weapon niche enemies..."
"...hoping to sell estate properties to the US government..."
"The manager of circus attraction Funny Arrow, a comical parody of Green Arrow..."
"...who had time-traveled there on an unrelated mission."
"Criminal astrologist and archer..."
"...a gigantic movie prop monster inadvertently brought to life..."
"Hobo posing as demonic mastermind..."
"...steals only counterfeit items with secret value."
"...dons a devil costume and fire-belching pitchfork in an attempt to devalue the Daily Star in hopes of keeping it from being purchased..."
"...sought to paint crime's greatest triumphs..."
"...incredible skill at rope use..."
"Used giant insects to for criminal purposes."
"...fed their blood to his grandson..."
"...posed as vacation resort manager..."
"...used a truck rigged with giant fans..."

That's not to mention a rather surprising number of evil cults and right-wing separatists. To which I say: Holy. Crap. It's actually kind of sad when you line them all up and realize that not one of them (maybe Count Vertigo) is interesting.

Anonymous said...

DC's got two problems, or as I see it, a solution neatly divided into two problems.

One problem is that pretty much all the heroes have stopped relating to normal people, which makes them distant, aloof, and unappealing.

Another problem is that Green Arrow is not well-suited to fighting supervillains.

Fix both problems by making Green Arrow a street-level hero, one that takes on small-time criminals, crooked cops, and maybe even his traditional prey of "fat cats". He used to do that sort of thing back in "World's Finest", like in one story figuring out that a string of arsons was being directed by a businessman trying to buy up property. (What got Green Arrow's attention in that particular story was that some homeless people were taking shelter in some of those buildings, and one of them was even killed in one of the fires. A hero going to bat for homeless people, what will they think of next.)

I know I'd much rather read about that than Seattle policing its streets with robot hentai monsters and only belatedly figuring out that it was a bad idea.

Scipio said...

" mostly a failure as his city"


Scipio said...

Cybrid, you're contributions to help the world understand Green Arrow's true legacy (both for good and for ill) are much appreciated.

Anon, I think the problem with your idea is: readers aren't INTERESTED in 'street-level' heroes anymore.

John said...

Scipio, you have to admit, "Ollie cleaning up his own mess" has since been proven to be a workable plot that makes Ollie more than a rich idiot or hypocrite. Even though The Undertaking(TM) was a supremely stupid plan that required far too many people to make it happen (given that all they needed to do was have someone deliver a crate), it steered the show away from the sort of Gotham- or Constantine-style drudgery that would have gotten a Green Arrow show canceled before the first season was over.

But I was thinking more in terms of, "I've failed everything I've come into contact with for the past fifteen years."

That may not be a viable idea in comics anymore, though. "Family first" was very much the theme for most of the 2000-through-Flashpoint DCU, but mentoring young heroes might not fly today.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, I think the problem with your idea is: readers aren't INTERESTED in 'street-level' heroes anymore."

That sounds like conventional wisdom, along the lines of "people don't want squeaky clean heroes anymore, they want angry, gritty characters mired in self-doubt." And maybe the conventional wisdom is right, but then again, maybe it has more to do with publishers coming to that conclusion for us and not giving us an alternative.

Two of DC's best titles right now -- "Grayson" and "Catwoman" -- involve very little in the way of super powers, which works out well, because their lead characters aren't superhuman. They're not exactly "street level" but they're not far removed. Catwoman may be involved in mob intrigue right now, but even back before the nu52, her comic worked when there was a good writer on board who wasn't trying to make her fight supervillains all the time. And Dick Grayson ... you could write a comic where he does nothing but deliver meals to elderly shut-ins, he could sell that just on charm.

So I think there's room for a street-level Green Arrow too. Remember that the guy is basically Robin Hood, who's done all right in legends for hundreds of years now. People like a hero who punches up ... boxing glove arrow or otherwise.

Bryan L said...

"Anon, I think the problem with your idea is: readers aren't INTERESTED in 'street-level' heroes anymore."

I think they could be. I've said this before, but I don't think it's the readers -- it's the writers. Writing about the real world is HARD, because it takes RESEARCH to add the necessary verisimilitude, which equals WORK.

Writers would much rather dream up a goofy-ass megamonster than take the time to figure out how the Russian Mafia works, what type of weapons they might use, and insert that information into a coherent plot. Then get the artist to get the right reference and draw accurate pictures. Nobody can say "Hey, Megamonster is wrong! You suck!" because it's invented from whole cloth.

Remember, these are people who can't even be bothered to Google images on how you shoot bows (or, y'know, watch Arrow on the TV). Although, in fairness, I saw a cool Youtube video of a guy using a bow for combat and nocking his arrow on the "wrong" side, so I've been forced to reassess that depiction (even though I know in comics it stems from laziness rather than actual research).

Scipio said...

Why Bryan! If I didn't know better I'd say you hadn't LIKED the "Scarebeast" story...!

Scipio said...

" these are people who can't even be bothered to Google images on how you shoot bows"

Brought to you by the people who gave us 'the boomerang arrow"--the Green Arrow Creative Team.

Bryan L said...

Hey! The boomerang arrow could TOTALLY take out the Scarebeast.

SallyP said...

But.. Green Arrow is completely different from Batman! He is... blond!

cybrid said...

Green Arrow excels in one field (and, I'm sure, does reasonably well in any number of others). Batman excels in many if not all fields. I'm not sure if there's ever been any solid decision one way or the other, but I think there's at least an even chance that Batman is insane. So far, Green Arrow's dodged that boomerang. So there's that.

On another note, I checked on what Mr. Polka Dot looks like. That guy shouldn't be named Mr. Polka Dot, he should be named the Polka Dot Man. Guys whose name starts with Mr. should wear SUITS. Weird-looking suits, but suits. The normality of the basic business suit and of the common prefix Mr. merged with the traditional super-villain codename and color scheme ... wait, I don't actually have a point here. Never mind.

Chad Walters said...

I'd like to see a DC earth made up of just the copy characters. Captain Marvel and Green Arrow would be the World's Finest, and you'd also have Zauriel, Willoughby Kipling, the Elite, and so on.

Anonymous said...

There's a pretty good case that Superman is the copy of Captain Marvel. Yes Superman came first, but he was also pretty different from the character today: originally he was an amped-up circus strongman, who borrowed heavily from Doc Savage (Clark Savage, the Man of Bronze, who had a Fortress of Solitude at the North Pole). The things we associate with Superman today -- flight, true indestructability, weird supervillains, a sidekick in a green suit and a bow tie getting into wacky misadventures -- those all started with Captain Marvel, and eventually got subsumed into Superman.

Unknown said...

You can find plenty of Bizarro Batman villains within Batman's own rogues gallery, so this proves little except that Green Arrow's writers are unoriginal.

Scipio said...

Hmmmm... unless I misunderstand my intent, that is the point I was making. Good for me!

Unknown said...

It would likely be futile of me to point out that the last five Green Arrow villains on your list pre-date the Batman villains of whom they are supposed to be Bizarro versions.

Scipio said...

It would.

Slaughter said...

Bring back... THE OCTOPUS!