Monday, May 15, 2017

Green Arrow, ab ovo in medias res etc. etc.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Brian Cronin has already kindly explained to the world the crowded field of Arrow-named characters into which Ollie Queen was born.  Author Paul Gustavson's "The Arrow" was the most comparable to Green Arrow; unlike the others he was a contemporary, urban, wealthy, archery-based vigilante in a hood.  As Jon Berk put it, 
"The Arrow was a little hard to warm up to.  He was a sullen and taciturn character that dealt with wrong-doers in a straightforward and, often, deadly fashion.   When he did speak, his words were as cold as his shafts of steel: “Don’t anyone move or I’ll seal your doom forever” "
I hope CW is sending Gustavson's estate a weekly check.

But "The Arrow" was too dour a character to be popular with the comics readers of the day.  On the "Little Audrey/The Spectre" scale of grimness, he was nearly a solid "The Shadow".  How did Green Arrow survive instead of him? The Green Arrow did the smart thing: aped Batman in every possible way.  Let's take a look at his first story!

Before I make fun of Green Arrow -- and I'll be doing a lot of that -- I must assert strongly and with no irony that this is a kick-ass logo and should be brought back exactly as in (except in green).

That narration panel contains the entire story.
It's like a solicit, only less spoilery.

That's GA's first splash panel. In case you're too young to know what a "splash panel" is, it's like a miniature 'cover' for a comic book story, but one that's inside the comic book.  They were all the rage when comics included more than one story.  Like covers, they weren't part of the story or even something that necessarily was going to happen IN the story. They were representations, sometimes highly symbolic, of what the story was about.

When you see this panel you can assume that:
  • Green Arrow and his sidekick are absurdly costumed vigilantes who bring quivers to a gunfight;
  • bad guys still can't shoot to save their lives:
  • crooks LOVE their hats.

So, our story begins with some unusual murders in Manhattan:

Golden Age efficiency in storytelling!
Three panels = three murders, with theme clearly established by talking out loud.

Note that Green Arrow doesn't live in a vague "the City" nor in a fictionopolis; he lives in Manhattan.  Man-hat-tan.  The next time you are in Manhattan, you think about that.  Think about Ollie tooling around 1940s' Manhattan in his giant-ass Arrowcar that's the length of a NYC block and the width of a subway train.

First and last time you will ever read
"Speedy, the Cyclone Kid"

It's not just that Green Arrow and Speedy do their justice thing in Manhattan; they LIVE there.  Together.  In an apartment.  Which is, um, not at all odd, Child Services Representative, why do you ask?

In an early start to a GA tradition, Ollie is desperate to avoid fighting crime and to indulge in sybaritic leisure.  With Roy and what appears to be some kind of stringed paddle.  Which is not at all odd.

et cetera, et cetera is the most honest thing I have ever read in any comic book.

Patrol is for other heroes.  Ollie only dons his fighting togs when something newsworthy becomes unavoidable. And what togs they are!

"No, you don't get your OWN costume.
You get MY costume, resized and recolored by photoshop, because BRANDING.
Who do you think you are, kid, the Sensational Character Find of 1940?`"

Red&Green+Yellow was THE go-to heroic color combo in the Golden Age.  I have always assumed that most comics creators were Jamaicans.  

Note (particularly if you are a film-maker) that there is no hint of an origin story here. Quite the opposite.  We enter Green Arrow's career in medias res, like you would any epic. If you want to fill in his backstory later, you have years to do that.

Five, if you use a wig.

When we meet him, Ollie is already Green Arrow, already  known throughout the world (*snort*), already has a sidekick (who is already living with him), already is naming his adventures and taking time off from them, and already (improbably) has a tunnel underneath his apartment building that already leads to...

"Super-streamlined"? That monstrosity is less aerodynamic than a Borg cube.


Next: we get the jump on Ollie.


Anonymous said...

I am sold on this Green Arrow character already! More please!

Even if it eventually leads to the Ann Nocenti run. Remember the days when people were arguing she was likely to do a good job even though she had no interest in learning about the character? Good times.

Oh, and Benjamin Percy turning him into a werewolf so he can learn what it's like to be a minority. Because I don't know about you, but when I think of blacks or Latinos or Muslims, first thing I think of are violent monsters hiding among us whose savagery will either kill us or turn us into them. Nothing tone-deaf about that, nope.

Scipio said...

Wolf lives matter.

cybrid said...

The stroke of luck that allowed Green Arrow to survive is that he piggybacked their way into the Silver Age as backup features in Adventure Comics (same thing with Aquaman). Adventure Comics starred Superboy and, as we know, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and any related titles coasted from the Golden Age to the Silver Age without pause. If Green Arrow and Aquaman had instead been backup features in, say, Green Lantern (Alan Scott), they'd have vanished along with Alan Scott and would've been re-invented along with Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, "and the rest."

As for Speedy, unless he was depicted attending high school, maybe he was in fact a VERY young adult and, as an adult, was free to live pretty much wherever the heck he wanted to so long as he could pay the rent (and inasmuch as Oliver Queen was rich-rich-rich, that wasn't really a factor). "Yeah, I answered a roommate ad and ended up sharing a place with this nutty millionaire. There are WAY worse people to hang around with than a nutty millionaire, lemme tell ya. Plenty of times, he'd give me a thousand bucks to go pick up a pizza or Chinese take-out and let me keep the change..."

Two guys sharing an apartment isn't automatically homoerotic, as the basic concept of male roommates has demonstrated throughout most of film/TV history. Did people theorize about Felix and Oscar from "The Odd Couple"? I'm politely dubious as to such a notion. Lenny and Squiggy, Ralph and Potsie, Chandler and Joey, and on, and on, and on.

On a marginally related tangent, when Three's Company debuted, I, at the tender age of seven (yeah, that's right, I'm OLD, what of it?!), had no idea what the fuss was supposed to be about two women sharing an apartment with a man (similarly, when afterschool specials or some other such show raised the issue of banning Snow White from school libraries because she lived with seven guys, I was *completely* nonplussed). In hindsight, of course, I realize that it was based on the presumption that it's impossible for a (straight) man and a (straight) woman (or two of them) to share an apartment without erotic naughtiness ensuing. Yet that's precisely what (for the most part) DID NOT ensue. Because we human beings are in fact capable of controlling sexual urges. Not all human beings go to the trouble of doing that, of course, but that's something else again.

Bryan L said...

I've always been bothered by GA's archer hats. What keeps them on? Hairpins? Glue? But then he gets clobbered and the hat is lying on the ground somewhere. It just bugs me. Looking at those dainty little caps in these illustrations just brought it to the surface again.

SallyP said...

I just love those natty crooks. They may be hoodlums, but at least they have the decency to wear suits and ties and hats whilst engaged in their nefarious schemes.

r duncan said...

Thanks, Scipio. I needed this.

cybrid said...

Well, remember, everyone used to wear hats. Right up into the 1960s (check any random Lee/Ditko Spider-Man story). It was a status thing, I guess. Without a hat, you might as well be hanging around in lowlife underworld bars. OSLT.

It used to be all you really needed to be a criminal mastermind was a suit and a mask. And preferably a hat. In fact, that worked for heroes/vigilantes too. Kind of meeting the full-fledged mystery-men half-way. The Steve Ditko oeuvre has many such examples. Behold but a few:

Maybe the Green Arrow logo is red so that it includes Speedy, too.