Monday, October 17, 2011

Green Arrow Rant

I am about to rant. I am probably going to get flamed for it.

Perhaps those flames will counter my wave of indignation and we'll all wind up letting off a little steam.

But I cannot sit silently after reading this article, which reveals that filmmaker and journalist Ann Nocenti will be taking over writing duties on Green Arrow.

Now, Ms Nocenti's got more than enough pedigree (certainly enough to write Green Arrow, snort!); she wrote a passel of comics for Marvel in the '80s. In addition to some strong 'socially relevant' stories for Daredevil, she wrote a miniseries starring, Dazzler, which immediately gives her credit for gumption in my book.

Plus, I am delighted to see that she recognizes at least two of the Seven Deadly Enemies of Comic Books (Self-Referentialism and Decompression).

"Over the years I'd run into a comic here and there, and I would try and read it. It was like multiple characters, lots of characters squashed onto a page. A story you couldn't really get into. You had no idea of what was going on, and I thought, ‘They kinda lost their way, they're not telling single stories anymore.' "
This is very encouraging; if Nocenti can bring the 'done-in-one' to Green Arrow (and perhaps bring the practice back into fashion), she will have my admiration and thanks.

But I'm much less encouraged that she apparently knows zero about Green Arrow.

"Green Arrow," aka Oliver Green, is a rich billionaire based in Star City, which is apparently based on Seattle. "He's modeled after Robin Hood, so I guess his origin story is ‘steal from the rich and give to the poor,' " she says.

Nocenti didn't know anything about the character until she read Wikipedia. "The thing that struck me the most was the phrase that kept coming up over and over — ‘thrill-seeking activist.' Which I can get behind because I'm kinda a thrill-seeking activist."

I get it, DC; you're doing whatever you can to try to find more female writers. Ordinarily I might not favor that kind of 'reverse-sexism', but given the atrocious portrayals of Starfire and Catwoman since the reboot, it's pretty clear that something needs to be done to ameliorate the Slavering Fanboy Writer Syndrome that's smothering comic books.

But really... even I think Ollie deserves a writer -- male or female -- who doesn't have to look him up on Wikipedia to find out who he is. Is this one of the "1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow"? Give him a writer who admittedly knows nothing about him? Have we forgotten Jodi Picoult already?

Green Arrow has a Golden Age pedigree, with a longer and more consistent publishing history than anyone other than the other original JLAers. And you pick someone to write him who managed to be a comic book writer for, oh, 15 years, without ever having heard of Green Arrow?

I can't believe I'm saying this, but: GREEN ARROW DESERVES BETTER. DC, don't give you characters short-shrift in the rush to diversify your writing staff.


Anonymous said...

Ann Nocenti has never written even a DECENT story in her entire life.

Look up hack in the dictionary, see her picture.

SallyP said...

Aww...I like Ann Nocenti. But I did not know that she doesn't know anything about Oliver Queen.


He wasn't modeled after Robin Hood, except for his costume perhaps. I always thought that he was supposed to be Batman Lite...the Arrow car, the Arrow Cave, the spunky sidekick etc.

Oh and he really enjoys calling Hal Jordan a Nazi.

tad said...

I won't bore you with my own experiences at length, but there's a strange disconnect between bringing in writers from "outside" the comics field -- experienced with the characters or not -- and what they are allowed to do once they're on the books.

They (DC at least, I don't know about Marvel) seem to think they're going to bring in outside readers, but don't bother to help make them "inside" writers. I had a hard time using characters because they were all tied up in various crossovers, and in a number of other ways it was made clear that I was pretty much on my own with a book that had been dying when it was given to me.

I don't know Jodi Picoult's experience, and I agree that Ann Nocenti's lack of information about her character looks grim, but they were probably both in a bit of a hole from the start anyway.

Kevin Street said...

Well, I really liked your Aquaman run, Mr. Williams. Even the Human Flying Fish. (He may have been the best part!)

In regards to Ms. Nocenti writing Green Arrow, I think the situation is a bit different because this is the "New 52," and this Green Arrow is an almost total reboot of the concept. It's always good to have some knowledge of a character's past, since that gives you a baseline for their personality, but here Ollie is a pretty blank slate, so there's more opportunity for Nocenti to make her mark on the character and establish precedents that future writers will have to take into account many years from now.

That said, it never hurts to do research, so I hope she reads some of the back issues and trades.

Diabolu Frank said...

I recently covered the first few issues of Williams' Aquaman run on my Justice League Detroit blog. Good stuff, and so very very much more fun than the Busiek/Guice junk.

I'd like to defend Ann Nocenti. I'm sure she'll do the reading she needs to establish a basic familiarity with the character, and he's all rebooty anyway. She did some great stuff on Daredevil, and her liberal social consciousness suits Ollie well. She's a devotee of O'Neil style relevancy, but better at it than the man himself (outside The Question, anyway.) Scipio will friggin' hate her, though. She is oh so very Marvel right down to the bone.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. There are already a bunch of takes on Green Arrow, we don't need yet another.

Ann Nocenti, if you're reading this, I recommend picking up a copy of "Green Arrow: Year One" from the other year. It's not exactly the canonical take on Ollie, but it gives us a number of positives that you can work from:

- He was born to privilege and grew up seeing nothing wrong with a life of wealth and dissipation.

- And yet, at a certain point, even before fate pushed him down the path of heroing, he started to show signs that he knew he was unworthy of all that fate had given him.

- He is a survivor.

- When pushed into a situation where he saw the exact opposite of his usual conditions -- people who had nothing, not even freedom or hope -- he was moved to fight for them.

- He suffered drug addiction for about a page, then got over it. Not really his fault.

- When eventually presented with the choice between escaping back to his easy life or continuing the fight against oppressors ... well, he made the right call in the most awesome way possible.

- As a general rule, Ollie barrels into situations and gets in way over his head, so his choice is usually to win or to die (retreat isn't an option).

Citizen Scribbler said...

I think some of you may be judging the writer a little too harshly before she's even set pen to paper. And I think the comment above mine, where somebody kindly went to the trouble of outlining how she should copy what some other writer did, is pretty patronizing.

Come on, now. How many writers in comic books (or in anything really), over the years, have come in on projects where they started out knowing little to nothing about the characters they would be working with? I think some of you might be surprised at how often that happens. Giffen and DeMatteis didn't know too much about the characters they would wind up using for the JLI and that turned out to be a smashing success. Do you think Jack Kirby read all the back issues of Jimmy Olsen before diving in on that book?

She said she checked the Wiki- that ought to give her enough to go on. Frankly, Green Arrow's been in such a slump I really don't see how he could be hurt with a fresh pair of eyes on him. And if that pair of eyes is an admiring female author? Well, then who better suited to put Green Arrow forth in the most positive light he's probably seen in ages? Perhaps she would be unable to write him as such a hero if she went ahead and read his actual appearances...

Scipio- I agree that your concern is not unfounded and you put it forth in a good-natured (if humorous) manner; though not everyone's remarks have been as charitable.

-Citizen Scribbler

Anonymous said...

It's not "patronizing" if the new writer's take is "thrill-seeking activist", which is pretty seriously missing the mark. With regard to writers who come on board and don't know squat about the characters they're writing, or at least have little interest in what has gone before because they want to do their own thing ... we're just coming off JMS wrecking two of DC's main books, so yeah.

I'm sorry if you consider it "copying" to read what other writers have done to get a feel for the character. I cited "Green Arrow: Year One" specifically because it's a work that Nocenti will probably overlook, seeing as her knowledge of the character consists of a mis-read Wikipedia page (she didn't even get the origin right, for crying out loud).

Nathan Hall said...

Anonymous said:
" He was born to privilege and grew up seeing nothing wrong with a life of wealth and dissipation.

- And yet, at a certain point, even before fate pushed him down the path of heroing, he started to show signs that he knew he was unworthy of all that fate had given him.

- He is a survivor.

- When pushed into a situation where he saw the exact opposite of his usual conditions -- people who had nothing, not even freedom or hope -- he was moved to fight for them.


- When eventually presented with the choice between escaping back to his easy life or continuing the fight against oppressors ... well, he made the right call in the most awesome way possible."

So, really, he's more like Buddha than Robin Hood.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

"Thrill-seeking activist" is a pretty good description of Green Arrow from the Neal Adams makeover until maybe the Grell era.

Given the weirdness of Green Arrow's history, his inconsistent characterizations, and the opportunity provided by the reboot -- because yes, he's been rebooted -- I think forking over the franchise to a writer who's skilled and has no ties to the byzantine continuity of the past is a good one.

The fundamental appeal of GA is very simple: Robin Hood in Supertown. As long as you have a good writer and that appeal in mind, you have a chance. Shooting things with arrows is cool; shooting things with boxing glove arrows is cooler; and coolest of all is principled resistance to unjust authority, conducted as a dashing outlaw. (Given all that, why GA isn't a huge star, I'll never know.)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure anyone ever did GA as a thrill-seeker, beyond a love of brawling in the name of justice. That said, you raise good points ... I would just hope for a writer who knows GA's past well enough to respect at least some portion of it.

Anonymous said...

This is totally unrelated, but I remember seeing that some of this site's visitors are interested in the character Gaggy from Batman #186, 1966. In case you were unaware, Gaggy made his long-awaited return in Gotham City Sirens #4-6 (2009-2010). Thought you'd like to know.

If everyone already knew that, please disregard.

Citizen Scribbler said...

When you try to tell an author that whatever new take she has is automatically invalid and then dictate an entire list of exactly what elements her characters and stories MUST have in order to be any good, yeah- that's pretty patronizing.

And I'm clearly not the only person who think "thrill-seeking activist" isn't a characterization far off target at all (if you'll excuse the pun). That's pretty much what Robin Hood was and, despite what anyone may say, the guy's outfit is a dead give-away that GA is very influenced by that legend.

-Citizen Scribbler

Anonymous said...

Way to shove words into my mouth about traits GA "MUST have". There have been all kinds of takes on GA, and I think any writer who is interested in taking on the project should be at least passingly familiar with one or two of them. "Year One" offers a good portrayal that Nocenti might feel comfortable with, whereas (for example) Grell's run didn't.

If you want to keep this going by deliberately misrepresenting my point over and over, let's do it on your blog and not Scipio's.

Anonymous said...

I understand your point, Scipio, but let me offer the following:

The two definitive modern takes on Green Arrow were the O'Neil/Adams version and the Grell version. The O'Neil/Adams Green Arrow had little to do with the Batman-lite version. I don't recall the Green Lantern/ Green Arrow stories making specific references to the GA stories of the previous 30 years. Grell's Ollie came out of O'Neil & Adams' Ollie but went in a very different direction tonally.
Further, the new GA has little to do with the traditional GA.

I loved Nocenti's Daredevil comics. She maintained Miller's grittiness without copying him, and wrote thought-provoking, emotionally-involving stories. She got preachy sometimes, but always aimed high. I think she'll be a great fit for Daredevil. I hope the inventiveness she brought to Daredevil (last seen in a wonderful short story in the recent DD 500) will show up again in Green Arrow. I also hope Didio and Co. don't try to make her work conform to DC's house style. Her presence on Green Arrow gives me hope that the book will be to my liking for the first time in ages.

- Mike Loughlin

Ronald said...

Ironically, given Nocenti's past work on Daredevil, a super-villain who, objectively, has as good a chance as any of being considered Green Arrow's archenemy -- they fought in a total of ten stories -- is named BULL'S-EYE. That's with an apostrophe and with a hyphen.

Unfortunately, he hasn't appeared since 1949, so he's not likely to be remembered.

Citizen Scribbler said...

Misrepresenting your point "over and over"? Calm down, kid. We've had two exchanges- but I would be glad to continue our discussion on your blog, if that's what you really want.

Your grocery list was certainly intended to tell the author what elements she needs to include for everyone's satisfaction, and it was addressed to her personally, and it rudely talked down to her- patronizing... You even say "Sigh. There are already a bunch of takes on Green Arrow, we don't need yet another."- Already invalidating any ideas of ideas of her own she may have.

I wouldn't have minded so much if you had just listed the elements you like without rudely dictating to the author. But it sounds like you've softened your position, so I'll take that as being as close to an apology as you can manage...

-Citizen Scribbler

p.s. Remember- If you really don't want to continue this on Scipio's blog, then you won't reply. Let's see how much you meant that. :)

Scipio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scipio said...


We are all concerned over the problem at hand (for Green Arrow) and the larger problem that Tad touches upon (DC's mishandling the application of 'outside talent' to its iconic properties.

In that context, isolating what GA's 'core elements' are that one feels a writer "should get" is a sensible exercise. Interestingly, it winds up highlighting an uncomfortable reality: one man's core element is another man's retcon.

For a Golden Age fan like me, referring to the O'Neil/Grell era misses the mark (so to speak). Because as a Golden Age fan I feel that, while those were primarly attempts to distinguish Green Arrow from his colleagues, they were essentially failed attempts. Did they make him distinguishable? Yes. Did they make him more popluar as a result? No. In fact, they backfired.

Frankly... I don't think they worked well. Sacrilege? Perhaps. But the Angry Liberal version of Ollie wasn't actually popular. The '70s GA/GL stories are seriously clouded by nostalgia. The stories were nearly unreadably heavy-handed, GA/GL was quickly cancelled.

Furthermore, I argue that this so-called "definitive" version of Ollie has never been popular, and has been what's been holding the character back from success for, oh, some 40 years now.

My main concern right now for GA is that the rebooted GA is clearly trying to fix this problem and that a well-meaning but ill-informed new author might reverse these attempts to repair the damage done by "The O'Neil Interpretation".

But that's just my perspective.

Oh and
Absorbascon as venue for serious discussion of Green Arrow? OH the COMIC BOOK IRONY!

Ronald said...

I'm curious how to characterize Green Arrow from pre-O'Neill/1970. From the golden age until then, who WAS Green Arrow other than a more specialized, less tragedy-ridden Batman with fewer and arguably much less interesting villains, in a city I'm presuming was comparatively low on giant props? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to poop all over your blog with further fighting, so ... some Oliver Queen choices a writer might want to think about based on past handling of the character, and my preferences:

1) rich vs. poor (poor)

2) political vs. apolitical (apolitical)

3) liberal vs. moderate vs. conservative (liberal)

4) monogamous vs. womanizer (monogamous)

5) killer vs. non-killer (non-killer)

6) trick arrows vs. conventional arrows (conventional arrows, with at most hard rubber heads for non-lethality)

7) goatee vs. clean-shaven (goatee)

8) smirky vs. dour (smirky)

9) sidekick vs. partner vs. loner (partners in the form or Roy and Connor, which I grant you is not possible in the current continuity)

10) Longbow vs. compound vs. recurve (recurve)

11) Star City vs. Seattle (Star City)

I may not have been clear on 2 and 3: "apolitical / political" has to do with how much of an issue Ollie makes of political stances, while "liberal / moderate / conservative" has more to do with Ollie's attitudes on crime, justice, and so on. I am fine with Ollie having a solid liberal streak, but good God, don't frame every single thing you do in terms of "fat cats" and "crypto fascism". For all Hal's faults, he's not a jack-booted thug just because he answers to the Guardians, nor is every mugger a victim of an unjust economic system.

Ronald said...

No one's gonna offer anything about Green Arrow's pre-1970 personality, huh? Oh well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think GA had a pre-1970 personality, myself. Standard hero who went through the same Golden Age / Atomic Age / Silver Age phases that Batman did. I can't definitively say that there was no point at which GA showed a lick of personality, but I've seen a fair number of old solo adventures and JLA issues, and from everything I've seen the guy was defined by the arrows.

Ronald said...

Thanks for the rapid response. :-)

That's actually kind of what I thought -- I received the same impression from the earlier GA stories I've read -- but since some people are so insistent that O'Neil "ruined" the character with the social conscience stuff, I presumed there was some pre-existing personality to be ruined. I mean, anything's better than NOTHING, right?

Did you know Green Arrow doesn't even have an Archives HC yet? The *Sandman* (Wesley Dodds) has one, but not Green Arrow. That seems a little off. Nothing against the Sandman, but he was never a major player and he's been dead for years. Surely golden age Green Arrow had at least as much personality as the Sandman.

Anonymous said...

I suppose the problem is that the O'Neil interpretation just doesn't hold up. I'm cool with social conscience, but accusing Hal of being a tool of the Man because he fights crime sort of invalidates Ollie as well.

Then again, as a society we lionize guys like Steve Jobs for making adult-grade toys, meanwhile his workers in China are committing suicide over conditions that are deplorable even by Chinese standards (look up "Foxconn"). Maybe Ollie was right? Maybe we need to print some "OLLIE WAS RIGHT" bumper stickers?

Ronald said...

>>>accusing Hal of being a tool of the Man because he fights crime

I didn't think it was so much about Hal fighting crime as it was about Hal not paying "enough" attention to ordinary earthbound crime. Remember the scene where the old man confronted Hal about helping the "green skins" but not the "black skins," implying that Hal should have spent more time helping "regular people" than doing outer space stuff.

Of course, the Guardians gave Hal the power ring for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of doing outer space stuff across an entire sector, so that doesn't really hold up either.

Plus one of the main points of super-heroes is that they handle the threats that conventional forces can't: the Black Hands, Count Vertigos, etc of the world. ANYBODY can be a "hard-traveling hero," you don't need Green Arrow, much less Green Lantern, for that.

Still, super-heroes addressing social issues of any kind was sort of revolutionary for the time -- everyone having forgotten that Superman did it first -- and, again, any kind of personality is better than none. It's just that few writers have tried to take him past that, except to swerve way in the other direction by being extra violent.

Ironically, the reason Green Arrow went so long without much of a personality is probably precisely BECAUSE of his golden age pedigree. Since his stories were published uninterrupted from the golden age to the silver age, he didn't disappear like Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and others did, so there was no need to assign his basic concept to another, as was of course done with Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, etc. Near as I can tell, the Green Arrow who joined the JLA in 1961 was basically the same guy who joined the Seven Soldiers of Victory 20 years earlier.

Ronald said...

For my own entertainment (doesn't take much), I've checked various internet sources, and since 1941 there have been a hundred or so characters who could reasonably be described as "Green Arrow super-villains" (if one stretches the parameters a bit). However, most appeared only once and are unlikely to be dug up any time soon, even by writers who think enough outside the box to consider using golden age villains for a character who is now considered part of the "modern" wave of heroes. Still, someone brought back Professor Radium, so who knows, right?

Dan said...

"Angry Liberal" GA might not have been popular, but at least it was INTERESTING.

Before GL/GA, Green Arrow was a dreadfully bland ripoff of Batman.

The only way DC could get me to buy Green Arrow again is to go back to his activist ways. At least then all this superheroing MEANT something.

Without an activist foundation, it's just a bunch of punching and posing.

Anonymous said...

Update, many moons later: the Nocenti run is over and done, and -- let's put it charitably -- there aren't many fans of the run. But Jeff Lemire is on "Green Arrow" now, he has chosen a voice for Ollie that is at least informed by the past, and the first thing he has done is kill, blow up, or otherwise destroy every innovation introduced for Ollie in the nu52. Even those god damned goggles are gone and he's back in the classic domino mask.

And, the comic is now pretty good -- not just by "Green Arrow" standards, but by general superhero comic standards.