Monday, March 02, 2015

In (uncharacteristic) defense of Green Arrow

Oh, Vamien McKalin; I have no idea who you are and don't care, but thank you. You made me laugh and laugh and laugh today.

It started with the  headline:

'Arrow' TV Series: Is It Just A Huge Batman Rip-Off? Yeah It Is'


My first thought was that this must be some kind of parody article, a la The Onion.  Surely no person who exist in the 20th century could criticize the aboriginal Batman rip-off, Green Arrow, for daring to be... a Batman rip-off.  Heck every CHILD who watched Batman: Brave & the Bold knows that that's kind of the point of Green Arrow.  

But, no, apparently the article is in deadly earnest; so great is the need to fill up the entire internet with commentary and listicles that things like this happen.

" However, the tone seems more like that of Batman rather than Green Arrow," complains Vamien.  

Oh, dear, it's lost the true tone of Green Arrow which is...
oh ,that's right. Green Arrow doesn't have his own tone.  He never has  Whatever the era is, Batman sets the tone and Green Arrow follows it.  That's hardly a criticism of ANY character, let alone Bat-manque' Green Arrow.  Batman is the trendsetter or, at very least, the bellwether of tone in every comic book era.  How much more true should that be for a character has always been RC Cola to Batman's Coca-Cola?

"Now, don't act like what I'm saying is not true. Arrow, ever since it came on the scene, has felt like a complete Batman copy, and that is not good."

Well, Vamien, if by 'ever since Green Arrow came on the scene' you mean More Fun #73 (NOV1941), then... sure.  I'm not going to act like what you're saying is not true.  It's not merely true, it's AXIOMATIC.  The only thing that surprises me about that is how much it surprises YOU.  If only the internet had warned you!  If only Green Arrow's wikipedia entry actually said "At the time of his debut, Green Arrow functioned in many ways as an archery-themed analogue of the very popular Batman character". Oh, wait... it does.

And to my one reader who's about to comment that liberal activist Green Arrow of the Bronze Age was 'completely different' from Batman...  That's the same period where Bruce Wayne decided that he was too isolated from the real world, shut down Wayne Manor, moved into the heart of Gotham City, started taking an active hand in the philanthropy of his own charity, the Wayne Foundation, and started the V.I.P. (Victims, Inc. Program) (Batman #217).  No surprise there, since at the time both characters were being re-imagined by the same writer: Denny O'Neil (although he didn't write that particular Batman issue).  In short, Batman became a 'liberal activist' in late 1969.  Green Arrow's renovation as a bearded social activist? Late 1969.  

"The first sign of this Batman rip-off is the amount of Batman villains that have managed to show up in the series. It makes us wonder if Green Arrow doesn't have interesting villains the team of writers could pick from. This is truly not the case because there are several great Arrow villains and other lesser ones who could do well with live-action screen time. This copy-Batman thing took a strange turn when the writers chose to make Ra's al Ghul the main bad guy in season 3 of the show. I nearly threw my cup of coffee because right away it gave me that Batman feeling. It's not like it wasn't known beforehand that he would appear, but seeing it happening was still shocking."

Well, Vamien; you are easily shocked.  In fact, I'm now operating under the assumption that you've never actually READ a comic book, you just see them on the teevee. First, sloughing secondary villains off onto other heroes is one of the things Batman does; he's got extra, after all.  Every decade, new writers try to make new 'classic' Batman villains, but most of them don't stick as well as the ones with a Golden or Silver Age pedigree.  Ra's Al-Ghul, created by Denny O'Neil (see above), is one of those, an updated Fu Manchu who, long-term, doesn't work well enough in Batman's world to really stick.  But, as it often the case, one man's garbage is another man's gold, and Ra's Al-Ghul is a perfect foil for Green Arrow.; arrows, meet swords.  Meanwhile, Batman's with Superman fighting off an invasion by Atlantis.  You can let Ra's screw up Green Arrow's life as much as you want, but Batman's got more important crap to do.

Second, --wait, I'm sorry, I need a minute to stop laughing at "it makes us wonder if Green Arrow doesn't have interesting villains the team of writers could pick from." Um; no. It makes YOU wonder, Vamien.  The show's already using some of GA's best (but still crappy villains) like Merlyn, Clock King, Brick, Count Vertigo, China White, and Deathstroke (who's a Titan's castoff, you'll recall).  I swear I will buy cable again -- for my entire neighborhood-- if they put The Octopus or Bull's-Eye on television.   Who the heck else are they going to use, Vamien? Onamatopeia?! Carmen Miranda?  Starro? Auntie Gravity?

In all fairness... I get it.  The CW show is a marvelous opportunity to individualize Ollie as a hero, and, in that sense, the degree to which he's just aping Batman is a loss of that opportunity.  But I think they've done a good job of giving Ollie his own world, with characters all his own.  The standouts on the show aren't his villains, but rather his supporting cast, so much so that they've been introduced in the comics themselves.  The fact that it's different from Batman's AT ALL is a credit to the showrunners' work.  Stop worrying about whether GA's fighting leftover villains and be impressed -- as I am -- that he's the medium's inspiration for the Flash, the Atom, and Firestorm.  Face: Green Arrow is television's Batman, because, as Gotham has underscored, Batman is currently simply too BIG to fit on television any more.

So.. I think I get the point Vamien is trying to make.

But he's not the person equipped to make it.


Bryan L said...

Umm, yeah, what you said. My twelve-year-old knows GA is a Batman copy. Of course, I may have mentioned it once or twice, but the point is, she knows.

"The standouts on the show aren't his villains, but rather his supporting cast."

Absolutely. I would watch a show strictly about Felicity Smoak (they could call it "Felic ..." ... wait, no).

Heck, I'm hoping the new team-up show they're proposing is Felicity functioning as Oracle (or Misty Knight in one of the more recent iteration of Heroes for Hire) and dispatching heroes to resolve situations.

CobraMisfit said...

"I swear I will buy cable again -- for my entire neighborhood-- if they put The Octopus or Bull's-Eye on television."

By all things holy, I would watch the HELL out of Arrow if they did this.

John said...

In fact, the stupidest part of the show, to date, has been trying to fit Green Arrow's crappy baggage into a show that doesn't deserve to be saddled with them. Laurel is easily the weakest character, followed by Roy (who's growing on me) and the assorted lame villains. That, and the pilot, which completely turned me off until the Flash announcement motivated me to give it another shot.

Speaking of lame villains, I have to say, that I've never been so disappointed as when they introduced Vertigo. They actually had a character with an accent say, do you know why they call him the Count? and didn't hit the Sesame Street reference!

Bryan, the running joke in Felicity's show would be that, when she lets her hair down and takes off her glasses, nobody recognizes her. Or is that just me...? But yes, she'd make a good "voice-over" member.

Lastly, the Octopus would've been so much more interesting than Deathstroke. Night of the Million-Zillion Octopi would've been a far better season.

John said...

Actually, one more "lastly." Suggesting that the show merely apes Batman neglects the story-lines themselves, which are almost entirely (and appropriately, for a show making one of the blandest superheroes interesting) about redemption. Every character, almost every episode, is trying to pay for the past, including the villains.

That's ground that Batman rarely touches on, if ever. Maybe Jason Todd.

SallyP said...

I am shocked...SHOCKED I tells ya! Seriously, I find it so adorable that this young man os so very very earnest about this. It's just so... adorable.

Frankly I'd kill to have Starro.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree about the Bronze GA vs. Bronze Batman. Yes, Batman made contact with "relevance" -- so did every other character O'Neill touched -- but Green Arrow became all about "relevance", 100% of the time, even to the point of traveling around with a retarded guy just to berate him. (Can I say "retarded"? I suppose, in this particular context, there won't be any objections.)

Even when GA's politics stopped being front and center, much of his personality stuck with the O'Neill mold until pre-nu52: opinionated, the only guy in the room who can tell right from wrong (and he will make sure you realize it), grumpy, distrust for authority. Batman, by contrast, was much more the aloof schemer, the guy people accused of not having a conscience because he pulled everyone's strings.

By the way, that's the Green Arrow I'd like to see again, the one that most pre-nu52 writers somehow managed to get right-ish. Thus far, the nu52 hasn't come up with a take on Ollie that has really worked -- even Lemire's run was mostly Ollie learning about the "Outsiders" rather than building Ollie -- so maybe it's time to bring back the Ollie that at least some people like (rather than yet another that nobody likes). Hell, even that "Injustice" videogame comic did an entertaining Ollie, and of course it was old style grumpypuss Ollie trying to save Harley Quinn from a Superman who had finally been corrupted by his own power.