Friday, August 21, 2015

Green Arrow: From "Ugh" to "How"

Absorbascommenter Steve Mitchell may have been facetious in his suggestion that an "Amerindian-themed" Green Arrow would need to team up with Super-Chief....

But I'm not.

The DCU has a wealth of "Western lore", much of which has been lying around unused for quite some time. This is something I've been thinking about since a few years ago, when I had a hand in the National Museum of the American Indian mounting an exhibit on the depiction of Amerinds in comic books.

In, fact, that's me at the exhibit opening with the Governor of Taos Pueblo.
"No, Governor, I don't know what the hum is, either."

Easy ones right off the top include: Quoag (from Speedy's origin story, as a native Alfred); Manitou Raven/Dawn, Owlwoman, Night Eagle, Saganowahna ("Super-Chief"), Black Condor, Man-of-Bats and Little Raven (more ridiculous things have been made to work). You could even stretch to include a new Aztek, but--well, I think we've all agreed it would be better just to forget about Aztek.


Black Condor (*swoon*!)
Night Eagle

Then there are the opportunities to link up modernized versions of the DCU's Western "cowboy" characters.  El Diablo (who's going to be in the Suicide Squad movie, anyway); Nighthawk and Cinnamon; Vigilante.  Villains like the Trigger Twins and Terra-Man (yeah; you heard me, Terra-Man).

Why can't I quit you, Terra-Man?

You don't need me to write out precis for revised versions of these characters or the kinds of relationships to and stories with Green Arrow they might have.  We can all picture that and a talented writer would have no trouble working them out.  

But Green Arrow needs to be more than just a centerpiece for DC's abandoned Western/Amerind characters in order to stand on his own as an interesting and unique character. 

Denny O'Neil realized that in 1969 when he made GA the liberal/anti-establishment voice of the 'hippy generation'.  And it was, in its way, consistent with "Green Arrow as Robin Hood".  Just as Robin Hood stood up for The Poor against The Rich, so would Green Arrow.  Thus began 40 years of Ollie talking about 'fascists' and 'fatcats'.  And sounding more ridiculously out of date every time.  

Forget Speedy; Ollie's real sidekick was the Ghost of Hitler.

It's not that economic disparity is no longer an issue; far from it.  But that's just one facet of society's ills, and even Ollie's take on THAT was always painfully simplistic.  It's easier to read Dazzler fanfic than to read the GL/GA 'hard-traveling heroes' stories.  Stories which most of you simply 'know' about, I bet, and haven't actually READ.

It IS, however, rich with (almost) enough Hal Jordan head-injury-porn to make it worth the while.
That's a full page of Hal getting the crap beaten out of him, in silence.
I really deserve to get this framed....

So, 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"...?

More on that soon.


CobraMisfit said...

I will also take a framed page of GL Head Shots, please."

But yes, the more you go down this path, the most this concept holds water. Ollie has the potential to be at the center of a boom in DC diversity, especially given his origin. If the CW can make me fall in love (okay, begrudging toleration) with Green Arrow, ANYTHING is possible....

ShellyS said...

As someone who grew up with GA being a poor copy of Batman, with his Arrowcar et al, I loved the GL/GA series. For me, that was Ollie and it will always be my favorite version of the comic. The stories weren't hard to read and still aren't, for me. As with pretty much every comic I have from the '60s and '70s, and even '80s, they feel dated, but they remain favorites of mine.

And yet, I am all for revamping the character. DC is the home of the multiverse, after all, and I'm willing to believe new versions of character simply live on different Earths. It's part of how I'm able to love the Arrow and Flash TV shows as much as I do.

And yes, a more ethnically diverse Green Arrow would be nice and wouldn't, in my mind, diminish what Ollie has been and how important a character he as been to me. Though it is Roy Harper who has long been my favorite DC character, the son of a park ranger raised by Native Americans. Just think how great it would have been if Roy had been Navaho and sought to be the partner of the great Green archer.

John said...

Gasp! A well-known DC character as a minority, rather than briefly replaced by a diversity hire while nobody is buying the book or an ancillary alternate character claimed to be major as part of a reboot!? Can middle-aged fans deal with such a horrifying change that urinates angrily all over their favored childhood memories of Green Arrow that they've never mentioned before now but totally always had...?

More seriously, it could work, and would be a huge step for DC. I'd be a little hesitant of making Ollie the centerpiece of all things "cowboy and Indian," since that always struck me as more of a Marvel model and never seems to work out at DC, but could work better for Green Arrow.

ShellyS said...

I'm in my 60s and I have no problem with DC rebooting characters with different ethnicity or sexual orientation. I consider them new characters, same as the Silver Age Superman isn't the Golden Age Superman, even if they were a great deal alike.

I actually wish DC had done that instead of the mess New 52 was. I went from reading nearly 40 DC comics a month to 4. They were trying to squeeze existing characters into a new world order or fiddling with characters to make them fresh. I would rather they had just started from scratch, with a new, diverse DCU and allowed the older versions to reside on their alternate part of the multiverse, to be brought out for occasional stories. Sometimes, you really do need to accept that after 60 or 70 years, there's really not much left to do with some characters and rather than screw around with them just for effect, it's better to create new, more interesting versions with whom you can tell new and interesting stories.

Because, really, pre-New 52, if the best anyone could come up with to shake up Ollie's world was to kill his 7-year-old granddaughter, then maybe it's the DCU that needs some shaking up, not Green Arrow.

Anonymous said...

Intriguing! If DC is willing to go there, and can put talent behind it that can do it justice, I will be actively in favor of it.

In my various Internet wanderings, yelling at people who are mad at BLM for talking out of turn, I always want to say that nobody's got a more legitimate axe to grind than blacks. But then I never do, because Native Americans actually managed to get the shaft even worse somehow. If we can get a little bit of Native American visibility out of this, perhaps even raise awareness of issues (albeit more deftly than O'Neill did), I'm willing to sacrifice Oliver Queen to the cause.

Jeff Lemire recently created a Native American character named Equinox; Lemire also did the best GL run so far since "Flashpoint". Wonder what he's up to.

Don't forget Tom Kalmaku; Eskimos (the preferred term in Alaska if you don't know exactly which northern people) count too I think.

Another thought I had too. Back when Barry came back and Wally was no longer needed as a replacement Barry, I thought the Southwest might be a good setting for him. He's another one I'd contribute to the cause; it certainly beats DC's current approach, where he needs a white man to teach him to turn to baseball instead of crime.

Scipio said...

"Don't forget Tom Kalmaku"

Wait for it....!

Steve Mitchell said...

Jeff Lemire is doing books for Marvel now. Including one about another archer, that Hawkeye fellow. (Who, speaking of a bowman/western theme, used to hang out with the Two-Gun Kid.)

Bryan L said...

I really do need to read about the Hard Travellin' Heroes. 'Cause that page looks like Hal's getting the crap beat out of him by two accountants wielding umbrellas and screaming "KA-LOOOTA."

Please don't tell me they're the Penguin's henchmen.

Anonymous said...

That's from "A Peril in Plastic", a cautionary tale about modern life in the heavy-handed O'Neill way. Features a villain who's been fairly big over the past few years.

(See Scipio? I know my O'Neill / Adams era pretty well, and still that doesn't keep me from liking lefty firebrand Oliver Queen. That said, I want to hear more about your idea.)

John said...

Shelly, I actually fit the demographic I made fun of, too (I assume most of us do, here), just a little too young to have read GL/GA new, but the backlash always seems to show up, even though there's no reason any of the A-list heroes couldn't or shouldn't reflect the real world's population.

One of the times I swore off comics was that Crisis on Infinite Earths "follow-up" story that Marv Wolfman did, with the diverse cast of superheroes. In the introduction, he complains that this was really his vision for the Post-Crisis DCU. As I'm reading, I couldn't help but think that he was one of the lead writers on Superman and still had control over the Titans, which made that seem a bit insincere...

Anonymous, you might find this interesting, which coincidentally popped up in my RSS reader today:

ShellyS said...

I was in college during the GL/GA run and it kinda blew my mind. I was reading comics regularly from around 1960 til 1985, or more specifically, Crisis on Infinite Earths, the issue in which Kara Supergirl was killed. After that, I continued to read Titans for a few more years, but I stopped reading everything else in protest. I never did read the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I doubt my gesture made a dent in DC's sales despite my reading 40 or so of their comics a week, but Supergirl was the character I most identified with and cared about, and still do. We kinda grew up together. We were in high school at the same time, and college, and then we both worked for a while, then went back to school. I had switched career directions and so did she. She was sort of my comic book sister and even though the character was brought back, she isn't the Kara I grew up with. I accept the new versions, but I'll never forgive them for killing off the original one. In the mid-'90s, I got curious about what DC was up to, wandered into a comics shop, and discovered the Nightwing mini-series, and got hooked again.

I did find it fascinating, re: diversity, when the PTB would point out there were green skinned folks and purple skinned folks in comics, as if that made up for the too few Asians and Black and Native American characters. It's not as if we see purple or green-skinned people walking around in real life.

Anonymous said...

Gonna put this out there, I suspect you have an answer worked out, but: associating the bow and arrow with Native Americans is stereotypical as hell if you don't handle it with a degree of sensitivity. It's not even a logical stereotype, since every civilization used bows until they got their hands on firearms. It's kind of like saying "See that guy eating bread? That must mean he's Serbian."

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, there was an AmerInd GA. He appeared in a Marv Wolfman/Paul Ryan "lost tale" of Crisis. It was published in the Legends of the DCU Special from the late-'90s. Like most characters in Crisis, he only appears in the background or in big groups.

Did you look to Marvel for any AmerInd characters, Scipio? Dani Moonstar, Forge, Red Wolf, Thunderbird, Shaman, Talisman, Warpath... you do see a lot of stereotyping but I think Dani Moonstar emerged as a good character despite the trappings.

- Mike Loughlin

Slaughter said...

Don't discard the robin hood concept, FUSE it. The idea of Oliver Queen being a huge índio buff who also likes Robin Hood could work. I like the idea of him being this weapon specialist that knows every way to use a bow know to man. Longbow archery? Yes. Shortbows? Yes. Crossbows? Of course. Central Asian curved bow shooting atop a horse (or anything moving)? Of course!

Some stuff I would change in Green Arrow:
- Oliver should also use all sorts of bows and crossbows. Shortbow, longbow, crossbow, repeating crossbow, arbalests, maybe even a use ballista on a vehicle.
- If Oliver is using a bow, he might as well be stealthy and stick to shadows rather than light.
- Some occasional use of non-bow weapons to take any enemy that thinks he just sticks to bows.
- A decent security system in the arrowcave. Its such a easy place to invade in the show. I want to see someone become a pin cushion at some point just for invading his turf.
- I would't mind if they FINALLY admit in the comics that Oliver is a low-level meta (slightly enhanced speed/strength/endurance and ability to predict trajectories) with great skills in archery and a penchant for showing off.
- My good lord will someone give the man a good mask already. Domino masks don't work anymore in the age of facial recognition software.

One hilarious effect would be that Green Arrow is the best guy to take in situations where using advanced technology and/or superpowers doesn't work - like time-travel, or against magic/EMP/technopaths. The concept of Oliver being dragged into time-travel fights while moaning about how "I usually stick to the streets" is amusing.

I feel that in the show the difference between Green Arrow and Batman is that Green Arrow is a Batman who fails. "Arrowgoding" doesn't exist yet, thankfully.

SallyP said...

Ollie is an idiot, but I am with Shelly... it's just too much darned fun watching him froth at the mouth and call Hal a Nazi whenever Hal had a difference of opinion.

And incidentally, thank you for both the head injuries AND the plentiful butt shots of Hal!

Slaughter said...

Yes, that's a fantastic Hal Jordan beating.

Dan said...

Hardly fair to criticize Denny's social stories as "simplistic" when superheroes were nothing BUT "simplistic" up to that point. In the context of when they were published, those stories were quite advanced. They pushed the boundaries of what a superhero could consider 'bad.' ALL superheroes were stooges for "the man" up to that point. O'Neil didn't need to make Hal the voice of the establishment when the entire genre was obsessed with defending that establishment since 1941.

And the idea of blaming systems for social ills was in no way new with the hippies. Thomas More questioned the English justice system and the concept of private property in 1516, centuries before Karl Marx. It just became a socially acceptable topic for consideration during the 1960s.

As for Ollie, if you take away his social activist philosophy he becomes another generic police-stand-in, treating symptoms but never the root of human problems.

Anonymous said...

"Just as Robin Hood stood up for The Poor against The Rich, so would Green Arrow. Thus began 40 years of Ollie talking about 'fascists' and 'fatcats'. And sounding more ridiculously out of date every time."

Oh Scipio, I had to laugh when I re-read this months later. Ever talk to any Sanders supporters? Right about now, a big chunk of them sound EXACTLY like 1970s Green Arrow.