Green Arrow: 80 Years of the Emerald Archer – The Deluxe Edition


By Mort Weisinger, Ed Herron, Denny O’Neil, Mike Grell, Chuck Dixon, Grant Morrison, Kevin Smith, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick, Jeff Lemire, Marc Guggenheim, Benjamin Percy, George Papp, Lee Elias, Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Rodolfo Damaggio, Oscar Jimenez, Phil Hester, Scott McDaniel, Cliff Chiang, Denys Cowan, Joe Bennett,Otto Schmidt & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0914-7 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Superb All-Ages Entertainment and Adventure… 9/10

Green Arrow is one of DC’s Golden All-Stars. He’s been a company fixture – in many instances for no discernible reason – more or less continually since his 1941 debut in More Fun Comics #73. Many Happy Returns, Emerald Archer!

In those distant heady days, origins weren’t as important as image or storytelling, so creators Mort Weisinger & George Papp never bothered. The first inkling of formative motivations came in More Fun Comics #89 (March 1943) wherein Joe Samachson & Cliff Young detailed ‘The Birth of the Battling Bowman’ (and a tip of the feathered hat to Scott McCullar for bringing the tale to my belated attention).

With the secret revealed, it was promptly ignored for years, leaving later workmen France “Ed” Herron, Jack Kirby and his wife Roz to fill in the blanks again with ‘The Green Arrow’s First Case’ at the start of the Silver Age superhero revival. It appeared in Adventure Comics #256, coved-dated January 1959. This time the story stuck, becoming – with numerous tweaks over successive years – the basis of the modern Amazing Archer on page and screen.

This hardback and digital celebration offers another quick survey of the Battling Bowman’s epic career, gathering material from More Fun Comics #73, Adventure Comics #246, 259, Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86, Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1, Green Arrow volume 2 #100-101, JLA ‘8-9, Green Arrow volume 3 #1, 17, 75, Green Arrow and Black Canary #4, Secret Origins volume 3 #4, Arrow Season 2.5 #1, Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 and opens with the first of a series of brief prose ruminations ad reminiscences. Former editor Mike Gold details the heritage and legacy of ‘The Octogenarian Green Arrow’ before we meet the stars in November 1941’s More Fun Comics#73 solving the ‘Case of the Namesake Murders’ (Weisinger & Papp). Skipping unchanged to March 1958 and Adventure Comics #246, Herron & Papp detail how a counterfeiter redesigns himself as toxophilist terrorist ‘The Rainbow Archer’ whilst issue #259 (April 1959 by an anonymous author and Lee Elias) introduces ‘The Green Arrow’s Mystery Pupil’: exposing ulterior and sinister motives for his studies…

The turbulent 1960s saw Oliver Queen utterly reinvented. Deprived of his fortune he became a strident advocate of liberal issues in a bold experiment which created a fad for socially relevant, ecologically aware, mature stories which spread throughout DC’s costumed hero comics and beyond; totally revolutionising the industry and nigh-radicalising many readers.

Tapping relatively youthful superstars-in-waiting Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams to produce the revolutionary fare, editor Julie Schwartz watched in fascinated disbelief as the resultant thirteen groundbreaking, landmark issues captured the tone of the times, garnering critical praise, awards and valuable publicity from the outside world, whilst simultaneously registering such poor sales that the series was cancelled anyway: the heroes unceremoniously packed off to the back of marginally less-endangered comic book The Flash.

America at his time was a bubbling cauldron of social turmoil and experimentation. Everyone and everything were challenged on principle, and O’Neil & Adams utterly redefined super-heroism with “Issues”-driven stories transforming complacent establishment masked boy-scouts into uncertain, questioning champions and strident explorers of the enigma of America.

Probably the most notably of the run was 2-part saga ‘Snowbirds Don’t Fly’ and ‘They Say It’ll Kill Me…But They Won’t Say When!’ in Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86 (September – November 1972???)

Depiction of drug abuse had been strictly proscribed in comic books since the advent of the Comics Code Authority, but by 1971 the elephant in the room was too big to ignore and both Marvel and DC addressed the issue in startlingly powerful tales that opened Pandora’s dirty box forever. When the Green Gladiators are drawn into conflict with a vicious heroin-smuggling gang, Oliver Queen is horrified to discover his own sidekick had become an addict…

This sordid, nasty tale did more than merely preach or condemn, but actively sought to explain why young people turned to drugs, just what the consequences could be and even hinted at solutions older people and parents might not want to consider. It might all seem a little naïve now, but the earnest drive to do something and the sheer dark power and visual elan of the story still deliver a stunning punch…

Following Mike Grell writing about ‘My Favorite Hero’ comes the first chapter of the tale he crafted to radically reinvent the Archer for the post-Vietnam generation: setting out a new path that would quickly lead to the hero becoming a major player at long last and, ultimately, a 21st century TV sensation.

Green Arrow is one of the very few superheroes to be continuously published (more or less) since the Golden Age. On first look, the combination of Batman and Robin Hood seems to have very little going for him, but he has always managed to keep himself in vogue and in sight.

Probably the most telling of his many, many makeovers came in 1987, when – hot on the heels of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns – Grell was given the green light to make the Emerald Archer the star of DC’s second Prestige Format Mini-Series.

Grell was considered a major creator at the time, having practically saved the company with his Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired fantasy series Warlord. He had illustrated many of GA’s most recent tales (in Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Action Comics and elsewhere), and was a firm fan-favourite after well-received runs on Legion of Super-Heroes, Aquaman, Phantom Stranger, Batman and others. During the early 1980s, he had also worked on the prestigious Tarzan newspaper strip and created successful genre series Starslayer and Jon Sable, Freelance for pioneering indie publisher First Comics.

By the middle of the grim ‘n’ gritty Eighties, it was certainly time for another overhaul. Exploding arrows yes, maybe even net or rope arrows, but arrows with boxing gloves on them just don’t work (trust me – I know this from experience!). Moreover, for his 1960s makeover, the hero had evolved into a tempestuous, social reformer using his gifts to battle for the little guy. Now, in a new era of corrupt government, drug cartels and serial killers, this emerald survivor adapted again and thrived once more.

The plot was brilliantly logical and controversial, concerning the superhero’s mid-life crisis. Weary and aging, Oliver Queen relocates to Seattle, struggling to come to terms with the fact that since his former sidekick Speedy is now a dad, he is technically a grandfather. With long-time ‘significant other’ Dinah Lance/Black Canary, he starts simplifying his life, but the drive to fight injustice hasn’t dimmed for either of them.

As she goes undercover to stamp out a pervasive drug ring, the Arrow hunts the hunt for a psycho-killer dubbed “The Seattle Slasher”. Tracking a prolific beast slaughtering prostitutes, he learns of a second, cross-country slayer murdering people with arrows – the “Robin-Hood Killer”…

Eschewing his gaudy costume and gimmicks, Queen is an urban hunter stalking unglamorous hidden monsters, but stumbles into a complex mystery leading back to WWII, involving the Yakuza, CIA, corporate America and even Viet Nam war secrets that eventually change the course of the Archer’s life…

Intricate and effortless, the plot weaves around the destabilized champion, Dinah and new character Shado: exploring and echoing themes of vengeance and family in a subtle blending of three stories that are in fact one, delivering a shocking punch even now. This yarn, its narrative quality and sophistication, is arguably the first truly mature superhero yarn in the DCU.

Grell produced a gripping, mystery adventure pushing all the right buttons, conveyed by artwork – in collaboration with Lurene Haynes & Julia Lacquement – that was and remains a revelation. Beautifully demure yet edgily sharp when required, these painterly visuals and watercolour tones perfectly complement a terse, sparse script, and compelling ride.

It’s shame you’ll need another book to see the body and end of this snapping dragon…

The miniseries led to a lengthy and noteworthy run but – as ever – fashions changed and Oliver’s run apparently ended forever in Green Arrow volume 2 #100-101 (September & October 1995).

‘The Trap’ and ‘Run of the Arrow’ – by Chuck Dixon, Jim Aparo, Rodolfo DaMaggio, Gerry Fernandez & Robert Campanella  saw a weary, radicalised aging hero make the ultimate sacrifice to save Metropolis from eco-terrorist Hyraxwhilst his new-found, ashram-trained son Connor Hawke reluctantly assumed his legacy. The Buddhist-trained martial artist reluctantly took up his estranged father’s role and mission and was impressive enough to be summoned to the moon for a try-out in the  reinvented Justice League.

Grant Morrison, Oscar Jimenez, Chip Wallace, Hanibal Rodriguez supervised the secret son’s invitation to join the bright and shiny, no-nonsense team in August and September 1997’s JLA #8-9, with Jimenez & Wallace rendering ‘Imaginary Stories’ as mind-bending villain The Key attempts to conquer the universe by trapping individual Leaguers in perfect dreams, before the art was augmented by Anibal Rodriguez for the tense conclusion ‘Elseworlds’ This sees the Zen Archer saving the day in his own unique style…

Recent scribe Anne Nocenti describes ‘Hitting the Ground Running’ about her tenure on the Emerald Archer before we cover the return of the irascible original Oliver Queen as seen in Green Arrow volume 3 #1 from April 2001. This revival, by unconventional Kevin Smith (yes, Silent Bob!) and the wonderful art-team of Phil Hester & Ande Parks, brings him back from Heaven in the most refreshing manner I’ve seen in nearly five decades of comic reading. . ‘Quiver: Chapter One: The Queen is Dead (Long Live the Queen)’ starts a gloriously enjoyable refining of Green Arrow embracing the fundamental daftness of superhero comics to revitalise them. Replete with guest-stars, jam-packed with action and intrigue and wallowing in fun thanks to the sly, snappy dialogue of Smith, this is a costume-drama in a thousand and I’m certainly not going to spoil your fun by giving away any details. Just revel in the smart combination of the old and the new to create the best yet…

The renewed energy and impetus caried on building as Green Arrow volume 3 #17, November 2002 – ‘The Archer’s Tale: Chapter Two: Grays of Shade’ by Brad Meltzer, Hester & Parks – highlighted a long-overdue reconciliation between the Arrow and Speedy, triggered by the mistimed activation of a contingency plan to hide all their secrets in the event of the hero’s death, after which Green Arrow volume 3 #75 (August 2007) sees ‘Jericho, Conclusion: And the Walls Came Tumbling Down’ by Judd Winick, Scott McDaniel Andy Owens. Here the now-much extended Arrow family unite to save Star City from Deathstroke the Terminator’s deranged vengeance scheme and witness a marriage proposal everybody knew was inevitable…

Writer, Producer and Director Greg Berlanti discusses ‘Arrow: Origins’ before Green Arrow and Black Canary #4 (March 2008) depicts Judd Winick & Cliff Chiang’s ‘Dead Again, Conclusion: Please Play Where Daddy Can See You.’Detailing the loss of a beloved “team-arrow” member, it as powerful downbeat tale about duty and repercussions that segues neatly into a new motivational start for Oliver, created as part of the New 52 company-wide reboot.

For Secret Origins volume 3 #4 (September 2014) Jeff Lemire, Denys Cowan & Bill Sienkiewicz detailed what makes a hero in ‘Secret Origins: Green Arrow’ whilst essay ‘I’m Not Batman, Dammit’ by Oliver Queen (as told to Mark Guggenheim)’ uses a faux interview to tell some real truths before we enjoy the fruits of the hero’s TV success.

Like any proper comics to screen venture, the show generated a comic book extending the on-screen adventures and here Arrow Season 2.5 #1 (December 2014) sees Guggenheim, Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson & Craig Yeung craft a tense, terse thriller in ‘Blood: Descent’ with the Arrow vigilante’s team save their city from airborne death and settle in for the fight against a new Brother Blood after which the on-point action ends with a return to basics and the end of the New 52 experiment in ‘Rebirth’ by Benjamin Percy & Otto Schmidt. Returning to Seattle, middle age and liberal crusading, the one-shot Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 (August 2016) details a first meeting with Black Canary and the hunt for urban predators “the Underground Men” abducting and selling the city’s poor into slavery…

Capped off with ‘Cover Highlights’ from the Golden, Silver, Bronze, Dark and Modern Ages, pencil art by Jim Lee and full ‘Biographies’ of the army of creators crafting green dreams over 8 decades, this is a striking reminder of the tenacity of the heroic principle and an uncomplicated core concept. Ideal Fights ‘n’ Tights fun for all…
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