Several of DC’s big guns have celebrated 75th anniversaries in the past few years, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman among them. Marvel’s Captain America also turned 75 recently and there was much celebration.
Another DC great is achieving three quarters of a century in 2016, though he seems to be doing so a little bit more under the radar. Green Arrow made his debut in More Fun Comics #73 in November of 1941. In honor of this milestone, I present to you the history of the Emerald Archer.
Name: Oliver Jonas Queen
Aliases: Ollie, Green Arrow, Arrow
Creators: Mort Weisinger, George Papp
Affiliations: Justice League, Team Arrow, Queen Industries, NSA, Black Lantern Corps, White Lantern Corps, Outsiders, Justice League Elite
Abilities: Acrobatics, archery, aviation, firearms, hunting, eskrima, judo, kickboxing, karate, survival, swordsmanship
Fun Fact: Green Arrow can cook and his chili is considered one of the hottest foods on the planet
Obsessed with Robin Hood from a young age, Oliver Queen was a natural archer though he didn’t care for hunting and was traumatized when he accidentally killed an animal on the family property. This led him to hesitate before shooting a lion while on safari with his parents; his parents were killed by the lion and Oliver blamed himself for his inability to take the predator down (no, I’m not making this up and yes, maybe it would give the current TV incarnation of the character something to actually manpain about). Queen was thereafter raised by his uncle, inheriting the family business and morphing into a rich, playboy jerk (I’m starting to think this is necessary for the hero-redemption arc).
Jerk Ollie fell off his boat in the middle of the ocean and washed up on Starfish Island with only his bow. He learned to survive on his own out of necessity. While on the island, he encountered a heroin smuggling operation he busted up, deciding thereafter it was his destiny to become a crime fighter and protect Star City. Taking a page from Batman’s playbook, he built the Arrowcave and had an Arrowcar made. Legend has it he was also the proud owner of a yellow submarine (take that as you will). His trick arrows, believe it or not, had an actual purpose: early Green Arrow was committed to non-lethal force.
Roy Harper, another young, expert archer (apparently there were a lot of them in the ’40s. Roy is said to have acquired his skills growing up on a Native American reservation and nope, I’m not making that up either) idolized Green Arrow and was determined to become his sidekick. Showing up in Star City, he auditioned by kicking some butt; when Queen learned Roy had no family, he adopted the kid and gave him the code name Speedy (later Arsenal).
After working as a duo for some time, Green Arrow was invited to join the Justice League, though the circumstances leading to his membership are a bit hazy: he either saved the League from an evil alien named Xandor, acted as their secret patron, or impressed them by foiling a League of Assassins plot with Black Canary. It was around this same time time Oliver and Black Canary (Dinah Laurel Lance) started their decades-long, on again/off again. After losing his fortune, Queen came to feel that he was needed, and did more good, as a street level hero and left the League behind in favor of traveling the country as a roving vigilante with Hal Jordan. For some inexplicable reason, he left Roy behind; bereft of parental guidance, Roy started experimenting with drugs (I… I’m just going to leave that there). While on the bromance crime-fighting trip, Ollie’s arm slipped during a fight and he accidentally killed one of the bad guys; riddled with guilt, he destroyed his gear and quit the superhero game.
Oliver went to live at a monastery hoping for redemption; instead he found Zen archery (seriously, that’s what the DC Wiki says. “Zen Archery.” I’m laughing so hard, I’m having trouble typing) and returned home with serious arrows and a new sense of purpose. He and Dinah (who apparently waited around for him) relocated to Seattle where they opened a floral shop named… wait for it… Sherwood Florist. Ollie asked Dinah to marry him and she declined, feeling the independence they afford one another is one of the strongest parts of their relationship. They also found themselves at odds about whether or not they were going to have children; Ollie wanted kids and Dinah didn’t (I like the gender flip here). Enter Shado, a mysterious assassin hinting very bad men; Ollie fought her and lost. Dinah, at the same time, was working with the police to infiltrate a drug ring and it didn’t go well; Ollie rescued her, killing her assailant without hesitation, while Shado showed up for reasons of her own, and took out the rest of the bad guys.
This next bit is troubling but important, both to the characters and socially, so if you’re letting your kids read, I suggest previewing this bit before they proceed.
Dinah, badly injured during her capture, lost her Canary Cry; doctors also determined she wouldn’t ever be able to have children. Ollie, injured during her recovery, was cared for by Shado, who drugged and raped him. I bring this up because I think it’s important to acknowledge that men can also be sexually assaulted and it has as much of an impact on them when it happens as it does on women. We don’t see much of the flip side on comics and I have to imagine it was a pretty serious shock at the time and will probably be to you folks reading this. That probably means we need to talk about it more.
gets off soapbox
Shado got pregnant and had the child. She named him Robert and revealed him to Ollie only to tell him he’ll have nothing to do with their son. Robert’s existence caused a rift between Ollie and Dinah, however; she was upset someone else had given him something she couldn’t (which is problematic in that Robert is a product of rape, raising a whole host of issues that appear to have been ignored). They eventually broke up after she caught him kissing their assistant (cliche much, Ollie).
Ollie took another road trip, this time solo, during which he acted as a sort of roving detective who also murdered bad guys Punisher-style. His friends in the Justice League found him, pulled his head out of his butt, and asked him to rejoin the League because they needed his help stopping Hal Jordan, who was being inhabited by Parallax and planning to unmake reality. In the final battle against the alien invader, Ollie was forced to shoot Hal, killing his oldest friend after which, you may imaging, he sort of fell apart. Again. Returning to the ashram he visited after his first crisis of conscience, Ollie was hunted by NSA assassins only to be saved by Connor Hawke who, a not-dead-but-still-screw-loose Hal Jordan revealed, was Ollie’s son (not Robert. Different son). Ollie acted like a spoiled child and stomped away.
The NSA, having previously tried to kill him, offered Ollie a job infiltrating an eco-terrorist organization which Ollie, for some reason I cannot possibly fathom, accepted. In order to prevent the organization from destroying Metropolis, Green Arrow triggered a dead man’s switch on a bomb; Superman tried to save him but, refusing to be unable to shoot, Ollie decided to not fail the city rather or lose an arm. Connor Hawke took up the mantle following Ollie’s death.
Ollie, of course, didn’t stay dead; he was resurrected by Parallax/Hal in short order. Sort of. Initially, Ollie was a body without a soul, a sort of biological automaton, but his bits and pieces were eventually reunited. Given a second chance at life, he turned a second inherited estate into the Star City Youth Center. One of his charges, Mia Deardon, became the new Speedy.
Next came some weird stuff with Doctor Light, Deathstroke, Batman, and mind wipes that I’m unashamed to admit I can’t quite pin down. The moral of the story: Deathstroke got his hate on for Ollie and blew up his house, revealing in so doing, he knew Queen’s secret identity; Ollie relocated his family and moved his base of operations to an underground bunker.
Oliver, Connor, and Mia were all critically injured during Infinite Crisis. After his recovery, Ollie trained extensively in martial arts and assassination techniques before returning to action. Connor was eminently displeased by the later. During this period, Ollie also met a campaign advisor and decides his (logical?) next step in the quest to protect people at street level was becoming the mayor of Star City.
Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense to me either.
Acting simultaneously through the system and in costume, Ollie used some pretty unsavory means (blackmail, manipulating the stocks of evil companies to amass a personal fortune, using SWAT to back Green Arrow up on missions) to defeat some really bad guys. He also used the Star City charter to legitimize same sex marriage and to help Black Canary adopt a Vietnamese child named Sin. His enemies, foremost among them Deathstroke, saw Ollie’s foray into politics as a great chance to ruin him and did so posthaste. One of Deathstroke’s allies revealed to the public that Ollie had been financing the Outsiders, a superhero team created to do what the Justice League could not in the interests of preserving its public image; the Outsiders were actually considered terrorists). Unable to deny the charge, Queen was forced to resign from the mayor’s office.
In the midst of the scandal, Oliver and Dinah rekindled their romance and, though she hesitated at first, Dinah eventually agreed to marry Ollie. The super villains crashed, of course, but were quickly apprehended (with the exception of Deathstroke, who escaped) and the ceremony was completed.
Ollie’s next team was a new incarnation of the Outsiders, which fell apart when Batman disappeared. Despite decades of the whole team thing not working out, when Hal Jordan departs the Justice League to form his own merry band, intending to take a more proactive stance regarding crime, Oliver joined him, even going so far as to torture villains for information regarding Prometheus, who is threatening to destroy all the things. Black Canary was displeased with this turn of events and let her husband know it. The arc ends with Prometheus detonating a bomb in Star City, killing thousands, and Oliver hunting him down and shooting him between the eyes.
Zombified when Nekron attacks with his Black Lantern Corps (everyone Hal Jordan brought back suffers the same fate), Oliver was forced to watch from within as his body attacked his family, though he had the willpower to turn the attack aside at the last moment.
Once the murder of Prometheus is discovered, Oliver found himself hunted by his own people. He eventually turned himself in; Dinah visited him during his incarceration and returned the wedding ring, announcing their marriage is over. Though he was exonerated at trial, Oliver was exiled from Star City.
Deadman turned the remains of Star City into a forest, which Oliver patrolled, trying to make amends by defending what’s left any way he can, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor as his idol Robin Hood was once said to have done.
Oliver returned to his roots when DC rebooted the line with the New 52 but his book was, in my opinion, less than compelling. With the exception of Jeff Lemire’s run, Green Arrow’s books have been at the blah to meh to ew ends of the spectrum since, though I’m told the Rebirth run is a massive improvement and I’m planning on checking it out.
Green Arrow featured prominently in both the Justice League Unlimited and Batman: Brave and the Bold animated series, two very different depictions that were both wholly enjoyable. In the former, he’s a brave, wisecracking voice of humanity among the League’s more godlike members while in the later he runs around shooting boxing glove arrows while he and Batman rile one another up in very silly, very wonderful rounds of one upmanship.
The CW’s Arrow is… well, I had a lot of hope but it’s simply too dour to scratch my Green Arrow itch. While, as the above demonstrates, Oliver Queen has had some very serious conflicts in his life, and a lot of pain, he’s also renown for his snark, his sense of fun, his drive to do good at a relatable level, a level with which the every-person can connect. Also his chili. I’m additionally pretty sure the paternalistic BS TV Ollie spouts would earn him historical Ollie’s ire and probably an arrow between the eyes.
This is my absolute favorite depiction of the modern Green Arrow, far superior, in my opinion, to the Arrow version. Because Green Arrow, while definitely serious at times, is supposed to crack a smile and a joke every so often.
(Ironically, in the short, Neal McDonough choices Ollie/Green Arrow while on Arrow, he played Oliver’s nemesis, Damien Darhk. McDonough, for the record, has created a version of the character far superior to that mumbled to life by Steven Amell.)
Happy 75th, Oliver Queen. May you pull that bow for 75 more.