Road to Rises: Adventures in the DC Universe #3: Green Arrow & Black Canary

Comic books are like the tide. Their popularity ebbs and flows based on prevailing trends of culture and their longevity is often times determined by sales figures. When sales are down, something new is needed to boost the title, and sometimes the company out of the gutter. Sometimes the efforts come off as forced and contrived, and will annoy the fans, other times it will work out quiet well and help define a character.  An excellent example of the later happened to the Green Lantern in the mid-seventies. Sales were dwindling and Hal Jordan’s title needed shot of adrenalin in the arm. This involved bringing in a long-standing character that had been relegated to back-up features since the 1940s and a minor spot on the JLA. So, on the cover issue #76, Green Arrow appeared, shooting an arrow through The Lantern’s power battery, shattering it.

Cover of The All New Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76

Green Arrow

Black Canary

Black Canary

The Green Arrow was paired off with another minor character, a beautiful blonde bombshell who went by the name of Black Canary. Many viewers seeing trailers for Marvel’s The Avengers have often mistaken Hawkeye and Black Widow for the Green Arrow and Black Canary, an easy mistake to make. Hawkeye and Green Arrow are both archers, and Black Widow and Black Canary are both kick-butt females. However that is where the similarities end.

While Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye is a thief turned superhero, Oliver Queen, better known as the Green Arrow, is or at least was a billionaire. Further, while many archer superheroes like Hawkeye tend to use compound bows, Green Arrow tends to favor the traditional bow and arrow, something that makes his ability to shoot arrows at a lightning fast pace even more extraordinary. As he describes during one of his adventures:

“The average bow weight is fifty-five pounds pulled. For macho hunters who want to impress their friends that number goes up to eighty pounds. Mine is one hundred and three. That means every time I draw the bow back, it’s like pulling a hundred and three pounds. By the end of the day I’m using all my strength to pull that bow.”

Despite this impressive feat, Oliver often ends up being treated as a poor man’s Batman by the writers. Not only was he a wealthy industrialist by day, costumed vigilante by night, at one point he had an Arrow-car, an Arrow-plane, an Arrow-cave, and a kid sidekick, Roy Harper also known as Speedy. Roy would often joke about this, and Batman even remarked “haven’t you ever had an original idea in your life?” To his credit, (or perhaps his embarrassment) Oliver did have a yellow submarine before the Beatles. As such Green Arrow is often placed on the lowest peg of the DC superhero totem poll, perhaps just one notch above Aquaman.

However, while Batman fancies himself as Zorro, Green Arrow has more in common with the legendary figure of Robin Hood. Oliver would even admit that seeing the old Errol Flynn Robin Hood movies was an inspiration to him, even going so far as to bid on, and win, the bow used in the movie at an auction. To him Robin Hood was the ultimate outlaw, robbing from the rich and giving to the pour with a wink and a smile. And as he was oft to point out, Robin Hood got the girl, the beautiful Maid Marian.

This was something many writers since the 70’s have tried to capitalize upon in relation to the Green Arrow. After all, it was a decade rife with political scandal, riots, and great uncertainty. Nobody knew who to trust or who to turn to. What better hero to try and pattern a superhero off of then one of the greatest legends of Medieval Britain? The legend of Robin Hood had a false king, a corrupt Sherriff, and people who were desperate for help, and in swings this verdant clad hero, one who became larger then life, almost as much as the modern superhero.

Green Arrow, like his legendary predecessor tends to fight for the little guy, speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Like Robin of Sherwood, Green Arrow questions the authority of law enforcement officials who are at times breaking the law more then defending it and the people. A run on the comics during the Brightest Day saga featured Green Arrow securing his base of operations in a forest near his home town of Star City. He is leery of superhero teams as he fears the consequences of having too much power in one place, worrying that they will trample on the ordinary people and base their incredible powers. At the same time,  Green Arrow is more then willing to call out the other heroes if they are taking an easy way out.

This is seen in an episode of Justice League Unlimited. The League was manipulated as part of a master plan by Lex Luthor and Braniac in an effort to bring upon an apocalyptic future. Luthor’s goal was to discredit heroes and he succeeded. Luthor’s people even managed to highjack their computer and their station to destroy a small town. They unveil the truth and save the world. Because they have been discredited, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter, the founding members of this version of the League, are considering their resignation and even announce it in a press conference. Green Arrow yells out from the crowd:

“Says who? You remember what we did yesterday? We saved the world, again. You don’t think that has any value? Well, think again, pal! …Look, no one can question your service or commitment to making things better. If you’re quitting because you think you’ve already done your fair share, fine. We’ll throw you a parade. But if you’re quitting because it’s easier than continuing the fight, then you’re not the heroes we all thought you were. The world needs the Justice League, and the Justice League needs you…!”

 He was also the type to remind the heroes just who the y ere to be fighting for. In the comic books, after Hal Jordan intervened in an altercation between what appeared to be a thug and a businessman, Green Arrow pulled the Green Lantern aside and told him what was really going on. The businessman was going to evict all his tenants from an apartment he owned he could demolish it. The younger man was merely standing up for himself. Unlike Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, or the Flash, Green Arrow can see the shades of grey in a world that most superheroes define as absolute black and absolute white.

Sometimes, he can get a bit carried away and go too far.  Case in point, he actually had the audacity to talk down to the guardians of Oa, telling them they had no idea what life was like on Earth. Green Arrow encouraged one of them to come down and live among them, and sure enough they did.  He also encouraged Hal to reconnect with America and the two embarked on a trek across the country.

As such, because of his audacity, and his attitude, he does tend to rub other heroes the wrong way. Hal gets sick of hearing him brag about how he confronted him Guardians of Oa during their trip across the country. Oliver even got into a shouting match at one point with Barry Allen over the matter of the police department, and their power, believing that they should be watched. In spite of their differences he has a deep sense of respect for Hal and Barry, and them for him. Hal even gives him a Green Lantern power ring to use as a last resort in case of an absolute emergency.

Like Batman he also possesses a keen mind though he is no where near close to being The World’s Greatest Detective .Rather he has strong instincts based on observations he makes. For example, when he and Hal Jordan go after Jubal Slade, the wealthy business man who is trying to evict a his tenants so he can  level the apartment complex he owns, it turn out that the District Attorney has been trying to put him away for years as well, but had no real evidence to convict. It would have remained as much had Green Arrow not pressed the situation.

During their trip, when Oliver and Hal arrived in Central City, Oliver could tell that something as rotten in the city. The police officers looked more like armored soldiers and when they pulled them over for having expired tabs, they arrested them with out reading them the Miranda Rights, and used excessive force, all for the kind of petty crime that would, at the least get you a citation. There was also something fishy about the mayor, a man named Phist. It turned out that Phist was performing lobotomies, or unethical medical procedures that involved removing part of a person’s brain, on people. He was even forming an army of Metacops, or police officers trained to not only take down super villains but superheroes as well.

Oliver, like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, came from a life of privilege, but then had suddenly lost it all. He had everything he could want and anything he didn’t have was handed to him. Oliver’s parents even knew Howard Hill, the man who did the trick arrow shots for Errol Flynn in the Robin Hood movies, and they even paid Hill to teach Oliver archery. However he wasted this skill, like so much else in his life. His parents were killed when he was a teenager and there was no one to tell him no, and he could waste all his money, time and talent on whatever he liked. He admitted that:

 “I’m no hero. I never was. Truth is, I’m about as far from a hero as you can get . All my life I’ve only thought about myself, and the *heck* with anyone who gets in the way.”

                Then like the Prodigal Son, he hit rock bottom. One day a trusted friend, Mr. Hackett, betrayed him. On a cruise from San Francisco to Fiji, he shot Oliver and left him for dead. However, as fate would have it Oliver washed up on shore on a deserted island. Like Robinson Caruso, he is forced to hunt and  forage for food and survive, he even makes a make-shift bow, and do all he can to survive on the island. He soon discovers that the island is not as deserted as he thought. The island was actually a farm for a drug cartel run by the villainess Chian White and as it turns out, Mr. Hackett. He goes on to discover the  horrible things they are doing to the few remaining people they haven’t slaughtered.

One of the local women of the island risks her life to help him, something that surprises him. It causes him to take stock of his life and how he lived. He realizes all his life he walked over the little man, and yet some stranger he didn’t know risked everything for him. He decided it was time to change that and he decided to live up to his hero, Robin Hood, and fight for the oppressed. He took down the drug cartel, and soon, he is rescued and returns to Star City, adopting the name, the Green Arrow.

When he first begins, he knows he has no business going around  with bows and arrows shooting them at people. He makes a deal with a local medical school to practice archery on cadavers and learns just what the arrows can do. He admits they are morbid exercises, and for a time he forgets them. However, it is because of these tests that he typically favors to shoot to wound, or even use the gimcky trick arrows.

It is because of his dashing ways, and his charming Errol Flynn wink and smile, that Black Canary comes to fall for him. Black Canary or as she’s also known as, Dinah Laurel Lance, is well trained in Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, and has one super-power: a sonic scream. While many superheroes tend to “choose” or be “called” for the task ahead of them, Dinah had the path forced upon her. Her mother, who was also named Dinah, had been the first Black Canary, making her a second generation super hero.

Dinah was trained by another Golden Age hero, Wildcat, and because of not only her mother but her mentor, she is so well trained she can take down an entire motorcycle gang, by herself, and for good reason. Her father, a man named Larry Lance was murdered, and her mother died sometime later. She had been married, but the marriage dissolved. It was sometime after when she met the Green Arrow. At first she found him annoying, but his charm won her over. Finally she realized she loved him, even going after Oliver and Green Lantern in their trek across America.

Appearance wise she is described as soft and feminine, which tends to be disarming to any ne who faces her.  Green Arrow affectionately calls her, “Pretty Bird” and even says she makes the most beautiful actress of that day, Raquel Welch, look like Little Orphan Annie. To put it in more recent terms, she makes Angelina Jolie look like Mrs. Potts from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.   In the cartoon Justice League Unlimited, it was seeing her in a changing room that convinced Green Arrow to join the league.

Green Arrow and Black Canary

Green Arrow and Black Canary

Despite their partnership, she is not his sidekick. In fact to even call her that would probably warrant her giving the person in question a swift sidekick to the head. She may work with Green Arrow, and be romantically linked to him but she is not anybody’s sidekick. She’s her own independent super-heroine, and she even forms a team with three other female superheroes called “The Birds of Prey.”

Green Arrow and Black Canary area superhero couple, perhaps one of the few in comic books that involves two superheroes, and not a hero and a villain, or a hero and a civilian. As such many fans root for them to finally get together. Also unique to them is the fact that Green Arrow does not drive the motorcycle for them. She drives while he rides on back. More then anything, they are two separate and independent superheroes who work together. Their romantic relationship has even had it’s share of setbacks, namely due to Oliver’s infidelity.

Evan as a superhero, Oliver has made many great errors. Part of the reason he can see the shades of gray in the comic book worlds of black and white, is because he himself committed more then a few gray acts. He is after all a swashbuckler and they can often times leap before they look. Oliver may have been quick to call out Hal for his actions but it was Hal who latter called Oliver out for all his high and might preaching when the Emerald Archer failed to notice the warning signs when his young ward Roy Harper also known as Speedy, was taking drugs.  Oliver and Dinah have also gone to great extremes to protect their secret identities. Oliver went so far as to enlist the help of a super villains in collecting his personal items, and the Oliver and Dinah were present when several other leaguers erased the memories and altered the personality of a super villain who learned their identities and threatened to tell the world. The steps were drastic, but sadly necessary.

As he would later tell Wally West, “You don’t wear this mask for yourself .You wear it for your self. You wear it for your wife, your parents and one day your kids.”

Despite their failures, and even Green Arrow will admit he has had many, they remain one thing. They will do what they can, no matter what course of action it may take, to stand up for the little man and speak up for the oppressed. They themselves had been on the bottom once, and there is no way they’ll let anyone be walked upon, and like Robin Hood and Maid Marian, they do it all with a wink and a smile as they head off on another swashbuckling adventure.

Green Arrow/Black Canary

Justin Hartley as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow on the TV series Smallville and Rachel Skarsten as Dinah Lance/Black Canary on the TV series Birds of Prey.

Sources:

(episode) Barkowitz, Stan (writer) “Initiation” Justice League Unlimited(TV series). Joaquim dos Santos (Dir.)July 31, 2004.

Diggle, Andy and Jock  Green Arrow: Year One 2008 DC Comics.

(episode)Goodman, Robert ( Writer) “The Cat and the Canary” Justice League Unlimited(TV series). Joaquim dos Santos (Dir.)February, 5, 2005.

Krull, JT, Diogenes Neves, and Cinvente Cifuentes Green Arrow: Salvation 2011 DC Comics.

(episode) McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) “Flashpoint” Justice League Unlimited (TV Series). Joaquim dos Santos (Dir.)July, 2, 2005.

(episode) McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) “Divided We Fall” Justice League Unlimited (TV Series). Joaquim dos Santos (Dir.)July,16 , 2005.  

Meltzer, Brad, Phil Hester and Ande Parks Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest.2003. DC Comics.

Meltzer, Brad and Rags Morales Identity Crisis. 2005 DC Comics.

O’Neil, Denny and Neal Adams “No Evil Shall Escape My Sight” Green Lantern #76.

O’Neil, Denny and Neal Adams “A Kind of Loving, A Way of Death!” Green Lantern # 78 July 1970.

O’Neil, Denny and Neal Adams “How Do You Fight A Nightmare?” Green Lantern # 82 March, 1971.

Waid, Mark, Tom Peyer, Barry Kitson and Tom Kindberg  Flash & Green Lantern: Brave and the Bold. 1999 DC Comics.

Creator Credit:

Green Arrow Created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp.

Black Canary Created by  Carmine Infantino

Disclaimer:

This blog is not authorized, endorsed, approved or affiliated with DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Studios or any other persons involved in the creation and conception of the Flash character. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author and do not in any way reflect the views or ownership of DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros .Studios or their subsidiaries.

Photo Credit:

1970 DC Comics, 1992 DC Comics, 2009 DC Comics, 2006 DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment/The CW Network, 2002 DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment/The CW Network.

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About jonathondsvendsen

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Somehow you stumbled upon it. Whatever brought you around, I'm glad you're here. I am a free-lance writer and independent scholar of pop-cultural mythology, living and working in Minnesota. An aspiring mythmaker, I dream of voyages through space, fantastic worlds, and even my own superhero or two. I am also an established public speaker and have guest-lectured for college classes on the topic of comic book superheroes. I graduated from Bethel University in 2007 with a degree in Literature and Creative writing. I also write for the website NarniaFans.com. Head on over and you can check out my book reviews , a few fun interviews and even my April Fools Day jokes.
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