Secret Origins #38: Green Arrow and Speedy

Ryan Daly welcomes brand new guests Darrin and Ruth Sutherland to cover the story of Green Arrow from Secret Origins #38. Then, J. David Weter helps Ryan chart the highs and lows of Green Arrow’s former sidekick, Speedy.

Secret Origins Podcast Facebook page:

Secret Origins Podcast on Stitcher:

Let us know what you think! Leave a comment or send an email to:

This podcast is a proud member of the FIRE AND WATER PODCAST NETWORK.

Subscribe via iTunes as part of the FIRE AND WATER PODCAST:

“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music: “Poison Arrow” by ABC; “The Needle and the Damage Done” by Neil Young; “Everything I Do, I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams.

Thanks for listening!

29 responses to “Secret Origins #38: Green Arrow and Speedy

  1. It’s such a delight hearing Darrin & Ruth who elevate the synopsis to an art form. They could make a heap by offering their synopsising services to the comic podcasting community. Sutherland’s Synopses Services, hah!

    There have been so many great Green Arrow runs, but I hope I’m not on my own in appreciation of the Kevin Smith and Judd Winick tenures. Phil Hester killed on the art for a chunk of that run.

    It’s possibly too much exposure to BBC programming as a child that I pronounce Cheshire like the county in England: ‘Chesheer’. Mind you I have gotten used to you Americans butchering Nicola & Millar in your attempts to speak creator names.

    I had the Arsenal song pegged to be the Dandy Warhols Not if you were the last Junkie on Earth. Should have thought of Neil Young.

    You & J. did a great job of covering Speedy’s key moments, but you missed one of my faves from the 90’s Deathstroke where he was running with Checkmate and his ex nukes Qurac. It would be hard to get more 90’s than that.

    Have a good week off Ryan. I know you’re looking ahead to the workload and wondering why you ever started this. We love the show & love you for doing it (in a totally hetero way).

    1. Thanks for the kind words Paul … and especially for the excellent business idea! Yes, Sutherland’s Synopses Services Sounds Superb. I’m printing up business cards as I type this and I’m getting ready to start counting the cash that will be flooding in any moment now … 😉

  2. As long as I’ve read comics, I’d say Green Arrow has been a favorite of mine…but I’d be lying if I didn’t say my exposure to Robin Hood through the British TV series “Robin of Sherwood” didn’t dovetail perfectly into me reading “Longbow Hunters” and the GA series that followed. Plus Disney’s “Robin Hood” gets some love and recognition from Ruth? Awesome! All in all a great episode!

    1. Errol Flynn, for me. “Welcome to Sherwood, my lady!”

      Well, that and Bugs Bunny,

      “Never worry, never fear, Robin Hood will soo…”

      “Yeah, yeah, yeah, you been sayin’ that all thru the pictcha! He robs from the rich and gives to the poor; la, la, la we go skipin thru Sherwood Forrest. Nyaaaa!”

      “Dah, you should not have said dat, ’cause there he is!”

      “Welcome to Sherwood!”

      “Nah, it couldn’t be him!”

    2. So many great versions of Robin Hood over the years and we love most of them! Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood, Richard Greene in the 1950s Robin Hood TV series, Disney’s Robin Hood, and definitely the Robin of Sherwood series … and don’t forget Mel Brooks’ When Things Were Rotten TV series and Robin Hood Men in Tights movie 🙂

      Mike Grell is a big fan of the Richard Greene series which is apparent as Oliver occasionally sings the theme in the comics … and of course, fans can occasionally hear Mike Grell himself singing the theme while he’s sketching commissions 🙂

  3. Paul, Paul, who the heck have you been listening to? The pronouniciations (hi Shagg!) this episode were spot on, or at last they didn’t jar (like, yeah, those Krptonians Mil-lar and Knee-Cola)

    Anyroad, great episode, and after their recent dramatic delivery on Lonely Hearts, what a pity Ruth and Darrin, the Hepburn and Tracy of the podcasting community, don’t act their way through the Green Arrow origin. Still, as Flanger says, the synopsis was the bee’s knees.

    Not the most exciting story, but GA’s origin was always a bit dull. I’m immediately put off this story for the unforgivable cruelty to bit-part lizards. Do you suspect ‘Hannibal King’ was Giordano helping out on a deadline crunch, not doing his best work so not wanting his name there?

    The Golden and Silver Age GA is mine, I love the clean cut look, the trick arrows, the car and the cave. MIss Arrowette and Xeen Arrow! My other fave period is the Action and World’s Finest shorts. I’ve never really got on with the Grell run, for dispensing with the fun elements, brutalising Dinah, by default ageing every other DC hero of his generation up… basically, Grell is responsible for Just For Hal and Parallax.

    Now, DC needs to get on the ball and follow up the Canary download with a Great Frog soundtrack, it’d rock the world. Anything but Brian Adams (handsome and nice as the fella is). I like Roy more than Ollie, he grew without being a jerk, I love that he channelled his own experiences into becoming the superhero who warred on drugs.

    Brilliant job from David (he never writes to me either mind. Maybe I should write first?).

    God, that hat.

    1. Oh my gosh! A comparison to Hepburn and Tracy! I obviously didn’t bribe Martin enough! The additional money will go in the post today Martin!

      And thank you for the reminder of Miss Arrowette. It’s been years since I read some of those Golden Age stories, but I must dig those out and reread them now!

  4. Always great to hear Darrin & Ruth; Trekker Talk, Warlord Worlds, and Xenozoic Xenophiles are all great! You don’t need your comics to follow along, their synopses put the images right into your head. They also get to do so many enviable things, like watch Star Wars The Force Awakens with Mike Grell and play chess at Portmeirion, the setting for the Village, in The Prisoner.

    Like Darrin, I was a Green Arrow fan since back in the early 70s. I was always a fan of heroic tales, and Robin Hood was a big favorite. I had a book that condensed some of the more popular tales, that I got through the Scholastic Book Club. Of course, there was Errol Flynn. Like Darrin, that episode of the Super Friends (“Gulliver’s Gigantic Goof,”) with Green Arrow was one of the best. I saw him there first, then in the back-up stories in Action Comics, which were drawn by this new artist at DC, Mike Grell, and JLA. I distinctly remember the first one I saw, where Dinah and Ollie encounter a white dog, who seems to be impervious to harm. It turns out to be a stray Krypto. (Action Comics #441, “The Mystery of the Wandering Dog”) I also had the book that Ruth mentions, Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley, which I discovered in a bookstore, in 1989. I was in a deep love of Green Arrow, with Longbow Hunters having been published and Mike Grell and Ed Hannigan producing the regular series. I was lucky enough to come across a copy of Grell’s illustrated edition of Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, from Donning/Starblaze. Pyle’s book, originally done through Scribners, was the basis for The Adventures of Robin Hood film, with Errol Flynn and probably the book where most kids encountered the legends of Robin Hood. In this particular edition, Mike Grell provided color paintings and illustrations that replaced the Pyle originals. I later got to meet Grell and have it signed, and get a sketch of Robin Hood from him. Pyle was one of his artistic influences (along with NC Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish), so, I’m sure it was a dream project.
    One nice GA mini I haven’t seen reprinted is the Green Arrow, The Wonder Year, from 1993, with Grell writing and pencilling and Gray Morrow providing excellent inks. Another that has been reprinted, but not seen by as many people was Jack Kirby’s work on the character, in the 50s. Those are some nice stories, with the gimmick arrows. Also, the Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories from the 70s, when they revived the series. Ollie definitely kept that book alive, as Hal was handled in a pretty bland manner. Mike Grell provided the art, which at least made it good. A favorite of mine is an old Aquaman and GA story (two separate, but linked ones) is when they swap places, with Aquaman having to fight crime on land, while GA hunts for a criminal, at sea. I saw the reprint in Super-Team Family, in the 70s. GA & Speedy have to develop underwater bows and arrows and run around in scuba gear and an Arrowboat.
    I always loved that Grell added Howard Hill, the archery trainer on the Errol Flynn film (and shooter of the trick scenes). There is a supplemental short of the deluxe Adventures of Robin Hood DVD (with the Warner Night at The Movies features), which shows Hill making various trick shots, including hitting two targets simultaneously. Of course, the distances are a lot closer than in the film.
    I read this story in DC Special, which Grell illustrated and which updated Ollie’s origin. He embellishes it a bit more here, with the added thing that the drug traffickers were stoned (which I believe was delivered as dialogue, in Longbow Hunters)). He gets more pages to tell the story here (the original shared space with the excellent origin of The Huntress).
    Hannibal King did a few issues for Grendel, at Comico. I believe he also did one or two illustrations for Who’s Who. He mostly worked in the independents, which is an area that Mike’s Amazing World has scattered info (based on his interest). I’ve been looking through the sight, month by month, at it has big gaps on independent titles. For instance, it has a listing for Malibu’s Logan’s Run mini-series, by Barry Blair; but, not the sequel, Logan’s World.
    I always enjoyed Ollie’s politics and it did a lot to shape my view of how society should be. However, I don’t think many people after Denny O’Neil handled it well. Grell’s stories came across as a bit more Libertarian, though there was always that social justice element. The best handling, for my money, was in Justice League Unlimited. There, Ollie gives his philosophy and it really sums up liberalism, for me: “Look, I’m an old Lefty; I believe that government exists to do for people what they can’t do themselves.” That’s what I think gets lost in the noise of the current political landscape.
    I really enjoyed the Speedy story. Elliot S! Maggin was always my favorite Superman writer, especially the two novels he did and this issue (one of his first DC stories in a while) demonstrates why. He gets into the human side of the heroes and the gimmick of Roy telling the story to his infant daughter, who can’t speak, is a lot of fun. It shows a character who went through a lot and is in a happy place, which contrasts nicely with Ollie, who was going through a lot in his own series, some of it pretty bad. Ollie was getting more violent, maybe compensating for getting older and for not being there when Dinah was tortured, until it was almost too late. Roy is happy and confident, at peace with himself. It really presented a mature hero, which is a bit of a rarity, when you look at a lot of them. My only quibble is that they didn’t clean up some of the stereotypes of life on a reservation. At least no one is shown in a war bonnet, especially since he is on a Navajo reservation, not a Sioux or Cheyenne. Listening to how he was used in later years, I really enjoy this story. This Roy is handled by someone who has a more positive outlook on heroes and can make them interesting, rather than wallow in violence and use shock value to sell mediocre comics.
    Maggin was also one of the better writers to handle Green Arrow. He wrote some of the JLA and when they did that JLS/JSA crossover, where Cary Bates and Elliot Maggin appear in the story, Maggin tells him that Green Arrow talks that way because he (Maggin) uses him as his mouthpiece.
    Good choice on ABC’s “Poison Arrow.” A brilliant choice, I must say! 🙂 Equally good call on “The Needle and the Damage Done.” Ironically, when I was reading the Green Arrow series and found the Outtlaws of Sherwood, I started really getting into Neil Young, as I was picking up albums, trying to find a couple of songs I heard when I saw his Neil Young in Berlin concert, on tv (the song was “Sample & Hold, from his Trans album, which Geffen refused to release, in the US). That song is very haunting. Then Bryan Adams. Well, his earlier stuff was good. Man, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. It’s a really engaging movie with the worst casting of Robin Hood and the worst attempt at an accent, as opposed to Cary Elwes, in Robin Hood, Men in Tights (which is one of the jokes). Elwes looked like he was Flynn’s son or something (and in The Princess Bride).

    ps. When you get to the gorilla issue, I have just three words: “Shock the Monkey!”

    1. I continue to be amazed at the many points of common interest that we share with you Jeff! Ruth was thrilled to know you also enjoyed Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood. And thanks so much for the kind words about our shows. Everyone listen to Jeff and go listen to our shows 😉

      As you say, The Wonder Year is a great mini-series. I’m hoping that DC will collect it now that they seem to be going through and collecting all of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow run in trades.

      Mike Grell’s illustrations in the Howard Pyle book are fantastic in our opinion and I also liked the addition of Howard Hill to the origin story. It was a nice fanciful touch.

      Somehow I’ve missed that story where Green Arrow and Aquaman switch places. How is that possible? My two favorite DC characters in a cross-over story and I haven’t read it. I must remedy that immediately!

  5. I’m halfway through the episode and wanted to share a few thoughts…

    Lovely to hear Darrin & Ruth on the show! They did a fantastic job and their enthusiasm for the character (and Mike Grell) really shined through! I want to echo the recommendation that everyone listen to their shows if they aren’t already!

    Great job on the editing, Ryan! There was just a minor echo effect on one or two occasions, but otherwise the audio was seamless. I had no idea you had to edit so heavily. Well done!

    Since you lost some audio to the bad storm, I’m going to assume this next item was simply lost from the show, rather than the glaring omission that it is. When you covered Oliver Queen’s publication history, you neglected to mention that he was … DEAD for over five years! As in…
    ‘E’s passed on! This Green Arrow is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t arrowed him to a tree ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the island! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-GREEN ARROW!!

    But he got better. You’d think he was an X-Men or something.

    Just wanted to share. Great first half of the episode! Hope J David Weter doesn’t screw the rest of the show up! 🙂

    1. Did you write that whole “‘e’s no more” bit so I have to find the audio from a 40 year old Monty Python sketch when I do the listener feedback section?

    2. Thank you Shagg! Wow! This thread is filled with so many kind comments that I’m completely humbled. Thank you everyone!

      And Ryan, we’re Monty Python fans, so we’ll be listening for that audio clip 🙂

  6. Another great issue that I don’t have. And great to hear the Sutherlands and David talk about these characters.

    I have to admit that I am usually not drawn to the Green Arrow character. So when you look at my collection, I don’t have many of his books. I have Long Bow Hunters. I have the recent Lemire/Sorrentino run. I have the Barr/VonEeden mini.

    I will say though, that I have a few Green Arrow comic moments that resonate with me. And, not surprisingly, a couple have to do with his political leanings.

    1) There was a story in World’s Finest #258 called ‘One man can cry’ in which Green Arrow stops thieves that are stealing elderly people’s Social Security checks. When he is called a hero, Arrow says that while he stopped the robberies, the checks are barely enough to keep these citizens alive. Some are eating dog food because it is all they can afford. When the cop says ‘what can one man do?’, Arrow responds (in the form of an Oliver Queen editorial in a newspaper) ‘One man can cry’.

    2) In Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, we see the Justice League debating how they can stop the Floronic Man who has taken control of Earth’s vegetation and is leading a bloody vegetable coup in Louisiana. Arrow, angrily snaps an arrow and says something like ‘We always look after Metropolis, and New York, and Paris and Atlantis. But who was looking out for Houma?”

    I also liked that one the Cartoon Network Brave and the Bold cartoon, it was the Golden Age costume that was used for GA.

    Lastly, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that GA’s origin here stems from a costume party. Isn’t that a trope you love Ryan.

    1. Hi Anj! It has always meant lots to us to know that you listen to our show regularly and often comment on the Green Arrow stories even though it isn’t a favorite character of yours. Thanks so much. I’m glad our discussions still interest you. 🙂

  7. Another excellent episode Ryan – I could hear a little feedback as I was listening to the episode on my phone but it was very minor and your editing skills made it a seamless episode. Think the stress of editing may have gotten to you when you placed Canary into a different team!

    Another bit of the show I am liking is trying to determine what songs you are going to play as the into to the character’s secret origin. Was pleased that I guessed ABC for the Green Arrow – I had the Verve “The Drugs Don’t Work” as my shot for the Speedy entry but your choice, as always, is very fitting.

    My first Green Arrow story that I remember was a reprint in a UK Batman annual which reprinted the two part Brave and the Bold story from 129-130, which not only featured Green Arrow, but Atom, Joker and Two-Face as well – fun story but GA did not come across well in that tale. I read bits of Grell’s run on Green Arrow in the 80s and 90s but it never really grabbed me, and as GA was tucked away in his own little corner with no interaction with other heroes, I did not follow his stories that much. It was only when the book started the Cross Roads storyline, with Kevin Dooley, Doug Moench and Alan Grant, that brought Ollie back into the DCU, that I began to pick up his stories regularly. Chuck Dixon took over after that and had a good run up to his death and the introduction of Connor Hawke as his replacement.

    There have been some excellent runs on Green Arrow – Kevin Smith’s storyline on the return of Oliver Queen was fun (I loved Batman’s comment to Oliver when Ollie mentioned the Arrowplane, Arrowcar and Arrowcave “Good Lord, did you ever have an original thought back then!”), as was Brad Meltzer’s and Judd Winnick. I do agree with Ryan though that GA is a frustrating character. His seminal run in the O’Neil/Adams run, on modern reading, makes Ollie to be this shrill contrarian, getting his way because he is the loudest. In the Gerard Jones/Will Jacob book on Comic Book Heroes, they made reference to the fact that Hal always took the worst position in the arguments he and Ollie had, which ultimately led Hal to look pretty stupid while Ollie just became insufferably right all the time. And the problem with the redesign of Ollie by Neal Adams is that it stretched credibility that no one could see that Ollie Queen and Green arrow had the exact same facial hair! How he became mayor of Seattle without anyone noticing the similarities is anyone’s guess! 🙂

    Never really read much of Speedy until the 1990s. He does work better as a member of a team than as a solo character. I remember in Devin Grayson’s run on the Titans, he became a mentor to Damage and helped him after the aftermath of Damage’s storyline in his own title. I would also echo J David’s recommendation of Winick’s Outsiders – the bromance of Roy and Nightwing in the book is very good, and again he acted as a good mentor for the other younger members of the team. When he graduated to being Red Arrow and joining the JLA, it looked like things were going well for Roy – then Cry for Justice happened and we were left with the image in the follow up mini-series of a drug addled Roy attacking criminals with a dead cat! Oh dear! I will say, having read the Red Hood and the Outlaws book from the new 52, that Roy, Jason and Starfire developed into an enjoyable enough team – however, the disaster that was issue 1 meant very few read the title!

    Another great show Ryan – enjoy the week off!

  8. Great to hear the Sutherlands and Dave on this show. I have a complicated relationship with the GA origin in this issue. My first Green Arrow solo story was a reprint of Jack Kirby’s origin story from DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #9, the first version to feature Ollie stranded on the island. I loved the Robinson Cursoe meets Robin Hood angle of the origin, and was pretty smitten with the GA/Speedy team after that issue, since it was the first time I met Roy. I got a lot of mileage out of a kids boy and arrow set with suction cup tips based on GA/Speedy reprints from these DC digests.

    Grell’s time on the island here seems to suck the super-heroics right out of it. It’s just less dramatic than the Kirby version, downplaying Ollie’s triumph by making the bad guys Ollie apprehends a couple of harmless hippies. I understand why he did it…his GA was far more urban and grounded than any we’d seen before. But I will always prefer that Kirby version.

    That same DC Special Digest also reprinted the origin of Speedy adapted here. I’m not a huge fan of Devin Grayson, but I’ll give her points for bringing Roy’s Native American roots forward in her depiction of him in The Titans ongoing and the Arsenal mini-series. Maggin was one of the first writers to take on the post-O’Neil/Adams Ollie in solo tales, so if he says Ollie is kind of a jerk…well… Let’s face it, there’s no defending Ollie’s abandonment of Roy. For all his self-righteous chest-thumping in the Hard-Traveling Heroes run, Ollie really screwed the pooch when it came to Roy. Which is why his usual punching bag Hal is rubbing his face in it on that legendary cover.

    The art in the Speedy story was a little weak. I thought the GA story art was fine, but yeah, it looks almost all Giordano, which is fine by me. The cover is actually really nice. Grindberg was capable of stunning stuff, but his work often looked rushed with sloppy and heavy blacks. Not here. And of course, he’s a Neal Adams disciple, so it makes sense for him to do the cover. I like how Roy is waving at Ollie, and Ollie is kind of just ignoring him. What a jerk. 🙂

    Oh, and thanks for the Bryan Adams at the end. And I sincerely mean that. That is mine and Cindy’s song. Came out the summer we started dating. Even if Costner is no Errol Flynn (he doesn’t even come close, but no one does), I still have a soft spot for that movie.


  9. GREAT episode, I love hearing from the Sutherlands and/or JDW.

    Re: the cover–I agree, something’s a little off. I think if modern day Ollie and Roy were leaping off the roof, in an action pose, with the GA GA and Speedy in the background it would have been more exciting, instead of them just standing there.

    Happy to hear Darrin mention me re: the Mego GA doll. I’m no expert, but yeah I still say that’s the company’s finest hour when it came to the WGSH line. It’s the comic character translated directly into plastic.

    I’m sure this is lost to history, but I wonder how far apart the creations of Aquaman and Green Arrow came to Mort Weisinger? Was it a day, a week, a few hours? Incredibly fertile period for the guy, however it shook out.

    Haven’t heard that ABC song in decades…nice pick Ryan.

    1. Hi Rob, I really liked your thought about how far apart in time the creation of Green Arrow and Aquaman were in Mort Weisinger’s mind. It would be really interesting to know how the creation of those characters came about. Really thought provoking.

  10. I know Green Arrow is the bigger character, but I just wanted to chime in and compliment the fantastic job that Ryan and JDW did covering Speedy.

    A thoroughly nice overview of the character from inception to his recent appearances on the Arrow TV series. I really felt you both did a fabulous job with the discussion.

    Plus, we both loved the idea of Roy Harper possibly showing up on Legends of Tomorrow in the future. That is a great idea.

    JDW is tops with Ruth right now following his thorough coverage of Speedy here along with the recent episode of Dave’s Daredevil Podcast that focused on Zorro. You have a fan in Ruth 🙂

  11. I know that Ryan mention it in the episode, but I must say that I don’t think anyone can understand how much editing he must have done on this episode.

    Due to the severe storms on the east coast the night we recorded, the Skype call dropped multiple times and when we would finally reconnect we would have to try to remember where we left off.

    Plus, there was an occasional horrible echo making it difficult to know when someone had stopped talking.

    When I listened to the episode, I honestly considered it a miracle that it sounded so fantastic. Ryan somehow created a seamless episode that sounded like a single conversation instead of 4 or 5 partial conversations filled with comments like “I think the last thing you said was …”

    No kidding or hyperbole in this statement … Ryan Daly deserves an “Editor of the Year Award” for this episode. You are the best Ryan!

  12. We’ve argued fairly recently over whether the Justice League should be treated as being founded as a five or seven member group and the role Black Canary should play versus the DC Trinity, but I haven’t heard anyone suggest, ever, that Green Arrow belongs in that discussion. Sure, he’s the first guy to join the team after its founding, and one retcon had him finance the team ala Tony Stark, but we all know he’s not quite up there with the Magnificent Ones. Similarly, I can’t say exactly when I was introduced to Green Arrow, but it definitely wasn’t in the original Justice League cartoon, probably wasn’t Super Friends, and I don’t have any vivid recollections from house ads, either. Maybe one of Fred Hembeck’s Dateline: DC strips or a Hostess Fruit Pie ad? Heroes World hawking the Mego doll (which I once owned before it was stolen after I bragged about its worth?) What I can say is that 1982’s Brave and the Bold #185 was one of the first comics I owned, and rested in a stack I kept under a tiny wooden bedside table to one side of the couch my grandmother spent most of my memories lying upon. I flipped through that comic as about many times as I have most any other comic in my lifetime, but the story was such a mediocrity I can’t recall anything substantial about it. I suspect it joined my collection thanks to early exposure to Green Lantern/Green Arrow #84, which I believe I only had on loan from my uncle and read once lying on my belly on the bathroom floor. It was drawn by Neal Adams, and I was distinctly impressed with how handsome Ollie was with his Van Dyke in a turtleneck macking on a beautiful brunette in a tight sweater and skirt (presumably Dinah Lance) as they sat on the couch where Hal Jordan had lodged his power ring before succumbing to a gas attack. Initiated by Queen and later strengthened by Vanth Dreadstar, I wanted to grow up to be like them, fit and masculine with sideburns and a goatee. Ended up more like middle aged Ted Kord sans the full effects of puberty. Another of life’s many disappointments.

    You can add Green Arrow himself to that list. I loved his look, including the two-tone emerald outfit with the leather arm guards and vest. The pointy domino mask was slick, and I thought archery was very cool. In fact, since I couldn’t find Green Arrow comics on the stands growing up, I think I settled for the more attainable Hawkeye without his ever truly being in contention as a favorite. I thought for sure me and Ollie would be besties, so I eventually bought his two ’80s mini-series and sporadic issues of his ongoing before becoming a regular during the “Crossroads” quasi-arc through the end of that book. I went back to the full O’Neill/Adams run, a few issues of the GL/GA revival, lots of guest appearances/team-ups, much of the Kevin Smith run, some issues around Brightest Day, plus batches of old JLofA.

    Oliver Queen is a tool. He’s a self-righteous guilt-mongering whiney pushy loudmouth who’s a lousy friend and lover, bringing nothing to the super-team table. The only reason he’s not the absolute worst member of anything approximating the DC pantheon is that he was clever enough to start hanging out with Hal Jordan to look good by comparison. Aside from the fun Mike W. Barr/Trevor Von Eeden mini and the few issues of Sandy Plunkett’s aborted run, I don’t particularly like any of his stories. The entirety of the Golden & Silver Ages saw him as a gaudy Batman rip-off. GL/GA was hammy, preachy, and overall annoying if you bother to read the words attached to the pretty pictures. The Longbow Hunters is the single most overrated entry in the much ballyhooed new wave of DC Comics coming out of Crisis; trading the blatant derivation of the Dark Knight to Miller’s Daredevil with more sordid elements but without the passion, craft or background of influences. The ongoing series that followed was a blandly drawn bore, and despite early sales success, served to divorce Green Arrow from the mainstream DC Universe in the same way that The Titans, The Outsiders & The Legion suffered during the Baxter years and never recovered from.

    As my opinion of Ollie worsened, my affection for his supporting punching bags Roy Harper, Connor Hawke and Dinah Lance grew. At one point, I fan-fic’d him into a one-armed bitter environmental terrorist working with Ra’s al Ghul who would serve as an antagonist to a Roy elevated to succeed him as Green Arrow while Connor served as his Iron Fist/Kato. Then they could team up with John Stewart to battle Parallax! Instead, Oliver was the forebear of the anti-progressive whiteboy revival that saw most of DC’s mantles go retrograde into the 1960s status quo under the watch of DiDio & Johns. It’s great going to Target and not buying any of the “Justice League” merchandise of four quadrant favorites Blond White Man, Brown Haired White Man, Clean-cut excessively powerful Brunette White Man, and Grimdark Crazy Rich Brunette White Man.But I can get Marvel stuff where women and people of color and just plain old more than four nigh-identical options of diversity are allowed. Things are getting better though, thanks to Arrow & Aquaman merch offering even more Blond White Man options! The New DC! There’s no starting us now!

    Possibly the most grating thing though is that in thinking about how I would handle writing Oliver Queen, I realize he would basically be me, at least in the familiar Diabolu Frank mode. We’re both aggressive, obnoxious, hypercritical, overly-opinionated Bernie Bros who don’t live up to the standards we project or measure up against the truer heroes in the company we keep, ultimately standing as impotent windbags who don’t really matter in the grand scheme of the comic book universe. I could live vicariously through his womanizing and his lush facial foliage while $#!+-talking and acting in accordance to our anthem “Easy To Be Hard” from the musical Hair. The Emerald Archer could be my onanistic totem of self-loathing and still land well within his established personality. Yay?

  13. Probable pseudonym aside, Hannibal King was an industry artist from the late ’80s until just a few years ago. Most of his work was done at smaller, sometimes “extreme” publishers like Rebel Studios, London Night, Comico, Now, Harris, Avatar and Moonstone, but he did some mainstream stuff as well. If I recall correctly, he’s African-American, and specialized in vampiric “bad girls.”

    Green Arrow has an okay origin. It’s much too light on motivation, but he has a good reason to utilize an outdated technology that happened to be popular in cinema at the time of his creation. No, he wasn’t the first archer super-hero, but he should have been the last without a major spin (looks sideways at Hawkeye, who works thematically as an Iron Man villain but is immediately antiquated as an atomic age hero.) Speedy at least got an origin, but it’s a lot less compelling than Robin’s despite functioning without as much dependence on a mentor hero. There’s a big wide hole of “why” before Speedy’s recovery from addiction and pursuit of dealers. Being a paleskin on the Rez explains his alienation and self-destructive impulses, but not his vigilantism.

    I found Speedy’s Secret Origins story more satisfying than Green Arrow’s, but Grell was better at the actual storytelling. Grell solo could get away with lighter than air decompression thanks to his pretty picture compositions, but when he handed a script to a Hannigan or Hoberg or King, it was just splashes of a dude standing in an empty room or spreads of a silent party. But at least it had a cinematic quality and multiple overlapping time periods to keep up interest. Speedy was a first person info-dump without much personality, and an amateurishly drawn Who’s Who entry strung out across panels and pages. It did work better as a resource for other people to tell Speedy stories afterward. I don’t know that Grell told another writer enough about Oliver Queen for them to carry on from the Secret Origin. There’s something like job security in that, I suppose.

    I may have seen Speedy on the Teen Titans cartoon, but I didn’t register him the way I did Kid Flash and the rest. My strongest recollection of a proper introduction to Roy Harper was in the Keebler giveaway anti-drug comics, which I had to pay for by buying clear plastic grab bags from a oft-frequented thrift store in my youth. George Perez’s rendering of a solemn Speedy carrying an overdosed child through a schoolyard of crying kids was plenty enough pathos to sell me on that dollar bag. I think our next encounter was in the Tales of the Teen Titans issue that reprinted the team’s introductory bonus preview story, along with a Speedy solo story from an old digest. The page dimensions were all wonky and the art was by Carmine Infantino with a heavy handed inker, so it’s a credit to Speedy that it didn’t put me off. I also think I fished some other Tales reprints of the Baxter series out of quarter bins circa 1989 that involved Roy’s fruitful relationship with Cheshire.

    I think my proper Speedy fandom began when I tried to collect Action Comics Weekly as a back issue, but between losing a buttload of comics to a thieving friend that school year and actually reading the mostly turgid material, I dropped it after a dozen or so buys. However, I made a point of picking up the Nightwing stories, which included a Speedy team-up serial by Marv Wolfman and the criminally underrated Chuck Patton. There was a sequence where Speedy is running down an alley, spies a sniper several stories up in a nearby building, and drives a bolt through the dude’s barrel. I’d never seen an archery action sequence like that before, and specifically remember thinking I’d never seen Green Arrow pull off a shot like that. Around 1992, I was reading New Titans again and bought some packs of Cosmic Cards. I abandoned collecting that hideously designed set fairly quickly, but one of the cards I got was Speedy’s. He was drawn by Tom Grummett and probably inked by Al Vey in a dynamic pose that accentuated the beautiful, simple line of his striking red & yellow costume. I was casting about for characters and a universe to replace the X-Men in my heart, and I decided I liked this dude, and would make a point of following him when he showed up again.

    By collecting Titans back issues and the current line of titles, I learned about Roy Harper’s ties to an international crime-fighting acronym agency and saw Cheshire’s official demarcation from ever working as an anti-hero through her nuking of Qurac. Just ahead of New Titans #100, Roy Harper was reintroduced to the team as Arsenal, smartly expanding his repertoire of archaic weapons beyond the extremely played out archery. I missed his classic costume, but the purple gear with the boomerang “A” chest symbol was a solid contemporary replacement. The Titans line completely fell apart with the departure of group editor Jonathan Peterson, and the quality of the core title plummeting precipitously, so Arsenal ended up replacing Nightwing as team leader when Dick Grayson was repossessed by the Batman group. With Zero Hour, Arsenal was revised into a gun-toting ’90s stereotype, and the Titans reign of Marv Wolfman was mercifully put down a year or so later. Devin Grayson restored the character as a crimson archer with a smirk in one of the few highlights of her Titans revival, Arsenal got a solid mini-series involving Vandal Savage, and then he went back to being a ’90s gunhawk in Winnick’s Outsiders.

    “Red Arrow” was so oddly on the nose that it almost seemed like Brad Meltzer was trying to go back to his Bronze Age childhood rather than turn it out on the street, but I appreciated that it almost made Roy another sidekick upgraded to taking up the mantle… almost. However, the only true legacy of Meltzer was that elevating Roy to the Justice League put a big target on his back so that deviant editors could order up a sensationalized downfall involving snuffing his innocent little girl purely to inspire audience wide dyspepsia. Roy climbed back on the horse, weaponized ex-kittens into furry back alley nunchucks, and swung that dead cat at a collection of ersatz Suicide Squad wannabes. Let that sink in… characters not fit to die on a Suicide Squad. In this one case, cause to celebrate the New 52 wiping out a continuity.

    Despite all the ups and downs, I still love Roy Harper as the Marvel-style hero with feet of wet clay stepped on with baby powder and smuggled into the DCU through its Titans Tower of Ideas. Roy is the kind of hero you root for less because of who he’s fighting and more for what he’s struggling against just to participate in the fight. His independence, his demons, his addictions, his mistakes, his libido, his pride and joy. I think he can work as a soloist, and I certainly find him more interesting than Ollie Queen, but he’s best as part of an ensemble to take the pressure off while simultaneously imperiling him more through lack of plot armor. I adored his being a single father who walked the line most specifically out of love for his daughter. He’s well intended and accomplished, but also reliably fallible in ways that make him more human and more compelling than most super-heroes. His whole world could come crashing down at any time, so there was tension and investment in his life missing from more predictably secure capes. It’s the exact reason why you don’t actually pull the trigger, because not only would it be heartbreaking, but because without that precarious house of cards Roy Harper is just another bow and arrow bro.

    I am aware that there is a Roy Harper in the New 52, but he appears to be another douche model in a baseball cap working his choch shtick across a landscape of irrelevancy, though somehow variations on The Outlaws have lasted five years and counting. I still haven’t watched Young Justice, so the next time I want to follow new adventures of a Speedy I recognize as my own, I have Netflix to look forward to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *