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Midlife Crisis: Green Arrow – A Bargain Basement Batman?

Your favourite superheroes are over 50 years old! Before they got dark and gritty, they did some goofy things. Welcome to Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths where we look back at the less than illustrious adventures of some of the biggest heroes in comics. In this edition, we take aim at the Green Arrow. Was he just a bargain basement Batman?

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The hit television series Arrow is actually based on the DC’s Green Arrow character. I thought I’d mention this in case you have been living under a rock for the past four years. While a vigilante armed with a bow and arrow is hardly an original idea, did you know that Green Arrow was basically a bland imitation Batman? No?

Okay, His Origin is KIND of Different…

Well versed readers are probably going to mention how the origins of Batman and the Green Arrow are pretty much different. Sure, there are no dead parents involved in the comic book origins, but the differences only punctuate how little thought they put into the character.

They have rebooted Green Arrow’s origins many times, and each time is terrible.

The Original Origin

The first origin story, published in More Fun Comics #89, was not fun at all actually. In it we meet Oliver Queen who is insanely wealthy. Queen’s hobby included collecting Native American artifacts for his private collection. He was just appropriating culture all over the place. One night, some crooks set his entire collection on fire, leaving him with nothing to show off. Needing a new trove of wicked artifacts to show off, Queen flew to Lost Mesa. Turns out young Roy Harper  is trapped on the island along with the family’s Native American guide. The two use their archery skills to stop a gang of mobsters that show up. As you can guess, anyone who wasn’t a rich white guy and a young kid died and the pair decided to become heroes.

Some facts about this story: (1) The Green Arrow got the idea for his costume design by rubbing grass all over his clothes. (2) They took up their names from the off-the-cuff remarks made by the crooks they murdered.

A crime-fighters greatest weapon? Grass stains!

The Reboot

The Green Arrow’s origin story was first rebooted in  Adventure Comics #256. In this version,  Oliver Queen ended up falling overboard by accident and got lost on an island. Oliver taught himself archery and survival while on the island. Not bad for someone clumsy enough to fall off a cruise ship. When Oliver got off the island he used his skills to fight crime because… reasons?

"I was going to call myself Leaf Arrow, but that would have been silly!"
"I was going to call myself Leaf Arrow, but that would have been silly!"

Green Arrow fashioned his costume after the leaves he wore while trapped on the island.

There have been “updates” to this origin, but the story is basically the same.

Arrows are Different Than Bats!

Through his early career, the Green Arrow has used a variety of arrow-themed gimmicks that prove my point.

For example, the Green Arrow used to drive around in — wait for it — the Arrowcar. First seen in More Fun Comics #73, it was a bright yellow arrow-shaped car.

The only thing that made this car overly special was that the seats had “catapults” in them. Which was just a fancy way of saying that they were spring-loaded.

In the 1950s they updated the look of the car in a very uninspiring yellow convertible with tailfins.

Then there was the Arrowplane. Witty. Appearing in Adventure Comics #118 it was an aircraft shaped like an arrow. It’s only practical use was allowing Green Arrow keep up with his fellow members of the Justice League after he joined the team.

Lastly, a good hero needs a secret headquarters, right? Well in the 1940s, the Green Arrow and Speedy hung out in the living room. Since that wasn’t impressive enough, they were given that much-needed headquarters in World’s Finest #43. It was called the Arrow Cave, because if you’re going to rip off another heroes schtick, you might as well go the whole hog, am I right?

... And over here we can put a giant dime, and over there a display case with the costume of my LAST Speedy.

Rogue’s Gallery

You must be asking yourself, “surely the Green Arrow had some original villains at least?” That’s a reasonable question to ask my friend! So for starters let me introduce you to the Green Arrow’s first recurring villain, Bulls-Eye!

None of the other villains are blatant rip-offs like that, but that doesn’t mean they are any better….

The Rainbow Archer

Albrecht Raines , a failed artist, got into the counterfeit business. However, he was just as bad at being a criminal since he colored the money wrong! After the Green Arrow busted him, Raines vowed to get revenge. He took on an archery motif and decided that he was going to use arrows that were any color but green because he hated the Green Arrow that much.

This is a lot of effort just to be petty.

As you can expect, the guy who didn’t have an eye for detail, failed at being an archer as much as he failed at being an artist. This character hasn’t been seen since 1977 and for good reason.

The Red Dart

Jonathan Mallory thought he had a sweet gig going on: Taking up the identity of the Red Dart, he would pretend to be a hero but actually committed crimes. This all fell apart since he insisted on working with the Green Arrow and Speedy and was promptly defeated. He once tried to assassinate the Green Arrow but was stopped by Air-Wave the radio-themed super-hero.

"I wanted an all-red costume, but this fabric was on sale"
"I wanted an all-red costume, but this fabric was on sale"

Say what you will about the Red Dart, at least he’s not the Rainbow Archer.

Wacky Plots

Have you checked out my recent article about Batman? If you haven’t you should. In it, I talked about all the wacky stories that they wrote about Batman because of the Comics Code Authority. Well because Batman had silly stories, you can bet Green Arrow followed suit.

You want aliens? The Green Arrow once teamed up with the Xeen Arrow, from Dimension Zero. Xeen Arrow observed the Green Arrow and copied his entire gimmick, although he apparently didn’t know how to spell.

What the hell does Xeen even mean?

How about apes? Do you like apes? Well, the Green Arrow once encountered a chimpanzee that could also fire a bow and arrow. The Green Arrow was easily duped into thinking the ape was committing crimes. In reality, it turned out to be his trainer.

Green Arrow also had a group of imitators from around the world. Just like Batman!

Every single one is a racist stereotype.

One of the best examples of the ridiculous types of stories you’d find comes from More Fun Comics #82. In that story, the Green Arrow and Speedy capture a mad scientist named Doctor Wyrm. They take Doctor Wyrm’s “time pills” as a souvenir of the case.

Curious, Speedy secretly takes them and finds himself transported back in time. Green Arrow goes after him and the two meet Robin Hood. I like a story that breaks the rules of both medicine and time travel. Also, this story was very telling, most of us know what happened to Speedy later….

Who knew time pills were a gateway drug?

As one last example, I give you the story of Green Error, possibly the worst stories based on a play-on-words ever. Green Arrow meets a clown named Green Error who basically imitates the Green Arrow, except nothing works. A  perfect metaphor to explain the Green Arrow’s obvious imitation of Batman.

Whoever said that imitation was the best form of flattery was an idiot.

This concludes this edition of Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths! Keep an eye out for our next edition when we look back at a certain Spirit of Vengeance.


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