A Beginner’s Guide to the Green Arrow

A Guest Blog Post by 
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in 2016,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

As the Arrow TV series has been back on our screens for a while now and I am a big fan of the hooded vigilante I thought it would be appropriate to write a beginner’s guide to the Green Arrow. 

More Fun Comics Vol 1Green Arrow is older than he looks! He was created by writer Mort Weisinger and artist George Papp and first appeared, with his partner Speedy, in More Fun Comics #73 (Nov 1941 VF/NM $24,000). Readers were introduced to wealthy Oliver Queen and his teen buddy Roy Harper, who lived with him and was later revealed to be Oliver’s ward. It was said Weisinger was inspired by a series of movies called the Green Archer which, in turn, were adapted from a series of books by Edgar Wallace. Taking his inspiration from the movies and the books, Weisinger created a new hero whilst also borrowing a lot of ideas from another DC character, Batman. There are a lot of early similarities between the two characters. Green Arrow had the Arrow Car and the Arrow Plane which were kept in the Arrow cave, Batman had the Batmobile and the Bat Plane which he kept in the Bat cave. Green Arrow had an Arrow Signal to call him and Batman had the Bat signal. Both were billionaire playboys and had teenage sidekicks. Weisinger even created a Joker-like arch villain for Green Arrow called Bull’s Eye.

It is interesting to note that in their debut appearance in More Fun Comics #73 Green Arrow and Speedy had been operating as costumed heroes for some time as Speedy mentions a previous adventure they had together, “The Case of the Golden Mummy”.

After only three appearances in More Fun Comics, Green Arrow and Speedy start appearing in Leading Comics #1 (Winter 1941 VF/NM $4,200) where they join the Crimson Avenger, Shining Knight, Star-Spangled Kid, Stripesy and the Vigilante to form The Seven Soldiers of Victory. Such is the pair’s growing popularity, they also begin appearing as a back-up strip in World’s Finest Comics #7 (Fall 1942 VF/NM $2,100), along with Batman, Superman and a number of other Golden Age DC characters. Long after all but Batman and Superman have left the title, Green Arrow and Speedy remain until #140 (Mar 1964 VF/NM $100) – a full 22 year run!

In More Fun Comics #89 (Mar 1943 VF/NM $1,200) and “The Birth of the Battling Bowmen” the readers are told, via flashback, the origin of Green Arrow and Speedy. This would prove to be the first of a number of origin stories over the years.

Our heroes’ run in More Fun Comics comes to an end with #107 (Jan/Feb 1946 VF/NM $900). Their loyal readership were not to be disappointed, however, as they were given a slot in Adventure Comics beginning with #103 (Apr 1946 VF/NM $3,400) starting another long run, similar to their stint in World’s Finest Comics, that lasted until Adventure Comics #269 (Feb 1960 VF/NM $320). So, very much due to Mort Weisinger’s strong editorial influence, when all other super-heroes were falling by the way-side Green Arrow was one of the few DC characters, along with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and, surprisingly, Aquaman, to keep going after the Golden Age of Comics came to a sad end. Most of the Green Arrow stories during this period were written by France E. Herron who was the character’s main scripter between 1947-1963 and really these stories hold nothing more than a quaint, nostalgic curiosity value for a more innocent and naive form of comic story-telling and art that has long since disappeared. Well worth trying to track down, though, is a small run of Green Arrow stories illustrated by the great Jack Kirby from the 1958/1959 period – Adventure Comics #250-256 and World’s Finest Comics #96-99 (VF/NM $340). The stories are nothing special but the artwork is Jack Kirby at his best and would make a collectable little run.

Interestingly, Adventure Comics #256 (Jan 1959 VF/NM $850) re-tells Green Arrows origin in the story “The Green Arrows First Case”. Green Arrow learns of a scientific expedition heading for Starfish Island which gives him cause for concern because Starfish Island is where Oliver Queen first became Green Arrow. In the Arrow Plane, on their way to stop the expedition, Green Arrow tells Speedy the story of how he became the Emerald Archer in a flashback sequence – all courtesy of Jack Kirby.

With the coming of the 60s, Green Arrow and Speedy moved from their mainly back-up story role to becoming more of a main feature and grew into very much a fan favorite. In Justice League of America #4 (Apr/May 1961 VF/NM $1,200) Green Arrow becomes an official member of the Justice League of America. When Brave and the Bold #50 (Oct/Nov 1963 VF/NM $250) introduced the idea that would see out the remainder of the run – team-ups – it was Green Arrow, along with the Martian Manhunter that DC chose to star in the first team-up. What a great cover to that issue – well worth checking out!

Big changes for Green Arrow took place towards the end of the 60s when writer Bob Haney teamed Green Arrow with Batman in Brave and the Bold #85’s “The Senator’s Been Shot” (Aug/Sep 1969 VF/NM $150) and artist Neal Adams introduced not only a new costume but also a goatee beard and mustache which ever since has been known by many fans as the definitive look for the Emerald Archer.

No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!Writer Denny O’Neil followed up on Green Arrow’s new appearance by completely remaking the character’s attitude in the pages of Justice League of America #75 (Nov 1969 VF/NM $110) giving his personality a rougher edge. This complete revision was explained by Oliver Queen being stripped of his fortune through forged documents of him engaging in corruption. He then became an outspoken supporter of the underprivileged and displayed strong liberal views. O’Neil saw this new Green Arrow as the perfect counter-balance to Green Lantern’s “Mr Establishment” character. Under the editorship of the legendary Julius Schwartz, Green Arrow and Green Lantern were given equal billing in Green Lantern’s own series that was re-titled “Green Lantern co-starring Green Arrow” from #76 (Apr 1970 NM/M 9.8 sold for $31,811 in Aug 2014) – an issue that is one of the most sought after and key Bronze Age comics. In a ground-breaking run of 14 issues Green Arrow and Green Lantern tackled a number of relevant social and political topics and it was in #85-85 (VF/NM $160) that one of the most controversial story-lines in comics took place. It was revealed that Speedy was addicted to heroin and the cover of #85 (Aug/Sep 1971) actually shows Speedy in the process of having injected – a ground-breaking move by DC.

Despite the strong, relevant story-lines and dynamic artwork by Neal Adams, the title was cancelled with #89 (Apr/May 1972 VF/NM $110) leaving Green Arrow to take up the all-too familiar back-up story role – this time in Action Comics starting with #421 (Feb 1973 VF/NM $15) – as well as continuing his appearances in Justice League of America where he had started a relationship with Black Canary. The Green Lantern/Green Arrow title was re-launched with #90 (Aug/Sep 1976 VF/NM $26) and Green Arrow remained there until Green Lantern went solo with #123 (Dec 1979 VF/NM $12). A quick switch to World’s Finest sees Green Arrow appear in #259-284 but he has to leave when the title becomes a Batman/Superman team-up title. Further appearances in Detective Comics and Justice League of America for six months finally lead to Green Arrow getting his first solo series, albeit a four issue Mini-Series in May 1983, by writer Mike Barr and artist Trevor Eden.

Green Arrow: The Longbow HuntersThe series did not really fire the public’s imagination and Green Arrow meandered along for another four years until he appeared in another Mini-Series, the hard hitting three-issue prestige format “Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters” (May 1987 VF/NM $10). Writer/artist Mike Grell did not pull his punches. This was not the Green Arrow of old. He crosses paths for the first time with Shado, a female Yakuza assassin but more importantly after Black Canary is captured and badly abused, he is pushed past his breaking point and kills her assailant. As a result, Green Arrow begins a new stage in his comic career – one that now sees him as a main player in the DC Universe with his own ongoing series. For anyone interested in the Green Arrow character, The Longbow Hunters, is an important read.

The ongoing series begins where The Longbow Hunters ended with Mike Grell continuing the development of Oliver Queen’s character. What is of note was that the series was for mature readers allowing writer Mike Grell to continue his adult and more violent treatment of the Green Arrow character. After Grell left the title with #80 (Nov 1983 VF/NM $4) the storylines started to drift away from their mature reader themes and Green Arrow became more focused in the main-stream DC Universe. Issue #0 (Oct 1994 VF/NM $3) introduces the character of Connor Hawke, who is later revealed to be Oliver’s son by Sandra Hawke, an old college sweetheart.

Before Grell left the main series he still had time to write “Green Arrow: The Wonder Year”, a four-issue Mini-Series that, amongst other topics, expands on the re-telling of Green Arrow’s origin begun by Grell in The Longbow Hunters. Two years after “The Wonder Year,” DC published yet another origin story in “Green Arrow Annual” #7 (Sep 1995 VF/NM $4) in which both Ollie and Connor were deemed ‘metahuman’ with the potential for super-powers.

At the same time as the Annual, in Green Arrow #100–101, (Sep-Oct 1995 VF/NM $10/$30) Green Arrow is killed while trying to prevent the detonation of a bomb by a group of eco terrorist. Connor adopts his father’s role and becomes a second Green Arrow and he remains the central character of the series, now written by Chuck Dixon, until it is cancelled with #137 (Oct 1998 VF/NM $15).

Green Arrow QuiverConnor Hawke had his own fan following but most readers wanted Oliver Queen back and it was left to writer Kevin Smith to pull off the impossible and bring back Green Arrow from the dead. This he duly did in “Quiver” a ten issue storyline in a new ongoing Green Arrow series that debuted with #1 in April 2001 (VF/NM $16). It turns out that Hal Jordan returned Oliver to life – but without a soul. The soul is eventually returned and Green Arrow is alive and whole again. The Quiver story arc is well worth a read! As well as bringing Green Arrow back to life, #2 (May 2001 VF/NM $7) introduces the character of Mia Dearden, a former prostitute on the streets of Star City. Mia eventually took the name Speedy and became Green Arrow’s new side-kick. What she is best known for though is being one of the few super-heroes with HIV due to her early days in prostitution.

The series continues until #75 (Aug 2007 VF/NM $4) during which time, Green Arrow plays a key role in DC’s “Identity Crisis” (2004) storyline, helping to investigate the murder of Sue Dibny, the wife of Ralph Dibny the Elongated Man. The month after the series is cancelled, writer Andy Diggle provides yet another version of Green Arrow’s origin in the six issue Mini-Series “Green Arrow: Year One” – as if we had not had enough “origin” stories already!

In spite of all this frenzied activity Green Arrow somehow manages to find time to marry Black Canary in the “Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special” #1 (Nov 2007 VF/NM $5). But there had to be a twist! Black canary kills Green Arrow on their honeymoon as he attacks her. This shock ending leads into a “Green Arrow/Black Canary” ongoing series where it is revealed that Black Canary killed an impostor and the real Green Arrow had been kidnapped by Amazons. It could only happen in comics or EastEnders!

As if Green Arrow had not been through enough in his checkered comic career he is turned into a Black Lantern during DC’s huge cross-over event of 2009, “Blackest Night and, surviving that, he then finds himself putting an arrow through the head of the Justice League villain, Prometheus after he destroyed Star City, in the “Justice League: Cry for Justice” Mini-Series. He is tried for the murder, found not guilty and exiled from what remains of Star City.

Green Arrow Brightest DayBeing a Green Arrow fan – which you might have guessed from this article – I am pleased to say that Green Arrow was one of the chosen 52 titles. He is based in Seattle, has fallen out with Roy Harper and his relationship with Black Canary and his friendship with Hal Jordan have not happened – nor has he ever fathered any sons. He is also one of the main characters in The New 52! Justice League of America series that began in 2013.

What the future holds for Green Arrow, who knows? One thing is for certain, whatever the script writers have in mind the Emerald Archer will continue to play a central role in the DC Universe. The days of him being a character relegated to back-up features apprehending rather tame – and lame – villains are long gone. But even those early adventures with the Arrow car, the Arrow Plane, the Arrow Signal, the boxing glove arrows, are all part of the rich comic tradition of one of DC’s longest and most enduring super-heroes. I hope you can find time to read and enjoy – as I am doing – some of that rich history surrounding Green Arrow. You will not be disappointed.


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