The New Adventures of “Robin Hood”

Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) joins the ranks of DC characters with their own titles, such as Plastic Man, Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter), Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick), The Flash (John W. Shipp), Steel (Shaquille O’Neal), and Static

As I’m preparing to watch the second episode of the brand new CW series, Arrow, I find myself bristling with excitement about it. Is it because it’s another highly anticipated presentation of the superhero world? Eh, not really. I have SyFy’s Alphas for that. I’d have to say it’s because this is a bit of new ground for DC. After all, it is VERY rare that they depart from anything involving Batman or Superman – especially when it comes to live action. When compared to Marvel, who has premiered series and movies which star various characters from within their lineup including the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Blade, Captain America, the Punisher, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Nick Fury, Black Panther, Men in Black, and of course, Marvel’s flagships – Spider-Man, & the X-Men. And with the exception of Black Panther,  they’ve all been revived or redone in some manner. However, when you look at DC, only 7 heroes have had their own titles and (at least, initially) have had no ties to DC’s Superman/Batman breadwinners – Plastic Man, Captain Marvel (in Shazam), Wonder Woman, the Flash, Static (in Static Shock), Green Lantern, and now Green Arrow (in Arrow). And out of them, only Wonder Woman & Green Lantern have had a second chance beyond cameos (although the Green Lantern animated series premiered around the same time as the movie).

For the record, DC has had other series & movies that don’t involve Superman and/or Batman, but they’ve all been spin-offs in some matter – Supergirl is Superman’s cousin. Steel was a character who donned his uniform in homage to Superman (during the “Death of Superman” comic arc). Birds of Prey is a comic series based on a Gotham without Batman and stars the original Batgirl & Batman’s daughter. Krypto the Superdog, despite not having Superman, is about Superman’s dog. Teen Titans & Young Justice are both groups led by Batman’s protege, Robin. Not only was the Legion of Superheroes a [comic] spin-off of Superboy, but the animated series starred a young Superman as well. Even the recent Aquaman pilot was a spin-off of the recent Superman-based series, Smallville. So all in all, this is a pretty big step for DC since Green Arrow so far has only had  brief cameos in animated series like Justice League Unlimited and was a supporting character on Smallville for two seasons.

(FYI: The next paragraph is merely presumption. I am not a DC\WB\CW insider.)

I personally believe that this series was an answer to the highly requested Smallville-like take on Batman by Smallville fans, whether it was a Batman cameo or his own series. However, considering the fact that Christopher Nolan had just finished a Batman movie series, it made little sense to create a brand new series around the same concept. BUT, producers must have liked the idea of a new Smallville-ish Batman-like series, so why not use the other powerless hero from a similar background (except with a Robin Hood-esque twist)…you know…despite the fact that he was already a regular character on Smallville. The main benefit of using this character is that it would allow the producers & writers to get dark with the series as the last few seasons of Smallville attempted to do.

Clockwise from top-left: Comic Green Arrow, Green Arrow in Justice League Unlimited, Stephen Amell in Arrow, and Justin Hartley in Smallville

For those who aren’t familiar with Green Arrow/Oliver Queen and haven’t seen Arrow or Smallville, Oliver Queen is more or less a modern day Robin Hood. While Robin Hood was purported to be a Crusade PoW of English nobility, Oliver Queen is the heir of an affluent family who gets marooned on a small island in the Pacific for 5 years. During that time, he hones his body to its optimum peak, mainly specializing in archery. Initially, he was a Batman clone, but was later developed into a champion of the poor & downtrodden in the 60’s.

As I stated before, I am fairly excited to see this new series. For one thing, unlike the early seasons of Smallville (and as Birds of Prey attempted to do), this series seems to be fairly dark. The first episode was somewhat vague as to where it was going, but the same could be said for many series. And as I said, it’s rare to see DC stray away from a Batman or Superman-based series. The television character so far seems somewhat thin with him being a spoiled rich playboy as he lands on the island, yet becoming a solid fighter of corruption upon his return. In the first episode, it almost seemed as though he does it for the adrenaline rush, but time will tell as the series goes on.

Comics: A Retrospective or How Smallville Made Me a Comic Fan

Horus exists. Oh boy, does it exist.

This past Saturday, on a whim, I decided to rewatch the pilot episode of the WB/CW’s super-hero series Smallville. I have actually seen it once before a couple of years back. I had downloaded it from Playstation Network because I remembered at some point that I had missed the first half of it when it originally aired in 2001. No matter what the haters will say about it, I will always appreciate Smallville since it’s the reason I officially started reading comics. I mean, I’d read comics before and I was semi-familiar with characters and storylines based on the movies and cartoons that I’d seen, but I’d never actually been to a comic store before. Despite that setback, I did actually have a few comics while growing up. I believe the count is at around 8 including an issue of Web of Spider-Man, a couple of issues of Horus: Son of Osiris, the comic adaptation of RoboCop 2, and about 4 issues of Fantastic Four. So why hadn’t I ever been to a comic store at that time? Well, to be honest, I didn’t know of any comic stores. Even though I’ve been a super geek all of my life, up until my sophomore year in high school, I was the only geek I knew. When you’re the only geek you know it could be INCREDIBLY difficult to meet other geeks, especially back in the Dark Ages of dial-up internet.

You see, for you young folks out there, in the dial-up era, being on the internet busied up the phone lines which means that to spend a lot of time on the internet, you had to either be a recluse (which I was, but my parents weren’t), or have a separate phone line (which was relatively expensive). Not only that, but we had to pay in minutes for internet time. Yes, this was at home.

A still from the aforementioned scene

Getting back on track, there are very few major events I can remember which inspire me, but this I remember. A good chunk of the first 4 seasons of Smallville love to do wink, wink, nudge, nudges towards Clark Kent’s future as Superman. In a specific first season episode of Smallville, an elderly woman is reading characters’ futures and at the very end of the episode, young Lex Luthor catches up to her and asks her to read his future. We’re instantly brought into her vision as she sees Lex Luthor casually browsing his Oval Office and creates a field of death with his Kryptonite hand. If you’re like me at the time & haven’t read any of DC’s comics or for whatever reason (I didn’t have cable) didn’t see Justice League Unlimited, you’re probably saying to yourself something along the lines of, “LEX LUTHOR AS PRESIDENT?! NONSENSE! WHAT AD WIZARD WOULD ELECT THAT MAD MAN PRESIDENT?!” So I did research. And much like Smallville‘s (as well as Justice League Unlimited and Lois & Clark‘s, in fact) portrayal of him, the modern Lex Luthor is both an ad wizard and a mad man, so his ambitions are not as obvious as they are in say, the Christopher Reeve movies. However, I still didn’t quite believe what I was reading on the Smallville forums (Wikipedia didn’t exist yet), so I decided I needed more proof. I looked up the nearest comic stores and decided to pay them a visit.

Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool

I ended up visiting Graham Cracker Comics, a small Chicago chain. I rifled through the Superman issues looking for proof of Metropolis flooding or Lex being the PotUS and was very surprised to find it all true. However, I was in for an even greater surprise when I discovered that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was reprinting their comic series. And to top it off, I was there just in time to discover that a cartoon I was a big fan of, Static Shock, was based on a comic and that comic was making a new limited run. Because of that, I wanted to find out more about the old Static comic series which apparently was originally published in the 90s.

(Trivia: the back wall of the pool house in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has the premiere covers of 4 Milestone comics, one of which was Static)

After discovering these things about Superman comics, I realized I didn’t want to have the wool pulled over my eyes like that again, so I tried to find a place to start and decided to start with the original Crisis on Infinite Earths from the 80s, which [was supposed to] cements the entire DC universe. That succeeded in getting me interested in the Legion of Super-Heroes and more parallel universe versions of comics. That lead me into reading Kingdom Come (GREAT story, by the way). Then Kingdom Come made me realize just how cool Batman is. Somewhere around then, I found The Death and Return of Superman and read that. Needless to say, I became a comic fiend, trying to read as much as financially possible (which wasn’t much). I finally found a nice balance in occasionally reading trade paperbacks and keeping up mostly with non-major comic titles. For example, the new popularity of The Walking Dead‘s tv series is strange to me since I actually started reading it about 3 years ago. But things I wear hipster glasses for are a whole new story.