20 April 2010

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Star City, Part XIX: Showcase Presents The Green Arrow, Volume One

Comic trade paperback, 527 pages
Published 2006 (contents: 1958-69)

Borrowed from the library
Read March 2010
Showcase Presents The Green Arrow, Volume One

Writers: Dave Wood, France "Ed" Herron, Robert Bernstein, Jerry Coleman, Bob Haney, Gardner Fox, John Broome, Dick Wood, George Kashdan, Bill Finger, Jack Kirby
Artists: Jack Kirby, Roz Kirby, George Papp, Lee Elias, Mike Sekowsky, Bernard Sachs, George Roussos, Neal Adams

This volume collects every Green Arrow comic printed between 1958 and 1969 (including those in The Green Arrow) in black and white. Though a nice idea, such an undertaking quickly reveals that these old Silver Age comics were never designed to be reprinted, as they quickly grow stale and repetitive: there are some fifty-nine comics of 6-7 pages here, all of them ending with Green Arrow and Speedy being resoundingly smug. The writing is by a variety of folks, but Lee Elias provides the majority of the art, which is good, aside from the fact that I want to punch his "cherubic" Speedy in the face.

There's a weird number of stories about Native American tribes who still practice "the old ways"; I'm assuming this is because obviously all Indians practice archery, so our hero fits right in. What makes this even weirder is that in "The World's Worst Archer!" we learn that Speedy used to live with an old-ways Indian tribe... a fact never mentioned before or since, though it would have been relevant on any number of occasions. Later stories are a little bit more sensitive towards this, though "The Wrath of the Thunderbird" has a character unquestioningly assert that the reservation system has done nothing but good for Native Americans. Also weird is this volume's depiction of women in the person of the lovely Miss Arrowette, whose arrows are of course all feminine (the hairpin arrow, the powder-puff arrow, the lotion arrow, and so on), but can't cut it because crime-fighting's too dangerous for a woman. Right, Oliver-- I see that it's not too dangerous for your thirteen-year-old ward. She returns a couple times, though, and eventually gets a story where she's able to hold her own and help GA in solving a case, rather than hinder him.

The best stories are the ones that actually have some room to breathe, and thus include a plot-twist or two. Toward the end of his run, Green Arrow began receiving ten-page stories, the strongest of which was the nicely surreal "The Land of No Return". Even better, however, were his appearances in The Brave and the Bold alongside the Martian Manhunter and Batman. My favorite story was "The Senator's Been Shot!", which sees both Oliver Queen and Bruce Wayne contemplating giving up their secret identities-- Oliver so he can use his financial wealth to do good, and Bruce so he can go into politics. They don't, of course, but it's nice to see the characters wrestling with any kind of moral quandary, and Neal Adams's fantastic art and layouts make what could have been a still-somewhat-conventional story fairly edgy in tone. Coming at the end of the book and the end of the Silver Age, the changes this story brought were a long time in coming.

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