Saturday, November 22, 2008

Green Lantern/Green Arrow #6

There is a strong misconception that quarter bins and dollar boxes are only filled with the junk books that no one would buy. If you are one of the misinformed masses that holds onto this belief, I have come to enlighten you. Some of the greatest comics ever written are laying in the cheap boxes right now and you just haven't realized why. They're reprints! From the Dark Phoenix Saga to Crisis on Infinite Earths, comics' greatest sagas can be found in the quarter and dollar boxes because they have been reprinted, collected, and sold in newer versions countless times. I want to look at a specific reprint that I grabbed out of a fifty cent box a while ago: Green Lantern/Green Arrow #6.

As soon as I saw this issue, I knew it was a must buy for a couple reasons. First, even though I have never read anything from this era of the old Green Lantern series, I have heard over and over how culturally relevant the series was and how they dealt with drug addiction, racism, and other problems in society way before any other comics would touch those subjects. These are milestone issues that are definitely worth reading just for the fact that they mark a shift in the history of comics. Second, I have come to enjoy the characters in the current iterations. Hal Jordan's adventures in the current Green Lantern series has become required reading for any DC fan due to the massive "Sinestro Corps War" event and the coming "Blackest Night." I also have developed a soft spot for Ollie Queen and the rest of the Green Arrow family. When I was younger, I hated Green Arrow. In my blatant Marvelite attitude, I wrote Green Arrow off as a blatant copy of Hawkeye and disregarded him as I did with the rest of DC comics. Now after being reintroduced to the character by the animated Justice League Unlimited and reading Green Arrow/Black Canary every month (due to the great Mike Norton on art duty), I now consider myself a Green Arrow fan.

After reading the book (which reprints Green Lantern #86-87 just so you know), the only thing that kept running through my mind is that I kept wondering what a kid in 1971 would have thought when they bought this at the store and brought it home. Like I said before, these issues deal with some heady material that may not be very accessible for every reader. Today, major titles are targeted to mature readers who can understand involved plots and big ideas, but in 1971, the issues that these issues brings up were not commonplace. For example, this issue includes the first appearance of John Stewart, the African American architect chosen to be the new Green Lantern of Earth. As soon as Stewart is presented, his views on racism are brought to the forefront as he fights with a racist cop. Today, the character has mellowed out, but in his first appearances, John Stewart was blatantly militant in his views on society. With that said, I doubt kids reading this when it originally hit store shelves would have connected with Stewart at all. His stark view of 1970's America, while very true, is not what kids are really ready to hear. As an adult reading this, I can see why writing about these topics is so important, yet so difficult since you don't want to alienate readers.

As I read, I also wondered how a young reader would respond to Green Arrow. To put it bluntly, Oliver Queen is an asshole. Speedy, his sidekick and adopted son, is an addict looking for help, so what does Ollie do? He gives Speedy a beatdown. Yes, you read that right. The very first splash page shows Ollie backhanding Speedy, knocking him to the floor, for being "a lousy junkie." In the end, it is Black Canary and Green Lantern, not Green Arrow (the only father figure Speedy has ever had), who help Speedy through his recovery. Green Arrow does not even apologize. Yes, he finds the people responsible for trafficking drugs into the city, but you never see any reconciliation between him and Speedy. What does that say to a little kid? I think (and hope) kids know that if someone is asking for help, you don't knock them out. Plus, what would the super liberal Green Arrow of today say to that. That really shows how the character has evolved through the years.

1 comment:

gfanrick said...

I'm very much not a DC guy, but you bring up some good points and make this story seem to be worth checking out. Keep 'em coming! (I'll be keeping an eye out for Marvel-related posts)