Throughout my fifty-four years of reading comic books, it’s hard for me to think of another cover that was as much of a pleasant surprise on first sight than Neal Adams’ cover for The Brave and the Bold #85. This goateed, grimacing tough guy, aiming an arrow out in the general direction of the viewer that didn’t look the least bit “tricky”, but rather looked quite deadly — this was Green Arrow?
The thing is, I actually already liked Green Arrow. Not that he was one of my very favorite characters, or anything like that; in fact, I’m fairly certain I’d never even read a solo tale featuring DC Comics’ Emerald Archer at this point, though that may have been mainly because I’d never really had the chance. (GA had lost his regular backup slot in World’s Finest in early 1964, a full year-and-a-half before I began buying comics; and though there’d been a few of his tales reprinted here and there since then, I’d missed them.) But I enjoyed seeing him in Justice League of America, perhaps at least in part because of his underdog status. While I generally favored JLA tales that focused on the team’s heavy hitters — Superman, Batman, etc. — I also appreciated those stories that allowed the “lesser” heroes their time in the spotlight, the way that Justice League of America #57 did for Green Arrow. I didn’t even mind all that much when the storytellers (writer Gardner Fox and artists Mike Sekowsky and Sid Greene, in this case) subjected the Battling Bowman to such silliness as the scene below, where GA, facing four armed criminals, takes the time to set up a trick shot because… it’s just more fun, I guess?
Trick shots and “tricky shafts”… that was Green Arrow as I knew him, in June, 1969. A guy who was pretty obviously an imitation of Batman (millionaire secret identity, teen ward/partner, themed cave, car, and plane, etc., etc.) with an overlay of Robin Hood. Nothing to dislike, really, but nothing to get too excited about, either.
Which is why the advent of Green Arrow a la Adams was such a shock. Even before cracking open the cover, this bearded badass was obviously going to be a drastic new take on a character that I and the rest of DC’s readership already thought we knew.
According to an interview Adams gave for the “Robin Hood” fansite in 2016, the artist wasn’t originally very excited when Brave and the Bold editor Murray Boltinoff informed him that the hero scheduled to be Batman’s co-star in the next issue was Green Arrow:
I was doing a series of comic books called Brave and the Bold, and I was told that the next character we were going to team up with Batman was Green Arrow. And of all the characters that I was teaming him up with, I kind of rebelled at that because as I told my editor Murray Boltinoff outside of the fact that he’s just a copy of Batman he’s a dull and boring character. And so Murray said “Well, you want to change him?” Ha, well sure. I said let’s try to get him away from what he was and see what we can do. So, my writer, Bob Haney, gave us the opportunity to change him to the extent we changed his costume. But you know, that was enough for me.
It was enough to get the ball rolling, at least, on the reinvention of a classic (if minor) Golden Age hero that would ultimately be seen as having had such an impact on the comic book field that, in 2016, comics writer, editor, executive, and historian Paul Levitz could write (for the San Diego Comic-Con official souvenir book): “In many ways, the Bronze Age began with Green Arrow.” If that’s indeed true, then surely BatB #85 is one highly significant signpost on the road leading from the Silver Age to the Bronze.
And it all started like this…
Of course, the Caped Crusader isn’t seriously hurt by this sudden, at-speed impact with a concrete overpass (he’s Batman, dammit) — but he is delayed long enough for the would-be assassins to make a clean getaway.
Oliver Queen’s “penthouse office” seems to be located in Gotham City itself, rather than Green Arrow’s accustomed stomping grounds of Star City — but then, why wouldn’t Queen Industries have offices all over the United States, or even the world? Also, in 1969 the location of Star City hadn’t yet been established as being on the Western Seaboard, so this isn’t necessarily the bi-coastal business enterprise it might first appear; the fictional Star City could have been right up (or down) the Eastern Seaboard from the equally fictional Gotham at this point in DC continuity. (Not that writer Bob Haney ever paid much attention to that kind of thing, anyway.)
Something that I’m sure I paid no attention to as an eleven-year-old reader, but makes me scratch my head today, is how the real estate project Oliver is bidding on is supposed to “save this state from bankruptcy”, no matter how big it is. At age 61, I’m still no expert on public finance, but I’m pretty sure that state governments usually spend money on construction projects, not take in money from them. I guess Haney may be referring to property, sales, and other tax revenue eventually realized off people and businesses relocating to “New Island”, but wouldn’t all that be years away? But, again, I’m no expert.
“…this new costume I had made up!” Oliver’s phrasing rather seems to beg the question: Just how does a superhero with a secret identity go about having a new outfit “made up” in the first place?
In the same 2016 interview quoted above, Neal Adams had this to say about his visual makeover of Green Arrow:
I realized that if Green Arrow was going to get away from being an imitation Batman – you know he had an Arrowcar, he had Speedy [Green Arrow’s sidekick]…. If we could get rid of that stuff and basically turn him into a modern-day Robin Hood, then well, you know it’s one thing to be an imitation Robin Hood which isn’t kind of bad, but a bad thing to be an imitation Batman.
He was blond-haired so that gave me the opportunity to give him a blond beard. I made his outfit be a little bit more of an archer’s outfit that I gave him leather protectors on his arms, I gave him a triple quiver so that it would mold to his back…
So, I made a character that I felt was more of a modern-day Robin Hood and that is what Green Arrow became.
Of course, the “modern-day Robin Hood” angle had been a part of Green Arrow since his debut — after all, you could hardly have an adventuring archer who ran around in a green tunic and tights, and sported a feathered green bycocket, and not evoke the popular image of Sherwood’s legendary outlaw. But Adams does manage to strengthen the visual identification through the changes he mentions (the beard, the arm protectors), as well as those he doesn’t (the laced leather jerkin, the excision of bright red from the costume’s color scheme in favor of several different shades of green). Interestingly, this more “historical” (or at least “authentic”) visual take on the hero brings him closer to a standard superhero look in at least one way — the new jerkin and shirt combo are more form-fitting than the archer’s former short-sleeved tunic.
On page 6, Adams cuts loose with some of the story’s most innovative panel layouts and audacious camera angles:
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Gotham…
After the debut of Green Arrow’s new look, this was the second largest surprise of the issue. While there’s a whole Bat-family of characters privy to Bruce Wayne’s secret these days, not to mention the members of the Justice League of America (and probably most of the rest of the greater superhero community), the list of folks who knew in 1969 that Bruce and Bats were one and the same was (allowing for some inconsistencies in individual stories, here and there) a pretty short one, comprised of Robin, Alfred, Superman, Supergirl, Jimmy Olsen (yes, really), and Deadman.
(That last name, of course had only been added to the list as of the previous summer’s Brave and the Bold #79; and as such is another product of the collaboration of Haney and Adams, who appear to have taken to this particular theme.)
Sure, it’s a pretty big coincidence that not only is Dr. Ed Cathcart already a good friend of both Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen, but that they’d also both confide in him regarding their careers as costumed crimefighters at the exact same time. But the first aspect isn’t too much of a reach, considering that Ed’s dad is a U.S. Senator, and thus likely to have frequently rubbed shoulders with wealthy donors, er, concerned citizens; and as for the second, Haney has already deftly set up each hero’s current dilemma prior to their bringing Ed into their business. This sort of thing, where each of the co-stars faces a personal problem that parallels the other’s, and both also relate to the “main” plot of the story, is a hallmark of several of Bob Haney’s best Brave and the Bold tales.
Oliver’s statement in the scene above about the “tremendous satisfaction” he garners from projects like “New Island” really has to be taken in tandem with his remarks on page 5 about “really helping humanity… on a big scale”, and even with the bit on page 4 about saving the state from bankruptcy, to get a complete picture of just what it is he’s balancing against his career as Green Arrow. Putting it all together, we can reasonably infer that Oliver Queen has set aside the profit motive, and is currently directing all his considerable investment capital towards projects he deems of benefit to society (though it has to be acknowledged that Haney could have made all this just a bit clearer).
On the yacht, Miklos Minotaur is demanding that Ed give him the lowdown on all of Bruce Wayne’s and Oliver Queen’s respective plans. Ed demurs, saying he’s just their pal and doesn’t know anything about their business or politics…
Another hallmark of many of Bob Haney’s BatB stories (and not just the best ones) is his introduction of flamboyant but generally non-super major crime bosses who are already well known to Batman and/or his co-star, though we readers have never seen them before (and, in most cases, never will again).
“Tricky shafts?” Not this Green Arrow.
The exit of Minotaur’s underground labyrinth ( “labyrinth”, “minotaur” — get it?) puts Bats and GA right below the bad guy’s cliff-side lair, where his interrogation of Ed Cathcart continues — until our heroes interrupt the proceedings, that is:
Now there’s a “trick shot” that actually makes sense. See, Silver Age DC Comics creators? It’s not that hard!
So much for Miklos Minotaur! But regular Brave and the Bold readers could rest assured that there’d soon be another nefarious crime boss to take his place in bedeviling Batman and/or his co-star, probably within the next couple of issues.
With Ed rescued and Minotaur apprehended, all that’s left is to get that dang “anti-crime” bill passed. (What’s in that bill, exactly? Your guess is as good as mine.) But, as the time for the vote arrives at last, its supporters on Capitol Hill fret over Sen. Wayne’s absence. Without his vote, the bill will almost certainly fail. Where the hell is Bruce Wayne?
When I first read this story as an eleven-year-old in 1969, I was sure that the guy in the foreground of the panel just above was supposed to be President Richard M. Nixon. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that this was very unlikely, as a sitting U.S. President would never be at the Capitol observing a Senate floor vote in person, today, of course, I know better. (Though I still think the dude looks a lot like Nixon.)
With the fall of Minotaur, and the Senate’s passage of the bill (whatever it is that it does), it’s proved to be a bad day for crime all around. Of course, Haney still has to wrap up the subplots concerning Bruce Wayne’s and Oliver Queen’s respective quandaries vis-a-vis their alter egos — and he’s got all of two-thirds-of-a-page left to do it in:
Pretty tidy, huh? All the way down to Ed Cathcart hypnotizing himself to forget our heroes’ secret IDs, which basically pushes the “reset” button to put everything back where it was before the story began. Oliver’s resolution is the only one of the two that actually involves a choice — Bruce is essentially handed a free pass in the form of Ed’s dad’s expected full recovery — and thus the only one that really works, dramatically speaking. Still, you’ve got to hand it to Bob Haney for accomplishing as much as he does with both plot and character development in 21.83 story pages.
And even though everything does get put back the way it was at the tale’s beginning, that “beginning” still includes Green Arrow’s new look. Brave and the Bold #85 unquestionably leaves behind a changed landscape as far as the Emerald Archer is concerned, even if that change technically takes place off-panel, before the tale itself gets underway.
DC’s major makeover of Green Arrow would ultimately involve more than just visual changes, of course. Before he could be cast as the liberal foil to the more conservative “space cop” Green Lantern in a groundbreaking series of stories starring the two heroes, his personality would see major modifications as well.
The conventional chronology of how this happened is that Neal Adams came up with Oliver Queen’s new look first, and then other people at DC — most notably Denny O’Neil, the then-current writer of Justice League of America (and future collaborator with Adams on “Green Lantern/Green Arrow”) were inspired to rework the bowman’s personality and motivations in ways that seemed to better fit the new look — and that brought him closer to the concept of a “modern-day Robin Hood” as well. As Adams told the Robin Hood fansite’s interviewer, back in 2016:
Essentially it was very clear that that character in Brave and the Bold was something that everybody liked. They just loved the character. I mean it was what are we going to do with this character? We have him, he hasn’t got a book,you know, let’s use him somewhere. So [DC editor] Julie [Schwartz] tried to use him, and then when the opportunity came for me to do the Green Lantern book which was on the verge of cancellation, Julie came up with the idea of teaming him up with Green Arrow.
That’s the standard story. The truth, however, seems to be a little more complicated than the conventional chronology suggests. For one thing, O’Neil had been writing Green Arrow in JLA on a pretty regular basis since taking over that series with issue #66; as of June, 1969, the hero had appeared in five out of seven of O’Neil’s Justice League stories (a fact which rather flies in the face of Bob Haney’s having Oliver state in BatB #85 that he hasn’t suited up as GA in so long that he’s “almost forgotten it”; but never mind). And from his very first go at the Battling Bowman, O’Neil was portraying him as something of a hothead, as well someone who was especially interested in helping ordinary people with less than planet-shattering problems, as per this scene from Justice League of America #66:
Asked about his apparent early affinity for Green Arrow by Michael Eury for The Justice League Companion (TwoMorrows, 2005), Denny O’Neil had this to say:
…He didn’t have his own regular book, and there was very little established about him. He was a character that I could kind of do with as I wished. And also, he was human scale, and I always get along better with those guys than the demigods.
O’Neil’s characterization of GA in JLA #66 predates BatB #85 by over half a year, and both Haney and Adams, not to mention their editor Murray Boltinoff, may not have been paying any attention — JLA, after all, was a Julius Schwartz title. And it would be entirely reasonable to conclude that O”Neil (and Schwartz) saw what had been done with Green Arrow in BatB once #85 came out, and saw how the hero’s new look could work with what O’Neil had already begun to do with developing his characterization, and were thereby inspired to make the further changes to GA’s modus operandi and milieu which would appear within JLA‘s pages a few months later.
That conclusion, however, may seem a little less obvious after one reads this editorial note, presumably by Boltinoff, that appeared in the letters column of Brave and the Bold #85:
“Because of a climactic upheaval in his personal life…” Boltinoff appears to be referencing the events which would indeed be “delineated in a forthcoming issue of Justice League of America” — namely #75 (Nov., 1969), in which O’Neil would relate how Oliver Queen loses his fortune, and his investment company, as a result of being framed for misusing Star City municipal bonds. What’s a little puzzling, however, is the suggestion that those events predate BatB #85 — and are in fact responsible for the differences in “the Ace Archer’s appearance” that readers have seen here, as well as for supposed, non-specified changes to his “behavior patterns (to use the head-shrinker’s phrase)”. That suggestion can’t really be squared with the facts at hand; after all, Oliver Queen obviously still has his fortune when “The Senator’s Been Shot!” opens, and retains it through the story’s end. And I think most readers would be hard-pressed to identify anything that GA does or says in this story (excluding his one comment about “this new costume”) that would have seemed at all strange coming from the clean-shaven guy in the red gloves and boots that Bob Haney had written about in a couple of earlier issues of Brave and the Bold.
Still, even if the relationship between BatB #85 and JLA #75 suggested here by Boltinoff is “off” in a cause-and-effect sense, his comment demonstrates that there already was a relationship between the stories before BatB #85 went to press. That’s quite significant, I think, in that it indicates that O’Neil and Schwartz had not only already worked out the general outline of the “vital development” regarding Green Arrow that was coming in Justice League of America, but had also shared that information — with Boltinoff, at least, if not with Haney or Adams — while the comic book slated to debut GA’s new look was still in production. Considering that JLA #74 — a comic which would indeed feature the Ace Archer, but still in his old costume, and minus any facial hair — wasn’t even out yet, and issue #75 wouldn’t be released until September, it speaks to a level of communication between two different editorial “houses” — even, perhaps, to a sort of synergy — that one doesn’t necessarily expect to find at DC Comics during this era. And it also reinforces the idea that the relationship between the two “halves” of Green Arrow’s epochal makeover — the “artistic” half and the “writing” half — was somewhat more complex than most historical accounts to date have indicated.
But, speaking of Justice League of America #74 — though Green Arrow wouldn’t yet have either his new look or his new lifestyle in place for that issue, it would nevertheless introduce a new factor to the archer’s life that would prove almost as important to his fictional future going forward. And to find out just what I mean by that, all you’ll have to do is check back in with this blog in about four weeks time. I hope I’ll see you then.
UPDATED 8/27/19 to add Supergirl and Jimmy Olsen to the list of folks privy to Batman’s secret ID in 1969, courtesy of Commander Benson’s comment below. Thanks again, Commander!