There’s a lot going on on the cover of Green Lantern #86. Besides boasting an outstanding illustration by Neal Adams that would probably be even better remembered than it is if it hadn’t followed right on the heels of its instantly iconic predecessor, the cover also boldly heralds the inclusion within the comic’s pages of “an important message” from no less a personage than the 1966-73 mayor of New York City, John Lindsay — and proudly announces that Green Lantern has won the Academy Award for Best Comic. That’s a lot to take in — but don’t worry, we’ll get to it all, starting with the subject of Adams’ compelling cover image — the concluding installment of the groundbreaking two-part story focused on drug addiction that Adams and writer Denny O’Neil had begun in the previous issue, #85.
Here’s hoping that you read our post about that landmark issue back in June, because we’re going to jump right into #86 sans recap, just like O’Neil and Adams (aided and abetted by returning inker Dick Giordano) did half a century ago. But if you missed that piece — or would simply like to refresh your memory — just click on the link above, and take a few minutes to catch yourself up. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.
All done? All right, then, here we go…
Having reassured himself of his own righteousness, Green Arrow hails a cab to take him to the private airfield where “Speedy’s junkie friends” had led him and Green Lantern into a trap in the last issue. Ironically, no sooner has he left the scene when those same two addicts literally show up on his doorstep…
The storytelling’s a little iffy, here, as the previous installment had given us no reason to believe that Speedy’s buddies (who never receive names, incidentally) have any idea that he lives in GA’s apartment (nor, come to think of it, have we readers been expressly told that he does, up until now). But we’ll let that go. What’s actually more interesting (to your humble blogger, at least) is that the two young addicts know their friend by his superhero moniker Speedy, and not by his actual civilian name of Roy Harper. Granted, “Speedy” is easier to pass off as an ordinary nickname than, say, “Green Arrow”, but presumably it’s still relatively well-known in the two archer-heroes’ home base of Star City. It’s hard to believe that Roy would throw it around casually when he’s out of costume, no matter how strung out he might be at the time.
Discussing these two Green Lantern issues in a 1975 interview for Amazing World of DC Comics #4, Denny O’Neil observed: “We got a lot of negative reaction because we made a long-standing superhero an addict: Speedy. Sorry about the name, but there it was folks — I didn’t make it up. ” Well, maybe not, but O’Neil certainly did utilize the name — which, in the current context, is obviously suggestive of amphetamine use — at every opportunity throughout his story. Every single character consistently refers to Roy as “Speedy” (as does the third-person omniscient narrator), despite the fact that the closest Roy ever gets to suiting up in the ol’ red-and-yellow in either issue is on #85’s cover. I’d actually suspect that O’Neil didn’t even know that Speedy had another name — except that “Roy” does get used a total of two times, both very near the story’s end. As things stand, I think it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not O’Neil really was intentionally playing up the drug-related associations of Roy Harper’s heroic appellation,.
But, to return to our narrative… Finding Roy’s discarded “works” on the floor, the two addicts decide that they might as well take the opportunity to shoot up right then and there, using the heroin they received in the last chapter as a reward for helping entrap our two Emerald Crusaders. Uncertain exactly how much of the drug should be includes in a single dose (“I’m not used to fixin’ pure stuff! Usually it’s cut!”), the Asian-American youth makes his best guess:
Adams’ use of a psychedelic, “trippy” background for this somber tableau is somewhat curious — is it intended to be ironic? Whatever the artist’s intent, in combination with the high-contrast black and white rendering of the two figures, it makes for an unforgettably dramatic full-page splash.
Unable to put his mind at rest, Hal changes to Green Lantern and charges up his power ring, then flies across town to Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen’s place…
Admittedly, pretty much everything I know about the decomposition of corpses comes from entertainment media, but an hour or two seems too early for a dead body to start to smell of decay, at least enough for it to be detected by us ordinary humans. Maybe GL’s habitual use of his power ring has somehow had the side effect of granting him a preternaturally keen sense of smell, like a crime-sniffing dog? Sure, let’s go with that.
As Green Lantern once again flies off into the night, this time to search for Green Arrow and Speedy, GA himself arrives at the airfield hanger where he and GL were waylaid earlier that evening…
This was hardly the first time that Neal Adams had given us this sort of creative page layout, featuring panels enclosed within a larger image, but it was still rare enough to seem novel, whenever he did it.
We’d heard from Oliver in the opening scene of GL #85 that he and Dinah (Black Canary) Lance had had a big fight and presumably broken up; neither of the characters makes any mention of such problems in this issue, however, so perhaps Ollie was overreacting.
Arriving at the marina pier he was directed to by the hood at the airfield, Green Arrow finds that the only boat docked there is an enormous yacht. He suspects he may have been given a bum lead; but before he can do anything about it, he’s jumped by the same two dope dealers whom he and Green Lantern confronted in #85:
As a rule, Green Arrow tends to take a lot of lumps in this series; but O’Neil and Adams really let him have it in these two issues, perhaps as karmic retribution for his behavior towards Roy.
In the same Amazing World of DC Comics interview we referenced earlier, Denny O’Neil noted:
…there was one point that we were trying to be subtle about, and we were so subtle nobody saw it. In the cocktail party scene we implied a condemnation of alcohol addiction, too, but nobody evidently paid much attention to that.
The boat carrying Saloman and his guests quickly departs from shore, heading for a fun-in-the-sun weekend on the Caribbean which, in reality, is a cover for heroin smuggling — as we learn from some expository dialogue delivered by the two hoods who’ve been left behind on the pier to dispose of Green Arrow. Speaking of which….
This near-wordless sequence is a prime example of another of Neal Adams’ trademark visual storytelling devices; for me, it’s also always been the most memorable scene in the whole issue.
Out in the Caribbean sea, Saloman takes temporary leave of his partying guests; sailing to a nearby shore via a small motorboat, he proceeds from there to the local offices of Hooper Pharmaceuticals, Inc….
Having Green Lantern be the member of the duo who goes a little crazy on the bad guy, and Green Arrow the one who cautions restraint, is an obvious reversal of how things usually work in this series; I believe it’s intended to underscore the impact that the events of this story have had on GL, who was depicted as being painfully naïve about drugs in the beginning.
The story moves forward a week in time for its closing scene, which takes place at the funeral of Roy’s late friend, the young man who overdosed on page 4…
Is a week long enough for Roy to have completely gone cold turkey? Your humble blogger has even less expertise on the subject of opioid addiction and treatment than on the decomposition of human cadavers, but the 2020 update of the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s National Practice Guideline includes this statement: “With short-acting [opioid] drugs, such as morphine or heroin, withdrawal symptoms may appear within 8–12 hours of the last dose of the drug, reach a peak at 48–72 hours, and clear after 7–10 days.” (I should note that the same document cautions: “Given the high rate of relapse, opioid withdrawal management on its own, without ongoing pharmacotherapy, is not an effective treatment for opioid use disorder and is not recommended.” In other words, don’t try this at home, folks — at least not before consulting a qualified health care professional.)
I’m sure you noticed that Speedy finally gets called by his given name on these last two pages — and I believe it’s significant that the two people who use the name are Hal and Dinah, the two adults that Roy calls his friends, and whose behavior he contrasts to that of Oliver, his supposed father figure.
Interestingly, quite a bit of what happens in this final scene — including Roy’s punching Oliver — was evidently not in O’Neil’s original script. In response to a question about the ending in his Amazing World of DC Comics interview, the writer said:
Well… it’s not exactly as I wrote it. Let it charitably go at that. And it was not changed by the editor, or the publisher.
I disapprove of the implied conclusion of that story. What’s implied is that a punch in the mouth solves everything.
Neal Adams gave his side of the story in a 1996 interview for Comic Book Marketplace #40:
The script, as originally written, has Speedy basically telling GA he beat the habit by himself. GA says, “Good boy,” and they walk off together.
I read this and thought, no … what has changed? Somebody had to learn something. GA had to learn some kind of lesson. He had to learn to respect this person that he had beat up at the beginning of the story. I felt the strongest possible climax was necessary, considering how we started the story. I made my feeling perfectly clear to Denny, that I thought his ending was anti-climactic, but he let me know, basically, it was fine as is.
Well, I thought it was important enough to bring it up to the editor, so I wrote two extra pages where Speedy punches GA back, lets him in on his pain, and then splits.* GA, the father figure, knows the kid’s right and realizes that he [GA] was an ass. This ending made all the sense in the world to me. I brought the pages to [editor] Julie [Schwartz] and said, “I honestly think this is how the story ought to end.” He read them and said to go ahead and do it.
I can see both sides, honestly. On the one hand, the original ending, as described by Adams, does sound rather anti-climactic, in that it seems to let Oliver off the hook a little too easily. On the other hand, I sympathize with O’Neil’s objection to the implied message in Adams’ revised version that “a punch in the mouth solves everything” — though I also have to acknowledge the irony of that statement in the context of discussing a comic book story in the superhero genre, where the quoted principle is often literally true. In the end, it’s regrettable that the two creators weren’t able to work out a compromise that satisfied them both before the book went to press — perhaps Roy could have read Oliver the riot act without slugging him? — but the ending we have is the one we have to judge, obviously, and as imperfect as it may be, I believe it holds up pretty well.
One thing that both endings evidently had in common is Roy’s getting clean and walking off — maybe into the sunset, and maybe not, but definitely into the next issue of Teen Titans –which would have been #36, released in September, 1971. Right?
Well, maybe not. In 1971, DC still didn’t evince much concern with line-wide continuity, as a rule; certainly, there was no company policy mandating it. For that reason, I suspect that none of the members of the creative team behind GL #85 and 86 — including editor Julius Schwartz — consulted with either the current writer on Titans, Bob Haney, or the book’s editor, Murray Boltinoff, regarding the plan to put one of that series’ headliners through a drug addiction storyline. And even if they did, Haney and Boltinoff evidently ignored them (just as they tended to ignore other writers’ and editors’ stories in other books they worked on together, such as Brave and the Bold and World’s Finest). From issue #36 on to the end of the original run of Teen Titans — which came with #43, published in November, 1972 — there was no mention whatsoever of Roy Harper’s recent travails.
In 1976, however, DC revived Teen Titans — and at least some members of the title’s new creative team (which included fans-turned-pro writers Paul Levitz and Bob Rozakis) had somewhat more concern for continuity, even if the company as a whole remained noncommittal on the subject. And so we got a scene referencing Speedy’s drug problem, which clearly indicated that the relevant events in Green Lantern had taken place after TT #43, despite having been published a year and a half earlier.
Since then, of course, Roy Harper’s history of addiction has been a fundamental part of his backstory, surviving through DC’s myriad of retcons and reboots. In the hands of skilled writers, it’s added depth to his characterization, and allowed for sensitive treatment of the theme of living in recovery. (Unfortunately, not every writer who’s taken up the topic has been equally skilled in handling it; but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.)
Moving on from GL #86’s lead story to one of the other matters promoted on the cover: DC couldn’t wait to share the news of Green Lantern‘s success at the very first awards ceremony held by the Academy of Comic Book Arts (ACBA) — and while they evidently couldn’t spare the space for the full-page house ad (illustrated by Neal Adams) that ran in some other late-August DC comics, which honored the company’s full slate of winners, a goodly portion of the real estate of this issue’s letters column was devoted to GL‘s triumphs:
We’ll have more to say about these awards next month — for now, I’ll just note that while the ceremony wasn’t a complete sweep for DC, it came pretty damn close.
And now, the Honorable John V. Lindsay, Mayor, New York City:
If the name Marc “Iggy” Iglesias rings a bell, it may be because you read our blog post about Green Lantern #84 a few months back. There, we discussed how Mr. Iglesias, an executive who’d arrived at DC in the wake of the company coming under new corporate ownership in 1967, allowed his likeness to be used for the character “Mayor Dr. Wilbur Palm” (a disguised alias of the villain Black Hand), to the extent that his actual photo was used on the cover.
The only other observation I have to make about Hizzoner’s letter is that despite the way DC frames it here — “An Important Message for YOU!” — none of its content is actually addressed to this comic book’s readers. Rather, the bulk of it is directed to DC’s representative Iglesias, congratulating the company on making this effort. Even the indented section, framed by Lindsay himself as his message to “young people”, discusses those very young people in the third person. It’s almost as though the mayor had no idea what to say to Green Lantern‘s audience beyond “drugs are bad”.
In retrospect, I guess we should be grateful that Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams had a few ideas to convey beyond that simple sentiment.
For the first “bigger & better” 25-cent issue of Green Lantern, Julius Schwartz had reprinted a story from Hal Jordan’s early Silver Age years. For the second, he reached quite a bit further back into the DC archives:
“The Icicle Goes South”, written by Robert Kanigher and illustrated by Alex Toth, was, if I’m not mistaken, the first original Golden Age Green Lantern story I’d ever seen. As such, my fourteen-year-old self probably found it an interesting curiosity, but little more than that, Today, I’m better able to appreciate the tale’s charms, especially the very early art by Toth (uncredited here, and I’m sure unrecognizable to me in 1971 as being by the same guy who’d much more recently drawn a number of horror-mystery stories in House of Mystery, Witching Hour, and Eerie that I’d thoroughly enjoyed) — though, if I’m going to be honest, it still seems at least a little incongruous to me, sitting just a few pages over from “They Say It’ll Kill Me… But They Won’t Say When!” Others, I’m sure, find it a nice palate cleanser after the heavy drama of that story, and that’s just fine. (To each their own, and all that.)
*I just realized that if we take Adams’ statement that he “wrote [the] two extra pages” that end the story literally, it implies that he, rather than O’Neil, was the one who finally used the name “Roy” to refer to Speedy. Hmm…
Another great write-up, Alan! I first read this in the reprint series from 1983, around the time I turned 21. I was living with my mother at the time, after my parents had broken up on rather bad terms in 1982 and both my parents were heavy drinkers — dad usually got drunk at bars, while mom got very drunk at home and sometime in 1983, she went to dad’s home (in Navy housing in Mountain View, CA; wherein my entire 5 member nuclear family had moved to in 1981 before we gradually dissolved) and went on a destructive, drunken rampage, terrifying my dad’s new wife and my brother’s very pregnant wife (my brother, 10 months younger than me, was in Air Force bootcamp at the time). During my high school years, I was an extreme introvert, didn’t hang out with anyone at all. But by 1983, I’d been working at a pizza restaurant for a year and occasionally hung out with some of my co-workers after work, and they were very much into the drug scene. We were all in our late teens or very early 20s at the time, and it was hanging out with them that I first partook of smoking the “evil weed” — previously, I’d never smoked at all. I never, however, progressed to any heavier drugs and, perhaps fortunately, no one ever attempted to “turn me on” to them. I was wary of them but under certain circumstances may have given in to temptation. I’d also seen very bad behavior by my parents resulting them from having taken too much of a perfectly legal “drug”, alcohol. I had no desire to lose control like I’d seen them do. So this story, as well as Denny O’Neil’s more recent run on Iron Man, in which Tony Stark really went into the deep end of alcoholism, really hit home for me.
I can very much understand Neal Adams’ thinking in changing the final scene. Reading it made me feel uncomfortable, and I’m sure Adams intended that discomfort. I certainly didn’t see it as an intent to show that a punch to the jaw solves everything, more of a venting of emotion by Roy in the way he had been brought up by the very mentor he punched, and in a way Oliver Queen himself often expressed outrage, as in the beginning of the mag. And as I’d seen my parents occasionally behave, both drunk and sober. As to my co-workers? Over the years I knew them, I never saw their behavior go so off the rails as to seriously endanger their lives or get into serious trouble, although the chance was always there, just as it was with my parents and their drinking. After the incident at my dad’s house, dad declined to press charges and my mother spent two weeks in the hospital undergoing alcoholism treatment. After marrying my stepfather in 1984, she wound up checking herself back in the hospital in1985 for another month of treatment and never drank alcohol again for the remainder of her life (she died in 2014, at age 70).
As to O’Neil using Roy’s nom de guerre Speedy throughout the tale, I’d guess that Denny knew his real name but purposely used Speedy, maybe in part as a bit of a joke for anyone familiar with the reference to certain drugs as “speed” but perhaps also to indicate that when Roy was with his drug buddies, he didn’t feel inclined to keep his alter ego a secret. He wasn’t on an underground assignment to spy on them, he was one of them! It was seemingly a perfect opportunity for O’Neil and Adams to do such a story with a relatively minor character who just happened to have been around for much of the previous 30 years and so certainly wasn’t obscure to many comics fans but wasn’t nearly as high profile as Robin, and I’d presume that if they had tried to do such a story in which Robin was the junkie, DC would not have allowed it. But Speedy? That very name pretty much begged for this sort of story to be written about him by a creative team in a series purposely dealing with various social issues. Overall, a good story, with some points that remain relevant to this day, IMO. Fifty years later, people still struggle with racism, depression, alienation, and drug and alcohol addiction. Perhaps all parts of the human condition that will never entirely go away but should not just be ignored and worth some reasonably intelligent exploration of even within the pages of a “funny” book.
LikeLiked by 5 people
That’s a very valid point, that if Roy is punching Ollie in the face, it can be regarded at least partly as learned behavior, i.e. Roy is doing exactly what his father figure taught him was appropriate. The dialogue on that last page emphasizes that Roy recognizes that he and Ollie are very similar people: “He’s kinda dumb… in a lotta ways… I’m like him a lot!”
LikeLiked by 3 people
I knew nothing about drugs in the 1970’s and still don’t know much about them today. Growing up in an overly-protective, extremely religious environment, I was taught that not only were drugs wrong, they were a “sin,” and apparently I took that label seriously back in the day (it has no real meaning for me now, strangely enough). Regardless, this particular story was about as subtle as a nuclear blast, but given that O’Neill and Adams were preaching largely to 14 years old such as myself, I suppose that heavy-handed approach was necessary.
Looking back on it today, I find it interesting and extremely accurate that Ollie’s first reactions to his discovery of Speedy’s drug problem is one, to punish him, as if he alone is to blame for what’s happened to him and two, to quickly absolve himself of any responsibility for his ward’s dilemma (by the way, has anyone ever met a “ward” in real life? I never have. I guess rich people had wards and poor people had “foster kids.” Semantics), before leaving to take out his anger on the people who sold Speedy the junk and ignore the more difficult issue of how to help the boy deal with the more complicated problems that led him to addiction in the first place. Heavy-handed it may be, but I think this section of the story is particularly well-written and realistic in depicting Oliver’s reaction to something he’s not prepared to deal with.
The rest of the story (because again, our audience is 14) is predictably preachy, over-the-top and melodramatic. Characters speak to one another in terms that are overly expositional and explanatory and cover up many of the underlying issues that O’Neill undoubtedly felt (perhaps rightly so) would fly right over the heads of his target audience. As for the “punch heard round the world” at the end, I’m fully on Adams’ side with this one. Speedy reacted to Ollie’s callous treatment exactly the way Oliver had taught him to respond to such things and the punch itself seemed to be an indication that even though the comic was over, the problem wasn’t solved and perhaps, never would be.
Artisitically, Adams is at the top of his game here and the art is dynamic and passionate. I felt the panel depicting Junkie #1 bending down over Junkie Soo (his mother’s last name and the closest we get to a name for the poor kid himself) was incredibly well-done and effective, as was the page where the panels were arranged inside Hal’s head. It’s clear here that, while Kirby may be the “King” of comics’ artists, Neal Adams was the most gifted artist working in the medium at that time.
As for the back-up story, I’ve never known much more about the Alan Scott GL than that his weakness to wood was even more stupid than Hal’s weakness to yellow and everything I know about Icicle, I learned in the first season of the CW’s Stargirl show in which the Golden Age villain is the Big Bad. Sorry/not sorry.
Whatever else you may say about the GL/GA series, and god knows there’s plenty to say and much of it hasn’t aged very well (though the problems they discuss have none of them ever really gone away), this was the moment comics showed just what kind of powerful tool they could be in informing kids about the world in which they live. Kudos to Adams and O’Neill and Schwartz for taking the time to show us all.
LikeLiked by 3 people
I own the whole GL/GA series, as well as the four backups O’Neil and Adams subsequently did in the Flash. How many of you knew that Neal Adams’ first Green Lantern cover was not #76, but #63?
#86 is another landmark issue. Likewise, that finale by Adams was perfect. He was quite correct. His occasional photo background never felt like a cheat, but added even more of a gritty, urban cityscape feeling to the proceedings.
Neal Adams’ college of heads on the cover is classic, but not his first. He had a similar cover design in 1967 on his first Deadman outing in Strange Adventures #207, also very effective and iconic.
I suppose the first such cover in comics was Mac Raboy’s Master Comics #41 in 1943:
LikeLiked by 1 person
I picked this issue up off the rack. I had only recently gotten into reading super hero comics beyond Superman and Batman (both of whom I’d seen on TV). I was only eight at the time, so some of the imagery hit pretty hard, such as the guy overdosing. I was really taken by the story and, even more, the art.
Looking at it 50 years later, I agree with Roy punching Oliver. That’s pretty much an “Ollie” solution to most of his issues at the time, so it seems like something that Roy would do and that Ollie would appreciate after the fact.
I re-read the series last summer and although I was a Denny O’Neil fan for most of my comic reading career (DC era anyway), the whole GL/GA series now seems to be pretty heavy-handed at times, as he just pounds his points over your head over and over. I didn’t get that the first time around, but it’s loud and clear now. This arc was not as bad as some of the earlier ones.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I try not to Denny-grate (ouch!) his writing, because it was a vital transition from the kiddie fare of post-E.C. era, Code-approved comics of the silver age (especially at DC) to more mature writing that came along in subsequent decades. So I am very forgiving of Len Wein’s purple prose in the Wrightson-drawn Swamp Thing issues for the same reason: he was a young man who was reaching for a level of literacy that DC was not really attempting in the mainstream (though some of the war books had some powerful themes that were in stark contrast to the super-hero fare DC offered at the time). I have seen some young fans cringe at dialogue in Denny O’Neil’s Batman scripts of the early ’70s, despite stellar art from Adams & Giordano. And these same stories (the original Ra’s al Ghul saga, for instance) were quickly considered classics. Can you ‘hear’ Batman today saying, “Can it, sonny boys.”? And yet he did in #232.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Yeah, there was still a bit of a journey to go in writing more naturalistic dialogue in comics in 1971. There were certainly improvements from, say, 1960. O’Neil at least helped lead the way at DC in adopting Lee’s tactic of making dialogue particular to each character so that they didn’t all speak in the same manner and thereby giving them more distinct personalities. Since Lee was essentially starting the Marvel Universe from scratch with FF #1 (albeit with elements of the long defunct Timely & Atlas eras to be eventually incorporated into it), what he was doing with characters’ speech patterns seemed fresh compared to what else was out there. O’Neil’s efforts would have seemed odd compared to what had been standard at DC for decades. Neither matching realistic speech patterns but edging a bit closer, IMO. I think Alan Moore got the closest in mainstream comics.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Even though Warren wasn’t publishing super-hero fare, in 1974-78 there were some powerhouse scripts written by Bruce Jones, Budd Lewis, Bruce Bezaire, Jim Stenstrum, Greg Potter, and others which were far ahead of anything you would find at Marvel or DC. Of course, by that point Warren was after an older readership as well.
Hmmm… I’ve been doing a good bit of reading in the Warrens of that period lately, Chris A, and while there is indeed some excellent writing, there’s also some fairly atrocious stuff, in my opinion. In any event, I wouldn’t say that, as a whole, the writing at Warren was “far ahead” of what the best writers at Marvel and DC (esp. Englehart and Gerber) were turning out at that time.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Of course, some of them, like Bruce Jones, wrote for Warren and for Marvel mags like Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction at the same time. Ditto Archie Goodwin at Warren and the short-lived Marvel mag Thrilling Adventure Stories.
I thought that this was a great conclusion to the story. Unlike the previous issue with the ridiculous plot device of injecting the heroes with drugs and leaving them for the police to arrest them, everything about this issue rings realistic to me. I thought that the overdose death was strongly and chillingly presented (and realistic–if only college baskeball superstar Len Bias had read this issue as a kid he might not have died in almost identical fashion fifteen years later, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-06-25-sp-20106-story.html).
I’m OK with Speedy’s uh speedy recovery from Cold Turkey as I’ll give D.C. some slack so that Speedy would be able to be at the funeral of his friend. The issue does give the reader some idea of how terrible and painful the process is (albeit in a minimal way). If it weren’t for the stated conflict between O’Neil and Adams about the ending, I never would have seen anything controversial about it. To me while re-reading it (and I am pretty sure I likely felt this way when reading it orginally in 1971), the message I got was that Speedy punched Arrow in the face as payback for Arrow hitting him in the face on page 1. Apart from the physical nature of the punch, Arrow hit Speedy when he was down and ill. To me, the punch meant what Speedy said it meant–GL and Dinah helped Speedy to get off drugs while GA just hit him and wrote him off as a “lousy junkie” and like one of the “sniveling punks”. Basically, if the O’Neil ending stayed, I would read the punch as not solving a problem but Speedy telling GA that the two of them were through because GA’s solution was just a punch, insults and ostracization. It was a logical break in their relationship for a very good reason.
On the other hand, I think that Adams’ addition does make it better because Speedy tells GA that he hit him so that Speedy could share the pain that he and other addicts feel. Speedy then accuses GA of attacking the symptom and not the disease and says that addicts need help before they kill themselves, not to be demonized and shunned. This is a message to those that looked at all junkies as criminals and not victims, a strong and worthwhile message to be sure.
The John Lindsay letter is humorous or rather D.C.’s ballyhooing of it is. It’s pretty obviously a form letter written by staff (despite the personal address of Iggy) and, as Alan points out, in no way directly addresses the readers as D.C. claims. Actually, D.C. continued to be two faced (no character pun intended) about it’s “relevant issue issues”. It was always willing to tout the awards it won for this issue and for other O’Neil/Adams work, but were they so firmly committed to the relevant approach enough to ensure continuity in its other books on Speedy’s addiction? Or to encourage the approach in other D.C. books? Or to make GL/GA a monthly? Nope.
I don’t remember if I wrote this in a comment to another blog post, if I have I apologize. While I always read both D.C. and Marvel books, I always remembered that my liking of Marvel books to be far superior to that of D.C. However, in re-reading books on their 50th anniversary, I’ve discovered to my surprise that while Marvel books did tend to be much more memorable and to my liking in 1968 and 1969, after Jack Kirby left and Stan Lee began to tune out, there was very little in Marvel that really captured my interest and memory (exceptions: Harlan Ellison’s Jarella story and the Kree Skrull War, plus Spidey getting six arms, which to be honest is more memorable to me in the idea more so than the implementation). No wonder D.C. won so many awards. In 1970-71 my interest was primarily Kirby’s Fourth World and any project worked on by O’Neil and/or Adams.
As usual, as for the Icicle story, if I read it at all in 1971, I skimmed through it quickly. Thinking about it now, I think one of my reasons for my hostility to the reprints is that the artwork was so different than what I considered to be the superior artwork of what was then the present.
Another great blog post Alan. Looking forward to reading your recent Marvel blog posts and making comments.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Enjoyed reading your outlook on this story, Stu. I was a Marvel junkie myself as a kid, although my collecting didn’t really go into high gear until 1973. Of what I’ve read of Marvel’s output from 1970 through 1972, however, not much was really memorable although there were at least a few highlights. I think as new writers came in, got their feet wet and significantly expanding on the framework of what Lee, Kirby and Ditko had established, and with fresh perspectives, there were more memorable stories later in the ’70s. This run by O’Neil & Adams itself works that way for what earlier creators and chroniclers of Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Speedy had done, taking the characters in directions John Broome or Mort Weisinger may never have imagined when they wrote the earliest stories featuring Hal and Oliver, etc. The superhero comics audience of 1971 was different from that of 1961 in many respects. Even as an 8 year old kid in 1970, when I read reprints of DC stories from a few years earlier, they seemed somehow too old-fashioned even if they might have seemed new & exciting to 8 year old kids reading them when the stories within were on the racks for the first time. On the other hand, there are comics stories that depending on the art and strength of the writing, I think hold up very well even decades after they were first published. GL & GA # 86 is one of those that I think still holds up pretty well even a half-century afterwards (and I first read it as a reprint in the 1980s).
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks frednotfaith2. I agree with all of your comments and, unlike one of the other commenters here, don’t find this book to be too heavy handed at all.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Another great post, Alan.
I’ve long held the opinion that “The Demon Within” in HOUSE OF MYSTERY 201 was DC’s most horrific story prior to the advent of Alan Moore, but this issue does give it a run for its money. Pages 4 and 18 are burned into my memory. Some may call these issues heavy-handed, but they were and are powerful.
Count me in as someone who appreciates the Adams ending. I never saw Roy’s punch as a solution–I saw it as anger and frustration, and it seems very real to me. So does Ollie’s rationalization he isn’t to blame, although I am sure I accepted his reasoning at face value when I was a kid.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I liked the O’Neil/Adams GL/GA, particularly #76 and #89 and the GA story by Elliot S! Maggin in # 85, but many of those stories got preachy in a way that weakened the story.
As much as I admire the creators for having the guts to do the story in 1971, it does not land, although it is miles beyond what most people were doing with this kind of story then.
Still, it was one hell of an experiment.
LikeLiked by 1 person