The Gold Standard #49

Beware the ideas of March!

Now the new bossman…old bossman….quasi-new-but-not-so-new-bossman, Mathan, pitched this idea. Do some sort of focus on some negative concepts…big deaths, betrayals, heartbreaking moments, and overall brutality. Sounds like it’s up my alley, right? Especially given the mood I’ve been in this week, and my overall feelings of…..Cry for Justice. Now let me say right up front that I do NOT like Oliver Queen as a tragic character. It doesn’t suit him. Is he a man-whore that constantly ruins his relationship with the only woman that will ever truly love him? Sure. Is he an unapologetic uber-liberal? You know it! Was he rich, then poor, then rich, then poor, then rich again? Mhmmm. He isn’t tragic, I mean, for fucks sake, his origin is that he fell off a boat and learned to use the bow to survive, then used it to stop drug runners (was it drug runners?) before returning home to be a rich, Robin Hood vigilante. The closest Ollie gets to tragic is walking out on his newborn son and baby’s mama rather than risk having to be a mature adult.

Ollie just isn’t tragic, and this makes tragedy feel out of place when used in his titles. He’s a social commentary, as defined by Denny O’Neal himself, and later with Mike Grell. He’s a superhero of the people that has no special gifts that could not be imitated by someone with determination and dedication. He’s not Spider-Man, or Captain America, or even Hal Jordan.

He can be a dark character, that’s fine. Grell explored that for years as Ollie stopped shooting boxing gloves and handcuffs and started shooting pointy metal blood drawing, potentially lethal arrow heads. Denny O’Neal has Ollie’s ward, Roy “Speedy” Harper be addicted to heroin as a way to show how absent of a mentor he had. Ollie was more interested in running around with Hal, or playing hide the arrow with Dinah, and his sidekick….his ‘son’, suffered from it. He turned to drugs, and it wasn’t Ollie who saved him. It was Dinah, the Black Canary. She was the one who detoxed Roy, who stayed with him and helped him get clean. Ollie couldn’t handle the responsibility, he ran off with Hal. That’s the story of Ollie’s life. Something that is entirely his own doing turns sour, and, rather than face it, he turns tail and runs like hell.

Ollie and Roy are rooted in reality, they’re normal guys with bows and arrows that, while the undeniable best archers in the world, can be imitated more or less in real life. Peter Parker isn’t an everyman, he has super strength, a danger sense, and all of his other Spider powers. All he really has a relatable job, but I mean, even Captain America spent time as an artist. Relatable jobs don’t really amount to jack when it comes to find a character that you could realistically step into the shoes of. Though, I mean, Ollie isn’t a perfect human analogue, but close enough.

His first sidekick was someone he took under his wing and raised as his own, and his own free-wheeling care-free lifestyle helped lead Roy down the road to a drug addiction. His second sidekick was Connor Hawke, Ollie’s own bastard son, and while for years we were led to believe that Ollie didn’t know, Meltzer added a little tidbit during his time with Ollie…that he always knew about Connor, that he was there the day his son was born and he still ran away. It added layers to the character, developing his fear of maturity that would eventually be overcome. He took a third sidekick, a young girl named Mia Dearden, and she eventually became the new Speedy. Mia was a former fifteen year old prostitute that Ollie more or less saved, she knew who he was, she became his ward. When she tested HIV positive he let her be the new Speedy. That’s the kind of tragedy you expect from the life of the Queen family, that the new member is incurably ill and it was not by any means Ollie’s fault, nor is there anything he can really do about it. Just like in real life.

Roy had a thing with Cheshire, a cold blooded killer, and wound up fathering a child with her. With the help of his friend Dick “At the time Disco Nightwing” Grayson, he wound up with custody of his infant daughter Lian, thus making Roy a single dad superhero….one that was barely twenty years old (given that Dick was still on the Titans, you’d have to imagine that Roy could be no older then twenty-one). Roy grew into fatherhood over the years, all the while both accepting and refusing various traits he’d inherited from his ‘dad’, Oliver Queen. Namely man-whoring. At the end of the day though, there was only one thing in the entire world that Roy truly cared about, and that was his daughter Lian.

Apparently she debuted white

There aren’t a lot of super heroes with kids, like, non-superhero kids. It’s a pretty rare thing, I mean, Wally has his twins (though one of them goes fast), Garth had Ceridan, and Donna had Robert….alright, come to think of it, the original Teen Titans have a pretty horrible track record with children, and Dick should probably go and get the vasectomy. Life isn’t easy for these heroes, most of which are meant to be younger then I am, and the fact that they’re starting families. Donna was divorced with no custody, and her son and ex-husband died in a car wreck while she was nowhere to be found. Garth spent months searching the ocean depths for his wife and child only to discover their bodies buried not far from Atlantis. Wally’s kids, Jai and Iris, shared their speed and were looking at death sentences before Iris took the connection for herself.

Come to think of it, the only super baby I can think of off the top of my head is little Danielle Cage, who I figure will turn out just fine because otherwise her dad is going to go all “Sweet Christmas” on some people.

But anyway, Roy. Lian made him unique. Donna didn’t have custody of Robert, so he was more of a plot point. Garth…..nobody really cares about Garth, I hate to say, so nobody gave two craps about Cerdian (not even DC as they kept swapping the gender). And Wally has only had his kids for a few years now of real time, and not a whole lot of quality series to give us a feel for it. But with Roy, it was different, Lian wasn’t a plot point, or a random mention here and there, she was a living breathing character that we became accustomed to seeing anytime we saw Roy. He was a single dad;  he was a full time single dad. He lived and breathed his baby girl, and when he was on the Titans in the late 90’s, she was there. Hell, her babysitter was Rose “I still had two eyes and sanity!” Wilson, just so they could show her during times when Roy couldn’t be there. They even built an incredibly….interesting, relationship between Roy and Cheshire just because Lian wanted to know her mother.

I’m gushing, admittedly, but there’s a point. Roy wasn’t just a character with a kid, he was a dad. It made him unique in that there really aren’t any other characters quite like him.

Lian on Halloween

Cry For Justice happened. It came along, and it changed the Green Arrow family. It didn’t really get around to affecting anyone else in the DCU, but it messed with the Archers. Roy had his arm ripped off in a panel that made me groan as the shock value failed to work appropriately. Star City was blown up, for the second time in four years, to push Ollie over the edge. And Lian; poor, sweet, innocent Lian, is crushed and killed by the destruction of Star City. Roy is in a coma, his arm gone with no hope of reattachment, and his daughter, his life, is dead. Oliver Queen does the only thing he can do….he hunts down and kills Prometheus, he accepts himself as a hunter and not a hero. As someone who can and must cross the line. As a tragic hero.

Justice.

Oddly enough, when Ollie was brought back by Kevin Smith less than a decade ago, a sticking point was that while he had come back, it was an Ollie who had yet to commit murder. It was him during “better times”.

Let me do another brief flashback to Infinite Crisis and One Year Later, where right before the book jumped a year ahead, Star City was blown up as a direct assault against Ollie. Ollie was impaled, and spent most of his time during the year gap healing and training to be a better fighter. He returned to his native home and became the Mayor, looking to help rebuild and improve his home. That was only a few years ago, and it’s been blown up again? When’s the last time someone blew up Central or Keystone? Or Metropolis? Or even tried to fuck with Gotham that hard?

All I know is that Ollie is a killer right now, not content to simply beat up and lock away murderers who have no remorse. Roy is going to wake up to find his entire life destroyed. It’s an unnecessary amount of tragedy for these characters who have always been so easy to relate to, it has been loss for the sake of loss. It’s really just my hope now that writer J.T. Krul can hit a home run with all of this and make these characters into something more than angst filled anti-heroes.

It really is, because if he can’t, then all of this? It was for nothing. Lian, Star City, Roy’s right arm. All of it. And these are things that you can’t just magically return when the new status quo doesn’t work right. These are things that are gone for good.

The Gold Standard

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