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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number. They were edited by Mort Weisinger.
Green Arrow is oddly normal in personality for a super-hero. He seems to be a highly competent, decent person, who runs his Green Arrow existence the way other men might run a business. In fact, it is easy to imagine him as an Organization Man of the 1950's, wearing a gray flannel suit and running a large corporation. His Green Arrow work gives him a sense of accomplishment, but it is not otherwise plugged into obsessions
Nor is GA's secret identity of Oliver Queen, millionaire socialite, filled with any psychological problems. Unlike Bruce Wayne, whose playboy life is a wimpy pose, Oliver Queen seems perfectly comfortable in his existence. Oliver Queen spends much of his time going to charity functions and public service occasions. These seem respectable, useful, and a bit on the stuffy side. Both Oliver and his young ward are always dressed in good suits or formal wear for these occasions. They look very upper crust and a bit dull, but utterly normal for their social set.
Green Arrow is oddly self-contained. There seem to be few continuing characters other than GA and Speedy, neither friendly police contacts or series villains, although in the 1940's there were a few stories about villain Bull's-Eye. This too differs from Batman's world. The tales are almost never science fictional. They always take place in a relatively realistic New York City world. The villains are usually not costumed or eccentric; they tend to be crooks and gang members, wearing suits and looking like movie tough guys. Or they can be crooked businessmen with a secret life of crime. Color in the tales is achieved by technological devices, both GA's and the villains'. These tend to put the Green Arrow stories in a world of their own, much different from prose mystery fiction, or such realistic detective comics as Big Town.
Green Arrow lacks the boundaries created in superheroes by their fixed range of super-powers. We know that Superman or Aquaman or the Flash are going to behave in way specified by their well defined set of super-powers. By contrast, Green Arrow can do more or less anything. It has to be realistic, not fantastic or science fictional; and it also has to tie in some way with arrows. However, just about anything can and was attached to arrows in a GA story, so this is less of a limitation than one might think.
Green Arrow also does not operate in the same way from story to story. Sometimes he launches elaborate schemes; other times he simply tries to track down and catch a criminal. He seems to lack any preconceived notion of how he should operate. This too adds to the sense that GA's world is without boundaries.
Batman tales often establish strong separate roles for Batman and Robin. They tend to divide up a case's tasks, and employ fundamentally different approaches. Oftentimes there is a sense of intellectual competition between the two. The story will stress that they think differently, and are therefore coming up with different insights to the crime. The stories will suggest that each has their own cognitive personality, a different way of thinking, that causes them to operate differently. They will also often serve as back-ups for the other, rescuing each other when they get in trouble with their solo efforts.
GA stories rarely do anything like this with Green Arrow and Speedy. They tend to be part of one common enterprise, and accompany each other on their cases. The stories stress team-work. They do a lot of prep work together, setting up technological devices before they are employed on the case. GA and Speedy both have similar skills: both are expert archers. Both are also handy with all sorts of high technology, such as cameras, radios, the Arrowcar, boats, etc. This tends to make them partners.
Public attitudes to Green Arrow and Speedy are a little different than those to Batman. Green Arrow and Speedy are above all viewed as great archers. This is something of an objective fact. Green Arrow does not need to create a mystique about himself; he simply shoots great, and gets all the recognition he needs. The same goes for Speedy. The fact that he is a kid makes little difference. If he can shoot, say, a television arrow over a building and take pictures, it doesn't matter if he is 12 or 40.
The Green Arrow (More Fun Comics #73, November 1941). Writer: Mort Weisinger. Art: George Papp. Green Arrow and his kid sidekick Speedy try to find out who is killing off the members of the History Club, a group whose members are the namesakes of famous figures in history. The first Green Arrow tale, and the original appearance of Green Arrow and Speedy. Both characters are well established in their crime fighting careers at this point, and the story does not explain how they first assumed their heroic roles. The story is explicitly set in Manhattan, and has plenty of big city atmosphere, like later GA tales. There is no fictitious "Gotham City" here. Later stories will move Green Arrow to "Star City", but its atmosphere will always be New York City like. Such urban atmosphere will be a major feature of film noir to come, a movie genre which was only getting underway in 1941.
This story is astonishingly close in format to all the Green Arrow stories to come over the next twenty years. The costumes of GA and Speedy are already present here, and will remain unchanged through the early 1960's. While the Arrowcar is called the Arrowplane here, it already has the distinctive arrow-like rear flange. The Arrowplane is described as "streamlined", that obsession of 1930's design, which gave objects the appearance of speed and efficiency. Green Arrow does plenty of unusual things with arrows here. However, the way-out arrows that dominate the later GA stories are not yet present. The basic architecture of the story - an 8-page tale in which GA solves a big city crime - will also be a persistent approach in the series. All in all, this tale would not have caused any surprise if it had been reprinted in 1957.
The end of the story shows the Trophy Room of GA's apartment, filled with shelves where he keeps the souvenirs of his cases. These remind one of Jimmy Olsen's room of Superman souvenirs to come: see Otto Binder's "The Man of Steel's Substitute" (Jimmy Olsen #1, September-October 1954), which is apparently the first appearance of Jimmy's souvenirs. Later GA tales will include fan clubs, similar to those to come in the Olsen tales. Green Arrow is also depicted as a master of disguise here, who goes undercover in a crooks' organization. This too anticipates a later key part of Jimmy Olsen's characterization. There seems to be an affinity between Green Arrow and Jimmy Olsen as characters. Both reflect the influence of Mort Weisinger, who was the creator of Green Arrow here, and the editor of the Jimmy Olsen comic book. Jimmy Olsen's signal watch and piloting of the Daily Planet's helicopter also link him to the Green Arrow technological tradition. Both characters are "normal" people, without super powers, having adventures in the big city.
Papp depicts Green Arrow as a tough guy, a rough looking macho man (see especially the close-ups of GA without his mask on p7). Later, he will soften this characterization. Both the businessmen and the underworld characters they meet look like tough guys as well. Both Green Arrow and the other males look extremely grown-up; there is nothing of the Joe College juvenile look one sometimes sees among other Golden Age heroes. The effect is of "a man among men". Already in this tale, Papp has a kinetic style, which excels at the creation of movement. He also uses vivid gestures and body postures for his characters. Both Green Arrow and Speedy are already well characterized visually here.
The World's Worst Archer (1959). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Art: Lee Elias. This story shows the early life of Roy Harper, and his audition of his archery skills when he first attempted to become Green Arrow's assistant. The story functions as an Origin for Roy Harper (Speedy).
The story of Roy's early life and training is much more interesting than the frame tale showing his audition with Green Arrow. It links us with the Western comic books that were still flourishing in this era. It includes sympathetic Native American characters. Like Gardner Fox's "The Naming of the Wyoming Kid" (Western Comics #65, September-October 1957), it shows Roy as a young white who trained under Native American experts, here a Sioux archer.
Quite a few comic book Westerns took place in the contemporary West. This was different from the movie Westerns of the 1950's, which tend to be uniformly set in the 19th Century. Pre-1945 Western movies are much more likely to be set in modern times, than are their post-1945 successors.
This story was written during an era when Weisinger was creating Untold tales in the Superman mythos, and filling in the origin of Aquaman. This sort of origin story is typical of these efforts.
The mise-en-scène of the silent city is well done. Both the writer and the artist convey the eerie quality of this.
During the Silver Age, Weisinger often edited stories in which the central plot idea would affect many diverse elements of daily life. We see a similar story construction here, at a very early date. The silence impinges on many different aspects of the city. The Silver Age tales often included elements of theatrical performances among these vignettes of daily life; here Oliver and Roy are at a concert when one of the silent blackouts hits.
This story, like most of the early GA tales, ends with Oliver Queen and Speedy adding another souvenir to their trophy case. This gives a pleasant, relaxing finale to the story, returning us to a peaceful, daylight and civilian world, after the nocturnal adventures of Green Arrow. It often adds a slightly different perspective to the tale. An item looks different when it is being calmly discussed as a trophy, rather than being encountered in the heat of a suspenseful crime hunt. It allows the stories to conclude with thinking, with Oliver and Roy discussing their ideas about the case.
This story emphasizes the high speed of the Arrowcar (here called the Arrowplane), the fastest of all land vehicles. This is a common theme in the early stories; it will not appear very much in later, 1950's GA tales. This fascination with speed also appears in Weisinger's Johnny Quick stories.
Green Arrow uses colors at one point to send a message. This shows that even at this early date, the creators of comic book stories were "thinking in color", using color as part of their plots.
Papp has an elegantly done three panel sequence, showing GA catapulting into the Mayor's office (3).
Crime College (#75, January 1942). Writer: Mort Weisinger. Art: George Papp. Green Arrow goes up against a criminal professor who runs a school teaching crooks how to be successful. The best part of this minor tale is its opening, which has nothing to do with the routine case that follows. It shows Oliver Queen protecting his secret identity, while taking part in an archery contest under his own name. Such secret identity challenges would play a big role in Weisinger's Superman and Superboy stories in the future. These scenes involve a sympathetic small boy; little children would be persistent characters in Weisinger's work.
At one point, GA uses jazzy slang, associated with the hip musicians of his day: "Swing it, baby!". Weisinger would often include Pop music references in his stories, right through rock and roll works in the Silver Age Superman tales.
The Secret of the Centuries (1942). Writer: Mort Weisinger. Art: George Papp. Eccentric millionaire Oliver Bowling lives in an English castle he has had transported to the United States, and his servants all wear medieval costumes. This tale gets GA involved in a treasure hunt in a medieval castle, and yet it is set in modern times. This is an ingenious idea. It will show up again in many later tales that Weisinger edited, such as the 1940's Shining Knight stories, and the Silver Age Superman stories. The feel of the castle is reminiscent of Ivanhoe, and other tales of medieval adventure. It shows Weisinger's lively gift of storytelling.
Papp has a flair for medieval and Balkan kingdom settings, and they will often recur in his work. He shows the castle as a whole (p2), and at the climax, returns to one portion of it, greatly magnified (p8). This finale along the battlements has a series of trapezoidal walls, receding along a perspective corridor effect. It is a superb composition, one with a strong 3D quality. Other parts of the castle show Papp's flair for circular components in his compositions: a staircase follows a curving path (p6), and GA and Speedy swim through a circular opening in the moat (p6) - you cannot have a really good castle story without a moat, and Weisinger and Papp duly provide one. The story as a whole shows an interest in architecture, a common theme in early GA tales.
This story has a great deal about the Arrowplane in it (the name used in the early GA tales for the Arrowcar). Weisinger does ingenious things with it in the plot, and Papp makes it the center of some good illustrations. The Arrowplane as whole, with its many complex curves and flanges, is the center of several compositions (p2). This is start of a long Papp tradition. Also notable: the inside view at the driver's panel of the car (p7).
Papp also includes some good portraits of his hero. Green Arrow is shown against a wall made of irregular stone blocks (p7): their grid is like an abstract painting by Mondrian. At the end, Oliver Queen is shown hold a war-axe; this is a phallic symbol. The stories often emphasize Oliver Queen's virility.
Doom Over Gayland (1942). Writer: Mort Weisinger. Art: George Papp. A murderer stalks the stockholders in the Gayland amusement park.
Amusement park stories were popular in the pulp mystery magazines of the 1930's, and they would go on to be favorites in the comic books as well. This tale follows the tradition of such works, in setting all the murders by the criminal and the chases by Green Arrow against various rides and attractions at the amusement park. Such parks, closed up after dark and deserted of people, became sinister settings. Such nocturnal environments were GA's home base.
This story shows a number of unusual feats performed by GA and Speedy using arrows. This is an early example of the multitudinous stunts that GA will later create using arrows. He even trips up crooks, a standard feat in later stories, using a series of arrows tied together by string. These many feats are just as spectacular and far out as those in later GA tales. However, most of them seem to be performed with normal, conventional arrows. The story does not yet have the unusual, high tech arrows one finds in the later GA paradigm, such as the Boomerang Arrow or the Television Arrow. Instead, the feats rely on standard arrows, and GA and Speedy's skill with archery.
The devil costumes worn by the bad guys would find echoes in Weisinger's Silver Age Superman stories, in which Superman and others would disguise themselves in devil suits. See the discussion of "Superman's Black Magic" (Superman #138, July 1960) in the article on Superman. Oddly enough, it is usually Superman and other sympathetic characters who wear such outfits. In "Doom Over Gayland", Green Arrow winds up undercover in one of the devil suits. And he and Speedy keep one of the rubber devil masks as their trophy for the case.
The dignified-looking police at the end, with their classy, almost upper crust looking uniforms, make a refined contrast to the devils. Their light gray police uniforms seem almost like a rebuke to the bright red of the devil suits. Both the police and the devils are "groups of men wearing common clothes" - and both look as if they are enjoying their common group identity and image. But the personality of the police seems like a direct opposite to that of the devils.
Since the 1980's gray has been described the color of the upper middle class. Men have been urged to wear gray suits to look like successful businessmen. In comics it is more common to see police uniforms in navy blue. The gray definitely gives these men a refined edge.
The story briefly includes an Asian servant. Unlike many early Asian characters in the comics, he is treated in a dignified fashion, both in the art and the dialogue.
Papp has some beautiful images of the park. Several are long shots, showing vistas of park buildings and structures silhouetted against the night. These tend to be moody, nocturnal views. Other shots are aerial, pointing straight down to the earth and its buildings from above. These tend to make interesting compositions out of the park architecture. One showing the entrance to the roller coaster is outstanding. Papp also gets much mileage out of the support struts of the roller coaster, their geometrical patterns aiding his compositions.
Even at this early date, Papp loves to include circles in his compositions. Characters will be silhouetted against giant round moons on the horizon; there is also a round crocodile pool in the compositions.
This is a minor tale. Its most interesting aspects involve radio; these are part of the long Green Arrow tradition of using media of communication. The Cat has a built in radio transmitter, right in the Cat mask. Papp also includes a good portrait of Oliver Queen listening to radio calls. He is dressed in a sharp 1940's style pinstriped suit. He looks like the dressy hero of a film noir, both aggressive and sophisticated.
Pennants of Plunder (#105, June 1946). Art: George Papp. Gang leader Vogel uses flags, pennants and banners to pull off thefts. Vogel anticipates the later villain the Flag, who committed flag related crimes.
The chief interest of this tale consists of the disguises worn by the gang to infiltrate the parties of the rich. They first dress as a bunch of college boys, complete with letter sweaters, beanie caps and pennants. Both the sweaters and the pennants are full of single capital letters, in the college fashion of the times. They make the gang look remarkably juvenile. In fact, their criminal activities are written off by their middle aged millionaire host as the eccentricities of the college aged crowd. Papp does a good job with such athletic wear. He also shows the wealthy guests at the party in sharp tuxedos. They too are a group of men, all dressed in similar clothes. Both groups are part of a long tradition in Green Arrow of groups of men who appear in similar guise. Later, he will have a crook at a yachting party in swim trunks, looking like a Society guest.
Larceny With Lights (#115, April 1947). Writer: Joe Samachson. Art: George Papp. Green Arrow fights Howard Lampe, a rejected scientist who turns to crime using light. Minor tale that is best for some of Papp's illustrations. The hypnosis machine is a propeller covered with circular lights (p2). The radiation (p4) is filled with concentric rings, each formed out of wavy lines. It is a cool composition. The colorist has made each ring a different shade of red or orange, adding to the beauty of the effect.
Live Wire Loot (1947). Writer: Don Cameron? Art: George Papp. Green Arrow targets Bull's-Eye, a costumed crook who is trying to rip-off manufacturers of home appliances.
Bull's-Eye is the closest Green Arrow came to the sort of continuing costumed villains that starred in Batman. Like Batman's nemesis the Joker, he was a mock-comic figure - Bull's-Eye wore a clown suit - and like the Joker often did, he warns Green Arrow and the police through cryptic clues of the crimes he is about to commit. Such warnings are completely unmotivated, and form one of the plot conventions of this type of story. However, Bull's-Eye lacks the perverse, sick quality of the Joker and other Batman villains. Take away his clown suit and his warnings, and basically one has just another thief. The wholesomeness and lack of grotesquesness in Green Arrow seems refreshing.
Bull's-Eye has an archery target painted on his clown suit's chest. These concentric circles are Bull's-Eye's trademark. He leaves them everywhere as warnings of his crimes. Papp has a field day showing Bull's-Eye's home, where the furniture and decor are made up out of circles painted with targets. Papp loved to make compositions out of geometric figures, especially circular ones, and Bull's-Eye's world is an ultimate expression of this creative approach.
The finale has Green Arrow setting a trap for the crooks. A young businessman from the electrical appliance company is in on it, and nudges his friend to watch it being sprung. Such traps seem fairly common in late 1940's Green Arrow tales. Green Arrow often seems to collaborate on such traps with young men with positions of responsibility in society, such as businessmen or police. During the late 1940's men were feeling comfortable in their social roles for the first time in decades, with both World War II and the preceding Depression being behind them. The collaboration between Oliver Queen, himself a figure of middle class success, and these newly minted representatives of society seems to express some of this. Both Green Arrow and the young men have a real sense of deviltry. They enjoy pulling off these schemes.
The Weather Wizard (1947). Writer: Ed Herron. Art: George Papp. The Storm King blackmails big time sporting events by threatening to ruin them with bad weather. This tale is well constructed. It eventually develops a good mystery subplot, as well as including plenty of exciting events.
Green Arrow has the skeptic's role in this tale, something frequently assigned to the hero in Adventure Comics. See the Aquaman story "The Man in the Iron Shoe" (Adventure #126, March 1948), for instance. Such skepticism is modeled after that of scientists, and includes intelligence, an open mind, a refusal to jump to quick conclusions or to accept popular ideas, and a belief that events should adhere to the world view discovered by modern science. Such skepticism is the first step towards discovering truth, both for scientists, and detectives such as GA and Aquaman.
This story has some good art. There is a memorably composed splash page, with the diagonals formed by lightning bolts thrown by the Storm King contrasting with the circles of Green Arrow's large umbrella. Also well composed: the dam scenes (p9). Papp creates inventive compositions along the top of the dam.
There are also some good portraits. At the major league baseball club, Papp shows some of the managers in their offices (p2). They are young men in good suits. They remind one of the successful young men in "Live Wire Loot", from two issues previously. Both are examples of the new prosperity after the end of the war in 1945. Papp is clearly highly sympathetic to them.
The Archer from the Zodiac (1947). Writer: George Kashdan. Art: George Papp. John Centaur, an astrology-obsessed crook, imitates Sagittarius the centaur bowman of Greek mythology, to commit his crimes. It had to happen: Green Arrow has included virtually every archery reference in human history, so inevitably they would bring in Sagittarius. Kashdan's script also involves the arbalest, a medieval crossbow that can shoot arrows.
The great appeal of this story is in George Papp's art. It includes some beautiful architectural images. We see the gates of Centaur's home, with their spherical tops (p5); and a city street at night, filled with 3 story buildings (p8). Papp shows skill at creating fascinating compositions out of simply sketched but creatively arranged pictures of buildings. The mansion at the party is also outstanding. When Green Arrow first arrives there, Papp has a beautiful composition that shows corner windows of the building, and the Arrowcar standing outside (p6). The rectilinear, perspective architecture of the house, and the curves of the Arrowcar make a pleasing contrast. Papp includes just a few, highly geometrical features of the house in this image: just enough to create a vivid geometric pattern. The use of light and shade is romantic, with the brilliantly lit red windows contrasting with the shadows outside. This image conveys a richly gentle mood, an evocation of the beauty of shadows, light and the night. Later, inside the mansion, Papp shows us a balcony leading down to a curving staircase, with the balcony railing and the stairway banister forming one unbroken curving line. It is a beautiful image. Once again, it centers on a few, vivid geometric forms.
There are also some fine portraits of Oliver Queen. Oliver and Roy are going to the movies, and in late 1940's fashion, they are wearing suits. Papp's image comes from the same world as film noir, whose urban characters are also always dressed to the teeth. Oliver and Roy are waiting in line outside the theater. Oliver is in a double breasted green suit, hat, and red tie. He looks like what the well-dressed man of the era would wear. Comics often included the central male figure of an image in a green suit. The green color makes them stand out. There are images of Oliver standing, and close-ups. One image has him kneeling on the ground, examining a body. He is kneeling on one knee. The other knee is up, his pants leg emerging from under the jacket of his suit. It is a vividly designed image, with the curves of his suit jacket and the line of the pants legs forming a geometric pattern.
There are some good nocturnal portraits here as well. We see John Centaur's shadow being cast on a brick wall (p6). Papp often included outdoor walls, fences and other solid, plain regions as backdrops for his characters. These walls often evoked a mood and a place. In Green Arrow, they tend to be urban walls, evoking the alleys and side streets of New York City. In his Silver Age Superboy tales, they evoke the small shops and picket fence sidewalks of 1930's Smallville. These walls are in all cases simple, but they tend to be chosen for remarkable evocative effects. The walls tend to have some repeating, simple pattern, such as the bricks here, that Papp weaves into his compositions.
The King of Danger Channel (1947). Writer: George Kashdan. Art: George Papp. A mysterious villain called the Turtle keeps attacking ships passing through Danger Channel, although no one can figure out how. This is the sort of aquatic adventure that would be more typical of Aquaman. During the late 1940's, such undersea tales were actually featured in most of the Adventure Comics heroes, such as GA and Johnny Quick: see his "The Curious Cargo of the Bonnie Bess" (#103, April 1946) and his houseboat set "A Modern Cinderella" (#124, January 1948) .
This story has some terrific art. Scenes in which Speedy swims under water (p5) remind one of Superboy flying sequences to come - Papp was Superboy's main artist later on in the Silver Age. Speedy seems to be "flying" underwater - Papp uses the same gestures, postures and compositions with these swimming scenes as he will for the later flying ones. All the swimming scenes are beautiful and fascinating.
Papp loads the compositions with his trademark circles. There are many diving spheres in the tale, and the illustrations are also full of large circular pipe openings. The architecture of a large glass caisson is also interesting, with a global, diagrammatic view on p2.
One portrait shows a masked GA nearly entirely covered by a slicker on board ship, with just his masked eyes peering out from under the hood (p4). The effect is unusual: like some strange doll or figurine. Also good: the final talk between GA and a friendly policeman, in full uniform with a high peaked cap (p8). Both men are of equal height, and are facing each other side by side in similar posture, while shaking hands. The image suggests equality, brotherhood and male bonding. They seem to be peers on the same team, and highly friendly to each other.
The Man Behind the Mask (1947). Writer: ? Art: George Papp. Green Arrow investigates the Mask, a mysterious hit man responsible for a series of "accidental" deaths.
This story is among the most violent in Green Arrow history, with the hit man for hire actually killing people. This is very atypical of the usually non-lethal stories in Adventure. It corresponds in time with DC's launch of such crime comic books as Gang Busters. One suspects that the publishers might even have asked the staff of Adventure to up the violence level. In any case, this did not last long: the stories soon reverted to their previous, wholesome approach.
The plot of this story is full of echoes. Events that occur early in the tale are echoed in its finale, with a new context and new, ironical meanings. Such echoes help create a poetic mood for the tale. So do seemingly gratuitous aspects in the Mask's set-up. These often are related to choice. First the client chooses to see the Mask, and goes through a series of poetically evocative steps to meet him. Then the client helps the Mask choose a location for the crime. This is one of the most inventive parts of the tale; both the writer and artist have a fascinating metaphor here. It makes one wonder about the whole meaning of "location". This idea includes both philosophical wondering and poetic awe.
The story also looks at the meaning of identity, in a similarly poetic way. Green Arrow goes through a whole series of identities here, in one of the most undercover oriented of his tales. Such undercover assignments were prevalent in the semi-documentary film noirs of the era.
Papp does his usual excellent job creating the mood of the city by night. Like many late 1940's Green Arrow tales, this is soaked in nocturnal urban atmosphere. The city itself is seen to be under construction here, with new buildings going up among existing ones (p7). It adds to the note of transition seen throughout the tale.
Papp also has a good portrait of Green Arrow, emphasizing his chest covered with his green tunic, and his arms (p2).
The Master Arrow (1948). Writer: ? Art: George Papp. When a museum asks Green Arrow and Speedy to pick the arrow that has been most valuable to them in their work, they reminisce about a series of cases and the arrows that appeared in them. Flash-back story which contains three mini-cases: a Bull's-Eye story, a Mask tale, and a World War II spy story.
On TV, when a series did a flash-back episode, it was simply designed as a cheap way of producing a new show by using excerpts from previous episodes. Comic books sometimes did this too, but I suspect instead that this story contains all new material. For one thing, the Mask died at the end of his first and only other appearance in Green Arrow, three issues previously, "The Man Behind the Mask". The events in this tale certainly did not appear in that earlier story: instead they seem to be entirely new.
Probably due to their length, none of the tales has any detective material or mystery plot. Instead, each shows what would be the climax of many full length GA tales, a confrontation between the heroes and the bad guys. All of these confrontations take place at night; most are high up in the air, and involve the roofs of urban buildings, aerial transportation, and sinister traps. This is Green Arrow's native turf. Both the writer and artist Papp have created a wonderfully evocative nocturnal world.
None of the confrontations shows static fighting. Instead, each involves ingenious situations, in which GA and the villains have to use their brain power to set and/or escape from traps. This gives a mental dimension to the stories, and spotlights the use of reason. GA also adheres to his use of non-lethal approaches to crime fighting here.
The finale deepens this pacifistic approach. It shows GA and Speedy working together to destroy sinister Nazi weapons. This emphasis on disarmament will be a prominent feature of Silver Age Superman stories: see "Supergirl's First Romance" (Action #269, October 1960), "The Mystery of Mighty Boy" (Superboy #85, December 1960) and "The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue" (Superman #162, July 1963). This episode brings the story to a triumphant and profound finale.
The Man of a Thousand Flags (#128, May 1948) Art: George Papp. Green Arrow tangles with the Flag, a flag-maker turned crook who uses flags to pull off his various capers. The Flag's whole approach sort of recalls that of Green Arrow himself. Just as GA uses every sort of arrow to help him in his quests, so too does the Flag work with every sort of flag. However, unlike GA's arrows, his flags are not loaded with high tech devices. Rather, the Flag positions various sorts of specialized flags in deceptive locations and so that they convey false meanings, fooling GA and the authorities into cooperating with his schemes. This story is not especially enjoyable. However, I have to admit I learned a lot about flags from it. The author clearly went to some work to notice all the ways flags are used in real life. It also shows some mild ingenuity in making these flag situations the basis for criminal schemes.
The story does create in a small way what the GA tales do as a whole: build a world out of a single organizing structural principle, here things that can done with flags. It is like a miniature representation of the kind of imagination that went into the GA "world made of arrows". Both this flag story and the GA arrow tales as a whole stick rigorously to their central structural principles, never veering from their fundamental flag or arrow subject matter. The flag world of this story is like a miniature version of the arrow world of GA tales as a whole, nested recursively inside it, like the houses in Edward Albee's play Tiny Alice (1964).
Both flags and arrows are devices of considerable intellectual interest. Both are wholesome, not especially violent objects. Both are around the same size, and both come in numerous varieties. Both are ancient devices with long traditions behind them. Both are basically stick shaped. The way flags are often brightly colored is in the comic book tradition of using colors as structural building blocks of tales.
The fact that flags are communication devices also links this with GA tales specializing in media of communication.
Green Arrow, Junior (1946). Writer: Don Cameron. Art: George Papp. A young boy who is rejected by other kids gets a chance to help Green Arrow with a case.
The characterization of the young boy Bob Tilden is especially interesting. Because he is physically weaker than other boys, he is rejected by them and branded as a "sissy". The story most emphatically does NOT criticize the boy in any way. Nor does he change or transform himself in the tale. Such a change would imply that he was indeed somehow defective at the start. Instead, when the boy is a success at helping Green Lantern by the end of the tale, the other boys are impressed, and want him to be their friend. The tale is a story about "how social acceptance can come to sissies". Or rather, it is a wish fulfillment fantasy on the subject. In real life, such acceptance will come much harder, and is still far from won the world over. Still, this tale's heart is truly in the right place.
The tale is 100% sympathetic to its young hero. It also shows his great talent, and his ability to make a positive contribution to the world. He is intelligent, brave and resourceful, in dealing with crooks and detective work. His assistance is intelligent, and of genuine value to Green Arrow. GA is also generous and accurate about publicly acknowledging this help at the story's end.
Green Arrow's acceptance and endorsement of the boy's skill is logically consistent with the behavior that GA and Speedy have shown throughout the series. Green Arrow and Speedy's whole lives are based on their skill. It is what they do and how well they do it that counts, not some arbitrary position in the world. Speedy's great skill as an archer makes him a success on the adult world's terms. The same criterion apply to young kids who help Green Arrow. So a story like this rings true.
Also noteworthy: the sympathetic, non-stereotyped characterization of Ling Toy, proprietor of the Chinese restaurant. Papp's art is especially vivid in some of the compositions in the restaurant.
The story also has interesting self-reflexive features.
The Boy Detective (#129, June 1948). Art: George Papp. A young boy who is expert at magic tangles with a gang of crooks. This story fails to rise above the "not bad" level. One asset: it has tons of plot, which constantly keeps moving forward in some new direction. It also has a nice variety of characters. It is best with some of the magic tricks. Papp has a nice, non-realistic splash panel incorporating some of them. He also does a good job with a flower pot and a trick involving parachutes.
Despite the title, the boy does not actually function as a detective, solving some mystery. Rather, the tale is a thriller, with both the boy and the crooks at odds. There is no mystery plot.
D-Day - 1066! (1946). Writer: Joe Samachson? Art: George Papp. Retired General Elmer Blunt leads a reenactment of the Battle of Hastings of 1066.
This tales anticipates the media tales of 1950's GA stories. Like them, it shows a creative event in which arrows are made central: here, an arrow-based battle reenactment. Some of the media stories also involved soldiers, just like this tale.
The story also has features that relate to time travel stories, even though it is a completely realistic, non-sf story set in the modern world. Like time travel tales, the heroes get placed in a completely different environment. The story also involves them with "history", as it explicitly points out, with Blunt taking the role of the Saxon King Harold, and the battle of Hastings being faithfully recreated. The "feel" of the story is especially close to the many time travel tales later published in the Superman family. Both here and in Superman time travel tales, history is depicted as a powerful force, sweeping people along in its paths. Individual people find it hard to change; instead they are caught up in the force of its events.
This story has beautiful art by George Papp. He has a flair for medieval scenes and costumes, which he will show here, and in his later Superboy stories.
Crime at the Core (#110, November 1946). Writer: Joe Samachson. Art: George Papp. Criminals target a small town which is recreating the legend of William Tell at a costumed festival.
Samachson had just had a success in the previous issue with "D-Day - 1066!", so here he is trying another tale about a historical reenactment. This one is pleasant, but not as good. It was inevitable that an archery oriented comic would turn to the story of William Tell. Samachson wrote numerous stories for the Shining Knight about hoaxes or publicity stunts in which fantastic elements of the ancient past seem to emerge into the present. These reenactment tales have a similar subject: they show contemporary people reconstructing the past, making it come alive in the present. One difference: the Shining Knight tales often dealt with apparently supernatural events, such as magic swords or living mummies; the Green Arrow stories keep to purely naturalistic recreations of the past.
The splash panel is dramatically composed, with Green Arrow splitting a giant apple in two, just as in the legend of William Tell. The two round apple halves make vivid circular arcs in the composition. The scenes (p6) in which gangsters take townspeople's costumes also have good art.
Date With Diana (1946). Writer: ?. Art: George Papp. Time travel brings Green Arrow and Speedy to the ancient past, where they meet Diana, the legendary goddess of the hunt.
There are several odd but pleasant changes made to Diana's legend. While Diana was associated with Ancient Greece and Rome, here she is part of a medieval world of castles, armor, knights and arrow archers. The whole feel of the story is close to Sir Walter Scott's medieval novel, Ivanhoe (1814). Perhaps this was done to take advantage of George Papp's skill with medieval settings. Also. Diana has no goddess like powers or characteristics here. She is treated merely as a great archer and hunter. Third, Diana is treated as a real person, someone with an existence in actual history, not as a legendary goddess.
Green Arrow regularly included time travel stories, in which GA would have adventures in different eras. Most of these are not too good, but this one is way above average.
This tale has a different structure from most time travel stories. In a typical comic book tale, the heroes start out in modern times, go to the past, have an adventure, then return to the present. This tale has multiple points of view, and switches back and forth between the present and the past.
The Case of the Good Luck Crooks (1948). Writer: ? Art: George Papp. When newspapers feature mild mannered Larry Lucius as a man with uncommon good luck, he is kidnapped by gangsters so that his luck will aid them in their crimes. Luck and coincidence play major roles in Silver Age Superman stories. This is an early treatment of the same themes. It shows some of the same plot approaches that will later recur in Superman stories, too. The story has other features that presage the Silver Age. The name Larry Lucius anticipates all the LL characters that will be part of the Silver Age Superman mythos. This story ends with Roy and Oliver getting a fortune from a sidewalk "weight and fortune" machine. Such machines would still regularly be featured in Superman family stories in the 1960's.
The story shows GA reading. Other features also stress intellectuality: GA talks of "wearing our thinking caps".
Papp has good art throughout here. The splash shows the gangsters bowing low before Larry Lucius, treating him as their ruler. This is a witty image. But it does not relate to the actual story, in which Larry is a complete good guy, and simply held captive by the rotten gangsters. GA splash panels are often symbolic.
Unhappy Birthday to You (1949). Writer: George Kashdan. Art: George Papp. Speedy tries to give archery lessons to earn money to buy Green Arrow a birthday present. Engaging romp that starts out small, and which escalates into a full fledged adventure story. Green Arrow, like good guy members of the Superman family, liked to have some fun on occasion, by planning good natured hoaxes and impersonations. Members of the Legion of Super-Heroes were especially into such impersonations. It seems to be a standard way for super-heroes to let off some steam. It also allowed writers to construct some ingenious plots, such as the one here. This is an ancient theme in literature: the beings in Greek mythology, the Arabian Nights, and Shakespeare's plays frequently disguised themselves. The government agent heroes of film noir were often going undercover into gangs as well, during this period; this story is contemporaneous with William Keighley's The Street With No Name (1948), for instance. This story is much more light-hearted than the grim undercover tales in film noir.
1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow (1952). Writer: France E. Herron. Art: George Papp. A professor sells a book called "1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow" to the underworld, full of pre-planned schemes to defeat Green Arrow. Many of the schemes here involve understanding Green Arrow's psychology, then using his typical responses against him. This is a subtle approach. Green Arrow eventually understands this. Herron would write other tales of psychological manipulation by bad guys, such as "The Invasion From Indiana" (Strange Adventures #49, October 1954). Green Arrow's eventual call to abandon his predictable use of logic has a Rimbaud like feel.
Papp depicts Oliver and Speedy in their book-lined home. This was typical of the comics, and their reverence for reading and study. Later, Carmine Infantino will depict both the Flash and Adam Strange as major readers. Please see my list of Book-filled Apartments and Labs with the Flash.
The best part of this tale is its finale. It involves some of Herron's unusual ideas about science and nature, here birds trained to find the color green. This also fits in with Herron's interest in colors as a means of expression and communication. See Herron's "The Friendly Enemies of Space" (Strange Adventures #81, June 1957) for examples of these interests. Papp does an good job with the finale. The paint allows him to create irregular compositions of considerable inventiveness. He also achieves surrealism with giant toys, including a longitudinally striped beach ball that is a pure geometric object.
The Scarlet Bowmen (1956). Art: George Papp. Green Arrow helps the Scarlet Bowmen, a pair of noble archers who aid the king of a tiny Balkan country. Ruritanian romance would later be a staple of Superman family stories. George Papp had an especial affinity for it. This story reminds one of Anthony Hope Hopkins' adventure novel, The Prisoner of Zenda (1894). Its kingdom setting, the noble king, and the evil minister who is trying to have him dethroned are all straight out of that novel. However, the king here has no double who impersonates him, unlike Hopkins' novel. Instead, the impersonation that develops here is in quite a different direction.
The World's Three Most Dangerous Arrows (1958). Art: George Papp. When he is told by a X-ray that he is dying, Green Arrow experimentally uses three unperfected arrows he has invented which might kill the archer that fires them. The plot structure is typical of the "challenge and response" stories that frequently appeared in Weisinger magazines. The threat each arrow poses to its bowman is the challenge; the way GA overcomes this challenge and finds a way to use the arrow safely is the response. Pleasant ingenuity has been used on all of these arrow ideas. The goldsmith's convention featured here also shows some nice technological ideas. This is one of the most technology oriented Green Arrow tales.
There is a dignified portrait of a Sikh wandering around in the crowd at the goldsmith's show. He is dressed in a suit, and is clearly a sympathetic portrayal. He is a sign of the first, tentative integration of the comic book medium that will take place in the 1960's.
Papp depicts the three arrows throughout the story. They are shown from every possible angle, and up close and far away. Papp uses them to make creative compositions. Their unusual details - each is differently shaped from a conventional arrow - adds visual interest to the panels. This is typical of the way Papp features unusual arrows in the stories: they are always prominent in the compositions.
There is also a good portrait of Oliver Queen (p1).
The Stolen Statues (1946). Writer: Joe Samachson. Art: George Papp. A gang is stealing statues from public parks; Green Arrow and Speedy have to figure out why, as well as stopping the crooks.
This story starts out like a reworking of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tales, "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" (1904), a tale that has been much imitated. But eventually it deconstructs the story, finding new approaches to this much-used plot. Samachson's tale is logical and well constructed mystery. It systematically explores ways in which the statues might be stolen, as well as ways Green Arrow and Speedy can track the crooks.
The self-reflective splash panel is nice, showing Green Arrow and Speedy preventing crooks from stealing statues of themselves. No such scene appears in the story, in which the statues are all of major real life figures. The splash is both humorous and imaginative. It anticipates some of the stories Gardner Fox would write about statues which are doubles for his heroes: see the discussion of Fox's Space Museum tale, "The Secret of the Space Jewel" (Strange Adventures #106, July 1959). The splash is not quite symbolic or fantastic: it shows a realistic, possible scene, not a burst of fantasy. But it is not quite part of the story either, showing a humorous, invented event that transforms the "real" action of the tale.
The statues link this story to the 1950's Green Arrow "media tales", which involve some medium of communication. The statuette at the end also anticipates such figurines in the Legion of Super-Heroes tales.
This story has an urban atmosphere, like the later Big Town detective tales. It goes to both public parks and the subway, that favorite Big Town locale.
Papp has much good art. There is a striking close-up of the back of Green Arrow's head, with the face just turned in profile (p5). Other scenes show Green Arrow above crooks, both on a truck (p6), and in a circular panel (p7). These show good composition, as does the entry to the hangar (p6).
The Puzzle of the Five Queens (1954). Art: George Papp. Crooks are mysteriously stealing valueless objects related to persons whose name or title involves the word Queen. Nice little mystery tale. The story gradually supplies a logical explanation for what is happening, and allows Green Arrow to unravel the mystery and set a trap for the crooks, all through the use of sound detectival reasoning. As is frequently (and pleasantly) the case with GA mystery tales, the plot is a little bit more complex, and a little bit more grounded in logic, that one might have expected in the start.
Papp's splash shows Green Arrow, Speedy and the crooks wandering bewildered through a maze which represents the crime. It is a good example of a symbolic splash panel, one which symbolically represents the theme of the tale, rather than a literal illustration of the story. I have always loved mazes, and enjoy seeing this one at the start of the tale. The clues in the crime are also prominently displayed in the maze.
The Riddle of the Statues (1955). Art: George Papp. A crook known as "The Master" leaves Green Arrow clues to the crimes he is about to commit, in the form of statues. Like "The Stolen Statues" (1946), this mystery involves a series of statues, and like that tale, it offers a deeper, revised version of a well known mystery plot. At first glance this looks like a Batman staple, the tale in which the Joker or some other villain sends Batman riddling clues to his future crimes. However, this story eventually develops along more naturalistic lines. The Joker rarely had any real reason to send such clues, other than to provide a story for the scriptwriter. Here the statues eventually become explained in terms of the logical plot of the story. An elaborate, complex, internally consistent plot emerges here, with the clues just one element of an overall logical scheme. The story takes a familiar Batman approach, the clued thefts, and turns it into something more naturalistic and logically motivated.
This tale is no classic, but it has pleasant appeal. Also interesting: the presence of a computer firm at this early date, Acme Electronics - shades of the Road Runner. Comics had been showing computers since the 1940's.
The Riddle of the Five Trophies (#217, October 1955). Art: George Papp. Green Arrow and Speedy must figure out why a sophisticated gang is only stealing a series of apparently worthless sports trophies. The sports trophies here are essentially small statues; this is another in the Green Arrow series of mystery tales about a string of stolen statues or objects. As is typical GA has to figure out some rationale behind the thefts. The story comes to a logical conclusion, and has some mildly interesting mystery ideas. However, it is somehow less enjoyable than the earlier GA mystery tales.
Papp's splash shows the five trophies, all depicted in large scale. The golf trophy is most prominent. It shows a man dressed as a golfer of the period, in sweater and slacks. He is one of the most archetypally handsome men in Papp's world. He also evokes an era in American life, being an exemplar of 1950's ideals. The fact that the man is a statue, not a "real" character, also helps suggest that this is an idealized portrait.
The Arrows That Failed (1959). Art: Lee Elias. Crooks steal a chemical formula that causes Green Arrow's arrows to veer away from their car.
This story has a relationship to the mystery tale. While the reader always knows what the crooks are up to, Green Arrow and Speedy do not. We watch GA and Speedy respond to the puzzling events, gradually trying to figure out what is going on. They show good analysis and detective work, trying to understand what lies behind, what to them are mysterious events. The story has an encouraging quality, showing reason overcoming problems.
The Decoy Archer (#223, April 1956). Art: George Papp. When trapping a gang requires Green Arrow to be in two places at once, he trains an assistant to look, shoot arrows and dress like him to fool the crooks. Complexly plotted story that somehow does not quite make it as a tale.
The idea of GA training another person to be a substitute Green Arrow is fascinating. Walt Craig is recruited by GA from the City Archery Club, a place that evokes the urban glamour of big city amateur athletics. Papp depicts Craig wearing a cool white V necked sweater with a logo made up of the letters CAC.
Papp also gets much compositional mileage here from the quivers worn by the Green Arrows. These are narrow, truncated cones. These complex, pure geometric figures are often in the center of Papp's compositions. He can depict them either angling across the back of his characters, or standing straight up (p2).
The Green Arrow's Mystery Pupil (1959). Writer: France E. Herron. Art: Lee Elias. Millionaire Hector Vance hires Green Arrow to train him in the use of GA's specialty arrows, with his fee going to charity.
Green Arrow expounds his non-violent credo in this tale. He pledges never to kill anyone with his arrows. This is similar to the pledges against killing any living beings taken by the Legion of Super-Heroes. These commitments reflect the strong pacifist convictions of Weisinger and his writers.
As a work of pure storytelling, this tale would be hard to beat. Everything in it works out beautifully. Small seeds of plot ideas that are introduced early in the story develop out and flower later. The smoothly flowing story recalls a work of music. When this story was reprinted in World's Finest #154 (December 1965), editor Mort Weisinger dubbed it the finest of all of the 200 or so Green Arrow tales that had been published so far. Everyone will have their own opinions, but I certainly agree that this story is superb.
The Crime Platoon (1952). Art: George Papp. Green Arrow fights a gang who are organized like an Army platoon, and who use military techniques to pull off robberies. The gang in this tale is utterly un-political; they have no other purpose than to pull off crime jobs.
The writer does a vivid job with the dialogue. Everything said by the platoon sounds remarkably like military phraseology. So are all their tactical approaches to crime. The story is just a fantasy, but it has a compelling sense of development. It seems far more into military lifestyles than do most contemporary films and TV shows that have used a similar plot about militarized crooks. The story was written at a time of a universal draft, so most men then were familiar with a military existence at first hand. Perhaps this helped the story gain its sense of conviction. The uniforms and the military behavior here are explicitly modeled on those of the US Armed Forces of the period. The way that the men in the platoon are such enthusiastic adopters of their military identities is also compelling. They cling to their roles and personalities for all they're worth
The militarism is this story is much like a form of theater. It involves behaviors and dialogue that the characters can assume, acting out a fantasy of military life. This links it to other Green Arrow stories based on media.
In this tale, Green Arrow's chief piece of detective work is to figure out where the criminals will strike next, so he can lay a trap for them. This is a kind of detective work frequently performed by GA in the tales.
George Papp's art is of high quality. Especially beautiful is a landscape filled with curving rocks (p5). The composition also includes trees, a truck from which Green Arrow is emerging, and a bow he is holding horizontally. The whole composition is one of Papp's most graceful.
The story also has some fine portraits of Green Arrow. One shows him partly standing in the Arrowcar (p3); another holding a book. GA looks especially tough here, perhaps appropriately for a story in which he goes against a crime platoon. His tunic reminds one essentially of a green T-shirt. Papp often drew athletes in the Superman family wearing sweatshirts; his muscular portraits of Green Arrow here are in the same tradition.
Channel C-R-I-M-E (1954). Art: George Papp. A closed circuit TV station broadcasts game shows aimed at crooks and the underworld. Delicious spoof of the TV game shows of the era.
This show perhaps influenced such slightly later Big Town extravaganzas as "Crime Goes to the Fair" (Big Town #29, September-October 1954) and "The Jackpot of Crime" (Big Town #30, November-December 1954). There are certain similarities between Green Arrow and Big Town: both are mainly detective stories, populated with non-super-powered characters, set against a stylized New York City background. The heroes of both are normal, successful men, without complexes or obsessions.
The Amazing Arrowthon (1954). Art: George Papp. Green Arrow and Speedy do viewer-requested feats for a live charity telethon.
This story gives Green Arrow and Speedy a chance to do many feats that are quite different from their standard crime-fighting repertoire. The most elaborate involves the duo in an arrow variation on baseball, played against a team of All-Star baseball champs for charity. This baseball episode is virtually a story within a story, extending over multiple pages. Many of the other feats take place in a single panel. The baseball game perhaps inspired Otto Binder's delightful "One-Man Baseball Team" (Superboy #57, June 1957), in which Superboy similarly plays against baseball all-stars for charity. Both tales move to a big finale in which the hero's secret identity is threatened, although the plot details are radically different in the two stories. Green Arrow rarely worried much about protecting his secret identity; these aspects of the story seem more like a Superman tale.
The Magic Archers (1955). Art: George Papp. Green Arrow and Speedy put on a magic show to trap the Gagster. Charming tale that is part magic show, part detective story, both fully developed. There is a great deal about chemistry in the magic show - Silver Age comics loved to include educational facts about chemistry. The detective work contains the interesting ideas about modern telecommunications that will show up again in "The Battle of the Arrowcars" (1956).
Papp's art is full of geometric forms, especially circles and cones. Most of the magic show scenes involve circular spotlights as part of the composition. There is also a circular target, a bucket that has the form of a truncated cone, and a rabbit cage that is a topless cone.
The Human Chess Game (1956). Art: George Papp. An eccentric chess master forces people to become human chess pieces on a giant board. There are previous comic book stories with similar themes, such as Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman's Dr. Fate tale, "The King of Crime" (More Fun Comics #76, February 1942).
We see three huge panoramas of the chess game. The first, in the splash, is the most symbolic. There, each player is wearing a hat symbolizing the chess piece whose role he is taking, such as Knight or Rook. The later two panoramas (p3 and 6), are more realistic. They show Papp's skill with composition, and his ability to orchestrate a wealth of detail into a harmonious whole. Papp has shown the chess game frontally; this gives a logical, easy to follow view of the board. It is also the view of a typical player of a game of chess.
This story is unusual in that Oliver Queen plays a major role in it, perhaps a little bigger than that of his alter ego Green Arrow. The creators were always careful to have Oliver Queen be a fairly ordinary person, respectable, well dressed in a dignified way, low key, friendly, but definitely not conspicuous. This is a little different from Batman's secret identity Bruce Wayne, who is one of Gotham City's leading citizens, and something of a celebrity in his own right. Bruce Wayne is also friendly with Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and other members of the Superman mythos, and often gets involved in the Superman tales as another member of the Superman circle. This never happens to Oliver Queen, as far as I can determine. Oliver Queen has no known connection at all with Green Arrow, and never has any involvement with Green Arrow. Oliver Queen gets involved here, not because he is secretly GA, but because the chess master wants him for his own name: Queen, one of the chess pieces.
In other tales, when GA wants to go undercover among criminals as someone other than GA, he typically creates a new secret identity. This identity is often that of a crook or low life. Often that new identity will eventually be exposed, but no matter: it will already have served its purpose. This leaves GA's real identity as Oliver Queen completely untouched and uninvolved.
The Green Arrow Mystery Cards (1956). Art: George Papp. To please his young fans, Green Arrow issues trading cards showing his major feats. This is a clever idea for a story. It involves Green Arrow in the media. It also has a reflexive quality: here is a tale about GA, containing trading cards that in turn depict other stories about GA. Trading cards are a medium closely related to comics. Like comics, they contain both text and pictures. One would have thought that there would be many comic book stories about trading cards, but this is one of the very few I've ever seen.
During 1956-1957, Superman and Superboy also got involved in stories in which the media depicted their feats. Superman's were shown on the months of a calendar in "The Superman Calendar" (Action #212, January 1956), and Superboy's in a book of photographs in Otto Binder's "The 100 New Feats of Superboy" (Superboy #58, July 1957). Like "The Green Arrow Mystery Cards", these works consisted of a series of illustrations, each depicting a different feat. Also, the act of publication of the pictures, both the business people and the preparation of the images, was an important element in each story. One also recalls Binder's "The Super-Money of Smallville" (#51, September 1956), in which super-feats are shown on money, and Binder's "The Game of Kriss-Kross Krypton" (Superboy #60, October 1957), which depict feats on a board game's cards. Green Arrow's story comes after Superman's, but before any of the Binder tales in Superboy.
The Wildcat Archers (1956). Art: George Papp. Green Arrow uses arrow-based technology to help a group of Western farmers who are trying to drill for oil. This story shows interesting technological detail, in its oil well drilling scenes. It offers its young readers a complete, educational guide to oil prospecting. It even has diagrams showing geological layers beneath the Earth's surface. The ability of comics to include diagrams and blueprints is one of the rich multi-media features of comics. There was a strong tradition in 1950's DC comics of using diagrams for science and technology. This was especially the case in science fiction comic books such as Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures.
This story appeared right in the middle of the "media" tales that were so frequent in GA in the 1950's. It has some features in common with them. Like them, it has an elaborate background, here that of oil rigs. Like them, it has GA integrate arrow technology into this background. Like some of the other media tales, it involves an outdoor landscape, a daytime one. Also, it has a Western feel. This is different from the nocturnal urban atmosphere of many earlier GA tales.
Admittedly, oil rigs are not media, at least in the conventional sense. However, so many movies have been made about drilling for oil that this story has the feel of a movie! It appeared in October 1956, the same year director George Stevens released his classic film about drilling for oil in Texas, Giant (1956).
The Battle of the Arrowcars (1956). Art: George Papp. Toy versions of the Arrowcar are developed for the young members of Green Arrow's fan club.
The Arrowcar is one of the most creative aspects of Green Arrow' mythos. The car looks like a giant arrow: typical of the endless arrow imagery in GA's world. It is also loaded with technological gimmicks.
This story depicts Green Arrow as having a fan club. The earlier "The Green Arrow Mystery Cards" (1956) showed GA having numerous young kids who were his fans; this tale depicts an organized, official fan club. Such a fan club will later be part of the mythos of Jimmy Olsen. In both cases, a fan club gives a unique aspect to non-sf characters who lack super-powers. If a writer wants to give a super-hero something unique, he can usually depend on super-powers; such a twist is tougher for an ordinary mortal hero. Green Arrow was not the only hero to have a fan club. The Shining Knight had also had a fan club in the 1940's. Both characters appeared in Adventure Comics.
The Doom of the Giant Arrows (1957). Art: George Papp. Green Arrow investigates crimes in a suburb where all the new buildings are in the shape of arrows.
Many of the best Green Arrow tales have him exploring strange mirror offshoots of his world. These stories showed arrows everywhere. This suburb is highly imaginative. Its fondness for strange architecture reminds one of Golden Age mystery fiction. It also reminds one of real life California architecture of the era, which often built restaurants or corporate headquarters in strange, symbolic shapes. The Weisinger magazines noticed such buildings, and included them in Otto Binder's "Lois Lane in Hollywood" (Lois Lane #2, May-June 1958). One also thinks of the Legion's rocket shaped club house in Binder's "The Legion of Super-Heroes" (Adventure #247, April 1958), drawn by Al Plastino.
Batman often included strange, giant figures in its stories: giant typewriters, light bulbs, etc., that served as advertising signs or company logos. This story is a little bit in that tradition. However, these giant arrow buildings are somehow not as grotesque as anything in Batman. Like the rest of Green Arrow, they seem wholesome and up-beat. Still, they have a surreal quality, as well.
The Make-Believe Archer (1957). Art: George Papp. Green Arrow is assisted by mild mannered Melvin Meekle, when a crime occurs at the Acme Arrow Company factory where Melvin works. This is one of the most Batman like tales in Green Arrow. Batman stories often took place at factories. Batman also liked large museum-style exhibits through which crime chases could transpire; such archery exhibits are part of the factory building.
Melvin Meekle is a Wally Cox like character, a type that was popular in 1950's entertainment: kind-hearted, nebbishy, very timid, highly intelligent. Such a characterization was a popular depiction of sympathetic but non-macho intellectual characters in the 1950's. Although he has daydreams of being an archer, he has never actually shot a bow. However, his expertise about arrow manufacture proves to be of great real life help to Green Arrow when a crime occurs at the factory. I recall quite a few TV programs in the 1950's and 1960's about similar mild mannered intellectuals who got a chance to put their skills to real life effect in some exciting adventure.
The Arrow Platoon (1959). Art: Lee Elias. When Green Arrow meets four US Army soldiers stranded in the desert without guns, he trains them in the use of arrows, and helps them capture some escaped convicts.
This story develops a nice surrealistic transformation of the Westerns that were so popular in the 1950's, on television and in the movies, as well as Western comic books. Here the good guys are like the US Cavalry that appeared in so many Westerns, but they are all weirdly fighting with bows and arrows. The story explicitly points out this and other surrealistic incongruities. The surreal transformations are both funny and strange. The story also has the feel of "ordinary modern Americans who have wandered into the plot of a Western movie". This sort of fantasy living of a Western adventure makes a pleasant daydream for the reader. It also rubs them up against an adventure that is continually strange, and which surreally transforms the conventions of the standard Western.
Unlike "The Crime Platoon" (1952), here the soldiers are the good guys. There are only four of them, and their only weapons are bows and arrows, so they do not have the overwhelming force of the military unit in "The Crime Platoon". The soldiers are all privates: Adventure Comics and the Superman family magazine as a whole always gave their sympathy to enlisted men. Their names are the typical ethnic mixed bag of the war movies of the time: Kovacs, Brandt, Martin and Cohen. Cohen is probably Jewish, in the tradition of war movie platoons who often featured Jewish soldiers, as well as representatives of other ethnic groups. Cohen is one of the few Jewish characters anywhere in any Silver Age comic book. Cohen and the other privates here are all depicted most sympathetically. The soldiers seem like a nice bunch of guys, practical, friendly, and willing to try anything Green Arrow suggests. They have a can do spirit that was highly regarded in American culture of the era.
Green Arrow thoroughly trains the soldiers in the use of his specialized arrows. They become quite good at their use. Green Arrow's training of other good guys was a standard part of his activity, recurring in quite a few stories. Unlike most comic book heroes, he seems quite willing to share his skills with others. His generosity of spirit reflects his wholesome personality and a lack of ego needs. It also seems related to the fact that Green Arrow has a set of specific, well-defined skills, unlike many comic book heroes. I've often found that real life experts in some subject were equally willing to train others and share their expertise. Green Arrow's generous psychology here mirrors that of real world experts.
The training stories are also good wish fulfillments for the reader. The reader can easily imagine themselves in the place of the soldiers and other GA trainees, getting taught his skills and using his special arrows. This makes for a highly pleasing fantasy experience. Usually the trainees in the stories are nice young people, like the Army privates here. They are not people with any specialized background. Rather, they are people with whom most readers can identify.
Elias has good art depicting the Arrowplane. Like the Arrowcar, it is a brilliant yellow, with a huge arrow-like fin sticking up in the rear. The Arrowplane's triangular design gives it an oddly high tech look - it would still look sleek and modernistic in design today.
The Comic Book Archer (1960). Art: Lee Elias. When a young comic book artist creates a hero called "The Wizard Archer" inspired by Green Arrow, Green Arrow tries to help the artist by showing that his ideas would work in real life. This was Green Arrow's final appearance in Adventure Comics, after a fifteen year run.
Most comic book stories that deal with comics look at comic strips. This tale is unusual in that it looks at comic books themselves. It is unclear why there are so few reflexive comic book stories about comic books. Perhaps there was some sort of editorial taboo, a belief that it would destroy readers' sense that comic book stories were real.
This story takes us backstage at a comic book company, here called "All-Star Comics". Green Arrow, and the reader, get a complete tour, showing how comics are created. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and the story's whole Pirandellian look at comic book creation inside a comic book story. My only complaint is the extreme brevity of the tale. As a comic book fan, I would have preferred a 300 page backstage look at the comics. I suspect that most comics fans will enjoy this tale, but they will also be disappointed that it isn't longer.
Bill Finger's "The Adventures of Mental Man" (Action #196, September 1954) and the later expansion of the tale by Jerry Siegel, "Superman's Rival, Mental Man" (Action #272, January 1961), both deal with a comic strip hero who bears a strong resemblance to Superman. This tale has a similar reflexive, recursive effect, with a Green Arrow like comic book hero inside a Green Arrow story. Both the writer and Elias do some gentle spoofing of GA and his unlikely arrows here.
Elias does not restrict himself to super-hero comics here. His illustrations show Western and spacemen heroes as well, plus Amazon women who recall Wonder Woman. The comic book industry of the era had a great diversity of comic book genres. There is also a comic book about the Golden Avenger, who looks rather like the Golden Age hero The Shining Knight.
Elias' art has a welcome vein of humor. When the script describes the comics writers as trying hard to come up with new ideas, Elias depicts them all sitting around an office, lost in deep concentration and with poses that recall Rodin's statue The Thinker. There is something irresistibly comic about this.
The Useless Arrows (1956). Art: George Papp. When crooks steal his regular arrows Green Arrow must fight crime with a bunch of zany arrows invented by children for a contest sponsored by the Arrow Candy Company. Stories like this are fun. They give the authors a chance to develop a whole series of non-standard arrows. The writer also shows ingenuity in showing how GA and Speedy put each arrow to use in crime fighting, in an approach far different from what its child inventor intended.
The Case of the Green Error Clown (1959). Writer: France E. Herron?. Art: Lee Elias. Green Arrow winds up fighting crooks with the wacky arrows of Green Error Clown, a circus clown who does a good-natured spoof of Green Arrow. Clowns who burlesqued series heroes were common in 1950's DC stories. Most such tales were not much good; this one is way above average. Among other things, the clown's material here is genuinely zany, and shows both humor and good cheer. Both his arrows, and the spoof of the Arrowcar, are inventive. Elias shows vivid art with this material, and is responsible for much of the story's charm. At its best, Elias' art often had a humorous flair, perhaps his strongest suit as an artist. The various arrows and devices of the clown make up almost the entire plot of the story; in this it is similar to "The Amateur Arrows" (1959), another story which consists almost entirely of Green Arrow using strange, humorous arrows developed by other people.
Unlike some other 1950's heroes, Green Arrow is not at all offended by being publicly spoofed. Instead, he takes it with good grace and regards it as a pleasant tribute. This is typical of this hero's maturity and sense of balance.
The Amateur Arrows (1959). Art: Lee Elias. Green Arrow funds a camp for underprivileged children, who in gratitude make him a lot of toy like specialty arrows that at first glance look useless for crime fighting.
This story has a structure much like "The 13 Superstition Arrows" (1958). In both tales GA is provided with a whole bunch of strange arrows, which he later puts to ingenious use in crime fighting. Both the arrows themselves and the uses to which they are put are as clever and way out as the writers could make them. The arrows and their eventual uses are the main subject of the plot: a story that is largely constructed out of novel arrows. This is a very pure kind of Green Arrow tale. Nearly all Green Arrow stories have some aspect of new arrows; these tales mainly consist of such material.
Both stories also have a background frame or plot, in which GA does public service activities for charity. Such charitable actions were an important part of he lives of Silver Age super-heroes, especially Superman. They also allowed writers to introduce eccentric plot ideas.
Children of all ages were very common in the Weisinger magazines, unlike those edited by Julius Schwartz, who tended to concentrate on adults. The Weisinger magazines tend to include a huge variety of characters of every age and from every walk of life into their stories; they tend to be part of vignettes of "daily life". The kids here are treated with both humor and affection. This too is typical of the Weisinger writers. Kids tend to be seen as funny, and up to the zaniest activities. They have tremendous imagination, and are always introducing novel plot ideas and situations into the Weisinger stories.
This story, like "The Arrow Platoon" (1959), allows GA to get out into the countryside, unlike the urban noir of the Papp years.
The Underwater Archers (1959). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Art: Lee Elias. Green Arrow and Speedy adopt Aquaman's techniques, when they hunt a criminal who operates in the oceans. This story immediately followed the Aquaman tale "The Manhunt on Land" in Adventure #267, also written by Bernstein. This is a pair of linked stories, in which Aquaman and Green Arrow adopt each other's methods, when they have to work in each other's territories.
This is one of the few good Green Arrow tales that involves any sort of science fiction. It employs sf elements associated with the Aquaman tales. It could hardly be considered a real "Green Arrow taking on Aquaman's role" story without such sf features. Even here, however, much of the tale sticks to Green Arrow's basic mode: inventing new technology to help him with the job at hand.