In Part One, we looked at two time travel adventures -- one where Green Arrow met Robin Hood (August 1942) and one where the two archers switched places (1949).
In this part, we look at other Green Arrow stories from the 1940s and early 1950s which most heavily employed Robin Hood elements, such as people pretending to be Robin Hood.
Green Arrow and Speedy do not travel to medieval England in this adventure. Instead the story is about the making of a Robin Hood film. The actor playing Robin Hood receives a blow on the head and starts acting like he is the real Robin Hood. Errol Flynn as super-villain? Well, not quite.
The story begins with Oliver Queen and Roy Harper in Hollywood watching the tryouts for a new Robin Hood film. It seems the criteria to become a big screen Robin Hood is not acting ability or charisma, but skill with a bow and arrow. (Beginning in the 1970s, it was established that Green Arrow learned archery from the real-life Howard Hill, the person who did the actual trick shooting in the 1938 film.) The winner is a man named Guy Mason. Roy wonders how Green Arrow or Speedy would have done, but Oliver remarks that "Our shooting is real, not reel!" It's a cute pun, and it highlights the difference between real fighting and cinema fighting. For example, it's often remarked that Errol Flynn's fencing looks great on screen, but would be impractical in real life.
Then again, Green Arrow and Speedy's archery was "reel enough" when they served as screen doubles in the production of The Adventures of William Tell in More Fun Comics #80 (June 1942).
The Robin Hood costume is primarily orange, not green. Quite often in the comic books,Robin Hood was dressed in orange or red. It helps distinguish him from Green Arrow at least. Perhaps the red and orange was to stand in for the brown that dominated one of Flynn's costumes, as brown was a more problematic colour for the early days of comic book printing.
Filming of this new Robin Hood movie does not go smoothly. We see the director yell at the cameraman Lenton. The director tells Lenton that his bad photography ruined yet another shot and they'll never work together again. (Actually the Errol Flynn film did replace the director and cinematographer part way through production.)
Worse, as they film a castle siege scene, a horse rears up and knocks actor Mason out. When Mason comes to, he starts referring the film's crew as Little John and Friar Tuck. The knock on the head makes Mason think he is Robin Hood.
The next day, it appears Mason has escaped from the hospital. He robs an armed truck and over the next several days redistributes the wealth to the poor.
Green Arrow and Speedy are summoned to police headquarters by an arrow-signal in the sky. (Yes, just like Batman's more famous Bat-Signal.)
The police chief barks at the two superheroes: "We've got to stop this Robin Hood crime-wave, G.A.! He robs the rich and gives to the poor -- but he's a criminal nevertheless!" Yes, of course Robin Hood's most famous deed is illegal, but it appears even more so in the 20th century where the cops are depicted as far more honourable than the Sheriff of Nottingham's goons.
The Robin Hood bandit is on top of a building when he sees Green Arrow and Speedy launching themselves toward him using the special ejector seats of the Arrowcar.
Green Arrow and Speedy land on awning and prepare to scale the rest of the building, but Mason releases balloons which he then bursts with arrows. The balloons are filled with money. Greedy citizens climb onto the awning which gives way.
In a traditional Robin Hood story, when the peasants receive money from Robin Hood, it's a precious gift. They need the money to survive. But here the giving to the poor is just a ploy for the "Robin Hood" to get away. The common people -- who seem more middle class than poor -- are greedy. And their avarice gets in our hero's way.
Green Arrow and Speedy next catch up with the "modern Robin Hood" at a drawbridge. Robin Hood leaps across saying "Drawbridges! Ha! A familiar thing with me!" Green Arrow shoots a bolo arrow, an arrow with a rope line, to the other side of the bridge. Robin Hood shoots an arrow at the rope as Green Arrow and Speedy are swinging across, and the two heroes fall into the water. Robin Hood says it's reminds him of how he tricked the Sheriff of Nottingham.
After Green Arrow and Speedy pull themselves out of the water, Green Arrow examines the arrow that cut their rope line. It gives him the clue to solve the case. And he declares that this so-called Robin Hood isn't insane.
Meanwhile outside the Midtown Loan Company, a truck with an archery target made of petty cash drives by. Robin Hood shoots the dollar bills, which distributes the cash to the eager citizens. But Robin Hood thinks to himself that the populous will be so distracted with picking up the $5 bills, they won't notice him stealing the much greater haul inside the loan company. This Robin Hood's distribution of wealth is pragmatic -- not altruistic.
Once again, the greedy citizens block the path of Green Arrow and his sidekick. But this time, Green Arrow has a plan. He takes a loudspeaker and tells the citizens they've been tricked. It's counterfeit five dollar bills -- they have the picture of Abraham Lincoln, not Alexander Hamilton. He tells the people the money is worthless.
And the public believe Green Arrow. They see Lincoln's picture on the currency and declare "Let's get that cheatin' Robin Hood!" It would appear this story wishes to depict the common public as greedy, ignorant and gullible. And contains a mission that you should support your police. One wonders for a moment if the story's uncredited writer could be the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The angry citizens stop the modern Robin Hood from leaving the loan building with his ill-gotten gains.
But Robin Hood protests -- all five dollar bills have Lincoln's picture on them! (Alexander Hamilton is on the ten-dollar bill.) Green Arrow confesses that he gambled that not one man in ten would know whose face was supposed to be on the bill. It turns out that like the Robin Hood of legend, Green Arrow is a bit of a trickster himself.
And then comes the great unmasking. Green Arrow yanks off the modern Robin Hood's bycocket hat and page-boy wig to reveal -- Lenton the cameraman who was going to be fired, and not actor Guy Mason after all.
It turns out Lenton kidnapped Mason and assumed his identity to commit crimes. But Lenton's no archer. He fired his arrows from a concealed gun. As the adventure wraps up, Green Arrow explains to his ward that he figured it out because the modern Robin Hood's arrow didn't have the nock and vane that an arrow would need to fly accurately from a bow. Examining further he discovered gunpowder on the arrow -- proof it was fired from a gun. As actor Guy Mason was an ace archer, he wouldn't need such tricks. So, the phony Robin Hood had to be someone else.
The comic once again goes out of the way to debunk the legendary Robin's "give to the poor" tactic when Speedy notes that Lenton's Robin kept far more than he gave away.
In some ways, Lenton doesn't act that differently than Robin Hood from popular culture. Robin Hood is a trickster and a robber. But this story is not told from Robin Hood's point of view or the poor peasants' point of view. No, our viewpoint characters are the law-abiding Green Arrow.
This tale resembles a Batman story but for once Green Arrow got their first. The 1966 Batman TV episodes "Shoot a Crooked Arrow" and "Walk the Straight and Narrow" feature Art Carney as the Robin Hood wannabe The Archer, who conceals his cunning criminality by redistributing a portion of his wealth. Those who help support my site, can access my review of those Batman episodes at The Hidden Grove.
Written by [Uncredited]
Pencilled and Inked by George Papp
Here we have another story of another person who acts as if he's Robin Hood returned to the modern-day. And just as in the 1948 story above, social banditry isn't welcome in the 20th century.
Oliver Queen and Roy Harper are taking a train ride home. They remark on how much the trees resemble the forests of medieval England. Just then the train screeches to a halt. A wooden barrier is blocking the track. The train is robbed ... by Robin Hood and his Merry Men?
Robin Hood is dressed in a lime green tunic, with an orange cape and a feathered cap that resembles a beret more than Green Arrow's traditional Robin Hood bycocket. This Robin Hood also wears a mask around his eyes. By his words, Robin Hood seems to think he's taking money from the sheriff, and plans to give it to the poor.
Oliver and Roy change into their costumes and charge into battle. Robin Hood recites a strange rhyme "Shaft of rowan, bow of yew, speed my vengeance, sharp and true!"
Robin Hood shoots his shaft of town toward Green Arrow, but the superhero deflects it with an arrow of his own. Speedy shoots an arrow into Little John's quarterstaff, knocking it back into the outlaw's face.
A stock type of Robin Hood ballad is the "Robin Hood meets his match" formula. Robin's defeated in combat and then recruits the stranger to join his band. The ballad of Robin Hood and Little John is the best known of these. And this train-robbing Robin Hood tries to carry on that tradition. He offers Green Arrow and Speedy a place within his band.
But Little John tells Robin that the superheroes are in the pay of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Green Arrow admits they do know a lot of sheriffs "and not one of them has a high opinion of train robbers."
Again, we're reminded that the context of 20th century superhero comics is very different than the classic Robin Hood legend. In response to early complaints that comic books were corrupting the youth of America DC Comics adopted a strict code that the forces of law were to be respected. Batman had been an outlaw hero at first and became a special deputy to conform to this dictate. In 1954, nearly the entire comic book industry would adopt a similar code to ease public opinion. So, in DC Comics (or National Comics, to use their official name at the time) sheriffs were indeed the good guys.
Little John knocks Green Arrow out, but they are driven off by the train's guards.
When Green Arrow recovers, he declares "I'm staying right here ... till I discover what brought Robin Hood and his not-so-Merry Men from England, seven and half centuries ago, to our land and time!" Speedy is surprised because Green Arrow speaks as though their attacker really was Robin Hood. Green Arrow replies that he was convincing and "not at all as if he was playing a role!" Comic books at the time rarely referred back to previous adventures, but the line serves as a good contrast to the Robin Hood imposter in the 1948 story described above.
Green Arrow and Speedy walk through an American forest that resembles their romanticized view of Sherwood. They come upon a garlanded target with an arrow in it -- yes, just like the targets in the Robin Hood ballads. Green Arrow announces they need expert advice, and it just so happens that "America's greatest authority on Robin Hood and the Middle Ages" Professor Richard Courtenay lives nearby.
The bespectacled Courtenay meets with the two superheroes in his sylvan retreat and escorts him to his private castle. It would seem in the world of DC Comics that academia pays surprisingly well if Courtenay can afford to build a reproduction an English castle. The scholar modestly speculates that perhaps it was his last book at inspired the outlaws.
Green Arrow quotes a few of the rhymes that the Robin Hood outlaw had said. Courtenay is shocked. He takes his guests to the castle library and shows them a manuscript. The train robber was quoting runes "They were used by Robin Hood to bring him good luck." But these runes were only rediscovered in a lost manuscript that Courtenay found in England two months ago. No one else should know them. No one except perhaps if the real Robin Hood hand come back to life.
Courtenay speculates that if Robin Hood did come again and continued his outlaw ways perhaps he would be a train robber. It's ease enough to romanticize Robin as a hero when in the medieval context, but in today's society, he's a crook.
Courtenay is afraid that maybe the reborn Robin Hood would attack him and steal his scholarship. Green Arrow agrees to help.
That night, the outlaws move a catapult into position outside Courtenay's castle. They plan to attack at dawn, once Robin Hood joins them. Robin appears and asks if they're ready to "take from the rich to aid the poor." One of the Merry Men laughs "What a crazy idea!" But then quickly he backpedals "Uh ... I mean ... Ho, Robin! We await your bidding!"
Again, this is a hint that the Merry Men are far more modern in thought that than the Robin Hood. Robin wants to fulfill his classic axiom of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. But for the real crooks, they can't even comprehend the idea of taking money to help someone else. They break character as they try to wrap their heads around the idea of altruism.
Just then, a second Robin Hood comes on the scene and accuses the other Robin Hood of being a trick of the sheriff.
The outlaws decide to determine who the classic Robin Hood is in classic fashion -- by means of an archery contest. The first Robin Hood splits a willow wand, just as Robin Hood did in the original ballads. But the second Robin Hood splits the first Robin's arrow. The splitting of the arrow was popularized in Sir Walter Scott's 1819 novel Ivanhoe and has become a staple of Robin Hood lore ever since. It's almost as if the 20th century conception of Robin Hood had defeated the medieval conception of the character.
The not-so-Merry Men figure that the winner of the contest wouldn't be Robin Hood, but Green Arrow. While Green Arrow is only competing against a phony Robin Hood, it suggests as we saw in Green Arrow's 1942 time travel adventure that the modern superhero is a better archer than his legendary predecessor.
They tie the superhero to the catapult's rock and plan to fling him into the castle. Robin seems more concerned than his men about killing the hero.
Speedy shows up and saves the day. He shoots an arrow that cuts Green Arrow's bonds. Green Arrow punches Little John and the outlaw's fake beard comes flying off. They recognize the outlaw as Big Jack Jennings, a confidence man. Green Arrow stops another outlaw who pulls a gun.
Meanwhile Robin Hood comes to his senses, and wonders where he is. Robin takes off his own mask and fake beard, revealing the face of Professor Richard Courtenay, Robin Hood scholar. In the earlier 1948 story it appeared as if an Errol Flynn type had become a super-villain. This time, it appears like the villain was almost J.C. Holt or Stephen Knight or Thomas Ohlgren, a top scholar gone rogue.
On Green Arrow's instructions Speedy had brought along the famous psychiatrist Dr. Sykes to explain what had happened. Apparently Courtenay had become so obsessed with Robin Hood he developed a split personality. (My own split personality assures me that's nonsense.) The con man Jack Jennings found out about it and planned to take advantage of it. They'd commit crimes and the blame would fall on Courtenay alone.
Courtenay vows he'll never become as obsessed with his work again, and Green Arrow thinks he'll make a full recovery.
I can joke as someone with a passionate interest in Robin Hood, but I wonder if Courtenay is actually meant to stand in for not a Robin Hood scholar, but rather an obsessive fan of comic books. It would be another couple of decades before fan culture and cosplay would truly begin to flourish, but I wonder if this was an early, gentle, reprove of the comics' passionate readership.
Written by [Uncredited]
Pencilled and Inked by George Papp
This time Green Arrow doesn't just encounter Robin Hood and his band, but a whole team of legendary (more or less) archers.
Green Arrow is donating one of his arrows to the archery exhibit at the local museum. The superhero wonders how he'd compare to the other great archers represented in the display -- William Tell, Robin Hood, Chief Talon and William the Conqueror. That last one is a bit odd, but then the Bayeux Tapestry does show King Harold being shot in the eye.
It seems absurd that a museum could have the arrow of a figure such as Robin Hood, whose historicity is dubious at best. (Visit my Search for a Real Robin Hood page, if you'd like to know about the possible inspirations for the legend.) Although perhaps Speedy donated the arrow from his time-travel encounters with Robin Hood. But if a museum having the arrows of Robin Hood or William Tell seems absurd, what happens next takes the cake.
ust as Green Arrow finishes musing, he's conked on the head. The museum is being robbed. The crooks say "That takes care of Green Arrow! Hurry! The time machine is in the closet -- We haven't a minute to spare!"
The time machine resembles an old-style camera, the kind they'd film TV shows with. The crooks wheel it in front of the arrow display case and poof! The four archers whose arrows are on display are summoned forth into the present.
The crooks lie and claim that Green Arrow and Speedy are vicious criminals, and that history's greatest archers should execute them.
The archers of yesteryear don't find this a sporting suggestion. They want to beat Green Arrow in a fair fight.
The archers draw lots as to who should go first, and William Tell gets the chance. The Swiss archer chases Green Arrow into a supermarket. The Swiss archer shoots an arrow that cuts the strap holding Green Arrow's quiver. The superhero is now weaponless.
But Green Arrow distracts William Tell through trickery. He places an arrow on his head, and Tell is compelled to duplicate his most famous shot. He shoots the apple, not Green Arrow.
The superhero is able to escape Tell. But he has an even more famous opponent waiting.
, the crooks send Robin Hood after Green Arrow. It's a bit hard to recognize this comic's version of Robin Hood. He doesn't wear a hat or a hood, and Robin has a dark blue tunic and orange leggings. Once again, it's important to distinguish Robin from Green Arrow, even though it means Green Arrow looks more like Robin Hood than Robin himself does.
Robin Hood launches a barrage of arrows which drive Green Arrow and Speedy into the city park, which was Robin's plan. He wanted to face them in an environment that resembles Sherwood Forest.
Between his legendary opponents, Green Arrow replaced his quiver, but he suffers another setback when his bowstring snaps.
Green Arrow needs to outsmart Robin Hood. He notices the flower bed on a nearby bush resembles a classic archery target. Green Arrow jabs his own arrow into the bullseye. As with William Tell, Green Arrow compels the archer of yesteryear to duplicate his most famous shot. Robin Hood shoots his arrow at the makeshift target.
William the Conqueror and Chief Talon join the fray, and they chase the heroes into a railway yard. Green Arrow gains the upper hand, but he notices the conqueror and chief are riding toward the track's third rail. As they have no knowledge of the dangers of electricity, the historical archers would be killed.
Rather than let that happen, Green Arrow gives himself up. The hero is done in my his own compassion and sense of fair play.
The archers of yesterday vote and agree to execute the heroes in an archery firing squad.
Things look bleak. But just then, Green Arrow wakes up. It turns out that his whole adventure was nothing but a dream. Everything after he'd been knocked out was the product of Green Arrow's imagination.
Green Arrow looses an arrow into the archery exhibit sign, causing it to fall on the escaping crowed. and Speedy.
Later, the museum curator says he's proud to add Green Arrow's shaft to collection, especially after he stopped the robbers. The superhero muses that catching modern crooks is much easier than facing the archers of yesteryear.
How would Green Arrow fare against history's greatest archers? Well, even though Green Arrow shows off his skill with the bow several times throughout the story, he doesn't beat William Tell and Robin Hood by being a better shot. Instead he uses his brain to outsmart his opponents. Many of DC's superheroes used their wits to solve special challenges. When Robin Hood becomes a DC comic book character in a couple years. he too will often outwit his enemies.
Written by [Uncredited]
Art by George Papp
The previous story had Green Arrow fighting the world's most famous archers. This time he's using the arrows of the most famous archers, including Robin Hood. (I assume that Robin Hood is the middle archer, with a beret like hat instead of the more common bycocket that Green Arrow and Speedy wear.)
The story begins with Oliver Queen showing his young ward Roy Harper that he’s set up a blacksmith shop in their cellar so they can help out the neighbourhood. No sooner is the blacksmith shop open than their first customer stops by.
The customer brings a very special arrow to fix – the very one that Robin Hood used to split another arrow at the Nottingham archery contest. (An archery contest appears in the ballads A Gest of Robyn Hode and Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow. The idea of splitting an arrow at the contest generally enters the legend in the 1819 novel Ivanhoe. The feat of splitting an arrow has become so associated with Robin Hood that it's referenced in nearly all the Robin Hood themed Green Arrow stories.)
Oliver accepts the arrow’s historical pedigree, but also says that “even if the Robin Hood legend is fictional!” (I know a number of amateur enthusiasts who get very upset when you suggest this possibility. Although Oliver should know better as he’s actually met Robin Hood before thanks to time-travel.)
The Arrow Signal summons the heroes on an another important case. When Speedy can’t seem to locate his quiver, Green Arrow suggests he takes the newly repaired Robin Hood arrow instead.
In their Arrowcar, the battling bowmen chase after a fleeing car. Up ahead there’s a dead end sign with an arrow pointing to the right.
Speedy shoots the Robin Hood arrow into the crossroads sign breaking off the portion of the sign with the arrow pointing to the right. Instead Speedy’s arrow points toward the left.
Confused by the altered sign, the criminals turn right onto the dead end street, allowing Green Arrow and Speedy to capture them easily.
Green Arrow notes that Speedy used the arrow to “split an arrow” just as Robin Hood had.
Further customers bring arrows to Oliver Queen’s workshop. Speedy finds himself using Hiawatha’s arrow to send a message to police. Speedy grows suspicious that their blacksmith shop only seems to be visited by people who want arrows repaired, that something keeps happening to prevent him from using his regular arrows, and that he's duplicating famous feats in a strange way. Green Arrow is evasive, constantly telling his sidekick "Remember what curiosity did to the cat."
And then another customer comes by who wants them to repair the arrow that William Tell used to shoot the apple on his son's head. And wouldn't you know it,Green Arrow and Speedy come upon a crime where a fruit vendor is threatening people with bombs hidden inside apples. (Technically speaking William Tell's arrow would have been a shorter arrow -- a bolt or quarrel -- suited for a crossbow, not the bow that Speedy carries.)
Of course, Speedy uses William Tell's arrow to shoot the apple in two.
Oddly, the criminal and the victim cheer Speedy’s great shot. The celebration is joined by the other crooks and the people who came by to get their arrows fixed.
That’s when Green Arrow explains that all the crooks were merely actors. These historical arrows are a gift for Speedy to create his own personal trophy room. G.A. explains that he didn’t want to just give the arrows to Speedy, but to have him earn them.
Green Arrow also quickly explains that Oliver Queen is a friend who was in on the plan, and that he helped give the arrows to Green Arrow and Speedy. It sounds unconvincing. You’d think that at least one of the actors might suspect that Oliver Queen and Roy Harper were really Green Arrow and Speedy, but no.
It's not uncommon in the 1950s and 1960s superhero stories for heroes to keep secrets from their partners and sidekicks. Batman would do this sort of thing to Robin, and Superman would do it to Jimmy Olsen. And again, the story has a sort of puzzle logic to it. It's as if crime-fighting has been reduced to a mere children's game. It's a sensible approach, perhaps as this issue appeared at a time when comic books were undergoing intense scrutiny and censorship to cut down on their violent content.
This brief tale demonstrates yet again how notable the idea of Robin Hood splitting an arrow had become, as had William Tell's shot with the apple.
This might concludes our look at the Green Arrow and Robin Hood encounters in the Golden Age of Comic Books. On the next page I'll explore the Green Arrow and Robin Hood stories of the Silver Age.
For a look at Green Arrow comics in the Golden Age of Comic Books, check out:
And look below for places where you can purchase Green Arrow comics and related books.
Sadly none of these stories are currently not available in either print or digital editions. However, you might enjoy:
GREEN ARROW: THE GOLDEN AGE OMNIBUS Vol.1 This collection features over 700 pages of Green Arrow adventures from 1941 to 1947, including the character's first appearance, his original 1943 origin story, and also the 1942 story "Robin Hood's Revenge". The volume concludes just as Green Arrow's most infamous trick arrow -- the boxing-glove arrow -- makes its first appearances.
Buy Green Arrow: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 1 on Amazon.com
Buy Green Arrow: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 1 on Amazon.co.uk
Buy Green Arrow: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 1 on Amazon.ca
SHOWCASE PRESENTS: GREEN ARROW Vol.1 This collection features over 500 pages of solo and team-up Green Arrow adventures from 1958 to 1969, including Green Arrow's revised 1959 origin, his first adventure with the Justice League of America, team-ups with Batman, and another encounter with Robin Hood. It concludes with the introduction of Green Arrow's new costume. All the stories are reprinted in black-and-white.
Buy Showcase Presents: Green Arrow, Vol. 1 on Amazon.com
Buy Showcase Presents Green Arrow Vol 1 on Amazon.co.uk
Buy Showcase Presents Green Arrow Vol. 1 on Amazon.ca
I began writing these Green Arrow pages back in 2013. In the time since then, a book length study of Green Arrow was published which covers much of the same territory..
MOVING TARGET: THE HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF GREEN ARROW by Richard Gray. Sequart Organization, 2017. A 75th anniversary look at Green Arrow in all his incarnations, including several interviews. Gray provides good coverage of Green Arrow's Robin Hood connections.
Buy Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow on Amazon.com
Buy Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow on Amazon.co.uk
Buy Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow on Amazon.ca
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