Green Arrow:
Bold Archer

When Green Arrow
Met Robin Hood
Part 3: Adventures in the Silver Age of Comics

by Allen W. Wright

Robin Hood and Oliver Queen, art by Lee Elias


In Part One, we looked at two 1940a comic book time travel adventures -- one where Green Arrow met Robin Hood (August 1942) and one where the two archers switched places (1949). In Part Two we looked at more Green Arrow stories from the 1940s and early 1950s that had a Robin Hood theme.

Now we examine two Green Arrow stories with a Robin Hood spin from the late 1950s, a period that would be dubbed the Silver Age of Comic Books. Although for a character like Green Arrow who has been in continuous publication since the early 1940s, the transition from Golden Age to Silver Age is a murky one at best.

The title panel for the Green Arrow story in Adventure Comics #242, art by George Papp

"The Return of Robin Hood"

Adventure Comics #242 (November 1957)

Written by [Uncredited]
Pencilled and Inked by George Papp

If you've just my account of Green Arrow / Robin Hood stories from the late 1940s and early 1950s, the tale that follows will seem very familiar to you. But odds are that if you had come across it back in 1957, it would have seemed new and fresh.

Back in the 1950s, the editorial team of the Superman-related comic books (including Green Arrow's co-creator Mort Weisinger) believed that comic books were strictly for children, and that children grew out of reading comic books within a few years. Although comics had a lot of readers, organized groups and information resources were scarce. This led to the philosophy that if a story worked the first time, it would probably work a second time or a third time. Wait a couple years and tell the same story again. Who would notice?

Archery and Gunpowder

Green Arrow has been invited by writer Darby van Heller to duplicate legendary feats of archery. The ace archer shoots an apple off of the head of a statue – duplicating William Tell’s famous shot. Green Arrow then shoots an arrow over a high castle wall, and quickly releases a second arrow which splits his first.

As we’ve seen in previous issues, the splitting of an arrow is usually associated with Robin Hood. Here the famous feat is bizarrely attributed to William the Conqueror.

This tale has an unusual idea for a famous Robin Hood shot.

Green Arrow plans to duplicate Robin Hood's famous but previously unheard of gunpowder shot, art by George Papp

The writer van Heller reads off a sheet that Robin Hood shot two arrows simultaneously at a gunpowder cache that blew open the castle gates. That’s a new one on me. Gunpowder was unknown in the west at during the 12th century setting that had become common for the Robin Hood legend.

Although just a couple weeks after this issue went on sale, American TV viewers could watch Friar Tuck’s evil twin brother attempt to sell Chinese gunpowder to Prince John in “A Tuck in Time”, an episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series which was airing on CBS in America and ITV in the UK. (Gunpowder would continue to play a role in the Robin Hood legend in the 1991 movie Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves, the 2018 Robin Hood film and episodes of 1997 and 2006 TV versions of Robin Hood.)

Anyway, Green Arrow runs at the small can of gunpowder, shoots his arrows and there’s a huge blast of smoke. An unhinged Green Arrow emerges from the smoke. He runs off talking as if he’s really Robin Hood.

Green Arrow admits that he's friendly with a lot of sheriffs, art by George Papp
And we soon learn how different Green Arrow has supposedly become. For he does more that just talk like Robin Hood.

Green Arrow - A Robbing Hood?

And then we appear to see Green Arrow finally embrace an aspect of the Robin Hood legend that he never has before – he becomes a robber. Perched outside a bank window, Green Arrow shoots rope arrows into stacks of $100 bills and yanks them out of the bank.

Next we see Green Arrow redistribute money to the poor. Yes, Green appears to be living up to that familiar description of Robin Hood – he robs from the rich and gives to the poor.

Green Arrow gives to the poor. Speedy and the police are concerned, art by George Papp

The next day, Speedy and Police Commissioner James Ryan read a newspaper account of the robbery. They talk about how Green Arrow spoke in the language of another century “like … like Robin Hood.”

Next, Green Arrow jumps into a moving express train. He asks the train personnel (who he addresses as “varlet”) to hand over the cash. He then jumps off the train and once again redistributes the wealth that he claims to have taken from Prince John. 

And the following day, the police commissioner asks Speedy to help stop his partner. Speedy agrees to do it ... for G.A.'s own good.

Green Arrow is robbing a jewelry store when Speedy arrives to stop him. The two archers loose arrows at each other.

Green Arrow and Speedy shoot at each other, art by George Papp

The boy bowman shoots his own arrow and splits his mentor’s in mid-air. Yes, it’s yet another appearance of the splitting arrow motif. Speedy then shoots a rope arrow around Green Arrow’s legs

The Comics Code Authority that was established in 1954 clearly spelled out that “ In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.” And it would appear that Green Arrow is about to be punished. Speedy has tied him up as the police arrive. But Speedy tells them they’ve made a mistake. 

The baddie isn't a delusional Green Arrow but a criminal impersonating Green Arrow who is impersonating Robin Hood, art by George Papp

Unmasking Robin Hood / Green Arrow

The young sidekick tears off Green Arrow’s mask, but instead of Oliver Queen, we see Van Heller, the writer who encouraged Green Arrow to duplicate those famous archery stunts. But the cops also recognize the man as Archie the Archer, who they’ve been after for a long time.

Just then, the real Green Arrow arrives on the scene. He’s just escaped from Van Heller’s men. The crooks had released a smoke bomb during the gunpowder trick shot and kidnapped Green Arrow. (Well, they don’t use the word kidnap and nor do they depict this in the art. This may be due to page restrictions of the six page story, or it may be due to the provisions in the Comics Code that limit the depiction of kidnapping.) 

Speedy reveals he knew the Robin Hood-like Green Arrow was a fake, because when he emerged from the smoke, Green Arrow was wearing a green feather in his cap. At this time, Green Arrow always wore a red feather. (He’d switch to green feathers in 1969.)  

As the story concludes, Green Arrow also adds that Van Heller only gave away part of his loot to make the Robin Hood act seem real. The space limitations of the story prevent a true exploration of the criminal’s motivation for this absurdly complicated scheme. 

If this story seems familiar to you, it might be because of its similarities to the 1948 story “The Archer from Sherwood Forest” story that I covered in a previous section. In the earlier story, an actor starring in a Robin Hood movie conked his head and started committing Robin Hood-related robberies. At the end of the story it turned out the culprit wasn’t the actor at all but a disgruntled cameraman who was trying to frame him. This time it’s Green Arrow himself who is being framed. 

The idea of duplicating famous feats of archery also has precedents in the 1951 “The Archers from Yesteryear” and the 1955’s “The World’s Most Famous Arrows”, both covered previously. 

Disguise is a common trope in both superhero stories and in the Robin Hood legend. And as with some of the earlier takes, robbing the rich and giving to the poor is considered a crime that needs to be stopped. So, what does that mean for when Green Arrow once again encounters the "real" Robin Hood?

Splash page for The Green Arrow Robin Hood from Adventure Comics #264, art by Lee Elias

"The Green Arrow Robin Hood!"

Adventure Comics #264 (September 1959)

Written by [Uncredited]
Art by Lee Elias

In sense this is another recycled story as Green Arrow travelled in time to meet Robin Hood in 1942 as recounted in Part One. However, it is substantially different from its inspiration. For one thing, the page count had been reduced from 13 pages in 1942 (when Green Arrow was the lead feature of More Fun Comics) to 6.67 pages in 1959 (when Green Arrow was the second back-up feature in Adventure Comics.) Also, comic book censorship was greater in the 1950s.

At the time the comic was released, kids could still enjoy Richard Greene’s TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood every Saturday morning on CBS. Robin also in several comics including DC’s Robin Hood Tales which finished its 14-issue run in 1958. An appearance of Robin Hood was enough to merit the Green Arrow story getting a brief promotional blurb on the issues cover, a rare occurrence by this time when Green Arrow's popularity was clearly on the wain compared to the cover-feature Superboy and the Aquaman back-up feature.

A Visit to Sherwood Forest in the 20th Century

Millionaire Oliver Queen and his youthful ward Roy Harper are on vacation at Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. This fictional version of Sherwood features a "quaint museum" dedicated to Robin Hood and a special coach to take visitors to visit the important sites in the "leafy glen". 

In the 1940s Speedy was the authority on Robin Hood, but this time he's asking Oliver to tell him about the outlaw.

A pipe-smoking Oliver Queen and Roy Harper at the Robin Hood museum, art by Lee Elias

Oliver says that Robin Hood had several secret identities, and went on missions similar to the crime-fighting adventures of Green Arrow and Speedy. Essentially it's recasting Robin Hood as just another superhero.

In the original 1942 meeting between Green Arrow and Robin Hood, there was an attempt made to justify Robin Hood's robberies -- as taking from the true thieves. In most of the encounters with someone pretending to be Robin Hood, robbery was a key part of the plot -- something condemned by Green Arrow and the police.But here, just as in the 1949 adventure where Robin Hood and Green Arrow trade places, there's is no mention of Robin Hood robbing the rich or giving to the poor. Robin Hood is simply someone who fights bad people.

I do have to wonder why Oliver and Roy are discussing their crime-fighting alter egos within earshot of all the other visitors. 

Oliver Queen finds Robin Hood's cave, art by Lee Elias

Oliver decides not to take the coach ride, preferring to walk alone through the forest. He comes upon an old cave -- "a hold-over from Robin Hood's day". But it looks as though the cave has had more recent use. There's old World War II atomic lab equipment left over a pile of notes.

And as one does with unknown atomic equipment, Oliver decides to random fiddle with the controls. There's a crack of lightning -- and Oliver is no longer alone.

Oliver Queen meets Robin Hood, art by Lee Elias

Oliver Queen Meets Robin Hood for the First Time ... Again

A man appears in the cave, dressed in green and wearing a bycocket hat, not unlike Green Arrow's own. Oliver exclaims "Great Scott! A wounded man, dressed exactly like Robin Hood!" No, neither of them remember their previous meeting in 1942 -- and neither would most of the readers who were unlikely to have been alive 17 years before, let alone reading and remembering comics.

But also, this is the first time that Robin Hood truly looks like the Errol Flynn version. No more orange costumes or berets instead of bycockets. This comic wants to portray Robin Hood as a medieval version of Green Arrow, and so it's okay that their costumes are similar. And this is clearly the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood -- not the clean-shaven Robin Hood of the 1950s Richard Greene TV series or DC's old Robin Hood Tales comic book series.

Oliver doesn't at first believe he's really meeting Robin Hood. He thinks the stranger is delirious. He offers to call for a museum attendant. 

Robin believes Oliver to be a good man, and asks him to warn the Merrie Men of an ambush by the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John's men. Robin entrusts his bow and quiver to Oliver -- so that Little John will know to trust him.

Then Robin imparts a surprising bit of information to Oliver.

Robin reveals his secret identity to Oliver Queen, art by Lee Elias

Robin tells Oliver that he can get help at the Blue Dolfin Inn, because he works there in his secret identity as a chimney sweep. The name of the inn might invoke in readers memories of the Blue Boar Inn, the Nottingham tavern which appears in Howard Pyle's continuously-in-print 1883 children's novel The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and also in the 1950s TV series. 

Robin Hood has certainly employed many disguises in the legends -- he's been a potter, a butcher, a bold harper, and a palmer turned hangman. But those were all temporary disguises to trick the sheriff, stop a forced wedding, or save his friends from being executed. This story suggests that Robin Hood has an ongoing secret identity, just like Oliver Queen, Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent.

Oliver realizes the lab equipment has vanished, and he slowly begins to let himself believe. "I'm actually in the past now!" He deduces the atomic machine opened up a time warp when the energy was released.

Disguised as Robin Hood, Green Arrow invents falcon arrows, art by Lee Elias

Green Arrow Cosplays Robin Hood

Oliver decides that the most effective way to warn the Merrie Men is to disguise himself as Robin Hood. His disguise includes a fake mustache and goatee, a decade before Oliver would grow them for real. Oliver reflects once again how similar Robin's life is to his own. But the time spent perfecting his Robin Hood costume may have resulted in a costly delay.

When Oliver reaches Robin Hood's camp, the Merrie Men are already under attack. Oliver quickly fashions some trick arrows. He sticks feathers and thorns on his arrows to create "falcon arrows" that snatch the guard's bows from their hands. Oliver also fashions "yoke arrows" to pin the attackers to the ground, and "jousting arrows" -- a variation on Green Arrow's "boxing-glove arrow" to harmlessly knock out the foes.

Back when they first met in 1942, Green Arrow had a rope arrow, but few other arrow tricks. By 1959, Green Arrow has developed a whole arsenal of trick arrows. In fact, the point of these late 1950s Green Arrow stories is to show off whatever clever trick arrows he can invent.

People often laugh at the idea that Clark Kent's glasses can conceal his true identity of Superman. You might as well ask why does the Sheriff of Nottingham fail to recognize Robin Hood in any of his disguises. It's a trope of adventure stories that disguises are impenetrable.  For example, Little John fails to notice that Oliver isn't Robin Hood. He's surprised Robin recovered so quickly from his wounds.

Little John speaks to Green Arrow, disguised as Robin Hood, art by Lee Elias

Little John gives "Robin" the bad news. The Sheriff is holding Marian hostage in Nottingham. Robin vows to rescue her -- another Robin Hood trope, particularly from the film and TV versions of the legend.

Oliver decides it's time to disguise himself as Robin Hood's other identity -- the chimney sweep.

Green Arrow in Robin Hood's chimney sweep disguise, art by Lee Elias

Green Arrow in Robin Hood's chimney sweep identity
Adventure Comics #264
Sept. 1959
Art by Lee Elias

Robin Hood changes into his chimney sweep costume, from Lois Lane #22,art by Kurt Schaffenberger

Robin Hood changes into his secret identity, Peter the chimney sweep
Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #22
Jan. 1961
Art by Kurt Kurt Schaffenberger

In 1961, Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane also visits a Sherwood Forest museum and finds herself transported into the past. She sees Robin Hood as a medieval version of Superman -- complete with a secret identity.

In some ways, the chimney sweep identity better suits Superman comics. Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent is closer to the average person than Green Arrow's secret identity of millionaire Oliver Queen is.

Oliver enters through the chimney, and assures Marian he's here to help rescue her on Robin Hood's behalf. And this is an area where Robin Hood is again closer to the Superman archetype. Oliver Queen has few supporting characters to keep his secret safe from. Whereas Superman (and Batman when he needs to impersonate Superman for various reasons) always strive to keep Lois and other from discovering the truth. Marian can't imagine how a chimney sweep can help, so Oliver excuses himself and quickly changes into his Robin Hood costume.

Green Arrow disguised as Robin Hood rescues Maid Marian, art by Lee Elias

Marian also doesn't realize this isn't Robin Hood. "Robin" and Marian swing down from the tower on a "vine arrow" - something that homages Green Arrow's standard "arrowline" and the vines that Errol Flynn's Robin Hood swings on in the 1938 film.

And the story gets to show off one more of Green Arrow's medieval style trick arrows -- "soot arrows". The guards are blinded by the tiny bags of soot attached to the arrows -- soot that Oliver collected in his chimney sweep disguise.

"Robin" leaves Marian with the Merrie Men and then goes to meet the now-recovered Robin Hood back at the cave. He fills Robin in on all that he did in his name.

Back to the Future

Oliver enters the cave, lightning flashes again and he's returned to 1959. Was it merely a dream? And the museum, Roy shows something that makes Oliver wonder.

Roy Harper and Oliver Queen discuss Robin Hood's trick arrows, art by Lee Elias

"The Robin Hood Museum"
Adventure Comics #264, 1959
Art by Lee Elias

Special arrows on display at Robin Hood Tales in 1999

Robin Hood Tales
Nottingham, 1999
Photo by Allen W. Wright

Roy points to the display of trick arrows on display at the Robin Hood museum, and Oliver recognizes them as the ones he created. He's left wondering if he'd read about them in the past, or did he really time travel and create them.

While nothing as elaborate as Green Arrow's trick arrows would have existed back in the 12th century, medieval archers did have specialized arrowheads for different purposes. I saw a bunch of them on display at the now-defunct Tales of Robin Hood attraction in Nottingham in 1999.

This encounter between Green Arrow and Robin Hood was missing some elements in earlier tales. There was no callback to Robin Hood's splitting of the arrow. Not only is the Robin Hood in this story not portrayed as a robber -- he's not even portrayed as an outlaw. At least, as opposed to the 1949 Green Arrow/Robin Hood story, Prince John and the Sheriff are named. But there's no sense they have any true authority. They could just as easily have been portrayed by Superman's nemesis Lex Luthor. 

The idea of one superhero standing in for another happened quite often in the Superman and Batman team-ups of the 1950s and 1960s. And the idea of a visiting time traveller stepping into Robin Hood's shoes forms the basis of an episode of the 1982 time-travel TV show Voyagers! Green Arrow also takes Robin Hood's place yet again in the next major Robin Hood/Green Arrow tale. 

But before we leap ahead to the 1970s and the "Bronze Age" of comic books, I'd like to flashback a year to March 1959, where a very young Oliver Queen first dressed up as Robin Hood, and met Superbody ... "Superman when he was a boy."

Sources and Where to Find These Comics

Sadly "The Return of Robin Hood" from 1957 is currently not available in either print or digital editions. However, you can find 1959's "The Green Arrow Robin Hood" in:

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
Buy Showcase Presents Green Arrow Vol 1 on
Buy Showcase Presents Green Arrow Vol. 1 on

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
Buy Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow on
Buy Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow on

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