Green Arrow:
Bold Archer

Green Arrow:
The Early Years
Part 2: The Silver Age

by Allen W. Wright

Green Arrow reflects on his Silver Age days, art by Jack Kirby


In Part One, we explored the adventures of Green Arrow and his sidekick Speedy in the Golden Age of Comic Books, the 1940s and 1950s. 

Although Green Arrow was never the most popular comic book superhero, his adventures continued to be published into the late 1950s and early 1960s - the Silver Age of comic books.

Green Arrow would briefly be drawn by legendary artist Jack Kirby and receive a new secret origin -- one that is still used in the 21st century comics and TV shows.

The Golden Age Becomes the Silver Age

Comics fans and historians often refer to the late 1950s and the 1960s as a “Silver Age” of Comics.

It’s easy enough to pinpoint the line between the Golden Age and Silver Age for most superheroes. That line is one of cancellation and revitalization. Flash Comics #104 cover-dated Feb. 1949 saw the final solo Golden Age appearances of the Flash (aka research scientist Jay Garrick), Hawkman (aka Carter Hall, re-incarnation of the Egyptian Prince Khufu), the Atom (college student Al Pratt) and the Black Canary (aka Dinah Drake). Green Lantern (aka Alan Scott, currently a radio broadcaster) had his final solo adventures in Green Lantern #38, cover dated May-June 1949. All these classic Golden Age characters continued on for another few years as part of the Justice Society of America in All-Star Comics. But that came to an end with All-Star Comics #57, cover-dated Feb-March 1951. Issue 58 was retitled All-Star Western, and the superheroes were gone, replaced by tales of cowboys and Indians. 

In 1956, Julius Schwartz -- the editor of Flash Comics, Green Lantern and All-Star Comics – tasked writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino with reviving the Flash. But they didn’t bring back Jay Garrick. Instead Showcase #4 (cover date October 1956) featured police scientist Barry Allen as the Flash. He was still super-fast, but the character had a new costume, new personal history, new everything. We even got a glimpse of him reading a comic book about a fictional Jay Garrick Flash. 

Barry Allen becomes the Flash in Showcase #4 by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino

The comic book industry had suffered in recent years. The voices associating comics with juvenile delinquency had grown louder. As the 1940s superheroes had faded in popularity, crime and horror comics had taken their place. They made an easy target. Psychiatrist Frederic Wertham published a blistering (and somewhat faulty) attack on comic books in 1954’s Seduction of the Innocent. The same year Wertham testified at the 1954 Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. Bad press from Wertham’s book and the senate hearings led to the comics industry adopting a Comics Code which restricted content. Many of the code’s provisions were similar to DC Comics’ house guidelines, but now the comics were being vetted by an independent and often arbitrary outfit. Comic book publishers were now on their best behaviour – and so were their superheroes. Even the supervillains had cleaned up their act. The stone-cold killers of the early 1940 had transferred into less-lethal nuisances by the mid-1950s. Comics couldn’t be tough, and so they had to be clever. Editor Julius Schwartz and his new version of the Flash were certainly clever.

This new version of the Flash was successful and after further appearances in Showcase, Barry Allen appeared in 1959’s Flash #105 – appearing a decade after Jay Garrick’s #104. The Flash’s colourful “Rogues Gallery” of foes also stood out.  

Schwartz also spearheaded revivals of Green Lantern in 1959 (now test pilot Hal Jordan, whose power was not magical like the 1940s incarnation, but instead scientific – a member of a space police force), Hawkman in 1961 (now alien policeman Katar Hol) and Atom in 1961 (now physics professor Ray Palmer, with a new power – the ability to shrink in size). 

But there is a rare group of superheroes who never had a publishing hiatus between the Golden Age and the Silver Age – Superman, Batman (with Robin), Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Arrow (with Speedy). Aquaman and Green Arrow survived by hanging onto Superman’s cape, as they were World’s Finest Comics (headlined by Superman and Batman) and Adventure Comics (starring Superboy, Superman in his youth).  

The Brave and The Bold #28, first appearance of the Justice League of America, art by  Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson

The Brave and the Bold #28 (March 1960)
First appearance of the Justice League

Justice League of America #4, cover by Murphy Anderson

Justice League of America #4 (May 1961)
Green Arrow joins the JLA

In 1960, editor Julius Schwartz (along with writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky) brought together old and new heroes as the Justice League of America. They first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #28 (cover date March 1960). The JLA’s founding members were the new Flash, the new Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter (a relatively new hero created in 1955), Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman and Superman. (Due to editorial politics, Superman and Batman initially only had minor roles in the team and were kept off the covers.) Green Arrow was not invited – the only major adult hero left out.

This slight was rectified in the JLA’s seventh adventure in Justice League of America #4 (cover date May 1961). Green Arrow was the first non-charter member to join the JLA. He’d be followed by Atom in #14 and Hawkman in #31. The Justice League gave Green Arrow a home as his features vanished -- with Adventure Comics #269 (February 1960) and World's Finest # 140 (March 1964, with reprinted stories appearing in a couple issues later the same year). 

Green Arrow and Speedy check their trick arrows, art by Jack Kirby

Green Arrow's Dividing Line

There isn’t a lot to separate the early Silver Age Green Arrow from his late Golden Age counterpart. The stories were a bit slicker and more polished than his earliest appearances. They were a bit simpler too.

By 1947, Green Arrow had already expanded his arsenal to include the infamous Boxing Glove arrow. The trend continued into the 1950s. Often it feels like the whole point of the story is to introduce as many trick arrows as possible. In “Green Arrow’s Last Stand” from Adventure Comics #254, we are treated to the two-radio arrow, the fountain-pen arrow, the dry-ice arrow, the flare-arrow, the balloon arrow, the boomerang arrow, the two-stage rocket arrow, the net-arrow, and the siren-arrow – all in just six pages. You almost wonder if the 1960s Batman TV series with its deliberately campy references to absurd devices like “Bat Shark Repellent” was thinking as much of Green Arrow as Batman.

One influence on the stories was a matter of space. Regular sized comics cost 10 cents in 1941 – and they still cost 10 cents in 1961. But you got a lot less for your dime. 1941’s More Fun Comics #73 had a 12-page Doctor Fate story, an eight-page Green Arrow story (his first), a six-page Radio Squad story, an eight-page Johnny Quick story, a two-page text mystery story, a six-page Clip Carson story, a 10-page Spectre story and an eight-page Aquaman story (also his first). That’s 52 comics pages and two text pages. By Adventure Comics #250, 10 cents would buy you a 12-page Superboy story, a six page Green Arrow story, a six page Aquaman story, two educational comic pages, one-and-a-half humour comic pages and one text page of jokes, That’s 27 comics pages and one text page. In his 1940s hey-day when Green Arrow had the cover feature of More Fun Comics, his stories could run 13 pages. Even as a backup feature, his stories would be eight to ten pages.

Beginning with the mid-1950s, his stories would only be between six-and-three-quarter pages and five-and-three-quarter pages. Six pages is not a lot of space for a full and complete story. It was, however, enough space to showcase some of his increasingly bizarre trick arrows.

Green Arrow’s stories do increase back to nine-and-three-quarter pages beginning with World’s Finest Comics #134 (June 1963), but that’s because now the comic only had two superhero features instead of three. Green Arrow and Aquaman supporting stories would appear in every alternate issue. But this size increase lasts less than a year, the last original solo Green Arrow story for several years would appear in World Finest Comics #140 – appropriately titled “The Land of No Return”. The following issues would have reprinted stories as the supporting features.

The most commonly referenced dividing line between the Golden Age and Silver Age Green Arrow is an artistic one. Green Arrow’s co-creator George Papp had been in the army during World War II, but once he returned in 1946 he resumed drawing Green Arrow until 1958. In addition to drawing the Green Arrow feature, Papp was drawing Superboy stories in Boy of Steel’s self-titled comic. Papp was becoming THE Superboy artist. So, in 1958 he took over drawing the lead Superboy feature in Adventure Comics. Someone else would have to draw the Green Arrow stories in Adventure Comics and World’s Finest. And what a someone it was -- Jack Kirby. 

Green Arrow and his international counterparts bid you welcome, art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby's Green Arrow and Borrowing from Batman

If you haven’t heard of Jack Kirby, you’ve probably still heard of his creations. In 1941 he co-created (along with Joe Simon) Captain America. He also worked on many features for DC such as the Sandman, the Boy Commandos and the Newsboy Legion. Contemporaneous with his Green Arrow run, Kirby was working on DC’s Challengers of the Unknown – a team he’d created in 1957. But Kirby’s most famous contributions to comics came after his time on Green Arrow. In 1961, a rival publisher was astonished by the sales of the Justice League. In response Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four. And then the Hulk, the Avengers, the X-Men … and many more characters known filmgoers. Returning to DC Comics in the early 1970s, Kirby created a sprawling mythology dubbed the Fourth World. Elements of the Fourth World (such as the villain Darkseid) have been used in movies in several movies and TV shows.

Green Arrow might have been a low point in Kirby’s legendary career, but he brought a sense of style to the character. The art was dynamic and exciting. As for the stories themselves, they were somewhat more familiar. Kirby’s first Green Arrow story is in Adventure Comics #250 (July 1958). “The Green Arrows of the World” introduces Green Arrow-styled heroes from many countries. It’s a fun concept. And it was also fun back in 1955 when Batman met “The Batmen of All Nations”. Batman's co-creator Bill Finger even wrote the Green Arrow version of the story.

Around this time, Green Arrow’s adventures seem like recycled Batman comics. In 1956 Batman and Robin first meet the recurring character Batwoman, a troublesome groupie who uses equipment modelled after beauty products to fight crime. In 1960, Green Arrow and Speedy have to deal with the well-intentioned but meddlesome Miss Arrowette with her hairpin, lotion, kerchief and hairnet arrows.  

Batman meets Mogo the Bat-Ape in 1958, and in 1961 Green Arrow encounters Bonzo, an ape in a Green Arrow costume. Batman gets visits from the future and transported the bizarre dimensions, and Green Arrow has similar stories.

The only original Green Arrow villain that anyone remembers from the first 30 years of the character’s existence is the Clock King (from World’s Finest Comics #111, August 1960), and that’s only because the 1960s Batman TV series recycled the name for one of their villains And even this “original” Green Arrow foe may have been based on the Clock -- a 1940s foe for Batman’s sidekick Robin and then a villain of the same name reused for a Batman story in 1959.

Batman and Robin face the Clock, art by Sheldon Moldoff

Batman and Robin face the Clock
Detective Comics #265, 1959
Art by Sheldon Moldoff

Green Arrow and Speedy face the Clock King, art by Lee Elias

Green Arrow and Speedy face the Clock King
World's Finest Comics #111, 1960
Art by Lee Elias

Green Arrow didn’t just recycle from Batman. In the later years of the Green Arrow feature, we see aspects of many earlier Green Arrow stories recycled. World’s Finest #100 (Cover date March 1959) features the parody clown “Green Error”, while World’s Finest #138 (cover date December 1963) gives us the clown “Funny Arrow”. However, this was not only true of Green Arrow comics. Superman met an amnesiac he thought might be his long-lost brother from Krypton in 1953, and then Superboy encounters another amnesiac false brother in 1961. (This latter creation, Mon-El, would go onto many repeat appearances including in the Supergirl TV series.)

At the time the readership was presumed to be children – who would grow out of reading superhero comics after a few years. There were no books on comic book history, no internet to catalogue each adventure. A few fans in the emerging underground world of fanzines might notice the similarities, but most readers wouldn’t. Okay, maybe they were pushing it a bit when Wonder Woman travelled back in time to rescue Robin Hood in both 1956 (Wonder Woman #82) and 1957 (Wonder Woman #94). However, Robin Hood fans might remember how many recycled plot elements there are in the Robin Hood ballads, particularly the “Robin Hood meets his match” formula used when so many of the Merry Men first join his band.

Jack Kirby made a lasting impact on Green Arrow. Kirby changed the look of one of the archer’s trick arrows. When Green Arrow’s original artist George Papp drew the non-lethal Boxing Glove Arrow, it was a small boxing-glove shaped bulb at the tip, not much larger than a broadhead arrowhead would be. But Kirby drew a full-size boxing glove. Kirby’s immediate artist successor Lee Elias also drew Kirby’s Boxing Glove Arrow, and so did many artists to follow. This arrow would come to serve as a symbol of all that was either ridiculous (or delightful) about Green Arrow’s trick arrows. Fans would wonder “how does he fit that into his quiver?” (The comics and cartoons of the 21st century felt the need to explain it away. The glove-tip expanded like a balloon after it was removed from the quiver.) 

Green Arrow's boxing glove arrow drawn by George Papp, May 1958

The Boxing Glove Arrow
Art by George Papp
Adventure Comics #248 (May 1958)

Green Arrow and the Boxing Glove Arrow, drawn by Jack Kirby, December 1958

The Boxing Glove Arrow
Art by Jack Kirby
World's Finest Comics #98 (Dec. 1958)

Jack Kirby wasn't a big hit with Green Arrow's co-creator Mort Weisinger. Back in the 1940s, editor Weisinger complained about how Kirby and his partner Joe Simon weren't following the approved scripts or drawing in the house style. But at this time, the Green Arrow stories were under control of editor Jack Schiff. And Schiff was cautiously receptive to transforming the bland archer into a science fiction strip.

In Kirby's second Green Arrow story for Adventure Comics (#251, August 1958), Green Arrow and Speedy received a quiver of "super arrows" sent back in time from fans in the year 3000.

Then with writer Ed Herron (also known as France Herron), Kirby offered up a two-part tale, a rarity in those days. In Adventure Comics #252 (September 1958), Green Arrow and Speedy deal with giant trick arrows bombarding their city. A scientist discovers that the arrows are being shot by alien children. G.A. and Speedy climb on top of a giant arrow with a cable attached to it. When the alien child tugs on the cable, our heroes are sucked into another dimension. 

In Adventure Comics #253, the Battling Bowmen find themselves .... "Prisoner of Dimension Zero". Well, more explorers than prisoners. And in exploring this brave new world, they discover it has such Xeen Arrow -- a giant alien crime-fighter who dresses and acts like Green Arrow.

Green Arrow and Speedy look on as Xeen Arrow fights crime in Dimension Zero, art by Jack Kirby, script by Ed Herron

The issue allows Kirby to design some of the strange, extra-dimensional world. It's a mere taster of the architecture of Thor's Asgard or the Inhumans' Attilan that Kirby would design for Marvel Comics in a few years time. But as Kirbyesque as the art may have been, this new science fiction approach did little to distinguish Green Arrow from Batman.

There's some dispute among comics historians if the science fiction Green Arrow stories were written by Ed Herron or by Dave Wood. But Herron already told the tale of an extra-dimensional Batman, the "Batman of Zur-En-Arrh" in Batman #113 (February 1958) and the two tales do have things in common.

While Batman continued down a science fiction path for a few more years, Kirby's Green Arrow largely pulled back from science fiction. Apparently Weisinger was displeased with what Kirby was doing to his creation and editor Jack Schiff also might have had cold feet. 

Kirby's other Green Arrow stories in Adventure Comics and World's Finest Comics seem more subdued. And while tales of giant arrows and Xeen Arrow would seem to be the most Kirbyesque, the best remembered Kirby Green Arrow story is his last story for Adventure Comics, and second last Green Arrow story,

Green Arrow's Island Origin

Readers had almost certainly forgotten Green Arrow’s original Lost Mesa origin, which does not appear to have been mentioned since its original publication in More Fun Comics #89 (cover dated March 1943). When Adventure Comics revisited the origins of Green Arrow and Aquaman in 1959, they ignored their early 1940s origins and came up with entirely new stories

In a sense, Green Arrow's 1940s origin had already been discarded as Oliver and Roy became Green Arrow and Speedy as part of the same adventure in 1943. But the 1955 "Origin of Speedy" showed Speedy adopting his costume after Green Arrow had been fighting crime for some time.

With "The Green Arrow's First Case" in Adventure Comics #256 (January 1959), France Edward Herron and Jack Kirby came up with a tense framework for Green Arrow to tell Speedy his origin. Oliver sees a news report that an expedition will be arriving on the mysterious Starfish Island. Oliver insists that if they don't get to the island before the expedition team, his identity will be discovered.

He reminds Speedy of the origin story he apparently once told his sidekick "a long time ago". Oliver, a young playboy, fell off a ship during a South Seas voyage and managed to swim to an uncharted island. 

Oliver Queen remembers his Green Arrow origin, by writer Ed Herron and artist Jack Kirby

Once again, Robin Hood is not the influence on Green Arrow's origin. This time, it's Robinson Crusoe -- Daniel Dafoe's 1719 novel that is still widely reprinted three centuries after its original publication. The original readers of Herron and Kirby's Green Arrow origin might also remember the 1954 Robinson Crusoe film directed by  Luis Buñuel. They'd also be familiar with other tales that follow in Dafoe's footsteps such as Swiss Family Robinson.

Oliver Queen has less supplies than his literary predecessor did. He manufactures a bow and arrows after the style of the Indian -- a trace of his interest in Indigenous Peoples from the 1943 tale. But Oliver is not initially an accomplished archer. He needs to practice for "hours and days" before he acquires the skill to shoot fish.

And when Oliver does have the ability to skewer fish with an an arrow, he still needs to draw them in.

Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow invents his rope arrow, art by Jack Kirby with script by Ed Herron

And to solve this problem, Oliver ties a fishing line to his arrow, inventing the rope arrow. So many of the Silver Age stories hinge on Green Arrow's fantastic trick arrows, and the origin tale is no exception. He also invents a net arrow to catch even more fish, and then a drill arrow to pierce and pull down coconuts. 

In 1943, Oliver stained his shirt green as camouflage to sneak up on the crooks. This time, Oliver creates a proto-Green Arrow costume to camouflage himself from the small game he's hunting. The similarity to Robin Hood's costume goes unremarked.

Oliver Queen dresses in an early version of the Green Arrow costume. Art by Jack Kirby and script by Ed Herron

In Dafoe's novel, Crusoe kept a diary of his time as a castaway. And Oliver chisels a journal of his island exploits into a cavern wall.

Oliver sees a ship out in the sea and swims towards what he hopes is freedom. However, in another plot point borrowed from Robinson Crusoe, the crew has mutinied and are holding the captain hostage. Oliver smears anchor grease on his face so the deck lights wouldn't reflect -- an early version of his mask. (The TV series Arrow would use paint across the eyes for its first season and a half.) Then, Oliver uses his trick arrows to capture the mutineers.

Green Arrow captures his first crooks and names himself, art by Jack Kirby and script by Ed Herron

Oliver realizes that his "existence on the island could now serve a useful purpose!" And so, when asked for his name, he responds "Just call me The Green Arrow!"

The flashback ends as the Arrowplane approaches Starfish Island. The problem is that Oliver's diary of his experiences -- which would reveal his secret identity -- is still carved into the cavern wall. If the expedition finds and reads the diary, they'll know that Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow.

Green Arrow and Speedy see that the explorers are checking out the cavern with a Geiger counter, just to ensure that the cave isn't radioactive from recent nuclear tests. And of course, Oliver has a special trick arrow that can help him -- the fake-uranium arrow.

Green Arrow uses a fake uranium arrow to protect his secret identity, art by Jack Kirby

God only knows what circumstances would call for such an arrow to be a part of Oliver's quiver, but it convinces that explorers that the cavern is full of radiation from the recent H-bomb tests. Green Arrow and Speedy plan to dispose of the diary in peace. Oliver reflects on how his career nearly ended in the same place it began.

In just over half the number of pages as the 1943 origin, Kirby and Herron have created a compelling tale. Kirby's dynamic art is vastly superior to Cliff Young and Steve Brodie's 1943 art. And some of it is a case of stealing from the best. Robinson Crusoe gave rise to a host of literary successors. As early as 1731 tales of island castaways were called Robinsonade. Dafoe showed how Crusoe transformed from a foolhardy young man into a mature, responsible religious figure. The tale provides an easy framework for such transformations.

In Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow, Richard Gray writes "In less than seven pages, Herron and Kirby tell a multi-layered story that gives weight and meaning in ways that their comparatively lightweight Golden Age counterparts never needed."

If the origin doesn't seem multii-layered to you, I'd argue that it's greatest strength is its simplicity. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man -- you can cleanly summarize all their origins within a comics page. So too with this Green Arrow origin. It's evocative, iconic and clean.

The layers are added by other writers, who build on the foundations of Kirby and Herron.

Black Canary and Green Arrow on Star Island, art by Trevor von Eeden and Larry Mahlstedt, script by Mike W. Barr

Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen on Star Island
World's Finest Comics #274 (Dec 1981)
Script by Mike W. Barr
Art by Trevor von Eeden and Larry Mahlstedt

Oliver Queen, Connor Hawke and Speedy II in Green Arrow #67, cover art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

Oliver, Connor Hawke and Speedy II on the island
Green Arrow #67 (Dec 2006)
Art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

It took awhile for the new origin to become central to Green Arrow's origin, but in later years writers and artists would send Oliver back to the island when he was contemplating a life-altering change. In 1981, Oliver Queen was now making a living as a newspaper columnist in addition to crime-fighting as Green Arrow. He returned to the island to consider whether he should reveal one of his journalistic sources or face prison time. In 2006, DC Comics skipped forward a year. Green Arrow had new skills and Oliver had new political goals. In December 2006, writer Judd Winick revealed that Oliver had returned to the island in order to re-train himself.

In 2014, writer Jeff Lemire has Green Arrow return to the island in search of a mystic totem of the Arrow clan. While there, Oliver discovers that his own father orchestrated his exile on the island.

It was one of many tweaks to the island origin story.

Writer Denny O'Neil and artist Mike Grell reshape Green Arrow's origin, having him thrown off the yacht by pirates

Changes to the Island Origin Story

1977: Denny O'Neil and Mike Grell

DC Super-Stars #17 (December 1977) was billed as "Secret Origins of the Super-Heroes". The 10-page lead feature was a new version of Green Arrow's origin by his then-current creative team, writer Denny O'Neil and artist Mike Grell. It followed the 1959 origin in the broadstrokes, but it make some changes. 

Most notably, Oliver Queen was thrown off the yacht by pirates -- adding a symmetry to his island origin. The thieves he captures at the end of the origin were the very ones responsible for putting him there. O'Neil shows how tideous high society was on the ship and that Oliver revels in his transformation away from society. This harks back both to Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe but also O'Neil's own interests in Ollie's psychology.

Oliver's island transformation makes him feel great, script by Denny O'neil, art by Mike Grell and Bruce D. Patterson

O'Neil and Grell add an interesting detail -- that Oliver had been taught archery by real-life Hollywood archer Howard Hill, the man who did the trick shooting in the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Also, Green Arrow comes by his new name almost by accident -- when the authorities refer to his green-hued arrows made from reeds and Oliver wonders if they are referring to him.

Oliver Queen gets the name Green Arrow, sort of by writer Denny O'Neil and artist Mike Grell
The idea that Oliver was given rather than devised the Green Arrow name and the Howard Hill connection would stick around. By when the artist Mike Grell became Green Arrow's primary writer a decade later, he striped away many of O'Neil's changes.

1987 - 1993: Mike Grell

The comic book industry had changed quite a bit by the time of Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, written and drawn by Mike Grell. This 1987 mini-series was marketed for "mature readers", and had a more realistic look at heroes.

Grell played up Oliver's interest in Robin Hood, and even had Howard Hill on the yacht during the fateful voyage. This time there were no pirates. Oliver even doubts there was a high wave. He figures he fell off the boat, drunk on gin and self-pity.

Oliver Queen falls off the boat drunk by Mike Grell

There were no pirates at the end of the island adventure. No mutineers either. "The stuff of legend," Oliver remarks of the tall tales of origins past. Instead he encounters two stoners checking their marijuana crop.

And as for his superhero alias, he figures they were high and seeing green everything.

Oliver Queen encounters a couple stoners on the island by Mike Grell

Grell also stripped away the trick arrows. They don't feature in the flashback, and in the present we see Oliver's placed them in the trash. 

Grell's The Longbow Hunters moved Oliver Queen out of the world of superheroes and refashioned him as an urban hunter. By the end of the mini-series, Oliver has killed a criminal who was torturing his girlfriend. So, a key part of the island origin flashback was that Oliver found pleasure in killing on the island and pushed against his impulses.

Oliver Queen reflects on the joy of hunting by Mike Grell

Mike Grell would revisit the origins of Green Arrow twice more in Secret Origins #38 (March 1989) and expanded in the 1993 mini-series Green Arrow: The Wonder Year. This stories continue the origin after the island where the rescued Oliver attends a costume party as Robin Hood. 

Oliver catches a crook and finds the newspapers have given him a new alias.

Oliver gets the alias Green Arrow, by Mike Grell

Oliver dismisses the name "Green Arrow" as the product of "a reporter with no sense of style."

Grell was uncomfortable with the tropes of superhero fiction. This was not the case with the next person to retell Green Arrow's origin.

1995: Chuck Dixon

Once Mike Grell left Green Arrow, the hero was integrated back into the world of superheroes including the 1994 crossover Zero Hour: Crisis in Time which rebooted the universe with slight continuity changes. The 1995 Annual specials were marketed as Year One to explore the changes to the early days.

Green Arrow Annual #7 was written by Chuck Dixon with a Green Arrow framing story illustrated by Rick Burchett and Eduardo Barreto and the island origin story drawn by Chris Renaud and Gerry Fernandez. 

Dixon begins and ends the island story in roughly the same way Mike Grell had. Oliver Queen still falls off the boat in a drunken stupor and he's ultimately rescued when he encounters some marijuana growers.

However, the previous versions of the island tale showed Oliver failing in his first attempts at archery and gain his skill through practice. Dixon shows Oliver as a master archer from his first attempt, and he remember killing a rabbit with his first bow and arrow set as a child.

Young Oliver Queen kills a rabbit by Chris Renaud, written by Chuck Dixon

It was a quickly abandoned attempt to depict Green Arrow as a "metahuman" -- that his archery was a superpower, not the result of practice and effort.

Also, Oliver Queen discovers he's not alone on the island. 

Oliver Queen meets Nicholas Kotero, written by Chuck Dixon and art by Chris Renaud

After defeating Kotero in combat, Oliver makes a raft and abandons his adversary on that island and heads to a different island -- one where he encounters the stoners of Grell's tale.

It lacked the simplicity of previous versions of the story, but Dixon's take was in keeping with the origin of a superhero.

2007: Andy Diggle and Jock

The "Year One" branding is popular at DC Comics and in 2007 DC Comics released the mini-series Green Arrow: Year One. Ed Herron and Jack Kirby told Green Arrow's origin in six and half pages back in 1959. But writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock had six full issues to tell the same tale. And it grew in the telling.

Oliver Queen no longer fellow off the boat. Instead he was held at gunpoint and thrown overboard by his trusted bodyguard Hackett, who'd planned to use the cruise to make off with some of Oliver's fortune.

Oliver Queen attacked by Hackett, written by Andy Diggle and art by Jock

And on the island, Oliver Queen doesn't find mutineers, pirates or stoners. He again encounters Hackett, discovers a massive heroine production facility run by the super villain China White. The island's native inhabitants are being held captive in this massive operation.

Oliver grows a conscience and becomes a revolutionary of sorts.

Green Arrow on the island by Andy Diggle and Jock

When the USS O'Kane arrives with the hope of rescue, Oliver has a chance at freedom but also glory for his heroic deeds. But telling the truth of these adventures would bring unwanted attention to the island inhabitants who want to live their life in peace. 

So, Oliver offers to downplay it and offers mutineers and stoners of previous origins as possibly cover stories.

Oliver Queen establishes a cover story, by Andy Diggle and Jock

If this tale lacks the simplicity of Herron and Kirby's origin, it offered a perfect blueprint for television and served as one of the key inspirations for the Arrow TV series.

The TV show' even named a character Diggle after Year One's writer.

2012 - 2015: The New 52 - Judd Winick and Jeff Lemire

In 2011, the whole DC Universe was rebooted after the reality-shifting event Flashpoint. 52 comics were relaunched -- branded as "The New 52", Green Arrow among them.

In 2012, DC had a one-month 0 issue event -- depicting the heroes at their very beginning. In Green Arrow #0 (September 2012) writer Judd Winick and artists Freddie Williams II and Rob Hunter visit the new younger Oliver Queen in his time before the island. 

The ship of the 1959 tale and all subsequent versions has been replaced by an oil rig. Ollie is supposed to be working in the latest of a series of jobs at his parents' company, but he's more interested in showing off his archery skills to his friends (including Tommy Merlyn created for the TV series Arrow). 

Everything in this tale is bigger. The oil rig is attacked not just by pirates, but an army of pirates in high tech equipment, led by a full-blown supervillain named Iron Eagle.

Oliver defends the oil rig, written by Judd Winick and art by Freddie Williams II

Ollie does his best against the attackers, but his actions cause an explosive to go off destroying the oil rig, and causing Oliver to wash ashore on the island as per the standard origin. 

A couple years later new Green Arrow writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino transformed Green Arrow's world. Oliver was shocked to discover a photo of his father, his father's trusted business ally and a mysterious third man ... on the island. Oliver's island -- the island he supposedly visited by accident.

This sets Oliver off on a quest of discovery -- learning that his family was connected to the Arrow Clan, one of seven clans based around totemic weapons. He returns to island and we see the events of his origin in flashback. The oil rig was still a part of the origin, although Lemire skips over the part of the supervillians and just shows their copters coming to attack the rig. On the island, Oliver was held captive by an army of men and tortured for information by a masked stranger.

Green Arrow origin by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino

The duel with the masked man was Oliver's final challenge before he was rescued from the island. Now it was revealed that the masked man was Oliver's own father who had orchestrated these events.

In some ways, Lemire and Sorrentino were riffing on what had been established on the Arrow TV series at the time, although spinning it in new directions. (Some of their ideas would later be incorporated into the TV series.)

2012-2020: Arrow (TV Series)

Arrow was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg. They extended Oliver's time away from home to five years, and flashbacks to his time away became an important narrative device in the show's first five seasons. However, they revealed that he did not spend all his time on the island with Oliver living the island in seasons 3 and 5 for globe-trotting adventures before returning to the island before the "rescue" we saw in the opening minutes of the pilot.

Oliver arrived on the island after his family boat Queen's Gambit was sabotaged by a conspiracy. This father also survived the shipwreck, but he took his own life in the life-raft as there was only supplies for one -- Oliver -- to survive. Oliver's father asks his son to save his city -- inspiring Oliver's future actions.

The show didn't use the comic book name of Starfish Island, instead they called it Lian-Yu --Mandarin for Purgatory. The flashback idea was borrowed from another TV show about castaways -- Lost (2004 - 2010). To fill several seasons of flashbacks, Lian-Yu held many more dangers than its comic book counterpart.

A rocket launcher on the island from Arrow's season one finale

In the first season, Oliver and the allies he met on the island stop missile attacks on Chinese aircraft. In the second season, new threats shipwrecked on the island are testing a super-soldier formula called Mirakuru. When Oliver returns to the island in the season four flashbacks, he encounters a rogue military unit forcing slaves into creating new hybrid drugs (somewhat like the plot in the Year One comics) while also searching for a powerful mystical totem.

Even the lowest rated episode of Arrow received more viewers than the best-selling Green Arrow comic book, and so many more will be familiar with Oliver's TV experiences on the island than the more modest 1959 version of the tale.

TV viewers would also be familiar with the name of Green Arrow's city -- Starling City in the first three seasons and then changed to Star City to match the comic book name. Oliver's hometown also acquired that name in 1959. And so, let us end our flash-forward and return to the Green Arrow of the Silver Age.

Oliver Queen and Roy Harper spot the Arrow-Signal, art by Lee Elias

New Artist, New City and Special Guest Stars

With Adventure Comics #257 (February 1959), Jack Kirby was replaced by Lee Elias as the new Green Arrow artist. Elias lacked the dynamic energy of Kirby, but he was a solid, dependable, reliable artist. In some ways, he resembled Green Arrow's co-creator George Papp. 

And speaking of George Papp, he returned to draw Oliver Queen in a special story in Adventure Comics #258 (March 1959), But this time Papp didn't draw the Green Arrow feature but the lead Superboy feature. The teenage version of Superman peers into the future and learns that new Smallville High student Oliver Queen is destined to become Green Arrow. He tries to help nudge the young Oliver towards his destiny by getting him to dress as Robin Hood for the town's archery pageant. The young Oliver is brave and clever, but he's a lousy archer at this age. You can read more about this team-up in my look at Green Arrow's Robin Hood themed adventures.

The title panel for the Superboy story in Adventure Comics #258, art by George Papp

Adventure Comics #258 sees Mort Weisinger as the officially credited editor -- over seeing the adventures of "the Boy of Steel" along with Weisinger's 1941 creations Green Arrow and Aquaman.

In the Green Arrow story of that issue, Green Arrow and Speedy train an army platoon in archery. The Emerald Archer reflects on his boyhood encounter with Superboy from the issue's other story.

Green Arrow and Speedy - with the first mention of the Star City

When a sandstorm ruins the motor of the Arrowplane, G.A. mentions they'll need to walk to Star City for spare parts. And with that, Green Arrow's hometown gets its official name. (Aside from a few brief, long-forgotten references to New York in the early 1940s, Green Arrow's city had gone without a name all this time.)

Some months later a reference in “The Amateur Arrows” in Adventure Comics #265 (cover date: October 1959) confirms what had been implied in the earlier tale – the wizard archers make their home in Star City.

The following issue, “The Case of the Vanishing Arrows!” (Adventure Comics #266, cover date: November 1959) begins as our heroes visit Star City’s police headquarters. When I say “our heroes” I mean Green Arrow and Speedy. They aren’t the only DC Comics heroes in this tale. It turns out that Green Arrow has some fan mail waiting for him – from Batman. 

Green Arrow and Speedy get a fan letter from Batman, art by Lee Elias and script by Robert Bernstein

Green Arrow and Speedy are inspired by the bat emblem to create the own signature trademark. The story’s writer Robert Bernstein seems to acknowledge the influence Batman has already has Green Arrow, such things as the Arrow-Cave (patterned after Batman’s Batcave). And it’s just outside the Arrow-Cave where Oliver finds his new trademark – small green stones that can be fashioned into green stone arrowheads. Just as Batman’s arsenal is branded with bats, now all Green Arrow’s arrows will have these green stone arrowheads.

Things don’t go according to plan. All of G.A.’s new arrows seem to fly away on their own or just melt away. Time and again, the wizard archers try to foil crime in Star City (and speaking about branding – this issue repeatedly mentions the name of Green Arrow’s city just so you’ll remember it in future) and their new arrows vanish. Finally, Green Arrow decides the arrows are jinxed. But there’s another explanation. Maybe if you know what “green stones” usually appear in DC Comics you’ve already guessed the answer. 

Superman visits Green Arrow and Speedy, art by Lee Elias and script by Robert Bernstein

Superman stops by the Arrowcar to explain the story's strange events. Green Arrow’s new arrowheads are made of Kryptonite – the radioactive remains of Superman’s home planet … and one of the few things that can harm the Man of Steel. Superman used his super powers to get rid of the troublesome new arrows. Green Arrow and Speedy dispose of the rest of the harmful Kryptonite.

There's another superhero team-up in the very next issue, Adventures Comics #267 (December 1959) when Aquaman and Green Arrow's enemies meet in prison. Aquaman's foe Shark decides to escape the Sea King by operating on land while Green Arrow's foe The Wizard decides to go to sea. Aquaman fights on land in his story, while Green Arrow and Speedy are billed as "The Underwater Archers." 

Aquaman and Green Arrow shake hands, art by Lee Elias and script by Robert Bernstein

Green Arrow and Aquaman both made their first appearances in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941) and have appeared in the same comic books for 18 years, but this is the first time the characters actually meet.

The Battling Bowman also meet heroes of times past. In Adventure Comics #264 (September 1959), Oliver finds himself in medieval Sherwood Forest. You can read more about his Silver Age adventure with Robin Hood here. In Adventure Comics #268 (January 1960), Green Arrow and Speedy find themselves in King Arthur's Court reliving details of Mark Twain's novel. Both stories suggest the time travel encounters may be just be dreams.

In Adventure Comics #269, Green Arrow helps convince an editor to publish an archery-themed superhero the Wizard Archer, proving to a skeptical editor that the young artist's imaginative ideas are not unrealistic.

An Archer in Trouble

In Adventure Comics #269 (February 1960), Green Arrow helps convince an editor to publish an archery-themed superhero the Wizard Archer, proving to a skeptical editor that the young artist's imaginative ideas are not unrealistic.

It's an ironic story, because in while Green Arrow might have secured a comic book deal within the story, he failed to do so in real life. This was the final Green Arrow story in Adventure Comics.

Last Green Arrow panel in Adventure Comics, art by Lee Elias and script by Robert Bernstein

Green Arrow and Speedy still had their second home in World's Finest Comics, but the loss of Adventure Comics was a sign that Green Arrow's popularity was on the wane. The comics cover-dated March 1960 not only featured Adventure Comics without Green Arrow, but also the first adventure of the Justice League -- Green Arrow wasn't invited.

Even with the World's Finest stories, it felt like the heart had gone out of the hero. They were recycling old concepts.

One new addition to the Green Arrow lore was the appearance of a "girl archer" or "lady archer".Miss Arrowette aka champion archer Bonnie King. She first appears in World's Finest Comics #113 (November 1960) by writer Dave Wood and artist Lee Elias. Like Batwoman in the Batman comics of the day, Miss Arrowette's gimmicks are distinctly feminine -- such as powder-puff arrows and hairpin arrows. Green Arrow and Speedy represent the forces of 1960s sexism as they insist that crime-fighting should be left to the boys.

Miss Arrowette retires, art by Lee Elias and script by Dave Wood

The "talented little lass" or "blonde bow-girl" comes out of retirement in World's Finest Comics #118 (June 1961) and #134 (June 1963). Batwoman was romantically interested in both Bruce Wayne and Batman, but there's no hint of romance between Green Arrow and Miss Arrowette in World's Finest Comics. Nor does she have a friendship with G.A. in his Oliver Queen identity. If anything she seems as close in age to Speedy as Green Arrow.

However, in Justice League of Ameirca #7 (November 1961), Miss Arrowette's alter ego Bonnie King is on a date with Oliver Queen.

The Justice League in their secret identities on dates, Oliver Queen is with Bonnie King. Script by Garder Fox, art by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs

The one-time repositioning of Bonnie King as a romantic interest for Oliver Queen certainly plays up on their linking surnames. And it's not the only disconnect between Green Arrow's sole adventures and those with the Justice League. In World's Finest Comics #111 (August 1960), Green Arrow and Speedy fight a villain named Clock King. But when the same foe makes a brief appearance in Justice League of America #5 (September 1960), he's been renamed King Clock.

But these Justice League appearances also speak of how Green Arrow's Silver Age world lacked the richness of other superheroes. They had to twist a two-time teenage guest star into a girlfriend because there were no other regular female characters in the Green Arrow stories of the time. The Clock King becomes the defining Green Arrow villain of the 1960s with only two appearances -- one of which got his name wrong.

And the lack of depth to Green Arrow's world temporarily doomed the character. In 1963, Green Arrow started appearing in every other issue of World's Finest.

In World's Finest Comics #140 (March 1964), the Arrowcar is sucked into a strange dimension -- a "Sargasso on land" that had plucked land vehicles throughout Earth's history.

Green Arrow and Speedy say goodbye to The Land of No Return. Art by Lee Elias and script by Bill Finger

The historical figures chose to remain in their new home and bid farewell to the Battling Bowmen as they drive back to the real world. The story was titled "The Land of No Return". Within the issue itself, it title appears to be a lie. It certainly seems as if Green Arrow and Speedy do indeed return.

And yet, this is the last new Green Arrow story to appear in World's Finest Comics. There will be sporadic reprints over the next year, but for new Green Arrow stories, readers would have to look to his appearances in the Justice League of America and occasional team-up appearances in The Brave and the Bold.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Green Arrow would just fizzle out at this point. But instead in those team and team-up comics, Green Arrow would be radically transformed into a much more interesting hero.

Continue on the next sections

  • GREEN ARROW: OBSCURITY AND TRANSFORMATION - When the Green Arrow solo adventures ended in the early 1960s, the character continued to appear in the Justice League of America and as a guest star in The Brave and the Bold. Green Arrow's lack of star power meant the writers and artists were free to experiment and radically transform the character

PART 1: G.A. IN THE 1960s JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA - As Green Arrow's solo adventures ended in the early 1960s, this looks at how he continued in newly published adventures as a member of the Justice League of America. 

PART 2: 1969: THE YEAR OF CHANGE - 1969 is the year that changed everything. Artist Neal Adams gave Green Arrow a new costume and writer Denny O'Neil stripped Oliver Queen of his forture. Also explores the history of Black Canary who enters Green Arrow's life at this point.

If you enjoyed this article, check out the following:

Contact Us

© Text, Copyright 2022 Allen W. Wright - All Rights Reserved
Green Arrow and related comics are copyright © DC Comics  and used without permission under fair use for the purpose of criticism and review.
Arrow and Smallville TV shows are copyright @ Warner Brothers and used without permission under fair use for the purpose of criticism and review
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links associated with these articles  (at no additional cost to you).

This page is a part of Robin Hood -- Bold Outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood