A Tribute to the of

I wonder what it is about Green Arrow that invites controversy?  Is it because he's typically been on the fringes?  I saw an Associated Press article recently with the following headline:  "Green Arrow to feature HIV-positive sidekick." [In issue #43 of the current series that went on sale October 13, 2004 and was completely sold-out by the 15th. Hoarders rejoice!]  The article mentions that "…a teenage runaway named Mia – who has been in the care of the title hero for two years – discovers that her time spent as a street-dweller and prostitute has resulted in her picking up the virus."  Apparently she's also been christened with the classic sidekick name "Speedy."

As I alluded to above, this seems to be a trend with GA.  I haven't followed his career exhaustively, but those of you who've been longtime readers remember the review I did in this space of Green Lantern (co-starring Green Arrow) #76 when the bow-toter is overflowing with attitude.  I've also got a pair of issues that were thrown in with a purchase I made on eBay a few years ago under the Green Arrow title.  They're #1 and #2 from 1988 and are "Suggested for Mature Readers."  It didn't take long to figure out why.  The costume had changed only moderately with him sporting more of a Robin Hood look with, well, a hood. Or perhaps he was going for a Spectre fashion statement, who knows?  Anyway, thematically it was very different from anything I'd seen before to that point.  Frigidity, bondage and torture of females by the bad guy, abduction, abuse and imprisonment of a little girl, profanity, blood and in the climax of the story our hero walks away while the villain drowns.  All in all, a far freaking cry from my idea of a superhero comic book.  I'll grant you that Batman, in his earliest tales, was quite dark and did allow some of the malefactors to die, but it wasn't in gory detail like this story.  Just for the record, it was written by Mike Grell, who used to be a favorite artist of mine when he worked on Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Green Lantern and a short stint on Batman, but I can 't say I'm impressed with his writing if this is an example.

I don't mean to sound like a crank, but I just don't know what they've been thinking and why they keep using Green Arrow for these little experiments.  My attitude hasn't changed since I reviewed GL #76.  Comic books aren't the medium for these types of storylines as far as I'm concerned.  The joy of childhood and the need for heroes, even if it follows you into your adult years, like in my case, is too short for crap like this.  If I want a dose of harsh reality, I'll pick up a newspaper, not a comic.  Off my soapbox now and back to my beloved Silver Age.

I hunted high and low through the collection for a good Silver Age Green Arrow story to counterpoint all this with, but I couldn't come up with much.  Most of the appearances by the Emerald Archer are in JLA stories, but I seem to have exhausted those where he plays anything more than a peripheral role.  Then I remembered a story, though it's not in the Silver Age, but he plays a prominent role.  It's in a magazine title I've yet to review here partly because it had such a brief run.  So, if you'll indulge me, I'm going to leap ahead to The Joker #4, the November/December 1975 issue (on sale the first week of August) which, according to the cover, co-stars Green Arrow.  It's called "A Gold Star for the Joker," with scripting by Elliot S! Maggin, art by J. L. Garcia Lopez and Vince Colletta and our beloved Julius Schwartz in the editor's chair.

The splash page is similar to the cover by Ernie Chua in that it shows the Clown Prince of Crime holding a bound woman over his head on top of a bridge.  The woman is Dinah Lance.  You may know her as the Black Canary.  The introduction reads:  "The mad jester of crime is loose in the home city of Green Arrow and the life of the woman who is secretly Black Canary hangs by a thread of green hair!"

Things begin on that same Archway Bridge on an early morning as a bus from Gotham City is making its way into Star City.  The driver spots a young woman just unlocking a florist's shop and he slams on the brakes, exiting to inquire if she's open for business.  He introduces himself as Harry Hack and asks her name.  Dinah offers as she can do some business.  The driver replies that he'd like to purchase 11 red roses while asking her last name.  He then notes that her last name, as listed on the door, is Lance.  She acknowledges the fact and asks if he didn't mean a dozen roses and he insists on eleven and then recites the inscription for the card:  "These eleven beauties—comma—held next to you—comma—surely make a lovely dozen—exclamation point!"  He then presents them to her and departs, slamming his bus into a parked car in the process and laughing maniacally all the way.  The speeding bus then careens into the port authority terminal and narrowly misses pedestrians while smacking into another bus.  The tall and slender Harry Hack emerges, still laughing and announces to the armed personnel that he'd borrowed the bus fro m their Gotham branch and thought it would be easier to ship back in smaller pieces.  A few adroit acrobatics and continued laughter accompany the bizarre figure as he escapes to an upper level.  We finally see him on the roof as he discards his disguise, revealing none other than the nefarious Joker.  He produces a flower and plucks the petals while mumbling, "She loves me…she loves me not…she loves me…she loves me not…she loves me…loves me…loves me…"

Switching scenes back to the flower shop, later in the day, we find an agitated Oliver Queen giving vent to his anger:  "I'll tan his bottom raw!  I'll twist his head so far he'll be staring himself in the eye!"  Dinah tries to calm him by saying he was just an eccentric man and no threat to him.  Ollie, I should mention, is resplendent in a green turtleneck, pale blue trousers, a brown striped blazer and a gold medallion.  The 70's…  Anyway, he gives a short physical description and explains to Dinah that the "harmless" man had driven his stolen bus to the terminal, nearly killing people in the process.  While he speaks, a customer wanders in and at that moment, the police band radio in the shop crackles to life:  Attention all units!  A reported jewel robbery and mass murder on the corner of Lexington and Broome!  (I can't help but think the Lexington is from the address of National Periodical Publications' advertising rep and perhaps Broome refers to long-time DC writer John Broome.)  Dinah comments that's down the block while Ollie hurriedly dashes into a back room to change into his alter ego, Green Arrow.  He can continue to hear the report while donning his uniform:  There is no patrol car in the immediate vicinity!  Also reported is a water main break and several multi-alarm fires!  We then join the Joker, atop the building where Dinah's flower shop is located.  He is making the phony broadcast as a ruse to flush out Dinah.  We are privy to his thoughts:  "I knew when I met that Dinah Lance girl that the fact a creature like she exists…would cramp my style…slow me down…keep me too preoccupied thinking about her!  I realized the only solution would be to marry her—or kill her!"  All the while he's opening a box with Batman's visage on it and watching and waiting.  First the customer emerges from the store, then Dinah herself as the Joker springs his trap in the form of a Joker Jack-in-the-box fishnet, which ensnares Miss Lance.  As the purple clad Joker reels in his catch, the customer begins shouting for help.  The villain uses a pea shooter on the citizen, who begins to laugh uncontrollably.  In a few minutes Green Arrow returns from his wild goose chase to find the prone figure.  Recognizing him as the customer in Dinah's store, he also recognizes the grin that means the Laughing Death, the calling card of The Joker!

After a short and fruitless search for his lady love, the Emerald Archer goes to police HQ to report what he's discovered.  The desk sergeant thanks him for the report and offers as he can stick around until something develops.  Queen explodes:  "What's this "Thank you Kindly" garbage as you go about your business?  Do you realize we're talking about the Joker—one of the most vicious homicidal maniacs on record?"  The officer asks just what the hero suggests when a call comes in about the Archway Bridge rattling.  GA swiftly departs.

Meanwhile, on that selfsame bridge, it is indeed vibrating to the point of disrupting traffic.  The source appears to be a large moving van with an antenna-like device parked directly under the suspended star and sign welcoming visitors to Star City.  Soon the Jokermobile emerges from the truck with a trailer in tow.  The Joker, of course, is driving while an unwilling passenger in the form of Dinah Lance is also in the car.  He positions the vehicle so that the star falls directly into the trailer.  Dinah tells him he's crazy and he enthusiastically replies:  "Crazy is exactly what I am!  My legal residence is a home for the criminally insane!  I'm a genuine, card-carrying lock-you-up-throw-away-the-key lunatic!  I can do whatever I want because I'm not legally responsible for my actions…the state is!"  Green Arrow, on top of a nearby building, can hear the unnerving laughter of the Clown Prince of Crime and fires an arrow with a rope attached, which he uses to swing down to the scene below.  The Joker begins to speed away while the Emerald Archer lands and fires a bolo arrow to lock the steering wheel to the mirror, sending the Jokermobile into the side of the bridge.  A second arrow is fired to depress the brake pedal.  The Joker emerges and flings a sphere at our hero, who brings yet another shaft into play to pierce it.  Unfortunately that was exactly the Joker's intent as the ball releases laughing gas that leaves GA helpless while the villain kicks him in the jaw and drives off, laughing yet again. 

Later we find Green Arrow back at the police station, reporting in yet again.  He describes the truck and the officer mentions that they've just found an abandoned vehicle matching the description and he'll have them break into it. 

Back on the far side of the Archway Bridge, the Joker is proposing to Dinah, who vigorously refuses when a message is received by one of the Joker's henchmen.  Apparently the police have broken into the truck and are going to replace the star.  The Joker is overjoyed at the news.  Back at the police station, Ollie is leaving and pondering matters when it occurs to him that the star the police recovered couldn't be the original item as the car carried it to the opposite side of the bridge and it couldn't have been brought back so quickly. 

At the bridge, the Joker observes as the star is raised into place.  He explains to the bound and gagged Dinah that they've just installed his booby-trap star.  As he and Lance are lifted to the top of the bridge with the help of an assistant and a telescoping platform, he elaborates:  "Would you believe there are these lovely laughing death radiation sources in the lower points of the new star…which will kill drivers of the cars that pass below so quickly that their cars will pile up to block off the entire bridge—cutting off access to the nearest police station to the art museum on the far side…whose priceless display of porcelain clown figures will soon be mine!  Appropriate, yes?"  Once the two reach the top, however, an unexpected visitor awaits.  It is Green Arrow, who swiftly fires a shaft to release Dinah from her bonds.  The Joker runs toward GA, but Lance uses an athletic maneuver to trip him up.  The Emerald Archer decks the Clown Prince of Crime, but not before he successfully gasses Dinah with his boutonničre to keep her out of the fray.  The struggle continues and the Joker is able to push Queen off the bridge.  During his descent, however, GA manages to notch and fire another arrow with a rope on it and swing to safety on the other bridge arch.  Once he's atop it, he fires another to where the Joker and Dinah are, creating a tightrope for her to walk.  How she does so in heels is beyond me, but she does not hesitate.  Neither does the Joker hesitate to remove a knife from his ankle scabbard and cut the line.  "Too bad—we could have made such beautiful music together…but you probably sing off-key!"  As she begins to plunge downward, Ollie fires another arrow and screams for her to grab the rope.  His archery skill does not fail as he successfully slices through the rope like threading a needle and provides a safe journey down for Dinah. 

The Joker is infuriated and in the midst of his tantrum loses his balance and falls from the bridge.  Laughing, as always, he even utters commentary as he plummets:  "That's mad…insane!  Nobody can shoot an arrow into the wind that accurately!  It's crazy!  It made me lose my blasted balance!  Oh, this is laughable…too funny for words!  So funny I'm going to die—laughing!"

The final panel offers the following as the story closes:  "Has our laughing lunatic's career ended in a cool river's freak whirlpool?  You'll learn never to underestimate the machinations of a madman in next issue's…"The Joker Goes' Wilde'!"

We all know, of course, that the Joker has seemingly met his end in watery depths before, but never once has he failed to come through it.

As I've mentioned before, this is one of the few survivors of my boyhood collection.  I have the entire 9-run set of the Joker in his own magazine and they did some pretty interesting stuff in that series.  Strangely enough, Batman never once showed, but as you can see, the Joker saw plenty of other characters, including Green Arrow.  Even though he was a bit vitriolic, this is more the Green Arrow I'm accustomed to.  I'm digging deep into the memory banks, but I believe that when I read my first Earth Prime story, which was also in the Bronze Age, when some of the members of the JLA met the staff from the DC offices Elliot Maggin commented that he'd modeled Green Arrow's speech patterns after his own.  I seem to recall them then simultaneously popping off with something like, "Well what the green gophers are we waiting for?  Let's get our butts moving, for the love of Cucamonga!"  I need to find that story again.

I enjoyed going through this issue, mainly for the nostalgia factor.  As is my custom, I won't rate it since it doesn't belong in the Silver Age, but if you get a chance to read any of these Joker comics I think you'll appreciate them, too.           

Don't forget to join us for the next installment of this feature in about two weeks.  As always, it's our pleasure to be your hosts into this magnificent era.  Please feel free to express your thoughts via e-mail to professor_the@hotmail.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

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