A Tribute to the of

Inflate the balloons, put on the party hats and cut the cake.  The month of November marks the 65th birthday of the Green Arrow, whose debut was wa-a-a-ay back in More Fun Comics #73, dated November, 1941. 

I've got a great little resource at my disposal for the early days of the Emerald Archer in the Silver Age from the 1950's when he was placed in the care of Jack Kirby as the artist.  The Kirby Collection, if you will, includes 11 stories by Jack with the help of his wife, Roz and the story of how he came into this assignment is pretty interesting, so I'll repeat it here, partly for your edification and partly because none of the stories exceeds a blazing six pages, so this review would be pretty brief.  I'll start with the spiel from the back cover:

"It was 1958 and as hard as it may be to believe, just over a decade after he had helped Joe Simon create Captain America and the entire genre of "romance comics," a year after devising the Challengers of the Unknown and three years before he co-created the Fantastic Four and the entire Marvel Universe, Jack Kirby was looking for work!  Comics had fallen upon hard times, and not only comic's titles but entire publishing houses were disappearing seemingly overnight.  Jack had a family to support and was looking for work to pay the bills, and DC Comics offered him (you'll pardon the pun) a second-string backup strip—Green Arrow, which was appearing in Adventure Comics and, strangely enough, for a time concurrently in World's Finest Comics." 

Now I'll take you to the Introduction, by Mark Evanier, with further history and information:

"In the forties and early fifties, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were perhaps the most potent creative force in comics.  They'd moved from Timely (now Marvel) to DC and then to other houses, usually creating new characters, new successes and new trends.  In 1954, they tried to do it for themselves when they formed a company they named Mainline Comics."

"The work was as strong as ever, but sales were not.  The industry was then in a disastrous downturn, with companies folding every week and distributors closing ranks to protect the major publishers.  "We couldn't even get our books on the newsstands," Jack once bemoaned, explaining how Mainline crashed and burned."

"He and Joe wound up back at DC, launching a new, long-running title called CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN.  But work was still sparse, with dozens of writers and artists pounding on DC's door, practically begging for assignments.  To Simon, it looked like a great time to make a living apart from comics.  He segues into other kinds of publishing, including the creation of Sick, a long-running knockoff of MAD MAGAZINE."

"Kirby remained in comics, getting whatever work he could, working primarily for DC on CHALLENGERS and for HOUSE OF MYSTERY and similar titles.  In thirty months, he did slightly over 600 pages for DC—an average of twenty per month.  For an artist who could produce that many in a week, it must have felt like unemployment."

"That total included the eleven Green Arrow stories he drew, all of which are reprinted in this volume.  All were inked by Jack with the aid of his dear spouse, Rosalind.  She would trace his pencil work with a static pen line; he would then take a brush, put in all the shadows and bold areas and, where necessary, heavy-up the lines she'd laid down.  (Jack hated inking and only did it because he needed the money.  After departing DC this time, he almost never inked his own work again.)"

"All the while, he kept offering to either create a new strip or take over any existing feature.  Alas, as he later explained, "They kept telling me they didn't need any new books, and all the old ones had regular artists."

"Finally, an opening occurred, albeit a small one:  veteran artist George Papp had been drawing the Green Arrow strip that ran in both ADVENTURE COMICS and WORLD'S FINEST COMICS.  When Papp moved over to draw Superboy for editor Mort Weisinger, the archer was suddenly without an illustrator."

"Another DC editor, Jack Schiff, was in charge of both Green Arrow and Challengers and, when Kirby delivered pages of the latter, Schiff offered him the former.  "I said yes," Kirby later recalled.  "I'd never read a Green Arrow story but I would have said yes to anything."  Schiff told him to take home some old issues and work up samples."

"The stories he read, Kirby found banal and, more important, unlikely to go anywhere.  Applying an attitude that usually served him well—especially at Marvel in the sixties—Jack said to himself, "I've got to build this into something."  What he hoped was to make the strip so spectacular that it would be spun off into its own book, thereby generating more work for its artist and showing what he could do."

"To this end, he didn't merely work up art samples; he wrote an entire script that placed the Emerald Archer in a new science-fiction context.  Schiff liked it, though he had reservations about making so jarring a change.  He also told Kirby that he was committed to other writers—especially Dave Wood and Eddie Herron, both of whom were among Kirby's closest friends—and that most of the scripts would have to be by them.  There were also several stories by each (and one by Bill Finger) that had already been written and which had to be used."

"It was decided that Kirby would work with Herron and Wood to plot future stories and that he would be given special dispensation to "punch up" all scripts as he drew them, especially those already written.  So the first-published Kirby Green Arrow story—"The Green Arrows of the World"—was written by Finger and heavily rewritten by Kirby.  The second—"The Case of the Super-Arrows"—was Kirby's original "new direction" script, somewhat revised by Schiff to temper that "new direction."

"Thereafter, your guess is as good as mine.  Some were scripts that were done before Kirby became involved, which he modified to some degree.  These would primarily seem to have been the ones run in WORLD'S FINEST COMICS."

"Others were developed with Kirby co-plotting with Herron or Wood, and later fiddling with what they turned in.  These generally appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS, especially the two-part "Dimension Zero" tale.  In the second, Green Arrow and Speedy return to Earth via a plot device that foreshadowed the Boom Tube seen years later in Kirby's New Gods series."

"A two-parter was a rarity at the time, and the form and content of this one created a ruckus in the office.  Several other DC staffers—most notably Weisinger, who'd co-created Green Arrow—hated what Kirby was doing and lobbied against it in editorial meetings."

"Schiff finally decided the fantasy elements had to go.  As Kirby explained it, "They wanted the same Green Arrow strip that they'd been doing for years.  They soon got it.  A few months later, Kirby and Schiff quarreled over an outside business deal and, when the dust settled, Lee Elias was drawing Green Arrow and all traces of Kirby's influence were gone."

"Kirby was, in fact, persona non grata at DC for the next decade—time he spent working with Stan Lee at Marvel, revolutionizing the business.  One can only ponder what revolutions might have occurred had he remained then with DC.

"In the stories you're about to read, you can see only traces of the Kirby imagination, primarily around the edges.  But they're there, and certain of them hint at what Green Arrow might have become then, instead of remaining a third string feature for years after.  Not everything Jack Kirby did was spectacular or successful, but it was always interesting to watch—as the tales in this volume attest.

Whew!  That was longer than I appreciated, but I hope you found it as intriguing as I did.  And now, from Adventure Comics #250, the July 1958 issue, I present to you the first reprint written by Bill Finger and of course illustrated by Jack and Roz Kirby and edited by Jack Schiff.

The text sets the stage as we learn…  "Did you know that there is more than one Green Arrow?  Yes, in every part of the globe there have always been crack archers to see that law and order prevail!  Care to meet them?  Well, here's your chance, as they all get together for a historic convention of…The Green Arrows of the World!"

An interesting sight greets onlookers at the international airport as a series of masked archers emerge, each wearing garb that is also indicative of their native land.  One man remarks to another that they are the Green Arrows of the World, arriving for a convention sponsored by the American Green Arrow.  Delegates are spotted from France, India, Japan, Switzerland, Mexico and the jungles of Africa, among others.  At the assembly in the civic arena, Green Arrow greets and welcomes his fellow crime fighting archers as things get under way.

Meanwhile, in a darkened alley in another part of the city, a man is bound while another dons his costume; that of the Ace Archer of Scotland Yard.  As one might guess, the captor is an enemy of Green Arrow and intends to use this costume and the occasion to get close enough to settle a score.

Back at the arena, the inevitable displays of highly skilled archery are underway as the French Green Arrow shows off his luminescent arrow, which causes the target to glow.  The "Phantom of France" explains that with the luminescent material on any targeted thief, the gendarmes cannot help but find and apprehend him.  The Green Arrow arrayed in a Leopard skin that would make Tarzan proud is next as he demonstrates his vine arrow, which entwines itself around the shaft of the luminescent arrow.

It is then that the late arrival of the Bowman from Britain is noted by his Mexican colleague.  He is promptly invited to show his own prowess with the bow and offers up his latest gimmick arrow, dubbed the "Big Ben" to Green Arrow to try.  Once G.A. notches the arrow he notes that it has begun to tick.  He asks his Scotland Yard counterpart what it does when it strikes the hour, but the Brit begs off, saying he's got to go work on a case and he shows the wanted poster of one Limehouse Larkin who has escaped to America.  As he swiftly stalks away, Green Arrow turns and fires the shaft directly at him, removing his mask.  He then addresses the startled imposter, explaining that he'd removed the fuse of the time bomb arrow when he got wise to him.  Speedy recognizes him as "Counterfeit Carson," the forger who swore vengeance against them for jailing him.  The felon then bursts through the window and leaps into the British Arrow Car.  The Polynesian Green Arrow fires his lava arrow, melting the rear wheel of the fleeing vehicle.  As Carson tries to continue his escape on foot another international Green Arrow makes his move, as the G.A. from Japan fires a Jiu Jitsu arrow that couples around his ankles.  As he goes in for the capture, however, Carson cuts loose with a vicious right and blends into a densely crowded sidewalk.

In the next moment, Green Arrow and Speedy arrive in the Arrowcar and Speedy remarks that they're in a spot now that Carson has concealed himself in the crowd.  Green Arrow replies that this situation calls for two specialty arrows, the first being the Heli-spotter arrow, in order to keep their quarry in sight.  This unique bit of hardware has small rotor blades allowing it to hover above the felon while the mirrors on the shaft show his exact position.  The follow-up projectile is a "Ricochet Arrow" which lives up to its name by bouncing off the hovering arrow and releasing a falcon's hood that covers the criminal's head allowing the Ace Archers to capture him.

In the closing panel the real British archer is in attendance and asks G.A. how he knew the truth about the imposter.  Our hero responds that "He made his slip when he showed me a British "wanted" poster offering a reward of 10,000 dollars!  That's American currency…a real English poster would have dealt in Pounds!"

Those of you who've followed my musings here over the years know that I've been unhappy with the way Green Arrow has been portrayed in the Modern Age and as you can see by the preceding he really did change radically.  It does make you wonder what might have been if Jack Kirby had continued with the character longer than the brief 11 efforts he produced.  I find it interesting and fitting that one of the current DC Super Hero postage stamps available now is the Jack Kirby edition on the cover of this volume.

This story reminded me a little of the Green Lantern Corps stories where you had GL's from all over the universe joining forces or meeting up to get guidance from the Guardians of the Universe.  "The Green Arrows of the World" was a pretty nifty tale if a tad implausible and a great look back, so I'll give it a rating of 8.  Happy birthday, Green Arrow and here's hoping they start doing a better job with your  current continuity, taking into account your long and proud heritage.

The Silver Lantern is your source for all things related to the Silver Age of DC comics and we like being your host, so do come back in about two weeks for the latest review.  In the meantime, feel free to drop a line any time at professor_the@hotmail.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

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