Value of Green Arrow Comic Books
by Christopher Tanis and Ashley Cotter-Cairns
There's no way around it, really. If you wanted to sit down and have a beer (or a cup of joe for the teetotalers) and just shoot the breeze with a comic book superhero, Green Arrow would have to be the one you'd pick. Oliver Queen is funny, tough, great at what he does, chicks dig him, and he's dashing as all get-out.
Basically, he's the James Bond of superheroes. With arrows. OK, he's Robin Hood and James Bond at once. With a social conscience. OK, he's Robin Hood, James Bond, and the personification of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society." And that's it.
So, with that small matter out of the way, we can discuss the phenomenon of Green Arrow comic books. Yes, he was around before Marvel's Hawkeye. Yes, he has that kind of Robin Hood thing, with the green. Yes, he became the subject of the CW television series Arrow in 2012, wearing a hood and a domino mask and shooting the living heck out of some arrows, but on TV, Oliver Queen is "Green" in costume only. At no point does any character on the show say "Green Arrow," either.
Still, it's a pretty respectable TV presence for a guy who always seemed destined to be a minor character at best, and who never had his own title in the Golden or Silver Ages.
Yes, the arrows. He's got arrows, all right. If you're looking for an archer with superhuman skill at hitting difficult targets, he's your man.
Armed with a simple recurve bow and a quiver filled with a variety of trick arrows (which are sometimes armed with boxing glove points, or do things like explode or give out tear gas, and so on), Oliver Queen fights for justice, occasionally (especially in the early '70s) with a fervor that can be quite overwhelming.
Of course, it helps that Green Arrow is also in fantastic physical condition. It may seem like every superhero is "also an Olympic-level athlete," but in Ollie Queen's case, it's his wheelhouse. After all, you'd better be able to best the punks in a scrap just in case your arrows miss their mark.
In that sense, he is very similar to Batman, and large chunks of his career have paralleled Batman's in some way, although it took the wealthy Ollie losing his fortune to turn him righteous about injustice.
Green Arrow is also a master swordsman, but doesn't generally carry a sword. It just works out nicely when a sword is available and GA goes all "Errol Flynn" on some mugger's sorry posterior. Tally ho, indeed!
Green Arrow comic books had their ups and downs in the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages, and none of it would have seemed that it would have made him as important as he is today.
For a long time it seemed that GA was destined to be "That hero who used to be with Green Lantern, and has a backup feature in some other character's title," but Oliver Queen has become kind of a big deal in the last 20 years.
Good for him, and good for you if you have any of the collectible Golden, Silver, and early Bronze Age Green Arrow comic books, especially the Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams run of Green Lantern/Green Arrow in the early '70s, known as the "Hard Traveling Heroes" story arc, of which there is quite a bit more to be said in the following paragraphs.
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Green Arrow comic books made their debut with More Fun Comics, as America was treading water in those last fateful months before Pearl Harbor changed everything. Superhero comics were selling like hotcakes, and More Fun, a longstanding anthology title, was the right place to introduce new characters if you weren't sure whether they'd catch the public's attention.
So, in More Fun #73, we meet Oliver Queen, billionaire playboy, with his youthful ward and super-sidekick, Speedy (Roy Harper), his Arrow-Car, Arrow-Plane, and his secret crime-busting hideout, the Arrow-Cave.
GA was created by writer Mort Weisinger as sort of a poor-man's Batman, owing to the smashing success of the Caped Crusader. You couldn't blame them, really. Initially, very few people liked Green Arrow comic books, perhaps because of the Batman similarities. Ironically, it would be later, when both he and Batman became darker, grittier, more vigilante-oriented crusaders for justice that Green Arrow came into his own.
In this first appearance, "The Case of the Namesake Murders," written by Mort Weisinger and illustrated by George Papp, we don't learn his origins. That would come later, and be something of an anticlimax. There may be a simple reason why.
In Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, set in the burgeoning comic-book industry of the late 1930s and early 1940s in New York City, the two main characters have a catchphrase they use when creating new heroes: "What is the why?"
Revenge coupled with emotional scars was Batman's "why," according to Kavalier and Clay. But unlike Batman's raison d'etre, the source of Green Arrow's crime-fighting urge is mundane. He owned a fabulously extensive and priceless collection of American Indian relics, including bows and arrows. One night, a burglar tries to steal the collection.
Oliver stops him, but in the process accidentally starts a fire that destroys most of it. Despondent, he travels to the American West and lives among the Indians, hoping to rebuild his collection. Along the way, he acquires empathy for the Indians and appreciates their lifestyle, becoming a proficient archer.
Later, inspired by newspaper clippings of a certain Caped Crusader, he takes up crime fighting. How's that for a surprisingly meta-narrative moment in a Golden Age comic?
Like any Golden Age superhero first appearance, More Fun #73 is quite valuable, and was recently calculated to be the 86th most valuable comic in history.
By the late '60s, Green Arrow comic books needed a makeover. He'd been a sturdy but boring character since his creation. He never had his own title in the Golden Age, but had been continuously visible as a backup feature, along with Aquaman, ever since.
GA joined the Justice League of America in Justice League of America #4 (August 1961), and toiled there, rather anonymously, through the 1960s.
Something had to give, and it would, as the Silver Age drew to a close. Legendary artist Neal Adams decided to update Green Arrow's look for Brave and the Bold #85, giving him a much spiffier set of green duds than the loose-fitting T-shirt-and-tights affair he'd been sporting for the last 28 years. The outfit was tighter, with a dark-green vest over a skintight, lighter-green shirt. His pants were tighter, too.
GA now sported wristbands and armbands, and his hat was updated, going from a friendly-looking-but-cartoony Robin Hood affair to something sleeker and more built for speed. He kept the domino mask, but Ollie decided to at this point to grow himself a pointy goatee.
Overall, the new look was far more appropriate for the late 1960s than the glumpy get-up he'd had before: hipper, darker green, and making him look far more dangerous.
The story in this Green Arrow comic book isn't much to write home about. In it, writer Bob Haney teams GA up with Batman to catch the shooter of a newly-elected senator. What makes this comic valuable is the Neal Adams' artwork (both inside and on the cover), and GA's makeover.
Inspired by the visual makeover that Neal Adams had given Green Arrow comic books, JLA writer Denny O'Neil gave Oliver Queen's entire persona a twist two months later.
JLA #75 gives Ollie something to think about, after he loses his vast fortune. In a story narrated by GA and his sometime-girlfriend, Black Canary, we learn that billionaire Oliver Queen has been hit with corruption charges. In the grip of a mid-life crisis, he sees a psychiatrist, hoping to find out who he really is: Billionaire playboy investor Oliver Queen or crime-fighting Green Arrow.
The psychiatrist deploys a fancy new machine that, predictably, causes an unforeseen problem: Green Arrow splits into two: his "good side" and his "dark side." Complications ensue, the other JLA members get split in two as well, yada yada yada, the good sides beat the bad sides and re-merge with them. Phew.
Anyway, after his identity crisis, Oliver Queen would forever be a crusader for social justice. He loses his fortune, gains a conscience, and becomes attuned to the injustice in the world, especially that suffered by the urban poor, which he'd been largely unaware of before.
In spite of very uninspiring art by Carmine Infantino on the cover and Dick Dillin on the inside, JLA #75 is valued by collectors as Denny O'Neil's transmogrification of Green Arrow into the "modern version" of the character.
It was 1970. The Silver Age's end was imminent, although no one knew it at the time. Hollywood movies were getting grittier, more urban. Pop music was going the same way. It was inevitable that in the wake of the events of 1968 and '69 in America, things would have to get more serious in comic books as well. Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76 is a great example of this change.
All the riots, assassinations, protests, and music festivals-gone-wrong were in the mind of Denny O'Neil, writer for Green Lantern comic books. It was time for changes in Green Lantern's life and in the title that bore his name.
Enter a new partner: Green Arrow. Oliver Queen had little patience for the high-falutin' cosmic justice that the Guardians wanted GL to mete out. After all, there were problems right here on earth: poverty, racism, horrible conditions in the inner cities, riots--in short, all manner of injustice that seemed to be beneath the Guardians' notice. But it had never escaped Oliver Queen's notice.
Hal Jordan comes to grips with the fact that he's become completely detached from the realities of earth, from the suffering of those who live each day on his home planet in squalor and hopelessness and oppression. Oliver speaks some rather harsh words to Hal about what his cloistered life working for the Guardians of the Galaxy has been like:
"Grovel in front of that walking mummy. You call yourself a hero! Chum, you don't even qualify as a man. You're no more than a puppet... and the Guardians pull your strings. Listen... forget about chasing around the galaxy! And remember America. It's a good country... beautiful... fertile... and terribly sick! There are children dying, honest people cowering in fear, disillusioned kids ripping up campuses. On the streets of Memphis a good black man died... and in Los Angeles, a good white man fell. Something is wrong. Something is killing us all! Some hideous moral cancer is rotting our very souls."
Thus begins a new phase for what had previously been GL's title, with stories that were more concerned with gritty urban drama and injustice than with cosmic grandeur and saving other planets. Oliver Queen, it seemed, felt the need to share his recent realizations (see JLA #75) with his old buddy Hal, and GL would never be the same.
Accompanied by one of the Guardians, who comes along to find out whether or not Green Lantern has been derelict in his duty by focusing on injustice at home on earth, GA and GL travel around the America of the early 1970s for roughly 10 issues. These are known as the "Hard Traveling Heroes" story arc, and while sometimes preachy in tone, they represent some of the finest and most characteristic comics of the era.
With script by Denny O'Neil and art by the inimitable Neal Adams, this begins a long run of very desirable GL/GA comics, all of which are valuable to collectors.
Green Lantern Comic Book #85
Green Lantern Comic Book #86
The early '70s in America were a time of recognition of the grim realities that had been there underneath the gloss of the swinging, flower-power, peace and love late-'60s all along.
Like the gritty urban stories of the streets that were gaining popularity in Hollywood (in both mainstream films and the so-called "Blaxploitation" films like Shaft and Superfly), comic books began heading in the direction of more sober, serious themes, with stories that tackled social issues that comics would never have touched in the Silver Age.
Perhaps the most legendary story arc of the "Hard Traveling Heroes" era was this one, in which GA finds out that his sidekick Speedy (Roy Harper) has developed a drug habit. Roy is mainlining heroin, which is a huge surprise to both GA and GL, but was telegraphed to the reader via the iconic and classic Neal Adams cover art.
It begins when GA is wounded with one of his own arrows, shot by a crossbow-wielding junkie in an alley. He gets fixed up at the hospital, but it makes him worry about Speedy, who he hasn't seen in a month, since (hint hint) Ollie's been "strung out" with his romantic woes with the Black Canary.
In the next issue, we see GA go ballistic, taking none of the blame for ignoring Speedy and telling him to get out because "I'm not interested in you! Not anymore!" Roy leaves, dejected, and later on GL finds him, needing a fix and in the opening stages of withdrawal, in an alley behind some garbage cans.
GL brings Roy to Black Canary's place, where he withdraws, painfully, from heroin, with help and compassion from BC.
Denny O'Neil rivals Stan Lee at his most purple here, but it was hard-hitting stuff for a Green Arrow comic book in 1971, you can bet. Neal Adams, here burdened with the workmanlike inks of Dick Giordano (who can make everything, or at least every female character around, look like it came straight from a romance comic) is not shown at his best.
But hey, it's still early '70s Neal Adams, which puts the art in these two issues of GL/GA firmly in the category of "valuable."
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