Green Arrow is the latest DC Comics superhero being considered to star in a live-action television series of his own. According to Entertainment Weekly, The CW network is “close” to ordering a pilot for a series featuring the Emerald Archer, currently under development by Greg Berlanti, March Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg. Green Arrow joins a relatively long list of DC superheroes who may make the move to TV, a list that includes Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Teen Titan Raven, The Spectre and Deadman (Of course, Aquaman and Wonder Woman also trudged through development hell, but never made it past the pilot stage).
Given the seeming simplicity of a Green Arrow show (“Think Batman, only with arrows instead of Batarangs!”) and the lack of special effects needed to make viewers believe a man can wear a green costume and shoot arrows, you’d think such a series would have an easier time getting greenlit than some of the other proposed shows featuring more fantastical characters.
But a Green Arrow television series comes with some potential complications, not the least of which are the current economic climate and a certain archer who’ll be seen in the flesh this summer in a little movie called Avengers.
While Green Arrow has never had his own show before, he’s no stranger to the small screen. Jason Hartley played the character on The CW’s Superman-before-he-was-Superman show Smallville, appearing in 72 episodes in the second half of the show’s ten-year run. Of the many not-Superman superheroes to have been introduced on Smallville, Hartley’s Green Arrow would seem the one best poised for a spin-off series. The character also enjoys some notoriety for his prominent roles in animated series like Cartoon Network’s various Justice League cartoons and episodes of The Batman and Batman: The Brave and The Bold.
1. Off-Brand Batman
While his color scheme and weapon of choice are both patterned off of Robin Hood, Green Arrow was created in 1941 as something of a Batman knock-off. Not only was Oliver Queen a millionaire playboy by day and an urban vigilante by night, he also palled around with a Robin-like boy sidekick, tooled around in The Arrowcar, flew around in The Arrowplane and parked them both in The Arrowcave.
As an off-brand Batman — albeit one with the credibility of also being a DC Comics character who used to sit across the Justice League meeting table from the actual Batman — a Green Arrow TV series might be well situated to capitalize on any Dark Knight Rises-inspired Batmania this year.
And for all the elements that Green Arrow shares with the Dark Knight, Oliver seems a heck of a lot easier to base a TV show around. His costume isn’t as challenging to produce as Batman’s head-to-toe plastic and rubber armor, with its bat-shaped cowl and sometimes-CGI cape, and GA’s base of operations (the fictional Star City or occasionally Seattle) isn’t as fantastical as the Gothic gargoyle garden that is Gotham City.
Green Arrow also lacks Batman’s colorful rogues’ gallery full of difficult make-up jobs, like Two-Face, The Joker, Killer Croc, Clayface and so on.
Finally, a Green Arrow series wouldn’t have to live up to the reputation of a couple of feature film franchises nor a classic live-action TV show, the way that a new Batman TV show might. Expectations, obviously, would be a lot lower and, thus, easeir to meet.
If The CW does pull the trigger on a GA pilot and proceed to order a season’s worth of shows, it will be interesting to see how the world might react to DC’s super-archer starring on the small-screen while Marvel’s super-archer stars on the silver screen in The Avengers and its inevitable sequels.
Green Arrow predated Hawkeye by well over 20 years, but the characters are extremely similar. In addition to both being non-superpowered men whose main claim to fame is how well they can aim arrows, they are both long-time members of their respective publishers’ premier super-teams: GA is to the JLA as Hawkeye is to The Avengers.
Complicating matters, the two characters have been visually converging for much of the past decade. While Green Arrow generally always dressed like Robin Hood, Hawkeye used to wear an all-purple costume that included a loin cloth, a Wolverine-like cowl and had a big “H” on his forehead. But when artist Bryan Hitch redesigned the Avengers for the 21st century in the 2002 series The Ultimates, he gave Ultimate Hawkeye a more toned-down, realistic and practical looking costume, exchanging the funny mask for sunglasses and spandex for what looked like body armor. When Ollie Queen showed up on Smallville in 2006, he was wearing a costume that looked more like Ultimate Hawkeye’s than comic book Green Arrow’s. The movie Hawkeye’s costume also takes its design cues from the Ultimate Hawkeye look, and the regular, non-Ultimate Hawkeye in Marvel Comics has recently adopted a costume inspired by the movies. Meanwhile, when DC rebooted and redesigned their heroes as part of last September’s New 52 initiative, they gave comic book Green Arrow a costume closely resembling the Green Arrow of Smallville.
Long story short, Hawkeye and Green Arrow, in Smallville and The Avengers movie, and in DC and Marvel comics, now look almost identical, the main thing differentiating them being the precise shade of their body armor.
3. Politics and Social Issues
Like most comic book characters who have been around for decades, Green Arrow has endured several different interpretations. Perhaps the best-known and most influential take came courtesy of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams in the early ’70s, during the “relevance” era of superhero comics. O’Neil’s Green Arrow got a new, more elaborate costume, grew a goatee with a prominent handlebar mustache, and lost his massive fortune. He became a sarcastic, streetwise iconoclast, espousing liberal/progressive politics, making him something of the Justice League’s resident hippie.
Green Arrow railed against fat cat bankers, crooked politicians and polluting industrialists, famously clashing with the more straight-laced conservative Green Lantern in the pages of Green Lantern/Green Arrow and arguing with Republican space-cop Hawkman in Justice League of America.
Given the current state of the American economy (i.e. bad), the rise of the Occupy movement last year, the widening gap between rich and poor in the United States and the ever-increasing usage of the term “class warfare” in political discourse and coverage of the same, it will be interesting to see if CW’s producers might accentuate that aspect of Green Arrow’s character in an attempt to grab the zeitgeist, or ignore it to avoid controversy.
Unlike Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, The Flash, Green Lantern, Iron Man and just about every single comic book superhero to make it to the big screen or small screen, Green Arrow has no real rogues’ gallery of his own. If a hero is only as good as his villains, Green Arrow is a pretty lame hero. Most of the good villains GA has battled in the comics lately have been ones he’s borrowed form other heroes, villains like Deathstroke, Dr. Light, Merlyn and Prometheus. Writers and artists have invented new enemies for Ollie like Brick, Constantine Drakon and Cupid, but they’re lackluster at best.
As far as archenemies go, Green Arrow has The Red Dart, whose name tells you everything you need to know about him, and Count Vertigo, a European count with vertigo-inducing powers. Not exactly The Joker and Doctor Doom. Producers aren’t going to have the same well of readymade antagonists they’d have if they made a show featuring…well, just about any other superhero.
5. Green Green Green
Curiously, mainstream audiences have been reluctant to embrace superheroes with the word “green” in their name. Sure, a Green Hornet movie eventually got made after years in development hell, but it received reviews ranging from mixed to awful, and it wasn’t anywhere near the blockbuster its studio was hoping for. Ditto last summer’s Green Lantern movie.
Will Green Arrow fare any better? In not, the already slim chance that a Green Lama movie will ever get made will shrink even further.
6. That Green Arrow Prison Movie
While it’s possible for a movie studio to develop a feature film starring a particular superhero while that hero has a TV show on the air — as was the case with Superman Returns and Smallville – would a Green Arrow TV show nix any plans Green Arrow movie? Considering the premise for a Green Arrow-starring film that’s been floated around for a while, Super Max, in which an undercover Green Arrow infiltrates a prison for supervillains, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.