Green Arrow is the character who started it all, in the Arrowverse at least. But Oliver Queen is pretty close to the origins of the superhero genre of comic books as well, debuting in the Golden Age in the pages of More Fun Comics #73 in November 1941. Comic book readers know he’s remained at the forefront of what would become DC Comics ever since.
With Green Arrow celebrating his 80th anniversary this year, it’s a good time to look back at the character’s comic book history and how it has impacted not just comic books, but a popular superhero television universe that bears his name.
10 Golden Age Hero
Green Arrow was created by writer Mort Weisinger and artist George Papp right at the beginning of the superhero explosion of the early 40s. Following the debut of Superman in 1938, many costumed heroes showed up and Green Arrow was one of the most unique with his Errol Flynn style Robin Hood costume.
That said, his story was somewhat similar to Batman. Oliver Queen was a wealthy businessman who used his resources to fight crime. He also drove around in the Arrowcar and flew in the Arrow-plane. Like many superheroes of the era, he had a sidekick, Speedy.
9 Uninterrupted Into The Silver Age
Reboots are common these days in comics, but less so in the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. Some characters like The Atom changed a lot over the years, but Green Arrow changed very little between his debut in 1941 and his proper entry into the DC Comics universe in the early 60s.
The superhero genre fell out of favor with readers after the end of World War II, losing position to romance comics and other genres. Green Arrow was one of the few superheroes to remain active and consistent through the period into the Silver Age.
8 Green Arrow And Green Lantern
Green Arrow’s first real modern update comes in 1969 when legendary comic artist Neal Adams gives him a new look in The Brave and the Bold #85. He and writer Denny O’Neill then paired the character with another DC hero, Green Lantern, in that character’s ongoing title. This would begin one of the strangest friendships in Green Lantern history.
These stories were some of the most groundbreaking of the era, dealing heavily with social issues like race and poverty. Green Arrow often advocated for real change in society while Hal Jordan was more of a traditional thinker who preferred to see things change gradually.
It was during this time that Green Arrow’s ward, Speedy, became the subject of one of the most socially conscious comic book stories to that point. In Green Lantern #85, readers found out that Speedy was addicted to heroin. Up until that point, stories that dealt with any substance abuse issues were generally not tolerated by the Comics Code Authority.
Sadly, the epic run of Green Lantern/Green Arrow would come to an end just a few issues later with #89. Despite the groundbreaking work by O’Neill and Adams, sales on the title had declined to the point DC decided to move on.
6 The Longbow Hunters
Green Arrow would get another major artistic moment in comics several years later. In 1987, he was the star of Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters limited series by writer and artist Mike Grell. This story was part of a wave of important stories in 1987 including Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns that saw a more mature approach to superheroes.
In the story, Green Arrow murders a gang of drug dealers who brutally assaulted his colleague and romantic partner, the Black Canary.
At some point, every major superhero dies at least once in the comics. Green Arrow took his turn in the 90s. He dies in Green Arrow #100, after giving up his life to save the city of Metropolis from a group of terrorists. For a time, he’s replaced as the Green Arrow by his son, Connor Hawke, who had been introduced not too long before.
Oliver Queen would be resurrected in the early 2000s. He is brought back by his friend Hal Jordan, though without any memory of much of his comic book past, effectively rebooting him.
4 Marriage To Black Canary
Green Arrow and Black Canary were in an on-and-off relationship for years in the comics. Finally, in 2007, not long after Oliver’s resurrection, the two were married.
The wedding was anything but perfect though as they ended up fighting in a massive brawl. Things got worse from there as she actually kills him at the end of the wedding issue when he goes berserk. This is later revealed to be a ruse and the real Green Arrow was being held captive by the supervillain Athena.
3 New 52 Revision
The marriage between the two didn’t last long, but that wasn’t anything to do with the characters. The New 52 initiative by DC Comics in 2011 completely rebooted continuity, throwing out everything that had happened before. That included the marriage between Green Arrow and Black Canary.
Their relationship was reset to zero, along with their backstories being updated and revised. Upheaval in the creative team in the early issues of the New 52 Green Arrow comic hampered the impact of the reboot, and the character was rebooted again with the entire line in DC Rebirth.
2 DC Rebirth
DC Comics reset continuity once again in 2016, something it does with some regularity, as evidenced by the recent Infinite Frontier program. Green Arrow was part of the shift, which saw an attempt to incorporate his New 52 continuity with the previous comic book history that had been invalidated by that era.
As a result, he and Black Canary were once again romantic partners. Despite their history, the two weren’t lovers in the Arrowverse, though The Canary Sara Lance was a romantic partner of Oliver Queen before the show started.
1 The Multiverse
DC Comics have gone back to fully embracing the concept of the multiverse in the comics with Infinite Frontier. That allows all the various iterations of Green Lantern to essentially exist, and there are many.
The original Golden Age Green Arrow was retconned to be an alternate version from Earth-2. In The Dark Knight Strikes Again alternate reality created by Frank Miller, Green Arrow has lost an arm to Superman but remains an effective archer and hero. In The Nail storyline, Oliver has lost his arm and his eye.
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