The Archer and His Bow: Technological Musings on Green Arrow

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Posted by Vitaeleous (72 posts) - - Show Bio

A friend asked me recently why I like Green Arrow so much. I said it was a loaded question, and her response was, 'well, I have an evening to kill; hit me'. So I started running through reasons and elaborating on them. What struck me was just how much the technological aspect of the character fascinates me. I've heard a lot of people argue that he's really just "Green Batman"; he has a lot of gadgets, he's really rich, his parents died, therefore.... In many ways they're correct. The Emerald Archer was created as a Batman knock-off in the '40s, complete with an Arrow Car, an Arrow cave, an Arrow signal in the sky, and a young red-clad sidekick. But the characters have diverged in the years since then, taken very different paths. So to those of you who say the gadgetry makes the characters essentially the same, I'm sorry, but you're wrong.

Green Arrow's tech is an integral part of his character, but he doesn't flaunt it. Not the way Batman and Iron Man do, at any rate, showboating and playing up the theatricality and intimidation factor of the toys at their disposal. The toys are a functional part of Ollie, and by following the progressive changes in his gear we can learn a lot about the character. In the Silver Age he used a longbow and gadget arrows designed specifically to incapacitate in a non-lethal manner. To phrase it differently, he chose a skill-based, traditional military art to deploy hi-tech projectiles that reflected his respect for human life and his desire to defuse a situation with minimal violence. This was Green Arrow in the '70's, written by Dennis O'Neil. Mike Grell, in the mid-late 80s, took a new approach to the character. Ollie relocates and retires, opening a flower shop called "Sherwood Florist". When he is forced out of retirement he goes back to basics; the longbow and hunting tips. We see the retention of tradition out of respect for days past that he wishes he could hold on to, but with this comes a realization that the world has changed and become much darker than it used to be. Ollie becomes a vigilante and a hunter, hardened by the brutality that he is fighting and taking life deliberately and repeatedly (this, for the record, is the series from which Arrow is drawing most of its cues).

Now, contemporary comics are another story. The respect for tradition has been lost and replaced by: a) the use of a compound bow and b) artists who have no idea how archery actually works. Having trained as an archer myself for thirteen years, nothing bothers me more than an illustrator who hasn't done his research. So now we have modern tech being flaunted and gadget arrows with no discernible purpose other than to maintain the characters tropes and put on a good show. Move the character to the screen, you have a similar story; Smallville took the equipment and had Ollie using a compound bow with tracking software but not shying away from lethal force when he deemed it necessary. Here there's a move away from the skill required in traditional forms of archery; the hero uses a modern edge to deliver whatever it takes as efficiently as possible. The CW's Arrow has brought us, in a way, full circle. We find ourselves back at Grell, a move that many have attributed to the modern movie-goer's love of gritty super-vigilante noir, which I can't disagree with.

That, in a very large nutshell, is the technological fascination I have with the Green Arrow, and part of the reason why I shall continue to pursue traditional methods of archery myself.

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