Jeff Lemire Building New Mythos for GREEN ARROW

In February, Green Arrow gets a whole new direction, as writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino build out the world and mythology of the Emerald Archer.

The title, which has already seen several creative changes since it launched last year, is among the comics whose sales numbers haven't benefitted from the DC's New 52 event. Although the character and comic got a whole clean slate with last year's reboot, the title's direction has shifted with various creative teams over the last thirteen months.

 

But Lemire tells Newsarama there won't be any creative changes on Green Arrow for awhile, because he's thinking long-term. He's treating his first issue, Green Arrow #17, as the first issue of a long run, as he builds a brand new mythology for the character.

Lemire is already transforming the world of Animal Man and Justice League Dark for DC, and will start a new Vertigo title next year. And Andrea Sorrentino comes to the title after winning rave reviews for his work on I, Vampire.

Newsarama talked to Lemire about the title, Ollie's supporting cast, and what he believes is the core of the character.

Newsarama: Jeff, when you were first considering the job of writing the Green Arrow series, what were your initial thoughts?

Jeff Lemire: My initial response when they offered me Green Arrow was, I kind of paused because I'd never really felt that close to that character or really felt that interested in him.

But then I really started thinking about what I could do with him if I did it the way I wanted to do it.

I thought it was my chance to do a really big crime noir superhero story, and really create this big mythology behind Oliver Queen's past and his destiny and the island and all this stuff.

It became this huge, sprawling mythology that I'm building. And it's hopefully something that will really hook readers.

Nrama: It sounds a lot like what you're doing with Animal Man, although I'm sure the way you're taking the character is different.

Lemire: It's definitely a different place, but I think just approaching it in the same way. When Scott and I got Swamp Thing and Animal Man, we wanted to build a big, huge mythology around both characters that would hook readers and be this compelling thing.

Nrama: He's still somewhat of a clean slate since the New 52. I know there's been a year of stories and the #0 issue went into his past a bit. But are you sticking with that clean slate? Or do you intend to go back into the mythology built in past runs of the character like you did with Animal Man? 

 

Lemire: It's really different. I'll be honest. When I approached Animal Man, I approached it as if it wasn't a reboot, as if the Grant Morrison and Jamie Delano stuff happened. I mean, as much as I could make it all make sense, it still all happened.

Whereas, I'm taking the opposite approach with Green Arrow, where it really is totally a clean slate, so I can alter and change and rebuild his mythology however I want to, at the same time, trying to stay true to the core of that character that everyone always loves.

To me, Green Arrow in the past, what people loved about Oliver Queen pre-New 52, was his relationships with other heroes. Like his friendship with Green Lantern, his animosity with Hawkman, his romance with Black Canary – these are all the things that sort of defined him. And now all those things are gone. They're wiped clean. So he really is a clean slate.

His character is a really clean slate for me to kind of do something new with him. And I want to take full advantage of that and build him into something people like as much as the old Oliver Queen, but he's his own man and they like him for who he is rather than how he interacts with other heroes.

Nrama: You mentioned that you want to keep the core of the character. I'm wondering, what would you describe as the core of the character?

Lemire: To me, the heart of Oliver Queen is, he's a character who's riddled with self-doubt. His character and his story is all about self-worth. He's born into this legacy that his father is this really well-respected businessman and philanthropist. And he's born into this burden of continuing the company and living up to everything his father was. But he can never, in his own mind, live up to that. And as a result, often what we've seen in the past is he exudes this arrogance and this sort of brash behavior, which is clearly a defense mechanism for self-doubt.

So for me, that's the core of him is that legacy that he's trying to live up to and trying to become the man that his father knew he could be, and that he knows he can be, even though he keeps making mistakes.

And once you figure that out and hook into that emotionally, that's a good base. And then I built out from there. The mythology and all the other things come out from that.

Nrama: You mentioned the words "crime noir." Is that the style you're using, or more just an influence for the plot?

Grell's

Longbow Hunters

Lemire: The Green Arrow stuff that I've responded to from the past is the Mike Grell stuff. I've liked a lot of other stuff, but I think for me, the direction and the mood and the tone that I really want is something much darker and more aggressive and really fast-paced action.

So this is my chance to do something in the vein of all the best Punisher stories or Daredevil stories or Batman stories – a really good crime noir story. So yeah, that's kind of the direction we're taking.

And especially Andrea now on our team. He has such a bold style, and he uses black so much and shadow. He's got a dark look to his art, but it perfectly suits the emotional tone of the book.

Nrama: He can do so much. He can do superhero stuff, or dark stuff.

Lemire: Yeah, he's amazing. He's great.

Nrama: Have you seen his Green Arrow art?

Lemire: Yeah, he's drawn the first issue. I've been working on the book since July or so, so I've got four or five issues in the can. He's just finishing drawing the first one. And I think it's the best stuff he's ever done.

I kind of challenged him when he got the gig to even step up his game more. And he totally delivered. His layouts are amazing for this book.

Nrama: You mentioned that you're going to be exploring his past, his destiny and the island, which are all very distinctly Green Arrow. But I know from how you tied Animal Man into Swamp Thing that you sometimes find a way to tie into other elements of the DCU when you're building out a character. Is Green Arrow tying into what Geoff Johns is doing with Justice League of America? Or are you more interested in establishing his world separate from other people because of what you said earlier about him not being defined by his relationships?

Lemire: Yeah, I'm not tying into [Justice League of America] directly, although we make it clear that it's the same character that's in Geoff's League. It's connected, but I'm really doing my own thing.

Both Geoff and I know that the books need to exist on their own. If Green Arrow is going to be a successful comic, it has to exist on its own as well and be strong.

So at least for the first year or so of my run, I'll keep it focused on Ollie in my book, and then we can start branching out once we have a good foundation.

Nrama: I love hearing you say "the first year of my run," because it means you have a long-term plan for this character. You're planning to be on the book for awhile?

Lemire: Yeah, I have big plans for Ollie. I really feel now that I'm at a place with Animal Man, Dark, and Green Arrow where I can plan out significant runs. Like I said, I've got the first five issues scripted on Green Arrow and the plans that I have are going to be at least a two-year plan.

It just keeps getting bigger.

I'm going to start pulling in a bunch of old characters from the Grell run and other stuff that I love, and creating a bunch of new characters as well.

So there's going to be a huge supporting cast. And a big, new cast of villains as well.

Nrama: It feels like, with each of the series that you've undertaken at DC, you've really challenged yourself in a new way each time. I know we talked about, with your new Vertigo series, how you specifically chose the premise just so you could stretch yourself. Where do you think this Green Arrow series challenges you? What might readers who only know your DC work see that either is something they haven't seen before, or something that's specifically challenging you as a creator? 

Lemire: I've never done a book that's an action book like this, or a noir crime book. And that's something I really wanted to try. So there's that.

And for me, the challenge was trying to keep it really fast-paced. When issue #17 opens, my first issue, it really starts with a bang and moves really quickly from there.

And so the challenge for me is now, with subsequent issues, to keep that pace up and keep it, like, a really high-octane kind of adventure, but still find time for all the good character moments to build him and his cast. So it's balancing the action adventure with the stuff that I've probably become known for with Animal Man, with the personal moments between characters and things. So that's become the challenge for the first year. 

 

Nrama: You made it clear that you want to build Green Arrow separately from those relationships for which he was so well known in the past, like Green Lantern and Black Canary and such. But since you're getting into a long-term plan, do you think we'll see him encounter any of those characters during your run?

Lemire: Yeah, I think eventually. Like I said, I need to redefine who he is first before we start playing him off other characters again. Like you said, we need a strong foundation of who this guy is. I don't want him to become "that guy who dates Black Canary."

So once we lay down that foundation, there should be the chance to do some cool stories with some of those other characters. Geoff and I have already talked about doing a new version of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern team-up with the new Green Lantern Baz.

But I'm going to stay away from Black Canary for awhile, because I feel like once you get them together, that's it. They're together. So it will close doors instead of opening them, storywise. Somewhere down the road, they could always end up together, but for now, it might be interesting to see Oliver involved with other women.

Nrama: Well, to finish up then, do you want to summarize what you're hoping to do with Green Arrow?

Lemire: Yeah, in general, with all due respect to the people who have worked on the book since the New 52 relaunch, it's a book that has maybe lacked direction in a lot of ways. It's seen a couple creative changes so far.

And I feel like Oliver Queen hasn't really been defined in a way that fans are satisfied with yet.

So I really hope that people who have stopped reading the book would give it a chance again.

Issue #17 really will be like a first issue, and a great new start, and a really bold new direction.

I feel like Green Arrow has the potential to be an A-List character and an A-List DC title. I really hope people will give it a chance.

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