Green Arrow gets a new, street-level direction in February as writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino change the setting for the character by stripping Oliver Queen from his former millionaire playboy life.Beginning with issue #17, the new creative team eliminates the trappings of money and power that have defined the Green Arrow character since his series was relaunched last year. With this new direction, Lemire and Sorrentino are starting what they hope is a long stint on the comic, with Lemire approaching the title with long-form storytelling similar to what he's done on Animal Man.
In issue #17, a new villainous archer called Komodo comes after Green Arrow. And as Oliver's world falls apart, he's confronted with a shocking truth about his father — beginning a mystery that ties to his time on the island before becoming Green Arrow.
Jeff Lemire, who's becoming one of the architects of the DCU through his comics Justice League Dark and Animal Man, is also finishing up his hit Vertigo series Sweet Tooth this week before launching his new Trillium comic for the imprint later this year.
With Green Arrow, Lemire is uniting with Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino, who's coming off a critically acclaimed run on i, Vampire.
Lemire already told Newsarama all about his plans to build a new mythology for Green Arrow during what he hopes is a long stint on the character. Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about his plans for Green Arrow and what the changes mean for Oliver Queen.
Newsarama: Jeff, for people who haven't been reading Green Arrow, is this a pretty easy place for them to pick the book up? Or are you also building on what's come before in Green Arrow?
Jeff Lemire: Anyone who hasn't been reading the book yet, since the New 52 launch, doesn't need to worry about what's going on.
The challenge for me, when taking over the title at issue #17, was really to try to approach it as if it's a first issue, so that it's completely accessible to new readers. Everything you need to know about the character and his world is established in a simple way in that first issue.
So you can jump on really easily.
Nrama: Yet for existing readers, this looks like quite a change from what they've been seeing. In our last interview, you described how you wanted to build a new mythology for Green Arrow with a long-form story over a couple years. But in this first issue in February, how do you give Green Arrow a new direction from what we've seen so far?Lemire: Obviously, the New 52 version of Green Arrow has to inform my take on him, just because I wasn't rebooting it or starting a first issue. So I had to take into account who he was before I came on. And that actually ended up informing where I wanted to take him.
I think, previous to my first issue, we've seen an Oliver Queen who is a really privileged guy, born into wealth, and he's always had everything he wanted handed to him. And even though he had this ordeal on the island and became Green Arrow, it didn't really change him that much. He's still this brash sort of character.
To me, and I think to a lot of readers, he's sort of unrelatable and unlikeable, you know?
So if I step back and take that as my starting point, it made it really interesting to take that guy and sort of break that in half, and you know, strip him right down and force him as a character to start from the bottom again and try to figure out who the hell he is and what he wants in life and what his motivations are when, suddenly, he doesn't have everything handed to him. And he has to start working for it.
Emotionally, that's what my hook on the character is.
From that point of view, the story's about taking Queen Industries away from him and taking his fortune away from him, but also taking his entire support system as Green Arrow away. All the supporting cast we've seen so far will be dealt with in the first issue, and he'll kind of have to start fresh as Green Arrow as well.
Everything he's built his life around, this idea of who his dad was, this guy who gave him this company, this sort of legacy he never really felt he could live up to, there's sort of this discovery that everything he thought he knew about his father and his past is actually just a cover for something else and something more mysterious.
So it's really about self-discovery and self-worth.
Nrama: Is it a case of him needing to break free of the trappings of his parents and home before he can go through this self-discovery?
Lemire: Yeah, and that's exactly what's going to happen in issue #1 [of my run].
There's this character that was established before I came on named Emerson, who is sort of Robert Queen, Oliver's father's, best friend, and is sort of this associate. And he's the guy responsible for running Queen Industries when Ollie ran around as a playboy and as Green Arrow and everything.
And Emerson tells Oliver as much, you know? Emerson, in the early pages of issue #17, kind of looks at him and tells him, like, maybe this is the best thing that's ever going to happen to you. Maybe this is what you need to become the man your father always thought you could be.
And that's the catalyst for the whole story.
Nrama: But I'm sure Oliver doesn't agree with Emerson.Lemire: No, he doesn't.
But I can't say any more because something else happens right after he says that.
Nrama: The mystery that Ollie is pursuing in the first story arc — is it related to his dad and Queen Industries? Or is there a villain involved?
Lemire: Yes. The initial storyline, at least, is very much related to his father's past. And there's a new villain that we're introducing in issue #17 called Komodo, who's another archer. He comes to Seattle specifically gunning for Oliver Queen and Green Arrow.
It becomes obvious pretty early in issue #17 that Komodo knows who Oliver Queen is and knows perhaps more about Ollie's past than Ollie knows, and has some connection to his dad, even though that's very much part of the mystery as we begin.
He knows Ollie is Green Arrow. And he really quickly goes about dismantling Oliver's life, and Green Arrow's life.
And that's the catalyst for this bigger mystery of who this guy is, how he knows what he knows, and what are these secrets from Ollie's father and what does it have to do with him being Green Arrow?
All of that eventually ties back to the island and to a bigger mythology that we'll be revealing.
Nrama: It sounds like you're stripping away a lot of the supporting cast that we've seen in the book. Are you going to have a supporting cast for him?
Nrama: Looking what you've done with Animal Man, as you started with this family structure around the character and strengthened those relationships, are you doing something similar to that? Is he going to have people who are close to him like that?
Lemire: Very much so, yeah. Coming into issue #17, there are two characters specifically named Jax and Naomi who are kind of his support system, the man and woman behind Green Arrow that run point and do all the techy stuff he needs.
They will both be in issue #17, but only one of them will be continuing on with us.
And then on top of that, there's a new character I'm introducing in issue #18 named Henry. He's very much the opposite of everything Oliver Queen is, and he's also provided a lot of comic relief in the book. He's an endearing character.
Plus there's a whole new roster of villains, with Komodo, and then some old favorites. We'll see Count Vertigo eventually and another old guys we re-invented. And a whole bunch of new villains as well.
So it's a mixture of building a rogues gallery that makes him more interesting, and building a supporting cast that highlight different parts of his personality as well.
Nrama: I know you've worked a lot with Geoff Johns as you've developed Justice League Dark. Is his take on Oliver Queen in Justice League of America being coordinated with you? Have you guys had discussions about who the character is and who you want to portray going forward, particularly since both books are launching around the same time?
Lemire: We're obviously sharing scripts and talking a lot. Both of us were really in tune with the kind of guy we wanted to write Oliver Queen as, so it wasn't any kind of struggle. He'll be in Justice League of America and doing a lot of stuff in that book that's a lot of fun. And I'll be kind of doing my own story in the solo book.
We're both really careful that we didn't step on each other's toes. We wanted to make sure we were each free to tell the story we wanted to tell with the guy and not be forced to do crossovers or be too tied up by what the other was doing.
For us, it was more just a matter of making sure we were consistent in who we were writing, you know? That we were writing the same guy with the same sort of personality and the same motivations, the same outlook. So that was just a matter of us sharing scripts and talking and getting on the same page.Nrama: When you say it's the same guy, same personality. But in your story, I assume that as he's completing this journey of self-discovery, he's probably going to be growing?
Nrama: Will it be reflected in the character we see in both books?
Lemire: Yeah, I mean, we're starting off at the same point. The guy that Geoff shows in issue #1 of Justice League of America is very much at the same point in life as he is in issue #17 of Green Arrow. As those things change and evolve for the character in my book, Geoff and I will continue to talk and he'll hopefully continue to reflect that, and vice versa, you know? If major things happen in Justice League of America, I'm going to have to incorporate those and reflect them as well.
But it's just like my relationship with Scott on Animal Man where there's a lot of respect between Geoff and I, and we both really like each other's work. And you know, we're good friends. So it's not hard for us to coordinate that. It's not like a negative thing, anyway. It's just a fun collaboration.
Nrama: How would you compare and contrast this project for you as a writer to what you've done before, and how is it challenging you?
Lemire: A big part of the appeal of doing the book was that it wasn't a lot like what I'd done before. I specifically wanted to tell a story that was a little different from things I had done in the past, a new kind of story for me.
It's a much more reality based character than just Frankenstein or Justice League Dark or these huge, sort of fun romps with as many kind of crazy, fantastic concepts as I can throw at them. And even Animal Man, even though that book is grounded in reality in the fact it focuses on the Baker family, there are still these sort of supernatural, crazy things going on, you know?
In Green Arrow, for the most part, there are no supernatural aspects, no superpowers really. It's all very much grounded in reality and street-level kind of stuff. So that was different and challenging and fun for me.
I also wanted to make the book a really fast-paced kind of book. I wanted it to read like a really good thriller, you know? Like a really fast-paced, action-thriller kind of movie, you know? Where you would start issue #17 and things just start happening really quickly, and you're kind of trying to keep up as a reader. So trying to create that pacing was really fun.
And giving him sort of an international scope, where it starts in Seattle and then branches all over the world, eventually.
The challenges are fun challenges to me.
Nrama: You said "street-level." We're getting a preview of Andrea Sorrentino's work on this comic. And not surprisingly for his art, it feels like a street-level comic. Was the decision to add Andrea to the creative team made with that approach in mind?
Lemire: Yeah. I'd decided on my take and the story I wanted to tell before we approached any artists. We specifically looked for someone who could deliver that sort of tone and mood. When I looked at artists who were working at DC, Andrea just stood out immediately because his stuff is so grounded in reality, but at the same time, it's so bold, in the way he can shadow and contrast. It's such a bold, kind of noir look.
If you take that and put that on a regular DC comic, with a superhero character, it would create this really interesting mood and tone and really signify that this was a bold, fresh start for the title. So that's why we went after him, and he's delivered.