Selflessness: the mark of a great hero; the willingness of the hero to sacrifice themselves for the good of others and ask little or nothing in return. If there is one thing that the hero of The CW's hour-long superhero action-drama Arrow has in common with the most common depiction of the comic book hero he is based on, DC's Green Arrow, it’s their desire to right wrongs, especially for ones they blame themselves.
Arrow: TV's Hooded Vigilante
After a five-year shipwreck on the “deserted” island of Lian Yu, Stephen Amell's young Oliver Queen on Arrow took to the darkened streets of his Starling City to make amends to its people for the damage done to it by the criminal conspiracy that his family took part in. Gone was the soft trust fund kid, and in his place a mind and body sharpened by a constant struggle to survive. Not content or even (initially) interested in the stopping the kinds of street crimes that have been the bread and butter for costumed vigilantes since ink met paper, Oliver headed straight to the board rooms and smoky parlors of the people who pull the strings and ruin lives with a stroke of a pen or a wave of the hand.
By the end of the first season, Oliver, who was still trying to find his place back among the living and his loved ones, managed to unravel the conspiracy, though not in time to save the lives of a large portion of the city from devastation, including among the dead people he knew well.
The Green Arrow: DC Comic's Emerald Archer
Though Arrow’s focus on a hero's realization – ideologically correct or not – that the source of 'true villainy' in the world lies not in the million small tragedies that occur every day, but by those who hoard wealth and security for themselves can't be strictly interpreted as a reflection of the recent wave of populist social welfare moments, the original Green Arrow fought this battle for over forty years.
Introduced in 1941 as little more than an arrow-shooting version of Batman, it took decades before Green Arrow's seemingly obvious allusions in look and weaponry to the legend of Robin Hood (and the English populist/anti-authoritarian's outlook) seeped into the character’s consciousness. By the 1960s, the adult Oliver Queen experienced many reversals of fortune that repeatedly cost him and restored his vast wealth. Experiencing poverty in the First World and the effects of the rich vs. poor dynamic gave him a distinct leftist worldview that would color his outlook. This would influence not only decades of writers, but how the character is seen by his contemporaries like the establishment embracing former USAF test pilot Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the moral absolutist Batman and the more right-wing reactionary Hawkman.
Kick-Ass vs. Panache
In the vast majority of the seventy-plus years of Green Arrow comics you'll find a hero with substantially less 'dark' and humor-challenged than Stephen Amell's Oliver Queen. Instead you'll find classic comic book Oliver Queen a more jovial swashbuckling type with a smart mouth and quiver full of trick arrows like the classic boxing glove arrow, a handcuff arrow and a boomerang arrow. You'll also find that most, if not everyone he knows is a hero themselves and Oliver's costumed adventures are a bit of an open-secret, while on Arrow most of his friends and surviving family have no idea what he's been up to.
Many characters from the show come directly out of the comics as well, albeit with different interpretations. For example, Roy Harper, in the comics, was Ollie’s first sidekick – a status teased for the second season. His arch-rival (archery pun intended) in the comics is Merlyn, as well. Deathstroke and Shado both have long histories with the emerald archer, though they very from the show (and in fact, from themselves, due to the multiple reboots at DC comics that erase everything that came before, starting over fresh). It even goes the other way, too – Diggle from Arrow surprised readers by becoming a member of the cast of Green Arrow the comic book in October 2013.
Ask any comic book fan and they will tell you two things: continuity is the most important thing and continuity is the least important thing. To understand that little bit of cognitive dissonance Arrow fans that make the jump to reading Green Arrow comics must understand that great stories starring favorite characters trump everything, even every part of recorded history. Naturally there are a few stories that shine out among the others and will shed new light on the themes and characters that populate the show.
Green Arrow: The best way to learn more about Green Arrow is naturally to read a comic called Green Arrow. Two years ago the powers that be at DC Comics rebooted their entire Universe in a manner more comprehensive than had ever been attempted before. Dubbed The New 52, DC is attempting to bring new readers in by largely alleviating their characters of the so-called burdens of decades of history. Naturally one of those heroes is a younger Oliver Queen as Green Arrow. Now free of the past and boosted by the popularity of Arrow, the creative team of Jeff Lemire (Animal Man) and Andrea Sorrentino (I, Vampire) have blended ideas and themes from show into a comic that exists in the wider DC Universe. Their run started with issue #17, which started a new direction that is very friendly to fans of the show, with characters like Shado, Count Vertigo, and even Diggle making appearances.
Green Arrow: Year One: The definitive take on the origin of Green Arrow, Green Arrow: Year One tells the story of Oliver Queen's marooning on a deserted island and how he survived by teaching himself archery. Year One was authored by Angle Diggle whose work on the character was honored on the show by having a key character named after him, one that eventually was worked into the 'real' DC Universe in the above comic. Fans of Arrow will see the parallels to the ongoing island survival story shown as flashback and to other events and characters in the TV series. There’s no question – this story is a major inspiration for the show.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters: Prime time TV viewers shocked by Oliver Queen's use of extreme force and dark nature can all but find its origins in this prestige format comic where the character and his world leaves most of his pulpy superhero action in the past and turns to battle more of the kind of evil that wears a human face. This work also introduces the character of Shado, who like her role on Arrow, would have a long lasting effect of Oliver's life.
Arrow: And last but not least, you can't go wrong with the Arrow digital comic that tells stories that take place in and around the action during the first season of the show, laying Easter Eggs for attentive viewers to pick up on. Written by the show’s writers (who are seasoned comic book veterans), the 36-chapter series gives a deeper insight into Oliver’s state of mind, and may have some hints of what’s to come in season two. It can be found on the DC Digital store for reading on a tablet, phone, or computer, with print collections also available at your local comic shop.
Arrow airs Wednesday nights on The CW