With the introduction of a new creative team on Green Arrow in October, DC also brought in some new (and familiar) characters to round out Oliver Queen's supportive cast.
Not surprisingly, the tone of DC's ongoing Green Arrow title has also shifted somewhat, as Arrow screenwriters Andrew Kreisberg and Ben Sokolowski have brought in elements from the hit CW show to the comic book universe.
But among the nods to the TV show — including the debut of Felicity Smoak in Ollie's team — the co-writers have been playing with several Ollie-isms that are very much part of his comic book history, such as his altruistic, anti-corruption nature, his past team-ups with Green Lantern Hal Jordan, and the character's friendship with street kid Mia Dearden (who debuted in the co-writers' first issue in October, making many fans wonder if/when she might become Speedy again).
Newsarama talked with Sokolowski about the Green Arrow title, the use of Hal and Ollie as a duo, and what it's like to write for both Arrow and the character's ongoing comic.
Newsarama: Ben, did you and Andrew come into this project with an idea of the overall tone you wanted to create and the style of comic Green Arrow would be?
Ben Sokolowski: When Andrew brought me on, the idea was to fuse what makes Arrow special with what makes Green Arrow special, and have this sort of hybrid, where you can mix the two worlds. Introducing Felicity and keeping Dig as part of the main status quo went a long way toward that, but in terms of the tone, we wanted to find a middle ground.
Nrama: Let's talk about the villain, John King. As you introduced your take, why did you want to pit Ollie against this type of threat?
Sokolowski: We really wanted to emulate the Robin Hood aspect of who Green Arrow was in the past, and something that Arrow has strayed away from. We were really interested in having, not necessarily rob the rich, but who's responsible for all the corruption?
Nrama: And it's the "Queen" versus the "King."
Sokolowski: That's a fun little outcome, but not intentional.
Nrama: Do you think Ollie fighting against this symbol of corruption and power is something that's core to the Green Arrow comics character?
Sokolowski: I think the core of Oliver Queen in Green Arrow, going back to Neal Adams and the old days, is someone who's fighting for the people. He believes in the city of Seattle and the people who don't have a voice, and who don't have power. That's the tone in the arc that we wanted to play with, for this run.
There's a theme in the first few issues, and it will come back again at the end, where he's the only one fighting for this city. The Justice League is fighting against Darkseid and they have global issues. But when it comes to who's going to help the street kids — well, it's just Green Arrow. And that's really what we wanted to say in this arc.
Nrama: Speaking of street kids, you've got Mia Dearden playing a role in this arc. We know what she became in prior continuity. What were your thoughts on Mia being part of the comic? And do you have greater plans for her down the line?
Sokolowski: Well, we've always loved Mia and what she represented in the old DC Universe. And we wanted to bring her back in the New 52. Where she goes? We don't want to give anything away. We wanted to see how people reacted to her, and if there was positive feedback, we'd make her a mainstay. And I think people are loving the fact that she's come back.
Nrama: Will we see more of Katana?
Sokolowski: Maybe! We love her. She's such a fun character, and Daniel Sampere, our artist, just has a knack for drawing her. So it's been great working with Satana.
Nrama: You've also utilized the character Merlyn, touching upon the character who was introduced in the New 52 in issue #0. What were your thoughts on using that character?
Sokolowski: Yeah! We wanted to bring in Merlyn, and we wanted it to be Tommy. There's a relationship between this hero and villain, and it's much more than just someone who's trying to destroy the city and someone trying to stop him, with characters we've seen before. There's deeper emotions behind this story. So we like that there's a lot of stuff there, with this hero and villain, that can be mined for future stories.
Nrama: This month's issue, you brought Hal Jordan into the comic, as well as the boxing glove arrow. Was that something you just wanted to do because it was fun — and because you could?
Sokolowski: Absolutely. Yeah. The challenge was figuring out how to do it, given everything that Hal is going through in his own storylines. But it allowed us to touch upon Green Arrow's mission statement, which is, again, to be there for the city and its people, and then you have Green Lantern who's not even supposed to be there. It played into the theme of the arc.
But yeah, having the two of them work together and again and having that cover was fantastic. Mark that off my comics bucket list.
Nrama: I think you'll probably mark another one off your bucket list in a couple months because Batman's going to show up in March. Can you tease what we'll see over the next could issue, as I assume this finishes up the story arc?
Sokolowski: Yeah, at the start of the arc, in issue #35, Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor pay Oliver a visit, and Oliver rebuffs their offer to work with them in their merger. And everything is going to come full circle.
Nrama: It's interesting that you're writing the Oliver Queen of the TV show, and Oliver Queen of the comics, as well as different versions of other characters who appear in both universes. In an era where audiences are becoming familiar with different universes that have the same characters — from The Walking Dead universes to the cinematic and animated universes — what are your thoughts about playing with the prismatic elements of these characters and universes, looking at them from different angles, in concurrent stories?
Sokolowski: That's a great question. You know, we have [the digital-first comic] Arrow: Season 2.5, which I'm not writing, and that's Arrow on the page. So we have to differentiate who this Arrow is from the one on the CW.
And that brings a little bit of freedom to the creative process, because we can unlock our minds from having to write a character we've been doing [for TV] for three years now. It's true that, writing Green Arrow in the New 52, you're taking everything that's happened in the last 30+ issues, and that character has his own baggage and his own team. And just because Felicity and Diggle are there doesn't necessarily mean we're bring Oliver Queen from the show here.
So it's been fun, because you can write sort of the same character — two different versions of the same character. And the Oliver Queen that we tried to write for the comic was a character who wants to stand up for the people who have no voice. He's not burdened with the mythology of Slade Wilson coming to attack him and everyone he loves.
For this story, we could decide, what's the story we want to tell in these five or six issues? And we could really do something different with this character.
Nrama: You mention five or six issues. Can you confirm whether you're on the book after Convergence? And if so, can you give us any indication what we'll see later in 2015?
Sokolowski: I can neither confirm nor deny anything. But what I can tell you is that it's going to be fantastic, and people should keep their eyes on this character in the future. Oliver Queen is going to keep growing and people are going to keep loving him.