Despite having written Green Arrow for several months before Rebirth will begin, writer Benjamin Percy is making a couple big adjustments to the character for June's relaunch of the title with a new #1.
Perhaps the most noticeable — besides the fact that Ollie is sporting a goatee again — is the addition of Black Canary to the title's cast. In fact, Percy says the comic book could be called "Green Arrow and Black Canary," since she's so prominent in the series.
Another adjustment will be the clear establishment of Oliver Queen's role as what Percy calls a "Social Justice Warrior." At issue, as the series begins in June, will be whether Oliver can do more good as a rich man with virtually unlimited resources to help the poor and victimized, or whether his riches make him "the man" that he's fighting against as an SJW. As solicitations have indicated, Oliver will end up losing his riches and status as a leader of industry — and Percy implies the change will be by choice.
The series will kick off with Percy's Green Arrow: Rebirth #1, which features art by Otto Schmidt. Then the series will continue to ship twice monthly, featuring interior art by both Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra on a revolving schedule.
Solicitations so far have mentioned not only Black Canary's involvement in the series, but also Shado, who in the "New 52" was established as a lover to Oliver's father Robert (despite romancing Oliver himself in the Arrow television series). However, Percy wouldn't verify whether the exact continuity and characters of the "New 52" would continue the same into Rebirth, even though he called his current "New 52" run a "prelude" to what he's doing come June.
Percy took over Green Arrow with 2015's #41. He'll continue on the series into Rebirth, and DC has also announced that the writer will be launching a new Teen Titans series in October that features Damian Wayne and other young DC heroes.
Newsarama talked with Percy about the relaunch of Green Arrow, how he worked with Geoff Johns to mold the Rebirth story and what readers can expect from his new runs on both Green Arrow and Teen Titans.
Newsarama: Ben, what is the biggest change that you can talk about once you start on the Rebirth version of Green Arrow?
Ben Percy: Think of everything that's come before as a kind of prelude. Since issue #41, I've tried to keep Oliver Queen out of costume as much as possible, to emphasize him as a man and as a troubled man.
He's struggling romantically, emotionally, professionally, trying to figure out who he is. And especially in this last arc, the Warg arc, you've seen him sort of question his mission, his sense of heroism.
And with Rebirth, he'll finally live up to the heroic mantle of Green Arrow.
Nrama: We've been told that part of the preparation for Rebirth was writers sitting down and talking to Geoff Johns, who's writing the Rebirth one-shot that establishes this new status quo. Did you work with him at all on Green Arrow, or were you trusted with this character since you've been writing him a while?
Percy: I flew out to Los Angeles and I was there a few days in the writers room, talking about Green Arrow, talking about Teen Titans. He's got this giant white board on the wall, and he'd scratch all over it and we'd pace around and sweat and eat pizza and talk about what makes these characters great.
How can we write the most kick-ass Green Arrow story of all time?
So yeah, it was a pleasure breaking story with him.
Nrama: We've also been told that the Rebirth initiative takes the characters back to their core. You mentioned earlier that Ollie was struggling with, or questioning, his mission as a hero. Can you describe the core of Green Arrow as a hero as you kick off your Rebirth run, or what you determined on that white board, what is Green Arrow and what's he going to be about in June?
Percy: Green Arrow is a social justice warrior. Green Arrow has his finger on the pulse of the moment. We're channeling the zeitgeist. If you've been reading the newspapers over the past few months, you've encountered headlines that we have considered filtering into — slanted versions of — into the series.
And the thing that I've struggled with, since taking Green Arrow over, is his billionaire status. This is a Robin Hood figure. And the pull quote from the trade, without question, will be, "How can you fight the man if you are the man?"
That's a question that Black Canary poses to him.
Green Arrow has lost his fortune before, but this will be the first time that he's complicit in that loss.
Nrama: You mentioned Black Canary, and that's one of the things that was mentioned at the WonderCon announcement of Rebirth. Can you talk about her role in the Rebirth version of Green Arrow?
Percy: Black Canary is central to the Rebirth arc. The series, based on the first six issues anyway, could easily be called "Green Arrow and Black Canary." It's a two-hander.
She's a character that I've been wanting to put in the series since I took over with #41. And I'm so excited that she's back in the fray.
Nrama: The series is going to be twice a month. Is that at all different for you as the writer? Or is the timing less important than the fact you're working with two different artists?
Percy: I don't have trouble with cranking it out. I'm a story factory.
But it's a challenge for the artists, and I'm working with two rock stars. Otto Schmidt — I don't know if you've seen the samples, but Otto is a wonder. He's such a clean artist. Visually, he draws such visually arresting scenes. They've got so much dynamic power, so much kinetic energy to them.
And then Juan Ferreyra is killing it on Suicide Squad lately, and there's something gorgeously unsettling about his work. I'm impressed by everything that he does, but especially these two-page spreads — the orchestration of action on them. He has these two-page, multi-panel spreads that read cinematically. And it's going to become his signature, I think, his involvement with Green Arrow.
The layouts will be much different from artist to artist. They're each bringing something really interesting and unique to the series.
Nrama: You mentioned that what we've been reading serves as a prelude to what's coming in June. Does that mean there's not a huge — I don't want to say "not a huge change," because I'm sure you'd like to emphasize that Rebirth is a big deal. But for fans of what you've been doing or even what Jeff Lemire brought to the run, how much will that change? Will the people who've been around Green Arrow still be around? We aren't going to suddenly see them disappear from continuity, are we?
Percy: Well, you'll see. Some of them are going to cycle in and out, I'll say that. I won't tell you who yet.
This is the best story I could possibly tell.
This is, I think, one of my best stories in any medium. You know, I'm a novelist, I'm a screenwriter, and I'm a magazine writer. I'm a comics writer. I'm a storyteller. This Rebirth arc, I think, is some of the best work I've ever done. And I hope that it stands out as my "Court of Owls."
Nrama: I know we have a long wait until Teen Titans begins — in October, I think DC last said. But I can't help asking how things are coming on that. That's a really different comic for you to approach, isn't it? Are you struggling a bit with writing a team?
Percy: Well, you know, one of the things I love about Teen Titans is that it's a turnstile of genres. I can write detective stories, I can write horror stories, I can write sci-fi fantasy stories, I can write comedy.
Each of the characters are so different. They have their own vibe. They have their own aesthetic.
And the story, as a result, is always fresh. It's always changing over, the possibilities of it.
And too, it's just fun. Like, that's at the center of Teen Titans. It's a lot of fun to read and write.