Tuesday, June 26, 2007

GREEN ARROW #28 DC Comics, 1989

Two worlds! Two warriors! One beard!

Worlds and facial hair collide in the pages of Green Arrow #27-28 as two characters associated with writer/artist Mike Grell - Green Arrow and Grell's creation The Warlord - join forces for a Battle in Seattle! Throw in the Black Canary in full assault mode and you have yourself one macho, beardly comic.

Here's the story: Travis Morgan and his goatee are taking a break from the Inner World of Skartaris and are roaming the States on a sort of soul-searching/ass-kicking walkabout, like David Carradine in Kung Fu, only more violent and less englightened.

Morgan was born an raised in the States, but he sort of misses primeval, barbaric Skartaris. Sure, pterodactyls attacked you every five minutes or so, but the sun was always shining and loin cloths never went out of style. Ah, Skartaris...

Travis Morgan shows up in Seattle, where some armed criminal-types mistake him for Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow. Honest mistake. He gets fed up with being attacked and tracks down Queen in the castle-like Seattle home he shares with his girlfriend, Dinah Lance, The Black Canary. (Wait a minute, isn't Black Canary blonde? Why does she have black hair and a Mia Farrow hairstyle? Dude, because she's not really blonde, she always wore a blonde wig. I can't believe I have to explain that to you. It's embarassing. Let's just keep this inside the parenthesis, okay?) Morgan rings the doorbell, Ollie answers, Morgan punches Ollie and yells at him...

Enter Dinah, annoyed. "What the hell is going on here?"

That's a good question, Dinah, but a better question you might ask would be, "What the hell am I wearing?" Did she lose a bet or something? Hey Dinah, Charlie Brown called and he wants his shirt back. That's not a good shade of Hideous Yellow on her, it doesn't go with her skin tone.

OK, so Travis Morgan starts with the sexist comments, starting a tiny fuse in Dinah's amygdala. Mr. Beard over there is about two seconds from getting his ass handed to him and he has no idea.

And then he says it. Or rather, he starts to say it:

Dinah doesn't even let him finish his sentence before she knocks the color out of him with a left cross. That's what I liked about Black Canary during the Grell Era of Green Arrow: she took no shit from anyone.

I've read lots of criticism online about nearly every writer's handling of Black Canary*, but I think she's fared a lot better than Wonder Woman or Power Girl or yeesh, Supergirl. She seems to be handled with more consistency and (dare I say it?) respect by DC creators than most of her heroine peers, and I think the foundation of Black Canary's current Major Heroine status was laid by Mike Grell during his years writing Green Arrow.

Bear with me here. Since Grell wrote her, Dinah has consistently been portrayed as compassionate, proud, tough, vulnerable, and slyly funny by writers ranging from Gail Simone to Chuck Dixon to Geoff Johns. I think Black Canary is a great character because most DC writers really love writing her, and it shows.

I don't want to turn this into a defense of how DC has handled the character - that's an argument best left to others - but I've always liked Black Canary because of how DC has handled her. She's keen. 'Nuff said, pilgrim.

Anyway, the punching stops and they sort out who everyone is and why half of Seattle's underworld wants to kill Travis Morgan. It all comes down to that damn beard.

Hold it. If Ollie says that he and Travis are about the same age and Dinah says Travis doesn't look a day over fifty, does that mean Green Arrow is about fifty years old, too? Best not to dwell on such things.

Our three characters have some coffee and Morgan answers all their questions cryptically, with a wink to the audience. Since presumably the reader knows who Travis Morgan is, Grell doesn't have Dinah or Ollie ask some obvious questions of this strange man. It's a bit too precious and nostalgic for my tastes, but the fanboy in me did enjoy seeing the two characters interact, so I can't complain.

Their coffee chat is interrupted by a horde of the aforementioned armed criminal-types who attack Ollie and Dinah's pad in a John Woo style assault. Yes, like the rugby team that attacks the house in Woo's The Killer, these guys just blindly rush the house and jump through windows and knock over garbage cans and step on cats and generally just make great targets. Green Arrow and The Warlord hop up on the roof and pick off the bad guys with .44 Magnum Power and Very Sharp Arrows.

Bonus: In this issue Black Canary kicks ass in a big way. She kicks one dude in the nuts (pictured), kicks another guy upside the head, takes his gun, and starts blowing people away. You see kids, back in the Eighties Green Arrow was a "suggested for mature readers" title where Ollie and Dinah occasionally had to kill some motherfuckers. That's how we do it in Sea Town, kids.

The art team on this storyline was Dan Jurgens on pencils with none other than Dick Giordano on inks. I think the colors kinda suck, but what do I know? The lines are pretty.

Now, I have made fun of Dan Jurgens' art before - specifically the way he has drawn particular superhero fights. But here Jurgens adapted to Grell's sparse, cinematic style of storytelling and it works great. The big battle scene is told mostly in silent square panels with no sound effects and very little dialogue - a layout like that gives pencillers with poor composition and storytelling skills nowhere to hide. Fortunately Jurgens is more than up to the challenge and the angles and choices he uses are perfect. Giardano's a great inker, and together he and Jurgens create some panels that are positively Grell-ian. Still not a fan of the coloring, though.

In the end Morgan faces off against the mob boss who ordered the hit, who is attempting to flee the scene in his Christmas green sports car. Morgan has a Very Sharp Sword. The results are predictable, but beautiful regardless:

That's how you do it in Skartaris, son - with no shirt. Travis Morgan - he lives shirtless and free.

Green Arrow #28 is a high point of wry machismo in the series and I'm pleased that I dug this one out of a particularly hard to reach long box. Good times.

*Except Gail.


Anonymous said...

I loved both Green Arrow and Warlord (in fact, pretty much anything Mike Grell wrote) but one thing has always puzzled me about this issue.

Given Travis Morgan used to hang out with female butt-kickers like Tara, Mariah and Shakira who were famous for not taking any crap from Mr Morgan, so why is he suddenly so sexist and condescending to Dinah?

Arkonbey said...

I really get a kick out of the sh1t-eating grin that the Warlord has as he decapitates the guy in the sports car.

He looks like he just hit a home run.

SallyP said...

Ah, wry machismo is ALWAYS fun. Of course I always thought that Ollie was Blonde, and Travis had White hair, but what do I know?

Luke said...

Wow, that looks like a fun comic book. I may have to see if I can find it on the cheap at some point. Thanks Dave!

Walter said...

But it was a LEFT hook!!! (from Canary).

Andy said...

"I think the colors kinda suck, but what do I know?"

No, I think you're right. I don't have this comic but I was absolutely thinking as I looked at the images, "Wow, the coloring sucks."

Jeff Rients said...

Ollie and Dinah occasionally had to kill some motherfuckers. That's how we do it in Sea Town, kids.

I think those are two of the best lines you've written to date. The word choice is just *perfect*.

Quilty said...

Hold it. If Ollie says that he and Travis are about the same age and Dinah says Travis doesn't look a day over fifty, does that mean Green Arrow is about fifty years old, too? Best not to dwell on such things.

I read the first year or so of this Green Arrow series. It was established that Oliver Queen was in his early to mid-forties, as opposed to Superman and Batman who were perpetually 29 years old, and the twentysomething Canary, who digs older guys.

Darkfire said...

And why is Morgan in Seattle? Simple, there ain't any gun stores in Skartaris, and that gun don't grow bullets.

Seattle: You'll come for two boxes of .44 Magnum and some out of left field sexism...you'll stay to have a bitchin' team up with Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Also, by now it's clear that we need 'Supergirl sucks' post just to air the grievances. If the Gambit post gave us the 'Richard Gere Effect' God knows what that'll get us. (Probably Lolita complex, but dammit, it's already taken)

suedenim said...

It was established that Oliver Queen was in his early to mid-forties....

Yeah, plus IIRC, Grell carried over a conceit from Jon Sable into his Green Arrow book: that the characters would age in "real time." (I don't believe this POV was wholeheartedly endorsed by DC editorial, but was at least Grell's "internal" intention.)

philip said...

I guess Ollie's "No Solicitors" sign on his front door just doesn't work in every context.

If I opened my door and the person on the other side punched me, I don't think my first impulse would be to invite him in to explain it. Actually my first impulse would be to run down the block to the Safeway and beg somebody to call the police.

And that's how we really do it in Sea Town, kids.

Dan Coyle said...

Longbow Hunters or no, Grell did some good work with Black Canary.

Chuck Dixon, when Oliver Queen was dead, did a story where Connor Hawke goes looking for a man reportedly with Queen's face. Guess who he finds? And they fight DINOS!

Matt Bird said...

Great as always Dave. After reading, I was ready to continue on with my tour of funny comix blogs, but I didn't feel like typing in "livingbetweenwednesdays.blogspot.com" so I figured I would just click on it in your blog roll. Imagine my surprise that find it wasn't there! What's up? It's one of the top five funny comix blogs (right below your own, natch.)

E said...

From what I remember of the new format (or whatever it was called) more expensive saddle-bound comics from that era, the colours sucked in a lot of them, almost across the board. Don't know what the deal was.

ghostman said...

Yeah, the Nad Kick was an essential part of Black Canary's asskicking arsenal, back in the day. Who needs a sonic scream when you can just kick guys right in the junk. Ouch.

Jacob said...

I nevere understood Dinah's logic in wearing a wig as part of her martial-artist-superhero costume. Surely it would have gotten pulled of dozens of times. Like Clark deciding that Superman should wear the glasses.

She should have had long blonde hair as Dinah, and gone with the butch hair as Canary!

Nerdguy said...

I've never been that much into the sword & sorcery stuff, but DC really should do collections of the old warlord stuff as well as of issues like this one ...

Verbatim said...

Ah, a chance to link to me favorite Fred Hembeck strip...


paul wargelin said...

Great post Dave. Mike Grell's Green Arrow remains one of my favorite series, and this story with The Warlord is definitely a fun highlight.

I agree with you completely about Dinah's strength of character throughout Grell's run. In many ways I feel the series was just as much about her as it was about Oliver.

RE: Oliver's age. If memory serves, he celebrated his 43rd birthday in the pages of The Longbow Hunters. So if he did indeed age in "real time" he would have been 45 during this story.

I also think that when Kevin Smith resurrected Oliver, he came back 10-15 years younger.

spacekicker said...

Love it!

I agree with you about DC's handling of Black Canary - even now, Gail Simone has upped her to an amazing character (which makes me wonder why SHE is not writing the new mini).

Your posts are highlights of my week

brodieman34 said...

Thanks for shining the spotlight on Green Arrow. I've been dying to read some Grell-era G.A. since I read an article on the history of G.A./Black Canary in Wizard a few months back. This ish sounds pretty sweet to me.

davelevine said...

Yes, I realize I am a little late to the party but I still have to ask:

Why no Slade Wilson? Can you imagine that? It would have been mega-awesome. Five eyes and three goatees in a single issue (or two)? *sigh*

Quilty said...

I also think that when Kevin Smith resurrected Oliver, he came back 10-15 years younger.

I remember this from the Smith run also. In the years before Infinite Crisis, when DC was re-establishing its Silver Age characters, several heroes were made younger: Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Green Lantern were returned from the dead as twenty- or thirty-somethings, and I think Black Canary herself spent time in one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus pits and had a few years taken off her age.

ghostman said...

quilty said:
and I think Black Canary herself spent time in one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus pits and had a few years taken off her age.

Yep, and that's how she got her sonic scream back too, which was gone during the Grell years due to damage to her vocal chords.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Hmm, so the Grell Goatee is to the DC Universe what the white-sideburns-with-dark-hair is to the Marvel Universe.

Travis said...

I think maybe Dr. Strange is involved somehow, he sports both.

Nice Hembeck comic up there :)

Quilty said...

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Hmm, so the Grell Goatee is to the DC Universe what the white-sideburns-with-dark-hair is to the Marvel Universe.

That's a staple in the DCU as well... mainly the Justice Society, but also Green Lantern before and during the Parallax era....

Anonymous said...

That's how we do it in Sea Town, kids.

Chris Arndt said...

First I will educate you:

In the continuity of the Grell GA series Oliver Queen had turned 43 in The Longbow Hunters, and the series went along, long-term in real-time, so approximately two years have gone by since the first issue, so Ollie would be, in this story, 45 years old.

However the DC Universe canon views the story now, and Ollie's age within it, I don't know nor do I care, but I can tell you that Kevin Smith's GA stories de-aged the bastard to it doesn't matter.

That does explain how Green Arrow could look to be of similar age to a dude that looks about fifty.

I will complain to all of you and it will count:

I loved this story when I first read it and I grasped the point immediately, ever since I noticed the visual similarity with those original Warlord stories and Grell's work, but the damn thing is so impure from start to finish!

I remember wanting an X-Force/Youngblood story with Liefeld drawing. Why? Liefeld drew both the books. It is the same reason people wanted a Wildcats/X-Men book with Jim Lee and Spawn/Spidey comic with Todd McFarlane. Ultimately we got two crappy Youngblood/X-Force crossover comics and it made very little sense because the one thing both comics had in common was not there: Liefeld. X-Men/Wildcats was mostly drawn by Travis Charest.

The cover for Warlord/Green Arrow was drawn by Mike Hannigan and the interiors were drawn by Dan Jurgens. I don't care how good they are, and they are good, but the point is that these two dudes look eerily similar, and mostly when they are drone by Grell and because they are drawn by Grell.

I know Liefeld isn't good, but I think at his Liefeld is entertaining the same way Rob Thomas or Bon Jovi compares to the Beatles. Most importantly when you get other bad artists drawing Liefeld-type stuff... there's no point! Burn it!

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