Thursday, November 7, 2013

Arrow and Beyond

(Imma spoil the crap out of this.)
by Adam Gottfried
        So, per my friend Nick’s advice, I am actually watching a television show: It’s called Arrow. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
        I am picky about my superhero based visual media, particularly when it comes to DC Comics, not because I have discerning tastes (I actually found some enjoyment in Episodes I, II, and II of Star Wars) but because DC has burned me so many times. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of reasons I could cite, but that really isn’t the point of this article. Let’s talk about Arrow.
        When I heard that they were doing a Green Arrow television series on the CW of all places, I was skeptical at best. I mean, Green Arrow has always been sort of a joke to me, and many fans of DC don’t really take him all that seriously (hearsay, I have nothing to substantiate). I knew very little about old Oliver Queen other than he did not have great respect for Superman (who was and is my favorite superhero of all time) and that was enough for me to dismiss him as one of the many, many, many second rate DC superheroes that somehow survived the Silver Age into the now.
        I was wrong, on a couple of levels. Green Arrow first appeared in More Fun Comics#73 in November 1941* earmarking him as one of the Golden Age heroes, just shy of 3 years younger than Superman (first appearance Action Comics #1, dated June 1938*) and 2 years or so before Batman (first appearance Detective Comics #27, dated May 1939*).
        Now, I get it, this is a new interpretation of the Green Arrow character, a reimagining if you will. He is a lot darker, a lot grittier, but in the age of gritty reimaging, this is well done. Basic synopsis?
        Spoiled trust-fund brat Oliver Queen is on his father’s boat, the Queen’s Gambit, when it goes down in a storm in the North China Sea. The only survivor, he makes it to an island whose Chinese name means “purgatory.” He spends five years on this island and somehow between being shipwrecked and being rescued by a Dutch fishing boat, he becomes a killing machine and redonkulously proficient with a longbow,
Bear in mind, I haven’t given anything away that you wouldn’t see in the first episode. What the first episodes also gives you just a hint of is the myriad host of intrigues, subplots, and twists that lay in store for you. The leads are relatively unknown actors, but the supporting cast and guest stars are a long list of Geek-Elite. Paul Blackthorne (who played Harry Dresden in the short-lived Dresden Files television adaptation) is a strong recurring character, Alex Kingston (who played River Song in the Doctor Who reboot), and of course John Barrowman (the legendary Captain Jack Harkness, also from Whovian fame) just to name a few.
        “But Adam,” I hear you say, “every major geek-centric show has a rotating cast of nerdly famous actors. Why should this be any different?”
        Because the show is well written, and will easily appeal to thsoe who are hardcore DC fans with some very subtle (and not so subtle) nods to the core content that will make you squee, and will appeal to those who have never touched a comic book in their lives. The show takes an almost believable bent to vigilantism, but more than that focusses very closely on the heart of what it is to be a costumed vigilante: The toll it takes on the relationships of those around you.
        Now I will say this: Stephen Amell, who portrays Oliver Queen, is not a great actor. But he is surrounded by such a wealth of wonderful actors that you don’t really pay attention to him and pay closer attention to the others, and he does try ever so hard.
        Overall, if the CW can keep this show going at the pace it HAS been going, and they take the time to build momentum, I think that DC has a prayer of standing up to the titanic now-owned-by-Disney Marvel Studios. Warner Brothers has already stated that they are going to introduce the character of Barry Allen (the Flash) in season 2 in preparation for their spin-off show for the same character. They got this guy, Grant Gustin, who can sing and dance, but who am I to hold that against him?
        Remember when I was talking about building momentum? This is what I was talking about. If Warner Brothers can popularize a back-burner Golden Age hero like Green Arrow and, if they take their time, they can take on the Flash. And ultimately other, more iconic heroes. But therein lies the trap…. The more popular, more iconic heroes, have significantly more lore and a larger fanbase than Green Arrow ever had, and because of dispersion of fans, a multitude of different fandoms that go along with them. The Flash, for example, has several different iterations: The first being Jay Garrick, followed by Barry Allen, followed by Wally West, and most recently Bart Allen, the grandson of Barry Allen (it’s complicated, but since when are comic plots easy to follow?). Even just in the comments on the Flashes IMDB page some jackwagon rails against the choice of Wally West (being the “slowest out of all the flashes”*. Now that he was mistaken and the fact that the Flash that he indicates in his comment that he prefers is the one they chose to go with notwithstanding, this is just an example of what I’m talking about. With that level of fandom, you can’t make everyone happy.
        But Warner Brothers is taking risks, and I commend them for that. What I want to see is a cosmic cop show with comic book Green Arrows good friend Hal Jordan…

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