Trash Mutant Back Issues: "Green Arrow's First Case" (1959)
- by Señor Editor, 4 January 2013
Say, did you ever wonder how Green Arrow came to be? Neither did I! I just assumed he bought a bow in a sporting goods store and REALLY got into it... I admit to not knowing much about Green Arrow. Anyway, that's the question asked in the story "Green Arrow's First Case", from Green Arrow's feature in "Adventure Comics" #256 (January 1959), and the answer is unlike anything that I expected! The story is written by Ed Herron, with art by none other than Jack "King" Kirby! Let's take a look at it.
Even though I've been reading comics for decades, my knowledge about Green Arrow is limited to pretty much the basics. I know he's a rich guy named Oliver Queen, his girlfriend is the sexy Black Canary and he has a young ward (because of course he does) named Speedy, who later became a heroin addict, lost his arm and started having erectile disfunction. I know all that. I also know he used to have an Arrowcar, Arrowplane and all kinds of arrow-related stuff. But I never really read any of his oldschool stories. So when browsing a Jack Kirby "Green Arrow" collection I wandered into a story starting with this:
...I knew I had to find out just what the hell was Green Arrow's first case and how "he came to be" and what made him such a "fabulous archer".
The story begins as Oliver and Roy are watching tv one morning and they see a report about an expedition sailing to explore the remote Starfish Island for the first time ever! This really upsets Ollie, much to Roy's surprise! GA rushes Roy to get into costume and start up the Arrowplane, because if they don't get to Starfish Island before the expedition, Green Arrow's secret identity will be revealed.
Once they're on the way, Ollie starts explaining exactly why he freaked out upon hearing the morning news. Roy says he kinda sorta remembers Green Arrow talking about it once, but he must have been too high to catch everything, and so we're treated to the retelling of the story for the first time ever.
I have to say, a story that starts with accidentally falling off a ship is probably the least heroic superhero origin I ever heard. Rather than saying "Whoa, whoa! What do you mean one night you accidentally fell off a ship?" like any normal person would, Roy lets GA continue the flashback sequence.
Even though he just fell off a ship at night somehow and nobody even noticed or heard his panicked screams, luck was with the handsome billionaire hero, as he soon found an island! This is where things start to get exciting as we got some Robinson Crusoe-esque action ahead of us!
GA's luck continued as he soon found a cavern, a source of fresh water, and managed to start a fire. Now all he needed was food, so he started constructing arrows. We never find out if he also constructed the bow there, or if he fell off the ship with one, but sure enough he has a bow and is ready to begin learning how to use it (before he can actually eat anything, I guess).
I have some problems with the first panel. First off, if not for the arrow still being visible, it would look like he painted a giant bullseye on a great big hill far away. That's some wonky perspective. I'm not even gonna get all critical in an article about a comic that's over 50 years old and go into what exactly did he use to pain that giant bullseye... Wouldn't just any target suffice? Moving on!
The important thing is that this is how Oliver became a good archer! Shooting big painted bullseyes on a deserted island because he needed to hunt for food. He also starts talking about shafts so much during this period that I'm surprised he didn't name himself something else.
But our hero's problems don't end here...
Okay... So he made a bow and arrows and learned how to use them... because he was hungry and needed to hunt... for fish? I mean, I don't know what kind of fauna can be found on Starfish Island, but I was expecting him to go and hunt a rabbit or a boar or whatever. Using a bow to catch fish doesn't seem like the most logical choice (aside from probably being hard as hell), but it's not like he had a net anywhere on him or anything.
... Oh. Okay, I'm beginning to think Oliver isn't really the sharpest arrow in the quiver (I hate myself), what with accidentally falling off a ship at night and going for the most complicated ways to catching fish outside of creating an arrow that launches a little fish trap that dispenses worms and closes on the fish when it comes to eat them. How long did it take even take him to make all this? This was probably week 2 of Ollie chewing on his shirt (that somehow disappeared between the panels of him swimming and exploring the island) in his miserable cavern while being hellbent on the idea that arrows are the solution to his problems.
Oh good lord! Alright, let's speed this up a little bit. He takes out the rubber bands from his (now half chewed up, most likely) socks and rigs up a "tricky little "motor"" and thus there came to be the drill arrow, made for drilling into the coconuts on the tree, and awkwardly tugging at the attached rope to make them fall off. Then he finally had the idea to hunt game with his bow, so to better camouflage himself he made this leaf variation of his later superhero costume. And when he was bored he was carving a little diary into the walls of his cavern. Oddly enough, there were no carving arrows involved.
Thankfully, one day Oliver hears a loud noise and finds out that it's a commercial freighter! Somebody is firing the deck guns for some reason! He swims to the ship only to find out that some of the crew of the commercial freighter (a one-eyed man in ragged clothes that has no business working on a nice ship like that, and another guy with a gun) had mutinied and are holding folks at gunpoint.
But Green Arrow rubbed his face with anchor chain grease and put a stop to the mutiny using his trick arrows!
So yeah, that was Green Arrow's first case, if you ever wondered. He accidentally fell off a ship, became stranded on a desert island where he went insanse from hunger and his obsession with arrows began. Then he was miraculously found and helped stop a mutiny.
But what about the whole expedition that went to Starfish Island? Well, the story only has one page left. Ollie and Roy get to the island, see the expedition is carrying a geiger counter, so Ollie fires a Fake-Uranium Arrow (sigh...) and the scientists run the hell away, thinking the place is radiated. The scientists depart, mentioning that primitive people must have lived on the island at some point, judging by all those arrows lying around. That's the only sane assessment of the findings they could make, as far as I'm concerned.
And that's that, Trash Mutant readers! Did this satisfy your curiousity about Green Arrow's beginnings? Are you now thinking that Green Arrow kinda sucks? Hawkeye is much better, isn't he? Hawkeye never accidentally fell off a ship! Leave us some comments, why don't you?