*This post contains spoilers about Arrow*
To understand my point of view for this article, full disclosure, I’m not what you would consider a traditional comic book fan. I grew up watching G.I. Joe, Transformers, Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, etc. This was the extent of my childhood memories of heroism and superheroes.
Arrow changed all that for me. I’m now reading comic books, buying Funkos and action figures, paying a hell of a lot of money to attend panels and conventions.
Back in September 2012, I saw ads for an upcoming television series called, Arrow. You remember the promos of a shirtless Stephen Amell in TV spots and billboards? How on earth could any of us forget? No really, the man resembled a Greek God and rocked a serious…six…eight pack? Of course we were going to watch this pilot. Wild horses couldn’t keep me and my friends away. We didn’t know anything about the Green Arrow. We had no clue that this was a comic book show. All we knew that we wanted to see was more of this guy.
Unfortunately, while the pilot was compelling and chock-full of action, it simply wasn’t enough to earn my investment in the show overall. I remember wondering why this guy, returning from all of this trauma, came home to a bunch of people that either I didn’t like or they didn’t like him. There was so much vitriol and hatred. It was uncomfortable. The voice-overs did nothing to help. That was my cue to exit stage right.
Many weeks later, I get a call from my Nana (you heard me, my Nana) asking if I was watching a show called Arrow? I told her about my initial response to it, but she wouldn’t shut up about it. We’ll discuss my Nana’s weird fixation on Stephen Amell some other time. Finally, season one: episode five, I decided to catch the show. Subtle changes had been made, so I went back and binged it that weekend. I was hooked. John Diggle and Felicity Smoak breathed a life into this show that remains inexplicable.
It wasn’t until the season one hiatus that I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to learn more about this show. I spent all hiatus researching, reading, acclimating myself with the Green Arrow mythos, chatting about Arrow on social media, and reading anything I could get my hands on from cast interviews, spoilers and message board discussions. I suppose you could say I was officially a Green Arrow fan.
As I delved into various Green Arrow mythos, I realized something that many fans have failed to comprehend even today. My big revelation? While Arrow borrowed certain material from comic book runs such as ‘Year One’, the television show was very much its own iteration. It was intoxicating in its own right. I didn’t always understand the comic book version of Oliver Queen. Which was fine, because I also had difficulty understanding and empathizing with Arrow’s Oliver Queen occasionally. The difference is, Arrow had Diggle and Felicity there to help me understand Oliver Queen.
After being a fan of Arrow, now hurdling to the finish line of its fourth season, I wanted to take a moment to explain some of the confusion I feel when reading the comments and thoughts of some comic book fans of Green Arrow for the past four years when discussing Arrow.
One of the biggest sources of frustration while interacting on social media about Arrow, is the lack of respect shown to the Green Arrow as a hero. This is found predominantly within the comic book community. It’s as if some have entered Arrow wearing comic book filtered goggles that prevent you from fully experiencing the show, because you’re too busy waiting for the exact stories, moments, and scenes from various Green Arrow books to occur.You know the type I’m talking about.
“That’s not the way it happened in the comics…”
“Well in the comics…”
While I understand that in most Green Arrow comic book runs, the Green Arrow is considerably older, with dramatic facial hair and a girlfriend 20 years his junior that apparently has martial art skills that surpassed his own and a meta-human to boot, that is not the world that exists on Arrow. It never has been. Not at the show’s creation. And most certainly not now when we’re entering into the fifth season renewal.
Which brings us the elephant in the room. There has been a lot of online outrage from the comic book community over the killing of the Black Canary this week on Arrow. In all honesty, I don’t get it. This was never a joint titled show and the show runners never intended it to be. Laurel Lance was never going to be the comic book Black Canary that was a meta-human and better at martial arts than Oliver Queen on Arrow. Her story was never setup to be that at its inception. That was an unrealistic expectation to place on the show when her hero journey didn’t even begin until season three of the show.
These two characters could have co-existed on the same show for the duration of Arrow’s run. But that required fans, ALL fans to face a few truths about Arrow.
- Arrow is its own iteration.
- Laurel Lance on Arrow as Black Canary was never going to live up to comic book Dinah.
- Oliver Queen is never going to be in green tights, a pimp hat with a feather, a goatee and in his mid-forties on Arrow.
- Thea Queen never existed in the comic books.
- Moira Queen LIVED and EXISTED on Arrow.
- Sara Lance was the first Black Canary, yes – she was. Deal with it. Carary, Black Canary, whatever. Sara wasn’t in the comic books. As if mother/daughter sharing would’ve been better.
- Arrow’s relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary was NEVER (even from day one) like their comic book counterparts.
- Black Canary has never been in any Green Arrow origin story.
- Being selective in your canon demands is a waste of everyone’s time. WHICH CANON?! Which book?
There are simply certain things from comic books that would never translate on TV. Arrow has taken a hard stance to never show the sexual assault or even so much as perceived rape of a woman. For example, they were never going to show Shado raping Oliver Queen and creating a child.
Comic book runs tell stories during a period when topics are ripe in society and reflect what readers would be interested in seeing what’s reflected within them. But the fact is, comic books date too far back for some of that source material to ever be appropriate on a television medium with diverse viewers.
Selective canonical demands on the series have weighed it down for four seasons. It is because of those unrealistic demands that Arrow attempts to incorporate them often to their own detriment.
I had a debate with a comic book “purist” this season that claimed Daredevil was such a raw, grounded show and that Arrow basically sucked. Oddly enough, I can’t stop laughing at those claims because it was the demands by fans to move away from those elements that brought powers, mysticism, and meta-humans on a show that once prided itself on being grounded in reality.
These are things that should have stayed on The Flash. Changing the very fabric of Arrow’s DNA to include powers and mysticism, hasn’t improved the quality of entertainment the show once had. Oliver no longer gets bloodied or badly bruised. Stephen’s physicality and athleticism gets wasted more because stunts have to be over the top for optics now instead of bare knuckled blow by blow brawls of seasons passed.
I’ve watched as fans continued to push for Batman elements like Ra’s Al Ghul to appear on Arrow. It was a question asked on Stephen Amell’s Facebook for years. Arrow finally submits, and enter complaints about “stealing” characters from Batman, or complaints over the poor portrayal of Ra’s. Let’s not even go there with those asking for Batman and Superman to come on Arrow. As if that would ever happen. It’s all just exhausting. The show really can’t win.
With each attempt to incorporate elements within Arrow that would appease comic book fans, Green Arrow himself gets more and more lost along the way. Why is Malcolm Merlyn still alive? His presence and Oliver’s continued symbiotic relationship with him does him no favors. In addition to the Ra’s Al Ghul’s, the Leagues of Assassins, etc – Arrow also managed to spend, not one season, but three seasons telling various Black Canary stories. Season two – Sara – Black Canary, Season three, Laurel – Black Canary, Season four, Sara back as Canary/Black Canary, White Canary…whatever, all while still evolving Laurel as Black Canary.
Pointing this out is not to say Arrow has been perfect, it’s just as flawed as any other show can be. But somewhere along the way, some fans have forgotten that Arrow is about the journey of Green Arrow. So if you’re insisting you can’t tell a story about Green Arrow without having a Black Canary, you haven’t been paying attention. I find that particularly infuriating simply because that implies Green Arrow isn’t worthy of transferring over to mainstream just as Batman, Superman, the Flash, etc in his own right.
Not only is it an insult to him as a superhero, but the insult is being levied by the very genre that his story derives from. It’s like saying Batman can’t have a show without Robin, Superman can’t have a movie without Lois, Captain America can’t stand on his own without Bucky Barnes. Can Barbara Gordon exist without the aid of Black Canary, Huntress, or Batman? The answer to all of these examples is, YES. A resounding YES. Because superhero stories are not about co-dependency in order to be heroic!
I’m not sure what you’ve read in ANY Green Arrow story or iteration that gave you the impression that the Green Arrow as a hero requires the presence of Black Canary to be worthy of having his story told in a mainstream media like television, but that’s the most misguided misconception I’ve ever heard. To make such a foolish proclamation completely disregards everything Arrow has shown since the pilot. This is the story of the Green Arrow. If you didn’t come for that, you’re no better than the romance shippers many of you claim are ruining the show for wanting and enjoying….wait for it, a romance on a superhero show. You’re essentially a shipper yourself demanding that Green Arrow can’t exist without Black Canary. That’s called shipping, dear. Own it.
Arrow has spent four years cultivating and attempting to make a Black Canary that works and embodies what is needed to capture upwards of 3 million viewers weekly, just like the Green Arrow himself. Let me repeat that, Arrow requires Black Canary and every single character to do their part to sustain the 3 million viewers on average that tune in to Arrow. On the BEST run of any Green Arrow & Black Canary title, subscribers never reach beyond 60K readers that pay for the content. On a bad run, that number has been known to drop to 16K comic book subscribers.
Looking at you Black Canary’s recent solo run.
If you seriously think a multi-million dollar TV medium is going to cater to the whims of 65K people and not tell a compelling story that 3+ million people will tune in for weekly, you’re sadly mistaken. Arrow doesn’t owe you that. This show owes nothing to source material that has so many runs and books, no one can decide what you people are saying when you use the word “canon”.
At this point, I’ll never believe Black Canary and Green Arrow could not have existed on the same show into the final curtain call if not for the demands from some that selective comic book canon be honored. No one asked for actual story outside of romance to make her more viable on Arrow. No one made it a priority to develop a fanbase for the actress that would grant her more buzz, news articles, or the chance to be viewed with anything short of vague indifference or apathy by the general viewing audience. So the outcry now is especially confusing. If you came for the story of the Green Arrow, that is and always will be the story being told. If you came to Arrow to see the Green Arrow & Black Canary show, you won’t find it on Arrow. But you will find the journey of Oliver Queen as he continues his evolution as the Green Arrow. A hero in his own right. No appendages required.
It’s a new day for Arrow. A chance to finally unburden themselves with things of the past. If all goes well, syndication is just around the corner. And I couldn’t be happier for the cast and crew that remains and worked hard to get to this point. Meritocracy is alive and well again.
I’ll leave you with a piece of advice. If you’re really here to watch Oliver Queen’s journey as Green Arrow, watch the story that’s being told on screen each week and try not to place your unrealistic expectations of a canon that doesn’t exist in their world.
Until next time, be good to one another.
Anetris Armstead is a wife, mother of three sons and a former US Marine. Her love of television and film is second only to the love of her family. A firm believer that a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon can fix most things, she’s the fiercest fangirl on the block and a bonafide Blerd who enjoys shows like Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, The Americans and Agent Carter.