To many comic fans the choice was a surprise because the name wasn’t one they immediately knew. Yes, take a quick look over at Amazon.com and you’ll see that Meltzer’s latest book, “The Millionaires,” is a top selling novel which at present holds the #45 spot in their sales ranking. Also, the book is #3 on the New York Times Best-Seller List for hardcover fiction. But still, most comic fans are asking, “Who is this guy and what’s he going to do with Ollie?”
Friday CBR News caught up with Meltzer while he was traveling from book store to book store in the great state Texas on a signing-tour for “The Millionaires.” The first thing we wanted to know from Meltzer is how he landed the job as the next “Green Arrow” scribe.
Said Meltzer, “Basically I got lucky because I really love Oliver Queen! Every novel I’ve written I hide comic book references in there. In ‘The 10th Justice’ all the Supreme Court Justices except for one of them was named after ‘The Watchmen.’ The other was named after my wife. In ‘The First Counsel’ the President’s senior staff in the White House were [named after] the original ‘Justice Society’ members. I always put those things in there because it’s fun for me. It’s my love, it’s my passion. I want to see who else can catch the inside joke. Garth Ennis caught ‘The Watchmen’ one.
“In ‘The Millionaires’ the main character is named Oliver. When the books come out we always pass around the first chapter. We put it on the Internet. People will send it onto friends and so-on and so-forth. Someone passed it to [Green Arrow Editor] Bob Schreck, who read that first chapter, and read about my Oliver and said, ‘You know, I’ve got an Oliver, too!’ Literally, that was how it happened! Little did I know two years ago when I picked the name as a kind-of in joke to Oliver Queen that this would be getting me a ‘Green Arrow’ writing gig.
“Bob approached me and asked ‘Do you want to do it?’ I said I’m not going to do it unless I have a good story to tell. In truth I immediately said to myself I shouldn’t do this at all. I’m never going to meet my deadline on the next novel. I shouldn’t do it in anyway shape or form because I’m over committed as it is. And then my wife said to me, ‘If you don’t do this now you’ll regret this for the rest of your life. You’ve been waiting your whole life to do this.’
“Then I just sat on it for a little bit and said okay, here’s my story.”
After some time spent on his first story arc, Meltzer finally handed it over to Schreck.
“I said here’s the arc, here’s what’s going to happen to [Ollie] and I want it to be about the next step for him. So I gave him the full pitch on the entire arc for it and he said, ‘That’s it, we like it, let’s go.'”
When asked about what his plans are for Oliver Queen, Meltzer was hesitant to give too many details.
“I think on some level surprise has been lost on comics. Previews is great, but there are very few great surprises anymore. We know what’s going to happen in every issue before it comes. I’m amazed Marvel did so well with Wolverine’s ‘Origin’ and … ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ in keeping their mouths shut!”
“I’m not a person who likes the creature or villain of the week where every issue is just who can you throw at this guy and let’s just watch the fight. To me it has to be about the character. I think what makes Oliver Queen Green Arrow is who he is as a person. People know what Oliver Queen does and doesn’t do. You don’t necessarily know what Bruce Wayne does and doesn’t do. You don’t necessarily know what Batman does and doesn’t do. People know Oliver Queen.
Meltzer is well aware that he’s going to be filling some very big shoes stepping in after Kevin Smith finishes his run on the title, but he sounds up to the challenge.
“There is no question that it is easy to be intimidated,” said Meltzer. “Taking over for someone who is arguably the most popular person ever to write this title. Clearly, I’ve got my work cut out for me.
“Kevin is the best at what he does, so to me it’s not about what you do to be like Kevin. I write the way I write and he writes the way he writes. I’m just lucky to be here.”
“What Kevin’s done is really bring an incredible amount of enthusiasm to a character that was quite literally dead. That’s been fantastic. People are excited about ‘Green Arrow’ again! If you didn’t try to build on that you’d be a fool.
“I feel like I do have my own way of looking at Ollie and what he’s been doing. In many ways this is a guy who’s been dead and now he’s not. You’ve got to stop and think about that for a second. That’s probably the most I’ll say about where [my story] is going to go.”
“I’m definitely not into the ultra-dark. I think what Kevin has done is he’s made ‘Green Arrow’ fun. What Kevin’s also done is that ‘Green Arrow’s’ got one of the best supporting casts in the business. The moment I read the first issue that Kevin did I said finally someone brought the family back to this comic. Very few characters have it. Green Lantern doesn’t have it. He used to have it when he was Hal. He had Carol, he had Pie-face, he had everyone. He doesn’t anymore, but Oliver Queen did and does and it’s about time we got to see that. That’s the fun of it.”
Meltzer finds there’s a lot to like about the character of Ollie Queen, a character with a great deal of depth who isn’t just an archer.
“I’ve always been a fan of the hero with no powers,” said Meltzer. “I was a Batman over Superman fan, I was a Green Arrow over Green Lantern fan. There is an amazing amount of will in any character that can do what he does without having the powers. To borrow a phrase, ‘I’m just the best at what I do.’
“I think part of it is the Don Quixote side for Ollie. I think part of it is that guy who has to chase the windmill. I think part of it is his liberal stubbornness. I just love that! I’ve felt that, I’ve lived that, I’ve experienced that myself. Ollie was a man who was strong in his belief. He’s a true character.”
Meltzer compared Oliver Queen to the Marvel Comics character Hawkeye. He feels as a reader we don’t really know who Hawkeye is. We know his alter-ego, we know he was married and we know he shoots arrows. Beyond that, who is Hawkeye? In contrast Meltzer thinks Green Arrow is completely different.
“Oliver Queen is a man. Oliver Queen you know. You know everything about him and you know what he stands for and if I said to you, ‘How would Oliver Queen see this situation,’ you’d know the answer. That, to me, is what’s always going to make him the more appealing archer.”
So now you have an idea what Meltzer will bring the book book, the next question is how long will this first story arc be.
“That’s the interesting part as I’ve never written a comic before. My goal was to do something that was about four to six [issues]. I just don’t know if it’s going to take me four or if it’s going to take me six. I don’t know what the pacing is like over the long term. The first issue I have completely in my head almost page for page, panel for panel. After that I think it’s really a function of letting the story telling do the story telling.
And how long has he committed to DC?
“I obviously, like Kevin, make my living in a very different way. So I’m checking my schedule as they’re figuring out theirs. I said to Bob let’s just focus on this one [story arc] and see where we go from there.”
While he may be a first time comics writer, Brad’s believes his experience as a published writer will help him versus any other first time comics writer who’s first published work is that comic.
“I hope I bring some experience to it. I’ve been doing this now for four novels, over 2500 pages of writing, dealing with characters and letting people see imaginary people walk around in their brains.”
But more than anything else, Meltzer is a true comic fan at heart.
“I’ve been reading comics for as long as I’ve been able to read. I am a true fanboy! I love this stuff! I’ve been reading ‘Green Arrow’ since long before the ‘Seven Soldiers of Victory’ days. I’m the kind of person who whenever I see a novelist who’s coming to a comic I’m the reader who says, ‘But does he read comics or does he write novels?’ And there’s a difference to me. There’s no fun in having someone come on and write any old thing.”
He said it, he’s a fanboy. And what does every fanboy have? A large comics collection which he estimates is well over 15,000 comics.
“I used to be the one who bought all the bagged comics with the variant covers … and then one of my friends said to me, and I remember it happened when Marvel bagged the ‘Fall of the Mutants’ series, I think that was the bagged one, it was the one with those blue bags, and my friend ripped it open and said, ‘I’m doing this for your freedom.’ At that point I literally stopped buying anything that I don’t read. I don’t buy comics to collect anymore. I don’t buy #1’s or variant covers, I buy what I read and I read it.
“I remember one point when there was a hurricane in Florida where my comic collection was and I called my parents and instead of asking about their safety I said ‘Protect the comics!’ I’ve come to the point now where we’ve recently done our wills up and I left my collection to a friend who is a fellow comic nut and I just said make sure a lot of kids get to read these. Pick out what you want, but make sure people get to enjoy the rest.”
Meltzer’s first issue of “Green Arrow” will be #16 expected in stores this June and he’ll be joined by regular series artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks. For more on the Brad Meltzer, including a full-list of his signing tour where you may join up with him next, check out his eponymous Web site at http://www.bradmeltzer.com/.