Created by Mort Weisinger and designed by George Papp in 1941, Green Arrow has been reinvented a number of times over the past 70-plus years, but the New 52 version — like the rest of the DC Universe — is only 19 issues old. And in the Emerald Archer’s latest issue, the series’ new creative team of writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino have revealed a key plot point in the life of Oliver Queen.
Since he took over the series three issues ago, Lemire has given Green Arrow something he’s been sorely lacking for most of his comic book history — an arch(er) enemy that is not only a challenge but a true threat to Ollie’s very existence.
CBR News spoke with Lemire to discuss the ever-expanding mythos of “Green Arrow” and the introduction of DC’s newest supervillain Komodo. We talk about the importance of Komodo’s daughter Emiko, how the “quasi-mysticism” of Denny O’Neill’s run on “The Question” is a spiritual inspiration for his take on Oliver Queen and the role an updated version of the Outsiders developed alongside “Katana” writer Ann Nocenti will play in the series later this year.
CBR News: When it was announced that you were taking over “Green Arrow,” you acknowledged that the character didn’t really do it for you as a young reader of DC Comics. Now that you have been writing him for six or seven months, has he captured your imagination?
Jeff Lemire: Yes. I really enjoy writing him. I really like Ollie because he’s flawed. When I took over the book, he was so unlikeable and such a flawed character, and I love writing that. I’m on my ninth script now, and I love that he’s on this journey. He’s discovering new things about himself and trying to be a better person. But he’s struggling against his own nature and that’s a great kind of character to write.
Looking at your other work, Jack Joseph from “The Underwater Welder” and Buddy Baker in “Animal Man” are older, more established characters, while Gus from “Sweet Tooth” and I guess Conner Kent from “Superboy” were just starting their journeys. What does featuring a younger character allow for, in terms of storytelling?
Ollie is somewhere between what I was doing on “Superboy” with Conner, who is clearly a child or a teenager and has a sense of wonder and amazement about what he’s doing with his powers and living in this crazy world as a superhero, and Buddy, who is a bit further along in his life. Buddy’s already a father when he becomes a superhero, so he has a sense of wonder too, but it’s tempered by his responsibilities at home.
Oliver Queen is somewhere between the two. He’s not a boy anymore, but he still hasn’t really lived up to all of his responsibilities of the adult world just yet. He’s struggling with that, and it’s really interesting writing his journey of becoming the man he’s meant to be. It’s fun to take a character on that kind of path. I see an end point where he’ll be, and to move him there, slowly, is a lot of fun.
For some people, Batman is nothing without The Joker, and likewise, Superman really needs Lex Luthor. How important to your run’s early success was the introduction and development of Komodo?
The hero is ever only as good as the villain, especially in a superhero comic. For me, there weren’t really any villains there for Ollie that could really challenge him and move him outside of his comfort zone — somebody who could really challenge him — so it was very important to create a villain like Komodo who did that. He throws everything Ollie thinks he knows into question and physically is his better, as well.
All of sudden, Ollie isn’t the immortal, young hero that can do anything. There is this guy who is always one step ahead of him. He keeps slapping him down, basically forcing Ollie to become something better. That’s what I love about Komodo. And of course, there is a bigger story behind Komodo and Oliver’s father. A lot of that comes out in “Arrow” #19 and just keeps developing.
Aside from Komodo, I really want to create a whole rogues gallery for Oliver. I am going to bring back some of the older villains he’s had in the past and reintroduce them and try to make them live up to what I’ve done with Komodo. By the end of my first year on the book, there are a number of adversaries there, with all of them challenging Oliver in different ways.
As a kid who grew up in Essex County like you did, the name Lacroix sticks out in this book like a sore thumb. Did you know any Lacroixs growing up?
[Laughs] No, but I certainly could have. I use French Canadian last names for a lot of my characters. I don’t know why. I guess those are just the names that I grew up knowing.
As Komodo’s story continues to develop, will his daughter, Emiko’s story continue to develop as well?
Emiko is going to be a major character moving forward. You’ll know that, obviously, after reading “Green Arrow” #19. I have pretty big plans for her and where she’s going. She’s become a favorite for me to write, as well.
Is she the New 52 version of Shado?
Ah, I’m not going to say. Shado is coming back. Whether it’s Emiko or someone else, I’m not going to ruin that now.
The series is very grounded in reality but Green Arrow is also a member of the Justice League of America. Will we see those bigger, intergalactic/interdimensional type-threat storylines play out in “Green Arrow?”
I don’t really intend on changing the tone of the book. I figure if you want to read Green Arrow in the larger DC Universe as part of those larger traditional superhero-style stories, you can read “Justice League of America.” I really want to keep this book grounded. If we do see other heroes show, it will probably be characters that fits into that world, like Katana or Batman or the other street-level superheroes that are approached with the same tone that I’ve been approaching Oliver.
It’s been teased by you and DC Comics through solicitations that the Outsiders are coming to the New 52. Are these the same Outsiders that were previously led by Batman and featured Katana and other favorites like Black Lightning and Metamorpho or something entirely different?
It’s a completely new take on the concept, and it’s integral to the mythology that I’m building with Oliver. Obviously, if you’ve been reading “Katana,” there are some ties there, as well. Ann Nocenti and I are working together on building who these Outsiders are. That will be a major storyline near the end of my first year on the book and into the second year.
There will be some familiar characters in the Outsiders, but not ones traditionally associated with the name.
We talked about keeping the book street level and grounded, but Magus certainly feels like the one character who doesn’t belong here. What’s his deal, because he certainly doesn’t feel very street-level.
[Laughs] Clearly, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the character on purpose. He’s almost a walking mystery. I obviously don’t want to reveal any secrets about who he is or where he is from or where he is going. One thing that I really liked about Denny O’Neill’s run on “The Question,” which is a big influence on how I approach “Green Arrow,” is that while it was a very grounded, street-level take on a character, there was also a quasi-mysticism to the book. I want to walk that line with “Green Arrow.” There is an edge of mysticism to the book that I like because it gives a nice counterpoint to the street level stuff.
Again, I love how you are treating Oliver and building a greater mythos around him, and a large part of that is Andrea Sorrentino’s art.
I’m really enjoying working with him. It’s one of the best experiences that I’ve had with an artist, to be honest. It’s great to put stuff in a script — an initial idea or direction — and see an artist take it and expand it and make it even bigger. That’s what he does with layouts and everything. It’s great to have someone who will do that. I actually think he gets better with every issue. He just keeps pushing himself. I just got layouts back for “Green Arrow” #21 and he was really pushing himself on that one. He’s doing some really wild things.He brings a real voice to book.
He’s also a really great guy. It’s nice to work with people you respect as a human being as well as an artist.
I’m glad you mentioned “Green Arrow” #21, because I want to close with that issue. It’s two months away, but Andrea tweeted the other day that “Green Arrow” #21 will be the key issue in Oliver’s history for years to come. Fair praise? An understatement?
Maybe it’s an overstatement. [Laughs]
In “Green Arrow” #21, we return to the island. Obviously, it’s pretty key to Oliver’s background, but we’re returning to the island in a way that maybe people aren’t expecting. It’s probably my favorite script that I have written so far for this series. And like I said before, Andrea really went wild with the art.
But yes, it’s a key issue. It’s a culmination of everything that we’ve done up to that point.
“Green Arrow” #19, by Jeff Lemire and featuring art by Andrea Sorrentino, is available now.