As comic books continue to have a vast influence on TV and movies, the reverse has also happened more and more. Characters that first showed up in an other-media adaptation — like Harley Quinn in “Batman: The Animated Series” or S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson in the Marvel Studios film franchise — have made their way from the screen and onto the comic book page to become major players in DC and Marvel’s fictional universes.
The final scene of this week’s “Green Arrow” #24 by writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino contained the latest transition — John Diggle, a major supporting character played by actor David Ramsey on The CW’s hit series “Arrow,” was introducing into DC Comics continuity in an issue-ending scene opposite the Clock King. “Arrow” debuted last fall and stars Stephen Amell as iconic DC hero Oliver Queen/Green Arrow; Ramsey’s Diggle acts as the character’s bodyguard and trusted advisor.
Lemire has major plans for Diggle, who’ll be seen in next month’s “Green Arrow” #25 — a tie-in to Batman story “Zero Year,” which will see Diggle (named after “Green Arrow: Year One” writer Andy Diggle) meeting the Dark Knight. The character also figures into “The Outsiders War,” a long-percolating story arc starting in December’s “Green Arrow” #26.
One week before the “Arrow” Season 2 premiere, Lemire and Ramsey discussed Diggle’s debut with CBR News, bringing elements from the show into the comic, the differences between the two and why the comic book version of the character sports a goatee.
CBR News: Jeff, you said back in July that you planned to start introducing elements and characters from the “Arrow” TV show into the “Green Arrow” comic book. Was Diggle always your first choice?
Jeff Lemire: Yeah, absolutely. I think anyone who watches the show knows he was the breakout character. Of all the elements of the show that weren’t a regular part of the Green Arrow mythology, he was definitely the standout. I think that’s all a testament to the work David’s done on the character. There was no question, when we got the go-ahead to start bringing a few things, that that was the big one that I went for.
David, Diggle was a part of the “Arrow” tie-in comics, but how does it feel to see the character you brought to life now in comic book form, and a part of the history of the DC Universe?
David Ramsey: As a comic book fan, and a bit of a comic book geek, since I was probably 7 or 8, it was really unreal, and really unexpected. I say this to everyone, and it’s true — I had no idea this was coming. It was not on the radar. Jeff nicely enough said it’s a testament to what I’m doing, but it’s really a testament to what was written. And to the fans. The fans really demanded this. It’s just nice to know that whatever we did collaboratively resonated somewhere with the fans.
Now that Diggle is in the “Green Arrow” comic, presumably, the character is going to be similar, but there are obvious difference in situations and storylines. Jeff, how close is the character that you’re writing here to the character the TV fans are already familiar with?
Lemire: It’s kind of a balancing act. You want to try to capture whatever it is about the TV show character that’s so popular — David’s personality, and everything — but obviously our history and our storylines are different, so you have to work him into that, as well. You kind of have to do a little bit of balancing and mixing and matching, but hopefully it’ll still have the same feel. It’ll still feel like the same character, just in different stories and situations.
His backstory and his history, we’re going to try to keep it as similar as we can, because it works.
Comic book Diggle has only been seen in one panel and one full page so far, so without giving too much away, is the plan to eventually see him in something of a similar role as the one he plays on the show?
Lemire: We’re going to play with it a little bit. I don’t want to spoil too much, but we’re going to reveal in the next couple of months’ worth of comics that in Green Arrow the comic book character’s earlier days, Diggle played much the same role that he does on the show now. Then they had sort of a falling out, and they haven’t seen each other in a couple years, and now Diggle’s coming back. We’re going to reveal what the falling out was all about, and what the secret history of these two guys is. We’re kind of playing off what people know from the show as being their backstory, and then projecting forward.
So that couple of years might be the explanation as to why Diggle now has facial hair?
Lemire: I think there are some legal things, I don’t know all of it, but we can’t just draw David Ramsey’s likeness in the comics.
Ramsey: Oh, my, why?
Lemire: I don’t know! That’s a question for the lawyers.
I think the goatee was just to make sure we weren’t drawing his face every month.
That wouldn’t prevent you from growing a goatee in real life, though, David.
Ramsey: Season 3 just goes out the window now. Completely had a goatee coming for Diggle! [Laughs]
When things like this happen, there are a lot of fans who are quite excited about it, but there’s the other side — some hesitation that it might seem forced; putting in something that doesn’t necessarily organically belong in the comics. For you, Jeff, have you found it to be a pretty natural fit?
Lemire: Yeah. It’s all about how you execute it. I think it’d be forced if it’s not done well, but to me, that character works so well as a counterpoint to the Oliver Queen character that it’s very natural and easy to write, and to make it part of the mythology. I think Green Arrow is well-served by having a good supporting cast, and Diggle is almost this everyman kind of character that grounds him, and keeps him straight. It’s a very natural fit, character-wise.
It definitely seems to be a great opportunity to do an element of crossover, which can be tricky to capitalize on — was it a big priority for you to make the comic book a friendly place for fans of the show?
Lemire: It’s a mix of different things. Mostly, I became a fan of the show, so I got excited about it, and wanted to use some of that stuff. Also, it’s just an opportunity — why not try to make it more accessible? The show’s so successful. I would be silly not to try to get some of the people who are enjoying the show to read the comic. And if I can do it in a way that isn’t forced or crass, and is natural to the characters, why not do it, have fun with it?
Will we see more elements or characters from the show make their way into “Green Arrow” in the near future?
Lemire: To be honest, Diggle’s the only one I’m planning at the moment. I do want the comic to be its own thing. We have a character named Naomi who is very much similar to the Felicity Smoak character on the show already, so there’s no point in trying to bring Felicity over. A lot of the villains they’re using on the show were already part of DC lore in slightly different incarnations. We can’t bring their Count Vertigo in because we have our own Count Vertigo that’s a bit different; stuff like that. It gets to be tricky.
If we can make Diggle work, that’s a victory, and we’ll stick with that one. [Laughs]
David, when did you find out Diggle would make his way into the “Green Arrow” comic?
I just recently found out, and I just saw the image of the new Diggle yesterday. I like the goatee.
Coming up in December is “The Outsiders War” story that’s been brewing for a while — Jeff, is there anything else you can tell us about that, and will Diggle be playing a role in that story?
Lemire: He will. “The Outsiders War” is the big story that we’ve been building to since I took over the book, and this will set the stage for the ultimate conflict between Green Arrow and the villains we’ve introduced.
At the same time, Diggle is almost a subplot in this thing where he slowly becomes a bigger part of the Bat-mythology, and we start to reveal that backstory. By the end of “Outsiders War,” Diggle will be fully entrenched in the present-day continuity.
“Green Arrow” #24 by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo is on sale now. “Arrow” Season 2 premieres October 9 on the CW.