The History of Green Arrow from Golden Age to "Arrow"

Oliver Jonas Queen, Ollie to his friends, is known far and wide as the DC Comics hero Green Arrow. For years, he's battled evil on his own, in the company of friends, with loyal -- if troubled -- sidekicks, or as a member of the Justice League. Now, after over seventy years of crime-fighting and a rising presence in the pop culture landscape thanks to The CW's hit series "Arrow," Comic Book Resources takes a look at over seven decades of Ollie's crusade against crime.


The Green Arrow debuted alongside his sidekick Speedy in "More Fun Comics" #73, published in 1941 during the era known as the Golden Age of Comics. Readers were introduced to wealthy Oliver Queen and his teen buddy Roy Harper, who lived with him and was later revealed to be Oliver's ward, masked heroes who took down the criminals of Star City with trick arrows. The stories featured a plethora of Arrow-based equipment, including as the Arrowplane and Arrowcar which the crime fighters kept in the Arrowcave. At times, they were even summoned into action by an Arrow-Signal that flashed through the sky.

In 1943's "More Fun Comics" #89, the Batman and Robin-esque duo received their official origin story. "The Birth of the Battling Bowmen" was a flashback tale featuring Ollie before his career as GA. Turns out, Mr. Queen was a museum curator and an archeologist specializing in Native American cultures and hunting techniques. After his museum is burned down by criminals, a distraught Oliver journeys to the isolated Lost Mesa to search for artifacts.

There, Ollie finds Roy Harper, survivor of a plane crash that killed his parents. Fortunately, the Harper family's Native American servant Quoag also survived the crash, teaching the kid archery and other skills so they may survive on Lost Mesa. Unfortunately, Ollie's been followed by criminals who believe he can lead them to hidden Native American treasures. They wind up killing Quoag, so Ollie and Roy use their archery skills to fight the evil men who are soon conveniently crushed to death by a big golden idol (statistically, the 37th most common death for comic book thieves).

With Quoag's killers done away with, and having apparently no other family, Roy adopts Ollie as his new guardian and the two decide to embark upon a career fighting crime as bowmen. Inspired by a few remarks the dead criminals had made, they adopt the personas of "Green Arrow" and "Speedy."


In 1956, DC Comics inadvertently began the Silver Age of Comics when it introduced a new Flash. Whereas the Golden Age Flash had been a college student named Jay Garrick, the Silver Age Flash was a police scientist (or in today's parlance, a CSI) named Barry Allen who, while his powers were similar, wore a different costume and had a different origin. DC introduced several other rebooted superheroes, giving familiar names and powers to new characters. But unlike the new Flash, new Green Lantern and new Atom, DC did not introduce new secret identities for Green Arrow or Speedy. They remained Oliver Queen and Roy Harper; they just had different origins.

Together with writer Ed Herron, comic book legend Jack Kirby presented a new Silver Age origin for the jade bowman in 1958's "Adventure Comics" #250. The new continuity stated that Green Arrow had originally operated alone and didn't meet Roy or recruit him as Speedy until after he was already established as a famous hero. In "The Green Arrow's First Case," Ollie explained to Roy his origins -- a wealthy playboy, Ollie Queen is on his yacht one night when he accidentally falls overboard (as you do). Oliver makes his way to the deserted Starfish Island and realizes he's stranded.

Ollie makes a makeshift bow and arrow, spending months developing archery and other skills to survive. To camouflage himself while hunting small game, he uses what he can to make a dark green costume that looks not unlike Robin Hood. He also develops several trick arrows to help him achieve various purposes.

Eventually, Ollie sees a nearby freighter and swims out to it, but then realizes that the ship is being taken over by mutineers. Quickly rubbing some grease around his eyes to form a mask, Ollie springs into action saves the ship. Realizing he's pretty good at fighting evil with the skills he learned on the island, he dubs himself Green Arrow and begins leading a double life.

As for Speedy, readers eventually found out that much like his Golden Age counterpart, he had survived a plane crash that killed his parents. However, this time he is subsequently raised on a reservation and mentored by Chief Thunderhead. Thunderhead eventually tells Roy to leave the reservation and seek out his own destiny. Roy joins up with Ollie and is called "Speedy" because he is so quick at shooting arrows.

Later, Speedy's origin was severely ret-conned -- he had been two years old when his single father, forest ranger Roy Harper Sr., died while saving a Navajo reservation from a major fire. Roy Sr. had personally saved the life of medicine chief Brave Bow, who took in the orphaned Roy and raised him, encouraging his natural skill for archery and marksmanship. Eventually, Green Arrow meets Brave Bow when the man's health is failing and takes the teenaged Roy under his wing.

GA eventually got a new costume and grew a van dyke beard, enhancing his resemblance to Robin Hood while also making it more unbelievable that he could maintain a secret identity with only a mask and a hat. In the 1970s, the character took a severely dramatic turn when he lost his fortune and became a hero more concerned about street crime and the struggles of the average American rather than battling super-villains and aliens alongside the Justice League.

Despite this newly-grounded approach to crime fighting, GA still employed trick weapons such as net arrows and boxing glove arrows. Ollie also developed a close friendship with Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and a relationship with Dinah Laurel Lance, aka Black Canary. Speedy became a heroin addict and, although he found his way into recovery, he worked less and less with his mentor.


Time passed and new wrinkles were added to Green Arrow's origin. In 1959's "Adventure Comics" #258, we learn that a teenage Oliver Queen had spent some time in Smallville, where he got to know a young Clark Kent. Thanks to a device called a Time Telescope, Clark was fully aware the Ollie would one day grow up to become Green Arrow and decided to give the kid a small push in that direction.

When the Smallville history pageant rolls around, Clark convinces Ollie to dress as Green Arrow. Criminals show up, and Clark tries to get Oliver to aid him in stopping them -- but the kid is no good at archery. The criminals are brought to justice, but Queen leaves convinced he'll never be a good archer.

In 1971, "Justice League of America" #94 introduced a villainous archer assassin named Merlyn to the DC Universe. When he was still a teenager (evidently some time after leaving Smallville), Ollie had found himself to take up archery by the famous exploits of expert archer Merlyn. (It was implied that this was not the archer's real name, that he was simply called "Merlyn the Magician" because of his incredible skill.) When Oliver became the Green Arrow, Merlyn challenged him to a public contest, proved that he was still the better archer and then vanished from the public eye.

In the pages of the Justice League story, it turns out that Merlyn eventually found himself employed by the League of Assassins, a deadly organization headed by Batman's terrorist enemy Ra's al Ghul. Merlyn accepted a contract on Batman's life, but Green Arrow stopped him, with the assassin admitting that GA has become the better archer. In the years that followed, Merlyn appeared time and time again to plague the Justice League and other heroes, sometimes deliberately taking jobs that would ensure yet another contest of skill against the Green Arrow.


Just as when the Silver Age began, DC Comics decided to start fresh in the mid 1980s, rebooting its entire line of comics and characters with the crossover story "Crisis on Infinite Earths." The maxi-series led to changes line-wide, allowing creators to throw out some continuity in an attempt at modernizing familiar characters.

Mike Grell's long run as the main writer behind Green Arrow began with a miniseries titled "The Longbow Hunters." Grell made it very clear that his vision of Green Arrow sometimes employed lethal tactics and whose adventures were strongly grounded in reality. Ollie did not associate with super-powered heroes in bright costumes. In fact, the emerald vigilante, now in his 40s, actually looked back on his days of using trick arrows and flying around in Arrowplanes as a waste of time, a distraction from truly worthwhile fights. With the exception of a few flashbacks to his origin, Ollie (whose identity as an adventurer was now known to the general public) never referred to himself as Green Arrow, nor did other characters in Grell's story use this name. Further cementing the realistic approach to the character, Grell moved Ollie out of the fictional Star City, relocating him to Seattle.

Black Canary suffered serious injuries in "The Longbow Hunters," resulting in her losing her superhuman "canary cry," adjusting her power set to better fit with Grell's new, realistic take. Roy Harper wasn't present, pursuing instead his own adventures alongside the Teen Titans, dropping the name "Speedy" for the new alias "Arsenal."

In "The Longbow Hunters," Grell presented readers with a new origin story that was later expanded in "Secret Origins" vol. 2 #38 (1989) and in the miniseries "Green Arrow: The Wonder Year" (1993). Grell's Oliver Queen was a wealthy man who parties hard but is also a self-described workaholic, doing his best to build up Queen Industries. This version of Ollie is personal friends with Howard Hill, an expert archer and stuntman who worked on, among other films, "The Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Errol Flynn. On a yacht party Ollie is throwing, he mentions to Hill that as a boy he used to practice archery and pretend he was Robin Hood. He's thought about taking it up again, but he "can't seem to get out of the office." The yachting trip is, in fact, the first vacation he's allowed himself in six years.

That night, a drunken Olliver Queen falls over the side of the boat. Disoriented, he swims to a nearby island and quickly discovers that he is the only person there. Cobbling together a bow and arrow, he learns to survive on the island where he remains for over two months, honing a natural talent for archery. When he discovers a pair of men arriving on the island to check on their secret marijuana crop, Ollie forces them to take him back to civilization, delivering them to the police along the way. The newspapers reports that a modern-day Robin Hood, armed with bow and arrow, brought the criminals to justice.

In the days that follow, Ollie finds himself bored with the daily routine of city life. He searches for challenges, such as shooting arrows at golf balls, but remains unsatisfied. Dressing up as a masked Robin Hood for a costume party, complete with fake beard, Ollie winds up confronting and defeating a criminal who crashes the event. The criminal doesn't recognize the costume, so when he later describes the man who stopped him, he refers to Queen as "that big, green, arrow guy."

Dubbed "Green Arrow" by the newspapers, Ollie decides that being a crime-fighter is actually rather fun and will be a great cure for his boredom, stating "God knows I haven't got anything better to do." Despite the fact that he hates the name Green Arrow, Queen can't escape his new media nickname. Eventually, GA decides to continue his crime-fighting activities due to the satisfaction he gets from helping people.

Despite Grell's overall success with the character, "Green Arrow: The Wonder Year" didn't stick for long as the character's definitive origin. By 1994, DC Comics moved GA back into its superhero world full of colorful characters, introducing Connor Hawke, Ollie's illegitimate son who was not as good an archer as his father, but was a better fighter. Eventually, Ollie was killed and Connor became the new Green Arrow.


Just two years after "The Wonder Year," DC published yet another version of Ollie's origin in "Green Arrow Annual" #7. Written by Chuck Dixon, Ollie, and Connor by inheritance, were determined by DC editorial to be metahuman, someone born with the latent potential for super-powers (usually not coming out unless some outside factor is involved, like chemicals or radiation). As Dixon later commented, "Connor inherited some of his father's metahuman abilities. Ollie's took the form of remarkable (and near infallible) marksmanship. Connor's took the form of his talents in martial arts. The metahuman deal for Ollie and Connor was editorially driven... Love it or hate it, DC's idea was to make both GAs more like superheroes and less like one-trick ponies."

The story told in "Green Arrow Annual" #7 seems familiar, but has some new twists. Ollie is still the hard-partying playboy who gets drunk and falls off his own yacht, but this time, someone sees Ollie in the water, deliberately deciding not help because Queen is a jerk to many. Ollie's exile is now partly caused by his own sins and arrogance coming back at him.

Finding himself on an island, Oliver knows he needs to hunt to survive and puts together a bow and arrow. To his shock, he is hitting everything with perfect accuracy, despite only having used a bow once before as a child, though even then it was with deadly, expert accuracy.

Dixon never outright said that Oliver was a metahuman, and while a couple of characters later referred to Connor as a metahuman, it was never overtly verified. Thus, some readers decided to conclude that Ollie was simply a prodigy with archery and Connor with martial arts in the same way Mozart was with the piano, not that they possessed any superhuman talent.

Another major change in the origin was the notion that Ollie hadn't been alone on the island. Dixon's tale has the hero meeting another exile, a murderer named Nicholas Kotero. Realizing the man's true nature, Queen battles and defeats Kotero, but refuses to kill him, further pushing the hero away from the Grell interpretation. Rather than deciding to become a hero after he returns to civilization, Ollie makes the decision because of Kotero. As he tells the killer, "[T]here's a lot of animals like you out there. Maybe there's a need for a swashbuckler in this world."

Ollie leaves Kotero stranded on the island where they met and makes his way to the nearby Starfish Island, where he remains until finding marijuana farmers. In the overhauled origin, Ollie has been missing for close to six months rather than two, and when Queen brings the drug farmers to justice, he proudly identifies himself as "Green Arrow."

In 1999, "JLA 80-Page Giant" #2 included a short story written by Christopher Priest. Taking place during Ollie's early days as Green Arrow, it revealed that the archer was also initially heavily inspired by his admiration of Batman (though he never admitted this to the Dark Knight in person). "I'd heard Batman had a car. And a plane. And a cave. So guess what? Green Arrow had a car, and a plane, and a cave. And he had about as much use for them as Greenpeace had for Big Oil."

In 2001, writer and filmmaker Kevin Smith officially (and literally) resurrected the previously-dead Oliver Queen in "Quiver." There, it was firmly stated by the Spectre, an angelic force of vengeance with mystic knowledge and insight, that Ollie was not a metahuman, ending the debate once and for all. Anyone who had called Connor Hawke a metahuman had merely made an assumption or misspoke, the same way some characters have assumed Batman is a metahuman or a supernatural entity.

"Quiver" also introduced Mia Dearden, a young prostitute who became Ollie's new sidekick, becoming the second hero to adopt the name Speedy. Mia grew very close to Oliver, seeing him as a big brother. Even after discovering she was HIV-positive, she continued her crime-fighting, dealing with the side effects of antiretroviral drugs and making sure to be extra careful about injuries.


Oliver Queen's origin was revised and expanded in the 2007 miniseries "Green Arrow: Year One," written by Andy Diggle with art by Jock. In this version, Ollie is not seen as a workaholic who plays hard but is a man in his twenties, desperately seeking purpose since losing his parents as a child, pursuing high-risk adventures in the hopes that he'll figure out his direction. Acting as his guide and protector in these pursuits is Hackett, his bodyman. In this version, Ollie is a fan of archery who as a child took lessons from Howard Hill, who remarked that the boy was "a natural bowman - the best he'd ever seen." Attending an auction with Hackett, Oliver happily bids on and wins Hill's bow and arrow set.

The night of the auction, Oliver agrees to give a large sum of money to Hackett to help in a business venture with a woman he's worked with before, named Chen Na Wei (whom Oliver keeps calling "China White"). Ollie, deciding he needs a break from Star City and Queen Industries, insists on joining Hackett on his trip to Fiji. They are aboard his yacht, Pacific Queen, when Hackett reveals that China White is actually a major crime lord and that the trip is a cover for him to bring her Queen's money. Since Ollie insisted on coming, he's now a loose end that has to die. After a fight, Hackett finds he can't outright shoot Ollie. Instead, trusting he's too injured to save himself, Hackett pushes the man overboard.

Oliver makes his way to a nearby island and first despairs, concluding that Hackett will have no trouble convincing the world that the irresponsible playboy/adventurer simply got drunk and fell off his own yacht. Discovering the ruins of a nearby village, Oliver realizes he has the supplies to help him survive. He figures out a system for clean water and constructs a bow and arrow set to help him hunt. All of his arrows use green feathers from parrots on the island. After suffering from heatstroke and sunburn, he uses some green canvas to make a hood for protection.

Oliver realizes he is a skilled hunter, finding a new power and freedom in his exile. After several months, he discovers an extinct volcano on the island secretly houses an opium field controlled by China White, maintained through slave labor thanks to the surviving native villagers. For the next several weeks, Ollie fights White's operation on the island, and Hackett as well. Despite his anger at what they've done, Ollie decides he will not kill Hackett or China White, believing it better to bring them to justice. Due to his arrows often being the only remaining evidence of his presence, the villagers call Oliver "Auu Lanu Lau'ava," which translates to "Green Arrow."

After reconnecting with civilization and turning China White over to the authorities, Oliver realizes that the freed slaves could come under major media scrutiny if the story of his adventures gets out. He decides that when he speaks to the press, he will downplay his adventures, saying he was alone on the island and found passage back to the mainland when he clashed with "rowdy mutineers, or a couple of stoner hippies growing weed or something." He also realizes that his recent experiences have given him the purpose in life he longed for, opting to use his new Green Arrow identity to fight evil, not because it's exciting but because he truly wants to help others.


For ten seasons, the CW network's "Smallville" chronicled the life of a young Clark Kent (played by Tom Welling) as he learned the lessons needed to become Superman. Along the way, this version of Clark encountered many others who became superheroes before he ever donned a cape. One such hero was Oliver Queen (played by Justin Hartley). Clark soon discovered that Ollie was the Green Arrow, a clean-shaven vigilante who used trick arrows and disguised himself with high-tech sunglasses, a hood and a miniature voice changer. Eventually, the audience learned more about Ollie's origins and motives. Some of this information was revealed in "The Oliver Queen Chronicles," short, animated stories that aired during Season 6 and which fans could view on Sprint cellphones.

As a child, the Queens and the Luthors are associates on certain special projects, including preparing for the arrival of the "Traveler," an alien from the planet Krypton. Lionel Luthor, Lex's father, wants to shape the alien's destiny by himself and kills the Queens (and others) to ensure this. Oliver, unaware that his parents' death is anything beyond an unfortunate plane crash, attends the same boarding school as Lex, where he often bullies the young Luthor. After graduation, Ollie sails off with friends in a private yacht to the area where his parents' plane went down, hoping to finally say goodbye to them.

When pirates attack the yacht, Oliver uses limited skills with archery to fend them off and escapes into the water, making his way to a nearby island. Soon after his arrival, Ollie meets a tribe of natives and lives with them for three months, honing his archery skills. He also finds the wreckage of his parents' plane, along with a letter his mother had written the night of their deaths.

After roughly two years on the island, Ollie finds new arrivals when he stumbles upon drug runners and their prisoner Tess Mercer. Working together, the two defeat the criminals and return to civilization, with Ollie heading back to Star City. For the next year, he continues to improve his fighting and archery skills by joining a cult of Celtic archers led by Vordigan, the Dark Archer. Unwilling to compromise his principles in order to follow Vordigan's lethal methods, Ollie leaves the cult and vows to be a hero instead, creating the identity of Green Arrow. Along with fighting crime, he dedicates himself to stopping Lex Luthor, who has become a criminal mastermind.

In "Smallville," Oliver develops a strong friendship with Clark Kent and often pushes the future Superman to expand his horizons, believing that the Kryptonian's incredible power can help people beyond Kansas. In a nod to the comics, Oliver once used the alias "Roy Connor."


In 2011, DC Comics rebooted its entire superhero universe, canceling every title and premiering 52 new and relaunched titles. Dubbed the "New 52," the new timeline declared Superman's debut as Earth's first public hero as happening roughly six years ago, soon followed by the appearance of Batman and other heroes. This led to the Justice League forming only "five years ago" (although recent Batman comics have said that a year has passed since the New 52 began, so I guess Superman now appeared almost seven years ago and the League formed six... forget it).

In the relaunched "Green Arrow" series, Ollie is a young man in his twenties, still pretty new to the hero game. He works for Q-Core, the technological arm of Queen Industries, a limited role until he proves he's worthy of inheriting his dead father's company. In secret, he has a small team of allies who help him as Green Arrow, maintaining his armor and equipment, as well as feeding him intel during missions. When questioned about his motives, Ollie remarks that he is fighting crime because once he stood by and did nothing when lives were at risk.

Readers get some idea of Oliver's origins in the pages of "Green Arrow" #0, written by Judd Winick. A few years back, 19-year-old Ollie is put in charge of one of his father's oil rigs and decides to throw a party. Among his guests is his good friend Tommy Merlyn, who mocks Oliver's archery skills, pointing out that he's not as good as he should be considering he's been taking professional lessons for weeks. Ollie's girlfriend Leeana also points out that part of his immaturity and party attitude is due to his feelings that there is a war between him and his still-living father.

Unfortunately, Ollie's party means that security is lightened, allowing a super-villain named Iron Eagle to appear and wreak havoc on the rig. Initially, Ollie and Merlyn hide while Iron Eagle's actions result in several deaths, the survivors taken as hostages with bombs attached to them. Iron Eagle claims he'll release the hostages once he and his men have taken all the oil they want, as he has done before on other oil rigs.

Realizing that the breach in security is his fault and feeling guilt for the deaths that have happened so far, Oliver grabs a pair of sunglasses and his bow and arrow set to stop Iron Eagle, despite Tommy's protests that he doesn't know what he's doing.

Unfortunately, Oliver's rash actions lead to the bombs going off, killing Leena and all the other hostages as the rig is destroyed. Only Ollie and Merlin survive the blast, the latter suffering serious burns on his body. Merlyn remarks that he now understand Ollie's flawed nature and that these people won't be the last who die because of him.

Ollie then winds up on a deserted island, using his archery skills and makeshift equipment to survive. He is there for close to a year before returning to civilization and Queens Industries, now determined to help people. Exactly what happened to Merlyn after the oil rig blast has not yet been revealed, though we've seen the older Merlyn acting as an archer assassin in the pages of "Batman, Incorporated."

A year or so after the incident on the oil rig, Ollie finds a teen criminal named Roy Harper and bails him out of jail. Ollie says he needs Roy's help, as the kid knows how to hack technology and is excellent with weaponry. Despite the teen's criminal record, Ollie says, "I think everyone could use an opportunity to make things right." The full nature of their partnership in the New 52 and how long they worked together has not been revealed.

As for how Ollie got off the island, that's still a mystery in this new continuity, but it seems Aquaman may have been responsible. In the pages of "Justice League" #8, GA declares his desire to join the team of heroes and winds up tagging along on a few adventures. When his efforts to join become a habit, Aquaman remarked, "We don't need your help, Arrow," to which Queen responded, "And I didn't need yours to get off that island."

There are still quite a few questions about our hero in the New 52, particularly since "Green Arrow" #0 only spent one page showing Oliver on the island.


In 2012, the CW premiered a new show based on Oliver's adventures. Created partially due to the popularity the character had on "Smallville," rather than simply spinning green Arrow into a new series, "Arrow" started from scratch. Oliver Queen, played by Stephen Amell, is once again a young man, but now both of his parents were alive when he's in his twenties. He is no longer an only child, but has a sister named Thea, whom Ollie nicknamed "Speedy" when she was a child.

This Oliver is dating Dinah Laurel Lance, though here she is not the vigilante called Black Canary but instead works in law and refers to herself as Laurel. Ollie is also friends with Tommy Merlyn, who likewise comes from a well to do family, and his home is now called Starling City rather than Star City.

"Arrow's" origin story is unfolding through flashbacks, revealing more with each passing episode. So far we know this: Ollie is on a yacht with his father Robert, Laurel's sister Sarah (whom he's secretly seeing), and several others. A storm causes the ship to crash. Later, on the lifeboat, Robert says he has not been a good man and that Oliver must atone for his sins. He then shoots himself to ensure there are enough rations for his son. Ollie eventually lands on a seemingly deserted island that he later discovers is called Purgatory. There, he quickly meets a hooded archer named Yao Fei who teaches him how to survive, saving his life from a group of criminals and assassins camped out on the island. Many things happen to Ollie on the island, where he was stranded for five years, significantly longer than his exile in the comics or on "Smallville." While burying his father, Oliver discovers a list of major criminals Robert was involved with, people who are at the heart of the corruption in Starling City.

When he is discovered and brought back to civilization, Oliver dedicates himself to eliminating the criminals on his father's list, freeing his city from their influence and making up for whatever evil his father aided. He dons a hooded costume and uses the combat and archery skills he learned on the island in his quest for justice. This Oliver has no qualms about killing his targets or their henchmen, particularly when his secret identity is at risk. This comes to haunt him in later episodes as he sees how friends react to his lethal tactics and meets another vigilante motivated by revenge. He also begins to consider the possibility that he can help the city by also targeting street crime and not simply those on his father's list.

No one refers to Oliver as Green Arrow or by any other official name on "Arrow." Various people refer to him as "the guy in the hood," "the hood" or "the Starling City vigilante." Whether or not we'll see a live-action version of Speedy acting as a sidekick or Tommy Merlyn picking up a bow and arrow of his own all remains to be seen.

DC continues to publish the ongoing monthly "Green Arrow" comic book series and Oliver Queen will soon be found in the pages of Justice League of America," relaunching next year. "Arrow" airs Wednesdays on the CW.

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