WC13: Guggenheim On "Arrow" & the Failure of Comic Oliver Queen

At WonderCon 2013 in Anaheim, California, comic book writer and executive producer of The CW's "Arrow" television series, Marc Guggenheim was on hand to speak with Comic Book Resources and reporters about the show and the upcoming first season finale, which, to hear Guggenheim talk, was fresh off the presses.

"We hit send on the e-mail to the studio sending them the finale... only yesterday!" Guggenheim laughed, counting up the days on his fingers.

"Arrow," the CW's superhero action/adventure drama, is based of the DC Comics character Green Arrow and borrows heavily from writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock's comic book miniseries "Green Arrow: Year One." In the show's universe Oliver Queen is a young billionaire playboy who becomes the sole survivor of a boating accident that maroons him on an island. Given the task of righting his family's wrongs by his dying father and forced to learn archery as a means of survival, when he returns home to Starling City five years later Oliver keeps the bow and becomes the urban vigilante known as Arrow.

Utilizing flashbacks to Oliver's time on the island in each episode, Guggenheim told reporters that the original plan was to do "five years of [island] story and five seasons of television."

"The last island flashback would be him hitting the bonfire and signaling the boat, just like the pilot opens," Guggenheim said. "Now, that's all assuming a five year trajectory for the show, but I honestly don't know how long the show is going to run. If it runs more than five years I think we would need to reassess our plan."

"I don't want to artificially stretch out the amount of flashback time we have," Guggenheim added, stating that for now the flashbacks would remain part of the show, though episode 21 will feature a flashback to events immediately before Oliver leaves on the boat.

Starring actor Stephen Amell as Oliver/Arrow, the show also recently introduced three new series regulars in actress Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity), Colton Haynes (Roy Harper) and Manu Bennett (Deathstroke/Slade Wilson). Despite adding new faces to the main cast, Guggenheim denied the implication that any of the existing stars or characters were on their way out.

"It just implies that we have a lot of really, really talented actors that we wanted to nail down. I will say the studio was very generous with their money!" Guggenheim laughed.

The executive producer also explained the introduction of these characters was not part of the original season overview. "Of the three, we didn't know that Felicity would even be a part of the show, she wasn't conceived with the show, we never expected to bring Roy on so quickly," Guggenheim said. "We realized halfway through the season that it would be helpful to have a series regular on the island just in terms of producing the show week in and week out."

While "Arrow" has enjoyed critical and ratings success -- and was the CW's highest-rated premiere since "The Vampire Diaries" -- Guggenheim admitted many readers have struggled to relate to the trick arrow-wielding comic book version of the character.

"I think Green Arrow in the comics has been handled by a lot of really talented people, and like any character of any duration he's creatively had his ups and his downs, his successful periods and his unsuccessful periods. I would put the stuff that Mike Grell and Brad Meltzer and Kevin Smith and Judd Winick -- I'd put all their material up against anything that's been done in comic books as really quality," Guggenheim said.

However, when it came to explaining "Arrow's" success while the current comic book character is on its third creative team since the launch of DC's New 52, Guggenheim pointed to the main difference between the two: family.

"The advantage we have as a television show over the comic book version is that we created a whole cast of characters around Oliver to help him be more relatable. Truth be told, in the comics Green Arrow's basically had Black Canary, and that's been the extent of his supporting cast -- he's had Roy, but we went to great lengths to give him a sister, a best friend, a mother, [and bodyguard] Diggle. He doesn't have any of those things in the comics and when you talk about what makes a character relatable, I'd say it's the people around him," Guggenheim said. "If I were to tackle the comic book as a writer the first thing I would try to do is give him a supporting cast. That would help elaborate on his character."

The realism in the TV show helped too, as Guggenheim added with a grin, "We've avoided the silly arrows!"

While "Arrow's" Oliver Queen exists in a grittier, more realistic setting this has not prevented the writers from bringing on other comic book characters like Huntress and Deathstroke.

"The Question is definitely on my list of DC characters A) I happen to love personally but B) would fit very much into the voice of the show," Guggenheim told reporters, speaking about other DC characters he'd love to see in the recently green lit season two.

"One thing we talk about in season two is getting Oliver out of Starling City and having him travel around a little bit more, certainly going to Hub City would be a fun thing to do. The trick for us is always evolving the show to include these other comic book characters in a way that feels organic to the show," Guggenheim continued. "If there's a great story then we'll absolutely use the Question -- that's assuming that he's available to us. I never want to assume we'll be able to use a given DC character, but everyone at DC has been really wonderful about giving us access to the toy chest."

Guggenheim was equally noncommittal about whether Oliver might interact with one of Gotham's most famous young heroes: Nightwing.

"We do talk a lot about Nightwing, but at the same time it is up to DC to make the Bat characters available. I think they need to figure out some Justice League stuff, some Batman movie stuff," Guggenheim said. But for fans and the creators behind the show, as always, hope springs eternal.

"Hopefully the show will have a nice long longevity... never say never!" the writer concluded with a laugh.

"Arrow" airs Wednesdays at 8pm/7pm central on The CW.

Joker: How Todd Philips Found Out Joaquin Phoenix Accepted the Role

More in Movies