Green Arrow: “C’mon, I don’t belong up here, fighting monsters and aliens and supervillains. I just help the little guy. And a big club like this [the Justice League], you tend to forget all about him. So, gee whiz, I’m flattered to be asked and all. But no thanks.” – Justice League: Unlimited “Initiation”, season 3, episode 1
A group of mercenaries approaches a homeless shelter. The goons have been hired to take care of one of the shelter’s inhabitants who can prove that a corporation has been experimenting on homeless people. The mercs are about to open fire when an arrow impales the leader’s leg.
The mercs look up and see… Robin Hood? Some fool dressed all in green carrying a bow and arrow. They shoot at the archer, who dodges and fires an arrow at them. The arrowhead splits open and releases a net that covers all but one of the thugs.
“A net! How the hell did you fit a net in an arrow, Robin Hood?!” the last merc screams. “It wasn’t easy,” the archer replies. He fires an arrow that opens up to reveal a boxing glove. The last words the merc hears are “And the name’s Green Arrow.”
Green Arrow is one of DC Comics’ underdogs. He’s been adventuring since the 1940s, but only became an A-lister in this millennium. So who is he? Where did he learn archery? Is a Boxing Glove Arrow the stupidest arrow he has? Not even close, but let’s find out.
Robinson Crusoe with a Bow: Green Arrow’s Backstory
Voiceover: “My name is Oliver Queen. After five years in hell, I returned home with only one goal: To save my city. But my old approach wasn’t enough. I had to become someone else. I had to become something else. I had to become the Green Arrow.” – Opening Narration, Arrow season 4
Green Arrow first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941, which also included Aquaman’s first appearance. He was obviously inspired by Robin Hood and less obviously by the film serial The Emerald Archer. GA also ripped off Batman with an Arrow-cave, an Arrow-Car, and an adopted sidekick named Speedy.
Oliver Queen was a spoiled rich kid from Star City and heir to Queen Industries. He went to a yacht party and fell off the boat because he was drunk. Presumed dead, Oliver washed up on a deserted island. He crafted a bow and some arrows to hunt for food. Initially a poor shot, Oliver was soon skilled enough to shoot a bird from the sky.
Oliver’s skills were tested when pirates discovered the island. Ollie’s stealth, archery, and some improvised trick arrows were enough to defeat the modern-day crew. He returned home in their boat to ecstatic friends and family. But Ollie could only see Star City’s corruption wherever he went. Inspired by Robin Hood, he created better trick arrows and became a vigilante called Green Arrow.
Cry for Justice: Green Arrow’s History
General Eiling: “You spoiled, rich little twerp!”
Green Arrow: “I think he means me.”
Speedy: “Oh. For a second, I was all mad.” – Justice League: Unlimited “Patriot Act”, season 5, episode 7
Green Arrow quickly found an ally in Roy Harper, a teenaged archer who idolized him. GA trained Roy as a sidekick after watching him help stop a robbery. Green Arrow and the newly-named Speedy were an unstoppable team, but Oliver’s neglect later caused a rift between them.
GA found new allies in the Justice League. The first was Green Lantern, who became his rival because of their political differences. Green Lantern was an authoritarian, by-the-book hero while Green Arrow was a staunch liberal who focused on helping the little guy. When’s the buddy superhero movie coming out?
The second ally and Green Arrow’s love interest was Black Canary (TV vet Katie Cassidy in Arrow). The pair were written as lovers who originally couldn’t stand each other. As the years passed, they grew inseparable and became engaged.
Green Arrow’s life seemed perfect until a bomb planted by supervillain Prometheus exploded in Star City, killing thousands, including Speedy’s daughter Lian. Prometheus had also attacked Justice League headquarters and severed Speedy’s arm in the ensuing fight. As the Justice League debated over their next move, a furious Green Arrow executed Prometheus and was arrested for murder.
Social Justice Warrior: Green Arrow’s Powers and Personality
Harley Quinn: “Why do you need a boxing glove arrow?”
Green Arrow: “Because sometimes I want to punch someone who’s a really long way away.”
Harley Quinn: “Argh. Tell me about it!” – Injustice: Gods Among Us
Green Arrow is more than an exceptionally skilled archer. He’s a skilled acrobat and has studied martial arts and swordsmanship. He has invented countless trick arrows that range from useful to preposterous.
He has Explosive Arrows, Net Arrows, Bola Arrows, Buzzsaw Arrows, Kryptonite Arrows, and his signature Boxing Glove Arrow. And those are some of his saner arrows. There’s an entire Wikipedia page of his crazier arrows. He’s used a Mummy Arrow that wraps victims in bandages, a Chimney Sweep Arrow, a Fake Cat Arrow for distractions, and an Atomic Warhead Arrow!
Wait, GA has an Atomic Warhead Arrow and Hawkeye has a Localized Nuclear Arrow. It there an inter-dimensional black market for radioactive arrows or something? If so, I’ll take three.
Green Arrow is a hardcore liberal. He spends a lot of time and effort helping the poor and fights corrupt corporations as often as he tangles with supervillains. He has an indomitable will, allowing him to use a Green Lantern Ring. He was one of the only superheroes capable of resisting a Black Lantern Ring’s corruption. For perspective, Superman wasn’t able to do that.
The Actors Who Play Green Arrow
Green Arrow first appeared in Super Friends voiced by the late character actor Norman Alden. He was a recurring character in Justice League: Unlimited with General Hospital’s Kin Shriner voicing him. Mr. Shriner must be a fan, as he reportedly recorded his lines in full costume.
Two-time Emmy winner Chris Hardwick (Funny or Die’s @midnight) voiced Green Arrow in The Batman. James Arnold Taylor voiced him in Batman: the Brave and the Bold. In DC Showcase: Green Arrow Neal McDonough voiced GA prior to appearing as Arrow’s Damien Darhk. Finally, Firefly’s Alan Tudyk voiced GA in Young Justice and reprised his role for the Injustice videogames.
Green Arrow was a regular on Smallville, where he was played by Justin Hartley (Kevin in This is Us and Aquaman in the failed TV pilot). Stephen Amell made Green Arrow mainstream in the wildly popular show Arrow. The show is successful and launched a superhero universe including The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl.
There are no current plans for a Green Arrow movie.
Didya Get All That?
A social justice superhero.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.