11.30.2009

Attention Must Be Paid - 11/30


First off, I obviously wasn't going to be making any posts over Thanksgiving weekend, so I hope that people understand that. Also, today is my birthday and the only reason why I made a post today is because I was really bored at work. Anyways, here we are again. Another edition of Attention Must Be Paid, a feature where I examine a significant death in comics and what the death means to the world of comic books. Today's is an interesting one, since there is no death but a fairly important character was severely injured and essentially given a fate worse than death. Warning: the article contains a fairly large spoiler for Justice League : Cry For Justice #5 so don't finish this article if you haven't read it. Otherwise, hit the jump.
Again: Spoiler for Justice League: Cry For Justice #5


Maimed in Action: Roy Harper - Red Arrow

Well James Robinson, you've done it again. And not in a good way. Robinson continues his streak of building up villains by ruining or killing promising characters that had a lot going for them still in the hands of a talented writer. He started off Cry For Justice in the first issue by having Prometheus (the supervillain not the Titan) killing South African superhero and former Justice League member Freedom Beast (which sucks because he was probably the only South African superhero from either company). Then Robinson had Prometheus kill the entire Global Guardians, a U.N. sponsered superhero team created by Geoff Johns meant to balance the fact that the U.S had just about every superhero team. This was a cool concept, especially since the U.N had laws about which heroes could operate outside of the United States or the U.N, something which hadn't really been touched on since Johns' Green Lantern issues but was there for other writers to use until Robinson wiped them out (off-panel no less).

Now, in the most recent issue, Prometheus, or a Prometheus controlled Captain Marvel I'm not really sure, attacked the Justice League and Red Arrow lost his arm in the battle. Why is this such a big deal? Well, Roy Harper (Red Arrow) is an archer, he fights crime with a bow and arrow which you need two arms to use properly, although Roy is kind of like Bullseye from the Marvel U. in which he is incredibly accurate with any weapon but his main weapon is a bow and arrow. What is most ironic about the whole thing is that this is not the first time that DC has had plans to have one of their main archers lose his arm, but they decided that it would be easier to undo if they just killed the character, but I'll talk more about this later. First, I want to examine Roy Harper's life, and how this is another marginalization of a legacy character since DC seems determined to wipe out or neuter all of the generation after the Silver Age.

Roy Harper: From Speedy to Arsenal to Red Arrow


Roy started his superhero career back in the day when Green Arrow was just a cheap knock-off of Batman: billionare driving around in his Arrow Car, hanging out in the Arrow Cave, using gadgets to defeat villains; the only real difference was that Green Arrow used a bow and didn't dress like a bat. So of course, since Batman had a ward that was his sidekick, so did Green Arrow and that was Roy Harper, who's superhero identity back then was Speedy. At first, he was just a run-of-the-mill sidekick who didn't accomplish anything except not getting killed, but then he banded together with Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Aqualad, and Roy's soon-to-be-BFF Robin (Dick Grayson) and they formed the Teen Titans. Unlike other superhero teams, this was the first to feature only sidekicks and was more of a club for them to hang out away from their mentors while they trained with each other and fought lame-ass bad guys. Honestly, if this was all that Roy Harper was ever known for I doubt anyone would have ever cared about him, but then came one of the biggest bombshells in the history of comic books as in Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85 it was revealed that Roy Harper was addicted to Heroin, one of the first instances of drug use by any superhero. Dennis O'Neal and Neal Adams created the story, where Roy felt neglected by Ollie (Green Arrow) and turned to heroin to cope, but when Green Arrow found out he threw Roy out onto the street. Roy was taken in by Black Canary, Ollie's girlfriend and now wife, who nursed him through withdrawl and helped him out. Roy and Ollie had a huge falling out because of this and Roy refused to be Speedy anymore, taking on the mantle of Arsenal.

Roy spent several years on his own, working with the Teen Titans, the Suicide Squad, and becoming an agent of Checkmate (the DC spy organiztion) and during this time he fathered a child, Lian, with the supervillain Cheshire. This would be another defining moment for Roy, as he became a single parent superhero who was just as known for the devotion he showed to his daughter as anything else. Soon, Roy founded a new iteration of the Outsiders, a group originally formed by Batman to do the dirty work the Justice League couldn't do, and served as leader of the team until he quit to focus on raising Lian. That, however, changed quickly as when Brad Meltzer began writing the Justice League Roy was one of the first people to join the team after helping Green Lantern and Black Canary on a mission. After this mission, Hal (GL) gave Roy a new uniform that looked like a red version of Green Arrows and Roy renamed himself Red Arrow and agreed to join the new Justice League. Roy Harper had finally made it to the big leagues.

The Justice League


Roy's tenure in Meltzer's Justice League was, while short-lived, important for several reasons but mostly because it marked one of the first instances of a legacy character earning a place in the Justice League while his mentor was still alive and not already on the team. Wally West and Kyle Rayner had already made the jump by now, but both of their predecessors were dead before they joined the League. Ollie had been brought back to life years before after getting killed off in the mid 90's, but was more than eligible to rejoin the League, and in fact was there when GL and Black Canary were getting Roy for the mission. Later it was revealed that Green Arrow had orchestrated GL taking Roy along and getting him into the League, essentially passing the torch to Roy to be the archer for the Justice League, saying that "As much as I love the League, which I do, there are some things I love more" referring to Roy. So even though the League was so important to Ollie, he knew that it was Roy's time to graduate to the show and take his place. To be fair, Ollie has his own monthly title while Roy is only ever featured in team books, so since people were getting their monthly Ollie fix already why not put Roy in the League? Also at this time Roy started dating Hawkgirl, a very interesting relationship that had so much potential under a good writer, which unfortunately the guy who replaced Meltzer, Dwayne Mcduffie, was not, so all the promise that was established early fell by the wayside. Roy was also one of two characters featured in Justice League #10, one of my favorite single issues that year, which saw Roy and Vixen trapped in a collapsed building underwater and dealt with what makes superheroes heroic, just a tremendous issue. But the biggest thing about Roy's tenure in the Justice League is the fact that he took Ollie's place and had become his own man as a legacy character, something that doesn't last too long in the DCU.

Make Way For The Silver Age

Kyle Rayner, Wally West, Connor Hawke, Ryan Choi, Tempest, Donna Troy, Bart Allen, and now Roy Harper. That's the list for legacy characters that had taken the place of their mentors/predecessors and who have now been either killed, maimed, or reduced to sidekick status once again. Currently, the only successful legacy characters are Dick Grayson who is now Batman (but that's not going to long), Jason Rusch as Firestorm (also probably not going to last too long since the end of Blackest Night will probably bring Ronnie Raymond back to life) and Jamie Reyes as Blue Beetle (He might stick around, but I only say that because I like Jamie as BB). That's it. Those three. In Roy's case, getting his arm ripped off in battle is an obvious way to completely take the character out of any serious competition for Ollie's position in the League, Ollie who already marginalized another legacy character when he was brought back to life with Connor Hawke who is now ignominiously a brain dead killing machine or something equally stupid. So because of DC's love of all things Silver Age, there are now two ruined characters that were very good characters in their own right, but weren't Oliver Queen the original Green Arrow and therefore were expendable. Honestly, I don't really like Ollie that much as a character and I think that Roy is a better character with more possiblities and depth, which is sadly what i can say about most of the characters listed above in comparison to their Silver Age counterparts. Barry Allen is as fascinating to read as dry wall installation instructions while Wally West is an incredible character and one of my absolute favorites, but which one do you think is getting shoved down our throats constantly? That's right, the boring Silver Age one! And I already talked about Kyle, and even though I'm convinced he's coming back it bears mentioning again how much of a better character he is then Hal. This is now getting out of control with this happening to Roy, and I honestly don't know why I keep being shocked when DC characters I like are getting treated like garbage in favor of cardboard 60's throwbacks. What's worse, is this was already suppossed to have happened to Oliver Queen.

The Original Arm-less Archer

So some backstory for those not as obsessed with comics as yours truly; in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns set in a possible DC future, Oliver Queen is shown as a cantankerous old man who is missing an arm but still able to kick ass. In the 90's when DC realized that no one cared about Oliver Queen anymore and they were looking to replace him with Connor Hawke, his soon to be discovered long-lost son, the original plan was for Ollie to lose his arm and give up crime fighting and serve as Connor's mentor. So in the build-up to the story, the writer had this elaborate bomb with a dead-man switch (basically Ollie had his hand on it and couldn't let go of it or it would explode) and Superman was there with Ollie (I guess to rip Ollies arm off that was holding the switch). But at the last minute, DC editors decided that it would be better to just outright kill Ollie since that would be easier to undo than him losing an arm. Death to them would have made more sense than a prostetic in a universe where people are half man/half robot and look completely human. So instead of severing his arm, Ollie tells Superman that he'd rather die and lets go of the switch killing him instantly while Superman yells his name dramatically (he was fine in the explosion, he is Superman you know). But the important thing here is that back then the editors saw how complex and stupid it would be to try and undo him losing an arm, yet here we are years later and they have one of their archers lose an arm. I guess hindsight isn't always 20/20.

The Maiming

Again, the comic really didn't make it clear if it was actually Prometheus who did it, or if it was a possesed Captain Marvel, either way I don't really care. I bought the first issue of Cry For Justice and absolutely hated it, mostly because the writing was just so ungodly awful. This is the comic that first raised uproar because it juvenially detailed a threesome between Hal and two strong female superheroes who were reduced to nothing except for notches in GL's belt. So it's safe to say that this is already not my favorite comic book. Anyway here's the maiming that I've raised so much hoopla over, complete with some "arm loss" humor. Groan.




There it is folks. I hope it was worth this awesome character James Robinson, cause you just made my list. Like Osborn's list. Except things will actually happen with mine, and it won't be boring and stupid like Osborn's list. Attention Must Be Paid!

5 comments:

  1. I don't see how Freddy could have done it, since he's shown on-panel in the main room shortly before Roy is found. Logistically speaking, Kara might have done it (it sure looks like she attacks Bill), but I doubt Roy would have kept silent if she were his attacker.

    The only person who could have done it is Hawkman--notice what happens to him after Roy and Kendra have their exchange?

    But really, the art is just as illogical as the story. I don't see how the editors are letting this slide....

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  2. That's the thing, I'm just not sure if they're intentionally misleading who did it or if the artwork is just that bad at storytelling, since the big ending is Supergirl and Freddy facing off, but earlier it doesn't look like either one was responsible. The next issue will be some B.S cop-out of who it really is, and the Supergirl/Freddy cliffhanger is just a red herring. Gah, I miss Old School James Robinson...

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  3. I'm particularly pissed about this. I'm a huge Green Arrow fan (as evidenced by the big cash I paid to have Hester and Parks do an Ollie commission for me) and Arrow family fan in general. In the last few years we've seen Connor go through his crap, Canary become head of the JLA only to be shown as ineffectual and a quitter, and now Roy gets his arm ripped off.

    Mia better be watching out for SuperAIDS, because I'm pretty sure that's going to be on the way within a month at this rate.

    The only really acceptable solution is that he gets some type of cybernetic arm that looks identical to a real arm (didn't Booster Gold get his arm ripped off during the Death of Superman and get a Skywalker special a bit later?), or at bare minimum, a machine looking one that hopefully won't instantly turn him into Cable.

    I don't hold out much hope.

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  4. You don't like Osborn's List?

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  5. I don't like the execution of Osborn's list. As with everything related to Dark Reign, the idea was great and the people on the list make total sense, but in the end nothing of consequence happened in any of them except the Punisher issue. All the others? Barely any advancement of the overall plot, and just ended up being stupid. That said, I loved the Wolverine issue, but that's cause of Jason Aaron and nothing else.

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