Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Open Letter to DC Comics From Merlyn the Magnificent

Hey DC,
It's me, Merlyn. Merlyn the Magician (and by "magician" I mean "archer"), Merlyn the Magnificent, Merlyn the Assassin, Merlyn the Archer-for-Hire. You may also have heard me referred to as "Black Arrow", like say maybe if you've ever talked to that dead guy over there with the arrow sticking out of his eye.

But I'm not here to talk about what gets me off. I'm here to talk about your disgraceful treatment of your hot, hot property that could, if used properly, be helping propel your Emerald Douchebag Archer from zero to flaming explosion of kickass: that's right, ME.

Pictured: Sexy beast.
Not pictured (but totally just off-panel): hookers, private jet, cocaine.

Let's just cut to the chase, people: a hero is only as good as his villains force him to be. We're THE most important accessory that a successful superhero comic book can boast. We stir up trouble, create conflict. We give your hero something to do, a reason to be a hero in the first place. We give him something to strive to be better than. We constantly get better, come up with new plans, just so that your hero has to improve his skills and learn to think faster and better. We add depth to the book, what with our complex backstories and motivations (...HA.). We threaten his loved ones to both show how far he'll go, and to help him draw the line that he won't cross.

More importantly, we're the foil that helps define your hero's personality, both in his own mind and in that of his readers. When we're better than him, or always one step ahead, you have to pause long enough to ask yourself: how does that jerk hero always win? What qualities does he have that the villain lacks?

Quality Green Arrow has that I lack: a giant vagina

At least, that's the idea. All the biggest and best heroes are defined by their greatest villains. Don't believe me? Imagine Superman without Lex Luthor's influence. How about Batman without the Joker, or Catwoman, or... hell, he has a lot of fruitcakes over there, all of whom seem to have their own damn fanclubs on DeviantArt. (Where's mine, people? My face should be everywhere! Look at this hair! Do you think I take two hours every morning to style it this way so that people can ignore me?)

Or how about Green Lantern? That's hot stuff right now. When did it start to get hot? Right about the time that his greatest foe started a war that was so awesome IT WAS NAMED AFTER HIM? (I could start a war. We could call it "Arrowmageddon", or "Shaft Wars", or just skip to the end and call it "The Day Merlyn Won...Again")

Or even the Flash. That guy's got his very own Rogue's Gallery that's so iconic that they, and everyone else, actually calls them "The Rogues". Even when Boring Flash died and Mouthy Flash took over, the Rogues stayed. When Annoying Flash came along, the Rogues were right there. Geriatric Flash has fought them. The Flash Brats have fought them. Hell, Boring Flash is back now, and if it weren't for the Rogues, he wouldn't have done anything in his first six issues except drink coffee, angst about his mom, and keep forgetting to bone his hot wife. Without the Rogues, Flash is nothing.

You know what Green Arrow has?

Other than herpes, I mean.


Or... he should have me. Except that you keep wasting me in a way that no villain has been wasted since the debut of "Darkseid On Ice"!

Look, we're perfect for each other. I have every quality a company could want in a proper arch-villain:
I was his sort of his inspiration. Even though he didn't get forced to learn archery until later, I was wowing him (and his mom, totally) with trick shots when he was just a baby brat.

I'm better than him. In my very first appearance, I kicked his ass in a competition publicly. Sometimes, when I'm really high or am still recovering from the last time Black Canary booted me in the skull (sometimes I can't tell the difference anymore), I tell him he's surpassed me. Ignore me when I say this. It's a lie I have to tell sometimes because I'm not so cruel that I want to totally kill a guy's ability to have an erection.

I'm his foil. He gave up a fortune so that he could fight for the little man without being a hypocrite, and I murder people in the name of money. He hates corruption, and I once sold my soul to Neron. (Seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Yet we have just enough qualities in common to make him look at me and wonder and whine and angst the way heroes do: "Am I really all that different from him? Could I become that?" (No, he couldn't. I'm way better-looking.)

This is me, lulling Black Canary into a false sense of security.

I have the badass pedigree, too. I've done more evil, with less remorse, than a lot of lameass villains out there. Why do people always forget these things? I blew up Star City! No, not this last time with the forest and the Lanterns. No, not the time before that with Prometheus the Child-slayer (why did I not think of that?). But before all that! I set the charges myself, forced Green Arrow to watch while I blew up the house his kids were trapped in, then set him up so that he'd have the perfect view of the city as I set off the chain of explosions that turned Star City into nothing more than rubble and refugee camps for over a year. And I teamed up with a rapist to do it, too. Nice guy, that Light. Good taste in facial hairstyles. Too bad you wasted him, too!

Oh, and remember how I killed Green Arrow? ...Okay, apparently he didn't die, but he should have. You copped out on me, jerks. I put two arrows through his chest, people -- two of his own arrows all the way through -- and then you decided to skip a year without ever explaining how he managed to not-die even though I was last seen standing right next to him and there was no help on the way. You really think people believe I just walked away? Gave him some first aid, maybe? Honestly?


I even narrated like half of Identity Crisis. Does that mean anything to you? Out of all the bad guys they could have picked -- including the bad guys who were most instrumental to the storyline, like say Doctor Light, or Captain Boomerang -- they picked me to be the voice of the dark side. Me: professional, cold-blooded, and smart enough to end up neither dead nor retconned when all was said and done.

How could you waste that momentum? That was my chance to become somebody, to really show the readers that I was a force to be reckoned with (which automatically pushes my arch-nemesis to the same level just by association)!

Still lulling. Note beautiful eyes despite vicious assault by woman clearly out of her mind.

But not only did you do nothing with that, or with anything I did after that... you last left me in about the lamest state possible with that ill-concieved Cupid storyline. Don't get me wrong -- chick gets obsessed with Green Arrow and decides to win his heart by offing his greatest villains for him is a pretty good plot, considering his history with women. (Note to Cupid: listen, bitch, the "obsessed with Green Arrow" position around here is filled. By ME. You took an arrow -- big deal, rookie. I have a whole damn shrine! Touch my man again and I'll claw your eyes out.)

Problem is, you had this inexperienced little tart run around Star City, somehow successfully killing off Green Arrow's entire rogues gallery... thus not only depriving him of all of them and all the painstaking development of said gallery tackled in the previous volume of the book, but also sucking credibility right out of the ones who survived. Like me. Really? If some random chick who was nothing but an abused housewife two issues ago can kidnap me, drug me, and slit my throat, who the hell is going to believe that I'm a credible foe for a member of the damn Justice League?

If I recover from the throat-slash with my voice intact (they said I probably wouldn't -- and you can't have a silent arch-enemy, especially if you're Green Arrow, whose mouth is sort of his trademark), and somehow also recover from the brain damage you guys said it might give me, I'm gonna have to start back at the bottom of the villain ladder again. That sucks. I haven't been assigned to contract-kill Brownie Scouts since I was like twelve years old!

But that's where you left me. How long has it been since I've been seen now? Two years? Something like that? Last seen lying in a coma in a hospital bed. Me. Green Arrow's Greatest Foe.

That's a really long time to wear a catheter, you guys.

So ditch this lameass storyline with the forest and the crazy guy who thinks he's a knight and the... I don't know, who else is in this book these days? The Ghost of Ollie's Mommy? Whatever. Ditch it, and get back to what Green Arrow does best: administering justice to guys like me on the streets of Star City, with his super annoying posse of people who hit me in the face a lot.

And bring me back.

Green Arrow needs me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Green Arrow: DC's Bastard Child

Things have been tight the past few months, and I've dropped a few titles that I usually pick up pretty regularly. Teen Titans lost me with its increased "too-old-to-be-teen-get-the-hell-out-of-my-teen-book" Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Raven presence. (They couldn't carry Titans -- what makes DC think they would improve Teen Titans?) Doom Patrol lost me when I started to realize that, with each new issue, I could no longer remember what happened in the previous issue because it was just that boring and/or confusing. That makes me sad, because it was once so enjoyable and had such potential! Secret Six hasn't completely lost me because I normally enjoy it a lot, though this most recent storyline left me a little cold. I'm giving it another storyline worth of chance before cutting it, though I admit to putting it off for a week or so recently -- it stopped being a "must-have-right-now". Brightest Day is sort of in the same boat. I'm interested in where the whole thing's going, interested in most of the characters, but when money's tight I just flip through it really quick and sometimes buy it right away, or sometimes put it back on the shelf until next week. As happy as I was to see Birds of Prey come back (after not needing to be cancelled in the first place, FU Batman!), it's touch and go with me right now, particularly after the most recent issue, where, while cementing Calculator's reputation as a badass with villains not in the know, pretty much just ruined him as a credible threat to the readers who are in the know. (Call me crazy -- I LIKE Calculator. A lot.)

My only absolute must-have-must-buy titles right now are the three Green Lantern books, and Generation Lost (which I have a love/hate relationship with -- currently at love just because of Bea/Gavril).

But no matter how much time passes, and how many books I get interested in, lose interest in, pick up and drop, there's always one that, no matter how bad it sucks (and it DOES suck quite a lot from time to time), no matter how annoyed it makes me, I always buy.

Green Arrow.

I'm not sure what it is about it. I'm not the only person with this problem, judging by the conversations I've had with my fellow fans, Overly-Friendly Gay Comic Shop Owner (whom I like) and Less Familiar Comic Shop Dude Across Town Who Insulted My Intelligence By Asking Me If I Bought my Zoom T-Shirt Because I Thought It Was Just A Yellow Flash Shirt (whom I don't much like). Green Arrow has a troubled history when it comes to having and supporting his own comic, and recently things have been worse than usual.

Let me break down how the history of how Green Arrow as a publication tends to go (roughly):

Green Arrow has own comic!
Green Arrow sucks, gets cancelled, possibly dies.
Green Arrow gets re-imagined, possibly gritty, possibly with team-up, gets new comic.
Green Arrow sucks, gets cancelled, possibly dies.
Rinse, repeat.

And yet... and yet...

No matter how bad it sucks when it sucks, I can't ever drop it completely. No matter what happens, or how angry it makes me, I always stick around, hoping for it to improve, hoping for it to get better, hoping for it to become the comic that I know it can be. I can't let go. Ever.

And I think a lot of Ollie fans struggle the same way. I think DC itself seems to struggle the same way. They have the Big Three: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Then they have their satellite titles that round out the five big DC "families": Green Lantern, which is on a clear high right now, and Flash, which is traditionally lower-performing than the rest but always stable, always respectable, with a solid fanbase of its own. Flash is on the rise right now.

Green Arrow should be the sixth big property. It has all the hallmarks of the rest of the biggies: a recognizeable character with a distinct personality, a readily-available cast of characters who clearly fit into the "family" and nowhere else, a long history to draw from, and its own city, which is pretty much a requirement for being a big name in the DCU.

Yet DC constantly drops the ball. Green Arrow floats around, directionless, without purpose, attracting writers who by and large either don't love the characters enough (all of them, not just Ollie), don't know what to do with them (likely and understandable given the circumstances), or would apparently rather be working on something else. I can't recall the last time I read an interview where a Green Arrow writer spoke passionately about Ollie and his mythos the way that, for instance, Geoff Johns speaks about Green Lantern and Flash. And while I realize that not everyone can be like Uberfanboy Geoff "I don't know if I want to be Hal or have Hal's baby" Johns, it saddens and disappoints me that the most enthusiastic Arrow fan at DC seems to be Judd "Build something up and tear it right back down for the LOLz" Winick!

Like the old Earth saying goes, I guess (thank you, Sinestro, for paying attention to stuff Earthpeople say even though I can't really imagine you doing so): if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

So, in my attempt to start being timely about my ranting/blogging, the next week or so is going to be "Fix Green Arrow" week. I've given this a lot of thought, and I have a plan: what's wrong with Green Arrow, piece by piece, and what I'd like to do to fix it -- to bring Ollie up into the spotlight where he belongs, next to his DC brothers Hal and Barry.

I'm very interested in thoughts on the matter from GA fans and haters alike.