IF THERE’S ONE thing DC Comics has become good at, it’s recycling green.
While the Green Lantern has seen a rise in his rank, DC has seen a rise in the popularity of another of its color-themed heroes: Green Arrow — thanks to the success of the TV show “Arrow,” which airs Wednesday nights (8 pm ET) on the CW.
“Arrow” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, who also has written the character for DC Comics, notes that though the show is still new, Oliver Queen/Arrow benefitted from having an audience before Kreisberg became involved with the character.
Green Arrow “had a successful run on ‘Smallville,’ “ he tells Comic Riffs. “It was proof that the character had life to him. We’re so proud of the show and the response that the show has [received].
Fanboys can be the life support — or death — of a superhero property. Stray away too much from the source material, or create something too campy, and digital riots erupt. Many producers, however, don’t presume that’s the only audience that they’re writing for.
Kreisberg says the key to “Arrow’s” success is the diversity of its audience.
“When we tested the pilot, there was only one person on the testing that knew that [Oliver] was the same character from ‘Smallville,’ ” Kreisberg says. “One of the things that’s most thrilling for us is that we’ve got 14-year-old kids who say it’s their favorite show [and] 20-year-old women who are excited by it.
“My wife wouldn’t know Green Arrow from the Green Hornet, and she thinks it’s the best thing I’ve done. When you look at the numbers, we’ve got a diverse audience by sex and age. There aren’t too many shows on TV that are like that.”
“Arrow” is a mix of new ideas and the origins that took shape in DC’s Green Arrow comic books. Many elements of the comic books are reflected in the show: Oliver Queen, the billionaire playboy (lots of those in the DC Universe), spent years stranded on an island that might as well have been hell, where he picked up archery.
Yet the show has a 21st-century feel, and Oliver is a lot younger — and a lot less frequent with the jokes.
“I think in the comic book, he’s been a bit more outgoing, funny character for quips,” Kriesberg says. “We designed [Oliver] as a character a little more tortured” than the comic-book character.
One of “Arrow’s” most intriguing aspects is the performance of Stephen Amell, who plays Queen. Amell is believable as a one-man army who has the strength, will and determination to rid his city of crime, “one arrow at a time.”
Yet it’s the flashbacks that “Arrow” provides — of Queen’s time on a mysterious island — that provide the show with some of its best moments. In these flashbacks, Queen is a selfish, spoiled, ungrateful weakling of a man — to the point where viewers would be hard-pressed to believe that the man who crashed onto the island is also the hero who left it.
“We love the island scenes [and they’re] getting bigger and bigger,” Kreisberg says. “Stephen does such a good job creating what really are two distinct and unique performances.
“Episode 14 was a great example, where you got to experience how green and naive he is. We love the island, and we’re hoping to do more island-centric episodes. It gives the show a sense of scope, and reminds [viewers] how far Oliver has come physically and how far he’s fallen emotionally. He doesn’t always do the right thing, and when you see him in the past, it helps remind you: Oh, yeah he was in hell for 5 years.
“That helps especially when he makes some of his darker decisions as Arrow or Oliver.”
As is always the case with comic-book properties, interest in the source material follows after they’re successfully adapted in another form. For fans of “Arrow” who want to see the character in his comic-book form, DC Comics offers two options:
1. A weekly digital-only comic written by Arrow’s producers that connects each episode and is literally the show in comic-book form; and:
2. The New 52 version of Arrow that provided a new, younger take on Oliver Queen before “Arrow” made its screen debut.
Although the New 52 and television versions of Green Arrow might seem as if they were intended to resemble each other, new Green Arrow writer Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, “Essex County”) says that was not the intention.
“I actually started working on the comic a couple of months before the TV show premiered,” Lemire tells Comic Riffs. “So, I was aware that it was coming, and that the advance buzz was great.
“In general, it added to the excitement of the assignment for me. Just the fact that the character would have much more awareness in the public eye was great for us on the comic side, as well.”
Despite no initial intent for there to be similarities, the comic book and the TV show share facets that could readily prompt fans to cross over to the other property — even though the comics and episodes don’t follow the same story.
New 52 Green Arrow is young, self-assured and not yet the man he’s destined to be. He, too, has an extended island stay on his resume, and just like “Arrow,” he deals with an evil archer who may be his better.
“It is all about stripping Oliver Queen down to the bone and forcing this man, who was born into privilege, to find out who he really is, and who he really wants to be,” Lemire tells us. “He will have to battle to reinvent himself into the man and the hero that he was destined to become. That’s the journey I want to take him on. But it won’t be an easy road.”
Lemire says that the success of “Arrow” is a blessing and that in no way does it affect how he writes the character for the New 52 comic.
“It’s invigorating,” he says. “While the comic and TV versions are really two separate things, I do think people enjoying the show can check out what we are doing in the comic and find it very accessible and new-reader friendly. I also think the ‘Arrow’ showrunners and I have the same set of influences, so there is a common tone and aesthetic to both.”
Despite the insistence that the TV and New 52 Arrow entities are not meant to be the same thing, Lemire didn’t absolutely rule out a chance that maybe some familiar faces from Arrow could make it over to the comic book.
“At this point, there aren’t any plans,” Lemire tells Comic Riffs. “There were so many great characters from the comic-book versions history I wanted to bring back, as well a creating new characters of my own that I don’t have any plans at the moment.
“Having said that, you never know!”