REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS GREEN ARROW
Series 9 of Mattel's superb line of DC Universe Classics figures features a personal favorite character of mine that, in my opinion, is just a bit overdue. He's DC Comics' own Emerald Archer, GREEN ARROW!
I'm not entirely sure why I've regarded him as a personal favorite. I certainly don't agree with his leftist politics. And I pretty well missed his legendary comics run alongside Green Lantern, as presented in the 1960's and 70's with artwork by the legendary Neal Adams (although I did catch a fair portion of the later Mike Grell run, which hugely impressed me.
Maybe it's because his first action figure was, well, something of an oddity, in my opinion. The very first Green Arrow action figure was produced by Mego in the 1970's. What's so strange about that? Nothing, in and of itself, seeing as how Mego produced a lot of action figures in the 1970's, and their "bread-and-butter" line was the World's Greatest Super-Heroes, which featured characters from both DC and Marvel.
It just seemed, though, even then, that Green Arrow was an odd choice. In the DC ranks of the line, there were, of course, Superman, Batman, Robin, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, and even Wonder Woman. There were also a number of prominent villains, including Penguin, Joker, Riddler, and others. One would have thought, however, that the next logical hero choices would have been Flash or Green Lantern. But they were never made by Mego. There were apparently plans to do so, but it never happened. Green Arrow did.
Somehow, the Emerald Archer managed to bypass his more prominent Justice League colleagues into the action figure world. He was even one of the very first "guest star" heroes in the 1970's "Super Friends" animated series, which was pretty much THE place to see DC characters at the time.
Of course, there have been Green Arrow action figures since. He made it into the Super Powers line, and hysterically, his body molds were later used for a Robin Hood figure in the action figure line based on the Kevin Costner movie. DC Direct has produced several Green Arrows, including an astounding 13" cloth-costumed figure.
But for my money these days, the finest super-hero figures being produced are those of Mattel's DC Universe Classics, and I really wanted to see Green Arrow become a part of the line. And now, as of Series 9, he has.
Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about the -- admittedly rather convoluted background -- of Green Arrow.
Green Arrow (real name: Oliver Jonas "Ollie" Queen) first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941 (don't you just love the titles that comics used to have?) He was created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp.
Dressed like Robin Hood, Green Arrow is an archer, who invents trick arrows with various special functions, such as a glue arrow, a net arrow, explosive arrow, time bomb arrow, grappling arrow, fire extinguishing arrow, flash arrow, tear gas arrow, cryonic arrow, a boxing-glove arrow, and even a kryptonite arrow. (That boxing glove arrow has become something of a running gag in recent years.)
Throughout his first twenty-five years, Green Arrow was not a significant hero. In the late 1960s, however, writer Denny O'Neil chose to have him lose his fortune, giving him the then-unique role of streetwise crusader for the working class and the disadvantaged. In 1970, he was paired with the more law-and-order-oriented hero Green Lantern in a groundbreaking, "socially conscious" comic book series. Since then, he has been popular among comic book fans and most writers have taken an urban, gritty approach to the character.
Aside from the obvious allusions to Robin Hood, Mort Weisinger, when developing the character, was also inspired by a movie serial, The Green Archer, based on the novel by Edgar Wallace. He retooled the concept into a superhero archer with obvious Batman influences. These include Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy, his use of an Arrowcar and Arrowplane, his use of an Arrowcave as headquarters, his alter ego as a billionaire playboy, the use of an Arrow-signal to summon him, and a clown-like arch foe named Bull's Eye, similar to Batman's arch-foe, the Joker.
Green Arrow was one of the few DC characters to keep going after the Golden Age of Comic Books. The longevity of the character was due to the influence of creator Mort Weisinger, who kept Green Arrow and Aquaman as back-up features to the headlining Superboy feature, first in More Fun Comics and then Adventure Comics.
In 1969, artist Neal Adams decided to update the character's visual appearance by giving him a goatee beard and costume of his own design in Brave and the Bold #85. Inspired by Adams' redesign, writer Dennis O'Neil followed up on Green Arrow's new appearance by completely remaking the character's attitude in the pages of Justice League of America #79 (cover-dated November 1969), giving his personality a rougher edge. This revision was explained by having Oliver Queen lose his fortune, and then becoming an outspoken advocate of the underprivileged in society and the political left wing.
In the early 1970s, he became a co-feature with Green Lantern (a.k.a. Hal Jordan) in the latter's series in an acclaimed, but short-lived series of stories by O'Neil and Adams that dealt with various social and political issues in which Green Arrow spoke for radical change while Green Lantern was an establishment figure, wanting to work within existing institutions of government and law. Where Oliver Queen advocated direct action, Hal Jordan wanted to work within the system; where Oliver advocated social change, Jordan was more concerned about dealing with criminals. Each would find their beliefs challenged by the other.
The duo embarked on a quest to "find America", witnessing the problems of corruption, racism, pollution, and overpopulation confronting the nation. It was during this period that the most famous Green Arrow story appeared, in Green Lantern vol. 2, #85-86, when it was revealed that Green Arrow's ward Speedy was addicted to drugs. In his zeal to save America, Oliver Queen had failed in his personal responsibility to Speedy — who would overcome his addiction with the help of Black Canary, Green Arrow's then-love interest.
However, the series did not match commercial expectations, and Neal Adams had trouble with deadlines, causing issue #88 to be an unscheduled reprint issue; the series was canceled with issue #89 (April-May 1972).
In 1976, the Green Lantern title was re-launched starring both Hal Jordan and Ollie Queen, and the Green Arrow/Green Lantern partnership returned to more traditional superhero storylines. Denny O'Neill resumed writing the characters, while Adams-influenced artist Mike Grell drew the feature. After the title moved to solo Green Lantern stories, solo Green Arrow stories began appearing in the World's Finest title.
In his solo series, Oliver Queen would land a job as a newspaper columnist, which allowed him to articulate his political beliefs in a more public field. In World's Finest #255 (1979), Queen ran for Mayor of Star City and lost in a close vote. Although there was reason to believe that the election had been fixed against him, Black Canary chose for him not to contest the results legally, effectively ceding the race to his opponent.
In 1987, DC Comics launched the character into a new ongoing title as part of their mature audience comic line. Written and illustrated by Mike Grell, the revamp was launched with the "Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters" mini-series. In this three-issue prestige format limited series, a routine adventure against a group of drug runners led to tragedy as Black Canary was captured and brutally tortured. In response, Green Arrow murders his girlfriend's attackers.
Under Grell, Green Arrow would abandon the use of his trademark gadget arrows and relocate from Star City to Seattle, Washington. As the series was part of DC Comics' mature audience line, it took on a more gritty, violent, and urban tone, with Green Arrow often using deadly force against his enemies. Grell wrote the series for the first 80 issues, downplaying the super-hero aspects of the characters and isolating Green Arrow from the rest of the DC Universe.
Once Grell left the series, DC almost immediately began restoring Green Arrow to the mainstream DC Universe. His ongoing series (mostly written by Kelley Puckett and drawn by artist Jim Aparo) was removed from the "Mature Audience" line (which had evolved into "Vertigo"), and Green Arrow began appearing in various super-hero titles as a guest, most notably Green Lantern #47, which had Oliver aiding Green Lantern in rescuing his longtime girlfriend Carol Ferris and her family from one of Hal's enemies, and the 1994 DC Comics mini-series "Zero Hour." In "Zero Hour," Queen is forced to shoot his old friend at a pivotal moment.
Now tightly integrated in the DC universe, the character Connor Hawke was introduced and revealed as Oliver Queen's son. In Green Arrow, #100-101, Oliver would infiltrate a group of eco-terrorists known as the Eden Corps and sacrifice his life in order to prevent the group from detonating a bomb that would destroy the city of Metropolis. This allowed the writers to make Connor Hawke a replacement Green Arrow. The series, now written by Chuck Dixon, would continue, with Hawke as the main focus until issue #137, when the series was cancelled.
In 2000, Oliver Queen was revived in a new series in the story arc "Quiver," written by Kevin Smith and illustrated by Phil Hester and Ande Parks. Picking up the thread from "The Final Night", Smith reveals that the resurrection of Oliver was a flawed one, in that Hal Jordan opted to resurrect Oliver in a form that had no memory of the events of "The Longbow Hunters" mini-series or of the subsequent events that followed, up until his death.
Later, writer Brad Meltzer's single storyline for Green Arrow featured Oliver and former sidekick Roy Harper reuniting and going on a cross-country road trip to pick up old possessions of Oliver's, most notably a spare Green Lantern power ring entrusted to him by Hal Jordan many years earlier. The story also revealed that Oliver knew all along that Connor Hawke was his son and was even present at his birth, but that Oliver ultimately abandoned Connor and his mother, because of his fear of the responsibilities of fatherhood.
In 2006 Andy Diggle and Jock's Green Arrow: Year One presented the most recent official version of his origin. Using concepts from previous iterations, Oliver Queen is a rich, thrill-seeking activist who, is attacked and thrown overboard, and washes up on a island, where he learns of a smuggling operation. Upon witnessing the inhabitants' slave-like living conditions, he begins to take down the smugglers' operation. He eventually returns to civilization changed by his experiences. In the final part of the story, Oliver claims that a mutiny or the actions of a group of heroin dealers could be used as a cover story for what transpired, referencing the original Green Arrow origin story, as well as Mike Grell's version.
That year also saw the title (along with other DC comics titles) jump "One Year Later" after the events in Infinite Crisis. Oliver Queen, having amassed a large personal fortune, is the newly-elected mayor of Star City. He continues his fight for justice both on the streets and within the political system. He also has a new costume, which appears to be a combination of the classic Neal Adams costume and the Mike Grell Longbow Hunters costume. In flashbacks, it is revealed that Oliver survived a near-fatal attack during the events of Infinite Crisis, and used his recuperation time to retrain.
After the end of the ongoing series, DC Comics published a four-part bi-monthly Black Canary miniseries in which Green Arrow teamed up with Black Canary to help get Sin into school and establish a new life. This series concluded with Black Canary accepting his proposal. This resulted in DC Comics publishing three interconnected specials revolving around the Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding that tied into that month's Countdown stories.
Honestly, I was never all that impressed with the Connor Hawke character, and was pleased when Oliver Queen returned. As of this writing, the Green Arrow/Black Canary title is receiving, shall we say, a less than enthusiastic response from readers, who are thinking that it's time Green Arrow got another overhaul. Hopefully this won't result in him being killed off yet again. The poor guy's been through enough!
So, how's the figure? Well, before I delve into that, I'd like to discuss the packaging, something I don't usually do, but in this case, I think it's warranted. Mattel has been increasingly in the habit of packaging their DC Universe Classics figures in dramatic poses in their packages.
Personally, I don't much care for the practice. I'd rather see the figure in a straightforward stance so that I can give him or her a good looking over and make sure he or she is assembled properly and painted neatly. However, I suppose part of me can understand the marketing value of having the figure look as dynamic as possible.
Green Arrow's accessories, as you might expect, include a bow and arrows -- and may I strongly recommend getting out a Ziploc bag for the arrows as soon as you open the figure. The arrows average not quite two inches in length apiece and are very slender. There are four different arrows, including the infamous boxing glove arrow!
It's worth mentioning that each of the arrows has excellent painted detail. Even the laces on the boxing glove of the boxing glove arrow have been painted. Now THAT'S some serious attention to detail!
But -- here's why I bring up the packaging. Green Arrow is posed in his package in a somewhat crouching stance, bow at the ready, as if he has just fired off one or more arrows. This is corroborated by the fact that all four arrows have been separately packaged in the internal plastic "bubble" in a sort of fanned-out way, each in its own tiny little indentation on the bubble!
NOW -- How's the figure? Well, I could say "spectacular, incredible, and amazing", but that would be understatement. The fine folks at Mattel really went all out on this figure.
When I first heard that Mattel was going to be adding Green Arrow to their DC Universe Classics line, by initial thought was, "WHICH Green Arrow?" Arguably, the character has had three major costumes, give or take the occasional alteration here and there.
There is his classic Golden Age costume, which presents a clean-shaven Green Arrow wearing a green, short-sleeved tunic, green tights, and red boots and gloves. Curiously, this Green Arrow look has been brought back for the animated "Brave and the Bold" series. Also, Hasbro made a 9" cloth-costumed figure of this version of Green Arrow back in the 90's.
Then there is the costume as developed by Neal Adams, which gave Green Arrow a mustache and goatee, as well as a more complex, darker green, and ALL green uniform. No more red gloves and boots. This has always been my personal favorite. The third costume is close to this one, but trades in Green Arrow's legendary hat for a hood. This look got its start during the "Longbow Hunters". I've never been terribly fond of this look, either. Mattel used it for a Green Arrow figure in the DC Infinite Heroes line, and honestly, I was a little concerned that this look might carry over into the Universe Classics line.
Thankfully, I was wrong, and Mattel did the right thing by presenting the Emerald Archer in what I am convinced is his best-known AND most popular uniform, the one created by Neal Adams. But this also meant that Mattel had to do quite a bit of additional work on the figure.
A large percentage of the male DC Universe Classics figures are able, for the most part, to share the same basic body mold. The sculpting and design team of the Four Horsemen have created a truly superb basic male hero body design, with good musculature and excellent articulation, that can really be used for a wide variety of characters by presenting it in the proper colors, painted details, and distinctive head. This gives the DC Universe Classics line a level of consistency that I, for one, sincerely appreciate.
But Green Arrow's costume, while undeniably a proper super-hero costume, has certain details to it that can't quite be handled with painted-on details -- at least not on a first-rate action figure line such as this. The costume consists of a dark green top with slightly flared shoulders, which has a somewhat lighter green "undershirt", and is tied off down the front. The trunks, green leggings, and boots are fairly standard, but then there's Green Arrow's gloves, which are these high gloves that run up to his biceps and have square segments cut out of them along the way.
Now, it might have been possible for Mattel to simply paint the gloves onto the existing arm molds. But they didn't do that. They created entirely new arm molds from the bicep down, that have the gloves clearly sculpted onto them. Likewise, the torso of the Green Arrow figure is entirely unique, featuring the flared shoulders, and the ties down the front. The overall design maintains the same proportions as the standard male DC Universe Classics figures, but has the additional detail sculpted as part of its design. Really just amazing work.
The face sculpt is excellent. Green Arrow has his proper mustache and goatee, and a somewhat grim expression on his face. He has a reputation within the DC Universe as being a bit of a grouch at times. This is fitting. The hat, complete with feather, is perfect. It's a separately molded piece, as doubtless it needed to be, but it's not removable. Not a big deal in my book as such.
Additional details include the quiver attached to his back (alas, no space for the loose arrows), and the green belt with the letter "G" on it. His boots also have distinct heels on them, something that not many DC Universe Classics figures have. The only other distinct boots with heels or other details that I can think of offhand have been Flash, Kid Flash, and Mister Miracle.
Of course, he also comes with a bow. The bow is about 5-3/4" in length. It cannot be pulled back, and has an arrow molded as part of its overall design. This strikes me as a somewhat peculiar decision, but the figure still looks cool holding the bow, and his right hand has clearly been designed with this in mind. I would suggest that if you don't plan to display the figure with his equipment, the bow should probably go into the same Ziploc bag as the additional arrows, and into a safe place. Although slightly flexible, the bow strikes me as somewhat fragile and possibly breakable.
I would like to make one additional comparison to the original Mego Green Arrow. The one fallacy of that figure was that it didn't quite get the colors right. Mego made the bulk of Green Arrow's uniform a standard green, and the leggings a lighter green. That's not entirely correct. The main part of the uniform should be a rather dark green, and the leggings a more standard green. Since that time, most Green Arrow figures have gotten it right, from Super Powers on, and I am happy to report that Mattel certainly got the colors right.
Articulation is, of course, superb. I really can't say enough good things about the design of these figures relative to both their appearance and their articulation. There have been some quality control issues here and there, from time to time, with regard to correct assembly, and either overly loose parts or even hopelessly stuck parts, but these seem to be lessening over time, and I hope it's a trend that continues. Green Arrow is superb in all respects, no complaints whatsoever, and he is excellently articulated at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso (a tricky articulation area that the designers have made work very well), waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
I'd like to add that I am increasingly impressed with the leg articulation design. Although a bit more complex in appearance than some, and perhaps a little more prone to looseness or being stuck, the design definitely looks better than the "ball and socket" design used on some other figures.
Additionally, his wrists have extra articulation -- a back-and-forth movement -- so that he can hold his bow.
So, what's my final word? Holy cow, what's not to like? I continue to be persuaded that Mattel's DC Universe Classics line is the ultimate line of DC super-hero figures, and this is certainly the most amazing Green Arrow figure I've ever owned. He's a decently prominent character within the DC Universe, and I am sincerely delighted that he's finally been brought into the line with such a truly impressive action figure.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of GREEN ARROW most definitely has my highest recommendation!