The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
'Clerks' director returns
Green Arrow from dead


March 8, 2001
By Franklin Harris

In the '40s no one cared about the people behind the comics. They weren't important. You bought "Superman" for Superman and "Captain Marvel Adventures" for Captain Marvel, and that was that. Artists and writers too often went uncredited, as if their contributions really weren't all that important.

Not so today. Granted, no single comic book comes even close to selling the nearly 2 million copies a month "Captain Marvel Adventures" did, but in 2001's moribund funnybook market, creators do matter. How else do you explain that "Green Arrow" No. 1 sold out the day it was published -- all 101,000 copies gone?

Green Arrow is nobody. He's a second-string superhero with a bow and some trick arrows. He dresses like Robin Hood and spouts off like Abbie Hoffman.

Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith
But Kevin Smith is writing his book, so the copies fly off the shelves and onto eBay.

Yes, that Kevin Smith -- the filmmaker turned comic book writer. The "Clerks" and "Jay and Silent Bob" guy. The guy who revived "Daredevil" for Marvel Comics.

This time Smith is reviving Green Arrow, which is an even neater trick, because it isn't just Green Arrow's book that needs resuscitation.

The last time anyone saw the Emerald Archer, he was very dead, in a blown-to-smithereens-in-an-airplane kind of way.

But you know what I say about the fleeting nature of comic-book death.

So Green Arrow, a.k.a. Oliver Queen, is back, courtesy of Smith and the art team of Phil Hester and Ande Parks.

The book opens with a wonderful scene between Batman and Superman, set during DC Comics' "Final Night" event of a few years back. It then shifts to the present day, showing us what the most important people in Ollie's life have been doing in his absence.

There is Arsenal, who, under the somewhat more embarrassing moniker of Speedy, was once Green Arrow's sidekick. He is still playing superhero, as is Green Arrow's former flame, the Black Canary. He remembers the father figure, while she remembers the man who betrayed her.

Then there is Connor, Ollie's illegitimate son who took up, and later abandoned, the mantle of Green Arrow. In a Buddhist monastery, he tries to come to terms with the father he never really knew.

If the book has a fault, it's that it isn't a good jumping-on point for new readers, who aren't going to know who any of the supporting players are -- except for Superman and Batman, of course.

But there are some nice character moments here, like that opening scene and Black Canary's flashback to her life with Ollie. And Smith, whose previous comics have tended to be wordy, seems to be getting more comfortable at letting his artists carry some of the storytelling load.

So, if you have your copy, you are one of the lucky ones. If not, don't fret: DC Comics will have a second printing in stores soon.

And speaking of second printings, have you noticed how Marvel Comics hasn't done any lately?

It's not because Marvel's books aren't popular enough to merit a return trip to the printer. Quite the contrary. "Ultimate X-Men" and "Ultimate Spider-Man" sell out regularly.

It's because Marvel's head honcho is nuts.

Bill Jemas
Bill Jemas
At first Bill Jemas' craziness seemed to work in the company's favor, like when he hired Joe Quesada -- a free-lancer! -- as editor-in-chief, but now it's becoming a liability.

The madness manifests itself in many ways, but the most troublesome of them is Jemas' obsession with bringing back the bad old days of the speculators.

In the early '90s, speculators, who saw comics only as investments, dominated the market. Their lunacy, and the nitwit publishing practices they encouraged, nearly destroyed the industry. But Jemas seems more intent on feeding a new speculative frenzy than in making Marvel responsive to those fans who actually read the comics they buy.

By keeping the supply of popular comics limited, Jemas thinks he can drive up their value on the secondary market, generating lots of hype in the process. But even if he is right about that, it's hard to see how that helps Marvel Comics, which makes nothing off secondary sales. To cash in on the hype, Marvel would have to sell more copies, which is exactly what Jemas doesn't seem interested in doing.

See? Like I said, Jemas is crazy.

So just make sure that when Smith gets around to his second crack at "Daredevil" -- assuming he ever does -- you order your copies well in advance.

There will be no second printings for you.

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