Sunday March 3, 2013
Right on the mark
Stories by S. INDRAMALAR
With Arrow, hooded vigilante Green Arrow has become the coolest hero on TV.
COMIC book aficionados will know the long history of Green Arrow, a character created by Mort Weisinger and designed by George Papp, who emerged during the Golden Age of DC Comics in the 1940s (along with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Aquaman).
The story of Green Arrow and his alter ego Oliver Queen has changed drastically over the years: in the earliest version, Queen was a famous archaeologist specialising in native American culture who would wield his bow and arrow to fight criminals who came to rob him of his precious artifacts.
In later versions, Queen is a billionaire businessman (also a playboy) in Star City who is stranded on an island after falling off a cruise ship. He learns to survive by any means and builds himself a makeshift bow and arrow. When he eventually gets back to Star City, he realises that he can use his skills to fight crime and protect the city from criminals.
Though the character has featured in a number of animated TV series and movies (like the animated series Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice, The Batman and Batman: The Brave And The Bold) and had a significant recurring role in the later seasons of live-action series Smallville, Green Arrow has largely stayed in the comic book realm.
But his name and fame are set to spread beyond the medium, thanks to the new TV series Arrow developed by Greg Berlanti (Green Lantern, Brothers And Sisters), Marc Guggenheim (Flash Forward, Eli Stone) and Andrew Kreisberg (Warehouse, The Vampire Diaries).
In his latest incarnation, Oliver Queen (portrayed by Canadian actor Stephen Amell) returns home to Starling City after being presumed dead for five years following a shipwreck that killed his father and his ex-girlfriend’s sister (they don’t call Oliver a playboy for nothing).
He is welcomed home by his mother Moira (Susanna Thompson), stepfather Walter (Colin Salmon) who used to be his father’s good friend, sister Thea (Willa Holland) and best friend Tommy (Colin Donnell), who pretty soon realise that Oliver isn’t quite the same person he was five years ago.
Noticing his badly scarred body, they ask him repeatedly what happened to him on the island but Oliver refuses to talk about his experience, except to say that it was traumatic. The audience, however, gets to see the real story unfold through flashback sequences in every episode. We learn very quickly that the island Oliver was stranded on was fraught with danger; to survive, he had to fight for his life and, if necessary, kill.
We will see how he is rescued by a mysterious stranger (who we later come to know as Yao Fei) who teaches him the art of survival. The flashbacks not only fill in the back story of Oliver’s “missing years”, but are also relevant to his present-day dealings in each episode.
His stay on the island has transformed Oliver and he returns not only an expert archer and martial arts exponent (with killer six-pack abs and a chiselled body – oh, boy!) but a vigilante, bent on cleaning up his city of criminals, namely a list of people in the criminal underworld that his father handed him just before he died (the two had a moment where the old man came clean to his son about his own wrongdoings, and asked him to help right those wrongs by taking down the people on the list).
So begins Oliver’s crusade: in the day he resumes his old persona of the entitled billionaire playboy, but at night, he puts on his hood and assumes the persona of Arrow, the vigilante archer.
(Incidentally, the character retains the essence of the costume worn by the original comic book character: a green hooded costume quite like that of Robin Hood, albeit with a little edge).
The show, however, isn’t just a chronicle of the Arrow’s “takedown of the week”, although he does cross a name off his list in almost every episode. As the show develops, Oliver discovers that there’s more to the list than meets the eye, and the people he thought he knew and loved may not be who they claim to be.
And so we have a deeply conflicted and damaged superhero, much like how Batman is portrayed in the Christopher Nolan movie trilogy (which is not a bad way to go, if references have to be made).
In a recent interview with collider.com, creators and show runners Guggenheim and Kreisberg shared their vision for the superhero.
“If you look at the history of comic book characters on television, the series that have had the most success are the ones that hue a little closer to the street-level superhero than the more cosmic-level superheroes,” Guggenheim says.
Kreisberg adds: “We want everybody to like this show. If you’ve never picked up a comic book, you have no idea who the Green Arrow is and you have no idea what DC Comics is, you can watch the show and really enjoy it.
“And yet, if you are a huge fan of comics and Green Arrow, you will see enough DNA from the comic books and enough of what makes the comic books special. Much to our delight and surprise, we feel like we’ve found this magical formula that lets new people come in, and yet also pays homage to the people who’ve been fans forever.”
The two have obviously played their cards right.
And, after a successful first season in the United States, the series pulled in the highest ratings for the CW network with over four million viewers tuning in for the pilot (which was directed with David Nutter who has worked on Game Of Thrones, Smallville and Supernatural among others). When the pilot of the series was screened at Comic-Con last year, it received a nod of approval from fans who, according to reports, applauded at the end of the episode after a particular tense fight scene.
Now, if that’s not a validation, what is?
Arrow premieres on Warner TV (HyppTV Ch 162) on March 11.