Thursday, October 14, 2004

Sidekick Supernova

Recently the media has decided to return its attention to DC's Green Arrow title because the Arrow is once again at the fore of today's social issues. Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, recently acquired a new sidekick after going years without one (many of those years spent 6 feet under ground, but that is another story). In the new AP article they discuss the new sidekick as someone who is struggling with more than just crime. The added struggle is that she is HIV positive. From the article:

In the latest issue of "Green Arrow," published Wednesday, a teenage runaway named Mia -- who has been in the care of the title hero for two years -- discovers that her time spent as a street-dweller and prostitute has resulted in her picking up the virus.

The news that she has HIV leads her to push Green Arrow even more. Fighting crime, Winick said, is what she wants to do with her life. "So he allows her to slap on a costume and become his sidekick, which has the silly name of Speedy," Winick said. "It's not as a death wish, but she can't fool around anymore. This isn't about an abbreviated life span. It is about life having focus," he added.

Speedy was originally a boy sidekick, but the character is now grown up and goes by the more mature name of Arsenal.

I read the title and think that Winick is taking the title in interesting directions. In fact, I think the title has been better since Kevin Smith left it early on, but that is another story.

What I find disturbing about the article is its lack of history. They, I am quite certain, truncate the Winick quote regarding Speedy to focus on the fact that it is a tremendously lame name. Which it is. But do they focus on the fact that Green Arrow's sidekick has a dark past of his own? No. Those of us in the know have with us the knowledge that Speedy himself had a little problem with Heroin.

Cover of Green Lantern Green Arrow Posted by Hello

The consequences of drug use Posted by Hello

Point of fact, the Green Lantern/Green Arrow title was one of the titles signaling the death of the hopeful Silver Age and the emergence of the tarnished Bronze Age of comics. No longer was politics black and white, no longer were social issues to be ignored, to hell with the US Senate and their censure of EC and earlier publishers! That was the rallying cry of the Bronze Age, a legacy we still see the effects of in titles like The Authority and once again The Green Arrow.

I think it is great when social issues are discussed and incorporated into the narrative of a comic title. Judd Winick is doing a good job of it here and handling the subject of HIV far more sophisticatedly than Marvel handled its first gay hero. Marvel chose an obscure hero and had him fight "Major Mapleleaf" for 22 pages while arguing about AIDS and Homosexuality. You see, Major Mapleleaf's son had HIV and was gay so the Captain had to beat up the media for covering a baby's plight. Real mature stuff. DC had already built in a best friendship relationship with the Flash and his former villain The Pied Piper. Once again an obscure character, unless you are a Flash fan and know the Piper's role in the Rogue's Gallery, is the one who is gay, but the relationship was presented narratively and maturely rather than as a statement in a 22 page fight.

The Green Arrow title is excellent, and the way it is handling Oli's new ward is also very mature. They have dealt with sexual issues, prostitution, drug use and many other mature themes. Green Arrow hasn't been alone either. Green Lantern recently left the Earth, for a period of time, after a friend had been attacked in a story referencing the horrible murder of Matthew Sheppard.

So, in summary, DC good/Journalists who don't read comics bad.

*This article originally referred to Major Mapleleaf erroneously as "Captain Canuck."

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