Of all the heroes in the DC Universe, the Green Arrow has historically been the most fervent mouthpiece for liberal politics. Now, as the first year in Donald Trump’s administration comes to an end, the writers of Green Arrow are doubling down on the Emerald Archer’s aim against the headlines.
In October 2016, writer and novelist Benjamin Percy told Inverse he was introducing “a certain orange-faced candidate” into his Green Arrow series for DC Comics. The character, Nate Domini, soon appeared in the six-part “Emerald Outlaw” saga, as an entrepreneur-turned-politician who rode a nationalistic, xenophobic platform to win Seattle’s mayorship.
At the time, Donald Trump was only so far from the presidency (and so, so far from the nuclear codes); in fact, the day Percy revealed his plans, the 2005 tape of Trump boasting of sexual assault went viral, which seemed to all but doom Trump’s chances. SNL even spoofed it, with “Hillary Clinton” (Kate McKinnon) celebrating what should have been the end of the political circus.
But it wasn’t the end. A month later, Trump won, and suddenly Percy’s caricature had become reality. Ten months later the Oregon scribe is doubling down, committed to making Green Arrow the most politically-charged superhero book in DC’s library.
“Green Arrow is the most political series at DC,” Percy tells Inverse on Friday of New York Comic Con, a year to the day of our original interview. He adds that “channeling Trump” into the series was both “natural and inevitable,” and though Trump himself isn’t in the comic, the series will always have something to say in the wake of his administration’s actions.
“I have a mandate,” explains Percy, “Every issue should somehow connect to a social justice issue we’re facing right now. Every issue should have a connection to the headlines.” In the past year, Green Arrow has explored stories resembling Black Lives Matter and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Although those headlines arose towards the tail end of Obama, the events of the past ten months are guaranteed to show up in the coming future of Green Arrow.
“Anything that pops up in social media, in newspapers, the editors and artists and I will all go back and forth and find ways to channel it into the series.”
While superheroes by definition fight injustice, the Green Arrow’s heart has always been bleeding the most. Billionaire by day and vigilante by night, Oliver Queen was a key figure during the comic book Bronze Age, when his voice always more pointed than Batman or Superman. In the 1970s, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams shaped the Green Arrow’s socialism in an era-defining run that took on racism, classicism, drug addiction, and other struggles that plagued minorities and poor people. It’s also a run Percy homaged in his recent summer storyline, “Hard-Traveling Hero.”
“I was harkening back to that classic Green Arrow storyline, from the Dennis O’Neill/Neal Adams era,” says Percy, who in 2016, seized a reset at DC, dubbed “Rebirth,” to remake Oliver Queen into a true representative for the oppressed. “He was a playboy socialite. Even when he decided to become Green Arrow, it was almost a hobbyist decision. As Black Canary pointed out, how can you fight the man if you are the man?”
So last year, Percy stripped away Oliver’s fortune, placing him in roughly the same tax bracket as the people he protects. “By humbling him, he was able to empathize with those he hoped to serve and protect.”
And in “Hard-Traveling Hero,” Percy sought to humble Oliver Queen even more. In the multi-issue arc, Percy placed Oliver into an ethical “gauntlet” against individual members of the Justice League. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, even The Flash all butted heads against the Green Arrow, an effort by Percy to re-cement the Emerald Archer’s principles. By doing so, Percy believes, the Green Arrow has once again earned his place in the DCU.
“[He] has redeemed himself in the eyes of the Justice League and is now an essential part of the DCU,” he says. “This was our plan from the very beginning, to get to that point. He would no longer be in the margins, but instead an essential part.”
“The thing about Ollie is he’ll make mistakes, and he’ll learn from them,” adds Percy. He’s grown from issue to issue. He doesn’t always make the right choice. It’s one of the reasons why I love writing him.”
The next issue of Green Arrow, #33, will be released on October 18.