Since the end of "Blackest Night," DC Comics has put Oliver Queen, the titular hero of "Green Arrow," through the wringer. From blowing up Queen's home city to the creation of the Star City Forest and city destruction attempt number two in "Brightest Day," no matter what's been thrown at him, Ollie has remained steadfast as Star City's protector. Now, in the final three issues before DC's line-wide September relaunch, writer James Patrick teams up with artist Agustin Padilla to bring readers a brand-new Oliver Queen adventure, complete with a maniacal Reverend and fighters in battle-armor.
Patrick, best known as the writer of Silent Devil's "Death Comes to Dillinger" and last year's "Joker's Asylum: Harley Quinn" one-shot, spoke to CBR about his plans for the Emerald Archer and how he went about tackling the DCU's resident bowman.
CBR News: Let's start with the basics. At this point, all we know about your run is what we've seen in the solictations. Essentially, Green Arrow is fighting guys in battle suits, so -- what is your story about?
James Patrick: It's about Green Arrow fighting guys in battle suits (I said that dryly, in case it was lost in print).
The first thing I knew I wanted to do was bring Green Arrow back to a story that could happen in our world in some way. Yeah, he's in the DCU; sure there can be larger-than-life subplots or the antagonists can use battle suits (and I'll hit more on that in a minute), but I want to read -- and therefore [wrote] -- Green Arrow planted in situations and against villains who could exist. It goes back to those classic issues where the book reflected what was going on in the world, and that's what I tried to do. For this story I asked, "Who is a villain for Green Arrow, today? Who is the other side of the coin that's half Ollie? And who scares the shit out of me?" I came up with some answers and made a composite: there are those people at Westboro Baptist Church, there are homegrown terrorists and fanatics -- and there's that woman in the Geico commercials. With the exception of the latter, how do these people fit into the DCU? What would happen if they had tech that was in the DCU? Not superpowers, but tech, which seems more in line with "Green Arrow." And then I went from there.
The other part of it was to take Ollie out of the Forest and give him a base -- as in a cast and setting, not G.I. Joe Terror Drome -- that I felt was a good fit for him. I'm not going to ruin what that is [or] who he's running around with for these issues, but it made sense to me, at least tonally.
Since you mention it, will the Star City Forest factor into your story at all?
It doesn't. You'll see it for one page in the first issue of my run, and then not again. It felt like he needed out of the forest. It's just full of mosquitoes and deer poop and evil-spirit-dead-father things; there's really nowhere to go to the bathroom, and leaves are so abrasive. I think putting him there for "Brightest Day" was great, but now he's gone. A raccoon now lives in the tree house!
Touching on other big events in the DCU, a lot of series are wrapping up their ongoing story arcs in their last couple of issues before September. Does your story wrap up the ongoing "Green Arrow" series? Or will that be wrapped in #13, and your story is more of a stand-alone issue?
The first thing I should do is clear up that issue #13 is my first issue. There was a change in the solicits, but I don't think anyone reads those updates except retailers. It's funny, because everyone thinks I'm doing #14 and #15, but I have three issues starting with #13. I imagine on the day it comes out, some people are going to open the book expecting [writer] JT Krul and the story that the solicits tease, and then they're going to get hit with mine! I know there were a lot of people hoping that certain things would be approached, like reactions by his supporting cast, but that's not going to happen in my issues. And people who want to see those characters will blame me and be calling for my head. To those people I say, "Ha ha, I got to write three issues of 'Green Arrow' and you didn't!" That should make them not hate me! I think what's happening in September may kind of trump all of that, though.
Then let's talk about September from your perspective. How does it work as a writer coming on to write the last issues of a comic right before a major reboot? Did you know about the changes ahead of time?
No, I didn't know about the changes in the beginning. All I know is that it's just one of those things that, no matter why I'm getting the assignment, I'm just pumped to get the chance. It worked like any other assignment wherein someone thought I could do a good job on a book and I was hired. Though, honestly, maybe later when September was revealed, the paranoid side of me thought the reasons for me getting the gig weren't so much, "This guy is great," but more, "It doesn't matter if he messes it up!" But again, I don't care what the reasons were. It's humorous to read things that said I was left out of the relaunch when my perspective is, I got to write three issues of "Green Arrow!"
Going back your issues, who is Reverend Billy Miggs? Is he a brand new character?
Yeah, he's new. He likes puppies and rainbows and killing people who don't share his beliefs. He's the guy that takes that next step, whose tactics overshadow his beliefs. He's the guy who would take Islam or Christianity or the DMV handbook and use it as an excuse to kill. He's also the guy that can convince certain people that he's right, even if he's a lunatic.
Will Speedy, Roy or any of the other Green Arrow supporting characters be involved?
No, and I didn't even ask. I would absolutely write Roy and Mia and Dinah in some capacity if I ever get this opportunity again, but there was just too much to deal properly with any of those characters in such a short amount of time and space. I mean, Roy has more baggage than a 747; he's in "Titans," and I don't want to touch him unless it's something substantial. What was important to me, under the circumstances, was establishing my tone and my take on Ollie.
Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to tackle everything I could with those characters -- and I certainly have an Eddie Fyers story! I know exactly what I would want to do with them, but this wasn't the time.
Now, the solicits tell us we've got Green Arrow fighting with wood against metal. How does a guy who fights with arrows take on mech-suits?
I gave him mech-repellent arrows!
I guess the truth is, he gets some help and some tech from someone who makes sense, someone who fits into his corner of the DCU. That was another blast, applying some real-world technology to those arrows, while not going overboard. And there was a reason I put the villains in mechs. I love when Ollie fights drug dealers -- I love the street level element of the book -- but at the same time, I think you need that genre element. He's a member of the Justice League, so if I'm working with real-world villains, I still want them to be a worthy opponent, whether it's their mind, their skills or in this case, their tech.
Along those lines, Green Arrow is a character that has been tinkered with, killed, resurrected and retooled many times in recent years. How do you go about making a guy who is essentially a superhero Robin Hood relevant as a modern crime fighter?
Again, by giving him relevant situations and a relevant antagonist. That's where it grew from -- mining the idea that my favorite stories fit into that, and getting the character right with whatever happened before.
How would you, as a writer, define modern Green Arrow?
If you mean in general, in some philosophical sense as in his place with modern storytelling, go ask Grant Morrison! But as a person and character, he is -- acutely, in this story -- a composite of all the things he was before, and reacting to what's happened in his life recently. Just like all of us.
In terms of his character in general, he's been so defined by such great talent that I simply looked into the nooks and crannies [of] who he is already and what hasn't been touched, and work in my take on him. So many people did such great work before me that all I have to do is not mess it up and make sure his voice is right. I look at those previous versions as someone who was a different person at different times in his life -- like we all are. I've gone through periods where I'm generous, where I'm an asshole, where I'm this or that. Well, Ollie's been different people at different times while maintaining certain foundations of his character. And like any character, at this moment he's a reaction of what he was recently. Ollie killed a man. I don't ignore that. I treat it like it's a part of him he doesn't like, and because of that, he acts differently in those situations, now. Matter of fact, I use that to throw him in a situation where someone expects something out of him, but it isn't who he is, or who he is now. I try to create conflict out of it.
Finally, what about Oliver Queen appeals to you as a writer?
He's complicated. He'll punch you in the face and regret every second of it. He doesn't have powers but [he has] skills, and whereas Batman uses logic and tactics, Ollie relies more on emotion and impulse. He messes things up on a regular basis, but he does it because he thinks he's doing the right thing at the time -- or because he can't stop himself. Killing a person has put him in a pretty sober state in my story, but in the next story, because he's been trying to behave, he might do something stupid again. Like pay full price for auto insurance!
"Green Arrow" #13 is in stores now