Friday

Jack Kirby's Green Arrow

Years before launching the so-called ‘Marvel Age of Comics’ in the early 1960s, Jack Kirby served a stint at National Periodical Publications, better known as DC Comics, which was by far the predominant comics publisher of the time. In addition to a book of his own creation, Challengers of the Unknown, Kirby also contributed back-up stories starring Green Arrow for Adventure Comics.

As ever, Kirby’s distinctive dynamic style shines through in these short features, despite their late-‘50s vintage. In stylistic terms, they can be seen bridging the grotesqueries of his Golden Age output and the idiosyncratic stylization of his 1970s oeuvre.

But enough of the pontificating, let’s get to the pictures!

In Adventure Comics #251 (cover date August 1958), Jack Kirby presents “The Case of the Super-Arrows.” It is the anniversary of Green Arrow’s debut as a crimefighter, and he and his teen sidekick, Speedy, receive numerous gifts from various law-enforcement agencies and other well-wishers. Astonishingly, a cylinder materializes out of thin air, and a disembodied voice tells them it is a token of esteem from the world of 3000 A.D., in honor of “Justice Week.” The cylinder contains at least nine “super-arrows” made with the fantastic technology of the future.

(Apparently, though, Green Arrow misheard the voice and thought it said it was from 3,000 years in the future, i.e. 5000 A.D.)

While testing out the arrows, the heroes learn of a bank robbery in process and leap into Kirbyesque action.

Giving chase in the ‘Arrow-Mobile,’ Green Arrow uses one of the futuristic shafts to freeze the getaway car in its tracks. Even this simple image is somehow pure Kirby.

The bank robbers abandon their vehicle and reveal themselves as ‘Cougar’ Cain and his mob. They attempt to escape with the help of a smoke screen, which the heroes easily dissipate. However, Green Arrow clumsily drops one of the arrows of the future.

Helplessly mesmerized, Green Arrow and Speedy are lucky that ‘Cougar’ Cain decides to merely steal the futuristic weapons and not shoot the heroes in the head and be done with it. Thus, they come to their senses several minutes later, and realize they’ve goofed up big time.

Green Arrow cooks up a cunning plan, in which he relies on his own skill and an ancient arrow from the Battle of Hastings (!) to defeat Cain and the dreaded “paralysis arrow.” When the crooks attempt to hijack a “million dollar gold shipment,” they find the armored car contains Green Arrow and Speedy. Cain fires the paralysis arrow, but G.A. shoots it out of the sky with good old-fashioned marksmanship.

Finally, the heroes decide to stash the high-tech weapons in their secret HQ for safekeeping.


Note: The nine arrows of the future we see are as follows: cloud-seeding arrow, “sonar shaft” arrow, freezing arrow, vacuum arrow, hypnotic arrow, invisibility arrow, anti-gravity arrow, vibration arrow, and paralysis arrow.


Besides the obvious parallels to DC’s own Batman and Robin -- what with the millionaire hero and his teenaged “ward,” the Arrow-Cave and the distinctive Arrow-Mobile -- under Kirby’s hand the pair bear a striking resemblance to Kirby’s own WWII team of Captain America and Bucky. In fact, Oliver Queen is pretty much a dead-ringer for Steve Rogers. Only the details of their costumes and their crimebusting gimmicks differentiate the two teams. I guess Kirby knew a workable formula when he saw one.


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