With DC Comics now hyping their forthcoming series Green Arrow: Year One, it’s time to take one last look at Jack Kirby’s stint with the character in the late 1950s. Fittingly, let us peruse the final story Kirby provided before seeking his fortunes elsewhere: his own version of Green Arrow’s origin story, published in Adventure Comics #256 (January 1959). This offbeat tale is aptly titled “The Green Arrow’s First Case.”
The story opens with our heroes relaxing at home. Speedy is parked in front of their big yellow TV set, while Green Arrow is enjoying his pipe. Suddenly, a news bulletin throws the adventurous archer for a loop!
Green Arrow makes a startling announcement to his junior partner -- if they don’t head off the expedition, his secret identity will be discovered! They immediately take to the sky in the Arrowplane, darting over the city’s Kirbyesque harbor.
En route to the island, Green Arrow relates his astonishing origin story. Years ago, when he was merely Oliver Queen, millionaire playboy, he was on a voyage to the South Seas when he accidentally fell overboard. (Presumably, he’d had too much to drink, but is too embarrassed to admit it.) Through the remainder of the night, he drifted on the open ocean. Then, come morning, he spotted an island nearby and swam for it. Finally reaching shore, he collapsed in exhaustion and slept. Upon awakening several hours later, he saw that dangerous shoals surrounding the island made a rescue unlikely. Like a modern-day Robinson Crusoe (actually more like Tom Hanks in Cast Away), he was marooned on an uninhabited island. Unbowed, however, he set about seeing to his survival.
(It looks like he shared Bruce Banner’s tailor in those days, what with the purple pants. Anyway...) For some reason, Oliver decided to try catching fish with a bow and arrow instead of a fishing pole. And so, after fashioning a crude archery set, he began training himself in the skills he would need to catch some food. However, he soon discovered the one flaw in his plan.
Thus Oliver began to devise the first of his famous trick arrows, inventing the rope arrow, the net arrow, and even a clever drill arrow, powered by the elastic from his socks!
(Man, he looks like Steve Rogers! It’s freaky.) Using the drill arrow -- with a rope attached -- he managed to snag some delicious coconuts for his supper. Over time, Oliver sought to expand his menu with some real meat. Thus, he created a distinctive outfit from the foliage in order to camouflage himself. Incredible!
Most importantly, however (to the plot, at least), Oliver also kept a journal of his experiences by carving his words into the wall of a cavern, using a primitive hammer and chisel. Little suspecting what fate had in store for him, he recorded his name, the date of his arrival, and all about the development of his bow and arrows and his green costume. Finally, one evening, he was overjoyed to see a commercial freighter anchored not far offshore! He immediately swam for the ship, and for some reason, he took his archery set with him. Good thing, too, for upon reaching the boat, he found there had been a mutiny on board. Realizing he had to defeat the criminals in order to secure safe passage home, he smeared anchor grease around his eyes, “so the deck lights wouldn’t reflect against the whiteness of my face.” His trick arrows made short work of the mutineers, and thus the crimebusting Green Arrow was born!
At this point, the flashback ends as the Arrowplane descends on the island. Speedy understands that if the expedition discovers the cavern, Oliver’s cover will be blown and his secrets revealed. The battling bowmen race to head off the explorers, but arrive too late to stop them! Fortunately, Green Arrow has a sudden brainstorm!
As luck would have it, Green Arrow’s quiver holds his “fake-uranium arrow!” (Yes, that’s right, the ever-useful fake-uranium arrow! Never leave home without it!) He fires it into the ground near the cavern entrance, where it “gives off waves that simulate uranium deposits!” And…
The ploy is successful and the expedition leaves the island without exploring any further. Green Arrow and Speedy breathe a sigh of relief.
Strangely, though, as this panel makes clear, a pair of sunglasses would surely hide Ollie’s identity better than that pencil-thin mask. How Green Arrow has ever maintained a secret identity is inexplicable, and the problem became even more pronounced after he grew his very distinctive chin whiskers in 1969. How many men go around sporting a thick blond Van Dyck beard? It makes Superman’s Clark Kent disguise almost seem convincing by comparison.
Although Jack Kirby left “Green Arrow” and DC Comics after this issue, the feature continued under the hand of veteran artist Lee Elias. However, this origin story was more or less contradicted two issues later in the lead story “Superboy Meets the Young Green Arrow.” Well, Jack Kirby never got much respect at DC anyway. It was at Marvel where he would earn the title “the King of Comics.”