What better way to celebrate borg.com’s 100,000th site visit than share some news about one of our favorite superheroes? Hollywood writer Jason McClain alerted me to this news item, as it’s no secret I’m one of the biggest Green Arrow fans around. The news?
The CW Network has ordered a TV series pilot featuring Green Arrow that will, happily, not be related to the Smallville series’ spin on the character. The producer/writers tapped to create the pilot are Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, the two writers responsible for last year’s Green Lantern movie, and ex-writer for the Green Arrow/Black Canary comic book series, Andrew Kreisberg.
Kreisberg took over the comic book series after Judd Winick moved off the GA/BC title. He teamed with artist Mike Norton after Cliff Chiang left the series. I have read Kreisberg’s take on Green Arrow and Black Canary, and I liked it. Kreisberg wrote some good modern stories featuring the trio in both a lighthearted and action-packed way. He clearly knows the roots of these characters and their strong relationships with each other, and hopefully he can convey that into the script for the pilot and get it onto the small screen. He also once acknowledged that there is no other superhero team out there that is a married couple, that that IS Green Arrow’s story. Right on!
Here are some unsolicited recommendations for Kreisberg, Berlanti and Guggenheim to make the series get off the ground right:
(1) You might view your TV show as an ensemble show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. An ensemble genre work usually is better than a solo character-focused show (think about the failed series The Cape and why it didn’t work, for example) because although we all loved the title character of Buffy Summers, we loved supporting characters Willow and Xander even more. And like the best Batman stories, letting the lead hero take the back seat once in a while is a good thing. At the same time, I didn’t watch Smallville because Clark never donned the supersuit. Show Green Arrow in action with the bow once in a while, but just not in every scene.
(2) Take the best of the Green Arrow canon and it will easily translate to today. The “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline that put both Green Arrow and Green Lantern on the map and made us want to know more about these characters was a road trip across America. Something like the Winchester boys moving across country with every new episode in Supernatural. You might laugh, but On the Road with Charles Kuralt, the CBS segment where he took an off-the-beaten path tour of America, lasted decades for a reason. Viewers liked to see where he would go next. You’ll have an unlimited number of settings for your story, too, if you keep the team moving, assuming they let you work with all three characters.
The Kid, Etta, and Butch--archetype for Ollie, Dinah, and Hal
(3) Everyone likes a good “buddy picture.” I have mentioned before how the “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline reflected the 1969 world view, and 1969 entertainment. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came out in 1969 and was still in theaters when Denny O’Neil wrote the classic Green Arrow and Green Lantern crossover. Did some of the hit movie rub off on O’Neil? Who knows. If you pay attention, you’ll see that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a buddy picture with three buddies, almost a “love triangle,” including some brotherly love between Butch and Ross’s character Etta Place. That’s right, Katherine Ross’s role as the Kid’s girlfriend, and Butch’s pal, was as important to the film as each of the title characters. Black Canary/Dinah Lance could have that same crucial role in a TV series about Ollie and Hal.
(4) Even if Warner Brothers wants to keep Hal Jordan/Green Lantern out of the series, you must include Black Canary/Dinah Lance. Don’t botch this by pulling ideas from the Dinah Lance of the short-lived Birds of Prey series. It was good for what it was. But you want dark-haired Dinah that sports the blonde wig used to go incognito, not the stilted friend of Oracle. Green Arrow/Oliver Queen can go solo from time to time, but only when he can return to Dinah is he at his best.
(5) Stay away from the DC 52 Green Arrow storyline and the obvious idea of having Oliver participate in some form of anti-big business Occupy Wall Street movement. Sure, in real life, Ollie would be leading up the OWS marches, but I think most viewers don’t want a show about superheroes in current politics and as much as everyone hates greedy corporate America, more personal storylines will appeal to modern viewers. The current series Leverage does this very well. Think local. Don’t have Ollie take on all of the world’s problems, have him take on each human problem bit by bit, maybe town by town. It worked brilliantly for Adams and O’Neil.
Original Mike Norton art from a story under Kreisberg's turn as writer for Green Arrow/Black Canary
(6) Oliver Queen is not Bruce Wayne. He’s much more layered. Queen is not a billionaire. He lost all his money, and that allowed him to get interesting. Don’t even waste time on his backstory as billionaire as it will only emphasize his role as a one-time obvious Batman knockoff.
(7) Read up on your Mike Grell era of Green Arrow stories. Grell was an ex-government intelligence guy who ended up writing spy novels and comic books. He took the Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil Green Arrow and Black Canary and brought them into downtown Seattle and injected the backwoods survival skills and mixed it with street smarts. He made Ollie the Urban Warrior. This itself harkened back to the iconic Green Lantern Issue #76’s story whereby Green Arrow first takes on a greedy slumlord that Hal Jordan was unintentionally actually helping.
Personal sketch of Ollie and Dinah by Mike Grell
(8) We know from past interviews that Andrew Kreisberg likes the role of Green Arrow and Black Canary as Oliver and Dinah–husband and wife. Consider building on Mike Grell’s series, where they run the Sherwood Florist in Seattle by day. And what the heck, work in Mia and Connor if you can. And if you must update costumes, you gotta bring back Ollie’s goatee. As Mikel Janin proved with his excellent recent update to similarly costumed Zatanna, Dinah’s fishnets can be optional.
(9) The Flash TV series had a lot going for it. One was the age of the actor in the lead roll, John Wesley Shipp, former soap actor. He wasn’t 20-something. He was 35 and looked like he could be a superhero in real life. If you’re staying away from Smallville (a great move) then give us heroes who have had time to gain some wisdom, not some newbies who have no way of practically knowing all they would need to know in real life to get through their trials on the show (the TV series Bones is a big example of this glaring absurdity with its only-young cast that has knowledge you could only gain by being twice the age of the cast members). Look for actors in their 30s or or even early 40s.
(10) Suggested title? If you take any of the ideas above, how about Hard Traveling, Hard Traveling Hero, or Hard Traveling Heroes? Of course there are always other former storyline titles like Quiver.
I have no idea what limitations will be placed on Kreisberg & Co. as they work out the script for the TV series pilot. Maybe they have no intention of including Hal and Dinah, but if they can, it could be something new and different and very fun.
If you want to see Andrew Kreisberg’s stories while writing for Ollie and Dinah, you can buy compilations, including: Green Arrow/Black Canary: Enemies List, Green Arrow/Black Canary: Big Game, and Green Arrow/Black Canary: Five Stages.
And Andrew, if you need help with story ideas, drop me a line.