Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Defending the Green Arrow Rogue Gallery

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When it comes to Green Arrow, it is quite a sad reality that most of the knowledge of the heroes’ rogue gallery comes from the CW series Arrow. While the show is considered a commercial success and it is sometimes pretty enjoyable; it is hardly a good medium for showing off what great villains the history of Green Arrow has to offer. Of course many of these villains have appeared in the show, yet they were either stripped to a whimsical reoccurring nuisance or their character was so completely altered that they bear no resemblance to their comic book counterpart. While I’ll go into that shortly it is definitely a crime that some of these characters were stripped of what made them great, further adding to the issue of first time series watchers who want to delve into the world of comics based on their favorite on screen heroes.

Another factor that equally overshadows the real variety of Green Arrows rogue gallery is Batman. Nearly since Oliver Queens’s inception, he has been constantly considered an equal to Bruce Wayne, but on different spectrum of the equation: the dark knight versus a green Robin Hood. Yet, it isn’t so much as the fact that these two characters are so similar that causes a huge advantage in popularity shifts over to Batman, it’s that his army of villains and rogues is just so much more vast and full of variety that it almost eclipses whatever Green Arrow has to offer. On top of that, if you go back to Arrow, you’ll see that they basically turned Oliver into Batman and even decided to take some of his villains. While Slade Wilson in season two is of course not an exclusive villain to any DC hero, Ra’s Al Ghul is certainly synonymous with Batman, and it was pretty weird to see him and his League of Assassins take center stage in the third season.

Anyway, back to my original point; Green Arrow needs more spotlight on his villains than any current medium is giving him. A lot of things can be said about the television adaptation, from its complete misrepresentation of classic Green Arrow villains, to the horrible bastardization of loved characters…I’m looking at you Laurel AND Sarah Lance. So the purpose of all these ramblings is that I’m going to talk about who I believe are the five best characters in Green Arrow’s rogue gallery and what makes them so.

5. Cupid

Spoiler alert, most of these entries have made an appearance on the CW DC universe at some point or another since they decided to at least tried to keep canonical arch villains in play; I use try very liberally.

Carrie Cutter, aka Cupid, was seen a few times in the Arrowverse and for the most part her origin is very similar. Her first appearance in the comics was during the Green Arrow/Black Canary run in 2009, which was a really fun series that we finally get to see our favorite comic OTP get hitched. Originally part of a secret military organization called Cobalt. Her superpower isn’t really so much as a result of the experiments performed on her but rather how it peaked her reality breaking perception of obsession. The show pulls this scene off pretty well as her obsession with the Green Arrow begins as he saves her from her husband in the books and one of Slade’s super soldiers in the series.

If I had to pick a single moment that put her on this list, it would be from said Green Arrow/ Black Canary book. In one storyline many of Green Arrow’s lower tier villains began to bite the dust with their deaths coming as a result of arrows. These victims, if they can be called that, are working for another great Green Arrow villain, Brick, who deduces her involvement. The story is riddled with great fights and we get to see just how truly weak her mental state is and why it makes her such a dangerous villain.

While her character archetype is more or less the same in Arrow, her obsession is never really brought to the full magnitude that it could be. Sure she does a lot of crazy things and gets herself into a mess full of trouble in the name of the love she holds for her savior but we never really get invested into her as criticism of the severe lack of mental health options available in the world. If you know Green Arrow comics, you know that social criticisms are a staple of the hero.

4. China White

Another victim of horrible rendering on television, though we can’t really blame the writers. Her appearance even in the comics is very minute when compared to my number five pick.

China White or Chien Na Wei only appeared so far in the Green Arrow Year One miniseries as a main antagonist in a sort of origin story for Oliver, but not really. For many years she controlled the west coast and pacific heroin trade from across the ocean and was secretly being funded by Oliver and Queen Industries without actually being aware of it. Typical rich boy spending money into something he’s completely oblivious to. When he decides to play good guy and actually present himself to these dealings, he’s beaten and left for dead by being thrown overboard on his boat….this wouldn’t be the last time this happens.

With so little actual time given to China White to have her character actually developed you must be asking why I included her in this list. Potential is the word I’m looking for. With what little we see of her we can’t help but be frightened by her completely ruthlessness and her total disregard for human life. She treats her own men as horribly as she would her enemies. Though she is perfectly capable in combat to take on Oliver she prefers to let others do her dirty work. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree either with her character representation in Arrow. Though they reduce her to being a high level lackey for the Triads, they at least keep her personality somewhat the same as she’s often seen letting Bronze Tiger or Deadshot take the lead. Hopefully we’ll see more of her as Green Arrow Rebirth gets further and better into its storyline.

3. Count Vertigo

…A drug dealer…really? A drug dealer?! I’m sorry maybe I overreacted a bit, but did the CW really reduce one of the more powerful and most well-known of Green Arrow’s foes to a damned drug dealer? I really don’t think I need to keep hitting that wall. This was probably one of the biggest crimes the show has dealt us, reducing such a staple villain of the Green Arrow series into what little was given to us in the series.

Count Vertigo or Werner Vertigo, was originally a Green Arrow Villain but later in the years he moved from one series to another such as his time with the Suicide Squad. His family originally hailed from the fictional country of Vlatava where they fled to England after World War 2. Werner was afflicted with an ear condition that caused his balance to be thrown off but was given a small electronic device to ease it. Instead Werner tweaked the device to throw this affect upon others causing them what we call Vertigo and used this to start his life of crime. In his New 52 variation his name is changed to Werner Zytle and he used his ties with crime to take back his homeland of Vlatava.

While they did bring in his name to the Arrowverse, nothing made could possibly add up to how powerful and insane he really is. For me his career reached its zenith in the New 52 during the Killing Machine arc. While Ollie and Shado were fighting on the same side, Vertigo in hand kidnapped her but it didn’t last too long with the combined team of herself and Green Arrow. Vertigo ended up following them back to Seattle which gave us a lot of insight into his character, especially when he decided to murder his own mother while there. No spoilers here but what ensues after is a deadly battle causing countless death and destruction with a really great end. The New 52 surprisingly treated Green Arrow pretty well, as did it his villains. For those looking for a really good read the entire run was pretty great.

2. The Ninth Circle

There is literally just one tiny reason that this crime and terrorism funding group from the amazing series that is Green Arrow Rebirth didn’t take the number one spot on this list, and that is because they’ve only been around for the past year. So far they have encompassed the entire run and there are no complaints from me here; as an entity as a whole the Ninth Circle is definitely one of the most intelligent, well thought and written, and overall just the most devious of crime organizations ever seen in DC. I’ll probably get shit for this, but if you’ve read some of my stuff you’ll know I can’t stand the Court of Owls. For me, the Ninth Circle is a much better written court with a far more interesting goal and way of conducting themselves. Seriously, the owls suck and this just proves that we shouldn’t always put Bruce and Oliver together in terms of quality bad guys.

Moving on… The Ninth Circle starts off as a Shadow organization that is discovered kidnapping the less fortunate and under privileged people of Seattle’s Pennytown district. Taking things from the New 52 lore, Black Canary and Oliver are only meeting for the first time as they both discover who is behind this kidnapping. From there on the Ninth Circle becomes the major player in the Green Arrow rebirth plot as they systematically work to not only bring down Oliver Queen and Seattle as a whole. Here’s where the story gets amazing, they actually succeeded in destroying Oliver Queen. Betrayed by his friend and CEO of Queen Industries, Cyrus Broderick, Oliver Queen is drugged, framed for murder and left for dead. This is all in the name of destroying his image so that Cyrus and Ninth Circle could not only take over his family’s company, but work to cripple the very infrastructure of Seattle. Also if you though they weren’t creepy enough, all their members are horribly burnt to the point that they are not recognizable…yeah.

Throughout the series the Ninth Circle stood behind the scenes while they chipped away at Seattle while Oliver worked full time as Green Arrow, letting himself thought dead. From ex-Police charged with brutality to human trafficking, the political aspect of the Green Arrow series kept suit with the social-political criticisms of the day but from this came the Ninth Circle’s greatest achievement. Employing a tag team of some pretty famous DC villains such as Cheshire and Brick the Ninth Circle moves to a final attack to destroy Seattle’s image and give way to the rise of Star City. This arc saw not only a plethora of villains but also pitted them up against the best of team arrow including, Black Canary, Arsenal, and Emiko. The tragic but fantastic ending shows just how fragile even the strongest of symbols can be and how hard it hits when such a strong hero is broken.

If you haven’t read the rebirth series yet, do it now. I promise you’ll love it.

1. Arthur King (Merlyn)

Let us be completely honest, who else did you think was going to take the number one spot for this? As far as arch enemies go, every hero has one. Batman has Joker, Flash has Reverse Flash, and Superman has Lex Luthor. Oliver Queen has Merlyn who also goes by Merlyn the Magician or the Dark Archer. As for the series, Malcolm Merlyn was actually perfectly cast and pretty well-represented in the first season. His origin was really murky and inconsistent and he lost his luster after the first season when Barrowman got all creepy and what not with Thea. But besides that point, the comic book Malcolm is extremely intelligent, deadly skilled and incredibly patient. More often than not he bests Oliver Queen in contests of archery but is so unpredictable that this doesn’t always end in heavy losses, though sometimes it does.

In the comics Oliver Queen actually looks up to the man known as the Magician as a child, taking up archery to be like his hero. When Oliver finally donned his identity as the Green Arrow, Merlyn challenged him to a contest in which he beat Oliver and then disappeared. Not long after that he joined the league of assassins where he finally made his criminal debut as he tried to assassinate Batman but was thwarted by Green Arrow. This moment established them as equals in archery and so started the rivalry. Unable to rejoin the league due to his failure, Merlyn became a freelance mercenary and assassin. From then on he became more than just a Green Arrow villains and shot arrows through Action Comics, JLA, and even back into the league of assassins. In the New 52, the Merlyn mantle was passed over to Arthur King’s son, Tommy Merlyn. While not as notable as his father, Arthur returns to his Merlyn identity in Green Arrow rebirth as a member of the league of assassins paid by the Ninth Circle to help tarnish the Green Arrows reputation by killing off a Sheriff with an arrow stolen from Oliver’s quiver.

There are way too many moments to consider as the best with Merlyn, from his training of Cassandra Cain and Damien Wayne, to his abduction by Cupid and even his original assassination attempt on Batman. He doesn’t always embody the opposite of what Green Arrow stands for but he’s so often on the opposite end of the fight that it’s hard not to see these two as arch enemies. He’s been away a long time and really hope Rebirth shows us a lot more now that Tommy is no longer holding the mantle.


These are just my picks. If you disagree or feel like I left someone out who should be there, please let me know in the comments!


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