Forthcoming Essay: The CW's #Arrow, #DCComics, & Race

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A few months ago, on Twitter (that blessed place) I had just happened to come across a friends’ timeline announcing a Call For Papers to submit proposals for a forthcoming book by McFarland on the CW’s ARROW. I don’t think I have made it any secret my love affair for this show, the diversity of the characters, the progressive message, the realism that is now turning into a more fantastic storyline. The Call For Papers was post on the Facebook Page for the Horror Area of the Pop Culture Association/ American Culture Association. My proposal was accepted and is due the first week of next year. Here’s the premise:

Tenative Title: Robin Hood Wears A Hoodie: a comparison of representations of People of Color in CW’s Arrow, “Green Arrow: Year One,” and “Green Arrow: Hunter’s Moon”

From its very inception, the comic book genre and its mythology have had to deal with the issues of race and ethnicity. After World War II with the return of African American veterans wanting to fight for freedom here in the U.S., as well as Japanese-American families being released from internment camps, the Ku Klux Klan attempted to regain its once formidable power in local and national politics. The producers of The Adventures of Superman radio show were contacted by activist Stetson Kennedy who had investigated the KKK’s activities. The producers subsequently wrote a series of episodes where Superman fough the Clan of the Fiery Cross in 1946. Concerning the other half of DC Comics’ Worlds’ Finest duo, Batman, scholar Chris Gavaler argues that Batman’s probable origin can be found in shadow novels that inspired works like the film “Birth Of A Nation.” Comic book historians point to the Comics Code of the 1950’s which began the comic book industry’s withdrawal from politics. DC Comics once again began to address the issue of racial injustice by teaming up its out-of-this-world galactic guardian, Green Lantern with the grounded, fellow Justice Leaguer Green Arrow.

Given the rise in popularity of comic book movies and television shows, it is my intention to examine the ways that people of color are represented in the CW’s Arrow in comparison to two very important Green Arrow story arcs: Andy Diggle’s “Green Arrow: Year One” and Mike Grell’s “Green Arrow: Hunter Moon.” I am particularly interested in scrutinizing the narrative tropes of CW’s Arrow’s take on DC Comic villains Shado and China White, as well as the introduction of the character John Diggle, the first member Oliver Queen’s crusade for justice. With Fanonian lens, I will point out how the character arc of John Diggle both fits and makes significant departures from what Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks, called “the-brave-fellow-who-knows-how-to-obey.” I shall contend that while Diggle was originally introduced as a Magical Negro/the Black Friend, the arrivals of Floyd Lawton/Deadshot and Lyla Michaels/Harbinger have managed to alter Diggle’s character into someone more complex. These changes to Diggle’s character has been well received by DC Comics fans, so much so that he has been officially canonized during Jeff Lemire’s current run of the New 52 Green Arrow comic.

Next, I plan to look at the differences of people of color in two crucial Green Arrow stories, “Year One” and “Hunter’s Moon.” At issue in “Year One” besides China White who I have already mentioned, is Oliver’s relationship with Taiana and how his encounters with her transformed him from being an apathetic billionaire playboy into a social justice warrior. Lastly, I will give close attention to depictions of blackness in the final two books of “Hunters’ Moon,” looking closely at Dinah and Oliver’s friendship with Colin, as well as Green Arrow’s battle versus the WarHogs. My conclusion will involve practical implications for how Green Arrow stories can be used to facilitate race conversations.

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