Four Color Television - Arrow: Comics vs. Show Comparisons

For the next few weeks our Four Color Television articles will strive to answer a very specific question: “Just how much like the Comic Books characters are the DC CW Characters?”  This week we’re going to start with what may just be the shortest Four Color TV article yet:  How much is Arrow like Green Arrow?

Arrow bares only a passing resemblance to Green Arrow.  Asked and answered, roll credits and I’ll see you all next week.

Okay, so I can’t actually get away with that one.  Fine.


trick arrows .jpg

Let’s start at the top and look at the similarities between The CW’s Oliver Queen and DC Comics’ Oliver Queen.  Both characters are the surviving children of Robert and Moira Queen, and both find themselves trapped on an island where they must drastically improve their archery skills in order to survive.  Both Oliver’s return to their home city and spend their dead parent’s fortune launching a vigilante crusade that will see them throw on a green hood and patrol the streets as a costumed archer.  These few surface similarities are there because they are largely structural and can’t possibly be removed, but the underpinnings of the two Oliver’s are very different.  For the purposes of this conversation we’ll call the live action version played by Stephen Amell Oliver and the four color counterpart we will call Ollie.  Oliver was a spoiled rich kid who set out on a boat with his dad and got stranded for five years on the shittiest island vacation in the history of the world.  Before committing suicide Robert Queen set Oliver on a quest to make Starling City a better place and delivered to his son a list of all the terrible people who had harmed the city.  Oliver returned to Starling City and his surviving family with the secret mission to start eliminating all of the people on his father’s list.  Ollie lost his parents when he was younger and was already an industrialist playboy who didn’t take his life seriously when a boating accident left him stranded on a far less terrible island without food or shelter; over the few months he was there he honed his already fairly impressive archery skills and learned the self-reliance he had lacked in his capricious life.  Ollie returned to Star City thinking that he could use his abilities to fight crime in his hometown and immediately set out designing a series of non-lethal trick arrows*.  Oliver is a brooding and serious man who is more at home in his cave doing the Salmon Ladder, while Ollie is a fun-loving goofball who would just as soon invite everyone over for a steaming bowl of chili.  Oliver is more focused on the night to night struggle of stopping crime, while Ollie is much more focused on being a social justice activist.  I don’t think a fan of the tv series Arrow can imagine Oliver taking a road trip with Barry Allen to discover the “Real America” but Ollie took that same trip with Green Lantern Hal Jordan not once but twice.

Tonally they are different characters with different temperaments, sharing only bedrock similarities that are a part of both of their origins. From another perspective they’re more alike than any of those details would lead you to believe.  

When The Green Arrow was created in 1955 he was very much built as a Batman analog; he had a tragic backstory where his family died (mauled by Lion, I shit you not) leaving him the sole heir of a massive fortune that he could turn to fighting crime; he had an Arrow Cave, an Arrow Car, and a quiver full of trick arrows that rivaled Batman’s utility belt; he had a teen ward in pixie boots who served as his sidekick; he had a recurring Rogues Gallery not unlike the Batman Rogues. In short, the 1955 version of Oliver Queen was the alternative version of Batman that you could use to tell similar stories to those you would expect to see from The Caped Crusader.  When Arrow was developed in 2012 he was also built as a Batman analog, but he wasn’t so much created to reflect the classic 50’s version of the character but the modern incarnation.  He retained the tragic backstory but it became more personalized and served to launch the character’s anti-crime crusade; he was given extensive training by various martial artists and ultimately The League of Assassins under the tutelage of Ra’s al Ghul; he was given a team of compatriots who are inspired by Oliver’s crusade to fight side by side with him.  Just as Green Arrows served as a way to tell stories similar to Batman stories, Arrow serves as a way to do a Batman television series without having to license the use of DC’s more recognizable character.  In this regard, these characters fill the exact same role in their respective storytelling universes.


Colton Haynes joined Team Arrow as Roy Harper, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who saw his neighborhood going to hell and decided to try to work with The Hood to make things better.  He briefly serves as a kind of street level informant for The Hood before getting injected with a super soldier serum known as Mirakuru.  The Hood takes Roy and trains him how to use his super strength and how to use a bow, and eventually Roy takes the name Arsenal.  Almost none of that is what happens in the comic book origin of Roy Harper.  Roy Harper Jr. never knew his mother and was the son of a Park Ranger who raised him in the woods near an Indian reservation.  Roy was good at living off the land but when his father was killed and he found himself homeless it wasn’t long before he was taken in by a member of the nearby Indian tribe named Brave Bow who cared for the boy and taught him archery.  After the Green Arrow made his public debut, Harper followed his career with interest and even took to the streets to try to get Green Arrow’s attention.  Learning that Harper was even better with a bow than he was, Oliver told Roy his secret and made him his sidekick: Speedy.  The two worked together for years, Roy was one of the founding members of the Teen Titans until it all came crashing down around Roy’s ears.  Lonely and depressed Roy experimented with and became addicted to heroin which ended the partnership with Oliver and sent Roy off on his own where eventually he too took the name Arsenal.  The two Roy Harper’s lead very different lives and have very different attitudes toward Oliver Queen.  In Season Three when the police are closing in on discovering that The Hood is Oliver, Roy so admires Ollie and what he does that he sacrifices his own freedom so that Ollie can continue his crusade.  The comic book Roy Harper is considerably more estranged from Oliver and only continues their association grudgingly.



Dinah Drake Golden Age Black Canary 

Dinah Drake Golden Age Black Canary 

Dinah Drake 

Dinah Drake 

Laurel Lance 

Laurel Lance 

Sara Lance 

Sara Lance 

The fun, but likely confusing comparison, is going to be The Black Canary.  It may be confusing because we have had so many different versions of the character both in the comics and on the series.  In Season 2 of Arrow we are introduced to our first Black Canary in the form of Sara Lance who was trained by The League of Assassins and took on the mantel of the Black Canary to help Oliver Queen take down those who had failed Starling City.  She was an accomplished fighter and carried a handheld sonic device that disabled anyone around her.  After her death, but before her Lazarus Pit rebirth as The White Canary, her sister Laurel Lance was trained by boxer and former vigilante Ted Grant and got an upgrade to her sisters sonic device that allowed her to wear it around her neck on a choker when she took the mantle of The Black Canary.  After Laurel’s death Oliver found a metahuman named Dinah Drake who had powers that mimicked the sonic device Laurel used and recruited her to be the third woman to take on the mantle of The Black Canary which she remains as of this moment.  Over in the comics we have multiple Black Canaries as well, our first was Dinah Drake who was the Golden Age Black Canary and was a master of hand to hand combat who joined the Justice Society of America.  Her daughter Dinah Laurel Lance decided to carry on the family tradition and was trained by JSA member Ted Grant in hand to hand combat, but Dinah Lance was a metahuman with the power she called the Canary Cry which disabled anyone in range of her voice when she screamed.  An altogether third version in the New 52 comics continuity is a world famous musician named Dinah Drake who possesses the metahuman ability of the Canary Cry and keen fighting skills who takes on the mantel of The Black Canary when she joins a secret government agency called Team 7 where she meets her future husband Kurt Lance.  After being made to believe she is responsible for the death of her husband Dinah Drake Lance joins up with Batgirl to form The Birds of Prey and eventually meets Oliver Queen and they form a relationship.  Confused?  I’ve been reading about Black Canary and Green Arrow for almost 30 years and I’m not sure I have all of this straight, but I’ll summarize.  The original Dinah Drake was the original crime fighter Black Canary who passed on her mantle to her daughter Dinah Lance.  Dinah Lance married Oliver Queen and had the metahuman power.  Dinah Drake Lance is an alternate timeline version that blends the two into one, but she’s written exactly like the Dinah Lance version of the character and also is romantically linked to Oliver.  The Dinah Lance/Dinah Drake Lance version of the character bears the most similarity to the Dinah Drake version of Black Canary on the show.  And with that, I think we’ll move on to something far less confusing.



John Diggle was created specifically for Arrow, and was such a unique addition to the mythology that he was immediately adapted and brought into the comics continuity fulfilling an almost identical role in the life of comic book Oliver.  



Felicity Smoak is Team Arrow’s uber hacker extraordinaire.  If Oliver needs a security grid bypassed, or a nuclear missile diverted, she’s the girl he’ll call on time after time.  Her DC comics counterpart was a woman who owned a computer software firm that was almost ruined by the actions of the DC Hero Firestorm who accidentally magnetized and erased Ms. Smoak’s entire shipment of new product.  Ultimately Ms. Smoak fell in love with Firestorm's Dad and became his supportive step mother, proving of course that the comic Felicity and the show Felicity are absolutely nothing alike.  So who is Felicity like?  Barbara Gordon.

When Barbara Gordon was crippled by the Joker she couldn’t give up her role as a crime fighter so she became a master hacker and took on the role of information broker/hero support provider: Oracle.  Oracle served as the go to computer hacker for Batman, Nightwing, Robin, The Birds of Prey, even Superman – all of whom had ear pieces where they could receive instructions from Babs.  In Season Four, after filling the Oracle role for four years, Felicity is finally given her own codename: “Overwatch.”

Do you have questions about any of the other Arrow characters? Feel free to ask them in the comments below.

Next Week: What do you mean there’s a hero named Waverider, I thought that was the name of their ship? Legends of Tomorrow vs The Time Masters.


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