Since DC kicked off their two year Rebirth initiative in 2016, Green Arrow has been one of the most consistently great books. It was one of those titles where the shift in focus was immediately apparent, with Oliver Queen finally reunited with Dinah Lance, and Ben Percy putting Ollie’s actual social justice warrior instincts front and center in the title. With DC shuffling many of the creative teams across the line, they turned to a pair of writers who already had a lot of success with street level vigilantes: Julie and Shawna Benson.
The Bensons have just finished an acclaimed run on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, not a million miles away from the world of Oliver Queen and Green Arrow when you think about it. They’re not wasting any time introducing a new villain, the Citizen, who will be at odds with both Green Arrow and Oliver Queen. We sat down with them at SDCC to talk about where Citizen fits into Green Arrow’s world and more, before Green Arrow #43 arrives on August 1.
Den of Geek: Before we talk about Green Arrow, you just finished a pretty serious run on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.
Shawna Benson: We did, it’s done, and I think the final trade just came out, so here we are before our Comic-Con the last trade, and so we’re really proud of that run, you know. We’re excited because we keep hearing there was going to be a movie. We have nothing to do with the movie, but we’re excited there’s going to be one. Yeah, it was a really good chance for us to really get the whole gang together and have a serialized story that every issue mattered to the penultimates and the finale.
But after writing those characters for two years, you kind of have license to know what you would want to see in a movie. For example, what do you think makes a definitive Birds of Prey story?
Shawna: I think the team. I mean, I would like to see Huntress. I would like to see Canary. Obviously, I’d like to see Barbara as Batgirl or as Oracle. I’ve seen rumors, I don’t know who’s in it, who’s not in it, but I’d be happy with anyone. I heard rumors of Renee Montoya and Cassandra Cain.
And you’re about to start writing Green Arrow now.
Julie Benson: We just finished writing the first arc. The first arc is about this new villain we created called “the Citizen” and we wanted to find something for Oliver. For us, Oliver is so, I hate this term, “social justice warrior.” It’s such a dirty word.
Shawna: For some people.
Julie: For some people. For us, it’s like “yeah.” He’s so righteous in his indignation of criminals and so we wanted to find somebody who’s even more than that and so we created this character called “the Citizen” who is really going after the one percent, the sort of evil one percent. And the ones that get away with murder. Almost literally.
Shawna: And maybe not the evil one percent, which is the question. It’s sort of where his intentions may seem positive in a vigilante kind of framework, there’s some question about his methods and about his view of justice as opposed to what we would consider to be justice in a regular society.
Julie: So the fun of course is who’s somebody with a lot of money in Seattle that would probably be a one percenter that this guy would go after? Oliver Queen. And so, having him have to deal with the situation on both fronts, we wanted to squeeze him in the middle.
Shawna: Citizen thinks that Green Arrow is an ineffective vigilante and he also hates Oliver Queen, so you’re getting the public of Seattle citizens kind of crushing Ollie from both sides. Both as his alter ego and as his normal persona.
Was there a take on Green Arrow that influenced you?
Shawna: We’ve written Ollie in a few issues of Birds of Prey and he’s always kind of been a little bit of comedic fodder for us because he’s an interesting character to throw into the mix with our ladies. So, going into this, it was really important to go into the research. We read as much Green Arrow as we possible could get our hands on. I think for us, influential runs included Jeff Lemire, Judd Winnick, and Denny O’Neil. Kevin Smith was interesting, there was a comedic sensibility there that I think is very interesting. Brad Meltzer’s Archer’s Quest was very influential for us. And of course, what Ben Percy was already doing, because he was doing amazing work on Green Arrow.
We boiled it down to its essence. Who is Oliver Queen? What is his purpose? His raison d’etre? What is his motive in life? Which is, he is someone who feels for the ninety-nine percent. He feels for the people and he wants to act on their behalf. But there is a dichotomy, a contradiction of him, which is that he is part of that one percent and how do you reconcile that?
Julie: We really loved the old school style of comics where you see Roy doing heroin for the first time. Like these books were so socially timely and motivated and it’s just like hearing people today like “these books are too political and too socially active” and all of a sudden saying “Guys did you read the old stuff? Like it’s insane, it’s so good.” Everything is so good. Ben Percy just gave us this gift of like “here, I’ve reunited Canary and Olie and here’s Kate Spencer”. I mean, we were so excited to maybe get the Kate Spencer arc in there. And it’s fun to write a dude cause we just wrote twenty some-odd issues of a girl team.
Shawna: It’s a similar area. We’re dealing with street justice as opposed to big superhero powers. They’re the people that have incredible skillsets but they aren’t necessarily meta powered. They’re not Superman, they’re not even Batman. There’s something there that is a little more down-to-earth and relatable to these. And I think that’s why people like Oliver Queen and they like Green Arrow.
Green Arrow #43 kicks of the Julie and Shawna Benson era of the title, with art by Javi Fernandez, with covers by Alex Maleev (and variants by Kaare Andrews) on August 1.
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