Comic: "Green Lantern Green Arrow 85-86"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Denny O'neil, Neal Adams
Artist: Neal Adams

Reviewer: Max Burbank
Posted: 3/24/2008

Plot: While trying to crack a drug ring, Green Arrow is ironically shot with a crossbow. The plot thickens when the arrow turns out to be one of his own. GA + GL track the arrow back to a gang of teen age smack addicts, one of whom is Roy Harper, A.K.A. Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick. Surely he’s working undercover, right? Well, not so much. While Roy goes cold turkey, assisted by a sympathetic Black Canary, the Green Heroes dig deeper and find the real villain is the CEO of a drug company who’s been boosting already grotesque profits by dumping inferior products into the street market.

Review: Shortly before the 2-issue story arc “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” hit the stands, Marvel had published an issue of Spider-Man touching on drug addiction. The comics code said no way, Marvel watered it down significantly, the code still wouldn’t budge and Marvel had the balls to go to press without the code sticker. Buyers barely noticed. DC took The Adams O’Neil classic (written at the same time as the Spider-Man story, but published a little later) to the Code and along with Marvel negotiated a loosening of the rules. DC’s version is WAY more explicit, with drug addiction being absolutely central to the plot and featuring a well-known, established hero as the addict. Marvel may have beaten DC to the punch on dealing with drug addiction, but “Snowbirds” is a classic and rightly regarded as a fundamental cornerstone in the evolution of ‘mature comics’.

Thirty-seven years later, the dialogue suffers a little. Well, actually, a lot. There are lines that could have been written by Jack Webb for “Dragnet”. The plot, however, is still revolutionary. All the young junkies are seen as victims of the drug trade, and dealt with as individuals. An entire page is devoted to Speedy’s miserable cold turkey withdrawal, and a good deal of time is devoted to explaining how he became an addict. The impact is only increased by the way Adam’s (the reigning realist of the time) remarkable pencils dwell on the players’ faces. For comics of this period to look at the emotional lives of their Super characters was in its infancy. To take a side kick, a strata of character that had practically never risen above stereotype and use panel after panel usually reserved for guys in tights hitting each other to discuss failed parenting, loneliness and the massive distrust between adults and teens was remarkable.

It’s pretty funny to look at the cover now, especially the tremble lines around the unmasked “Speedy”, and really they should have had him addicted to barbiturates considering his name. All (okay, most) of the humor and irony are a product of the years that have passed. When this issue made the stands, nothing about it came across as camp. The Mayor of New York wrote a letter praising it and it went on to win several awards.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

The Goddamned Batman
Mar 24th, 2008, 06:28 PM
You know, I still haven't read this famous story arc myself, despite having become quite a Green Arrow fan thanks to the relaunch (before Judd Winnick took over and turned it into a giant suckfest).
Mar 24th, 2008, 09:09 PM
I've been meaning to read up on Green Lantern and Green Arrow run. I hope there are a few trades out there.
Forum Chaos Lord
Mar 24th, 2008, 10:50 PM
I remember reading a copy of this years ago online. It may be dated, but it's truly an amazing work.
The Magnificent Bastard
Mar 24th, 2008, 10:57 PM
WOW! So, this is where American comics started to "grow-up".

This story sound very cool, and I wonder if DC publishes any paperback collections that might contain this groundbreaking story.
Forum Virgin
Mar 25th, 2008, 03:52 PM
Seems really cool and groundbreaking. I need to check it out sometime.
Amicable Herculean
Mar 26th, 2008, 12:00 AM
anyone knows where I can find this online? Or is there a TPB copy of this?
Fookin' up planets!
Mar 26th, 2008, 01:57 AM
This comic made me want to be a smack addict.
The Moxie Nerve Food Tonic
Mar 26th, 2008, 09:37 AM
There are multiple trade papers that have it, although I don't really know which ones are in print at the moment. The whole Adams/Oneil run on GA/GL has been collected probably more than any other series. If you find one, do make sure what you're looking for is in there before you buy it, as the run has also been packaged a number of different ways, but honestly I don't think you can go wrong with this stuff if you're into the history of comics.

The only thing I'd warn you about is despite the fact the dialouge was groundbreaking at the time, it's pretty badly dated.
NRW NRW is offline
Forum Virgin
Mar 26th, 2008, 09:34 PM
I've recently gotten back into comics, and read this as part of my revival.

For those of you wondering, there are two TPBs collecting the adventures of Green lantern and Green Arrow, including this arc.

I gotta' say, no matter how cheesy the dialogue may be, the impact of the story is still there.
The Magnificent Bastard
Mar 27th, 2008, 01:57 AM
Great! I'll have to track them down (I've been interested in the whole O'Neil/Adams run on this series since Max Burbank's 2nd "hey Dork" column).

I don't mind cheesy dialogue either. Hell, I write comics myself, and while I like to think my plot-lines are great, I think my dialog is absolutely terrible (though I am working on changing that). So, I'm sure it's at least better than mine.