Speedy’s Not So Fabulous Life

Roy Harper’s has had some hard knocks in life for a four color comics character. Recently targeted by Prometheus, to prove both his bad assery and that his penis isn’t tiny, Harper’s right arm was literally mangled and amuputated and daughter Lian was killed by writer James Robinson as an excuse for transformative catalyst through great personal tragedy (or as proof that he can write poorly). The phrase “epic fail” comes to mind, but is that term so 2008 or what?

Decades before this in the real world, Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams made Roy into a heroin junkie, as I recall, out of jealousy of and lack of attention from pseudo daddy Oliver Queen who was heavily involved in a socially relevant On The Road a la Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy tour of America in the Green Lantern/ Green Arrow comic of the 70s. Thankfully, kind hearted Dinah came to his rescue during the bromantic adventures. And somewhere along the way wasn’t Roy ignored or rebuffed by Donna in Teen Titans?

Then there’s the time Roy was injured in an adventure with Green Arrow in a story from World’s Finest #112 (9/1960) titled The Spy in the Arrow Cave. See back then a lot of Batman had, Green Arrow copied: a secret cave hideout, a sleek for the times bright yellow Arrowcar, a quiver full of trick arrows instead of a utility belt, and of course the requisite kid sidekick. Though none come to mind, Green Arrow probably had his share of gaudy costumed villains, too. Such is not the case with the bad guy of this 6 pager, the escaped embezzler Flint Morgan wearing prison grays, accidentally stumbles across the entrance to the Arrow Cave and decides the secret lair makes a perfect place to escape the law. Green Arrow thinks there’s no ready solution and so relents. And you know that situation would have a completely different ending today.

Morgan spies a large map of Star City that’s marked with a patrol schedule on it. The convict doesn’t want to hurt Green Arrow but sees the map as an opportunity to make some cold cash as a retirement fund by selling it  cigar chomping, gang leader Mike Bancroft, who eagerly pays $10,000 for the map and puts it into quick use by staging a low level burglarly to distract the archers from a huge jewelry store heist. An arrow signal (see, another Batman rip off) alerts the duo to more trouble and their police radio gives the details. They speed off in the crime scene’s direction, only to be stopped by a drawbridge in use. But wait! The “Battling Bowmen” aren’t giving up! One button push propels them from the front seat across
the raised bridge section, and an off balanced Speedy breaks his leg! Noble, young Speedy urges his mentor to ignore him and go after the crooks, but even nobler Oliver holds the boy in his arms, determined to get to a hospital. The story wraps up
in another 9 panels in the typical nonsensical fashion DC Silver Age stories often did. Morgan literally is faced with the consequence of his actions, and throws himself in front of gunfire from Bancroft to save the heroes and make up for his own life of horrid crime by sacrificing his life.

Plus, Green Arrow really seems to like holding Speedy in his arms. Some readers may be tired and frustrated with the grim and grit of many of today’s comics, but there was also some real crap, sometimes charming crap, but still crap back in the Silver Age.

June 2, 2010
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