Premiere in 2012, Arrow starred Stephen Amell as a troubled but noble and serious version of Oliver Queen whose Green Arrow identity is transformed from murderous vigilante to multiverse-savior hero. Over the years, Arrow went on to spawn an entire DC Universe with shows like the flash, super girl and Superman and Lois. Arrow has, without a doubt, had a huge impact on the superhero television landscape. However, it’s not the best live-action iteration of the character. This honor goes to Smallvilleit’s justin hartley.
Hartley’s Oliver Queen first came to Smallville in the show’s sixth season. Like the Oliver on Arrow, this one had a traumatic past and dark secrets. Unlike the other Oliver, he also had a mischievous charm and a sense of humor. It was these qualities that made him a believable, if short-lived love interest for Lois Lane and a compelling foil to the more serious Clark Kent. They also gave it a depth and roundness that the sinister, mission-first Oliver of Arrow was often missing.
At the start of the series, the creators of Arrow were candid that they were inspired by Christopher Nolan Black Knight trilogy. While these films are worthy sources, it resulted in a Green Arrow that seemed much closer to Batman than the Oliver Queen that appeared in the comics and animation. Queen of Amell was, like his comic book counterpart, shipwrecked on a remote island, but then he spent the next five years traveling the world, learning all the skills he would need to wage his war against crime and corruption in Starling City. Change Starling to Gotham, and it starts to look a lot like Bruce Wayne’s journey in batman begins.
Smallville, on the other hand, featured a green arrow that looked more like the character comic book readers have known for decades. He was brash and flirtatious, as evidenced by his first interaction with Lois Lane, and he was politically minded, actively fundraising for Senator Martha Kent. His origin also more closely followed the story that fans know from the comics. Rather than traveling to places like Hong Kong and Russia, this Oliver Queen became Green Arrow largely due to the skills he learned while trying to survive on an island on his own. It wasn’t until just before escaping and ultimately rescuing Tess Mercer that he encountered someone else.
Versions of Green Arrow that appeared on Smallville and Arrow are very similar in many ways. They both feel compelled to use their skills to make the world a better place, and they both even end up with nerdy, ironic, blond computer experts. It is where they diverge, however, that one outstrips the other. ArrowOliver Queen is a bold reimagining of what was, at the time, a 70-year-old character. It was more serious and violent than previous adaptations, and its existence spawned an entire Arrowverse. On the other hand, his almost constant brooding anger sometimes made him feel like a one-dimensional caricature of a sinister, gritty antihero.
Smallville allowed his Oliver Queen to be fully human. He often ruminated and was often angry, but he also joked around with his teammates and didn’t push everyone away in the blink of an eye. The creators of Smallville didn’t write that Oliver was just one thing. He was a supporting character on a show about young Clark Kent, but his multi-faceted personality gave him a wide range of story possibilities and allowed him to stand shoulder to shoulder with a future Superman.
As with any decades-old comic book character, Green Arrow defies easy definition. Different creators have written, drawn and interpreted it in multiple ways. There is no definitive version. However, one live-action Oliver Queen took the most interesting aspects of each of these interpretations and created a flawed but compelling character that could conceivably help inspire the world’s greatest hero. ArrowGreen Arrow is great, but Smallvilleit’s the best.
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