Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow

Author: Richard Gray

Publisher: Sequart Research & Literacy Organization (August 11, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1940589169

ISBN-13: 978-1940589169

Every time I review a new offering from the Sequart Research & Literacy Organization, I always feel obligated to provide a short introduction so potential readers unfamiliar with the publisher will learn this group is a top-notch contributor of scholarly looks into popular culture creations, especially comic book characters, like the X-Men, Daredevil, Batman, the Planet of the Apes, and now DC’s Green Arrow. It’s difficult to imagine how anyone could take these subjects more seriously than Sequart Research, especially their essay anthologies where they look at their specific topics through nearly every conceivable critical lens. 

This time around, Moving Target isn’t an anthology drawing from a variety of authors and scholars, but instead relies on the research and devotion of Richard Gray. He’s clearly the planet’s foremost expert on the Emerald Archer. “History and Evolution of The Green Arrow” is an accurate subtitle as the book traces the story of Oliver Queen and his altar ego from 1941 when Arrow was essentially an imitation Batman to the present.

Gray presents the various origin stories given in DC comics over the years and gives us insights from interviews with the creators of the Green Arrow mythos over the decades including comic legends Neal Adams, Mike Grell, Chuck Dixon, Phil Hester, and Brad Meltzer. As a result, we see the Green Arrow story told in the context of the changing worlds of comic books over the years, mainly at the two major publishers, DC and Marvel.

There are some points in the saga that get rather repetitive. For example, Gray continually reminds us that the Green Arrow, usually seen as primarily a secondary character in the DC pantheon of superheroes normaly relegated to supporting features with his name rarely on a book cover on its own, became the conscience of the Justice League of America. In particular, as a human without special powers, the very liberal Queen wanted the superpowered Superman and  Wonder Woman to see human, earth-bound problems to be just as worthy of their interest as much as galactic threats. Throughout his long association with Green Lantern, the Arrow again wanted the empowered Lantern to use some of his gifts to deal with contemporary issues like race, drugs, political corruption,  and social inequality as much as the desires of the galactic Guardians that had given him that ring of power. Likewise, the Arrow’s long relationship with the Black Canary was often an education in feminism for the characters and we readers. 

I’m certain we’ll ever again see an exploration of the Green Arrow as comprehensive and exhaustive as Richard Gray’s Moving Target. Clearly, any reader of the book will have to be an aficionado of that particular character, although diehard comics fans with no special interest in Oliver Queen might enjoy this trek into the realm of a character usually remembered for being the Everyman urban vigilante using trick arrows. Or fans of the TV series and its spin-offs may like insights into those series and reading the long comic book back-stories that preceeded the jump from comic panels to live action adventure.