Friday, March 24, 2006

The Dumbest Man in the DCU

In the commentary to this post, Scipio makes an interesting claim.
Oh, no question about it.
The only people in the DCU dumber than Hal are his brothers.

Scipio is wrong. There is at least one other person in the DCU dumber than Hal Jordan.


Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow.

Take the Green Lantern/Green Arrow social commentary comic-book series by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, for example. This arguably defined both characters for the next 35 years, and it covered a lot of social ground in the meantime. One of the most famous stories, "Snowbirds Don't Fly" tackled drug abuse. It's set right after Hal and Ollie have gotten back from a road trip. This is the "Hard-Traveling Heroes" roadtrip, important because Oliver Queen (white male raised in upper class society) has been teaching Hal Jordan about the evils of racism, sexism, and classism. (Why yes, he does come off as an insensitive jerk even when he's right, how did you know?)

A reader who knows the characters understands that Hal can afford to take this trip. He lives alone, is a traveling salesman (who used to be a pilot, who used to be an insurance investigator...etc... Hal's jobs vary with his girlfriends, but that's another post entirely), has no one depending one him -- he can just pack up and leave. Ollie, on the other hand, has a young sidekick -- Roy Harper, also known as Speedy (and no, I have no idea why they named the archer kid Speedy and the superfast kid Kid Flash) -- that he up and leaves for this trip. The boy appears to be in his teens, and I see no evidence that he had any supervision whatsoever while Ollie was gone.

After the two adults get back, they run into Roy while investigating drugs and assume he's on the same track as them. He even rescues them after they've been knocked out and given drugs in an attempt to frame them.

The experience of being high leaves Hal asking why anyone would voluntarily undergo it. Roy gives him an eloquent, tear-jerking, and fucking transparent answer.

Now, most of us who've read DC comics know what he means already, so I may be wrong about how obvious it is. But I'd be willing to lay down my own hard-earned money that the majority of people who see that panel and have no knowledge whatsoever about the DC Universe other than the fact that the blonde bearded idiot and the redheaded kid have a hero-sidekick relationship will be able to know exactly what he's talking about.

But does Ollie?

In fact, he comes home and walks in on Roy in the act of shooting up and is absolutely shocked.

Does Hal? Well, it takes him a while, but he actually gets it.

The proof is in the panels, ladies and gentlemen. Green Lantern is seriously the smarter member of the team.


  1. heck, it's Ollie's fault Guy ended up...Guy, really. I'm gonna blog about that eventually.

  2. I actually think Parallax is Ollie's fault. Not because he tried to open Hal's mind and teach him about the world, but because he eroded Hal's self-confidence with endless comparisons to the Nazis.

  3. It also shows Hal's self control. I mean, if I had the most powerfull weapon in the universe and someone called me a nazi every 5 minutes, I'm not sure how long that person would be breathing.

    How annoying must that road trip have been?

    Hal: "I'll have a salad, please"

    Ollie: "There was another man who used to eat vegtables all the time. His name was HITLER. He was a cheap punk. "


    Hal: "Hi, Ollie. Come on in. I'm just sorting my socks."

    Ollie: "You think the black socks aren't good enough to go with the white socks? Oh Boy. There was another group of people who used to sort things by color. They were called the KLAN!"

    No wonder Hal gets hit on the head all of the time. If I was in a pick up truck for days at a time with Ollie, I too would look forward to the blissfull sleep of a concusion.

  4. I always held Ollie responsible for Parallax too. All those years of self-confidence gone in a panel or two...

    Jerk. Although I still like Ollie, for some reason I can't comprehend.

  5. Ollie's behavior when written by Brad Meltzer in particular makes him look like a complete tool. I like the character, but I wouldn't say he's been written well for the majority of his existence.

  6. I re-read "The Archer's Quest" a few weeks ago and thought the relationship between Ollie and Roy was pretty well done. Of course, it ends with Ollie realizing he needs to spend time with his biological son....

    Yeah, Roy's confession is pretty obvious, and has always been such to me. If I were inclined to defend Ollie, I might wonder if Roy was college-age (like Dick Grayson) at the time, and therefore more of a young adult. Still, the point is not Roy being old enough to make his own decisions, the point is his feeling neglected by Ollie.

    And yeah, Ollie as written by Denny O'Neil does sound like the Chewlie's Gum salesman from Clerks. (Oddly enough, I wasn't thinking of the Kevin Smith connection when I wrote that....)

  7. I still love that series and the Roy drug two-parter remains my fav comic book story.

    There's a difference between stupidity and denial. Ollie was and remains a master of denial.

  8. Shelly -- I find Ollie a lot more fun when it's a combination of the two. I do find Roy a hell of a lot more likeable after that story, though.

    I haven't finished reading the run yet. I'm hoping for more Nazi commentary from him. I badly want to see something like this exchange:

    "Do you know who else used pasteurized milk, Hal?"
    "*Sigh* The Nazis, Ollie?"
    "That's right, the Nazis!"

  9. He was called "Speedy" because his expertise was more in the rapidity of his shots than their pinpoint accuracy.

    That, and he ran track. Really.

  10. You pity Roy for being a superhumanly quick archer?

    You know who else did that? The Nazis.

    My verification word was "Slennda". Expect to see it as a brand of reduced-fat butter or something.

  11. G. Bob, if you had the most powerful weapon in the universe you'd use it to reheat Mighty Taco and cheat at poker.

    Ollie is a jerk, that's a fact. What Dinah sees in him I'll never know. But being a lower scale of jerk (read as jerk that dosn't have a JLA signal device) I'm grateful that Ollie can still hit above his weight class (Dinah). It means I still have hope.

    Who's smarter, Hal or Ollie? That's a tough one. Who's smarter, Hal, Ollie or Barda? That's easy.

  12. What Dinah sees in Ollie is obviously the Ollie that existed before Winick decided to toss out every bit of existing characterisation in order to turn him into somebody that couldn't keep his pants on or take responsibility for anything at all.

    As to why Ollie was too blind to figure out what Roy was trying to tell him? Like most of the non-drug using public at the time the story was written, he thought addicts were weak - that it was some moral failing on their part that made them get hooked on their poison of choice. Meanwhile, he was blinded by the ideal vision of his sidekick he'd been carrying around, of somebody who was too strong, capable and smart to get into something as stupid and self-defeating as drugs. When he was forced to see the reality of Roy's situation, his inability to reconcile what he thought about Roy with what he thought about junkies made him turn into a jackass, rather than offer the help his ward so desperately needed.