Even looking back now, it still seems a strange decision. Yes indeed, Green Arrow had been around for over fifty years, and Ollie Queen had been the DC’s resident hot-head, a bull in perpetual search of a china shop, for the last twenty-five, but he had only become a success, only been elevated to the A list of DC’s characters, those with a proven track record who are expected to be capable of selling their own series, in the last decade.
To put it bluntly, Green Arrow just wasn’t either small enough or big enough for a kill-and-replace. Especially when it meant removing one of the most distinctive personalities in the DC Universe.
But there must have been something in the air at that time in the Nineties. Wally West had, after a decade, demonstrated conclusively that he could succeed to the mantle of the Flash so, when a series of reboots and new directions started to mire Hal Jordan’s story in incomprehensibility, it was decided to make him a villain, and introduce Kyle Rayner as the new Green Lantern, young, hot-headed, unencumbered. And, about six months before Ollie’s death, Diana was ousted as Wonder Woman in favour of the red-headed, aggressive Artemis (although any casual student of comics would know that that particular development was purely temporary).
Improbable or unwise as it was, it had happened. Connor Hawke was now the Green Arrow.
Connor was, of course, inexperienced and learning, a situation that always allows for a different range of stories as he makes mistakes and discoveries, undergoes defeats and narrow squeaks, and generally isn’t as infallible as his predecessor, with the weight of history behind him, has come to be.
And he was a nice enough character, and a complete contrast to his deadbeat Dad, having been brought up a Buddhist, trying to avoid aggression, and utterly foreign to the very idea of trick arrows.
DC tried to establish a niche for their new Green Arrow. Connor applied to join the new, ‘Big 7’ Justice League, appearing in issue 4 in deliberate tribute to the issue in which the original Green Arrow had been invited into membership. In a fast-paced, high-powered and very funny episode, the League’s old foe, The Key, attacks and incapacitates everybody but Connor, whose quiver is destroyed: he still saves the day but only by relying on Ollie’s trick arrows from the Souvenir Room, much to his disgust.
And there was an attempt to establish a friendship, and a kinship, between the three JLA members who had replaced older heroes: a three issue crossover between Green Lantern, The Flash and Green Arrow as a break away for Wally, Kyle and Connor results in them running into an attack on their cruise ship.
But Connor soon resigned from the JLA, feeling more suited to street level crimes (much as his father had done at more than one time), after going undercover as a seeming JLA traitor, at Batman’s behest.
The problem was, though he was no slouch, Connor’s personality and his approach worked within a much narrower compass than the flourishing Ollie. Too much of Connor’s character was formed in opposition to his father’s ‘qualities’ and not enough in things that struck out from Ollie’s penumbra. Sales declined and the Green Arrow series was cancelled after issue 137, three years after Connor took over.
There was an obvious solution, and it was exactly what everybody wanted. All it needed was a writer with the right idea. After all, there’s no such thing as a bad character, remember?