In less than a month, on June 1, readers will get to see Green Arrow and the Black Canary team up for the first time since the DC Universe was relaunched in 2011 following the events of Flashpoint.
That's a key selling point in DC's Rebirth publishing initiative, which they say will give back a sense of scope and history to many of the characters who lost it in the New 52 relaunch, and will do its best to pick up elements from the best publishing eras for each character.
For writer Ben Percy -- who has righted the ship, sales-wise, on Green Arrow over the last year while telling a dark, compelling story of Oliver Queen's love for his home city -- that means bringing in Black Canary and Shado. And, just like so many Green Arrow writers in recent years, he invokes names like Dennis O'Neil and Mike Grell as he readies to shake things upon the comic.
Percy joined ComicBook.com to discuss the next step in the evolution of his take on Oliver Queen -- and the additions to the cast which will help shape the future of Green Arrow. DC Comics has also shared a number of preview pages for June's Green Arrow: Rebirth #1, featuring (among other things) a terrific Black Canary splash page. You can check those out below.
The thing that jumped out at me that I've seen surprisingly few people commenting on, so this will be the first thing I ask, what's with Wild Dog? I didn't think anybody remembered Wild Dog and there's like nine of him on the cover of your book.
Yeah, that's not coming right away but it's coming down the pipeline. That first cover is sort of previewing some of the obstacles that lay ahead in the first few Rebirth arcs. I won't say too much except that there was a lot of discussion at the DC offices about how we could channel some of what was going on in the news, particularly what was going on in Oregon at the Malheur Nature Reserve which was taken over by that militia.
One of things that we're seeing in the book, really for the first time in a few years now, is that we're getting a relationship between Oliver and Black Canary again. Can you talk to us about exactly how that kind of comes together because obviously up to now they've been running on very separate tracks.
When I took over Green Arrow with issue #41, one of the things I wanted to do was place Canary in the series eventually. I'm so glad this Rebirth opportunity came up, because I wasn't allowed to put her in there right away, but I'd hoped that this moment would come. So I was cycling Oliver through all of these different relationships so that when Black Canary came into the fray again, the relationship would matter. That the reader could understand this is what he's been pining for.
That this person fills a cavity in his life. I can't say too much except that they are at odds with each other in the beginning and then will eventually overcome their differences in a team-up that will hopefully be as adventurous as it is romantically alluring.
You're one of the handful of people who's staying on the same title. Is it a challenge to you to kind of reinvent things for Rebirth and to feel that's kind of vital and exciting as people who are taking on an entirely new project?
I think so. I've been writing these issues in the hopes of a long game. I know that in comics you can get kicked off at any moment and I hoped that that wouldn't happen. I'm glad to be continuing with Rebirth. I'm glad that the readership has grown by 50% over the past year. I've been building towards this moment. Everything that has come before Rebirth you should think of as a kind of prelude. When I first began writing Green Arrow, I kept Oliver out of costume as often as I could in order to emphasize the man.
He is a 25-year-old man. He doesn't quite know who he is. He's troubled. He's not sure of himself romantically. He's not sure of himself heroically. I wanted, gradually, as he struggles over this last arc especially with his sense of self, this war arc with his sense of self. I wanted Green Arrow to slowly take over Oliver Queen. It isn't until Rebirth that he finally truly lives up to the title. To me, this is an incredibly exciting moment. One where the dam breaks.
Green Arrow has been one of these books since the New 52 relaunch, that's struggled to find its footing in spite of the fact that there's been some really fantastic creative teams on it. When you're talking about a guy whose kind of young and still formative and unsure of himself, is it almost kind of helpful to have the fact that in the last five years he's been reinvented five times to kind of emphasize that point for you?
I think so. Think of the New 52 as a sort of embryonic stage. Over the past 12 or so issues, he's been coming of age. I see Rebirth as an especially important juncture for him entering manhood.
This week, we got Green Arrow #52. That decision to stop and focus on saving people instead of chasing the gang members who are getting away, is that something that is indicative of who Oliver is becoming or is something that's going to come back and haunt him or a little of both?
A little of both. The idea that he is who he is at the end of this arc because of the war inside of himself, that's he's had this physical and emotional struggle, that he's gone through the refiners fire, that he's emerged out the other end stronger, cleaner, rather more of a hero, like conflict is the cause of that.
One of the big pushes that DC is doing with Rebirth is with Deathstroke. You got to play with that relationship quite a bit towards the end of this current run of Green Arrow. Was that something that's setting up for the future or was that more something you wanted to explore a little bit before Deathstroke is off the board for a while because he's got his own journey?
I wasn't thinking about the larger DC universe. I was thinking about Deathstroke as one of my favorite baddies. I've been wanting to use him for some time, so this was a great opportunity to cycle him into a storyline and play around with a character I've loved since the Wolfman/Perez era of Teen Titans.
Obviously you are a guy who comes into comics from another industry. You're dropping 30 year old references though, so obviously you've been around for a while. Does that kind of change how you approach things? Being a long-term fan and kind of a relatively newcomer to the actual writing of the comic?
I'm a novelist and a screenwriter. I'm a magazine writer. I'm a comics writer. I think of myself as a storyteller. I think that jumping across all of these different genres, all of these different aesthetic boundaries has made me better. That I discover new ways of telling. That I discover new ways to characterize, to create set piece scenarios, to withhold information compellingly. I'm still learning how to write comics even though I'm a long time reader. I'm in love with the challenge of it.
There's a poet named Terrance Hayes who I admire very much. He talks about the difference between free verse and formal verse. The difference between free verse and say sonnets. He says it's cool if you can breakdance, but it's bad ass if you can breakdance in a straightjacket. I've always felt that comic books, 20 pages, 5-7 scenes, are kind of a straightjacket and that restriction, that challenge, has I think broken me open to new possibilities. I think that I'm better than I ever have been because of the restraints put upon me.
Is Arrow on your radar at all? Because you're run hasn't been, storytelling wise hasn't been very much like the show at all but obviously tonally it feels fairly similar to the show.
When I took over Green Arrow, Brian Cunningham told me not to watch the show. It's great that Daredevil and Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl and Flash exist in television and on the page, that you can have many different storytelling universes. Arrow is fun. I've seen four episodes I think, just to get a taste of it. But I'm not caught up with the present season. I have no idea what's going on there. I think it's fun. From what I've seen of it, it's a pleasure to watch, but I'm telling my own story. Any intersections are purely coincidental.
How much of Oliver's supporting cast from the New 52 is kind of carrying through? Are we going to see some of the characters that have been introduced over the last few years or are you getting a real kind of a true fresh start and it's basically just going to be Oliver and Black Canary and kind of resetting his priorities?
When I sat down with Geoff Johns in the writers room, we talked about the New 52 but we also talked about Green Arrow throughout the ages. For me, the touchtones are O'Neil and Grell. You'll see me tipping my hat to both but also doing my own thing, chaneling my own vision of the character.
I'll be accounting for classic Green Arrow but I'll also be pushing my way into new territory, creating legends for the next generation of readers. You've already probably seen a cover with Shado on it. You've already seen a cover with it Emiko. I'm not throwing out any spoilers there. We're going to have new and we're going to have old.