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Green Arrow has hit a bull's-eye with growing fan base

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By David Betancourt
Friday, April 26, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

If there's one thing DC Comics has become good at, it's recycling green.

While the Green Lantern has seen a rise in his rank, DC has seen a rise in the popularity of another of its color-themed heroes: Green Arrow — thanks to the success of the TV show “Arrow,” which airs Wednesday nights (8 p.m.) on The CW.

“Arrow” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, who also has written the character for DC Comics, notes that, though the show is still new, Oliver Queen/Arrow benefited from having an audience before Kreisberg became involved with the character.

Green Arrow “had a successful run on ‘Smallville,'” he tells Comic Riffs. “It was proof that the character had life to him. We're so proud of the show and the response that the show has received.

Fanboys can be the life support — or death — of a superhero property. Stray away too much from the source material, or create something too campy, and digital riots erupt. Many producers, however, don't presume that's the only audience that they're writing for.

Kreisberg says the key to “Arrow's” success is the diversity of its audience.

“When we tested the pilot, there was only one person on the testing that knew that Oliver was the same character from ‘Smallville,'” Kreisberg says. “One of the things that's most thrilling for us is that we've got 14-year-old kids who say it's their favorite show and 20-year-old women who are excited by it.

“My wife wouldn't know Green Arrow from the Green Hornet, and she thinks it's the best thing I've done. When you look at the numbers, we've got a diverse audience by sex and age. There aren't too many shows on TV that are like that.”

“Arrow” is a mix of new ideas and the origins that took shape in DC's Green Arrow comic books. Many elements of the comic books are reflected in the show: Oliver Queen, the billionaire playboy (lots of those in the DC Universe), spent years stranded on an island that might as well have been hell, where he picked up archery.

Yet, the show has a 21st-century feel, and Oliver is a lot younger — and a lot less frequent with the jokes.

“I think, in the comic book, he's been a bit more outgoing, funny character for quips,” Kriesberg says. “We designed Oliver as a character a little more tortured” than the comic-book character.

One of “Arrow's” most intriguing aspects is the performance of Stephen Amell, who plays Queen. Amell is believable as a one-man army who has the strength, will and determination to rid his city of crime, “one arrow at a time.”

Yet, it's the flashbacks that “Arrow” provides — of Queen's time on a mysterious island — that provide the show with some of its best moments. In these flashbacks, Queen is a selfish, spoiled, ungrateful weakling of a man — to the point where viewers would be hard-pressed to believe that the man who crashed onto the island is also the hero who left it.

“We love the island scenes, and they're getting bigger and bigger,” Kreisberg says. “Stephen does such a good job creating what really are two distinct and unique performances.

“Episode 14 was a great example, where you got to experience how green and naive he is. We love the island, and we're hoping to do more island-centric episodes. It gives the show a sense of scope, and reminds viewers how far Oliver has come physically and how far he's fallen emotionally. He doesn't always do the right thing, and when you see him in the past, it helps remind you: Oh, yeah, he was in hell for 5 years. “That helps especially when he makes some of his darker decisions as Arrow or Oliver.”

As is always the case with comic-book properties, interest in the source material follows after they're successfully adapted in another form. For fans of “Arrow” who want to see the character in his comic-book form, DC Comics offers two options:

1. A weekly digital-only comic written by “Arrow's” producers that connects each episode and is literally the show in comic-book form and:

2. The New 52 version of Green Arrow that provided a new, younger take on Oliver Queen before “Arrow” made its screen debut

David Betancourt is a staff writer for The Washington Post.

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