The shocking truth about drugs, but more importantly about parental neglect, as Speedy returns and everything changes for Green Arrow…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Green Lantern #85 awaits!

GreenLantern85CoverGREEN LANTERN #85
Writer: Denny O’Neil
Penciler: Neal Adams
Inker: Neal Adams
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 25 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $275.00

Previously in Green Lantern:  Originally designed as a modern take on Robin Hood (with obvious overtones of Batman), Green Arrow had all the accoutrements: Arrow-car, Arrow-cave, Arrow-plane…  He even had the kid sidekick in a young lad named Speedy, and was one of the few heroes whose adventures continued after the collapse of the superhero market at the end of the Golden Age.  By 1971, though, he was the Justice League of America’s resident liberal loudmouth and former fatcat, with a brash attitude and a very seventies way of looking at the world.  In a previous issue, his long-time squeeze Black Canary finally lowered the boom, telling Green Arrow that she wasn’t interested in continuing their interactions, leaving Oliver to go for a long walk…

…right into a mugging.

GreenLantern851Oliver lays into the thugs, but finds that a group of drugged-out would-be criminals are no match for the man who my kid used to call “Green Batman.”  Ollie quickly lays out most of the group, but is surprised when one of them starts loading an antiquated crossbow.  Though the weapon itself isn’t particularly frightening, he is just distracted enough by its ammunition for the punk to get a clear shot…


A crossbow bolt near the heart proves to be all the equalizer needed, but luckily, Ollie’s attackers flee into the night.  Of course, the streets of New York City (or, at least, Star City standing in for 70s NYC) are not a good place to bleed, as our hero quickly discovers…


Oliver manages to flag a cab, and stumbles into a hospital emergency room before collapsing from loss of blood, but the doctors are able to patch him up, and even save the offending archery implement for his examination.

But, hey, isn’t this a book called Green Lantern?


Yes, yes it is.  Even if the cover logo has been changed to the iconic ‘Green Lantern/Green Arrow’ paired logo, this is still a book called Green Lantern.  Zipping his way to Oliver’s digs, Green Lantern Hal Jordan shows up just in time for the explanation:  The shocking part of the excursion was NOT a punk with a crossbow, it was the fact that the bolt in question was ONE OF GREEN ARROW’S OWN SHAFTS.  Certainly there have been errant arrows that might turn up in the hands of a random thug, but Oliver has another reason to worry…


Tracing the punks who attacked him to a particular tenement, the Green Team finds a young man in the hallway, crying and begging for a hit, and Green Arrow recognizes that the kid is strung-out.  “A snowbird,” he explains to a puzzled Green Lantern, before busting in on the dealer and showing him exactly how out of his depth he is against 20 percent of the Justice League of America.


Young Chucky spills his guts, leading Arrow & Lantern to his shooting gallery, where Chucky’s fellow heroin-addicts are having an enlightening (if somewhat heavy-handed) conversation about the social ills and problems that have led them to drugs.  One of the young men stays hidden in shadow throughout the discussion, until a bright green light is thrown on the situation…


Roy Harper, the Teen Titan known as Speedy, is utterly shocked to hear such words from his mentor and would-be father figure, but it turns out that, when it comes to those he loves, Oliver Queen has a nearly impenetrable pair of blinders in place…


Green Arrow is wary of the young men, remembering the piercing chest wound and cracked bone that came with it, but trusts them long enough for them to lead our heroes to a private airfield, all the better for importing illegal things from faraway lands.  Sneaking in under cover of darkness, Green and Green take down the smugglers, but forget to watch their backs.

GreenLantern859Two pipe-to-the-head shots later, Green Lantern and Green Arrow are unconscious, and the smugglers concoct a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.  Dosing both men with pure heroin, they flee, and call the authorities, hoping that the cops will bust the two heroes and throw the scent off their trail.  It might have worked, if it weren’t for the THIRD hero in this issue…


Green Lantern’s first projection ends up being a monstrous reflection of his drugged-out self, but Speedy manages to help him focus long enough to create a ring-bubble and cut out before they’re arrested for crime-fighting under the influence.  Adams does a really good job with the expressions here, especially defiant Roy tricking Green Lantern into using his powers, but it’s the writing of O’Neil that’s the real star of this issue, as we discover back at Green Arrow’s swingin’ bachelor pad.


As meaningful and personal as young Roy’s explanation clearly is, our heroes are oblivious (Oliver blows it off, seemingly unable to imagine his ward trying drugs, while Hal is something of a stiff with no real empathy to speak of, even in 1971) and Green Lantern sets off into the night to get some rest at his own home before they continue their pursuit of the criminals in the morning.  When Oliver returns to the apartment, he gets the shock of his life, a moment whose edge isn’t entirely dulled by appearing on the issue’s cover…


The next issue is an even rougher ride, with Oliver beating Roy up to try to teach him a lesson, one of his young pals overdosing and dying, and Roy turning to Oliver’s estranged lover, Black Canary for help before washing his hands of his mentor with a punchinnaface and a “Reason Why You Suck” speech that’s pretty impressive.  Like many of the books of the era, it’s pretty heavy with the message and perhaps overly melodramatic, but the story still has a pretty stiff punch.  The art is excellent stuff as well, with Neal Adams earning his legendary status thanks to this title, and it’s realistic tone owes more than just a little to his more photorealistic art style.  It’s tell that, more than forty years later, this story is still a cornerstone part of Oliver and Roy’s saga, and given that the universe has reset itself at least three times since then, that’s a pretty impressive achievement.  Green Lantern #85 is one of those comics that earned its place in comics history as well as a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Even if you’ve never heard of this book, odds are you’ve heard at least part of the story it tells, one way or another…



An example of Bronze Age capital-r Relevant comics that still reads well and holds up artistically...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Malone_hasco on

    I just read first trde paperback of this Denny O’neal / Neal Adams run and was convinced that their goal was to tell people how terrible, cold, capitalist craphole United States had become. Everywhere they turned there was greedy landlords, poverty, homelessness and even neo nazis. Perhaps the most depressing trade after Maus I’ve ever read.

  2. This has always struck me as one of the most overrated comics ever. Sure, Neal Adams’ artwork is great, but the storylines are sensationalistic and overly melodramatic, even for comics. It represents the most blatant attempt to do what Marvel was doing, but DC always overdid it. Marvel integrated their themes into their overall universe. Spidey and the Thing, for example, cracked jokes, but always in the context of a serious adventure. DC produced the new JLA, again with terrific artwork by Kevin Maguire, but the whole thing was deliberately farcical to the point where it became irritating rather than amusing. Marvel’s heroes exist(ed) in an inherently more realistic universe on an issue-by-issue basis, but every time DC attempted ‘realism’ they slapped the reader round the face with it, as here.

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