Dennis O’Neil: SHIELD, Arrow, and Superstuff
Both prime time comic-book based television series had their season finales this week, a day or two after I write this, and so any commentary on them might be premature. I mean, maybe some humungous game changer is in the offing, some gobsmacking surprise that will leave us gasping for breath, numbed and awed by the storytelling splendor we have just witnessed.
Or maybe not.
The shows I refer to are, of course, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Arrow, and although they are, as noted above, comics-derived, they aren’t two heads of the same critter. I think that Arrow is the more… well – I’m lacking precise terminology here, so let’s call Arrow the more “comicbooky” of the two. It is all about superheroes, comics’ prime export: one such hero in particular the Arrow of the show’s title, who wears a costume and has a double identity and has tricks up his sleeve – his quiver? – that might make an Olympic archer seek another sport. And over the months he’s acquired some friends who might qualify as superheroes and some enemies that might qualify as supervillains. SHIELD, on the other hand, is a hybrid, a series that occurs in a world where superheroes exist, but which is not about superheroes per se. (And yes, o astute reader, I did exile a bunch of periods from the show’s name. Sue me.) The SHIELDers aren’t super themselves, but they’ve got some supers in their Rolodexes.
I mentioned game changers a couple of paragraphs ago. Both Arrow and SHIELD have already changed the game a bit. SHIELD, as part of a nifty crossover with a movie, has gone from being a CIA/NSA-type spook organization to being a bunch of noble folk running from the authority figures, outlawed by the baddies’s takeover of whatever agency controls SHIELD. (I confess that I’ve never quite understood who signs SHIELD paychecks. A U.S. government honcho? Somebody as the United Nations? A scientologist?)
Some of you may want to read political commentary into SHIELD’s status change. Be my guest.
Arrow’s game has also changed, on a smaller scale than SHIELD’s, but kind of drastically nonetheless. The storyline replicated some comic book stuff from years – nay, decades – back. To wit: bow-twanging hero Oliver Queen loses his fortune. He’s no longer a member of the one percent. No more rich kid. I don’t know why the television guys made the change and, after all these years, I’m not sure why we comic bookers did, either. Maybe so our archer would be less like Batman/Bruce Wayne. Maybe to give him some (fictitious) street cred. Or maybe we just weren’t all that fond of mansion dwellers. Or… all of the above?
To end on a what-the-hell-difference-does-that-make note: In the comics, the Arrow was the Green Arrow, as many of you know. I approve of the renaming. I mean, why green?