Before I start to go into more detail I simply want to mention that I love the Teen Titans, they are my favorite team in comics and as a big fan hate the treatment that they've experienced in recent years by DC. Call it titan memorial month because the next four (counting this one) will be all about four out of the five original characters that founded the team, outside of Dick it seems that if you are an original titan you don't really serve.
With that in mind I thought of starting with the character that I feel is having it the worst right now, Roy. I'm a massive fan of Roy Harper and even though I've been reading comics for about 2-3 years I've been a strong follower of his adventures, as surprising as it may sound before this story there wasn't a single direction or appearance of the character that I didn't enjoy, he was one of the most consistently written characters no matter if he was called Speedy, Arsenal or Red Arrow.
This post contains various spoilers from the miniseries JLA: The rise of Arsenal. If you don't want to be spoiled please stop reading
History of the character Roy Harper was Speedy, the original sidekick of Green Arrow and founding member of the Teen Titans. Through the years he has been present in various line-ups of the Teen Titans (even leading them on one occasion), the Outsiders and eventually the Justice League of America. Through these changes he has also picked other costumes and identities to reflect his current personality, the first change was Arsenal (which is by far the coolest name he's ever had) which reflected not only his change of weapons but also that he wasn't "Speedy grown up" anymore, he was at the time a member of Checkmate and so had enough new skills to separate himself from his former mentor, Green Arrow, or his best friend, Nightwing. Eventually he took the mantle of Red Arrow and joined the Justice League where he pays homage to Green Arrow even if he has yet to die (permanently) or retire.
He has had long relationships with both Donna Troy and Cheshire (with who he had a daughter, Lian Harper) and had a history with drugs but later was able to get away from his adition. Strong mentor figures for him have been Green Lantern (Hal), Black Canary and of course Green Arrow.
These are the first things that the writers remember when writing the character and while it is most of the important part of his story its not the only one, an aspect of Roy that has been forgotten more often than not in recent years is his true heritage and spiritual teachings. You see, after his father died and before Green Arrow took him as his protege Roy was raised by the navajo who taught him in all of their traditions and way of thinking, something that really determined his way of thinking in some aspects like the honor, the importance of an identity and death (more of that in awhile)
During the events of Cry for justice Roy lost his bow arm along with his daughter due to the actions of JL villain Prometheus, this resulted in the death of Prometheus at the hands of Green Arrow.
Here's a list of other things that you may or may not know about and that DC has just chosen to forget:
1. Roy Harper is not a killer.
During the new Arsenal miniseries its been shown that Roy has anger problems which have led him to almost killing/attempting to kill/thought of killing various persons. The list includes Prometheus, Electrocutioner, Speedy and most recently Batman (Dick). This has been shown as part of Roy's response to the death of Lian, why he blames Batman and Speedy is beyond my belief but that is also for later.
According to interviews that came before even the first issue was released the DC editorial had already chosen what to do with Arsenal even before they had chosen the writer, a lot like James Robinson's Cry for justice, this along with how different JT Krul has despicted Roy in an issue he did in the Titans title with no editorial mandate against this miniseries only serves to prove that the writer does get Roy and is putting him in that direction simply because DC wants to.
Here's a perfect example of what I'm saying:
Not only does the writer contradict himself but it also shows how much out of character the new bloodlust behavior of Arsenal is.
2. Roy doesn't hate Ollie
The relationship of father/son and sidekick/mentor between Roy and Ollie is far from perfect, yet for some reason in the miniseries it is despicted as if Roy has a great resentment over Green Arrow. That relationship had great downs (Green Arrow leaving Speedy for a roadtrip with Green Lantern or the drug addiction that came later) and great ups (Roy taking Ollie's mantle) but in the end they considered each other family and had a bond that couldn't be destroyed no matter how much one or the other screwed up.
For all reasons and purposes, they were a father and son and they loved each other because of that no matter the flaws.
I can see it been later explained that Ollie killed Prometheus only so that Roy wouldn't do it, a way of making the decision all the most logical but let's be honest, the guy made massive terrorism on his city and his grandaughter was one of the many casualities, no wonder he killed her.
Green Arrow is a jerk lol and far from the best mentor figure one can find but he hasn't fallen so much in Roy's eyes as it is despicted in this story and even if he was, they endured the abandonment, the adiction, the growing up and everything that came after that, this wouldn't be what finally broke the relation in any logical story.
3. Black Canary sees Roy as her son and viceversa
Another of the things brought in this story is how cold and angered Roy acts against Dinah, who for all reasons should and could be the one person that would put Roy on his senses. Of all the scenes here is probably the best one to show my problems with the mishandling of their relation:
Besides of making Roy a complete d!ck this scene is stupid for the following reasons:
1-Thanks to her being put on a Lazarus pit, Dinah can now have childen. Roy you just got owned by continuity.
- 2-Black Canary has adopted the girl named Sin and although she ain't from her own blood she is very much her daughter.
- 3-Probably my favorite one: As far as Dinah is concerned, Roy IS his son
- 4. Roy Harper is a ladies man, but he isn't a sexist pig.
- Another one of the qualities that I've ever liked about Roy is that he has all of the bad boy attitude and appearance to be a ladies man and he in fact a ladies man when he wants to be. Grace Choi, Hawkgirl, Cheshire, Huntress and Donna Troy are just some of the women with who Roy has had relationships. There is in fact a time when Beast Boy challenged Roy to gain the number of three women in a bar in less than five minutes and he was able to achieve it without a problem.
- Even if he is able to get almost any woman he wants, making him a perfect target for the big sexist macho image to be put on him his personality has shown that until the miniseries started he was a sensible man that respected the feelings of the women he got involved with, at the very least with Cheshire, Donna and most recently Hawkgirl.
The one priority for Roy has always been his daughter and so he has grown to be the best example he can be for her. The personality of Roy during his new miniseries features such golden phrases as "She likes it rough anyway" and "I totally believe I had sex with her" during the middle of the fight. This not only contradicts the personality of Roy but also makes him someone who is way more difficult to like, at least personally speaking.
- This leads me to the feelings of Roy to women, especially the two most important ones in his life; Donna and Cheshire.
- Now unlike the image that they want to sell of Cheshire in the new series, the relationship they had wasn't based only on lust and sex. The two of them had a strong romance before they knew the secret occupation of the other and according to the run of Wolfman/Perez Roy is the only man that Cheshire ever loved and Roy also had incredibly strong feelings towards her even before he knew of Lian's existance.
- This was followed up during Grayson's Titans where their relationship was a recurring theme when also trying to start the Donna/Roy relationship. Their love continued for awhile until Roy finally decided to break it off and yet Cheshire still remained an important part of his life due to how he doesn't want anything to injure the image Lian has of her mother. It was during this story that it was determined that Cheshire was a strong love for Roy which even if he has moved on from is still an important part of his history and a defining aspect of his life and his relationship with Lian. Yet in the miniseries they show that relationship as if it had been just a random affair with a good ending.
- However that isn't the only relationship that has been hurt on this story, the other important woman in the life of Roy is Donna Troy, co-founder of the Teen Titans during the time of the original five. Donna and Troy had a strong relationship both in the original Teen Titans and in Devin Grayson's Titans. This relationship was strongly built and even when it was over remained as a way to make the bond of Roy and Donna, who were already great friends, even stronger. The care and love that they feel for each other surpasses anything that they ever encounter and yet....
The lack of respect for any of the women despicted in the miniseries, along with the attitude and lack of importance that has been given to their past relationships simply doesn't stick well in my opinion.
5. Roy WAS a drug addict.
During his Speedy days Roy used to have a junky problem during the Dennis O'neil/Neal Adams run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow. That was probably the best remembered and most important story twist of that era. That problem however was soon resolved when after being thrown to the street Black Canary took care of Roy, The drugs experience didn't define Roy as much as they helped define the way he wanted to be, the kind of man he wanted to become.
Ever since his experience with drugs Roy has stayed away from any kind of addictive substance and even for awhile helped the FBI to fight against drug traffic in order to prevent that from happening to anyone else. In the 30-40 years after that story was published ROy had never had any urge to go back to the adiction process of any substance until the moment that the miniseries started. Roy has now grown an addiction for pain killers which considering the pain of having lost an arm is completely understandable but that if you take in consideration his real reason for taking them is due to the psychological trauma it makes his fight against adiction pointless.
One of the other aspects I loved the most about Roy was how much qualities of a sympathetic hero he has and how one of the most important ones is the fact that he was able to break away from the use of drugs. Something that not many people have been able to do. By making him give in to addition once again you take one of the best role model qualities of Roy away from him for no real reason.
Like the scan on the left says, Roy was once a drug user but left that in the past. He didn't let that one moment determine who he was and instead chose to make the world a better place like his mentors. I hate using stories over and over again, I hate even more when they just throw decades old character development for the sake of gimmick storytelling.
6. The way that Roy Harper sees/deals with death.
The few people that Ive seen defend the new position and direction of Roy do it using the label "of realism" to justify the changed. Yes, a sad truth about life is that some people lose their children every day and some of them are broken due to this. They say that this pain can't be understood by anyone who has never had a kid, I for one can't really do it. How could I? I'm only eighteen.
But something I do understand, from my quite weak excuse of psychology is that every single person is diferent and thanks to the way he/she was raised and the experiences that they experience determine how they react to certain turning events. I guess the anger issues and misplaced guilt could be perfectly reasonable and even logical for some characters, I realize that is a realistic actitude towards loss.
That's why I could understand, even depending on the case support the reaction placed here if it was another character. I completely understood and supported the angsty actitud of Tim Drake when he had just lost his father, Superboy, Spoiler, Kid Flash, Batman, etc. but like many things there are stories that just don't fit the character, a perfect example of my opinion is the "Last days of Animal Man" according to interviews teh writer had chosen a kind of story where he wanted to show in a futuristic view what happened when a man discarded his responsabilities with his family for the ones of the superhero business. It was until he planed the series that he was offered Animal Man to be the main character which is something that is evident during the series for one of the main qualities of Animal Man was how he always put his family before the superhero job.
Just like the story didn't fit Buddy this one doesn't fit Roy. Had it been almost any other character I would believe and maybe even support the change (assuming that the story was good) but this one goes against all of the teachings of the navajo, as well as against the previous reactions of Roy when he lost someone close to him.
And I especially want to drive your atention to the following scan:
That scan beautifully expresses my main dislike to this take on the way Roy is being potrayed, sure the death of Lian should have been something way more powerful than the death of Donna, that much isn't in question. The main point is how Roy was raised and the beliefs of life and death that he was taught, the sensibility and way to respect the ones that have departed was something that wasn't shown only in the funeral of Donna but every time he met the fate of death in a closed one. Losing a child is worse than losing a father/mentor or the love of your life, but when someone has a complete set of mind about a subject and acts according to it on every occasion makes it kind of hard to believe that would change so drastically.
I loved Lian Harper and hated the fact that she was killed for a stupid story. However that's done, let's don't make the death of Lian also make the death of everything Roy ever stood for.