Green Arrow's Ann Nocenti On Why Being Happy Isn't Always Good [Interview]

For years, fan favorite writer Ann Nocenti would only pop up sporadically in the comic book industry to write a one or two off story. But Nocenti is finally back on a regular gig with DC Comics' "Green Arrow" #7, and will be writing the adventures of the Emerald Archer for the foreseeable future.

Nocenti's first issue - which just hit stands - featured Ollie giving up the big seat at his Apple-esque company to follow a trio of super powered fangirls called Skylark. Except, that may have not been the best decision, as his company has started to implode, and turns out Skylark are more of the "Misery" type of fans. Oops. To find out more, we chatted with Nocenti over e-mail about coming back to comics, what's coming up next, and why Green Arrow being happy might not be the best thing for him in the long run:

MTV Geek: You talked about this quite a bit going into your run, but I was still surprised about how relatively carefree GA was in the first issue. What's it like writing a character who's basically, you know, happy?

Ann Nocenti: Happiness is a complex thing. Is he really happy, or is he skimming the surface doing a great "happy" act? Since the new Green Arrow is a tabula rasa, a clean slate, and his past is still unrevealed, this is a question I haven't answered yet. What I can know is how I felt at his age, 21, and what my friends in their twenties feel. There can be a surge of optimism and hope for what the future holds... at the same time, the underlying anxiety of not knowing who you are yet.  What was it like for young Oliver in his father's billionaire home? Why did his father not entrust his fortunes to his own son? The father must have known Oliver had some growing up to do before he could run Queen Industries, and yet, should he have had more faith in his son? I am playing Oliver as a naturally happy dude, but planning some stories that dredge up a bit of father/son history. 

Geek: Clearly there's going to be some roadblocks thrown in his way, soon. Is what we're seeing going to play out a bit as "The Fall of Green Arrow?"

AN: He's stepping into some big historical shoes. He's been re-born, in a way, as a kid. But what of the 60 years of Green Arrow stories? That legacy and experience is in his bones, somewhere. The social justice bones, the hitting bottom, the experience, it's all there in a vestigial sense. So he's a new Green Arrow, but he casts the long shadow of his precursor. He's going to make some mistakes. How far he falls, I don't know yet. Not so far that it violates what I see has his basic carefree nature. Carefree bordering on blithe, even.  

Geek: As a follow-up, and you may have answered this already... In general, does a character need to be broken down? Can you have a long running mainstream comic character who is basically happy forever? I mean, I think I know the answer to this, but I'm curious to hear your take.

AN: Do you know anyone that is happy forever? It's like singing the blues...I'm not sure true happiness exists without troubles along the road. And yet I find the blues to be basically joyful music, because of the attitude of rolling with every punch. I do believe that anyone that wants to position themselves as heroic, as a hero, is going to be tested. There will always be those that want to tear down a hero. And it is a somewhat arrogant stance, to proclaim oneself not just a hero but a superhero. I mean, what's up with that? But I don't think happiness is about being happy, but rather about having a cool and enlightened attitude that takes you through the hard times, which I think Green Arrow has. So in that way, yes, I think Green Arrow will always have a certain bounce to his step and eye to the positive. 

Geek: Let's talk about Skylark... What makes them a good foil for Green Arrow?

AN:Skylark is in some sense a fantasy and a satire of the POV of a hot-blooded young billionaire. They are his true fans, they love him, and yet they, somewhat unconsciously, want to take him down. They will make his head spin. The way I stumbled on the idea of them was in thinking of Typhoid Mary. Typhoid was created as a kind of shattered female (again, a satire) in that she represents various cliches (slut, virgin, feminist, etc.) all in one woman. I began to think about multiple personas, and came up with this notion of one girl in triplicate as the ultimate kind of trickster girl. A James Bond girl, in a way, but also an endless honey pot, in that there can be endless variations on deception, and the ways they can lure and deceive Arrow.

Geek:There's clearly a bit of a Dr. Moreau thing going on with them and their Dad - have we just seen the tip of the iceberg here?

AN: Yes. I don't want to reveal too much before those issues come out, but he's a chess player: he's got many levels of scheming and possible plays in mind. He's seeding his world with potential disaster at every turn, and sitting back to watch which seeds take root, both in his own progeny and in the natural world.

Geek: Back at home base, clearly the spit has hit the fan pretty quickly... What can we expect from the repercussions to Ollie just up and leaving his own company?

AN:I'm picking up on what was set up before my stories: that Emerson is basically torturing and guilting Oliver into being something that goes against his nature. So in my first story, he jettisons that corporate company man role he found himself in. To be lorded over by Emerson just felt wrong to him. So he shakes free, destroys his own company, and then the challenge becomes: can he put the pieces back together? 

Geek: Here's a stupid question that I've always been curious about with archer characters in comics: do you even bother keeping track of how much ammunition he has in his quiver, or is that left up to the fantasy of comics, and I should just shut up?

AN: Ha. I have wondered that myself! And I've wondered about a moment when he reaches back and there are just no arrows left. But no, I don't keep track, and yes that's the "don't question the logic" fantasy fun of comics. I mean, in Westerns, cowboys seem to shoot forever, and the notion of a gun having only six bullets only comes up when someone wants to make running out of ammo a plot point. But what your question brings up is the basic nature of enjoying the ride: if you pause to question the logic of things in a super hero comic, they tend to fall apart. But what fun would that be?

Geek: Now that the first issue is on the stands, and I imagine you're well into writing the first few issues, what's the learning curve been like - both in getting back into comics, and working in the New 52?

AN: You can't get it perfect right out the gate. I'm still trying on Arrow's skin, figuring out who he is. Right now I'm trying to create a rogue's gallery of villains and see which ones take. And next I'm going to work on his home front: he needs a crew. Oliver Queen doesn't seem to have any friends beyond his employees and his society world. He needs his posse, his brothers. 

Geek: As someone with a strong journalism background, how am I doing so far?

AN: Ha, you're doing great. 

Geek: Whew! But seriously, do you find that background in actually very serious journalism helps play into your comic book writing at all? Or are they two entirely different muscles?

AN: I think my years of writing comics fueled my quest to tell a good story in a journalistic sense, and now my journalism is fueling my desire to really figure out who Oliver Queen is. 

Geek: Looking forward, are we going to see any familiar characters - heroes or villains - turn up in Green Arrow? Or are the first few arcs all world building/destroying on your part?

AN: I'm not that familiar with Green Arrow's past. It's not like there is a library where you can read up on 60 years of history, so for now I'm just riffing off of his original Robin Hood inspiration, and my knowledge of other Denny O'Neil stories, in that I know Denny was a groundbreaking writer in terms of social justice stories. But at some point I want to get more familiar with Arrow's past characters. 

Geek: Lastly, anything else coming up for you? Should we be looking for your work in any other titles, New 52 or otherwise?

AN: No plans yet, but I hope so! I do have a story "Here nor There" coming out in an upcoming Mystery of Space anthology, drawn by the amazing Fred Harper. I like that story, and would like to work with Karen Berger again. 

Green Arrow #7 is currently on stands, with the next issue hitting on April 4th from DC Comics!

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