Green Arrow’s Infamous ‘Drugs Story’ Was Dark Enough – So DC Made It Worse

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Today, we look at how the famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow storyline where Speedy was revealed to have become a drug addict was rewritten…AS THE STORY WAS BEING PRODUCED!

In every installment of Abandoned Love we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer without actively contradicting an earlier story (so the more passive definition of retcons as being anything that is retroactively added to continuity, even if there is no specific conflict with a past story). Feel free to e-mail me at brianc@cbr.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today, we’re looking at an extremely rare case of a story being “abandoned” right in the production of the story as the artist of this famous storyline decided to step in and take control of the ending after he felt that the original ending was lacking.

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Everything started in the classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85, released in June 1971, by writer Denny O’Neil and artists Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. The issue opens with Green Arrow confronting a group of drug addicts turned thieves who surprise Green Arrow when they shoot him with one of his own arrows! Ollie realizes that the only way they could have gotten a hold of the arrow was from his sidekick, Roy “Speedy” Harper, who Ollie hadn’t seen in a while.

However, when Ollie discovers Roy WITH the drug addicts, he automatically assumes that Roy is undercover with them, which Roy allows him to believe…

After Green Lantern is dosed with one of the drugs, he can’t understand why anyone would voluntarily do something like that to himself and Roy explains to the two older heroes what the appeal is and he might as well have a bullhorn with him where he screams, “I AM ADDICTED TO DRUGS! I AM TALKING ABOUT MYSELF!”

However, Green Arrow is a bit dense (and Hal Jordan is even denser. Remember the time that he was defending a slumlord because he was all, “Hey, he owns the building! He should be able to do what he wants with it!”) and so it was still a shock when they walk in on Roy shooting up…

That story, by the way, was part of a whole kerfuffle with the Comics Code Authority where DC wanted to publish the comic but the Comics Code was all, “Nah, no drugs stories. Not even ones that are clearly anti-drugs and that would serve as excellent public service announcements.” Then Stan Lee published a few anti-drug issues of Amazing Spider-Man without the Code approval and the Code was eventually changed (WHEN it was changed is an interesting story that I’ll address in the future). So DC then put out this storyline finally.

Anyhow, the next issue shows Oliver not handling this news very well at ALL…

He then throws Roy out of his home, which is just absurd.

In the end, it was the Black Canary who ended up helping Roy through his addiction…

Here’s where things get really crazy. The issue initially ended at the funeral of a teen who overdosed when Roy and Dinah show up and Roy has beaten his drug habit!

That was how Denny O’Neil planned to end the story. That was not how it DID end, though.

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O’Neil and Adams, you see, worked in the old fashioned way where they did not even really communicate with each other at all at first. O’Neil would write a script and then Adams would draw O’Neil’s script. There was no real shared communication the way that there was at Marvel where the artists would often confer on plots. As time went by, they started to talk more, but O’Neil still viewed himself as primarily the guy who decided how the story went.

Well, this time, Adams thought that O’Neil was wrong to end the story here. He explained to Comic Book Marketplace:

I read this and thought, no…what has changed? Somebody has to learn something. GA had to learn some kind of lesson. He had to learn to respect this person that he had beat up at the beginning of the story. I felt the strongest possible climax was necessary, considering how we started the story. I made my feeling perfectly clear to Denny, that I thought his ending was anti-climactic, but he let me know, basically, it was fine as is. Well, I thought it was important enough to bring it up to the editor, so I wrote two extra pages where Speedy punches GA back, let him in on his pain, and then splits. GA, the father figure, knows the kid’s right and realizes that he [GA] was an ass. This ending made all the sense in the world to me. I brought the pages to Julie and said, ‘I honestly think this is how the story ought to end.’ He read them and said go ahead and do it.

And here is Adams’ new ending, where Roy expresses his displeasure with how Ollie treated him…

And things obviously had much less of a pat ending as Roy splits from the “squares” as Ollie cries tears of pride over Roy standing up to him…

O’Neil was not a fan. He told the Amazing World of DC Comics (and this was DC’s own magazine, so this was interesting he would give such a candid answer to a company-published magazine), “I disapprove of the implied conclusion of that story. What’s implied is that a punch in the mouth solves everything.”

The two continued to work together, though. All said and done, Adams’ ending is definitely the more memorable ones, really, so I think it ultimately was the correct call (it’s worth noting that the editor of the book, Julius Schwartz, DID side with Adams, after all).

If anyone has a suggestion for a future edition of Abandoned Love, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

KEEP READING: Before Shang-Chi: Iron Man Gave the Ten Rings a Cosmic Secret Origin

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