A Very Tired Fangirl :) (jij) wrote in superhero_muses,
A Very Tired Fangirl :)

Workshop: "Writing Roy Harper (Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow)" by Ilyena_Sylph

Sidekick. Troublemaker. Titan, Teen and otherwise. Junkie. Hero. Screw-up. Devoted father. Worthless. Best friend.

All things Roy Harper has been called, or called himself. Interesting list, isn't it?

The guy that was Speedy, then Arsenal, and in current continuity has taken up the name Red Arrow has enough history to confuse anyone, but I'll do my best to give as clear a run-down as is possible of the things that make (at least my) Roy Harper tick. I'll probably start giving fewer details as my retelling gets closer to current events.

There's a major problem with any character that's been around as long as Roy has (okay, two. *ignores the aging thing for the moment*), and it's that their early history is Pre-"Crisis on Infinite Earths"... which for all practical purposes means that it doesn't "really" exist, not in proper continuity. Which might not be such a horrible thing, given the sheer levels of silliness in a lot of those 40s-60s comics.


Impossible arrows, more impossible crooks, and completely insane stunts abound in those early GA issues, as they do in any Pre-Crisis comic, and "hearing" Roy exclaiming 'golly gee' every page or so has my nerves absolutely crawling even much later, but that's just my own bias towards at least a slightly more modern storytelling style.

At the same time, those old, Pre-Crisis stories are the only solid canon for Roy's early years we've got, so... if you want canon for the Battling Bowmen on their own, you have to pick through the Pre-Crisis stuff for it, or trust only to retcons. (I like some of those retcons a lot, personally. Although I would have been happier if Brave Bow had been allowed to stay Sioux. The archery makes a lot more sense with that, than the Navajo.)

As I discovered in reading through the Green Arrow Showcase, Roy's "I'm-not-good-enough" and fear of abandonment issues go back to 1959, and a story in Adventure Comics 259-260 where Speedy sees G.A. training a new kid, praising him, etc. Roy immediately assumes the worst, that G.A. is replacing him. This turns out not to be true, G.A. is only training the kid so that he can go back to Alaska to work with his dad, Roy is in no danger of being replaced... but I was startled to see just how far back Roy's fear of being abandoned/fired goes.

(Despite the frequent camp of the storylines, if you want absolutely gorgeous young Roy Harper or Oliver Queen art, go for the G.A. Showcase. *pimps madly*)

He originally made his debut to the Teen Titans in August 1966, in a truly entertaining story revolving around the Olympic Games. (Batman told Green Arrow who told Speedy how to find the Titans Lair, by the way).

For the slash fans, the camaraderie and instant ability to work together between Robin and Speedy is a thing of beauty... and for the het fans, the attraction between the Ace Archer and the Adolescent Amazon (I'm not joking, those are titles given the two of them in the comic) is just as instant.

Speedy seems to have been a rare but fun guest-star in the Titans book up until 1968, when v.1 of the Teen Titans Showcase ends.

Shifting over into Green Arrow/Green Lantern continuity--which, like Filly said in her Hal essay, is kind of where the 'continuity' idea itself was born--makes for even more interesting things with Speedy. To anyone that likes to say that comics got darker after COIE... I point to 1971, and specifically to the Green Arrow/Green Lantern comic.

At about the same time that the Titans were disbanding for the first time, Oliver Queen lost most of his fortune. He apparently held on to some cash and the house, but the loss shook him up badly. It sent him trying to find himself, with his best friend Hal Jordan's help... but when he took off with Hal to be the "Hard Travellin' Heroes"... he left Roy behind in Star City.

Roy was all of sixteen.

Yes, I know I thought I could take care of myself at sixteen too, but Oliver should have known better. And it played right into Roy's pre-existing issues about being left.

He felt abandoned, turned on, worthless, and, in a storyline ripped right from what was going on in those days, which was a LOT of what the Green Arrow/Green Lantern writers were doing, fell into drug use. Namely, heroin. (There's a really...interesting scene in Inheritance where the kids pushing heroin at him to help him forget his pain are stunned that he's done peyote before, while Roy thinks of it as a sacred thing, not just a drug).

Roy spent almost a year completely alone (don't ask me where the Titans were, I can't tell you. I have to assume that they had never gotten around to exchanging phone numbers), got very very deep into an addiction because it was the only thing that made having been abandoned again stop hurting... and all of a sudden, Ollie and Hal return (issue #85), first like nothing has happened, and then when Ollie found Roy shooting up... he reacted horrifically badly.

He threw Roy out.

I will maintain that he reacted out of fear and shock, but it did some permanent damage to Roy's psyche. After a bit, Hal apparently realized his best friend had screwed up, and went to try to find the boy. He found him deep in the middle of withdrawals, and, for whatever reason (you can argue anything from 'didn't want to deal with the brat' to 'knew Dinah would be better able to take care of him'), took him to Black Canary.

She didn't even know his name at that point, but she took him in, stayed with him, took care of him... and built one of the lynchpin bonds of my Roy Harper's life. My Roy is about as devoted to Dinah Lance as anyone could ever be. He knows damn well he owes her his life, and his self-respect, and she's one of the few people in his life that hasn't let him down.

For proof of the two of them, I offer links one, two, and three. These are from Devin's mini, not the original canon, but I've seen the O'Neill issues and those pages are dead on.

Other people, of course, have different takes on it, and even one of the better writers Green Arrow ever had (IMHO, and namely Mike Grell--do not give me those looks. "Longbow Hunters" is good storytelling, if painful; and I think "The Canary is A Bird of Prey" proves he was willing to be equal opportunity about traumatizing his characters. I might not like that he pulled GA so far away from the rest of the hero community, but that's another rant) didn't often show us Dinah and Roy in the relationship I think they should have had from that point on.

Once Dinah had him de-toxed, he and Ollie had one more... interaction, before Roy told Dinah to stay with him, that Ollie needed someone to take care of him, and walked off to go live his own life.

Despite walking away from Ollie, he stayed as Speedy (when he's in costume) until 1993.

Living his own life involved occasionally running with the Titans from their headquarters underneath a nightclub in Long Island, where his band tended to play (and where he had his second relationship with Donna Troy) until they disbanded again. This incarnation of the Titans, by the way? Was first formed to take down Dr. Light after one of his attacks. Dr. Light. Oh, retcons, how I hate you. (For anyone that doesn't understand that, I point you to Identity Crisis, with my regrets.)

More often, though, Roy was working for the government in a series of anti-drug programs, as well as with the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), its shadow-arm of Checkmate, and, once, the Suicide Squad.

That's right. The boy who's first idol and partner was the anti-government, anti-big-business damn-near-hippy at times Oliver Queen/Green Arrow... went to work for the government. No, Roy doesn't have issues at all.

That's where he stayed, as Speedy with the Titans at times (despite Raven not bringing him onto "her" team) and an agent for CBI, up until COIE in 1985.

We've never gotten a solid retcon of his history, so all of that, despite COIE, is pretty much his early history. Yeah. It's a lot.


He seems to have shifted into the Post-Crisis world basically unchanged--barring frequent and much deeper emphasis being put on his Dineh origin; and while running for CBI, he met Jade Nguyen, also known as Cheshire.

She was a target, he was the agent supposed to bring her in... and instead, he fell for her so hard that he couldn't do it. That's both canon, and my personal canon. Despite himself, despite knowing she was dangerous, Roy fell hard for Jade, and he's never really been able to stop. He loves her more than is anything resembling sane, even as he hates what she's become. Roy has, in canon, gone to absurd lengths to try to reach, protect, and keep Jade in his life, despite everything she's done since her first introduction.

Jade found out much later (probably after she was either pregnant or had had Lian) that he was a government agent who'd been intended to bring her in, then found out he was a Titan. Not surprisingly, she didn't take those revelations at all well. (Interestingly, it was Jason, not Dick, that was with him when he found out he had a daughter.)

She tried to keep him from finding out he had a child, up until this point, then tried to keep him from the child, but Roy eventually (by tricking Nightwing into helping him) managed to get custody of the daughter who's had him wrapped around her fingertips since she was a little baby in New Teen Titans #21, 1986.

Roy took his daughter back to California, and worked for the government, and (more rarely) with the Titans up through the events of Titans Hunt--he left working a case with them the day before the spirits of Azarath made their first move against the then-current Titans team, and was safely back in California by the time his team was being destroyed from the inside. My Roy has never really dealt with that fact.

He eventually made his debut as Arsenal in 1993. (I will point out, mainly for my own amusement, that in the very same issue that he comes back as Arsenal, Nightwing proposes to Starfire).

Not long after his return (barely a year in the real world, which is how long in the comics?) he wound up not only a member of, but in charge of the Titans team. He tried, very hard, with a lot of self-doubt and determination, to lead the team he'd been trusted with as well as Nightwing had. Despite all of his best attempts (and a truly beautiful takedown of one Slade Wilson by Kyle Rayner, Roy's rookie Green Lantern) the team he led slowly shattered and fell apart--and the number of people on that team who have been hurt or killed in recent canon is only rivaled by the number in the JLI lineup. Including a young man named Grant Emerson, aka Damage, who was willing to die for him at more than one point in time, and shared some very traumatic pieces of his past with Roy, and who Roy took home with him, trying to give him some sense of peace.

At around the same time, and something that made the self-destruction of his team even harder to deal with, the mentor he'd barely started talking to again basically committed suicide (he refused to allow Superman to take his arm to free him from a deadly bomb holding a virus that would have devastated Metropolis) by airplane explosion (Green Arrow #101, 1995).

As an aside, there is some horrendously bad canon around Oliver Queen's death. Suffice it to say that Roy found out from a TV broadcast his very young daughter saw, and Dinah Lance found out from her ex-lover's illegitimate child when he showed up on her doorstep. It was badly done, and I (and my Roy) have issues with a lot of events around it.

There is a lovely four-part mini-series by Devin Grayson (some of her better work IMHO) that explores the relationships between Roy and Dinah, Roy and Lian, Roy's relationship with his Dineh heritage and, just a little, how he gets along with Connor Hawke, Ollie's blood son, that I highly recommend to anyone that wants to get to know Roy better. It's plotted around a distant kinship between Roy, Lian, and Vandal Savage, as well. (It also has Roy hitting on a male cop, to at least my household's amusement).

Roy wound up back on The Titans again after the Technis Imperative (JLA vs. Titans) conflict, and was there until the events of Graduation Day. He had yet another fairly serious relationship with Donna at this point, though it ended badly when Donna said that she had basically been using him to prove that she wasn't just the 'good girl' of Wally and Diana's memories. I have a lot of dislike for that canon, because that's not my Wonder Girl, or my Troia, but it's some of the canon you have to work with when dealing with Roy. The girl he'd loved since he was between thirteen and fifteen, and she was using him.

There are not words for how much I dislike the Graduation Day storyline and pretty much all further continuity from that point, so I shall not speak on it. There is a good summary on www.titanstower.com.

Moving past Graduation Day and into the continuity that I intensely dislike, Roy found himself trying, over and over again, to reach a Dick Grayson who was trying to close himself off from everyone, in the middle of having his much-beloved baby daughter abducted and badly traumatized by a child slaver and pedophile.

Then the events of Infinite Crisis occurred, and then OYL, and now we have a Roy Harper running as Red Arrow (um. Canon check, please? Roy fairly violently rejected a set of gear just like that years ago) beside Hal Jordan and Dinah Lance, and apparently trying to date Hawkgirl. He's doing a wonderful job running beside them, too. I'm not entirely clear on what he's thinking, getting involved with the soul-bound lover of one of his mentor's biggest rivals/antagonists, but it certainly has the makings of interesting plot development later.

So, that's his history, now on to other things.

Important People

Roy William Harper, Sr.

While we know absolutely nothing about Roy's mother, we do know a few things about his father. He was a Park Ranger on, or immediately near, a Native American reservation, and he saved Brave Bow (Raymond Begay)'s life during a fire. Brave Bow considered himself under a debt to Roy Sr., and when the ranger died (fire, or avalanche as the original canon was), he took the barely-toddler Roy in. We have seen that one of the few things Roy remembers of his father is the last time Roy Sr. walked away to go do his job.

Jim Harper: Guardian

A Golden Age hero in Metropolis, trained by the same man that trained the Atom and Wildcat--and Superboy's guardian for a bit; Jim Harper eventually turned out to be Roy's great-uncle, and according to recent research, Roy can get a bit... emphatic... about the fact that they are family. Also, note what Roy's wearing. A Hudson U shirt? Oh, boys, stop stealing each other's clothes--on second thought, No, Don't!!!

Does anyone know if Guardian's still comics-dead? I can't find info.

Brave Bow aka Raymond Begay

The true father-figure in Roy's young life, as he raised him from a very early toddler up until he was ten or eleven years old. Originally Sioux, retconned to Navajo (Dineh or Diné), he was a single man working to raise a belagaana boy as Dineh, up until the point he knew he was dying. I have not seen a lot of panels of canon with him, but from Roy's strength of character he must have been a good man. Once he knew he was dying, he contacted Green Arrow, who Roy idolized, to come and see about taking the boy in. There were several reasons for this, among them being that Roy had started thinking about girls and courting and been very harshly taught that he was not "of the people" when it came to trying to date or marry. Brave Bow's adoption of him didn't make him part of the matrilineal Dineh culture. They were the only people, the only way of life he knew, and he had just been told that he wasn't good enough for one of their girls.

Accounts of how that first meeting between Ollie and Roy went vary drastically, but most accounts agree that Ollie was impressed with Roy's skill and accuracy, and took him in then and there. I'm going to mention the Inheritance novel again, because Ollie tells a very romanticized version in it, while Roy gives a very hard-knocks and completely different story not much later.

Oliver Queen: Green Arrow

Roy's early canon says, and everything I have seen since has not ret-conned this fact, that Roy very much idolized the Green Arrow he heard about as a child, and up until Roy's late teens, Ollie pretty much deserved said adulation (imho, tastes vary). He could be a rake, insensitive, and judgmental, but up until he lost his fortune and became even more dedicated to serving and protecting "the little man", he'd done fairly well with Roy.

Ollie really deserves his own essay, and Roy's isn't the place for it (someone bat their eyes at Filly, huh?) but it's difficult to write about Roy without in some way touching on Ollie. After all, he was the most important adult in Roy's life for years... and dealt him probably the worst betrayals he ever felt; first when he abandoned him for Hal, second when he threw him out (of his house, and at that point his life) for having gotten addicted.

My Roy has tried to forgive Ollie, has even mostly managed it, and was very glad they'd started to reconcile before Ollie died, that his little girl got to know her Grandfather (*snorts* Uncle Ollie, bull. I prefer my Green Arrow canon where Ollie fusses about being a grandfather). He does love him, and knows that Ollie didn't, actually, intend to abandon him... it doesn't change the fact that he did.

Dick Grayson: Robin/Nightwing

There are two really great essays out there on the relationship between Roy Harper and Dick Grayson. The one a few weeks ago by pervyficgirl and second_batgirl hosted here at superhero_muses, and the one by the fabulous Roy Harper fanperson derryderrydown at ship_manifesto located Here. I highly recommend both.

Dick and Roy are my OTP for each other, for a lot of reasons mostly listed in those essays, and if I tried to talk about them I'd run on for hundreds of words mostly repeating what three very intelligent people have already said.

I'm going to try and be very brief, though, because Dick is one of the most crucial relationships in Roy's life, whether or not they're actually sleeping together. Despite that most of the current canon says Roy's the older one, Dick (Robin really) is the one Roy looks up to, follows, would trust with his life and struggles to be able to live up to. Dick's his best friend--and often his hero. (Recent canon does not trump years and years of this being true, for me.)

Sometimes the two of them are so similar it's scary, and other times they're so different it's hard to see how they even tolerate each other. That's what best friends (and lovers) are for, though, I suppose.

Dinah Lance: Black Canary II

When I'm writing Roy and Dinah, which is only my take, the two of them have an immensely complicated relationship that my Donna muse laughs softly at and says is very Greek.

Dinah didn't even know his name when Hal dropped him off on her doorstep, but by the time he was through suffering through heroin detox with her at his side, the two of them didn't have many boundaries left between them. From Brad Meltzer's run on JLA, Roy says that "Dinah taught me to fight... saved my life", and it's something I completely agree with. I grumble at Mike Grell for not letting me see a stronger relationship between her and Roy through his run on Green Arrow pretty frequently, because she should have been freaking out as badly, if not worse, than Ollie was when Roy wound up trying to kill him because Roy was being brainwashed.

She wanders around with her hand tucked in his back pocket, his arm around her waist; we've seen the two of them settled close on various single pieces of furniture over the years; he changes in front of her with not a lick of shame or worry about it... And at the same time she's "Aunt Dinah" to Lian, even though for the last long while she's been the closest thing to a mother the girl has (now that Cheshire's gone off the deep end). For that matter she's the only person in Roy's life that has truly never let him down, and in a lot of ways, she's the primary woman in my Roy's life. Mother/sister/best friend/everything, I frequently say, and for my Roy it's true. Others, of course, may very.

I normally don't 'ship them, just because there's so much else between them, but sometimes a universe shakes out to where they need each other too badly for all the reasons they should never sleep together to matter.

Hal Jordan: Green Lantern

Hal, despite being Ollie's best friend, didn't really have that much to do with Roy over the years, barring dropping him on Dinah's doorstep. He was actually closer to Wally after Barry died than he ever was to Roy, up until the Brad Meltzer retcon of some of Roy's history in JLA. In that, Roy calls Hal the man who taught him not to be afraid.

Connor Hawke: Green Arrow II

There is a lot of canon that paints Roy and Connor in a fairly antagonistic light. In most of it, that's because Roy's the "son" Ollie abandoned because he wasn't good enough, Connor's the one that wears the name and the heritage, the born-to child that's so perfect and accepted. This canon tends to upset me, because my Roy is a nicer guy than that, which is why I prefer the interpretations that have them slowly getting to know each other, and then being much more okay with each other. Connor's utter worship of Ollie, in my Roy's eyes, reminds him far too much of himself, and he's waiting (and hoping to be wrong) for the day Ollie does something to Connor that hurts as badly as Ollie abandoning him hurt him.

For Connor/Roy shippiness, let me recommend my personal favorite, With A Chance to Make It Good by Liviapenn and theTe1.

Donna Troy: Wonder Girl/Troia/Wonder Woman

Roy's been more than half in love with Donna since the first time he saw her, but she wasn't his first crush. That was the Dineh girl that got him rejected by the clans. They've been flirtatious, then boyfriend and girlfriend, and then lovers, several times in their history, and even when she was married to Terry and Roy was completely in love with Jade (Cheshire), they were very close. After that marriage collapsed and Jade went slowly insane, they started yet another relationship--one that, as mentioned above, ended because Donna going through a crisis of identity.

Jade Nyugen: Cheshire

Jade was (in her original canon) born to a French father and a Vietnamese mother, and given the time she was created... let's just say there's good reason to believe that wasn't a loving couple. In the Sensei and Student trade, she claims to have been fathered by a US senator by means of rape. In either case, her mother was either unable or unwilling to keep the child, and sold her into slavery, leading to a great deal of her psychosis. She killed her master, escaped, and became a mercenary and assassin. She learned an amazing level of skill in martial arts and with various poisons, which she keeps on her body in various vials and painted into her false nails for quick use.

She's been a long-time foe of the Titans, but her motivations have become more and more... mad, over time. Even Roy will admit that the woman he can't help loving is really pretty insane. She is the woman that was willing to use Roy and Slade to nuke the country of Qurac, after all, and has used Joker toxin on her own child (to be fair, she was suffering its effects as well).

Chesh has a revolving door with the prison system, apparently, despite multiple life sentences being on her head, from how often she's escaped and been put back in custody. She's been cleared by the Suicide Squad at least once, if not twice, but she keeps doing things that put her back on the wrong side of the law. Always a good place for drama, that. Roy's had to be the one to either keep her from escaping, or bring her in, more than once.

Wally West: Kid Flash/Flash and Garth: Aqualad/Tempest

Both Roy and Wally, and Roy and Garth, are sets of very good friends... but they're friends in the masculine kind of way that means they only show it by pricking at each other unless the situation is absolutely critical. If Roy and either of those two are being open about their affection for each other? Things are probably going, or have gone, very, very bad.

For example, it takes Wally coming back from the "dead" to get a hug out of Roy.

Lian Harper: Dart

"I can only teach you what I've learned: To do justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly and to shoot straight."---Roy to Lian

Roy's baby, the light of his life, his beloved etai yazi... there's no-one in Roy's life that's more important than his little girl. The lengths Roy would go to for her... are hard to even guess at.

She's an absolutely adorable child, most of the time, who seems to be eternally about four or five (Lian was around when Jericho died, after all), and since Graduation Day has been through utter hell, as I think I mentioned. Roy's current home is an absolute fortress, entirely to keep his little girl safe.

Mia Dearden: Speedy II

Caveat: I freely admit that the art on Winick's GA run offends my soul and I refused to read the book, so what I know about Mia comes from Teen Titans, lots of begging for issue summaries, and good fic.

The second person to take up the Speedy name is Mia Dearden, an abused girl turned runaway turned prostitute that Ollie found and inspired to be something more than she was. She out-stubborned Ollie, who didn't want her to put on a costume, and started being Speedy... and then discovered she was HIV positive.

I have never seen any canon basis for my personal opinion that this fact hit Roy like a ton of bricks and eats at him inside, but my Roy didn't take it well to say the least. He's not sure if it's the name that's cursed, or what, but he thinks about what he did when Ollie abandoned him, and feels ashamed/lucky that he came out of everything perfectly healthy, when this girl caught the 20th century's plague with a lot less choice.

Let me recommend 100 ways to be a good girl by Shrift for great Mia and Roy fic.


From Jay Faerber: "Roy isn't really the jerk he pretends to be. Deep down, he's a caring, intelligent guy. He just likes to get a rise out of people -- it's something he learned from his mentor, Ollie, and maybe his "attitude" has increased as a way to keep Ollie around, if only in spirit."

That... sums it up pretty well for me, actually.

Of course, every time a character switches writers, he or she suffers some kind of personality shift, but my Roy Harper has a few defining traits I'd like to share with you all, and see if you agree or disagree.

My Roy is brazen, cocky, loud-mouthed, occasionally arrogant... and painfully insecure, deep down where he can keep it hidden from everyone. He's been abandoned so many times that he expects it from everyone... and canon has done a lovely job of proving him right in most cases. It's easier to be the cocky, pushy, devil-may-care guy people have long since come to expect him to be than it would be to deal with everything he'd otherwise have to. He learned early how to camouflage himself--going from Dineh boy, who still thinks, counts, and dreams in Dineh, not English, to a millionaire's ward made that pretty much a necessity--and it's so much a part of himself at this point that he doesn't really think about it anymore. There's even a panel somewhere in cyberspace of Donna remarking on how 'hip' his speech is (this was back in the '70s, so no, it's actually not) in surprise that he was raised anything but mainstream American.

Despite himself, there are days he still craves the painlessness the heroin gave him... but all it takes is a look at his baby girl or the memory of Dinah's voice to pull him away from it. He's not risking losing his family. There are warnings all over his medical file about opiates, though. There's no point in being reckless.

He's never going to give up again, can never quit (can't shame Dinah like that, disappoint his baby)... and he's the one that will give you the kick in the pants when everyone else is sugar-coating the facts (a straight shooter in more ways than one). One of the best examples of this I can think of is in one of the Titans' fights with Gargoyle, when his four best friends are trying not to let themselves argue or fight in order to get back out of Gargoyle's dreamworld... and Roy tells them all pretty bluntly to stop being stupid, arguing with each other is just part of who they are.

He's extremely stubborn, tends to dig in his heels and refuse to budge, and he's also insanely loyal to his chosen family.

So, that's my take on my favorite and most beloved-archer boy. Let me know what you think, what I didn't say well enough, what you didn't know, anything to get us talking. Okay?
Tags: ilyena_sylph, roy harper, workshop

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