‘Arrow’ Creators Take Another Big Step in Developing the Franchise

When Arrow returns from hiatus tonight, fans will not only see the titular character square off against the Clock King. We'll also see the extended team taking practice in the "Arrow Lair," says co-creator Marc Guggenheim in the "producer's preview" below.

Co-creator Marc Guggenheim introduces episode 214, "Time of Death." Sources: The CW/YouTube.

I wasn't exactly pleased to hear that. The "Arrow Lair?" That sounds far too much like history most comics fans would like to forget. Fortunately, Arrow's creators are not only aware of this, but they're also developing the franchise in a manner much different than Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) is pursuing with the superhero-light Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

A brief history of the metamorphosis of a comic book hero
More on the differences in a minute. First, let's review where we've been, and why the mere mention of the phrase "Arrow Lair" sent my fanboy side into a tizzy.

At one time, DC Comics pitched Green Arrow -- the character upon which Arrow is based -- as a swashbuckler who was like Batman in almost every respect. That character, who first appeared in November 1941 in the pages of "More Fun Comics" #73, went on to:

  • Operate out of an "Arrow Cave."

  • Use an "Arrow-Car" and "Arrow-Plane" to get from place to place.

  • Respond to an "Arrow-Signal" in times of danger.

  • And take a ward, "Speedy," as a partner in crime fighting.

They even shared a similar civilian lifestyle. What billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne was to Gotham City, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen was to Star City. Green Arrow was, in effect, Batman with a bow and arrow -- right up until writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams changed everything.

Under Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, Green Arrow went from Batman clone to a formidable defender of the common man, and Green Lantern's nagging conscience. Source: DC Comics.

Adams and O'Neil not only retooled the character's look but also his backstory and attitude. He'd lose his billions in a swindle and go on to become a defender of the poor, battling society's ills as much as crooks. They'd later team him with Green Lantern knowing Oliver's seething thirst for justice would challenge his friend's strict adherence to the law.

In short, the Green Arrow they created -- with notable refinements from the likes of writer-artist Mike Grell in the 1980s and Andy Diggle more recently -- helped form the character Stephen Amell plays on screen. A hero driven by something more than vengeance.

Now, here's the better news ...
Guggenheim and co-creators Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti know this all too well. In fact, they know the history better than any of us. In creating Arrow, they've taken deliberate steps to set their hero apart from anything else we've seen or read.

Yet I'd say their plan is also bigger than that. The Clock King isn't merely an antagonist. He's Felicity's first real foe as expressed in the Arrow narrative, allowing the creators to further develop Emily Bett Rickards' character as an independent heroine.

Robert Knepper stars as William Tockman, aka The Clock King, in episode 214 of Arrow. Credit: Cate Cameron/The CW.

From what I can tell, it's a similar formula to what we saw in episode 206 ("Keep Your Enemies Closer"), in which David Ramsey's John Diggle is forced to work with arch-nemesis Deadshot. They'll team up again in a forthcoming episode that reveals the team of reluctant villains known as The Suicide Squad. A spinoff wouldn't be out of the question.

Hatching franchises in the 'Arrow Lair' as S.H.I.E.L.D. watches, and waits
We've come to expect as much from the Arrow team. Episodes 208 and 209 brought us Grant Gustin as Barry Allen and a pilot featuring his alter-ego, The Flash, is in development as I write this. No doubt a pleasing series of events for Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) and Warner Bros., which need new franchises in order to grow revenue.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a different beast. Save for Clark Gregg's Phil Coulson, none of the main characters comes off as an independent hero or heroine capable of birthing an entirely new franchise. J. August Richards' ongoing transformation into the cyborg Deathlok holds some promise, but even that storyline seems destined to be contained inside the world of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Whereas Arrow's protagonists actively shape and change the superhero world in which they operate, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s agents are observers who reflect the Marvel Universe as it unfolds before them. Not necessarily a bad premise, but also infertile ground for spinoffs and special projects.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. How do you rate the current season of Arrow? Do you see the show breathing life into other franchises? Leave a comment in the box below to let us know what you think, and whether you would buy, sell, or short Time Warner stock at current prices.

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Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 10:06 AM, Aldirick wrote:

    Arrow is a good show, I try to watch it weekly when it is on. The show is good, I would not call it great, it has too much family drama in it for me. The want to have chemistry between the characters is constantly derailed by the stories. Oliver is constantly demanding more and more from his team members, and we have not seen any hints of what is to come from Roy. If anything, Arrow is a hit show because that is all that happens, one person hits another. There is very little in the way of actual thought that has to be done on the show, very little detective work, because he lets the cops do that for him, or Felicity. Is it good that he has a team, yes; but he is relying on the team too much and will pay for that.

    Also, I constantly wonder why the writers at Motley Fools are constantly comparing Arrow to SHIELD. Arrow is about a man who is driven to fight, SHIELD is a story about an international organization that is tasked with preventing those things that should not be in the bad guys hands from getting into the bad guys hands. The story, in my mind, has gone much better than Arrow, with a hidden over arching nemesis and a story line that will easily have us going for seasons. In Arrow, Deathlock is the bad guy, yes formidable, but beatable and known. For Oliver to win, he will need a lot more help than what he currently has, which means a spreading of the cast, less time for character development and more frustration for those wanting a story. Which means there will be more fights, because they see that as the only way to keep the viewers.

    Both are great shows, but they a great for different reasons. What you constantly do is try to extol the virtue of the orange by comparing it to a peach. Both are good, both have great flavor and texture, and both can survive on their own without having to be compared to the other.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 10:08 AM, Aldirick wrote:

    Pardon my mistype, Deathstroke is the bad guy in Arrow. Not enough coffee this morning.

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 9:45 AM, PAJohnDoe wrote:

    SHIELD's premise isn't good for spin-offs or special projects? Need we remind you that Agents of SHIELD itself IS a spin-off? Arrow is a big fish in the small CW pond, and SHIELD is the television branch of an active multi-billion dollar film franchise. In that regard, comparing the goals of the different series and their reasons for being is like comparing apples and very, very expensive oranges.

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