Sunday, January 02, 2011

World’s Finest 115 – The Mighty Arrow Army!

The third story of three in this February, 1961 issue of World’s Finest Comics features Green Arrow and his sidekick Speedy. According to the DC Wiki, a staff writer named Ed Herron came up with this tale of intrigue in South America.

Yes, Oliver Queen and Roy Harper are flying Queen’s private jet on an impulsive round-the-world air tour when their plane develops trouble somewhere south of the border.

It’s my suspicion that the “SPUT-SPUTTER” we see in the lower left panel is supposed to be a sound effect, and not the name for the plane.

I don’t quite follow the logic of protecting their secret identities by PUTTING ON their costumes, but what do I know?

At any rate, as soon as Queen has effected their emergency landing, the pair comes under attack from some native bowmen. Native as in, South American Indians of mixed Indian-Hispanic descent. These fine fellows are in a terrible predicament. An evil dictator named Bracato is attempting to invade “our peaceful kingdom” (later named Luania) with his array of modern weaponry. The unnamed Freedom Fighter had mistaken Speedy and Green Arrow for minions of Bracato, but that misunderstanding is soon cleared up. The Luanians can’t defend themselves without anything but bows, arrows, and spears, because “Modern weapons have long since been banned by our friendly people!”

Green Arrow and Speedy quickly vow to help the unnamed leader against the evil, high-tech incursions of Bracato. Their fancy arrows make sound and smoke enough to convince Bracato’s tank crew that the opposition is a strong one.

Round One to the Freedom Fighters.

But when Bracato finds out that his hand-picked crew of strong men have been outflanked by a bunch of “primitive” bows and arrows, he vows to stomp those two American Archers flat.

Why, he’ll sail his destroyer downstream to destroy the Luanian capital. Little does he reckon with Green Arrow’s ability to use a grappling arrow as a zipline and bring himself, Speedy, and the defenders aboard.

Now that the oppressive dictator, shown all dressed up in an official European-style pompous military uniform, has been thwarted, Speedy and Green Arrow have only one request of their brave hosts: to fix his plane so they can get out of there! Since this is easily enough done, we’re treated in the last panel to the comic-book equivalent of “Who was that masked man?”

Now for a bit of an observation, comparing this 1961 comic-book story with some of the real-world events of the same era…

Liberal darling Fidel Castro led his successful revolt to take over Cuba in 1959. He’d been glamorized by some American educated types who had a high regard for their own education. And it cannot be denied that the Batista regime in Cuba was corrupt through-and-through, being propped up by American companies, the rich US entertainment industry, and the Mafia. When Castro’s “people’s revolution” threw the fat pig out of power, it was viewed by many as a victory for the overburdened, oppressed people of that country, especially since Castro had proclaimed himself an anti-Communist.

As we all know now, that anti-Red orientation lasted only a brief time. Just as bad news for the Cuban people was the evidence that Castro and his cronies weren’t any more interested in helping them in the “individual freedoms” department.

Now, this comic came out in the fall-winter of 1960, after the beginnings of disillusionment with Castro’s “people’s” government, and a few months before the USA’s failed invasion called the “Bay of Pigs.”

Am I crazy to see a resonance between this comic-book story and the actual events of those days?

Just think about it. You could align the unnamed Freedom Fighters with the Cubans who the US was assisting to overthrow Castro at the Bay of Pigs. Or you could see in the Luanians a reflection of the Castro forces whose self-proclaimed task was to throw the corrupt foreign influences out of Cuba.

Roy and Speedy just “happened along” in their world travels, and got “sucked into” a tribal conflict, which they were able to solve with their modern American inventions.

True to the style of the comic-book tale, the Luanians are assumed to be telling the truth to Queen and Harper, and Bracato is really-truly the bad guy of the story.

Just imagine how this kind of beginning scenario might have played out – for example – on an episode of The Unit a couple of years ago! Members of The Unit crash-land in a small South American country and are asked to help some jungle fighters. 

 As today's story might tell it, maybe the freedom fighters were lying, and trying to get foreign aid for their own revolution against their country’s lawful rulers.

Our maybe Snake Doctor Jonas Blane’s men would agree to support the Luanians and successfully overthrow the dictator Bracato, only to find out that Bracato had been put into power by the CIA!?!

Regardless, the impression I take away from this tale from World’s Finest 115 is that while Americans don’t go around looking for trouble, they are willing to step in and help the downtrodden who may be unfairly oppressed.

Boy, if only real life were that simple!

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