Bizarro Back Issues: Green Arrow Plus Aqua (1959)
Last week, I wrote about "Manhunt on Land," an Aquaman story where he drove around in a pickup truck full of fish to track down a sea crook who had taken to land for the express purpose of avoiding being dragged back to jail by Aquaman. That in and of itself is a solid premise, but what really makes it interesting is that it was a strange little rarity of the Silver Age: It was actually a crossover with a Green Arrow story in the same issue.
Sadly, the second half doesn't have the immediate hook of a pickup truck that's also an aquarium, but it's definitely a story worth talking about --- not just because of the unusual crossover element, but because it has one of the most shocking endings I've ever read. And for the Silver Age, that's saying something.
The issue in question is, of course, Adventure Comics #267, and while the cover doesn't even hint at the seafaring action going on in the backup stories --- instead focusing on one of the era's many yarns about teenagers from the future traveling through time to be jerks to their hero when he was a kid --- Robert Bernstein and Lee Elias are certainly here to step up and provide it in "The Underwater Archers."
As the story opens, we pick up with Horace Kates, better known by the nom de crime of "the Wizard," just after he uses a makeshift catapult to fling himself over the prison walls and into a nearby river. As far as master plans go, this one seems to have a pretty notable flaw, in that smacking full-force into a river is less of a good way to avoid Green Arrow and more of a good way to avoid, you know, continuing to be alive, but I can't fault it for its effectiveness.
Either way, The Wizard's now free, and he has decided to refocus his crimes into something that will get away from the silliness that defined so much super-crime in the Silver Age:
That's right, everyone: Gone are the days of "flying buzzsaws" and "drill-mobiles!" Those are things of the past, and they've proven to be ineffective against the likes of Green Arrow.
So he's just going to use a giant robot whale instead.
Naturally, it's up to Green Arrow and Speedy to take him on, because apparently it makes more sense to learn to scuba dive and shoot a harpoon gun than to just let the guy who spends his entire life dealing with Aquacrimes. Then again, I suppose that needs must when the King of the Seas has gone to land to embrace that CB radio lifestyle.
When the Wizard finally reveals his robotic whale ship, Green Arrow gets his first chance to test out his new crime-fighting equipment. First, a few grappling hook arrows tether his own speedboat to the whale-sub, and then, a few more let him "lasso" a couple of real whales who were in the vicinity --- and who were 100% about to be murdered by the whaling ships that the Wizard is attacking, a fact the story conveniently glosses over. Also glossed over: How exactly Green Arrow is able to lasso a whale underwater, which seems like a pretty neat trick.
Either way, arrows tied to ropes aren't really all that special, but if you were waiting for one of the Trick Arrows to get weird, you needn't worry.
Yes: Bait arrows, meant to steer the whales back to shore where the Wizard and his crew can be arrested. And no, it is never established if those were designed, or just fish that Green Arrow and Speedy rammed regular arrows through once they'd caught them.
Unfortunately for the forces of good, the Wizard has an escape plan ready manages to get away for his next plan: Capsizing prison ships with his mechanical iceberg to recruit a new crew:
When the Wizard notices Green Arrow's investigation, though, he launches an attack that forces Green Arrow and Speedy to dive to the sea floor --- and rather than being crushed by the pressure, they come up with a plan for striking back at his false iceberg:
At this point, it should be pretty clear that these dudes love arrows. I mean, that's pretty obvious from the name and all, but even Batman doesn't always reshape the things he finds laying around into bats before he uses them to fight crime. Ollie and Roy, however, are a little more dedicated to the aesthetic.
I bring this up because it will be important later.
Anyway, the semi-dynamic duo fire their gigantic salt arrows up from the ocean floor, where they pop out of the water and stick into the iceberg, swiftly melting it like when they spread ice onto a snowy road. I gotta say, though, I'm not sure that's how icebergs work, because they are literally surrounded by salt water at all times. If salt is all it took, I feel like maybe there just wouldn't be icebergs to begin with? But who am I to say that I know more about the sea than noted bowman Green Arrow?
Even at the end of this second scheme, though, the Wizard still has one more sinister plot left up his sleeve: He has a Godzilla.
Like, a full-on awakened-by-nuclear-testing Godzilla.
At this point, if you're anything like I was when I read this, you're wondering, "Okay, what kind of ridiculous nautical-themed trick arrow is GA going to pull out to solve this one?" You'd be right to do so! He loves arrows! He has specifically created new arrow-based equipment for this mission! It's his entire deal!
But that is not what happens.
Instead, Green Arrow focuses his telepathy on Topo the Octopus and calls in his fish friends to solve the problem. That's not what Green Arrow does! That's what friggin' Aquaman does! You can't --- I mean --- You can't just --- You can't do that! You can't have a Batman story where Batman fights Lex Luthor and stops his evil plot with heat vision! That's not how this works!
But like... it's exactly what happens, which means that I'm forced to come to the conclusion that it's not that Aquaman has the telepathic ability to talk to fish, but that the fish are the ones with the telepathic abilities to talk to humans! Aquaman's just some regular-ass guy who can breathe underwater!
This changes everything!