Mentor And Partner: Jeff Lemire And David Ramsey On Bringing ‘Arrow’s Diggle To Comics [Interview]
One of the bright shining lights of The CW show Arrow‘s first season was the character of John Diggle and the actor portraying him, David Ramsey. Far more than a sidekick, Diggle really took on a life of his own. He’s proved popular enough that he has made the transition to comics, in the tradition of Jimmy Olsen (who originally appeared on the Adventures of Superman radio show).
To mark Diggle’s brief appearance in Green Arrow #24 and in anticipation of his co-starring role in issue 25, the series’ “Zero Year” issue, we sat down with series writer Jeff Lemire and Ramsey himself to talk about the transition.
ComicsAlliance: David, you were playing one of the few characters on the show who was not based on a comic character. Now you are a comic character. How does that feel?
David Ramsey: It feels great. I kind of held in high esteem, to some degree, that I was not going to be from the comic book when everyone else was. Now, because of what the writers have done and what I’ve done with the character, and really the fans’ response to this character, because there’s been a great response, they’re putting this character into the DC lore. It’s just been very, very exciting. It’s all I could have hoped for.
CA: I’ve only seen what is in issue 24, which is really more of a tease than anything.
Jeff Lemire: Right.
CA: There’s not a ton there that lets me know what this version of Diggle is like, but I can tell just by looking and seeing that he and Green Arrow aren’t part of a team, at least not anymore, that this is a different Diggle than the one on the TV show. What are some of the major differences and similarities?
JL: We’re kind of taking the relationship that Green Arrow and Diggle have on the TV show and using that as a backstory. We’re going to reveal that in Green Arrow’s early days as a crime fighter, he had a relationship with Diggle that’s very similar to what we see in the show, but in the comic-book universe, there’s been a falling out between them. That’s sort of where we pick it up.
That said, there’d be no point in bringing that character in if we were’t going to try to capture some of what makes him successful and makes him work, so I’m going to try to keep him persistent in terms of personality and things like that.
DR: And that’s really great, because there’s so many times, or at least, working on a television show, with these other characters, there are certain guidelines — to some degree, they do take creative license — but there are certain guidelines from DC. What’s happening here is the reverse, almost.
JL: It is the reverse. It’s really neat.
DR: It’s really neat.
CA: David, I wonder how much of the character we see on TV is you, or whether the writers injected some of you into him, since he was created for the show.
DR: I don’t really know. The martial arts element, I’ve been doing that for a long time, and we did talk about that before we ever started shooting. We had long sessions with the fight choreographer about how we wanted his form of martial arts to look as opposed to Oliver’s. Oliver’s is a little balletic. There’s a certain beauty to it. We wanted Diggle’s to be very efficient, kind of in a straight line. Straight to the point. That was because of his military background. We did talk about that at length and I did bring some of that element to it, but outside of that, we tried to be true to where the writing took us.
CA: Jeff, how much of the show’s portrayal, or particularly David’s portrayal of Diggle, did you bring to the comics version? One thing about him on the show is he’s got this cutting wit. He can tear Ollie down with just one well-placed quip.
JL: Yeah. A lot of it is up to how the artist draws it as well. I can control dialogue and things like that. I’m really trying to keep the personality of the character as consistent with how David portrays him as much as I can, and with how the writers write him on the show. The storyline and circumstances they’re in will be completely different, but hopefully the character himself seems familiar, because obviously it works.
CA: David, you brought up the military background of Diggle on the show and that is something that is very defining for the character. How much of that is coming to the comics?
JL: Yeah, I kept that. I felt that is inherent to who that character is. In next month’s issue, we reveal some of that stuff, and it’s very similar to the story of the show.
CA: What about the relationship Diggle has with Ollie? In the show, Diggle is part mentor, but also a partner. He and Oliver butt heads a lot but figure out ways to compromise. Is that the kind of relationship we’re going to see in the next issue, the flashback issue?
JL: I do feel like there’s a bit of a mentorship on the show. There’s an authority that David carries himself with that commands respect and Oliver does respect him. I’m trying to keep that idea that Diggle’s the guy that kind of keeps him in line. Oliver’s sort of young and brash and hotheaded. Diggle seems to be a grounding influence. That’s what I’m trying to replicate in the comic.
CA: Is that how you see it on the show, David? Do you see Diggle as having a mentor role or do you see it as more of a partnership?
JL: I think the Diggle character in the television show serves a few purposes. To the end of forming the hero is the role Diggle plays. Part of that is mentor. Part of it is partner. You can kind of look at, to some degree, the first season of Arrow as Batman Begins, if you will. From that launching of the hero, I think Diggle becomes now, still a mentor, but certainly much more of a partner. The respect is still there. There’s a great groundwork these guys have done in the first season. Both of them are wounded. Both of them have problems forming attachments. But Oliver is kind of a kid to Diggle. He serves both roles.
CA: One thing we saw in the show several times during the first season were instances where Diggle was impersonating Ollie as Arrow or serving as his proxy, going out wearing the hood. Is that something that may be hinted at in the comics version, too?
JL: There aren’t really any plans to do that. The Diggle in the comic is very much about being his own man, and not putting on a costume. Having his own identity. I don’t think he’s going to be impersonating Ollie. I want him to stand on his own.
CA: Diggle being brought into the comics is a very weird scenario, because he’s named for a comics writer, Andy Diggle, and in fact, that’s the TV character’s brother’s name. And now the character of Diggle is coming into comics. Are you guys worried that our own reality could fold in on itself as we jump between reality and TV and comics?
JL: I worry about that every day when I wake up.[Laughs]