Wednesday, March 20, 2013

DC '78 # 12: The Soldiers of Star City

by Yolanda Montez,
on assignment for Rolling Stone
The new park, created with architectural assists from John Stewart
and long hours from city planners and an extensive construction crew.
As part of the millions spent on gentrification and development
during Star City's tourist hey-day in the earlier part of this decade,
expressionist artists Christo and Jean-Claude were contracted to
create one of their controversial and stimulating designs.

The effect, which entailed the bulldozing and demolition of
several miles of Star City's inner city streets to make way
for an over-the-top lush park in the middle of the city,
drew extreme criticism from all quarters.

  Yet, in a time when drug proliferation and violence
had brought the burg into the "Top Ten Worst Cities in
North America,"* people were desperate for some sort
of marked impact signalling change. Unfortunately, things
have come full circle, and Star is once more in the grip of despair.

But all hope is not lost in this fabled city, with its rich
history and once-lucrative port of call. The rebellious
archer known as Green Arrow, a street-level fighter
with a checkered past (mostly for his outspoken politics and
quick temper) has left his prestigious post within the
Justice League of America to devote himself to taking
back the streets of his city.

To that end, the former billionaire has enlisted help from
his immediate 'Green Arrow Family' as well as outside
connections to help win the battle over the soul of his
hometown. And it has decidedly become an all-out war. 

Green Arrow (who last year publicly revealed his true identity
to the world when he commenced his bid for mayor) is ably
aided by his second-in-command, his son Connor Hawke,
whom Queen only recently discovered. (Details of the union that
produced Connor as well as his whereabouts have understandably
been kept hidden, however. Neither Queen nor Hawke was
forthcoming for this interview.)

The group has engaged in some controversial tactics; they are
renegades operating outside the law, but with open consent of
 law-makers and denizens of the beleaguered city. Vigilantism
seems not as frowned upon when it involves members
of the masked hero and spandex variety. (Editor's
 note; It should be noted in the interest of fairness that Miss
Montez is the goddaughter of the Earth-2 Wildcat, Ted Grant.
She is also an Earth-2 transplant herself.)

Keeping to the shadows and blending in is a big part of what
the Arrow does in his mission to fight blue collar crime in his alter ego,
getting into the places that Mayor Queen (following his successful
campaign last November) is unable to reach in his war on the
corporate demons that seek to capitalize of Star's misfortune.

This goes a long way to explaining his choices for operatives in
protecting the city. Many have questioned why he didn't bring
in big guns like the Justice League to assist him in securing the citizens,
to which he scoffed rather angrily before laughing out loud.

"Those guys are the opposite of invisible.
People don't trust them; they're bigger than life, and regular Joes
can't relate. The only way to get anywhere doing undercover work
is to fade into the woodwork." Queen advised me.

I asked the same of Roy Harper. Not the Roy Harper who grew up
here as Arrow's protegee; he's serving in the Teen Titans in New
York. This is an older, darker Roy who now goes by Red Arrow,
and came to us from one of the merged earths destroyed in the
Crisis. This Roy says with a sorrowful forlornness that "..the battle
we're waging here isn't for soft sorts. It's bloody. It's complex.
The fight isn't fair, the stakes are high, and a traditional 'hero' who
thinks goodness and light will win the day isn't going to work."

When questioned if this meant that these soldiers they have gathered
were picked because of their willingness to break or bend the law,
Roy merely stared blankly and added; "We do what we have to
do to survive. High morals are not a luxury we can afford now."

There are plenty of other things the city and its administration
can't afford, as well, thanks to the high level of corruption, graft, and
misuse of funds under former mayor, Thomas Bolt.**  Bolt's
excesses and theft left the city devastated from within, as their
infrastructure is barely able to maintain the basics of monthly
expenditures even on a Queen-devised emergency budget.
Star City International Airport, site of last
year's incident with Count Vertigo
When the Arrow initially recruited his band of outlaws
(the ironies not lost on his advocates nor his opponents)
he started off calling themselves the 'Seven Soldiers of
Star City,' a nod to his 'Earth-2' counterpart who had
passed in the Crisis. Originally, the other Green Arrow
and Speedy were founding members of that team.

This starting effort on our earth included Arrow, the Earth-2
Speedy, Onyx, Arrowette (daughter of the Golden Age
heroine/athlete,) Artemis, his son Connor (also going by the
moniker 'Green Arrow,') and a mysterious new Crimson Avenger.

Quickly they realized this would not be a sufficient force to crack
down on the growing epidemic of organized criminal activity
that now saturates Star. (Queen gruffly dispatched the notion
that he would need to rename the group; "If people can't count,
that's not my problem.")

According to local police representatives, (evidently
under some duress, as they are currently undergoing investigation
themselves from direct order of Mayor Queen's office,)
there has developed a gang war of sorts here.

It's unknown what the catalyst was, or what possible unique
properties Star holds that have driven this land grab from the
underworld, but such major players as the assassin Deathstroke and
international financier Ra's Al Ghul have both been implicated
in arrests over the past six months.

(So far we have identified through sources that H.I.V.E.*** and
Intergang also have agents operating large cells in the city, and
rumors abound that the Bertinelli family is looking to set up shop as well.)

Photographer  Donna Troy was allowed to photograph the
interior to the vaunted 'Operations Central' of the
resistance. (She was escorted in blindfolded, however, and it should
be noted that the clock face is merely ornamental, not longer
 part of a building's facade.)

According to the characteristically frank Queen, it's
much deeper than that. He points out a minimum
of six major organizations vying for control of his city,
many of them led by super-powered criminals. He, too,
is uncertain for the impetus of this new and undesired
attention his fair city has received.

But Queen remains resolute, certain that he and his team
are capable of handling all that the admittedly tough
coming months will bring.

I asked him about the visibility of his team membership
during a ride-along with the chief of police. He daringly
stated his defiant response; "I want them to know we're
here. I want them to know we're coming for them, that
we're prepared."

The mayor further explained that he and his crew
don't wear their well-known costumes when patrolling the city.
They are given to undercover work and disguises more
often then not, eliminating the concern for standing out.

My skepticism was palpable, and Queen recognized it. "I've
got some surprises in my back pocket, too; my cards aren't
all on the table. I'm like a Boy Scout; always prepared."

Surprises, possibly, like the presence of other known
vigilantes Arrow counts as friends. The Black Lightning has been
spotted on occasion, linked to unconfirmed reports of the criminal
organization 'The 1000,' as well as another new Huntress.

And distance does not make connections impossible; longtime
lady love Black Canary, former ward Speedy, and the newest
female Speedy, although departed from home, use Justice League
teleporters to quickly return in times of need--such as last Winter's
S.K.U.L.L.**** assault of S.T.A.R.*****  Labs' Star City location.
If police reports and underworld buzz is any indication is
accurate, he needs an army. He and Star City certainly have
no shortage of enemies. If hard streets indeed require hardened
heroes, said heroes in turn draw out hardcore enemies.

There are other groups that reportedly work outside the law in
such a fashion, including those in such places as Gotham,
Spiral City, Iron County, and Bedlam,  but these are only rumors
as the operatives work in secret. These groups, if they exist, are comprised
of unnamed, unknown  quotients, and stay off the grid.

Arrow, on the other hand, has been above board about his activities,
which may actually work to his detriment in the long run.
All that we could find out about the mysterious new 'Arsenal'
is that his father was the original 'Red Dart,' and the Arrow
was instrumental in helping him get turned around.
Most notably, Jack Ryder referenced a group of 'outsiders' in an
unconfirmed piece he did on Nightline last fall, calling for a need
for tighter sanctions against such groups--that one supposedly
operating between the divergent cities of Gotham and Metropolis.
Likewise, columnist Michael Jan Friedman and photo-journalist
Luke McDonnell recorded actions of a modern day group of
not-so-merry men located in the swamps outside Biloxi, Mississippi
in a "This Nation" piece in Life magazine last fall.
And Vicki Vale championed the notion that an all-female group
of operatives is working in unison on cases outside government
jurisdiction, also not-as-yet grounded in hard facts (although one
wonders why such a group would not be front and center with
women's lib in full swing!)

Blurred lines allow for more effective working, since the same laws
that are being broken often limit and kneecap the very mystery men
that are seeking to produce justice. These tactics--and the state of Star
City--have brought the vigilantes under the scrutiny of groups like the
DEO and Checkmate, both governmental teams regulating the super
hero community.
During my week stay in Star City, I was privy to see not only the inner
workings of the mayor's office, a drug sting being finished up by the crew,
personal interviews, and a police ride-along, I also did an extensive
tour of Queen Industries...yet another front on which Queen is
making strides to improve the city.

Queen Industries leads the nation with environmentally friendly
products and packaging, and has initiated statewide recycling
programs, an "Every Day is Earth Day" Program, amnesty
days for getting rid of toxic and non-recyclable items, as well
as creating over 1,200 jobs in the first quarter of this year
alone. Queen's business acumen almost seems to run counter
to such community standards, but he asserts it isn't difficult, but
rather business owners are complacent and lazy.

Although Star compares to nearby Seattle and Portland for having
a large counter culture movement as part of their makeup, inclusion
of such high-profile associates as the homosexual-rights advocate,
Rainbow Archer, still have drawn some public criticism. Arrow
dismisses those complaints outright, using words not allowed in this 
publication to describe "a bunch of hair-brained religious zealots
who are at the core of what's wrong with this society's new direction."

The Rainbow Archer was not specifically in the closet, but when
attacks on bars and gay couples in Star's "Little Castro" district
started, he felt it imperative that he make himself known. "Visibility
is the answer," he told me. 

     "Whether fighting ignorance or drug dealers of corporate
crime, you have to stand up to it and say 'That's enough!'"

Queen's plans for riverfront development have blossomed,
with his plan to give contractors and builders a piece of
their investment in exchange for their sweat equity.
Progressive thinking outside the box is what has
established Queen as a successful businessman in a
volatile market, and he is applying those same tactics
to his restructuring for the city.

"We can't let development and our import/export
businesses falter. That's our bread and butter. So you
can see the scope of this gargantuan puzzle; keeping
the public safe, stopping organized crime, saving
existing businesses, developing new ones, keeping
the nation and the world's faith in the city solvent...."

He seemed to become distracted, reflecting on
the fate of his city, as a parent would a fragile child they
were steadfastly fighting to save, not knowing what
the future might bring. His icy and snappish facade
skipped a beat.

"It sounds whelming...quite intimidating," I offered as he
collected himself. "Oliver Queen hasn't seen the
problem yet that he can't find a way to beat.
We're survivors here in this town....believe that."

I do believe it. And therein lies the strength of
Queen's campaign, on multiple levels; his is
a passionate and endearing presence, one that rallies
people and demands self-empowerment.

He's an everyman success story that helps others
on the bottom aspire to same. It's about underdogs, the little
guys, and overcoming tremendous odds.
I always have loved a comeback story.

-Yolanda Montez works out of Los Angeles
and makes frequent trips adventuring around
the globe. Her passions range beyond journalism
to boxing, fashion, and criminal law.


Behind the Scenes: Profiles and Backgrounds
A little something extra with the Answer Man, Robert Rozakis
Well, for a hero junkie like me, just making it to this
'new earth' alive should be reward enough, right?
But add to that an assortment of masked wonders
who are more plentiful than ever before, and this
former comics scribe is a happy camper.
It's One Year Later and we still need a map
and a genius to figure out half of the dynamics
as to "Who's Who?" on this patchwork world.
It's a regular mosaic of mythological proportions.
So this month I'm here to give some extra
behind-the-scenes scoop on some of the new
personalities running around Star City!
Chloe Sullivan is new to 'our' earth (as mentioned,
along with yours truly and a few billion more!) and she hails
from a small town experience that certainly  didn't prep
her for the hustle and bustle of the down-and-out Star
City. She's an old soul, though, and has quickly made
the transition not only to the big city, but also the
reverse-engineered computer technology brought to us courtesy
of some of our time-lost friends and dwellers in the Time Warp Zones.

Chloe is a mathematical genius, with a great sense for
coordinating and strategizing. She helps coordinate all
the activities and divisions in the city...a daunting task
to say the least.
Next up comes a 'new' Black Canary, who at first was thought
to have been reunited with Arrow after a highly publicized
breakup last year when they both departed the Justice
 League (geez! I feel like Rona Barrett with the gossip report!)
But we discovered that this is an older Black Canary
who, like our world's known entity, came to this earth from another.
On the earth this new Canary was from, where there was
never a Superman, she lost her Green Arrow during the Crisis,
even as he resided in a new android body. His sacrifice allowed
Canary and several dozen inhabitants of their earth to make
safe passage to our earth before the Great Explosion closed
off all those many other worlds. 

Arrow originally took a lot of heat when the Canary we know
as a long-time Leaguer originally returned to this earth from
her home on Earth 2, romantically linked to the significantly older
Queen. Now, with rumors swirling that he has taken up with another
'version' of Black Canary, he is under attack again.


*Star City ranked lower only that the following cities, all judged
on economic growth, poverty levels, school capabilities, drug use,
and gun violence; Dakota, Detroit, Gotham City, Hub City, and
Los Angeles. Definitely not statistics they wish to be tied to.

** Former Star City mayor Thomas Bolt was not only
indicted by a grand jury on 16 different counts--ranging from
misappropriation of funds to cronyism, bribery, and extortion-- but
there were allegations raised at his trial that he also masqueraded
as the city's nefarious drug lord, Steelclaw.

Bolt denied those charges to the end, and now a possibly new
Steelclaw is loose in the city while the former mayor sits behind bars.

***H.I.V.E. (Hierarchy of International Vengeance
and Extermination) (No, we kid you not!)
Obviously a super-villain terrorist organization with cells
around the world. Built from the embers of C.Y.C.L.O.P.S.
and other such organizations. Little is known, except that
they have been implicated in several FBI and CBI reports,
but their existence was revealed when the Teen Titan Bumblebee
went undercover in one of their 'Youth Training Programs.'

**** S.K.U.L.L. is a criminal organization with known
ties to scientific stakes, and formerly headed by the Atomic Skull.

***** S.T.A.R. Labs (Scientific and Technological Advanced
Research Laboratories); worldwide company with facilities in
most major cities. S.T.A.R. does R & D, meta-human studies,
housing and study of alien artifacts, and much more.