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On the Other Hand ... The Boxing Glove Arrow

Written by Logan on Monday, March 14 2016 and posted in Columns

On the Other Hand ... The Boxing Glove Arrow

The superhero world today suffers from an overdeveloped sense of maturity. I could rant and rave against it as many others have done, but I've chosen, instead, to celebrate the weird and the wonderful, the things that we're supposed to forget. Tonight: The Boxing Glove Arrow.

Respect the Trick Arrow

In 1941, the Green Arrow first appeared in DC's More Fun Comics #73. He was a mystery man with a Robin Hood motif using archery as his gimmick. He was the world's greatest archer using an inherently deadly weapon. He didn't shoot to kill, though. Typically, he pinned people to walls through their clothing or shot arrows into gun barrels to disarm them.

Soon, Green Arrow began to use a variety of trick arrows to aid in his crime-fighting efforts. Trick arrows can be used for a variety of non-lethal effects, from nets to foam to smokescreens. Sometimes deadly force is necessary, though, and trick arrows can be incredibly lethal by utilizing explosives, acid, or worse. They can also be used more as utility devices to create other effects such as faking out Geiger counters, to cutting open safes, and vacuuming up pearls(!).

Marvel's bow-slinging Avenger, Hawkeye, appeared in 1964. Where the original Green Arrow was a veteran of the Golden Age, Hawkeye was product of the Silver Age. The sensibilities had changed somewhat and Hawkeye's trick arrow arsenal was not nearly as absurd as the Arrow's. Instead of the Jack-in-the-Box Arrow, Hawkeye was famous for using more realistic weapons like explosive arrowheads and putty payloads.

Deadpool does not respect the trick arrowI have always had a fascination with archery for a number of reasons and I adore super-heroic archers. The trick arrows are an absolutely essential part of their charm. The payloads range from the clever, to the sublime, to the absurd. Marvel and DC have both published technical diagrams showing the inner workings of these devices. A lot of them still make no sense, but they're trying, and I respect that.

Let's take a look at a few choice arrows:

The Clever:

  • Rope Arrow. A must for transportation or retrieval.
  • Stun/Electric Charge Arrow. Basically a self-contained Taser. It was truly ahead of its time.
  • Boomerang Arrow. The first outlandish trick arrow; it paved the way for greater inventiveness.

The Sublime:

  • Atomic Warhead Arrow. Damn. I mean ... damn.
  • Kryptonite Arrow. It has one job.
  • Ant-Man Arrow. We better see this in a movie soon.

The Absurd:

  • Vibration Arrow. I'm impressed that they managed to slip this into a kid's book.
  • Electric Eel Arrow. Exactly what it sounds like.
  • Chimney Sweep Arrow. An absolute must for fighting evil chimneys.

And then there's the Boxing Glove Arrow.

The First Appearance of the Boxing Glove Arrow, Adeventure Comics #118 (1947)

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love the boxing glove arrow and those who hate fun.

The Boxing Glove Arrow, or BGA®, is exactly what it sounds like: a boxing glove on the end of an arrow shaft. It is a simple, elegant thing of beauty.

The BGA allows the archer to fire at the bad guy's face without killing them. Think about that. More importantly, picture it. That was the original purpose of the trick arrow in the comics, to present a visual that could be instantly recognized on the page. The explosive arrow is visually very obvious. The blunt, non-lethal arrow is not as easy to depict. When a thug is shot in the head with an arrow, you expect to see him die. If he just falls stunned, there's a bit of a question as to why they're still alive. Throw a boxing glove on the end, though, and everybody knows instantly what happened.

Green Arrow was created right in the middle of boxing's Golden Age (1920s-60s). Joe Louis was the heavyweight champion and boxing was everywhere. Boxing glove gags were plentiful in the slapstick of the time. The spring loaded boxing glove punched out a variety of cartoon characters and film comedians. Even Green Lantern was creating giant green, glowing boxing gloves to attack with. Everybody knew what the glove meant and what it could do. This led to the creation of the BGA, the most iconic trick arrow of all time. People loved it. They still do.

Some people, however, hate it. I mean, they haaate it. They've given BGA the stigma that it has today. You've heard the arguments. "It would never work" they say. "It's ridiculous." "It's childish." "It's stupid!" Green Arrow has even tried to distance himself from the BGA, but he always comes back to it.

Would it work? Well ... maybe. Your biggest problem is form factor followed by aerodynamics. But if you got these sorted out, how effective would it really be? The answer to that is "very." The average amateur boxer generates up to 3,200 Newtons of force with a punch. The best heavyweights get up around 5,000 Newtons. The BGA has the potential to hit with 7,200 Newtons. That's a knockout anyway you look at it.

Is it ridiculous? I'd say it's whimsical, which is very different. I won't deny it's a bit over the top, but that is why we're reading about bulletproof men and irradiated monsters in the first place, isn't it? It's emblematic of adventure over action (that's an article for another day).

Is it childish? If that means kids love it, then yes. If it means only kids could love it, then obviously not. The BGA has fans of every age, including this 40-something writer.

Is it stupid? No, you're stupid!

Through all the hate, the Boxing Glove Arrow persists. Just when you think they've done away with it, the BGA shows up again. Every animated version of Green Arrow has used it. GA in video games uses it. People on YouTube make real world versions. It was mentioned in Smallville. GA cosplayers always carry the iconic ammo. (Hawkeye cosplayers carry it even though Hawkeye doesn't use it). When the BGA finally made an appearance on the show Arrow, the internet went wild.

Is there still a place for the Boxing Glove Arrow?

When Arrow came to TV, GA finally got his own show. It was intended to be a more serious, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight-inspired take on the character. Yet in the very first episode, he used a Computer Hacking Arrow. Even when they try to make him more serious, the trick arrow is a constant. Arrow isn't GA's first attempt at going serious. For a time, Green Arrow quit using trick arrows altogether because he felt they made him soft. The Longbow Hunters (1987) was GA's time to grow up and join the grim-and-gritty world of modern "mature" comic books. It wasn't a bad run, honestly, but GA without the tricks is just not the same. Eventually he returned to the swashbuckling gadgeteer we know and love, and today, he has a full quiver of tricks.

Stories often suffer today from a misguided sense of maturity. Inspired by an article I read some years ago about Bouncing Boy, I submit the following proposal: Very simply, insert a Boxing Glove Arrow into your story and see how it fits. If someone can't come into your story and shoot somebody in the face with a BGA, then maybe the story is taking itself a bit too seriously. Let's remember where these stories came from and why we love them in the first place.

If I could fire a bow, the BGA is the first thing I would attempt to work out. There's definitely still a place for it in modern comic books. I'm not ashamed to say I love the Boxing Glove Arrow. I love all trick arrows, even the absurd ones. They have a campy charm that is undeniable. There's no shame in liking, even loving, the whimsy and playfulness of the BGA. If you don't agree, I urge you to take another look. Try to see it through new eyes, dare I say less mature eyes.

As a final note, I'll address the inevitable question. In the millions of Green Arrow vs Hawkeye arguments throughout history, the winner usually comes down to one thing: the Boxing Glove Arrow. If you like the BGA, Green Arrow wins. If you don't, Hawkeye wins. It's that simple. Hawkeye is more popular than he's ever been right now due to the Avengers movies and his incredible solo series. I love Hawkeye and I don't feel he needs to be changed. But can you honestly tell me you wouldn't love to see him shoot Doctor Doom in the face with a Boxing Glove Arrow?

Connor discovers the effectiveness of dad's arsenal


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