Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Who is the better mayor—Green Arrow or Penguin?

That’s a trick question, obviously. Star City and Gotham City are two very different places. Gotham City has a much smaller manufacturing base, for instance. But there is one category in which the two cities are comparable. Both have experienced unprecedented upticks in crime rates. From earthquake devices leveling entire areas of the city to mass medical experiment mutant escapes, it’s clear that city leaders have their work cut out for them. You’d have to be absolutely insane to want the job of running such a place.

One would think that the average, middle-class family would want to get out, if only for basic self-preservation. So what does it say about those who would willingly remain in such places? That they’re ungovernable? On Gotham, Edward Nygma insisted that Oswald Cobblepot NOT bribe anyone into rigging the election for him. When Oswald wins he becomes mopey and teary-eyed thinking about how the citizens of Gotham actually LIKE him, without bothering to consider the general depravity and hopelessness of the Gotham voting public.

Penguin's mayoral tenure started promisingly, but has been filled with tragedy.

Since taking office, Cobblepot AKA Penguin has attended two parties which have been crashed by terrorists, visited a library, had Nygma’s girlfriend killed, had his portrait painted, and seen the statue of his mother decapitated by Red Hood Gang knockoffs led by his former right hand man, Butch.

Oliver Queen's mayoral tenure started promisingly, but has filled with tragedy.

Speaking of statues, over in Arrow's Star City, Oliver Queen was attacked and kidnapped during the dedication of his Black Canary statue. (Statues—solid reminders of our aspirational best—are very important in crime-ridden towns. Criminal masterminds will always target them to ensure the populace has nothing to look up to.) He’s also had to deal with an attack at a new medical facility which was just a front for gun-running or something, the Stardust drug and a powerful/destructive drug dealer, and a reporter who insists on reporting the news. But then, the same reporter agrees to give Mayor Queen a month to “prove himself,” or something, before she’ll actually start reporting on stuff. (So I guess Oliver Queen is a Democrat, and I’m looking forward to the WikiLeaks releases showing the emails in which she runs stories by him before running them.)

 Yes, Green Arrow made some decent points. But he made them with smug didacticism. 

In the comics, Green Arrow was liberal even to the point of being a leftist. In the infamous “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” stories by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams he was a hectoring, lecturing blowhard. Mike Grell’s run on Green Arrow in the mid-80s and 90s was a lot more subtle, but Oliver Queen was very much a liberal, and often directly took on federal government agencies that were engaging in no-goodism. I’m not exactly sure how political the Penguin was in the comics. I don’t remember ever reading any stories in which he took a particular stand on any issue— he was primarily concerned with his enjoyment of wacky umbrella-themed crime capers. But in the Lorenzo Semple, Jr. - William Dozier TV series, Penguin ran for mayor (against Batman!) in two classic episodes. Penguin attempted to present himself as a sort of law-and-order candidate, owing to the fact that he had spent so much of his life and career in the company of the police, while Batman was constantly surrounded by criminals.

Today a man who wore a monocle and top hat, used a cigarette holder, and carried an open umbrella indoors would have a tough time getting elected outside of a few blue states (the cigarette holder would have to have a vaping mechanism).

So who is the better comic book TV show mayor? I’m going to have to go with Penguin over Oliver Queen because Gotham is by far the superior show. Somehow it manages to strike a weird balance between dark and light that works really well. And it’s kind of crazed. Moreover, Penguin was actually elected by the people, whereas I think Oliver Queen was merely appointed interim mayor, right? I’ve only been half paying attention to the show lately, although season five has been a lot better than season four was. Felicity has still completely lost her way, though.

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