Who Is Anarky?
The “Who Is …?” articles that I did just prior to the season finale of The Flash were pretty well received. Thank you for that! As a result of the traffic the articles got I’ve decided to do my best to extend the series to each of the CW’s shows: The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. Without further ado, welcome to the first “Who Is …?” for Arrow this season. Tonight we’re going to get you briefed on the character Anarky who is making his debut this evening.
I’m going to say something that might anger some comic fans, but having just gone back and reviewed all of the character’s appearances since his introduction in 1989’s Detective Comics #608, I have to say Anarky is a character that is better in concept then he ever was in print. I’m eager to see his introduction in tonight’s Arrow, I think it’s the right show given the themes of authority and tyranny that it’s playing with this season. You can guess that Anarky is anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-big business and finance, and if you did you’d be sort of right.
When introduced in Detective Comics #608 by famous Batman scribe Alan Grant and artist Norm Breyfogle Anarky was mostly those things. He was also a super genius twelve year old boy who wield a staff that would electrocute his victims. First used for a two issues arc (Detective Comics #608-609) he was originally intended to be a one and done character.
In multiple interviews since Grant and Breyfogle have recounted their original intentions for Anarky but fans reacted positively towards him and his motives. Oddly enough, when Anarky would re-appear about a year later in Detective Comics #617-620 he had dropped the Anarky persona in favor of a new cyber-identity “Moneyspider”. His motives were still that of Anarky but his methods were different. Instead of handing out physical vigilante justice on the streets of Gotham City he was now hacking into banks and major corporations, stealing their money, pocketing some of it in overseas accounts, and distributing most of it to Third World countries.
It’s also worth noting that this arc was dominated not by Moneyspider (Anarky) but rather by the hijacking of a plane carrying Tim Drake’s mother and father by voodoo wielding revolutionaries on the island of Haiti. Much of each book is taken up with this mystery and the efforts of Bruce Wayne and Batman to save Tim’s parents. The presence of Moneyspider is a sub-narrative that runs through those four issues and we don’t actually see Moneyspider (aka Anarky) until the arc’s final issues Detective Comics #620. This arc is an important one for Tim Drake, who was still in training with Batman at this point and not wearing the Robin costume yet. In an effort to distract himself from what is happening with his parents Tim tracks down Moneyspide on his in his first solo mission of his career.
While anti-establishment, anti-corporatism elements, they become less important to the character as time goes on. His appearances were also limited after 1990 making him probably one of the least used well know B-list rogue in Batman’s gallery. Alan Grant continued to scribe Anarky exclusively taking him to some really odd places. By the time he appears next in Robin Annual #1 in 1992 Moneyspider has been forgotten and Anarky is back, although he’s caught up in the “Elcipso: The Darkness Within” cross over event, and later in a few issues of Batman: Shadow of the Bat #40-41. In these issues he’s back to taking his anger out of corrupt politicians and corporate America.
When Anarky re-emerges in the DCU it’s with his own self-titled four issue mini-series and this is where the character completely jumps the shark for me. Whereas Alan Grant was arguably one of the best Batman scribes in the characters long publishing run he did have a tendency to infuse his work with highbrow intellectualism that just didn’t work in the superhero medium. Under the editorial stewardship of Denny O’Neil during their run on Detective Comics and later Batman Grants penchant for political statement was watered down and restrained by Batman’s history and conventions. He still revitalized the character, made him darker, and often tackled political and social conscious themes, but they were fresh and done in a way that made sense for both the character and Gotham City in general. By the time Anarky came out Grant’s writing was becoming a bit foolish.
The mini-series sees Anarky – a 17 year old young man at this point – develop a technological and meditative process by which he was able to fuse both sides of his brain as one allowing him use more of his mental capacity. He then takes this intelligence and begins a four issue quest to understand the true nature of evil.
Fine, these are comic books I get that, but in the realm of comic books this arc sees Anarky summon and fight the evil Demon Etrigon, enslave another demon from Hell to act as his muscle, construct a Boom Tube generator to travel to Apokoplis where he confronts Darkseid, returns to Earth and confronts Batman, and has constructed a machine that will free people from the enslavement of the social contract we all live within. Thrown in for good measure are massively over simplified interpretations of some extremely complex philosophical concepts.
None of this is odd when speaking of Alan Grant. He’s built his career as a professional writer in comic books and out commenting on philosophical and political themes. Sometimes it works really well, and other times it just doesn’t. Anarky, although built on concepts that seem to play to Grant’s wheelhouse never collaced into something that works.
Anarky had so much potential as a concept but with each successive appearance the character was placed in increasingly ridiculous settings that undermined his credibility. After a short lived 10 issue solo series (cancelled after 8 issues) that saw Anarky wield a Green Lantern ring among other ridiculousness the character was banished from the DCU for a decade, only reappearing in 2007 in Robin #181, and not without creating some controversy among fans. This was the first appearance of the character not written by Grant.
I’m not a fan of Alan Grant’s Anarky, although I am a fan of the basic concept of the character. Not a hero, not a villain, but anti-establishment and not afraid to take action in the service of his beliefs. However, after re-reading Anarky’s appearances written by Grant between 1989 and 1997 it’s clear that the author never seemed to settle on a single approach to the character.
Give us your thoughts about Anarky.