Whatever version of Roy Harper Jr. you read about in the comics, he has never had an easy life. The son of a forest ranger, Harper would go on to be raisied by a sham of a Navajo reservation, Brave Bow, when his father, Roy Harper Sr., died saving members of the reservation during a fire. Harper Jr. was raised as any other person on the Navajo reservation was raised. He became a “Tachini” tribe member.
Brave Bow saw in the young Harper Jr. an archery talent, which he sought to train him in. Harper Jr. remained focused on developing his talent, where he eventually gained the skills of someone twice his age in archery. As Oliver Queen/Green Arrow made his debut into the world of superheroing, it was something that caught Harper Jr.’s eye. He worshipped Queen, and Harper Jr. took the opportunity to impress the Emerald Archer during an archery contest the latter was judging. Harper Jr. succeeded in impressing Queen and gave the future Speedy/Red Arrow/Arsenal a magnetized arrow. Queen stated that Harper Jr. was speedier than others.
Queen then gave Harper Jr. a real chance: to become the latter’s protege. Queen began to train Harper Jr. as his sidekick. He was taught how to effectively utilize both trick and standard arrows, which Queen had crafted for his war on crime. Given the heroic identity of Speedy at the end of his training, Harper Jr. officially joined Queen to fight crime. With the death of Brave Bow, the responsibility of sole father figure fell to Queen.
With Queen’s guidance, the two worked together on a number of cases, and Speedy made his way into the Teen Titans as Queen did in the Justice League. Harper Jr. worked alongside Dick Grayson/Robin, Wally West/Kid Flash, Garth/Aqualad, and Donna Troy/Wonder Girl. Harper Jr. and Troy eventually grew close and ended up in a teenage relationship before becoming close friends as time went on. With his relationship diminished, Queen traveling America with Hal Jordan/Green Lantern and Dinah Lance/Black Canary, and the end of the Teen Titans, Harper Jr. began to feel alone and lost. Harper Jr. turned to heroin.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine found in 2016 that 591,000 people had a substance addiction to heroin and necessitated heroin rehab treatment. They discovered that there were 12,990 deaths because of an addiction to heroin. This is the case for Harper Jr. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World can show us why Harper Jr. decided to turn to drugs:
1.) To relax and escape
2.) To rebel
3.) To relieve boredom
4.) To experiment
5.) To seem grown up
6.) To fit in
The likeliest of these reasons was to escape and to potentially relieve his boredom. He probably sought to escape the pain of everything going on around him and to occupy his time with something else. The story does not end there, however. Queen found out about his ward struggling with his addiction but did not offer him help from a heroin rehab or any type of support. Instead, Queen kicked Harper Jr. out of his home after punching him. This left Harper Jr. homeless. Jordan eventually found him, and Lance assisted him in leaving behind heroin for the rest of his days.
Harper Jr. sought to impress Queen in order to fix the relationship between the two of them. While he worked as a counselor for those struggling with drug troubles following their recovery, he continued his career as Speedy, eventually joining a reunited Teen Titans before going solo once more after it was disbanded. As time went on, Harper Jr. took on the identities of Arsenal and later Red Arrow. Yet, he would relapse back into drug addiction when his daughter, Lian, was killed by the villain, Lester Buchinsky/The Electrocutioner, at the behest of Prometheus, another villain.
Harper Jr. seeks out drug dealers, and steals their drugs, in order to fuel a new addiction he begins to have. After finding him on the streets and given Lance’s blessing, Batman takes him to a rehab center to find help. Harper Jr. escapes the center to go after Electrocutioner, who he brutalizes. The possessions and home of the Electrocutioner are eventually burned by Harper Jr., despite the attempt by Queen to intervene in the situation. Harper Jr., at this point, has fully retreated back into his Arsenal identity. Roy eventually refuses an offer by Slade Wilson/Deathstroke to resurrect his daughter Lian.
Harper Jr.’s life continues on in the New 52 company relaunch with a new version of the character introduced into continuity with most of his previous stories remaining in continuity. Regardless of which version of the character it is, Harper Jr. has struggled with a great deal of pain and it is hopeful he stays away from delving back into substance abuse again.
About the author: Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery, and the entertainment industry.