Fatherhood is one of life’s most profound experiences, especially for young dads. It requires a lot of strength to raise a child at an age where you might still be figuring out who you want to be. The pressure to provide for a family isn’t easy, but you’re not the only one who has struggled with being a parent.
Roy Harper is a prime example of a young father that battled to find his place. Over the years, Roy has struggled with addiction, self-loathing and regret. In addition to balancing his life as a superhero, he’s also needed to take care of his daughter Lian. His daughter inspired him to become a better man, which is why he can encourage other young dads to step up and be there for their children.
Growing up, Roy had his fair share of father figures. His biological dad was killed in a forest fire, so a Navajo medicine chief called Brave Bow raised him. Roy learned the ways of the Navajo, developing into a talented archer. After Brave Bow died, Roy was adopted by Green Arrow and became his ward and sidekick Speedy.
In terms of social status, Brave Bow and Green Arrow were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Brave Bow chose to live a simpler life, while Oliver Queen came from a rich background. Roy’s early years with Ollie were good, but that changed after Queen lost his fortune. He started neglecting Roy, who turned to taking heroin. When Green Arrow found out he disowned Roy and threw him out into the streets.
With Black Canary’s help, Roy started to recover and worked as a counselor for anti-drug programmes. He gained a lot of government contacts and while on an undercover mission he met the assassin Cheshire. Roy was tasked with bringing her in, but he and Cheshire fell in love and she became pregnant. Roy refused to turn Cheshire over to the authorities, so he left, unaware of the pregnancy. Later, he went on a mission with Nightwing to stop Cheshire from assassinating a group of diplomats. After this mission, she left their daughter Lian in his care.
As a father, Roy had his work cut out for him. The mother of his daughter was a criminal, meaning Lian would never be able to have a normal family life. Despite this, Roy was determined to give his child a good life. Being a dad motivated Roy to take his role as a hero more seriously. He introduced Lian to other members of the superhero community, while focusing on staying clean.
Roy’s decision to better himself didn’t go unnoticed. Eventually, he was approached to join the Justice League by Hal Jordan. During a battle, Hal called him ‘Red Arrow’ in an attempt to stop Roy’s identity from being revealed. Roy accepted the name as a sign of becoming a mature person. He became a member of the Justice League and even managed to reconcile with Green Arrow.
All was going well until the villain Prometheus orchestrated an attack on Star City that ended up killing Lian. Prometheus also tortured Roy and cut off his arm. Lian’s death sent him into a downward spiral that made him addicted to painkillers. In my opinion, the story was badly written and destroyed a lot of what made Roy likeable, but it did hint at what can happen when a parent loses a child.
During the New 52, Lian was erased from existence, but DC Rebirth put Roy back on track for potentially being shown with his daughter again one day. Roy’s identity as a parent is a huge part of the character. His relationship with Lian helped him grow. More importantly, Roy isn’t a perfect father. He made mistakes and tried to learn from them along the way. That’s part of being human. Roy never stopped putting his daughter first, and that is the essence of a loving dad.