Over the course of Arrow's eight seasons, John Diggle has risen from babysitter bodyguard to the butt-kicking super soldier known as Spartan. Brought to life each week by David Ramsey in an intense, evolving performance, Diggle is the stoic moral compass of Team Arrow, Oliver Queen's trusted brother-in-arms, and a positive superhero role model. Throughout Arrow's tenure on TV, we have watched Ramsey's character struggle and overcome many a villain or family obstacle. Each problem has tempered John Diggle's resolve to be a stalwart team member, badass soldier and most importantly, dedicated husband and father.
Diggle's Humble Beginnings
In the earliest days of Arrow, Diggle was an obstacle for Oliver Queen. How could Oliver ever operate as the Green Arrow with the hard-as-nails former soldier babysitter bodyguard constantly around? The cat-and-mouse game of Diggle trying to keep up with Oliver's disappearing act built the foundation of their relationship. Upon his discovery of Queen's vigilante alter ego (with a little coaxing), John was thrust into the life of a nighttime crimefighter. Fortunately, as a former soldier, he was well equipped to be a founding member of Team Arrow.
Diggle, the Hero
What a run on Team Arrow it has been. David Ramsey's John Diggle has accomplished much as a vigilante in Star City. He's donned the Green Arrow persona on multiple occasions, keeping the city safe in Oliver's stead. The Spartan alter-ego has fought side-by-side with some of DC's biggest heroes. Diggle's interactions with the Flash in particular, and his inability to hold on to his lunch during a Flash-relocation is always a highlight.
He's also led Task Force X, or the "Ghost Initiative" (*cough* Suicide Squad *cough*) with his wife and fellow ARGUS agent, Lyla Michaels. Speaking of ARGUS, Diggle’s time with the clandestine government agency represents his dedication to protecting others. He doubled down on his vigilante heroics; turning his pastime with Team Arrow into a full-time gig. This isn’t a new thing for Diggle. Whether in the military, ARGUS or alongside Star City’s vigilantes, Diggle has always found a way to protect the unprotected.
Diggle, the Family Man
The aspect I find most compelling about the character of John Diggle is his immense dedication to his family. Everything he does is in service of his loved ones, be that his biological family or his makeshift superhero one. He's proven this time and again.
He put his own life on the line to save his brother both mentally and physically. He quit a cushy gig at ARGUS to protect his wife and child. His team knows they can count on JD to always have their back, even if that means taking on an ancient order of ninja assassins. (I don't care what kind of Spartan helmet you give me, I draw the line at "ancient order of ninja assassins.")
His vigilante lineage is strong as well, raising boys who would later oppose one another—his adopted son Connor, who takes up the Green Arrow mantle in a possible future, and John Jr., leader of the Deathstroke Gang. No matter what the future ultimately holds, it’s clear that John’s legacy as a hero won’t die with him.
Diggle, the Role Model
Fictional character or not, Diggle has come to represent the type of father and friend I hope to be. Someone willing to lay it all on the line in the hopes that his family will be safe. John is the guy who will make the hard decisions, and factor in the safety and well-being of the ones he holds dear. I see that and aspire to have the strength Diggle has in the face of adversity.
For superhero stories to resonate, they must have characters you can identify with. Diggle is one of those characters. On his hero's journey, he becomes a dad, which scares him, but he ultimately finds comfort and joy in it. He strives to balance his chaotic career of superhero antics with a healthy family and home life. A basic human psychological need is the pursuit of security in one's work and familial relationships.
Diggle’s rocky journey to full-time dad and hero represents the most relatable human journey on the show. He overcomes his fears of commitment, sacrifice and fatherhood. In the end, Diggle gains a new perspective on life—his wife and kids give him even more reason to protect Star City. He does it for them, but also for all the other families who are unable to protect themselves.
Diggle and the Future
As Arrow comes to a close, I can only hope that the story of John Diggle continues somehow. Certainly, with five other Arrowverse shows on the air and a couple of potential new ones on the horizon, there’s always the chance of guest appearances. But even if this never happens and his journey ends with Oliver’s, his story has been an inspiring one. I wish characters like JD were on TV when I was a young, wide-eyed comic book nerd in search of representation. I can think of no better character to identify with than Mr. Diggle.
I find comfort, joy and resolve in watching John Diggle's character on TV. The story of John Diggle is an inspiration and an excellent representation of a black superhero and family man. Sure, he dons a helmet, grabs a sidearm and fights crime. But more importantly, he protects and provides for his family. He is a devoted friend and ally, and always tries to do the morally right thing. Those are traits we should all aspire to have.
After all, not all superheroes have powers.
Arrow airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CST) on The CW. Visit our official Arrow page for more news, features and articles on Oliver Queen's final season.
Carl Waldron writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, and is a contributor to the Couch Club, our television column. Follow him on Twitter at @mrcarlwaldron.