A look back at some personal experiences and memories,
March 10, 2014
By Avi Green
So now, here’s the next part of my analysis of the Q&A files
from the old Captain Comics site from 1997-2001 (part one
is here), as I take a look at what else J. Jonah Jameson’s
real life counterpart had to say. Now, let’s take a look at this bit
from June 1, 2000:
What do you think of the following choices as
television shows: The Punisher by Marvel Comics; Spookgirl by
Slave Labor Graphics; Sidekicks by Fanboyinc.; 100 Bullets by
DC/Vertigo comics; Hellblazer by DC/Vertigo; Damage Control by
Marvel Comics; and Charm School by Slave Labor Graphics
In general, I don't hold out much hope for comics turning into
decent TV shows. Despite the rap comics get, it's often television
that is truly the shallow entertainment field, with a herd
instinct that makes every show look like every other show. 100
Bullets seems like a perfect vehicle for TV, in that its premise
is naturally episodic. But if it really did appear on the
networks, no doubt it would be sanitized and homogenized into
something resembling Friends or ER or whatever the hot show is at
the time. On the other hand, if HBO got hold of it...!
I hope it never happens: Brian Azzarello,
who put 100 Bullets together, is a very overrated writer, though his
recent rendition of Wonder Woman is worse.
In your opinion, is there any writer that stands out
for his or her memory of DC history? How about Marvel?
Unquestionably, Mark Waid is the King of DC Trivia. In fact, he's
the first guy I turn to when I'm stumped -- like this week's
answer to "The Odd Man" (see next question). Waid knew the
character's checklist of appearances off the top of his head!
On the Marvel side, most acknowledge Kurt Busiek to be the
unrivaled Mr. Know-It-All. Both Waid and Busiek star in the Fans
vs. Pros Trivia Challenge at San Diego every year, and generally
demolish the competition.
Umm, I’m not sure Waid can lay claim to
being trivia master, certainly not after he began rejecting heroic
premises with Irredeemable. E. Nelson Bridwell, however, was
definitely a walking Superman encyclopedia, having been a leading
editor/writer on many of the Man of Steel stories up to the early
80s, Supergirl included.
And while Busiek might have once qualified for a Marvel trivia
master, he no longer does, alas. And Mr. Smith’s reply to the
following queries really blows:
I'm a big fan of the Cliff Steele Robotman and am
wondering if you could give me some background on the original.
I know he was a member of the All-Star Squadron (however that
was a retcon title), but I understand he was also originally
portrayed as a humorous character. So what was his status
concerning both golden age and modern continuity? Surely, James
Robinson's The Golden Age murderous "Robot-Man-iac" conception
isn't canon, right? Also, did the two versions ever meet?
The original Robotman was scientist Bob Crane, whose brain was
placed in a metal body and preserved long enough for him to star
in Hogan's Heroes in the '60s.
Just kidding. Crane was indeed the scientist's name, but he called
himself "Paul Dennis" when wearing a realistic rubber mask to
disguise his robotic nature. (Thus inspiring Tom Cruise in Mission
Impossible, who used realistic rubber masks to disguise his
robotic acting style. No, no, I'm kidding again.)
Who cares? Let me take a moment to say
that’s a very filthy joke, because Hogan’s Heroes was one of
the most trivializing TV series that insulted Holocaust survivors and
the US army who bravely fought the Nazis during WW2 (the same goes
for a Sylvester Stallone/John Huston movie from 1981 called Victory,
but that’s another story). The subject material is not something you
just joke with. It’s stupidity like that which really makes me
regret I ever wasted my time on such a hack. Onto the next part of
Anyway, the Golden Age Robotman was created by Jerry
Siegel in Star Spangled Comics 7 (1942), although the strip jumped
to Detective Comics in 1948. Never a marquee player, Robotman was
always a backup and was indeed played for laughs -- he even had a
robot dog for comic relief! As far as I know he was never part of
a team until Roy Thomas retconned him into the All-Star Squadron.
(And no, the Robotmaniac of The Silver Age wasn't canon.)
In America vs. the JSA, he adopted yet another identity, that of
Chuck Grayson. However, all of these appearances are pre-Crisis,
so I'm not sure of his current status. I could swear that he made
an appearance in just the last month or two as a robotics expert,
but I cannot remember where no matter how hard I bang my brain
against its metal case. Perhaps the Legion of Superfluous Heroes
can contribute some more info.
I can provide some criteria for now about
the pre-Crisis story of America vs. the JSA: as far as I know, that
was retconned away. Now if only the same could be done with Mr.
Most of the iconic superhero characters have lovers,
whether in the past or present, that fandom accepts as meant for
each other (Mary Jane, Lois). What bothers me is that Batman
doesn't really have a "great love of his life." I'm sure he's
had love interests in his past but it seems his only regular
sources of affection through the years have been either the
occasional one-night-stand trysts with women in full-body
leather suits or the many failed relationships with
pre-pubescent boys in tightie shorts. In the past, has he ever
reconciled his "issues" enough to begin to conceive of a healthy
relationship with any particular person, or will The City always
be his Lady?
Actually, Batman has had quite a few love interests over the
years, but I understand what you mean that there isn't one "made"
The first was probably dull socialite Julie Madison, who first
appeared in Detective 31 but was also the love interest in Batman
& Robin (1997). She faded quickly, though, to be replaced by
the equally dull Linda Page, daughter of a wealthy oilman. Page
managed to make the serial Batman (1943) before becoming a trivia
One of the better known Golden Age Bat-babes was reporter Vicki
Vale, portrayed by Kim Basinger in the 1989 Batman. A pale copy of
Lois Lane, she was his opposite number throughout the '50s,
beginning in Batman 45 (1948). She was also incredibly boring,
though, and -- despite appearing in the 1949 serial Batman and
Robin -- had already begun to fade when Kathy (Batwoman) Kane was
introduced as Bruce's "natural" mate in Detective 233 (1956). She,
too, proved a yawn-fest and was written out of the series by 1964
(and is now dead).
However, in all fairness to Bruce (and his detractors who snidely
note his predeliction for hanging out with teenage boys), he's had
a number of major love affairs in "modern" times.
One was Silver St. Cloud, who was a major character in the famed
Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers Detectives of the '70s. She's got
my vote for "most realistic Bat-babe ever," because the mask
didn't fool her -- she divined that Bats was Bruce after one look
at his chin. (Let's face it: If you've been intimate with someone,
are you really going to be fooled by a face mask?) Silver couldn't
handle the revelation and left town (although she is doing a retro
turn in a current Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight story arc).
Then there's Talia, the luscious daughter of major bad guy Ra's al
Ghul. She has saved his life on more than one occasion, and he has
thus far avoided arresting her. Batman even produced a child with
her, although that story (the graphic novel Batman: Son of the
Demon) has since been relegated to "Elseworlds" status. (You can
make what you will out of the presence of Batman/Talia progeny in
More recently Batman was so enamored of radio talk-show host
Vesper Fairchild that he was debating revealing his identity to
her. Unfortunately "No Man's Land'' interrupted the romance, and
we've seen nary a trace of Vesper since. One must assume that she
left town -- or was eaten by cannibals. Either way, Batman seems
to have forgotten all about her.
And, of course, I've been saving the best for last. While not
quite a love interest in the '40s and '50s, Catwoman has my vote
as THE woman in Batman's life -- the one that makes him toss and
turn in bed, shakes his iron control and in general rocks his
world. (If that isn't the definition of love, I dunno what is!) As
Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Returns make unequivocably
clear, there is a frisson of sexual tension between the two that
is palpable. The comics suggested this in the '70s and '80s -- the
Earth-2 Batman even married Selina Kyle -- but for my money the
'90s have established it without a doubt.
It only makes sense: Batman is the very picture of rational order;
Catwoman the embodiment of free-spirited chaos. Of course they'd
be attracted to each other! The fact that both are firmly commited
to their respective (and opposite) paths -- and too darn stubborn
to make any concessions -- makes for a star-crossed-lovers story
worthy of Shakespeare. The Cat and the Bat are the war of the
sexes made manifest. Poor Bruce and Selina -- they must be
No, I am, at how sloppy his
info about Vicky Vale really is! She was actually dropped from the
Batman cast in 1967, but she resurfaced in Batman Family in 1978,
and again in the late 80s, around which time the first Batman movie
was made. This was possibly to coincide, and admittedly, it probably
didn’t work out as well as it could have. I know that Vale was
largely dropped from the Batman cast again after that, but she
started turning up in a few other series here and there, and for all
I know, probably worked better outside the Bat-world than in it!
In any case, I don’t like how he’s dismissing any and all of
Batman’s girlfriends as “dull”, once again sinking into that
criticize-character-instead-of-writer mode. And poor Vesper
Fairchild, she became a plot device whose only purpose was to be
wiped out in the Bruce Wayne: Murderer?/Fugitive crossover. I can’t
even begin to say just how loathsome that time and money waster was,
even crowding out Birds of Prey (thank goodness I never even
bothered to pick up back issues tied in to that Volkswagen of a
crossover when I had the chance). Editorial mandates are a pure
Your article this week about CrossGen reminded me of
a notion I play with sometimes. If you were a millionaire
looking to put your money to good use and, through the
combination of chance and effort, came into possession of either
of the big two franchises, what changes would you institute,
both creatively and professionally? This is probably a
no-brainer, but, please, I amuse easily.
If I were rich, I'd buy Marvel. No surprise there. First thing I'd
do is fire EVERYBODY in upper management. Then I'd hire NEW upper
management (or promote from within) ENTIRELY FROM MAGAZINE
PUBLISHING. No former Madison Square Garden manager as my CEO! MY
"Ultimate Marvel" line would be real magazines for newsstand
distribution in the traditional sense -- with lots and lots of
advertising, Newsweek-size format and distribution ranging from
toy stores to newsstands to Scholastic Magazines. Editorial
content wouldn't necessarily be limited to comics -- essays and
photo shoots would be welcome, ranging in topics outside the
comics field. And I'd keep the "Ultimate" comics stories in
continuity -- that's what attracted me to Marvel in the first
place -- but I'd hire writers GOOD enough to write around the
stickier places. (Then I could use reprints of the better stuff,
with 39 years worth of material to fall back on.) That "Ultimate"
line would be geared for general-circulation, but serve as teasers
for the direct-sales books, which would also be 68 pages or more
(but with only half as many books in the line).
Other than that, I don't really have much of a plan.
I do, and besides wanting to buy ownership
of Marvel’s publishing line, I’d also want to buy DC’s (CrossGen
too, now that they’ve long gone under, but we’ll leave that for
another occasion). Specifically, I’d want to publish stories under
those banners as graphic novels only. And the Ultimate line from
Marvel? I’d rather let it go. Most readers have anyway. I’d also
clear away a lot of the post-2000 stories from both Marvel and DC,
since they are some of the most awful stuff around. And if this
approach could avoid being stuffed to the brim with advertisements,
that’s another way I’d like to go too; it helps give the readers
much more enjoyment without busloads of ads. Man, does that Mr.
Smith think small!
Now, onto June 29, 2000:
Okay, so, like, I think your column is one of the
best I've read and you seem to have great insight. I say this
with a great amount of experience in this industry to back my
statement, as I was a high school intern for Marvel, back in the
'80s, and I was even a freelance production artist, then a Staff
Production artist, and then a Legal Intern (I'm a trademark
attorney, now). More importantly, I've been collecting comics
since the mid-'70s (I'm in my low '30s) In other words, I
believe you know what you are talking about (whether I agree or
disagree with your position).
I just finished reading an article, which you can find at
the Washington Post web site. It raised a few questions that I'd
like your opinion on, if you don't mind.
How do you think the X-Men movie will do? Do you think it
will attract kids to the table? Will it matter if kids are
attracted, because they can't afford the books anyway? If they
can afford the books, should Marvel be de-aging the characters
so drastically? And what does this mean for writers like Chris
Claremont who are verbose, need great amounts of angst to tell
their stories, and (IMHO) lost touch with the way kids think
YEARS ago? Will they have to re-adjust, or will Marvel have to
re-adjust (get new writers)?
Will "Make Mine MARVEL!" come back, or will seasoned readers (the
only ones who can come close to making sense of Claremont's
stories) decide to leave when the stories start being too "young"
for them (unlike The Authority, by DC/Wildstorm -- great stuff it
is, for kids it is not)?
Well, […], I can't say how the X-Men movie will do, as my psychic
hotline is down. I suspect it will do well initially due to word
of mouth and curiosity, and will continue to do well only if it's
good. If it's bad, the movie will flop and we comics fans will be
in for another decade of the sort of ridicule and abuse that
followed Howard the Duck. But you probably guessed all that
As to your other questions, the article you referred to was
Marvel's announcement of its new Ultimate line -- which will NOT
replace Marvel's regular line. Chris Claremont will continue as
before, but Marvel WILL be getting new writers for its de-aged
line of characters. Brian Michael Bendis (Jinx, Torso, Goldfish)
will be writing Ultimate Spider-Man, and Mark Millar (The
Authority) will be writing Ultimate X-Men.
As to whether the movie will get kids back to the table, I think
the industry's problems are a lot bigger than what a single movie
can solve. In the first place, publishers need to develop a
distribution method to get comics to where kids ARE -- toy stores,
shopping malls, grocery stores, dentist offices, drug stores, etc.
A kid can't get excited about a comic he can't find. Perhaps the
Ultimate line can achieve this; I'd pin more hopes on it than the
It’s been more than a decade, and the
answer is soundly “no”. The X-Men movie may have been a box office
success (though the followups have steadily declined in receipts),
but the comics have found no such luck since, and the sales spikes,
only caused by publicity stunts and crossovers, including the recent
atrocity of Avengers vs. X-Men, are fewer and smaller all the time.
And the Ultimate line? Not only are some of the writers involved
like Bendis and Millar truly awful, they’ve only helped make the
line as far from younger-reader-friendly as you can get.
Incidentally, the Ultimate Peter Parker was recently bumped off to
be replaced by a new protagonist named Miles Morales, all for the
sake of diversity, a concept that’s long played itself out.
Do you know what the final fate of the Dazzler was? I
mean what happened to her after the end of her series to her
most recent (last) appearance? It's always easy to find a
character's first appearance, but their last is always hard.
The last the Captain heard of Allison Blaire, she was living on
the extradimensional Mojoworld, fighting alongside her boyfriend
Longshot to overthrow Mojo. As far as I know, she's there still.
Wrong. She later resurfaced, rather
inexplicably, in one of the worst X-Men stories ever told by Scott
Lobdell in 2001. Next, here’s his response about a query on Bane:
Among my favorite reads over the past few years have
been the appearances of Bane. He's less than a decade old;
that's pretty young as Bat-villains go. Talking to other
Bat-fans, they've told me a number of folks don't like Bane for
various reasons; perhaps because they believe it should have
been one of Batman's more traditional rogues gallery (especially
the Joker) that brought down Bats during Knightfall. Whatever
the reason, Bane no longer uses Venom and Batman told him during
one of their No Man's Land battles that Bats thinks of him as no
more than a thug. Whether that was psychology or truth is up to
we the readers to decide. Bane's appearances since Knightfall
have been sparse; he was a major player in Legacy, No Man's
Land, and in the mini-series Bane of the Demon, and not much
else. At any rate, what do you think, has DC used Bane to his
Bane's never been one of my favorite Bat-villains, but that may be
because he really hasn't lived up to his potential. He was
designed to be the anti-Batman; a guy who trained from age six or
so to be the ultimate bad guy, in contrast to Bruce Wayne training
from the same age to be the ultimate hero. Both are trained to
peak human perfection, with Bane having the edge in sheer
strength. I'm afraid his mishandling in "Batman & Robin" may
have made him less attractive to current writers.
Not so fast. It’s been a year since The
Dark Knight Rises used him as the main antagonist, and Bane was put
to great effect there. I suppose it’s fair to say that Knightfall
was one of the better crossovers DC ever turned out, though the bulk
of their crossovers during the 90s were downright awful and uncalled
for. As for Mr. Smith’s take on Bane? Sigh. I can only wonder if
this has something to do with any dislike a reporter like him could
have for a talented writer like Chuck Dixon. Not everything Dixon
ever did in his career was perfect; of course he’s got his share of
weak spots too, but there were quite a few things he did with the
Batman spinoff series like Robin and Birds of Prey that were very
good. So much so, that this could explain in part why DC, under the
galling reign of Dan DiDio, has refused to reprint a lot of the
material in paperback.
With the X-Men movie's release almost upon us, Marvel
is saturating the market with tie-in comics and merchandising.
Historically, have movie releases of comics characters spiked
sales? I know it hasn't always -- Shaquille O'Neal as Steel
didn't save that title. But what of the Superman and Batman
series, or Men in Black, or the Hulk on TV?
Most movie and TV tie-ins give some sort of boost to the
comic-book title on which they're based; legend has it that
Detective was on the verge of cancellation before the 1966 Batman
TV show sent sales through the roof. Hulk sales improved slightly
during the TV show's run. as did Superman sales after the 1979
movie. Marvel bought Men in Black just before the movie came out
to achieve the same effect, but in-house indecision prevented a
MiB series until long after the window had closed.
While pondering this, I was reminded of
that old phrase, “reports of my demise have been greatly
exaggerated”. I think that’s the case with the sales for Batman in
the 60s too. They may not have been that great, and I’m sure the
whole tongue-in-cheek approach may have worn thin after awhile, but
I have doubts that it was doing that badly to the point where you’d
think they’d have to sell the rights to making a live action series
to try and boost it up. There was a similar claim made about The
Flash in the early 90s – it was supposedly doing poorly before Mark
Waid pepped things up – but I’ve got a feeling that too was hardly
Did Steve McGarrett ever apprehend Wo-Fat?
To my knowledge, McGarrett never nailed Wo-Fat, but I'm no expert
in this area. Worse, I'm going to have the Hawaii 5-0 theme song
running through my head for the rest of the day. Thanks a lot,
pal! (Ta-ta-ta-ta-TA-ta, ta-ta-ta-ta-TA ...)
Poor Mr. Smith, such a
failure on TV trivia. At the end of the 1968-80 run of the TV show,
Steve McGarrett, played by the late, great Jack Lord, DID capture
Wo-Fat – who’d made at least one appearance in seven out of ten
seasons – in the series finale. Considering the internet was already
boasting more than sufficient data on TV history at the time he
answered this, I don’t see how he – and the correspondent, now that
I think of it – couldn’t just look that up. To celebrate my
correction, I will now run the theme through MY head!
Ta-ta-ta-ta-TA-taaa, ta-ta-ta-ta-TAAA… (if I had a luxury sedan to
drive like Steve did though, I’d prefer a Citroen C6 over a Mercury
Now, what’s he telling a correspondent on July 13, 2000:
Comic books are very important to me. I've loved
comics ever since I could read, and before that it was
Spider-Man coloring books. Comic books are just so great.
There's action, great art, supporting characters and many other
things to make a comic easy to get hooked on. Best of all you
never have to rewind them, and comics don't have budgets like
movies do, so they have no limits.
I could write the world's longest essay on comics if I had
to. But I'm here to ask you why am I the only teenager who reads
them? With all of the great features that a comic has, why
wouldn't a comic be more popular? I can't see why other teens
don't love them. You would think that a comic would be really
popular with teenagers, but for some odd reason it's not.
Unfortunately comics seem to be at an all-time low. This
disappoints me. Hopefully Marvel's attempt of mixing things up
with the "Ultimate" series will be successful and bring in some
profit. I know the X-Men movie will be a tremendous hit and I'm
sure that will help. Please give me your theory why comics are
not appealing to teenagers these days.
You're certainly preaching to the choir when you cite the dynamic
fun available in comics. Not only are comics the best
entertainment bang for the buck, but I'm on record as stating that
1) reading comics catapulted me to the top one percentile in the
country in reading comprehension in my younger days; 2) the life
lessons I learned from Spider-Man and others have helped me
through similar crises in my own life; and 3) MAD magazine ought
to be required reading for every kid ages 12 to 15 so that they
learn a healthy disrespect for authority before heading into their
So why aren't comics as popular with teens in America as they are
in other countries -- or even our own, in previous generations?
That question's been bandied about on this web site for some time,
and here are some of our conclusions:
1) Comics are hard to find. When I was a boy (you can un-glaze
your eyes now, I'm not your dad), comics were everywhere: grocery
stores, pharmacies, newsstands, Scholastic Magazine, dentist
offices, barber shops -- everywhere. They were part of the
background of my life and my friends' lives; we often drew our own
comics to express what we had trouble putting into words. But, due
to economic factors, comics are now only available at comic shops
-- a destination store, instead of an impulse buy. Mom can't toss
you some comics at the Kroger to keep you quiet while she shops;
she'd have to go out of her way to get you some. And since most
teens don't drive, they can't get themselves to the shops either.
2) The big comics companies largely abandoned the kids' market in
the '70s and '80s. While I doubt you have any more interest in
reading Uncle Scrooge than I do, most kids need to be exposed to
comics early in life so that X-Men isn't so incomprehensible and
such a strange commodity when they hit their teens. When Marvel,
DC and others stopped making kids' comics in the '70s, they
assured that their market in the '90s would be that much smaller.
3) Competition. Videogames and the Internet offer flashier,
shallower, quicker entertainment for less work. It's not a matter
of cost -- kids won't blink at dropping $60 for a Turok videogame,
but do balk at spending $3 for a Turok comic book. They'd simply
rather play the videogame than read the comic. This goes back to
what I said previously; comics aren't something they're used to
and videogames are. Plus, reading is harder than jiggling a
joystick or a mouse.
As you see, there a LOT of answers to your question, some of which
I've probably omitted. The Captain is opening this question up to
other correspondents, and I'll print what y'all have to say right
here for […]
Well it’s been more than a decade, but
here’s my answer, which is more than he could think up in a
gazillion years! Sure, if the big two turned their backs on the kids
market in the 70s and 80s, that was a damaging factor, but it’s not
the only one. They also abandoned good storytelling in favor of
publicity stunts, many of which he doesn’t even have the courage to
admit he was promoting or at least keeping silent about, and I’m
sure that since the time he’d first begun as a columnist in the
early 90s, he’d taken that route.
And, they’d failed to reformat for a new generation in the
bookstores – that is, by turning to something like graphic novels
only (or original graphic novels, and I recall once owning one, that
being JLA/JSA: Virtue & Vice, but I later parted with it as I
grew increasingly galled at Geoff Johns and James Robinson's
writing). As for videogames, I’ll agree that they were a damaging
factor, but in this era of recession, that may not necessarily be
the case any longer.
Oh, and about his claim he learned life lessons from Spidey? I don’t
think he learned any, or else he wouldn’t have been so sugary about
publicity stunts either. He sure didn’t learn that J. Jonah Jameson
was meant to reflect people like himself either!
Mr. Smith’s biggest problem is that he can’t and won’t admit that
his failure to be objective about how the industry is running the
store is just one of the many reasons for its downfall. And he’s got
another, very eyebrow raising problem coming up in the next item for
Last week you offered a brief commentary on each of
the Batman and Bat-related books. Could you do the same for all
the Superman and related titles?
Action, Adventures of Superman, Superman, Superman: Man of
Steel: It's impossible to judge these titles separately, as for
much of the recent past (and through the summer) a single
storyline winds through all four books. I can say that I much
prefer Ed McGuinness's artwork on Superman, compared to Kano's
work on Action, Doug Mahnke's Man of Steel and the rotating crew
on Adventures. After August, however, the titles will head in four
different directions, and with that will come independent
identities that I can judge singly. Three S-Shields each.
Superman Adventures: Unlike its Bat-counterpart Batman
Adventures, SA hasn't established that multi-level approach that
appeals to kids and adults alike. Whereas Batman Adventures is in
my top three Bat-books, Superman Adventures is strictly for kids.
One S-Shield. (Four if you're under 13, though!)
Superboy: I used to loathe this book, back when S-boy was a
wisemouth punk hitting on Wonder Woman and the like. Recently,
though, Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett have immersed the Boy of Steel
in the Kirbyverse left over from Jack's Fourth World books, and it
rocks. Unfortunately, the creative team has just announced its
departure. Four S-Shields, for now.
Supergirl: I'm uncomfortable with overt Christian
iconography in comics, but that's probably a result of being in
newspapers for 20 years and being hypersensitive about offending
Muslims, Jews, etc. Of course, the book's writer is Jewish (Peter
David), so I'm probably getting a rash over nothing. Anyway, if
you're not uncomfortable with a comic-book writer defining the
powers of angels and whatnot, then this is a pretty interesting
book that changes all the time -- and certainly is more exciting
than anything Kara Zor-El ever did. Two S-Shields.
I find his potential moral equation
between Muslims and Jews offensive. More importantly, I find it
offensive that he thinks he really must be “culturally sensitive”
about religion. Race is one thing, but religion is another. Let me
say that if he has a problem with any elements of Judaism, I really
can’t care less, even if I were more observant, which I can’t say I
ever have been. However, if he cannot or will not show the courage
to state whether he’s got any problems with the components of the
Koran and Hadith, including Mohammed’s
marriage to the 9-year-old Ayisha, then that most definitely
is galling. Especially if he cannot acknowledge that if there’s such
a thing as a good religion, there’s such a thing as a bad one too.
Must we presume he sees nothing wrong with Scientology either?
His inability to refrain from political correctness is prevalent
among many left wing journalists, and one could easily argue that J.
Jonah Jameson reflected that too in better days of comicdom.
An interesting note about David, by the way: he is of Jewish
background, but he may have converted to Christianity. But even if
he hadn’t, race and religion are not the same thing, and one does
not constitute the other. As someone of Jewish background myself, I
find it insulting when people describe me by religion rather than my
race/nationality. I am Jewish first, and a Judaist second (or, my
race/nationality comes first, and religion second). It’s easier to
describe all that in English than in Hebrew, but there you go.
I find his claim that he’s uncomfy with Christian iconography
troubling too; it reeks of the shame a lot of modern leftists
apparently have over their past faith, supposedly because of the bad
things done in the name of Christianity like their oppression of
Jews, which I too take offense at, but over the centuries, most
Christians did make an effort to clean up their act, and the
Christian bible does contain more than enough positive verses and
themes – shockingly ignored by them in the past – to consider it a
worthy enough religion in its own way. The same cannot be said about
Islam, where the Koran and Hadith have
a considerable number of violence-based verses and themes,
among other disturbing components like the aforementioned marriage
between adult and underaged child.
I then find another subtle trouble in a rather dishonest reply he
wrote to an eastern European correspondent on July 20, 2000:
Maybe you could (or would) help me. I've been looking
for stuff on the evil Captain America, the one who gang-busted
Commie cells of American Negroes in the 1950s. No, I'm not
researching the history of American racism or anything. I'm a
comics fan from way back, have a small collection of the charms
of my childhood left, though much diminished. I want to write a
piece about the Werthem/EC/Comics Code Authority episode of
American history as a cautionary tale for the Lithuanian
audience. The parliament is trying to adopt restrictive media
laws here, essentially introducing a Comics Code Authority for
all print, radio and TV productions. Everything American is
looked up to here, especially the tradition of free speech and
democracy in America. So what I want to do is talk about Joe
Orlando's "Judgment Day" as being too much for the day, and the
vague wording of the Comics Code I will compare to the equally
vague wording of draft legislation here, as essentially allowing
censorship of anything. Okay, sorry, I'm writing my theme paper
here in my e-mail to you. Anyway, I wanted to compare
negro-bashing Cap'n 'Merica with "Judgment Day," the last straw
I guess for Gaines, who sank his money into MAD after that and
folded EC. Do you know where I could swipe some digital images
of Cap beating up black people, and get some more images from
Weird Science Fantasy's "Judgment Day" story? I had a DC Comics
Presents which reprinted the whole thing in honor of Orlando's
birthday, but I've misplaced it, and only have a Xerox of the
first page. Can you tell me if the Negro-bashing Capt. America
was pre-code or post? Did CCA allow that but censor Gaines's
story about a black astronaut? Is it true that Gaines gave up
after that story? Feldstein wrote somewhere that he was on the
phone with CCA trying to get it approved and judge somebody said
it wouldn't go, no way. So that seems to preclude a deliberate
provocation by Gaines -- or does it? Was there an element of
anti-Semitism at work? I mean, Gaines ran some caricature of
himself as evil purveyor of comics and drugs near schools in an
early MAD comic, and shows himself with a giant honker, and
somewhere I made the connection that he had assumed the visage
of Melvin the Mole. Were the Senate hearings aimed at Jewish
Communists in the comics industry as they tried to do with
Hollywood, root out foreign elements, so-called?
Well, I'm asking a lot of questions. I'd appreciate any
light you could shed.
Whew! That IS a lot of questions, -- and, unfortunately, the
answers are all pre-Silver Age. Since the Captain is largely
Golden Age-impaired (I wasn't born until 1958), most of my
information about the '50s is second-hand. But I'll take a stab at
it -- and I encourage all correspondents reading this to treat it
as a HELP THE CAPTAIN question. [name witheld]'s situation is
pretty serious -- above and beyond our own individual opinions --
and we should help out with whatever facts we can offer.
First, what I (think I) know:
The 1950s Captain America wasn't a "Negro-basher" to my knowledge.
Atlas Comics (later Marvel) attempted to revive the character in
Captain America Comics 76-78, Young Men 24-28 and Men's Adventures
27-28 in 1954 -- but apparently they didn't sell, as the character
lapsed back into limbo until his triumphant return in Avengers 4
(1964). I've only read two reprints from that period, and neither
depicted Cap as a racist -- but they DID depict him as an almost
laughably rabid anti-Communist, something he WASN'T in World War
II, when the Soviets were U.S. allies. (The Red Skull, formerly a
Nazi mastermind, had an entirely new reason to be "red" in the
In the 1970s, though, Marvel tried to explain the late '40s and
mid-'50s Captain Americas (and Buckys) -- since Avengers 4
established that Steve Rogers had been frozen in an iceberg since
1945 (and Bucky was dead). Several storylines over the years
established that Captain America from late 1945 to 1950 (when his
series was canceled the first time) was actually a series of
imposters hired by the U.S. government to fool the public into
believing that Cap was still alive. There were plenty of
candidates, since red-white-and-blue heroes were as common as
rocks during the war. One such character was Jeff "The Patriot"
Mace, whose demise (while disguised as Cap) was chronicled in CA
The 1950s Cap -- who by 1970s standards was clinically insane --
was described in Captain America 253-256 as being a man selected
for his resemblance to Steve Rogers and given the recreated
"super-soldier serum." Unfortunately, he wasn't given the
"vita-rays" that went with it, and the unstable serum drove him
(and his similarly augmented partner, Jack "Bucky" Monroe)
bonkers. He was depicted in those '70s stories as not only rabidly
anti-Communist, but also adhering to exaggerated '50s norms and
opinions. In other words, THIS was the black-basher you remember
-- he thought Negroes had somehow undermined the country to the
point of being considered equals to whites -- but he was depicted
as being insane. (He has since been killed, and "Bucky" was
stabilized, his sanity restored, and is now the hero "Nomad.") I
have to admit, it was shocking to hear racist rhetoric coming out
of "Cap's" mouth, even though I knew he was an imposter.
For your purposes, though, there's no dearth of cautionary tales
from the '50s. The launch of the hypocritical and draconian Comics
Code was just part of a larger picture, in which the House
Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), radio demagogue Father
Coughlin and Sen. "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy had outsized influence
-- and not for the better. The acquisition by the USSR of atomic
weapons, followed by Sputnik and coupled with their rabid
anti-U.S. rhetoric ("We will bury you!") had Americans building
bomb shelters, doing "duck and cover" drills in elementary
schools, watching the skies for nuclear armageddon -- and looking
under every bed for the Red Menace. By current standards, none of
it was rational -- and yet, there it was: The world's greatest
democracy in the grip of horrific paranoia, and curtailing the
very rights of man that are our greatest pride. (For a current
comic-book look at this period, read Realworlds: Wonder Woman by
DC Comics -- it's excellent.)
As to Gaines, HUAC was trying to determine if comics caused
juvenile delinquency, and what the other publishers had against
him primarily was that he was OUTSELLING them all. There could
well have been some anti-Semitism involved from some quarters, but
since most comics publishers (and many creators) were Jewish it
seems unlikely. (Archie and Atlas, for example, were
published/owned by Jews. Mort Weisinger, Julius Schwartz, Stan
Lee, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby and many, many other
major comics players were also Jewish.) The Code was specifically
worded to outlaw Gaines's top books: Vault of Horror, Crypt of
Terror, Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, etc. (For a complete
version of all the Comics Codes and a thorough -- although
boringly pedantic -- analysis, read Seal of Approval: The History
of the Comics Code, by Amy Kiste Nyberg, Mississippi Press.)
And, while Gaines's performance before HUAC was an extraordinary
botch job -- he was on painkillers and diet pills and made an
absolute fool of himself -- it's rarely remembered that HUAC ruled
in FAVOR of comics. But it was too late -- the witch hunt had
I hope that helps. As I said, I'm hoping the Legion of Superfluous
Heroes will pitch in here.
You bet! And they won’t be happy when they
realize you’re trying to equate anti-communists with racists, or
something like that. Especially since Stan Lee wrote stories in his
time that were very anti-communist and nobody ever said he was
wrong. Mr. Smith may say he thinks he knows what he’s saying, but I
His assertion that the Soviets were allies of the US missed a very
important fact –
they were in league with the nazis initially, then later,
after the nazis turned against them, that’s when they came around to
the side of the allies. It’s insulting to the intellect if he’s even
remotely going soft on communism, because, as obscene as nazism was,
cost a lot more people their lives, and that includes many
And after WW2 ended, the USSR went right back to being questionable
and a very dangerous opponent. Why else does Mr. Smith think Stan
Lee created the Black Widow back in the day, as someone who was
initially an enemy agent but later defected from the Soviets and
became a S.H.I.E.L.D agent instead? Or maybe he doesn’t have enough
faith in Lee’s creations?
The part about “50s norms and opinions” is also ambiguous, since
most of that was the result of leftism, as is the ghetto mentality
sadly seen in some of the black community today, when they vote for
the very party that advocated their slavery in the 18th and 19th
centuries – the Democrats. John F. Kennedy did try to change that
when he was president, and that’s why Martin Luther King was willing
to support him. I think Steve Englehart, who may be a leftist
himself, was the writer on Capt. America’s book at the time, and
even if the imposter Cap was insane, the whole notion that he’d be
anti-commie and racist at the same time is disturbing. But then, so
is Mr. Smith’s distortions and obfuscations. He’d do well to
consider that Martin Luther King was anti-communist as well, and it
would be foolish to think communism wasn’t as dangerous to racial
minorities as fascism was. Man, what a leftist!
Now, let’s look at his replies to a few Bat-related questions. The
queries themselves are very good, but his answers leave a lot to be
Did the Batmen of Earths 1 & 2 ever meet and
The two Batmen haven't met that I recall. The Earth-Two Batman was
described as being retired as early as 1967, when the Earth-Two
Robin (in in ersatz Batman/Robin hybrid costume) was inducted into
the Justice Society in that year's JLA/JSA crossover (Justice
League of America 55-56). The Earth-Two Batman was spending his
dotage as the police commissioner of Gotham City, a role given
great prominence in the Last Days of the Justice Society Special
in 1986 and in the various Earth-Two Helena "Huntress" Wayne
stories in such places as Wonder Woman 271-299, DC Super-Stars 17
and to some degree All-Star Squadron and the revived All Star
Comics. The Earth-Two Batman was actually killed before Crisis --
in what title I can't recall -- so the window of opportunity
closed. (Our Batman did meet an Earth-Two-LIKE Batman in the 1999
Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths flashback
story -- and they didn't get along.)
The Batmen of two earths never met at all.
I should know, because I read a lot of the older team up stories in
paperbacks. A pity such an opportunity never came to fruition, but
there we have it.
Were there any issues that had revealed what happened
to the Earth-2 versions of the Riddler, Mr. Freeze and the
It's entirely possible that the fates of the Earth-Two Batman's
rogues gallery were mentioned at some point, but I don't remember
it if they were. Kind of moot now, isn't it?
There’s one little problem with this
query: Mr. Freeze was created during the Silver Age, by which time
what we know as Earth-1 was being set in place and I don’t think
there was ever a Victor Fries of Earth-2. Something Mr. Smith forgot
to mention. But I guess it is kinda moot.
What is your opinion of Barbara Gordon's induction to
the JLA? Do you believe that she should have been shown as
having been approached during her days as the Batgirl?
At the risk of alienating Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon fans, I never
thought much of her in her Spandex days -- and would have been
against her joining the JLA, where she would have simply been
redundant with Black Canary, Green Arrow, Batman and other
hand-to-hand heroes. As Oracle though, she's an enormous asset to
the League, and I'd be furious if she WASN'T a member.
He has alienated a Babs fan, I’m
afraid. She was well written even in her early days, which included
a now not canon job as a congresswoman and a possible career as a
campus spokeswoman which may still be canon and holds up better.
Similarly, her relations with Robin were also well done, so I think
silly Mr. Smith would do better not to denigrate all that great
stuff of the times.
I would also argue that while she may not fit well as a regular JLA
member, I see no reason why not to make her a guest member, were we
still in the Bronze Age. That said, she was the kind of character
who, back in the day, did work better as a solo player, not unlike
Catwoman did for a while. Next letter:
I just read Watchmen for the first time, and now I
have some questions.
a) Did these characters exist before the book or did
(Alan) Moore create them? If they were around before, where did
they come from?
b) I hear this book referred to as a comic masterpiece.
How big was its impact when it first came out?
c) I liked the book a lot, but it is certainly very
"1980s". Do you think it holds up today? By the bye I also think
Dark Knight Returns suffers a little from being so grounded in
the 80s and not more timeless.
1a) The origin of The Watchmen is pretty interesting.
When former Charlton editor-in-chief Dick Giordano became
editor-in-chief of DC Comics, one of the first things he did was
buy the rights to the Charlton superheroes (for whom he had great
affection). To introduce them to the DC Universe, he turned them
over to wunderkind Alan Moore, who had made Swamp Thing a critical
and financial success (at the time).
What Moore turned in was Watchmen -- which, as you know, does some
TERRIBLE things to those characters! Despite being appalled,
Giordano still recognized that it was a terrific story, so he had
Moore re-write the Charlton characters as NEW characters -- but if
you squint just right, you can still see their origins.
Specifically, The Comedian is actually The Peacemaker; Dr.
Manhattan is Captain Atom; Nite Owl is Blue Beetle; Ms. Jupiter is
Nightshade; Rorschach is The Question; and Ozymandias is Peter
Cannon, Thunderbolt. Weird but true.
1b) The Watchmen started out slowly (since it was unknown), but by
the sixth issue the industry was abuzz. By its finale, it was a
solid-gold masterpiece in the opinion of anybody who mattered.
1c) Sure, I think Watchmen holds up -- but I still think the first
39 issues of Amazing Spider-Man hold up, despite their being
Xeroxed so many times that their original impact has long been
lost. When I re-read Watchmen or early Spidey, I just
compartmentalize and forget all the copies never happened.
I must disagree. A couple years ago, I
read Watchmen, and while I could get into much of Moore’s writing on
Swamp Thing and Tales of the GL Corps, I could not get into his take
on the Charlton heroes at all. I found the book excruciatingly slow,
and by the end, whatever points he was trying to make (including the
notion you shouldn’t try to help others less fortunate than
yourself?!?) had become almost irrelevant. By contrast, the first 39
issues of Spidey hold up much better. So too, in fact, do both the
late 60s and the late 80s takes on the Question, the latter which
was penned by Denny O’Neil, and is pretty good stuff.
Are you aware of any issues where our friend The
Joker a) became sane and lucid b) went on trial for his actions?
I don't recall The Joker actually regaining his sanity for any
length of time -- I think there was a Justice League story where
he was briefly lucid and very unhappy about all the terrible
things he'd done -- but there WAS a special where he was actually
put on trial (for a murder he DIDN'T do -- and Batman had to prove
his innocence) called The Joker: Devil's Advocate.
The whole notion of Batman having to
defend a monster who’s already guilty of some of the worst mass
murders to plague Gotham (and come to think of it, the entire DCU)
is stupefyingly poor taste, and I hope never to stumble across that
story. Likewise, I hope neither to have the misfortune of reading
that JLA story he speaks of, and more importantly, I hope it doesn’t
even exist. But I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong, alas. Next up:
You mentioned in your column that Thunderbird was the
only X-Man to die permanently. Did not Colossus's sister,
Illanya, and that alien Warlock stay dead? I know I haven't been
keeping up with X-Men like I used to, but please tell me they
haven't been brought back.
Illyana wasn't an X-Man, but rather a "New Mutant." Just to muddy
the waters further, a character named Majik (which Illyana became)
will be introduced in a few months, and Marvel is keeping mum on
whether or not it will be Illyana. (My guess is probably not --
but I've been wrong before.)
Warlock and Doug Ramsey (Cipher) were two more New Mutants to bite
the big one, but they have been resurrected -- as one character!
Warlock recently had a short-lived series, where he seemed pretty
much his old self -- but with all of Doug Ramsey's memories and
thoughts. Whether that constitutes still being dead or not is
beyond my philosophical expertise. But neither were official
So, since none of the above were official X-Men, and most have
been resurrected anyway, I may be technically correct about
Thunderbird being the only permanently dead X-Man. Well, unless
you count Psylocke, who split into two characters (both named
Psylocke), and ONE of whom died. And Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man
has had various duplicates of himself killed. And I don't know if
you'd count Changeling, who took Professor X's place in the
original series in issues 38 or so and died in issue 42 -- was he
an X-Man or not?
You know, the more I think about it, the more complicated this
gets. Life and death is just too mutable in the X-books for me to
dare make the statement I did!
I can elaborate better, because I own a
couple of New Mutants stories myself, the series that ran during
1982-91. That was the series where Illyana mainly appeared, and I’ll
say it’s a real shame that she was offed later on. As for his words
on Psylocke, I won’t deny her history was made really complicated,
but he’s wrong that she split in two. Rather, her mind/body organs
were switched with that of a Chinese kunoichi named Kwannon, an
entirely different character, no matter how difficult these things
are to explain. It was all because of the machinations of
Spiral/Rita Wayword, who’d been brainwashed and driven insane by
Mojo in the mid-80s.
And I will decidedly also take the opportunity to wonder why he
doesn’t mention Courtney Ross, the old girlfriend of Captain Britain
who was slain by an otherworldly doppelganger named Satyr-9 in 1988.
Sure, I know that she wasn’t a superheroine by any stretch. But
there was a weakness in that story – specifically, I don’t see the
point of building her up so likably only to kill her off soon after.
To my knowledge, Courtney as we knew her was never resurrected, and
that’s a pity, because if there’s any supporting cast who could use
a fix, she’d decidedly be it.
Now, here’s another letter I figure could have some worth to it from
July 27, 2000:
Regarding the use of religious characters in comics,
I seem to recall a Thor storyline a few years back where the
Asgardians all got hurt somehow (I think they were fighting the
Celestials) and Thor had to go begging to all the other
pantheons for the energy to revive them. At any rate, I recall
Thor visiting the Hindu pantheon and fighting Shiva for the
energy. I do NOT recall Marvel being buried under an avalanche
of letter from angry Hindus. Perhaps Hindus are less uptight
about this sort of thing?
I don't think many comics fans have much trouble accepting that
gods in comics are just fictional characters with the same names
as their deities. Let's hope the "real" world doesn't notice our
little hobby ... !
That sure sounds awfully insular to me!
But since it’s mentioned, I suppose one could figure that most
Hindus are more civil in their disagreements than the followers of a
certain Religion of Peace are.
Wonder Woman does not wear a full chador in the JLA
Annual, it's closer to the sort of outfit one sees the BVM
wearing in Catholic iconography, but less cumbersome.
Not! This is in reply to another item,
possibly in the Mailbag sections he published, and I’ll see if I can
get around to that later. Now, here’s another item:
Magneto's origin, used as the opening scene of the
film, has long been established. But I can't recall when. I
remember his visiting D.C. with Kitty Pryde at some Holocaust
memorial sometime in the late '80s. But when was his
concentration-camp history established and by which writer. I
can only assume it was (Chris) Claremont. By the way, your last
column referred to him as a German Jew, but the comics have
stated more than once that he is a gypsy -- another group
pointlessly victimized by the Nazis.
Magneto's status as a death-camp surivivor was revealed as early
as Uncanny X-Men 161 (Jan 1982), and perhaps earlier. Xavier's
always known, of course, but when we learned about it, I can't say
for sure. I'll post your question and see if anybody else
I assumed that Magneto was Jewish for the longest time, and the
shift to his being a gypsy struck me as revisionism born of
cowardice (Marvel not wanting to make a major villain Jewish). Of
course, you're right, he's a gypsy -- but I prefer to think of him
as Jewish. Gives his story more "oomph."
First of all, I’m not necessarily bothered
by the above argument, and won’t say it isn’t possible for a Jew in
real life who’d been victimized by horrors to go the
2-wrongs-don’t-make-right path and take out their anguish against
even those who weren’t responsible. I know that some Haredi sects
ran the gauntlet of that for many years, what with their disturbing
insular ghetto mentalities. What bothers me is a little something
about the movie not mentioned here: in contrast to the story from
UXM #150, where Magneto almost kills Kitty Pryde before realizing
the grave error he’d make of committing the same sins as the nazis
themselves, in the film, he’s otherwise cold as ice when putting
Rogue through a similar situation. It gets even worse in the second
movie, where he really does try to wipe out the human race by
rearranging the polarity of Stryker’s mutant-slaying device. No
matter how self-contained a movie adaptation ought to be, when I
think of the contrasts between comic and movie, I come away feeling
more than a tad insulted, because it did not try to maintain any
characterization like what Claremont used for Magneto back in the
day, which was certainly possible.
Make a movie with a Jew as a baddie, that’s one thing. But
tinkering/tampering with an established character – even a villain
in a work of fiction – that’s another. And what those movies did was
Well, onto the next:
Has anyone ever explained how the Flash produces the
bodily energy he needs to perform his actions (amphetamine,
super-metabolism, or just the convenient and manifold
The Speed Force provides its recipients with unlimited energy,
resistance to fatigue poisons, etc.
I think this is an exaggeration. It
certainly doesn’t make them resistant to poisons per se, that’s for
sure (and it didn’t make Barry Allen resistant to heroin when he was
injected with it in 1979).
Besides the Vertigo version, has the original Kid
Eternity character ever existed in the Modern age? If so, how
was his relationship represented with the rest of the Marvel
family and others? If don right he seems like a natural for
inclusion in, or just an occasional partnering with,
"Quintessence"-type characters (unfailingly sunny and optimistic
adolescent with ambiguous powers over eternity stands in severe
contrast with the somber and resigned likes of The Spectre).
Kid Eternity was snuffed in JSA No. 1
This brings up an interesting weakness I
find in some of James Robinson’s work (Geoff Johns and possibly
David Goyer too): Kid Eternity was only brought back to be killed?
Even the original Sandman, Wesley Dodds, only appeared in the first
story so he could commit suicide almost immediately? (At least he
wasn’t killed by the villain, but his death was still a very
unpeaceful one.) Sometimes, I have to wonder if even his early work
was worth it. Still, he’s gone way downhill since, so maybe it’s a
moot point already.
Re: the Oracle Sin Tax. Maybe I'm simply missing a
fundamental point of the debate, but we are talking about
vigilantes, people who arrogantly assume they have the right to
punish their fellow human beings, human beings who have
indisputable birth-rights (specifically freedom from battery and
harassment from armed masked men and women), isn't that just as
unethical? That is what we have police for. What is she supposed
to do with it anyway, contribute to the Policemen's Ball?
The debate over what Oracle does is whether or not it is ethical.
I personally find it out of character for her.
Well I don’t find particularly out of
character for Babs to make use – pure Robin Hood style – of
Blockbuster’s dough. After all, he’s a murdering villain, and he
doesn’t deserve the money he’s got, which no doubt was either stolen
or earned from drug trafficking.
Let’s now turn to August 3, 2000:
I'd guess by today's post-Zero Hour standards (and
aren't we a strange bunch who understand what we mean by that?)
that Kathy Kane never existed at all. In the Planet Krypton
one-shot from "Kingdom" week, Batman encountered her ghost and
knew who she was, but didn't know why. I think Bette became
Flamebird without the influence of her aunt.
Currently I'm annoyed at JSA, and maybe you can help me
out. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the original
Star-Spangled Kid is running around with them in the current
storyline. Have I become that senile that I can't remember what
happened? It must have been recent. Aargh.
As revealed in JSA 11, Extant (Hank Hall, the former Hawk and
former Monarch) is "tying the timestream into knots" and various
timelines are converging. The SSK in the current storyline is from
a "alternate timeline."
I once owned that story, as
part of the whole JSA: Darkness Falls trade paperback compilation,
and as of today, I no longer do. I made my decision to part ways
with it because I did not like how Obsidian was being turned crazy
all for the sake of it, Ian Karkull’s manipulations notwithstanding
(honestly, it was very forced), and another thing that troubled me
was the continued depiction of Hank Hall as Extant, one of the most
embarrassingly bad things about Zero Hour (and earlier, Armageddon,
the place where he was first turned bad, was also terrible). The
rather pointless “continuity porn”, to use a phrase once coined by a
CBR contributor, was just the start of all problems I found in the
story. Instead of trying to right a wrong, and without replacing it
with another, as happened when Identity Crisis was coughed out by DC
in 2004, they furthered the wrong by sticking with the premise Hank
Hall was put through back in 1991. Ultimately, I decided it just
wasn’t for me, and so now, it’s gone from my collection. I have no
desire to support such brain-insulting stories, if I can help it.
Now, from August 17, 2000:
I'm pleased to see that Loeb & Sale are working
on a post-Man Without Fear miniseries. Daredevil is one of the
few titles Marvel seems to be doing right these days, and
hopefully these guys will only boost interest even more. What
are your thoughts on Loeb & Sale? Ten years from now, will
folks still be talking about Long Halloween or For All Seasons
the way they do about arcs like "Year One," or are they slowly
but surely relegating themselves to an eternity of tying Frank
Miller's loose ends?
Loeb & Sale are certainly good enough to earn a place in the
Pantheon of Memorable Creators, but my Psychic Friend is on
vacation and I can't tell you if they'll actually make that
exalted status. I think Superman For All Seasons will stand the
test of time; it's a timeless enough take on an iconic character
that it will still be relevant (and a good read) decades from now.
With Flashpoint already having taken
effect, I think SFAS won’t. And Daredevil wasn’t being handled well
when Brian Michael Bendis came on board at the time (nor when Kevin
Smith wrote earlier either; he killed off Karen Page at the hands of
Sigh. What are we to do with our X-Men? The movie was
great, but the few X-titles I've picked up recently have left a
lot to be desired. Chris Claremont isn't helping things, Liefeld
should -- well, you know, and heck, not even Warren Ellis can do
much with this mess. I know that everyone has their opinions as
to what should be done to revive Marvel's flagship commodity --
what's yours? Granted, real improvement is made over years, not
days, but if you could recommend ONE thing to help out Marvel's
mutants -- reduce the number of titles, start from scratch,
eliminate characters, give the current staff the pink slip,
etc.-- what would it be?
The first thing I'd do with the X-Men is make them understandable
-- and more importantly, FUN again. I tell you, I practically have
to take Prozac to read an X-Men story!
Specifically, I would indeed pink slip the current creative team,
especially Chris Claremont, who probably can't order from a menu
without leaving a plot dangling ("I'd like the chicken and rice
for my entree, a garden salad, and for dessert ... come back in 16
months and MAYBE I'll tell you! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!"). Then I'd hire a
writer who understands how to use characterization to revive team
books, like Kurt Busiek (Avengers), Mark Waid (JLA) or Grant
Morrison (JLA again). I'd ask them to reduce the team to the core,
popular members (essentially the "All-New" crew, with Rogue and
Gambit), tie up or toss away all dangling plotlines (the Legacy
Virus, who's dead and who's not, what the heck Rachel is, anything
involving Mr. Sinister), place a two-year moratorium on confusing
alternate-future stories and anything taking place in Madripoor,
and go for some hoo-ha action, upbeat character development and
the occasional cosmic oddysey for spice.
Aside from that, I don't really have a plan.
Whoa, am I reading correctly? I thought he
didn’t like Gambit, his being a fictional character notwithstanding,
yet he’s fine with keeping him on because he’s popular? He’s right,
he really doesn’t have any plans! Seriously, I’d like to think this
is an admittal that the realizations I came to are right, but seeing
how badly he deteriorated over the years, it’s pretty apparent he
never did. What a load of bull. Let’s go on now to September 7,
I understand that DC Comics is going to cancel the
Aquaman title. That is most unfortunate as I believe that this
was the longest run that Aquaman has had with regards to his own
1) Can you tell me if he has ever teamed up with DC
Comics' Sea Devils?
2) Was there ever an Earth-Two Atlantis? I believe that
they were playing around with the idea of an Earth-Two Aquaman
but later canceled that idea.
3) What is your opinion of his enemy Black Manta?
1) Aquaman will end with issue 75, in November. It is, indeed, the
longest his title has lasted. (His first series went to issue 63,
after enduring a hiatus or two.)
2) The Sea King teamed with the Sea Devils in Aquaman 22-25,
appeared simultaneously (though not as a team) in JLA: Year One
and probably have appeared together in some of those superhero
gangbangs, like Showcase 100.
3) From the beginning of the JLA/JSA crossovers in 1962 through
the end of Earth-Two in 1986's Crisis, it was established
regularly that there was no Earth-Two Aquaman -- although various
Atlantises appeared in pre-Silver Age DC Comics. The odd thing
about the lack of an Earth-Two Sea King, though, is that Aquaman
had been appearing regularly in DC Comics dating back to 1940! Roy
Thomas tried to establish in the mid-'80s that a character named
Neptune Perkins was the one having all those aqua-adventures in
the '40, '50s and '60s as a "replacement" for Aquaman, while
Flying Fox was filling in for Batman, Iron Munroe for Superman and
Fury for Wonder Woman. This idea has largely been swept under the
rug, although Perkins is now a U.S. Senator, Iron Munroe
reappeared as a secret agent of sorts in the short-lived Damage
and Fury recently guest-starred in Legends of the DC Universe
30-32 and is established as the mother of Fury II, the
currently-dead mother of the current Sandman and wife of the
recently-resurrected Hector Hall, the current Dr. Fate. And I have
no idea what happened to Flying Fox, unless he moved to Marvel to
become Blackfox in Marvel: The Lost Generation. I have to stop
now; my head is hurting.
4) What do I think about Black Manta? Not much -- he's pretty
boring. However, being the murderer of Aquaman's son, he has to
rank right up there in arch-villainy.
Say, do I notice a goof here? Four answers
to only three questions? LOL, where’s his sense of proofreading?
After all, that’s one of the main concerns an editor usually has at
Anyway, first, let me note that Forgetful Frank here didn’t mention
there was never an Earth-Two Zatara – the father of Zatanna, who
first debuted in the classic premiere of Action Comics in 1938. Both
father and daughter are creations of Gardner Fox, and I’m sure
there’s a couple of other characters who didn’t have counterparts on
both earth dimensions.
The next thing I’ll comment on is: gee, he thought Black Manta was
boring, instead of how he was written? One can only wonder what he
thinks of Arthur Curry’s nemesis now that Geoff Johns has turned him
even more murderous and monstrous during the Brightest Day
maxi-series he was co-writing circa 2008. I recall that initially,
Mr. Smith didn’t seem to have a high opinion on Johns, but not only
was it unaltruistic, it changed a lot after Johns became more
prominent in DC’s staff. Now, he never seems to say anything
negative about that awful writer. Onto September 14, 2000:
What do you think of the shakeup at Marvel? In my
opinion, humble as it is, If the books stay on time, Joe
Quesada’s take on things could be a welcome change. Late books
aside, just about everything Marvel Knights touched was golden,
so why not? Also, as I recall. Bob Harras is a pretty good
writer. (I specifically recall a Cyclops tale he did for the
now-defunct Marvel Comics Presents; anybody out there remember
his run on Avengers?) Maybe they should scoot Claremont off the
X-Men and give Harras a run at it. What do you think?
I quite agree that everything Marvel Knights has touched was
terrific -- well, except for that egregious
Punisher-as-Fallen-Angel miniseries. But to their credit, they
just said, "Hey, we made a mistake! Pretend it didn't happen!"
Instead of spending the next three years, X-Men fashion, trying to
work it into continuity with carefully couched explanations.
Anyway, Quesada could bring a lot of things to the role. Playing
Devil's Advocate, though, how much power will he really have?
Harras was reportedly fired for not kowtowing sufficiently to the
Big-Ego, Know-Nothing millionaires who are at Marvel's top levels.
I'm afraid that as long as those guys keep pretending to be
"creators" and sending down commands from on high like Zeus from
Olympus, then there's only so much Quesada (or anybody) can do.
We'll just have to wait and see, I guess.
Oh, and rumor hath it that Claremont isn't long for the X-books --
and may possibly lose his "writer guru" staff position as well. I
don't wish ill on anyone -- I don't know Claremont personally --
but I really feel like a golden opportunity has passed to interest
non-fans to the X-book on the heels of the movies, and I lay it at
his feet. Claremont's X-books are such impenetrable rubbish that
they don't even interest ME. His dismissal is long overdue.
I first want to take issue with the praise
for Harras: he may have once been a good writer, but as an editor,
he was one of quite a few in that capacity who were a perfect
disaster. (Former DC staffer Kevin Dooley was one contributor who
may have worked well enough as an assistant editor, but as a more
senior editor was simply no go.) As for Quesada, it’s already
notorious history how bad he really was as an editor, and after Bill
Jemas, who made a terrible publisher, left the Marvel board, Quesada
took things further downhill by boomeranging on crossovers again.
Whoa, how accurate could allusions be?
Plus, since Harras became EIC for DC Comics, he’s only taken the
same disastrous tactics he once used at Marvel and repeated them at
the rival company.
Now, here’s something that I wrote, which he added on September 21,
2000 (can’t say I consider it a classic in retrospect) with his
I just read your latest column about the new
"Ultimate" titles from Marvel, beginning with the Ultimate
Spider-Man, and it was a very interesting story to read. And
while I was reading it, I thought of a very interesting question
to ask about it as well: Is the Ultimate Marvel story project
similar in any ways to the "Elseworlds" project of DC Comics
that was launched a few years ago, in which DC wrote some
revisions of some of their top characters?
Actually, Marvel does have an "Elseworlds" project in the works --
a revival of the old What If ... ? title as a series of specials
and graphic novels much akin to DC's successful Elseworlds line.
From my perspective, though, Ultimate Spider-Man bears an
accidental resemblance to another DC concept. Almost 40 years ago
DC established that their '40s heroes existed on a parallel Earth
-- Earth-Two -- and that the Silver Age heroes lived on Earth-One,
where superheroics cranked up 20 years later than Earth-Two. So
here we have Original Spidey starting up in 1962, and 40 years
later a "new" Spidey begins his career somewhere else ... To my
mind, it's just Earth-One/Earth-Two deja vu all over again!
Actually, no, it doesn’t bear any
resemblance to DC’s alternate worlds: with all the loathsome mayhem
and promiscuity that took place in Ultimate X-Men (the latter would
have to be in reference to the affair that world’s Wolverine had
with Jean Grey of the same, despite her being under 18), any
similarities it’s got to DC’s concept are almost non-existent. By
the way, didn’t the second What If series end 2 years before this
time-wasting conversation took place? And Marvel didn’t officially
revive the anthology series again either, although several years
later, they did come up with some one-shot stories under the title.
Stories which, alas, are worthless, in sharp contrast with the much
better ones Roy Thomas first thought of when he was a senoir editor
at Marvel in 1977.
Now for an interesting moment from September 28, 2000:
Not having access to your syndicated column, I can
only peruse your writings through your "Marvel"-ous Web site. I
should point out that I'm a child of the '80s, and most of the
Golden Age of Comics came before my time (heck, even the Bronze
Age passed me by before I began reading regularly). You are far
more familiar with the days of the "classics" of mainstream
comic books than I am (especially the Marvel Universe), so I'll
leave it at that.
My comment has to do with your "Book of the Dead" and your
tribute to characters who have died notable deaths. Out of
curiosity, I wonder: What moments in comic-book history do you
consider to be high-water marks of "heroic death" -- or at least
where the death of a major character doesn't seem like a
cop-out. That sounds somewhat grisly as I write it, to be so
preoccupied with death; but since the death of a character is
universally acknowledged as a major, world-shattering event in
fiction and literature (even if they come back from the dead at
some point), I can only wonder what you consider to be a
well-written or "honorable" death scene.
As a person who only became familiar with mainstream comic
books over the past 15 years or so (the "Dark Age," as you put
it), I'll cheerfully acknowledge that too many death scenes are
there for cheap bathos and tear-jerking. Still, there have been
a few interesting times as far as "death" goes ... such as the
"Terra-Terminator" storyline during the Teen Titans series of
the early '80s. Marv Wolfman and George Perez both acknowledged
that the whole point of Terra was a gimmick: she was created
specifically to betray the Titans, and to be killed. Still, the
series was written well enough (one of DC's few books that
wasn't suffering from stagnation during that time) that I
consider it a successful gimmick.
And as you've acknowledged yourself, DC went overboard
with hero deaths in the past few years, as a sickeningly high
number of their greatest characters have died supposedly
"heroic" deaths, for reasons that were obviously meant to drive
up sales and give the authors more leeway with existing
characters. The death of Green Arrow, for instance, and
especially Hal Jordan and the whole "Parallax" thing -- one of
the few moments in comic book history where I actually have felt
anger towards the writers (and editors and publishers, et al)
for ruining a beloved character I grew up with.
Nonetheless, there are still a few notable "death" scenes
that worked out well. Most notably, I consider the death of
Barry Allen (Silver Age Flash) one of the few major character
"deaths" to be handled well. Flash II died heroically, his death
was not forgotten or "ret-conned," and his legacy lives on in
the memory of both Wally West and Jay Garrick. Would that so
many other now-deceased characters were treated with this much
respect. P.S.: Any comments on Jean Grey?
I'll go along with you that Barry Allen's exit from this mortal
coil was one of the highlights of Crisis on Infinite Earths, a
maxiseries that I thought was not only unnecessary, but extremely
badly written. (Sometimes the Monitor was all-powerful, sometimes
he wasn't; sometimes the shadow-thingies could be fought,
sometimes they couldn't; all the superheroes acted stupidly or
irrationally throughout in a transparent effort to advance the
Another "favorite" death was Gwen Stacy/Green Goblin in Amazing
Spider-Man 122-123 (and I sure wish they'd left it there; Norman
Osborn DESERVED to die ironically impaled on his own glider, and
it was a powerful scene thoroughly diluted by his continuing
returns.) Thankfully -- sort of -- Gwen is still dead, so Amazing
122 still retains some of its power.
Another favorite death is Jean Grey in Uncanny X-Men 137, where
her love for her teammates and Cyclops in particular was displayed
in its rawest form. After all, greater love hath no man (or woman)
than he (or she) that lays down her life for her fellow men
(women). Again, the scene has been somewhat cheapened by her
resurrection, but it's still a powerful comic book. Of course, I'm
always a sucker for comics where the good guys are taken down one
by one and the focus narrows to the major characters, one of whom
you know isn't going to make it ...
If only the guy who wrote to him about the
case of the cheap deaths in DC at the time did have proper access to
his past columns, he’d probably regret ever having bothered! After
all, as Mr. Smith’s embrace of Identity Crisis ought to confirm, he
was never really against it in the first place. Otherwise, he’d
never have blandly tolerated the death of Firestorm in that bigoted
The correspondent misses something just as crucial though: it’s not
just heroes who fell victim, it’s also supporting cast members like
the son of Cat Grant, and Blue Devil co-star Marla Bloom. Why, even
a character who was created to be killed, like Alexandra deWitt in
Green Lantern, has to count because of Ron Marz’s below-rock-bottom
shock tactic approach where Major Force choked her to death before
stuffing her body in the fridge. If Clifford Zmeck had just gunned
her down with a laser beam and left her body lying in the middle of
the floor, it may not have excused the cheapskate gimmick of using a
character’s death as a “motivation” for Kyle Rayner, but at least it
would have been easier to bear, and would have saved DC a lot of
All this means nothing to Mr. Smith, obviously, and if he saw
nothing wrong with Identity Crisis, there’s every chance he saw
little wrong with Emerald Twilight and Zero Hour either. And funny
how he thinks Crisis on Infinite Earths was sloppy when you could
easily make the same case with IC: quite a few of the characters in
the miniseries acted very OUT-of-character. I’m decidedly not
impressed with what he thinks of UXM 137 either.
What are your opinions on the following characters
from the Super Friends animated show: Samurai, Apache Chief,
Giganta, Black Vulcan, El Dorado, Wendy and Marvin? Do you think
that attempts should have been made to have some of the
characters appear in the DC-TV comic? What did you think of the
comic book? The Super Friends animated show appeared in various
formats, which one is your favourite?
Did you have any favourite DC-TV comic out of the
following titles: Welcome Back, Kotter; SHAZAM!; O Mighty Isis;
I know a great many people, both comics fans and non-fans, who
grew up with Super Friends and have warm, tingly, nostalgic
memories associated with the show. Alas, I am not one of them. By
the time the first Super Friends aired in 1973, I was already in
high school. And -- although I'd never tell my friends -- I did
indeed sneak a peak at the new show starring my comic-book faves.
And, boy, was I disappointed!
The animation was wretched. The heroes were clumsily and obviously
dumbed down. Aquaman was functionally useless. And Wendy and
Marvin -- supposedly comic relief, but only because they were a
shade dumber than the Super Friends -- triggered my gag reflex and
made me wonder why the Super Friends weren't all arrested for
So, after the first season of shows, I hardly ever watched Super
Friends. I made sure to catch the occasional Green Lantern or
Flash guest spot in 1973-76 -- and they were gawdawful, but I
wanted to see what they would do with them -- but after I went to
college I stopped watching altogether. I missed Samurai, Apache
Chief, Giganta, Black Vulcan, El Dorado, the Legion of Doom and
the season featuring Darkseid completely. And, from the egregious
reruns I occasionally stumble across on cable, I don't think I
missed a thing.
Of course, the Captain isn't mean-spirited, and won't continue to
bad-mouth a show that others found enjoyable. No, he'd rather let
others do it. And for a thoroughly vicious (and hysterical)
deconstruction of the Super Friends, go to http://seanbaby.com/ --
ADULTS ONLY, please.
As to the DC-TV comics you mentioned, I found Isis the least
objectionable. It wasn't tied to any particular continuity -- the
character was created for TV -- so the comic book was free to
flesh out her powers and background with only rudimentary
guidelines/restrictions from the cartoon. It wasn't bad, really.
But his writing most certainly is. Reading
what he says about Super Friends makes me wonder if he’d consider
Sean McKeever’s horrific assault on Wendy and Marv in the pages of
Teen Titans legitimate.
Funny how he such a problem with a cartoon but not problems with
“events” that are aimed at drawing mainstream media coverage with
their sick publicity stunts. Because they too can have wretched
artwork, as Rags Morales churned out: I found his style very
unpleasant and grimy looking; it was like there was something very
sick lurking in the background as much as the foreground. If
anything, his artwork in that very book was repellant and
disrespectful as they come, making me lose my respect for him as an
Oh, and as for Isis, did he by any chance consider the version
introduced into the DCU proper in 2006 for the purpose of later
killing off to serve as cheap motivation for moving the plot with
Black Adam forward okay? Seeing how it never really came into
discussion on his part, we can probably guess the answer to that
already. So, let’s take a look at this crap from October 5, 2000:
I read a good bunch of Jon Sable, Freelance; Whisper;
Nexus; and Badger comics I've picked up recently. Badger is the
cat's PJs, in my opinion. I really like Pacific's anthologies. I
don't know that much about Eclipse. I've got an Axel Pressbutton
comic that's very good, and the Eclipse drek I drag out of
quarter bins seem to have ads for far better comics in them. I
suppose that stuff is hard to find.
Sable bothered me because the army he's shown fighting for
early in his career is, if you look into the history a little,
white supremacist, according to one letter writer in an early
issue. Sable is referred to by another character as
idealistically supporting that cause, but this writer had a
disturbing idea of what that cause was.
I can't comment on Jon Sable's "white supermacist" background; I
wasn't worldly enough the first time I read those books to make
the inference (if such there was) and I didn't enjoy the character
enough that I'm going to go back and read them again. There are
some Sable fans -- notably this site's [name withheld] -- who will
be glad to rise to the defense, I'm sure.
My personal knowledge of Jon Sable is very
insufficient, but I want to note that the correspondent who wrote
that was quite a leftist moonbat who saw nothing wrong with
tolerating another supremacist movement whose founders were white:
Islam. The writer was also a journalist who acted as an apologist in
his own way for Marvel’s The Truth: Red, White and Black, so I’m not
quite sure what his problem is if he had no issue with a religion
whose “prophet” took a 6-year-old girl as his child bride. And then,
wait’ll you see the reply Mr. Smith wrote to him about gun issues:
Oh, with all the Punisher guys, except the Garth Ennis
one, fading off, what's the Captain's stand on guns (and)
superheroes and gun control in general? I work at a newspaper in a
small town in Kentucky and I have seen four people die in the last
three weeks. One murder, one tragic hunting accident (boy
accidentally shot his own father), and a double suicide (ages 16
and 21, and a .40-caliber). I've always tried to stand by the
Second Amendment, but that's a lot of body bags.
My stand on guns? We've got too many of them, and something must
I recognize the Second Amendment argument, but I just don't buy
it. The Founding Fathers wanted a well-regulated militia -- note
the term well-regulated -- to defend against British incursion;
there isn't much threat of armed bands of Brits stalking our great
land in the 21st Century and you can bet your last redcoat that
they didn't intend for street gangs to have assault weapons or for
our cities to turn into slaughterhouses. And the Founding Fathers
would be the first to say that if the Constitution had a bad idea
in it, it can be amended. They did it 10 times themselves.
I also recognize the argument that laws regulating guns will only
regulate law-abiding citizens. Granted. But reducing the amount of
guns period is a step in the right direction; making the presence
of guns an outrage instead of a symbol of a good ol' boy's manhood
is a step in the right direction; making it downright unprofitable
to manufacture, distribute or sell guns is a step in the right
direction. If guns are a rarity in society in general -- like in
Japan -- the likelihood of street gangs possessing them is
co-commitently reduced. And it's not like every family needs a
squirrel rifle like we did in 1776; there's a McDonald's near you
if you're hungry.
Maybe I'm wrong, and nothing I've suggested would work. But I
still say we've got to look at the problem, drain the argument of
its righteous fury (on both sides) and come together as reasonable
adults to find something that WILL work. We just ran another story
in The CA this week about a seven-year-old kid finding a gun while
his dad was cracked out and pulling the trigger on a schoolmate.
This is BAD. C'mon, folks, let's just decide that we're going to
find a solution and get to finding it! It doesn't have to be the
NRA's worst-case, black-helicopter, Big Brother government
scenario -- it could me be mandatory gun-training or something.
Hey, I'm a reasonable guy. C'mon, Charlton Heston -- stop telling
me what WON'T work, and tell me what WILL.
He did; you just didn’t want to listen.
But hey, I’ll be generous and tell what would work: background
checks and profiling for gun buyers to determine whether they’re
worthy of carrying one. Something along the lines of Israel’s own
profiling specialty at airports. Most importantly of all though,
improved education at schools, and if US schools had a good approach
to teaching non-violence, which they don’t to date, all the concerns
about guns would be moot. Don’t expect such a J. Jonah Jameson to
ever ponder any of those ideas seriously though.
And if he’s got problems with what the late Heston thought, maybe he
could ask Harry Reid and Michael Bloomberg to stop telling him what
won’t work and what will. But I don’t see it happening.
Umm, original purpose for this message was to
complain about something a guy said at the fleamarket where I
buy my quarter comics. He proudly announced that he had not
bought a new comic since the late 'seventies. I felt sad at his
smug ignorance, thinking of all the things he had missed. He
missed Swamp Thing! He missed Groo! All because of some notion
that the older comics were better. I know I'm talking to the
Silver Age Captain here but, what do you think? There's a nice
couple that writes you some times and refers to themselve in a
plural tense that seems to express the same attitude, and I
would like to encourage them to at least try some of the newer
stuff. I realize that a lot of '90s comics were crap, but those
comics were chasing a fad. They didn't even really have to be
good. There are good comics out there.
The nitwit who bragged about not reading new comics needn't be
addressed. If he chooses to not read new comics, then fine; he's
got no call to insult those who do. And he's missing a lot:
Morrison's JLA; Millar's Authority; Dixon's Birds of Prey;
Azzarello's 100 Bullets; Quesada's Daredevil; David's Captain
Marvel; Busiek's Avengers; Allred's Atomics; Cho's Liberty
Meadows; Lapham's Stray Bullets; Miller's 300; the ABC line; the
CrossGen line; Straczynski's Rising Stars; Moore's Strangers in
It all depends on what comics from the 90s
we’re talking about, but if it were anything by an artist as
horrific as Rob Liefeld, I’d say he didn’t miss ANYTHING.
And while some of the products mentioned are worthy, others are not;
decidedly the work of Quesada, Millar, Morrison, Stracynski. Who
needs them, really? I’d argue that some of Top Cow’s output are
worthwhile too (Velocity, Witchblade, Magdalena), but ultimately,
I’d have to argue that the person spoken of at the fleamarket is
right – the older stuff often IS better. That’s because some, if not
all, of the people involved had more common sense than today’s
generation. Next letter:
I read a bunch of the questions, and had questions of
my own, my first one is:
1) I was a huge fan of X-Factor in the Peter David days.
Now I see the book no longer exists. What the heck happened?
Also what ever happened to my favorite characters on that book
Strong Guy and Multiple Man?
2) I'm trying to get into the DC Universe and it seems
pretty simple but how exactly did Zero Hour affect what happened
in Crisis? And are all those Year One books written before or
3) What the heck happened to Marvel? I was out of comics
for about six or seven years and I can't even read a Marvel book
anymore (save for Captain America) without getting horribly,
horribly confused and (upset). What the heck happened? (If it
helps, I stopped reading right before the "Ages of the
4) What has Peter David done since X-Factor?
1) What happened is that X-Factor was canceled, and replaced with
Mutant X, which stars Havok -- the last character in X-Factor that
was even mildly interesting after the last membership change.
Strong Guy and Multiple Man haven't been seen in quite some time,
and since all the X-books recently took a six-month leap ahead
that has yet to be explained (for the most part), and Chris
Claremont has been fired, X-continuity is in a serious mess. We'll
just have to wait and see.
2) I don't have enough years left on my lifespan to explain Crisis
on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour. But I'll make a brief stab:
You may be familiar with the idea that for many years DC had more
than one "set" of superheroes. The Justice League characters were
the "main" ones, and their 1940s counterparts lived on a parallel
world called Earth-Two and would visit occasionally for the odd
adventure. But the idea began spinning out of control; an
Earth-Three was introduced, with a bad-guy Justice League; an
Earth-S where the characters DC got from Fawcett lived (Captain
Marvel, et al), an Earth-X where the characters DC got from
Quality Comics lived (Uncle Sam, et al), etc. Finally, the DC
editors threw their hands up and said, "enough!" So Marv Wolfman
and George Perez were hired to "blend" all the Earths into a
single one. The result was Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it did
Unfortunately, Crisis created more problems than it solved.
Suddenly there was no Superboy -- he never existed in the "new" DC
history -- which kicked the struts out from under the Legion of
Super-Heroes origin. Wonder Woman was never a founding member of
the Justice League or Justice Society -- the new history
necessitated her appearing too late to do so -- so Black Canary
and somebody named Fury were inserted in her stead, respectively.
Hawkman was rebooted as a new character, without explanation for
who had been that winged JLA member since 1964. The problems
mounted exponentially, and every story that tried to smooth things
out just complicated things even worse. So ...
The DC editors threw their hands up again, and charged Dan Jurgens
with RE-fixing the continuity, which he did in Zero Hour. The
intent here was to re-invent every character from the ground up.
In other words, everything that happened BEFORE Zero Hour DIDN'T
-- unless you read a story that says it DID.
All clear? Then explain it to ME!
3) What DIDN'T happen to Marvel? A series of bad owners led to bad
creative decisions -- and to Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The "House of
Ideas" has been in a slow creative and financial spiral for the
last several years, and many of their books are just downright
awful. Their most recent move, though, has been to hire a fella
named Joe Quesada as their new Editor-In-Chief. Quesada has been
in charge of "Marvel Knights," a line of book including Daredevil
and Black Widow that many fans feel have been the only readable
Marvels for years. Keep your fingers crossed.
4) Peter David has done a LOT since X-Factor. I can't list it all,
but currently he's writing Supergirl, Young Justice, Captain
Marvel, Before the FF: Reed Richards, Soulsearchers & Co. (for
Claypool Comics), a weekly column in Comics Buyer's Guide and the
occasional Star Trek or Babylon 5 book. If you liked X-Factor I
can't recommend Captain Marvel enough.
I consider this worthy in a way for comedy value – this man
allegedly complains that COIE was the beginning of the ruin of
everything, only to jettison that gripe years later by embracing
almost every crossover since.
And Quesada has already proven himself a disaster, alienating many
Spider-fans, yet Mr. Smith’s never really been against his MO, has
he? Nope. It wouldn’t be good for business, y’see.
It's been noted that in post-Zero Hour continuity, Batman never
solved the murder of his parents. I recently re-read that Zero
Hour issue of Detective; actually, Batman learned that Joe Chill
was on a three-day bender the night his parents were killed, so he
conclude that some other anonymous person must have been the
But has it ever been established that Batman tried to solve the
case? When you think about it, it doesn't seem likely that a
person would spend a lifetime becoming the World's Greatest
Detective and NOT go after his parents' killers? Even in the
Silver Age story that started this discussion, Batman didn't set
out to solve the murder -- he was trying to figure out why Thomas
Wayne was wearing a Batman costume. While doing so, he just
happened to learn that Joe Chill was a hitman hired by mobster Lew
So, what about it -- why wasn't the Wayne murder case Job One of
Day One of Year One?
By the way, thanks for the kind responses from your readers about
my previous comments on The Joker. And, just to prove that I do
care about something other than Batman, here's another question:
Why aren't there any team-up books on the market anymore? The
Brave and the Bold (starring Batman), DC Comics Presents
(Superman), World's Finest (Batman and Superman together, although
there was a brief period with Superman and a rotating guest star),
Marvel Team-Up (Spider-Man) and Marvel Two-In-One (The Thing), all
had long runs. But the attempt to revive Marvel Team-Up was a flop
that barely lasted a year. How come?
OK, we've established that in current continuity the Waynes were
killed in a random street crime. And Joe Chill didn't do it. But,
offhand, I don't remember why Batman hasn't made more of an effort
to solve his parents' murder. So I'm open to a "Help the Captain"
-- has anybody got a definitive statement from a a specific,
post-Zero Hour comic book that explains this? Or do I have to
pester Denny O'Neil again?
Oh, and there are no current team-up books because they don't sell
Well that’s a pretty anemic reply! Why not say it’s because they
lost their appeal? A sad case, but that’s how it is with a lot of
anthology style series today. What If, Dark Horse Presents and
Legends of the DCU were some of the last surviving.
I honestly don’t know why O’Neil thought Batman failing to solve
his parents’ murder and/or removing Joe Chill as the culprit would
mean anything, but that’s just one of the biggest, most needless
turns taken when Zero Hour came out. Now, for October 12, 2000:
I've read that the X-Men's Angel fought crime as the "Avenging
Angel" before ever even joining the mutants. Is this correct or do
you think they were mistakenly thinking of the Golden Age
It was established in the justly-forgotten "Origins of the X-Men"
back-up feature in the '60s that Warren Worthington had a career
as the Avenging Angel before being recruited by Professor X. He
had a costume, a gas gun and everything.
Pardon? What was so wrong with an idea
like that? It had been established that unlike his other X-peers,
Warren was from a wealthy family. Oh, I get it. He thinks that
premise was too reminiscent of the Golden Age Sandman, Wesley Dodds,
because of the gas gun! Please. There are some differences, and
besides, what else do you expect a guy with only wings as a power to
How does Marvel explain Bucky? I understand that the
'40s were just a simpler time and the children who constituted
the comic-book audience enjoyed reading about kids their age
fighting alongside their heroes like Batman and Captain America,
however, I feel DC has made a more plausible attempt at
reconciling Golden Age customs with modern tastes; Robin's role
seems comparatively logical by implying that he has always
simply been in training for an unspecific future function and
any direct involvement with crimefighting was either by accident
or by Robin's choice and not done with Batman's knowledge or
approval. Also, I believe Robin is meant as a narrative foil, to
help relieve Batman's bleak and somber attitude and to contrast
his worldview. But, again, how do contemporary writers justify
sending a pre-pubescent child into armed combat? Am I thinking
to hard on the subject and letting it interfere unnecessarilly
with my enjoyment of the story, or does it stress even your ...
suspension of disbelief beyond what is proper?
I agree wholeheartedly with you about how DC has quietly made
Robin more plausible (and Batman less open to charges of child
endangerment) which is why I richly enjoy the current Robin series
while absolutely loathing the solo Robin stories of the '60s and
'70s. Robin's official function seems to be a behind-the-scenes
character who helps Batman with surveillance, computer savvy and
research. I also think it's clever that Peter David has "quietly
followed the lead of the Bat-office" (his words) in Young Justice,
establishing that Robin isn't a public member, takes pains to stay
out of the public eye (and cameras), and is referred to by the
press as the "mysterious fourth member" -- which many confuse with
Secret, thereby muddying the waters further.
As to Bucky, I remember a recent Captain America -- lord, don't
ask me to look it up -- wherein a nostalgic Cap mentions
off-handedly that Bucky was of combat age (or close to it), had
full Army training and was facing combat with Steve Rogers's
company anyway. This is a full-blown retcon, of course, but
whoever was writing that scene felt the same need we do to absolve
Cap of what had heretofore been extremely poor judgment.
Now wait just a second! I do appreciate
Chuck Dixon’s run very much, which is far more than can be said for
Dan DiDio, who’s taken to trashing everything he worked so hard to
establish since. But what’s the big idea of putting down those older
Robin stories with Dick Grayson from the Silver/Bronze Age? Some of
them were quite good, even teaming hin up a few times with Babs
Gordon in her early incarnations as Batgirl. They were decent
escapism, and during the latter period would often depict Dick
moonlighting as the Teen Wonder at the time he was college. Mr.
Smith’s statement is a lapse in logic – if he thinks the kind of
fare Dick went through back in the day wasn’t great, wouldn’t that
same thing apply to the newer material too?
And I don’t think his beef has anything to do with shorts that were
meant to reminisce trapeze outfits, one of the leading inspirations
for superhero costumes, so he’s lost me with that one too.
You said that it was mysterious that Green Arrow had
survived the superhero drought of the 1940s and 1950s. Why did
you say that it was "mysterious"?
That was my snide way of noting that I wasn't much of an Emerald
Archer fan in the '60s -- and I suspect a lot of other people
weren't either. From his inception in 1941 to 1967, when Denny
O'Neil abruptly gave him a personality, he was strictly a
second-banana character, a poor photostat of Batman (complete with
sidekick, bored-millionaire secret ID, Arrowcar and Arrowcave)
with trick arrows instead of a utility belt -- but without the
many original things about Batman that make the Dark Knight
interesting and more believable, like his terrific origin, the
acrobatics, the decades of martial-arts training, the
escape-artist angle, the creature-of-the-night scare tactics, his
detective schtick, etc. GA even had his own Batwoman, a chick
named Arrowette who's been put to good use in Young Justice
recently (as the mother of the current Arrowette. And the father?
Ollie Queen, anybody?) I used to groan aloud when reading
pre-O'Neil Justice Leagues, when writer Gardner Fox would go
through elaborate, painful and obvious efforts to give GA
something -- anything! -- to do on a team that included Superman,
Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern. I mean, if a character is
going to run as a back-up almost continuously from 1941 to 1961,
wouldn't you think it would be one a little more original or
useful, like Dr. Fate, Spectre, Starman or Wildcat? Or how about a
little gender equality, with Black Canary or Phantom Lady? But no,
we were stuck with the poor man's Batman, who contributed zilch to
the team-ups and JLAs he was in, and was pretty boring in his solo
strips. (Not to mention unbelievable -- he kept bringing a bow and
arrow to gunfights, and winning!)
Which is not to say that I don't enjoy the character NOW. After
O'Neil and Neal Adams got through with him in the late '60s, he a
nifty new costume, a new raison d'etre (still not as good as
Batman's, but better), a street-brawler build (and fighting style)
and a realistic, contradictory, abrasive personality. He came
alive for me then, but prior to that I considered him a joke in
the superhero world.
But, hey, that's just my opinion!
You got that right. And it’s a pretty
tedious one too. What mattered in Fox’s JLA stories of the time was
the escapism and how entertaining it all was even on that level, not
whether Green Arrow was distinguishable or not. Oh, don’t worry,
even I find it odd that Mort Weisinger would make him almost a clone
of Batman with the vehicles, but other than that, I’d say he did
have some differences, even before the O’Neil/Adams reworking, which
I’m not sure he’s very supportive of, now that I think of it. Here’s
a kind of followup from October 26, 2000:
I like the new daily format. Must be a lot of work,
though! My question: I always read your new comics/commentary
first. It’s my favorite item on your site. I started buying
Authority and Daredevil (and others I can’t remember) based on
your recommendation. So, when I read the listing for Robin: Year
One, I was intrigued. You mentioned some things hinted at in
recent Nightwing issues about Dick Grayson’s history. I’m not a
DC guy, but I have a soft spot for Bats & Co., so can you
clarify your Robin: Year One comments and/or run down a recent
history of Dick Grayson/Nightwing? I’d appreciate it.
There have been a number of intriguing, oblique remarks made in
recent Bat-comics, some partially explained, some not. Apparently,
for example, Two-Face nearly killed Dick Grayson early in his
career, and that resulted in a phobia of sorts for Dick. That
adventure has been partially shown in flashback, but I'd like to
know how it fits into the whole picture. Batman has also mentioned
that The Joker once shot Dick, which almost made him ditch the
sidekick idea. I don't know if that story's ever been told, but I
sure don't remember it. And I've always been curious how Batman
justified bringing a teenager (or a pre-teen!) along with him on
his adventures. Some of these things have been partially addressed
-- like in Legends of the Dark Knight No. 100, "The Choice" -- but
Dick's retro-history has been told only piecemeal, and I'd like a
formal structure to hang it on.
I think the Joker injured Dick around the
time O’Neil/Adams took over the helm, and may have been a reason why
the Teen Wonder went on to college as Batman was reluctant to keep
on leading him afterwards for a while. That said, they still had
their teamings together, like in the Brave and the Bold when the
Teen Titans were present. E. Nelson Bridwell this guy ain’t. Nor can
he suspend his disbelief at having a teen sidekick either, another
drawback to being a convincing fan. Nor does he seem capable of
providing the best answer to the following query from November 9,
Why is (Daredevil) called "The Man Without Fear"? Is
this just another instance of Stan Lee hyperbole or is there an
actual meaning for this subtitle?
I always just assumed it was typical Stan Lee hyperbole, used to
distinguish DD from the other Mighty, Amazing, Incredible,
Invincible and Uncanny characters in the '60s Marvel stable. Of
course, Matt Murdock adopted the name "Daredevil" from the
sarcastic taunts of his childhood peers, so it's an easy
extrapolation that his costumed identity needed to be "fearless"
to offset the accusation that he was a gutless bookworm. I don't
recall any story that made a big deal out of it -- even the Frank
Miller-written Daredevil: Man Without Fear origin series never
mentioned the phrase outside the title. Still, it's entirely
possible that I've forgotten a story that formally addressed the
origin of the nickname. (God knows he fought Mr. Fear often
enough, and that's a possibility.) I've run your question despite
my non-answer in the event that one of the Legion of Superfluous
Heroes has any significant additions.
Hyperbole or no, I would say it alludes to Hornhead’s blindness!
After all, it isn’t every blind person who can brave the odds in a
crime-filled world, with or without radar vision. We could say the
same about DD’s precursor Dr. Mid-Nite, too. Gee, I wonder how he
never figured that one out?
Are the personalities of the Charlton-Era Blue Beetle and the
Keith Giffen-era version that different? I happen to regard the
latter character as one of my favorites, but have always noticed a
tone of resentment from older fans when reading about Giffen's
Beetle. I've never read any of the older comics, so did Giffen
make too many gratuitous changes?
The Charlton Blue Beetle was, to my mind, just a typical,
square-jawed hero type with very little to distinguish him. He
was, I admit, a little on the Spider-Man side, wisecracking during
combat and adopting the identity due to guilt over a dead guy (the
original super-powered Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett). This was no
doubt due to his being written and drawn by Steve Ditko, fresh off
his stint on Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) 1-39. I never noticed fan
resentment about Blue Beetle specifically during the Giffen JLA
period -- but I heard a lot of grumbling about Giffen turning
heroes (any heroes, it seems) into jokes. Your mileage may vary.
Yes, by millions ahead of yours! Someone’s
forgotten that Giffen/DeMatties’ approach was deliberately meant to
be tongue-in-cheek comedy! Nor does he take into consideration that
while BB was wealthy like Batman, the difference is that he was more
on the optimistic side. How typical of Mr. Smith.
Now, from November 23, 2000, here’s a query I wrote:
About a year ago, I read on the Comics Continuum Web
site that Danger Girl was being considered for adapting to film.
And now, with the surprise success of the movie based on
Charlie's Angels this week, do you think that could pave the way
towards Danger Girl, which is almost like the commando and
comic-book version of such a TV show, being adapted to film?
According to Corona Coming Attractions, New Line Cinema is closely
watching Charlie's Angels to determine how quickly to proceed with
Danger Girl. The original draft for the movie was written by the
comic's creators J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell, and New Line
has tapped Mark Swift and Damian Shannon (Gator Farm) to perform a
I guess that’s why no adaptation ever
happened, even on television! No doubt they must’ve disrespected the
source material…but Mr. Smith doesn’t even bother to ponder that,
even at an early stage. Coming next, November 30, 2000:
I can't believe I forgot three of the most important
chracters in comic history when asking if they were a hero,
villain, anti-villain, or something else. Here they are:
Incredible Hulk (There is NO way innocent bystanders
haven't been hurt during one of his rampages)
Galactus (It would be easy to put him in the villain
category, but you have to realize that he does what he does so
he can survive.)
Gambit (Is he a thief or hero? Now there's a debate.)
You're right, whatever answer I give is sure to invite debate.
Which is great! So here I go:
Hulk: This one's pretty complex, because there's more than one of
For example, the "Hulk Smash!" character I don't consider
competent to be able to judge right and wrong by legal standards
-- he has the emotional maturity (and possibly intellectual
stunting) of a child, or mentally-retarded adult. He's neither
hero nor villain -- he's just a damaged (and dangerous) child.
Mr. Fixit, on the other hand, is clearly a villain. He's a
leg-breaker for the Mob, for Pete's sake!
The Professor is a selfish, temperamental guy who acts heroically
when he has to. But he does occasionally act heroically, not
always in his own best interests, so I classify him as a hero,
Bruce Banner, however, is mentally disabled -- he suffers from
Multiple Personality Disorder (which, unfortunately, manifests
physically due to his metagene being activated by gamma
radiation). I wouldn't hold him to his actions any more than I
would a schizophrenic.
Spawn: He's WRITTEN as the hero of the strip, but if you look at
his actions and thoughts objectively, he's self-absorbed and
amoral. Heck, he was an assassin before his death! I don't think
his personal problems have changed him much; he's still looking
out for No. One, but just whining about it more now that he
doesn't have a face and is consigned to Hell. I'd call him an
anti-hero at best; some of his actions I'd judge villainous (if
you judge villainy by the standard of acting to further your own
agenda even when it hurts others).
Galactus: It's been pretty well established that Galactus is a
Force of Nature, like the wind and the tides, and not a
personality at all. Our moral standards are inapplicable.
Gambit: Again, he's WRITTEN as a hero, but I don't think he is.
He's lied to and betrayed everybody he knows. He's a thief. He
associates with the "Assassins Guild." He's directly responsible
for the deaths of hundreds of Morlocks, and Angel's mutilation.
He's a womanizer -- which, by definition, is a selfish,
adolescent, predatory mode of thinking. He takes no action unless
forced, always seeks the path of least resistance and shows no
moral code whatsoever. He only acts in his own self-interest, and
slides it all off with a wink and a grin.
Hero? Not a chance. Villain? Nah. He's just a punk.
But is Mr. Smith criticizing the writers
or the characters here? If past scrutiny proves correct, he’s doing
the latter, alas. And this whole commentary is nothing more than a
cheap substitute for a real critique.
Gambit may be a punk, but Mr. Smith, with his track record, is
nothing more than a left-wing media hack.
Now for December 21, 2000:
A little less than a year ago, I asked you about all
of the new companies that were popping up in the year 2000. I
was just wondering, now that the year is over, what is your
reaction to the early successes and failures of these companies?
Did they meet your expectations (for good or ill) or even exceed
them? Did they live up to their own hype, or at least justify
So, what do you think now of AAA, Black Bull, CrossGen and
Gorilla? If you're feeling up to it, what about Acclaim, Dark
Horse, DC, Image and Marvel? Does Santa have a candy cane or a
lump of coal for their Christmas stockings?
Ho, ho, ho! With apologies to our friends of other faiths, here's
what Captain Santa awarded at Christmas:
Little CrossGeneration Comics was very, very good this year!
CrossGen enchilada Mark Alessi promised to address many of the
problems that afflict the industry, and -- despite the devastating
loss of his wife -- delivered on every one. 1) Make all deadlines
and shipping dates? Check. 2) Avoid mind-numbing continuity?
Check. 3) Not rely on Spandex and write stories that might appeal
outside the existing fan base? Check. 4) Retain creators for
lengthy, well-crafted and planned stories? Check. 5) Give creators
job security and a piece of the pie? Check. 6) Make Meridian,
Mystic and Scion books the Captain would look forward to each
Alessi's approach to hiring creators for the long-term made some
people -- primarily publishing executives and other creators --
nervous. Some execs thought Alessi's plan was a license to steal
their employees and freelancers. Some creators feared it was the
shabby, old work-for-hire sweatshop mentality under a different
But the Captain doesn't think so. Publishers wouldn't have to
worry about losing the likes of Barbara Kesel, Ron Marz, and Mark
Waid if they gave them the same options and opportunities to begin
with. And CrossGen's bullpen arrangement doesn't seem like a
sweatshop to the Captain -- in fact, it sounds an awful lot like
the Captain's job, and like those of most other normal working
people in America. Except that the Captain's job isn't nearly as
cool as writing Mystic every month, and his office doesn't have a
Captain Santa awards four candy canes (out of four).
AAA Pop Comics was also very good this year! Mike Allred also
promised to avoid "The Image Syndrome" of missed shipping dates,
and succeeded with 12 monthly issues. And, while the retro
approach of The Atomics may not appeal to everybody, the sheer
relish that Allred puts into every issue makes The Atomics a pure
joy to read. It's so much fun, in fact, that it reminds the
Captain of the giddy, gee-whiz feel of early Marvel Comics.
Captain Santa awards three candy canes and a free trip to Yancy
Gorilla Comics also turned out some gems last year -- Empire,
Shock Rockets, Tellos and Section Zero are well-crafted delights.
Crimson Plague is incomprehensible so far, but an .800 batting
average is pretty darn good!
Unfortunately, due to financing falling through at the last
minute, Gorilla was unable to avoid The Image Syndrome of missed
shipping dates, resolicited books and overall general lateness. It
wasn't the creators' fault, true -- but a good excuse is still an
excuse. Captain Santa awards three candy canes for the stories,
and one lump of coal to whomever it was that made them late.
Black Bull was very naughty this year. They published exactly one
comic book -- Gatecrasher -- and it was a stinker. I generally
delight in the work of Mark Waid and Amanda Conner, but they
seemed to be going through the motions on this one. Gatecrasher
was a string of cliches that did nothing for me, with its initial
premise uncomfortably similar to WildStorm's recently-canceled The
Patriots. The last several issues have shown improvement, but you
can imagine that at any other company this book would have already
That alone wouldn't make Captain Santa so annoyed, except that
Wizard hyped the living stew out of this book -- they made no
pretense of objective journalism while covering it in the
magazine, and attempted to manipulate the market and reader
perception to make it "hot." This makes Captain Santa -- who's
worked in journalism for 20 years -- very, very angry. He's
thinking four lumps of coal, and a wedgie for Wizard publisher
Marvel Comics has had a rough year, and Captain Santa is loath to
jump on the dogpile.
They've put out some good books and some bad books -- and the
former is almost a miracle, given their skeleton staff, upheaval
in upper management and financial desperation.
It's easy to crab about what's wrong with Marvel, but let's look
at the positive side: The elevation of Marvel Knights wizard Joe
Quesada to editor-in-chief was the best creative move they could
possibly make, the Ultimates are a bold effort to fix what's
ailing the industry, and the hiring of unorthodox top guns like
Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Paul Jenkins, Warren Ellis, J.
Michael Straczynski, and Brian Michael Bendis gives Captain Santa
warm and fuzzy feelings about the future.
Let's give Marvel a candy cane, a pat on the head … and cross our
DC keeps chugging along with the best superhero stuff on the
market, with virtually every DCU title worth reading. (Although
they could give the Dark Knight a breather from overexposure).
Most of WildStorm is pretty banal (Countdown? Brass? Most
Wanted?), but Planetary, The Authority, and Alan Moore's
"America's Best Comics" border on genius. Vertigo's nothing to
shout about anymore (outside of Brian Azzarello's 100 Bullets and
Hellblazer), but despite setbacks they continue to experiment. And
DC's success with the Archives, Millennium Editions and
trade-paperback program may someday be the blueprint for how the
Let's give DC three candy canes, and a laurel and hearty
Which brings us to Image Comics, which would very much like to be
a bad boy but doesn't always quite manage it.
The Big I gets points for Jim Valentino's bold stand against the
preponderance of T&A that used to be synonymous with Image.
(Now it's just synonymous with Top Cow.) They also get points for
having faith in Age of Bronze and Geeksville, and for the
But they still suffer from a complete inability to ship on time,
there's still too much T&A, and some of their books are --
let's face it - aimed at the kids on the short bus. Two candy
canes for Valentino trying to upgrade the product; two lumps of
coal for the Fathom Swimsuit Special alone.
Dark Horse is also a mixed bag. I'm not much of a manga fan, but
the industry desperately needs it -- so three cheers for Super
Manga Blast, Gunsmith Cats, etc. Licensed properties, by their
nature, are limited to what stories they can tell -- but, again,
the industry needs those books, so let's hear it for Star Wars,
Predator, Terminator, etc.
Then there are the gems in Dark Horse's bridle: Lone Wolf &
Cub, The Ring of the Nibelung, Usagi Yojimbo, plus anything and
everything by Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, and Sergio Aragones.
What can Captain Santa say about some of the best books by some of
the best creators on the market?
Let's give DH three candy canes -- and an extra bale of hay.
Finally we come to Acclaim. And what's to say? See the Canceled
Comics Cavalcade for the iffy state of their comic-book franchise.
There's no need to give them any coal -- they've already taken
down their stocking.
Of all this stuff, I can certainly comment
on what he says about Marvel and DC (mainly since whether the
indepedents are doing any wrong is kind of a moot point for now):
Boy does he know how to boast and fawn over Marvel’s choices in
Bendis, Stracynski and Quesada, among others. And boy does he know
how to sugarcoat the Ultimates, and what it turned out to be like.
As for DC, I can’t give much credit to a bunch of “editors” who were
perfectly fine with abusing Hal Jordan, and saw no problem with
obliterating the second Wildcat Yolanda Montez and Dr. Mid-Nite Beth
Chapel in 1993.
Come to think of it, I can’t give much credit to Dark Horse either
for wasting their time with Nibelung, knowing it was a product of
Josef Wagner, the anti-semitic musician who served as a nazi
influence. Next, let’s bring up December 28, 2000:
Unbreakable was a terrific film. My wife and I loved
it. Easily one of the best of the year. I've never been one to
invest in videotapes, believing that my time was better spent
away from the television. (Heck, I don't even have a VCR yet!)
But after this year, I'm tempted to start a collection of
superhero comic-book theme movies.
Top of my list so far: Unbreakable, X-Men, Mystery Men,
Blankman, Batman (Michael Keaton), and Superman I and II
I'd also like to include the old John Ritter movie, Hero
at Large, simply out of nostalgia, but I don't think it exists
I assume I'm missing a lot of potential titles. Help me
I've got somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 movies on VHS.
Does that make me smart? Nope. Now I have to switch to DVD! It's
like what Tommy Lee Jones said in Men In Black -- every time they
come out with a new technology, I have to buy The White Album
Ah, well, that's life. In reference to your comic-book movie
question, there are a lot of comic-book movies, most of them
painfully bad. All of the Captain America movies, for example
(made-for-TV and not). Dr. Strange. The Nick Hammond Spider-Man TV
shows (which have been repackaged as "movies"). The never-released
Roger Corman Fantastic Four.
But there are lots of GOOD comic-book movies. In addition to the
ones you mentioned I'd recommend, for example, The Phantom (1994),
The Shadow (1994), the Captain Marvel serial (1941), Dick Tracy
(1990), Terminator II (hey, that WAS a comic-book movie, 1991),
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993, animated), The Mask (1994),
The Mask of Zorro (1998), Popeye (1980), Robocop (1987), Rocketeer
(1991), Mallrats (1995), X-Men (2000) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Then there are the so-bad-they're-good comic-book movies: The
Punisher (1988), Greystoke (1984), Justice League of America
(1997), Conan (1982 -- Conan's a wimp, but Sandahl Bergman's
HOT!), Barb Wire (1998) and Supergirl (1984).
There are plenty of others, and anybody who wants to contribute to
this list is welcome.
Okay, I’ll see what I can say, and it’s
that at one time, I might’ve thought Unbreakable was a decent movie,
but today, I’m really let down by the ending, if anything, in the
film. We get to the end to discover that the art dealer played by
Samuel Jackson who suffered from bone brittle sabotaged a number of
transportation sites and other things, all just to try and find his
opposite number, and on top of that, that he’s a crackpot,
apparently influenced in some way or other by spending much of his
time reading comic books. The biggest problem here is how it implies
that comic readers are destructive. I can’t appreciate that.
Interestingly enough, the person who wrote that was an obnoxious
left-wing “reporter” whom I once found writing at least one article
that was very anti-Israel and even paying lip service to a Muslim
cleric with shady background. Yet he never spoke to any people whose
relatives were victims of 9-11, never wrote any interviews with
courageous folks like Debra Burlingame and Tim Sumner of 9-11
Families for a Safe and Strong America, and the weirdest part of all
is that he read superhero comics created by Jews! Though I
wouldn’t be surprised if he despised Will Eisner for having the
courage to address the subject of Muslim anti-semitism in his last
graphic novel, The Plot: The
Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
And turning to Mr. Smith’s recommendations now, I must strongly
disagree with some of his picks like Robocop, if only because it was
too left-wing in retrospect for my tastes. I’ll even say that The
Shadow was a pale one of the old pulp tales.
I’ll continue with more of this pretentious journalist’s lamebrained
excuses in a third
installment, coming up next.
Copyright 2013 Avi Green. All rights reserved.