A look back at some personal experiences and memories,
March 10, 2014
By Avi Green
So now we arrive at the third part of this little study of ours on
what lurks in the minds of leftists and such (for previous
installments, here's part one
two) and here’s something from January 4, 2001 that since
became a prophecy…but who knew it would be so embarrassing?
What's the status on the Watchmen action figures from
DC Direct that were announced several months ago? Is this
definitely happening? I'm desperate to drop $120 on something
I'll break 10 minutes after opening (just like the goggles on my
My understanding is that all Watchmen projects were canceled when
Alan Moore disassociated himself from the planned
15-year-anniversary hardback. If anything changes, I'll be sure to
Something did change, and I’ll be the one
to concern myself about all that. Since the time this letter was
posted, action figures may have been published by DC Direct, but
then so have Before Watchmen, a couple of prequels to Moore’s
overrated miniseries from 1987, with leftists like J. Michael
Stracynski at the helm. I’d read years ago from a few would-be
experts on history that the Watchmen was quite a pip. But then, I
got to read the official mini proper and wow…I just couldn’t believe
how excruciatingly slow it was, and if Moore was trying to make a
point, it just collapsed to the earth or vanished altogether by the
end. Possibly the leading nadir: it took a negative stance on
altruism. Next, please:
Q: 1) What is your take on this CGC stuff? It seems
to me like a way to force prices up. I agree with you that a
comic is only worth what an individual is willing to pay for it,
but I think only one "grading" standard is necessary. The value
of a dollar itself changes with time, but only one organization
sets this value, so there are not two or three competing gold
standards. I guess I just don't like it because it runs up
prices on back issues for the collector, but only benefits the
investor & CGC. Wizard seems to push the CGC pretty hard,
and sometimes when I look at the back half of a Wizard magazine,
it seems more like an investing magazine. They even run contests
that pit three players against each other to build a "portfolio"
of comics. Sheesh ... At least in Toyfare they openly admit that
toys are of no use unless you open them up and play with 'em!
2) Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Whatever happened to that
magazine that JJJ used to run in Web O' Spidey called NOW? (I
hope it wasn't a front for a well-known radical group!) And also
what about that blonde reporter that Peter was always getting
teamed up with at that mag, named Joy (I think)? I kinda miss
that dynamic that she and Pete had. While I appreciate what MJ
and Aunt May bring to the comic, I enjoy the social interaction
that Mr. Parker has with peers. Personally, I like the Jill
Stacy character, but with her being a (Howard) Mackie creation,
I hope she isn't swept under the carpet by Mr. Jenkins and Mr.
Strackziyesiyglzzz ... MJS that is ...
A: 1) I regret to say that my reaction to CGC is a blind, raging
fury. I cannot offer a thoughful analysis. Perhaps cooler heads
out there can discuss the matter more rationally, and I welcome
their remarks. But I cannot discuss it rationally, for which I
apologize. Here's why:
1) CGC slabbing is just one more way for other people to make
money off me, and one more impediment to my acquiring the books I
want. For example, I need Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos
#1-3 to complete my collection. They're fairly rare and pricey,
since almost nobody collected war comics in the '60s (and cetainly
nobody tried to keep them in mint condition). But I probably COULD
find decent copies that I could afford -- except they'll probably
all be slabbed now, with the price jumping maybe half a decimal
point. Bye-bye, Sgt. Fury 1-3. I love those comics, I want to own
those comics -- but I won't pay that kind of money for them.
2) Once a book is slabbed, further examination of condition is
prohibited. The opportunity for outrageous fraud is thereby
created, and will certainly happen.
3) I reject out of hand the words "investment" and "comic books"
in the same sentence. It's a grotesque mindset that I have a
visceral repugnance to. Comics are meant to be READ, pages to
handled, ink to be smelled ... Comics are a form of entertainment
and, moreover, a satisfying sensory experience, which can't be
enjoyed through several millimeters of plastic. It's just
profoundly disgusting that anybody would deliberately set out to
ruin one of life's simple pleasures to grub for a few more bucks.
Bucks from the pockets of those who truly enjoy comics.
4) WizardWorld.com be damned -- there's no such thing as a "comics
portfolio." My own comics collection was characterized by an
insurance agent six years ago as "irreplaceable ... uninsurable."
Which would be a big deal -- if I ever meant to sell it, which I
don't. If you want to invest, try mutual funds. You'll make more
money, and you won't be jacking up the price of my funnybooks. I
wouldn't give a fig if my banged-up copy of Amazing Spider-Man #28
was worth a million dollars -- it's worth more than that to me. It
was the first comic book I ever personally bought, and no amount
of money can replace that.
I apologize again for my lack of reasoning in this argument -- I
recognize my own lack of objectivity in the matter. I simply
cannot abide the unscrupulous weasels who would ruin this hobby
for those of us who truly care for it. Again, if others would care
to offer their comments, pro or con, I'll be happy to run them
without editorial bias.
2) NOW magazine has appeared intermittently through the years --
would you belive it first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man No. 2
(May, 1963)? And that Carol "Warbird" Danvers was once its editor
in the pages of Ms. Marvel (1977-79)? I do remember a few panels
during the Roy Thomas/Gil Kane days on Amazing Spider-Man where
JJJ was lamenting the sorry state of newspaper economics and
mentioned having to cancel NOW. It's appeared since then, so I
assume it's one of those things that will make an appearance
whenever a writer needs it to further the story. Oh, and the
reporter you're trying to remember is Joy Mercado, and the writer
you're trying to spell is J. Michael Straczynski.
Gee, all that from a guy who’s been pretty
tolerant of the speculator market since, and hasn’t written a meaty
critique in the newspapers of any publisher for relying on cruddy
stunts like variant covers. Makes me wonder as usual why he had such
a problem with Wizard when they were spewing their junk.
And speaking of paper economy, it’s one thing for JJJ to lament
that, but another for Mr. Smith to ignore and fail to lament the
dishonesty of many left-wing journalists and how they’ve brought
journalism to ruin. Funny why he’d read any story with JJJ and
Bethany Snow if that’s how he feels, because they can and do reflect
people with minds like his, and he probably knows it.
And now, January 12, 2001:
Q: Was cartoon-turned-comic-book-character Harley
Quinn based on a supporting actress role in The Flash TV series
episode which ran in the early 1990s? Mark Hammill played the
Trickster beautifully, and on his return engagement the writers
gave him a sidekick he didn't really want. That character
defined a neo-Harley too closely to be ignored as coincidence.
A: Here's what Dini said in a 1999 interview with Newsarama's Matt
<<Harley's origins trace back to the early days of
Batman: The Animated Series when Paul Dini had actually left
Warner Brothers for a time, and was working on Batman scripts as
<<"One of the scripts I was writing was a Joker story
and I wanted him to have a gang that he worked with," Dini says.
"I figured there should be a couple of 'Yeah, boss' henchman
types, and there should be a girl. Originally, I was thinking
maybe she should be a girl thug in a leather jacket, just
another order taker."
Thankfully for Harley fans, Dini kept thinking about the
character. The 'girl thug' wasn't working for Dini, so he
considered adding a Warner Brothers' animation mainstay to the
character -- humor. An animated legend was born and debuted as
The Joker's sidekick/girl Friday in the episode titled "Joker's
"Until then, you'd never seen The Joker in a relationship
where a girl is trying to one-up him," Dini says. "I wanted to
see what that would be like, so I started experimenting with
this clown girl in some episodes. She would be funny and say
innocent things that would be funnier than what The Joker was
saying, and he'd get (upset) at her for saying them. The minute
that happened I got a spark, and Harley started exhibiting more
of a crush on The Joker. Then I started thinking, 'What if she
knew him before?' What if she was The Joker's doctor, and he did
this sort of weird mind twist on her, so she ended up as a
criminal groupie of his?'">>
Doesn't sound like he had anybody in mind, either DC's old
Harlequin characters (there have been at least three) or that
character in The Flash you mention.
I’m going to use this address how Paul
deMeo and Danny Bilson’s take on the Scarlet Speedster may have
spelled doom for the vision back in the comics long before. As I’d
noted earlier, it’s apparent they borrowed too heavily from
the Batman movie by Tim Burton, using a vision that doesn’t belong
in the Flash, no matter how straightforward and serious it should be
The TV character they’re alluding to, by the way, was named Prank,
and appeared as a Trickster sidekick in the series finale, but
honestly, with the pretentious structure that Flash TV show had, I
don’t see the point in bothering. Let’s now turn to January 18,
Q: I have some more Q&A for ya Cap. (Why does
that sound dirty?)
1) I am a big fan of Stephen King and can see many comic
influences in his writing. Firestarter, for example, can be seen
as a story about mutants, Marvel-type mutants that is. And I
have read him make various reference to Batman in some of his
stories. However, I noticed that in some stories such as the
Dark Half, he places a character as coming from or going to the
nuthouse in Arkham. Is this a reference to Gotham's Arkham
2) Kind of late for this complaint, but I was completely
turned off my DC's recent "Planet DC" annual series. What was
the point? To introduce new heroes from around the world?
Haven't they ever heard of the Global Guardians? Does anyone at
DC actually bother to read DC? I am all for replacing lame
characters like the Guardians, but not with characters who are
just as lame.
A: 1) "Arkham" as a synonym for horror precedes both DC and
Stephen King's use of it. It's an actual town in Massachusetts,
founded in the 17th century and the setting for a number of horror
stories by pulp fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft. It's the home of
Arkham Publishing (founded 1934, specializing in horror books) and
Miskatonic University (founded 1690, and headquarters of the
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu).
2) I've read that "Bloodlines" -- another company crossover that
produced a bunch of worthless characters -- was the result of
orders from On High at DC to create a whole bunch of new
characters and immediately launch them into new series. Supposedly
the top editors said that gang-creation of characters never works
and that none of them would pan out, but were overruled. And, sure
enough, characters like Anime, Gunfire, Argus and the like were
dutifully created, given their own series -- and canceled. Perhaps
a similar event occurred with "Planet DC."
Funny why he complains about worthless
crossovers like Bloodlines yet when the latest comes out, he has no
objections to raise, no matter how obvious the poor quality is by
As for King, whatever influences he got from comics, he sure didn’t
use them well. Firestarter was pretty lame, though maybe not as much
own leftism. Now, here comes an interesting bit from February
Q: I was wondering ...
1) What are your thoughts on all of the DC Direct products
that have come out (action figures, dolls, etc.). Have you
purchased anything? Do you know anything about the selection
2) What's your take on Hourman, new and old?
A: 1) I think the DC Direct stuff is terrific! I've bought nearly
all of it, with the exception of the stuff I can't afford (those
wonderful JLA and JSA bookends, the statues, some of the
action-figure display collections). I was delighted back in the
'70s when the old Super Powers action-figure series started doing
some of the lesser-known characters that I love so well, like
Martian Manhunter, Dr. Fate and Captain Marvel -- but distribution
was so spotty that I missed both the Fate and CM action figures.
Oh, the agony of defeat! Now DC Direct is picking up the slack and
I couldn't be happier. (A Krypto plush toy! A Hal Jordan Beanie
Baby! Oh, the indescribable fanboy thrill of victory!)
Of course, this may be the thoughts of an unrepentant Silver Ager.
When I bought Showcase #55 in 1965 (Dr. Fate and Hourman!), I
desperately wanted a Dr. Fate action figure (that looked like
Murphy Anderson drew him), but was just smart enough to know that
such a thing was beyond possibility. And, now, a mere 36 years
later, I'm the proud owner of a DC Direct Dr. Fate (with an
Hourman PVC thrown in for good measure)!
As to what the selection process is, DC's Patty Jeres said,"It's
really simple brainstorming among DC Direct, Design Director Georg
Brewer, Editorial and Sales & Marketing. We also get input
from retailers and fans and take their enthusiasm into account."
2) Hourman the android: Hated the concept, loved the execution. I
groaned inwardly when the new Hourman was announced, because A)
the robot-trying-to-find-its-humanity bit had been done to death,
everywhere from Red Tornado to Commander Data, and B) omniscient
(he's from the future) and omnipowerful (he controls time)
characters are pretty darn hard to write well. I fully expected to
see the Hal Jordan Syndrome, where Hourman's one "weakness" popped
up with alarmingly regularity, or ludicrous circumstance would rob
him of his ability to end the story on page two, or Hourman
himself would choose to eschew his powers in favor of a lopsided
Imagine my surprise when Tom Peyer and Rags Morales delivered an
inventive, funny and touching series about a child-man in search
of love and family. As I've mentioned on this site before, I
realized that Peyer was underrated when he somehow managed to make
me like Snapper Carr. (I realized the same thing about Peter David
when he managed to make Rick Jones interesting in Incredible
Hulk.) Apparently others noticed as well, since Peyer has been
tapped to write a four-issue arc in the immensely popular The
As to the old Hourman, I thought he had a terrific costume
(despite wearing a Holiday Inn towel as a cape), and -- while he
was a cipher in All Star Comics -- his appearances in Sandman
Mystery Theatre were nothing short of mesmerizing. Matt Wagner
painted Rex Tyler as an adrenaline (and Miraclo) junkie, who got
off more on exercising his abilities (some of which might have
been in his head) than in fighting crime. The Sandman felt
uncomfortable around the unpredictable and erratic Hourman, for
But, of course, being a junkie, he had to go. A shame, but I
understand that DC doesn't want to make a hero of a guy who does
drugs and beats people up.
I don’t think DC Direct is terrific,
because I don’t see how merchandise based on comics like toy action
figures is any substitute for the stories back in the medium proper.
Merchandise – licensed or otherwise - has only destroyed
comics as the people in charge today only care about what spinoff
products they can adapt from the comics, and not the comics
As for Hourman, I don’t see what his problem is with robots looking
to learn about life. Though it’s worth noting that after Rags
Morales drew Identity Crisis, I have no respect for that awful man.
been going out of his way to uphold leftism, marxism, among
other awful ideologies, and it’s gotten to the point where I want
nothing to do with him. His work on Hawkman as an artist was nothing
to crow over either. In retrospect, it was wooden and downright
And turning Rex Tyler into a drug addict?!? Even if that wasn’t in
continuity per se, I still think that’s disgusting stuff. I'm
alarmed DC would ever greenlight such an idea, and then do nothing
to reverse it. And his response to this letter falls flat:
Q: What are your thoughts on Warren Ellis's latest
screed, regarding pre-ordering the comics you buy, posted at:
I've been practicing something like this for a couple of
years now, combing the online editions of Previews found here:
The above are text-only, an illustrated subset is at the
retail site for Westfield Comics, a fine retailer with an
equally fine online component:
Going through the catalogs, and using the resources of the
net -- combing the various news sources (such as your site!) as
well as various discussion forums -- helps me with my
Pre-ordering is also useful for setting a budget while
still remaining flexible to experiment with new material, not to
mention ensuring you get what you want. Note that this is not
the same as having a "subscription" or "pull list" -- I think
that Ellis is advocating actively evaluating your purchases
every month -- again, something I do. I order a small core set
of books, very few ongoing series, and experiment with new
material mostly by buying trade paperbacks, and often have
orders ready before the print Previews hits my local shop.
A: I generally find Ellis's screeds, as you phrase it, personally
troubling, as I find it difficult to screen out the obvious
self-promotion in all of his rants. Despite my ethical problems
with that, I have to accept it intellectually -- if he wasn't
getting something out of it he wouldn't do it, and we'd miss some
good (or at least interesting) information. So I do read them.
Anyway, I also do quite a bit of pre-ordering -- I've been
ordering from Westfield for nigh onto 15 years now for the
hard-to-get or badly-distributed "oddball" books. But I get my
"mainstream" books from my local dealer, to help him stay in
The problem with pre-ordering is that you have to know three
months in advance what you want -- and even though we have
Previews as a guide, that's not quite the same as leafing through
the first issue of something and deciding if you want to give it a
try. I err on the side of caution in pre-ordering (for my budget's
sake), which means I often pick up on a popular series after
having missed pre-ordering the first two or three issues. I can
usually play catch-up, but not always -- particularly in the case
of something that had an initial low print run that sold out fast
(I'm still missing Powers #2, for example, and Preacher #1).
But it is true that indies live or die on pre-orders from
retailers, so if you want Strangers in Paradise or Stray Bullets
or 7 Guys of Justice to stay in business, then you ought to put in
your order with your local retailer or online when Previews comes
I’m skeptical he really thinks Ellis’s
screeds are worrisome, given that he
was actually rather favorable to some leftist/communist screeds,
and that even
includes the Smurfs. You’d think he finds the tone of Ellis’s
work aggravating, but then, there’s various other leftist writers
whose work could be just as bad/possibly worse, and if he doesn’t
have a problem with them, then it’s pretty laughable he’d ever have
a cow with Ellis. Nor am I fooled by his alleged fondness for Keith
Giffen’s Justice League International, February 8, 2001:
Q: Okay, I now have everything I know written by
Giffen about the Justice League or any of its characters (unless
I'm missing something, which is entirly possible as yesterday I
bought a small stack of Justice League Quarterlies -- forgot
about them) anyways, I have a few questions about the Justice
League International days and Giffen himself ...
1) First of all, how did he get such a plum job? What did
Giffen write before the JLI that got him such a premier job? Or
had the Detroit days ruined (JLA) so much that it wasn't such a
good job to get? Was it the equivalent of writing say, a
four-issue Darkhawk mini?
2) Is all of that in continuity? Power Girl's cat, Kooey
Kooey Kooey and the piranha penguins? I mean, I noticed the
penguins several times in various JLA issues where they went to
the trophy room but I just wonder how much is in continuity.
3) This is the obscrue one I think: What was the
Conglomerate, the group that Booster Gold joined halfway through
the series run? I haven't heard or seen anything about them
4) (Told you I had a lot) What has Giffen done since?
That's a short question, but maybe a long answer?
5) What is the general fanboy reaction to that series? Is
it largly ignored? Do people like it? Or even remember it? It's
hard to judge ...
I hope you can answer at least some of these questions,
A: That IS a lot of questions! Here are the short answers:
1) Giffen was highly regarded as a fresh new voice when he got the
Justice League gig. I won't pretend to know the particulars, but
he had a lot of heat attached to his name at the time, and DC was
looking to rejuvenate the franchise in a dramatic fashion. It was,
to draw a modern comparison, the moral equivalent of hiring Grant
Morrison to write X-Men. Giffen had written/drawn some peculiar
stuff at DC that was receiving tremendous fan interest (Ambush
Bug, for example). DC didn't understand it, but they knew they had
a pistol on their hands.
2) Yes and no. Kooey Kooey Kooey was mentioned recently as the
scene of some disaster or other as an in-joke, and certainly the
thematic elements of the Giffen/Dematteis JLA continue -- Beetle's
weight problems, Booster & Beetle's long association as
friends/comedy team, J'onn J'onzz's addiction to "Chocos." But, as
with all things DC, the details are only true if they've been
3) The Conglomerate was Booster's own superhero team, whose
essential purpose was to make him money. I haven't heard of them
lately. And, as I just alluded to, at DC things only exist if
they've been mentioned lately.
4) Lots of stuff. Highlights include: Legion of Super-Heroes (the
infamous "Five Years Later" series with Tom & Mary Bierbaum),
Trencher for Image, Vext for DC. His star seems to have fallen of
5) Well, I can't speak for all fans, but the reaction on my site
has been, in general, warm affection. Of course, many of those who
read it the first time around seem to think of it like a childhood
teddy bear: "Gee, I sure remember it fondly, but I don't want
anybody to see me with it."
Many of these answers are from my general impressions at the time,
so if others have harder facts, they're welcome to let us know.
Once again, I really doubt he has much
affection for Giffen’s run if he later put up with DC’s antics in
Final Crisis, which saw Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle of that era, being
wiped out. And he and another correspondent aren’t being very
respectful with the following:
Q: Lex Luthor's presidency brings to mind a question
related to politics: Can Clark Kent legally vote in elections?
Most of the world realizes Superman is an alien, and
probably wouldn't expect him to cast a vote anyway.
Additionally, the home address of the Superman persona is in
some icy spot outside the United States, right? So much for
But Clark has been living a lie since Ma and Pa Kent found
him in the crashed spacecraft. Did they go through a formal
lost-and-found adoption process? I don't know; I'm not very well
versed in Super-history. But it's pretty clear he wasn't born in
the country. When would he become a citizen?
I'm a little concerned that Clark has been living a legal
lie for his entire life. It makes me wonder how such a morally
responsible, ethical guy would fix that problem.
A: When John Byrne re-launched Superman in the Man of Steel
miniseries (1986), he took great pains to establish that li'l
Kal-El wasn't born on Krypton, but was instead in some sort of
embryonic stage when his "birthing matrix" landed on the Kent
farm. So, according to current DC continuity, Superman was
actually born right here on Earth -- and in the USA, no less.
As coincidence (and Byrne) would have it, the Kents found the baby
just before a massive snowstorm snowed them in for many months --
allowing them to pretend that Martha had given birth to Clark
naturally. Clark Kent is thought to be the natural-born son of
Martha and Jonathan Kent, and is legally a citizen of the United
So, yeah, he can legally vote, or even run for president -- except
that, as you note, the premise behind Clark's citizenship is a
lie. He was informally adopted, not born to the Kents as they
claim. That's really not as unusual as it sounds -- according to
Baby Wars (by Robin Baker and Elizabeth Oram, Harper Collins,
1998) "about 10 percent of children (in the U.S. and Britain) are
not sired by their supposed fathers." On the other hand, Clark's
citizenship is manifestly a lie -- and that's not something you
expect from the Big Blue Boy Scout.
Ah, well. I guess you have to accept some conventions to have the
Yawn. Sounds to me like something somebody
who supports the 2011
story where Superman gave up his US citizenship after going to
Iran and not taking any action to defeat the Islamofascist
dictatorship running the country would say. Considering he was a
refugee from a dying planet, and that this is a science-fiction
tale, does it matter whether he’s a citizen or not? What else were
the Kents supposed to do? Even a superpowered infant couldn’t just
be left without some kind of backing.
And gee, if Superman’s living a lie about being a citizen, then I
guess Clark Kent must be living a lie when he keeps his costumed
identity a secret from Lois Lane and anybody else who doesn’t know
he’s the Man of Steel, and doubly so when he tries to make cover
stories of his whereabouts after they notice Clark's missing. Not
something you’d expect from him either, eh? What a baboon Mr. Smith
is. I also gotta take issue with the following from February 15,
Q: I left comics for a while, but I always enjoyed
The Punisher. (I know you're not a fan of the violent types, but
I was born in 1981 and really wasn't privy to the "send them to
jail" age). I stumbled across your site and read some stuff
about him killing Nick Fury, and I think I remember a friend
telling me about him killing his sidekick-type guy (Microchip,
right?) and I distinctly remember seeing a pic somewhere of him
in the electric chair. Could you give me a quick overview of
what happened? Are they still producing Punisher comics?
A: I don't dislike violent types, [withheld] -- I like them fine
as protagonists, but don't think characters like The Punisher
should be treated as heroes. The current ongoing Marvel Knights
series handles the character more to my taste, in which the group
led by Daredevil are actually pursuing The Punisher as a criminal
-- which is how superheroes and the law would rightly view him. It
just doesn't make any sense to me for someone as squeaky-clean as
Spider-Man to "team up" with Frank Castle, a known mass murderer.
(Yeah, he murders criminals, but in the eyes of the law it's still
murder.) In the proper context I have a ball with The Punisher, as
I am with Marvel Knights.
And speaking of current Punisher comics, he also just wrapped up a
terrific 12-issue maxiseries by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. It
was violent as all get-out, and I enjoyed it immensely. Best of
all, sales were good enough that an ongoing title is in the works.
If you can't find the back issues of The Punisher (fifth series)
#1-12, then wait for the inevitable trade paperback -- The Captain
highly recommends it.
In regard to your questions, Linus "Microchip" Lieberman thought
Frank had gone 'round the bend, and tried to lock him up and
replace him in the last few issues of Punisher War Journal. Frank
escaped, and was on the verge of shooting Microchip in the back of
the head when interrupted by rogue SHIELD Agent Sudden Death, who
blew Microchip up (in Punisher War Journal #79, Jun 95). Looking
at his lifeless body, Frank thinks "I'll never know if I would
have capped him." My guess is he probably would have.
He did "cap" Nick Fury, in Double Edge: Omega (Oct 95), and was
tried and executed for it (the electric chair cover you remember
is probably from The Punisher #1, third series, Nov 95). Needless
to say, he didn't really get electrocuted, as a Mob family managed
to fake it and rescue him to become their new Godfather. No,
really. And Fury survived, of course -- Frank actually shot an LMD
(Life Model Decoy) so sophisticated that it fooled forensic
scientists, an autopsy and Wolverine's sense of smell. No, really.
But Fury really was considered dead for quite a while, and even
had a funeral in Incredible Hulk #434 (Oct 95). His survival
wasn't explained until Fury/Agent 13 #2 (Jul 98).
Obviously, he’s not a fan
of Charles Bronson’s notable role in Death Wish from 1974.
But if vigilantes like the Punisher aren’t heroes, what does he
think the murderous criminals he’s wiped out are? And don’t they
deserve to be punished for their horrific crimes? Getting rid of
scummy criminals is nothing great, and maybe it shouldn’t be
celebrated either, but if the Punisher doesn’t do something about
them, who will?
This is the trouble with liberals. They’re so concerned about how we
deal with violent criminals that they fail to ponder what the
criminals themselves have done. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has
the same thoughts about Wolverine. Does he still feel this way years
after 9-11 and the case
of Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood?
And it's just like him to recommend the work of a charlatan like
Ennis, rather than the work of somebody with better talent like Mike
Baron, Carl Potts or Chuck Dixon, whose work on the Punisher had
been paperbacked at one time, but has since largely gone out of
print, apparently because the modern managements at Marvel decided
to blacklist them simply because of their conservative politics. Not
that they'd ever admit it though, but it's been pretty obvious for a
Now, here’s part of a letter about the Ultimate Marvel line:
How do you feel about the Ultimate Marvel team-up
book? Personally, I think it hurts the concept of the “Ultimate”
universe. One of the joys of Ultimate Spider Man has been the
perception that Peter Parker is unique -- he is the only
superhero in his "world," so he does not have others’ histories
and actions to learn from (of course, in Ultimate Spider-Man #6,
he refers to Captain America -- so much for my theory!). If they
want to make it a shared universe, that is fine, but then we
should have learned of the Sentinels and anti-mutant hysteria in
New York at the beginning of Ultimate Spider-Man. I also feel
that introducing characters through the team-ups is contrary to
their method of introducing characters slowly. It took five
issues for Peter Parker to become a super-hero. We had to wait
five months to watch him evolve, and that pacing was one of the
most enjoyable aspects of the series. When the Hulk is
introduced in Ultimate Marvel #2 we will probably get five PAGES
dedicated to his origin, then it will be “on to business.” Your
I see your point about the Ultimate Spider-Man losing something
when the webspinner ceases to be unique in his world, but at the
same time the Ultimate line is supposed to free us of continuity
concerns, so I'm trying to keep an open mind.
It might free us of continuity concerns,
but not of poor storytelling. Besides, after all these years, we can
see how the Ultimate line is now little different in some ways than
the 616 universe as far as continuity is concerned. And now that
Brian Bendis rubbed out the Ultimate Peter Parker and replaced him
with a mixed race protagonist named Miles Morales – all for the sake
of “diversity” – I’d say it’s become pretty irrelevant. Next up, his
responses to this:
1) I never got to read (the) issue when a black man
asked Green Lantern (why) he had saved many a people of varying
skin pigmentations -- except black people. Can you tell me what
it was about and your opinion of the tale?
2) What is your opinion on the return of Hal Jordan as The
Spectre and Oliver Queen as Green Arrow?
3) Do you think that the Black Canary has changed over the
1) The scene you're referring to is from the classic Green Lantern
#76 (second series, Apr 70), the first to feature the
award-winning work of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, and the first
to team the Emerald Gladiator and Green Arrow outside of the
Justice League. (The previous issue of Green Lantern was by John
Broome and Gil Kane; the shift to the O'Neil/Adams version was a
quantum one that astonished readers at the time.) In it, Green
Lantern and Green Arrow get into an argument about a slumlord; the
left-wing Arrow sees the rioting tenants as within their rights to
protest bad treatment, while the more conservative Lantern sees
the slumlord as the aggrieved property-owner under assault.
Lantern's eyes are opened to the slumlord's many evils, and is
shamed when an elderly black man says to Green Lantern:
"I been readin' about you ... how you work for the blue skins
...and how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins
... and you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there's
skins you never bothered with ... the black skins! I want to know
... how come? Answer me that, Mr. Green Lantern!"
To which a hangdog Hal Jordan responds, "I ... can't."
The tale goes on to sniff out for the real culprit in the problem
(rich white guys), establish the GL/GA team, force the Guardians
to give GL a leave of absence (and appoint one of their own, Alli
Apsa, as an Oan representative on Earth) and launch Hal &
Ollie (and later Black Canary) on a trip across the US to "search
What did I think of it? Well, it was darn powerful storytelling.
Even though GL/GA veered pretty hard left (the left-wing Arrow was
usually shown to be correct, and the right-wing Jordan to be
naive), I still found the issues it raised to be compelling. It
was passionate (albeit strident) writing and gorgeous artwork -- I
was mesmerized by each and every issue at the tender age of 12.
And lest anyone suggest that GL/GA transformed the young Captain
into a left-wing radical, I have to note for the record that it
had the opposite effect -- my sympathies were with the reasonable,
rational Hal Jordan, whose heart was in the right place but whose
Leave it to Beaver worldview was turned upside down by the
fire-breathing (and mostly unlikeable) radical, knee-jerk
anarchist Ollie Queen. (See my excoriation of Oliver Queen in my
Sneak Preview of Green Arrow #1.) I have arrived at my current
political philosophy (fiscally conservative, socially liberal,
morally pragmatic) through other life experiences besides comic
2) I'm of mixed sentiment about the return of Ollie Queen and Hal
In general, my answer is this: As an inveterate fanboy, I'm glad
to see two characters I grew up with returned to the four-color
page in any form. As a critic and writer, though, I find their
return reduces the verisimilitude of the comic-book world -- where
three high-profile members of the Justice League (Flash, Green
Lantern and Green Arrow) have been shown to fall in combat in
their very dangerous lives. That latter point, from a writer's
point of view, is very cool and raises the bar for other
More specifically: I dislike Hal Jordan's return as The Spectre,
as the selection of a lunatic mass murderer as an agent of God
seems to be a contradiction in terms done primarily to appease
fanboy anger, and I dislike Ollie Queen's return as Green Arrow
because I'm more interested in Connor Hawke and I like Black
Canary's newly-found independence in Birds of Prey. (I felt she
was badly served in the old Green Arrow title -- he was a
womanizing control freak, and her continued deference to his bad
behavior spoke poorly for her and served as a bad role model for
real women in the real world, where, sadly, such misplaced
loyalty/dependence is a commonplace tragedy. Again, see my Sneak
Preview on Green Arrow #1.) On the other hand, both scenarios are
wild with story possibilities, and if those possibilities are
explored it could result in some explosively good comics. If The
Spectre and Green Arrow are written in a conservative, reverential
manner to re-establish their old heroic status quo -- as seems
probable -- then it will be a Very Bad Thing. If those two titles
are pursued with the obvious and pregnant results of those
characters' previous actions, then it will be a Very Good Thing.
3) Has Black Canary changed? Good lord, yes!
Her original presentation in the '40s was some imagined,
Hollywood-esque idea of a woman crimefighter -- she talked the
Rosalind Russell tough talk, but always needed a man (Larry Lance)
to help her out of the tough spots. And she got tied up a lot by
the bad guys, but never sexually molested. (Fat chance.) And, of
course, the biker-hooker ensemble was an obvious tip-off as to
what the editors imagined her appeal to be -- it certainly wasn't
very practical for physical action (not just the barely-there
bodice containing her impressive bosom, but also those danged high
In the '60s, she was resurrected in Justice League of America by
the aging Gardner Fox as a standard superheroine of the '50s --
not very visible, not very useful. She was re-invented by the
Young Turks in the late '60s (mainly Denny O'Neil) as a "modern"
woman, but she was still ridiculously deferential to male heroes
(in one JLA scene I remember vividly, Green Arrow yanked her by
the arm roughly out of a harmless conversation with another man
because "You're MY chick" and BC took her medicine like a good
girl). Oh, and her primary role was to serve as love interest to
Green Arrow (and for a few issues of Justice League, Batman!).
By the time of the Mike Grell Green Arrow series, she was indeed
much more modern, mouthing off to Ollie and going on adventures on
her own. But she still served as more story element and motivation
for Ollie (Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters) than
three-dimensional character. And, as noted above, Green Arrow's
caveman treatment of her went without comment, completely accepted
by all characters, including other women characters, the Big Blue
Boy Scout, and -- to my great disappointment -- Batman.
Now, in the '90s, she has finally achieved three dimensions. She
is depicted in Birds of Prey as an uninhibited, confident,
aggressive woman -- qualities that would be necessary and expected
for a woman in her line of work. She launches on her own cases
with boldness, confidence and zeal, and finally lives up to the
Rosalind Russell dialogue. She is sexually confident and realized
-- sexuality being an aspect of characterization that I have
pontificated on this site about before. She fondly reminisces
about her relationship with Green Arrow, but recognizes that it
was mostly negative and repressive to her personally. That's very
human, very realistic -- who hasn't plugged away irrationally at a
doomed, self-destructive "romance"? And she is shown to be
developing relationships with others outside her role as token
female for the Justice League/Society -- particularly with other
women, like Oracle and Catwoman. In short, she's become a real
character with a distinct personality, and I'm enjoying her (and
Oracle) immensely in Birds of Prey.
Is he enjoying how Dan DiDio’s staff took
all that apart ever since? More on that later. For now, let’s just
say that, with his embrace
of junk like Identity Crisis and
even socialist propaganda, his claim he wasn’t turned into a
leftist radical is dubious. He may not have become one when he was
12 or so, but he sure has become one since. Worst, I doubt he
learned any real lessons from O’Neil’s tales that reflected the
times: has he ever written an op-ed arguing that modern comics
writers could come up with stories where the superheroes try to help
free slaves of the Islamofascists in Sudan? He even hints he doesn’t
like the “naive” characterization given Hal. Personally, I’m not
particularly bothered by it, since from what I could tell, Hal was
never explicitly described as “right-wing” (or Ollie as
“left-wing”), so I do believe the whole perception is in the eyes of
the beholder. That doesn't mean I think Hal should have been
depicted that way, but Mr. Smith is certainly not qualified to make
And while I’m not impressed with the idea of turning Hal Jordan into
the Spectre, I will say that it was bad even before then that they’d
turn Hal into a savage in Emerald Twilight. What good is complaining
if he can’t say they should reverse the harm from that? The sad part
being that even after that was done, they still didn’t do a very
convincing job in exonerating Hal of even so much as being possessed
by a yellow-colored alien entity who was Parallax according to Geoff
Johns. And to make matters worse, they had to tie it all in with
Identity Crisis. Not that it mattered to people like him. What care
do they really have for minor characters? Nor does Mr. Smith have
much affection for some of the best tales starring the younger
generation, as seen on March 15, 2001:
Q: I'm wondering what the good Captain thinks of DC's
Young Justice. It's currently my favorite series and I know you
read it because it gets a box on your checklist each month. I
think it's a fun, smart read which is what I expect from writer
Peter David. Plus he keeps the angst to a minimum. I also enjoy
Todd Nauck's artwork which is kind of "manga-lite" and
complements the youthful tone of the book. As for the concept --
the team of superhero sidekicks -- sure the Titans have been
there and done that, but the YJ crew seems to be more about
wacky adventures than high-school soap opera. And the way
Arrowette has left the team but not the spotlight of the book is
kind of a nice touch I haven't seen since Cyclops left the X-Men
but kept getting dragged back into the team.
So what do you think of the book?
A: It's one of my top 20, Jay!
As you noted, it has actual wit to it -- as do all of Peter
David's books, especially the outstanding Captain Marvel. Further,
the kids actually act and talk like kids, and not like what some
cranky old writer thinks kids are like or wants kids to be like,
or like very short adults.
Those latter complaints, alas, are what has plagued YJ's "older
brother", The Titans. There are a great many Teen Titans fans,
largely born of the excellent '80s Wolfman/Perez series, but
outside of that golden era (and the lush artwork of Nick Cardy in
its earliest incarnation), I have had a hard time finding much to
interest me in Teen Titans, New Teen Titans, Team Titans or
Titans. I don't say that merely to incense Titans fans, but to
note the difference between the two. Young Justice, in my opinion,
has found the unique voice and the reason to exist that the older
series never has. To this day, the only reason I crack open Titans
is a misplaced sense of nostalgia. YJ,on the other hand, I eagerly
look forward to.
Well maybe I can understand if he’s got a
problem with Team Titans, since that was published at a time when DC
quality was on the wane, but his apparent disdain for the older
stuff by Bob Haney, Bob Rozakis and Marv Wolfman makes me shake my
head. What’s his problem? I’m not saying they were perfect in every
way, but they did have plenty of enjoyable moments, and there was
what to make one think.
Now, here’s his response to a letter I wrote:
Q: Dear Cap: With the X-Men omissions of some of the
characters, as well as those in some other comics from both
Marvel and DC, I also have to wonder, do any villains stay dead
I thought about this after writing a letter to Michael
Sangiacomo at the Cleveland Plain Dealer a month or so ago,
about deaths in comics, and he said in a reply that villains
tend to stay dead more often. However, I’m not sure if he got
that correct. For even in the Marvel Universe, there are
more than plenty of villains who’ve remained very much alive.
Sure, there are some who’ve died, but many others, most notably
Doctor Doom, are still alive. And, as [name withheld] accurately
said a few weeks ago, they don’t die because we, the audience,
don’t want them to.
And last month, I read the 38th issue of Captain America,
in which he was chasing after Protocide, and at the end,
we supposedly see that the latter fall along with the
enemy helicopter into a pit where it explodes. But then,
in the last two panels, we see a hitchhiker getting a ride with
a trucker (“anywhere, so long as it’s far away”), and
under the hiker’s coat, we see Protocide’s shield. So as
we can see, it looks like contrary to what Captain
America thought, the villain survived.
So of course, do villains stay dead that often? It’s hard
A few years ago, I read in a British computer magazine, in
a report on a 3-D Spider-Man computer game, that Doctor Octopus
had died some time ago, and had been replaced by a character
with similar powers. If so, then there’s certainly a case of a
villain who bit the bullet, if not necessarily for good.
And, as I read in the recent Q&A section, Galactus also went
down. As for Mysterio, you’re right, there no telling if he’s
gone for good.
But there are still many, many other villians in the Marvel
and even DC universes who aren’t going to be killed off,
because of how much the audience enjoys them. And among
those unlikely to be killed off could also include
Thor’s enemies, such as The Destroyer. Well, okay, I know, there
are some ways of course to do in a character like The Destroyer,
but nevertheless, he’s among many Dark Gods in Thor’s
world who’re unlikely to be killed off so easily.
A: Frankly, neither heroes nor villains seem to stay dead in
comics these days, Avi. If I were to make an argument, though, I'd
say it's the good guys who stay planted the most. Not only are
"good" bad guys hard to dream up and valuable to writers, but the
dramatic death of a good guy often serves as the motivation for
other good guys. Characters who fit that description that leap to
mind are Spidey's Uncle Ben, Captain America's Bucky and Batman's
parents. I sincerely doubt you'll see any of those characters
resurrected. You've also got the Green Lantern Corps and the
entire planet of Krypton who've shuffled off this mortal coil
(current events in Superman titles notwithstanding).
There are also a great many superheroes who've not only died but
been replaced by more popular characters, thus ensuring their
continued demise. Those would include most of the original JSA
(Hourman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Mr. Terrific, Sandman, Black Canary,
Starman, Dr. Fate, Star-Spangled Kid), Magik of the X-books, Blue
Beetle I, all the Green Lanterns save the current one (and
survivors Alan Scott and John Stewart), etc. Then there are heroes
who were so badly conceived that killing them off was a mercy (Red
Bee, Neon the Unknown, Magno). In fact, I could probably spend the
rest of the night listing dead superheroes who are unlikely to
return. (Colossus, anyone?)
Then you have the many girlfriends of heroes who've bitten the
bullet, and who are also pretty permanently dead. Off the top of
my head, I can think of Alex What's-her-name (Green Lantern), Lady
Dorma (Sub-Mariner), Marrina (Sub-Mariner again), Karen Page
(Daredevil), Gwen Stacy (Spider-Man), Heather Glenn (Daredevil
again), Kathy Kane (Batman), Katma Tui (Green Lantern), etc.,
On the villainous side, there are a few who I don't expect to
return, like Sinestro (what's the point with the GLC gone?) and
the X-Men's Pyro (part of the climax to a larger storyline). There
are quite a few others, but off the top of my head the list seems
much shorter than the list of dead heroes. Dr. Octopus did return,
and I expect Galactus will, too. As much as I'd rather not
disagree with my esteemed colleague, Mr. Sangiacomo, the fact is
that villains are just easier to resurrect than heroes -- less
backstory to deal with -- and writers have a vested interest in
doing so. Who wants to dream up a new bad guy every single issue?
Not when you can have the Red Skull return for the zillionth time
and have Captain America dramatically stammer, "But-but you're
DEAD! I SAW you DIE!"
But Sinestro has since been
resurrected, and in a way that doesn’t jibe well with the finale of
the 2nd volume from 1988 (it probably owes more than a bit to the
wretched Emerald Twilight tale by Ron Marz from 1994), and while the
return of the GL Corps in itself is welcome, the way Geoff Johns has
performed this revival is most certainly not. Also because, if
there’s any GLC member who hasn’t returned…it’s Katma Tui. How come,
of all the recurring cast members Johns wanted thought should have
their fates reversed, she wasn't among them?
Mr. Smith's defense that villains are easier to revive is a laugh
riot; it’s symbolic of a cheap mindset that won’t take certain
challenges in regards to the heroes and co-stars. And the “bad guys”
he speaks of happen to be costumed supervillains, when as a matter
of fact, I think it’s well worth drawing up a couple villains
without costumes and codenames, but who could still use sci-fi
powers and weaponry. How many villains are there along the lines of
the Kingpin? Indeed, that’s something largely lacking in modern
superhero tales. I find it facinating writers don’t have vested
interest in challenges like those. This response of his is pure
defeatist thinking if there ever was any. Let’s go on to March 22,
Q: I've got three questions for you:
1) What is Hal Jordan's current situation -- is he alive,
is he The Spectre?
2) Is the new Green Arrow series with Ollie (Queen) or
Conner (Hawke) and how did Ollie die anyway?
3) Could you tell me if the other DC heroes know that Hal
Jordan is The Spectre?
A: 1) Hal Jordan is dead, and he's also The Spectre. Being dead is
sort of a job requirement.
2) The new Green Arrow series features Oliver Queen, whose
resurrection will be explained as the series progresses. He "died"
in Green Arrow #100-101 (Sep-Oct 95), with his hands strapped to a
dead-man's switch on a bomb on an airplane. The plane blew up,
with Superman as a witness.
(My personal theory is that Ollie used The Atom's technology to
fit all of his trick arrows in a single quiver, and used the same
technology to shrink himself out of that fix.)
3) Theoretically, no -- at least the "human-level" ones like the
Justice League. According to the Day of Judgment miniseries (1999)
and The Spectre appearance in JLA #35 (Nov 99), "ordinary"
superheroes forget the Ghostly Guardian is Hal Jordan the moment
he leaves. Higher-level, "cosmic" characters -- like The Phantom
Stranger, Highfather, Ganthet or Shazam -- almost certainly know,
but that hasn't been a factor so far.
On the other hand, this answer may be moot by the time you read
this. An ongoing subplot in The Spectre monthly involves former
Jordan girlfriend Carol Ferris and Hal's brother catching on, and
Superman and Batman are guesting in The Spectre #3-4 (this month
and next), with the inference that they will be allowed to
remember. (I haven't read them yet.)
Anyway, I certainly hope they do remember -- what's the point of
making Jordan The Spectre if you can't make use of his past?
In response to his “theory” I don’t think
that’s what Kevin Smith went by at all. I think it was just
superficial resurrection. I see he also brought up the Day of
Judgement miniseries. In case I hadn’t mentioned it before, a most
embarrassing moment occurs there when Alan Scott approves of Hal
becoming Spectre because “it feels right”. Now it’s not
Hal’s fault for becoming a mass murderer in Emerald Twilight – that
blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Ron Marz and Kevin Dooley as
the writer and editor of the 1994 abomination – but still, it makes
no sense to recommend that a guy who committed murder be appointed
as ghostly guardian without first exonerating him. But Geoff Johns,
who penned that miniseries early in his undeserved career, went
right along and did just that. Has he no shame? Oh, what a moot
question, of course he doesn’t. He’s long proven that since.
This did remind me of something I was wondering though: did Earth’s
populace (or America’s in the DCU) know that Hal slaughtered
thousands of GLs in Emerald Twilight in the years following that
story? Having read only a handful of GL’s solo from the Kyle Rayner
era, that’s something I’ve never acertained, but if it turns out I’m
correct, it’ll only attest to the bizarre effects insularity can
Hal’s since come back (though from what I can tell, they did not do
a very convincing job exonerating him, the retcon of Parallax into a
separate entity notwithstanding), and is no longer the Spectre, but
again, Johns didn’t do a very good job trying to flesh out his
character either. Now, here’s a letter about story format:
Q: I have often wondered why the comic-book industry
never switched over to a standard magazine format as an answer
to their sales and distribution problems with traditional
magazine & book retailers. Hasn't the complaint always been
that comic books weren't worth handling because of their cheap
cover price and odd-sized format ? Why, for example, couldn't DC
combine the four Superman titles into one big, fat, monthly
magazine with a cover price in the $5-6 range? This would seem
to satisfy the needs of both the buyer/reader and the seller; or
am I missing something?
A: I've often wondered the same thing, [withheld] -- it seems an
obvious solution, doesn't it? And then Steven Grant came along and
filled in the factoid that we were missing in our calculations in
his most recent Master of the Obvious online column:
"Most magazines don't survive on the cover price. Most survive
on advertising, with rates varying by circulation. Most
independent comics companies don't sell much advertising and
have never tried to, filling non-comics space with text features
and house ads. Their circulations just aren't high enough to
interest anyone. (Many magazines are also as much as 60-percent
ads, something readers don't respond to well in their comic
So, for our Giant Superman Magazine to work, it would have to be
60-percent advertising (or more), when no advertisers are
interested. Oops. Still, both Marvel and Image are sticking a toe
into the magazine market with reprints (Ultimate Marvel Magazine
and Tomb Raider Magazine, respectively), so it'll be mighty
interesting to see what happens.
Or rather, not, because in all that time,
such an experiment was quietly abandoned like it had never been.
Unlike him, I’ve wondered why they didn’t switch to a paperback
format, like a lot of TPBs that have become particularly commonplace
since the turn of the century. Yeah, how come an idea like that has
never come to fruition? Potential answer: because it would only
sabotage the tunnelvisions of the brain-less un-trusts at DC and
Marvel, for example. Onto April 19, 2001:
Q: I've got a quick, relatively-recent question for a
change. Who got Power Girl pregnant?
A: Nobody's sure, as Karen Starr woke up pregnant after a
three-day bender in Tijuana. Although Luke Cage, Power Man, is
acting a little guilty ...
Just kidding. Through a deal with a Cthonic Earth-mother deity,
she became pregnant, and gave birth to a baby boy in the midst of
One that may have been written out almost
as quickly as it came, I believe. What was the whole point of that
storyline? It was one of the dumbest ideas I heard of from the time,
and did nothing to expand on Karen Starr as a character. Next, April
Q: Do you think that Superman is "out-of-style" for
A: Heck no, [name withheld]. If anything this tired, old world
needs Superman's example more than ever.
As I said to another correspondent last week, the Superman
character has gone through so many changes that today's Man of
Steel is in many superficial ways an entirely different character
from the one introduced in 1938. That's OK -- it's a different
world today than in 1938, and the Last Son of Krypton must
perforce adapt to the times or be left behind, a dusty relic.
But he's still a hero, still stands for Truth, Justice and the
American Way -- and still teaches us to do the Right Thing no
matter the personal cost. And that, hopefully, will never go out
Wonder what he thinks today, ever since
the Superman Returns movie from 2006, which changed the latter part
to “all that stuff”, and the story published in 2011 where the Man
of Steel flies to Iran and makes no attempt to dismantle the
Islamofascist dictatorship, and after being criticized by a
government official, he decides to give up his American citizenship!
Seeing how far pseudo-journalists like him have fallen today in
their efforts to ape J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow, I figure he
wouldn’t give a crap.
Q: G.I. Joe was easily was one of the biggest
multi-media phenomena since Star Wars (seeing its influence and
expansion into animation, comic books, videogames, action
figures and consistently popping up in popular culture).
Marvel cut a sweet deal with it, but suddenly the party was
over and it's like that part of comicdom never happened.
My question is: Why has G.I. Joe's presence in comics
lapsed since then and why its resurgence now?
A: I know that Mattel opted not to renew their contract with
Marvel way back when, Michael, but I don't know why. Nor do I know
why the Joe franchise remained fallow for so many years, only to
be pursued with renewed vigor today. Perhaps other correspondents
have some hard information to share. What about it, Legionnaires?
Oopsy! He must not know that GI Joe is the
property of Hasbro - another of America’s biggest toy companies -
either! Naturally, how could you expect somebody like him to even
know that the leftist PC-mindset cropping up in the 1990s led to a
disinterest in the franchise, let alone admit it?
Q: This most excellent site brings me back to the
simple, youthful happiness I'd forgotten when I was in
elementary school in the late '70s and early '80s (when Peter
Parker met the Black Cat and the X-Men had only one book). Owing
to the expense, the variety and the complexity of following so
many books, I dropped out of the Marvel world back when Ned
Leeds was revealed as the Hobgoblin. Apparently, I've missed a
I read a couple of books a few years back indicating that
Peter had been a clone, and I had the impression that Aunt May
had died some time back. Am I just imagining the latter point?
A: Unfortunately, you're not imagining a thing, [...]!
Marvel embarked on an ill-considered plotline a while back wherein
they established that the clone of Spidey from Amazing Spider-Man
#149-150 had not only survived -- but that he'd REPLACED Peter
Parker for lo, these many years! The original had been wandering
in Utah or someplace all this time, you see, and returned when he
heard that -- yes -- Aunt May had died. The two Spideys met,
fought, then teamed up and ... Oh, skip it. It was so stupid, so
insulting, that Fandom rose en masse and nearly torched 387 Park
Ave.! The storyline (and the clone) has since been buried, and
Marvel is trying desperately to forget the whole thing. As are we
Aunt May, on the other hand, has been UN-buried. She not only
merely died, but most sincerely died, in Amazing Spider-Man #400.
However, it's since been established that THAT Aunt May was
actually an actress hired by Norman "Green Goblin" Osborn (who has
also been resurrected from his certain death in Amazing Spider-Man
#123) to mess with Spidey's mind. Not only is Aunt May alive and
well these days, but she's updated her wardrobe and haircut and --
like Mary Worth -- apparently gotten a bit younger.
What a fib. Since when has Marvel been
trying to forget? Not if they turn Spidey’s once fine series into
the travesty it’s become since J. Michael Stracynski got his mitts
on it. Thus, how can Spidey purists forgive?
Dear Cap: I have a couple more suggestions for [name
withheld] Desktop Squadron. First off is Angle Man. I'm pretty
sure he was a Wonder Woman villain but I have no idea if he's
appeared anywhere after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Not quite
T-Square Man, but close.
There's also a character called The Writer. John Ostrander
used The Writer in Suicide Squad in the "War of the Gods"
crossover. He had a typewriter/laptop strapped to his chest and
whatever he wrote, happened. He was killed by one of Circe's
bestiomorphs when he got a case of writer's block. One of the
odd little asides to this character was that he was actually
Grant Morrison. As Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man was coming
to an end, he actually wrote himself into the story. Buddy Baker
(Animal Man himself) made a trip to the real world where he met
his creator. It was a culmination of a two-year journey
examining some of the ins and outs of the relationships between
creators and their creations, among other things. One of the
side effects of this was that Grant Morrison actually "existed"
in the DCU. Remember, this was pre-Elseworlds and pre-Vertigo.
So Mr. Ostrander decided to use "The Writer" in Suicide Squad.
Thanks, [...]! The Desktop Squadron is filling up!
I seem to be the only reader in the world who thought Morrison's
Animal Man was self-indulgent and hackneyed. Heck, I wrote a story
where I met my own creations in the ninth grade for our school
"literary" magazine! I never repeated the trick, because the
magazine's adviser pointed out that using myself as a character
showed not only a lack of imagination but an embarrassingly large
ego. I admitted at the time that she was right -- and thought the
same of Morrison when he did it decades later.
Which, getting 'round to my point, is why I remember very little
about the whole Animal Man/Psycho-Pirate/The Writer business. I
thought it was egotistical, self-indulgent and unimaginative at
the time and have pretty much tried to ignore it despite the many
accolades it's received. Of course, that's probably just me.
I dispute whether he actually considers
Morrison’s Animal Man as blatant as he claimed back in the day.
Since that time, he’s written at least a few gushy columns about
Morrison’s subsequent work, with very little negativity, and no
mention of the ludicrous allusions to drug culture Morrison injected
into various stories he’s written over the years.
Dear Cap: I can't speak to Hawkman, but perhaps the
Swamp Thing rumor is based on a really bad movie-rights deal DC
made with Michael Uslan and Bruce Solomon. If I remember
rightly, they wanted to make a Batman movie, but felt they had
to "prove" themselves first (they ended up as exec producers on
Tim Burton's Batman). So they bought the rights to Swamp Thing.
At the time, Swamp Thing was nothing more than an interesting
failure. His book had been out of print for a few years (after
he teamed with ... Hawkman. Hmmm), and the Powers That Be
figured what the heck. In the deal, however, was that Uslan and
Solomon had the rights in perpetuity, and could use any
characters and plotlines associated with Swamp Thing, including
any yet to be created. Before Alan Moore (and this was), this
didn't seem like much of a big deal. But now ...
I'm guessing that the deal had to have eventually been
renegotiated, because I have not heard their names associated
with the upcoming Hellblazer/Constantine movie, and technically,
they would have had the rights to him themselves. Not the
stupidest movie-rights deal in comics history, but definitely
interesting. Fox is currently arguing a similar deal in order to
stop Marvel from producing a Mutant X television series, though
of course not the same Mutant X that appears in comics.
That's a pretty stupid deal, all right! In fact, it's so stupid
that I'd bet that it wouldn't stand up in court if Time Warner
seriously tried to wriggle out of it, or was limited in some
fashion -- like a certain number of movies had to be made over a
certain number of years or the rights would lapse. Whatever
happened, though, you're right -- clearly Uslan no longer has that
There’s a slight inaccuracy in that letter
– Swampy teamed with Adam Strange, in a story from 1986 involving a
pair of crooked Thanagarians. As for Burton’s Batman, no big deal in
retrospect, and there’s no need for anybody to be predisposed to
praising it as a masterpiece. Now, here comes May 3, 2001:
Q: Marvel's Essential reprints are probably the best
buy in comics. Can you beat it? Like, 20 issues of early
continuity for $16. Anyway, I was reading the Essential Thor and
a lot of those issues featured Thor's angst over Jane Foster.
You know, "I love Jane, but Odin has forbidden me from loving a
mortal. Oh, Poor me." I haven't read regular Thor in years, but
am curious as to what ever happened to the Jane Foster
Maybe it's for the best she's been forgotten, with female
supporting characters at Marvel getting killed off a lot (Gwen
Stacy, Karen Page, Betty Banner, & Moria MacTaggart,
Professor X's old girlfriend). What's up with that?
A: That's actually two questions, and the answers are:
1) Nurse Jane Foster was originally written out of the series in
Thor #136, wherein Odin "relented" and made Jane an Asgardian
goddess to test her worthiness to be the Thunderer's mate.
Naturally, this being Odin, he rigged the game -- Jane's divine
power was that of flight (hardly unusual -- Thor can sorta do it
-- and pretty useless offensively) and her tests were such that
most Asgardians couldn't pass them. She failed the tests and Thor
-- being a clod -- accepted Odin's judgment that she wasn't
worthy. She was placed back on Earth sans powers, her memory of
Asgard (and Dr. Don Blake) wiped, and introduced to handsome Dr.
Kincaid who was -- gasp! -- a dead ringer for Blake!
Later in the series, after it was revealed that Blake was nothing
more than a construct invented by Odin anyway and not a real
person, it was established that Kincaid was the "model" for the
Blake persona, so naturally Jane would be attracted to him. Jane
and Kincaid eventually married, and Kincaid even served a stint as
the official Avengers doctor.
Jane is back, though -- now SHE's a doctor, working at the same
hospital as Thor's most recent human facade, paramedic Jake Olson.
She quickly, eh, divined the connection between Thor and Olson,
and has become a supporting member of the cast in the current
2) The almost routine deaths of significant others is a topic
often discussed on this site, [name withheld], and is hardly
exclusive to Marvel. I call it the "Gwen Stacy Syndrome," in honor
of a beloved character who was admittedly and deliberately bumped
off specifically because Amazing Spider-Man writer Gerry Conway
didn't know what to do with her. Gwen and Peter Parker's
relationship had developed to the point where marriage was
inevitable, but Marvel didn't want a married, divorced, or widowed
Spider-Man -- they wanted him to remain single so as not to lose
touch with the perceived target audience. And Peter couldn't break
up with her, or he'd look like an unheroic cad. So the solution
was to kill her. Conway had written himself into a corner, and
took the cheap way out. As noted, though, I shouldn't pick on
Conway, since it's a common ploy. The list of dead
girlfriends/wives is as long as the Stilt-Man's legs -- with
Sub-Mariner and Daredevil having at least two each!
IMO, it makes little difference whether
he’s got the time or not, there’s always some way he could’ve
devoted the time to criticizing the weakness of writers to think of
something better than killing off characters.
Q: Back in 1988, after DC published “A Death In the
Family” (Batman #426-429), editor Denny O’Neil stated that he
had two copies of Batman #428 in his drawer, depending on which
scenario the voters chose. Obviously, the voters chose to kill
Robin (Jason Todd), and the “Dead Jason” version was published.
On that note, I have a few questions:
1) Did the other version (i.e., “Jason Lives”) ever see
print in any other distribution (copies, the Internet, etc.)? Do
we know if those pages still exist?
2) How did YOU vote?
3) Do you think that readers would have voted against Jason
if Frank Miller had not established the character’s fate in Dark
Knight? (On that note, DC would probably not have even offered
the storyline without Miller’s “retroactive foreshadowing”).
4) What were the messages on the 900 numbers when votes
were cast? As I recall, there were two separate numbers,
depending on your choice of fate. Unfortunately, I was in
college, and did not have my own phone line, so I could not cast
my vote (which would have been against the Boy Wonder’s
survival, for the record).
Personally, I always felt that even if Jason had survived
the bomb and beating sustained from The Joker, that his career
as Robin would have been over. I suspected that he would have at
least been placed into a coma, and more likely would have
suffered a career-ending injury (e.g., loss of a limb,
paralysis, etc.), but would have remained as a supporting
character (kind of makes you wonder if he would have evolved
into “Oracle” instead of Barbara Gordon). Such an injury would
have given Batman the same newfound grim motivation that
resulted from this storyline, and would have still allowed him
to go solo (until such time as DC decided to replace Robin).
Quite honestly, if you review the issues that were
published after his death (including the final installment of
the story line in #429), it would have been easy to change
references to Jason’s death into references to injuries/coma,
On one other personal note, I was disappointed with the
story itself. Killing Robin in the deserts of Ethiopia was not a
fitting end to the character. I would have much rather seen him
die in the defense of his city.
That’s enough morbid talk for this week. Thanks for
A: Your canny insight into the issues following "A Death in the
Family", and how Jason could have been seriously injured instead
of dead, is more than speculation, [name withheld]. After all, DC
couldn't hold off production on issues #429-431 waiting on the
vote. So they were written to go either way. As to your questions:
1) I've never heard of the "Jason lives" pages surfacing anywhere.
Presumably, Denny O'Neil (or DC) has them.
2) I didn't vote. I thought the whole concept was a black eye for
a medium struggling to be taken seriously. I felt it reinforced
the idea in most peoples' minds that comics were hokey and
shallow. I thought it was morbid and tasteless. I thought it was a
betrayal of good storytelling -- a writer should KNOW how his
story ends, and not take a vote! (Using that approach, Rhett and
Scarlet would have married at the end of Gone With the Wind, as
would Bogey and Ingrid Bergman at the end of Casablanca -- ruining
How WOULD I have voted? I despised Jason -- a thoroughly
unpleasant character -- but I also despised the phone-call
gimmick. I honestly don't know.
3) Certainly, those who were aware of Dark Knight could have been
influenced by the "retroactive foreshadowing." What that does for
me, though, is add to my belief that Jason was created to die
anyway. Otherwise, why make him so detestable? Maybe Dark Knight
influenced the Batman writers!
4) The poll was conducted via two 900 numbers, one to kill Robin
and one to save him. The calls cost 50 cents, and calls were only
accepted for a 36-hour period. The vote went 5,343 to 5,271
against Jason's survival.
He may not have voted by phone, but don’t
be surprised if he voted with his wallet, and bought the issues when
they came out. And again, here’s the umpteenth example of somebody
claiming he was against presenting comics in a hokey, shallow way,
yet when Identity Crisis came along, he went straight along with it
till the very end. How do we know he wasn’t fine with Emerald
Twilight for that matter? I don’t buy his argument for a second. He
went along with Infinite Crisis and House of M to boot, and come to
think of it, after supposedly being against Avengers: Disassembled,
he doubled back by upholding what came afterwards, or remaining
completely silent about any misuse of characters that came
afterwards. That’s journalistic double-standards for you.
And of course, lest we forget, his misgivings for Jason are woefully
misplaced. He despises the character but will not utter a single
critique of the writers who brought Jason down to such a terrible
situation in the first place. Let’s now proceed to May 17, 2001:
Q: With excitement mounting over the upcoming
JLA/Avengers crossover, I thought I'd propose another fanboy
question: If you could combine the JLA and Avengers into one
team of seven members (seven being the magic default number for
large teams), who would you pick?
For a mix of experience, attitude, consistency and power
variety, I'd have to go with Superman, Batman, Captain America,
Scarlet Witch, Vision, Flash and Green Lantern.
Your choices, please?
A: What a great question, [name withheld]!
I'd go with the Unbeatable Four of DC: Superman (or Wonder Woman),
Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter; plus the Big Three of
Marvel: Thor, Iron Man and Captain America. That would result in
an incredibly powerful team, with a mix of powers.
Alternatively, you could go with an All(most)-Star Comics
approach: Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Hawkman from DC; and
Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver for Marvel. Those
characters are strongly associated with their respective teams,
and would suggest a less direct approach to handling problems.
I'd be interested to hear the suggestions (and reasons why) from
Sure, I’ll dig in, but I’ll also want to
offer a little comment of my own afterwards! First, whom would I
pick? Second and third tier characters like Elongated Man,
Metamorpho, Atom, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Infinity Inc’s members,
Jesse Quick, Firestorm, Vixen, Aquaman, and even the Titans. At
least he’s willing to pick J’onn J’onnz, but it’s not enough. Why am
I citing all those heroes who aren’t as big? Let’s be clear: I love
Captain America and Superman as much as the next fan of famous
superheroes, but even lesser characters deserve their share of the
spotlight. And I’m wondering: why would these two exchangers want to
be so cheap-easy?
I also brought them up because, after all the horrific maltreatment
they got circa Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled, I feel
they deserve some mention. After all, the fools above are just the
kind of people who view them as inferior, and they decidedly need a
Q: Re: The Enigma. If you have read this book, could
you give me your opinion of it? I have copied the piece of it
from your "conversation" with Cyclops.
<<Peter Milligan's work though, has always had some kind
of oddball sexual slant -- like The Enigma, where a man's
subconscious manifests a childhood superhero to help him accept
A: Oh, my. I'm going to get into a lot of trouble here ...
I didn't much care for The Enigma, but not specifically because of
the story itself, which was professionally acquitted and
relatively original (for comic books), but because I've noted a
pattern in Peter Milligan's writing, and when it rears its hoary
head, I get irritated. That pattern is one of sexually shocking
(or tittilating, depending on the reader) characterization done
for shock's sake. It usually involves some sort of
homosexual/bisexual "awakening" by a male character that has
little to do with the plot. Since homosexuality doesn't shock me,
I'm just bored.
In The Minx, for example, the story veered away from the main
characters and situations to dwell on a hermaphroditic
rapist/serial killer -- and I mean dwell. A secondary character or
subplot should throw light on the main story, or set up a
follow-up plot for later. The Killer Hermaphodite subplot did
neither, and seemed merely an effort to shock the audience and
look avant-garde ... and it went ON and ON and ON. Plus, the fact
that an extremely elderly man implausibly discovers after anal
rape that he LIKES it that way was just ridiculous, and somewhat
insulting. Any male character in a Milligan story may suddenly
"turn" homosexual at any given time -- which I find unlikely and
So, The Enigma didn't live up to its name, at least for me.
Knowing Milligan's propensities, I guessed the ending around page
three of the first issue. ("Gee, this guy's a latent homosexual,
like all Milligan characters, and I bet The Enigma will somehow
help him come to grips with it.") Then I had to wade through seven
more issues of a story where little happened other than the
expected homosexual "conversion." The whole thing could have been
wrapped up in a single one-shot, just as easily as I summed it up
Of course, that could just be me.
He’s gonna get in trouble alright, and
it’s all based on how he trashed any point he was trying to make
here, if he even intended to at all.
If he’s saying he recognizes that homosexuality is an abnormal
mentality, and/or that it shouldn’t be depicted positively in every
way, he’s failed miserably. In fact, what’s he had to say about
James Robinson’s retcon - which he won’t even admit is a retcon – of
Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott? Nothing much, if at all.
Homosexuality may not shock me either, but it does disappoint me. I
could probably describe it by paraphrasing a
Safed councilwoman’s description of Haredis: it really makes
me sad how some gays and lesbians not only live with that kind of
mentality, they see as positive in every way, shape and form, and,
as some might’ve seen in recent years, have gone miles out of their
criminalize any and all free speech disagreeing with their
lifestyle. So much that they’re even willing to lionize Harvey
Milk and Matthew
Shepard as saints, when they were anything but.
REGARDING GENERAL GLORY: You mentioned Major Glory,
er, General Glory, who appeared in the JLI books (as opposed to
Major Glory, who appears in Dexter's Laboratory as a member of
the Justice Friends ... :-) General Glory's last appearance was
his death, in Justice League Quarterly #13 or #14 as memory
serves. He passed along the legacy to another poor sap -- that
is, another brave defender of democracy. However, as noted, this
character was so obviously a rip-off of Captain America that
calling him a parody is too mild. Plagiarism comes to mind ...
but in any case, I suspect that, save for the JLA/Avengers
crossover, we'll see no more of General Glory. (Mind you, I
don't put it past Kurt Busiek to have Captain America say
something like, "Say, just whatever DID happen to General
Glory?" and the JLA look at him as if he'd lost his mind ... ah,
the insane delights we indulge ourselves in! :-)
REGARDING JASON TODD: Oh, and by the way, in re: Jason
Todd, the phone-in campaign, and the whole "Death In The
Family," let's remember some items.
1) Regarding original art: I have seen a copy of Aparo's
original artwork from the "survives" issue -- it's a page
showing Batman picking through the rubble again, and finding
Robin. The big change is a panel showing him smiling, and the
caption reading, "HE'S ALIVE!" But Batman is still holding the
boy's body, and I can't suspect that there were too many
artistic changes. Unfortunately, I don't remember where I saw
this page, but I have seen it. Would O'Neil have kept it?
Shucks, I'd keep ANY original Aparo art I could find!
2) Being cynical as I am, I cannot believe that the
writer/editor (the aforementioned Mr. O'Neil) would have had any
doubts how the story was going to go. The phone-in campaign was
a PR gimmick, nothing more; and I don't believe the numbers they
reported. Trusting a writer is a fool's game, and trusting
editors makes it an idiot's game. They don't care about readers;
they care about selling comic books. And killing Robin was good
3) I cannot imagine that, even if there were an alternate
storyline, that it could have been too much different from the
story that was published. Okay, Robin survived; in critical
condition, in a coma, and as good as dead. It probably would
have ended with Batman never letting Jason be Robin again. And
no matter what, The Joker would STILL be getting away with
murder. (Y'know, I really have to wonder who the medicos are
that keep ruling that The Joker is incapable of understanding
what he's doing. I mean, I've heard of incompetence, but isn't
this running a little long ...?)
4) No one liked the snotty Jason Todd, but remember; that
was post-Crisis, when everything changed. Pre-Crisis, Jason's
parents were nice, normal, decent people who worked in the
circus with Dick Grayson, and were killed by Killer Croc. After
Croc got them, Bruce Wayne ADOPTED Jason (not just made him his
ward), so Bruce officially had a son. And Jason was a nice,
normal young man; when he showed up, he was fairly acceptable.
(I remember his appearance in the New Teen Titans; he worked
very well as an "I'm Robin but I'm not Dick Grayson!" character.
It was after the Crisis, when O'Neil decided that Jason Todd had
to be an angst-ridden evil little snot, and one has to wonder
what could possibly have possessed Bruce Wayne to associate with
a little sociopath. (Yeah, my vote would've been to kill the
little stinker too.)
5) I got to chat with Frank Miller at a gathering before a
Mid-Ohio Con one year, right after Dark Knight Returns came out,
and BELIEVE YOU ME -- you're much happier knowing that Jason
Todd just died during Dark Knight Returns! He told us how he had
intended to make it a bit more graphic, and while it did involve
The Joker, it really was a little too unsavory for public
consumption. Brrr! However, I think that, while there was a bit
of slovenly homage and detail to the occurrences to come in DKR,
I don't really think it had a specific cause/effect relationship
in "Death in the Family." After all, Jason could have been
killed at any point during the intervening years, and it's not
as if The Joker wasn't expected to appear again.
REGARDING "SUPER DISCO FEVER" -- Oh, yes, the concept was a
terribly silly one. I'm not sure, but I think Gerry Conway wrote
this story -- he wrote quite a few Superman and "Private Life of
Clark Kent" stories for Superman Family. Them of us what didn't
like disco didn't have a good time with it anyhow, and this
included the reintroduction of the Clark Kent Fan Club -- "Who's
the anchorman who reads the news for you and me? C-L-A, R-K-I,
E-K-E-N-T" Geez, I'd have been embarrassed to DREAM about this!
HOWEVER -- the art was NOT amateurish. It was done by Kurt
Schaffenberger, and it was a very clean piece, terribly
consistent with most of Schaffenberger's work (inked by Dan
Adkins, IIRC, and his work on KS was pretty good.)
Schaffenberger's art had always something of a bit of a
cartoonish air to it, but it could also carry a wide swath of
emotional presentation -- this man did Captain Marvel for years
and years, and did both Superboy and Supergirl strips for a long
time (neither of which were always funny or silly.) For my
money, his work was far more enjoyable than, say, Don Heck's or
Joe Staton's, at this point (both artists in Superman and Batman
Family at the time.) Let's not kill the messenger for the
Thanks for the info, [withheld]! I didn't look up "Super Disco
Fever!" so I wasn't aware that the talented Mr. Schaffenberger
drew the story -- a fine craftsman that I would never characterize
as "amateurish." That adjective does apply to SOME artists on
Superman Family, but not Mr. Schaffenberger. And, as [name
withheld] notes above, the writer was Cary Burkett.
And as you note in a subsequent e-mail, Miller's plan for Jason's
death involved kidnapping by The Joker and repeated rape before
murder. Brrr, indeed.
And this was at a time Miller went by the
same political leaning as the bad captain does: left-wing
liberalism. When will some lefties ever come to realize that if
Frank Miller really did want to do that, it was all because of the
mindset they fed him in school? Even today, when he’s supporting
right-wing conservatism more often, I still find his MO
questionable, if it matters.
As for Jason being disliked in the post-Crisis era, let’s remember,
the editors and writers have to shoulder blame for that, and if the
audience failed to consider this fact, they only helped reinforce
the image of comic readers as childish nerds who don’t care about
quality writing. There’s another letter I’ll copy down here too,
because it has a bit of what to think about:
Dear Cap: General Glory may have appeared in Eclipso
"Death in the Family": There was only one page that would have
been different: at the end of the issue, Batman would have said
"My God, he's alive!" Wizard published this in the back of one of
their issues; I'm at college, so I can't check which one. However,
Les Daniels in his history of DC Comics (the overall history, not
the volumes dedicated to particular characters) did reprint it,
As far as Robin being killed in Ethiopia and not Gotham: that
surprised me too when I first read "Death in the Family." I once
read somewhere that Jim Starlin (who wrote "Death in the Family")
decided to write Batman because he was interested in doing
material that was a bit more mimetic and less cosmic than his
previous work. So, I guess that Starlin wanted to try his hand at
using current events in his stories, to do more contemporary,
prosaic, conventional thrillers. (Notice that Starlin also did
"Ten Nights of the Beast," which tied in with the Strategic
Defense Initiative of the time.) So, I guess by having Robin die
in Ethiopia, he must have been pursuing this. (Notice that Starlin
also worked in the Arab/Israeli conflict into a "Death in the
Family" -- and who can forget that delightful cameo by Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini! Those crazy Aryans, making The Joker their U.N.
(By the way, does anyone know if Starlin's personal political
views are particularly conservative? I know that he has described
himself as religiously liberal, but some of his stories make one
wonder as to his political positions. Besides the KGBeast (a
Soviet villain), he also had The Joker selling nuclear weapons to
Arab terrorists during "Death in the Family"! Of course, as noted,
he may have written these stories as a contrast to his other work
such as Warlock, Captain Marvel and Dreadstar, which were more
out-and-out science fiction, so his personal political views could
be irrelevant. As Max Allan Collins said in Amazing Heroes #119,
"Dick Tracy voted for Reagan, but I didn't!")
<<Certainly, those who were aware of Dark Knight could
have been influenced by the "retroactive foreshadowing." What
that does for me, though, is add to my belief that Jason was
created to die anyway. Otherwise, why make him so detestable?
Maybe Dark Knight influenced the Batman writers! -- Captain
Actually, Jason Todd was created a while before in 1984. The
problem with him only really began with his revamp in Batman #408
by Max Allan Collins. (Although the Crisis provided the
justification for giving him a new origin, was there really a
point to changing a character who had only been around for a few
years?) Collins was concerned, as many were, that Todd's origin
was too similar to Dick Grayson's. But eventually, his revamped
Robin grew into an undesirable character.
http://www.januarymagazine.com/profiles/collins.html has Collins
saying. "It was my version of Robin that the fans voted to kill,
which is a perverse point of pride on my part (but I'm also the
guy who wrote Robin as a street-gang kid who initially tried to
steal the tires off the Batmobile, which was picked up on by the
That scene with Jason Todd surviving is shown in Les Daniels's DC
Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes
(Bullfinch Press, 1995) on Page 200.
I don't think Jason was ever created just
to die. Remember, pre-Crisis, he was hardly unlikable, and his hair
was lighter-colored. That’s awfully stupid to suggest Jason was, and
I wonder if that’s Mr. Smith’s uncreative instincts coming to the
fore. I don’t know if Starlin is politically conservative, but I
will give him some credit if he wrote his story with respect for
Israel. Let’s go now to May 24, 2001:
Q: I read The Watchmen again the other day and I was
thinking about the pirate comic that is within the comic. I was
wondering if that story is a commentary on the outcome of the
story. It seems that the husband going into the heart of
darkness of the pirate ship spoke of the futility of the ending.
Billy Preston said he had "a story that had no moral, let the
bad guy win every once and while." This seems to be the reason
for the presence of the comic and not just a literary device to
get the writer into the story as a part of plot devised by
Ozymandias. What are your thoughts on this?
Also, is there any real scholarly work done on The
Watchmen? Just wondering.
A: Georges Santayana is famously quoted as saying, "Beware, when
ye battle monsters, lest ye become a monster. Know that, when ye
gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
My take on the pirate story-within-a-story was that it was a
literary convention (and, typically, a brilliant one) by Alan
Moore, in which the pirate-book character's descent into murder
and cannibalism in the interests of surviving and returning to his
wife was a deliberate parallel to the arc of the "real"
characters, but primarily to Ozymandias. Ozzie became a monster
while battling monsters; he did despicable things in the interest
of the "common good." It was, in fact, the pirate story that
tipped me midway through that the "mask murderer" was going to be
one of the good guys, who had descended into the heart of darkness
while pursuing his noble pursuits. With that in mind, I started
analyzing the characters, each of whom degenerated in some fashion
without realizing it (Comedian, Rorschach) or discovered an
unpleasant truth about themselves (Miss Jupiter, Nite Owl) --
except Ozymandias, whose personal "descent into darkness" was not
revealed. That twigged me to the fact that he was the mask
murderer. Of course, I had no idea WHY, so there were still
surprises a'plenty for me at the end.
So, yeah, I'd say the pirate story had some utility!
And there's plenty of scholarly work on The Watchmen. There's a
number of universities that include it in their course work, and
at least one that has a whole class in it. The amount of scholarly
papers and such -- probably available on the Internet -- must
weigh in the tons.
“Scholarly”? Yeah, right. Such an
otherwise wretched story, and with all the leftardedness running
rampant at universities today, I wouldn’t trust their focus to be
Q: Okay, I'll bite. Why did you hate Valor? It seems
to me that all it did was further convolute Legion history,
which was already impossibly convoluted.
A: Well, your own explanation would be enough -- Legion history is
snarled enough as it is without Lar Gand playing Superboy in the
But my chief complaint was that they played Mon-El/Valor/M'onel as
an utter simpleton in Valor. I realize that the writer(s) were
attempting to portray Gand as naive and inexperienced, no doubt to
play in contrast with his seasoned, mature character in Legion
(hey, 1,000 years in the Phantom Zone will do that to you). But
there's a difference between naive and brain-damaged, and the
Valor character definitely fell into the latter category. I simply
can't enjoy stories where the hero is a moron, and you catch
yourself saying, "Geez, those powers are sure wasted on THAT guy.
What I'd do in that situation is ... " Both Nova and Firestorm
suffered from this syndrome, in my opinion, and Ron Marz's Green
Lantern teetered precariously in that direction, as well.
Oh, Marz’s work was worse than that. It
depicted Kyle Rayner as a whiner, never rising much beyond that
level, if at all, and proved that DC never set out to introduce a
variant on Spider-Man. At worst, Kyle’s rendition was dreary, and
rubbing out the girlfriend just to give Kyle some motivation was
rock-bottom cheapjack. (And the only replacement gal-pals Marz used
were two established superheroines, Donna Troy and Jade. Again, very
But Nova and Firestorm simpletons? I wouldn’t go that far. Their
renditions were a lot more interesting than Kyle’s will ever be,
since Marv Wolfman and Gerry Conway were talented writers back in
the day. Mr. Smith just doesn’t have what it takes to appreciate
writing when it was done better. A pity almost nothing of the
original Nova and Firestorm series has been collected in trades to
Q: You have written eloquently on the return of Ollie
Queen to the DC Universe. I wonder how you feel about the return
of Hawkman, and Geoff Johns's attempts to sort out that mess?
A: Well, it's not a done deal -- the JSA storyline returning
Hawkman isn't wrapped up yet -- but so far I'm impressed. I've
never thought very highly of Hawkman as a concept -- a guy who
"only" flies doesn't add much to the JLA or any other group -- but
as a visual icon he's dramatic beyond words and the character is
an integral part of DC history. So when I heard he was coming
back, I was pleased -- but trepidatious, since his backstory had
become so impossibly arcane and contradictory post-Crisis that no
writer wanted to touch him. Imagine my surprise that the first two
"Return of Hawkman" issues make perfect sense, without re-writing
the character yet again. A tip of the beak to Johns.
Not so fast. I’m a fan of Hawkman, but
after all the terrible deeds Johns’s done at DC (and Marvel),
there’ll be no tips of the beak to him from me. In fact, after all
these years, yours truly, who built one of the few fansites on the
web focused on the Winged Warrior is not as impressed as he
wishes he could be about the work by Johns and James Robinson. I
once owned 3 trades, but got rid of 2 of them to date, because I
felt slapped in the face by Johns’s full support of Brad Meltzer’s
Identity Crisis direction, which rendered the guest appearance by
Ray Palmer meaningless. And I’ll probably sell off the remaining
book along with 2 JSA trades I still have somewhere down the line,
because they just don’t do anything for me today. Man, have I
changed in focus, and come a long way.
But I vehemently disagree with his take on Hawkman as a concept. A
guy who “only” flies? For crying out loud, Carter Hall uses swords,
spears, crossbows, and Katar Hol occasionally used guns! Ditto
Sheira Saunders and Shayera Thal. He can’t tell the significance?
Methinks he should get himself a new hobby. And that we should move
to May 31, 2001:
Q: I think their may be some confusion (at least
certainly for me) between the Golden Age and modern incarnations
of the original Captain Marvel of Fawcett comics and all of his
supporting characters, thanks to both the DC re-conception and
the Marvel imitation.
Were the Billy Batson and Captain Marvel of the Golden Age
comics the same person or were they separate beings? To clarify:
Was the Captain simply the child, Billy, in an adult body, with
the consequent emotions and attitude of a child in a magically
matured form, or did Billy call upon an entirely different
individual, one with its own personality? If the former, could
the Captain function sexually, if not emotionally then
physically? Is that a biological or psychological question?
Was it ever established in the Fawcett books whether Billy
and Freddy Freeman were the same age, or was one markedly older
than the other? I think it would be an interesting personality
point for Freddy to be resentful of being older than his
Could you tell me the Golden Age origin for Mr. Tawky
Tawny? I appreciate the absurdity of an intelligent and
vertebrally erect tiger interacting with an apparently
indifferent human population, if that is, in fact, how the
context was portrayed in the Fawcett books.
Onto something not related to Captain Marvel. I feel that
the term "retcon" has increasingly been interpreted too loosely
and that most readers have begun to consider that it can
generally describe any time a story takes place in a character's
past. I understand that this is one of those questions that pop
up every couple of months or so in superhero discussions, and I
beg your pardon if it is, but because of my above apprehension I
consider you to be one of very few sources of reliable
information on the Net: What was the original meaning of the
phrase when first coined by Roy Thomas?
Lastly, I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
recently and I have to say I didn't find it particularly
Pulitzer-worthy. Do you know the criteria used to judge whether
a book should merit the award? As a comic-book fan I certainly
enjoyed the characterization and the milieu, but whenever the
word "Pulitzer" is bandied about I suppose my expectations run
higher than is sensible and I anticipated being profoundly
I found the eponymous characters to be less like Siegel and
Schuster, who they were compared to in reviews I've read, and
more like the Simon and Kirby team. Kavelier, the artist, being
more interested in dynamically rendered fight scenes, and Clay,
the writer who has a lesser history in art, concerned mainly
with plot, together chance upon a creation which becomes a
sensation. The creation is made to combat Nazis like a Captain
America. However, the Escapist and his retinue greatly resemble
The Spirit and his associates as well as sharing the humorous
tone of the strip. If you've read the book would you tell me
your thoughts on it?
I would appreciate any thoughts and opinions you might
A: Billy Batson and Captain Marvel are, and always have been, the
same person. In the Fawcett years, it was just a given that Billy
Batson could become the adult Captain Marvel and still react as a
child to everything without anybody noticing. Those stories were
just light-hearted fables, all in fun. Heck, the "real" adults in
the Fawcett stories were pretty child-like. In Cap's modern
incarnation, the situation still prevails -- but it's explained
that an eight-year-old can pass as an adult due to the Wisdom of
Solomon. (Martian Manhunter, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and
some others are aware of the situation, though, and try to protect
Billy, even in his Captain Marvel persona.)
As to sex, that wasn't an issue in the '40s! In modern times,
Captain Marvel's pre-adolescent reaction to the possibility of
having sex (with the lustful and persistent Beautia Sivana) was
amusingly depicted in the early issues of Jerry Ordway's Power of
Shazam! series. (As you'd guess, his reaction was raw, bewildered
panic, which Beautia interpreted as playing hard-to-get.) And,
yes, Freddy Freeman was a bit older than Billy, but younger
physically as Junior. That wasn't addressed in the '40s, but in
Power of Shazam! Junior was depicted as resentful of being a
junior partner to a younger boy who happened to be in a man's body
-- and, in fact, flirted strenuously with Mary Marvel primarily
(it was implied) because it antagonized Cap/Billy.
Tawky Tawny was given an origin in his second appearance, in
Captain Marvel Adventures #79 ("Captain Marvel and the Return of
Mr. Tawny!"). He was the pet of a missionary's son in a generic
jungle setting, who was taken to school by the boy (and therefore
exposed to human speech and learning). Later, an old hermit of
undisclosed origins gave him a serum "that will energize his brain
and enable him to use his vocal chords for speech!" Not much of an
origin, but there you go. (And the human population wasn't
indifferent to Mr. Tawny -- they were usually terrified ... and
Roy Thomas's use of "retroactive continuity" back in the day was
in reference to stories that would unsnarl contradictory or
unexplained events in a character's history, generally without
changing existing information. Since nobody had expected these
characters to last 50 years, there was a lot to explain! For
example, Dr. Fate inexplicably switched to a half-helmet for a
while in the '40s -- so Thomas wrote an All-Star Squadron story in
the '80s that explained the switcheroo. As an example of how far
this can go, ONE PANEL of some comic in the '40s showed Hawkman
with yellow boots -- a coloring error. But in All-Star Squadron,
Thomas had Hawkman mention why he briefly wore yellow boots!
(Thomas would usually explain his machinations in the letters
In ensuing years -- particularly after Crisis on Infinite Earths
-- "retcon" has come to mean completely re-writing a character's
history, and that's the definition I use. Just filling in the
blanks in a character's history, as Thomas did, seems to me to
just be a plain old flashback.
As to Kavalier and Clay, they weren't meant to be Siegel and
Shuster, or any other specific person. They did demonstrate some
similarities with living people, such as Siegel, Shuster, Kirby,
Simon, Eisner, etc., probably for verisimilitude. But they weren't
supposed to be anybody but themselves. The Escapist, too, wasn't
meant to represent any one character, but was instead reflective
of a great many, including real-life folks like Houdini!
And I have no more information than you do about the Pulitzer
Well I sure hope Kavalier and Clay weren’t
meant to be inspired by Siegel and Shuster, because Michael Chabon
is one very awful leftist, IMO. And his book bore traces of that
too. I’m flattered the correspondent didn’t think much of it,
because IMHO, it was all just a lot of sound and fury signifying
nothing. While we're on the subject, it's interesting to note Mr.
Smith, for somebody trying to make points about Billy Batson's
status as a child, acts pretty childish himself given the chance.
Now for something from June 7, 2001:
Hi, Cap: I thought I would weigh in on your comments
about Captain Marvel possessing the mind of Billy Batson. As
always, I will limit myself to the pre-Crisis version of the Big
Red Cheese, since I am not qualified to speak to any post-Crisis
incarnation of anything.
As I recall, from the two dozen or so of the Fawcett
Captain Marvel stories I have read, along with DC's '70s run of
Shazam!, the mythos has always played a little fast and loose
with the subject of whether Billy Batson's mind occupied Captain
Marvel's form, or whether they were two separate people. In his
chapter devoted to Captain Marvel and the other Fawcett
creations in his History of the Comics, Jim Steranko discusses
that very subject, raising the issue of whether Billy called
upon Captain Marvel or changed into him. Mr. Steranko cites a
story in a very early issue of Whiz which would seem to shed
some light on that subject; it is a story which depicts Billy
whispering the word "Shazam," producing a spectral version of
Captain Marvel, in order to get some help with answers on a
school test. It's difficult to use this instance as definitive
proof, however. Not just for the morally questionable aspect of
the scene, but also because it occurred very early in the
development of Captain Marvel (Whiz Comics #2, I think). As we
all know, it generally takes several issues to firmly establish
the conventions for any given character. Most early issues about
a hero added an item or two which didn't work and was never
Other than that, all we really have to go by is the
dialogue of the two -- or is it one? -- characters in question.
Countless times throughout the series, Cap mentions "changing
back" to Billy (or the other way 'round). But just as often, Cap
will say, "I'll let Billy take over." Or Billy will say, "I
think Captain Marvel should investigate." Idiomatically, any of
this dialogue only slightly suggests one side of the controversy
or the other. And one could plausibly read either side into any
Barring someone producing a comic reference which
specifically establishes one premise of the other (and that
could very well be out there -- I am far from a Captain Marvel
expert), each individual is pretty much left up to personal
opinion. In this case, Cap, I respectfully disagree with you. I
believe that Billy Batson and Captain Marvel were two different
beings -- mentally linked, to be sure, since one remembers the
experiences of the other -- but completely different entities.
On what do I base that, you ask, sir? On something a
literal-minded fellow like myself hates to rely -- inference and
The one thing about the transformation of Billy to Captain
Marvel we can certainly state is that Cap is not an adult with
Billy's actual juvenile mind. Captain Marvel would not be able
to perform with the mind of a 12-year-old (or however old Billy
is supposed to be). We can take as demonstration of that the
events of the 1988 film, Big, in which pre-adolescent Josh
Baskin occupies an adult body. Even though the movie's
contrivances give the adult Josh a good job and set-up, the fact
of the matter is, such a person would be completely at a loss in
the event of a true emergency or a major decision.
So it is safe to presume that Captain Marvel does not
possess the young Billy's unadulterated mind. So what about the
presumption that he possesses Billy's mind, augmented with the
Wisdom of Solomon? Certainly then, Captain Marvel with Billy's
mind enhanced so could handle the usual crises of a superhero. I
pondered such a possibility, until I realised something. If it
was Billy's mind which occupied Captain Marvel's body -- with
the additional Wisdom of Solomon thrown in -- why would he ever
want to change back to Billy?
Even someone of Billy Batson's prominence and position is
still a kid, and a kid has no right to do as he wishes in our
society. Legally, whether it was the State or an appointed
guardian, there would be some entity with the power to determine
Billy's life until he reached the age of majority. Furthermore,
he is a kid and it is an adult world. Many people have children
of Billy's age or interact with them daily, and some of those
people even like children; but how many adults take, in general,
the thoughts and opinions of children as seriously as they do
those of another adult? By and large, children are impotent in
our society. Furthermore, as Billy, he has no family or friends
that he doesn't also have as Captain Marvel. So if Billy is Cap,
only smarter, why would he want to change back from being a
powerful, independent adult?
The most common argument I have heard to this refers to the
movie Big, again. The argument goes something like, just as Josh
Baskin longed for the carefree fun of being a kid again, so
would Billy -- that's why he changes back. This theory overlooks
the obvious difference between Josh Baskin trapped in an adult
body and Billy Batson as Captain Marvel: Josh, even though he is
an adult, still has a 12-year old mind -- he is out of his
league as an adult and he knows it. The adult world is strange
and confusing to him. However, Billy has the Wisdom of Solomon
to give him insight and knowledge. He functions just fine as an
adult. In fact, he functions even better.
Most of us real-life adults of a certain age, Cap,
occasionally have the idle wish that we could be in our early
teens again, knowing what we know now. (Heck, if I were a
teenager again, knowing what I know about adolescent
insecurities and emotions and with the experience and confidence
of an adult, all it would take would be a few Machiavellian
manipulations, and I would rule any high school.) However, how
many of us would want to be a child again if it meant giving up
all we had learned about life and all the knowledge we had
gained since then? Very few. I wouldn't expect to see any hands
go up on that one.
So the idea that a Solomon-augmented Billy Batson mind in
Captain Marvel's form would want to be a kid again doesn't make
What makes the most sense is that they are two different
people. Captain Marvel, when Billy cries "Shazam!", supplants
Billy in reality. If one presumes that Cap and Billy are two
different entities, that means that Captain Marvel understands
that every time he is in existence, he is robbing Billy of some
of his life. Granted, Billy has good reasons to summon Cap, and
that was part of the deal to which Billy (more or less) agreed
that night in the subway tunnel.
But being a compassionate man, as well as a righteous one,
Captain Marvel prefers to deprive Billy as little of his own
life as possible. Not to mention the fact that Captain Marvel
was conceived to fight evil and defend the innocent. He is not
supposed to have a life of his own beyond that, except for
whatever social interactions he develops during the course of
his mission (which would explain his social awkwardness,
especially when it comes to girls). Therefore, the considerate
Captain Marvel reverts back to Billy as often as he can, in most
This is the premise which makes the most sense to me. It is
the only one which would adequately explain why Captain Marvel
would ever want to change back to Billy (and, by extension, why
Mary Marvel would change back to Mary Batson, or why Junior
would change back to Freddy).
Quite a dissertation, [name withheld] -- and so sincere that I am
loath to argue with it. But, unfortunately, I must.
Lucky for us both, my original response was largely informed by
the modern Cap/Billy, which you make no claim to. In the
Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League especially, Cap/Billy's naivete
and childlike behavior was played for laughs. In Jerry Ordway's
Power of Shazam! that aspect was played up also, particularly with
the immature Cap clearly flummoxed when an adult woman attempts to
seduce him. And finally, in DCU Heroes Secret Files #1 (Feb 99),
the profile piece states quite baldly that Captain Marvel "has the
super-powered body of an adult with the savvy mind of a teenager."
That's pretty hard to argue with.
But my Golden Age experience is spotty at best, and the Golden Age
Captain Comics is away on a space mission (again), and isn't
available for consultation. So I'm willing to go with Cap/Billy as
possibly two guys in the Golden Age but definitely one guy in the
present. Or perhaps the Golden Age Cap was an adult version of
Not very impressive, I’m afraid. I thought
to address this letter because of the writer’s citation of Tom
Hanks’s 1988 movie called Big, which was, IMHO, an embarrassingly
bad movie that doesn’t handle it’s youngster stuck in adult body
premise very well. Come to think of it, since when was such a
premise ever handled well? I could even cite the 2 anime series of
Minky Momo (first one in 1982-3 and the second in 1991-2) as other
examples that leave a bad taste in the mouth. I just hope that
Golden or modern age, any of these issues involving sex and maturity
were handled as well as you can expect in Capt. Marvel, because
there are some parts of that concept that did not age well. That’s
not something I’m happy to note, but some things are just plain
inevitable. June 14, 2001 comes next:
Q: First of all, I want to thank you for recommending
the Milligan/Allred revamp of X-Force; I haven't seen this much
quirky fun since Grant Morrison's early Doom Patrol. I'm
horribly addicted after the first issue.
I've been reading much praise about Martian Manhunter on
your site, and I'm wondering, why doesn't DC release it under
the Vertigo banner?
My main problem with Vertigo is the uniformity of the
titles; everything is black-clad and depressing. I preferred
Vertigo when it didn't have a name and a distinct image -- there
was variety in Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Sandman and Hellblazer.
Why can't Vertigo simply be a label for sophisticated
comics for adults? Not "adult" as in graphic violence, language
and sex (although those can be found in the other books), but in
intellect? From reading the comments about Martian Manhunter, it
seems to aimed toward a more grown-up audience. It might sell
better if DC targeted it to that crowd. Just a thought.
A: To answer your main question first, I don't think DC would ever
release Martian Manhunter as a Vertigo book (or any other way,
now) because the company has never shown any confidence in the
character, sales-wise. Even in the '60s, Manhunter was usually
slighted on Justice League of America covers in favor of Big Guns
like Batman and Superman -- and was eventually written out of the
DC Universe altogether for 10 years or so after about issue #70.
As to Vertigo, it was initially envisioned as a mature "horror"
line, with the now-defunct Helix imprint a mature science-fiction
line. I have no independent confirmation of this, but it seems
that idea still has Vertigo in a death-grip -- hence, the gloom
and doom. (If any DC/Vertigo staffers are reading this and wish to
chime in, please feel free.) With WildStorm/ABC/Homage/Cliffhanger
as a release valve for Code-less, non-horror fare, I don't expect
this to change. In fact, there are RUMORS that DC's reaction to
Marvel's decision to drop the Comics Code is to launch their own
"Mature" line -- with The Authority and Wildcats being the first
two titles to take the plunge. We'll have to wait and see if that
actually develops, but either way I really don't expect Vertigo to
change much -- despite reports of iffy sales.
Milligan’s X-Force revamp was cancelled
about 2 years afterwards, and I can’t say I was sorry to see it go.
It just wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. As for his comment
on Martian Manhunter, what I’m wondering is why any book with him
has to be an ongoing and not a miniseries. In fact, there was one
published in 1988, and if that was okay to do then, I don’t see why
it’s not now.
Q: Can you give me some advice? I have almost 3,000
comics and horror mags that were appraised at $16,000 a few
years ago. I have not found any stores who were interested in
buying all for even $4,000! I have some good titles and some
that are probably not as desirable but all are in excellent
shape, bagged, boarded, sorted, etc. I want to sell all and be
done. Any suggestions are appreciated.
A: The general rule of thumb for dealers, as explained to me by
several comic-shop owners, is to offer about one-fourth value of
what they think they can SELL. This is not because they're greedy
-- well, not necessarily -- but because books they can't sell are
worthless and not a factor, fifty percent of the value is eaten up
by overhead, and they need to make a profit to make the
Here's how it breaks down: If you offer a collection with a "book"
value of $16,000, a shop owner may decide that if he buys it, he
may only sell $4,000 of it. Half that -- $2,000 -- is eaten up by
overhead (rent, utilities, time employees spend sorting and
grading, etc.). So that leaves him $2,000 to split between himself
and you. So he'll offer you $1,000. The more he offers you, the
less profit he makes, and there's a point of diminishing returns
where too small a profit isn't worth his time to fool with it.
Ugly, but that's commerce.
So most folks try to skip the middleman -- the dealer -- and sell
directly to a collector themselves. The best way to do that is on
eBay or some other auction site, or by placing an ad in a
newspaper/magazine like Comics Buyer's Guide.
And incidentally, your decision to sell all at once is also
recommended. If you allow a dealer to "cherry pick" your
collection, he'll buy a small percentage of it (the stuff in high
demand) and offer you one-fourth the value for that -- while
leaving you with large amounts of landfill to cart back home.
Again, this is not venality on the part of the owner, but the sort
of smart business practice that will keep him IN business.
For more opinions, you might try my message board, or others in
the comics community. You might even get an offer.
Anyway, that's my opinion. If others -- particularly shop owners
-- care to chime in with different opinions or plans of action,
this space is available.
I’ve got suggestions, such as, why doesn’t
the clown who wrote that letter just READ the books and not abandon
them in bags, boards, and dust that collects on the plastic? I’ve
already found news that various collection owners have
discovered their collections aren’t worth the prices listed. It’s
like owning an old Mercury sedan from the 1950s and finding out it’s
not worth squat. What a shame Mr. Smith didn’t think to make those
friendly suggestions either. Today, much of this is an all but moot
Q: A few questions for the Captain:
1) Why does Gar Logan have a period of time when he was
2) Howcum, in his Beast Boy days, he had a green human face
with a regular animal body with the coloring of that animal --
but as Changeling, he was an all-green animal?
A: 1) Back in his Doom Patrol days, Beast Boy wore a purple
full-head mask to disguise his green face -- a dead giveaway that
he was the famously green Gar Logan, adopted son of the world's
fifth-richest man. This was deemed necessary because Gar was a
minor, and the DP could get in trouble letting him hang around in
dangerous situations. And besides, secret identities were in
vogue. But he's always been green.
2) In his '60s incarnations, Beast Boy would turn into animals
with a human face -- and sometimes not. But they were all colored
like real animals. When he was introduced in the '80s Teen Titans,
suddenly he turned into only green animals. I presume, without any
other information available, that this was a creative decision to
visually distinguish the character.
Oh please! If the DP really had
difficulties keeping Gar around sans mask, then realistically,
they’d have triple the trouble if he did; the authorities would want
to find out who he really was. And did it ever occur to him that Gar
was introduced already in the DP days, not during 1980? What
happened is that he was ADDED to the NTT cast. What a goof.
Q: Could you give me your opinions of the following
books if you have read them?
Why I Hate Saturn, by Kyle Baker
Count Geiger's Blues, by Michael Bishop
A: I haven't read Count Geiger's Blues, but others have written in
with their opinions (and others are welcome). As to Why I Hate
I loved it! Kyle Baker has a gift for natural dialogue and
consequence, and applied it in this tale to a non-fantastic,
novelistic premise. The result was a novel in comic-book form, and
the only nod to "superhero funnybooks" was the lead character's
(possibly) deranged sister, who opted out of the real world by
dressing as an alien from the planet Saturn. The sister makes only
a few appearances, largely for comic relief -- the real story is
of the lead character, an alcoholic NYC writer who has trouble
with all aspects of life, especially men. (And her sister, which
is why she hates Saturn.)
One of the funniest bits in the whole book is a line that I've
stolen for jokes in real life, when (SPOILER WARNING), the
confident, gets-any-babe-he-wants best friend eventually becomes
the lover of the lead character, losing all of his self-confidence
in the process. The lead character breaks up with him, naturally,
because he's no longer the man she was attracted to. When she
explains this to him, his response is: "Oh. Well, if you want me
to be more assertive, I'll try to be." Beautiful! And then, "So
we're broken up. OK. Can we still sleep together until I find
somebody else?" I can't BEGIN to tell you how funny that is --
because it so accurately zooms in on what many people are thinking
during a breakup, but would never admit.
The Cowboy Wally Show, which Baker also wrote and drew, is more
fall-down-funny. But it's a sillier premise. Why I Hate Saturn
reads like people you know, and is bittersweet funny. Highly
Sigh. Baker has proven himself one of the
worst artists and writers around since he collaborated on The Truth:
Red, White and Black in 2003. I wouldn’t want to waste time on his
tripe any more than his tripe as a hired hand. Now, here’s a letter
I wrote at the time, another of its kind I’m just not so impressed
with from a modern perspective:
Now that Colossus is dead, will the toy companies
that make toys based on Marvel characters stop building Colossus
I presume so.
Oh, even I must’ve been naïve back then to
think the toys would literally stop a-comin’ for Colossus! But then,
so was he. And his comments on June 21, 2001 aren’t any better:
Q: I have a few questions and comments about comics.
1) It seems to me that in the last 10 years or so, comic
books have decreased the amount of violence in them (and I'm not
referring to Vertigo or mature readers books, but "all ages"
books such as Superman, Batman, JLA, etc.). I haven't seen a
good old-fashioned "slug-fest" in years. I remember in the DC
comics of the '80s many fistfights had even teeth and blood
spewing from the mouths of many villains after a punch. Now, I
know this isn't politically correct, but I miss those
slug-fests! Those fights were fun and I think that is one of the
"magic" things that is missing from comics these days. I'm not a
violent person, but I do enjoy violence in my comic books. And
it seems that in the last several years there has been a slow,
barely visible decrease in the amount of violence in comics (so
slow a decrease, it took me several years before I even realized
it). Now, mainly power blasts are used or the villain is
defeated in the end by talking to him (yawn). Or the artists
don't depict the violence as graphically as they used to (i.e.,
teeth shooting out after a punch in the face, a hero or villain
flying back through three or four buildings after being punched,
etc.). Is it just me or have you noticed this, too? Is it a
conscious effort by comics publishers to decrease violence
because they think it's bad for kids? If so, I think it is a bad
thing, because they are saying that comics are only for kids!
That is a step backwards for comics, in general. It is in
everyone's best interests to show the non-comics reading public
that comics are for adults, too, or readership will never
increase and comics will never be looked at as a legitimate art
form or literary form. Isn't respect for comic books by the
general public what every fan and pro wants? And I think that a
good story can co-exist with "mindless slug-fests" if balanced
just right. Good writers can accomplish this.
2) In my opinion, I think the best time for comic books was
in the mid-to-late 1980s. I mainly bought DC Comics then, but it
seemed that the best writers and artists were at DC then.
Starting with Crisis On Infinite Earths, DC Comics started
maturing in their content and stories. I kind of grew up with
them as I was in my late teens then and I was ready for more
mature stories. All the revamped titles such as Superman,
Batman, Justice League International (this was more hilarious
than mature), Flash, etc., were better than ever then. Watchmen
and Batman: Gotham By Gaslight were well-written, involving
stories. Chances were taken then. Unfortunately, in the early
'90s, the good writers and artists seemed to migrate elsewhere
and the quality along with them. Then Image came in, changing
the whole medium into a teenagers-only format with characters
having crappy, exaggerated physiques and little or no story in
the books. Most books started having women star in them for no
other reason but T&A. I think this above all else ruined
comics. (I love beautiful women, but having only T&A in
comics is a bad thing.) Also, have you noticed how many comics
now aren't colorful any more? Bright colors have been replaced
with dark, moody and in some cases dismal-looking colors. Even
something as trivial as that can take the fun out of comics. If
somehow, we could go back to those days when good, well-written
stories filled with slam-bang action were the rule, we could get
comics sales up again.
3) I really miss those DC digests from the late '70s and
'80s. I can't afford the DC hardcover archives and they only
occasionally reprint specials in regular format (not counting
the DC Millennium editions). Marvel recently tried digest format
and Archie Comics still have several regular monthly digests
that seem to sell well. Do you think DC might try digests again
in the future?
4) Does DC plan to publish a regular monthly Justice League
comic based on the new cartoon series coming up on Cartoon
A: 1) No, I really haven't noticed a decline in general violence
in comics -- although, you don't see too many toe-to-toe grudge
matches like in Silver Age Marvel, where Hulk and The Thing
battled for 22 pages (Fantastic Four #25) or Hulk and Thor duked
it out for a whole issue (Journey Into Mystery #113). I suspect
that is so because today's writers find that "beneath" them --
they want slug-fests with "meaning." Of course, that's one man's
As to general violence, I haven't really noticed a decline. The
Authority, for example, is nothing but over-the-top violence and
sexual escapades, and even in the Spandex titles, Superman had his
jaw broken in the most recent Man of Steel. Spider-Man is
currently getting the crap kicked out of him in both Amazing and
Peter Parker, and it's not the first time recently. Over in
Ultimate he had to cancel a date to get over injuries sustained in
getting thoroughly whipped by The Kingpin and Electro. In a recent
JSA, Black Adam was punched off the planet Thanagar! I could go
on. I think it's just a matter of perception, in that we don't
have the old "Hulk/Thing grudge match in the abandoned warehouse
district" stories any more.
And do you REALLY want to see teeth knocked out of people's
Although, in regard to your observation about violence "gradually"
being excised, I share it in regard to Saturday morning superhero
shows. Recently, when watching X-Men: Evolution, I was shocked to
see people using guns with bullets! It suddenly occurred to me
that I hadn't seen that for years -- in the old X-Men cartoon they
used "pulse rifles" of some sort that really didn't seem to hurt
anybody. And I hadn't noticed. (The one exception would be Batman:
The Animated Series. But the Superman cartoon, by the same folks,
had the futuristic rifles.)
2) I agree that pre-Image was better than post-Image, for the very
reasons you cite. I was appalled by the early Image books, with
their T&A-driven, plotless, every-other-page-a-pinup approach.
I was further appalled when it was mindlessly copied at Marvel
and, to an extent, DC. It took a while, but Image finally came to
realize that they needed actual writers, and their line as a whole
is improving -- but the damage has more or less been done.
Combined with the grim-n-gritty fad spawned by everybody copying
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen, comics went
through a really shallow, unpleasant period in the early to
mid-'90s. It's reassuring to me to see the Mark Waid/Kurt Busiek
retro approach finding a niche, as well as good writing by the
likes of Paul Jenkins, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Joe Casey,
Jeph Loeb, Peter David, John Ostrander and others once again being
3) Digests, as I've mentioned before, are not cost-effective for
publishers who have to pay reprint fees. Both Marvel and DC seem
to be favoring hardbacks and trade paperbacks for reprints, which
have a larger profit margin and can sell in bookstores as well as
comic shops. And both companies are going whole hog into TPBs,
which should give you a wide variety of material that doesn't go
for the $50 a pop like the Archives do. As to who might be selling
the old DC Blue Ribbon Digests and other digests online, I haven't
a clue (I have them all, so I haven't been looking). Perhaps a
Legion of Superfluous Heroes member has some suggestions.
4) If DC doesn't do a Justice League Adventures-style book, I'd be
stunned. They're probably waiting for the initial ratings to come
in, but is there any comics fan who ISN'T going to watch that
show? I've got my VCR revved and ready now! Plus, it will appeal
to the Super Friends generation, many of whom no longer read
comics. I suspect it will be a major hit, and a comic book will
quickly follow. After all, they're canceling Batman Beyond --
that's a number of Adventures-style writers and artists made
available right there.
It’s been 14 years and he’s wrong as can
be. Today we have writers who want slugfests only between heroes and
not hero-vs-villain, as seen in Avengers vs. X-Men. I sure don’t get
where the correspondent thinks comic book violence has been toned
down. It’s long been proven otherwise.
Regarding Image, I will say that if it’s a product from the likes of
Rob Liefeld, then of course, those early Image products were total
junk. Where Marvel and DC have since blown it big time was when they
started imitating his approach with terrible artwork and misshapen
anatomies. One of Herb Trimpe’s last efforts was a dud because
Marvel compelled him to imitate an artist way beneath him. But I
disagree that T&A was what ruined comics per se. What I believe
ruined comics was the increase in alienating violence, as seen in
Green Lantern and Aquaman when Kevin Dooley was editing them, along
with the Clone Saga in Spider-Man, when Peter Parker accidentally
injured Mary Jane Watson while a scientist stands idly by doing
nothing on his part to break up the fight with his clone, Ben
Reilly, to name but some examples.
No suggestions comics make the jump to TPBs only, I see. And on
cartoons, they have done some JL Adventures style books, but never
promoted them seriously.
Q: One question that has nagged at me for a long time
about that famous line "With great power there must also come
great responsibility." (which still resonates in my head from
that old cartoon show retelling of the original); did Stan Lee
come up with that himself? Or was he quoting some specific
A: As far as I know, that particular phrase is a Stan Lee
Which is not to say that the idea isn't an old one; for example,
Thomas Huxley said in the 1800s: "If some great Power would agree
to make me always think what is true and do what is right, on
condition of being turned into a sort of clock and wound up every
morning before I got out of bed, I should instantly close with the
And Thomas Jefferson said, "When a man assumes a public trust, he
should consider himself as public property."
There are many, many more quotes along the same lines
(particularly among the Founding Fathers) wherein a ruler's power
confers responsibility for the governed. Not quite the same thing,
but conceptually similar.
Heck, even Karl Marx said, "From each, according to his abililty,
to each, according to his need."
Ugh, to think he brings up the founder of
marxism, one of the worst ideologies in the vein of socialism.
(Guilty confession time: I once quoted a phrase of Marx’s too in
another letter to him, and I shouldn’t have.)
While I admire Lee very much, I do believe John Broome preceded it
by a few years in the Flash, when Wally West made his debut, and
Barry Allen explained how his newfound power was a big
responsibility. It wasn’t the same line, obviously, but it does have
significance. And he didn’t remember it? Yeesh.
Q: Long-time reader, first-time beamer.
I was just wondering if you knew the status of Awesome
Comics. Are they dead? Do you know how many issues of their
titles actually made it to the stands?
As long as I'm asking -- how about the status of London
Night, and is there an index anywhere?
A: The last Awesome issue solicited was Youngblood Genesis in
November, 2000 -- which I ordered from Westfield Comics, and for
which my money was refunded under the header "canceled by
publisher/distributor." Since several earlier Awesome issues met
the same fate (such as October's Supreme: The Return), I think it
a reasonable assumption that Awesome is defunct. This opinion is
buttressed by owner Rob Liefeld's presence on mainstream Marvel
and DC books -- if his company was a going concern, he would be
"there" and not "here." If others have hard information to share,
this forum is available!
To see which issues were actually published (as opposed to being
solicited and touted on various news sites), my advice would be to
check the 2001 Overstreet Guide and see which ones are listed.
As to London Night, I am completely unfamiliar with them and their
product. I can't find any recent solicitations, and that's the
only info I have to share.
Oh dear! He just had to serve it all up so
sugarcoated! But at least I know Awesome was an Image affiliate. If
Youngblood collapsed, that’s long proven a good thing. I can’t tell
from the letter, but I sure hope the person writing it wasn’t some
mentally adolescent vagrant addict. Now for June 28, 2001, and a
question I wrote at the time:
Q: Where did old characters like the Golden Age Human
Torch go? Years ago, before DC's current Steel came around,
there'd been a different Steel in the Justice League of America,
who was no doubt killed off during Crisis on Infinite Earths.
But what happened to the Golden Age Human Torch, who'd been one
of Captain America's (partners) during WWII?
A: Oh, "Jim Hammond" -- the original, android Human Torch -- is
still around. He doesn't have his flame powers any more, but he's
a background character in the Marvel Universe. His most recent
appearance was in Citizen V and the V Battallion #3, just a few
As to the Justice League Steel, he was killed off in Justice
League of America #260 (Mar 87). If memory serves -- and it
doesn't, not really -- he was the grandson of the WWII Steel who
had his own book for about 20 seconds in the '70s. (OK, it was
Steel, the Indestructible Man, and it lasted five issues, from
March to Oct-Nov, 1978.) That makes John Henry Irons Steel III!
Jim Hammond may be getting his powers back
this year, but it’s not good news with James Robinson being the
writer of a new take on The Invaders. I’ve written a bit about that
already, and I’ll say that I have no respect the man anymore, and
like a few people on Dixonverse, I too have begun to question his
early ventures into comics like Starman. And I figure Mr. Smith by
contrast won’t. More likely he’ll say in his columns that Robinson
is a “fan-favorite” when he’s been losing a lot of audience ever
since the Cry for Justice miniseries.
Now, what about July 19,2001:
Q: Is there any truth to the Internet rumors
surrounding a January fifth-week event that involves taking
familiar Marvel characters and giving them new, manga-influenced
origins? Among the ones listed were a Super Sentai Fantastic
Four and a Masked Rider like Spider-Man. This sounds almost too
strange to be true, but nowadays you can never tell.
Oh, and what's this I hear about Marvel killing off a major
character this September? My money is on either Captain America
(since he's moving to Marvel Knights) or the Hulk.
A: Both of the questions you ask are more than rumors; they've
been officially announced by Marvel.
1) In January, an eight-issue "Marvel Manga" fifth-week event will
have two bookend issues written and drawn by Ben Dunn (Ninja High
School, Warrior Nun Areala), and the six middle issues will
re-imagine Marvel mainstays like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and
the X-Men in Japanese style.
2) On the Marvel message boards, Joe Quesada announced last
September that one of Marvel's "oldest and richest" characters
would take the dirt nap -- permanently. That idea has since been
reiterated to the point that it's a certainty that it's going to
What's not certain, of course, is which character it is. Marvel
has been cagey in answering what "richest" means -- whether
financially, or in story terms. That has launched a debate --
there's currently a knowledgeable one on the Captain Comics
Message Board -- and the consensus is that it's probably Steve
Rogers, when Captain America becomes a Marvel Knights title later
this year. My own opinion is that it's Bruce Banner, who is
currently suffering from a very real, very incurable, very fatal
disease. But if we're talking "richest" financially, then it's
almost got to be Reed Richards or Tony Stark. Time will tell.
I know which character it was: Odin, the
father of Thor. And I’m very disappointed the boob who wrote that
letter had no complaints about Marvel’s publicity stunt based on the
death of a character any more than Mr. Smith did. It was getting old
and awful well before this particular case, and should have been
objected to. As for Captain America shifting to the Marvel Knights
banner, we’ve all seen how well that turned out with the apologia
and all! Sick. I’m not impressed with Marvel’s manga ventures
Hi Cap: In regard to the questions posed below in Rap
<<Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. look exactly the
same as Mary Batson and Freddie Freeman so why wouldn't Cap be
Billy, only older? This brings up another question: Why DOES
Billy "get older" when Mary and Freddie stay the same age?
Probably because they received their powers in "skewed" fashion
while Billy was directly the first. In any regard, when Mary
first changed into a Marvel she acted exactly like the same
person, only noticing her new strength ("I feel strong ...
powerful!") and change of clothes ("My! What a lovely costume,
My understanding of the odd ages between the Captain Marvels is
that Freddie, Mary and Billy became the physical form that they
most idolized. Freddie, who was crippled by then, became Freddie
who wasn't crippled. Billy became the living vision of his
long-lost father. And Mary, who must have a wonderful
self-image, became herself.
I seem to remember this explanation appearing in a letters
column in the Power of Shazam! series somewhere, but I'm not
sure which issue.
Also, if I may extend the discussion to my general take of
the recent Power of Shazam! series: I found it a relatively dull
book. Its biggest problem was Jerry Ordway's obssessive use of
outdated characters from Fawcett Comics. I know at the time
characters such as Bulletman and Captain Nazi were very
appropriate for a comic. Nowadays, they come across as more than
a little boring, no matter what you make them do.
Mind you, I did like Ibis, Black Adam and, of course, the
Marvels, but Ordway probably should have let CM out of Fawcett
City a little more than he did. This would have let him interact
with the DC Universe more and develop a better cache of
Speaking of villains, Ordway should have tried to create a
few new ones as well. The older villains -- Mr. Mind, Sivana and
(Captain) Nazi -- were never too great of a threat to Captain
Marvel, especially with CM3 and Mary waiting in the wings.
The series would have probably found a better audience if
it had a more humorous angle. I'm not talking about the hipster
humor found in titles such as Superboy, but maybe stuff like the
old Justice League International books. In fact, I think (Keith)
Giffen and (J. M.) DeMatteis would be the ideal team for a
Lastly, a neat twist would be for CM to take up a mentoring
role for a team like Young Justice or the fondly remembered
Young Heroes in Love squad. Imagine, Cap, who's a kid himself,
trying his best to act like a role model for other kids. I think
it could work.
Thanks, [withheld]! I had to laugh out loud at your Mary Marvel
remarks; a "wonderful self-image" indeed! And you've said aloud
what I always subconsciously accepted, that the results of the
Shazam! power were in some way influenced by the speaker's secret
wishes. It was, after all, a series about wish fulfillment.
Which brings up an interesting idea ... what if the "Captain
Marvel" persona wasn't fixed, but continued to evolve to reflect
the speaker's changing self-image? For example, what if an elderly
Billy Batson spoke the word -- and became Captain Marvel JR. in a
subconscious search for his lost youth? What if Freddy Freeman
became an embittered office worker, and started changing to Black
Adam? What if Mary Batson grew self-conscious about her weight,
and started becoming Twiggy Marvel? What if Black Adam got in
touch with his feminine side, and became Judy Garland Marvel?
It'll never happen, for trademark reasons if nothing else. But
it's a fun thought to play with.
As to Jerry Ordway's use of Fawcett heroes and villains in the
PoS! series, I actually enjoyed seeing them, for the same reason I
enjoy seeing any obscure Golden Age characters: It's just about
the only way I'll learn anything about them. Since it's unlikely
we'll ever see a Bulletman Archives or that DC will reprint Ibis
the Invincible stories, Power of Shazam! is about the only way
I'll ever find out the details of these characters' secret
identities, powers, etc. Lord knows I can't afford to buy the back
I also understand why Ordway chose to "quarantine" Cap in Fawcett
City. One of the problems with every Captain Marvel revival is
that the concept doesn't work too well when taken completely
seriously -- which becomes the case whenever Cap mixes with other
characters in the DCU. As a "serious" superhero, Captain Marvel is
not only redundant with Superman, but less powerful -- Cap doesn't
have Supes' many vision powers, super-breath, etc., and the
boy's-mind-in-a-man's body aspect comes across as a (possibly
dangerous) liability. By keeping Cap in Fawcett, Ordway was free
to be as light-hearted as he chose, without having the overall
grim-n-gritty sensibility of the DCU forcing story decisions,
modern rationalizations and wordy exposition on him.
Overall, I enjoyed Power of Shazam!, even though I acknowledge
your complaints as pretty valid. The problems with the series, I
think, were not with the characters or the creator, but with the
audience -- we've all grown too sophisiticated to accept the
gentle, light-hearted whimsy that was the appeal of the series in
the '40s. And if you "update" the concept to modern expectations,
then Captain Marvel ceases to be Captain Marvel and becomes just
another Superman -- a Superman, as noted, handicapped by not
having a mature mind. In which case, is he even Captain Marvel any
more? Why not just call him Captain Thunder and leave the original
character undisturbed in limbo (and our memories)?
Anyway, that's my two cents. I'd be interested in what others have
I’ll add mine, beginning with how
facinating it is that Mr. Smith hasn’t said a word about Geoff
Johns’s down-date of Billy Batson in the pages of Justice League in
the New 52 era, where he’s now only known as “Shazam” because modern
DC publishers have given up on the use of Captain Marvel as a name
because Marvel Comics long took up the trademark. It’s one of the
most disgusting retcons of a Golden Ager I’ve ever seen, with Billy
turned into a nasty, sullen and alienating youngster, but Smith
never said a word when it all happened 2 years ago, making me pine
for Ordway’s far better take on Billy.
That told, I’ve gotta admit that Fawcett’s Captain Marvel is a very
problematic concept in the modern era, but Smith’s claim “we” are
too sophisticated for Shazam is still very off base. I’m nearly 40
now and I don’t find the bright angle too juvenile for my tastes.
But I assume Mr. Smith does.
From July 26, 2001, a query I wrote about a certain “Merc with a
I think I've only read Deadpool about three or four
times, and that was back in 1997, at the time it first began.
From what I've seen you mentioning about it in the Next Week's
Comics section, is it a terrible title, besides the truly silly
name that he's got?
My complaint about Deadpool is the one I had about The Punisher
and Lobo back in the day -- that other superheroes accept this
heartless killer as one of their own for the sake of sales. Heck,
Siryn (of X-Force) was depicted as a love interest! I don't mind
books about killers -- just be sure you call them that and treat
them that way and not have them team up with Spider-Man (see the
current Punisher and Marvel Knights series for how to do it
right). Deadpool has a strong, vocal core group of fans that
recently saved it from cancellation, and I don't begrudge them
their enjoyment of this black-humor title. But I can't stand it.
It’s all matter of opinion and perception,
I’d say. The Punisher’s quarry were usually violent murderers, like
the ones who murdered his own family in cold blood, along with
rapists and drug dealers. If Frank Castle slaughtered innocent
people, then there’d be definite cause for concern. This is just one
example of Mr. Smith’s leftist side kicking in. If Deadpool also
went after villains and not innocents, then there’s not too much
need to worry. Honestly, what’s his beef? And why hasn’t he panned
the writers and editors for failure to make Deadpool a more
palatable character, if he’s got issues with characterization and
other matters of structure? The guilty parties here are Fabian
Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, and if he’s got issues, he could’ve taken
it up with them.
Say, and why do I get the feeling he’s alluding to Garth Ennis’ take
on the Punisher? I’m not sure, but whatever he is talking about, I’m
sure I won’t like it.
Who was the first comic-book character to kill an
opponent (I have a hunch it was waaaay back in the Golden Age,
when even Superman & Batman didn't possess their modern-day
Superheroes frequently killed in the early days of comics, since
they grew out of the bloody pulps, where characters like The
Shadow, The Spider and others offed their foes with outright glee.
Most pulp characters carried handguns, and they used them for the
purpose for which they are constructed: To kill people. So early
"mystery men" in the comics, having been bred from that seed, were
often armed -- including The Crimson Avenger and Batman (the
editors famously decided to ditch Batman's gun in 1940). I don't
know who killed first, but there's a notorious scene in Detective
Comics #28 (Jun 39) where the Dark Knight callously heaves a
henchman off a rooftop to his death. (Batman did the same thing in
Detective Comics #27 the previous month, but it isn't clear if the
henchman actually goes over the roof -- although, since we don't
see him in the rest of the battle, it's seems pretty obvious that
he went splat.) Batman may not have been the first superhero to
kill, but that scene's pretty famous -- and it being 1939, one
year after Superman's debut and the invention of the superhero,
it's certainly in the running.
What was the first miniseries published by a comic company?
The first miniseries? I assume you mean deliberately! And the
answer is: I haven't the foggiest notion. Anyone know?
Say, he’s addressing the subject of
superheroes who kill in this subject! Gee, isn’t that strange
somebody who has a beef with the Punisher killing repulsive
criminals doesn’t seem to feel the same way about Golden Agers doing
the same? He ain’t just got a lack of clear knowledge on Golden
Agers, he’s got a lack of clear standings on their MO!
As for the first miniseries, I knew that, and my answer was right
I believe the first miniseries could've
been DC's World of Krypton from 1979, which told about what
Superman's homeworld and parents were like. Comics historian Mike
Benton may have told that it was the first comics miniseries in
one of his books, as well as the British musician Paul Sassiene,
who wrote a book on comics history published in 1994. I do wonder
though, what the first maxiseries was! That [answer] I don't know.
Thanks, Avi! So far, the best candidate for first maxiseries is
Camelot 3000 (1982).
Too bad I can’t fully appreciate that
reply. Not after he turned full-fledged propagandists since 2004.
Besides, I think I already knew Camelot 3000 was more than 6 issues,
thus qualifying for maxi.
Dear Captain: Thank you for answering my questions;
I've another Q for you. When I was a child, I remember reading
an old Overstreet Price Guide that mentioned an issue of Ka-Zar
with "hidden profanity" or something like that on the cover.
This wasn't the terrific Bruce Jones/Brent Anderson Ka-Zar the
Savage series, but one from the '70s; I believe it was the first
issue. In any case, my question is -- what was the "hidden
profanity?" Was there really "hidden profanity" there, or is it
merely subject to interpretation?
Also, I believe Marvel's Contest of Champions (I think that
was the title) from the early '80s was the first miniseries. If
it was, I think DC caught on to doing more miniseries before
Marvel with Sword of the Atom, Green Arrow and Ronin.
Speaking of Sword of the Atom, wasn't that one of the first
adult, modern revamps of a superhero a la Dark Knight Returns?
I'm not saying that it's a work of art comparable to Dark Knight
-- although I did love it -- but it was a relatively
cutting-edge rejuvenation of a superhero for its time. The book
opens up with Ray Palmer catching his wife having an affair, and
he ends up falling in love with a yellow-skinned beauty in that
microscopic sword & sorcery world. It was quite risky, I
felt, and written with a somewhat mature perspective. Nobody
ever talks about it for some reason.
Actually, I was kinda puzzled by Sword of the Atom, in that it
took a character whose primary distinguishing characteristic (he
gets small) is rendered moot by putting him in with a bunch of
other people the same size. I was probably just too young for it
at the time -- and maybe others are in the same boat.
And does anybody know about this "hidden profanity" thing? First
I've heard of it, although a lot hidden messages were laced into
"psychedelic" backgrounds in the '60s. And, in one issue of Green
Lantern/Green Arrow, artist Mike Kaluta's name became a sound
Okay, here’s where I become very
disappointed with him. He must think the whole shrinking aspect
applies in every instance with the Atom. I don’t, and
besides, regardless of how the whole adventure with the city of
miniature aliens called Morlaidh in the mid-80s was structured, I
thought it was very well written for a tale involving a superhero,
and treated its subjects with dignity and respect. I can see now why
Mr. Smith must hate it, and why he doubtlessly thinks the retcons in
Identity Crisis are better in every way. The irony is that he’s
still too young and too old to appreciate good writing with
intelligence. Here comes August 24, 2001:
Q: Do you know what the deal with Witchblade is?
There are only two episodes left. Are they planning to continue
it, or what's the deal?
A: I asked TNT, and instead of responding directly they sent a
press release announcing Witchblade's renewal for a second season.
A press release ... with the same date as my question.
Coincidence, or something more?
Something less? It lasted barely 2
seasons, and may have ended because Yancy Butler was pregnant with a
child at the time. All the same, I can’t say the live action series
was such a big deal, though I can say that the comics were
surprisingly a lot more sophisticated than you’d think at first
glance when they began in 1995, making them a lot better than other
comics coming from Image (which shows that Top Cow had more brains
than other affiliates). Just don’t expect Mr. Smith to admit that.
Q: Maybe I just haven't explored your site enough ...
Do you ever review Dark Horse's Star Wars comics? If I'd have
seen them, I may not have wasted my hard-earned cash on a lot of
the crap they've been releasing lately: "The Hunt for Aurra
Sucks" and "Jedi vs. Cash" ... Very ugh!
A: I hope you read my response in Next Week's Comics, [name
withheld]. But you might not have, so let me reiterate it and
expound upon it:
LucasFilm controls all Star Wars material with a heavy, heavy
hand. That's their right, as it is their property and can they can
protect it any way they see fit. But given that LucasFilm has
opted to protect their livelihood in this manner, ipso facto the
comics are, and must be, pap. The stories can't progress, no new
information on existing characters and situations (or those to
come) can be revealed, no change in the status quo (either in
existing movies or those to come) can be had, etc. So I don't read
Star Wars books as I do other books, because the creators aren't
free to create -- it's not fair to hold them to the same standard
as other creators with more freedom. Which is not to say I don't
like the books. I keep in mind the heavy restrictions Dark Horse
must labor under, and I think the books are as professional and
entertaining as can be expected from folks being forced to tread
water ... and subject to having characters or situations or even
lines of dialogue nixed from On High with no explanation. In other
words, I just don't expect much. Given the circumstances, it's
amazing that they aren't worse, and that the creators give it
their all. In summation, I do read the books for their
entertainment value (in a jaundiced way), but I'm certainly not
going to waste any time or bandwidth reviewing them.
Well in that case, why does he still
bother to read DC and Marvel output? They’re no longer free to
create there either, unless they’re part of a closed circle, as is
the case today. To be honest, I haven’t cared for Star Wars for
years, after George Lucas turned out to be one galling leftist, and
I don’t expect the franchise to be any more impressive after
Lucasfilm was sold to Disney.
Q: Given the magnitude of the "Our Worlds At War"
storyline, at some point it will be collected into a TPB, or
most likely a hardback. Do you have any indication of when this
might occur? It took about 10 years to do it for Crisis, but
since this is much bigger and it's the trend for maxiseries, do
you think we'll see it a bit sooner?
A: The delay on Crisis was unusual. DC said that the printing
process used for that 1985-86 maxiseries wasn't exactly the
dreaded "Flexographic," but it was close. The upshot was that the
original plates and negatives and such were unuseable and
therefore a very expensive process was needed to restore the
artwork to reprint quality. (As a guy who's been involved in print
production for 20 years, I believe that most of this is true.)
So DC explained that for Crisis to be reprinted, a very expensive
hardback was necessary to recoup the costs. So they hit the market
when they thought it would sell well enough at high enough a cost
($100 per) to make their money back. Once the hardback was out, it
made no economic sense to rush out a TPB and undercut the hardback
sales before the investment was recouped -- and, amazingly, DC
said no TPB was even technically possible, until about a year went
by, and then, more amazingly, suddenly it was possible. And in the
meantime, some 50,000 people had shelled out $100 a pop, and DC
and their distributors and bookstore outlets had made oodles of
money. Gosh, what a lucky break! (As a guy who's been involved in
print production for 20 years, I don't believe a word of this.)
Anyway, the printing experiments of the '80s are no more --
today's printing process is less destructive and more reliable,
and most TPBs these days are wheeled out as quickly as possible to
take advantage of the current enthusiasm for TPBs. I don't see any
problems with OWAW being collected as immediately as is
logistically possible, probably as early as the first quarter of
I do see a problem, and it’s that
crossovers like these would still be published at the expense of the
ongoing series. Not something he’s complaining about, unfortunately.
I’d also add how dismaying it is that for many years, DC did not
publish various books in paperback, which is less expensive than
Now for August 31, 2001, and a letter written by me:
Q: 1) Death could certainly count as a kind of limbo,
but what I’d like to ask here is about live characters who end
up in limbo. Why do some live characters in the Marvel and DC
universes get put in limbo? Is it because the writers think they
can make good use out of the characters, but can’t think of what
to do with them at the moment? Or, is it because they feel that
the characters are too appealing to get rid of? (One character
who certainly is appealing and was in some kind of limbo for
almost a decade was none other than the Martian Manhunter, back
in the late '60s and early '70s.) And this reminds me, has
Sunfire made any appearances in the past few years? I can’t
remember seeing him in anywhere in the past few years. Is he
also in limbo?
2) Do Marvel and DC ever publish letters with negative
opinions on any of their letters pages? I’ve been reading the
letters pages on some issues of Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men,
Captain America, Superman, Batman, Flash, JLA, etc., from the
past few months, and hmmmm, I don’t know, can’t say I’ve found
any letters on their pages where anybody writes a complaint, a
gripe, or tells about something that bothers them; all I found
were all these gushy letters of applause. Do they enable
negative opinions to be published? Because to be fair, while a
page in print has only so much room, if anybody in the audience
finds something disappointing or wishes to raise a complaint
about something that they didn’t like, then they do deserve to
have their thoughts known to everybody.
A: I think you answered your own question about characters in
limbo, Avi -- they are the characters nobody can figure out what
to do with, or simply don't have the sales appeal to figure
prominently anywhere. They haven't been "put" in limbo -- they're
just not appearing anywhere at the moment.
As to negative letters, there was a big stink in the '60s because
editors (particularly at Marvel) would edit OUT the negative
remarks, so that a pan became a praise. ("I don't like Superman"
would come out "I ... like Superman.") So both Marvel and DC
cleaned up their act and would generally run an occasional
negative letter -- usually in about a 4:1 ratio of positive to
negative. They swore at the time that it accurately reflected
their mailbag content. That is probably the truth, but we only
have their word for it.
Over time fewer and fewer letters came in (as sales dropped) and
in the '80s you'd see more and more negative letters -- because a
given title might only get three or four letters, and they ran
what they had. Currently, with e-mail and message boards and
newsgroups available as fodder for letter columns, the companies
are once again flush with remarks -- and, I suspect,
subconsciously or deliberately selecting the ones that make them
look good. That might be unfair of me, but really, it's human
nature -- what editor wants to run a letter that says, "You're a
terrible editor"? And fans, too, fall into this -- consciously or
subconsciously, a letter writer knows that a positive letter is
more likely to run, so the companies get lots of "You rule!"
(For singularly interesting letters columns, you might check out
Savage Dragon and Powers -- both books run enormous letters
sections, and must, by nature, have lots of both positive and
negative remarks. I haven't read Cerebus in a while, but I
remember that book's letters columns being sizeable as well.)
I guess the upshot is: We don't really know, and won't know,
unless a letters-column editor tells us. My gut instinct is that
the letters pages probably more or less reflect the mail received,
tilted a tad toward the positive.
While this is one of various letters I’d
written at the time I’m just not impressed with today, because I
feel they were too easy queries to ask, this did bring to mind how
Mr. Smith, along with the modern publishers at DC, did something
similar, by shutting out negative sentiments about Identity Crisis,
and come to think of it, even Bill Willingham’s atrocious Batman
stories with Stephanie Brown and Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Indeed, when
did they ever address the dissenters honestly? So what business does
he have commenting on this case, disappointing as it is
historically, if he can’t do any better?
Now wait’ll you see what comes up next, that being his commentary on
Sword of the Atom:
Sword of The Atom was a re-invention of Ray "The Atom"
Palmer as a sword-and-sorcery character. After finding his wife in
bed with another man (they eventually divorced), Palmer leaves his
old life and goes on "an extended vacation" to South America to
look for another white dwarf star fragment. While there,
misadventures with some drug-runners and a lightning bolt ruin
Atom's size-and-weight controls, "freezing" him at six inches in
the Brazilian rainforest. While there, he finds a whole
civilization of six-inch people (how convenient!) who are yellow
and somehow have forged weaponry despite their culture being Stone
Age in every other respect. The little yellow people are under the
thumb of a tyrant, and Ray inspires a revolution to establish
niceness and justice in the jungle, while at the same time earning
the love a drop-dead gorgeous yellow princess who doesn't wear
much. The SoTA miniseries ran for four issues, and was followed by
There are a lot of SoTA fans out there, according to my mail, but
it left me cold. With apologies in advance to those who loved
SoTA, I found the transformation of Atom into a Conan-esque figure
to be a pointless re-invention of an existing character -- why not
start afresh and leave Atom alone? And sticking Atom at six inches
and surrounded by other six-inch people took away the only thing
that made Atom unique -- that he was smaller than everybody else
and had to use his brain instead of his brawn to solve problems.
The gorgeous princess, the outsider-insires-revolution plot and
the other accoutrements of this series, to me, went beyond cliche.
And seeing Atom in torn blue-and-red Spandex with a loincloth
wrapped around his waist always launched me into gales of laughter
-- visually underscoring how one genre (sword and sorcery) had
been grafted onto another (superhero).
I was impressed by the handling of Jean Loring's infidelity.
Instead of inspiring comic-booky melodrama, Ray's reaction was one
of bitterness, sadness and resignation -- a frequent reaction in
the real world. And Jean's betrayal was actually completely in
character and believable -- not only was Ray carrying on two lives
(professor and superhero) and unlikely to be giving much time to
his marriage, but also Jean had been characterized in the early
Atom series as not being terribly committed to Ray in the first
place. (She kept putting off his marriage proposals in favor of
her career -- for YEARS -- so it's not surprising that she found
romance in the arms of another lawyer, a man connected to that
career. Clearly, her heart wasn't set a-thumpin' by Ray even in
the best of times. She was also driven insane by a supervillain
for a number of years in the '70s, which probably left lingering
resentment of the whole superhero schtick.)
As I said above, a number of people whose opinions I respect
enjoyed this series, so you might enjoy it also. I didn't, but
maybe that's just me.
I doubt he really respects those who
enjoyed it, but that’s beside the point. What raises my eyebrows
here is his remarks about Jean. What is this supposed to mean, that
she wasn’t very attached to him? As I noted in my review, she was
embarrassed when Ray found out about her affair with Paul Hoben, who
goes unmentioned here. Come to think of it, nor is Jean’s hopes of
building up her career as a lawyer.
Surprisingly enough, he does admit – even if not in depth – that
Jean was under the influence of villains when she technically went
insane during 1969 and 1977, first in The Atom and Hawkman #45
(the situation was reversed in Justice League of America #81
5 months afterwards) and then in Super Team Family. Which makes it
all the more offensive in the extreme that he’d embrace Identity
Crisis without even doing any fact-checking to see if it made any
And look at how the depiction of Jean, as he interprets it to the
unsuspecting reader he replied to, is apparently the only thing
about SOTA that made an impression upon him. Gee, I guess he took to
the Atom’s stories with the full intent of disliking the co-stars 40
millions years ago. And even if she wasn’t a very committed person,
it’s not like she was ever depicted as violent, murderous and racist
when in control of her own brain and body, so why he’d consider her
equivalent to anthrax is beyond me.
So what kind of fandom is that Mr. Smith professes? What a crock.
Q: 1) Hey, Cap, I'm sure you've met quite a few
comic-book-store owners over time. And more than a few of us
have either worked at comic shops or wished we could run our
own. So please share your wise opinion with us: What would you
say are some of the attributes that make a successful
2) On a completely different topic: If you could be
reincarnated into a world where comic-book superheroes exist,
what character would you pick for your new life host? (Imagine
the process as portrayed in the movie, Heaven Can Wait, wherein
you get dumped into an existing body. I would have suggested
Havok's experience in Mutant X, but that series sucked
A: 1) Hmmm. Well, first of all, I think ANY store entrepreneur
should keep in mind standard business practices, like keeping the
store clean, the employees friendly and hygienic, and trying
overall to make his place of business look professional and
inviting. Needless to say, that isn't always the case with
comic-book shops. On a more specific note, I think
comic-book-store owners need to have a shrewd sense of judgment
about ordering and risk vs. profit calculations, and an outgoing,
aggressive sense of salesmanship. Other than that, though, I admit
to huge chunks of ignorance about comic-shop practices. Any store
owners wanna field this one?
2) Oh, that one's easy: I'd be Green Lantern. With that ring, I
could be anybody else I wanna be at any time. (I want to be
Superman? "Ring, give me Kryptonian DNA.") If the power ring were
used to its full potential -- and I understand, for story reasons,
why this will never happen -- the ring-bearer could make himself
invulnerable to all harm and virtually immortal within 20 seconds
of receiving the darn thing. (My second wish would be to restore
my hair and undo all dental decay. My third wish would be to do
pretty much the same for all my friends and family. My fourth wish
would be to de-age myself to about 22.) Green Lantern could be any
other hero, any gender, any age, any anything forever and forever.
What other choice could be as versatile?
What about comics-based journalism? Why
doesn’t he argue it should be as honest as possible, and transparent
about all the topics involved in various books? And he wants to be
somebody else? He already is – he’s a propagandist.
Q: Once again, first-time writer, long-time reader.
I've been reading comics since the late '60s and am also blessed
with a pretty good memory for comics trivia. However, I find
myself stumped after reading the Crisis TPB from DC in that I
cannot remember what (if anything) happened to the following
Superman & Lois (from Earth-Two), Superboy
(Earth-Prime) and Alex Luthor. Last time we saw them, they had
entered into a dimensional portal to a land of eternal peace.
Knowing comic-book writers, I can't imagine they stayed there
for very long.
Lady Quark, Pariah and Harbinger: They just walked off into
the sunset/rise. I can ALMOST remember a Superman comic sometime
after Crisis with at least Lady Quark but I can't quite put my
mental finger on it.
Lastly, for now, do you feel the "recent" addition of
Hypertime nullifies or cheapens what happened in Crisis?
A: I hate to do this, [...], but I haven't time to look all that
up (it's 11 a.m. on Friday -- I'm already five hours late getting
the site up!). So I'm going to throw out what I remember, and fall
back on the Legion of Superfluous Heroes to correct me where
necessary and fill in the blanks. Here goes:
As far as I know, the Kal-L and Mrs. Kent of Earth-Two are still
in some sort of pocket universe. They briefly appeared in The
Kingdom miniseries as still being residents of that realm.
The Earth-Prime Superboy, I believe, was shown to have given his
life in one Legion story or another, thus restoring Superboy's
place in Legion lore as an inspiration for the team (a position
usurped, post-Crisis, by Valor).
A heroic Alexander Luthor was shown in the Superman story that
resulted in the creation of Matrix/Supergirl -- but I don't recall
if it's the same one that was in Crisis or not. Since that
alternate Earth was utterly destroyed by General Zod, Faora Hu-Ul
and some other Phantom Zoner, THAT Alex Luthor is throroughly
As far as I recall, Lady Quark, Harbinger and Pariah are still
extant. Lady Quark appeared in some issue or other of DC Comics
Presents. Can't swear to their continuing existence, though.
As to Hypertime, I do agree that its introduction cheapens the
Crisis and subsequent efforts to clean up the DCU. On the other
hand, it does open story possibilities, which -- if handled
correctly -- could give us Earth-Two or any other venue we (or the
So, what about it Legionnaires? How accurate was my memory?
Not very impressive, I'm afraid, but
that's beside the point. This letter, I want to note, was written by
a very disgusting moonbat who - get this - pretended to be Jewish
and "conservative", except that nearly all of his standings were
ultra-leftist, and, he came from around Seattle, WA, which is a
serious bastion of leftism. He was an apologist for Islam, but
that's not the only thing that was disturbing about him: he even
acted as an apologist for anti-female stereotypes, twisting the
bible out of context to justify his position. See, what he was doing
was saying that because Eve convinced Adam during Creation that the
apples on the Tree of Knowledge were worth eating, so women must
suffer for the sins of one till the end of time. All without
acknowledging that the Serpent tempted Eve into eating the forbidden
fruit first, and when I pointed this out, he flubbed even more
head-shakingly. His personality even reminded me of a shady
character I saw in an episode
of The Streets of San Francisco.
For someone claiming he was a "Christian" he sure didn't convince
much in that catagory either, and his whole notion of justifying
sexist stereotypes (while simulteneously condoning homosexuality),
was horrific in the extreme and embarrassing to Christianity. After
all, didn't Jesus opine that adultery was not a punishment worthy of
stoning? ("Let he who is without sin cast the first stone") I
always did think that above correspondent's beliefs were awfully
laughable. One can only wonder if he upheld underaged marriages in
the Islamic world. His take on pop culture was pretty sloppy too: at
one point, he said the old Flash TV show used Wally West...except it
didn't, it used Barry Allen. However, the writers did feature Tina
McGee, who was based on one of the recurring cast during the first
few years of Wally's run as Flash.
In the end, I strongly believe he was contriving his
racial/religious/political positions just to sound like a liberal's
idea of what a conservative should be, or even somebody of
supposedly Jewish background, and almost feel sorry for what a
stupid moonbat he was.
Q: Last man standing: Amazon or Atlantean? Wonder
Woman vs. Sub-Mariner!
A: Amazing Amazon. Not only is Wonder Woman theoretically stronger
than Namor, but the Sub-Mariner is a one-trick pony. Plus WW has
all her gadgets to fall back on (like the unbreakable lasso).
Plus, Sub-Mariner is a hothead who likes to punch his way through
problems and isn't much of a warrior, tactician or strategist --
while Wonder Woman is all of the above.
In that case, why not modify Subby’s
personality so he’s more of a strategist than he usually was in the
Dear Cap: Just thought I'd weigh in with a few
clarifications and tidbits:
1) Rob Liefeld (WARNING -- snarky alert!): Rob Liefeld,
like many comics creators today (Warren Ellis -- hack, hack,
koff, koff) has an online column. More accurately it seems as
though The Rob is having someone write columns for him --
contrast any of the columns written here (the latest at the
location below, the others available off it), with the
Incidentally, Frank Miller's influence cited in that
article is not Hong Kong action movies, but Japanese cinema,
feudal samurai culture and comic books (manga). They are not the
same (so maybe The Rob at least has a hand in these columns).
2) Sales information: Sales information available for fans
can be found on the Web, though probably not as detailed as you
and Comics Retailer have ably provided, at ICV2.com (the Top 300
ordered comics is listed here in a regular feature, but not a
regular spot on the website) and at DiamondComics.com
3) Essential Conan: I can't place a source but I believe
that I've heard that the Robert E. Howard estate had transferred
the rights to continue publishing Conan comics away from Marvel
(either to Stan Lee Media or Cross Plains Comics) shortly after
the publication of the Essential Conan book. Therefore the
Marvel Essential Conan book is not likely to see print again nor
(and what I wish for) does it look likely there will be an
upscale color (hardcover!) version of this work published any
time soon. Any copies still out there (and I still see a number
floating around) are going to be it, barring a big change in the
status quo. Ironically, Conan is also an example of one of the
more successful licensed adaptations (a la Star Wars) in comics.
Yours in the interest of quality control.
Thanks, [withheld]. It does seem odd that Liefeld is virtually
incoherent in interviews, but that his online column is deftly
written, sophisticated, informed and articulate. Almost as if
somebody else entirely was writing it. Of course, that can't be
the case -- that would be dishonest. And snarky.
The Top 300 list runs on this site each month as well, in the
And now that you mention it, Stan Lee Media does indeed have the
rights to Conan properties (Cross Plains Comics have rights to all
Robert E. Howard material EXCEPT that of Conan and the
Marvel-version Red Sonja).
If it’s odd Liefeld runs flaccid
interviews, why doesn’t he find it odd that Dan DiDio and Joe
Quesada do the same? In fact, why doesn’t Mr. Smith look at himself
in the mirror to see what a less than honest man he happens to be?
Now, here is September 7, 2001:
Q: 1) If you have seen any of the following films
from Kevin Smith, do you mind telling me your opinions of them?
Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay & Silent Bob
2) If you do not mind, what are your personal takes on
superhero re-constructionism and deconstructionism?
A: I thought Clerks was a clever little movie, a nice, amusing
indie that did all it needed to do without pretension. Mallrats
was kinda stupid and meandering, but the Stan Lee cameo was fun.
Chasing Amy is a terrific film -- it addressed sexuality more or
less like real people do (clumsy, uncertain, self-doubting,
experimental) instead of the sanitized, romanticized (even when
vulgar), we-all-know-exactly-where-we-stand version in most
As to Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, I loathed it. It struck me
as a lazy effort by writer/director Kevin Smith. It appeared to me
that Smith simply cobbled together swiped pastiches (from The
Fugitive, Scooby Doo, Every Which Way But Loose, Charlie's Angels,
his own Oni Double Feature comic-book stories, and God knows what
else) and indulged in his every personal whim (dancing with Morris
Day & The Time, giving his wife a job [as one of the jewel
thieves], beating up his Internet critics). I don't mind somebody
using a large company's money (Miramax) to have a private party; I
object to subsidizing it with MY money. And it wasn't funny --
in-jokes should be used with discretion, not as the foundation for
an entire movie.
Gee, should I now expect Jay & Silent Bob to show up at MY
doorstep and beat me up for the temerity of voicing an opinion?
As to your second question: I think deconstructionism is
enormously useful. It's also self-limiting. Like parody, you are
using something that's pre-existing without creating anything on
your own, so there's only so far you can go before you're just
beating up on stuff that you had no hand in creating. But on the
plus side, deconstructionism can scrape the barnacles off a
concept, get back to what made it work originally, figure out how
that appeal applies to current circumstance and launch again --
which is CONstructionism. Or re-constructionism, as you termed it.
Here's an example. I want to deconstruct Fantastic Four. I scrape
off 40 years of history, making fun of it as I go, eventually
arriving at the original concept that had appeal. I have to stop
deconstructing there, otherwise I'm just making fun of Stan Lee
and Jack Kirby. Does anybody, from Captain Comics to Julian Gift
to Gary "Comics Journal" Groth have the right to do that? Not
really -- we weren't there in 1961, and haven't the right pass
So, once that original nugget is found, deconstructionism has
served its purpose. Now you take that nugget, and build from
there, with modern sensibilities guiding your approach. Now you're
CONstructing. Sure, you're building on Stan and Jack's foundation,
but you're doing something positive. Now you can call yourself a
creator -- and not a deconstructionist, or a parodist, which -- by
definition -- has negative connotations.
I’m afraid he threw away that argument the
instant he praised Identity Crisis. After all, Brad Meltzer was
decontructing numerous characters in the DCU, and where was Mr.
Smith when that happened? Keeping silent enough you could hear a pin
And if he doesn’t have a problem with DiDio’s staff holding a
private party using a large company’s money (Time Warner), surely he
doesn’t have a problem subsidizing them with HIS money? He can call
himself a journalist, but with his MO, that’s why by contrast to
some creators, he’ll only be a propagandist.
Q: Some questions about Vertigo and its relationship
to the DC Universe:
Is Vertigo a subset of the DC Universe or a separate realm?
If a DC Universe character appears in a Vertigo series, does
that mean his or her DC Universe continuity is void? Does it
mean he or she can never again appear in a DC Universe title?
And if a character can go back to the DC Universe, does his or
her Vertigo history come along?
I didn't think about this much with some Vertigo renditions
of obscure characters, like Jonah Hex and The Human Target.
There was nothing in The Human Target miniseries that
contradicted the old stories; it just picked up the character
years later and said here's where he is today. As for the three
Jonah Hex miniseries -- and isn't it about time for another one?
-- he looks more bizarre than he did before, but that's all. I
think of those stories as taking place about five years or so
after the end of his last regular series.
I'm asking today because of The Angel & The Ape
miniseries, written by Howard Chakin, written from his typical
peculiar worldview. This series seems to jettison (or just
ignore) what was established about the characters in their last
miniseries, written and drawn by Phil Foglio -- that Angel is
the sister of Dumb Bunny of the Inferior Five, and the Ape is
the grandson of King Solovar from Gorilla City.
So, how about it? Is Vertigo in the DC Universe or not?
A: I can't answer this with authority, since I didn't ask DC. I
can only give my opinion -- which is muddy.
It's my impression that Vertigo events do take place in the DCU,
if a DCU character says so. Otherwise, Vertigo adventures are just
a separate take on familiar characters, akin to Marvel's MAX and
Ultimate lines, or DC's own Elseworlds.
Take, for example, John Constantine. He started out in Swamp Thing
before Vertigo existed, moved to Vertigo when the line launched
and has been there for more than 100 issues of his own title --
but still shows up with regularity in the regular DCU. And Swamp
Thing, too, exists in both "universes" and DCU superheroes make
cameos in Vertigo. Heck, an entire issue of Sandman was devoted to
the death of a secondary character from Metamorpho, with her DCU
history intact. Clearly, the line is thin.
On the other hand, if Chaykin jettisons Angel & Sam Simeon's
previous DCU continuity for the sake of his own story, I think
that's in line with Vertigo's philosophy. And if and when Angel
& Ape reappear in the DCU, the reverse is probably true -- the
writers of that story will probably be free to use or discard what
Chaykin establishes in Vertigo.
In other words: I don't have a concrete answer. I think it plays
out on a case-by-case basis. But both lines have access, more or
less, to the same stable of characters.
LOL. Of course he can’t answer with
authority, because his dishonesty made it impossible! That aside,
I’d say that those characters who began under the DC label did take
place in the DCU at the time, up to the turn of the century, when
everything started going to pot.
Q: I know you're a CrossGen fan ... so am I. Seeing
that the comics market isn't exactly what it used to be. What
are the chances of CrossGen becoming a big player, like DC or
Marvel? I've read the books and some are indeed outstanding
(Sojourn, Scion), while most aren't that great. I do see a fever
for the books. (Have you seen what they go for on eBay?) Is this
a good sign or just a temporary fever? What's your take on this?
A: Well, since I lost my psychic powers in Crisis of Infinite
Secret Wars III, I can't predict the future and tell you if
CrossGen will someday make the Big Two the Big Three.
But my take is this: If they don't make it, it's not because they
aren't doing everything right. And they've beaten the odds so far,
by not only surviving but thriving while launching a comic-book
company into the weakest comic-book market that's ever existed.
So, yeah, I'd put my money on them. Owner Mark Alessi's got some
deep pockets and is committed -- so they have the wherewithal to
weather setbacks and take chances (moreso than Marvel, for
example). They've launched a line of non-superhero fantasy/sci-fi
books, in search of that elusive non-fanboy market -- which, if
successful, will break the industry wide open. They've hired their
talent like regular employees, instead of running a work-for-hire
sweatshop. They've put their money where everybody's mouth is, by
eschewing gimmicks and focusing on hiring good talent and letting
'em go to town. And they've managed to ship every book on time
with the announced creative team for more than a year, boosting
retailers and quieting the critics.
In other words, they've addressed every complaint the back-seat
drivers voice about the industry -- so, on paper, CrossGen is
doing everything right. What more could you ask?
It’s been at least a decade since CrossGen
went out of business and their properties sold to Disney Corp, so
history has spoken. I thought their products had potential, but Mark
Alessi wasn’t a very good businessman, it turned out, and wasn’t
paying the employees properly, which surprised me. If they were
having such financial strains, they should have shut down, at least
until they could obtain some loans or get a bigger company to back
Eerily, after Disney bought their products, they never made any
attempt to do anything serious with them until several years later
when they bought Marvel, enabling the latter to manage CG by a
default. Unfortunately, the time had passed, and the
relaunches/remakes of the older material flopped big time. Now, for
the last part, another letter I wrote:
1) Back in the mid-'90s, The Thing had gotten his
face injured, and had wear a mask to cover it, possibly up until
"Heroes Reborn." What was it caused this facial injury of his?
2) Has Carol Danvers, Miss Marvel/Binary/Warbird, ever
forgiven Rogue for her assault on her?
3) If I’m right, back in the '60s, there were quite a lot
of teenagers who’d written stories and plots for Marvel and DC,
and Jim Shooter may have been one of them. Are there still
plenty of teens who do this today? And do they get paid a lot
4) Have there ever been any comics that came out in TPB
form first and only? I think it could be an interesting idea to
publish comics exclusively in TPB format, especially if they’re
by some popular artists and writers, which could encourage
everybody to get some of their comics in TPB form first, and
give new readers the ability to buy them at ease.
1) The Thing's face was clawed by Wolverine, and took a loooong
time to heal.
2) In the most recent meeting between Warbird and Rogue (forgive
me, I can't remember where it was), to the best of my memory I
don't recall that Carol has forgiven Rogue, but I do believe she
is no longer actively seeking to beat her to a pulp. So I don't
think they'll ever be chums, but there is a sort of detente
3) To my knowledge, Jim Shooter was the ONLY teenager working for
comics as a credited creator in the '60s, and only because DC was
unaware of his true age. (He did all his work for them by
correspondence, and told them he was an adult. Given his polished
scripts, they had no reason to question his word.) I don't know of
any other minors working in comics then or now (outside of
internships), and I doubt any responsible company would hire one.
There's a little thing called "child labor laws" in this country,
and it's such a legal minefield that a publisher would be nuts to
take that chance. Even if the minor is incredibly talented, I
suspect they'd wait until he or she hit the age of majority (18)
before offering a job. (Fun fact: The age of majority was 21 when
Shooter sold his first script at age 16.)
4) Sure. Maus; Stuck Rubber Baby; Good-bye, Chunky Rice; etc.
There are lots. Some of my specific examples above might have been
serialized before being collected; I don't buy everything. But it
does happen, and more often than you'd think.
Wrong about Shooter. There were also Marv
Wolfman, Len Wein and Gerry Conway. Come to think of it, Paul Levitz
was about 17 when he made contributions to DC in the mid-70s. As for
citing Chunky Rice, ugh. It was a product of Craig Thompson, who
insulting GN called Habibi, an otherwise positive portrait of
Islam. Pity Mr. Smith couldn’t have recommended Will Eisner’s books,
a far better choice. And double the pity he couldn't recommend more
Armenians be invited to join the comics medium.
And with that, I conclude this look at special choices from Mr.
Smith’s email correspondence from the Q&A section. I sure can’t
say there’s much that leaves me flattered in retrospect, not even my
own. Today, I try to think bigger, and always feel sad I hadn’t
thought of enough at the time.
Copyright 2014 Avi Green. All rights reserved.