A look back at some personal experiences and memories, part four

July 10, 2014

By Avi Green

So when I last took to focusing on the ancient Captain Comics website, something I find most utterly dreadful by now, I’d scrutinized specific letters from the Q&A section of the site.

Now, I’m going to take a look at letters from the Mailbag section, which are more attuned to discussion of various issues, and some told from left-wing viewpoints, I might add. Should prove interesting, so now, without further ado, let’s take look at some examples, beginning with January 11, 1998, earliest I have of official correspondence (albeit coming from a "debates" page he had featuring the letters), circa the time he'd first set up his overrated website, and this was about all the harm done to Hal Jordan in Emerald Twilight:

I saw your column. It's great to see ANY column on comics but I have to say I disagree on the Hal Jordan issue. DC made a decision it was time for the character and mythos of Hal Jordan to move on. Doing so they decided NOT to go with the usual superhero fare of the heroic send out. Some of us admire DC for having the guts to tell a story other than the cliched happy ending. Telling stories is about breaking new ground in some instances. After 3,600 GLs that we knew were all fearless and honest; it is interesting now to see only one who is learning what those concepts mean. Also, Hal Jordan was a hero in the end. Read DC's Final Night and you will see.

Sigh. FN did nothing to exonerate Hal of executing scores of GLC members, Kilowog and the Guardians included, so that defense means nothing. And sometimes "novelty" just isn't worth it either. Why not an ending where Hal dies while fighting a villain? The claim it's great to see any writing about the medium is also very eyebrow raising, suggesting it came from somebody who saw publicity at all costs better than decent storytelling. Much like Mr. Smith himself. Next comes January 12, 1998:

I just stopping by to congratulate ya on the well-written, gutsy-as-hell article! I'll try to plug it wherever I go. The sad thing is that when fans bring up to (GL editor) Mike Carlin the points you make, Carlin will probably just say the usual "Get over it."

That's what it's come down to with DC Comics -- telling the fans to just "get over it" everytime they complain about stupid, unpopular editorial decisions.

In the words of one fan, "DC needs to undergo the near-death experience that hit Marvel, to get their heads out of their ***es and wake up."

I'm revelling in the irony of being ignored by a crappy company but not losing any sleep over it.

I agree with much of what the correspondent said except the "gutsy" part, because, as noted elsewhere, it wasn't if he dampened the impact. For now, I'm personally disappointed with many readers for not voting with their wallets and letting DC get away with it.

Andrew,

I could argue that Hal Jordan was far more interesting at the end, when he toed the line between good and evil, than at any other time of his career. But the mission of this missive is to plea that if you're going to lobby DC for the return of any fallen hero, it ought to be Hal's best buddy and the better half of the green machine -- Oliver Queen.
Green Arrow, admittedly my all-time favorite hero, is a far more interesting character, though a lesser one in the DC Universe. He was cool, cocky, passionate, smart and funny, with just the right touch of righteous indignation. We know he's alive somewhere. (After all, his corpse was never found.) DC needs to stop fiddle-fartin' around and just bring Ollie back already.
Not that I want to get rid of the new, younger version of Green Arrow. Connor's cool. But a father-son vigilante team (especially one with as vastly different outlooks as Connor and Ollie) would provide reams of great material. Throw in Black Canary and Arsenal occasionally, and you've got a Bat-family-type feel.
So climb back up on that soapbox, Cap'n, and pull for a really interesting resurrection. LONG LIVE OLIVER QUEEN!!

Please, I wish this one hadn't asked that, because Smith is not the journalistic messiah we wish for. In any case, Ollie did come back nearly 3 years later...but with Kevin Smith at the helm, and later Brad Meltzer (shudder) and Judd Winick, it was hardly worth the effort. Although DC did keep Connor around a bit longer, they eventually mistreated him along with countless other cast members. Then there's January 16, 1998:

Hi Cap! A friend told me about your GL article, so I went over to your site and read your thoughts on the current GL. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the current series which many of us call TCBFKAGL (The Comic Book Falsely Known As Green Lantern).

Hal Jordan was subjected to the most disrespectful treatment in comics history; a total departure from his true character. Many fans have banned together and are working on projects to promote the return of Hal and the GL Corps and the revival of the GL legacy. You might have seen our first project -- a full page ad in Wizard.

Thank you for a thought-provoking article that pulled no punches. I have a great deal of respect for journalists who give honest reviews and don't worry about what TPTB* might think.

*Captain Comics is assuming TPTB means "The Powers That Be" and not "The People That Bite."

Why does anyone think his articles pull no punches? He gave telling signs he criticized a fictional character rather than the efforts of the real life writers; that's hardly tour de force commentary. And Smith sure didn't give an honest review when he gushed over Identity Crisis 6 years later.

Mr. Smith: One quick question, did you look in my head before writing your column?

You summed up my views on the book quite well (and maintain better composure than I usually muster). I've never seen your work before (it was pointed out to me by a GL fan that lives in Memphis whom I know only here on AOL), but I will be jumping back to your paper's page regularly to seek out your words.

I hope that's changed since. No "reporter" like Smith needs an audience that values intelligence! Now comes January 17, 1998:

I loved your column about Hal Jordan. I believe you're finding that the trolls are to be found among the Kyle fans, not the Hal fans. This is because Kyle fans are defending a weak product, and they feel insecure in the face of Hal fans' righteous indignation. So they have become nasty about it.

Here's an interesting point that I hope you'll discuss sometime:

Why won't Green Lantern print a single letter that criticizes what was done to Hal Jordan and the GLC? For that matter, why won't the comic print a single letter that criticizes the comic at all? "Ring Side" (the Green Lantern letter column) is perhaps the biggest travesty of this whole affair.

Wow, we're certainly learning something here: Mr. Smith never bothered to point out in his columns what the correspondent did! By now, that's no surprise many editors suppress dissent, much like various leftists can, and I won't be surprised if Smith wouldn't print any letter disagreeing with homosexuality, or even the Koran, and it wouldn't make any difference if it were criticism of the latter's ultra-violent opposition to the former, he'd refuse to publish those too! That's leftism for you, folks. Next we have January 19, 1998:

I just read your latest column. To the point, I disagree. The one thing -- well, aside from story quality and consistency and ... there's more than one thing -- ONE of the things that seperates DC from Marvel and other companies is that when someone dies, they do so for a good reason and they stay dead. I respect that, the strength of commitment necessary to remind us that in real life sometimes there are no quick fixes or "re-do"s. ...

And, yes, he should have died a hero. But crap happens. We don't always die in our best tuxedo. We rarely ever get to tell people how much we wished we could have spent more time with them, or that we're sorry we went nuts. I'd prefer not erasing that blurb in continuity, but in allowing some sort of redemption from the grave instead.

Of course we don't always die wearing our best threads. But this is fiction, and there's limits to how far one should go with characters whom a sane person wants admired by the audience. If this happened to Superman - a tale where he wiped out the residents of the bottle city of Kandor, would that be something to just put up with? Absolutely not. The dummy who wrote that sloppy letter misses the boat. Now for January 20, 1998:

Dear Cap'n: I understand that you are getting lots of mail, both pro and con, on your Green Lantern article. In my 37 years of comic collecting, I have never seen such an emotionally charged debate over what a handful of unsuspecting men at DC dreamed up in an overnight editorial session.

I want to thank you for presenting a fair and well-written column on a topic my friends and I are most passionate about. I have now set a bookmark on the Memphis paper and will continue to read your commentary.

Alas, his columns are neither fair nor well-written. Remind to tell you sometime about a column he wrote in 2010 where he approved the position taken by Sarah Glidden in How to Understand Israel in 60 Day or Less. That certainly wasn't fair to Zionists! Now for January 25, 1998:

Cap: I was one of those early Kyle fans who jumped into comics only in my late 20s. "Emerald Twilight" was my jumping off point in Green Lantern but it wasn't on purpose. When I started collecting comics, I went back into my childhood and the TV show Super Friends and remembered what a noble and all-around nice guy Hal Jordan was so I went over to my local comic shop and snapped up GL No. 49. It was Part Two of "Emerald Twilight" and what I saw confused me: Hal Jordan, rampaging through the galaxy, stealing power rings, killing or maiming Corps members, a look of mad power on his face. I went and got the rest of that arc to see what happened and saw all my memories of Hal Jordan snuffed out. Now, being new to the comic world, I decided that Kyle Rayner was an interesting enough character that I might like him as much as Hal Jordan. I figured that all Green Lanterns held the same ideals and purpose that Hal embodied. The early days of Kyle's run showed promise. His love for his girlfriend Alex, the mistakes all new heroes make when just starting out, intrigued me enough to become a fan of Kyle and to support the book. After a couple of years I had begun to re-evaluate the book. Alex had died, murdered by the goonish villain Major Force, and Kyle, who should have matured as Green Lantern by this time, was still making the same rookie mistakes that he made in the first issues. His character was going nowhere. On top of that, he had changed into this gawking, girl-crazy hormone machine which threw mud in the face of what he and Alex stood for. I still hoped Kyle would show promise but it was getting harder and harder to like the way he was written in his own book. I had found that other writers -- (Garth) Ennis, (Mark) Waid, (Grant) Morrison -- had a better take on the character than the writer of his own book. Finally, I had had enough. HEAT (Hal's Emerald Attack Team, an Internet league) was the group I turned to and they welcomed me in. Until that point, their sole mission was the return of Hal Jordan. To become more inclusive, they also began advocating a better treatment of Kyle Rayner and I think having the Corps and Jordan return will put Kyle in a position to gain considerably. I hope that someday DC sees what has happened to what used to be the most epic of all its books and restore it to what it should be.

If it weren't for the sloppy, embarrassing work by Geoff Johns, I'd say they saw what happened. But, they didn't. In any case, this is a pretty spot on argument, telling what I figured some Kyle readers concluded, but it still leaves out at least one more problem: why were the only girlfriends post-Alex for many years superheroines like Donna Troy and Jade? Why no human "civilians" for gal pals? Even the alien Soranik Natu doesn't help matters much. Here's an excellent example of the correspondent making a better argument than Smith ever can, and I hope the guy realizes today that Smith is a charlatan, as he proved after upholding Identity Crisis as though it were a delicious strawberry sundae.

Captain: I just wanted to write and let you know that I enjoy your column every week. I have sometimes found myself in disagreement with you, but your reasons are always sane for whatever side you take in an issue. Take this GL thing for example: I am in favor of Kyle, you are in favor of Hal. Unlike most comic fans I know, you don't just simply say KYLE SUCKS and HAL HORDON KICKS ASS. Instead you calmly and reasonably explain your reasons for feeling the way you do.
Consider this a letter from one comic book fan who can speak in complete sentences and can remain calm when discussing Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return with (other fans). Keep the good work going. Have you ever considered going national, by putting your column in Wizard or anything?

He did, in syndication for newspapers, and what an embarrassment it was, after that debacle called Identity Crisis! Even on his own website, Smith was mouthing off double talk by criticizing several other fictional characters as though they were real people. I've got a feeling he knew he was speaking out of multiple sides of his mouth, surely the worst part of his double-standards. Next is a bunch of letters about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, beginning with June 2, 1999:

Dear Cap: On a side note, I seem to be the only one who has seen Episode 1 and thought that Jar Jar Binks was a great character! He's great for kids! He's goofy! He's an idiot! What's wrong with a little levity in the "holy trilogy"? He made me laugh; I guess that's all that needs to be said.

It seems that Jar Jar is indeed working with kids, which only proves that Lucas is still a genius at marketing if not storytelling. The son of a friend of mine told me in the Very Serious voice that only 10 year olds can do when they're trying to sound older, "You'll need a Jar Jar action figure. It will be an important addition to your collection."

I could barely keep a straight face, but you know, I'll get a Jar Jar action figure.

I wonder how he can keep a straight face after praising Identity Crisis and Civil War! And who needs action figures as much as we do good literature? Now for June 9, 1999:

Cap: May I rant?

I am an old guy. Comic books should be written for kids. Star Wars is for kids. When old guys demand that kid stuff be written for their level, they cheapen it for the kids. I don't like to let my kids read comics now because they aren't written for kids; they are meant to amuse adults, and they contain adult sensibilities that are inappropriate for little kids.

Jar Jar is for kids. That is a good thing. Tell the adults to grow up. There are lots and lots of entertainment venues for big people, but there are so few for kids that (we shouldn't) coarsen them. I am so glad that Star Wars stayed at the kid level.

I like your stuff. Thanks.

Another vote for Jar Jar! And, come to think of it, we were ALL 22 years younger when Star Wars originally came out. Could it be we're being selfish when we ask that Star Wars grow up with us?

How about when we ask DC and Marvel to grow up with us? Another query he's never asked himself! No wonder I don't like his stuff today, and shouldn't have back then.

Dear Cap: I agreed with you totally on (Phantom Menace). I went on St. Lucas day with the mindset of a 12-year old (being emotionally 14, it wasn't much of a leap) and I had a great time. As for character development, I look at this as Act One of a three-act play -- all that is really expected are introductions to the setting and main figures. And it is a GORGEOUS film (remember the white-skinned Mohawk babe during the pod race? Drool ...). Jar Jar was annoying, but expected, though I think Lucas could have saved some CGI money by using a certain actress (check out this month's Vanity Fair cover, and tell me that this isn't a separated-at-birth situation).

Still waiting for that Darth Maul liqueur decanter; the one that unscrews at the waist ...

LOL! Oh, yeah, I want one, too!

Not me! I'll pass. The mindset thing also describes what Mr. Smith obviously went to read Identity Crisis with: that of a 12 to 14-year-old, with no sense of rationale. A pure disgrace.

Cap: About Star Wars. Now, bear in mind that I was in a very bad place when I went to see this film. I was very upset about personal stuff. But I feel I understand myself and my relationship to film enough to honestly say that what my reaction really did have at to do, at least 50 percent with the film rather than with my other issues.

I walked out about a half hour into the thing.

I left at the point Neeson pleads for Jar Jar's life and permission to take the guy with them. First and foremost, I simply knew I was NOT going to make it through two more hours of (expletive) Jar Jar. This character did really irritate me, and I found him wholly unfunny. What was he? The best I could come up with was a cross between the '70s Cher (the ear-flip, head-sway thing), Antonio Fargas, a Rastafarian and some Castro Street leather clone. Ugh, ugh and double-ugh.

But there was so much more wrong with this film beyond Jar Jar for me. First off, the CGIs in general. I'm sorry, but in my incredibly-not-humble opinion, CGIs suck. They do not look good or interesting, and they most certainly do not look realistic. I can't even make my mind understand how anyone could view them as such. I do try, though. They look like shiny cartoons. Did they really look real to you? Or did they look like neat cartoons? Furthermore, they are all alike, because they all look alike, regardless of the individual or species they are portraying. They all move the same way. They all move like CGIs.

At one point Jar Jar turns his head to look at another character. Now, I'm sure you can pull up an image of someone turning their head. It's a pretty simple movement. Not for Mr. Biggs and Co. The head has to swivel to and fro, bob both backwards and to the side, the chin must come up and then down. It takes a year and a half. CGIs don't move, they slither. All of them. They all move alike. As I said, regardless of individual or species. It contributes mightily to me not being able to see them as individual characters or give a dang about them. Expensive, crappy cartoons. With the money it took to make Jar Jar turn his head, a whole independent with an actual script, characters and actors could have been made (not that a lot of independents aren't lousy ...). It makes me pretty sick sometimes. I love film too much, it's far too important to me, for me to not feel this way at times.

Furthermore, the CGIs and other character-related special effects (like the holographic images of people) were frustrating for other reasons. There were so many filters to go thru just to get what people were saying, for one thing. The holograms had vocoded voices and transmission problems, as well as blurry faces. All the CGIs had strong accents that were sorta based on earth-culture accents, but not really. And they came out of mouths that were not shaped like human mouths. So when this hard-to-understand voice would come out of this weird mouth, the sounds wouldn't match up to the movements of the character's "lips."

And CGIs owned that half hour I saw.

At one point I said to myself, "Could this film be doing anything more to distance me from its characters? Actually, it could. And it did.

Now, people have defended this film by saying that it isn't that big a deal that the story and characters aren't too strong. After all, it's just supposed to be fun, a lark. An adventure! Well, no, it's supposed to be a Star Wars movie, which is not the same thing. I don't want to make too much of the cultural/artistic importance of the other trilogy, but, dangit, they WERE special films. They built a mythos. They had characters. I found only the first one to be a great film, but the other two contributed to the impact that the trilogy had. The whole problem with what I saw of this new movie is that it didn't try to contribute. The whole problem was that it DID try to be a fun, snazzy-looking adventure.

An example. Early in the film, we have two Jedi Knights. By the time I left, they had had almost nothing to say. I had been given nothing to form a single impression of either of them. They were nothing. And one of them was Obi-Wan!!! That first lightsaber fight just sickened me. The bad guys attack these two cyphers. They pull out their special-effects sticks, they use the Force a little, the Star Wars theme swells, and I'm supposed to believe these are Jedi Knights? I do not think so. Sir Alec Guinness made me believe he was a Jedi Knight with his immense, quiet talent and some well-chosen words. Lucas used short-cuts, easy cues and expected me to be manipulated. He didn't bother to do any actual creation or work here.

In the scene where the two are waiting alone to be met by the ambassador (or whatever), Neeson looks thoroughly bored. My guess is that he probably was.

Now, of course, I only saw probably about one-fifth of the movie. And many people feel that in the first trilogy the acting was amateurish (Guiness in the first film a major, major exception -- I still say he should have had the best supporting actor oscar) and the characters cardboard. But, I'm sorry, but in those films, nearly every major character had me within minutes of her or his arrival. That stiff acting, those cartoonish characters worked on some level. They reached me. If only in a basic, iconic way. But they got me. I didn't have to wait around for Lucas to decide whether or not he actually wanted to do something with them.

I'm sorry, but this film did have more responsibility than to just razzle-dazzle or be fun. The first trilogy ain't no Shakespeare, but it is a creative and meaningful accomplishment. Lucas started something with those movies, and here he appears to have not continued it, or even tried to. If he can't do something to make me feel I'm watching a Star Wars movie within 30 minutes, he doesn't deserve my time.

To be fair, Natalie Portman was giving a good performance as the queen, and she helped that character to almost become the only other one in the film to *become* an actual character to me. (Too bad the only one who did actually impress himself on my mind was %$#@ Jar Jar.) And the design for the underwater city was pretty beautiful. That was impressive. And I did enjoy every frame of the film that allowed me to look at Ewan McGregor, even if I also hated most of the same frames for other reasons.

This is all particularly sad in that I was very excited by Lucas returning to the director's chair for the first time in over two decades. What a good director he was. I was so looking forward to him doing more directing. What a disappointment. Maybe I just got spoiled because last year Terrance Mallick released his first film in over 20 years, The Thin Red Line, and it was absolutely brilliant. So I hoped for another wonderful comeback for another of the greats of the '70s.

Aw, c'mon, [name withheld] -- how can I take any complaint seriously when you only watched 30 minutes of the movie?

But obviously you care quite a bit about this, so let's try to find some common ground. Firstly, I agree with you that, while the characters in the original movies were also cardboard and the acting mediocre, they were more engaging. That's because they represented archetypes (or, more uncharitably, cliches) -- the boy-learning-to-be-a-man, the mercenary with the heart of gold, the feisty princess, the loyal partner, the villain in black, the two sidekicks as comedy relief. We instantly knew who these guys were, and waited with glee for the inevitable pay-off that reassures us that the universe is just. Phantom Menace, on the other hand, had two bland guys vaguely doing something or other. They weren't larger than life.

And, I think I could accede to some of your other points. But I still have to reiterate: This is a kids' movie, and you shouldn't expect any more than that. Or, to put it another way, Star Wars is supposed to be fun. If we take it too seriously, then it ain't fun -- and we're doing it wrong.

Gee, how can I take any complaints he has seriously about Emerald Twilight if he doesn't see minor characters as valuable as major ones? He doesn't think Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, Atom, Jean Loring, Blue Beetle and Firestorm are, so why should we think he even considers Mary Jane Watson valuable? Besides, what has he had to say about Dan Slott's awful run on Spider-Man? Now for June 16, 1999:

Dear Cap: A response to this:

[since this text came from June 2, it'll be omitted since it doesn't need to be printed twice, but below is what he said in a paper column, so that'll remain]

Well, [...], even though most adults find Jar Jar as pleasant as root-canal surgery, my mail has been running toward the tolerant end of the scale. And he appears to be, as intended, popular with the Tiny Toons set.

Incidentally, for those who object to Jar Jar's vaguely Jamaican accent (and to other ethnic speech patterns in the movie), I have to note that the evil Imperial officers in the first trilogy were clearly British -- and nobody batted an eye.

The reason why no one batted an eye is because none of those characters were bumbling jerks. Why can't people just get it into their heads that having a character like Jar Jar Binks in a series that has been correctly slammed for ignoring the existence of minorities in future (or the past), is just plain wrong!

I love Star Wars and what Lucas has done. But he's just dead wrong on Jar Jar. Also, contrary to my friend from [location withheld], the Jar Jar character was not close to being funny. He must have been the only adult laughing in the theater. Create more minority heroes, then you can create idiots without having people like me squirming in my theater seat. As a journalist, editor and film-lover, I'm just sick of the stereotypes. Imagine being a kid from Jamaica going to school after the kids in his class have eyed the movie. Would you like your ethnic identity to be linked to Jar Jar? I don't think so.

Nope, I'm sure I wouldn't. But if you must create more minority heroes, they should be brand new ones. Until then, there should be more minority co-stars, from Armenian backgrounds, to name but one example, and Jamaican could be a good idea too. BTW, did it ever occur to Smith that C-3PO sounded British too, and the reason nobody really minds English-sounding villains is because they were silent partners in many of the world's troubles like the Holocaust? Food for thought.

Dear Cap: First of all, I love the new Star Wars movie. I thought it was a great film and I congratulate George Lucas in making me feel the same chills and goose bumps when I saw the original trilogy.

This film is really really different from the orignal and even though most people are ragging on the Lucas for such a change of pace, I welcome it. People hate change, and I liked how this movie had a different pace, style and charm.

In defense of Jar Jar, I thought he was funny and amusing, but he did have his irritating moments. I personally hated C-3PO in the original movie, and I think Jar Jar ranks above the gold-plated idiot. First of all, in ROTJ C-3PO is on Endor among the pitched battles against the Imperial stormtroopers. He had no reason to be there. I see the importance of R2-D2's computer capabilities, but C-3PO's purpose with the whole Ewoks was just retarded. I think jar jar was great, and thankfully C-3PO didn't have any screen time. (I almost fast forward the beginning of ROTJ just to skip C-3PO's !@#! dialogue.)

In defense of the plausibility of the movie, it was as plausible as the other Star Wars. I know a lot of people shooting down the movie because of "How'd a little kid win the day when the other trained pilots couldn't?" This whole thing of little Anakin beating back the Trade Federation single-handedly was entire hogwash, but it is as plausible as Luke penetrating the Death Star's defenses and doing something trained ace pilots couldn't. Both Anakin and Luke have no training in space combat. At least Anakin was not a part of the actual fleet, he just got in on accident. Luke was just a farm boy. He's never even had training in the academy, and they pick him to lead one of the most important missions of the Rebel Alliances history? Think if they hadn't blown the Death Star then the Rebels would have been finished. And the alliance puts a farm boy that has never really been off of his home planet in the front lines? Good speeder pilots are one thing but space-combat pilots are something else. I know Luke always brags about Beggar's Canyon, but space flight is sooo much different. Heck even airborne flight is different than his damn speeders. It's a fun movie, it's supposed to be, so just everyone shut up already! It's not the Second Coming, it's just a movie. Get a life! "Oh, Episode One didn't change my life like the first ones did ... blah blah blah." It was a good movie. I like it better than ROTJ and Empire. A New Hope just edges it out.

Yawn. The only reason why it was "plausible" as the previous trilogy is because Lucas didn't care much for consistency, and the Ewoks were a cop-out, even if they were meant as comic relief. And look at that, he parrots the classic "it's only showbiz" cliche. Tell us about it, please.

Dear Captain: Thanks for posting my stuff about Star Wars. It's true, I only watched about a half hour, but I only reviewed a half hour. It's also true that that half hour really impelled me to watch no more.

I had a similar experience last year with Godzilla. After about an hour, I realized that the only way the movie could possibly spark my interest would be for it to have Matthew Broderick and Doug Savant start making out. I figured it was time to leave. It's not just that the movie was boring and bad -- it was that a ton of money was spent to make a bad, boring Godzilla movie with no Godzilla in it. What it had was a faceless Giraffes in the Park castoff. The old films were cheap and horrible, and they starred a guy in a rubber suit But Godzilla was always a character, and he was always the star, even when his screen time was short.

I, myself, just can't hack these movies that throw a ton of dollars at the screen to do so little and to fall so flat (the word I keep hearing about the new Star Wars). Especially when they trade on the name of an established movie mythos and do absolutely nothing with it. Maybe Phantom Menace did something in the remaining two hours I didn't see. Certainly not according to anyone I've asked about the film, though. And most people I talked to only had fun with the pod race.

It seems that your response suggests that making a movie that has characters and a story, and that actually engages itself in the world of the films it is a sequel to, is contrary to making a film that is fun, or for kids. I have to say that this is something I almost absolutely, categorically disagree with. With effort, talent and skill, it all can certainly be done. I don't think Lucas really gave damn. He just put his blockbuster out, thinking that since it was "for the kids" it didn't have to be particularly good.

Anyway, sorry I'm so ornery about this. Maybe my expectations were too high. It just seems such a waste to me, in so many ways

Yeah, it most definitely does, and I learned that the hard way. Lucas, alas, is just so overrated.

Dear Cap: Thanks for the response and I apologize for the rant. it's just very disappointing to enjoy Sci-Fi and the greatness of Star Wars without ever getting to see your likeness on screen. Just like all those Jediheads who love the films, minorities want to be a part of the fantasy. And as a film buff, if you've ever studied the portrayal of Blacks in film, there is no way you could stomach Jar Jar. he actually made me squirm in my theater seat. Thanks. I hope Lucas will do better in Episode Two.

He didn't, but I've long grown tired of Star Wars anyway. Next is July 7, 1999:

Personally I don't see what everyone's problem is with the damned movie! It had action and cool special and sound effects! It had a rocking lightsaber fight (my heart raced during the fight)! And it had cool music, like it always does! This was a Star Wars movie! Forget about the antics of the 'bumbling' Binks or the fact that Anakin blew up the big ship! My only problem was why Qui-Gon didnt vanish (rumored to be explained in Episode II)! And if that movie doesn't climb back up to number one, I am going to hurt some people!

Y'know, I just found out that the actor who voices Jar Jar actually IS Jamaican! In other words, the folks who are up in arms because they thought they saw an ethnic slur were actually complaining about the hiring of an ethnic actor -- and criticizing his voice! Just for a minute or two I was riding the White Male Guilt Trip ... but I'm over it now.

Once more, with feeling: IT'S JUST A MOVIE.

Yep, and so were the sick propaganda movies filmed by the National Socialists in the 1930s! I am bored out of my skull by that liberal dismissal coming from somebody who took a ride in the White Guilt Trip's Volkswagen 5 years later when Identity Crisis was published. And again the next 2 years when Civil War was published. Along next is June 23, 1999:

Captain: Check out the article in the June 15 Salon

I did, [...] -- it's by noted SF writer David Brin, who makes a persuasive case that Star Wars is elitist and anti-democratic! That's a whole 'nother debate -- which my readers are welcome to comment on! (I also mentioned in the next column, which will appear on this site June 30.)

Gee, isn't that something; a man who hasn't proven himself very sincere is willing to note Brin's argument. Unfortunately, Brin scuttled his argument after he attacked Frank Miller in 2011 for daring to publish Holy Terror and slam the Occupy movement, and as for Mr. Smith (who never said a word about Miller's book), it goes without saying he's already long thrown away his. A man who cannot be transparent about the leftism dominating comicdom today has no business commenting about undemocratic platforms. As for Salon, regardless of Brin's directions, they're an ultra-leftist bastion not worth the bother.

Cap: Here's my response to: [name withheld, because it's an aforementioned correspondent]

Alright. Enough. Have we come so far as a civilization that all we have left to do is kill each other and pick things apart (like Episode 1) to find all the hidden slams on humanity encased in it's admittedly plastic-fantastic, pop-culture mythological exterior?

Why can't anyone have fun any more? I'm sick to death of all the jerks who can't just relax and let the Force flow, man!

In a world where kids kill each other and blow up schools, where the president likes to get pleasured by fat chicks (and before we get all riled 'cause I said "fat chicks," I'm a fat guy, so save it), in a world where I can walk out my front door, take a left and buy some crack, I want to just be entertained with some stupid stuff ... like a big frog-dude saying "brisky mornin' munchin'" and yes -- Holy Lord! -- making me laugh.

Any of y'all who want to make a big political statement out of every bloody thing ... don't discuss it with me. I'd rather laugh in my world than moan and cry with you in yours.

And by the way, I also am in the media (disc jockey on a No. 1 rated radio station) and I don't need to be a Moral Majority leader, why is it so many of y'all do? (No, not you Cap.)

Adios, and have some fun darnit! Buy a Nerf gun and shoot your mom! -- Yours in comics, [name withheld]

I'd like to think that jockey means Smith's trying to be a "moralist" in a bad sense, but alas, that's not the case. I do concur it doesn't help to pick apart entertainment products just for sport, no matter how good or bad they are, but Star Wars is still pretty overrated in retrospect. Coming up next are several letters about Hal Jordan's brief stint as the Spectre, but these have no dates available. I can only assume they came from some time around 1999, when it took place, but cannot confirm when they were originally posted, since they came from a "debate" page I had saved to disk with no dates marked:

Dear Cap: I must disagree with your assessment of Hal Jordan, the greatest GL of all time. You have repeatedly stated that Jordan destroyed the 3,600 members of the GL Corps. This is simply not true. Shortly after the Crisis, the Guardians went off to another plane of reality. Shortly after that, the GL Corps all lost their powers. By the time of Green Lantern No. 1 (third series), only Guy Gardner, John Stewart, G'nort and Hal Jordan had functioning power rings and G'nort's was found out to be a fake. After the Guardians returned, Hal Jordan was tapped to recruit new members for the GL Corps. Hal only recruited about 12 members before heading back to Earth and de-throning Guy Gardner as Earth's GL. By the time of "Emerald Twilight" (a horrible storyline, I agree), there could not have been more than two dozen active GLs. Although they did battle with Jordan (and lost), he did not kill them all. And he definitely did not kill 3,600 members of the full-blown GL Corps. Hal Jordan is a hero. Yes, he made mistakes, but he also atoned for his sins.

(Captain's Note: [name withheld] is absolutely correct. The Corps was severely depleted at the beginning of "Emerald Twilight." In addition to the Earth-based GLs, we know of only the 10 Jordan had previously recruited, plus a few new faces during "ET." So unless the notoriously passive Guardians had embarked on a recruitment drive, there were perhaps two dozen functioning members of the Corps. Still, Jordan did leave nine floating in space, who -- as Kilowog points out -- most likely died in seconds when Jordan blew up the Central Battery that powered their life-giving rings. Any others in combat during that time would have been killed, and the rest easy prey when Fatality came calling. Jordan also personally murdered his best friend in the Corps (Kilowog) and killed an entire race (the Guardians, excepting Ganthet). So, numbers aside, he is still guilty of mass murder, the destruction of the Corps and genocide. Is it any better that he only murdered dozens instead of thousands?)

Of course not, but who is he argue after he legitimized the horrific story in Identity Crisis and indicated he's perfectly fine with turning Jean Loring into a villainess, and a new Eclipso? Come to think of it, who is he to argue after he legitimized a similar situation in Civil War, when the New Warriors accidentally led to the deaths of people in a school building? Say, what about Wolverine's "Origin" written by Paul Jenkins? IIRC, it pegs him as guilty of slaughtering an innocent woman. That's not good either; in fact, it's sick.

Dear Captain Comics: If Hal Jordan is a hero, then Magneto, Doctor Doom, Lex Luthor, Braniac, Mordru and even Sinestro are saints, if not actual angels. What did any of THEM ever do that was comparable to destroying the GL Corps and the Guardians? A planet blown up here or there doesn't even compare with demolishing a force for good about 360 times as powerful as the Justice League of America (3,600 GLs vs. about 10 Superman-equivalents in the JLA) and 1,200 times as powerful as the entire Legion of Super-Heroes?

I don't care if he wasn't in his right mind. He wasn't in his right writer, that's for sure, but gee whiz, unless you put all of them back the way they were, it's hard to claim that just because he was a great guy for all those years, his crimes don't "count." This isn't Marvel Comics, after all, where the concepts of crime and justice are pretty much irrelevant; it's DC Comics, in which good is good and bad is still bad.

At the time Hal went mad, I wrote in to Green Lantern, saying that this was the gutsiest move since Lancelot overthrew Camelot for love of a woman who happened to be King Arthur's wife. Like the story of Arthur, the epic tale of the GL Corps ends in tragedy, defeat and death, and for that reason becomes far more powerful than if it had gone on forever, like the story of Batman. And speaking of Batman, one reason he's so popular now is that The Dark Knight Returns was an ENDING, a fitting capstone to the whole magnificent Batman myth. Endings make stories better, period.

That being said, there's no reason the Green Lantern saga can't go on, with Kyle (the Percival figure in the Arthurian analogy) carrying on as best he can, passing down his ring generation upon generation, building upon what has gone before without challenging its tragic glory. In that vein, Hal should STAY DEAD, not become The Spectre or anything else. Recall that Lancelot and Boromir both atone for their crimes, but they die in the process, because had they lived, they'd just have to go off into the wilderness again, unable to face their fellows.

Everything from Disney movies to Babylon 5 teaches us that shame, even horrible, personal, agonizing shame, can and should be forgiven. But crime, of which Hal is really and truly guilty, cannot and SHOULD NOT be. It might be fitting for The Spectre to JUDGE Hal Jordan, but for Hal to BECOME The Spectre suggests that Hitler, Genghis Khan or Jack the Ripper would have made good Spectres, too. And scary as The Spectre has always been, THAT's too scary for funnybooks.

Except maybe Vertigo ...

... If I had been writing GL when the Powers That Be ordered "Emerald Twilight", I would have made the King Arthur comparison much, much, much stronger. In this formulation, Hal is betrayed, sulks, the GL Corps goes on a quest to find the missing Power Battery while Hal sulks, but then he comes out of it when the least among the Lanterns (that being G'nort) finds the Battery, then they all go out and face the enemy (Sinestro, of course, who has learned to equip criminals with copies of Qwardian rings) in an epic battle in which the Corps is just about all killed, until Hal destroys Sinestro by touching his ring to Sinestro's ring, causing them to cancel each other violently, destroying everyone around.

THEN, see, the last Lantern (possibly G'nort, possibly Ganthet) hurls the Ring to Earth, where Kyle finds it, and in a green flash, the whole cycle begins anew.

See, that's the sort of mythic vibe they were clearly going for, I think ... but either they were writing at great speed, or there were too many cooks in the pot, or whatever, but they didn't even come close.

"It is not the critic that counts, not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood. Who strives mightily, who errs and falls short again and again, and who knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement; or, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place should never be among those poor, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." -- Theodore Roosevelt

Recalling that argument about Darth Vader, isn't it too scary to let him off the hook for all the death and destruction he caused with his Death Star, as seen at the end of The Return of the Jedi?

I'm sure there were far too many cooks involved - that's the worst thing about committee steps - but I doubt the editors had any intention of going the direction the correspondent would've tried, which is vaguely similar to my idea, and sounds more impressive as a concept too. Dooley, as the main editor involved, was no doubt desperate for a short-term idea, in step with much of the mentality waged at the time.

Dear Cap: Hal Jordon was a great hero. He was a fantastic villain. And, yes, he did give his life in Earth's final night. But Hal's crime was the one of selfishness: he put his own wants over the needs of others. With The Spectre's powers he could do it again and this time it could be world-endingly fatal. I say, let the man rest wherever he is. He doesn't need to be a hero again. No one can ever forget him.

Man, what a defeatist that goof is. Funny how he doesn't say he's disappointed with Ron Marz and Kevin Dooley for bringing everything down to the situation at the time. Actually, there's probably a reason for that: Mr. Smith probably didn't see fit to publish any letter saying that, even if it was written civilly! Kind of reminds me of the earlier one noting the suppression of dissent at DC...

Dear sir: I think it's okay to refer to Hal Jordan as a fallen hero. Even if he redeems, most of the DCU heroes will never believe it's so. And actually, Jordan has already returned to the DCU. I think there's a pretty good chance he's somehow finagled himself a spot as the new Flash.

In that case, why not retcon it all out of continuity? That's something quite a few people don't seem argue about - not at that time anyway - no matter what they think of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Captain: Should Hal Jordan be resurrected as the new Spectre? Yes. Why? Because comics are a business. And, at the moment, they're not exactly a lucrative business. Anything that's good for the sales of comic books (and, superhero comics specifically) is OK with me.

You want to talk about DC doing something REALLY weird with Hal? What's up with the Hal Jordan Beanie for sale at the Warner Bros. store (along with the entire JLA except J'onn)? The Flash Beanie isn't Barry Allen (the eyes are wrong), and Barry didn't even kill anybody -- except for Professor Zoom, but that was an accident.

Of course, the fact that Hal is a mass murderer didn't keep me from buying the Green Lantern Beanie.

(Captain's Note: Same here, [...]. Say, is it just me, or is there a ton of Hal Jordan stuff out there -- and virtually no J'onn J'onzz or Kyle Rayner stuff? Take a look around the WB! Store, and you'll see Justice League this and Justice League that -- all with Hal Jordan as one of JLA and Kyle and J'onn conspicuously absent.)

Interesting. Initially, they may have manufactured some Kyle Rayner-based merchandise (and even a Hal Jordan-as-Parallax action figure, disgustingly enough), but it probably didn't sell, probably because Kyle was not a widely recognizable figure, but mainly because the whole Emerald Twilight setup left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. How can you truly enjoy playing with a Kyle action figure when you know his girlfriend got stuffed in the fridge? I doubt many parents would want their children playing with a toy based on Major Force and his sadistic act, that's for sure!

That aside, I understand how embarrassing it can be to buy toys and other merchandise based on characters who were depicted committing murder, even characters whom we didn't want depicted that way. But then, isn't that why the grave errors should be fixed? Yet Smith fails to argue convincingly to that effect.

Dear Cap: "Green Lantern Hal Jordan will return (from Hell, no less) in this summer's DC crossover, Day of Judgment, to become the new Spectre. Is this appropriate? Can Hal be redeemed? Or is it simply tasteless to refer to him as a hero ever again?"

I was afraid DC would try something like this. It's a shame when a wonderful pop icon gets a severe blemish from its writers and artists (i.e. Superman's costume/power change or cloning Spider-Man). But let's face it, Hal was altered into a mass-murdering psycho! As unfair as it was to all us faithful fans, it's in the past. Our image of the green energy-slinger is permanently blotched and scarred forever. DC is apparently trying to correct a major boo-boo of theirs that didn't get fixed in the Final Night series. Redemption was definitely in order, but not the hero's death sentence. A story of a clone of Hal's that killed everyone in his image and was vanquished by the original would have been better. (Whoa, I can't believe I actually said that!) Sick, but it's true! There was only one true Hal Jordan, just as there is only one true Batman. Even though the back-breaking saga of Batman was a trying time for the fans, it was an important era in the Bat-titles' lineage. Eventually, the lead character was restored back to his original luster and then some. If Hal comes back, there must be a reckoning. I think shifting the character's role to The Spectre's is an interesting concept that would be better suited for an Elseworlds story line. But taking up the reins as Green Latern is out of the question, too. I must admit that Kyle Rayner is no prize peach, but Hal is better left in the ground, er, sun. To bring him back would be useless, because he could never get back what he lost: his humanity. At risk of sounding like an after-school special, the heroic image of Hal Jordan can never truly die. In this fan's heart, Hal will always be the one who wore the green outfit while shouting the Green Lantern Corps's Oath and forever a hero.

Well at least this guy's admitting the mistakes weren't fixed in Final Night, unlike the first one in line, who didn't (what an idiot!). But again, what a defeatist he is nevertheless, showing no courage to say he'd like the clock turned back for each and every character who suffered a terrible mistreatment.

Captain Comics: You asked the question "Is Hal Jordan redeemable?" Yes and No. Hal can be redeemed, but not at his current status in comics today. Previous writers have sent this Silver Age hero down a path that no superhero can return from. I don't believe (that) in the history of comics a superhero has gone nuts and murdered his entire fellow members from his or her superhero group. How can you explain how Hal Jordan goes berserk and murders the Green Lantern Corps? What, he had a bad day? I don't think that's going to travel with anyone reading comics. Hal became a victim of fan apathy. Before his downfall Jordan was an aging superhero. His white hair was beginning to show to young readers who didn't care about an old fart with a ring who flies jets. Fans' lack of interest in the emerald hero led to Jordan's demise. This opened the door for a younger, more '90s Green Lantern (someone with fear) into the picture. Jordan was relegated to the status of hero turned villain. Hal did not have the heroic or mysterious death that befell his friends Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) and Barry Allen (Flash). In attempt to correct this error in the Final Night series, DC gave Jordan his final fate. But his death was not as Hal Jordan Green Lantern, hero, but as Parallax, villain, with a glimpse of his former heroic glory.

What is tasteless is DC's pathetic attempt of returning Jordan to hero status by making him the new Spectre. DC Comics is trying like a deadbeat dad makes it up to his forgotten son by giving Jordan a new tasteless start. Death in comics has become another worn-out cliche. It has no impact on readers like it did before. If a character died, the character stayed dead. Now every 10 issues a character returns from the grave.

Hal Jordan's redemption lies in his past. A perfect example of this was the JLA: Year One series. Jordan was an exciting character to read. The series restored Jordan's tarnished heroic image and made the character '90s-reader friendly. I hope the creative team of Mark Waid, Tom Peyer and Barry Kitson have continued success with the follow up The Brave and the Bold.

I feel the only way Hal Jordan can be redeemed is through a good writer. We have seen what happens what good writing (JLA: Year One) does. But we also have seen what bad writing has done to this character. Turning Jordan into The Spectre continues a trend of comics companies in a tasteless attempt to sell more comics turning heroes into unrecognizable and unpopular roles, making the character untouchable to the next writer hoping to resurrect a hero.

It didn't make him untouchable to the next writer, probably because the Spectre series at the time was eventually cancelled, since people obviously couldn't appreciate a setup that didn't exonerate Hal and turn the clock back pre-1994. But it didn't lead to better writing either. Just some storylines by Geoff Johns that saw plenty of bloodletting shoved in.

Dear Captain: I have to say that editor Kevin Dooley has so butchered Hal Jordan that he can no longer be regarded as a "legitimate" fictional character. That is, the fundamental realism required to "believe" in a fictional character has been shattered. Dooley's Hal Jordan is on par with South Park's Kenny.

At this point, DC can do anything with Jordan (and seemingly has already) and it will do nothing to lessen the character's (already obliterated) credibility. Believing Hal Jordan would become a super-villain would be like believing Pres. Bill Clinton will now become celibate. You could tell such a story, but it wouldn't be believable.

So, DC could change Hal Jordan into Wonder Woman and it would be just as credible. Turning him into The Spectre only distances him further from the character many of us have loved and followed over his 30-plus year career.

The reason I argue that Hal isn't a villain is that Hal did what any human would do if they possessed his power and their family and loved ones were in danger or killed. They would seek to prevent or rectify the situation. Hal wanting to use his power to undo a colossal evil was both natural and heroic. (Let me interject that when Superman has killed or altered time to right a wrong, he was a hero; when Hal did it, he was a villain. Huh???) I spoke with Dooley during a convention when this story made print. His focus was not on character growth, but on "shaking up the book." Of course, he wasn't interested in my concerns over consistency. At this point, I no longer regarded Hal Jordan as a fictional character but as Dooley's fanciful puppet. Dooley was jealous that other characters were getting more press than Green Lantern (dead Superman, Spidey the clone, Daredevil with knee pads, Batman the leg-breaker, etc).

In my view, Hal did the right thing. And when the Guardians refused to use their power to help him, he took the power from them. Had anyone with respect for Hal written that story, Hal would have stolen the Guardians' power and the other GL rings but not killed them or ranted like a madman. Personally, I was rooting for Parallax during Zero Hour. I wanted Batgirl back, too. I thought the DC Universe was in need of fixing, too. (I still miss the "nipple" Hawkman.)

What DC has done in the '90s has driven me to focus more and more on the pre-Crisis universe. Believe it or not, but all those parallel universes made more sense than the single universe they have now.

I find this correspondent's notes on Dooley very telling about what kind of a person he was - not somebody who believed in entertaining stories, but rather, in making sales at all costs, even if it was only short-range. Indeed, what kind of a man goes into this kind of business if he has no interest in entertaining the audience and more in his own self-interests? Dooley left DC at the end of the century, and one can wonder if it's because the all the bad reactions finally discouraged him from keeping on further.

Dear Captain: I want to give my humble opinion about "Hal Jordan as the new Spectre."

For me, the way DC Comics treated the character of Hal Jordan (after Supes & Batman my favorite hero) was a wrong one. For me as for many others Hal Jordan, Green Lantern was one of the better heroes in comic books. Too bad that DC chose to turn him "mad" just to introduce his replacement. I have nothing against Kyle, but DC could have crafted a better way to dismiss Hal Jordan from the honor he carried for so much time -- almost since my birth year -- so I felt like as if DC killed a part of me, too.

Then comes Final Night, but after all the shame they poured over the old Hal, this story left mixed feelings to their fans, about Hal doing a final act of self-sacrifice just to save the world. Not a good attempt for DC trying to take off the shame from Jordan. But like Supes said, a hero in the end.

Now that DC tries to -- or will -- turn Hal Jordan into the new Spectre, it seems another effort to recover the deeply missed character of Hal Jordan. At first I don't look at this with a nod of approval, but we must wait until the events of Day of Judgment unfold to really appreciate if that story will return to us our Hal Jordan again. Meanwhile I'm waiting that DC doesn't miss the shot again. I'm waiting ...

For heaven's sake, Superman didn't say Hal was a hero in the end - the writers did! But without exoneration from his misdeeds against the GLC and Guardians, he's not.

<<Is it a great idea -- or just sickening?>>

I'll take sickening for $400, Captain.

Sickening, because it's just so dumb: It is the perfect example of the old phrase "Two wrongs don't make a right." Let’s look at the math:

First Wrong: The Spectre.
DC screwed The Spectre up royally about ten years ago, when they decided that The Spectre and Jim Corrigan were two different people and that The Spectre was, in fact, the embodiment of the Wrath of God. Puh-leaze. Granted, The Spectre has been a tough character to get a handle on (I think the only time he’s ever been done right was in the Michael Fleischer/Jim Aparo series that ran in Adventure back in the early '70s). The basic problem is that he just got so powerful to the point where he was ridiculous. At least DC editorial had the wisdom to spot this problem, but their solution (that Corrigan and The Spectre were separate people) missed the point. The Spectre was wrathful because he WAS Jim Corrigan, and when he was Corrigan he was murdered. And now that they’ve killed off Corrigan and made The Spectre the Wrath of God, they’ve just made the problem worse.

Second Wrong: Hal Jordan/Green Lantern
There was no good reason for them to do what they did to poor Hal (I’m sorry, but “higher sales” just doesn’t qualify as a good reason in my book). They tried to fix it with Final Night, but it was too little, too late.

Wrong + Wrong
How does making Hal Jordan the new “host” for The Spectre solve anything? It doesn’t redeem Hal’s character, and it doesn’t bring anything new to the concept of The Spectre (so now The Spectre has a new alter ego to be in conflict with, big deal). There are gigantic logic problems with this, the biggest being the fact that Hal Jordan -- in his right mind or not -- killed a lot of people. That’s bound to irk The Spectre a little, I think.

Result = Not Right.
Is DC doing this just to bring back a beloved character they offed for no good reason? If they think this will please the admittedly vocal minority who thinks the new Green Lantern bites, they’ll be disappointed.

Besides, as I said, the idea’s just about as dumb as a sack of hammers. Why not bring back Barry Allen as the new Hawkman? That makes about as much sense.

I can only hope that this is a well-planned fake on DC's part, like the “return” of Barry Allen a few years back (turned out to be an amnesiac Prof. Zoom, if you’ll recall).

Here’s a thought, if The Spectre is all-powerful (as he always seems to be), then Hal Jordan would certainly have the power to fix a few things he couldn’t fix as Parallax. Like maybe resurrect the dead -- like his beloved Coast City, for one -- or Ollie Queen for another.

Hmmmm.

Say, I just thought of something: how does making Jean Loring into a new Eclipso solve anything? It doesn't either, and only worsens the harm they did to her, which came to a head in Blackest Night.

Captain: I enjoy your columns.  There aren't enough serious columns on comics.
 
As to the Green Lantern, someone of your sophistication should know that DC Comics, the company, isn't stupid.  Even mentioning Hal Jordan, the late but great GL, sparks so much word-of-mouth advertising and hype-building, it all but ensures a great success for anything they might do.  I am sure you are familiar with certain newsgroups where the Hal Jordan/Kyle Rayner controversy is endlessly debated.  DC knows what they are doing.  Brining back Hal, even for a summer crossover, then to likely kill him again, or at least until next year, will guarantee that every comics fan(atic), from the newbies to old hacks like us, will buy two copies of those books.  It's already working.  You're writing about it, and I'm taking time from my day to write to you.
 
Bringing back Hal is nothing more than a money-making venture for DC.  It just keeps on working for them.  Besides, Hal was too cool to just die once.  Maybe the third time will be the charm.
 
Thanks for your work.  I'll keep looking for it.

Tragically, this guy's got a point: the speculator market no doubt bought some of the crud when first advertised, even if the chances they'll ever be of monetary value are nil.

Dear Captain: You know, a few years ago DC said get rid of the old and came in with the new. However, when they got rid of the old, they seemed to hang on very tight to it. John Byrne did direct rip-offs of the old Superman stories with Titano and others, Wally West seems constantly trying to live up to the legend of Barry Allen, Connor Hawke is constantly searching for Oliver Queen, and most importantly Hal Jordan WON'T DIE! No one is a bigger fan of Hal than I am and no one was more upset in how they handled his dismissal from the DC Universe -- but LET IT GO! Yeah, Parallax might make him seem the perfect replacement for Jim Corrigan in terms of sheer brutality and vengence and a cosmic viewpoint -- but so would've Barry Allen, Oliver Queen, Kent & Inza Nelson or for that matter Captain Comet and Marv Wolfman's Vigilante or Mr. Terrific. The point is: So DC screwed up -- big deal! Screw-ups happen all the time. A mistake is not bad as long as you LET IT GO AND MOVE FORWARD AND NOT KEEP DWELLING ON IT! Wouldn't it make better sense to keep representing Hal in flashbacks or through John Stewart -- whom he apparently energized -- or through a new GL Corps or through a cosmic love child with a deceased Carol Ferris or anything else than "Gee, we shouldn't have killed him, let's figure out another way to bring him back and rectify that mistake." Besides how is Kyle ever going to be Green Lantern if he keeps literally having THE SPECTRE OF HAL JORDAN haunting him (sorry, I, like too many other people, could not resist)! I vote LET HAL JORDAN REST IN PEACE!

Oh, put a lid on it yourself! As a matter of fact, it's not easy to ignore what DC did when Kyle Rayner wound up as the poster boy of all that. Besides, how can anyone ignore the embarrassment of Spider-Man's One More Day at this point? And let's not forget Identity Crisis. A miniseries that vile is very difficult to ignore too, so long as its repugnant vision remains the status quo. This is one total jerk of a defeatist indeed.

Dear Commander: How many of us have the opportunity to use power on the side of good and never use it? How many of us who have used power for good only to turn it to the use of evil? When I think of the fantasy characters Darth Vader and the Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), both questions come to mind. One of the most profound statements that has ever been made is "With great power comes great responsibility." The fact is that when such power is placed in the hands of less-than-perfect beings there is always room for corruption. I liked the hero that Hal Jordan was and I had considered it tragic that he could have become such a menace in the twilight of his career. I believe that he became a hero again before the end, but it makes one realize that a tragic situation could make any person turn onto the wrong path. Hence there will always be the need for checks & balances as we are only human, we are liable to make mistakes.

But are we willing to admit we're capable of making mistakes? That's something many mainstream contributors are not willing to do, suggesting they have a very dehumanized view of themselves.

Dear Captain: This is the sort of marketing move I'd expect from Marvel, who never lets any of their characters stay dead (except for Bucky, maybe). I think it would be done to satisfy the die-hard Hal Jordan fans. But they probably won't be happy until Hal has the power ring back and Kyle is six feet under. Why can't the Hal fans just accept what has happened and get on with their lives?

After all the awfulness Geoff Johns forced upon GL post-Rebirth, some might almost be willing to do just that, but it would still be defeatism, and that's not how a winner thinks. But if that's how the correspondent feels, then does he realize the marketing of Alex in the fridge is the kind of idea we might expect from Marvel too? If anything, it's since become the kind of marketing move we'd expect DC to pull in an attempt to ape Marvel's own strategies of yore. But in the end, it's only proven why DC's consistently failed to duplicate what Marvel mastered, and why they just shouldn't be trying to be Marvel in every way.

Dear Cap'n Comics: NO!

Actually, I have more to say about Hal Jourdan's imminent return. Firstly, I wouldn't have minded if Hal had kept on being Green Lantern until the end of time. I wasn't crazy about him, but I didn't hate him, either. The only problem was how they got rid of him. Hal NEVER would have killed all those people. At least not the Hal that we have seen since 1959. I don't care what happened, Hal was no mass murderer! And yet, he became one anyway. So, in order to bring back Hal as a hero DC would have to negate that instance where Hal killed all those people. If DC would explain that someone took the appearance of Hal and commited those crimes it might be acceptable. Yeah, that'd be a cop-out, but what is worse? Hal comes back as a hero and still responsible for those deaths? Personally, I wish they never went to the extremes to get rid of Hal. I don't have any problem with Kyle. I just think it was stupid how the position for Green Lantern opened for him. I hope there is a reasonable cause for Hal's return as a hero, if it happens. That's my opinion.

Oh, it wouldn't be a cop-out to reveal Hal was being impersonated by a villain in disguise, though that's not exactly what Johns did for a retcon. Rather, he had Jordan revealed as under the control of an alien lifeform named Parallax. And that, you could argue more easily, was a cop-out. Especially since Hal still hadn't been exonerated convincingly, and the GLC and Guardians still didn't fully trust him.

Since this was brought up, let's be clear about another issue involving a similar error, just as grave: Jean Loring may have been written as a jerk at times, but she was no crazy killer either, and it's utterly disgraceful, and shameful how Smith lent himself to the persecution against her. And that's why I'm skeptical he ever cared about Hal. In fact, based on his cheery reception of Identity Crisis, that's why it's not too difficult to figure out he didn't care about Sue Dibny.

Captain: I have heard the rumors of Hal Jordan returning as The Spectre and after laughing until I passed out, I started thinking about this. And the questions you ask helped me to really think about this.

I think the most important one is: Can Hal be redeemed? After his slaughter of the Corps and Guardians, I do not think there is any chance of this. At least on the level of a normal human being. (Or as normal as can be in comics!)

But let's look at The Spectre character. He has been depicted as being ruthless (turning criminals into glass and smashing them with a hammer, devouring them, etc.) His philosophy was the Old Testament "an eye for an eye." So Hal being beyond the "goodness" of The Spectre is not valid. In fact, I think the idea of anybody being redeemed by being The Spectre is beyond the whole character. As I understand The Spectre, he was always an agent of God. His redemption only came when (or the writer and DC) decided it was time. So thinking that Hal can't be The Spectre because of what bad or even what good he did while alive should
not apply.

Will Hal be accepted by readers as The Spectre? It depends on who writes him. The fad (and maybe it will be a trend) of good writing equaling good sales will dictate if this is successful. The biggest problem I have with bringing back Hal is: Why did DC kill him off anyway? I mean we all heard that he was a stale character, that readers wanted someone younger, more hip to relate to. So not only kill Hal, but make him one of the most evil characters ever? But now let's bring him back, I think Hal is interesting now? This is plain WRONG!

Hey, I love stories that show a flawed character redeem himself, but make the fall from Grace believable. Look at the Daredevil story arc that Frank Miller wrote several years ago in which it showed DD getting his life destroyed by the Kingpin and having to fight (sometimes dirty) to get it back.

Hal did not die a heroic death (yeah, he saved the Earth), but he was selfish to kill off the Corps/Guardians because Coast City was destroyed. Instead of fighting for a worthy cause he fought because what he wanted -- (this) did not justify his actions except in his mind.

If DC wants to bring back dead characters look at how Mark Waid brought back Barry Allen. Barry still died in the Crisis yet his influence lives on.

Hal Jordan as The Spectre would not work.

(Captain's Note: What John Ostrander established in the most recent Spectre series is that the Wrath o' God power is wedded to a dead hero whose anger at God prevents him from receiving his reward (presumably Heaven). When Jim Corrigan learned to release his anger at God for his own unfair death, he moved on to the Pearly Gates. So Hal Jordan as an angry guy makes sense, but after "Emerald Twilight," is he deserving of Heaven? Is he even remotely a hero? Here's a guy who thinks so:)

Well Hal Jordan as Spectre didn't work in sales either; it was cancelled soon after. But again, here's someone falling way short of potentials - he could've made the argument I did, that bad ideas should be retconned away, but he didn't.

Cap: Hal Jordan is one of the greatest characters in DC Comics history. I think he deserves to come back as a hero. People overshadow the good that he did by his evil acts. His home and every thing that he loved was destroyed and he couldn't prevent that. He asked the Guardians for help, but they declined. He took his only other option to gain the necessary power to resurrect Coast City: Take the power by force. Much like Marvel's Magneto, he did what seemed to be right, but he went about it the wrong way. However, he did die saving the Earth, which should re-establish him as a hero.

Sigh. Not without exoneration of those mass killings it doesn't. But hey, what do you expect from people who don't have a clue what kind of message Star Wars relays with Darth Vader. I'd also note this is why I have such a problem with the Phoenix Saga in X-Men. It set a very bad precedent, and now, superhero comics are paying a heavy price thanks to that overrated mishmash.

Dear Cap: His name was Hal Jordan. He was a hero, one of thousands of Green Lanterns who tried to bring peace and prosperity to the galaxy. He failed. As many have speculated, the power ring always drives its wearer insane. It happened dozens of times before Hal. ... So why do we keep crying about Hal instead of all of the others? Because Hal was human. He was one of us. HE WAS THE GREEN LANTERN. Humans have a way of thinking we are invincible to whatever happens to anyone else. We're wrong.

Hal went crazy. He killed the entire Corps of Green Lanterns. He even killed the Guardians themselves. In doing this he proved something without knowing it: Humans have the most potential of any species that has ever been a Green Lantern. With all of our faults, we always have the will power to do what is thought to be impossible. What people say nobody could do. The problem is, this is a bad trait for a Green Lantern. The Guardians learned it the hard way ... by the hand of Hal Jordan.

And still, this is the man that so many want to return? This is the person who people say should regain the role of Green Lantern? Would this be a man you would even want to live in your neighborhood? If not, why on Earth would you want him to be your protector?

Because people won't let go. We don't like change, and when it happened, we were all moaning and groaning about it. Maybe they shouldn't have done what they've done to Hal, but that's not the point. DC Comics should not do what Marvel did to Jean Grey. They should not bring him back, turn him back into a hero, or even have him return as a villain. In the end, Hal Jordan died a HERO. Leave him be.

(Captain's Note: [name withheld] has a point here -- has anybody noticed how many Green Lanterns there have been from Earth? There have been GLs from the same planet before, but generally one replaces another, like Katma Tui replacing Sinestro on Korugar. But at one time there were FOUR GLs from Earth functioning simultaneously: Charlie Vickers from Green Lantern (second series) 55-56 (whatever happened to him?), Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner and John Stewart. And when there's only one ring left, to which planet did Ganthet scoot? Riiiight -- the ol' blue marble. Why didn't he go to the planet which spawned Tomar Re and Tomar Tu? Both were honorable and renowned GLs. There must be SOMETHING about Earth ... !)

Here we go again. Hal's not a hero so long as he's guilty of murder. And come to think of it, neither is Jean Grey if she'd remained pegged as guilty of that stupefying act in the Phoenix saga. Something many people don't seem to ponder: is that truly what they would want Jean Grey to be remembered for? Exactly why I think it's good the story was retconned so that, instead of Jean, it turned out it was a cosmic entity behind those horrific deaths in 1979.

Dear Captain: It looks like DC is trying to kill two birds with one stone: The Spectre without a human host is boring as hell, but too cool a character to get rid of, and everybody wants Hal Jordan to come back, but they can't make him Green Lantern again or it'll look sad and stupid. So someone had the idea to make Hal Jordan the new host for The Spectre. At first, it might seem like a good idea, but ultimately, I think Hal is best left where he is. (That being either dead, or as the crazy time-traveling Parallax.)

The Spectre is a great character, but he does suck these days. Giving him a host that is a dead superhero is a good idea, but I wish they'd thought of someone other than Hal. It stinks of a big dumb DC crossover where changes are made just to boost sales. They're trying too hard to make all those disgruntled Hal fans happy, which is stupid anyway (I say all those H.E.A.T. guys should just shut up and suffer), but it most likely won't work. This isn't the way to return Hal to his former glory.

And let's not forget the murders! Sure, Hal was the best-ever Green Lantern, and his fixing the sun during Final Night was real great, but he still killed thousands of people! If you ask me, it doesn't matter how many lives you've saved, if you've killed that many people, you deserve to be punished, not rewarded with the powers of the Wrath of God. In short, making The Spectre cool again is a good idea, but bringing Hal into the picture just to boost sales and make some people stop complaining not only goes against all good moral sense, but also against good storytelling.

Very interesting: the correspondent is suggesting Hal Jordan fans are all pieces of crap. And he doesn't lament how the writers involved took it to that point. I must shake my head at this stupidity, which I tend to call Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome. Now, here's some with dates again, these being responses to a query on religion, starting with December 9, 1999:

I haven't always put a lot of thought into the religions of my superheroes. In that facet of their fictional life, they are more often mouthpieces for the religion of the author or scarecrows for the author to make fun of than in any other facet of life.

It's rare in any literature for an author to write an intricate and real belief system for anyone not from their own tradition. Instead it's all too common to present watered-down versions that offend no one and resemble no one (see Matthew McConaghey's character in Contact). The other option is to present an over-heated intolerant character such as Warren Ellis's protrayal of Rev. Craig while he wrote Excalibur.

I agree with your reactions to Superman and Batman. Superman grew up on a farm in Kansas and a large part of that small-town upbringing is the Protestant faith. That may not be as true now as it was in the '30s or the '50s, but the small-town stereotypes are a part of the Superman mythos. I don't know about Batman being a nominal Catholic, although it seems to be a pretty cool idea, but he's definitely a theist if not a practicing Christian.

By the way, Nightwing is a Christian. During the first year of his solo series, Dixon and McDaniel snuck some CCM and religious works on his bookshelf. Somebody noticed and wrote in about it. The editor and creators confirmed that they considered that to be a part of his character although it wasn't something that he would wear on his sleeve.

Oh, and Marvel's publicly stated whether or not its characters are atheists or theists. Go and read the Infinity Crusade for the answer.

But I understand why a comic-book company wouldn't want this to become part of a character's public persona. First of all, they want Superman to be everyone's hero, and if there is even a small chance that a Jewish reader, or an agnostic would be offended by a Protestant Clark Kent, they're going to take the easy way out. Secondly, since religion is so often considered a private matter and not a public one, they have a valid excuse for not dealing with it.

The best that we can do is look at a character's history and their general perception of the world and make an educated guess. For that reason, I usually think of Wally (Flash) West as a Protestant as well. Middle-class upbringing in the Midwest. A strong family unit (at least, pre-Millennium). It wouldn't be out of character.

I don't think it should be such a big deal. After all, comics have the freedom to delve into long-dead religions. Nobody but Thor still believes the Norse myths, while at least Aquaman and Wonder Woman have each other: They both worship the Greek gods.

I guess that't part of why I'm sad to see Zauriel go. It's not often that we talk about religion openly and this angel in flesh seemed to be opening up discussion. He was still too often the mouthpiece for the religion of the author (especially in JLA specials not written by Morrison) so I understand how dangerous he could be.

Well, I'm glad that the Avengers are dealing with all of this. The Triune Understanding storyline is raising a lot of issues.

If it seems like I have a lot to say on this subject, that's because I am currently studying to be a minister. I'm in a theological seminary and work as pulpit supply for local congregations without a minister or with one on vacation.

The Captain responds:

So, what do you think of Daredevil's overt Catholicism? And I've always wondered why Thor and Wonder Woman don't draw outrage on their respective Earths -- wouldn't Pat Robertson go absolutely ballistic over a guy claiming to be a Norse god, or a woman who claims to be part of the Graeco-Roman pantheon? Their mere existence would shake monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam to their foundations, wouldn't it?

Anyway, I've always enjoyed it when super-characters have a detailed belief system -- I think any fictional character who doesn't have a spiritual, interior life is simply two-dimensional. We ordinary folks worry about our souls and the afterlife, why wouldn't Iron Man?

Ironically, I feel the same way about sex. Fictional characters who are antiseptically asexual don't have any verisimilitude. For example, if Captain America hasn't ever noticed how good Scarlet Witch looks in Spandex, he simply isn't human and I lose that much more interest in reading about him. I'd much rather he DID notice, and demonstrated his character by showing restraint and maturity. (Given Wanda's current costume, that WOULD be superheroic!)

For characters to be three-dimensional, they have to experience the full range of human experience and emotions. Pretending that spirituality, sex or any other higher or baser urge don't exist reduces them as characters.

Wow, he must sure want Robertson to go literally bonkers over a peanuts and have a tempest in a teapot, eh? And neat trick there mixing Judaism and Christianity in with Islam, because, as any realist knows, there's little chance he'd ever be seriously critical of Islam today. His correspondent offends me by suggesting I'd be offended by a Protestant Superman. *AHEM* I would NOT be offended at all. Christianity was long the majority religion in the USA, and to imply Clark Kent - and/or his adoptive parents - adhered to Christianity would not be out of place. Now for December 16, 1999:

To some extent, both Marvel and DC have tried to deal with the impact of Thor and Wonder Woman in their respective realities. These attempts have been rather limited, partly because comics is seen as an action/adventure-based children's medium. As such, they avoid all but the basic social commentary. Although, (if) that definition of comics no longer holds true, comic books have still been timid about dealing with life-affecting issues, especially ones that won't generate an increase in sales.

(I find it interesting that fantasy and science fiction, which target the same community, consistently involve themselves in social and religious commentary.)

Marvel dealt with Thor's impact on religion primarily in the 2099 books. In this possible future, there was indeed a resurgence of the Norse religion precipitated by Thor's active role in American society. Even one of the X-Men participated in Thor-worship.

The first 2099 crossover, "Fall of the Hammer," continued this theme. One of the cyber-companies developed technology that allowed them to act as gods. They then pretended to be the Norse gods and tried to subjugate New York. They were eventually discredited and demonstrated to be a hoax, but many of the characters continued to believe in Thor and waited for his second coming.

(Another sidenote, Jordan Boone, who was the "Fall of the Hammer" Loki, is still around as Halloween Jack.)

The X-Woman Krystalin was one of the people who continued to worship Thor. This issue returned when her brother, who was the leader of the Black Panthers, became upset with her for not only being deluded by religion but for not choosing a religion from their African heritage.

George Perez dealt with similar issues during his run on Wonder Woman. He introduced a variety of reactions, some of which were very negative. Also, he included a Christian minister and a Jewish rabbi in the cultural exchange to Paradise Island. We saw both of these men struggle with the events that they witnessed although neither of them gave up their faith.

But those are the only examples that I can cite and they are pretty limited, more indicative of individual creators than of the companies.

Instead, comics try to deny religious experience, including that of ancient cultures and long-dormant religions. They aren't alone. One of the early Star Trek episodes featured James Kirk and the crew discovering the Greek gods on another world. They were aliens who had come to Earth and declared themselves gods. (Captain's Note: The episode was "Who Mourns for Adonis") When people's interest in them dwindled, they left in an attempt to find other world's on which they could be loved. That sounds pretty similar, not only to your recollections about Marvel's Norse gods but to Stargate. One by one, the mythologies of the Greeks, Norse and Egyptians have been relegated from superstition to superscience. Although I have no vested interest in any of those groups, it is indicative of our cultural trend to deny our religious nature. Anything supernatural can be explained by science.

As to why neither Marvel nor DC have dealt with it more explicitly, I assume they've done so for the same reason that Superman has never openly admitted to being a Christian or tried to share his faith with Kyle Rayner or the Martian Manhunter. DC would never do so because they are afraid of offending any non-Christian who might have Superman as a hero.

At the same time, neither Marvel or DC wants to offend any Christian who might read their books. Controversy may help a movie like The Last Temptation of Christ or Dogma find a larger audience but those audiences don't generally stick around for the next effort of Martin Scorcese or Kevin Smith unless they were fans before that film was released. Marvel and DC publish periodicals, and much like a magazine or a newspaper, they avoid offending people because those people are part of a permanent readership. Kevin Smith isn't worried about Dogma II, but a newspaper or comic book has to be concerned that the readership comes back for the next issue.

All of that is a necessary preliminary to answering the question, "What do you think about Wonder Woman and Thor's impact on religion in their respective universes?"

I think that it would have an extremely turbulent affect on the world. Not only would they undermine many monotheistic belief systems, but they would completely contradict atheism and wreak havok on Buddhism.

Buddhism? Yes, Buddhism believes that we are all god, and by meditation and good living, our reward is to return to Nirvana, the state in which all of us are god together. Seeing a being who claims to be a actual physical god denies the very foundations of Buddhism.

Obviously, the appearance of either Thor or Wonder Woman would be received by rampant skepticism. Most people would consider it a hoax. Marvel shows people protesting the inclusion of androids or mutants among the Avengers, but atheists and monotheists alike would have to object to Thor, who is clearly not sane, if their beliefs are correct.

Of course not all of us react in an identical fashion. It would be safe to say that religious extremists would have a violent reaction. If people are willing to kill Martin Luther King Jr. for saying that people of all colours are equal, they would most definitely have the same reaction to Thor. Extreme Muslims blow up the World Trade Center. Extreme Christians shoot doctors who perform abortions. I would say that either group would try to assassinate Thor.

A few groups would be fairly unaffected. The resurgent animistic religions of Native Americans and Hinduism are both fairly open to the presence of other gods and religions. They wouldn't convert en masse, but neither would their faith be shattered.

More rational and less violent Christians would find themselves in one of two camps. The first is a camp that recognizes the plurality of religion and relegates the Judeo-Christian Deity to just another pantheon. I don't think it's a stretch to say that many secular humanists and atheists wish that Christians (and to a lesser extent, Jews and Muslims) were already in that camp.

That is also the way that DC Comics is pushing. In the recent storylines of Day of Judgment and Wonder Woman's "Godwar," the Christian heaven is put on the same level as the pantheons of ancient Greece and of Hinduism. Actually, in the storyline, the army of angels and the hosts of heaven are considered more powerful than either the Greek or Hindu gods (presumably because they have more people who believe in them) but they are basically in the same realm of reality.

DC's parent company Time Warner is also letting this opinion become prominent, having published several letters in this week's Time which state that Genesis is just another mythology like any other.

By the way, if some of the more fundamentalist Christian groups actually read comic books, DC might've already found itself the target of one boycott or another. Luckily, they're not quite a mainstream medium.

So, many Christians would now recognize the plurality of religions. Some would behave in the same way, reasoning that God will still protect his followers just as Thor will protect those who believe in him. Others would stop practicing Christianity because it's claim to absolute truth seems to compromise its validity. And others may indeed convert to the Norse religion, reasoning that they have more proof of Thor's existence than of Jesus Christ. And whether or not Jesus existed, what has he done for us lately?

But I doubt that all Christians would so easily jump into what I called the first camp. The second camp would include those who insisted that ultimately there is only one God and this is the God described in the Bible. Similarly, Jews would cling to the Torah, and Muslims to the Koran.

This can be rationalized, or just accepted by faith. According to the Bible, God created everything. Included in creation are angels. But we also know that some of those angels rebelled against God and were kicked out of heaven, primarily Satan (and now Asmodel, for all of those JLA readers).

This leaves the second camp with two options. First, Odin and Zeus and the other gods are fallen angels. They too were kicked out of heaven, either as a part of Satan's crew or in a separate incident. Now, it's reasonable to believe that some of those who rebelled against God with Satan would eventually rebel against Satan and strike out on their own. They have, in turn, set themselves up as independent gods to be worshipped by people in specific regions and have kept out of the great struggle between God and Satan.

In this option, Odin and Zeus would know full well that they aren't gods. Thor, as the son of Odin, and Wonder Woman, as a creation of the Olympians, may be unaware of the truth. They would believe that Odin and Zeus are gods, but be misled.

Secondly, the Bible talks about other principalites, spirits and powers. These do not fall into the standard category of angels and devils (who are fallen angels). They are also created by God although we don't know why, and they may or may not be aware that they are created. This leaves open the possibilities that they are minor deities, god with a small "g," who serve an unknown purpose in the greater plan of God. This last option would seem to be what Stan Lee was aiming to assert. He wasn't trying to deny Christianity, which is still the majority religion in the United States. At the same time, he didn't want to compromise Thor, who would be a deluded fool in most of the other options.

Finally, this last option means that the presence of either Thor or Wonder Woman does not necessarily undermine monotheism. It does mean that the spiritual world is a lot more complicated than the Bible lets on or than we've traditionally believed.

Seeing as we're dealing with fiction, I won't object to DC's portrayal of Christianity as just another pantheon. It does after all reflect a common view in our society.

Oh, and I'll keep collecting Wonder Woman and Avengers, especially Avengers. It's easily my favourite book as it features my creative dream team.

P.S. Oh, and Diana is the Roman name for the Greek goddess Artemis, just as Jupiter is Zeus and Pluto is Hades, and so on. So Wonder Woman's name is just as mythological as Hippolyta, although it happens to be one of those that has survived until now. By the way, the Bible mentions that the city of Ephesus was famous for its silversmiths who would make statues of Diana. They beat up the apostle Paul because by converting people to Christianity he was undermining their economic livelihood.

Whew! That's quite an analysis, [name withheld]! All I can add is the following:

1) You might be interested in John Byrne's Wonder Woman novel (yes, novel) Gods and Goddesses. In it, he takes the easy way out by having the negative Christian response to Diana's existence be the product of hypnosis at the hands of Ares, but it still has some decent debates in it. And there's a touching sub-plot about a disillusioned minister (his wife has died) who actually finds reafffirmation of his faith by visiting the Escher-like Mt. Olympus. After all, as Diana says, who created Zeus? God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.

2) Speaking of Byrne, he says he doesn't understand the objection to having God in a comic book. He says that as soon as you introduce God in a comic, he becomes a character -- and thus NOT God. Since the Judeo-Christian God is by definition infinite and unknowable, any character limited by his inclusion in a comic book necessarily wouldn't be Him. That may be semantics, but it may explain the subtext of your comments about the angels and the mythological pantheons being somewhat on the same level.

3) Stan Lee used to have Thor reassure folks subtly that he knew that the Norse gods were little-g gods, and answered to a Higher Power just like folks on Midgard. That seemed a comfortable approach to me -- because otherwise Thor is A) REALLY a deity, and we ought to be polishing our hammer amulets right quick; B) fooled by Odin, which isn't very heroic, or C) clinically insane.

4) Earth X -- which may or may not be canon -- has established that the Norse pantheon is comprised of shapeshifting aliens, who assumed the shape and form of gods, ice giants, trolls and the like because they used the existing belief system in Scandinavia as a template. And apparently they DO require worship to exist, as a form of energy.

5) I'm still curious why Thor worship hasn't sprung up spontaneously on Marvel-Earth -- until 2099, when Thor has been absent for so long. Maybe it's the old story of the prophet having no honor in his native land. Come to think of it, Jesus had a little problem in that regard!

6) I would be uncomfortable with Superman proselytizing to Kyle Rayner or Martian Manhunter. Discussing belief systems, sure, but not pressure to conform. After all, it's the Justice League, a secular group, not the Christian League. It would also be out of character for Clark Kent, with what is presumably the quiet faith of Midwest Protestantism, to be pushy about it. (That's probably farther than you meant to go, but I just wanted to express that opinion.)

7) In regard to your postscript, I was aware that Diana was the Roman name for Artemis. The continuity question most fanboys have is why WW has a Roman name, when all the gods and Amazons go by their Greek names. The most recent revamp answered that with the Diana Trevor character.

Again, that correspondent - same as before - insults my intellect: I wouldn't be bothered one bit if Superman were a Christian, and I'm not bothered about Daredevil, Vixen and Nightcrawler being Christian adherents either. In fact, I'll even argue there should be more Melkite Catholics seen in mainstream, and it doesn't have to be just superheroes who adhere to that branch; it can be co-stars too. In fact, it might be more effective that way! His weird moral equivalence of Judaism and Islam is also stupefying and stultifying, since there's atheists out there who would like to see Judaism sitting in a nasty camp, yet consider Islam the less concerning, and don't care how atheists have been victims of Islam just as much as Judaists and Christians. What's more, some of the fictional pagan deities in DC and Marvel have been shown as vulnerable to injury - and possibly death - so it's not like they're being depicted as almighties at God's expense. Next is January 6, 2000:

Hey Captain: I just heard that Ben Affleck could be cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman for the next Batman movie. The movie might be an adaptation of "Batman: Year One" or Batman Beyond. I say how about going the other way -- instead of casting a young Hollywood hunk, what about an older actor and base the movie on Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns? I think Clint Eastwood would be perfect for the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. He still has the physical presence for the role, (and) can't you just imagine that weathered face peeking out from behind the mask? Then after the Dark Knight movie Warner Brothers could make Batman Beyond with Clint mentoring a young Batman. Well, what do you think? I'd like to hear some casting suggestions from other readers. Keep up the good work, Cap; love the webpage.
For the record, the Batman Beyond movie will be animated, and is due out in November. And Affleck has responded to the Batman rumor by saying it's concocted out of thin air, that he's never been approached about doing Batman, that he never demanded girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow be Catwoman, and that "somebody must sit in a room and make this stuff up."
Hmm. I suspect he's exactly right.
As for Eastwood, he certainly has the grit for a Dark Knight role -- but not the bulk. I'd prefer to see him as the aging Bruce in a live-action Batman Beyond film (a pipe dream, I know).

It’s now 2014, and the chances Affleck could be chosen are no longer a rumor. But they’re not very exciting either. Not that I expect Smith to admit that, though.

Having said that, I do think a lot of alleged Bat-fans were awfully stupid to voice hostility to WB choosing Affleck to play Batman. Never mind I’ve lost a lot of respect for Time Warner as a conglomerate, they have no idea how to draft the best ideas for a superhero movie anymore. In fact, I’m not sure they ever did. Next letter:

Dear Cap: I read your announcement on the (12/23) front page and I thought I'd weigh in on a few things:

As much as I liked how you presented the news items (even the videogame news!) I'd have to agree that you're better off spending time on other things than regurgitating Your Man @ Marvel and Mania.com. Ultimately it's the information itself that's important, even though most comic site webmasters don't seem to have a clue (present company excluded).
I sincerely hope you don't try to take too much on -- I mean, you have a life too! Might I suggest rather than more frequent updates, that you might lengthen slightly your Mailbags and Q&A's? Perhaps you can get your columnists to spread the output out over the whole week, rather than serving the whole enchilada only on Thursdays? Just some suggestions ... the suggestion to be more expansive with the columns would apply equally to them as your columns.

You're absolutely bang-on with your comments about comics web sites. I find it incredibly frustrating that comics folk (who I would have expected to flourish in this visual medium) really haven't taken advantage of the web, and those that have tried are more of an embarrassment than anything else (Mania, Diamond, Marvel, DC, Wizard and until recently and still to a certain extent The Comics Journal). Yours is a rare exception -- I count it alongside SEQUENTIAL TART, Dark Horse and COMICON.com among the better sites.
COMIC RECOMMENDATIONS: I don't know if it's been discussed in any of your (or your columnists') columns, but I've bought FOUR copies of GOODBYE, CHUNKY RICE during the holidays to give to my dearest friends, plus one copy for myself, a sure indication of how highly I regard this book. It's a beautiful, moving and genuinely sweet work by newcomer Craig Thompson. The first comic that ever made me cry, and my pick for the best comic of 1999, followed afterwards by Bryan Talbot's astonishing HEART OF EMPIRE.
Thanks for all the suggestions, [withheld]! I'm still undecided about updates. Occasional updates would be more convenient for me, but a steady update seems more convenient for you, the readers. The floor is still open for suggestions. And I'm afraid I missed out on Chunky Rice, darn it!

If I were him, I’d feel quite glad I missed out on Craig Thompson’s mishmash, after the embarrassment he penned years later, called Habibi.

That said, what a pity the writer assumes he’s a true expert in his field, when a man who cannot be objective about atrocities like Identity Crisis and Civil War is just not the best source to rely on even for management of comics websites. Some of the co-writers Mr. Smith had back in the day were okay, but his commentary, if anyone’s, was PC at its most terrible, and that’s no way to provide coverage for comics. Mr. Smith was, for lack of a better description, just a J. Jonah Jameson in real life, and still is.

But hey, at least Wizard is no more.

Hi, Captain Comics: First-time e-mailer here. I think it's pretty interesting how characters such as Thor and Wonder Woman didn't raise more controversy than they did way back when they were created. Well, I guess there is more sensitivity now as far as this goes.
Y'know, I have always gone back to Roger Zelazny's novel Lord of Light (first printing 1967) as a prototype for a superscience god-like pantheon. It is the Hindu pantheon which is assumed by the first settlers on a new world. They covet the superscience which gives them their powers and deny it from their descendants who populate the world. When Brahma pauses in a conversation to light a cigarette, it puts the whole thing in perspective. That little scene, early in the novel, tells you the reality. It is superscience, which may be mistaken as something else, but we, the readers, know the truth. It's possible that the character who believes himself/herself to be Brahma, thinks that he/she is Brahma, but we, the readers, know otherwise. Because Brahma doesn't need a cigarette.
But science becoming religion? That is an important issue. It is a perfect issue for the comics medium. It is NOW. It was back in 1967.
Captain Comics Axiom No. 235: Never confuse science for religion, and never confuse religion for science.

I assume the guy who wrote this letter is referring to Scientology, but given how Orwellian and abusive its followers are, that’s exactly why it’s almost as bad as Islam, whose own beliefs in science are very poor (and “leap years” are not recognized in its system), and whatever contributions they made collapsed many centuries ago.

Dear Cap:
1) Beyond even the concept of Norse and Greek gods walking among us, why isn't Superman worshipped? If he appeared today, wouldn't he seem like the Messiah to you? I mean, he even CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD! (Obviously, from the reader's standpoint, he is the Christ character in the DC Universe, as seen in Kingdom Come. Unless Captain Marvel's sacrifice of his life would make him Christ on the cross. Sticky, huh?)
2) Star Trek also did an episode in which a planet was discovered that was analogous to '60s America, where it's inhabitants worshipped the Roman gods, but persecuted a cult that worshipped "the Sun." As Uhuru pointed out at the end of the episode, it wasn't "... the sun in the sky. It's the Son of God." Just to point out that Trek wasn't totally secular in it's approach (at least not the first generation).
3) The Watchmen would probably fair best if you DIDN'T promote it as based on a comic book (see: The Matrix; compare and contrast with Mystery Men).
4) The modern Superboy seems to exist in part to lend credibility to the Superman-as-telekinetic theory. Also, in the retooling of the Superman origin, it was specifically pointed out that he could lift more weight when flying (levitating?). It would also explain his method of propulsion when flying (something no one ever seems to question or try to explain).
1) Resurrection is so heavy with symbolism that you certainly have a point. But I can rationalize it away by noting that in the DCU 1) Heroes are resurrected all the time; 2) Many people might consider it a "hoax," which is also a constant in the DCU; 3) Superman is an alien, whose non-human physiology explained away his resurrection in strictly secular, scientific terms, and 4) How many Christians would accept an alien as the Son of God anyway? They'd probably think he was the Anti-Christ, if anything.
2) I considered Star Trek one of the most moral shows of its time.
3) Yeah, I have to agree. Playing up the comic-book angle to a Watchmen movie would probably drive a lot of people away. Personally, I'm still hoping for a TV miniseries with a big budget.
4) Yeah, Superboy as a telekinetic sorta gives it all away, doesn't it?

There’s already been a Watchmen movie, and it was advertised as a comic book movie. Regardless, what brought it down was that it was just plain bad. I didn’t care for the source material either. The 1987 miniseries was excruciatingly slow, and by the time I reached the end of it, whatever point Moore was trying to make collapsed. All he was saying was that heroism was negative. On top of that, it was simply aggravating.

I find Mr. Smith's assertion that Christians would think of Superman as an anti-Christ insulting. If Judaists, Orthodox included, could accept an alien/humanoid as a Son of God, why wouldn’t Christians? By default, I’m Orthodox, and if I lived in a sci-fi world, I’d be fine with all that, because if Superman could be resurrected, so too could people more mortal, in terms of what we think when believing in the coming of the Messiah.

Once, I might’ve considered Star Trek the most moral show on TV, but today, I think of it as little more than a pathway to too much liberalism, which certainly kicked into gear after The Next Generation premiered. That show sometimes seemed to think mankind should outgrow religion, and not for the right reasons.

Cap: I mentioned in Cavalier's Notes No. 57 that I hate Pokemon. Here's why. It is not that the concept is marketed to the point of insanity. It is also not that the phenomenon has inspired a bevy of knock-offs. Both of those also fit Power Rangers (which I never really cared about), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which I liked), and The Transformers (which I love). No, I hate Pokemon on moral grounds. Allow me to explain.
The idea of Pokemon is that humans capture these creatures and force them to combat each other for entertainment.
At best, this is forcing animals to fight each other. There's plenty of precedent for this in human history. Heck, some parts of the world still
have cockfights. As far as I know, every civilized country -- "civilized" being a relative term -- has outlawed animal combat for entertainment
purposes.
At worst, it is slavery. From the little bits of the cartoon that I've seen, the Pokemon themselves seem to be intelligent. Maybe even intelligent enough to be sentient. To enslave sentient creatures and force them to fight each other is the lowest of the low.
Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that's truly how I feel about it. Despite my pointing out how much kids enjoy Pokemon, I hope everyone will resist giving related merchandise out as gifts. I have three young cousins that all love it, but I'm finding other things to give them rather than feeding this frenzy.
I never thought much about the moral implications of Pokemon. I was turned off immediately by the "Gotta catch 'em all!" approach, which was (to me) the collector mentality bereft of any enjoyment or comparative appreciation of the subject matter involved. So I've pretty much ignored the whole phenomenon. But what you describe is appalling. What do the rest of you out there think?

Curious that GI Joe receives no mention here. At one time, I might’ve thought highly of Transformers, but today, compared to GI Joe, it's way behind on the road. I sure don’t like how Bumblebee and Goldbug’s designs were based on the Volkswagen Beetle. UGH! Give me a Citroen BX-16 any day.

Pokemon may be an amalgam for slavery, but why do I get the vibe the correspondent there has no problem by contrast with Islam’s slavemongering beliefs and supremacist mentality biased against “infidels/kaffirs” (non-Muslims)? I don’t care for Pokemon either, and think Nintendo’s really blown it with this kind of crap, but views on morale can’t be limited to just entertainment venues.

Dear Cap: And you're already sick of Pokemon. Well, Brace yourself for the next Japansese toy invasion force. The only thing that could have made this article more strange is if it had be run on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.
http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/1999/12/13/poop/index.html
The Salon article is about the fascination Japanese children have with feces. Toys, bracelets, stuffed animals, good-luck charms -- all shaped and colored like turds and given cute names. It must be a cultural thing, because from this Westerner's eyes it's inexplicable. Not to mention revolting!

So is Mr. Smith’s embrace of Identity Crisis with its one-sided angle towards women, so I’m not sure why he has such a problem with disgustingly shaped toys. Come to think of it, I haven’t found him saying hentai and ecchi gimmicks are revolting, so that can cast doubt on his sense of morale too!

Dear Cap: I wonder what would happen to the comic-book industry if one could have done any or all of the following actions during the first time that comic books were appearing as public material.

Take books like Planetary, Astro City, X-Men, Birds of Prey and any comic book that came under the Milestone banner to the time when comic books were written during the Golden and Silver Ages.

Comic books have gone through evolution where stories are created with the intention to develop both the plot and characters. There is always danger to playing around with the past. But if one could go back then, it would be so interesting to see what would have happened. The curious thing is that they may not have had the same successful results as a certain Man of Steel has had. They may have been considered to be "too radical" as concepts in a time when people needed action figures who could show that they can save the day and the everyday trials of life touched them not. One may have heard "maybe in the future but not now because -- "

Funny is not? What do you think?
To paraphrase the old expression about people getting the governments they deserve, I think different eras get the comics they want. The reason we have lame books like X-Man now is because somebody -- a whole lot of somebodies, though nobody seems to admit it -- is buying it. By the same token, a Strangers in Paradise is semi-successful because the market is open-minded enough to accept it. To address the other side of your suggestion, SiP or Birds of Prey would have had a hard time getting past the chauvinism of the '40s (and still has some trouble with that now) so even if we could send them back in time, they probably wouldn't sell.

Yeah, we do have quite a few somebodies, don’t we? Including a certain blatant fellow with the gall to call himself a “captain”, who goes around putting money into the pockets of undeserving people for the sake of books like Identity Crisis. As for SiP, that whole book strikes me as a mess of leftism, though I’ve seen worse going around.

Funny he thinks BoP wouldn’t get past the chauvinism of the 40s, since Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl debuted at the time, the former succeeding as well as it did, and the latter adding much to Hawkman’s own tales in Flash Comics, becoming one of the first ladies to take her role from one first begun by a male protagonist.

Dear Cap: My first act as a member of the Legion of Superfluous Heroes is to declare my excitement about Gorilla Comics. I've been a fan of these eight creators (Busiek, Perez, Grummet, Wieringo, Waid, Kelly, Kitson and Kesel) for a long time, and can't wait to see what they do in their own creator-owned line. What are your thoughts?
I'm thinking that creator-owned work is the wave of the future. Why should any creator in 2000 America endure what Jack Kirby and Siegel & Shuster did? We know better now!
I think major institutions like the networks, mainstream newspapers, big-brother comic-book companies and the like are going to learn the hard way that quality creators/employees are going to demand larger and larger slices of the pie -- or just publish their own stuff a la Gorilla Comics. To take an even longer view, Marvel and DC might even end up simply publishers of leased properties with no creative staff or characters of their own, like regular book companies are now. After all, most Golden Age characters start going into public domain around 2030, so the very concept of a publishing company claiming to create and own a stable of characters might become passe.
Of course, I could be wrong.

Ironically, he is: he’s the one who embraced DC and Marvel’s political correctness in the years following this statement. And while I’ve been a fan of Waid’s past work, his recent work explains why that can no longer be so.

Hey Cap: First off, a clarification. The clarification is that you were right, I never meant to suggest Superman would go around proselytizing his fellow JLAers and getting on their nerves. However, as comrades-in-arms who share life and death adventures, I think those in the JLA are more likely to discuss life and death issues with their co-workers than say, someone who works in a bar or for a newspaper.
Since J'onn J'onzz and Kal-El share similar backgrounds, it seemed reasonable to believe Kal would explain how he came about his faith. And I mentioned Green Lantern because, although Kyle is one of my favourites in the JLA, he is also pretty aimless when it comes to matters of life, instead of life and death. By the way, if you read the recent 80-Page Giant, Kyle told one of his teammates that he was raised Catholic. I found it an amusing consequence that we've spent a couple of weeks discussing why the Big Two avoid topics like religious affiliation and then this gets thrown into a sort of throwaway story.
And finally, I have to rant about DC's indecision as to whether or not Kingdom Come is the "real" future, a possible one or just an Elseworlds. Believe it or not but this ties up complaints about Atom-Smasher's new costume and the disappointing end of The L.A.W.
When DC produced Kingdom Come a couple of years back, all of fandom breathed deeply in awe as they discovered one of the best comics ever made (there's a reason why Wizard lists The Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, Marvels and then Kingdom Come as their top four). Unfortunately, a number of fans pestered DC to declare this the "real" future as if being in continuity would in some way make this a better story.
I always hoped that DC would never do so. Not that I'm so enamoured with possible futures like the X-Men's "Days of Future Past." Instead, I recognized that Kingdom Come's history makes better history than current reading. That's a convoluted way of saying that for DC to make Kingdom Come a "real" story they would have to go through one of three possible options.
Option one, introduce Magog into one of the books and then have all of DC's in-continuity books age 10 years because we know what's going to happen. For example, Young Justice No. 20 would take place before Joker kills Lois Lane and Superman goes into retirement. Then Young Justice 21 would take place after the United Nations dropped a nuclear bomb on the Justice League's battalion. All of the team would have aged 10 years, as the future would become the present. Quite frankly, it's a big headache.
Option two, introduce Magog into one of the books and then run through the events leading up to Kingdom Come in comic-book time, real time, or in sped-up time. If it's been 10 years since the FF took that flight back in Fantastic Four 1, then a comic-book year takes roughly 2 1/2 to 3 years of our years. Of course, it's amazing how comic books, like soap operas, can speed up time, so that Dolphin's pregnancy lasts a couple of months and an infant Franklin Richards is suddenly going to kindergarten. No matter how DC plays this one, we are treated to a year, or 10 or 30, of pre-Kingdom history. And that means the Adventures of Superman on the farm. That means Orin retiring and letting Garth become Aquaman. That means a lot of things which are a lot cooler as exposition in a mini-series than they would be on a montly basis.
And let's be honest, that means back-tracking on a lot of characterization. While the big guns like Supes and Wonder Woman were characters with real depth, a lot of others were filling iconic roles required by the story. When writers try to push the characters toward those iconic roles, they often lose more than they gain. The best example of this is Roy Harper. By becoming Red Arrow, he is in every way Green Arrow's sidekick all over again. But Roy Harper is more than that. He's a father. He's had experience working with the government fighting the drug trade (imagine Oliver Queen working for an agency and collecting a pay cheque). And he's explored his Navajo heritage. Devin Grayson recognized that Arsenal is a lot more interesting than Red Arrow, and undid a lot of Dan Jurgens work in Teen Titans. I'll much rather watch Roy develop and Devin play with him, than have him remain stagnant so that he can fill his role in Kingdom Come as Green Arrow's replacement.
Quickly, option three is admitting that any print medium is dead, introducing Magog, saying read Kingdom Come to find out how it ends, and going out of business before you're forced out.
Now back to option two, because DC seems to be choosing this path. Sometimes it's really cool, like Vic Stone getting the Omegadrome as his new body and becoming a gold Cyborg. But more often, it's a disappointment, such as the problems I mentioned above.
If you don't believe that DC is slowly working towards Kingdom Come, you didn't read The L.A.W. Ted Kord quits being the Blue Beetle. Captain Atom changes from his cool silver look to the Kingdom Come yellow and red. Oh, and over in JSA, Nuklon's new name and look are also courtesy of Kingdom Come (by way of Bane and professional wrestlers everywhere, I believe).
Quite frankly, this will never work out well. None of the books will progress at the same rate. So while the Charlton characters are being sped towards the end, Nightwing, Flash and Plastic Man are pretty far away from having the children that grow up to be Nightstar, Kid Flash and Offspring. That means, either DC has to say Kingdom Come is just an Elseworlds, or that Cap Atom, Atom Smasher and Ted Kord are stuck for 20 years.
John Byrne has been quoted as saying his biggest regret about the X-Men was "Days of Future Past." It has been revisited so many times and has led to so many mediocre stories that he wished he was never a part of it.
As anyone who has seen Terminator 2 knows, the future is a lot better if we don't know what's going to happen. I loved Kingdom Come. I've read it more often than any story in comics. And I enjoyed a couple of the Kingdom specials. I hope to read more about Nightstar, Kid Flash and Offspring, but I don't mind it just being in Elseworlds or Hypertime or alternate stories. The future is a lot better if you don't know what's going to happen. In comic books, getting there is all the fun.
I think Marvel and DC both have taken Option Zero, which is to make both Kingdom Come and "Days of Future Past" possible, but without doing anything to get there or to contradict them, either one. This is, of course, the most stagnant and creatively restrictive option available.
On a more practical level, Kingdom Come is still impossible as long as Oliver Queen remains dead. Which, from what I hear, will cease to be the case as soon as Kevin Smith writes his GA opus.

They’ve taken Option Zero alright, but not quite the way he describes it. Rather, they’ve taken even KC and thrown it all away post-New 52. And even Smith’s take on GA is no more. Yet the new take is little better.

Dear Cap: This isn't a trivia question or anything like that, I just wanted some feedack. I was curious to know if anyody else is as disappointed with the new JSA series as I am. It really sucks, in my opinion. The 1991 Strazewski-Parobeck 10-issue limited series was the perfect JSA story. It had the very interesting classic JSA-ers returning from limbo to find a very different place. They had to worry about younger heroes replacing them, and getting older fast due to their enchantments wearing off, finding their place in the '90s, etc.
This new series has none of that. It only has three classic JSA-ers (Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat) and they barely do or say anything at all. In fact, hardly any of the 10 or so characters do anything. What a waste. It's like reading a Sand solo series or something. I'll admit, Sand is a pretty interesting character, and was the sidekick of an original JSA-er, but I want to read about the JSA, not him.
The first two issues weren't too bad, but 3 and 4 just had them act like robots and fight and fight and fight Mordru. Issue 5 was just about Sand, and 6 had them act like robots and fight and fight Black Adam. I can't say what happened after that, cause I won't be buying JSA anymore. The only reason to buy this comic is to see Alan Davis's covers, but I can't really afford to do that.
Is there anyone else who feels the same way?
To be honest, I have no use for Sand. His personality is a blank slate, and his esoteric powers have no historical resonance with the team (which is important with a group whose major attraction is nostalgia). And I certainly would like to see the older characters have more to do -- and, more importantly, more to say. I simply DO NOT believe that an Alan Scott is going to step aside and let an untried, untested youngster like Sand lead the team. He's likely to get them killed, and besides, older men REALLY don't like taking orders from young Turks. Sorry, it's a fact of life. If you don't believe me, try to tell your dad what to do sometime. Further, as an "older character" myself, I sure would like to see a story or two that reaffirms that 1) people over the age of 22 are still useful, and 2) experience really does count. Does EVERY comic book have to feature a "coming of age" storyline about some know-nothing twentysomething? I'd like to see some variety of focus, and it seems JSA would be custom made for that. But somehow, I don't think that'll happen.
Up to now I've resisted criticizing JSA, though, because 1) I'm so pathetically grateful to see the team finally treated with some dignity, and 2) I think we're feeling the powerful void left by series founder James Robinson's departure. I'm willing to give the new writer a chance to find his feet.
I do agree with you that the Strazewski/Parobeck series was a high-water mark, but it had one fatal problem: It didn't sell! And no matter how good WE think it was, DC is not going to waste any more money on a failed concept. Hence the revamp. (Further, Parobeck is deceased, so there's another reason you'll never see a revival.)
As to Flash and Sentinel (and to some degree Wildcat), I suspect we don't see much of them for the same reason Captain America is often absent in Avengers and Cyclops is downplayed in X-Men: The writer finds them boring. I imagine Goyer will concentrate on "his" babies (Sand, Star-Spangled Kid, Hawkgirl) and not the old hands, whose history and character have been set in stone by other writers. That's not what I'd like to see, but it is human nature. So I turn to Flash for my Jay Garrick fix, where they're not afraid to allow old people to be competent.

The reader’s opinion on JSA is interesting, since 15 years after the title was first launched, I’ve had to reassess my opinion on it too. Even before Geoff Johns became a co-writer, it was pretty weak with James Robinson as a co-writer, and I’m galled they decided to throw Wesley Dodds into oblivion, rather than write a story where he could die a natural death (even an auto accident could work better). Sure, Dodds may have committed suicide to avoid being smashed by a supervillain (Mordru), but that was still veering towards cliché.

Johns took over as co-writer, yet in the end, the series did not find any feet. Even a guy in a wheelchair can find feet more easily. Indeed, I can’t say JSA ever developed much character drama under his penning with David Goyer either. And whatever they did, it was thrown away very quickly after Lyta Hall came out of her coma.

And after all these years, Smith’s been proven wrong about the 1991-93 JSA books not selling. As was discovered, the editor (Mike Carlin) put the kibosh on Strazewski’s series because he didn’t think a story spotlighting older folks was what DC should be selling. Yet this is the same company that saw nothing wrong with killing off Yolanda Montez and Beth Chapel, the second Wildcat and Dr. Mid-Nite respectively, and a much younger protagonist, during Eclipso: The Darkness Within. As a result, I highly dispute their honesty on that too.

I find it pretty laughable how Mr. Smith suggests Sand would only get the JSA killed. I guess that’s what Nightwing did with the Teen Titans too, huh? And I disagree with his assertion Jay and Alan would be completely opposed to anybody taking their top spots, as though new youngsters couldn’t qualify or be trained to do so. Captain America, while technically “older” than some of the other Avengers, did train and recommend some of the younger peers for leading the EMH at times when he was off on his own solo adventures. Doctor Strange is easily one of the oldest heroes in the MCU, and he didn’t lead the Defenders in each and every story. In that case, there’s no need to put down Sand, and besides, Mr. Smith’s scuttled his whole argument by failing to argue he wishes the writers would do a better job with his personality development. That aside, yeah, I’d concur a number of JSAers were depicted robotically, and the fight against Mordru wasn’t very well written either. For which we have Robinson and Goyer to blame, or maybe the former, more than the latter? Mileage can vary.

Let’s proceed now to January 13, 2000:

Dear Cap: Rather like Thor's using "Zounds" (God's Wounds), Marvel Preview No. 22's having King Arthur referred to as "King of England" is similarly misplaced. Though most of the readers did not catch this flaw, it is a big mistake.
This issue ("Merlin," by John Buscema and Doug Moench) caused Robert E. Rodi of Oak Brook, Ill., to write in noting that there was no place on Earth called England when King Arthur was supposed to be around. Arthur (if he existed) was referred to as "King of Britain" or "King of the Britons" The Britons were the Celtic whites who ruled the island of Great Britain (which was named after them) before the coming of the Germanic tribes like the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians -- who were the enemies of King Arthur.
The aforementioned Germanic whites eventually renamed part of Great Britain Angleland (England) once they had conquered it and settled down for a while. But having King Arthur, the warrior king of the native population, be called the "King of England" would be like having a Native American hero shout "We fight for America!" or having DC's Polish-freedom fighter Blackhawk shout "We fight for Germany!"

(Incidentally, as a Celtic white, I find it odd that the English, who are Germanic whites, keep alive a myth of a hero, namely King Arthur, who was opposed to their Germanic ancestors' campaigns of conquest. This is unique, since, in the U.S. -- also a predominantly Germanic white country -- we do not have equally famous stories of Native American warriors, and in Germany -- obviously a predominantly Germanic white country! -- the Blackhawk comics, which detailed a Slavic white's war against Germanic agression, did not sell well.)
Your point about Arthur being king of the Britons (or Brythons) is quite right -- the term "England" came about much, much later than the 5th century during which Artos Rex supposedly lived.
However, your distinction between Celts and Angles/Saxons has me puzzled; BOTH were Germanic whites, just different tribes.
According to anthropologist Charles Squire (Celtic Myth and Legend, Poetry and Romance, Bell Publishing) there were two distinct human stocks in Britain during the Roman conquest. The first inhabitants were of North African stock -- "short, swarthy, dark-haired, dark-eyed and long-skulled" fellows who crossed over from the Iberian peninsula during an ice age that lowered or eliminated the English Channel. (The modern-day Basques are relatives, and you can trace their language back to the Hittites.) It is still the predominant racial group in the western parts of Britain (primarily Wales) and Ireland.
However, the second group to come over were the "exact opposite to the first. It was the tall, fair, light-haired, blue- or gray-eyed, broad-headed people called, popularly, the Celts, who belonged to the 'Aryan' family, their language finding its affinities in Latin, Greek, Teutonic, Slavic, the Zend of Ancient Persia and the Sanskrit of Ancient India. Its original home was probably somewhere in Central Europe, along the course of the upper Danube, or in the region of the Alps." (pp. 20-21). There were two main groups of these, the Goidels (Gauls) and the Brythons (Britons), who migrated from Gaul (France) but had originated, as noted, in Central Europe and were Indo-Europeans (Aryans) of Teutonic/Slavic descent. In other words, Germanic tribes.
Of course, by the time the Angles, Saxons, Frisians, Jutes and others started settling Britain, the Celts and the Iberians had interbred to some extent. And the Goidels (who referred to themselves as the Celtae when battling Julius Caesar in Gaul), had a distinct dialect from the Brythons (who referred to themselves as the Belgae to Caesar, who in turn called them Galli, or Gauls), which survives today in the Gaelic languages of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. So I'll give you that there was a great chasm between these two separate waves of German immigration. Still, to my mind, both Celts and Saxons could legitimately claim King Arthur as a kinsman. And by the time the Arthurian legends took root, all of the peoples in Britain considered themselves a separate culture from anybody on the continent, German or otherwise.
Of course, Arthur's Battle of Badon Hill was famous (if it actually happened) for pushing out the Jutes and their Saxon allies for a whole generation, so I understand your overall point. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs.

All he’s doing is insulting the Celts, I’m afraid. Does being “fair haired” automatically make you Germanic? Guess what? It doesn’t, and there have been French/Portuguese/Scottish/Irish with dark hair too. Even Slavics can have blonde hair without immediately being Aryan, as he infers. Why do I get the feeling Mr. Smith’s trying to come up with some kind of moral relativism and equivalence?

Dear Cap: Re: mailbag of December 9, 1999
<<"Mud Pack" took place in Detective 604-607 (1989), and I went through every issue of 'Tec from that point to present (sob!) without finding your Karlo story. The obvious inference here is that the story you remember so fondly took place BEFORE "Mud Pack." Either that, or I missed it, or it took place in another Bat-title. If the former, though, he clearly survived the story.>>

Secret Origins, circa No. 44, did an issue on all of the Clayface villains, which gave a text piece noting that Basil Karlo had appeared in Detective Comics 49 AND Detective Comics 495 (which was published before the Crisis, a fact which I will refer to later). The story this reader was looking for had to have been in the latter issue of Detective Comics ... after all, since the Mudpack took place post-Crisis, the story that was just described would have had to have been one that would have to be pre-Crisis that it could be punted aside for Karlo to appear alive in the Mudpack.
(But,similar to the Hawkworld syndrome, DC flopped on its initial position on what was post-Crisis. After all, Who's Who Update '87 No. 5 notes in the Appendix under Clayface I: "Basil Karlo was killed by actor-director John Carlinger, who then committed murders in the guise of the first Clayface himself." So, initially DC considered the story to still be valid post-Crisis, but later decided that it was not valid post-Crisis ...)

(On religion:)
The best that we can do is look at a character's history and their general perception of the world and make an educated guess. For that reason, I usually think of Wally West as a Protestant as well. Middle-class upbringing in the Midwest. A strong family unit (at least, pre-"Millennium"). It wouldn't be out of character. During the Interregnum (the period of time from approximately the publication of History of the DC Universe to just before the publication of The Kingdom) a story was published circa Flash 59. In it, the Flash's mother was married to an Italian man. It was noted that a Methodist minister had to be used due to the fact that one person was a Lutheran and the other a Roman Catholic. (Actually, there would not have been much of a problem; the Roman Catholic Church mostly worries about interfaith marriages due to the issue of what faith the child will be raised in; it was unlikely that at her age the Flash's mother would be having more children.) As Lutherans are not common in Italy, it seems clear that the Flash's mother, and by extension the Flash, was/is a Lutheran.
Re: December 15, 1999
Pre-Crisis, in around Action Comics 370, there was a story which showed that Superman, who had previously been said to have low-level hypnotic powers, had been subconsciously mesmerizing people while Clark Kent, as the lenses of his glasses (which had been made from the screen of the ship that brought him to Earth) had somehow affected these low-level hypnotic powers.
Various Mailbags (Minor quibbles)
<<(Thor's) very existence undermines monotheism, on which the top three world religions are based.>>
By this, do you mean Christianity, Islam and Judaism? For if you did, it would be a little strange: Judaism is not really a major world religion. There are only about 20 million Jews worldwide. On the other hand, Hinduism and Buddhism -- neither of which are monotheistic in any conventional sense -- have many more followers.
I suppose though, one could say that Judaism has been more influential than Hinduism and Buddhism, and not just relying on racist crackpot theories from the World Church of the Creator ... After all, he's a heck of a lot less remote than Jehovah.
Yahweh is actually more correct than Jehovah. Jehovah is a mistake popularized by the King James Bible and from there by the Jehovah's Witnesses; Orthodox and Conservative Jews use Yahweh.
Re: Dec. 9 Mailbag:
Ah! Finally a real clue to finding the Basil Karlo story! I looked it up, and it was actually Detective 496 that featured John Carlinger killing Basil Karlo in "Murder on the Mystery Ship!" (1980). Since Carlinger isn't mentioned as a Clayface in "Mud Pack" or any subsequent listings of the many Clayfaces, you must be right that DC did an about-face about recognizing that story. Basil Karlo was alive and well in the "Mud Pack" story almost a decade later.
Re: Dec. 15 Mailbag:
As to Clark Kent hypnotizing people into not noticing his resemblance to Superman (extending even to his career on television!), it's my understanding that Byrne dumped that idea in the 1985 Man of Steel revamp, as it was deemed somewhat unheroic to have Superman indulging in mind control.
Various Mailbags:
Oops! I misspoke there on the religion thing. I should have said that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are three important religions that are monotheistic, without regard to size. I'm certainly aware that Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism and dozens of other religions are not monotheistic and are quite large.
And thanks for the clarification on Jehovah and Yahweh -- I always assumed the two terms (and the unpronounceable YHWH) were interchangeable. Now I know better!

He puts Islam in the same boat as Judeo-Christianity? What a head-shaker. Again, I assume he considers the Koran’s opinion of Judeo-Christians and other non-Muslims (Sura 98:6) – to say nothing of Muhammed’s marriage to a 9-year-old girl – perfectly acceptable too? Shameful.

For the record, he may not think it’s heroic for Superman to hypnotize people into not noticing resemblances, but neither is it heroic to obscure the most horrific verses of the Religion of Rape.

Dear Cap: This is about religion in comics. I myself have a problem with how it's presented. I think the writers (except for Chuck Dixon) are being heavily lazy. Take Day of Judgment, for instance. Or JLA 6-7.
These stories take more from Dante than the actual Bible. Now while the latter story was very entertaining (I never read DoJ. It doesn't interest me), it strikes me that these guys are taking the easy way out. I'll admit that it's probably easier to read a European poet's translated wares than read an over-1000 page Book. But I would want some work from these guys. Geoff Johns may be a talented writer for all I know (I never read Stars and STRIPE and don't read JSA) but he didn't go all the way.
I interpret Zauriel to be an "angel" like Thor is a "god" -- both cosmic beings of considerable power. Asgard and the Nine Worlds like the Seven Heavens. The Presence is a skyfather like Odin. Mind you, judging from Zauriel's expressions ("Christ give me strength!") he is a Christian. I get my impression of this from the simple fact that in JLA 6 Asmodel had The Presence distracted. (Depending on your denomination's beliefs) God is omnipotent.
Another thing that bugs me here is the indication that none of these "servants of God" have actually read His Word. If either Spectre or Zauriel had read the Word of God then they would be securely in the know that neither a Final Night nor Magetto could have whomped Earth. Dost thou here me, writers? I accuse thee of sloth!
"Sloth"? That's as good a name as any. Personally, I'm uncomfortable with reducing the Judeo-Christian God to a "skyfather" like Odin. I mean, it's one thing to have "gods" from obsolete pantheons like Hercules and Thor, but when you drag an existing religion into things, it gets sticky. I'm no more comfortable with the Judeo-Christian God being "distracted" than I would be with depicting Buddha or Brahma in a way contrary to Buddhist or Hindu scripture. When you mess with people's religions, you're just asking for trouble.
On the other hand, as John Byrne argues, as soon as you include God in a comic book, he becomes little-g god, just a character in that comic book, and we can always pretend he's some guy named god, not the Biblical God.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with a real life version of J. Jonah Jameson whitewashing and appeasing Islam, and/or failing to show any clear knowledge of the Koran’s verses.

This is an interesting letter, but Johns has long proven he’s not a talented writer, only a charlatan. Day of Judgement was embarrassing because it appointed Hal Jordan the Spectre without absolving him of the guilt of mass-slaughtering hundreds upon thousands of GL Corps members. Alan Scott was featured approving the idea by saying “it feels right”, but if no proper steps were taken then to exonerate Hal, or even to reverse the GLC’s fate, then it all crashes to earth like unheeded messages from the afterlife.

Dear Cap: My newest rant concerns preview comics. I know they come out to generate interest in upcoming titles, but they really turn me off. I was thinking about picking up Steampunk, but I didn't want to buy the preview issue (Catechism, or whatever it was called). The same thing happened with Rising Stars, I had the chance to get the first issue, but thought I might have missed some of the story. The worst case of this was Danger Girl No. 1, which had a recap page! It was supposed to be the first issue, but I was walking in halfway through a story! In my opinion, preview issues are even worse than number zeroes, which is still pretty ridiculous. Remember when buying the first issue meant you were reading the FIRST issue of a comic?

I agree strenuously, [...]: "One-half" and "zero" issues that can only be purchased by coupon or somesuch burn me up. How do you know if you've missed one? How do you file one? If you don't get it, how do you know what you missed? And since they're usually only offered through Wizard (or perhaps Dynamic Forces), that means I have to buy the darn $5 magazine, then fill out the coupon, scare up a stamp, wait 6-8 weeks, blah, blah, blah. Worse, as I discovered from Avengers Casebook 1999, the zero and one-half issues are IN CONTINUITY NOW! I actually missed part of the Ultron and Triune Understanding storylines because I didn't get the Avengers 0 from Wizard! Boy, am I steamed!

Suuuurrrre he is. He hasn’t complained in his newspaper columns about the dire situation of relaunches and reboots that are destroying mainstream comics in this day and age, so I don’t buy his blather for even a second. In his so-called effort to sound like he’s got authority to speak on the subject, he only rounds off a big zero. And with that, we proceed to January 20, 2000:

Dear Cap: To add my two cents on the JSA: I, too, am extremely disappointed with this new series. Rather than following the Starman mold of revisiting DC's legacy in some kind of intelligent, character-driven manner, it's collapsed into just another superteam-saves-the-day series. I'm sick of this stuff. And I have to say, I feel really cheated that James Robinson is off the series ALREADY!! I have not enjoyed Goyer's influence on Starman, and feel like Robinson only did the first few issues to get people like me to start buying it.
That having been said, I think the series has (or had) potential. While I, too, like the Strazewski-Parobeck series, I'd rather see a new team of younger heroes; it seemed to unrealistic to be reading about superheroes in 1991 who fought during World War II. And some of the new characters -- Sand, Atom-Smasher, Hawkgirl -- could be great. In fact, I think Sand's kinda neat. But it's just being handled so haphazardly. Black Adam comes to town, the JSA rips up 53rd Street in the process of defeating him, characterization gets tossed out the window, The End. WHO CARES?!
Starman's going to end soon and we desperately need a series to make coherent, intelligent sense of DC's past. Sadly, it doesn't look like JSA will be it.
By the bye, whatever happened to Robinson's plan of doing The Silver Age, as a follow-up to The Golden Age?
Since Robinson is leaving comics to write movie screenplays, I doubt we'll ever see The Silver Age. And Robinson says his leaving JSA after just a few issues was just how things worked out, but the cynical side of me has to note that he stayed on just long enough to give his protege and successor a sales bounce on the first few issues. There's nothing wrong with that, of course -- except, as you noted, how used it makes me feel.

Wrong, Robinson hasn’t left comics for movies at all, and neither did Scott Lobdell; they soon came back. As for Mr. Smith’s lament of being “used”, I feel that way about Starman too, after all these years! Why should the correspondent feel cheated when Robinson was a pretentious writer to start with? (And to think he’d shove a line into the premiere issue where Jack Knight would insult his father Ted’s costume, along with David for wearing it! Even if he hadn’t insulted his dad directly, he still managed to do just that, while Robinson insults the audience with something that doesn’t work well in a surreal world.) Even if Robinson remained and Johns didn’t take over co-writing chores with Goyer, I’m at the point where I just can’t care about JSA anymore.

Dear Cap: I have to add my voice to the din made by those dissatisfied by JSA since James Robinson left. I just don't find most of the characters interesting (specifically Hawkgirl, Atom-Smasher, Star-Spangled Kid & Hourman), and I feel the older characters are neglected. How could JSA be improved? The same way X-Men, JLA, Avengers & Titans could be improved: Cut down the team roster.
There's this mindset in the writers and fans of team books these days that more is better. The new JSA already includes Sentinel, Flash I, Wildcat, Starman, Dr. Fate, Hourman, Atom-Smasher, Black Canary, Star-Spangled Kid, Sand & Hawkgirl, and they're going to add Doc Mid-Nite & Mr. Terrific -- that's 13 members! JLA has 14 members (16 if you count The Atom & Hourman) and Titans has 11. X-Men & Avengers have these amorphous rosters, where any past member can show up at any time, depending on the whims of the creators & editors involved.
Of these titles, I think Titans manages to juggle its characters best. I thought issue 12 was chock full of action, character bits and spotlights. Each issue of the series has focused on a small part of the team, with the most recent story bringing it all together. Still, they don't need Changeling, Damage, Flash, Argent or Starfire.
Kurt Busiek & especially George Perez do a good job balancing the comings and goings in Avengers, but regular appearances by old members and new characters (let's see ... since the formation of the new line-up in issue No. 4, they've had Giant-Man, Wasp, Squadron Supreme, Triathalon, Silverclaw, the Thunderbolts, Firebird, all those dead Avengers, the New Warriors, Beast, Black Knight, Photon, Black Panther and issue 25's gratuitous and pointless appearances by Spider-Man & Nova), while fun, can be too much. It's nice to see Perez draw them all, but very few have contributed much to any of the stories. While I like Avengers, keeping a regular, stable roster could make it even better.
Most of these humongous conglomorate teams come about because of fan nostalgia, whether real or imagined. Does it make for better reading? Not in my opinion. Look at Planetary: Three members, and it stands head and shoulders above JLA or JSA. I think fans will grow tired of this trend of team overload, and it will eventually end.
Interesting point about "team overload." I remember in the late '70s that the consensus of opinion int he industry was that the perfect number of members on a team was seven. I dunno how this came about, but just about every team for about half a decade had exactly seven members (except the FF, of course). Of course, the arbitrary number seven is no better than the "mo' = mo' bettah" concept you describe. The number of members should be dictated by the needs of the story, not editorial diktat.
My personal feeling is that virtually every team can be improved by returning to its original concept/membership. I know, that's not exactly original, but it really seems to work. The "back to basics" approach worked for JLA (the Big Seven), then Avengers (the Big Three, plus the Vision/Witch/Wonder Man triangle), Young Justice (a return to the Teen Titans concept of the '60s) and especially with the Titans. It even works for the X-Men, if you consider the "original" membership to be the team as it was re-introduced in Giant-Size X-Men No. 1. (The 1963 original membership was kinda dull.)
The Titans, especially, have benefited from this approach. I've never enjoyed a single incarnation of the Titans since the days of Robin, Aqualad, Speedy, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash. Oh, OK, some of the Wolfman/Perez stuff was good -- until they tried to turn the Titans into DC's version of the X-Men. The Titans AREN'T the X-Men -- or the "Junior Justice League" or anybody else. They are five old friends with a really weird shared childhood -- and that's who I want to see. Sure, you can toss a Johnnie Quick or a Damage or somebody in there to stir up the mix and add new character arcs -- but the main focus is and should always be the Big Five and their relationships.
At the risk of being overly simplistic, I'll go so far as to say that most teams require A Guy With A Vision to have any reason to stay together at all. For me, the Avengers without Captain America is not the Avengers -- it's The Defenders or some other non-team. Ditto for the X-Men without Cyclops, the Titans without Nightwing and the JLA without the Martian Manhunter (or Superman). Those characters (and their symbolism) define the group, and without those defining characters, the team ceases to have a raison d'etre.
Oops! This is turning into a rant -- and after all, it's just one guy's opinion.

And not a very good one, alas. More to the point, his claim Wolfman made the Titans into X-Men is way off base. They did try to compete with the X-Men’s popularity back in the day, but they were anything but another X-Men team. Oh, I won’t say there weren’t mistakes made (particularly towards the end, when Donna Troy and Terry Long were broken up), but Wolfman handled it well enough during the 16 years it was in publication. The correspondent's take is pretty awkward; the newbies aren't very interesting, while the oldies are neglected? Why wouldn't the former be in the same situation as the latter, and vice versa?

And is he saying the Avengers cannot be without Captain America? Or JLA without Superman? Please. That’s only suggesting the rest of the cast has no worth, rather than basing the judgement on writing quality.

Team overloads are a legitimate concern (although the correspondent is still coming up short on realization the writers are responsible for failing to make the characters interesting), but in all due honesty, I’m not sure Mr. Smith really cared, since his later embrace of Geoff Johns contradicted that.

Dear Cap: In your last Q&A section you thumbs-downed an idea for a series on Young Bruce Wayne, describing it as a Fugitive knock-off that would be 'moral oriented' and probably too much on the sweet side (I am paraphrasing heavily). I would have to agree that is how it would probably turn out but that's not how it has to be.
A series of books currently dominating the New York Times Bestseller List concerns the teenage years of a young wizard named Harry Potter. I know, I know, I love the books myself but even I am getting tired of hearing the name, but think about the plot for a sec. Young boy lost his parents to evil, is now schooling himself to be a wizard with the inevitable end of facing the evil that killed his parents. It's a seven-book series, each book a year at Wizards School, and each book dealing with a boy one year closer to adulthood. It starts sweet but the author has promised that the final book, when Harry is 18, will be seriously scary.
I think this is the perfect parallel to the young Bruce Wayne. Yes, he was traumatized by his parents' death but he was still just a boy. I am sure he still had some fun in his younger days. I think that as he got older and into more serious aspects of his training, his life got much more intense. I would like to see a cartoon series that jumped around through Bruce's teenage years (since we probably wouldn't get a series long enough to watch him age 10 years).
Episode 1 could be Bruce at 10, maybe learning gymnastics, being fairly light hearted, learning all the social skills that the adult Bruce knows so well. Then Episode 2 could jump to year 15 and have him caught between having a social life and focusing on more intense forms of combat and science studies. Episode 3 could jump back to year 12 and have a comic tale of how Bruce learned to pick a pocket or a lock.
There's a good long 10 years to pick from filled with flashbacks, clues to the past and the occasional recurring character. Having it jump around could avoid any set chronology, and I think would make different phases of his darkness seem more obvious. But anyhow, even if jumping around is too offbeat there are still a lot of way to tell the story right
I quite agree that a well-done series about young Bruce Wayne would be dynamite -- and there are any number of approaches I would characterize as "well done." I just don't think TV, being what it is, would use any of them. And I'm not alone in that opinion. Here's what Bat-writer and novelist Greg Rucka (Batman: No Man's Land, Detective Comics) said in an interview with the Batman: Defender of Gotham web site interview:
<<BDG: There has been talk recently of a Bruce Wayne TV series which could lead up to a Batman: Year One movie, do you think this might be the way to restart the live-action Batman franchise?
[Name withheld]: If it was done very well, a year of say, 22 episodes, in which the final four are Bruce`s return to Gotham ... that could be good. But I don`t believe it`ll be done well, and I don`t believe it`ll be anything other than Young Bruce Wayne 90210. >>
And as for Harry Potter -- am I the only one that thinks the premise is waaaay too similar to Vertigo's Books of Magic?

Ugh, I can’t stand Rucka these days, because his left-wing MO ultimate spilled through into his work. As for BoM, who cares? If Neil Gaiman wrote it, I’m not particularly enthused today. At this point, I can’t even bring myself to care! And why doesn’t Mr. Smith suggest a comics miniseries focusing on young Bruce Wayne, rather than a TV show? Better to begin at home, that’s what I say.

Cap: Just to throw another wrench in your questioning of Black Canary's age, she was definitely in her thirties in the early days of Birds of Prey (when it was a series of miniseries -- I haven't read the ongoing). It was a plot point (and dropped ball) in The Ray, because for some reason, she slept with him; while he was extremely excited by having been with this older woman, she immediately regretted it, and then sort of just disappeared from the book.
(As a result of reading The Ray and its almost stream-of-consciousness plotting, I vowed never to actually pay for a book written by Christopher Priest again.)

Black Canary slept with THE RAY? I don't remember that! Whatever FOR? And how did it get past the editors?
What obvious wish fulfillment on the part of the writer! Don't all adolescent boys wish for a gorgeous older woman to "show 'em the ropes?" And aren't they all disappointed? Older women really have little interest in geeky, spindly, snot-nose, whiney, sad-sack teenage males (which is exactly how I viewed Ray Terrill). The only exception I can think of is Mary kay Letourneau who went to jail for having kids by one of her students -- and she is clinically insane. Gah -- I thought better of Canary than that! And I thought better of Christopher Priest, too -- I rather enjoy his Quantum & Woody.
Now that I think about it, I do remember Canary guest-starring for a couple of issues of The Ray. But since I absolutely hated that book -- largely for the reasons you describe -- I was just skimming my comp copies by then. Must have skimmed by the sex scenes. I would never have bought or read The Ray if they weren't comps, and I'm sorta sorry you told me!

Wanna bet he’s not? Yeah, the Ray might’ve been a dud, but so says the reporter whose grasp on morale is as dubious as anything else.

Cap: I just read the letter by [withheld] about DC's progression towards the Kingdom Come continuity. You pointed out that Kingdom Come is impossible as long as Oliver Green stays dead. You also forgot another thing that recently occurred that is actually a movement away from the Kingdom Come future and makes that future impossible. The thing I'm talking about is the death of Wesley Dodds in JSA Secret Files No. 1. As you know, in the beginning of KC, Dodds dies and his visions are passed to Reverand McCay. In current DC continuity, Dodds has already died and his "power" for visions has passed to Sand. In order for KC to be the future of the DC Universe, Dodds has to be resurrected (not the most absurd thing ever to occur in the DCU, I admit) and his power returned to him. Now, while we all know that Ollie will be back, I have my doubts that Dodds will be.
Great point, […]! I had forgotten about ol' Dodds.
And here's some more -- the currently deceased Oliver Queen has a teenage daughter with Black Canary in Kingdom Come. But OUR Canary, after the events in Green Arrow: Longbow Hunters, is incapable of bearing children. Also, The Spectre in KC is Jim Corrigan, whereas it's Hal Jordan in 2000 AD. Again, all this can be fixed with a few strokes on a writer's keyboard, but as long as Dodds and Ollie are dead, Corrigan has gone to his final reward and Canary is sterile, then KC is still impossible whether Roy Harper is called Red Arrow or Arsenal or Jack the Giant Killer.

BC was soon capable of bearing children again in Birds of Prey at least a year after this letter, when a trip to a Lazarus Pit restored Dinah’s Canary Cry. Eerily, Mr. Smith and another reader’s use of “Red Arrow” predates what the horrible Brad Meltzer used for Roy in JLA in 2006, in a story featuring an insulting fanfic-ish affair between Roy and Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders.

And Wesley Dodds’ exit in JSA’s premiere was one of the most insulting I’ve ever seen, even if he committed suicide rather than get killed by that supervillain! Most of these errors, however, cannot be fixed with Dan DiDio and Bob Harras in charge, and the New 52 in effect.

Dear Cap: First, I hope you enjoyed your holiday season. Glad to see the site back up to full stride again. Secondly, I am happy to see that my off-the-wall comments about the religion of Superman and Batman has stirred up such an interest. Since we should never talk about religion or politics in polite society, why don't we bring up the question of superheroes' political leanings?
I feel that a vast majority of your average mainstream superheroes are extremely conservative. Despite that fact that they are usually written by liberal writers, it is hard to argue against the conservative tendencies among the super people. The average superhero is anti-big government, anti-drugs, pro-life (most hold life very sacred), and anti-crime. Batman is extremely right wing in all of his views save for gun control. During the '80s, Superman was frequently seen with Bush and Reagan. When is the last time you saw Supes at the White House since Clinton took office?
The average superhero probably shares alot in common with the average police officer. I have been in law enforcement for several years and most policemen are quite conservative.
I don't mean to upset anyone and this is just a theory. Also, it doesn't (or shouldn't) really matter either way. I am a conservative thinker (oxymoron?) but I thoroughly enjoy titles with liberal leaning heroes such as Starman (Jack Knight) and Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) as long as these characters and their beliefs are believable.
Some other subjects:
Kingdom Come. A letter writer recently asked you about DC's attempt or presumed attempt to make the Kingdom Come future the official future of the DCU. Indeed, their have been some changes made in the DCU to indicate a leaning toward KC. Speedy was Red Arrow (at least in costume) for awhile and Nuklon is now Atom-Smasher. I don't think that this trend is anything to worry about. DC has ridden this horse before. After Miller's Dark Knight series first came out, all of DC was attempting to force Miller's version of the Superman/Batman relationship on the readership. Not to mention the Batman/Dick Grayson relationship. Neither one truly felt "real" to me. I suspect that other readers felt the same as the aforementioned relationships are greatly changed (and don't mirror Dark Knight) today.
Mongul II. I saw in the Superman books that there is a new Mongul, son of the original. What is his origin? And what happened to the original Mongul? Last I saw him was in DC Showcase. In that series, he was marooned on a dead planet (which he killed) with only himself and two of his offspring.
Brief note on continuity: I agree with you that poor shipping schedules take away from the quality of a book. I was a big fan of Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen until that title's poor record turned me off. Because of Gentlemen, I am enjoying Marvel's Blaze of Glory (the only Marvel title I buy) even more.
[…], I ought to be thanking you for the Superman/Batman religion question. Not only has it stirred up a spirited debate on this site, but I used it in the column that appeared this week, and has attracted up MORE thoughtful, engaged fans. What fun!
I also agree that most superheroes are relatively conservative. Odd, isn't it? Comics creators and comics fans have a reputation for being fairly liberal, yet all the heroes are relatively conservative. It was one of the reasons Green Arrow was such a surprise in the '70s. And, despite his rhetoric, his actions were still pretty reactionary. I mean, he's a vigilante!
However, one of the reasons I lost interest in GA in the '80s is that he became a spokesman for the crackpot ideas of every writer who handled him. As a result, he was really schizophrenic -- sometimes arch-conservative, sometimes ultra-liberal, but mostly just an irritating loudmouth.
Kingdom Come: That was discussed above.I'm not really worried -- DC would have to do another Zero Hour to set up the pieces properly for Kingdom Come.
Mongul: I'm stumped! I remember Mongul biting the dust, but I don't remember WHERE. Anybody out there remember?
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Solicitations for LoEG have been canceled for issues 5 and 6; issue 5 is being re-solicited for April shipping. I don't know why, and it has really doused my interest (and my wife's) as well.

With all due respect to the guy who wrote the letter, fictional characters cannot be “conservative” or “liberal” on their very own. It all depends on how the writer chooses to depict them.

And despite what he thinks, IMHO, most superheroes in both DC and Marvel have been portrayed as anything but conservative, even if they don’t use the labeling per se. But I’m glad he alluded to the apparent liberal leaning cast upon Jack Knight. That’s something I hadn’t really thought about years ago, though to be fair, my reading of James Robinson’s take on Starman was limited back when, and, as of this writing, I only own the first trade collection of the 1994-2000 series. But after nearly a decade since I’d bought it, I’ve been rereading it, and concluded that it’s not the big deal some made it out to be. After all, the saga of Jack Knight saw the demise of his brother David, and later 3 members of the JLA at the hands of Nash, the Mist’s daughter (I don’t think their family name was ever given), and finally, both the original Starman Ted Knight and the Mist near the end of the series in a final showdown. Why does nobody want to follow the example seen in Jim Starlin’s graphic novel, The Death of Captain Marvel, where Mar-Vell of the Kree died from cancer? Robinson also retconned Mikaal Tomas, the Bronze Age Starman, into a gay humanoid and depicted Nash drugging and raping Jack Knight, later giving birth to their child. That sexual violation was one of the most bizarre ideas ever seen in a fantasy adventure, and alas, pretty fanfiction-ish too.

I strongly disagree DC would have to do another Zero Hour to fix things; at the very least, they shouldn’t force every book to be a spoke in a wheel. What they could’ve done was follow a onetime example by Marvel, to rework each hero and cast’s origin background’s individually. If it worked for Marvel, why wouldn’t it work for DC?

Dear Cap:
1) I know that one can read all kinds of animal combat or slavery issues into Pokemon, but you might think differently if you knew more about the guy who invented it. He was a lonely kid who used to play a lot of video games as a kid, and when he was out of quarters, he would collect bugs. This was just a way to unite his two loves. As any kid who collected bugs can tell you, the collector ends up projecting personality on them so that they're more interesting. It's the same as naming your teddy bear (or your car). I won't defend Pokemon on every level, it seems to promote brutal competition, not healthy capitalism, but I don't think it's either barbaric or that it supports slavery.
2) Gambit isn't a hero, he's a rogue. However, enough people want to be like him that they'll keep buying books with him in it (and come on, how many people prefer the rogue, Han Solo, to the hero, Luke Skywalker?). I like Gambit, but I don't think that the current creators on that series care for him at all and it shows. I stopped collecting it after issue two.
3) In response to [withheld], I love Treasury Editions and other Archives, but I haven't bought too many of DC's Archive editions. It doesn't have to do with the weird size. Superman:Peace on Earth and Batman: War and Crime fit right in with my Tintins. But with the $39.95 and $49.95 price tags, I don't usually have that much money lying around, especially when I can pick up other trade paperbacks for 20 bucks.
4) I haven't been particularly impressed by JSA either, but I love some of these characters so much that I'm willing to be patient. The upcoming story with Obsidian looks pretty interesting. I just wish that they wouldn't tease us with Jack Knight so much. If he's on the team he should be in the book, if he isn't on the team, maybe he shouldn't be on the covers.
1) I don't think Pokemon is animal cruelty either, really -- you can make most anything sound ridiculous by boiling it down to its basic elements, which is what I think [withheld] was doing. Examples: Batman & Robin? A man and a boy who spend their nights on rooftops in halloween costumes looking for shady characters. Wizard of Oz? A teenage girl runs away from home, kills the first person she meets, then hits the road with three strange men. Pokemon? Teenagers train imaginary animals to fight for their amusement.
But I loathe Pokemon so much that I will gleefully make rude remarks about it at any opportunity.
2) Oh, I'll go with the whole "charming rogue" thing -- but Gambit's gone beyond that, to my mind. Han Solo is a charming rogue. Gambit is an out-and-out criminal. Maybe I'm just getting old and serious, but after Gambit's involvement in "Mutant Massacre," I can't think of him as a hero, charming rogue or not. And before you argue that Gambit was unaware of Sinister's plans -- well, he didn't really care at first, did he? In fact, his whole SOP was to take lousy jobs with no questions asked and was proud of it. With an attitude like that, sooner or later something like the Massacre was bound to happen. You lie down with dogs and you get fleas. And he has lied to the X-Men at every opportunity. And, for God's sake, he's a professional THIEF! (P.S. I hate Deadpool, too.)
3) The Archives are expensive, but they are just about the only way I'm ever going to read those Golden Age stories, so I keep buying 'em.
4) Starman's a member of JSA? Really? I thought he was just a supporting character! In fact, I think he appears to be a supporting character in his OWN book!

Indeed, Jack Knight probably was by the time the book had ended! But I’ve long stopped caring as I came to realize Robinson is an incredibly overrated writer, and I doubt Mr. Smith had any issue with his writing regardless.

While the argument about Gambit’s retconned indirect role in the Mutant Massacre is valid, I find it a shame that yet again, Mr. Smith failed to declare his disappointment in Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza for engineering that whole debacle. And him loathe Pokemon based on its premise? Suuurrre he does. Not if he embraces Identity Crisis he doesn’t.

And the letter writer loses me when he says the Obsidian story looks like it’ll be very interesting, when in fact, it was such a stupid excuse to turn Todd Rice into a quasi-psycho, Ian Karkull’s brainwashing influence notwithstanding. Sure, it was reversed later, but neither Johns nor anyone else knew what to do with him, except turn him homosexual, which added nothing to the character beyond what was already worked on by Roy and Dann Thomas. In fact, all DC’s modern contributors did was insult the two creators after all the hard work they did back in the mid-80s. And later, the insanity heaped on Todd boomeranged briefly when Bill Willingham took up the writing for a short time. Whatever brilliance Willingham brought to his Fables franchise, he failed horribly to bring into the DCU proper, and after Bat-fans were angry at his poor treatment of Stephanie Brown and Leslie Thompkins, he insulted them.

Time to look at January 27, 2000:

Dear Cap: (In reference to Batman having the only chunk of green kryptonite) Didn't Luthor get that back about two years ago with a simple (and annoyingly lame) slight-of-hand trick? I think it was during the Superman Blue story when Supes found out kryptonite didn't affect him in that form.
Y'know, when I wrote that column, I was thinking of the recent "Superman: King of the World" storyline, wherein I remembered Batman producing the K. But on double-checking, you're right -- Batman had FAKE kryptonite, produced by Luthor. I skimmed through the Superman Blue stories without finding the "sleight of hand" you're referring to, but I did find a recent issue wherein Luthor buried the real green K in the foundations of the Hypersector. So, yeah, it's Lex who's got the goods. Thanks for the correction!

If only Mr. Smith understood what a FAKE spokesperson he is for comicdom!

Dear Cap: Mongul was killed by Neron in Underworld Unleashed No. 1, basically to show us what (how bad) he was.
Thanks, […]! You really live up to your name! Maybe you can tell us when Luthor got the green K, too! Now, some thoughts on Batman's religion:

I think Mongul was resurrected a short time later in Superman’s pages, and joined by MonGAL! As for Mr. Smith, maybe he can tell us why he thinks J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow are his influences! Now about those religion issues:

Dear Cap: I enjoyed reading your column today (with) just one little nit to pick:

<<But how was he raised? Well, lets see: His parents were rich and moved freely in the upper stratosphere of East Coast society in the 1940s -- that means probably Christian. And Batman is motivated in part by survival guilt so I'm leaning toward Catholicism, where mea culpa is taught from an early age.>>

If DC's America has any similarities to ours, there was a lot of anti-Catholic bias in its history. By the '40s, I think (I'd have to go check) it was starting to ease off, but as late as the '60s people could still argue that voting for JFK would give the Pope total control over the U. S. I have trouble picturing a Catholic Wayne family being fully accepted in high society, money or not. My vote would be high-church Episcopalian/Anglican, which is basically the same as Catholicism as far as beliefs go but would have been more socially acceptable.
And:

Dear Cap: I've enjoyed your column for years, ever since I found it in law school (Yale, from which the pre-Crisis Bruce Wayne also got his law degree, according to a mid-'70s Detective!), and I thought your column on superhero religion was an absolute blast. It jogged my memory back to an old (1950s?) Batman time-travel story where he met his ancestor, "Mad" Anthony Wayne, a revolutionary war hero. AW was from the British elite families who colonized the area around Philadelphia, and he is buried in the cemetery appropriate to the Wayne family's wealth, status and pedigree: St. David’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Radnor.

I gotta say, BW's obsession with the darker side of human nature makes me wonder if he wouldn't be more at home in hardcore Calvinist Presbyterianism, although there IS an ardent, albeit relatively small group of Calvinists even in the contemporary Episcopal church.

All of which only goes to show, Cap'n, that it's possible for a man to spend way too much time in graduate school and comics shops both!
Is it POSSIBLE to spend too much time in a comics shop?
Anyway, that's two votes for ol' Bats to be Episcopalian (or Anglican) with a Calvinist slant, which is probably right. However, I still LIKE the idea of his being Catholic, just to have one more way for him to be opposite Superman. And since he's fictional, we can believe what we want!
And I, too, remember that old "Mad" Anthony Wayne story. I read it as a reprint in a '60s Batman 80-Page Giant, so I don't know when it originally ran. But '50s is a pretty safe bet -- a decade which has all been retroconned away by Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour. Sigh.

Since some, if not all, the writers make more sense than Mr. Smith does, I decided it worth posting their old items here too. Today, there’s still a lot of anti-Catholic bias turning up, but what they fail to ponder is that a lot of it comes from the leftists!

Anyway, here's another opinion:
Dear Cap: You wrote:
<<And Batman is motivated in part by survival guilt -- so I'm leaning toward Catholicism, where mea culpa is taught from an early age.>>
I am just wondering what the survival guilt you were referring to was. By survival guilt, were you were referring to the association of Roman Catholicism with the plight of (1) the less well-known but in some ways more substantial suffering of the Poles under (A) the regimes of the Prussian Lutherans (one-and-a-half-times; the first under Frederick the Great through Otto Von Bismarck's kulturkampf, the half under the Nazis, who were Bismarck wannbes), (B) the Russian Eastern Orthodox czarist empire, and (C) finally as a satellite state of the atheist Soviet Union; (2) the somewhat better-known, though possibly less substantial (as British liberalism addressed quite a few of their problems towards the end, and they managed to have a revolution -- which doesn't happen when times are at their worst, but when they are getting better!) suffering of Irish Roman Catholics under the British.
This would seem to point to the Batman's ethnic heritage. However, the
recent Batman: Scottish Connection seems to point to the Batman being of Scottish descent, making him more likely a Presbyterian. However, there is still room for dichotomy between him and Superman if Superman was, say, a Baptist or Methodist. Baptists and Methodists are perceived as being more "lower class." (Of course, this is just a perception; William J. Whalen in the book Separated Brethren has noted that general perceptions of the economic well-being of any religious group is not always true; there are, for example, more upper-class Baptists and lower-class Anglicans than one would expect.)
I suppose one could also find room for the "unforgiving God that you believe in" (as Hal Jordan said to The Batman in Final Night 4) in the classical formulation of Calvinism. Of course, modern Calvinists, and even the Massachusetts Bay Colony Calvinists, have long since modified such a view of God. Incidentally, Jim Corrigan (Spectre) seems to have been a Presbyterian.
(A side note you can post: The only Polish superhero I can think of, Blackhawk, never had his Roman Catholicism dealt with until an issue of Secret Origins which dealt with his bitterness to the Roman Catholic church and subsequent atheism; Blackhawk does not seem to have rediscovered any Roman Catholic faith after the Soviet Union's invasion of Poland, the Katyn Forest atrocity and Poland's subsequent status as a satellite of the Soviet Union -- which is OK, as Joseph Stalin no more stands for all atheists than Frederick the Great or Otto Von Bismarck do for all Lutherans or Evangelical and Reformed, or Nicholas I does for all Eastern Orthodox Christians.) ...
I find this actually kind of interesting; as Andrew Greeley has pointed out -- and something Frank Miller, in an interview in which he mentioned his view of his Roman Catholicism seems to have missed -- is that there are fundamentalist Protestant denominations and groups that are more extreme than even pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism was, and certainly more so than post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. After all, the Roman Catholic groups never pursued the prohibition of smoking or alchohol the way (some) Methodist and Baptist groups did; in fact, the church has never especially considered alchohol a "devil's brew" -- an idea which owes its roots more to John Calvin. Also, and I quote this from a hostile witness (an atheist web page) "even the Catholic Church admits that evolution is a fact." The Roman Catholic Church has not taken the fundamentalist anti-Darwin route. ...
Actually, it is interesting to mention that early Protestant(ism) was more "guilty" than Catholicism -- as the Catholic Church did hold that man could be good without Grace. (Martin) Luther, and especially Calvin, on the other hand, postulated the absolute depravity of man and emphasized the monarchy of God. The reason for this was, of course, that the Reformers wanted to put less emphasis on works and more emphasis on faith, as a result of the widespread sale of forgiveness that had been going around. Emphasizing the depravity of man thus served to put less value on works.
Hmmm. Maybe that's three votes for a Protestant Batman. I think. Anyway, thanks for the historical perspective, […]! And now, after two weeks of JSA griping, a defense, plus a ton of "Best of 1999" mail:

Something about this letter bothers me. While Christians are not innocent, and Pope Pius was guilty on his part for not opposing nazism during WW2, it fails to consider that a lot of the worst fascists and communists were secularists/atheists to boot. After all, Karl Marx was one of the engineers of this world’s deviation from Judeo-Christian faith, and failure to recognize that can be costly. Now for that awful letter defending JSA:

Dear Cap'n: Issues five and six were fill-ins and read like them, but other than that, I am actually loving the new JSA series. I don't really prefer the "powered-up" Sand, but if they took the earth-related powers away from him, then I would actually be grooving on all of the characters -- old and new. I even like Courtney, who I've noticed many JSA readers
hate. I've found the story arcs introing both of the Doctors (Fate and Mid-Nite) highly entertaining and well handled. I think we've all got to look at these first few arcs for what they are -- introductions to cast members. The return of Fate is certainly a big enough event to hog most of the first four issues, I think. And the Mid-Nite story is also looking at Obsidian and Green Lantern, too. Along the way, the writers have given us little moments, scenes, bits to chew on, that indicate possibilities in terms of individual characters and certain relationships. Things to look forward to.
On the DC message boards, one of the writers told us that after issue 15 or so, a rotating roster will commence. Kinda like the JLA in the '70s. I think we'll see more interaction then, better teamwork. But this version of the group is very, very new -- many of these people have only known each other for a very short time. In other words, they don't know each other. They shouldn't be acting very well as a team yet. We'll get to see all this stuff come together. I think that's neat.
But first we gotta meet everybody. I'm really excited about the coming of the new Mr. Terrific, and so are the new writers! I even like his dorky, garish costume (except for that stupid T-mask-thingie) -- it's just embarassing enough to work for the person who has decided to carry on the original hero's legacy. I mean, you have seen Terry Long's get-up, right? Which I also love, by the way. You know Terry had to be a big-hearted, positive-thinking guy to get away with wearing that!
I myself want more attention paid to the old-timers. And I too miss their glory days. I hate Crisis and Zero Hour and what they did to the DCU -- and especially my beloved JSA. But at one point I just decided to let go and accept that it's all changed. I decided to give the revamps and replacements a chance, and I feel like all the writers of JSA have rewarded me quite nicely for my leap of faith. I think that, within this post Crisis/Zero Hour mess that is the present-day DCU, they've managed to capture and continue much of the traditon of The Justice Society.
And I do mean "continue." What I think is making the new series so particularly interesting is the inter-generational scope -- the mixing of old and new superfolk. The '70s All Star Comics explored this to great effect too, but the new book is taking things even further. Now old heroes are working with new, but also with those who are replacing others among the old. Most of the old are dead, and their loved-ones, proteges, and those inspired by them are carrying on for them. I really like this.
Plus, penciller Stephen Sadowski and inker Michael Bair are doing sensational, beautiful work. The art is just gorgeous, and the two of them are handling each of the characters extremely well. I am much less happy with the two fill-in teams, and the less said about the amateurish Benefiel/Propst T&A fest in the Secret Files story, the better.
On a different note, seeing your Q&A entry about the best of '99 made me think of a thread on a message board I'm on that covered similar ground. I'll cut and paste my post below:
This is sort of off the top of my head and disingenuous, because, luckily, there are too many things I love out there to narrow my response to some of these categories to one or two.
Best Ongoing Series: Begrudgingly, I'll limit it to Berlin and Black Hole
Best Limited Series: 300, I guess
Best Graphic Novel: no trouble here -- Good-bye, Chunky Rice
Best Single Issue: Begrudgingly, Berlin No. 6
Best Story Arc or Serialized Story: Probably the "Bitchy Bitch dates Chuck" storyline that's still continuing in Naughty Bits
Best Collected Reprint (TPB): Easily -- From Hell
Best Writer: Begrudgingly, Jason Lutes
Best Artist: Begrudgingly, Charles Burns
Best Writer/Artist: Four of 'em -- Debbie Drecshler, Richard Sala, Charles Burns and Jason Lutes
Best NEW Artist or Writer: Craig Thompson, without a doubt
Best Cover: Maybe Poe 15
Best Cover of '98 was Evil Eye 2, by the way.
[name withheld], if a die-hard Justice Society fan like yourself can give the new JSA a chance, I guess I can too. And I suppose I'll have to give Black Hole and Berlin a look-see too, to see why you liked 'em so much.

Once, I might’ve given JSA a chance, but no longer, and I’m mighty disappointed in that dude for his failure at the time to forsee the embarrassment of Geoff Johns. And his surrender to the atrocity of Zero Hour, if not Crisis on Infinite Earths, is terrible. Did the man writing that not realize what made ZH such a horror? And the worst part is that a conservative (Dan Jurgens) was one of the people who crafted it. Extra demerits are given for his praise of Thompson. At least he admits the T-shaped mask on Michael Holt is dreadful.

If I had it would be a lot different. Like Captain Comics, it would have credited Alan Moore with being the Best Writer in Comics. Come on. He writes an entire line! And it's all good.
Best Artist: Carlos Pacheco (Avengers Forever)
Best Comic Book: Top Ten.
Best Single Issue Story: Birds of Prey 8. Dick and Barbara, ahhh.
Story Arc: The Triune Understanding. It's not a numbered series. It's not even the main plot in most issues. But issue after issue, it keeps you in suspense. And I guessed that Duane Freeman was a Triune before the Jerry Ordway fill-in issues, so I can feel a little smug.
New Comic: Tom Strong. Every issue could have won for best single-issue story.
Writer To Keep An Eye On: J. Michael Straczynski.
Artists To Keep An Eye On: Leonardo Manco and German Garcia.
Best Moment (surprising or shocking): Huntress is Batgirl. They had me fooled.
Character To Keep An Eye On: Wonder Woman. She's out of the hands of John Byrne and the new gang vows to cement her place as one of the Big 3 at DC.
Best Hero: Nightwing. Yup, Wizard picked'em too, so at least one person there isn't an idiot.
Best Villain: Ultron. I agree with Wizard for the second time in a row.
Sexiest: Scarlet Witch.
Most Interesting: Steeljack. Was he the best hero? The best villain? Nope, he just wanted to one of us.
Character To Be Brought Back: It's a cluttered category. I wouldn't mind seeing Firestorm around. And I'm salivating at the thought of new Static, Icon and Solar. But come on: Green Arrow! At this point I don't care if it's Ollie or Connor, it's time to get the show on the road.
Special: Almost anything JLA. Unlike the X-office, they put consistent effort into every JLA special. Unfortunately, The Nail was 1998. But Foreign Bodies had great character interaction and plot twists, so it'll take the prize in 1999.
Limited Series: The Inhumans. I never liked these guys. Now I want anything they've ever been in.
Prediction For Next Year: X-Men: Children of the Atom, if they can ever get it on the shelves.
Good picks, [name withheld].

Serious demerits to this clod for recommending Stracynski, who turned out to be one of the worst modern writers for comics. His Spider-Man arc called Sins Past was inexcusable. Oh, and he never liked the Inhumans? Another baboon who’s selectively oblivious to the writers, I guess, who brought them down to where I assume he had a problem with in the first place.

Dear Cap: I have a few things from the January 20th Mailbag and Q&A to discuss.
First, there was your picks for the "Sexiest" female/s of 1999:

<<Zatanna, who's as flirtatious as a cat in heat. Or Black Canary, a gorgeous, mature woman who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to go get it.Or Black Widow, who's got that exotic Russian thing going.>>

Now is it just me, or is there some coincidence that all three women you mention either wear fishnet stockings, or have worn fishnets at some point in their career? Are you telling us readers something about your secret fetishes? ;-)

Secondly:

<<I remember in the late '70s that the consensus of opinion int he industry was that the perfect number of members on a team was seven. I dunno how this came about, but just about every team for about half a decade had exactly seven members (except the FF, of course).>>

I believe I know where the "seven-member" rule for superteams may have came from, at least for Marvel. There was a point in the late '70s in which the Avengers membership was getting unwieldily (kinda like today's JLA). So, in Avengers 181 (March, 1978), in a story by the team of Michelinie, Byrne and Day, the government (in the form of Henry Gyrich) mandates that the Avengers can have only seven members at any one time. Needless to say, the team's leader, Iron Man, was miffed that the government would exert such control over the team. I am thinking that this book may have influenced the other team books of the period. Maybe the writers thought to themselves that it would be less complicated and more manageable to have a team limited to seven characters. The date of the comic seems to fall in line with your recollections on this matter.

Thirdly:

<<Oh, I'll go with the whole "charming rogue" thing -- but Gambit's gone beyond that, to my mind. Han Solo is a charming rogue. Gambit is an out-and-out criminal. ... (P.S. I hate Deadpool, too.)>>

I have problems with this kind of "hero", too! Deadpool may be a funny book at times, but my amusement is always tempered by the fact that this guy is a nut and an assassin! And what do you tell kids who want to know about the character? "Oh, uh, ya see, he's an, um, assassin ... Uh, that's a guy who gets paid to kill people ... Um, yeah, even good people ... Uh, yeah, he's the good guy in this book ... I don't know how a bad guy who kills can be a good guy in his own book ..."
Sure, there are characters like Storm who was a pick-pocket as a youth, but she was being manipulated by a sleazebag and she was a child who grew into a responsible person later. What are your views on Rogue? She was pretty vicious when she first attacked Ms. Marvel. Do you view her differently from Gambit?

Lastly, My picks for the Best of 1999:

Best Writer: Alan Moore

Best Artist: Alex Ross, natch!

Best Comic Book(s): Thunderbolts

Best Single-Issue Story: Daredevil 5, vol. 2 (The death of Karen Page)

Best Story Arc: "No Man's Land"

Best New Comic: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Best Writer To Keep Your Eye On: Paul Jenkins

Best Artist To Keep Your Eye On: J.G. Jones

Best Moment (Shocking or Funny): Most any issue of Thunderbolts

Character To Keep Your Eye On: Tom Strong

Best Hero: Spider-Man (when handled correctly)

Best Villain: Dr. Doom.

Sexiest (Male or Female): Buffy, The Vampire Slayer

Most Interesting: Mina Murray (LoEG, What's with the scarf? Is she a vampire?)

Character That Needs To Be Brought Back: The early '80s Wolverine (Y'know, when he was actually mysterious and COOL?)

Best Limited Series, Novel, Elseworlds, Prestige Format, etc.: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Biggest disappointments: Everything John Byrne does anymore.

Most Irritating Trend: Late artists who could care less about the fans.

To answer your questions, [withheld]:
1) About fishnets: Uhhhh ... no comment?
Actually, I forgot that the Widow used to wear fishnets. (But maybe my subconscious didn't!) I think what all those women have in common NOW is that they're confident, not only in their equality with men but with their sexuality. That probably says more about me than the fishnets!
2) Yeah, now that you bring it up, I remember the Gyrich thing -- it was during Byrne's tenure on art, if memory serves. Dunno if that was chicken or egg, though.
3) Yeah, Deadpool makes me ill. So did Punisher, Deathstroke and Lobo when they had their own titles and were portrayed as heroes. And I laugh out loud at Hitman -- and then feel guilty about it. At least they don't pretend that Hitman is a hero. (Although I'm still dismayed that he showed up for JLA tryouts. Yeah, it was funny, but he never should have gotten out of there except in handcuffs.)
I had trouble with Rogue initially. But then A) she had a complete change of heart, gave up her "evil" ways, felt guilty about her past, vowed to make it up -- you know, character development. Plus, she was supposedly about 15 when she sucked the powers out of Ms. Marvel, and under the influence of a truly evil woman she called "mom." Like Storm, she outgrew (in both senses) the bad influences of her childhood. Gambit, on the other hand, is still doing the same things that led to the Mutant Massacre. He feels guilty, but he doesn't change.
4) About Mina Harker -- you do know who she is, don't you? The only major cast member of Bram Stoker's Dracula to survive? I suspect there's some serious vampire-bite scarring under that scarf ... and it also explains why, after dallying with a foreign count, she's no longer accepted in proper English society. (There was some mention of that in the first issue or two.)

And neither did Mr. Smith’s obsession with condemning imaginary characters but never the writers who made them awful as can be. If it really matters, yes, I’m disappointed Chris Claremont didn’t craft Gambit well at the beginning. And there are people besides myself galled at Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza for their own fiascos. Why doesn’t Mr. Smith have the guts to say the same? And why does the letter writer fail to consider clowns like Rob Liefeld, as Deadpool’s creator, are the guilty party for making his background such a disaster?

Oh, and does Mr. Smith’s dislike of the Punisher’s title mean he doesn’t care about Frank Castle’s family members who were rubbed out by the mafia? And while the background for Lobo post-Zero Hour was horrific, that too is the fault of insane people who make horrible excuses for writers.

Dear Cap: I am not familiar with the Books of Magic. Though it wouldn't surprise me if its premise is very close to Harry Potter. You watch enough television and movies, read enough books and comic books and originality suddenly becomes very hard to come by. Sometimes I think that's why packaging becomes more important than product. Look at toothbrushes; you'd think it was rocket science with some of the commericals they have even though they're all just plastic sticks with bristles on them.
As to BoM, I'll be honest and say I avoided Vertigo for a long time and am still cautious to a degree. I prefer to think of comics as wholesome and when reading titles from Vertigo and Dark Horse I tend to be less vigilant about the comics for kids.
I dont get as shocked as I probably should at the questionable moments that appear in the mainstream. Its been great that so much variety is available but I keep seeing age boundaries eroding between the comics.
And on that note I wanted to say I was surprised that you chose The Joker as your villain for '99. I sent a very nasty e-mail to DC (which I'm sure had them cowering in fear) about the cold killing of Gordon's wife at the end of "No Man's Land." It was strictly a shock-value move. And while Gordon is still in grieving The Joker is already turning up in Birds of Prey. I stopped reading Superman because I felt Lex Luthor was too much the criminal and yet spent too little time being punished for it. I would hate to stop reading Batman for the same reason.
On a more fun note...
Favorite Comic Moment For '99: Impulse 53 when Impulse takes on his arch-foe Inertia and turns the battle around with the realization "Impulse wasn't meant to be my name ... it was meant to be a warning" Very intense moment for an otherwise wickedly funny book. Runner-up would be Plastic Man posing as an evening gown on Big Barda in JLA.
Favorite Comic Moment For '00: Hopefully Batman, Nightwing and Robin revealing their identities to their fellow teammates of JLA, Titans and YJ, a single issue revealing all simultaneously would be sweet.
Most Interesting character in '99: Martian Manhunter He's an
interplanterary player and he still takes time to deal with Chase and her
investigations, nice mix.
Most Interesting Character in '00: Arrowette, she's got the talent and the smarts, strange taste in men (Impulse), and she's on the verge of a new look
Best Writer and Artist: I can barely keep track of characters and plotlines; I don't know how you guys track all the rest. :)
It ain't easy, [withheld]!
Let me answer a couple of your points:
First, I admit that I find Vertigo's relentless nihilism depressing at times. But there's room for the cynicism of Hellblazer and the whimsy of Books of Magic in the wonderful world of comics, I think.
And I'm not sure where the boundaries are, either, but I hate to carve them in stone. On the one hand I'd like Superman to always be available for kids, but on the other I don't want Superman comics to be pap and for the writers to be handcuffed if they've got a good story cooking that might require a little sex and/or violence. We should be able to work this out somehow so we can have it all. Maybe comics magazines for all ages, but comics TPBs for adults? I dunno.
As to the Joker, I sympathize with your position, but I have to note that Essen's death made for a bang-up climax for what was the most important and powerful story of '99 -- all 8 million pages of it. I've read interviews with Greg Rucka and some of the other principals involved, and Essen's death WAS debated and worried over -- a lot moreso than, say, Hal Jordan's or Supergirl's. It moved me to tears twice -- once in the comic, and again in the novel. That's good writing, shock value or no.
What I insist on now is to see real grieving from Jim Gordon -- and a hardening of attitude toward The Joker. It can't be business as usual. And, as you noted, it deflates the impact to have Clown Prince of Crime cutting up in Birds of Prey immediately thereafter -- THAT'S business as usual, and bad writing. No, someone who epitomizes evil and chaos as The Joker does should be used sparingly -- and it's beginning to stretch my suspension of disbelief that even if Batman and Gordon don't "accidentally" let him fall off a roof that the criminal justice system doesn't come down on him harder (along the lines of how Hannibal Lecter is treated in Silence of the Lambs).
As to Luthor, I tend to appreciate that he isn't brought to justice, as it shows Superman's limitations. And it shows the power of evil -- the Dark Side of the Force, if you will. Heroes are defined by their opponents, and Luthor and Joker cast Superman and Batman in stark relief, indeed.
And finally, in regard to Batman, et al, revealing their IDs -- it would be a sweet moment, but terribly out of character for Batman. As he once noted to Superman in JLA, "I don't bounce bullets off my chest, and I don't have a magic ring, and I can't afford to make myself a target by hanging around with brightly-colored amateurs that do." I'm afraid The Batman is a lot more emotionally disabled than Denny O'Neil wants to admit, and one of the ways he is disabled is that he cannot and will not trust others. He's destined to be the bitter, lonely old man of Batman Beyond or the crotchedy coot of Kingdom Come.

Yeah, I’ll bet he sympathises with the reader’s position on Sarah Essen Gordon. I’m sorry, but his reply rings false. All I know is Sarah Essen became yet another statistic among supporting characters turned into cannon fodder, and I’m skeptical at this point there was any worry about doing her in, since Rucka went along in full compliance with Identity Crisis and its aftermath. That he had creative differences with DC later on doesn’t excuse that.

Dear Cap: I enjoyed The Book of the Dead (a title which stretches back to the last two-to-four issues of the first two Official History of the Marvel Universe series (the first had the deceased floating in front of the face of Death with their hands crossed over their chests; the deluxe edition had covers of the deceased's ghosts rising from their graves), as well as to ancient Egypt and Tibet).
Comments
<<Also, the Captain is curious why Joe Simon named Bucky after one of our least successful presidents. I guess we'll never know why he favored President James Buchanan (1856-60)>>

Recently, the company that published Comics Scene and Starlog put out a special to commemorate 100 years of comic books. In it, it was revealed that Bucky was named after a friend of Simon's.
Swordsman seems to have served in two different Legions of the Unliving: One of the late '80s Avengers Annuals (reprinted in the recent Contest of Champions TPB) and in Avengers West Coast by Immortus around issue 62 Lady Dorma appeared at least in Marvel Comics 1, in the expanded version of the first Sub-Mariner story from Motion Picture Funnies Weekly 1.
Mailbag
I don't think that this trend is anything to worry about. DC has ridden this horse before. After Miller's Dark Knight series first came out, all of DC was attempting to force Miller's version of the Superman/Batman relationship on the readership. Ah, but something creepy. In, I believe, the second (or third) issue of DKR, Alfred says "Do you remember what happened to Jason"? (i.e. Jason Todd) This was a year and a half before A Death in the Family came out.
Mailbag January 20
I feel that a vast majority of your average mainstream superheroes are extremely conservative. Despite that fact that they are usually written by liberal writers, it is hard to argue against the conservative tendencies among the super people. Max Allan Collins, in an interview in Amazing Heroes 119, basically noted that he wasn't in the role-model business. He noted that "I had a hard time explaining to people that Dick Tracy voted for Reagan but I didn't, but I have no trouble writing him, and we do agree on some things". At times, we must set a line of demaracation in entertainment between our views and the character's views. After all, if we can associate people with radically different views in real-life for fun, we should be able to observe people with radically different views in fiction for enjoyment.
And that writer pointed out that he liked reading about liberal heroes like Starman and Green Arrow, as long as their views were presented consistently and interestingly. I'm of the same bent -- I don't need to agree with the protagonists I'm reading about; I just need for them to behave in a consistent manner so as not to stretch my suspension of disbelief.
Hey, thanks for the thoughtful letter!

Well it almost is. In any event, Mr. Smith can say what he likes, but it’s apparent at this point he’s not interested in consistency or interesting portrayals, just in promoting trash stories at all costs, as his fawning over Identity Crisis proves.

Dear Cap: I would like to take the time to congratulate the comic books and especially the characters that have survived for at least 20 years or more. When some titles and characters have met cancellation (and sometimes) renewals, others have withstood the test of time, thanks to the efforts of their contributors. Readers of comic books know which titles that they are, there is no need to mention their names. I hope that they serve as a beacon to others to try get their ideas on paper and do not be afraid to bring original thought to the medium. After all, it would be good to read concepts that spring from the minds of "next level" thinkers.
Your congratulations are on record, […].

But Mr. Smith gets none. Unlike some readers, he doesn’t know what he wants from the medium, superheroes or otherwise. Next up, February 3, 2000:

Cap Comics:
You wrote: << JSA #8: More Sentinel! More Flash! More Wildcat! More Dr. Fate! Less Sand, Star-Spangled Kid and Atom-Smasher! PLEASE don't turn this into Infinity Inc. II! And when will we see the new Spectre? >>
I liked the first couple sentences, the use of a cover-style announcement format was funny!
As to the rest?
Every so often I see someone complaining that there are too many Infinitors in the JSA! Since when? Two, yep count 'em, two former Infinitors are JSA members, out of like, what, 13? Yes, they sure are overrunning the title aren't they! And I won't even bother to mention the current "Darkness Falls" storyline featuring my fave character Obsidian. Odds are I'll be lucky if they redeem him by the end of this story arc and I'm highly doubtful he'll be joining the team (which is sad because it had been my hope that both he and his sister Jade would be members of the JSA from No. 1 on! But between her being controlled by the GL office and him, well we know what's happening with him, don't we? I know we have an icicle's chance in hell of seeing either as JSA members for some time!
I happen to be a big fan of the Infinitors so it makes me wonder when people log complaints like this! There are only a handful of surviving ones with no promise for the dead ones to be resurrected! Some of these are controlled by other titles (a la Jade with GL), some I don't think will ever be touched again (i.e. Northwind, he was an interesting character concept that is all but likely to remain on a permanent vacation in limbo)! This leaves only a small handful of Infinitors even available to the JSA staff that have enough freedom to even be considered for JSA membership! Two are members and the rest are questionable! Mr. Bones is a possible foe in upcoming issues, not that he would've fit in with the team anyway! Fury II has been hinted at so much we know she's coming but will she become a member? Good question! Brainwave Jr. is currently insane; if or when JSA will deal with him I have no idea.
So it's not like we're talking there's an army of Infinitors left. There are only a handful!
And then there's the fundamental fact, whether one loves or hates them, most of the Infinitors were kids or proteges of JSA members meaning that they're family of the team.
As for the new Spectre? I've heard he'll be putting in an appearance in the future but with him being Hal Jordan I doubt he'll join the team!
Well, too many Infinitors isn't my specific complaint. I wouldn't mind some more Infinitors on the team. What I don't want is for JSA to become LIKE Infinity Inc., wherein the older characters were cast into limbo in favor of less interesting characters that the current writer had happened to create. I'm also generally opposed to older characters getting the heave-ho in favor of younger characters FOR THE SAKE OF IT. I don't mind a bit when you've got a dynamite story that results in a second-generation hero -- because then the second-generation hero will get an origin, motivation and supporting scenario that makes him at least as interesting as the older character he's replacing (like the new Dr. Fate storyline). Occasionally in Infinity Inc. a new character would appear out of the blue, replacing an older one, and he/she wouldn't be as interesting -- they were just younger. You could almost see The Editor's palsied hand reaching into the title and yanking a Golden Ager with an evil cackle. Character growth and change should be organic and important to the story, NOT an editorial fiat that is blatant and ham-handed. (I also loathed Todd McFarlane's art from the get-go, which not only makes me a minority of, like, one but is a different argument altogether.) So I realize we're not going to see eye-to-eye on everything, since you were a big fan of Infinity Inc., and I suffered through it with a bottle of aspirin. It's all just a matter of taste. Fair enough?
In the meantime, I suspect you're right about Obsidian heading for the, eh, Dark Side of the Force. For my part, I must say that having Alan Scott's son be a whacked-out bad guy should certainly confuse and conflict many members of the team, which should lead to some terrific storylines -- and will also have a resonance with the Golden Age Green Lantern stories, where his chief love interest was a villainess.
As to other Infinitors:
I assume you're aware that Mr. Bones has a place in the DCU right now -- he's the mysterious director of the DEO. If you're not familiar with this, run out and get Chase 1-8 -- they should be in the quarter bin, although they were pretty darn good.
Rumor hath it that Kyle Rayner will choose Jade over Donna Troy as his love interest, and that wedding bells are a possibility. (That may just be because of the current fantasy storyline.) If true, though, that will at least give her a berth, which is some comfort. Frankly, I'd prefer it if Rayner had a sudden fatal heart attack and Jade took over as the third-generation GL. She's a LOT more fun and interesting than he is. And, as I never tire of saying, she looks a lot better in the uniform than Kyle or Hal ever did. (I'm a guy. Sue me.)
Is Brainwave Jr. still nuts? I thought he appeared a year or so ago as a bad guy somewhere. Can't remember. Maybe he's a bad guy AND nuts.
I hadn't heard about Fury II as a possibility. Last I heard her experience with Morpheus had left her a little unstable, too. I wouldn't mind seeing her again (stable and strong, thank you), if for no other reason than to shake out the Fury/Wonder Woman history, now that John Byrne has established that Hippolyta was indeed the JSA's Wonder Woman. Fury I was originally supposed to fill that role -- what's the deal now? I swear, Crisis/Zero Hour is gonna drive me crazy.
Hector Hall is back as Dr. Fate, which pleases me. I HATED Jared Stevens -- I mean, you've got one of the coolest icons in comics history (Dr. Fate's helmet) and you cater to passing tastes by melting it down into ... a knife. Bleah. And I wasn't too crazy about Drs. Fate II & III, either, with that uncomfortably-close-to-incest mother/son team thing going on. And Silver Scarab's outfit gave me the creeps (he looked like a giant cockroach), and his powers/origin/concept were too similar to the Blue Beetle. But I was interested in seeing Hec's story play out. (A story which got even MORE interesting in the pages of Sandman.) Now all the things I hated are gone, and the things I liked are all wrapped up in a single package with a pretty golden bow. I'm really looking forward to seeing what goes on with the new Doc Fate.
I doubt we'll see Northwind again until somebody straightens out Hawkman. Any Hawkman. Again, Zero Hour screwed up the character's history so badly that he's virtually unuseable. James Robinson sez we can expect to see Hawkman fixed as we see the new Hawkgirl's origins play out -- which could open the door to Northwind down the road.

Hmm. Do I sense he didn’t have a problem with the older Justice Society members being wiped out in Zero Hour? I don’t know, but after he went along quite willingly with the “diverse” changes made post-Identity Crisis – that is, replacing Ray Palmer with an Asian fellow, Ronnie Raymond with a black guy and Ted Kord with a Latino – all after the repellent treatment those Silver/Bronze Agers got in Brad Meltzer’s abomination, I don’t buy his pathetic argument for a second. Besides, did it ever occur to him that back in the day, the JSA was sent into precisely a limbo and not the graveyard, in contrast to Zero Hour, where a few of them were? Also note that some of the Infinitors were wiped out during this time too. So much for DC’s claim they wanted a younger audience!

In fact, did he ever publicly lament the easy way out James Robinson took with the first Starman, Ted Knight, even as Jack was sent into retirement? I read his crummy columns at the time it happened, and nope, I don’t seem to recall him telling what a shame it was Ted didn’t get to just pass away from natural causes or an auto accident.

If there were people out there like him with a bizarre dislike for Infinity Inc, I’m horrified, and it goes without saying I don’t agree one bit with his opinion of McFarlane’s early artwork. As I’ve said before, unlike Rob Liefeld, McFarlane’s work, while not perfect, was still very competent. It was only after he co-founded Image that he squandered his talents. Smith also repeats the nigh laughable claim the Infinitors were “uninteresting” instead of criticizing the writing by Roy and Dann Thomas (who aren’t even mentioned in the response). If he had a problem with their characterization, why didn’t he ask for better, or lament that the writers didn’t live up to his hopes of making the cast likable enough?

And Mr. Smith has no business complaining about Hawkman being ruined in ZH if he has no qualms with Identity Crisis and many other crossovers since doing the same.

Dear Cap:
You wrote: <<In the comics, Babs Gordon's Batgirl career ended the day The Joker put a bullet through her spine, landing her in a wheelchair from whence she continues to aid other heroes as the mysterious information broker, Oracle.>>
Officially, Batgirl had already retired when the Joker shot Barbara. Of course, that's something that the general public may have some trouble understanding without lengthy explanations.
Which is exactly why I didn't go into it. Boy youse fanboys is PICKY! :)

Yeah, and youse fanboys is also very CHILDISH! I wonder how he and his correspondent feel about the additional revelations for what Alan Moore had in store? At the same time, I wonder how they feel about modern DC’s reversing Babs’ status as wheelchair-bound and reverting her to Batgirl for entirely commercial reasons?

Dear Cap:
You wrote: <<I guess what we're going to discover is that Batman's probably Episcopalian, with a harsh, New England Calvinist slant. If that's at all possible.>>
In that Separated Brethren book, it was noted that Episcopalianism is referred to as comprehensive Protestantism: a continuum starting from "high" (congregations that are very close to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy in liturgy, architetcture, music, and preaching) to "low" (very close to Calvinist, , very simple liturgies and architetecture) to very close to Unitarianism/Universalism (very free in matters of belief and doctrine). This goes back to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Those articles were set up to be vague and comprehensive, it is felt, so that most shades of believers could comfortably fit into the Church of England. This compromise helped quell dissension to some degree.
Other Roman Catholic super-heroes:
-- Nightshade (according to Secret Origins)
-- Venom (according to Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update '89)
-- Nightcrawler
-- Punisher
Someone, in a letter to a Marvel fan magazine published within the last few years, pointed out that for some reason Roman Catholicism seems to be the predominant religion whenever they do get around to revealing the religion. (He also noted that in this light it was suprising that Brother Voodoo has never mentioned Roman Catholicism, as Voodoo is a combination of Catholicism with African paganism.)
I think this is a sign of the pressure on the part of the writers: As the
Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination (though still a minority in this country: most American whites and American blacks are members of Protestant denominations) it draws more attention and is thus what one would think of more off the top of one's head. Similar churches such as the churches of the Eastern Orthodox communion, the Anglican communion, the Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. churches individually do not gain as much attention, so that is why few charachters are ever said to be of those churches.
(A similar sort of laziness can be seen in the Official Handbook; I noticed that for the listing of the place of birth of foreign-born characters, usually the place of birth was also the capital of that person's country. For example, El Aguila (Spanish) was born in Madrid, Shamrock (Irish) was born in Dublin, etc.)

Incidentally, since Frank Miller explored Daredevil's Roman Catholicism, and Elektra was supposed to be an opposite to Daredevil (much as Sand Saref was the opposite of the Spirit), was Elektra's rejection of her "strict Christian background" (noted briefly and in passing in the Elektra: Assassin minseries) suppossed to be one of those opposites? It would be interesting if it was, since, as Greece is not a predominantly Roman Catholic country (it is predominantly Eastern Orthodox), that would somewhat break the parallel. On the other hand, maybe Miller aimed at an Eastern Orthodox/Roman Catholic parallel intentionally.
(Incidentally, I must add that relationships between Greeks and Irish are much rarer than, say, relationships between Greeks and Italians.)
Jewish Superheroes (can be found listed at):
http://www.best.com/~blaklion/jew.html
Thanks for a tremendous amount of research, […]!

Almost. How come they didn’t comment on the lack of Armenians in mainstream comic books?

Dear Cap: What makes you buy a certain comic? What about others? I personally buy comics that are team related that I'm familiar with (JLA, JSA, Titans, Young Justice), or if a certain title has a guest star or a villain that I'm familar with. Example: The only Superman comic of the new revamp that I have is when Wonder Woman appeared. Although I would like to get my hands on the Brainiac 13 story.
The reason I liked Brave and the Bold and DC Comics Presents was that it introduced me (to characters) that were unknown to me. I knew who the Big Seven were and assorted characters from the old Superfriends cartoon and the Super Powers toy line. If you asked me five years ago who the Metal Men, Spectre (and) Kamandi were I would have given you a blank stare. Now I could give at least a brief synopsis on practically any character you can name.
I like Marvel's idea of the 100-page giants for $3 thing. Maybe DC could take a hint for them for once.
The new Spider-Man and Avengers cartoons suck. You do not need to turn the Avengers into Power Rangers to make them interesting. I've always wondered why they canceled the old X-Men and Spider-Man cartoon when they was their biggest hits when they were canceled.
Why do I buy what I buy? I never thought about it before, since I get most everything.
Back when I was more selective (read: Poor), I guess I gravitated toward the titles that featured the characters I grew up with -- the FF, Avengers, Spidey, X-Men at Marvel, the Big Seven at DC, the Charlton heroes, THUNDER comics (when available) and like that. Of course, I had to buy a lot of other titles to keep up with the "universe" they inhabited. I suppose the reason is that -- like a soap-opera addict -- I felt like I "knew" these characters, they were more or less "friends," and I wanted to keep up with how their lives were going. After all, I've known Peter Parker since we were in junior high together ... :)
Anyway, here's an open question to those who read this page: What comics do you buy, and why?
And I agree that the new cartoons are just awful. How many stock scenes of the Avengers suiting up do we need to see in a single episode? Beneath contempt.
As to your cartoon question, from what I understand cartoons are ordered in a specific number, and they're usually done or almost done before the first one airs. So if they ordered 85 X-Men episodes, then by the time they finished airing them, it would have been more than two years since the animators finished their assignment -- so even if the network realized it had a hit and wanted more, the writers, directors, voice actors and animators would have long since moved on to other assignments.

From a modern perspective, I only buy old stuff from the Big Two. Newer stuff is usually from smaller publishers like IDW, for the GI Joe titles they put out, some of which are the most intelligent of the bunch. But hey, if he thinks new cartoons are awful, what about new writing? On that, he’s just so ambiguous, I see no reason to assume he’s being honest about the cartoons on TV.

Dear Cap: Thank you for producing/distributing the "Batman's faith" article. It was an interesting exploration of the reflection of modern spiritual life in our popular culture. I have directed a number of my friends/associates to your web site to review it also. The various arguments put forth in the article are quite provocative.
However, the lines, "Then there are the religions that don't correspond to real-world beliefs. The Graeco-Roman gods manifest routinely in comic books, and were instrumental in the origins of Wonder Woman, Captain Mavel, Donna (formerly Wonder Girl) Troy, Aquaman, Sub-Mariner and, of course, Hercules," disturbed me, because of the dismissive way in which the Graeco-Roman gods were excluded from the ranks of "real-world beliefs." Those entities have been held to be sacred for thousands of years ... indeed, their tenure in the heavens has lasted far longer than the cosmic entities in which modern peoples tend to believe. It seems singularly arrogant, and terribly short-sighted to categorize ancient mythologies separately from modern mythologies. Modern adherents would doubtless be disturbed to have their beliefs classifed as archaic mythology by future generations. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his Father, in the womb of a virgin will be classified with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." It seems the Golden Rule should be applied.
That said, thank you again for the interesting discussion.

We may not really have a disagreement here, just a problem with how I phrased things. It's a given that the Graeco-Roman pantheon is imbedded in pop culture and the collective unconscious of our culture, to borrow a Jungian term. I also accept without murmur that Greek mythology is part and parcel of Western civilization's literary, philosophical and historical foundation, which is why I've read The Iliad and The Odyssey three times each. My "real world" remark was just a transition line taking us from active, practicing religions to -- well, everything else. No diismissal or insult was implied, nor should be inferred.
Which brings up another interesting point. It's actually SAFER for a comics character to have a made-up religion. It's OK to have Orion drop to bended knee in front of Highfather and The Wall, for example, but if Batman were to take communion or Superman say a prayer, there would be a firestorm of controversy.What does that say about us?
I've also wondered aloud why religious leaders in the comic books don't go ballistic every time Thor claims to be a god, or Wonder Woman prays to Minerva. Interestingly, a comic book in May will establish that citizens in the Marvel Universe think Thor is a science-based hero, and that his claims to godhood are just an act -- part of his schtick as a superguy.

Do I get the feeling he thinks all religious leaders in real life have a short fuse and don’t recognize the 1st Amendment’s Religion Clause? And that superhero comics must all reflect his absurd view of religious leaders? From the view of somebody adhering to Judaism, however, I am willing to say there’s some insane Haredis out there who despise various Judaist practices that either don’t reflect their insular take on life, or, believe everyone must conform to their narrow, selfish standards. Some like Satmar even live in a past vaccum, and turn their backs on victims of crime in their midst. And it’s pretty embarrassing alright, but I’ve got a sad feeling that, if the Haredis in question are clans like Satmar, then “ultra-Orthodox” is the only kind of Orthodox Judaism he considers legitimate.

On the other hand, would he be fine if Judeo-Christian leaders in comics were presented as fanatics while Muslims were depicted otherwise? If so, then his opinion is a very weak one.

Dear Cap: Ok, I'll bite. You dissed, and rudely dismissed, Ronin this week in your "NEW COMICS RELEASE LIST."... The reason why I enjoy your work, rather than most of the web and print stuff is your sense of perspective. (You say Ronin is) terribly derivative of manga.You are probably right. I have never enjoyed manga, back then and or present day. Do you mean that Miller was heavily "influenced" by Lone Wolf and Cub and the like? I think that he did the covers for that Dark Horse series. Anyway, I reread Ronin and enjoyed it, but I am left we that feeling that I had about 15 years ago. Miller could have used a good editor and that the story would have fit enjoy four issues. The story reminds me of a Sergio Leone story in some respects, a shaggy-dog story that rambles along. You've seen it before, but there's some reason to keep watching. And I still don't get the ending!!
I'm also considering getting the Wonder Woman Archives, your write-up was a riot. Keep up the good work and enjoy your weekend.
You've pretty much hit the nail on the head about Ronin. I had seen Lone Wolf and Cub somewhere before Ronin came out, and I instantly noted that Miller was lifting the style (and some panels and layouts) directly from that work. I was outraged! And disappointed, because Miller doesn't NEED to play Rob Liefeld -- he's talented in his own right. In later interviews Miller acknowledged that he might've gotten carried away learning a new approach to storytelling. OK, I can accept that. But it didn't make Ronin any more appealing to me.
And the story, as you noted, didn't make up for it -- it didn't make a lot of sense.
Ronin remains the only Miller work that doesn't sell well as backstock, according to retailers. In other words, I'm not the only one who found it below his usual standards.
But, as I've said so often, if YOU liked it, then more power to you. It's all a matter of opinion, anyway. :)

Too bad the guy writing this thought Smith’s work was “good”, but hey, even I must’ve thought so too back when, so he’s not the only one deceived by such a phony.

I can’t say I ever found Ronin the most interesting Miller tale I ever read, but accusing him of playing Liefeld is stupid. Besides, Miller got to work nearly a decade before Liefeld showed up and ruined the art scene. And what’s wrong with drawing inspiration from manga, so long as you do it with taste?

Dear Cap: Have you had a moment to read Gatecrasher yet? Once I moved beyond the Wizard connection, I found it to be a terrific title. No matter what one may think of Gareb Shamus, he did assemble a great creative team for his company's first title.
It's cool that you're also a Captain Sulu fan. I've long thought that a series of made-for-TV movies would be a ratings hit. Have you listened to the three Captain Sulu audio adventures featuring George Takei? They aren't great, but they are fun. Also, there's a very good novel by Peter David, The Captain's Daughter, which focuses on Sulu's life. Part of the novel takes place during his captaincy of the Excelsior.
I thought Gatecrasher was OK. Just OK. It's yet ANOTHER title where a teenager has incredible powers, skills and abilities that eclipses the older characters who WORKED for their skills. As an older fan, I find it annoying that experience is always dismissed in comics. Aside from that -- clearly a personal peeve --and I'm curious how they can get something ongoing out of this premise.
And I've read Captain's Daughter but haven't heard the audiotapes you mention. I did, however, hear the Leonard Nimoy/John de Lancie "Alien Voices" audiotape called Spock vs. Q where the two characters debate the worth of saving humanity. Pretty good.

Sorry to burst a bubble here, but Shamus was a joke. Wizard was one of the worst magazines about the medium, and Shamus as EIC did much to give news coverage of comics a bad name. As for Star Trek, I wish I could say I was still the fan I used to be, but live action sci-fi is no longer my thing, thanks to the barrage of special effects modern movies suffer from, and the politics of Takei and Nimoy have really turned me off. These are gates that need no crashing through. There’s another letter down the line that sums this up better, and I’ll feature that soon.

Hey Captain: I just read your Canceled Comics Cavalcade for this week, and I saw on the list one of the two comics I read that I can buy at the mall instead of at a specialty store. Going to the mall is much more convenient than taking the long drive to my closest comic store, but I really have to take that drive just to pick up the titles I collect. Deathlok, along with JLA (when written by Morrison, I can't stand Mark Waid's stuff) were the two titles I could pick up without the hassle of a long drive.
Aside from it's convenience, Deathlok was a (darn) good read as well. It's the only Marvel comic I've read for years. It opened a doorway to a shifty, grim world of S.H.I.E.L.D which was a refreshing breath of air in S.H.I.E.L.D's usually campy handling. To actually give the S.H.I.E.L.D agents personalities added realism to the Marvel Universe which is sorely lacking. While not great, (Joe) Casey's work showed potential, given time to build steam, I think it could have broken some boundaries for what is expected of a Marvel comic.
I frown on Marvel for being so trigger happy; at least give it a full year! Imagine if DC had pulled out early on on such titles as Sandman, Preacher or Transmetropolitan. Series need time to mature, and Marvel rarely gives their books the time and support to form into a cohesive, well-developed series. I'm really going to miss Casey's Deathlok, and to fill up that gap I'd like to see Casey make something along the lines of Deathlok for DC -- you know, gritty secret agencies, back(room) politics, and cybernetics.
I've had the good fortune of rarely having books I read be canceled ( I'm also very young), the last one was Barry Windsor-Smith's Storyteller. What pains me more than losing the book is knowing that the story lines will forever remain unfinished. What's going to happen with that presidential candidate in Deathlok and his psychic aid? I'm never going to know how the Paradox Man ended, and I don't want that happening to Deathlok. *sigh*
I read your comment on the M-Tech line as a whole being overly pessimistic; what did you feel about Deathlok in particular? Did you enjoy it? Hate it? I'd like to know
I actually enjoyed Deathlok to some degree. I should rewrite the Canceled Comics comments to reflect that. I thought the rest of the M-Tech line was a waste of paper, though.
And it really is awful that Marvel is so trigger-happy. Whatever we thought of Wild Thing and Fantastic Five,' Marvel canceled those titles after getting sales reports on just the first two issues! That requires a new definition of "trigger-happy." I really think a title needs a year to find its legs -- and its audience. I'd think six months at minimum, anyway.

If “trigger-happy” needed a new definition, how about Mr. Smith’s tendency to damn various fictional characters and not give them a chance even if a caring writer does come along? All that aside, why does every character who gets a book to star in have to appear first and foremost in an ongoing and not a miniseries? That’s a much better way to test the waters. Now, here’s the letter telling it better about Wizard’s botched comics venture:

Dear Cap: I can't get over it! Wizard is shameless! Yes, I know that goes without saying, but it still is mind-boggling that they are so blatantly so! My whole point to this statement: Black Bull/Gatecrasher!
I saw it coming! No, really I did! The buzz was out that Wizard was going to produce its own comics. "NO," said Wizard, " ... not we -- It's our leader Gareb Shamus that will own those comics and are hands are clean. So, all you poo-poo'ers can just take your cynicism and hide! No 'Breach of ethics' at our camp, thank you very much! Those of you who claim we will abuse our position as a price guide to incite speculation on our founder's titles are sadly mistaken!"
It was only a short amount of time before Wizard started giving up huge sections of advertising space in their magazine to Black Bull. Previews had listed Gatecrasher under Wizard Entertainment (weren't we told the two were separate companies?). And, in Wizard 101, in the "Top 10" list on page 175, wasn't there a "name-dropping" of sorts? Really, what does Gatecrasher have to do with the "Top 10 working titles for the next Pokemon movie"? How was that funny in that context? Dreadful plugging by a magazine that has no "real" connection to Black Bull, eh? What would be next? What other shameless ploy would The Wizard of Comics pull out of its hat?
Today the other shoe dropped! From a message sent to retailers concerning Black Bull's Gatecrasher:
<<'GATECRASHER' #1 ALLOCATED
Black Bull Entertainment has announced that, due to a clerical error, Gatecrasher #1 was under-printed. Retailers were shorted by approximately 6 percent of their orders on both Gatecrasher #1 and Gatecrasher Mystery Artist Variant Cover #1 , both of which shipped on Jan. 26.
There are no plans for this issue to go back to press. Black Bull accepts full responsibility and apologizes to Diamond's retailers for any inconveniences this may cause.
DIAMOND COMIC DISTRIBUTORS>>
I admit it! I am a cynic at heart. Oh, I try to believe that people can be good and honest, but I approach things with careful skepticism. That is why I am wary of this "clerical error" that caused Gatecrasher to be "underprinted." Am I the only one to see this as the gross marketplace manipulation scheme that it is? I predicted that Wizard would more than likely suggest that there was a huge demand for the book, whether or not that was true. I also imagined that Wizard would "tweak" the prices in their guide, a guide that many retailers have no choice but to rely on in the absence of a more frequent Overstreet. And now we have THIS, a "underprinted" Gatecrasher from Black Bull that is owned by Wizard's own Gareb Shamus. A book that will apparently not go back to press.
"Get your Gatecrasher 1, kids!! It's hot, hot, HOT!!! It's hard to find, because it has a low print-run!! And look how much the PRICE has gone UP, kids!! (tweak, tweak)," I imagine future Wizards will exclaim, or something of a similar fashion. The Wizard of Comics has worked its magic again!
Well, we always knew Wizard was shameless! But at least they have a sense of humor about it. In the "February's Picks" section of Wizard 102, the blurb for Gatecrasher 2 reads: "Because our publisher demanded it, again, we'll tell you what's in store for Gatecrasher 2 -- again!"
But seriously, I expect Gareb Shameless to to use every resource at his disposal to make Black Bull a success. Don't doubt it.

Well it didn’t work, and Black Bull is gone. So too is Wizard. Now if only McClatchy, the current distributor of Smith's work, would cancel his columns, then we’d be getting somewhere. Too bad not everyone knows or realizes Smith is shameless.

From February 10, 2000, here’s some mournings of the passing of Gil Kane:

Dear Cap: I have the subject of your next column ...
Gil Kane died.
This is a biggie for me, and I'm very sad and angry now. But a column might help.
Maybe a little. But probably not that much.
No offense, but we just lost one of the true greats, in my little opinion. To a horrible disease, too. And he died without a pension, even. No one set of words should be able to make it all better ...
I've written and submitted my Gil Kane obit, [name withheld], and it was the hardest one I've ever written (including Jack Kirby's). Perhaps because Kirby was a (New) God that everybody loved, and Kane was more of an everyman, journeyman creator who was not a household name (although he should have been). Anyway, it'll appear here next week, and is already on the wire elsewhere. Here are some more regrets:
Dear Cap: Did you hear the sad news?
<<DC Comics Honors and Remembers Gil Kane
DC Comics has announced it will be sponsoring a memorial service for Gil Kane who passed away this morning at the age of 73 at his home in Aventura, Fla., as a result of complications from cancer to be held in New York, with details will be released as they become available.
Paul Levitz, DC Comics' Executive Vice President and Publisher said of Kane's passing: "Gil was one of the masters of comic book art -- drawing with a style so personal that his pages could be picked out of a stack by even a casual reader, and yet so influential that a generation of totally dissimilar artists would look back on what they learned from him. Ever a gentleman and a scholar, Gil loved comics. He experimented with them, published them in unprecedented formats, translated their characters to other media, and never stopped delighting our eye with his pencil and pen."
Mike Carlin, Executive Editor -- DC Universe, also remembered the comics giant: "Gil Kane called me 'M'Boy,' from the time I first got his autograph at a NY convention in1969 until the phone call he gave me a month ago. I loved that he called me that. I loved Gil's art as a kid and I love it now -- from his forward-thinking costume designs (the Silver Age's Green Lantern and the Atom are two of the coolest costumes ever designed) to his up-to-date reflections of fashion and style in a medium that doesn't keep up with the times as well as it should. There are not a lot of artists who stay on top of their game as long as Gil did. I know Gil called everyone 'M'Boy' (even my wife once!) ... but I still loved that he called me that."
Kane is survived by his wife Elaine.>> -- DC Comics Newsletter
The comic book industry has lost another true Legend. :-(

Dear Cap: This indeed a sad day for anyone who not only loves great comic book art, but understands that the great ones knew how to tell a story with their art. Gil Kane is gone.
I never met the man, but I know that without him there would be no Silver Age. Just look at Showcase with GL on it powerless against the "Menace of the Runaway Missle!" (Showcase 22 -- Cap) He made GL and the Atom fun, dynamic and cool. He will be missed.

Dear Cap: I am sure that you all have heard by now that the comic-book artist Gil Kane has passed away. He is one of the most revered of artists whose presentations have been appreciated by both professionals in the field and readers of comic books.
He will surely be missed.

Dear Cap: I had no idea that Gil Kane had passed away -- but for some reason, last night, I had the urge to go through and read a bunch of my old Green Lanterns drawn by Kane and I was thinking about him. Weird.
And I was in the midst of reading Green Lantern Archives Vol. 2 -- creepy, isn't it?

I’d say the correspondents have a lot more respect for Kane than Mr. Smith does. Particularly the guy who cited the Atom as one of Kane’s best assignments. And he’s right, it was. But does Smith really appreciate that? Past experience and research suggests otherwise.

Dear Cap: Although you already covered Bucky, nobody pointed out the fact that his superhero name derives him his own nickname, meaning anyone should have been able to put two and two together. How many people go around with the name Bucky? Not to mention how many 15 year olds are on an army base? Especially named Bucky!
Ditto for Sandy, the Golden Boy, who was Sandy, the Golden Boy, in his real-life identity as the ward of wealthy and mysterious Wesley Dodds. That one shouuld have been figured out by half the citizens of whatever fictional city he lived in! Fortunately, comics are full of people who can't tell that Clark Kent is Superman with glasses on, or that Bruce Wayne is the only guy in Gotham who has purchased the things a Batman would need (or traced the Hotline number, or wondered why there's a paved road going to a cliff wall near Wayne Manor, or who talked to the guys who manned the crane that dropped that big penny into the Batcave, or ... )

And journalism is full of left-wing moonbats who couldn’t understand reality if it came up and threw all the papers off their desk!

Dear Cap: You said in the Canceled Comics Cavalcade:
<<Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man ... And it probably didn't help any that virtually every story arc done in this series stunk up the place.>>
Well, that was really the problem, wasn't it?
The first story arc, with a resoundingly "Just OK" story from J.M. DeMatteis and brilliant art from Michael Zulli got the series off to a less-than-feeble start, but it just went downhill fast. Although the Paul Jenkins arc was worth my time and money.
Had they been smart, they'd had more guys like Paul Jenkins and Michael Zulli, and fewer guys like .... whoever the hell else they had.
Showcase titles like this live and die on the creators. The only reason Batman: LOTDK has lasted this long is the fact that every 10 issues or s, they throw in a gem from Grant Morrison, or Bryan Talbot, or Matt Wagner, or Lee Weeks or some other talented-and-unique-if-not-"A-List"-creators.
I've been buying LOTDK since issue one (Morrison & Jansen's "Gothic") -- but only in chunks, when they get a creator I like. So my collection is a completist's nightmare: 1-4, 7, 18-21, 28, 36-37, etc., but I have all the ones that matter.
To me, anyway.
Let me take this opportunity to gratuitously slam Steven T. Seagle, one of the Webspinners writers who was just gawdawful.

And let me take the opportunity to slam Mr. Smith for his continued left-wing propaganda. I may also have to give the correspondent some demerits for his embrace of Morrison and Jenkins, much as it displeases me to have to do so.

Dear Cap: I recently saw the new artwork for the upcoming Warren Ellis X-titles. Now I know that I'm in a minority by not reading Ellis's work, but the new direction for those books looked just awful.

X-Man looked like he belonged in the Borg, and X-Force looked like rejects from Blade Runner. Why is it that the same dystopic style is still considered futuristic and modern?

Maybe their sales will spike and I'll be in the minority again, but I don't think this is a change for the better.
I agree absolutely -- the dystopic, machine-run, grimy, cyberpunk future scenario has run its course. But fiction writers cling to it like a security blanket. Worse, I can't help but feel that the Ellis books are, in some way, aping the X-Men movie, with its black-leather outfits in lieu of costumes.

Of course the direction is awful, because Ellis is an otherwise awful writer! This letter was from somebody I once knew, who later embraced Identity Crisis, so I’m not putting much value on his comments about Ellis. And the X-Men movie, after all these years, really was nothing to write home about.

Dear Cap: We all know that the comic-book business isn't what it used to be. There obviously has to be some changes. Here's what I would do.

1) When you buy $10 worth of comics you get a free comic! The catch: The free comic has to be either from a new series or a existing series that isn't selling too well. No miniseries, maxiseries, prestige formats, etc. No Superman, Batman or JLA. Examples of acceptable comics: Hourman, Star and STRIPE, Impulse, etc.

2) Why not include some comic coupons in the Sunday paper? 25 cents off or whatever. They do it for some magazines, why not comics?

3) Create another comic distributing company. The only difference between Diamond and Microsoft is that Microsoft makes more money.

4) Give all characters their own comics. Let them run for at least one year. Cancel the low-selling ones after that time.

5) With the exception of annuals and specials, make all comics the same price.

What about you cap?
The problem is that comics are a business, which means they need to make money, and lots of it. Coupons and giveaways are all very well and good, but unless they create new readers -- well, it's just throwing away money.
The root problem of comics is that they are in tiny ghetto -- the direct market -- where no new readers are created and all the companies are competing for the same one percent of the U.S. population that reads comics. They need to EXPAND the market, gaining new readers, both young and old. (Catering to you and me with coupons doesn't really add new readers.)
My solution would be an attack on several fronts. (And keep in mind that it's a sure bet the comics companies have tried some or all of these solutions -- I doubt my insights are unique, and these guys have a vested interest in growing the industry.)
1) We've got to crack the existing newsstand distribution market. Marvel, DC and Archie do get some comics out to Walgreen's and such, but it's a drop in the bucket. I remember the heady days of the '60s, when comics were EVERYWHERE, every convenience store, every Kmart, every mom & pop store. To do this, comics have to have a package that is economically feasible for the distributor to carry it. A $1.99 comic book gives the distributor less than a dime in profit -- when an issue of Newsweek may return as much as 75 cents profit per issue. Which do you think he's going to carry? Both Marvel and DC are experimenting with larger formats (with larger profit margins) like Marvel's 100-page "Monsters" and DC's "80-Page Giants." Wish 'em luck.
2) We've got to crack the bookstore market. The alliance of Amazon.com and AnotherUniverse.com is really good news -- a distribution nut cracked, at least online. But what about brick-and-mortar stores? What about product?
DC has spent a LOT of money keeping their trade paperback library in print, which has had some success. Comics are developing perrenniel sellers, which makes a market thrive (Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen sell about the same amount every year -- yahoo!) DC has also experimented with odd formats, with mixed results. The "Big Book" series appeals to bookstore chains, but is a mediocre seller. The digest-sized comics (La Pacifica, Hunter's Heart, The Project) were crashing failures. However, the Treasury-sized Superman: Peace on Earth and Batman: War on Crime did well in bookstores, particularly around the holidays. Will any of this work? Beats me. But congratulate DC for trying.
3) We've got to restore the children's market to encourage the NEXT generation of comics readers. Again, DC is again leading the way, with various Warner Bros., Tiny Toons and Hanna-Barbera comics carried in grocery stores. But distribution is a problem -- there just aren't enough general-interest markets interested in carrying them and they don't sell for beans in comics shops. And where are the Disney characters? Gladstone recently went out of business, citing disinterest and often outright hostility from Disney. Don't doubt it -- Disney wouldn't allow Disney/Gladstone comics to be sold in Disney stores or at Disney amusement parks! What is up with THAT?
Anyway, them's my thoughts. What do the rest of you see as the solution to the industry's woes?

Answer: being more honest about what went wrong with it, like Zero Hour, the Clone Saga, Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled. Another would be to stop catering to suckups like Mr. Smith; people like him are not what the medium needs.

Dear Cap: I just read your article about (Marvel's "Monster" books). I think this is great. With Marvel going up in price they need this to attract new customers. Tom Brevoort is Marvel's best editor on some of the best books (Avengers, Thunderbolts, Hulk) they have. I can't believe that a 32-page comic is going to be $2.25. Marvel should be ashamed of themselves. I wouldn't mind the increase if they gave you more pages for your money. I just can't afford to buy any more comics. Also maxi (and) miniseries (are) going up, too. I think books in the top ten shouldn't go up like the Avengers but I'll keep buying the Avengers because it is my favorite comic. I also buy Thunderbolts, JLA, JSA, Daredevil, Rising Stars, Tom Strong,Top10, X-Men: The Hidden Years, Children of the Atom and Marvel: The Lost Generation. I was thinking about collecting Kurt Busiek's Astro City and The Punisher but with the price increase I might have to let some of these titles go.
Thanks, […]. I'm really perplexed about Marvel's increase, though -- how come a 32-page comics goes for $2.25, but a 100-page comic goes for $2.99? I understand the economics of scale, and that the extra 60 pages are all reprint with minimal overhead. But if that's the case, why don't they just change the whole darn line to $2.99, cutting it in half by combining some weaker titles with some stronger ones, and fill out the book with appropriate reprints? Imagine a 100-page Avengers monthly, with a lead Assemblers tale, a Thunderbolts backup and an Avengers reprint for $3? If you're collecting Avengers and Thunderbolts right now, that would actually save YOU money while increasing Marvel's and the distributor's profit margin.
This has actually been tried before, in the '70s when both Marvel and DC jumped from 15 cents to 25 cents and doubled or trebled the page count. Both eventually settled back to the standard 32-page size at 20 cents. I don't know why -- perhaps it simply wasn't economically feasible, or perhaps fan hostility to paying that whopping quarter per issue was too much. (Gee, I'd love to have THOSE problems again!)

First off, Brevoort may have once been a good editor at Marvel, but recent examples he's given suggest he’s thrown even that much to the winds. Second, wasn’t that price hike by Marvel already noticable on the horizon, thanks to the bad storytelling that’s destroyed much of comicdom?

Dear Cap: You said:
<<Veil? I'm pulling a blank on that one. It's open to anybody who can jog the Captain's memory.>>

I would give you a help. By 1991/1992, the mutant annuals were serializing a little backup feature that showed the Freedom Force (Pyro's government-sponsored team) in a mission in then-Iraqi-occupied Kuwait. There they fought a really powerful Iraqi-sponsored super-team named Desert Sword. The fight was really messy and there were a lot of deaths (and cripplings) on both sides. Pyro killed a woman named Veil during the fighting, but it was a fight-for-their-lives kind of affair, so he had his reasons.

Thanks, [name withheld]!

A storyline like that wouldn’t be seen today, nor would Mr. Smith even ask for them anew.

And the discussion of superhero religion continues:
Dear Cap: According to Chuck Dixon, Batman is Catholic. (Who better to tell a fictional character's religion than one of his writers? Real people can accurately determine real people's religions, but only a Bat-Writer (or editor) knows a Bat-person's). The Source? I think it's on Dixonverse but I cannot confirm for now.
I can't confirm this, either. Can anybody else?
Dear Cap: You said:
<<We may not really have a disagreement here, just a problem with how I phrased things. It's a given that the Graeco-Roman pantheon is imbedded in pop culture and the collective unconscious of our culture, to borrow a Jungian term. I also accept without murmur that Greek mythology is part and parcel of Western civilization's literary, philosophical and historical foundation, which is why I've read The Iliad and The Odyssey three times each. My "real world" remark was just a transition line taking us from active, practicing religions to -- well, everything else. No diismissal or insult was implied, nor should be inferred.>>

I was skimming over your site again, and thought it might be a good idea to point some things out. You may or may not get a number of complaints now regarding what you said. Depends on how many neo-pagans read your column and visit your web site. The Graeco-Roman gods, not to mention the Norse pantheons, and the African ones, the Asian and the Hindu gods as well, are not merely part of our literary or artistic culture. Neo-paganism flourishes today, and there are a growing number of adherents to religions that revere ancient deities like Athena, Hercules, Odin, Athtor, Krishna, Zeus and a myriad of others, seeing them to be just as "real," as the God worshipped by those who follow the Judeo-Christian religion. I'll stay out of the validity arguments or the statistics, but it is reasonably safe to say that the most prominent of the re-emerging pagan religions is Wicca, a form of Celtic witchcraft. Other religions are Witta, or Irish witchcraft, Asatru (Norse paganism), Vodoun (supposedly the correct spelling of much-misunderstood voodoo) and oodles more. To suggest nowadays that the deities of our ancient history are no longer actively worshipped is a big fat no-no in America. The above-mentioned religions actively practice such worship on a regular basis. Watch yourself! Any negatively-leaning witch who reads your site is liable to invoke Nemesis and curse you! -- Marvelite again (or more accurately, a PYRO-maniac)
Well, shut my mouth -- literally. I was unaware of the neo-pagan movement. I apologize to any and all whose religion I may have inadvertently insulted.

Please, spare us the phony repentance; it's clear that he has no idea where an apology would serve well and where it wouldn't. Besides, where's his defense for Christian-owned businesses like Hobby Lobby?
Dear Cap: A number of years ago Paul Levitz, DC's executive vice president, was writing DC's Legion of Super-Heroes series. Levitz, who is Jewish, says he was reviewing notes on the heroes when he noticed that Gim Allon was the real name of the Legionnaire nicknamed Colossal Boy.
Gim Allon reminded Levitz of Yigal Allon (a.k.a. Paicovitch), a member of the inner Cabinet that mapped out the Six Day War strategy. So Levitz began developing the character's Jewish identity.
In 1983, Colossal Boy married Yera, an alien shape-shifter. The hero introduced his new bride to his parents a few issues later. After that meeting, the (bride's mother) asked her husband, "I wonder if I can find a way to convince them to bring their kids up Jewish?"
"It was a sincere attempt to touch on the issue of tolerance," Levitz said recently. "There are obviously very strong issues in our faith and in our cultural background." One of these issues, he noted, is whether intermarriage will eradicate Jewish culture entirely.

Another interesting site is http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/5756/JWISHC.HTM
I should also mention that, though they are obviously not Jews, the Guardians of the Universe were modelled after David Ben-Gurion. (John Broome was not only Jewish, he was a Zionist of sorts: he moved to Isreal in his later life.)
I remembered that Colossal Boy was Jewish, [name withheld], but I wouldn't have remembered the details if you'd beaten me with a stick. Thanks for the backstory.

That was then, and this is now: Levitz has since lost my respect after he got chummy with the taqqiya specialist who crafted The 99 and did a joint project with him in 2010. I will give some credit to the correspondent if the info about Broome is correct.

Dear Cap: I read your column yesterday regarding the religious faiths of comics characters. Afterwards, I was thinking about it and remembered that Magneto was Jewish too. His faith was a major part of his motivation, being a concentration-camp survivor and hoping this wouldn't happen to mutantkind as well. By the way, isn't he the only major villian whose faith has ever been mentioned? Wonder if this will be mentioned in the new X-Men movie. Keep up the good work!
Unfortunately, it looks like Marvel Comics is dropping the Jewish angle on Magneto, in favor his being a gypsy (who were also shuffled off to the camps in large numbers). I really don't know why. I think Magneto being a Jewish concentration camp survivor gives great layers of depth to his character. And it gives his cry of "Never again!" in reference to "his people" being persecuted a troubling verisimilitude.
I don't know what the movie will do with it, but here's what Ian McKellan had to say on his official web site (lifted from Mania magazine, who in turn lifted it from McKellan):
<<On his official web site, Sir Ian McKellan recently took the time to answer a few inquires from fans regarding his portrayal of Magneto and the role of Magneto in the upcoming X-Men film.
First, on the subject of Magneto’s relationship and conflicts with the Nazis:
”There have been many questions about Magneto and the Nazis -- this one explains the others. I can understand the anger of those who have been misinformed about the movie's Magneto. Neither in dress nor action is he sympathetic to Fascism. Magneto's political ambitions may be tainted by his relish for power -- but then whose aren’t?
”This confusion, entirely unsupported by the shooting script, arises from my having acted a Nazi in Bryan Singer's Apt Pupil and from the opening of the movie where Erik is a prisoner at Auschwitz.”
On Magneto’s similarity to other dramatic characters:
“Magneto is a thinker and a man of action -- like the heroes of classical drama. The obvious difference is in the dialogue. Magneto expresses himself tersely and succinctly, without the rhetoric and complexity of Shakespeare's kings.”
On why he chose to play Magneto:
“When Bryan Singer first talked to me about X-Men he explained the Xavier/Magneto axis in terms of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. It's true that each civil rights movement splits between the integrationists and separationists -- the proponents of non-violence versus violent activism. I have noted that amongst activists in the gay rights movement. Some of us move between the various approaches, me included. Any member of a minority facing discrimination can relate to the mutants' dilemma. So before I ever saw the comic, I knew what would be central to the film script -- an ever-relevant political argument. That attracted me as a gay man and as an actor.”
On the temptation to call Magneto the “bad guy:”
Magneto is too complicated a man to be portrayed as the typical "bad guy." I have had a great deal of help in familiarising myself with the Magneto backstory, including a lengthy précis of the oft-conflicting facts of his youth.” >>
As to other villains with specific faiths, none spring to mind. After all, it wouldn't be in a comics company's best interest to hold a specific religion up in a bad light. But there are some villains who are religion-specific, like The Crusader, who, like his early Christian counterparts, is extremely intolerant of other religions (he dressed up like a Knight Templar and tried to kill Thor).

I’m disappointed the correspondent refers to Magneto’s Jewishness as religion instead of race. Again, I believe there is a difference in some way or other, and race comes first, religion second.

I’m also disappointed at how Singer and McKellen exploited their project for LGBT issues, though it’s not all that new to the comics either. All the same, it’s certainly gotten worse today than before.

Dear Cap: I know that Captain Comics provides us with a friendly place to discuss comics, and I don't want to sidetrack anyone away from that fine pursuit. But I felt that everyone could benefit from a response to [name withheld].

[name withheld], although it is true that many who claim to be Calvinists have supported temperance, that has never been the case of John Calvin himself. Seeing as I attend the Calvin Seminary, I should let you know that Calvin was no such teetotaler. He never called beer "the devil's brew" in print, although he was known to sneer at it as being something less fine than a good glass of wine (Calvin was French, after all).

In fact, part of Calvin's salary as a minister in Geneva was to be paid in wine. Martin Luther, similarly, received two kegs of beer from a supporter in order to sustain him on his trip from Wittenberg to Worms.

Furthermore, in his commentary on the Psalms (specifically Psalm 104:15 which reads "{God made} wine that gladdens the hearts of man"), Calvin says that "God not only provides for men's necessity... but that in his goodness he deals still more bountifully with them by cheering their hearts with wine." Calvin continues, "It is lawful to use wine not only in cases of necessity but also thereby to make us merry." Although he cautions that we must never "drown our senses," Calvin is staunchly opposed to any law which forbids the drinking of alcohol.

If you have any questions, you can contact me at [withheld].

Part II:
An Open Letter to James Robinson

Please don't take Jack Knight away from us.

I know, I know. We live in the age of creator's rights, and for the most part I support that endeavour. I know that writers and artists have been treated horribly in the past, and that many creators now feel they have to protect their financial future by protecting their characters.

And I know, I know. You love Jack Knight so much that you would hate to see any harm come to him. You wouldn't want him to go through the pains that have been inflicted on Hawkman or Hal Jordan. I understand why DC canceled (Power of) Shazam and Spectre when the creative forces moved on. And I understand that you want the same for Jack. But those other characters had been given several chances before and I'm sure that they'll return.

The thing is, I love Jack Knight. I feel like I know him. I know that I'll miss him, the same as I would miss a good friend who leaves town.

And the thing is, Jack Knight just might be able to survive. So he may not be Superman or Batman, but there's no reason to think that he can't run for 350 issues like the Flash. Some of us are fond enough of him that we might just stick it out.

I know, I know. You think that you're the only one who loves him enough to take care of him, the only one who can put the right words in his mouth. You may even be right.

But what if Jack Burnley had kept Ted Knight so that no one else was able to tell his adventures? Or Bob Kane had never let go of the Batman? You wouldn't be able to write the stories you do, or use the characters that all of us love.

Yes, I'm sure that Bob Kane and Jack Burnley have winced at some later stories. But I also know that some of those stories have had a grandeur that they may have never imagined.

Please give Jack Knight a chance to become a permanent fixture. Isn't it worth the risk? Doesn't Jack deserve a chance?

Please don't take Jack Knight away from us.

Just so nobody else misunderstands -- I know you get it -- but Robinson isn't canceling Starman (DC Comics is). He's just moving on to a screenwriting career, having wrapped up all he wants to say about Jack Knight. And Jack isn't retiring, as he is still going to be a regular in JSA.

Really, you mean it, Robinson became a screenwriter? Because he’s back in comics since; guess tinseltown didn’t find his ideas for filmmaking very lucrative, and a shame the baboon who wrote this thinks Robinson is some kind of genius. Because after all these years, I’ve concluded that his Starman series was one of the biggest ripoffs of the 1990s. I don’t hold that against Jack Knight – he is a fictional character, after all – but I do hold it against Robinson for brewing up one of the most overrated hogwashes of all time, and otherwise disrespecting his own cast of characters.

And Jack did retire, after a pretty brief period with JSA. But why’s the correspondent asking Jack not be taken away, yet failing to lament how Robinson did the same with David Knight, and even Ted Knight at the end of the series’ run? What about the 3 Justice Leaguers who died at the hands of Nash in 1998? Doesn’t he even want to care about them? My advice to the guy would be to come back after he’s learned a lesson from Mark Gruenwald. Here’s another by the same person sans direct response:

Dear Cap: I want to thank you for giving us one of your best-written articles ever (or at least since I became a regular reader last summer). I'm glad that all of the discussion on religion in comics was so fruitful.
As a sidebar, having one of Batman's ancestors fight in the Crusades doesn't muddy the waters at all. The Crusades occurred roughly 500 years before the Protestant Revolution. Therefore, it is perfectly consistent for a modern Protestant to have descended from Catholic crusaders.

I disagree. Mr. Smith writes the worst articles, on religion or otherwise.

Dear Cap: Thank you for quoting me in your column.
I do have a few more comments. You mentioned that Bruce Wayne's ancestor in The Scottish Connection was a Crusader and thus Roman Catholic. While that makes sense, it does not mean that Bruce Wayne would himself be Roman Catholic. After all, all Protestants who are white (and some Protestants who are black) have ancestors who were Catholic. (For that matters, all Irish and Polish Catholics have ancestors who worshipped the gods of Celtic and Slavic mythology -- but that does not make all Irish or Polish Catholics Celtic or Slavic pagans.)
It should be remembered that when the Crusades took place, Protestantism did not exist; the only other large denomination of Christians in Europe was the Eastern Orthodox. Luther (and, for that matter, John Huss) was not even born until centuries after the Crusades ended.
Yeah, I know that just because Batman's ancestor was Catholic that he, himself, could still be Protestant. I just was making the point -- and apparently badly -- that Wayne's ancestor HAD to be Christian -- and Catholic, since he was a Christian prior to the Reformation. In other words, Bruce Wayne's family is squarely of European extraction and cultural attachments, which supported a number of our prior assumptions.

As I’ve said before, some of the correspondents to this man, if not all, manage to make better arguments than he does. Did I ever mention I question Mr. Smith’s own respect for Christianity, and Judaism too, if that matters? (I’ve never seen him speak in defense of Christians persecuted in Muslim countries, hence, I’ve reason to be uncertain.) Heck, I’m even willing to say I sometimes wonder if he’d consider the Haredi lifestyle the only legitimate form of Orthodox Judaism, certainly if it’s the kind practiced by atrocious isolationists like Satmar.

He may have admitted he made a terrible point about Bruce Wayne’s religious defaults, but I’ve never seen him admit he was wrong to back Identity Crisis full force, as he did in 2004.

Dear Cap: Loved your article on the religions of various heroes.
It should be noted that Marc Spector, Moon Knight, was one of the earliest heroes to be given a specific religious heritage, and a Jewish one at that. I remember reading an interview with the writer of that series back in the early '80s (was it Doug Moench?) in which he said that he wanted to make Moon Knight the first "known" Jewish superhero.
I'm curious, though -- since Moon Knight is a multiple personality of sorts, are ALL FOUR of his personalities Jewish? Or is each one a different religion? Boy, talk about cognitive dissonance ... !

Today, Marvel’s modern overlords have thrown that all away, as Mr. Smith stood by silently, just as he did when DC subjected their own cast of characters to horrific abuse. Let’s go on to February 17, 2000, and some more notes about the passing of Gil Kane:

Dear Cap: My love of the work Gil Kane was a bit late in the coming. He was always around, and I noted and appreciated his art. I knew he looked best when he inked himself, for example. But it was in the '80s, with his work on Action Comics and Sword of the Atom, that I fell in love.
With Kane, it all comes down to the human figure. Kane probably drew the most vital, the most alive figures I've ever seen in comics, mainstream or otherwise. Kane's people always struck me as somewhat Asian, and, oddly, somewhat insect-like. A strange combination to totally realize any kind of figure the artist was drawing -- but it worked perfectly. No one, with the possible exception of (Joe) Kubert, drew people more beautiful than Kane did. Kane's men of action were beings of amazing beauty, grace, fluidity -- but also of mass, power and energy.
And they moved, they breathed. They practically glowed with kinetic and emotional energy. Even Kane's incredible sense of panel and -- especially -- page design. It all ended up being about the figure -- moving that figure through its world, by moving it across that page. Part of the beauty of Kane's human figure is that it moves, with kinetic force and the impact of real feeling, like no other artist's.
Kane's people, with their dynamic rendering, movement and, I shouldn't forget, striking posturing, were larger than life -- very much so -- but they were also very real to me at the same time.
I wish I could say more about Kane the man. The Comics Journal has afforded me some glimpses of his wit, intelligence and knowledge, his commitment to the craft and industry of comic books. But how Kane has touched me (more than I could have even known before his death) is, ultimately, as an artist. Out of the creator deaths I've been "present" for, to find out about the day they've occurred, his is the first to hit me anywhere near this hard. I really can't find the words to explain, even to myself, why I am so sad now, over a week later, about the death of a person I never even met, how that lump forms in my throat if I think about it for more than a moment or two ...

I would only quibble about the guy’s reliance on TCJ, because it’s run by some otherwise dreadful leftists. But apart from that, I like this dude’s take on Kane and his work, which is a lot more than can be said for Mr. Smith’s whose fandom for Kane and various other famous artists and writers is questionable to the max.

Dear Cap: I just learned of the recent death of Gil Kane. I just wish to say that I am truly saddened at his passing. Although I am too young to (have seen) his Silver Age revamps of the Atom and Green Lantern when they first came out, I did see them in reprint form. I know that there is no doubt that everyone can agree that Gil Kane is one of the finest graphic illustrators that ever lived. If he wasn't in the Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko/Neal Adams class, he was only one microstep below them and extremely underappreciated. I first saw his work on his 1970s run on Spider-Man and later his 1980s work on Superman and other DC titles as well as the aforementioned reprints. I also had the privilege of seeing his work on his Western titles from the 1950s in reprint form, as well as his single issue of Blue Devil. My favorite work however, was in his comic strip Starhawks. Do I think it was his best work? No. But I do think it was some of his most fun work and the strip which I always thought would have made a great movie definitely had his imprint of fun. I also remember him being a pretty good writer as well and remember seeing his storyboard work listings for the Ruby-Spears animation line, including my personal favorite The Centurions as well as Mr. T, Chuck Norris, Rambo and I'm sure Plastic Man (which I'm betting other than Jack Kirby, no one else has had a chance to work on a character that they helped define in the comics). I know I'm droning on, but I just wanted to express my feelings toward this great ARTIST and my deepest sympathies toward his family. Long live Gil Kane, may his lantern always burn brightly.

And again, that’s certainly doing a lot better than Mr. Smith’s ever done. After his gushing take on Identity Crisis, he singlehandedly destroyed any notion he’s a fan of Kane. No, I don’t believe for even a second he really appreciated his work, and I have no qualms saying so.

Here’s some letters by notable writers, and I guess some of the few I’m willing to let be known were by these folks:

Mark Waid
Gorilla Comics
Dear Cap: The reason Gil was one of the two or three most influential artists in this business ever is because his work never dated. If anything, it simply got more dynamic year after year.
It’s only a shame that, since the time Waid wrote this, he’s gone downhill with left-wing politics and even a notorious case of being nasty to conservatives on Twitter. I doubt Kane would approve of that.
Roy Thomas
TwoMorrows Publishing
Dear Cap: Having responded to several requests for quotes about Gil, and being in the midst of writing a long reminiscence of our collaborations and friendship for Alter Ego, I don't know if I have any truly original ones still in me ... and how original can one be, anyway, in saying such things? Gil was a self-taught artist, writer and entrepreneur who strived continually to better his own art and to better the comic-book industry that he both loved and despised, and contributed far more than a look at a mere pile of the few hundred comic books he drew could possibly suggest.
Thomas was surely the best commentator on the subject as an industry insider. In fact, that’s why I actually think it’s a shame he’d correspond with Mr. Smith, since what did Major Moonbat ever do to defend his works? For example, Infinity Inc? As noted earlier, Smith was dismissive of Thomas’s efforts there, and that’s a serious shame.
Steve Lightle
Cross Plains Comics
While we are remembering Gil Kane for his fantastic skills as an artist, I would like to quote his comments on a current topic. During 1969, in an issue of DC's Captain Action, Mr. Kane had this to say: "For years I've been looking forward to the time when I would be afforded the opportunity to develop and evolve a character in my own fashion."
Gil Kane was already an industry legend by this time, on the strength of his artwork on THUNDER Agents, Green Lantern, The Hulk and The Atom. Evidently he had encountered a "glass ceiling" that stops most artists from ever writing their own stories. Though I have nothing against artists and writers collaborating on comic projects, I think it's ridiculous that so many assume that storytellers who use graphics to communicate are incapable of using the written word. Then again, that should come as no surprise in an industry where it is assumed that pencilers cannot ink. Strange when you consider that the art form started with storytellers who created cartoons by themselves. We have now specialized to the extent that many editors assume that it is unlikely for someone to possess more than a single skill.
Gil went on to write, "I've always maintained that the best art came out of continuity, either wholly created, or at least broken down dramatically, by the artist himself."
Does anyone remember that Gil Kane was a pretty darned good writer?
A few.
Not enough, sadly.

Not even Mr. Smith, sadly. He doesn’t even remember Gardner Fox was a good writer, with only a few flaws to his record. Now, here’s letters about religion:

Dear Cap: I found my confimation (on Batman being Catholic). The source is http://www.dixonverse.com/christ.html
On that page I found the notation excerpted here: "Graham Nolan and I had an ongoing argument about whether Bruce was raised Catholic or Protestant. I recently conceded to Graham than he must be Catholic. No Protestant ever suffered guilt the way Bruce does."
I also found an interesting (factoid) about the Jewish Moon Knight: "When I wrote Moon Knight over at Marvel I wanted to explore the fact that Marc Spector was Jewish. I was uncomfortable with the fact that a Jew wielded a power born of Egyptian myth. I wanted to deal with this in a storyline. My editor told me to ignore that aspect of his personality. And I was told this by an editor who is a Jew. Is there something in the mind of comics fandom and professionals that finds religion repugnant? Or are they simply avoiding the familiar?"
As an out-of-order afterthought (the Moon Knight paragraph was the last in the writing) by Mr. Dixon: "I find it peculiar that the idea of comic-book heroes being Christians is "controversial." How many of our heroes are Buddhists or Druids or some other world religion and never raise an eyebrow? Maybe Christianity is too close to home and we want our heroes to have a more exotic belief system?"
I think that Christian superheroes are indeed "too close to home," so companies are worried about offending anyone. It's the same reason Star Trek: Voyager's Commander Chakotay (and other fictional Native Americans) was made a generic Indian instead of a member of a specific tribe: if you name a specific tribe, some malcontent is going to write you /sue you, complaining that you're depicting his tribe inaccurately. "Exotic belief systems," as Dixon phrased it, are simply safer to deal with
And I'm delighted to hear that no less an expert than Chuck Dixon agrees with my assessment that Batman must be a Catholic -- and via the same reasoning I used. The Captain is feeling pretty smug right now.

He must’ve been feeling pretty smug after praising Identity Crisis like it were the most wonderful thing in the world too. This is fascinating if only because it hints at a major problem today: the hostility to Christianity by leftists in showbiz. No less disturbing is the hostility plenty of them have to Judaism as well. By contrast, if the Muslim Ms. Marvel recently launched is any suggestion, they have no problems with the Religion of Peace. Tom Brevoort’s lost my respect for him long before this for his own part in wrecking Marvel, and this only served to widen the rift. Particularly after his vulgar replies to Bosch Fawstin, in which he sent telling signals he’s not a fan of Captain America.

Dear Cap: Again, this is going off my rapidly fading memory, but at the time (he was revealed to be Jewish), the Marc Spector identity was Moon Knight's "original, true" identity, and Spector was supposed to be Jewish. At the time the series was being written in kind of a James Bond/secret agent/superhero mode, in which the various identities were disguises rather than aspects of a multiple personality disorder (didn't that come later?)
Yup -- the MPD aspect was developed later.

All this coming from somebody who must be suffering MPD himself!

Dear Cap: I should mention that, vis-a-vis Blackhawk's Roman Catholicism, Blackhawk did not lose his faith because of the Nazis or the Soviets. Blackhawk lost his faith because (according to the Secret Origins issue I referred to) his father committed suicide, and in a very pre-Vatican II spirit and under pressure from rich members of the congregation, the Roman Catholic Church refused to bury Blackhawk's father in a respectable, consecrated burial ground. (This was actually common before Vatican II; suicides were rarely buried in church graveyards.) Blackhawk notes in that issue of Secret Origins that then was the begining of his atheism. I mentioned the invasion of Poland by the Soviets because that hardened the Roman Catholic faith of many Poles, as the Soviet Union was officially atheist. I thought it was interesting that Blackhawk did not rediscover any Roman Catholic faith as a result of the Soviet Union's atrocities against Poland.
(Of course, this is not to indict all atheists. As I noted before, Joseph Stalin's actions have no bearing on the truth or falseness of atheism. Someone being bad does not of necessity ruin the belief system of said person. Anglicanism/Protestantism is not evil because of Oliver Cromwell, for example, nor is Eastern Orthodoxy evil because of Nicholas I, nor is Luthernaism/Protestantism evil because of Frederick the Great.)
Moving on, the invasion of Poland by the Nazis does not seem to have caused Poles to lose their Roman Catholic faith. It may actually have hardened it. After all Germany was, by a slim majority, predominantly Protestant. (Admittedly many Germans -- and a few top Nazis -- were Roman Catholics. But that is one of those things that people gloss over; just as many Irish Roman Catholics forget that the first English monarch to start the large-scale colonization of Ireland by English settlers was not a Protestant nor an Anglican, but rather the Roman Catholic Queen Mary.) The Nazis also rounded up many Roman Catholic priests in Poland. The story of one such priest, who later became a saint (Maximillian Kolbe), was retold in comic-book form in The Big Book of Martyrs.

I credit the correspondent for bringing this up, because it’s a strong sign of how the nazis were anything but Christian, something the wider world needs to know.

Hey, Cap. I'm wondering what you think of the new Captain Marvel series.
I picked it up because I really enjoyed Avengers Forever. I never followed Genis outside of his first appearance in that Silver Surfer annual. But I also was craving another Marvel "cosmic" book. CM's based on Earth, but it's the closest thing to cosmic we have. I remember the "good old days" in the early '90s when Marvel, though overpublishing at the time, had Silver Sufer, Warlock and the Infinity Watch, Quasar, Guardians of the Galaxy and the short-lived Cosmic Powers Unlimited. Now they're all gone.
Peter David's writing is hilarious, too. I never read his Hulk, but I liked what he did for X-Factor in 1991. Of course, we've seen how trigger-happy Marvel is these days, and I read in Wizard that David is worried CM will be canceled before it finds its footing with fans. I've tried to get my friends to pick it up, but I figure I'll reach more people this way.
Come on, we need to tell Marvel that "cosmic" doesn't just mean Shi'ar or mutant Skrulls.
Normally a couple of issues is too early to call, but I'm really enjoying Captain Marvel. Of course, I've enjoyed just about everything Peter David has written (some more than others), so I'd expect to enjoy it. Also, I loathed the Genis character as he was originally presented (as a drunken, drug-using womanizer who felt sorry for himself), so it's welcome to see him cleaned up and in heroic mode. Anyway, I like PAD's ability to mix drama and humor, and I give it a thumbs up.
Oh, and if you like Captain Marvel, do yourself a favor and pick up some of David's Incredible Hulk run from a quarter bin somewhere. Good stuff.

Sure, I’ll bet he didn’t like the way Genis-Vell was originally depicted. I’ve always found his commentary so self-serving, and I’m glad I woke up to that façade of his since. The same man who’s silent about the terrible mistreatment both Marvel and DC casts have received since that time cannot be taken at face value.

Dear Cap: Warren Ellis's Planetary is a fine work of competent craftsmanship that is not only recognized as such but is highly appreciated as well. If you do get a chance, please do read the No. 8 issue. The contributors of this issue celebrate and show why the genres of science fiction, science fantasy, horror and superheroics make us wish "if only we could live in that multi-layered omniverse."
I know that I would certainly liked to have tried. But then, we must be careful what we wish for ...
I am going to jump the gun and say that the 8th issue of Planetary by WildStorm ... is one of the best productions for the year 2000. I will say that it is a timeless modern classic that can stir emotions.
Pretty cool how they referenced '50s sci-fi movies (Them, Amazing Colossal Man, Incredible Shrinking Man), and still told a whopper of a story, to boot.

A shame the guy writing this – and Mr. Smith, come to think of it – thought Ellis’s leftist mishmash was great. Ellis has gotten worse since then. We must be careful what we wish for indeed.

Dear Cap: So here's my plan to save the industry.
1) It's all about the benjamins, baby. Comics have to be cost effective to both the retailer and the reader. The retailer has to show some profit at the end of the day, and the reader better get his or her money's worth. Most comics take a person 15 minutes to read. At 2 or 3 bucks a shot, it just isn't worth it. Reducing the cost means cutting back on the fancy covers, the great-looking colors and the high-quality paper stock. Don't try and charge us more than a buck a comic. It just won't work.
(Captain's question: But what about Monster comics and the like?)
... I recall fondly the first Superman/Spider-Man crossover and some of those big digest reprints. I begged my parents for the money and it was well worth it (even if I did have to do extra chores around the house). I think monthly titles under a buck (with good return for retailers) should be the mainstays, but every other month a high-priced "special" wouldn't hurt. Still, comics rely upon a monthly readership. That has to be the bread and butter of the industry and the gateway to other comics. The industry needs to plan its budget with that in mind.
2) Remember the basic rule: Every comic is some kid's first one. I would never buy an issue of X-Men now. The story is too ... convoluted to follow. I read X-Men for years and years as a teenager. If it's impossible for me to follow the story and the characters, how ... would a kid be able to do it? Not too long ago every issue of Spider-Man would remind the reader about his Spider-Sense and his motivation. Does it mean that every writer has to rehash everything of importance every single issue? You betcha. It's the price we pay for the  medium.
3) Fanboys have to make sacrifices. I love Batman, Spider-Man and Superman as much as the next guy. But you know what? If comics are to survive we need to give those characters back to the kids. DC and Marvel have to stop trying to make their core characters "more adult."
All of us over the age of 21 need to let go. We don't demand Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner become "more adult", why do we demand this of Batman? (Thank God we don't. I can picture it now: The Dark Rabbit Returns by Frank Miller exploring the dark crossdressing psychotic nature of Bugs Bunny. Geesh.)
(Captain's question: Does that mean superheroes should remain a children's medium, and if so, what are adults supposed to read? How does the industry keep the adult dollar while developing this mythical children's market?)
Fortunately in this age of media mergers I think it's possible. The value of Superman and Spider-Man as intellectual propertry allows companies the luxury (if they plan ahead) to make the transition to a financially viable state. The adolescent-fantasy aspect of the characters is what draws kids into reading them in the first place. That doesn't mean we completely abandon our childhood favorites. Books "outside" the monthly issues such as an occasional graphic novel are fine. Actually, I would pick seven or eight characters from each company and return them to their younger roots, keep those stocked on the bookshelves of every grocery store, drugstore and arcade and use that as the bridge between the industry like it is today and the way the industry needs to be tomorrow. JLA and Avengers should feature those "core" characters and include a more "adult" character to generate interest in "older" books.
4) Direct Market must die. Painfully.
(Captain's question: The direct market provides the bulk of the industry's income right now. You can't kill the direct market until you have alternate distribution and inroads into bookstores, newsstands and the Internet. Again, how does one get from Point A to Point B?)
Let's say that DC canceled the current Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern titles. They then retooled those characters and books to make them more accessible to kids. The next step is to make a JLA book that features those core characters and one or two more "adult" characters. Those stories are all self contained, with the occasional one- or two-part story. Those books are sold at a major financial loss at "standard" bookstores, drugstores and other places. The direct market then sells the more "adult" books including those two "bridge" characters featured in the JLA title. Kids, like they used to, will eventually gravitate toward the comic-book shops as their tastes mature. This allows for a relativly smooth transition.
5) We older readers will have to make sacrifices, but in return comic companies need to give us something. More trade paperbacks with regular republishing schedules. Sold in bookstores and giving us a good return for our money. I have no problem paying 15 bucks for a TPB. Let's see more of them.
(Captain's question: If superheroes remain a children's medium, then what's IN those trade paperbacks to attract my $15?)
There's nothing stopping an Alex Ross or a Frank Miller from making a graphic novel with (superhero) characters as long as it doesn't have an impact on the core monthly titles. Besides, even by "sacrificing" seven or eight characters there are still plenty of superheroes out there. Trade paperbacks will feature back stories that will help our occasional fits of nostalgia and feature work that breaks new boundaries. Besides, just because Flash and Superman are now "kid" titles doesn't mean that they won't be great books. Look at Impulse or some of the Superman  stories from the Curt Swan era. Look at Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four. "Adult" doesn't always mean "better."
6) Give the continuity cops a punch in the face. Although that subset may find it hard to believe, not every reader wants to buy every single comic in existence ... and we sure ... don't want every story ever published to have to fit together. "No Man's Land" was a real fun series, why (complain) about how it fits in with the rest of the DC Universe? Each story is separate and must only be consistent with itself. If you really must refer to other books, please give plenty of explanations and footnotes. If another character appears in the book, don't take it for granted we know about the other character's book and history. Tell us who ... the person is. Don't worry about timelines and reboots -- just tell the ... stories.
(Captain's question: I agree that continuity is out of hand. But surely there must be SOME continuity, simply as quality control. A story must remain internally consistent -- Superman can fly, Lois Lane can't -- or you lose suspension of disbelief. In other words, if creators don't care about consistency and the history of their characters, why should we care about them at all?)
Initally Superman couldn't fly. The source of his powers changed from episode to episode (Kryptonians being just highly evolved, Kyrptonians gaining power from higher gravity, etc., etc). Sure, any fiction has its own internal consistency ... we shouldn't just make it a drag on telling good stories. Who cares if Lex Luthor has hair in one story and is bald by a teenager in another? It's the storytelling that matters.
7) Enough with the gravity-defying breasts and tight clothing, all right?
I understand that most artists and fanboys don't date all that much. Don't alienate potential female fans with your juvenile fixation on sex. Sex is a wonderful thing, don't get me wrong, but until the writers learn how to be adult about it, just leave it alone.
There you go, Cap. Seven steps to save the industry. I didn't even bill DC and Marvel my normal rate for consultation.
They probably couldn't afford you. (And I hope you'll forgive me for combining two of your letters here, with the answers to some of my questions-- it seemed the simplest solution.)

We’ve come 14 years since this letter, and whatever the guy’s ideas on how to save the medium, many casual readers have since been driven out of the market. I appreciate what he thinks – which is more sincere than what Mr. Smith could be – but thanks to the latter, that’s why the medium has fallen deep.

Dear Cap: Thanks for going to the trouble of pulling out all the old boxes (to answer last week's question). I have to say that I'm stunned that you have that many comics. Just for you, I've discovered another Lone Star publication which was advertising a Pantheon No. 6. I don't know whether or not Bill Willingham was still working on it. In issue No. 1, which I have, he claims that the 12-issue Pantheon series is intended as an ending for Elementals.
I'm also surprised that you mentioned Comico without mentioning Grendel.
A response to the suggestions on how to fix the comic-book industry: Somebody mentioned that stores should try gimmicks like "buy $10 and get a free comic." Well, I don't know about the rest of the country, but here, most stores do have some sort of a gimmick. I know of one which offers 10-percent discounts on all new comics, and another which has a membership club which offers discounts on both new comics and back issues.
My regular store, Tardy's Corner, has a bonus stamp offer. Every time that I spend five dollars, I receive a bonus stamp (or two for ten, four for twenty and so on). Once I've accumulated 50 bonus stamps, I am entitled to a $50 shopping spree. It's a great deal and it keeps me going back to Tardy's every week even though there are three other stores closer to me. It's also how I justify dropping the big change on big-ticket items like Archive Editions or Silver Age issues worth more than $15.
I'm sure that the stamp system and some of their other gimmicks help keep Tardy's in business, but that's not going to save the industry. I'd probably spend just as much money (though not quite as much, because I wouldn't experiment with new titles trying to bump myself up to an increment of five) but at a different store.
Captain Comics is right when he says that the industry needs to attract new buyers. That's why, as much as we hate them right now, the Pokemon comics and cards are good for the industry. Some of those kids will grow up and realize that Batman can kick Pikachu's furry yellow butt (and I even like Pikachu, but he doesn't stand a chance).
And that's why the exposure in Time magazine that comes from Stan Lee's new enterprise, and yes, even Gil Kane's obituary, is another good thing. Do I think that basing a superhero team on the Backstreet Boys (as Stan is doing) will save the industry? No. But it might introduce new readers to the medium, similar to soft-rap artists like MC Hammer introducing young kids to a new musical genre.
One of the things that scares me is that I used to be able to find WildCATS and Spawn in the toy section at Meijer's (an all-purpose grocery/clothing store) while a local 7-11 carried X-titles, Superman, Batman and Cartoon Network Presents, yet now neither place has any comics. Sure it doesn't affect me now that I'm 25 and I know where to look (and can even shop online). But I needed those stores when I was 10. I guess I'm worried about 10-year-olds and whether or not there will be enough fans to replace us when we start spending our comic-book money on our children.
I know that I should stop now, this being the Captain Comics Page and not mine, but this leads me to answer Cap's question of "what do you collect and why?" Nostalgia plays a huge factor. When I was 10, I owned Tales of the Teen Titans 59, Uncanny X-Men 202, while my brother had Amazing Spider-Man 274 and an issue of Batman and the Outsiders. That's it. I must have read all of them over 200 times each during the next two years.
That's why when I started buying back issues a couple of years ago, the first titles I scooped up were Excalibur (which featured Nightcrawler and Shadowcat), Teen Titans and the X-Men and why I've stuck with the X-Men even though their titles haven't been up to snuff. I still follow the characters of my youth like Nightwing as if they were long-time friends and why I'll always pick up a Geo-Force guest shot in Action Comics even if I skip the super-special Superman-turns-blue issues.
Like most readers, I've since discovered that it was the creators who made me fall in love with the characters. I'd rather read a George Perez story about characters that bore me (such as UltraForce) than read some of those horrid Excalibur fill-in issues after (Chris) Claremont and (Alan) Davis left. And I've followed George Perez into the I-Bots (by Tekno*Comix), the JLA and the Avengers, but I passed on Kitty Pryde: Agent of SHIELD.
And the third factor (along with nostalgia and creators) is discovery. I love rummaging and finding characters I never knew before. My exploration has served me well, introducing me to Astro City, Stormwatch, Solar, Static, Icon and the THUNDER Agents (and even a Silver Age story by Steve Ditko in Dell's Nukla and some Jim Steranko work on The Fly).
So, in answer to Cap's question, what I buy (along with some snide remarks of my own): Avengers; Marvel: The Lost Generation; Astro City; Tom Strong; Promethea; Top Ten (I stopped getting League of Extraordinary Gentlemen because it's been so long, I barely remember the story, and I skip Tomorrow Stories because I don't like spending money on a book of which I'll only enjoy half); WildCATS; Birds of Prey*; Starman* (*these two, along with Astro City and Wonder Woman, are my wife's favourites); Uncanny X-Men; X-Men; Titans; Young Justice; Nightwing; JLA (and any JLA special, such as Created Equal, although Foreign Bodies was easily the best); JSA; and Wonder Woman.
I'm just starting to buy Superman, Action Comics and Batman but I can't afford eight new titles all at once so I'm hoping they keep their promise and don't set up so much interaction that you can't follow the story. The Superman titles are already letting me down on that count and I'm debating whether or not to grab the whole line or drop Loeb and Kelly and the rest of the gang.
I also sample occasional Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman if they look interesting, and I pick up quite a few miniseries such as Blaze of Glory, the Brave and the Bold and Avengers Forever.
Finally, I'm looking forward to Gorilla Comics because Busiek, Waid and Perez almost always put out great stuff. I'll probably give Fantastic Four another shot because I really like (Carlos) Pacheco and I just might delve into some Star Wars with the upcoming Jedi Council.
With specials, I spend about $20 a week, not counting occasional weekend rummages for back-issues.
I have to note three things:
1) You would hate to hear all the places comics were available when the hoary old Captain was 10, around 1968. It would really depress you.
2) Right now Pikachu is kicking Batman's butt. The various incarnations of Viz Communications' first Pokemon title have passed the one-million mark, which is a very exclusive club. And, as much as I hate Pokemon personally, I am glad to see it.
3) Yup, I forgot to mention Grendel. To find out why, read on ...

I feel sorry for the near-sighted correspondent who wrote this, little realizing that despite what Mr. Smith said, he’s not hoping the industry draws new buyers if he doesn’t take an objective position that isn’t favoratist like Wizard could do in their time (and he had problems with them? Yeah, right). As for Willingham, the man who willfully took assignments where he badly wrote three ladies of DC – Stephanie Brown, Jean Loring and Leslie Thompkins – I want to note that the most embarrassing thing about Willingham is that he’s a conservative. Years ago, after I discovered he insulted readers on his website who were offended by what he did to Thompkins in Detective Comics, it left a very bad taste in my mouth. So here, when he might’ve had a chance of winning me over as a Fables reader, he effectively threw it away by suggesting he doesn’t want an audience. He may have changed and admitted it was editorial mandates he was working under, but never clearly apologized, and that’s why nearly a decade after the fact, it still leaves a very bad aftertaste.

I’m also very disappointed that baboon who wrote the letter may have been lenient with DC after what they did to Hal Jordan.

Dear Cap: Read your answer re: Eclipse Comics, and you left off one notable title -- Eclipse was the publisher that brought Alan Moore's Marvelman strip from the British magazine Warrior to North America, as Miracleman. Moore's run was actually completed with issue No. 16 of the Eclipse series, after which it was passed on to Neil Gaiman, until the last published issue, No. 23. The larger story Gaiman planned to tell remains unfinished.
Todd McFarlane purchased many of the Eclipse-owned properties in the mid-'90s (before he bought the baseballs!) and has actually brought back some of the Hillman characters in limited appearances. Books such as Detectives, Inc. and Sabre that Eclipse originally published have recently been reprinted under the Image logo.

Miracleman, however, is unfortunately caught in a undecipherable maze of claims of ownership (even partial ownership) by anyone who's been involved with the character over it's near 50-year existence -- everyone from Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman, to the original UK publishers in the 1950s. It's unlikely Miracleman will ever see print in any form again
Other notes you didn't mention in your answer:

Fantagraphics also published Love and Rockets (where the band got its name), and is still around, publishing The Comics Journal (the yin to Wizard magazine's yang).

Oh, and back in the mid-'80s everyone was doing a Ninja Turtles parody, so it's not that unbelievable ...
And yes, I miss First Comics too.
Me too. Well, except for American Flagg!, which has been reprised in every title Chaykin has written since, so it never really left.:)

I also remember distinctly the Turtles parodies. Pre-Teen, Dirty-Gene, Kung-Fu Kangaroos had the best name by far. And there was one involving Power Pachyderms, and another that had to do with Jiu-Jitsu Gerbils ...
And I missed a couple of big titles in my synopsis of '70s-'80s Indies because of my archaic and abstruse filing sysem. Miracleman, Grendel titles and Elementals were listed under their last publisher, instead of alphabetical, and I overlooked them. I forgot about L&R altogether because it is a magazine, not a comic book, and is collated in an altogether different manner. One of these days I'll get around to straightening it all out ... but not today.

He missed a lot more than that. He missed morality, sincerity, not to mention an ability to refrain from hypocrisy. Come to think of it, so did the letter writer. I guess he also makes light of TCJ and Wizard alike. Sad.

Dear Cap: Your answer to the question about Elementals was a bit off. Actually, the series started in the mid-'80s not the '70s, and I think lasted until the mid-'90s. In regards to the reader's question about Pantheon, it definitely made it past the first issue. I'm not totally sure since I don't collect the book, but I believe it has reached issue five or so.
You're absolutely right, [withheld]. Elementals No. 1 was published in 1984. And thanks for the Pantheon info -- I still haven't found an issue locally.

And thanks to people like him, the medium is otherwise collapsing. I’m not surprised his answer on that were a bit off, but given how dreadful Willingham’s manners have been in the mid-2000s, it probably doesn’t make much difference.

Dear Cap: In reference to the 2/10 "New Comics Release List & Commentary":
You are a Marvel Man, aren't you? Well, at least you trashed half the books you talked about.
While it's true that I had no comments on any of the DC titles released last week, [name withheld], it wasn't because of company prejudice. It just so happened that I had no comments on the particular DC titles released last week! I think I more than made up for it this week.

Alas, this disgraceful man does have prejudice, against DC’s heroes and co-stars. That’s why he won’t compensate for this dopey lack of commentary (not that it’s worth squat in any event).

Dear Cap: Dalgoda. Dal god A. God A dal. Lad, a dog. Get it? There was a book or poem of this title. The only reference to it I can remember is a humor story I read as a kid in which a family had named their dog after this, and it ended up being run together Ladadog.
The series was okay, but it kind of soured on me because there is a scene where the main human characters involve Dalgoda in a human sex act he knows nothing about. They essentially sexual exploit him.
Yeah, yeah, I get "A Dog Lad" -- I read the series too, remember? Writer Jan Strnad even explained that Dalgoda was "A Dog Lad" backwards once in the letters page for anybody too dumb to make the connection. And I do remember that something about that series disappointed me -- it was probably the uncomfortable sex scene you describe.

So says the same man who wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable with the rape of Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis. So says the same man who can’t admit turning a costumed supervillain into a rapist is about as clever as turning Yousemite Sam from Loony Tunes into the same. Would anybody be able to stand for that and not think they’re making light of serious subjects while at the same time misusing famous cartoon characters? Why do I get the bad feeling he’d be silent about that too?

Dear Cap: Do you remember those old Pocket paperbacks that Marvel Comics did in the late '70s? I only read a few of them and don't remember that much about them. There was one with Spider-Man and Kingpin, one with Captain America, one with the Avengers, etc. ... I also seem to remember a Blackhawk paperback coming out in the early '80s. What do you think of the book adaptations of comics in general?
Like you, I love all things Batman. I have lost touch over the last 10 years with most of the lines, but I glance at them when I go into bookstores. I hope I can find this "No Man's Land" in book form. It sounds interesting, to say the least.
I enjoy the page. Read it every week. Maybe one day I'll dive back into it.
Thanks. And why wait? It's posted every Thursday in anticipation of your attention!
As to paperback superhero stories, I've got various superhero novels from different lines going back to The Avengers Battle The Earth-Wreckers (by Otto Binder, Bantam, 1968). Some have been pretty decent, but generally I find that superheroes lose a lot in translation to other media. Those brightly-colored costumes and bigger-than-life adventures are perfectly wedded to the graphic format.
Having said that, Greg Rucka's Batman: No Man's Land novel was quite good, and added some of the novel-stuff to the story that comics can't. It makes a good companion piece to DC's "No Man's Land" trade paperbacks.

I dispute whether Rucka’s writing is any good as a whole. And if Mr. Smith thinks a lot is lost in translation, why didn’t he just up and say the Flash TV show from 1990 was one of the lousiest things that could happen?

Dear Cap: Let's see: Batman has crossed over with the Hulk, Punisher, Spider-Man, Daredevil and the good Captain America. Superman has crossed over with Spider-Man twice, the FF, the Hulk and the Silver Surfer. I think a Thor/Wonder Woman crossover would be nice! Their adversaries (also), Loki and Ares ... with the Destroyer to boot. Whaddaya think of that one Cap?
Oh by the way, it's funny how Batman and religion are mentioned together. I kind of look at him and wonder if the guy has ever had S ... E ... X! The guy is too noble for a one-night stand and honing your mind and body to perfection and constantly fighting crime doesn't leave much room for a wife and kids.
I think a Thor/Wonder Woman contest would be darn interesting -- except that Thor would probably never hit a woman. I mean, he's a Viking-era Norse god -- that's REALLY old-fashioned!
And I've always considered Bats to be kinda sexless. That is, his concentration is so intense that he even has his hormonal reponses under control. That's why he's so smart: Zero distractions. The rest of us, alas, will never be as smart as Batman because we daydream about sex. Woe is us.

Sexless? Why should a guy who did lead an affair with various babes in better times be “sexless”? More to the point, Mr. Smith will never be as smart as Batman because he lacks a clear sense of morale, to name but one example. Let’s go to February 24, 2000, starting with some letters about the passing of Charles Schultz:

Dera Cap! Good grief! I was never a big Peanuts fan but after reading your moving tribute to Charlie Schulz I have serious regrets. Oh, I caught a few of the strips, off and on over the years, and I can well remember the missed kicks which seemed to mark the official beginning of football season. Schulz may have been the Picasso and Hemingway of the comic-strip business, but you ain't so bad with words yourself, Mr. Smith. Thanks for the column; and a tear at the end.
Thank YOU, [name withheld]!

But no thanks to Mr. Smith, alas.

Dear Cap: Well, it's been another sad day for comics fans. As I am sure you know by now, Charles Schulz has passed away at age 77 the night before his final Peanuts strip was to be printed. We've lost two great artists this past month. Let's hope it don't come in threes. Heck, we even lost Ernest (Jim Varney) and Doug Henning. While not everyone was a fan of their work, I am sure we can all agree that they brought happiness to many people with what they did. I hope that we will have happier things to speak of next week.
I was interviewed by a local news channel about the impact that Charles Schulz had on the reading public. I feel that Schulz made us care about those Peanuts characters as if they were real people. Their insecurities and quirks were things all of us could relate too. Many will wonder why Schulz's family won't continue the strip by somebody else. I think those people suggesting that fail to realize that Peanuts was a deeply personal extension of Charles Schulz. No one else can speak for Mr. Schulz. After all, he was "Sparky." He was Charlie Brown.
I'm fully in agreement with the decision to let the strip end. It seems fitting.

And if Scripps-Howard were to discontinue his columns, that would be even more so! Who needs such a pretentious J. Jonah Jameson-influenced reporter to tell us all about these past icons of history?

Hi, Cap! So, were you going to write about Peanuts even before Schulz died?
Producing that many strips is mind-boggling. Think of how brilliant comics like The Far Side and Calvin & Hobbes lasted for only a few years before their creators became burned out, and it pushes Schulz's creativity that much further beyond belief. You're right in saying he was greater than a Homer or a Tolstoy.
There was many a recent strip where I thought Schulz just didn't have it anymore. Only on occasion did it seem he could hit the mark anymore. But I refused to stop reading. He was so good for so long, I was determined to read them all regardless, to remain loyal, just as he had been to his characters and his readers all those years. Sure enough, I thought he'd caught a second wind (second? how about 5,000th?) and had the juices flowing again.
I guess the strip really was his life, considering he died just as the last Peanuts came out. Somehow, that makes the memory of them all the better.

Schultz may have been greater than Homer and Tolstoy, but Mr. Smith would never rise to half their level. If only most of the people reading his Volkswagen of a column would understand that, and maybe some of them have since.

I like the characters that Bruce Cambell portrays. Have you ever seen The Evil Dead II and The Army Of Darkness? I believe that the first one is considered to be a cult classic but I really love both of them. I liked the fact that he did not play a mercenary or ex-cop but a non-military man who was forced to play the Hero. He did make mention once during an interview that it was good to see a non-military man play the Action Man. He plays the roguish character with panache. It is a reminder that there are no virtuous heroes out there. However, we are all capable of playing the hero even if it is only to serve our self-interests.
I guess that you can say that the characters that he plays are the real world's kind of hero. And that is all right because hey, nobody's perfect.

Bruce Campbell plays the rapscallion called Jack of All Trades on the "Back2Back Action hour."
But how does match up to Jack of the Royal Flush Gang?

A better query would be: how does Mr. Smith manage to write such disposable mishmash that’s better flushed down the toilet?

Dear Cap: You probably were being facetious in your comment about Batman being too focused for sex, but it triggered my uncontrollable PompousPower. He has had sex at least once with Talia, since somewhere in the Hypertime they have a son. I suspect Selina Kyle as well, just because my childhood memories of Julie Newmar override all other common sense where Catwoman is concerned.

Having gotten that out of my system, I now recoil in vague horror that I have an opinion on Batman's sex life at all. I certainly won't be sharing that with my wife.

Rest assured I won't be sharing your opinions on Batman's sex life with MY wife, either.
The graphic novel Batman: Son of the Demon (1987) is the story you're thinking of, in which Bruce and Talia had a child (and obviously sex, at least once). Believe it or not, it was originally part of the continuity, but was retroactively made an "Elseworlds" story. And, of course, that son was all grown up as Ibn al Xu'ffasch ("Son of the Bat") in Kingdom Come.
And, yeah, I was being facetious. He's clearly enamored of Talia, because he lets her get away with murder -- possibly literally! If they aren't doing the horizontal mambo, then he's cast away his principles without cause -- and the only cause that presents itself is the obvious one. And if he hasn't sex with Catwoman ... well, he's even more disciplined than we've been led to believe!
From a fanboy perspective (IMHO, in other words), what makes Batman Batman is his superhuman focus. In the same manner that I can suspend my disbelief to accept that he can become an expert on dozens of disparate fields (criminology, marital arts, munitions, ballistics, chemistry) before he's 25, allows me to believe that he's willing to focus past the usual pleasures that give meaning to life for the rest of us (family, a sense of belonging, romance/sex). That's why I get a kick when his almost superhuman ability to focus on cause-and-effect (and make the unrelated obviously connected) astounds the heck out of the Big Guns of the JLA.
But as a guy? Naw ... I don't think even Batman can ignore the second most important drive (sex) any more than he ignore the first (food). Besides, if he CAN ignore sex, then he just ain't human -- and its Batman's humanness that makes him distinct from most super-doers.

Oh, that’s sure saying something coming from somebody who’s less than honest, and likely doesn’t have any beef with DC editorial’s umpteenth embarrassing statement that post-New 52, the heroes of DCU shouldn’t get married or have any happy lives, except selectively? Batman’s been a victim of this travesty too, and he’s said nothing in response.

Here's another opinion:
Dear Cap: (I was) interested to see your comments this week on Batman's sexuality, which is actually a pretty interesting debate. It's certainly something that people have questioned in the past, most notably among them Frederic Wertham. Wertham's comments about the supposed homosexuality of Batman and Robin's relationship are some of the most memorable passages of Seduction of The Innocent. (The fact that they stand with the legs apart and that Robin's name is "Dick" are among his primary pieces of "evidence.") Supposedly, Aunt Harriet was added to the Batman TV shows to ward off suspicions that Bruce, Dick and Alfred had something kinky going on in that big mansion.
As I've always interpreted it, Batman is an extremely sexual, heterosexual character (the more coherent interpretations of the character, from the last 30 years or so of comics). He's obviously attracted to women -- look at Catwoman, Talia, Poison Ivy (never mind all the women Bruce Wayne has dated). And he is no doubt attractive to them -- it seems to me that Catwoman and Talia, both very sexy and very strong, could somehow have their pick of a number of men, yet they always gravitate back to Batman. If you'll recall, when Jean-Paul Valley, as Batman, first met Catwoman, she commented that she could tell he was an imposter because the real Batman reeked of pheromones and this new one had nothing. Aha!
Batman actually fits into the traditionally Western archetype of a sexy and desirable male -- he's brave, he's strong he's the master of any situation, he looks good. All of his relationships are doomed, of course, because work comes first. But this makes him even more appealing, and even more traditionally masculine -- think of the cold, lonely heroes of classic literature (King Arthur, Natty Bumpo).
I've always figured that an unsatisfying sex life is one of the many burdens that Batman forces himself to bear. Besides, I'd guess that he does have sex from time to time, if rarely -- Bruce Wayne with women like Vicki Vale, Silver St. Cloud and Vesper Fairchild. And in Batman: Son of the Demon, it looked like Batman and Talia were pretty hot and heavy.
Wait -- I forgot. He's a comic-book character.
Natty Bumpo? Hmmm. Well, OK. I thought you'd go with John Wayne or Clint Eastwood's Man-With-No-Name or some other aloof, distant masculine figure. But -- Natty Bumpo? Got to admit, you took me by surprise with that one!
I had forgotten that pheromone thing from "Knightfall." It's cool, of course, and adds to the Bat's mystique.
Still I wouldn't make too much of Bruce's womanizing -- he seems to dump them all far short of consummation, even before a good-night kiss! Part of the role he plays.
As for Batman, the way I LIKE for him to be portrayed is as a guy who is incredibly mentally sharp because he's completely unencumbered by sentimentality and undistracted by physical or emotional needs. A guy who never pays any attention to social protocol, never uses phrases like "hopefully ... " never worries about what he WANTS, but just examines what IS. This charmless focus allows him to zero in on the connective facts of a situation and draw what -- to him -- are inescapable deductions. In other words ... Mr. Spock!
But clearly he does have a jones for Catwoman, and the Talia dalliance is inarguable.
Oh, and Julius Schwartz killed off Alfred and introduced Aunt Harriet specifically to silence the sniggering about Bruce and Dick's living arrangements -- he has said as much in interviews. Then the blamed TV show re-introduced Alfred, and poor Julie had to find some way to resurrect the old boy after we all saw him crushed under tons of rock. Sheesh.

Look who’s talking about lack of charm! Did I ever mention Mr. Smith’s own lack of it?

About resurrecting Alfred Pennyworth, was that necessary? In retrospect, I think Schwartz overreacted or didn’t have enough faith in the material to sell without him. But who is Mr. Smith to argue?

Dear Cap: I like team titles so I collect JLA, JSA, Titans and Young Justice. I also love Batman and gang.
Well, I asked who bought what and why. Thanks for the succinct letter!

But again, no thanks to Mr. Smith if he keeps up his terrible approach to journalism. As for collecting those team titles, if only I could say I liked JLA and JSA more than I do, but any charm they might’ve once had is long gone, thanks in no small part to Geoff Johns.

I saw your comments about Troia in your Silly Super-Names section. I don't know much about Donna Troy's history (I call it taking the easy way out when it comes to that topic), and I have no idea where her powers come from anymore, but I can answer your Greek gods/Troy question:
<<Further, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Troia granted her powers by the GREEK pantheon of gods? If The Iliad is to be believed, the Greeks and the Trojans weren't exactly the best of friends ...>>
In myth, the gods were split when it came to the Trojan War. Hera, Poseidon and Athena favored the Greeks, while Artemis, Aphrodite and Ares backed the Trojans. Apollo played both sides. Zeus favored Troy but tried to remain neutral.
Of course, the Titans were not involved in the war ... they were exiled to
Tartarus by their children. And John Byrne didn't make it easier when he retconned Donna into a duplicate of Diana. Oh well. I'll keep reading Wonder Woman for my monthly mythology fix.
Speaking of which, I remember reading about Age of Bronze, a comic adaptation of the Trojan War, in your column. I've never seen it anywhere. That's pretty rare for an Image book. Have you read it?
I'm with you all the way about the split between the Greek gods -- I read The Iliad once for school, twice more for pleasure -- but that doesn't invalidate what I was shooting at: That a Trojan (sorta) name isn't the best idea for the Greek pantheon to bestow on a hero -- or for a writer looking for a Graeco-resonant name to bestow on a character. And the ancient Greek peoples -- whose culture was the root for Themyscira's culture -- would be even less conflicted and be actively antagonistic to the idea. And besides all that, "Troia" is a nonsense word! Whoever came up with it should be embarrassed. It's bad history, it's bad mythology and it's bad storytelling.
Yes, I've been reading Age of Bronze, and have actually re-read the series once, a rarity in these time-constricted days. It's by Eric Shanower (who has been adapting the L. Frank Baum "Oz" books for the last millennium or so) and it's a terrific show whether you know your Homer or not. It ought to be in every schoolroom in America. If you can't find it locally or online, you can order it bi-monthly from Westfield (where I do)

Age of Bronze may be recommended reading, but not Mr. Smith’s commentery on the same! His stuff can be a lot of nonsense too given the chance. And for fawning over Identity Crisis, which wasn’t fair to Donna either, he should be ashamed. It was bad continuity, bad research of past storylines – some of which were very bad too – and people like him who blatantly gloss over the most questionable parts are doing a horrific disservice to comicdom. Now here’s March 2, 2000, and two letters for starters:

Dear Cap: Someone asked how many Lords of Chaos and Order there are. I have never seen a definite number given, but http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Rampart/6559/ gives a good, thorough account of the Lords of Chaos and Order, giving a list of the ones who have appeared over the years. Its part of the DC Magic website.
Moving on, Captain, you said that American Flagg! never left, as it has been repeated in Chaykin's work since -- well actually, it was repeated before American Flagg! No. 1 was published in 1983. After all, the essential ingredients (dashing, handsome, somewhat roguish, Jewish -- not that I'm an anti-Semite -- hero with black hair teamed with a redhead female partner and/or love interest) were around as far back as the Scorpion. (I have no idea where Mr. Chaykin's interest in redheads stems from; Gil Kane, by the way, seems to have had a similar interest.) Correct me if I'm wrong, but Chaykin has used this archetype, with some variation, the following times: The Scorpion (Atlas Comics); Cody Starbuck (Star Reach); Iron Wolf (DC); Dominic Fortune (Marvel); American Flagg! (First); The Shadow (DC) (I know that Chaykin did not create The Shadow or make him Jewish, but he had a redheaded love interest for the Blood and Judgment mini-series); Blackhawk (DC) (I know that, again, Chaykin did not create Blackhawk or make him Jewish, but he had a redheaded femme fatale for his Blood and Iron miniseries); Midnight Men (Epic/Marvel); and Power and Glory (Bravura/Malibu) (Chaykin broke it this time by having the hero be Jewish but have an Afro-American girlfriend. However, the Plex, which first appeared in the American Flagg series, was mentioned in Power and Glory).
Moving even further on, to another Q&A question, it was said that the Hawkman who had real wings only appeared in Kingdom Come. That is actually not true, as the post-Zero Hour Hawkman did have actual wings, as seen in Hawkman No. 0. He was able to shrink them down and retract them into his back, so that must have caused the confusion.
Someone referred to the Blackhawk prose novel. The author of that book was William Rotsler.
And in a second note:
1) Looker, I think, was in the latest Outsiders run.

2) Metamorpho, who's "inert" has been inert for most of his Element-al life. And besides that, he "died" once already to be revived by the genebomb. His death is a joke by Grant Morrison. Otherwise Batman would've gone to the funeral. And GL, the last man Rex Mason spoke to before death. Everyone (except Superman) knows that he'll be back.
3) In an issue of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad it was explained why Oracle's spine wasn't repaired like another squad member's. Her spine was seperated by a gap an inch or two too far beyond their ability to repair. If you've read a recent essay in Newsweek, you'll find that the bottom-neurons have rotted from unuse in spinal injuries like this. So real-word technology is out.
So STAR Labs is useless. She didn't accept Prometheus's help 'cause he was evil. And while not talked about, I bet the reason she doesn't ask Zatanna or Dr. Fate or Thunderbolt is because it held together by outside force that could just as easily wear off while she's doing the New York Marathon (or something).
4) The reason that the JLA didn't fix Gotham was fully explained at the end of JLA 4. The reason they fixed Montevideo was becuase Vandal Savage destroyed it. Gotham was rocked by an earthquake.
5) I will always remember Gil Kane as the great one, true Green Lantern artist. All the rest are just mere "pencillers." His death is not valuable, not compared to his life and work.
6) Charles Schulz, he will be missed.
7) The Gambit I know is not the one in current continuity. He is a former, reformed thief, sorry about his past, ever-mysterious, eager to help others. The one during the Massacre (was) just a dumb retcon.
And:
Ron Marz has Hal Jordan all wrong, and the book Green Lantern. it was never about the ring. It was about a man's struggle between heroism and humanity, and how he deals with a wishing ring, which was a plot device and little more (like Superman's cape).
Mangog appeared for a third time 'tween Thor 347 and 350. Odin was gone, so Mangog had impersonated Odin. Igron granted him temporary great power. During the impersonation, Mangog gained power by taking it from the devotion of Asgardians. When they revolted and he was revealed, the power flow was abated, and he used up the remaining power (near-infinite, but still finite) in battle with Thor over the Odinsword. He disappeared for good, as that energy was what kept him alive.

Thanks for those updates, fellas! While I may own 40,000 comics, I certainly don't remember them all. And, while I don't have room to address all your points, I will mention the following:
1) I don't see why the JLA draws the line at helping Gotham because the destruction was caused by nature and not a supervillain. Superman stops volcanoes and tidal waves and earthquakes all the time! And, really, walking away because it's an act of God isn't very charitable -- people were still dying in the No Man's Land by the hundreds. Superman would save lives, regardless of circumstance.
2) You make a good point with Howie Chaykin's recurring archetype. In my head, though, the final element was in place in American Flagg!: That the hero was heroically proportioned (everywhere) and was overtly sexual. All post-Flagg! Chaykin heroes (even code-approved ones, like Blackhawk) spent as much time having casual sex as they did fighting bad guys, whereas that element was more muted or non-existent before Chaykin "stretched his legs" in that direction on Flagg!. You're dead right that the other elements were already in place pre-Flagg! so I'm probably just splitting (pubic) hairs.
Ouch! Can't believe I made that pun!
3) At least you've got SOME defense for Gambit. I find him untrustworthy, unheroic and not very likeable. I also find his costume stupid -- what's with those spider-web thingies around his neck, and have you EVER seen a half-hood like he wears? Not to mention his wearing a heavy duster in sweltering New Orleans -- and those goofy, attention-grabbing Star Trek kneepads and boots that no thief would consider. And I simply DO NOT believe that women find a man with glowing red eyes with black surroundings attractive. Particularly in a world where mutants are lynched.
4) I had forgotten completely about the retractable Hawk-wings. No doubt it's because I mentally ignore everything that happened to Katar Hol in Zero Hour. As far as I'm concerned it didn't happen. After all, that was only one or two issues where he was completely Osterized, whereas I've got hundreds of issues of Hawkman, Atom and Hawkman, Brave and Bold and Justice League of America that attest to a different, recognizable character that actually made sense. Call me senile, but I prefer to live on Earth-Silver Age, where the heroes were heroic and even the bank robbers wore suits and ties.
5) I still don't buy the Oracle thing, either. As you say, real-world technology is out, but that doesn't eliminate out-of-this-world technology, like Martian, Thanagarian, Oan or tech from New Genesis. And as for magic, so what if it wore off? She'd still be able to walk some as opposed to none at all. I doubt there's a paraplegic in the world who wouldn't risk embarrassment, injury or even death for the ability to walk for a few days more.

There he goes again with his blame-imaginary-characters routine. And didn’t Starman and Jean Grey once wear a cowl not unlike Gambit’s? Regardless, if Mr. Smith’s got a beef, he should blame the artists, starting with Jim Lee, who designed the costume in Gambit’s debut.

And after Identity Crisis, it’s my dreary duty to say that as far as he’s concerned, it DID happen, because he wanted it to. IMO, this puts the lie to a lot of his negative opinions on 90s botches. Yep, he’s senile alright, but not for the reasons he gives! The second writer is correct about Marz’s sloppy take on GL, though.

Here's some more on Barbara:
Once again, you are right. I also agree that Birds of Prey and other titles featuring Barbara Gordon are among some of the best reads DC puts out. I too, want Barbara whole and not disabled (not "crippled" as my wife would point out -- she teaches Special Ed), BUT the stories are still inspiring. Maybe that's what DC wants, inspiring characters that cross over to not just gender, race and religion (as you had us ponder with Supes' & Bats' denomination), but also the various impairments. JLA Archives Vol. 5 even reprinted a story on "cripples." Sorry, I can't find it right off for the title. Thanks again for your insight. I'll be looking forward to reading your article this week.
The issue was Justice League of America 39, "Case of the Disabled Justice League." In it, Superman was blind, Green Arrow had no arms, Green Lantern stuttered (mentally as well as verbally), Hawkman had severe asthma and Flash was a paraplegic. They overcame those handicaps in battle, serving to inspire five youngsters with similar disabilities.

Too bad Mr. Smith’s failed to overcome his biggest handicap of all: cynicism!

You wrote:
<<Take Birds of Prey 8 and Nightwing 38 for example, stories so moving that I shoved them under my wife's nose before my tears were dry. (She cried too.)>>

I have to add one more that, though it didn't move me to tears, I thought it spoke volumes about Barbara Gordon, which was a JLA right after Morrison took his first leave, one of Mark Waid's fill-ins. I can't remember the issue number, but it was where probability was going wild, lives were being re-written, and everyone assumed that Barbara's temptation not to stop it was so that her crippling injury would have never happened. Instead, she was torn because she wanted Bruce's psychologically crippling injury to never have happened. (I lost my father in my high school years, and am a sucker for stories in which there's a potential for Batman to have his history re-written -- "To Kill A Legend" is one of my all-time favorites.) In one panel Waid cemented Oracle's place as a true member of the Batman Family.

The issue you're referring to is JLA 19, "Seven Soldiers of Probablility!" You're right, her selflessness and nobility in that issue define her role as a true hero.
That issue also includes the scene I was trying to remember last week. In it, J'onn asks her if the JLA can't use their technology to restore her mobility, and she responds that she has "no interest in being half-robot." Not very convincing, but I guess they have to say something!

But what defines Mr. Smith? Nothing more than pure knee-jerk pretensions, alas. Another definition would be failure to convince of sincere fandom.

Dear Cap: First off let me say I love the new site design. I haven't been to it in awhile so this may be belated praise.
And a very nice tribute to Gil Kane. He was an artist I came to admire later in life. As a kid I always thought his artwork was terrible (how little kids know). But as I grew older I came to appreciate his genius. I could go on and on about him, but I'll leave it at that.
As a kid I didn't like Jack Kirby. But we learn as we grow, right?

Some do, but others don’t. Mr. Smith falls into the latter category. I doubt he likes Kirby if he’s fine with Axel Alonso’s mistreatment of Scarlet Witch, one of Kirby’s finest creations.

A friend of mine sent me an interesting e-mail concerning Gareb Shamus's Black Bull. It's a funny predicament for the Wizard of Comics:
<<...Just read on the wire, Wizard's new comic company 'Black Bull Entertainment' shares it's name with an adult video producer. He he he ... And they've already got the website domain name registered. All kinds of interesting comments could be made. But I'll refrain for now.>>
Should make for some interesting comments, indeed, eh?
I always considered Gareb Shamus to be a pornographer!

And I’ve considered Mr. Smith no better for at least a decade. He pays lip service to a bigoted piece of garbage like Identity Crisis, lauds pro-socialist propaganda, and thinks he’s above Shamus and his now defunct magazine? What a fraud.

Re: Looker. Looker may have appeared -- or rather, Clayface III may have impersonated her -- during the "Mud Pack" storyline in Detective Comics that we discussed a few Captain Comics ago.
Talia: Interestingly, The Batman and Talia were sort of married in Batman Special No. 4 (1978), in a story reprinted in Tales of the Demon. However this is rarely mentioned -- including in Who's Who -- because the marriage was done according to some sort of Middle Eastern tradition in which only the consent of the father (Ra's al Ghul) is necessary for the marriage.

(Also) I should mention that ... He-Man had an interesting genesis. Around the time that the first film adaption of Robert. E. Howard's Conan charachter was released in 1982, Mattel became interested in releasing toys based on the Howard charachters. However, the director of the film, John Milius, had decided to make the film R-rated, so Mattel backpedalled.
However, they had already gone to the trouble of making the molds for the tie-in action figures, and so, by changing the hair color: Voila, He-Man!
(Oddly, He-Man's foe Skeletor ended up looking more like the original Thulsa Doom from the Howard (Kull) stories -- and the Kull comics -- than the version played by James Earl Jones in the 1982 Conan movie did.)
He-Man was later played in a not especially successful Masters of the Universe film by Dolph Lundrgen. At the end of the credits to that film, Skeletor (played by Frank Langella!) returns to note that he would return to challenge He-Man again in another film --.but there was no Masters of the Universe II. Yet the screenplay that was intended for Masters of the Universe II was polished off to become the Jean Claude Van Damme vehicle Cyborg! (See David Shoepp, Comic Book Heroes on the Screen, and the Internet Movie Database for all of this info.)
Thanks for the background, [...]!
As to Talia, forget anything you've ever read. DC decided a few years back that RETROACTIVELY any story that implied or showed Batman having a child out of wedlock DID NOT HAPPEN. They were Elseworlds stories or alternate futures. They decided, and rightly so, that Bruce being a sleepabout, deadbeat dad wasn't very heroic.

This has long been mooted by Grant Morrison’s retconning Damian Wayne back into the Batbooks, even as he later got rid of the character after nearly 6 years. And even that lacked impact, since Damian was seen being smashed to death by a clone, if you can believe that.

What a pity they had to bring up one of Van Damme’s worst D-movies in his worthless movie career. His films were disgusting.

First a small correction RE: He-Man in the comics. I couldn't tell you the issue number, but I'm almost certain that their was a full issue of DC Comics Presents that depicted a Superman and a "Masters of the Universe" team-up. Maybe someone else knows the issue number.
Second, the question. I'm working on a piece of fan fiction and need some background information on Doomsday, in particular the story involving Brainiac. I'm keenly interested in who fought Doomsday in that story. I'd also appreciate a list of Doomsday's appearances after "The Death of Superman," so I can go back and do some research.
Aw, c'mon, you gotta give me more to work with than "that story with Brainiac." Was it in the regular books? An annual? A miniseries? DC Comics Presents? (Just kidding.) I'm posting this one to see if anybody reading this has a comprehensive Doomsday memory.
As to He-Man, you're referring to DC Comics Presents 47, cover dated July, 1982, so it appears to have preceded the 16-Page Insert by a month or two. Good catch!

Why would anybody want to bother doing a fanfic drawing from the Death of Superman story that precipitated the medium’s ruin? Sure, it might turn out better than the comics story did, but still, I just don’t see the point.

Dear Cap: I know, I know, there's no pleasing some people!
I was thrilled to finally see a piece that covered Marvel comics, and also an X-Men character. Buuuut ...
Jean Grey does go by the code name of Phoenix. Did you read the first Cyclops & Phoenix Limited Series? In the last issue, Rachel Summers -- who wasn't technically the daughter of Scott and Jean from their future, but the daughter of Scott and the Phoenix from an alternate future where the original Phoenix, who wasn't really Jean but thought itself to be, did not commit suicide on the Moon, but apparently lived long enough to bear Rachel -- died of old age, and her last request was for Jean Grey to take back the name of Phoenix. And Mrs. Summers has been going by that codename ever since.
Also, what do you think the "Loss of Powers" storyline will mean for the Legacy Virus? I see two logical options: Since the virus is supposed to be a mutant-only disease, either having all Earth's mutants transformed into humans will effectively wipe out the virus, or else, it will adapt and attack humans as well. Here's hoping Marvel doesn't take the easy way out by having the virus disappear while everybody's merely human, just to magically reappear when -- and we know they will -- everybody reverts back to normal.
OK, technically, she got the name back. But they still generally refer to her as simply "Jean." Also, the recent X-Men: Phoenix miniseries that ran Jan.-Mar. 2000 starred Rachel, not Jean.
Anyway, I decided to go for the joke rather than try to explain all that to the average newspaper reader. Heck, even I don't understand it!

Of course he doesn’t. That’s because he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. As for Jean taking up the Phoenix name in the 90s, it is problematic, if only because it does technically reference a storyline that should’ve been put to rest long ago. Now for March 9, 2000:

Dear Captain: As much as I enjoy your column, I must take issue with your latest effort in which you state that John Byrne left the X-Men to pursue an undistinguished solo career -- as did Lennon and McCartney. Musically speaking, of course, their solo efforts did not match the untouchable quality of The Beatles' repertoire, but to say their careers after the breakup were undistinguished is just not the case. The same can be said for Byrne. While I am no fan of his Galactus-sized ego, Byrne had wonderful stints on both The Avengers and the FF that match the caliber of, say, Walt Simonson's run on Thor around that time. There have been dozens of other projects Byrne has put out that I've enjoyed -- Superman, Namor, OMAC, Alpha Flight, Iron Fist, Starlord, Fourth World, in no particular order -- but his work on those two venerable team books stands out. those runs of Avengers and the FF constitute modern-day comic classics. I think you do Byrne a disservice by not recognizing his solo talents and his body of work after the X-Men. Thanks for listening!
Well, perhaps I overstated the case. "Undistinguished" may be too strong a word -- Byrne's had his successes (that FF run you mentioned) along with many excruciating failures ("Genesis," Babe, Spider-Man: Chapter One, etc.) Although, I don't think you'll argue that Claremont/Byrne's solo work (or Lennon/McCartney, for that matter) has had the far-reaching impact, notoriety and critical/sales success of their X-Men (or Beatles) work. There's just no comparison. Byrne's FF work was darn good, and a highlight of the series. But it had no long-term impact on that title's sales or the industry in general -- whereas his work on Uncanny X-Men did. Further, in explaining this to a typical newspaper reader (who is not the knowledgeable fan you are), it's counterproductive to split hairs. Hence the simplistic phrasing.

While Byrne’s work on FF was good, I still have some misgivings about the questionable take on women he had as time went by, culminating in the embarrassing depiction of Scarlet Witch in West Coast Avengers. In contrast to the Avengers mainstay, that run of his was pretty abortive, and he was taken off the title soon after.

Regarding your interview with Jean (March 2) I'm surprised she didn't bring up the fact that she's been dead at least twice and here she is!
P.S. Does anyone really care if Cyclops is dead?
Yeah, and how many times has Xavier been dead? That's what got me -- in ONE PANEL Chuck dismisses his oldest, most loyal supporter. He said something to the effect of, "Hmmm. I don't sense Scott's thoughts. Well, he must be dead. Oh, well! Let's break for lunch, my X-Men!" What a jerk!
And if I thought Cyclops was "really" dead, I'd be annoyed. To me, he's "Mr. X-Men," like Captain America is "Mr. Avengers." He's really the only one who's shown any long-term loyalty, and if he was gone, I'd expect the others to drift away. Besides, I've always empathized with a guy who can't take off his glasses!

After Avengers vs. X-Men? I doubt it. If there’s anything I care about more than whether Cyke is dead, it’s whether he’s still being depicted as a bad guy, and it makes no difference whether he was posessed by the Phoenix force or not. Mr. Smith once more calls a fictional character an insulting name, but never critiques the writers.

Re: Barbara Gordon
I think her refusal to be "half-robot," while definitely maguffinish (can I coin that word?), allows her to straddle the DC Universe and the Batman Universe, which are, clearly, two different worlds. In Batman terms, the technology at her disposal is (somewhat) realistic, and I think stories in Gotham City, villains notwithstanding, try to stay in that realm.
I'm only writing back for the sake of conversation, though, because I agree that Barbara Gordon is a great character.
You mirror my own thinking -- I look for a more real-world grounding in the Bat-titles than I do in the DCU at large. After all, if you think about it, Batman's utility belt ought to be loaded with Thanagarian, Martian and Kryptonian technology. But it isn't -- it's just ropes and pulleys and batarangs and smoke bombs. And we KNOW he has a teleporter on his person (to get to the JLA moonbase), so how come he never uses it to get out of a tight spot? I just don't think about it and try to enjoy the story as is.

Nope, I don’t think Mr. Smith has any thinking to mirror. Not after he praised Identity Crisis unquestioned. Such hypocrisy on his part. Yet the letter writer has something to ponder: Babs may not want to be half-robot, but Mr. Smith…okay, you can guess.

Hi Cap! I was perusing the AOL Message Boards and I came across this interesting bit of knowledge about Wonder Woman.
From the Kurt Busiek folder on AOL:
<<Kurt, do you know ... is it true that the William Moulton Marston estate still has some kind of a share in the ownership of Wonder Woman and that the rights to WW will completely revert to them if DC ever stops publishing a WW comic book?
Yes, that's true.
If this is true, it would help explain why the WW comic has lasted so long despite periods of (reportedly) very poor sales. Poor sales or not, DC presumably doesn't want to lose WW's merchandising possibilities.
That's quite true. In fact, that's why the LEGEND OF WW mini happened at all -- the post-Crisis relaunch of the series was taking a long time to get off the ground, and DC had to publish some sort of WW book in order to keep the rights.
Kurt>>
Wow! Apparently DC could lose Wonder Woman at some time, if they aren't careful. They have been vigilant thus far, though. Any thoughts on this? Were you already aware of this?
Onto other subjects ...
You had this to say about Marvel's New Warriors:
"... What are the odds that a bunch of super-powered teens are going to be able to form a public club to fight crime? They're MINORS. The law won't stand for it. And since their parents would be held legally responsible for any damages, injuries and irresponsible behavior -- not to mention being charged with child endangerment -- THEY wouldn't stand for it. And what about the adult superheroes? The actions of the Warriors would reflect on them, and they've got ENOUGH PR problems, and wouldn't stand for it, either. Heck, even NYC's truant officers would get in to the act -- teenagers are supposed to be in school, remember? Sure, the Warriors are masked -- but they have a known headquarters, and all the police have to do is knock on the door and demand they UNmask. If they refuse, they're subject to arrest."
How do you feel about DC's Teen Titans (the original), in regard to concept? How about the Amazing Spider-man of the early years? With his full face mask on a lot of people may not have known he was an adult, but most of the villains seemed to be able to tell he was young. Heck, he couldn't have had a good attendance record.
Anyway, Keep Up The Good Fight, Cap!!
I'm flabbergasted by that Wonder Woman news, [...] -- I'd always heard that DC kept WW in print for merchandising reasons. I have always wondered, though, why a guy as smart as Marston -- who invented the lie detector -- was shafted out of Wonder Woman as easily as teenagers like Siegel & Shuster were shafted out of Superman. Nice to know he WASN'T shafted as easily -- you can bet he had a good lawyer!
As to your other question, I never thought twice about the original Titans (as to their relatively young age), since they were the wards of various heroes who were more or less deputized in those days -- even Batman. Since the police didn't seem to find anything wrong with Robin fighting crime at Batman's side -- they hung around in Gordon's office like members of the force, and nobody raised the issue -- then it wasn't much of a stretch to assume that they had no child-endangerment problems when he went solo. It was just goofy fun -- and besides, most of the early Titans stories revolved around adults not taking them or other teens seriously.
As to Spider-Man, I'm pretty sure that it wasn't general knowledge that he was a teenager. I remember one panel where Reed had a thought balloon indicating that he suspected Spidey was a juvenile -- Amazing Spider-Man No 1, maybe? -- but after all, he's the smartest man on the planet! And even if it became general knowledge that Spidey was underage, nobody knew who he was, or where he hung out and they WERE trying to arrest him.
You didn't mention Young Justice, but I should mention that I'm comfortable there because the JLA has assumed responsibility and appointed the Red Tornado (weirdly) as their patron/guardian/responsible adult. And even still they're having problems with the law, as is being explored.
The New Warriors, on the other hand, aren't connected to any adult organization, are clearly minors with masks on, and have a publicly known meeting place. I'd think both the police and the Avengers would have a few questions.
But Marvel seems to have no idea that minors haven't the freedom of adults. Witness Slingers, Wild Thing, J2, Nova and the like -- these kids come and go as they please, seem to have no regular schedule (despite the supposition that they're in school 30 hours a week) and the surrounding adults seem completely unconcerned about super-powered teens ripping up the streets in super-battles.
Boy, it sure wasn't like that when I was a teenager! My every move was observed by an adult, and I had to account for my time and activities to authority figures at every turn. And if I had shown up at the dinner table with unexplained bruises on my face from a melee with the Masters of Evil, there would have been a LOT of questions!

Sigh. Mr. Smith continues his failure to appreciate surrealism. Besides, realistically speaking, being a ward of a senior superhero doesn’t guarantee the authorities won’t object. Yeesh. Speaking of Wonder Woman, he sure hasn’t come to the defense of Marston’s famous creation ever since Brian Azzarello did such an awful retcon post-New 52!

<<Second, the question. I'm working on a piece of fan fiction and need some background information on Doomsday, in particular the story involving Brainiac. >>
Hee Hee Hee! There was never a Doomsday story that actually involved Brainiac! Actually, what happened was that a silly rumor began around the time of the death of Superman story.
It was noted that, a few months before Superman 75, the "Panic in the Sky" storyline took place. In Superman 66, Brainiac is on the brink of defeat. Just before his mind is blasted, he pulls a lever that releases a pod towards Earth ... we do not find out what emerges from that pod at the end of the story. When the "Death of Superman" story came out, people drew the conclusion that Doomsday, who was seen in some sort of pod in his first appearance circa Superman: Man of Steel 18, had been in that pod that Brainiac had launched towards Earth in Superman #66. ...
... Of course, those people hadn't read Superman 67 or Superman 69, which both revealed what was in that pod that Brainiac had launched!
Its sounds silly, but this untrue rumor actually caused Superman 66 to go up in price to $10 (and even a ranking in Wizard's Top Ten back issues!) until Mike Carlin in an article in Wizard 27 came out and explicitly stated that Doomsday had no connection to Brainiac! It only goes to show how bad Superman's post-Byrne sales were until this whole Doomsday thing revitalized interest!
I should mention that a similar rumor started around Superman Special 1 (1991) by Walt Simonson, which also made the Wizard Top Ten books. The story in that issue was a retelling of the belated Silver Age/Julius
Schwartz-edited, Denny O'Neil-written attempt at revamping Superman from Superman 233 ("Kryptonite No More!"). In the Simonson version, Lex Luthor tries to synthesize kryptonite, but ends up destroying most of the world's krytonite. However, as a side effect, a Sand Creature is created from the kryptonite reaction, a Sand Creature who eventually absorbs some of Superman's power and duplicates his appearance.
At the end of the story, Superman and the Sand Creature battle each other at the Fortress of Solitude, with the outcome of the battle unclear. Some people thought that DC would reveal that the Sand Creature had won the battle, and had taken over Superman's life from that time forward, until being killed by Doomsday. The expectation was that the real Superman would then be revealed to be in suspended animation somewhere in the Fortress of Solitude.
However, DC did not take this option (though we all know that Marvel used a variation of it for one of their most famous characters, this idea of having been replaced by a duplicate years ago ...), and as far as I know nothing has ever been said about that Sand Creature from Superman Special 1. Lets just hope they don't try anything with it now; it would be about seven years too late (though that is only half the time that Marvel waited to drop their particular clone bomb ...)
Blackhawk, in Military Comics 1's origin, was indeed a Pole, as the U.S. had not declared war on Germany, Japan, Bulgaria, etc. yet. Thus, Blackhawk's revenge origin demanded that he be a Pole.
Later, in Blackhawk 50, this was somewhat changed so that he was American. Blackhawk 242, which was the first retro-World War II Blackhawk story (immediately previous issues treated us to the-infamous-attempt to make the Blackhawks superheroes) stated that Blackhawk was a Polish-American. (The name given to him was Bart Hawk, which does not sound especially Slavic, but we can presume that it an Americanized version of some name like Hawkaaski.) This was reinforced by the Mark Evanier version that ran in the early 1980s, where Blackhawk was Polish-American and named Bart Hawk. Of course, Chaykin changed it so that Blackhawk was Polish but never an American citizen.
Olaf, as Mark Evanier noted in the letter columns to the early 1980s version, joined the Blackhawks because he felt that his career as an acrobat in the circus was a pretty frivolous thing to be doing compared to fighting the Nazis, and so that is why he joined the Blackhawks even though Sweden was neutral.
http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Labyrinth/1693/bio_bhk.html has some
Why chase down web sites when we've got you, [name withheld]? Thanks for the Blackhawk info -- that Olaf rationalization works for me! As to the Sand Creature, I remember him well -- but I thought that he was eventually dissipated in the regular run of the book. Of course, he could have been resurrected for Superman Special No. 1. Frankly, I'm willing to take your word for it.

Which could be worth a lot more than Mr. Smith’s, that’s for sure.

Looker did appear in the "Mud Pack" storyline in Detective Comics 605 or thereabouts. Clayface IV (the female one, not III as one of your readers wrote) imitated her and appropriated her powers in order to take control of Clayface III. Batman eventually recruited the real Looker to help her defeat the Pack, and it was her mental powers that finished off Clayface I, the recently christened "Ultimate Clayface" (Batman, for his part, just pushed him out the window with a chair.) "Mud Pack" was an excellent story arc as I remember it, part of those great Grant-Breyfogle days that will probably always stand as my favorite period of Batman stories.
You're absolutely right, [...]. I finally bit the bullet and dug those old comics out of the Comics Cave. "Mud Pack" was in Detective 604-607, and seems to pop up in one question or another every few months. In it, Sondra "Clayface IV" Fuller imitated Lia "Looker" Briggs, which drew the latter into the storyline. No mention was made of Looker being a vampire, though, which is how I remembered her at the end of the Outsiders run. Perhaps she got better.

I think she did, but that was before Geoff Johns and company got rid of her again circa Final Crisis, which wasn’t. Since Smith never liked The Outsiders for superficial reasons, that could explain why he had no objections to raise. Figures.

Hey, Captain! I recently discovered your site. Great stuff! I especially like The Canceled Comics Cavalcade. Your candor regarding some of these execrable titles is refreshing.
Well, I may have two more for you. As I was going through the new Previews, I noticed that the two "Marvel Selects" titles (Spidey & FF)
were not solicited for May release. Issue 6 for each title was solicited in last month's Previews, and it indicated that the series was scheduled to go for 12 issues. So maybe Marvel is reducing this "maxi" reprint series to a "mini" series.
It's not surprising that Marvel is pulling the plug on these series. They were VERY expensive at $2.75 a pop, and the issues they chose to reprint were a curious choice to say the least. (At least the choice of the Spidey run made some sense given what a mind-blowing storyline it was back in 1971-72, and they feature the artwork of the late, great Gil Kane.)
Marvel's ability to establish a consistent color reprint line is frustrating to me, but at least we have the black & white "Essentials" books. And they are reprinting Steranko's Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales in color. 248 pages for 20 bucks. What a deal!
Keep up the great work on your site.
Thanks for the tip, [name withheld]! I checked with Marvel and, sure enough, the two "Selects" titles were nipped in the bud halfway through. They've been added to the Canceled Comics Cavalcade, where you'll see that I agree with most of your assessment.

Disappointing whenever I see some naïve people telling Mr. Smith how “great” his output is, when seriously, it’s not. I learned that long ago, the hard way, and now regret I ever bothered.

Dear Cap: I've got a few questions and comments on the new Marvel Boy six-issue miniseries that comes out in June.

Excerpts from Best of the Buzz:

<<Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy Details Revealed from Yourman@Marvel
... In the end, the name only ever appears on the covers. Noh-Varr is the'Marvel Boy' of the title, but nobody calls him that.>>
Huh. ... How many successful character titles are there in which the lead character's name is not used both on the cover and in the book?
<<According to Yourman, Noh-Varr is the youngest member of a Kree Diplomatic team. “After voyaging for years, these alien super heroes reach Earth,only to be blown out of the sky.">>
After voyaging for years ... alien super heroes reach Earth ... blown out of the sky. ... Wimps. Earth is not a spacefaring power, just who did these guys deal with in their years of voyaging? Chimps throwing sticks, berries, and banana peels.?
<<Only Noh-Varr survives the crash-landing, and is captured -- and tortured -- by the mysterious Midas Organization. Escaping, he vows vengeance on all mankind.”>>
Great, lots of explosions and muscle flexing. There may be hope for this one. What's the background on Grant Morrison? You always know the goods.
<<He's a soldier/diplomat from a parallel version of Hala, the Kree homeworld,and he's spent a few years adventuring across numerous alternate realitiesand bizarre dimensions before arriving on Earth. Now, in the Marvel Universe, he must use all of his skills and powers just to stay alive and continue his one-man guerrilla war against our planet."
The first member of Marvel Boy’s Rogues Gallery is a new villain called Doctor Midas, a criminal billionaire who made his fortune by salvaging alien wrecks. Obsessed with the cosmic rays responsible for giving the Fantastic Four their powers, he bathes in them himself in the hopes ofobtaining similar results.>>
Knowingly bathes himself in radiation! What a Fruit Loop!
<<He also wears a customized version of Iron Man's original armor.>>
"Armor Wars" missed one. Tony Stark is going to be ticked. Wait a minute, his armor is sentient now. I wonder what angry armor does?
<<His strength, endurance and speed come from cockroach DNA and he's able to live on rubble and sewage if need be.">>
Are Kree related to cockroaches? Eating rubble sounds more like a Horta to me, but I don't get home to Earth much.
<<Marvel Boy’s guy Friday is the only other survivor of the Kree shipwreck -- the “Plex Intelligence” -- a living computer that's a clone of the KreeSupreme Intelligence ... but with Multiple Personality options.>>
Boy, the Avengers are going to love that, a Multiple Personality Supreme Intelligence. It cracks jokes, and administers stress counselling whiletrying to kill you.
<<"I got sick of seeing what I call 'Dad Comics,' " concluded Morrison. "It's time to say good-bye to all those boring, nostalgic books. We're here to trash the past and make something new that's relevant to our lives today. This is punk super-heroics. This book is all about blowing things up tomake things better.">>
Dad Comics? Trash the past? Superman, America, and Apple Pie. Hal Jordan, the Classic Green Lantern. Shazam and Captain America, 1940s heroism and ideals. Batman, never uses a gun, and never kills. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Lone Ranger, Rocketeer, original Star Trek reruns and the Andy Griffith Show, just for good measure. The old values seems to work, teach, and sell just fine. Cap what is your take on all of this?
My take is that English writers seem to love to deconstruct American icons. I think it's their revenge for becoming a Third World country. The "old values" work just fine for me.
As to your other questions:
1) I can think of one title rather quickly where the lead character doesn't go by the title of the book -- Hellblazer. John Constantine isn't called Hellblazer by anybody. It's just the title of the book. There have been many other situations like that over the years -- Werewolf By Night leaps to mind -- but, as you noted, most aren't successful. Then, of course, there's the famous Captain Marvel Jr. case -- where the lead character couldn't say his own name!
2) Yeah, it's tough to believe any spacefaring race would have any trouble with us monkeys. Like in Independence Day, where Jeff Goldblum defeats an enormously powerful, ultra-technical alien invasion with a PowerBook and Win95. Silly. If an extraterrestriel race manages to cross interstellar space to get to us, they'll be as technically superior to us as we are to, oh, fish.
3) Who is Grant Morrison? By golly, I do have the goods:
Grant Morrison got into comics around 1978, part of the British explosion of writers who followed in the footsteps of Alan Moore and John "Judge Dredd" Wagner (which includes Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis and Mark Millar). Morrison became well known in the UK for his work on 2000 AD and Dan Dare, then crossed the pond in the mid-'80s to become famous here for his deconstruction of the superhero in such titles as Animal Man and Doom Patrol. In Animal Man he broke down the fourth wall, allowing his characters to realize that they were, in fact, in a comic book. He carried this conceit to the point where he introduced himself into the book as the writer of the book, which I found to be cloying and self-referential to the point of egomania. His Doom Patrol was alarmingly surreal, escalating in absurdity to virtual incoherence by the time it was canceled. However, he reached explosive heights of popularity with JLA, combining breakneck action, accelerating peril and incisive characterization to produce one of the best superhero comics extant. He also writes The Invisibles, an annoying book that you can check my opinion on in Canceled Comics Cavalcade. I should put all this in the past tense, though, as he recently declared that he's mad at DC Comics for not treating him right, and he's quitting the field.
4) A man who deliberately exposes himself to radiation to get the powers of the Fantastic Four is not only a Froot Loop, he's also a copycat. The Red Ghost did the same thing in Fantastic Four (Vol. 1) No. 13.

He should look at himself in the mirror when he says Froot Loop. How sad he lauds Morrison, one of comicdom’s worst writers to come from Londonistan. And if spacefarers should have trouble with any monkeys, you can only guess who it ought to be. Now for March 30, 2000:

I love you to death, Captain. So I hate to be a nudge, but I seem to remember a Miss America in the pages of Infinity Inc. She was the mother of Fury and was retro-conned to be Wonder Woman's replacement.
Also, a friend informed me that TNT died in Young All-Stars which was set in WWII.
I appreciate all the effort you have put into the column and my questions. Therefore, I will attempt to be just as thorough.
1) Uncle Sam: I am pretty sure that he was supposed to be the original. Later on he was given a lame makeover.
2) Phantom Lady II: She was identified as a friend to the original in the pages of Starman. I will look up the issue number.
3) The Black Condor: The hero you are referring to is not the original. BCII's origin has not been given.
4) Tarantula: Is still alive in the pages of Nightwing. Of course, that doesn't mean that he wasn't shown dead in All-Star Squadron.
Talk about an ingrate, you give me your help and all I can do is correct you. Sorry. By the way, don't you love those initials, ASS.
I would love to see a definitive listing of ASS members. I would also like to see someone at DC explain the Plastic Man situation. Plas was seen in several issues of ASS. His WWII history has never been mentioned in JLA. Was he or was he not in WWII?
Actually, that Miss America was retconned into Fury I, the current Fury's mother, and took WW's place in the JSA. The problem we're both experiencing here is the pre-Crisis, post-Crisis retcon mania. All-Star Squadron took place in the pre-Crisis WWII, when the Earth-2 heroes were all fair game, and Roy Thomas starting introducing all kinds of minor heroes into the E-2 continuity. After the Crisis (and, to an extent, Zero Hour), all that had to be re-invented. Still, it appears that Red Bee and TNT have indeed died in ALL continuities. I can't say for sure what the fates of Neon the Unknown, the Invisible Hood, the Red Torpedo, Miss America and the other characters who "died" in ASS are; Miss America did indeed make a later appearance, but was subsequently turned into Fury I to take WW's place in the wartime JSA post-Crisis -- and now John Byrne has established that a time-traveling Hippolyta, Diana's mother, was the female powerhouse of the wartime JSA. So, did Miss America exist at all? Did she die? Did she rename herself Fury? Hopefully the new JSA series will shed some light when, inevitably, Fury II turns up to find out why her "dead" husband is masquerading as Dr. Fate. (I would if I were her!)

Unfortunately, she couldn’t find out, because Mordru – the villain who originally appeared in Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld – cast a comatose spell on her while trying to get hold of the Dr. Fate helmet to use for his own evil deeds. Mordru was defeated at the time, but Lyta Hall was still unconscious, and it took Hector Hall nearly 4 years to reverse the spell, after which Geoff Johns just threw them to the wolves and killed them off after the battle in Kahndaq with Black Adam (during the Day of Vengeance miniseries and Final Crisis crossover). It was a pure slap in the face.

Phantom Lady: Phantom Lady II can be seen in Starman. She is a friend (not a daughter) of the original Phantom Lady. Starman alludes to the fact that the original Phantom Lady is retired and living in seclusion.
I actually remember some of those Action Comics Weekly stories with Phantom Lady II. Her name was Dee, and her origin was that her dad was a Southerner who was coerced by his brother into being at the scene of a Ku Klux Klan hanging of a black man, where a photograph was taken of him standing next to the Klan. This was to be used as blackmail against him if he ever talked about his brother's criminal career.
So, her father joined the Merchant Marine, eventually coming to France, where he married a Frenchwoman, and "learned respect for other cultures." (I am not anti-French, but the time that this guy was in France was not a time to learn respect for other cultures; it would have to have been at around the time that all those psychos were trying to keep "Algeria Francaise."...) The daughter he had by the Frenchwoman was eventually Phantom Lady II.
As to how she became Phantom Lady II, I am curious.
Midnight (a Spirit rip-off whom I think was briefly revived in the late '80s, but can't recall): He had a Secret Origins story. Good art by Gil Kane.
Miss America was supposed to be Fury's ADOPTED mother. Fury had her memories of Paradise Island wiped away by Brainwave II in Infinity Inc. 27, then little bits of her new origin showed up. Finally, in Infinity Inc. 35, the existence of a Golden Age Fury was revealed. (Although she only appeared on a movie poster for a documentary about the JSA in that comic!) Fury I's chronological first appearance and origin are found in Secret Origins 12 (1987).
http://www2.bitstream.net/~myke4/jsa/jsachron4.html
Along with Superboy and Legion, Hawkman, who the Seventh Soldier of Victory was supposed to be and Wonder Girl and Wonder Woman's relationship, this has to be one of the biggest convolutions brought about by shoddy planning for what was to be post-Crisis.
Finally, non-X, non-Lee/Kirby Marvel successes: Would Ghost Rider count?
If a guy who hasn't had his own series for two years could be called a success!

Depending on whom and when the letter writer is talking about, his argument about the time Dee’s dad was in France is understandable. Specifically, if it involved the “culture” of Algeria, which was Islamofascist for many centuries. French culture, in itself, is okay for respecting, including those croissants.

As for the costumes on the X-Men movie, I have to disagree with you on this one, basically for several reasons.
One, they aren't Matrix-like. They are actually closer to true superhero costumes than what was worn in The Matrix. Matrix-like clothing should mean more than just black leather. The Matrix featured heroes wearing leather-like clothing that essentially was normal clothing (or at least clothing that people would wear to "hip" clubs). In lieu of capes, Spandex, chest symbols and masks, Neo and Co. wore overcoats, pants, button-down shirts, sunglasses galore and even a tie (Morpheus wore one). These were clothes they could wear on the streets, yet look "cool."
The X-Men costumes are different from The Matrix. They are uniform to each other. They feature the X-Men insignia. They wear capes (Storm and Magneto), helmets (Magneto), and visor (Cyke, and they could have easily let him wear sunglasses throughout the movie). Other than Sabretooth's get-up and Mags's civilian clothes, there are no overcoats. Sure, they are black leather, but this look has been used in comics before: Black Widow, Punisher, Storm and Wolverine have worn a couple of costumes that are similar to these (not counting the mask). Heck, the Superman II villains costumes are similar. Compare their costumes to say the movie Blade, whose "costume" was definitely Matrix-like (even though it came out before The Matrix). These guys still look like they are wearing superhero togs. Sure, they are not Spandex, but they aren't Matrix either. If the X-Men walked down a street, people would see them and wonder why these guys were dressed up as "superheroes."
Two, Spandex rarely works.You mention Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman as examples where it does. I give you Superman, but not the others. Batman's costumes (the movies anyway) weren't Spandex. The costumes used were black rubber that provided the "look" of comics superheroes (bulging muscles, etc.). The Wonder Woman costume use of Spandex (and her costumes) was limited. Essentially her costume is a glorified swimsuit (not that I'm complaining). It's not that hard to show a Spandex swimsuit believably. It's another story to show a full-body Spandex outfit. Not only do you need a muscular actor that fills it out realistically, but you need a muscular actor that can act (at least enough for a superhero movie) and looks like the character. Superman needed only one of these actors in Spandex. If the X-Men used Spandex, they would need at least six such actors.
Three, the X-Men's costumes are secondary to this movie. The fact is that the X-Men aren't Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman or Spider-Man. Unlike these characters, each of the X-Men have worn several different costumes throughout their history and generally aren't recongizable by their costumes, at least not to the extent of the others. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America and Spider-Man have iconic costumes that every comic-book reader and most non-comic-book readers see and immediately recognize. However, almost every X-Men artist that comes along introduces a new costume for the characters. What the reader recognizes are those things that the movie nails. Key physical attributes, such as everyone's powers; Cyke's visor; Storm's hair and eyes; Wolvie's hair, claws, and sideburns, Mags's helmet; Prof. X's baldness and wheelchair; Mystique's hair and skin; and Rogue's white stripe (which is supposed to appear in her hair sometime in the movie) are in the movie.
And most important of all, the movie's characterization of the characters and the storyline appears (so far) to be identical to the comics. A character is not Wolverine if he wears a Wolverine costume; he's Wolverine if he acts like Wolverine. Nailing the characterization is what makes a superhero movie. Superman worked not only because they had a guy who looked like Superman and more because they nailed Superman's characterization and storyline perfectly. To the extent that Batman worked, it was because of the characterization and the storylines in the movie. The list of superhero movies that use Spandex or faithful costumes, yet stunk, are almost legion (Superman III and IV, Batman & Robin, Captain America, Supergirl, Fantastic Four). You need faithful characterization and a good story as much if not more than the costumes.
As for Singer's comment about X-Men being a movie with action in it, I really don't see the problem. The movie will have action, but apparently it will have characterization and story along with it. When Singer describes this movie (and when I read the synopsis of the script that's floating around), I think of, perhaps, the best X-Men story: God Loves, Man Kills. There was action in that story, but equal to the action was the story about tolerance, prejudice and the differences between Mags's and Prof. X's visions.
Will the X-Men be a good movie? I don't know. It could suck as bad as Batman & Robin or Supergirl. However, for me, so far, what has been revealed hasn't, one way or another, showed that the movie will suck. Right now, summary judgment of the movie just isn't appropriate.
The defense rests (for now).
You make a convincing case, [name withheld], but I reiterate: I want to see the costumes! Or as author/historian Harris M. Lentz III (Science Fiction, Horror & Fantasy Film and Television Credits) of Memphis puts it:
"I don't much care for the Matrix look either -- if you're going to adapt a hugely popular comic book, it looks like you'd retain most of the elements that make it popular -- including the costumes."
At any rate, I promise I'm not leaping to judgment. Meanwhile, here's another opinion:

Before we get to that, I want to say that, if there’s any problem the X-Men movie could have from a modern view for me, it’s the apparent leftism floating around. And to be honest, I’m not so sure God Loves, Man Kills is the greatest X-book you can find. But one thing's certain: based on his track record, Smith can and will leap to judgement of specific books.

Hello Captain! After just reading your article I can only say (that) you are completely right about the new X-Men movie. A few weeks ago a friend and myself were debating with another group of friends about who would play who best if a movie were ever made (of course not knowing one was already planned to be released). I believe the two characters everyone agreed on was Patrick Stewart for Xavier, and Glenn Danzig for Wolverine. Now I'm not an "old school" fan, but The X-Men have always held a special place in my heart for turning me on to comics. Now you can only imagine how hurt I was when I saw the extremely "gothic" preview for the movie containing only two (from what I saw in the preview) well-known actors. It felt like listening to the new Santana album and hearing him play pop music! Just to think how today's new generation thinks that Smooth and Maria Maria is what Santana sounded like in the '70s, X-Men seems like it was injected with some sort of instant hit serum. Well, what can you do? The theatres will make their money. Thank you for your time.
Well, only if the movie's any good, of course! If it stinks, it'll tank, even with all those teen heartthrobs in the cast. (Outside of Ian McKellan, Halle Berry and Patrick Stewart, I'm unfamiliar with most of the cast.)
And I had to chuckle at the Santana reference -- I had the same feeling when Paul McCartney became more closely associated with Wings than with The Beatles. What can you do? Darn those whippersnappers, anyway!

Too bad Stewart’s such a leftist, one who said “a lot of America’s global actions stink”, in reference to the USA trying to defeat regimes like Saddam’s in Iraq. I haven’t seen the Star Trek franchise in a long time, maybe thanks to people like Stewart. And about Santana: why does that bring to mind a Volkswagen vehicle with the same name, alias Passat?

Dear Cap: Good call on the three Punisher books, and on Venom -- though I will say I'd have easily forgotten them as I pretty much stopped buying Marvel at that time -- I looked back on this recently, discussing with someone else, and after looking it over I've bought 11 Marvel books actually produced in the 1990s:
Five issues of Daredevil: Man Without Fear
Four issues of Marvels
X-Men 30 (the Jean/Scott wedding)
Spider-Man 2099 1 (I guess since it was the first new ongoing Spidey book since Web of Spider-Man, I think ...)
I did read most of the Age of Apocalypse through a friend, and Marvel still gets a good chunk of my reprint dollars!
That said, I can't say I really miss them -- Marvel hasn't appealed to me for a long time. I only scan the Marvel section of Previews for stuff like the Essential volumes and things like the Strange Tales Nick Fury volume in May. Literally, Stan and Jack's work still brings Marvel bucks from me! If it weren't for stuff like Goodbye, Chunky Rice, and especially Bryan Talbot's Adventures of Luther Arkwright, I'd have given up on comics altogther! I'd have missed out on Lone Wolf and Cub!
I've been mulling over your comments, [withheld], because I'm certain that there's been some good Marvel stuff that I could recommend. Nothing is leaping to mind, though. I don't know if it's because the banks and beancounters are calling the shots, or the rotating upper management (usually consisting of guys who know nothing about publishing), or what, but Marvel continues to shoot itself in the foot time after time.
There are a few Marvel books I am enjoying these days. Top of the list are Black Panther and Captain Marvel (although I've had some complaints from some correspondents that the Panther is impenetrable to anyone not intimately familiar with '70s Marvels, and Marvel writer Peter David isn't everyone's cup of tea). Iron Man, Captain America, Avengers and Thor are in good hands these days (although some of those creative teams are in flux). Many of the Marvel Knights books are just dandy -- Punisher especially, but also Daredevil (when it comes out), the Black Widow miniseries and its upcoming sequel, and Inhumans. Speaking of that last series, Inhumans writer Paul Jenkins has actually managed to salvage Incredible Hulk. And both Blaze of Glory and Avengers Forever are worth reading, and both will soon be available in TPB.

Sigh. If only they could comprehend what an embarrassment the Chunky Rice author really is. And Black Panther from 1998 plus Captain Marvel from that time soon turned into a disaster when Bill Jemas came aboard. The Hulk went downhill even before Jenkins came aboard, since Peter David just had to disrespect Betty Banner.

You said: <<I finally broke down and looked it up, [...]. Looker did indeed become a vampire after her 1989 "Mud Pack" appearance in Detective Comics -- in Outsiders 1 in 1993. That issue also explained how she got her powers back (which she had lost at the end of Batman & The Outsiders in 1986) , so how she had them in "Mud Pack" is still unexplained.>>
Oh, Cap, Cap, Cap. It's so obvious how she got those powers back -- Hypertime. Please remember that this explains the unexplained, even in our own lives. Try it with your wife. "I didn't eat the last thin mint cookie. Must've been Hypertime." It hasn't worked for me yet, but only because my wife doesn't read comics.
Might as well try it. The "temporal anomaly" excuse is wearing thin.

As are Mr. Smith’s excuses for supporting abominable books like Identity Crisis. Incidentally, Hypertime may have gone the way of New 52.

Dear Cap: Regarding [name withheld]’s letter about teen heroes and unexplained bruises, Chuck Dixon did do a couple stories about that in the first or second year of the Robin ongoing series. Tim Drake's father and teachers became very concerned that there was an unsavory element to his association with new neighbor Bruce Wayne. I don't remember how the story was resolved, however. (Captain's note: We detrmined last week the story was from Robin III: Cry of the Huntress.)
Speaking of Bruce Wayne, I'd like to bring up a complaint I've made to DC from time to time: the near-total absence of Bruce Wayne from the Batman family of titles. He's almost been totally written out of the books. Sure, there's plenty of Batman, and the books firmly operate under the premise that the vigilante has totally subsumed the man. Well, I don't agree that it has to be that way; I remember when Bruce Wayne was a civic leader who used his money to lobby for crime victims' rights.
Part of what makes Robin work so well is seeing him struggle with his personal life and his life as a superhero. Part of what makes the Superman family of books a success is his relationships with his co-workers, parents and wife. But this aspect is wholly lacking in the Batman books; we can go months without ever seeing him unmasked, let alone out of costume, let alone doing anything other than working another mission.
Without Bruce Wayne having some presence in the books, Batman is a very one-dimensional character. It's a shame that we went through a year of "No Man's Land" and saw more character development in most of the peripheral players -- Commissioner Gordon, Renee Montoya, even the Penguin! -- than we did in the title character.
The absence of Bruce Wayne also removes a lot of context that could deepen the stories. For example, in the issue where Batman almost unmasked before Commissioner Gordon, I remembered that once Gordon ran for mayor and asked Bruce Wayne for campaign support. Wayne turned him away; Batman reasoned that (Gordon) was needed more as the commissioner. In the almost-unmasking, Gordon declared that he maybe has figured out the secret. But does it mean anything if we never see him interacting with Batman in both his guises?
And even if Bruce Wayne is just a daytime disguise for the Batman, we should see the peculiar problems that causes. Before No Man's Land hit, Bruce Wayne was in a romance with a local radio personality, Vesper Fairchild. Where is she now? Where is Shondra Kinsolving? Where is Vicki Vale? Silver St. Cloud? Julie Madison? If romance for the Batman doesn't work, they should show us that this is so, not just declare it. There was a fun story in Detective Comics just before No Man's Land that showed Bruce Wayne on a date with a supermodel. He never put on the costume in this story, but broke up a convenience store stickup, thwarted a stock scam (the other investors about to be fleeced by the con man walk away just knowing Bruce Wayne thinks it's a good deal), foiled a heist and ditched the girl -- in such a way that she could save face only by declaring she had such a good time she can't tell about it, wink, wink.
Those elements should be a regular part of the Bat-titles. After all, the
Batman writers have a broader canvas than most to develop the character -- he appears in four monthly titles, a quarterly, and an unending string of miniseries, specials, one-shots and graphic novels. Bruce Wayne should be a regular part of the books, and not trotted out just to do the umpity-umpth retelling of the origin story. What do you think?
I'd have to be brain-damaged to disagree. Bruce Wayne is as much a part of the Batman mythos as ol' pointy ears. And if the current BW is boring or irrelevant-- well, that should be a challenge to the writers to make him NOT boring and irrelevant.

How come he never suggested the same with Gambit, to name but one fictional character? Did he even want to dislike Remy leBeau long before his debut? If he keeps up that pathetic stance, he’ll only make people think he’s childish and carrying misplaced grudges.

Dear Cap: The Flex Mentallo series from DC/ Vertigo comics was a work of brilliance. Here is a web site that discusses the intellectual aspect of the superhero fantasy genre.
Flex Mentallo Appreciation website:
http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~craft/flex/
Thanks [withheld] -- or as you are now known: [same here]!

Sorry, but I must firmly disagree. Grant Morrison is one of the worst at his trade, and didn’t “flex” things very well at all.

I came across your site in a web search on Blackhawk and read with interest your brief discussion of his nationality. [name withheld] referenced the 1989 Blackhawk Annual as stating that Blackhawk was a Pole named Janos Prohaska. That is accurate as far as it goes, but that book is part of the Blackhawk continuity that grew out of Howard Chaykin's revisionist Blackhawk miniseries. That continuity is not consistent with the original Blackhawk continuity that began in Quality Comics. I think the majority of Blackhawk fans consider the Chaykin continuity (and the Prohaska identity for Blackhawk) to be an aberration. Blackhawk's true identity was never revealed and we never discovered his nationality, though there were strong hints that he was a Polish-American named Bart Hawk. In the same vein, I'm afraid Olaf was indeed a Swede and not Danish, thought I agree that the latter case would have made more sense given the original premise of the group. For more information about the Blackhawks, please see my site at http://www.geocities.com/blackhawk66.geo/
All the references I've seen establish Olaf as a Swede -- but it sure doesn't make any sense!

How come he didn’t admit that during the time of Identity Crisis? Or Civil War? I don’t buy his hogwash for a moment.

<<In the Jewish religion if a child is born of a Jewish mother they are fully Jewish, it doesn't matter what religion the father is! Now I don't know if the same rule applies in other religions or not, you can enlighten me here too!>>
It does not apply to other religions. The reason that Judaism has this is their unique idea of the tribes of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, as the chosen people. (Although, admittedly, modern Ashkenazim Jews -- most of the Jews who live in the U.S. -- are admixtures of these tribes and the Khazars, but that is another story, which you probably know, Maxine. By no means am I trying to mock Judaism as some sort of a "racial religion." Judaism is not.)
Christianity, on the other hand, rather specifically was set up to reach out to the people who had no link to or descent to Moses or even Abraham. Despite what the Anglo-Israeli cults and other Christian Identity fringe groups will tell you, Christianity has no chosen people, as several passages in the New Testament will reinforce. The emphasis was on universalism ("the difference between Jew and Greek is dissolved").
After all, if Christianity had such an idea, everyone born of a Roman Catholic mother would be a Roman Catholic, and then virtually all Protestants would be Roman Catholics! As I have noted before, all Protestants who are white (and some who are black) have ancestors who were Roman Catholics, if you trace it back far enough.
<<(John) Byrne was the one who rewrote Avengers history and brought back the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond. The Vision had been thought to be Jim Hammond's inert body molded by Ultron into the Vision. It was later revealed that the Vision was made out of Jim's "spare parts." Part of a plan by Kang, to help drive the Scarlet Witch insane, I believe.>>
You're half-right ... it was Immortus, who was once a Kang. As to how the Scarlet Witch would be driven insane by such a ruse, it was explained that his idea that he was the Human Torch gave the Vision the confidence to propose marriage, and that set it up for Wanda to be devastated when the Vision lost all of his emotions. (I should mention that they also retconned that it was not the Human Torch who was in the first Legion of the Unliving in Avengers 131-132. They changed it so that it was actually Toro.)
I'm amazed that you can categorically state that no other religion has the Judaic idea of a matriarchal imperative, [...] -- I'll bet a dollar there's another one out there!

Let me take a moment to voice more annoyance that being of Jewish race and/or religion is not clearly defined here, because I’d be a lot happier if it were. I’ve said it before, and will do so again: there is a distinction, and it’s not wrong to argue to that effect.

I sure wish the correspondent had noted how under Islam, the children are seen as the sole property of the father (and under some adherents, incest is considered fine). That’s something to think about.

By the way: I don’t buy the notion Mr. Smith had any problem with Avengers: Disassembled’s portrayal of Wanda either. But I repeat myself.

Here's some comments on this week's site...
<<Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith, who still recites the Green Lantern oath
in times of crisis ...>>
Yes, but do you wear your Green Lantern ring with the glow in the dark center while you do so?
<<SINS OF YOUTH: AQUABOY/LAGOON MAN #1: I can't stand Lagoon Boy (or Blubber or any of those other Larsen concepts), so this is the one "Sins of Youth" story I could live without.>>
I can barely type the name "Lagoon Boy" without cracking up at the sheer absurdity. It was a decent story, though. My vote for loser in the bunch was Secret/Deadboy. Lame story, bad art.
<<Kane's art shows its typical dynamic movement and action, but Klaus Janson's inks are too heavy.>>
I agree with [withheld]. It's a shame that Mr. Kane's last work looks sub-par because of a bad penciller/inker match.
I saw Dr. No on the big screen tonight (thanks to the historic Kiggins Theater in Vancouver, WA). It occurs to me that comic-book fans complain about their films too much. So, some elements are often changed. So what? Almost any time a film is adapting another media there are moderate to extensive changes. Read any of the Ian Fleming novels and then watch the corresponding film; in some cases, the only thing that relates them is the title and the presence of James Bond. The tone of Interview With the Vampire vastly differed from the novel. The film of Absolute Power (a lousy movie in many respects) left out the main character of the novel! Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was telling a true story and still left out many elements that I would have considered vital having read the book but would not have missed without that prior knowledge.
I even consider some changes to be for the better. Dr. Banner's origin for the Incredible Hulk TV series always seemed more believable to me than the comic-book origin. The more Viking look and attitude of Thor in the Incredible Hulk Returns tele-movie impressed me, as did the more realistic all-black costume of Daredevil in Trial of the Incredible Hulk. (Yeah, I've been on a real Hulk frenzy lately.) Even though I despise the comic-book character I still enjoyed the Punisher movie, partly because he wasn't wearing a costume. The Flash TV series took some of the best elements of Barry Allen and Wally West stories to make their version.
On the other hand, I'm one of the only people who doesn't like any of the four Batman movies released in recent years. I don't like the costuming, the characterization, the look of the city and vehicle -- nothing. (Well, okay. I like Michelle P. in a black skintight Catwoman suit, but even then I didn't like how the character was written.)
It's not changes that are bad, per se, but bad changes and/or bad writing. All three Captain America movies have been stinkers. Ditto for Generation X (why, oh why, make Jubilee a white girl?).
Would it be great if Hollywood stayed closer to the source material? Heck, yeah. Fletch could have been a terrific movie if it hadn't been changed to make it into a Chevy Chase vehicle. MASH stayed pretty close to the novel and was subsequently a darned good movie (the TV series was excellent, but only distantly related to the original story). 58 Minutes was heavily rewritten to make the story for Die Hard II. Superman may have looked great in Superman II, but he sure developed some weird powers suddenly.
The costume changes for X-Men don't really bother me. I'm much more worried about the story. With that many characters and with movie lengths decreasing in recent years, I'm concerned that characterization will be nonexistent.
Hey! You snuck up on me with the X-Men argument! We already covered that up above!
Anyway, my opinion remains the same: I think they should have used the costumes, but am reserving judgment. I am not opposed to change; quite the opposite. Retcons are often welcome to prevent a character from getting mired in his own past, and changes are often necessary when adapting a concept from one medium to another. I just think they're making a mistake dropping the costumes. We'll all find out July 19!

Mr. Smith does not wear a GL ring. He wears a Weaponer of Qward ring, which is yellow, and perfect for a propagandist! Seriously though, the characterization in the X-Men movie was nowhere near as good as it could’ve been, though that’s probably a moot point by now.

I fully disagree with the argument that the premise as seen in the Incredible Hulk TV show developed by Kenneth Johnson worked better than the comics, no matter how much I enjoyed it. And the writer’s assessment of Daredevil’s costume for Trial of the Incredible Hulk being better than the comics counterpart is also worth dissenting on, no matter how much I enjoyed that too. Besides, let us remember that Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk rendition was less powerful than the comics counterpart, and the TV show had less emphasis on science-fiction than the comics do. That’s probably why I say it was a loose adaptation.

I found your reply interesting about how you keep track of comics and was amazed when you said you found 120 boxes easy to manage. I have a quarter of that at 29 boxes and cringe every three to four months when I begin sorting recent purchases into the collection. I keep track in a similar method, and while I will eventually get some software to help keep better records I doubt I'll abandon the hardcopy. I also keep a sheet for each title I collect with as many numbers as I can fit on it or is necessary (G.I. Joe 1-150 or Detective Comics 500-???). Beside each number is a checkbox to mark if I have it. I keep the sheets in a binder and whenever I go comic-shop hopping I always have it with me (Once you've made a couple templates on the computer its really very little work to make the sheets). I'm curious to know where you store your boxes and how. The shops usually have some homemade shelving so they can stack boxes higher without worrying about damage to the bottom boxes. I stack three high which is as high as I think is safe. They basically take up almost as much of my bedroom as I do.

Keep in mind that I'm 41; when my wife and I bought our house we specifically selected one that had a finished-out attic to house the comics. One of the advantages of being a "grownup."

LOL. Some “grownup” alright! A man who lambasts fictional characters and gushes over misogynist tripe like Identity Crisis is not someone whom I consider “grownup”. Is he sure he was 41 at the time and not 14?

I enjoy your weekly column, which is carried by the Fairfax Journal. I was reminded of your January 20, 2000 discussion of superheroes and their religious beliefs when I came across the following while browsing the WWW: http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/superman.htm
Although the article refers primarily to Superman: The Movie, the first third of the movie was taken directly from the traditional DC comic-book account of Superman's origin.
The site you cite is an extremely detailed comparison of Superman with the life of Jesus, apparently by some sort of Biblical scholar. It's a great read, particularly the responses from other readers. Of course, it's easy to read too much into a simple story dreamed up by two teenagers -- but hey, that's why it's fun!

It used to be, until Dan DiDio got his foot in the door at DC. But he hasn’t admitted that. In fact, I have to wonder if, after all these years, he has respect for any comparisons you could make between Superman and Christianity, or even Judaism, for that matter.

Well, I think that’s enough for this page. I’ll continue with more on the next page.

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