A look back at some past experiences and memories, part five

July 10, 2014

By Avi Green

We now turn to the next page’s worth of past Mailbag mishmash from the old Captain Comics site (previous one is here), otherwise worthless as it was, but useful for pointing out the hypocrisy and double-standards of a real life J. Jonah Jameson. Our next examples come from April 6, 2000:

Dear Captain: A minor addition to your answer two weeks ago regarding the origins of how Dick Grayson took up the name Nightwing. What you said about the Pre-Crisis origin was quite correct: Dick took his name from a story Superman told him about Kandor, where he took the name of a Kryptonian bird.
However, it was not until recently that someone explained Dick's name change in the post-Crisis DC Universe. The story, "Taking Wing" by Chuck Dixon, is in Nightwing Secret Files 1.
It explains that in the time after Dick Grayson was shot and Batman took away his Robin costume, Dick knew he still wanted to be a crimefighter but was at a loss as to how to do it as anything but Robin. He turned to the one superhero he knew and trusted as much as Batman: Superman.
Superman tells Dick of a Kryptonian man whom legend says was cast out of his family for going against the wishes of the family. This man then took up the identity of a hero that defended the oppressed. This legendary hero was known on Krypton as Nightwing.
This is, in my opinion, a brilliant retcon. We still have the connection to Superman and ancient Krypton and the name and the man it was tied to fits well with the rebellious feelings Dick held toward his family at the time he became Nightwing.
A different take on the Nightwing story also took place in Batman and Superman: World's Finest 6, wherein we see Robin complain to Superman that Batman still treats him like a kid, despite being in college and leading the Titans. Superman suggests that Robin take a new costume and name. He says, "You know, when I learned about my Kryptonian heritage, there were these two heroes ... "

Thanks for the additional background, [name withheld]!

Alas, this is typical pseudo-wisdom from the man who still acts like many comics characters are real people, are solely at fault for anything wrong they do – not the writers who apply those actions he has problems with – and who also treats them like dirt in that regard. I sure hope the guy who wrote this letter understands that today. Next comes a letter all about the needless attention garnered from the Apollo/Midnighter mishmash in The Authority:

Re: Apollo and Midnighter
Wow ... so the mass media finally noticed.
It was only glaringly obvious to anybody who actually read the comic, right? Then again, I suppose that it took this long for somebody who doesn't specialize in comics to find time to read a comic book.
I like one person's spin on the whole matter: To paraphrase, he said that even if Apollo and Midnighter did something that was unmistakeably homosexual in nature, there would be people who would manage to rationalize it away somehow.
"He ... um ... he got bit by a snake!"
I haven't managed to track this story as it crawls its way through the papers, but I suspect that whoever wrote the original piece didn't bother interviewing Warren Ellis, and finding out anything about them.

Warren Ellis's response to being ignored is available online at Comic Book Resources.

It’s just as well that Ellis was ignored (much like Mr. Smith’s own columns should be by anyone looking for real dedicated news on comics), though I’ll have to note that no matter who wrote the story, it matters little to the contemptuous mainstream press. No, what matters is the agendas and beliefs being pushed upon the public. To feature homosexuality in comics is one thing. Depicting it in a positive light is entirely another.

Dear Cap: I have an ideal for a possible article which you may want to write. It is about the hidden treasures that can be found in the back bins of the comic stores and at flea markets and yard sales. A few weeks ago, I decided to hit the flea-market circuit and I struck gold. I got a bunch of DC comics from the '60s. They were a couple of Justice Leagues, Batman and a Supergirl Annual. Now most of these read like a trip to the dentist but it was great to have these old books. The nostalgia lover in me had a field day.
Later on I found a crop of Unknown Soldier books. I was never a big fan of the Soldier but I decided to grab them (at a discount price I may add). The books were great. It really surprised me that the Soldier from the original series was just as bloodthirsty and cold as the Soldier from the recent Vertigo miniseries. There was also an issue which showed the Solider unmasked!! FYI: The Unknown Soldier has a very gruesome appearance. His face is very skull-like. I could go on about the other treasures I found such as Batman's first meeting with Crazy Quilt, a Batman/Ragman teamup, Conan vs. Kull, Belit vs. Red Sonja, a Secret Wars paperback that only cost me $5, an early Ghost Rider where Johnny Blaze was in control (not Zarathos), and much more.
The back bins and flea markets can give readers a chance to glimpse their favorite heroes in another light. Sometimes these old issues can give insight to what is happening today. You should urge your readers to do more treasure hunting.
By the by, I have a question about one of those treasures. I grabbed an issue of Batman. The cover was a classic Batman and Robin springing into action. The comics code symbol was seen as always, the price was seen as always, but something was missing. The issue number was not presented and the DC bullet logo was altered. Instead of having "DC" in the bullet, the "Whitman" logo was there. Did Whitman once own DC? I have collected DC from the '50s through the present and have never run across the Whitman logo before. What is the deal?

You'll get no argument from me about back-bin bargains. The older I get, the more fun Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen (and similar books) seems to me. I think I'm growing nostalgic for a time when we didn't take our funnybooks so seriously.
I was mesmerized by the original Unknown Soldier strip, which was Vertigo before Vertigo existed-- completely unlike anything on the stands at the time. U.S. was NOT a nice guy, which struck me as a lot more "realistic" than the Sgt. Rock/Sgt. Fury stuff. If you're interested, Unk began in Star-Spangled War Stories 151, with his origin first presented in No. 154. The series was renamed Unknown Soldier officially with issue 205 and ran until issue 268 (1982). (I was also impressed intellectually with his skull-like appearance. Having no hair of facial fat made it more believable that he could disguise himself so convincingly -- unlike, say, Tom cruise in Mission: Impossible.)
To answer your question, Whitman distributed reprints in three-packs from various companies for sale in Kmarts and the like; doubtless you got one of those.

With all the bleak books he’s been praising lately, to say nothing of an inability to publicly complain about the disdain DC and Marvel alike have for past history, I seriously doubt he thinks Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen is as fun as it was back in the day.

Dear Cap: I'm with you on the X-Men's movie outfits. What would be wrong with using the actual outfits? It seems Hollyweird can't leave well enough alone when it comes to super-hero movies. Remember what they did to Batman (nipples!).
I picked up X-Men 100, mainly for the Arthur Adams cover, but also to see what Claremont has up his sleeve. I'm not too keen on the Neo. They just seem to be trumped-up copies of your typical evil mutants. However, I did like the characterization of Nightcrawler. It just seemed natural for him to be studying to be a priest, considering his past background. I'll pick up a few more issues to see where all this is going.
Stone Cold Steve Austin's comic book ... yes, wrestling fans can read. But only for a few minutes at a time. Any longer and their heads would explode.

The consensus of opinion seems to be that the Nightcrawler riff in X-Men 100 was the highlight of the New Direction. The Neo, on the other hand, were just typical Claremont villains -- interchangeable speech patterns and personalities, as "noble" as they are naughty and -- naturally -- led by a woman.

If that’s supposed to be a critique, his acceptance of Identity Crisis scuttles it. As for movie outfits, it’s worth noting that Joel Schumacher was mostly at fault for that insulting emphasis. Ick.

Dear Captain: On the debate about costumes in the X-Men movie, you stated that Batman kept his comic costume in the 1989 movie and was succesful. First off, the coloring on that costume was changed to make it all black, a slight alteration from the comic version. Second, characters such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have pretty much always worn the same costume and are thus instantly identified by their outfits. Making a movie without using the original costumes for these characters wouldn't make much sense. The X-Men can get away with it, though, for a couple of reasons: 1) Every member has changed costumes numerous times, so it is impossible to say that they are identifiable in a particular costume. This gives them more freedom to come up with new costumes for the movie, as they are changing the outfits in the comics every couple of years (for some characters anyway). 2) Outside of the comic community, most people wouldn't be able to identify the X-Men's costumes anyway. While they have become more mainstream thanks to their cartoon, they still are nowhere near as recognizable as Superman or Batman. And on a last note, to all the people who are saying that the costumes in the books have been changed to mirror those of the movie, take a closer look. The original intent was to design costumes that were more in sync with what characters would be wearing in the movie, but the final designs look nothing like the movie versions. The new costumes in the comic actually look more like the old X-Factor uniforms worn by Beast, Jean and Cyclops.

Actually, the new costumes look a lot better than the old X-Factor suits, which were pretty hideous. Thanks for the input, [withheld]!

Uh uh, the old X-Factor suits weren’t that bad. Since this letter was written, things have changed for the Big Blue Boy Scout, as DC mandated his red tights be changed to blue, even for the Man of Steel movie.

Dear Cap: You wrote:
<< That's a darn good question, since Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour and other retcons have muddied the issue alarmingly. The Red Bee died in All-Star Squadron 35 and is shown to still be dead in Starman, so I guess we can be sure he's one. And, as you pointed out in subsequent e-mails, TNT was shown to have died in Infinity Inc., so that may be another.>>
And now, the curse of Hypertime: I loved The Red Bee's appearance in Starman, and clearly, James Robinson stuck with the All-Star Squadron
chronology. However, over in JLA, as part of World War III, Plastic Man mentions that he's perfect to battle Queen Bee because he used to share Prozac with a destitute Red Bee, and had learned a lot about bees as a result. (I prefer a Hypertime explanation that removes DC's recent revamp of Plas's origin, and instead believe that Eel O'Brien has been Plastic Man since 1940. Being plastic just might make him age-proof?) It's still possible that Morrison considers The Red Bee dead.
Miss America was the foster mother of Fury II; the original Fury was, yes, her birth mother. How and why, though, never got explained. I always assumed it would turn out that Iron Munroe (still alive, at least as of Damage) was the father. The original Fury, though, may well be dead, as I don't think she has appeared outside of the pages of All-Star Squadron and Young All-Stars.
Re: Lee/Kirby creations
How about Ghost Rider? He was incredibly hot (if an incredibly stupid title) for quite a few years.
Also, does Daredevil count as a Lee/Kirby creation? I know Stan wrote him, but did Jack have anything to do with it? Am I just splitting hairs?

The reference you made (to JLA 38) does indeed mention "the late Bee" -- so Morrison joins Robinson in considering the Red Bee extinct. But to muddy the waters on Plas, there is no time peg mentioned in Eel's anecdote -- he merely refers to "the lean years," and since we don't have a coherent timeline for Plastic Man, it could have been 10 years ago or in World War II or anytime in between. Heck, who's to say Eel O'Brien didn't hang with the Bee before becoming Plastic Man? Anyway, like you, I prefer to believe that Plas has been around since his 1941 debut in Quality's Police Comics No. 1.
Another writer put his two cents in on when and where Fury I appeared last week. Still, it doesn't clear things up much. Fury was created to take Wonder Woman's place in wartime JSA adventures, once Wonder Woman was erased by Crisis. But now Hippolyta has been established as having been Wonder Woman in World War II (does that make Diana "Wonder Woman II" now?), so there's no reason for Fury I to have existed at all -- except as Fury II's mother. Hopefully, future issues of JSA will clear this up.
And yeah, I think we can include Daredevil (and Spider-Man) as being "from the Lee/Kirby era," even if they weren't specifically Lee/Kirby creations. At least for the purposes of this discussion. After all, Lee wrote 'em both, and Kirby was Marvel's uncredited art director (he created Spider-Man's costume, although he didn't draw the book), so let's not split those hairs.
And Ghost Rider's a good call -- a couple of others suggested him -- but like Nova, Moon Knight, Cloak & Dagger, Luke Cage, Punisher and Venom, he doesn't currently have an ongoing book. Isn't that something? Only the X-books and the Lee/Kirby stuff have remained popular through thick and thin.

I think I already addressed the Fury issue. Did they clear it up? Oh, did they ever, by kicking her to the curb, and Hector along with her, in 2005.

Based on some recent discoveries, I’m skeptical Robinson had any real respect for Roy Thomas’s gems from the 80s, and Robinson's crass attitude since only enforces my modern belief something is terribly wrong with his way of thinking.

Dear Cap: I am writing to again thank you for a very interesting site. I do not visit it very much as I really do not read or buy comics anymore -- just Sailor Moon, but that is a special case. There are just too many titles for me to grab JUST ONE and follow it along.
At any rate, keep up the good work in presenting the history of a specialized collectible.

Thanks for the props, [name withheld]. Anything you can think of you'd like to see that isn't being done elsewhere?

Right-wing opinions, perhaps? But alas, he never offered anything convincing then, and I can’t he’s doing so now. I will say that on the current site he’s running, he has a contributor who’s ostensibly conservative, but since the man I speak of embraced Identity Crisis and its rendition of Dr. Light as a sex offender, I can’t believe he’s a real conservative, so much as I can believe he’s a pervert. No joke.

Dear Cap: Thanks for the recommendations ... I wrote a really long response to this but what it basically came down to was that Marvel doesn't make what I'm interested in:
1) Non-superhero material (historical-oriented material, crime stories).
2) Formats beyond the 32-page monthly pamphlet (the bulk of their work, including the titles you recommended, is still in this format). I find this format to be not substantial enough, and worth neither my money nor, especially, my time. I like TPBs and collections of comics in books -- I've never bought an issue of JLA but I have all of the TPBs! In the past I've enjoyed the more substantial formats and wider range of subject matter of Japanese manga and the Italian Bonelli books, and the books I enjoyed when I was younger were all bigger page counts -- 80 and 100-Page Giants, "Giant-Size" Annuals, 100-page digests. I'd like to see a real "comics magazine," the format of Newsweek or Sports Illustrated -- down to the ad count and ad content! More than just Mad or Heavy Metal -- it could even have superhero material in it too!)
3) Work by combined writer-artists (I've grown to enjoy more work by people like Bryan Talbot, Frank Miller, Paul Chadwick, Frank Cho, Moebius, Eisner, Matt Wagner, Paul Grist and Brian-Michael Bendis, and have never really gone for books for their writers, other than Alan Moore, who ends up working with good artists anyway.)
I really grew up favoring DC comics, so much of Marvel has never interested me anyway. I do find work from other publishers, and between getting higher ticket items and titles I actualy do like, I'm probably spending more than I ever have in my life on comics.
(Believe it or not, what I wrote originally is MUCH longer than this!)

Oh, I believe it! Thanks for the comments, [name withheld]!
Have you tried Ring of the Nibelungen and Age of Bronze? I presume you're picking up the Concrete and Sin City collections. Astro City collections are all in print too.
Unfortunately, the 32-page pamphlet is a format we're presently stuck with. That may change in the future, though -- DC's been keeping a lot of TPBs and such in print, and doing boffo business (enough to substantially ace out Marvel and Image as the No. 1 dollar-getter). And Marvel's Monsters are a step in the right direction. I've said this before, but what I'd like to see is Marvel fold one weaker seller into one big seller, toss in a reprint and sell the package for $3.50. It would cut the line in half, you'd get a nice, thick package for your money and newsstand and bookstore distributors would have enough of a profit margin to consider carrying comics. Whatcha think?

Ugh, to think he’d recommend something based on Richard Wagner’s abomination of an opera song! I hate to admit it, but that’s a black spot on an otherwise fine career by Gil Kane as an artist, and Roy Thomas also made a mistake to embrace those monstrosities at the theater in New York City back in the day. I hope they changed their minds in later years as it became more common knowledge to anyone outside the music medium.

The 32-page pamphlets are something we’re still stuck with 14 years after this was posted, and he’s made no attempt to suggest companies go full-fledged paperback, as I’d think it best to do.

Dear Cap: DC seems to have abandoned the (Janos) Prohaska identity (for Blackhawk). The last appearance of Blackhawk (in the JLA Silver Age flashback) showed him as the original Blackhawk. We'll have a better idea of who DC thinks Blackhawk is when he appears in the new Silver Age limited series in May.
But to tell the truth, even if DC does reincarnate the Prohaska version of Blackhawk, I won't put any credence in it. They are the same folks who killed Superman and turned the Green Lantern into a raving maniac. They are almost as bad as Marvel in taking their best characters and changing them into something awful (who needed Spider-Man to be a clone for the last 20 years). I prefer to think that the Chaykin continuity took place in an alternate universe. The real Blackhawks are the ones I care about.
If you accept the Chaykin continuity, then Olaf is a Dane. Chaykin did a good job of rationalizing the national origins of the Blackhawks. It's a shame he didn't understand who the characters really were or why the team worked. He trashed the concept of the team in favor of his own idea of a character. He wasn't really writing Blackhawk, he was writing some other character closely related to all his other characters. It is amazing to me how he can trash a character. He did the same to his own creation, Ironwolf.

I hope a LOT of post-Crisis continuity will be unsnarled by "The Silver Age."
The nice thing about comics is we can pull out our old ones, and they are just as valid as anything currently being published. In my more nostalgic moments, I re-read old JLA/JSA crossovers and pretend that Earth-2 is still around.
As we've discussed on my site before, Chaykin only has one character: An idealized version of himself. He turned Blackhawk into a clone of Reuben Flagg, Scorpion, Vector Pope (Pulp Fantastic), etc.

A lot of post-Crisis continuity, both good and bad, was trashed after New 52, and the Blackhawks fared no better. And based on Mr. Smith’s silence, I’d say the real Blackhawks are not the ones he cares about.

Dear Cap: Recently on the DC Message Boards, I became involved in a discussion involving "rip-offs" between Marvel and DC where we looked at all of the DC and Marvel characters that are similar. Someone mentioned that Luthor (especially when he was heavier) and the Kingpin looked alike. Suddenly I was struck, like a lightning bolt from the wizard Shazam (didn't get any powers though), by a thought that the similarities between Luthor (at least the current version) and Kingpin (the way Miller wrote him in Daredevil) go deeper than a physical resemblence. After some more thought, I came to a conclusion that the present Luthor is simply the Kingpin on a grander, larger scale.
Although my knowledge of pre-reboot Luthor isn't great, I am under the impression that he was a mad scientist/criminal genius type. Everyone knew he was evil and a criminal. Superman would stop Luthor's plan and Luthor would either escape or would be imprisoned.
Then with the reboot, Luthor became a very successful businessman. If I remember right, he didn't come from a wealthy background, but used his intelligence and strong-arm tactics to gain power and control in Metropolis and over many of its citizens, including politicians, etc. As someone else said on the DC boards, he had a veneer of respectibility but is willing to operate illegally to get what he wants. Superman is constantly trying to counter Luthor's illegal acts. However, the way Luthor runs his businesses (both legal and illegal) make it hard (if not impossible) for Superman to link Luthor to such actions. Superman often show ups outside Luthor's high-rise office and vows he will someday stop him, etc. Basically Superman and Luthor are involved in this "cold war," neither openly attacking the other but involved in battles nonetheless as Superman takes on Luthor's minions, etc.
I think that this sounds a lot like the Kingpin and his relationship with Daredevil, especially as portrayed by Frank Miller. Sure, the Kingpin isn't the scientific genius that Luthor is, but he is certainly intelligent and ruthless. Until recently, he appeared to much of New York as a respectable businessman, while all the while he was the head of the criminal organization in New York. He had judges, politicians and even army generals in his pocket. Until not too long ago, Daredevil was unable to connect Fisk to any of these criminal endeavors and if there was a problem, Fisk used his connections and lawyers to get out of them. And one of the most common scenes used was that of Daredevil confronting Fisk in his high-rise office vowing to take him down, etc. Daredevil and Fisk were certainly involved in a "cold war."
Obviously there are differences between Luthor and Kingpin, but these merely show that Luthor is on a larger scale than Kingpin. As said above, Luthor is a scientific genius. There is no way Fisk would be consulted or would have an idea in the Final Night situation that occurred several years ago. Luthor, however, did have ideas. Futher, Luthor is portrayed as having larger ambitions and more control outside his home city than the Kingpin has.
However, Luthor has to be on a larger scale or stage than the Kingpin. Luthor's nemesis, Superman, certainly operates on a larger scale or stage than the Kingpin's nemesis, Daredevil, does. Luthor has to be a challenge to Superman and therefore he needs to larger or more dangerous than the Kingpin. Hence, the greater intellect, ambition, etc.
(Of course, there is one other difference between the two. When Kingpin was given Daredevil's secret identity, he tested the name to see if it was true and then used it to his advantage. When Luthor was given Superman's secret identity, he immediately dismissed the idea without attempting to see whether or not it was true. Hmmm, maybe Kingpin is smarter (or at least less arrogant) than Luthor is.)
So what do you think? I am not arguing that Luthor was better as a mad-scientist type (I think this version of Luthor is fantastic and maybe the best thing about the reboot) or that he is necessarily a rip-off of the Kingpin. Maybe all I am arguing is that the Kingpin-Daredevil dynamic is similar to the Luthor-Superman dynamic. I just wanted your knowledgeable opinion.

I think the comparison's completely valid; the history of the characters is wildly different, but after multiple retcons and such they've pretty much ended up in the same place. I won't jump to the conclusion that the new Luthor was copied from Kingpin, though -- it makes good story sense for a superhero to face a foe he can't just punch out, and I'm surprised there aren't more characters like Luthor and Kingpin bedeviling our heroes. Of course, that may be explained by noting that guys in business suits and Machiavellian machinations aren't terribly visual, and American comics ARE very visually oriented.
Other astounding comic-book similarities: Marvel's X-Men (a group of outsiders led by a man in a wheelchair) and DC's Doom Patrol (a group of outsiders led by a man in a wheelchair) appeared within months of each other in 1963. And Marvel's Man-Thing (a man-like swamp monster) and DC's Swamp Thing (a man-like swamp monster) appeared within months of each other in 1972. All parties involved swear it was just coincidence.

I’d like to think it were just coincidence Mr. Smith is such an awful journalist, but I’ve got a feeling it isn’t.

Dear Cap: From Science Fiction Weekly (http://www.scifi.com/sfw/), News of the Week, March 28:
<<James (Starman) Robinson ... said he will adapt Alan Moore's comic series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a Victorian-era superhero story, the site reported. League producer Don Murphy told the Web site that Robinson was "almost signed.">>
What do you think? It'll probably be out on video before we see the next issue! I'll put up with a lot for Alan Moore, but this is getting REALLY bad.

The League delay has gotten ridiculous, particularly since Moore & Co. have yet to offer the slightest shred of an explanation. Still, I never count my movies until they're hatched. (Columbia has just canceled their Dr. Strange and Daredevil projects, for example, after more than a year of tantalizing press releases and announcements of progress.)

So Robinson was the scripter for LOEG at least a decade ago? At this point I’d rather not see it based on his involvement, but after the movie failed to make much impression – especially on Moore, who disassociated himself from the project – I guess it doesn’t make much difference.

Outside of Punisher and Venom, no new Marvel characters of note since the Lee/Kirby period. I'm not up on DC comics but is it not the same situation with them? I read everyone talking about Superman, Batman, Legion, JLA, Wonder Woman. Maybe these characters were not all created by the same two people but, well, what was your point? If you wanted to point out what great talents Lee and Kirby were, then OK. I don't think that is the point you were making. Or maybe there are a bunch of DC characters that are big sellers now that were not part of their Silver-Age titles. If that's the case, let me know. Otherwise, I'd say it's a safe observation to say that both of the Big Two are the Big Two because of a solid stable of characters that they established when they started out.

I could note that Hitman, Hellblazer, Preacher, Transmetropolitan and Sandman (not to mention the whole WildStorm line) have all been successes for DC, none of which have a noticeable connection to the Silver Age. But why quibble? You've got a very good point, [withheld]. I think the original intent of the questioner was to note that Lee & Kirby's creative explosion in the '60s is STILL astonishingly important to Marvel's current (semi-) success, which I think we can all agree on.

Uh uh, it’s not important to Quesada, Alonso, Buckley, or even Brevoort. No, what’s important to them is money at all costs, even if it means valuing the speculator market over the dedicated readers.

Dear Cap: I would pick Storm of the X-Men to run for president.

Hmmm. She's the daughter of an American father and an African mother, born in Africa. Would she qualify as a native-born American?

If one or both parents have citizenship, then yes, she would. As for Mr. Smith, I’d choose him to run for janitor at the train station and clean out all the toilets!

Dear Cap:
1) I know you think I'm a little weird for liking this feature so much (as opposed to how normal you think I am for loving both The Red Tornado I AND The Mod Squad to death), but I regret missing two weeks of your New Comics and Comments page. Any way I could access them somewhere, or can you e-mail me copies? Sorry to be a pain, but I do like a lot of your comments. Keep trashing Marvel.
2) Everyone's all up in arms because you called the upcoming X-Men movie costumes "Matrix-like." No, they are not exactly like the duds in that movie, but it's easy to see what you meant: They're black, they're leatherish, and they're sleek. Not identical to the Matrix costumes, but it's not that offbase for you to call them "Matrix-like."
And when you refer to the costumes not being Spandex, I took that to just mean "patterned after the Spandex costumes in the comics." Like the non-Spandex "lead costume" in the Batflicks. Jeesh, everyone is taking you so point-by-point literally.
3) You say that capturing the characters' comic-book spirit is the point of making the picture. Well, for you maybe, and for me (if I was even going to see the movie, but, sorry, except for the Joe Kubert Clause, I do not give my money to Marvel, just as I don't give it to Kevin Smith), but certainly not for the studio. The only reason any Hollywood movie is made is in order to (hopefully) make money. And, as it's been pointed out, I agree that the X-Men have less of a chance of reaching a general audience in their individual, colorful costumes.
4) But if I were making the movie and had power over it, of course I'd give them their real costumes. I'd want to see them, too!!! Screw the box office, I'd make the movie I'd want to. But, then, if it was my film, the whole dang deal would be very different. The team would be made up of the "classic" New X-Men, from the early Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne days: Professor X, Cyclops, Phoenix, Banshee, Storm, Colossus, Wolverine and Nightcrawler. And they'd be wearing those costumes: Logan's yellow and blue, Storm's original get-up ... Plus, Edward Norton would be Scott, Julianne Moore would be Jean, Angela Bassett would be Ororo, the fellow who played Caliban in Prospero's Books would be Nightcrawler (obviously I would not be dealing with the teen X-Men), and I'd have to spend some time figuring out the rest ...
5) I always liked Quicksilver, myself -- because he was obnoxious. I liked him as a character but not as a person, if you see what I mean. If I were a superhero, I wouldn't want to actually work with this obnoxious person, but as a reader I enjoy seeing a superhero actually be a rat and shake things up by being one. I like the old, green-and-white costume, though.
6) You talk about gals digging Nightwing. Well, judging from my experience on the DC Message Boards, that certainly seems to be the case. But you should see how the guys are taking to Mr. Grayson!!! There are so many guy posters on those boards that are absolutely ga-ga over Dick! Me ... er, being one of them. We've got one fella who's particularly sassy and naughty about it; it's great fun. Other heroes have big followings among both genders as well -- Tempest, Arsenal, the young Green Arrow, others, but Nightwing seems to lead the pack -- and I can see why! But that ponytail? Uh, no way, Jose, man. Ugh. I'm glad it got cut off!
7) Speaking of hot guy superheroes, I like you got my panties in a bunch over the reports of DC "finally taking the plunge" and having queer guy superheroes this month in The Authority's Apollo and The Midnighter. What got me about it was that it was clearly another case of a "reporter" writing about something without knowing anything about it. And I HATE that. "Reporters" who won't even do some research. And it's so typical of mainstream media's "reporting" of comics-related stories. The main article that seemed to get everyone on the boards I'm on all worked up was written by someone who didn't know that Apollo and Midnighter were already out or that DC already had queer superheroes and supporting characters -- how long have Maggie Sawyer, Hero from Superboy and the Ravers, Pied Piper, Mikaal in Starman, etc., been around?
8) And people are buying this "reporting." We even had one yahoo on the DC boards a while back who said that despite how long and illustrious and good and honored DC's tradition was (like she was talking about freakin' Mother Theresa or something), "now" that DC had decided to publish queer superheroes, she had to boycott the company. Jeez.
9) And, of course, Northstar over at Marvel. We queers have been in superhero comics for a while now, even donning capes and tights upon occasion.
But I would like to point out that the latest issue of The Authority is breaking new ground in a neat way. To the best of my knowledge, it marks the first time two superguys have every kissed on-panel in a mainstream book. Which is very nice to see (although I haven't picked up my copy yet!) Over at Vertigo a while ago, The Enigma kissed a layman, but here we have two superguys locking lips, as any consenting, adult superfolk should be able to do on-panel, I say. And, really, although a cut above most of the Spandex titles, and pushing the envelope more than most (in many ways), The Authority IS a mainstream book in many ways. It's not DCU, but it is a superhero book published by DC -- just a different, special and excellent one!

1) Heh! I'll keep trashing them as long as they continue to deserve it! Unfortunately, I don't keep archives of the "New Comics Comments." You're the only correspondent who's requested it, so it doesn't seem worth the effort/space. I don't even have copies myself -- I just write over last week's when I update it.
2) Bless you, bless you, bless you, [withheld]! One of the trying aspects of being a columnist is incessant nit-picking by a small, smartass minority. I actually had one writer rag on me for several paragraphs because I used "often" instead of "usually" in one sentence of a 20-column-inch opinion piece. (He whipped out Webster's definitions and such to show me how "stupid" I had been.) Don't get me wrong -- the vast majority of correspondents are thoughtful, erudite and on-topic. But there are times when I want to jump through the screen and throttle people who seem to be deliberately misrepresenting or misunderstanding what I've said -- or worse, twisting what I've said around to where it appears I've I've "taken" a contrary position to an argument they've got prepared. I resist the urge to respond in kind, but sometimes it's hard. Ah, well. You take the bad with the good. Thanks for the support!
3) It seemed to me when I wrote the X-Men costume column that Bryan Singer was taking an awful chance on alienating his core audience, the hard-core comic-book fan. I understand that he's shooting for a huge, non-comics-reading audience, but if he alienates that core constituency, he's going to get terrible word-of-mouth and the movie will tank. I may have been wrong about that, as most of my mail seems to be taking a "so what?" attitude. Still, as author Harris Lentz said last week, it seems odd to make a movie about a property while discarding one of the elements that make it so popular.
4) I think for virtually every reader, the "real" X-Men are whoever was on the team when they first started reading X-Men (or first got excited about X-Men). For me that's the original five, or the lineup from the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne days. (Even Kitty Pryde still seems like a "new" member to me!)
5) Me too. I understand the reasoning behind the current suit -- he looks more airy and mercury-like in motion, and adds chromal variety in group shots. But post-disco, I can't think of too many people who'd choose to dress entirely in pastel blue. Especially the fiery Pietro, who'd probably opt for darker, redder colors like ... oh, I dunno, like his DAD! Anyway, I agree with you that Quicksilver's obnoxious behavior makes him a terrific character to add to a team for the friction it would produce. However, as I said about the demise of his eponymous title in "Canceled Comics Cavalcade," he makes a great second banana (played against authority figures) but a lousy lead character, as he's so unlikeable.
6) You know, your Nightwing comments bring up something that's been troubling me. I wrote: "If you're a guy, show Nightwing to your girlfriend." That's a quick and easy thing for me to write -- I'm heterosexual, most of my friends are heterosexual and I write for and in a society that considers heterosexuality "normal." But as my homosexual readers occasionally point out to me, that phrase automatically disenfranchises GAY men. But if I write "If you're a straight guy ... " it seems stilted and raises more issues than a throwaway remark deserves. As a gay man, are you annoyed when I turn a phrase like that? Or do you just read the intent, give me the benefit of the doubt, and move on?
7) Quite a while. I can't think of an openly "out" comics characters before Northstar (circa 1992), but there's been a boatload since. As to ignorant reporters, I'm in the biz, and I'll note for the record that it's asking a lot of a $25,000-a-year kid to cover a zoning board meeting in the morning, interview a nuclear scientist at noon and write a fluff piece on comics in the afternoon -- and be an expert on ALL of those topics. Try to imagine how many different topics a general-assignment reporter covers in a given week, ALL of them on deadline and due 10 minutes ago. Having said that, though, I'll gladly go on record as saying that comics coverage by the mainstream media goes beyond shameful. It took me five years to teach the copydesk (where headlines for stories such as mine are written) that using "Pow! Zap! Boom!" in a headline was A) not clever and B) not germaine (since it refers to a TV show), but also C) A 30-YEAR-OLD CLICHE.
8) Well, that should certainly show them. Why, the very nerve of those comic-book people. Think of the children! (Tearing hair, rending clothing, gnashing teeth.)
9) Hmm. It MAY be the first time two superguys have kissed. Mikaal and his boyfriend have been shown liplocked (and in bed), but one of 'em is -- to use your phrase -- a layman. Is this really the first?

1] His comments on the week’s output were worthless except for anyone who wanted to study how some reporters can do their darndest to imitate J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow, so why bother to ask him for archives? He's never kept panning Marvel at the times they deserve it either.
2] Some correspondents, as I’ve noted before, have more intelligence than he can ever be expected to have. Simultaneously, I’m realist enough to know even right-wing correspondents can have truly awful ideas for how to manage comics.
3] I seem to remember MAD magazine’s parody featuring Magnet-Man telling the readers “you might wonder how this movie trivialized the Holocaust!” Anyone who ponders that surprisingly spot-on note might be alienated already. The iffy costume choices are the least of the movie’s problems then.
4] I don’t think Mr. Smith really cares about any of the X-members. More to the point, I don’t think he cares about finding good writers who can make the most weakly written more palatable.
5] There he goes again with his failure to voice disappointment where it’s due, at the feet of the writers who brought Pietro to that point in the first place.
6] Just why must he be so concerned about “cultural sensitivity” to practitioners of homosexuality? I’m not surprised there were gay fans of Nightwing, but still, it’s very creepy when you think about it.
7] Funny how he laments untalented reporters yet fails to recognize his own faults in this regard. He once called the world of comics “conservative” when it’s anything but that. And if he gushes over misogynist trash like Identity Crisis, then he should look at himself in a mirror before saying the mainstream goes beyond shameful. Why, look how he ignores the very embarrassingly heavy-handed “outing” of Northstar in Alpha Flight back in 1992, as penned by none other than Scott Lobdell, one of the worst writers on the X-Men two decades ago! If he can’t note how bad that was, nor how the Boston Globe’s own coverage was gushy and favoratist all for the sake of it, then like he says, mainstream coverage is simply shameful.
8] I sure hope the correspondent’s come to terms with Mr. Smith’s “reporting” since. The nerve of a man who promotes miniseries like Identity Crisis and simultaneously ignores other such atrocities, and even speaks with a forked tongue about sexism rampant in the medium. Think of the children please! (Him tear clothes and gnash teeth? Yeah, I’ll bet.)
9] Who cares? What I want to know is if any criticism of homosexuality is allowed in mainstream comic featuring it. Come to think of it, is criticism of socialism and marxism allowed anymore in comics? Better still, is criticism of Islam’s hostilities to gays and lesbians allowed in mainstream comics? There’s something to ponder!

Dear Cap: On your site:
<<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.>>
Actually, though the Batman films never got around to any characterization, Sam Hamm in his original screenplay did. The book Batmania II (edited by James Van Hise -- worth a look if you can get it out of the library) notes that the original screenplay brought out many interesting character moments, but that Hamm quit during a writers' strike, and was not allowed to participate on the project even after the strike was over.
The screenplay was then somewhat hastily rewritten by Warren Scaaren and some others. This is why the finished film has certain glaring plot problems. It was not Hamm's idea to have The Joker turn out to be the murderer of the Waynes (a change which oddly mirrored Oliver Stone's idea of having Thulsa Doom kill Conan's parents in the 1982 Conan movie), and so that is why the final confrontation in the finished film has The Joker seem to know that he killed Batman's parents without ever having learned Batman's true identity!
For another example of a glaring plot hole in the finished film, in one scene in the final film, The Joker confronts Vicki Vale at her apartment, and then leaves - even though he had just spent the last night trying to kidnap her!
However, in Hamm's original screenplay, this scene would actually have continued with Wayne disguising himself by wearing a stocking as a mask, stealing a horse from a mounted policeman -- a scene which James Cameron stole for True Lies, though we have no idea how he managed to read Hamm's screenplay -- and then eventually this would have led up to a modified origin of Robin.
There were various other interesting bits (The Joker's venom was actually a nerve toxin that had been developed for the CIA, for example), and, more importantly, more scenes that lent themselves to characterization. The Vicki Vale scenes would have been key parts of the film for that reason. (In one scene, a bit of dialogue occurs where Vicki tells Wayne that he cannot save every man from crime. Wayne's response is "What if I could save a handful? What if I could save one?")
But as noted, Hamm's screenplay was tinkered with by other hands. Hamm was asked back for Batman Returns, but was replaced by Wesley Strick. (That last guy also wrote the 1997 film version of The Saint -- and still has a job!) Nothing need be said about later entries in the series.

I read that the Bats-on-horseback scene was dropped because it took place in daylight, and Tim Burton argued that Batman would NEVER appear when the sun was up. I think it's a good point, but they should have offered some explanation for why The Joker would show up, "kill" Bruce Wayne, and then leave without molesting Vicki Vale in any way.

Well at least we get some insight here on how the 1st major Batmovie came to be. But if Mr. Smith began his career in 1989, would he have said the movie was limp, or, would he  have gone the “diplomatic” route and said something within the range of positive? Based on his MO, I’m inclined to assume he’d do the latter.

Thanks for the Bat-background, [withheld]! And, here you are again:
<<The site you cite is an extremely detailed comparison of Superman with the life of Jesus, apparently by some sort of Biblical scholar.>>
Other Jesus references in comics:
Peter David, a Jew, onced noted that his revised origin of Aquaman brought comparisons with the Christian belief in the Incarnation that he, as a Jew, had not anticipated. The idea of an Atlantean queen being impregnated by the spirit of an Atlantean sorcerer seemed to close to the idea of a virgin being impregnated by Gabriel fror some (interview in Wizard 24).
Let us not forget Rick Veitch's attempt to get one of DC's mystical characters, the Swamp Thing, to meet Jesus in a time-travel story. (The Golden Gladiator and The Demon would have guest appeared.) Ironically, a few years earlier, the Phantom Stranger met (and beat with a whip) Jesus just before the crucifixion in Secret Origins 10, and a few years later, Valiant Comics would reveal that their Eternal Warrior character had been at the crucifixion!
Jesus has also appeared in various adaptions of the Bible, Nelson/Marvel's Life of Christ miniseries in the early 1990s, implied in the first run of Ghost Rider, Spectre 0, Haunted Thrills 14 (it's strictly implied, but a bearded man appears to save people from demons; he notes, "You must not give up hope, any of you! I am -- er -- familiar with these things and know how to handle them!") and The Big Book of Martyrs. Of course, nothing need be said about Garth Ennis's ouevre, from his run on Hellblazer to Preacher, which should upset people more than Aquaman and the Swamp Thing combined.

DC's objection to the Swamp Thing story seemed arbitrary to me at the time because, like you, I could come up with dozens of Jesus appearances in comics off the top of my head. No wonder Rick Veitch is still furious.

Mr. Smith’s embrace of Identity Crisis seems arbitrary to me from 2004 till now, because I’ve long figured he’s a double-talker and besides, it wasn’t the first time a rape appeared in a DC comic. The earliest I know of was in The Question #5, where an office drone took advantage of a co-worker who was staying in the building they worked at in Hub City, because she was afraid to go home with a crime wave turning up at the time. After he backed off, she let him know how disgusted she was, while he pleaded poor-little-me defenses. He finally recognized that he’d done terrible wrong to her, and climbed onto the roof, where he committed suicide. How come that’s overlooked by anyone who thinks the DCU literally needs a rape story at all costs?

Regarding the Prez book having been revealed as a hallucination in a Vertigo book ... I don't know anything about that book, but I do know that a whole story in Vertigo's The Sandman was devoted to Prez.
The story was part of the "Worlds' End" arc. In one section of it, the main male character (his name escapes me) talks to a follower of Prez while in a tavern between worlds. The Follower tells him an updated tale of Prez, who became president during the 1970s on an alternate Earth. After death, he was granted a sort of immortality by Dream of the Endless, so that he could travel realities and fix all the Americas that didn't have a Prez Richards to fix their problems ...
Of course this may well have been a drug-induced hallucination when it was written, but with Hypertime it is possible that Prez is wandering around out there somewhere and someday he'll make it to the regular DCU.

I remember that Sandman story too, but the one I'm thinking about was a three- or four-parter that detailed a drug-addled slacker named Prez Rickard and two companions road-tripping across America in search of Prez's father. In the course of the story he has a bad trip and hallucinates many of the events of the 1973 Prez series. I seem to remember it as a miniseries, but it may have taken place within another Vertigo book -- Sandman, The Dreaming or Shade, perhaps. Anybody else remember?

No, but I do remember how misleading Mr. Smith could be, and didn’t have the courage to acknowledge how a lot of the political opinions seen in mainstream comics are left-wing. As for the Sandman, I honestly have come to wonder if it’s a tad overrated, though not nearly as much as James Robinson’s Starman.

Dear Cap: Sorry for the rather surly e-mail. Well, the point (actually opinion) that I was trying to make was that I don't think the absence of new (and still-published) titles is an indicator of "the sorry state" of Marvel. What's sorry about them is the poor job they are doing with their original core titles. And, I really was interested in whether the same could be said about DC, as far as new (and still-published) titles.
Thanks for your responding to my e-mail. I really look forward to your site every week.

Marvel does seem to have a rather tarnished image these days, and it comes from making publishing and editorial decisions the fans find unpopular. The publishing problems stem from the company being micromanaged by its creditors -- bankers and beancounters who watch every penny and axe titles who look like they're just thinking of not making a profit. The unpopular editorial decisions -- Spider-clone, "Heroes Reborn," firing Mark Waid and Peter David -- well, I find them inexplicable, too!
Interesting question about DC. Anybody else have an opinion?

Coming right up: I think they too have a rather tarnished image today, thanks in no small part to their willingness to go right along with Identity Crisis and force many of the ideas seen there down the throats of the audience. And they had their own share of controversies in terms of dismissals, like Chuck Dixon and Dwayne McDuffie getting fired by Dan DiDio. Why, if Marvel was micromanaged, then so too was DC. Not that you could expect them to admit it, nor could Mr. Smith be expected to admit the same about his own writing.

Even though he's a major, MAJOR character, I still have to dump on his costume. The hero I'm talking about is Superman. I mean, really. First off, there's the stupid trunks which speak for themselves. They're goofy and superfluous. Second, from what we've learned about super-costumes and modern forensic science, you don't want to get your fingerprints on the villain's costume, or something that you've handled at the crime scene, so you wear gloves. Superman doesn't have gloves; does he not have fingerprints since he's Kryptonian, or does he control the muscles in his hands to nix the prints? It's never been explained. I'm not even going to get into the whole "Supes-has-no-mask-but-Clark-wears-glasses" thing, its been done to death. I hope these views about fashion don't make me sound like Joan Rivers.

Well, I won't try to talk you out of your opinion, but you ought to know (if you don't already) that Supe's outfit was supposed to resemble a circus strongman's outfit, complete with trunks and laced boots. The superfluous part is actually the blue leggings, which I presume were added for modesty's sake. Given that he was the first, and that his costume had an original purpose now lost to time and changing tastes, I'm inclined to give him a break.
As to the fingerprint thing, it was addressed in the '60s ad nauseum. The Silver Age Superman mentioned (at every opportunity, it seemed to me) that he vibrated his hand slightly whenever he grasped anything, smudging the fingerprints. I dunno if any of that still holds true, but I haven't heard it contradicted.
Further, Superman doesn't want to wear gloves any more than he wants to wear a mask, because his REAL secret is that he isn't Superman full time. (That secret saved him from being "outed" by Luthor in Superman 2, 1987). Wearing gloves would be a dead giveaway that he had a secret identity to hide.

Well here’s one correspondent who doesn’t know how to appreciate past writers trying to offer up decent entertainment. As for the blue leggings, what’s so wrong with them? Yawn. Both parties have no idea how to thank Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Now comes April 13, 2000, and something not related to comics per se:

This is a paragraph from an Oregonian article that appeared last month.

<<Is Guinness pulling our mustaches?
A wise person learns to become wary of Web-borne stories, so the new of a Guinness study of the amount of beer trapped annually in the mustaches of bewhiskered drinkers must be viewed skeptically. Still ... the purported study determined that 93,370 mustachioed Guinness drinkers in the U.K. lose as much as 162, 719 pints of Guinness Stout a year to "inter-fiber retention." It reckoned the cost at 423,070 pounds ($675,900), $19 per year per mustache, $14 per goatee and $37 in lost Guinness for each full beard. >>

As a beer drinker with a mustache, I can attest to the inter-fiber retention phenomenon. However, I have to note for the record that I believe this study has an enormous procedural flaw: It doesn't measure consumption of the beverage AFTER the retention has taken place. The mustache-impaired may find this concept disturbing, but I can assure you from an enormous experiential database that the majority of the beverage eventually finds its way to the subject's mouth, with some minuscule loss due to evaporation.

I dunno what this has to do with comics, but it's an interesting topic nonetheless.

I still don’t see the point in adding this to his site if he didn’t think it was worth the time. Regardless, I do voice disappointment he’s an alcohol consumer, though if there’s any type of alcohol I really can’t stand, it’s whiskey, along with its close relative, vodka. I say that because I once had the misfortune of mistaking a jar with vodka for water at a party my folks went to in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and what a nasty experience that was. The only kind of alcohol I can stand is sweet-flavored wine, the least intoxicating and doesn’t clash with my medical prescriptions.

Hey Captain! I'm just wondering if you remember the character Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld. She appeared notably in Crisis on Infinite Earths 11 and had two miniseries and a regular series in the mid-'80s. I picked up her miniseries from the bargain bins and I found it quite entrancing.
A normal teenage girl, Amy Wilson discovers that she is really Amethyst, the heir of one of the ruling houses of the Gemworld. It is her duty to overthrow the evil Dark Opal and free the Gemworld from his cruel regime.
In later adventures, she discovers that she is a Lord of Order and eventually becomes the soul of the Sorceror's World in the preboot Legion of Super-Heroes. She also appeared as a villainess in the Books of Fate.
I know comics historically have had troubles in attracting a female audience. I think that characters like Amethyst would be vital in bringing in new female readers.
What do you think of Amethyst?

I loved "Amethyst" initially, despite the handicap of not being a member of the target audience (adolescent girls). It had intrigue, it had a fairy-tale quality, it had wish fulfillment (although not the power fantasies of adolescent males). And, most importantly, it had that wonderful Ernie Colon art! There was nothing else like it on the stands, and it was a welcome relief from the J. Lee/Liefeld/McFarlane art style and X-Men-angst writing style so popular at the time.
As a result, I was pretty disappointed when they turned her into a "standard" superhero (and later supervillain) character. The charm disappeared, and it was just the same-old, same-old.
I understand why they did it, though -- Amethyst had failed in its intital conception, so they reverted to type to boost sales. Unfortunately, "reverting to type" means appealing to adolescent boys, who aren't a bit interested in the hopes, dreams and wishes of adolescent girls. In other words, DC shot themselves in the foot with the character, IMHO.
My overall feeling is that Amethyst might have worked if they had gone FURTHER into the interests of adolescent girls, perhaps eschewing all superheroic elements from the get-go. God knows young girls have little in popular entertainment directed at them. And, of course, part and parcel of this approach would be to find some sort of distribution method that might actually REACH young girls -- Scholastic magazines, for example. Look how that's worked for -- of all things -- Captain Underpants, which just hit the SIX MILLION sales mark.

Talk about appealing to adolescent boys – he’s one of them! “Reverting to type” is just what DC did with Jean Loring, in a manner of speaking, by going the cheapskate route and turning her into a one-dimensional monster because they despised character drama and co-stars, and preferred appealing to perverted troglodytes. I find his use of the word “initially” interesting, because it suggests he lost whatever appreciation he had for the original books from the mid-80s, and grew to dislike them.

If he really had any problems with Jean’s personality, then didn’t he ever think about how everything could’ve worked better if the writers had made better efforts in characterization? Why he can’t recognize his contradictions is beyond me.

I’m also wondering how he feels about the reboot of Amethyst, as seen Christy Marx’s story from the brief Sword and Sorcery title, which featured an attempted rape of a classmate that the rebooted Amy Winston thwarted. What turned that into a botch was that the whole issue was mostly dropped and never mentioned again. Who says the attempted rape by two ogres in the original was a problem? Besides, over there, Amethyst managed to put up a fight.

AND YOU KNOW that I have The Klingon Hamlet. After all, it translates Shakespeare from the original Klingon!
With regard to Star Trek VI, shouldn't that be, "It's Shakespeare's classic in the original Klingon on the right-hand pages, with the English translation on the left-hand pages."

You're both right, [withheld] and [same here]. I should have remembered that Gen. Chang made it quite clear that Shakespeare was a Klingon. My mistake!

And I should’ve come to realize earlier that Mr. Smith was one of the most awful people you could find in journalism. My mistake!

Dear Cap: I'm with ya on the X-Men movie. Haven't seen the previews yet, but the still shots have me uneasy. And hey , they didn't haveta use Spandex -- I think yellow/black leather could have been neat. And the Spidey movie: Can there really be a better story than the origin? It's got rasslin', celebrity culture and a big fat moral. We all know this is gonna be franchise; just film the first two together (like the '70s 3 Musketeeers and Superman) to save money, release the first one at 90 minutes and the second six months later ...
As for comics, I almost missed the gay kiss in Authority 13 -- I had to go back and play "Where's Waldo" before I found it at the bottom left-hand corner of the last panel on Page 14. I guess I'm jaded, living in the gay mecca of the Bay Area, but so what? Hope Apollo & Midnighter get engaged, and we have a big Authority Annual a la FF Annual 3 with everybody and the kitchen sink in attendance -- YEAH!
Although I was thrilled to see superheroes taking action in the "real world," I do have one major beef. I've thought about this a great deal, and I think for metahumans to have any legitimacy in taking such action they should do so WITHOUT KILLING ANYONE. That includes suspected war criminals and anyone else. Otherwise, all the rest of the world is going to see is the next level of "might makes right," which is what we've had since the beginning of time. I suspect that writer Mark Millar might well be aware of this, and guess that it will play out in the storyline, but nonetheless was disappointed that the A's coup in Southeast Asia was so unnecessarily bloody. What was refreshing in Miracleman 15 years is depressingly hollow today ...
Taking a cue from your own [...], I find myself enjoying the Hulk's mag again. While I fully expect Mary Jane to come back to Spidey (we can't have TWO Gwen Stacys -- oops, three, with a clone), Betty's exit from Bruce's life seems to have energized writer Paul Jenkins to explore new depths of depression for Greenskin. Sadistic I may be as well, but it's a great fit for this character. I remember crying in my adolescence over the death of Jarella in Hulk 205 (I've got a real soft spot for green-skinned babes) and love it when writers can show me the vulnerability in this indestructible creature. (Hint: Howzabout Jarella in your Book of the Dead?)
Short notes:
Yum on The Atomics, bad paper and all.
Dunno what the beef was on Janson's inks on Kane's last job in Legends; looked hot to me.
"Sins of Youth" covers are silly -- why get a manga style artist to draw adult versions of teenage heroes when he just makes 'em look like teenagers on steroids (or silicon)?
And I LIKE the new Avengers lineup -- 'specially with Jennifer back (see aforementioned soft spot). Yeah, Baby! Top Cow ain't got nothin' on this roster -- I'll put Wanda, Carol, Jan & Jen up against the likes of Witchblade, Fathom, Dawn & Co. any day. Hey, we know Cap 'n' Wondy won't be gone too long, anyhoo. (Still waitin' for that Cap Defenders title -- Winghead & Doc Strange!)
One of these days I'll finally get bored enough to finish the last few issues of Avengers Forever and Earth X, and to begin reading the last (?) ishes of Marvel: The Lost Generation.

I'll see what I can do about Jarella when I have a spare hour or two. Say, how do you feel about Orion slave women in Star Trek? Just curious. (Heh, heh)
And I think you're spot on about The Authority. Their justification for ignoring international law is that they'll do a better job than the faceless men who "run the world" now. Their bloody intervention in Indonesia was no better (and in many ways worse) than U.N./NATO efforts to impose order on places like Bosnia.

But the UN/NATO didn’t impose “order” on Bosnia. They imposed it on Serbia. As noted before, it was all a bizarre pro-Islamist sham. In retrospect, it’s also weird how he seemingly criticizes the UN, but when the war in Iraq took place, I recall some discussions where he hinted he was critical of the Bush administration. How odd. Why, in all the time since he wrote this, what has he had to say about the recent embarrassments Mark Millar and others who penned that Authority nonsense have scripted?

I haven't actually read many post-Crisis comics so a lot of my knowledge about what happened to the continuity comes second hand from talking to people more current than me. I didn't read the Hal Jordan fiasco but was told about it. What little I was told convinced me I didn't want to read it. The death of Superman was big enough to make mainstream news so I knew about it, and it seemed like nothing more than a marketing ploy. I did pick up the annual where Superman and crew had a Doc Savage like adventure (because I am a Doc fan) and he was still in his blue state then. Mostly, I only buy limited series or books that have some connection to the Golden or Silver Age. My wife buys a lot more current books, but she is a Marvel fan for the most part (X-Men in all their incarnations). We do buy a few other series like Astro City (which I like a lot), The Authority and Planetary (both of which started well but I am losing interest), and Rising Stars.
<<Chaykin only has one character: An idealized version of himself. He turned Blackhawk into a clone of Reuben Flagg, Scorpion, Vector Pope (Pulp Fantastic)>>
I haven't read enough of Chaykin's other work to know, but that is what I had heard. If his character is an idealized version of himself, that doesn't speak well for him. His Blackhawk was a pretty nasty character.

All Chaykin leading men are amoral, cynical, violent womanizers who nevertheless always get the last word, and have women throwing themselves at them. They also are taller, more masculine versions of Chaykin himself. Doesn't take a psychology degree to figure this one out.
As to your post-Crisis comments, the nice thing about comics is we can always pull out our old ones, and they are just as valid as anything currently being published.

He’s not accurate here. The old ones are valid. The new ones are not. That’s the view I’ve taken since he shamelessly fawned over Identity Crisis. And there’s another correspondent whom I hope realizes that Mr. Smith is a dishonest lot. Back in the mid-90s, not every comic was easy to find, not even Green Lantern, so I was neither immediately or clearly aware of what DC editorial did to Hal. And when I did find out exactly what happened after my family got the internet in 1998, I was disgusted, and feel glad that since then, I hadn’t read much of the Kyle Rayner mishmash (not much more than a dozen issues, and what I have read since did not make me feel I was missing anything). What I did read was pretty forgettable anyway.

Well, I hope you're happy. :) Catwoman is as sleek and nimble as any good thief should be. And her sex appeal has dropped to zero. She looks like she's just out of high school and what's worse is she's acting it. This 'I don't belong here' storyline might have been interesting if the series had started with it but now? She's played Iron Cat, she's been to Apocalypse, She's broken Wall Street, and survived NML and now? now she's a basket case? puh-lease ...
On a high note, for the most part Vertigo's Y2K specials were decent reads but Four Horseman was a true work of art. Not exactly a happy-go-lucky, make-me-feel good book but pretty impressive just the same. The structure, the artwork, the story itself, incredibly believable. Its probably incredibly egocentric that we can redefine armageddon but hey, it almost made me a believer.

Four Horsemen is demonstrating almost Alan Moore-level cleverness. Not only am I enjoying it, but my mostly non-comics-reading wife (see her new column starting this week on the site) rips it from my hands when it comes in.
Interestingly, Bob Rodi is a former letterhack from the legendary '70s letters-page period, when being a letterhack made you a semi-celebrity in the comics community. You might be too young to remember, but his fellows were Irene Vartanoff, Guy H. Williams III, The Mad Maple and a couple of others, almost ALL of whom ended up in The Biz in one form or another. Rodi has also written a couple of minor novels. The out-of-print What Have They Done to Princess Paragon? is one I enjoyed, and I recommend it if you're not offended by homosexual-related themes. It involves an arrogant comic-book writer turning Princess Paragon (read: Wonder Woman) into a butch dyke, and an outraged fanboy of the unhygienic, addled A Confederacy of Dunces ilk kidnapping him from a comics convention in retaliation. Pretty funny in general, and hilarious if you've ever attended a convention and been buttonholed by a fat, smelly guy with waaaaay too many opinions and no social skills.
I just got my March DCs yesterday, so I haven't seen the Cat In Jail story yet. I hope you're exaggerating -- I was hoping that it would be similar to the Constantine In Jail story currently running in Hellblazer where we see the protagonist's true steel emerge under the most dire circumstances imaginable. If it is as you describe, though, I WILL be disappointed.

Sounds stupid and stereotypical to me. As for Catwoman’s title, it was going downhill at the time Devin Grayson took over the writing.

As for homosexual themes? I may not be offended, but that’s provided they allow dissenters with the lifestyle to have their say and not act like it’s throughly illegitimate to object. Whatever, I certainly am tired of homosexuality being shoved into every corner of entertainment when all I want to do is enjoy some simple escapism that’s not tainted with agendas.

Hi Cap: I am an expert in the Freedom Fighters but unfortunately I lean towards the pre-Crisis stuff. I only got back into comics in '98 so I'm playing catch-up. I just bought The Spectre trade (paperback) but haven't read it yet ... is (the Uncle Sam revamp) in there?
From what I've heard no one sounds very happy with what they've done with him. I think the folks at DC feel the same way since we haven't seen Unc anywhere in a while. Oh, how I long for those old days when a comic was a quarter and I could load up on everything in the newstand. ... heh.
I jump at your column every week and really enjoy it a lot. Can't say I have a lot of "local" support of my comic-collecting bug and its great to have the Net where all us comic freeks can share our passion.

As the Firesign Theatre says, we're all bozos on that bus! Without the Net, we'd all be pretty isolated.
I can't answer your Spectre TPB question -- DC is real hit or miss sending me TPBs for review, and I don't have any Spectre trades. (And, of course, I don't buy them, since I have all the original comics.) Anybody else out there know?

Personally, I’m not happy at all with Mr. Smith’s inherent apologia for bad ideas like Identity Crisis. In fact, I’m disgusted. Besides, he won’t admit he’s one of them bozos on the bus, mostly likely a Volkswagen Transporter.

Dear Cap: Early in the last century, newspaper comics were popular. Then someone got the bright idea of collecting comic strips into comic "books," and the monthly comic-book periodical was born, and still exists, although the price went from 10 cents to about three dollars. Now the bookshelves are filled with slick reprint trade paperbacks reprinting recent episodes of our favorite heroes. How long do you think it will be before someone starts regularly publishing these formats with original material? Is history repeating itself? Are we seeing the birth of the standard comics format of the new century? (I know, I know, the new century does not start until NEXT Jan. 1.)

I'm no Nostradamus, but I can predict that a storm is a-comin'. Standard economic theory suggests that the 32-page pamphlet will prove unprofitable within a decade, so another format is inevitable. But what? Online, Internet comics? Gigantic 100-Page Super-Spectaculars for five or more dollars, mostly reprint? DC is having astonishing success with its policy of keeping its TPBs in print -- and barging into the Internet and brick-and-mortar bookstore market. Is that the future? Or do we go the Japanese route? Or will the 32-pager stagger on through inertia despite the naysayers? I dunno what's gonna happen, but it WILL be interesting.

He’s no Nostradamus, nor did he predict anybody would have the courage to say what they think of his pro-establishment propaganda. In fact, as I’ve discovered over the years, there are more than a few people out there who’ve found his balderdash galling.

Re: Luthor and Kingpin
<<I think the comparison's completely valid; the history of the characters is wildly different, but after multiple retcons and such they've pretty much ended up in the same place. I won't jump to the conclusion that the new Luthor was copied from Kingpin, though -- >>
The origin of the new Luthor is an interesting one. The idea of Lexcorp did not originate in the comics-Lexcorp was created by Elliot S! Maggin in the novel Superman: The Last Son of Krypton, a fact he pointed out to the editors of Who's Who. (Maggin also wrote Superman: Miracle Monday.) Maggin's book was ostensibly a novelization of the 1978 Superman film, but really wasn't. In this book, Maggin extrapolated on his own version of Luthor's origin that he could not introduce into the comics, so Luthor was something of a businessman type in the novel. (The Kingpin, by the way, had been introduced in 1967, though he had yet to appear in Daredevil when this novel was published.)
Yet Maggin was not the only one to imagine Luthor this way. Marv Wolfman, as a kid, always wondered where Luthor got his money to hatch his schemes if he was always in prison, so he imagined that Luthor had at one point been a respectable businessman. (Incidentally, Wolfman says he got this idea when he was a kid, so he could not have been thinking of the Kingpin. After all, the Kingpin was introduced in 1967 and Wolfman wasn't a kid in 1967 -- he wrote the last issue of Blackhawk to be released in the 1960s, after all!) Wolfman later decided to revamp Luthor this way, but DC Comics did not let him, so his plan for the new Luthor was used for Vandal Savage instead in Action Comics 553. However, in 1986, John Byrne revamped Superman, so Wolfman was finally allowed to introduce the new Luthor as Luthor. He worked closely with Byrne and wrote some of the Superman stories released soon after.

I've heard some of that in Wolfman interviews, but not all the principals agree with his version of events. What source are you using, by the way? I'd like to compare the various claims someday.

What sources does Mr. Smith use for some of the Golden and Silver Age characters whom he’s disrespected under his belief they’re “real” people?

Since you've asked for my answers to the same questions that I posed to you, I figured I'd take a shot. Here goes:
1) What are your thoughts about the following comics creators and industry folk?
Warren Ellis: I think Warren Ellis can spin a few good yarns, but he suffers from the immature tendency to do things simply for shock value. He reminds me of a child who soils himself just to get a reaction from those around him. While that doesn't detract from his talent, it doesn't help.
Grant Morrison: A problem that I have with British writers in general is the desire to tear down icons simply to tear them down. When it serves a purpose, fine. But, to do so just for its own sake is annoying and smug. That said, Morrison seems to be of two minds on this. On the one hand, Morrison has restored grandeur and the epic feel of the classic stories to the JLA. On the other hand, he has also mentioned that if he were to write the Fantastic Four he would explore what he perceives an incestuous desires that Sue Richards has for her brother Johnny among other deviant things.
Kurt Busiek: Overall, a good writer in the "old school" tradition (which I enjoy). His Thunderbolts was both riveting and surprising. Unfortunately, his dialogue can come off a little hokey at times. In this way he reminds me of Steve Englehart. Englehart could spin a yarn, but some of that dialogue made me cringe.
Todd McFarlane: I admired Todd more before the Spawn marketing machine became the monster that it did. Blunt, to the point and honest, I appreciated McFarlane more in the beginning, even if I didn't necessarily agree with his statements all the time. It seems that in his quest to bring Spawn to a more "mainstream" audience, McFarlane has become disingenuous and a shallow huckster. Maybe he was all along ...
Rob Liefeld: Did you hear about the new How to Draw Comics The Rob Liefeld Way? It's 250 pages long. All tracing paper ...
Frank Miller: A straight-shooter, and this one has talent, to boot! I love most of his work. He continues to do excellent work. If I had one gripe with Miller, it is that he has often declared that you can't do much more with superheroes than has already been done. Then he proceeds to write stories for that vastly untapped genre. Y'know, "crime" stories.
Alan Moore: One of the best. He made me care about Swamp Thing. With all due respect to Wrightson and Wein, that is something no one else ever did. I enjoy his current projects, especially League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Tom Strong. He puts all the terminally late "fan fave" artists to shame with his workload! LoEG may be late, but he's able to keep three other books coming and that's a nice average.
Hart Fisher: Hart Fisher, publisher of Boneyard Press and writer of the infamous Kill Image and Rush Limbaugh Must Die. Outspoken, opinionated, and in-your-face. Like I said before, I appreciate a straight-shooter, but I don't appreciate being an arse. Fisher is another one of those people that does things solely to get a reaction out of others. Difference between Fisher and Ellis? Ellis has talent.
Gary Groth: Pretentious windbag who can't stomach the fact that there are actually people who enjoy superhero fantasy. Of course, Groth would probably analyze those people as perverted males on a power fantasy. It's probably because that was what his fantasies were when he read Superman and he is self-loathing to the degree that he projects that neurosis onto others. Frankly, I find it interesting that Groth and his elitist, alternative snobs seem to believe that the only way to validate the alternative press is to abolish the mainstream. "Read and let read" is apparently a concept that Groth cannot quite grasp. If Groth deserves any credit, it is for arranging Hart Fisher to interview Rob Liefeld in Comics Journal 195 (and say what you will about Liefeld, he handled that particular interview with finesse and decorum).

2) What is your opinion on Overstreet?
I believe that the Overstreet Price Guide was a great aid for collectors in the beginning. As a rule, price guides reflect the marketplace and present an average of what a book is being sold for by dealers. The guide can be much more than that. In the early days of fandom there was not much to go by if one wanted to find out how many issues were published of Santa Comics, or somesuch title. A guide was extremely helpful and informative in alerting fans about what artist drew what comic, which character appeared first in which comic, and what year.
Unfortunately, any time money is involved in something there is the tendency for those in control of pricing, or reporting of those prices, to manipulate things to benefit themselves. Overstreet has had its share of problems in this area in the past years, but thankfully it isn't a Wizard!
3) What torture should we devise for Joe "Mad" (Battlechasers), and J. Scott Campbell (Danger Girl)?
If they think they are tired of hearing the retailers, distributors and fan press complain about their inexcusable lateness, Joe "Mad" and Campbell should be locked in a small, airtight room alone with 50 irate fans constantly asking, "Y'done yet? When's it comin'?" We'll toss in Hart Fisher and Gary Groth and watch the fun begin!
4) Do you think Marvel will realize that cutting a title off before it has a chance to gain a following is every bit as detrimental to our li'l hobby's health as it is to flood the market with gimmicks and variants?
Cap'n Comics replied: "I have to defend Marvel here -- it's not the editors and executives pulling the trigger on axed titles, it's the bankers. Marvel is being micromanaged by the holders of their debt: faceless, soulless beancounters who work for large financial institutions who couldn't care less if the entire industry went belly up as long as they got their interest payments. Ugly, but true."
On this note, Marvel (the corporate entity) has recently brought back Bill Jemas as Publisher. Jemas originally worked with Marvel from 1992 to 1996, serving as the president of Fleer, prior to becoming the executive VP of Marvel. In other words, this guy was part of the team that dragged the industry to its knees! And Marvel brings him back? What th --?!? Why not bring back Perelman and finish the company off?
5) Betty or Veronica, Gwen or Mary Jane, Lois or Lana ... and why?
Betty, cuz she's sweet. MJ, cuz she's fun. Lana, cuz Lois is a pain in the neck.
6) "Sins of Youth"?
Entertaining. A bit overdone.
7) Is the market missing out by not publishing comics on current TV shows (a la Dell and Gold Key), like Dawson's Creek, Third Rock from The Sun and any others that might be appropriate comic book material and/or draw in a fresh, young audience?
One reason I mentioned Third Rock is that brand of sitcom is one that I feel would translate well into comics form. Dawson's and its ilk would do good to bring in that little-realized comics audience: teen girls.

Well spoken, young sir! I agree with just about all of your remarks. All I have to add is:
On the FF front, if there's any simmering, subliminal sexual tension on the team, I'd assume it would be between Sue and BEN, not Johnny. Ben was a big, handsome football player before the fateful rocket flight, and Sue was a flighty teenager. If there WASN'T some flirting -- or actual sex -- between the two, I'd be surprised. And that would give Ben one MORE reason to resent Reed.
Morrison's Sue/Johnny speculation is from so far out in left field -- I've certainly seen no hint of it in 40 years -- I have to guess that Morrison was just tweaking our noses. I have two sisters, and the idea of sex with either of them is so nauseating (and always has been) that the prohibition against incest is probably hard-wired into our lizard brains as much as it is social conditioning. Morrison's idea must have been a joke -- or else he needs serious therapy.
As to Jemas's return: Did you read his interview in Comics Retailer? He still hasn't learned a darn thing about comics publishing ... but now, unfortunately, he thinks he's an expert! And he made reference to Marvel's "teen market" a few too many times for me to feel comfortable.
I don't want to go into too much Groth-bashing -- he's become such a caricature of himself that it's almost unnecessary! But I will note the following, and then shut up:
1) Any publisher who touts the inherent superiority of his intellectual funnybooks, but has to support them by selling hard-core pornography (Eros Comix) is so out of touch with reality that any comment I have is superfluous.
2) Groth's incessant refrain that superheroes are killing the industry is not only irritating, but intellectually dishonest. As Kurt Busiek and others have argued, superheroes (and teen humor) are simply the last man standing -- the last genre fans haven't abandoned for other entertainment. Blaming superheroes for the decline of the industry is like blaming the survivors of Titanic for the existence of icebergs. Despite his intellectual pretensions, Groth keeps bashing superheroes because he, personally, doesn't like them.

Look who’s talking about Jemas, but not about Dan DiDio, or even Axel Alonso and Dan Buckley! No, he succumbed to PC long ago, selectively or otherwise. It’s downright laughable how one day he’ll be critical of certain executives yet the next he’ll have nothing to say about others. Even Paul Levitz is not above criticism after the poor, insular job he did with comics marketing, among other things that destroy the notion he was ever respectable of all the fine properties in his care. He’s another company bigwig whom Mr. Smith never criticized clearly, and probably had no true issues with his MO.

He complains about Mr. Groth’s approach to the situations at stake, but never once considers his own promotion of perverted trash like Identity Crisis – and communist propaganda – dishonest as well. In fact, I’m not sure he’s been particularly negative about Groth since the time this was written in 2000, maybe because he decided the time had come to go PC and not rub his fellow J. Jonah Jamesons the wrong way. Interestingly, Mr. Smith easily counts as a caricature himself, so I’m not sure why he had a beef with Groth to start with, except maybe stemming from a self-indulgent desire to make himself sound like he was better when he’s not.

In fact, if and whenever Mr. Smith bashes superhero co-stars like Jean Loring, he’s doing something very similar to what he accuses Mr. Groth of doing. Food for thought.

You wrote: <<Charm School is a Sabrina-meets-Sappho affair about a good teen witch in Little Salem whose affections are torn between a "bad Faerie" and her vampire biker gal pal. Stop giggling, they're serious here. Not for kids, of course.>>
[withheld] signed up for this series. It should be interesting (presuming, of course, that it actually ships).
<<Meanwhile, for those of you (like the Captain) who wondered why a swell chick like Betty Cooper pined away for the feckless Archie Andrews, Betty 87 is for you.>>
I have wondered that. Often, in fact. Betty is the only one in that entire cast that's worth anything as a human being. The only other character that stands out for me is, believe it or not, Reggie. The issue of Betty where they dated each other instead of chasing after Archie and Veronica is one of the very few times that I've ever purchased an Archie title for myself.
<<Meanwhile, the equally busty, superpowered Caitlin Fairchild is afflicted with amnesia and imagines herself to be Supergirl in Superman/Gen13 1 (of 3, DC/WildStorm, $2.50). Both are likely to be secondary-sex-characteristic extravaganzas, if you like that sort of thing. Ahem.>>
Actually, [withheld] also reserved Superman/Gen13. I read it and it's good. I mean really good. It'd be great if the regular Gen13 creative team could be this good. And Fairchild in a Supergirl costume? Yummmmm.
<<Hmmm. (Storm's) the daughter of an American father and an African mother, born in Africa. Would she qualify as a native-born American?>>
Yes. A child born of an American travelling or stationed abroad (wasn't her dad an ambassador?) qualifies for dual citizenship -- America and the country of birth. Ororo truly is an African-American! (This is what I remember from school, anyway.)
<<I think for virtually every reader, the "real" X-Men are whoever was on the team when they first started reading X-Men (or first got excited about X-Men).>>
For me it's the team that "died" during the "Fall of the Mutants" storyline. I'd read a couple of issues of Uncanny X-Men before that, but this was the storyline that actually started me collecting the X-titles.
<<Frank Miller: Puts movies to paper.>>
Just remember that one of his actual movies was Robocop II -- and it stank to high Heaven.
<<Betty or Veronica, Gwen or Mary Jane, Lois or Lana ... and why?>>
Betty, 'cause Veronica is a selfish *&$*& and Betty is the best young woman ever to grace the comic-book format. MJ because she's fun and exciting (Gwen was nice, but just nice). Being of the younger generation, I'd go with the post-Crisis Lois over Lana for the same reason that I choose MJ over Gwen.
<<This book is about SATAN!>>
Which seems like a darned (pun intended) good reason not to buy Lucifer.
<<RELATIVE HEROES #4 (Of 6)>>
If this came out then Jenn was skipped 'cause she didn't receive her copy.
<<ALLEY CAT #6>>
Ditto.
<<WICKED #3>>
Double ditto.
<<ARIA/ANGELA: HEAVENLY CREATURES #1: Battle of the Bosoms. Wasn't Valentino going to surgically remove all the T&A from Image? Get to it,
son!>>
Cap, you couldn't be anymore wrong about this title. Again, this is one of Jenn's titles, but it's far better than anything that I bought this week. Bloody good story AND art. Rush to a retailer and grab a copy. Heck, I'll give you a money-back guarantee: you don't like it and I'll send you a check (and you keep the book!). It's that good.
<<UNCANNY X-MEN #381>>
I read it without buying it -- an advantage of working part time in a comic-book store -- and hated it. I can barely believe that people are actually glad that Claremont is back on the X-books. What a load of malarky!
<<KISS PSYCHO CIRCUS #28>>
On the one hand there is no way in heck that I'll read this title. On the other hand, there are people that come into my shop looking for this book that otherwise wouldn't set foot into a comic-book store. It's existence is, therefore, a good thing.
<<X-MEN THE HIDDEN YEARS #7>>
The only X-title that I buy. I'm wavering on canceling it. I like it, but I don't love it. With all of Marvel's prices jumping up again, it may be crossed from my pull list.
It occurs to me that I may have made what seems to be a paradox. I mention that [withheld] was skipped on a few titles (presuming that they actually skipped) but also that I'm working part-time in a comic-book shop. What's happening is that we are continuing to buy from Things From Another World through this month. This allows benefits TFAW in that we'll be buying everything we ordered and it works well because of the two-month lead time on orders means that Pegasus (where I work) will start being able to fill our orders beginning in May.

Good points, [withheld]. All I have to add is:
I can't get a straight answer on the Storm thing from the pros at the newspaper and the library. The prevailing opinion is that she probably qualifies for native-born American status even though her mother was Nigerian and she was born (apparently) in Egypt. Not everyone agrees, though. (Oh, and her father was a photojournalist, not an ambassador.)
I cut Miller a lot of slack on RoboCop II. He didn't direct it, or act in it, or storyboard it, or produce it. And you know as well as I do that 10 minutes after he turned in his script, the studio had fifteen other "writers" doctoring it.
Aria/Angela: I read it and it was pretty good. But there was plenty of what I consider T&A in the book, even if it didn't strike you that way. I guess women who are as anatomically unlikely as Barbie standing around in their lingerie in sexually suggestive poses is de rigeur these days, and I shouldn't let it bother me. I ignored the (what I consider) T&A, and did indeed enjoy the story. But MUST we have Jim Lee/Michael Turner women in every comic book we read?
I feel about KISS comics the way I do about wrestling comics and porno -- they're not my cup of tea, but I'm glad they're out there. If the publishers only made comics that I personally liked, the industry woud go under tomorrow. I wish there were a LOT more comics out there that I hated -- because it would mean there were a lot of people out there buying comics, not just me and my six friends.

On Turner, I will say I’ve lost a lot of respect for him after he drew the covers for Identity Crisis, which easily counts as a tacit endorsement of the story inside. And the correspondent (who’s also a former co-writer of Mr. Smith’s) must’ve changed his mind about Turner and Lee after they became so PC, especially the latter in his new role as a DC company exec. I certainly can’t say I saw any serious criticism leveled against Turner and Lee by these baboons after Identity Crisis happened. To be honest, it’s regrettable Turner had to stumble so badly, because his artwork on Witchblade in its early years was pretty good. When he came to DC and drew the Supergirl reboot in the Superman/Batman series from 2004, it just didn’t suit the scene, and much like Fathom, the story was too flaccid to work out. I suppose Turner was almost like a one-trick pony, doing one good thing and then failing to impress much further, and downright embarrassing his career with cover drawings for IC, a black spot on his career.

You wrote:
<<I remember that Sandman story too, but the one I'm thinking about was a three- or four-parter that detailed a drug-addled slacker named Prez Rickard and two companions road-tripping across America in search of Prez's father. In the course of the story he has a bad trip and hallucinates many of the events of the 1973 Prez series. I seem to remember it as a miniseries, but it may have taken place within another Vertigo book -- Sandman, The Dreaming or Shade, perhaps. Anybody else remember?>>
It was a Vertigo Visions one-shot, about a year after the Brother Power, The Geek special. And this was still the alternate America of The Sandman story. The kid was named Prez, and his mother told him that was because his father was Prez Rickard, who had disappeared many years before. He and his friends sought Prez out, only to discover that he had died (but the dream lives on ...)
Thanks [withheld]! Given your info, I looked it up: Vertigo Visions: Prez was published in 1995.

I really don’t see what’s so great about this story from Sandman, but again, I’ll say it’s probably nowhere near as questionable as Robinson’s Starman, and in all due fairness, Sandman was mostly a horror-thriller title.

A few thoughts about your April 6 edition, and a rant:
1) Grant Morrison intimated in last year's JLA/JSA crossover that Plastic Man has indeed been around since the WWII era; Wildcat mentioned they grew up together in the same orphanage. I just assumed that his "plasticness" is what's kept him so spry. But the great thing about Plas is that it doesn't make a difference; he's so unabashedly ridiculous that you don't feel the need to have him operate within the faux reality of the rest of the JLA. I'm usually a real stickler for continuity, but you could tell me that Plastic Man was born in ancient Egypt, invented the seed drill, and was the fifth Beatle and for some reason, I still wouldn't care.
2) Storm would be eligible for the U.S. presidency, since her mother was
American. As long as your born to an American citizen, you are a citizen from birth, even if you're born out of the country. (You need to have lived in the country for at least 14 years to become Chief Executive, though.) FDR, for example, was born in Canada to American parents who were on vacation.
3) On the topic of homosexual kisses in comics, does anyone remember the consummation of love between the Brain and M'sieu Mallah just before they died in Morrison's Doom Patrol? The Brain was in a masculine humanoid body at the time, and while Mallah was an ape, he had always been established as male. Yes, they were villains, yes, it's not exactly a mainstream comic, yes, that comic made almost no sense (to me at least), but they did kiss, and I think that counts.
4) I'm really digging the "new direction" of the Bat-titles. No Man's Land sort of lost me -- a bit too much disbelief to suspend, I'm afraid -- but I've found the recent stories to be refreshingly realistic, with a wonderful emphasis on establishing Gotham as a "real" place with a coherent, believable infrastructure.
5) Finally, the rant: Did anyone else feel really let down by the conclusion to the Mageddon storyline in JLA? It seemed like an absolute mess to me. I thought that three Leaguers were supposed to die, but by my count, there were zero: Aztek's been out of the League -- and the DC Universe, pretty much -- for 2 1/2 years, so he doesn't count, and Zauriel came back (plus, he's an angel!)
I have no idea why Wonder Woman, Flash, et al, felt the need to turn everyone on earth into metahumans. As far as I could tell, all these incredibly poorly organized and non-trained masses did was fly into space and die. (What were they all going to do? Punch the machine?) And were the people ever turned back to normal? (I assume so, but that was never stated.) Should we expect a JLA/Top Ten crossover?
Plus, are we supposed to infer from the last few pages that the League is back to the Big 7? (Okay, Huntress was kicked out, Orion and Barda left. But did Plastic Man recover? Where's Steel? And Zauriel?) Maybe I missed something, but I've been through each of the issues in this story arc at least twice, and that should be enough for a college graduate reading a funnybook.
I've enjoyed Morrison's JLA -- the epic nature of the storylines, the delightful character interaction -but I'm glad he's leaving, 'cause he really has a tendency to fry my clams. The incomprehensible plot lines, the amount of pertinent action that we don't see (did anyone else notice that Barda was nearly stung to death by the Queen Bee OFF-PANEL?!) I mean, thanks, Grant, it's been a blast, and you did wonders with the Shaggy Man, but I'm looking forward to Mark Waid to clear things up a bit.
Thanks, Cap. I feel better now.
Glad to provide a service, [withheld], whatever it was.
Anyway, as my comments last week in the "New Comics" section should indicate, I feel strongly also that it's time for Morrison to move on. I've ranted about Morrison's inability to keep a plot coherent for a couple of years now, while simultaneously raving about his characterization, interpersonal relationships, powerful symbolism, etc. As Mr. Monkey says in his review this week, it was a great show, but we're glad it's over.
I didn't draw any conclusions from JLA 41 -- in fact, I barely understood it! That last panel was clearly a celebratory pin-up, and the whole issue was Morrison patting himself on the back, a trick he pulled more than once in Animal Man. There were some good character bits -- Batman being Mr. Positive and Superman being Mr. Negative, Kyle getting to "feel" like Green Lantern, Superman trying to get Batman to admit he enjoys being in the League -- but overall Morrison had lost his grip on the story months ago. So like you and Mr. Monkey, I enjoyed his run, but am really, really ready for Waid.
As to the Brain/M'sieu Mallah tryst, I remember it vividly! It took me two days to pick my jaw up off the floor! I had read about these characters for decades without the thought ever occurring to me that there must be a reason for the unswerving loyalty to criminal masterminds by their oft-endangered employees. And after it did ... I started looking at other henchmen a little differently. I mean, think about Otis and Luthor in Superman: The Movie. Luthor asked "Why do I, the most brilliant mind in the world, surround myself with imbeciles?" Good question, Lex. Having seen Deliverance, I'm afraid I know the answer.

Gee, if he really had an issue with Morrison’s writing at the time, he’s long ceased having one! I recall he referred to Morrison as a “fan-favorite” at one point in his column several years ago, and did the same with Mark Millar, and was otherwise quite favorable to them. Things sure can change, eh?

I used to be for Waid too, but he’s gone shockingly downhill into leftism since (much like Morrison and Millar), and worse, he’s revealed himself to have a very crass manner, so much that Twitchy took notice. It’s a shame that a guy who introduced a teen superhero in Bart Allen back in 1994 is now making it hard to appreciate his older work. I certainly can’t appreciate the newer. Now for April 20, 2000:

Hi, Cap: Now, before I get nit-picky, I realize that when someone from Stafford's Eastside asked you about Rick Jones's history you responded: "Rick has a 38-year history with Marvel, so you'll forgive me if I don't look up every single issue he's appeared in ..." but I thought I'd point out that you forgot about ROM. How could anyone forget about Rick's stellar appearances in ROM, Spaceknight? Yeesh!
The fact of the matter is that I DID completely forget about Rick's short (two years) sojourn in ROM! I re-read those issues (ROM 53-75) last week to refresh my memory -- and, boy, were those books lousy! ROM was good on occasion, but it never rose above cliche, and the last two years of the title featured Steve Ditko art well past his prime.
Anyway, thanks for pointing it out! As you can see, I cannibalized that answer for this week's column, and Rick's tour of duty in ROM is proudly represented.

While Bill Mantlo’s career has some output that’s sadly questionable or plain embarrassing, I wouldn’t go so far to say his work on those early examples of licensed products based on toys was “lousy”. All I see is an arrested adolescent who can’t appreciate the sincerity of some stories, and who’s taking another cynical swipe at Ditko, who’s no saint, but doesn’t deserve this foolish putdown either.

Hey Cap! You may have heard this from a number of people, but it's been reported by several sources (the Daily Buzz at AnotherUniverse.com and the Comic Wire at ComicBookResources.com) that Frank Miller is returning in a big way to the "Big Two" publishers with the characters he is most identified with -- special Daredevil projects illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz (following up a long-unfinished storyline from Miller's original run on the Daredevil series -- I had heard of a collaboration between the two entitled "Drop Dead," as in "drop-dead gorgeous," but am not sure if it is the same, reported at WordsAndPictures.org) and John Romita Jr., and a sequel to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, written and illustrated by him and colored by Lynn Varley. Your thoughts?
Well, the ink isn't on the bottom line yet, so it might still fall through. But if true, I'll be first in line with my wallet out.
I really wouldn't want to see a sequel to Dark Knight Returns -- I think Miller said all he needed to, and I'm afraid an addition would simply water it down. But any take he cares to make on The Batman couldn't help but be terrific. And his Daredevil has always been outstanding; he could do as he pleased in that sandbox, too.
I hope Miller isn't returning to "mainstream" funnybooks because Sin City isn't making him enough money. I'd rather he was returning to the characters because he had something to say. Not that we'll know either way, of course.
And by the way, thanks ESPECIALLY for spelling "Sienkiewicz" right, so I didn't have to look it up!

What’s anyone betting that, if Miller’s Holy Terror had been a Batman story, he wouldn’t say it was terrific, assuming he’d say anything at all? He certainly didn’t come to Miller’s defense, that’s for sure.

Dear Cap: Good column this week!
I was perusing the Another Universe news updates -- there's a lot of crazy stuff going on:
1) Stan Lee doing this project for DC. Is it me, or does this feel like Santa Claus reading Torah? Still, from what I gather, it looks kind of anticlimactic -- he's doing entirely new versions of Superman, Batman, et al., and it looks like their only real connection with the originals will be the name. But, hey, wow.
2) Is this Dark Knight Returns sequel for real? Hasn't Miller written off mainstream superheroes? Doesn't he seem a bit like a punk for crawling back? Don't get me wrong, I love the guy's work, I loved the original, I'm crazy excited for this, but I'm a little incredulous of this project. And I have to wonder what exactly Miller's motivations are for doing this.
3) The Batman musical: Good lord, this is what we all feared. Back in college, I actually wrote my thesis on the history and nature of the Batman character, and it occurred to me in my analysis that a big, melodramatic Broadway musical would be strangely appropriate. And here we are. Jim Steinman (who wrote all of Meatloaf's music) is probably the most melodramatic songwriter in the history of popular music, so he'll certainly pour on the schmaltz (I can already see some precocious 10-year-old theater brat belting out his misery over a couple of dead bodies -- cue "fluttering bats" sound effect). But the book is by David Ives, a playwright who's known for playful, erudite comedy (his collection of one-acts, All In The Timing, is pure genius). I'm a little worried he may give it too much of a cheesy, Adam West-ish feel.
The fact is, we asked for this. We insisted that Batman become this epic, dramatic, yet human character, and Broadway eats that stuff up with a spoon. Still, I think it'll bomb -- the idea is just too ridiculous by mainstream theater standards. I know, they're not selling it to the NYC theater crowd, they're selling it to Mom and Pop Wisconsin who are in town for Christmas and are disappointed that Grease is sold out. But the public just does not take superheroes with depth (even the depth of a Broadway-musical character) seriously.
But I'll be there opening night, by God!
1) On Stan Lee: Yeah, that's the way I feel. It's just so ... weird! It probably won't be very good (his most recent comic-book work -- Savage She-Hulk No. 1 and Ravage -- weren't particularly memorable) but just the fact of it gives me warm fuzzies. And to think I'll actually be able to read authentic Stan Lee dialogue for 12 issues, instead of the wannabes who've aped him for years!

2) On Miller: See my response to [name withheld], above.

3) On the Batman musical: Our precedent here is It's a Bird, It's a Plane ... , the awful 1966 Superman musical. Not very encouraging.

On the other hand, when I heard somebody was going to do Phantom of the Opera way back when, I thought it was heresy -- nothing could equal the Lon Chaney silent, I thought. But it turned out OK, I suppose, and made the Phantom's story common knowledge (and my enthusiasm for it less geeky). Let's cross our fingers on the Batman musical -- nothing short of the Apocalypse is going to stop it.

With all due respect to Lee, I’ll have to admit another blogger’s argument he’s out of touch with today’s readers is valid. That aside, it’s kind of silly to compare Lee to Santa, since Lee’s ancestry is Jewish, and if memory serves, some of his family tree came from Romania.

Dear Cap: I went to Wondercon last weekend and found Peter David's Captain Marvel 1. Finally was able to read the first five issues, and whaddaya know, he's got green-skinned wimmin in them! That, plus the great battle-cry, has shot this title to the top of my list. Any chance we could get P. David on the Fantastic Four -- even just a guest shot or miniseries? I'm SOOO hungry for a good FF story ...
I saw the X-Men trailer, too. Not bad, but they coulda solved the problem with Halle Berry's frightful wig by just using Ororo's headdress ...
Oh, no, we can't have any superhero paraphernalia in this movie! Don't be absurd!
And I hope you've read the latest C.M. -- They're on Jarella's world! Green wimmin everywhere! And they're going to give it a better explanation than that preposterous, unworkable idea that Jarella's world was a speck of dirt on the Hulk's jeans.

Why shouldn’t it be workable that K’ai was a subatomic planet, and a microcosmos? Gee, I thought this was just comics! I suppose when leftist politics are involved, that’s the only time he’s willing to argue the point? Figures. And this is another one of his subtle insults to Roy Thomas, from what I can tell. Incidentally, if a wig doesn’t look great on the actress playing Storm, why not give her some hair dye? Why was that never considered?

Hey Cap: I meant to write to you last week but was caught in overtime hell. Away we go ...
1) Claremont's return: I'm not convinced it was the same guy writing X-Men 100 and Uncanny X-Men 381. The latter, for me, was thoroughly enjoyable. Snappy pacing, intriguing characterization and neat-o, whiz-bang Sci-Fi stuff. Yes, the villains were lame, but Rogue, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler and Colossus were utterly believable. And I enjoyed the new costumes, too. All in all, a pretty good read.
But in Uncanny -- what the heck was going on in that thing? Where the heck were they? What the heck happened to Phoenix's powers (a Phoenix isn't a Phoenix without telekinesis)? I wasn't even thrilled with Adam Kubert's new character designs and I normally dig his stuff. Phoenix looked OK except for the ski boots. But the rest of the team's look was just godawful. Beast in goggles and a hood?!? And does Storm have some balm for that junk on her arms? Am I alone in this discrepancy? Help me out, Cap.
2) Storm's birthplace: I would swear she was actually born in the States. Didn't Claremont and Byrne establish this with some story of Ororo in Harlem? Sweet Christmas, I think Luke Cage and Misty Knight were guests. Anyone else remember?
3) X-Men movie: I knew it would be this way, so I'm not really disappointed. In fact, I'm still rather looking forward to it, wrong costumes and all. I guess I think of these movie translations as a kind of What If? in live action. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but WB's wildly popular Batman and Superman series don't stick to continuity and have different character designs. Nightwing, for example, looks completely different than his comic-book counterpart (looks kind of like a blue Phoenix in the cartoon!). Why hasn't anyone complained about that? It would seem even easier to stick to the comic-book looks in animated form.
4) Nega bands: Waaaaaaaay outta my depth here, but doesn't Quasar have a set?
5) The Authority: Just started reading it, but wow, is it good! And the thing with the kiss? Did they issue a press release or something for the media to latch onto? I didn't see it until my fourth or fifth read. And I agree with (you about) The Authority's flouting of international law. At some point, wouldn't some pissed-off nation just target some nukes at the Carrier?
That's all from me, for now. Keep up the good work, Cap!
1) I haven't liked the trends in costumes for years. First there was everybody-in-armor stylin' (including, at one point "Steel Spider"), then the extraneous straps and pockets trend (a la Cable), then the leather jacket craze (even Spidey and the Legion of Super-Heroes sported them!) now the Boyz N the Hood style, where everybody dresses like a yo-yo-yo crack dealer. These attempts to be "with it" never look with it -- they just look pathetic.
As for Phoenix's TK powers, I presume that when they get around to telling us what happened in the missing six months since Cyclops's "death" we'll find out why. But given Claremont's propensity for dragging subplots out for decades, by the time we find out we won't care any more. (Like Storm's Mohawk look -- he eventually explained that in a throwaway line about three years after she dropped it. I was so unmoved that at this writing I can't even remember what the lame explanation was.)
2) I have the answer at last. The Commercial Appeal's library -- what we used to call a "morgue" -- dredged up the actual law. Here's the pertinent part:
"U.S. Code, Title 8 (Aliens and Nationality), Chapter 12 (Immigration and Nationality), Subchapter III (Nationality and Naturalization)
"The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:
"Section (g): A person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of 14 years ..."
There are some more herewiths, heretofores and albeits that follow, but my interpretation is that Storm has been an American citizen since birth, and therefore eligible to run for President. Fortunately for us all, there's a bill before Congress which streamlines all this mumbo-jumbo severely. Let's hope it passes.
3) I hadn't noticed the cartoon Nightwing was substantially different the comic-book version -- largely because my local WB! affiliate doesn't carry Batman or Superman any more! Wah! But I just assumed that the Nightwing outfit in Batman: Gotham Adventures was the same as the cartoon (as it is slightly different than the "real" one). Is this not so? Anybody know?
4) Quasar DID have the Nega Bands, before he became "Protector of the Universe." Then he got some other kinda magic bracelets. I'd have to look it up, but I missed most of the "Cosmic" line that Marvel briefly did, because their comps were so erratic at that time. Anybody want to do the legwork?
5) Mark Millar was telling anybody who'd listen before Authority 13 came out that he expected to be crucified for the kissing scene -- he was so worried about it that he did numerous interviews to make sure nobody missed it! It was a little disengenuous. I suspect he wanted to make sure he got the credit for the first superhomo kiss.
And what I find difficult about the Indonesian intervention is that I always assumed that The Authority's authority was MORAL authority -- the need to do the right thing, regardless of official protocol. But the Indonesian intervention struck me as ANYTHING but moral -- they don't even have the tissue of respectability an elected government has when it acts in its own interests. It was, as Lee Whitfield put it, just "might makes right" arrogance. Hopefully, exploring that very issue will be in the forefront of the series, and not swept under the rug.

1] If they look pathetic, he should look at his own superficial comics coverage! Sure, a lot of these attempts to change costume designs are foolish. The superhero genre is not the same as the auto industry, where new designs can help market the latest vehicles from Citroen, Toyota, Dodge and Nissan. But just like the engine quality is the real draw for some cars, so too is the characterization for comics casts, something Smith isn’t very understanding of himself, no matter how much he pretends otherwise.
2] Let’s hope someone who really cares about comics and doesn’t take a PC stance comes along someday and makes better commentary than he does. Though I suspect by that time, it’ll be way too late.
3] There’s a lot more he hasn’t noticed, like why a modicum of morale pays better than his lack of it.
4] He’s missed a lot more, as the above arguments should make clear.
5] The homosexual kissing is not what matters, it’s whether he’s willing to admit the bad influences of homosexuality that does. As for sweeping under rugs, that’s just what he did when Identity Crisis came along with its one-sided view of women, so he’s not qualified to tell us about morality.

Dear Cap: 1) Amethyst was part of the mid-'80s (I think) toy tie-ins. I remember several books based on toys. Amethyst was based on a collection of girls' dolls, all named after semi-precious stones. I'm really surprised she was acknowledged at all in the DCU after the series fell out of favor. Marvel did much better (relatively) with its toy-line crossovers that I remember. I read Micronauts for a while and thought they did a good job meshing characters created by toy makers into interesting plotlines. I even seem to remember a Micronauts/Avengers crossover at one point. ROM was a bit cheesier, with its "man changed to cyborg for the great war with the "Wraiths" which somehow brought him to Earth all the while longing to be human again" plot (whew!). Both series outlived their toy counterparts significantly (in toy-years, anyways).
2) As far as superheroes/mutants/metahumans killing in the name of the greater good, I think it does reflect reality, but most of the comics I've read haven't explored it as deeply as I'd like to see. Things are better than the Golden Age, when use of a superhuman power for personal gain (much less killing) doomed to you to a career as a supervillain, but suddenly in the '80s The Punisher went from villain to hero overnight and Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One revamp established The Caped Crusader as a true, "kill-if-I-have-to" vigilante (a stance DC has since backed off of). Shouldn't we see more of the Boy Scouts (Superman, Captain America, Spider-Man) actively seeking out the more "hard-core" heroes? Hitman even got an interview to join the JLA at one point (it lasted one panel) with a pitch of "I'm telepathic, I've got X-ray vision, and I kill super-people ... for money(!)" Pursuit of the Punisher just stopped! I don't need to see superhumans not kill people, just more realistic moral conflict over it.
3) My contribution the native-born American thing: if you are born abroad in a U.S. hospital (usually a military brat in a military hospital thing), you are a native-born American (had a buddy born in Greece this way). Unfortunately, this clears up absolutely nothing about Storm's eligibility for the Presidency. Do you get the feeling that this thread will live on infinitely, like the whole religions of the superheroes thing?
4) Betty, for a very nasty corrupt-the-innocent-girl fantasy; Lois, for a very nasty Taming-of-the-Shrew fantasy; MJ, because Gwen's dead (even I have SOME morals). Will this get edited for content?
Come to think of it, I was always attracted to She-Hulk ...

1) I was unaware that Amethyst was ever a toy -- as you note, it's fascinating that she continues to be integrated into the DCU. And I agree that Micronauts and ROM were surprisingly good, given their origins -- not great, but certainly a cut above Captain Action, G.I. Joe, etc.
2) The upcoming "Marvel Knights" non-team will have as its non-purpose hunting down The Punisher, so maybe we're finally catching up with reality. I've always had problems with characters like Venom, Punisher, Deadpool, Deathstroke, et al, becoming suddenly tolerated by the "Boy Scout" superheroes when their sales reached a certain point. Murder is murder, and certainly Superman and Spider-Man wouldn't tolerate it.
The Hitman thing must have sounded funny in the plotting session, but I found it appalling and stupid. Ditto when Captain America saluted The Punisher. Ditto Spider-Man making a you-leave-me-alone-and-I'll-leave-you-alone deal with Venom.
Although I have to note for the record that Captain America was a soldier in WWII, and certainly was directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Axis soldiers. Shouldn't he be a little more pragmatic and a little less prissy about death in combat? Just a thought.
3) On Storm: See my answer to [withheld], above
4) <<Will this get edited for content?>> Nope. Just because the corrupt-the-innocent-girl fantasy is too good to pass up.
As to She-Hulk, I should introduce you to [name withheld] (above). You boys have a lot in common, including -- and I'm guessing here -- a very, um, interesting fantasy life ...

Just like Mr. Smith, though for him, it’s even more so! And not a good one, that’s for sure. Now onto the rest…
1] What, he suddenly agrees Micronauts and ROM were good, if not great? He swerves even faster than some lemmings in Britain!
2] And I’ve always had problems with PC advocates since the time this was posted! Why, if Captain America ever killed nazis during WW2, then why should it be out of place for him to salute Frank Castle?
3] And as for mine, it’s that he’s just not fit to make the arugments.
4] I find this subject annoying. Maybe it’s because corrupting has long run its course of damage.

I was browsing the enormous store of Barnes & Noble tonight and came across an awesome find! The Incredible Internet Guide to Comic Books & Superheroes by James R. Flowers is basically what the title says it is: thousands of web sites! And the cool part that got me to buy it is they've thrown in a DC and Marvel chronology in the back, listing superheroes and villains with all their appearances. It lists Lois Lane but not Lana Lang so not all characters of comics are listed (someday there needs to be one). While I'm sure it isn't perfect it's nice to have some type of reference on hand and at $14.95 I'll keep complaints to a minimum (I paid more than that for the run of Avengers Forever).
You don't have to tell me, though -- The Captain's site isn't included. Sigh.

With good reason, I’d figure. After he went the PC route praising Identity Crisis, he doesn’t deserve it. As for me, I’m not desperate to have any of my sites listed in a book, because I’m not seeking fame at all costs. Which is what I suspect he is, though as Andy Warhol said, everyone’s famous for 15 minutes.

"Cheese and crackers! I'm alive?!" -- Patsy Walker, in Thunderbolts 2000.
You've probably noticed this already, and been buried in e-mail about it, but just in case it managed to slip by you somehow:
Hellcat is alive again. The Marvel Comics Revolving Door to Hell still spins.
Of course, it's possible that she will die in Avengers 2000, thus saving you the trouble of changing The Book of the Dead, but somehow that doesn't seem likely from where I sit.
(Sigh) I just keep imagining a talk-show format, something like what Fred Hembeck had in Marvel Age, with the host interviewing a writer.
<<Host: So what are your plans, now that you're taking over this major title?
Writer: I'm going to wrap up the last plot threads in about three to five issues, and then move into a story arc that will really shake up the status quo.
H: Really? Can you give us any hints?
W: Well, it's going to involve an old character ...
Scream from offstage: Nooooo! Please don't make me go back! I'M DEAD! I don't wanna live again!
W: ... although we've been having some contractual problems, I feel confident that by the time we need him, we'll have all of that ironed out.>>
But that's just me being cynical, I think.
LOL! And since Patsy committed suicide (in Hellstorm, and read by approximately six people), that probably WOULD be her reaction!

The revolving door in the MCU’s gate to hell might still spin, but then, so does the MSM still run spins with the sloppiest reporting they can do. Even Mr. Smith. I suspect even the correspondent thinks death in comics at all costs is perfectly fine, and if he did, I'm disgusted.

Dear Cap: You wrote <<Luthor asked "Why do I, the most brilliant mind in the world, surround myself with imbeciles?" Good question, Lex. Having seen Deliverance, I'm afraid I know the answer.>>
No real purpose for this e-mail to you other than to say you made me laugh out loud at my desk with that one. They were, after all, cellmates in prison, too. Those movies may now be ruined for me. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
Now if I can just get you to spit milk through your nose, my work here will be done.

I wonder why Mr. Smith never asked himself why he’s such an…okay, you get the idea. Now if only his editors would ask themselves the same query about people like him, then we’d be getting somewhere. Besides, it’s not so polite to spit, with milk or saliva!

I sort of understand new generations of writers and editors wanting to create their own characters, but I don't understand why they have to ruin the originals in the process. The writers who invented the Silver Age Green Lantern, Flash and Atom didn't have to go back and destroy the original Golden Age versions. Why is that necessary now? What was wrong with having alternate Earths as venues for different generations of superheroes? Maybe it was fear on the part of the current writers that their versions wouldn't be as interesting compared to the originals.
I actually enjoyed (Howard Chaykin's) earlier work. The original Ironwolf was one of my favorite characters, but then Chaykin "revised" him and turned him into a pitiful supporting character. It made no sense to me at all. I can understand his doing some wish fulfillment in his stories, but if that's all he does then it becomes boring.
It IS getting a tad redundant, innit?
Anyway, I tend to agree with you about why today's writers trash previous character incarnations -- they're giving THEIR characters every edge. In Green Lantern's case, that was specifically the case -- the brain trust in charge of revamping GL decided to eliminate all former GLs (including Hal) to make sure that Kyle was unique. Doesn't show much confidence, does it?

This correspondent echoes my thoughts near exact. Now if he’s since come to realize Mr. Smith’s served as apologist for those who shamelessly ruin the Silver Agers and their co-stars in the process, then we’ll be getting somwhere! Besides, Mr. Smith’s wrong: trashing the characters, major and minor, doesn’t give THEIR casts every edge. It only reinforces the perception they don’t have enough faith in audiences to accept the new folks, so they force it all on them. And Mr. Smith’s double-talk doesn’t inspire much confidence either, does it? Next comes April 27, 2000:

Dear Cap'n: On your recent web pages, reader [name withheld] writes, and you respond:
<<Dear Cap: Early in the last century, newspaper comics were popular. Then someone got the bright idea of collecting comic strips into comic "books," and the monthly comic-book periodical was born, and still exists, although the price went from 10 cents to about three dollars. Now the bookshelves are filled with slick reprint trade paperbacks reprinting recent episodes of our favorite heroes. How long do you think it will be before someone starts regularly publishing these formats with original material? Is history repeating itself? Are we seeing the birth of the standard comics format of the new century? (I know, I know, the new century does not start until NEXT Jan. 1.)>>
<<(Response) I'm no Nostradamus, but I can predict that a storm is a-comin'. Standard economic theory suggests that the 32-page pamphlet will prove unprofitable within a decade, so another format is inevitable. But what? Online, Internet comics? Gigantic 100-Page Super-Spectaculars for five or more dollars, mostly reprint? DC is having astonishing success with its policy of keeping its TPBs in print -- and barging into the Internet and brick-and-mortar bookstore market. Is that the future? Or do we go the Japanese route? Or will the 32-pager stagger on through inertia despite the naysayers? I dunno what's gonna happen, but it WILL be interesting.>>
I agree that something is happening, and we're right in the middle of it.
But what? I feel the same way as when I realized I took the first "basic" computer programming class offered by my high school just 15 years ago and now I'm trying to avoid dozens of e-mails each day via the Internet -- that is to say, OUR WORLD IS CHANGING REALLY, REALLY FAST.
It's exciting to see it unfold around us. And weird. I stopped buying the Nightwing monthly comics three issues back because I realized I've been collecting the trade paperback collections anyway. I likewise discovered Authority through TPBs and now have two of them on my bookshelf. My wife collected the full Sandman run in TPB and continues to seek out the latest collections of Strangers In Paradise.
It's obvious that DC understands the value of the adult dollar and doesn't cater to children only. And in some sense, it's a shame that Marvel management can't play the same game (consistently).
Life is fun.
I dunno what's going to happen either. But TPBs seem like such a natural for bookstores that I'm only marginally surprised to see the chains in my backwater city carrying lots of them. (Mostly DCs -- but that's because DC keeps 'em in print. No flies on them!) I also suspect a larger format will prove necessary for direct distribution (and possibly a return to newsstand sales), like the old "Dollar Comics." But the 32-page format could surprise me and hang in there. Sure looks shaky these days, though.
And, yes, life IS fun!

But propaganda and disrespect for the hard work of vets like Gardner Fox isn’t. That aside, it’s pretty amusing at this point how some leftists are going ga-ga over oh-so important mishmash like The Authority (and even Strangers in Paradise, which has some homosexual themes to boot, ditto Sandman), but what are the chances they’d ever buy a comic, major or minor, with an emphasis on being Armenian like Mannix? My guess is: statistically zero. And while there are some works DC and Marvel keep in print, there’s also quite a few items they either haven’t published in trades (much of Chuck Dixon’s Robin run, to name but one example), and if they have, they’ve let them go out of print since (some of Mark Waid’s run on The Flash, to name another).

Oh, by the way, the correspondent was wrong even back then that DC doesn’t cater to kids only. Today, it’s pretty apparent they don’t cater to children at all. Yet they don’t understand the value of grownup dollars either, or they’d hire more respectable writers and editors. That’s something Marvel, ironically, is consistent on.

Dear Captain: I have not written as frequently as I arguably should, but work has kept me on the go and away from my PC more than I care to admit. Unfortunately, I come bearing bad news. The series Ghost will be canceled as of issue 22. I got this news from Comics Continuum. I just thought I would make you aware.
Thanks for giving me a great read every week!
Thanks for the update, [...]! As soon as I can get confirmation from Dark Horse -- which is akin to prying a dime from Scrooge McDuck's grasp -- I'll add it to my Canceled Comics Cavalcade. And, hey -- don't just write with bad news! Feel free to comment anytime!

Not a good idea; it only bolsters our J. Jonah Jameson imitator. Sad if Ghost got canned, I suppose, but happy if and when Scripps-Howard does the same with guess who’s columns!

Dear Cap: You wrote:
<<Thanks for all the Beetlemania, [name withheld]. What I remember from Charlton's Beetle is that Ted felt guilty because he was with Dan when he died on (I am not making this up) the island of Pago Pago. He fell into a crevasse or had a wall fall on him or somesuch in a cave-in. Anyway, that's why Ted didn't have the scarab that bestowed superpowers. I've forgotten if DC included any of this in their BB origin; I'll have to look it up>>
Actually, DC did keep that story as the origin of Ted Kord post-Crisis. As noted, in the post-Crisis continuity, Dan Garrett did return from Pago Pago, but unlike in the Americomics story, he was possessed by evil, and died fighting Ted Kord (this occurred in the first 25 issues of Blue Beetle, the 1980s series). I should mention, by the way, that if the Americomics story I alluded to had been considered as valid for the pre-Crisis multiverse, then that would clear up a famous blunder from Crisis on Infinite Earths 3. In that issue, Ted Kord had the scarab! However, in the Who's Who entry for Ted Kord, it was stated that he did not have the scarab.
Possibly what happened was that someone read the Americomics story (as it was the Beetle's last appearance), in which Dan Garrett returned and was still alive at the end of the story, and decided that Ted Kord would have the scarab from now on (possibly, after the Crisis had been finished, there would have been time to explain that Dan Garrett had decided to retire and pass on the scarab). However, decisions about the fate of the Charlton characters were going back and forth (Watchmen, after all), so that idea may have been scrapped. Dick Giordiano played a big role in the Charlton acquistion, so his whims and decisions would have been a big factor.
I haven't noticed any of the Americomics developments in the DC versions of Blue Beetle, which I assume is because of copyright/trademark protection as much as an aesthetic choice. As to Giordano, he was a mover and shaker in the recent L.A.W. series that attempted to re-position the Charlton characters for the umpteenth time for their own series, but I sure didn't care much for the execution. Had a real retro feel -- not always a good thing -- and I could've have lived without reading it.

After all these years, I’ve concluded I could’ve lived without reading Mr. Smith’s garbage, and feel sorry for a lot of other people who made the same mistake! Besides, when did he ever speak out publicly in his column about the misuse of Ted Kord in Countdown to Infinite Crisis? Not to my knowledge he didn’t.

Hey Captain: Check this site out, I thought you and my fellow readers would get a kick out of it. This guy has a lot of free time, using digital manipulation (not sure what to call it), he has taken pictures of models and dressed them up (?!) as superheroines. Try not to drool on your monitor.

http://members.xoom.com/hurseason/
What it looks like, [...], is that the folks at Digital Harbour took old skin mag photos and airbrushed costumes on them, or used Adobe PhotoShop (or some similar software) to achieve the same effect.
It's very similar to what another site has done, called "Superheroines of the Silver Age" (http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Shire/5966/silverheroines.html)
Since the original photographs at the latter site are taken from '60s Playboy magazines, they're pretty tame by modern standards. However, since the purpose is to arouse as well as to entertain, I must say: NO MINORS ALLOWED. There. Now, having covered my legal hiney, I recommend the sites to adults, who will get a chuckle or two.

Say, this reminds me: did he ever make that note when Identity Crisis was being foisted on the public? Indeed, I don’t think he ever did. He certainly didn’t urge parents to keep minors away from such a vile monstrosity in his column, let alone warn them that the viewpoint there is almost exclusively male.

I'm a subcriber to Entertainment Weekly (so I can keep up on non-comic trivia) and noticed in my latest edition (April 21, with Natalie Portman on the cover) that a comic book was reviewed in the book-review section (surprisingly named Books). Relative Heroes is the name of it, it's published by DC and the reviewer used the term "Party of Five meets The X-Men." Didn't know if you knew and wondered if you knew if this was going to be a regular feature.
I dunno if the EW feature will be regular -- they don't consult me, alas -- but I can tell you about Relative Heroes. It's a six-issue miniseries by Devin Grayson and Yvel Guichet that features five "siblings" with superpowers who are suddenly orphaned. Their "leader," the oldest boy, decides they've had an origin, and the rest of the series is their road trip to Metropolis to ask Superman for superhero training. It's characterization-heavy and fisticuffs-light, and I think the EW quote is pretty accurate.

Maybe not, since they’ve been owned by Time Warner, one of the most pretentious conglomerates around, and despite any claims to the contrary, Mr. Smith hasn’t been particularly prone to criticizing the establishment. EW has occasionally reviewed comics since, but whatever they’ve had to say is hardly what I’d call honest or objective by any stretch.

While I always love your column, I must point out a slight error in your recent article. You have Wonder Woman invoke both Athena and Minerva. They are the same person; Minerva is the Roman name for Athena. Since Diana is Greek, she should only refer to Athena. Sorry about this, but it always bugs me when people mix up the Greek and Roman names.
D'oh!!!!!
You're right, of course -- I must have left my brain in my other suit. I should have evoked Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite and eschewed Diana, Minerva and Venus. Once upon a time WW's writers mixed Roman and Greek terminology promiscuously, but she's been all Greek (except, oddly, for her OWN name) since the Perez revamp. (Remember when she used to shout "Mercival Minerva" at the drop of a hat?)
Anyway, I DID know better, and just slipped up. I promise on a copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology never to do it again.

No, he did not know better, and that goes without saying when it comes to true dedication, morale and objectivity. And truly, since when did he ever have a brain?

Dear Cap'n: Loved your treatment of the debate between the DC "trinity" in your latest column. It had me laughing!
It's been at least four years since I've bought a comic book because of various expenses (house mortgage, car repairs, etc.) and perhaps even trying to "grow up" from the need to read them since I got married. I've been reading your columns to keep up with some of the happenings in the comics world.
I must admit that Lee's take on DC's heroes will probably have me headed to the comics store to buy it. That's saying something. Never thought I'd see the day that Stan would be writing for DC. I know I'm not alone in that. What a coup!
I'm trying to keep my expectations low, as I doubt even Stan The Man can't re-invent the wheel -- well, at least not TWICE! But as you said: What a coup! I just have to see his name in the credits on a DC book -- simultaneously with "Stan Lee Presents!" on every Marvel book on the stands! Too weird!

Funny Smith says that. Because he couldn’t write his way out of the proverbial wet paper bag.

Hey Cap: Just catching up on some topics.
First, you recently mentioned that DC now considers the Batman-Talia love child story to have occurred out of continuity. Unrelated at the time, you also mentioned that you like to re-read your old Silver Age comics and pretend that there still is an Earth-Two. It strikes me that we all have our own personal continuity. Most of us have stories that we consider to be non-canonical and others that we consider to be authoritative.
As for me, Franklin Richards was never kidnapped by his grandfather and returned to the present as a teenager. Quite frankly, the entire run of Fantastic Force never happened in my world. I was wondering: What other stories never happened in your personal continuity? And which stories, long since wiped from continuity by Crisis, Zero Hour, and other revamps, still inform your own world of comics?
Next, I know you like to rip on Wizard but I usually buy it and enjoy it. Especially of late, they have exceeded my expectations. For nearly a year, I've been trying to compile a complete list of "Work by George Perez" so that I can fill out my collection (I even have most of his work on I*Bots and the Ultraverse titles). Wizard actually published the definitive list (approved by George) and helped me out.
They also pulled one over on me with their April Fool's joke. With the help of Alex Ross, they convinced me that Ross, Paul Dini and DC had canceled this year's Captain Marvel special edition for a Wonder Twins volume. Having been raised on Super Friends, I was even excited to see Ross's Wonder Twin art. I have to give them a lot of credit for a great scam (Now if only they'd figure out what crap Earth X is and stop giving it their project of the year awards).
Finally, I am a huge Titans fan. One of the biggest. As a 25-year-old myself, they are the characters I identify with the most. I loved Devin Grayson's Nightwing annual and I even have the poster for the JLA-Titans miniseries hanging in my living room. I couldn't believe that I was going to be so lucky as to have such a talented writer scripting the stories of my favourite heroes. I even liked her use of Argent and Damage and Jesse Quick.
And yet, I have not enjoyed this series for a couple of issues. It's not just that I don't like to see the Titans feuding with each other, it's that I didn't believe they would let it get this far. I know that my favourite heroes don't always get along but this feud was established without much warrant or warning. Maybe Devin needs to read how Marv Wolfman pulled the team apart and put them back together, particularly New Teen Titans 19 in which Donna punches Dick in the face.
Of course, for all of that, I also didn't buy her quick resolution to the problem. Their natural anger was provoked by the Gargoyle? Now that they've neutralized the Gargoyle, most of the problems are over? The thing is, I know Devin Grayson can do better. The scene in JLA-Titans in which everyone tries to coax the humanity out of Cyborg, until Changeling yells "Hey, Rustbucket," and gives Vic what-for is one of my favourites. The characters were real to me then. So why aren't they real to me now?
I have similar complaints about JSA. I expected, hoped and longed for better. It's not a family. It's a club in which everyone seems to be able to come and go as they please. They've changed my mind about Sand (I was convinced that I would hate him) and "Sins of Youth" made me a Starwoman (I mean, Star-Spangled Kid) fan, but so far, I'm extremely underwhelmed. We still don't know anything about Kendra (Hawkgirl) or the new Dr. Mid-Nite and they haven't really used the Hector Hall/Dr. Fate since the resurrection story. Although I really enjoyed the Wildcat story, I'm hoping that this title picks up before I'm forced to drop it.
Like most folks, the comics I loved the best are the ones I read first, so in a general sense just about everything that's happened since 1970 I take with a grain of salt. But here are some generic things that I try to ignore:
-- The Spider-Man Clone Saga (especially the Gwen Stacy clone)
-- 2099 anything
-- The "New Universe"
-- Young All-Stars (and a LOT of Infinity Inc.)
-- Team Titans
-- The Outsiders
-- Earth X
-- Captain America saluting The Punisher (I don't remember the story)
-- The Punisher as head of a crime family
-- The Punisher as an angel
-- Spider-Man cutting a deal with Venom to leave each other alone
-- The Golden Age Flash and Green Lantern quitting the fight in Zero Hour just after three of their comrades had been murdered
-- Jared Stevens as Fate
-- Hal Jordan as a drunk lunatic BEFORE "Emerald Twilight" (Emerald Dawn)
-- The troubled, suicidal Plastic Man in Brave & Bold
-- Sgt. Rock outliving WWII in Brave & Bold
-- Any story where Batman appears in daylight
-- Any story with Storm in a mohawk
-- Any line of dialogue where somebody addresses somebody as "old friend."
-- Any story where characters like Venom, Punisher or Deathstroke are tolerated by the heroes because their sales figures are high
Whew! There are lots more, but we've more topics:
I just rip on Wizard because they're immature. But they do some things right. If the Perez thing worked, then good for them and good for you.
I enjoyed the '60s Teen Titans solely based on Nick Cardy's art; the stories were horrendous (I need only mention The Mad Mod, I think). I think Cardy's Wonder Girl was the second comic-book girl I fantasized about (the first being Betty Cooper). The third would probably be Cardy's Black Canary (in Brave & Bold). Man, that guy could draw gorgeous women!
I loved the Wolfman/Perez Titans from the early '80s -- they don't hold up too well on re-reading, but they were dynamite at the time.
I absolutely loathed the Team Titans era. You could almost hear the editorial meeting that dreamed it up: "Hey! Marvel's X-Men sales are through the roof! Don't we have a teen-team book that we could turn into a franchise?" It almost turned me off Titans permanently.
Then there was the Jurgens period. Risk, Joto, whoever they were -- what a bunch of losers. It was like the guys in high school who skipped class to smoke dope in the parking lot had been given superpowers. I didn't want to read about them.
But finally, Devin Grayson & Co. realized the unique aspect of the series: Five ex-sidekicks who've been palling around forever. That's something no other team has. But, like you, I feel like the last few issues the wheels have come off.
I'm with you on the JSA -- I've enjoyed the characters they've explored, but there's a tremendous wealth of material they're simply not tapping. And the team doesn't feel like a team -- each issue seems to feature whoever happened to be free that month. Grant Morrison finally made the JLA work by giving the Big Seven specific relationships with each other that gave them a gestalt -- and the reader an almost subliminal understanding of why these guys hang out with each other. Johns needs to do the same for JSA.

Wow, that dumb correspondent loves Wizard? Ugh! Not only were they such a knee-jerk, establishment-kissing magazine, they also had articles and letter pages laced with sexism. They gave comics journalism a bad name even before Mr. Smith made his way onto the scene and employed a more subtle approach, not unlike Bethany Snow. I guess I can understand why he’s otherwise unfair to the NTT. And shame on him for putting down the Silver Age origins of the Titans, all because they began at a time when goofy slapstick was in use.

And shame on him also for the disrespect he has for Roy and Dann Thomas’s hard work to create Infinity Inc. Sure, some of the costumes are goofy, and some of the names could be the same, but overall, it was a decent title and today there are people who admire it in retrospect. Incidentally, what is the material he felt Johns wasn’t tapping in JSA? I seriously doubt he’d feel it should include the battle against evil belief systems like Islamofascism and bad leftist university managements like what we have today at Brandeis. Nor is he likely to feel that Armenians deserve to have a spot in superhero comics, as superheroes or as co-stars.

In Superman's origin page (from Action 1?), it's clearly established that his parents are dead. In one panel, his dying human father makes him promise to use his powers to help people, and then there's a shot of him grieving over two tombstones.
George S. Lowther is generally credited for naming them, in his 1941 novel, The Adventures of Superman. There they are Eben and Sarah, but as you point out, they were later variously named John and Mary and Martha and Jonathan, depending on the medium.
I've never seen that origin episode of the Reeves series, darn it, and I forgot to tape it when the TVLand marathon started.
It was one of the better ones, if you overlook the "Mole Men" looking a lot like Munchkins (and played by many of the same actors). The first season of Adventures of Superman was played straight, but by the second season it was veering toward camp.
And with your help, I found the scene of Clark standing over his parents' graves. It was actually in Action Comics 2, and reprinted in Superman 1. I knew I had the idea that they were dead, but I couldn't remember why I thought that, and when Action 1 proved no help, I was at a loss. Thanks!

The Adventures of Superman may have veered towards campiness, but these days, Mr. Smith’s columns veer towards being an unfunny joke.

Some thoughts:
<< GRENDEL: DEVIL'S LEGACY #2 (Of 12): I guess I'm the only guy on the planet who never liked Grendel.>>

Nope. You're one of two. I've never read any Grendel story.
<<Weird -- I usually like anything PAD writes, from Star Trek to his busman's holiday, Soulsearchers & Co.>>

I dropped SpyBoy months ago even though I normally worship at PAD's feet.
LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #29: I bought this story because it's Mr. Kane's last work. It was a good story and the layouts were great. It's just a shame that the inks didn't mesh with the pencils.

<<Read some history, kids. Learn how and why ships are named.>>

Any suggestions for books about this? I'm kinda curious myself. As far as I can tell, U.S. warships tend to be named after A) places (i.e. USS Oregon --BB3), B) people associated with military history, or C) previous ships.
<<DAREDEVIL #12: Geez, the last one was out only three weeks ago! I guess they're serious about getting this title back on sked!>>

Yeah, but this one is a fill-in issue. It's good, but $2.99 is a steep price to pay for a fill-in.
QUANTUM & WOODY #21: I bought it and loved it, but am not sure I should keep buying it. Sure, it is my No. 1 favorite comic book. The problem is its chronic lateness; I feel bad about supporting a book/publisher (Unity 2000 is also waaaay behind schedule) that yanks the chains of its fans.
<<And I agree that Micronauts and ROM were surprisingly good, given their origins -- not great, but certainly a cut above Captain Action, G.I. Joe, etc.>>

I'm a little surprised about your comments on Marvel's G.I. Joe. This title was really, really good from issue 21 (the famous "Silent Interlude" story) through around issue 50 (where they seemingly had to start doing more promotion for the toys). Like Howard the Duck, G.I. Joe back issues were once a hot commodity but have since greatly cooled.
WOW! The letters section became so big that you had to use two pages!
<<Alternate universes: Again, why not? All things are possible in an infinite universe.>>

This is the one answer to [name withheld]'s questionnaire where your answer differed greatly from mine. I DON'T believe in alternate universes. Simply put, any me in an alternate universe would have had exactly the same experiences and therefore make exactly the same decisions that I do. Parallel universes? Maybe. Alternate? No way.
LEGENDS: I don't have any problem with the inking, but I'd bet Gil Kane would've. Kane was very particular about who inked him, to the point that he left DC in a huff in the '60s because they kept assigning Sid Greene to Green Lantern and Atom. He even taught himself to ink so he could ink his own pencilled pages and see his work the way he wanted it to be seen. So it's a sad coda to his career that the company did it to him AGAIN.
SHIP NAMES: There's a whole protocol for it, just like everything in the military. Aircraft carriers are named after presidents (with a few exceptions, all for good reasons), battleships are named after states, cruisers after admirals, frigates after cities, etc. The same is true of aircraft designations (B is for bomber, F is for fighter, X is for experimental plane, etc.). In the Civil War, the North named its armies and battles after the nearest body of water (Battle of Bull Run) whereas the South named theirs after the closest landmark (Battle of Manassas). (Oddly, both ended up with an Army of Tennessee -- one after the state, the other the river). I've simply picked this stuff up from watching The History Channel and reading a book or two; it just turns me off instantly when I read a story where the writer has paid less attention to life than I have.
G.I. JOE: You're right -- G.I. Joe was pretty good. I should have used another toy-to-bad comic example, like Hot Wheels.

That’s pretty rich coming from someone who had a problem with one of Kane’s creations, Jean Loring. I may have said it before, and it certainly deserves repeating: Smith disrespected Kane by legitimizing Identity Crisis.

Also, I suspect “diplomacy” is what Mr. Smith was going by with GI Joe, though I’ve got a hunch the correspondent isn’t as big a fan of the Joes as he might want us to think either.

Hi, Cap! I was wondering if you have been following the new Punisher series by Garth Ennis and what is your take on it? I have found it engaging even though I share your distaste for vigilante, gun-toting anti-heroes. But there is one problem I have with the latest issue (No. 3). This is the issue that guest stars Daredevil. Without giving too much away to those who haven't read the comic, it deals with Daredevil attempting to stop the Punisher from assassinating a criminal. My problem is that Ennis seems to "wimpify" superheroes like DD in order to show Punisher as this unbeatable bad boy. I first saw Ennis do this in the Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe story. I know that some of the heroes' abilities must be downplayed to make the story interesting, but Ennis carries this to the extreme. Basically, DD wouldn't wimp out against the Punisher. DD has mopped the floor with vicious gun-toting creeps in the past.
(SPOILER) If you read the comic then you will know that Punisher has put Daredevil in a position where he must shoot Punisher or let the Punisher kill a man. DD holds out firing on Punisher until the last possible minute (when DD feels he has no other option), at which point he discovers the bullet is loaded with blanks. My gripe with this is that DD thought he had to shoot to kill in order to stop Punisher. I allege that DD would be smart enough to realize that he could've maimed Punisher and still have stopped the assassination (if the gun had really been loaded). Of course, the gun wasn't loaded, but it still made DD look stupid. Maybe that was Ennis's point, since he dislikes superheroes ...
BYRNE'S BAT

I was checking out the message boards and came across a post in which John Byrne claims to have came up with the idea for the new Batgirl (i.e., a young, teenage Asian girl) some time ago. He wrote that DC rejected his idea at the time. What do you think? Did DC steal Byrne's idea or is he just trying to take credit for something he didn't do?
SUPERMAN'S PARENTS
<<I'm not all that certain about the status of Superman's parents in the Golden Age, but I always presumed they were dead.>>

Yep, they're dead. I remember seeing reprints of Superman's expanded Golen Age origin (Superman 1, I think) which show a grown Clark standing over his adopted parents' grave.
<<As to the variance in names, Clark's parents weren't really seriously established until the Superboy title in 1949. Not only were they not always Jonathan and Martha in the comics -- their names varied here and there -- but they were (as you noted) Eb and Sarah on the TV show and John and Mary on the Adventures of Superman radio show. God knows what they were on Broadway!>>

Believe it or not, I have a video of the 1970s televised version of the Broadway play, It's a Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman! It features a small recap of Superman's origins that is pretty faithful, if camped up, to the comics. I don't recall any mention of the parents' first names and I fear that I am not strong enough to endure another viewing just yet. I own the video because it is a part of Superman's history, but, man, is it awful! Some of the songs are listenable, though! I have the soundtrack on LP for the original stage version, as well. David Cassidy's dad plays the villain and Linda (Alice) Lavin plays the bad girl (played on the TV version by Loretta Switt of M.A.S.H. fame). Egads! The things I endure for my hobby!

No kidding. I actually read all the "New Universe" titles. The things we do ...

PUNISHER: I'm enthusiastic about the new Punisher series, because it's well-done, and it doesn't treat Frank Castle as a hero. I can enjoy anti-hero books, as long as there are real-world consequences for their antisocial acts,or, at the very least, recognition that their behavior is not admirable. (One reason I was glad to see Catwoman finally arrested, even if the story was poorly done.)
And, yup, I agree -- DD was made out out be an idiot. Didn't care much for it. On the other hand, isn't it a tradition in superhero matchups that the guy whose title it is always wins?
BYRNE'S BAT: I don't have any inside information, but I'm skeptical of Byrne's claim. Byrne may have actually suggested an Asian Batgirl -- who knows? But he is not developing this character, so that's not enough to claim ownership. Ideas are cheap, and there really aren't any new ones. Besides, given Byrne's ego, I'd bet he'd take credit for Genesis because he wrote a story with the same name.
SUPERMAN'S PARENTS: See my answer to [name withheld], above.
Man, what a shame the correspondent could be as leftist as Smith is, and so dismissive of the Punisher, possibly for all the wrong reasons. As for Catwoman, wouldn’t he rather she reform for real? (If memory serves, she did during the late 70s-early 80s, but in 1986, Dr. Moon messed with her mind and caused her to revert.)
Dear Cap: Concerning [name withheld] inquiry ... about how Batman gets all that stuff into the (Bat)cave, here's a theory. It's unsubstantiated by evidence, but not contradicted by any either, as far as I know. (In other words, this is the kind of seat-of-the-pants explanation Marvel used to dole out No-Prizes for.)
Here goes. Batman depends on the kindness of fellow heroes when it comes time to move gear into his quarters. He uses some combination of the following to get stuff in:
JLA transporter. Beam stuff in. Beam stuff out. Beam stuff just a few inches to the left ...
Kryptonian technology. Use Superman's Phantom Zone projector to park that Bat-electron microsocope in the Phantom Zone, then project it back in the cave. Or use the ray that shrank the Bottle City of Kandor to reduce that Bat-cyclotron down to pocket size and "blow it up" in the cave. If these Silver Age technologies no longer exist in current DC continuity, well, I know we can still count on ...
Green Lantern's power ring: Giant emerald fingers lift the Bat-centrifuge, cradle it lovingly, and gently nudge it into place.
Zatanna's magic: 'Nuff said.
Atom's dwarf-star mass-displacement tricks: Works like the Kandor reducing ray, at least on stuff Atom is holding when he gets small. Useful for carrying explosives or chemicals that might attract FBI dogs ...
Martian Manhunter's alien technology: It only LOOKS like magic. And it might as well be.
It always helps to have lots of friends on moving day <g>.
As to the Batcave's drain on the Gotham power grid, I always figured there had to be a generator somewhere back behind the giant penny -- some kind of nuclear plant with huge capacity.
Or maybe he just draws power off of potatoes, in the manner of those nifty clocks that used to be advertised in the back of comic books!
Of course, somebody's gonna point out that Batman's too much of a loner to ask his friends for help, and besides, he probably wouldn't provide beer ...
And he's mentioned his generators before. I'm no expert by any means, but if you have electricity, don't you have to be hooked up to the grid in some capacity? Those generators don't start themselves. And what about satellite hookup? Wouldn't he need a dish? And how does he get phone service? Doubtless there are all sorts of ways to get around these things, but he'd have to be doing a LOT of sleight-of-hand ... it starts to stretch credulity after a while.
Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, [withheld]!

Hope that correspondent’s since realized what contempt Smith has for the Atom. 'Cause what he speaks about here is insulting.

Dear Cap: Has anyone else noticed something odd about the things that our heroes are saying? We recently learned that the federal government funded the anti-drug comic that Marvel placed in the middle of their books for seeming eternity. I had thought that was the end of the plot, but recent peculiarities give me pause. First, in Daredevil 11, Matt Murdock entertains thoughts about how great it is that Echo doesn't smoke. Bizarre, but isolated. But then, in the latest issue of Adventures of Superman, Supercrank feels compelled to tell Jimmy -- who had remarked approvingly upon the villain's cigar-chomping -- that "cigars cause cancer"!

As the adage goes, Where there's smoke, there's fire. I can only believe that the government propaganda machine is still bedeviling our books. I would ask you and your readers to report similar weirdnesses. We can only hope that Christopher Priest saves the day (as usual) by teaming Deadpool with Captain Tobacco ...

You know, I used to think I was paranoid that anti-drinking, or anti-tobacco, or anti-whatever would pop out of characters' mouths on TV -- until I found out that the producers were, indeed, being paid by the government to have those things said and taking the money under the table. Good grief!
So I've always found it refreshing that comics would do their bluenose routine with "Paid Advertisement" or "Public Service Announcement" pasted all over that "Just Say No!" ad. But now I'm not so sure ...
Your request is posted, [withheld]! All Cap'n Comics readers are hereby deputized to report all suspicious propaganda in comics! And, say, when WAS the last time we saw Wolverine with a cigar ... ?

Is there something wrong with the government asking a favor from the showbiz mediums? Not always, depending how sincere their motivations are (the Obama administration sure isn’t doing a good job asking favors from anyone, that’s for sure). During WW2, the government had the audacity to ask for help from Hollywood. Since we’re on the topic, how do we know the producers were acting as government drones in all instances? Does he realize what he’s suggesting? That it wasn’t sincerity that drove anybody? Good grief.

And gee, that’s rich to ask his readers to report propaganda even as he keeps specializing in the gimmick himself. Guess that’s why I decided – completely free of charge – to play Spider-Man to his J. Jonah Jameson. That’s right, I’m not getting paid to be a blogger as I am today, and for anybody who truly cares about the future of the medium, that’s why I do the work I do today, and I’m not asking anyone to thank me for it either, because it’s all I can do to provide you with the best possible criteria you need in order to know why mainstream journalists cannot be relied upon to give you an honest, objective picture of the industry.

Dear Captain: I have only one question: Is Wonder Woman Archives Vol. 1 as good/bizarre as Vol. 2 sounds?
Oh, absolutely! The second one is where it really hit its stride, though ...

But for Mr. Smith, there’s only lows, both bad and horrific.

Dear Capn:

<<And what I find difficult about the Indonesian intervention is that I always assumed that The Authority's authority was MORAL authority -- the need to do the right thing, regardless of official protocol. But the Indonesian intervention struck me as ANYTHING but moral -- they don't even have the tissue of respectability an elected government has when it acts in its own interests. It was, as Lee Whitfield put it, just "might makes right" arrogance. Hopefully, exploring that very issue will be in the forefront of the series, and not swept under the rug.>>

Capn, I know you don't frequent the DC Message Boards, but you should really consider spending a little time in The Authority forum. We posters there are REALLY into discussing these very kinds of issues that The Authority raises, on several threads. And Millar is one of us sometimes. I think you'd find what he has to say on about all this heartening. I know it revs me. I think you are getting at the core of what I believe the whole book is about -- and always has been, really.
<<[withheld] buys both Buffy and Angel (photo covers, of course). Of the two, I enjoy the Angel comic book more -- much, much more. That's in contrast to the shows, of which I prefer Buffy.>>

While I don't read either books -- what I've seen of the features in DHP hasn't moved me very much, for one thing -- I do love Buffy on TV; even though it's not quite up to the standard of genuine excellence that last season set, it's probably my favorite program now (Used to be Voyager, before Kes was banished and Seven of Two walked in and took everything over ...). Angel, on the other hand, I cannot even watch. I gave up after a handful of episodes. It's so boring and poorly-to-okayly done. In the end I think the responsibility lies with Angel himself; David B. Boreanaz is a decent actor, and he helped make Angel a great ensemble character on Buffy -- he and Geller had real chemistry, as did their characters. But Angel ain't much of a lead character, and David B. ain't got it in him to make him one, in my eyes.
<<The Specials>>
This project looks like it could be really fun. Lots of indie flicks come out bad, sure. But, frankly, I think Hollywood churns out more vomit than independent cinema could ever hope to. I'll take a little nobody with an idea or feel for the subject matter and five bucks over a studio product almost any day. I liked Mystery Men well enough – it was fun. But there sure wasn't much there, it didn't come together very well or add up to much. We'll see what this filmmaker comes up with.
I'm especially pleased to see that John Doe is in it! Wonderful actor, wonderful musicmaker -- he's worked on his own projects and as a member of X -- and he's also one of my six film-actor husbands! (Sure, he don't know that yet, and neither do any of the other five, but I find this to be a very minor detail that I don't let get in my way ...) So I'm always happy to see him pop up in a film, and now a comic book-themed one, to boot!
Climbing back out of my head, we find The Ring of the Nibelung 3 (Dark Horse, $2.95), the best limited series on the racks.

So nice to see another plug for this magnificent, beautiful book on your site. I think you should make your site accessible only to those who can prove they've picked this miniseries up, actually ...
Then my hit count would drop to six a week, unfortunately. Anyway, thanks for the comments and recommendations, [withheld]!

So that correspondent wasted his time on the Wildstorm section for that comic in the erstwhile DC boards? Sad. At least I don’t have to make the same mistake, and didn’t. But a pity I did make the mistake to give Mr. Smith counts on his website statistics. If I hadn't, he'd be down at least by a few digits.

Dear Captain Comics: I been waiting on (Shock Rockets) since the announcement of the Gorilla partners (Busiek and Perez are my favorite in the comic world) print. The book was excellent (and) it was a joy to behold. I was glad it was not another superhero book; we need something different in the comic market and this is a start. This book is for the young, old and new. The art is awesome. Grawbadger's inking is perfect for Immonen art. What can I say about Kurt Busiek that I have not said already? I think he is the best superhero storyteller today. What separates him from others is his ability to create character and drama. Astro City is an example of great stories, characterization (and) drama. He is also so detailed in his writing. With high prices on comics today I have to choose wisely but for some reason I can never go wrong with a Kurt Busiek comic. Hope you review this book in your Sunday article. Thank you for listening.
Unfortunately, I order some of my books through a monthly service (The Westfield Co.) and won't receive Shock Rockets for another week. But I am looking forward to it.
While Busiek did turn out impressive tales once, he’s since proven himself one of the worst political commentators today, which is very sad, because I do concur Astro City is one of the best books on the market.
The Black Terror, another character from a defunct publisher, appeared in an an Eclipse miniseries in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Presumably Todd McFarlane may now own the rights -- as he probably now owns the rights to Airboy and the Heap.
A question: Does anyone know of a one-shot starring Nick Fury and the Black Widow that Nightraven appeared in? Nightraven was a Marvel UK character, and his relation to the mainstream North American characters is unclear.
I don't know for a fact that McFarlane owns any of those characters -- the Eclipse bankruptcy and divvying up of assets was, by all reports, pretty complicated. I guess we'll all find out if he publishes one of them (although he seems to be moving out of comics).
The Eclipse series you remember was, appropriately, The Black Terror 1-3 (1990), and it was by Chuck Dixon and Beau Smith (writers) and Dan Brereton (artist).

Nightraven/Fury/Widow doesn't ring any bells with me -- it might have been a Marvel UK title. There was a Nightraven: The Collected Stories TPB published in America in 1991, but I never saw it. Anybody else know?

Since we’re on the issue of Dixon, I don’t recall Mr. Smith publicly criticizing Dan DiDio in his columns for firing Dixon abruptly either in 2009.

Dear Cap: One can never say "die" and that is so true. The Uncanny X-Men was canceled and later revived and has gone on to becoming one of the best-selling titles in the industry. The Naked Gun series lasted only for six episodes but exhibited commercial success as movies. I believe that there are some series that could probably make a comeback. There are a lot of fine titles that I have enjoyed and would not mind reading new stories. However, if I do not see any new series of old but still enjoyable titles, at least I have old issues to enjoy and enjoy.
Here are few titles that I would like to mention: The Sleeze Brothers (Epic comics), Bizarre Adventures (Marvel Magazine Group), The Savage Sword of Conan (Marvel Magazine Group), Howard The Duck (Marvel Magazine Group), The Brave & Bold (the team-ups and the dream-ups starring well, you-know-who), DC Comics Presents, Archie's Superhero Special digest (Archie Comics), Captain Hero digest starring Jughead Jones (Archie Comics), Superman Family (DC comics), Batman Family (DC Comics), The Vengeance Squad (Charlton), Iron Fist (Marvel Comics) and Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids (Gold Key) to name a few.
Are there any titles that you would like to see revived? If so, then what are they?
The list of books I'd like to see again is longer than I've room for here, LL, although it would start with the Drake/Premiani Doom Patrol and the Isabella/Newell Black Lightning. Anybody else got a favorite?

Sure, I’ve got plenty, like the Silver Age Atom, and I’d sure like to see Elongated Man get another miniseries like he had in 1992 by Gerard Jones. The Outsiders per Mike W. Barr’s vision. Why, there’s even Infinity Inc, as per the characterizations Roy and Dann Thomas worked on! But don’t think he’d ever promote them, no siree. Thank goodness there’ll always be the older stuff to enjoy, that I agree with.

Regarding the Naked Gun movies, it’s my dreary duty to note that O.J. Simpson put a whole dark cloud over them after he murdered his wife Nicole and another boyfriend of hers in 1994, and it sadly took a decade to get him into jail for real.

Let’s let that go now, and proceed to May 4, 2000, where he got some wrong info recorded, but even though he admitted it was erroneous, that’s still not excusing certain other things:

OK, OK -- JIM APARO IS NOT DEAD! When the Captain makes a mistake, it's a humdinger:

Dear Cap: Jim Aparo dead? Are you SURE about this??? If this is true this is upsetting me TO NO END. ... I want a date when this happened. This is bigger to me than losing Gil Kane, Curt Swan or even Bob Kane -- Aparo was "Batman" in my very young days. I'm not mourning until I know for sure, and I REALLY don't believe this.

What??? When did this happen? Why wasn't I told??? He had work appear in the Bat-books within the last year didn't he??? Aw, Cap'n, I'm just startin' to get over Gil Kane.

I grew up to Jim Aparo art! I fell in love with his Aquaman in Adventure Comics in the '70s!!! Oh, god. This is horrible. ... Why don't I know about this???

Dear Cap: I was just was going through your Q&A page and saw the rather terse statement "Jim Aparo is dead." Is this true? I read your column every week and also get The Comics Buyers' Guide and have not seen this item. And since Jim Aparo has done a cover for DC's Silver Age books, if this statement is true it has to be a recent event. Jim Aparo was the major artist on the Batman titles for much of the 1980s ,and was one of the few artists at that time that penciled, inked and even lettered his own work. It was only at the end of his run on Batman and the few fill-ins he later did that other inkers worked on his pencils, not even coming close to his own standards. I don't know but if someone is asking a question about the whereabouts of an artist or writer that is no longer visible, a short "He's dead" just doesn't sound right.

(Sigh). No, Jim Aparo's fine. But I'm an idiot.
Aparo is still alive (if semi-retired), and in fact is doing the cover for Silver Age: Brave & Bold (appropriately), shipping May 24. I was thinking of someone else -- possibly Don Newton, who, like Aparo, is a former Charlton artist who "graduated" from Charlton's The Phantom to DC's Batman titles.
Boy, when I goof, I goof BIG! Sorry, everybody. But speaking of obits:

Before we get to the next about other news that’s probably more accurate, let us note how shameful it is he’s not willing to admit it for real – he’s never said he’s sorry for fawning over Identity Crisis, nor for speaking so insultingly and dishonestly about Jean Loring, whom I’m sure he knows is fictional. Nor has he ever shown any signs he ever cared about Sue Dibny, for that matter. Are we to assume he dislikes specific characters that badly, he’s willing to sacrifice others if that’s what it takes to harm them so terribly? Simply disgusting.

Hello, Cap! I was reading posts on the AOL comic boards again and I came across this post by John Byrne concerning Dick Sprang:
"It has come to my attention that Dick Sprang -- 'The Best of the Bob Kanes' -- is in severely declining health, and not expected to live more than a few months. Not much anyone here can do about it, but I thought everyone should know. This man made an important and significant contribution to the development of an important and significant character. He will be missed whenever he leaves us. That this departure may be sooner rather than later only makes it that much sadder." -- JB
It doesn't sound good, does it? The fact that John Byrne is willing to comment on this tells me that things are looking bleak for Dick Sprang.
Boy, the obits just keep rolling in, don't they? Jack Kirby, John Broome, Charlie Schulz, Gil Kane, Alfredo Alcala ... And in my bleaker moods it occurs to me how many Silver Age legends are in advanced years: Stan Lee, Julius Schwartz, Carmine Infantino, Jim Mooney, Kurt Schaffenberger ... I try not to think about it.

Since this topic was brought up, why do I get the vibe he never had any true respect for Julie Schwartz either? Because Jean Loring was based on Julie’s real life wife, Jean Ordwein, who died in 1986, same year as Gardner Fox. While I know Julie was part of a generation who came from a time when you don’t speak poorly about the companies you’re working/ed for, I still wonder if it’s possible that, when he died in 2004, it was because he found out DC’s plans with Identity Crisis, and was so upset that he died? I guess Mr. Smith tries not to think about that either.

Hey, Cap, I can finally put my Quasar collection to good use and answer your Mailbag question. Quasar never had the Nega Bands. Quasar's patron, the cosmic entity Eon, said Mar-Vell was supposed to get the Quantum Bands that Quasar has, but because of circumstances beyond his control, they were misdirected or intercepted. Mar-Vell ended up with the Nega Bands instead. Eon appointed Mar-Vell "Protector of the Universe" without the Q Bands.
Before Mar-Vell was born, the Quantum Bands were used by a long line of Protectors of the Universe and somehow ended up on a Uranian colony (don't ask). They were brought back to Earth by the '50s Marvel Boy. Later, he went loony and disintegrated himself in an issue of Fantastic Four. (Captain's Note: It was FF 164-165, 1975) The Q Bands went to S.H.I.E.L.D. for study, where Wendell Vaughn was an agent. He put them on, and the Bands won't come off until the wearer dies. So he joined S.H.I.E.L.D.'s superhero program and became the badly named Marvel Man and later Quasar. Even though Quasar has been killed once and Ultimately Nullified himself, he still has the Quantum Bands. I guess you could call him lucky.
The Quantum Bands can absorb and transmit energy, create Green Lantern-esque light objects and teleport through an extradimensional space. Quasar has been in the background for a while, but for the five or so other fans who care, he will be in the upcoming Avengers Infinity miniseries.
Thanks, [name withheld]! That should clear up the Nega Band/Quantum Band discussion -- except for how Genis got hold of his pop's bands. I suppose he inherited them, like a favorite tie or something.

Speaking of “nega”, just add “tive” to that and you get a word that perfectly describes the influence of Mr. Smith’s newspaper columns!

Dear Cap: Found this, thought of you.
http://www.uky.edu/Projects/Chemcomics/
And I'm glad you did! I found that site a few years ago and was delighted -- and then promptly lost the URL. This site -- and I am not making this up -- is the "Periodic Table of Comic Books," noting every example the authors could find of a specific element being mentioned in a comic book. Unbelievable!
Thanks a million, [name withheld]! I've added it to my links site!

Since the above site had neat stuff like the Atom on it last time I’d looked, I’m not so certain he was delighted. Nope, not at all.

Dear Cap: You know I will never understand why Marvel Comics had a black man portray the character of Bucky. It was far different when Rick Jones was Bucky, not because that it was "all right" that he was a Caucasian but that he was roughly around Bucky's age. Was Marvel trying to stir up controversy? If they were it was very insensitive and insulting. Sigh, I guess we will never know the reason that prompted such thinking.
It does seem an astonishing lack of sensitivity. Of course, this was in the '80s, when Falcon was a sidekick, and most other African-American heroes were depicted in the stereotypical "angry young black man" mode. Boy, did THAT get old!

So did Mr. Smith’s sugarcoated approval of various crossovers with repellent themes the instant they came out!

1) <<Superheroines of the Silver Age>>

As Henry P. McCoy would say: "Oh, my stars and garters!" That site is just incredible. My only quibble was, well, who really wants to see a photo of Granny Goodness?!?
2) <<Once upon a time WW's writers mixed Roman and Greek terminology promiscuously, but she's been all Greek (except, oddly, for her OWN name) since the Perez revamp.>>
Ah, but since Crisis, it has been revealed that the Greek and Roman pantheons were separate, NOT the different names for the same people. Yes, Diana is connected with the Greek pantheon, but the others are around somewhere too (see War of the Gods).
3) <<2099 anything>>

Really? You didn't like Spider-Man 2099?
4) <<Any line of dialogue where somebody addresses somebody as old friend.>>
Gee, old friend, I'm sorry you feel that way. (snicker)
5) <<First, in Daredevil 11, Matt Murdock entertains thoughts about how great it is that Echo doesn't smoke.>>

That makes a lot of sense in context. I, with normal senses, don't like the odor of smokers. With his heightened senses, a smoker must be murder on Matt Murdock's nose.
6) <<GATECRASHER #4 (Of 4): Is anybody really a big, big fan of this series? Does anybody admit to buying all four? (Well, besides me, but I'm a weirdo.) Why for, then, is it going to be an ongoing series?>>

I'm picking up No. 4. (I'm a weirdo, too.) On the other hand, I have no intention of buying the regular series.
7) <<Jim Aparo is dead.>>

I just didn't need to know that. The way he drew Batman & company was my second favorite styling (after Neal Adams).
8) <<(Venus has) had a couple of modern appearances, including (but not limited to) Marvel Spotlight 2 and Weird Wonder Tales 9.>>

Venus also appeared a couple of years ago in the Marvel Valentine Special. She also appeared with the Avengers of the 1950s in the story from What If ...? Vol. 1 and (I think) Avengers Forever.
9) <<That was pretty much it for Andy for quite a while.>>

That's pretty much it for Andy now, too. He died an almost identical death in Final Night.

1) Ummm. Grandpa Goodness? Just a guess.
2) Yeah, and the Eternals were yet a third race aping the same archetypes.
3) I did like Spidey 2099 at first. It went downhill slowly, and then crashed and burned with the panic-driven revamp at the end.
4) Just try saying "old friend" out loud in a conversation. You sound like a dork!
5) I think the writer established that he took Echo's non-smoking in stride. It was just when he started noticing a pattern that his paranoia radar went off.
6) But, gee whiz, Gareb Shamus (is that a real name?) says Gatecrasher is a big success! Boy, I'd really like a look at those sales figures! Maybe Ma Shamus bought a lot of copies ...
7) See my mea culpa, above.
8) And I want to say Venus appeared briefly in the final Marvel Universe storyline, and in a story somewhere with Hercules. But I'm not sure, and I'm too tired to look it up. Anyway, she shows up from time to time.
9) Actually, Ferro Lad survived Final Night -- Hal Jordan saved him at the very last minute.

1]Who cares?
2]I don’t see the point here.
3]Sooner or later, that’ll be the case with Ultimate Spider-Man.
4]Just try saying “love it or loathe it, [guess what] was truly an event” out loud in a conversation. You sound like you need a psychologist!
5]Look who’s talking about patterns but hasn’t noticed any of the worst!
6]Spoken by somebody who doesn’t acknowledge the laughable sales results in his columns, no less.
7]After we’ve seen his mea culpa for Identity Crisis and other such filth.
8]He’s too tired to tell the difference between fantasy and reality to boot.
9]But nobody argued why Hal’s reputation and dignity should be too.

Dear Cap: I have a question for you in regards to the first Incredible Hulk title in the early 1960s. I know it was canceled at issue number six but I thought I had read somewhere that it had nothing to do with it being a failure. If I remember the story rightly DC actually controlled all the distribution of comic books at the time and that they only allowed Marvel a certain number of titles allowing a mix of existing titles (Tales to Astonish, Journey into Mystery, etc.) and new titles. When the Hulk was published they had reached their limit of "new" titles. So when Stan and Jack came up with The Avengers they had to decide which existing title to get rid of and Incredible Hulk drew the short straw. So they put him in the Avengers and moved him over to Tales To Astonish. The story went on to mention that is how the Marvel split books developed at that time. They couldn't launch a brand new title like Iron Man or Captain America or Incredible Hulk because DC wouldn't let them distribute it. Therefore, they took their existing sci-fi/monster books and slowly developed them into superhero split books. Eventually Marvel's popularity grew and they could negotiate their own distribution contract. Didn't they even form their own distribution company? It might be hearsay, a rumor or even fiction. I was just curious to see if you might have heard this story as well or if you have any information about it.
It's not a rumor, it's mostly true. A struggling Marvel Comics (back when it was Timely) cut a deal with DC in 1958 to have the larger company distribute their books -- but were limited to eight books a month. But by 1968 they were selling 50 million copies a year and had the clout to re-negotiate the contract -- which explains why Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish and Strange Tales abruptly split into Captain America, Dr. Strange, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, SHIELD and Sub-Mariner. (They didn't form their own distribution company, though -- they waited until the '90s to try that, with disastrous results.)
However, I have no hard evidence that the Hulk was canceled in favor of Avengers -- although it makes sense -- but I do know that sales on Hulk were not strong.

And neither is his fluff-drenched commentary.

Dear Cap:
<<I know that the Black Panther was MARVEL'S first black superhero (I believe so anyway) but who was DC's Jackie Robinson and what year was the
debut?>>
I believe that Jackie Johnson (not Jackie Robinson, who was a baseball player on Earth-Reality) was the black member of Easy Company, and so would not be considered a superhero unless one uses a very liberal definition of the genre. (DC made the mistake of having a black member of Easy Co. even though the army was not integrated during World War II. Marvel did the same with the Howling Commandoes, but at least explained that General Sam "Happy Sam" Sawyer probably was able to arrange things so that Gabriel Jones could be a member.)
A good story with Jackie Johnson, who had been a boxer in civilian life, had him face a German soldier, also a former boxer, that he had fought in the ring before the war. The German soldier decides to take the opportunity to box Jackie again, thinking to prove the superiority of Germanic whites over blacks. (This story was no doubt inspired to a degree by the true story of Joe Louis fighting the Jack Schmelling.) An interesting story; as someone has pointed out, it shows how far ahead and innovative the DC war comics were for their time when one considers that this story was published in the same month as the first appearance of Ultra the Multi-Alien! The story was reprinted in America at War: The Best of the DC War Comics, edited by Michael Uslan, an early trade paperback (from the late 1970s!) that also includes an Unknown Soldier story. I was able to get a copy of it from the library!
The story where Captain America saluted the Punisher was the last book of Captain America/The Punisher: Blood and Glory. I found all three issues of the series in the Boston Public Library! (Klaus Janson was the artist.)
Hulk:
<<He also had a B&W magazine (Rampaging Hulk, later just Hulk) debuting in 1977 that ran for 27 issues and purported to tell his early years in more detail -- before being retconned later as having been a sort of alien TV show.>>
In that magazine was published the horrible story of when Bruce Banner went to the YMCA and was attacked by a couple of lisping homosexuals. Just count how many stereotypes there are in that one sentence (including the name Bruce!).
I remember Jim Shooter being very proud of that story, and giving numerous interviews to the mainstream press touting Marvel's "new realism." I also remember the story being, as you describe, a collection of nasty gay stereotypes that I found offensive -- even as a young heterosexual who'd given little thought to the subject.
Thanks for the other info!

Ah, what have we here but some left-liberalism coming into play! It wouldn’t be the only one of its kind Mr. Smith wrote. While it’s not like Hollywood and such have ever portrayed LGBT as total saints (the last time I looked anyway), there have been quite a few moonbats out there who’d like it to be that way. What is Mr. Smith saying? That gays and lesbians cannot commit crimes in any way, shape or form? Tell us about it. I don’t think all LGBT are inherently bad, but they’re still as human as everyone else and capable of making mistakes. And I’m not saying Shooter didn’t blow it, but here’s a subject to consider: Harvey Milk. He exploited a number of men/boys and the worst part is that he was never arrested for it. Oh, and what about the co-founder of Atlanta’s Dragoncon convention, Edward Kramer? An apparent homosexual and would-be social worker who made an undeserved fortune while tricking young underaged boys into spending time with him at the convention programs, the worst thing about him is that he abused the legal system with the money he made to delay his trial for 13 years, all the while pretending he was too sick to stand trial. It was only in 2011, after eroding the terms of his release that he was discovered absconding to spend time at a filming set in Connecticut where he was discovered keeping a 14-year-old in his care, and had none of the equipment he used for his disguise back in Georgia. Why, in fact, what about Haredi moonbats who commit sex crimes? Yes, here too in Israel and in other parts of the world where there’s Haredi communities, there have been sex abuse scandals to rival those of the Catholic Church. And Smith acts as though gays can do no wrong?

Suppose Shooter’s intentions were to show that LGBT can also commit offensive crimes, something all but overlooked? I remember that early in The Streets of SanFrancisco, Lt. Mike Stone asked a father in the episode “Whose little boy are you?” whether his son had been molested (what actually happened there was that the biological father broke into the house to see – and possibly abduct – his son). A painful question, no doubt, but as he made clear, these kind of things happen, and the earliest example of its kind was when one of biblical Noah’s own sons tried to molest him in remote times. Shame on Mr. Smith for suggesting that Noah’s own misfortune was trivial. As far as I know, Marvel may have featured allusions to heterosexual rapists at the time (does Tomb of Dracula count?), and if so, why does he have an issue? Why can’t he just say it’s something audiences of the time weren’t ready for?

Still, since he’d brought up the subject, I’m curious to know if he’d take offense at Muslims espousing homophobia, along with other stereotypes. I’ve got a feeling he wouldn’t take any at all, leading me to wonder if he really believes what he says.

If Smith thought he was doing gays and lesbians a favor by pushing them for sainthood back when, he only did them a lot of bad. This brings to mind Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, which told the account of a gay man who tried robbing a bank so he could get his trans-buddy a sex change operation. The problem with that movie is that it took an oddly Stockholm Syndrome approach, and this was just 2 years after the actual case in Sweden. Nevertheless, the whole issue does prove that homosexuals are capable of committing crimes, and it’s foolish to claim otherwise. I suppose Mr. Smith also despises Leviticus for arguing against homosexual practice in his time? Such is the deleterious world of leftism, alas.

Ahoy Cap'n! I check out your site as regular as Maalox every Thursday, so I was pretty surprised to read your mailbag and see a mention of my site. You nailed it on how the images are created, but while I would agree that some of the other manip sites DO contain a degree of adult-oriented material, I've gone to great pains to make my site no more "adult" than PG-13. You see more skin (or at least flesh-colored ink) in an issue of Witchblade or Fathom.
Keep up the good work!
Not to mention network television. Have you seen the soaps lately? Sheesh!
Anyway, I just make it policy to always toss in a"warning" label on any off-site link, just to cover my own flesh-colored ink. Your site seemed rather tame skin-wise (and a lot of fun), but I didn't look at every single page, and it would only take one nipple here or there to stir up the Bluenose Mothers of America. Perhaps I was being overly cautious, but always better safe than sorry.
Anyway, I now have your assurance that we're talking PG-13 here, so I'll gladly post your response so that folks reading my site get a more accurate impression. I've also added Digital Harbour to my links page.

Again, look who’s talking. The same lefty reporter who never offered a warning about the exact content of Identity Crisis, never mentioned its male-only viewpoint, and never complained that there was no age-rating on the cover. The site he speaks of may be talking PG-13, but Identity Crisis was talking R.

Dear Cap: Speaking of things you'd like to think never happened. There is an early issue of Deathlok (I think it's No. 4 of the crappy early '90s series) where Wolverine, the Fantastic Four, and I'm pretty sure She-Hulk let Bushwacker go. Bushwacker, a guy who was once hired to murder mutants in Daredevil! Wolverine hunts him in that comic, but in Deathlok the assembled superheroes of the Earth, including Wolvie just let him walk away. The story was that he'd been captured by a Doombot because he was a cyborg, but even after an unjust imprisonment I'm sure he's wanted for murder and very dangerous.
In my opinion any Spider-Man-Punisher team-up should end with Spidey and the Punisher working together to solve the problem, then Spidey sucker punching the Punisher and taking him in. Maybe he would feel a little pity or regret but there's no way Parker would let him run around.
In fact, after one of the big fights with Carnage, Spidey did just that to Venom, betraying him with the help of Reed Richards and sending him off to the Vault. (I think it was in a train station, I remember Venom kills people to get to Carnage).
The Punisher and that type of comic is OK, just don't expect me to buy that straight arrows like Cap and Spidey think they are hunky dory.
P.S. Most of those Doombot tales never happened for me either. That gag got old fast, and the hopefully the latest one in Spider-Man has went to the dusty old well for the last time.
I agree completely. I haven't any problem reading a story about a person who does bad things -- I'm loving Garth Ennis's Punisher, for example -- I just get annoyed when characters with established personalities act out of character just to convenience the writer. Such as the case you mention above.

The correspondent was a leftist reporter, one with a potentially anti-war bent, so it’s a bit funny he’d say the Punisher is okay. Mainly because he once signaled anti-Israelism, the Jewishness of Marvel’s founders notwithstanding (I wonder what he’d say if he knew Walt Disney supported the Irgun and was nowhere near as prejudiced as hitherto thought?). As for Smith, figures he’d think Ennis’s take is great. And if he was fine with Identity Crisis, then I don’t see his point complaining about established casts acting out-of-character just to convenience the writers.

Cap: Stan Lee at DC? Hades has frozen over.
Which means more ice cream for everybody!

Except Mr. Smith, who doesn’t deserve any. I don’t think the Just Imagine Stan Lee creating project made much of an impression on anybody in the end, which is a pity, but then, it’s not like Lee’s been big stuff as a writer since the end of the 80s. With that, we turn to May 11, 2000:

Hey Cap'n: Since you were wondering if my wife read the Vixen's column, I must admit she did not until I pointed it out to her, and only the comments on male spending habits in comics shops. I only know two women who read comics regularly (and voraciously). One is Jennifer Ford, the creative force behind the "Birds of Prey" web site (which your readers can conveniently find on your links page), and the other is a lady working in the comics shop I patronize. I can't blame her for getting a job at the shop; she claims to take 55 titles a month, and the job was the only way she could think of to keep her HUSBAND from complaining! Holy turnabout! But the Captain is right; these ladies are the exception, rather than the rule. As for my wife, she thinks comics are a waste of money (if not time).
As for my kids, they are a little different. When I go into a comics shop, they tag along and check out the stuff that catches their eye. My oldest daughter reads Sailor Moon and the Powerpuff Girls, as well as collecting their related merchandise. My son used to read X-Men, Wolverine and Spider-Man, but now he's dropped them completely in favor of Pokemon and Star Wars (novels and comics). My youngest daughter reads her sister's comics, as well as taking an interest in her brother's Pokemon. None of them has any interest in the mainstream DC Universe comics I buy each month, which is interesting considering all of them will watch the Batman-Superman Adventures with me on the WB! They all like to read the DC Cartoon Network comics. I suppose these are today's version of the funny-animal comics we read as kids. I wonder if DC sells a lot of those TV comics; or do they keep publishing them in the hopes the youngsters will graduate to more sophisticated reading as they get older?
A couple months ago, you said although the Captain has no interest in Pokemon, they were a good thing since they were bringing young folks into the comics shops. That's true ...but here is a recent conversation I overheard at a comics shop just after a young gentleman (I'd estimate he was 13) and his mother walked in the door:
Teen: How much is that Japanese Pokemon card? (pointing to one inside the glass case)
Mom: It's his birthday, and he's got a little money.
Owner: Let me ask you something. WHY do you want it? Can you read Japanese?
Teen: (No response ... blank stare).
Owner: Is it because your friends are buying them? (He briefly explained what lemmings are.) You should do things because YOU want them, not because your friends say it's cool. (The owner spread his hands wide and pointed to his shop, filled with comics and role-playing games.) There's a whole world of other stuff out there, just waiting to be discovered ...
Interestingly, the youngster's mother smiled all the while as the teen pondered the owner's words. Obviously, he'd never dreamed the owner wouldn't just gleefully take his money and hand over the expensive card. The young man eventually split his purchase over several items in the shop, but he didn't buy the Japanese card. My guess is the young gentleman never even thought about any of the other items in the store until the owner piqued his interest.
A few minutes later, I told the owner it was a valiant effort on his part, but I wondered if he was fighting a losing battle. He acknowledged he was, indeed, losing the fight in the long run. He related the tale of his nephew, whom he loaned a few dozen Superman comics, in hopes of getting him interested in reading. About 10 days later, the nephew returned them, and said he enjoyed them. The owner asked if he'd like to read more. No thanks was the reply. The owner said he just threw up his hands in exasperation. We discussed why young people don't read comics as we did at their age, and we speculated on a few reasons. Video games take most of their time and money, comics aren't easily available in stores, Pokemon is the cool thing, etc.
But the owner said the biggest problem facing the comics industry today is the short attention span of the younger generation. It takes 20 minutes to read a comic, he said, and that's more time than most young people are willing to invest in something other than video games in this sound-bite age. I think he's right, but when you consider most mainstream comics do not complete the story in one issue, following a storyline from month to month is more time and effort than these kids are willing to spend. That's undoubtedly the reason my own kids will read Cartoon Network comics, but won't read my other DC comics.
We fanboys demand characterization and longer storylines to keep our interest. Isn't is ironic and funny that this may be what is keeping new and younger readers from picking up our hobby ... ?
Clearly, the Captain was right. Pokemon is getting the youngsters into the stores. But it's apparent it isn't getting them interested in other comics-related items. My next question is what happens when the Pokemon craze dies out, as it inevitably will (think of the Power Rangers and the Spice Girls). What's going to bring the next generation into the shops then?
On the other hand, I can't help thinking of when I was a youngster. I had no interest in comics then -- until Batman came on the air in 1966. I cringe watching reruns of those shows today, but at the time I thought they were the greatest thing I'd ever seen. I've enjoyed other shows, of course, but I can't ever remember being that excited over ANYTHING since. I couldn't wait to get to the stores to see the latest thing they merchandised from the show. And that's how I started reading Batman, Superman and other DC comics, which I still read. My point here is Batman was on his last legs before that TV show made him the hottest thing around; who's to say something similar won't happen again? This new X-Men movie may be just the thing ... hope springs eternal.
I don't believe comics will ever completely go away. The number of titles may dwindle to a few dozen of the best-sellers, but there'll always be fanboys (and a few fangirls, too). Besides, Time-Warner is making a FORTUNE on merchandising at the Warner Bros. stores on those figures, plates and framed artwork. Think of how many comics they have to sell just to get the same margin as a single piece of signed art. The folks at Marvel finally got the idea, and even they are now selling artwork (for a fee) through their competitor's stores! What's the Captain got to say about all this?
Whew! You raise a lot issues, [name withheld]! I'll try to be brief in response, though:
I'm not worried about Pokemon dying out, as it inevitably will. By the nature of fads (and people) there will be another Pokemon right behind it. Comics retailers should be prepared to cater to the Next Big Thing -- they, like everybody else, were caught flatfooted by Pokemon's popularity -- but they can't depend on it.
As I've mentioned before, what the comics industry needs to do is re-establish themselves in kids' daily lives -- grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors' offices, anywhere they're likely to be dragged to by Mom with lots of time on their hands. Comics shops by definition are destination stores -- so the kids have to be "hooked" elsewhere, where comics are available as impulse purchases. Once hooked, the kids will be coming into the comics shops for general purposes instead of just following a short-lived fad.
Others have argued convincingly on my site that older fans are crippling the industry by insisting on "adult" stories and continuities in Superman, Batman and Spider-Man titles, which should remain entry-level "kids" comics. I disagree. The industry is crippled already by the loss of the newsstand sales, and simplifying superhero stories will simply drive away the remaining fanboy market. There's room for stories of every style and description in a healthy industry, from Powerpuff Girls to Watchmen. The trick is to make comics mainstream again, instead of niche industry.
Kids still DO like comics, at least those who are exposed to them. Captain Underpants just hit the FIVE MILLION sales mark -- and it is solely distributed by Scholastic Magazines. That's all the proof I need that comics are still viable.

I’m skeptical he has a beef about the loss of newsstand sales (and Marvel recently withdrew from some bookstores again), and while I’m not saying the threesome he cites have to be G-rated, I do think they should be family-friendly with some kind of parental guidance made possible. If anything, if they’re going to feature serious issues, then they have to be honest about them and not trivialize them like Identity Crisis did. What if one day, some major publisher decideds to write a story involving child molestation, and just like Identity Crisis, that too ends up featured as only a plot device? Is the liberal loony left going to stand for that? It’s chilling to think of the potential they could. Now, here’s the 2nd letter I wrote to the site:

Dear Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith: Thanks for your information about the Incredible Hulk's publication history. I just thought of one more thing I'd like to suggest that you write about: A column in memory of Don Martin, one of Mad magazine's maddest and funniest humorists, who passed away in January of this year. For 31 years, he had drawn some of the most hilarious cartoons in MAD. As the wife of the late, great Bill Gaines, Annie, had said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun, "It was such laugh-out-loud stuff."
I too was one many people who enjoyed reading his cartoons. From men whose smiles came as the result of coat-hangers in their mouths to parodies of Star Wars, his satirical drawings were among the funniest that Mad magazine has ever published, and it's a shame that in 1987 he quit because of a property dispute with Gaines (he continued to draw for their rival, Cracked, though).
If I remember correctly, you did publish a column in memory of Gil Kane, one of DC Comics' best artists, who worked on Green Lantern during the 1960s. And you certainly did publish one about Charles Schulz, the cartoonist of Peanuts in February. But I can't remember if you published anything about Don Martin. It would be a good idea to do so, since there are a lot of people who enjoyed his work, and if there's any Mad humorist who'll be remembered most, it's Don Martin. Please try therefore to devote a column to his memory. Thank you.
Given that the master of the silly sound effect died back in February, I've missed my "time peg," as editors call it. Unfortunately, I didn't write a Don Martin column the month he died either because, even more unfortunately, it was the same month that Charles Schulz and Gil Kane and I just didn't have the room! However, I'll be sure to include him in the year-end column, or any other place I have an excuse to mention him. And I'll be sure to post your letter, so that there will be yet another mention on the web site. Thanks for the heartfelt letter -- I was a big fan, too!

Given what an awful propagandist he was, that’s why I’ve long concluded it wouldn’t be worth it for him to write about Martin’s passing. Nor was his coverage proper of Schultz and Kane’s passings worth it. I’ve said it before and will say it again: after he fawned over IC, that I would waste my time on this embarrassment of a leftist is regrettable.

A few Bat-related comments/questions this week:

1) Of course the Batcave has its own generator. Didn't you see the very first episode of the '60s TV series? Molly, the Riddler's sidekick (played by Jill St. John), fell into it and died. She's the only villain to die in the entire series. (THERE'S trivia for you!)

2) Jim Aparo died? When? Wasn't he still drawing Batman like a year or two ago? The guy has probably pencilled more Batman stories than anyone ever and no one tells me when he passes away? Sure, he wasn't always very good, but many times he was. And he also drew a kick-butt Aquaman.

3) The topic of drug references -- I've always felt that the Bat-titles usually did a good job of denigrating drug use without sounding too obnoxious or fake. Jim Gordon's tobacco-related heart attack was very well done, and the Venom storyline in Legends of the Dark Knight (in which Batman got hooked on steroids), while flawed, was genuinely disturbing and dealt with the subject in a mature manner.

On the other hand, I recall a storyline in Shadow of the Bat (I think) a few years ago, featuring Poison Ivy, that really demonized marijuana and seemed a little too government-sponsored, knee-jerk, "pot is destroying society" preachy. Granted, as a strong supporter of legalizing the substance, I'm biased here, but I really think that marijuana is an minuscule threat compared to, say, alcohol (which is legal, celebrated and encouraged.) I don't ask that we see Batman toke up on a rooftop -- I'm not an idiot, I know it's not good for you -- I just ask that if the character is going to address a real-world problem, he address something that really is a problem. And I also ask that the government stay the heck out of our funnybooks.

4) A very random question: As you may or may not have noticed, in that  ever-present photo of Elian Gonzalez with his dad immediately after they  were reunited, the kid is wearing a Batman T-shirt (you can clearly see the logo on the cover of Time magazine.) So here's my question: DC has the copyright to that logo, and there it is all over major national publications. Do they get any money? (Obviously not from Time, because they're the same company, but what about the New York Times?)

1) Yeah, that's a great piece of trivia! But -- Jill St. John? Argh! If you have to kill somebody, why Jill St. John? I had such a crush on her after Diamonds Are Forever ...!
2) As you probably have seen on my site last week, Jim Aparo is hale and hearty, and I am an idiot. I was thinking of Don Newton, apparently.
3) The comic-book industry just received some kind of award recently for how it handled Warbird's alcohol dependency and some other drug story. At first that seemed like good news, but with the recent scandals involving clandestine government funding of anti-drug slants in the entertainment industry, my paranoia radar is up and running. Just like you, I don't encourage drug or alcohol use (whatever my personal habits), but on general principle I want the government to stay the heck away from my funnybooks. Ping, ping, ping ...
4) DC won't receive any money from that Batman shirt. It's just what the kid happened to be wearing during a news event. That's covered by U.S. tort law, so the usual copyright/trademark infringement issues are obviated.

Here’s where the correspondent screws up. I guess he’s the kind of leftist who thinks cannabis – the actual scientific name for the crappy drug weed – is perfectly fine in every way? Let’s be clear: I will not stand for this. My very own parents once had the misfortune of going to a party in 1973 where some cannabis cigarette was being passed around, and luckily, they resisted and nobody lambasted them for it. But hey, they could have been victimized by that excrement and in any event, drugs are not something anybody with brains should have to be reliant on, that’s for sure. They sure don’t offer any protein like various foods do.

And the part where they attack the government over something otherwise meant to be altruistic is ludicrous too. I’ll bet these are the same people who wouldn’t give a rat’s butt about the Obama administration’s raising taxes on conservative movements like the Tea Party, and come to think of it, they wouldn’t have a care in the world about uncontrolled illegal immigration in the USA, with interlopers slipping across the porous borders from Central/South America. Yet they see fit to attack NYPD surveillance of Islamists to check if there’s any danger being plotted in those vicinities, as the Associated Press did.

All that aside, does Mr. Smith really buy into the notion the government literally has a hand in every statement calling for people to try and protect themselves against bad influences? All that’s doing is suggesting nobody in comics is an altruist. It’s ludicrous. It’s like saying Louise Simonson wasn’t being sincere when she wrote at least one story alluding to issues like child abuse in Power Pack during its 1984-91 run. What a fool Smith is.

Dear Captain: The question of whether or not there are more than enough books cast in the superhero/fantasy (genre) pops up constantly and I just want to say that there should never be a limit with regards to the number of titles that come out under this popular genre. Sure it can be argued that "you may have seen it all before" but everyone has a story to tell and should be given that golden chance to tell it. Also, there are contributors who bring truly original concepts to the world of superheroics. Whether or not it would be well-written and/or well-received is entirely a different matter. One can not make an opinion whether or not the title is enjoyable unless it appears in print. I look forward to sampling new titles such as (Brian Michael) Bendis's Powers and Fanboy Comics' Sidekicks.
Could you just imagine if a quota were actually in place and we could not sample comics like Planetary, Flex Mentallo, Major Bummer, Captain Dingleberry, Love In Tights, The Tick and Starman, to name a few? Go forth and multiply, I say.
I hear that too-many-superheroes argument all the time also, [...], and I find it specious beyond belief. The reason that there are so many superhero titles is because they SELL. If Peter Bagge's HATE sold 275,000 copies a month, then you'd see dozens of similar comics instantly. Faulting superhero comics for being popular is actually faulting US for buying them -- and I take that personally!

While nobody should be faulted for buying superhero comics, they most certainly should be for buying without consideration of story quality, and only for the speculator market. Not that he’s ever seriously argued the point, though.

Hey Cap,
The big item on the front cover of the new Previews is the 100th issue of Spam -- I mean Spawn. There will be a death in the issue and they tell is it will be one of five women. Gee, more violence against women in comics -- that's what we need! Anyway, it will be Wanda (Spawn's ex-wife), Cyan (Wanda's daughter), Granny Blake (his, well, granny), Angela (an enemy angel) or Tiffany (another enemy angel).
As sick as it sounds --and is -- the only way this issue could surprise me is by having Cyan die. Having Cyan be the victim wouldn't automatically make it a good story, just a less predictable one. I find it very, very hard to believe that they'll kill an innocent little girl. Granny Blake was ancient when I stopped reading Spawn (in the early 20s) so her death is sorta inevitable. Angela and Tiffany are A) enemies and B) angels; if they even can die you can be sure that they'll be back.
Frankly, I have the same feeling about Wanda. So what if she dies? She'll be back. This series is about someone who returned from the dead! Are we really supposed to take the death of any character in this book as a permament situation?
Again, having Cyan be the victim wouldn't automatically make it a good story, just a less predictable one. I find it very, very hard to believe that they'll kill an innocent little girl.
Your analysis sounds pretty much on the money to me, from a story standpoint. But Spawn's never been blessed with good stories. In fact, the whole premise is self-limiting and -- apologies in advance to Spawn fans -- just plain stupid. You've got a lead character who's A) dead and B) damned, so why worry about him? Not much worse can happen. Secondly, he can't show his face -- so throw any romantic subplots out the window. Thirdly, every time he uses his power, it gets used up -- so writers must avoid having him use his powers. Finally, he's not a very NICE lead character -- in fact, he really deserves all the bad things that have happened to him. So you've got a comic book with A) no drama, B) no romance, C) no spectacle and D) no empathy. And as you say, the premise is that death and damnation are mutable concepts, so you needn't really worry about the supporting characters either. On paper, it's a loser.
But it's been in the Top 10 for the last eight years, so what do I know?

Answer: Nothing at all. He’s the same scoundrel who embraced Identity Crisis, and come to think of it, so too did the correspondent. I don’t put any value on either of these arguments, because they’re just a load of manure.

Dear Cap: The Legion of Superheroes aren't actually being revamped, they're being evolved, I guess you can say. By now you know about the Legion Lost miniseries and it's been said that some of the stranded Legionnaires will forget what it means to be a Legionnaire. That probably means that they will do things that are questionable. My money is on Ultra Boy and Umbra to be the ones.
They do seem the least socialized, don't they? That Umbra is a REAL unpleasant person!

And that “captain” is a very dishonest one! Also an illogical one, because this is the umpteenth example of his failure to acknowledge fictional characters are just that, and it’s not even their fault for being cyphers. We turn next to May 18, 2000:

Dear Cap'n: I lost a good friend yesterday (May 10). He was a distinguished-looking, 85-years-young gentleman. I never met the man, but I've known his work almost all my life. It was this man who started me (as a child) down the road to comics happiness all those years ago.
His name is Dick Sprang. And the ironic thing of it is I never knew him until years later (as an adult).
Although I'm an aging Baby Boomer, Sprang's work as the regular Batman artist was completed by the time I began to read comics in the mid-1960s. Before the Batman TV series, I remember reading Superman and the Legion, but no Batman (except in an occasional issue of the Justice League). After the show hit, I began reading as much Batman as I could find. The regular monthly comics were OK, but it was the wonderful 80-Page Giants that got my attention (and all for a quarter!).
The Batman 80-Page Giants were filled with reprints of Golden Age stories, introducing me to a Gotham City beyond my imagination. And on the splash page of these stories, I found only one name -- Bob Kane. Naturally, I thought Kane wrote and drew these stories, especially since my father told me he had created Batman years before.
I didn't find out until 20 years later that those stories had been written by Bill Finger, and illustrated by Dick Sprang. Their world was filled with exciting, over-the-top yarns filled with (literally) larger than life objects. Almost everything in these tales were giant-sized: children's toys, chess pieces, musical instruments, statues, etc. Only the people seemed normal. Gotham City must have been pretty big to house all these items.
Sprang had been replaced as the regular Batman artist by Sheldon Moldoff by the time I began reading, but my greatest comics thrills as a youngster were from Sprang's stories in those 80-Page Giants.
Dick Sprang's take on Batman is the definitive one from the Golden Age (more so than even Bob Kane's). As proof, I offer a recent episode of Batman's animated TV show (titled "Legends of the Dark Knight"). It has a segment fondly recalling Sprang's work on Batman (as well as Frank Miller's Dark Knight). While watching this episode with my children, they exclaimed that this couldn't POSSIBLY be Batman! But I calmly pointed out they were watching the Batman from the comics 50 years before, and I proved it by breaking out my copy of Stacked Deck: The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told. I proudly showed off Dick Sprang's artwork. They had a good laugh, but I didn't care. I just re-read the stories and enjoyed them once more.
A few weeks ago, you related how Bob Kane managed to avoid the same problems Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had with DC. You also mentioned how Kane employed a stable of writers and artists who worked for him and not directly for DC. This explained why Finger's and Sprang's names were never on the stories they produced. I recently picked up a copy of Bob Kane's autobiography, Batman and Me. Kane wrote that Bill Finger, Dick Sprang, Jerry Robinson and others never asked for a byline, and the thought never occurred to him to give one. Kane said he regretted that years later. This practice appears to have been widespread; it wasn't until the Marvel influence of the 1960s that listing credits became the norm.
At any rate, I know I will miss Dick Sprang. It was he who got the attention of a young lad a long time ago, with work he had done many years before that. I only wish he had received more credit for his contributions.
The last work from Dick Sprang (that I know of) came on the covers for a couple of issues of Detective in the late 1980s. Did he have any work later than that? And what other work did Dick Sprang do besides on Batman? Is there a Dick Sprang web site out there?
Thanks for listening, Captain. Now I know how you felt when Gil Kane died a few months ago. I'm going to break out my copies of the Golden Age Batman stories and remember Dick Sprang tonight.
Sprang's last published work was an affectionate two-page Batman parody in Fanboy 5 (1999).

How does the correspondent know how Mr. Smith felt if 4 years later, he piles insult onto injury circa Identity Crisis? Makes me wonder if he’s really a Sprang fan too.

From several sources (Comicon.com, usenet, Another Universe)
Dick Sprang RIP
Legendary Batman artist Dick Sprang (1915-2000) passed away in his sleep early this morning, apparently after a months long illness.
Personal notes:
Sprang's recent poor health was quite well known among folks in the industry. I heard that he died in relative comfort among friends.
While not the Batman artist of my youth (Jim Aparo was, as you well know!), Sprang did influence the look of the TV show, which did influence me as much as the comics. I learned to appreciate him when his name was placed alongside his wonderful art when he had a brief renaissance in the Batmania of the late 1980s.
This is just sad ...

I seem to recall this correspondent as quite a leftist, so much that I question whether he was an Aparo fan either!

Dear Cap; On the subject of Black superheroes, what do you think about Triathlon? I agree with much of Mr. Monkey's review of Avengers 29. I hope Triath quits being a jerk soon and starts to be an Avenger. He isn't alone in his jerkitude, however. Hawkeye had his days and look how well he turned out! I've gonna give George Perez and Kurt Busiek the benefit of the doubt. They're both pros, so I know this is going somewhere.
Also, I helped a buddy of mine create the first Triathlon homepage! Check it out at: http://triadhome.tripod.com/
I also am riveted to the Triathlon saga (while being truly irritated by his jerkitude). Is he a Triune spy? A chip-on-his-shoulder type that merely requires being accepted and to learn teamwork? Or just a capital-J jerk who CAN'T work with a team? You mentioned Hawkeye, and I suspect we may be seeing something along those lines. Regardless, I'm paying close attention -- which is good comics!

It was revealed Triathlon was too cozy with the religious cult called Triune Understanding, which might have had something to do with what Smith calls his “jerkitude”. Regardless, he’s still in denial over the writer being responsible for that. That aside, Triathlon was largely dropped from the cast after Busiek left and never seen again. And Smith probably didn’t even care!

Dear Cap: So now I hear that Kirby drew the cover to Amazing Fantasy 15. I did not know it. I believe it. I don't know what to make of it.
<<Yeah, as I recall, the pre-Crisis Luthor was mad at Supes for making him lose his hair in an accident in Smallville. Good grief!>>
As (Elliott S!) Maggin writes it, this isn't too unbelievable. Luthor was a genius who had completed a previously undoable deed/experiment at a young age. He set an irrational blame on Superboy, his rages increased for a short stretch and he combined his intellect and his natural greed that all humans possess.
Dr. Doom irrationally blamed Reed for his own mistake. I just thought of something. Maybe Victor blames Reed for not being more convincing about the inaccuracy. If Reed were persistent enough, Doom would not have been in that accident and Doom knows that. Or maybe Doom just has an ego and a jealousy problem.
The Post-Crisis Luthor is/was jealous of Superman since Man of Steel 3.
What makes the depth of Doom's self-absorption and self-justification so believable to me is that I have met people who are just like him. Only the megalomaniacal people I know aren't scientific geniuses/sorcerors with their own countries. And thank God for that!

Well I guess it isn’t too unbelievable Mr. Smith fails to distinguish between fantasy, reality, and how the latter writes what appears in the former. That doesn’t make it any more logical or acceptable though. Incidentally, did Smith ever look at himself in the mirror when he wrote that (or even his reflection in the computer screen)? Because if he did…

Dear Cap: In the most recent Q&A, you said:
<<Since no superhero-based show since the '60s has been a breakout hit, they are unlikely to try another one.>>
While I'll agree that recent superhero shows, like The Flash and Lois & Clark haven't done spectacularly, it seems that there has been at least a couple of costumed heroes on the small screen that did well since the '60s. The Incredible Hulk is probably the most obvious example, lasting a number of seasons, and spawning multiple TV movies. And while it's not based on any previously published character, The Greatest American Hero also did pretty good, and as mentioned in this week's Mailbag, is looking like it's going to be made into a motion picture (Wizard says that Adam Sandler is the top contender for the lead. Let's hope not.)
<<Although Zan and Jayna have appeared -- presumably as jokes -- in Final Night and Kingdom Come. And there was one Superman story where two characters remarkably similar to Zan and Jayna made an appearance, but the concept has never been revisited.>>
Actually, the two have appeared in post-Crisis continuity, in the absolute drek series called Extreme Justice. Gleek didn't come with them, but despite slight costume modifications, it was very obviously them. Originally they spoke no English (which should be a given for any off-world characters coming to Earth for the first time, but almost never is ...). Of course, the series that they were in was truly awful, so after their first appearance, I lost track of them. I'm sure someone else can fill in the blanks beyond that.
"Form of ... a Comic Book Geek!"
"Shape of ... a shower!"
"A shower? What good is that to a Comic Book Geek?"
(I only tease those I love ...)
That Extreme Justice story I was thinking of when I said "some Superman story." I knew I'd read somewhere that they'd made an appearance. But, like you, I try to put Extreme Justice out of my head!
As to your point about superhero TV stories: It's probably semantics, but I used the word "breakout" before "hit" specifically to forestall references to Incredible Hulk, Greatest American Hero, Flash, et al. Flash was a darn good show, for example, and as you noted, Hulk and GAH ran for a respectable number of seasons. But Batman was a BREAKOUT hit, like a Hill City Blues or a Sopranos, that had the whole country talking -- and, more importantly, selling lots of merchandise and inspiring copycat shows (like Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific). Those are the kinds of shows that get the attention of the weasels in suits at TV studios, which was the point I was trying to make. Hulk, semi-successful as it was, did not inspire imitators.

Flash as a TV series was not a good show, as I concluded before. Incredible Hulk was, probably because it dealt with serious issues more than some of the DC adaptations actually did, and without worrying about whether it suited the scenario. Plus, it was a loose adaptation, as noted before. The Greatest American Hero was enjoyable, but it lost ground in ratings pretty fast and got cancelled before the last 4 episodes were even broadcast on network, so they had to air them in syndicated reruns. (Trivia note: it was the first Stephen J. Cannell series to feature his famous company logo with the typewriter scene at the end.)

All that aside, yours truly is a man weary today of all these comics adaptatations to screen, and find it sad they’ve taken precedence over the printed books. So much it’s gotten to the point where I’m certainly not up to rushing to buy tickets to the movie theater.

Dear Cap: Once again, look to Extreme Justice. Yes, the book sucked. But just before it was canceled, Zan and Jayna were introduced into mainstream DC continuity, so their appearances in The Final Night and Kingdom Come were not jokes (well, okay, probably) but reminders that they are lurking around somewhere.
Ambush Bug also cameoed in Chronos, either the last issue of that series or the penultimate issue, I can't remember for sure. But at any rate, it establishes the final fate of the character in a way I really enjoyed. Since at the end of his series of miniseries and specials Buggy got kicked out of the DC Universe, he now owns and operates "The Bar Outside of Time," where DC time-traveling, dimension-hopping characters (like Chronos) hang out.
Sorry -- your answer to the Captain Atom question reverses things. Captain Atom was supposed to be Monarch, but the news had leaked out ahead of time (though, yes, most people had guessed it), so it was switched to Hank Hall, a.k.a Hawk, in a completely impossible scenario. I had enjoyed those "Armageddon 2001" annuals until that moment. Because even now with Hypertime, I contend that Hank Hall couldn't have been Monarch because in the Hawk and Dove future adventure they were shown to be clearly in rebellion against Monarch. Phew. I've waited years to get that off my chest.
For a couple of years after that, Monarch was basically Captain Atom's biggest arch-enemy, until Zero Hour turned Monarch into Extant. But wait, there's more. Then in Extreme Justice, it turned out that all this time the hero we knew as Captain Atom was actually a quantum duplicate of the real Nathaniel Adam, who had been stuck in quantum space until discovered and rescued by Extant. To discredit his quantum duplicate, Adam became ... Monarch, since the job was open. Thankfully, the book was canceled shortly thereafter.
And then came The L.A.W., which, if I were Captain Atom, I'd rather have become Monarch in the first place.
And pre-Crisis, when DC published a Super Friends book, they did make a half-hearted attempt to tie it into regular continuity, but even as a young boy I understood this just didn't work. Wendy was Batman's niece (What's that? Impossible you say? And I say it, too), and Marvin was the son of the real Diana Prince, the one who looked just like Wonder Woman and who agreed to leave Washington so Wonder Woman could assume her identity. (Yep, it's somewhere in those early Sensation Comics.) Anyway, that Diana Prince also did really have a baby boy, so Marvin might not be so far-fetched. Stupid, maybe, but not far-fetched, hence his legitimate (?) appearance in Kingdom Come, with no sign of Wendy.
I cannot speak for Wonder Dog.
I wouldn't expect you to, [...]! It would be, um, "ruff." (Sorry. That joke was a dog. I was barking up the wrong tree. Someone should muzzle me before I pun again. Arf, arf, arf.)
The Wonder Woman story you're referring to was in Sensation Comics 1, in which Wonder Woman bumps into a sobbing woman who just happens to look exactly like her, who just happens to need to leave town immediately but can't afford it, while WW just happens to need a secret ID. Faster than you can say "Merciful Minerva!" Wondy whips out the appropriate funds from her star-spangled swimsuit -- I don't want to know where she kept it -- and a bargain was struck.
Ambush Bug had a one-panel cameo in Chronos 1,000,000 (1998) as the barkeep of the Chrono Zone bar. Thanks!
As to Captain Atom/Hank Hall being Monarch, I transposed the names when I typed in that response. You can hardly blame me, given that BOTH characters at one time or another were Monarch! But thanks for the Monarch Villain History -- since most of us would rather pretend the whole thing didn't happen., it's nice to know that somebody's keeping track of it -- !

Yet another moment where I question whether he really had any problem with the crossover first time around. I don’t think he did, though he only began his pseudo-trade a year or so after Armageddon. But if he had begun at the time, I seriously doubt you’d see much significant criticism involved. Personally, I’ve wondered if Captain Atom was ever really the designated hero to be turned villain, and if Hank Hall was intended all along to become Monarch because he technically was a conservative. And one day, my suspicions might prove correct.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the brief Chronos series sucked too, maybe worse than Extreme Justice.

Dear Cap: Terry Moore is going to do an issue of Strangers In Paradise that will be pure uperhero fantasy. Here is a synopsis of the issue:
"Not With My Cape You Don't!"
It's the annual SIP Special Summer One-Shot! The SIP gang is featured in a superhero parody entitled "Not With My Cape You Don't!", with Francine as The Wallflower, Katchoo as Razormouth and David as Captain Ahhh! Casey dreams she and her SIP friends are heroes battling Freddie, as the arch-villian Fex Femur, for world peace when he attempts to sieze semi-control of a very small town outside of a major metropolitan area (sorry, but as the slacker generation hits the villian ranks, this is about as ambitious as they seem to get)!
It is always interesting to read and experience the concepts of non-mainstream writers when it comes to the mystery men and women whose fashion senses say "I am an individualist "... and perhaps a bit of the exhibionist? All the while they strive to save the day.
Cap, perhaps it is not a mystery that superheroics will be making a "guest star " appearance in Strangers In Paradise.
The issue in question is Strangers in Paradise 33, due in June.

Man, no wonder I’d rather not have anything to do with this ridiculous book!

Dear Cap: In response to the Ambush Bug question (last week) don't forget a really nifty cameo in Elseworld's Finest, the alternate-Earth, Bat- and Super-woman prestige one-shot.
Thanks, […]!

So says a moonbat who once worked at a newspaper, IIRC. I would call this brief letter a really cruddy side note.

Dear Cap: When I see the covers of Silver Age titles and read the headlines on them, I tend to want to read the stories as the imaginations of the writers back then were interesting. Imagine, shining knights riding giant dobermans and trying to bring back "American values."
Legend has it that DC editors would come up with "Gotcha!" covers first, and then assign writers to come up with stories to explain them. Theoretically, that's why the covers were so intriguing, and why so often the stories didn't measure up. Given that so many of those Silver Age covers -- particularly at DC -- were so jaw-dropping, one wonders if going for more "truth in advertising" on the covers didn't lose something particularly cool about comics?

I once thought that when Marvel suddenly stopped using captions like those at the time J. Michael Stracynski wrote Spider-Man. But that was the least of the problems. What was lost was good writing, something even JMS lacked.

Dear Capn: Okay, first the big one. I don't agree with your view that superhero comics aren't something of an enemy to the industry and medium in general. I do think that to a real extent, they are. You point out that it's just the case that superhero comics simply sell, while alternatives to superhero stuff don't. Of course this is true. But I honestly do think that the success of, the domination of the industry by, superhero comics is part of why alternatives succeed so very little. I LOVE superhero comics, but I do believe that they have largely informed the general public's impression of what comics are. And this impression is one that I don't think ... impresses too many people outside of outright fandom. It gives too many people, I feel, the picture -- accurate or not -- that comic books are juvenalia itself. This view will help keep people away from ANY kind of comic book.
This is all theorizing, of course, but I do think it has some merit to it: Imagine a world in which superhero comics didn't define the medium for the "average" folk. Where that impression simply wasn't in place. If people turned to comics at all, which to a certain extent I think they would -- we are a consumer society, you betchum -- they would be more geared to finding out what comics actually ARE, as opposed to the narrowly-defined genre they THINK comcs are. Thus, if there was a good range of types of comics out there, they would find all different books to choose from, and I think these books would probably sell quite better than they do now. Because people wouldn't have a preconceived notion of the medium keeping them away in the first place.
Next: Someone was wondering what was up with Grell. Well, in the latest issue of Comic Book Artist, he is interviewed and reports that he has written a Sable novel (I think it's already out; can't remember) and that he is planning on returning to writing (and I believe drawing) Jon Sable Freelance as a comic book. I believe he said it would be an ongoing series, and he definitely is determined to do it, but I don't think he said how close he is to actually getting any of it published yet. People may want to pick up CBA 8 to see if Grell talks more about what he's doing lately -- I haven't read the whole interview yet.
And, from that "indie" list from which you said you wouldn't be buying anthing, I buy only Eddie Campbell's Bacchus. Some don't care for Campbell's art style, but if you dig it like me, I'd recommend this book. And even if you're not into the story of the drunken god, well, right now he's barely an element of the book! It has very much evolved lately into a Campbell anthology, featuring all different kinds of strips and features -- and even the work of this one other artist -- every month. Plus, this issue you get to see Eddie Campbell's wee-wee. Sort of. And Campbell's one heckuva hunk, in real life at least, so this is not an unattractive prospect.

Um, I'll take your word for it, [withheld]!
Anyway, I'm one of those guys who doesn't care much for Campbell's art. I'm open to and accepting of different art styles, but Campbell frustrated me when I first read Bacchus years ago because I often couldn't tell what's going on, or who was speaking. Perhaps it's a factor of my aging eyes, but for whatever reason it made for slow, painstaking going and I dropped the title. Still, based on your recommendation, I'll make another stab at it.
As to superheroes dooming the industry: You make a good argument, but when have comics EVER been thought of as anything but a children's medium? It's not like superheroes BROUGHT comics to that level -- they were always there. And comics did turn away from superheroes in the '50s -- and nearly died on the vine.
Lots of different genres have been tried in comics -- war, Western, crime, romance, even piracy -- but the superhero soap opera was the only genre that lasted. To paraphrase Kurt Busiek's immortal words: "Superheroes aren't to blame for the decline of the industry -- they were just the Last Man Standing as the industry declined around them." To use MY immortal words -- which I'm quite proud of, by the way -- to blame superheroes for the decline of the industry is like blaming survivors of the Titanic for the existence of icebergs.
I think that the format of comics and superheroes just naturally go hand-in-hand: Colorful, larger-than-life characters on a huge canvas that are eye-popping and pulse-pounding in their native habitat, but look just silly in TV/movies and read somewhat juvenile in prose. On the other hand, other genres don't work as well in comics (or work better in other media). Romance novels sell like nobody's business, but in comics romance stories come across as talking heads. Science fiction can be an adrenline junkie's dream on film, but those spaceships just don't look as big and imposing on the flat page of comics.
And, really, for all the breast-beating we do about how "indie" comics don't do very well in comics -- well, how many of them are really very good? Spectacles, Oddzine and the like are just adolescent navel-gazing. Hate and its ilk are going to have a very, very limited audience no matter the genre. Superhero soap opera, though, spans a large age range and covers a lot of varied tastes (if somewhat limited in gender) -- and it looks darn good on the printed page.
I'm not dismissing your argument, though -- just adding to the debate. Anybody else have any thoughts?

Sure, I’ve got some, and it’s about how pathetic his observations are when he can’t offer any of the same in his columns for the newspapers! Let us be clear, even today, when the internet is in such wide use, it doesn’t help to just make these arguments in mail exchanges and forums when editorials are still the best way to get our points across.

About Grell: no matter how much I may be impressed with his take on Green Arrow, his propaganda in Iron Man featuring a Muslim woman as the person whom Tony helps is sickening in retrospect no matter what time it was produced at. And it makes little difference if she later turned against Tony, that was still embarrasingly bad if you ponder how the story was a metaphor for the war in in Yugoslavia, taking the wrong side. Again, note Pamela Geller’s research. And the religion ascribed to the character is unlikely to be suggested as a motivating factor in her assault on Pepper Potts.

On the issue of why comics aren't selling well, I think that it would be foolish to ignore the fact that most comics cost AT LEAST $2.25 nowadays. I don't know how to put this without sounding like an old geezer that wants to pay a nickel for a soda, but I can remember buying 20 comics for $10 when I first started collecting comics in the early '80s. I used to ask my mom for a comic whenever we visited the local 7/11, and she usually would oblige. But, now (that I'm) a father, I really have to think twice about shelling out over 2 bucks for what used to be called "disposable literature" (and when you are dealing with a 6 year old ... that's exactly what it is).

My suggestion to the comics industry is this: Drop the fancy colors and slick paper, make the stories FUN again, STOP taking yourselves so SERIOUSLY (we are talking about grown men and women running around in tights punching people, after all), and MAKE COMICS AFFORDABLE for kids and their ever-lovin' parents!

Thanks for your forum, Cap.

You're welcome, and thanks for contributing!
You make a good argument, but I have to bring up what Fabian Niceiza lamented when his Acclaim line folded. To paraphrase him: "I don't understand why a kid will pay $60 for a Turok videogame he'll tire of in a week, but thinks that $2 is too much for a Turok comic book he'll have forever." (At the time the Turok videogame was outselling the comic book by about a 20-to-1 margin.)
Sure, I used to spend a whole dollar a month on Marvel's entire output in the '60s -- but I only earned a dollar (or less) for mowing a lawn. Now, I routinely pay $60 to have my lawn mowed -- and kids won't do it because it doesn't pay enough to suit them! Last year I had a 62-year-old man doing it, primarily because he loves to do yardwork. This year I have a lawn service doing it.
This is mostly anecdotal evidence, of course, but I have to wonder how much price is really the main factor. Kids in $300 tennis shoes playing $60 videogames on $200 PlayStations don't seem to be hurting for $3 for a Fantastic Four. They just don't choose to spend their money thataway. Personally, I think it's because they aren't exposed to comics reading early and never develop the habit (in both senses of the word).
Again, I'm not dismissing your point. This is a healthy debate we all need to think about. Anybody else think price is the smoking gun?

Sure, but it was all because of the decline in story quality, not to mention the unviability of the pamphlet format, something he still hasn’t fully grasped. I would add to the correspondent’s note that the medium also has to stop writing stories that don’t focus seriously on grave issues like sexual abuse, with Identity Crisis being a leading example. At the same time, IC is still a notable example of what he’s talking about, that being the focus on gloom and misery, not to mention depicting heroes unheroically. Not that Mr. Smith ever understood that, tragically. Based on which, it’s a pity the writer had to say it was a great “forum”, when it wasn’t.

Maybe he was begging the question, and maybe it was your place to answer this, but in answer to [name withheld]'s question about which characters to bring out of limbo, I think the answer's obvious.
Bring back Beppo now! Make him the leader of a new JLA (Justa Lotta Animals). I'm holding Ron Marz's talent hostage until this happens. I doubt he'll miss it though.
Assuming it could be found. Ahem.
But, vis-a-vis your reference to the Chimp of Steel, I can think of no better character to re-instate to his rightful place in the DCU. How dare they leave this strange visitor from another world in limbo?
I shudder to think that the next generation will grow to adulthood without Beppo's wise example to follow. Not to mention Groucho, Zeppo, Harpo, Gummo and Chico.

I doubt the left-wing propagandist who wrote that letter really had any issues with Marz’s writing on GL, if that’s what he was trying to say. Same with Smith, but that’s probably moot by this point.

Lets see: "Armageddon 2001" was originally set to reveal that Captain Atom was to become Monarch, the villain from Waverider's future. Unfortunately, there was a leak. In fact, the New England Comics newsletter, knowing (which way) the wind was blowing, even listed Captain Atom 57, the last issue of the title, as an Armageddon 2001 crossover, even though DC didn't! (NEC said "Waverider could have saved some time if he had picked this up as a back issue!) As a result, at the last minute, DC changed it so that Hank Hall (Hawk) became Monarch! (Though Hawk has brown eyes, and Monarch was seen as having blue eyes.)
Dr. Light's activities in Showcase is covered at: http://www.shirokuma.com/comiconnection/synopsis/showcase93.html
So THAT'S who spilled the beans on Monarch! It was common knowledge down here in the South by the time Monarch was "revealed," but I didn't know how it got spread around. Thanks, […]!

Whether or not Captain Atom was the intended victim of that old stunt, was it justified? Absolutely not. What disappoints me is that nobody at the time thought to call out DC for turning minor characters into tissue paper and exploiting them for cheapjack nonsense.

Dear Captain: Regarding May 11th Q&A:

<<Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen: I hate to admit it, but I found those ludicrous J.O. stories a guilty pleasure.>>

Are you aware how vulgar the above sentence is?

I need to get a life now. Thank you for the giggle.

Mm-hm. And what was your reaction to "Paste-Eater Pete" in Amalgam Comics?

Nowhere near as disgusted as my reaction to the obnoxious structure of Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled, that’s for sure! Is he aware of how vulgar the former is? And how do we really know he was turned off by the latter? Even that’s long been in question. And with that, we turn to May 25, 2000:

Hey Cappy! Here's a final note about Triathlon being a throwback to the '70s:
Sadly enough, he isn't a throwback at all. Believe it or not, he is a very realistic character. Not in the '70s, but right now. I know a LOT of people who talk just like him. I had visitors to my message board who would denounce Triathlon as a character, then go on to complain about the exact things he's complaining about. It's uncanny to hear. Normally, though, that's the kind of griping African-Americans reserve to do around each other only, so I don't know how Busiek got a hold of it, but he's dead on. I've worked with many African-Americans who went on and on about how "the man" was keeping them down, about how they were only hired because the employer HAD to hire them, and how nobody in the workplace likes or respects them -- I must admit that I've been guilty of it myself, because sometimes it does honestly feel that way. Other times, it's not just a feeling, but a reality. I've had to lodge more than one racial-discrimination complaint in offices where I've worked. All of them were ignored. Racism is still alive and well in America.
Again, it's talk African-Americans typically only do around each other so not many whites know about it. I think Triathlon strikes such a nerve with so many people because he so realistically portrays a side of society we'd all rather not see. He'll have to acclimate to be an Avenger though, just like all African-Americans have to swallow bitter pills and acclimate in our lives every day, even when it's obvious we sometimes aren't wanted because of our skin color. We're forced to ignore a lot of ignorant and hurtful treatment and comments, and there are times when you just can't smile it all away and turn the other cheek and those are the times that bring out the Triathlon in each of us. I think people need to put themselves in Triathlon's shoes to fully understand where he's coming from, but if you've never been the subject of discrimination, you can't, therefore his anger is beyond comprehension. All you then see is a jerk. Yeah, he's a jerk, but he's also hurt, angry and defensive. He not striking out just to be difficult, rather he's striking out because he feel he HAS to. All African Americans have felt that way at one time or another. Triathlon's just the "Inner-Anger Poster Child" right now. It's a feeling Blacks hate having and Whites hate seeing, so as a result, everyone hates Triathlon. At any rate, the anger Triathlon's putting out is real and it should be brought out in the open so both sides can attempt to come to terms with it. Ignoring it won't make it go away. That, to me, makes Triathlon very important.
When he does come around, I hope Marvel doesn't completely subjugate his personality. Every team needs a difficult member, I think, to add dimension. Would the X-Men have been as interesting if Wolverine hadn't been such a jerk back in the early days? Then there's Guy Gardner -- he really added some flavor to the JLA! All difficult members of teams come around, and so will Triathlon, I'm betting. We'll see!
While, my soap box had been ground down to a fine pile of saw dust, so I'd better get off it!
Thanks for the insight, […]! As you note, it's not something that would normally occur to non-African-Americans, which makes it worth discussion. Blacks in America have had a rough go of it for centuries, so there's a lot of simmering anger and open wounds out there that most of us -- white and Black -- prefer not to look at too closely.
On the flip side, as a white guy I'm privy to the private grumblings of professional whites who feel that they're getting a raw deal from "reverse" discrimination. They feel that they "turn invisible" when job openings and promotions occur in favor of African-Americans, who -- as you noted -- feel resented for it.
I guess it depends, as in so many things, on whose ox is getting gored. But that's all to agree with your point -- Triathlon's actions and reactions should provoke these very exchanges. We just noted how blacks say such-and-so to each other, and whites do the same, and everybody's angry but nobody's talking to each other. What we need to do is keep a dialogue going, or else all we'll do is continue to glare sullenly at each other across the Great Divide.
For my part, I took Triathlon to be an updated Hawkeye or Quicksilver -- a guy who, for various reasons, has trouble trusting or working with a team. Some of those reasons were apparent, some seemed imagined (less so after your letter), some seemed inherent to his personality -- and only Busiek knows where he's going with this. Meantime, we get a great ride.
Thanks again for a POV not often discussed!

As interesting as the correspondent’s letter is, no thanks can be offered to Smith for failing to honestly address another subject not often discussed: how women have often been mistreated in comics, and over-sexualization’s not even the beginning. What is disturbing is when women are treated like filth as seen in Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled. In fact, now that recall, no, his alleged pan of the latter had nothing to do with the story’s insulting angle to women. Come to think of it, I’m not sure he really had an issue with the out-of-character renditions in that Bendis-penned story either!

A sad reminder about Busiek is that, this whole tale notwithstanding, he became more leftist as time went by. That’s a sad thing of course, because his work on Astro City is pretty good, and he just had to sour everything with his recent lefty blabber.

Triathlon, as noted, was largely abandoned after Busiek left the Avengers.

Hey Captain Comics: I just wanted to let you know that Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld was NOT based on a toy. Back in the early '80s, there was a toy line that had characters based on individual gems. While there may have been one that was based on amethysts, Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld was not taken from these toys. Amethyst was an original creation of writers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn and artist Ernie Colon.
On the DC Comics Message Boards, there is a long thread devoted to Amethyst and her history. On the thread Dan Mishkin, one of Amethyst's creators, posts:
"In reviewing this message thread, I noticed a reference to She-Ra and Golden Girl and a possible toy tie-in for Amethyst. So just to set the record straight:
When we created Amethyst, neither She-Ra nor Golden Girl was on the market, nor were we contemplating a toy at that time. DC was ahead of the creative team, however, and seeing licensing potential in the character, began discussions with Kenner even before the first issue was published.
During our meetings with Kenner, it became clear that an Amethyst line at action-figure size rather than Barbie size could be a big hit. But since nobody had done a line of four-inch fantasy fashion action figures for girls, Kenner proceeded with caution (I wanted them to move faster, but hey, it wasn't my money at risk). Unfortunately, when they did decide to go ahead, a visit to the annual Toy Fair revealed that Mattel and Galoob had beaten us to market, and the idea was shelved."
Captain Comics, if you want to double check that comment, the link to the thread is http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/files/Forum18/HTML/001098-3.html
It should be on that page.
Glad to finally clear that up!
Thanks, [name withheld]!

I just think it’s a shame Amethyst suffered so much misuse after the 80s ended. Something I doubt Smith has any real issues with, given he never commented on the reboot and its sloppy inclusion of a near-rape scene at the beginning of the story that was dropped soon after. Here comes two letters in one:

Dear Captain: There is no one single smoking gun to the decline of comic books. There are several, and to solve one won't necessarily turn things around. It will take a concerted effort by all companies to save the industry. (Note: any mention of "kids" is primarily referring to young boys.)
1) PRICE -- Indeed this is the biggest factor. Soon the regular price will be $2.25 and the "good stuff" costs at least $4.95. Marvel and DC spent the last four decades turning fans into completists, and now that's financially impossible for most readers. Once you start saying "I can do without THAT title," then you soon realize you can pretty much do without them all (at least on a regular basis). Soon, $10 will buy only FOUR of the CHEAPEST comics available. And anyone who MIGHT be interested in reading comics gets quickly turned off at the price. "A six-part story for $15? I can get two 500-page novels for that." The only realistic option today is to push Marvel's "Monster" format. Give more for the money, even if it's mostly reprints. The people the industry needs buying these books have never read the old stuff anyway.
2) KIDS DON'T READ ANYMORE-- It's not that kids are dumber, but there are so many more visual choices for entertainment. Twenty years ago, no movie or cartoon or videogame could possibly offer the unlimited imagery of comic books. Prior to CGs, monsters ALWAYS looked fake, even in the best movies. Now, it's the comics that look fake by comparison. And never forget the movement -- we're talking about kids here. But also, comics were the place to find all the great ideas. Whole new mythologies awaited and nothing sparked a kids imagination like a comic book. Now, mythologies are a dime a dozen -- they're everywhere in every medium. Sadly enough, the new mythologies come more from Pro Wrestling than anywhere else (and wrestling is free on TV and you don't have to bother reading it). The decline in numbers for comics has a lot to do with there not being a new generation every five years or so. Since the boom of '92, we should have had maybe two new infusions of young blood as consumers and that's just not happened.
3) COMICS ARE UNAPPROACHABLE-- Those who have the money and the will to read find comics so convoluted and self-referencing that they have a hard time getting started. It's like beginning watching X-Files NOW. Also, (thankfully this has lessened over the years) page layouts have become so convoluted that kids can't make head or tails of how they're supposed to read them. It's not good enough to put out Batman Adventures because kids want BATMAN, the dark and gritty, just as '70s kids wanted the Neal Adams version, not the TV version. They want to feel they're reading "more grown-up" stuff, not kid stuff ... but they don't want to spend all day figuring out the layout. This problem seems to be adjusting itself, but more thought should be given to it.
4) COMICS ARE UNAVAILABLE-- Maybe the second biggest problem of the moment for comics is that they're locked up in a closet that nobody looks in any more. I'm talking about comic shops. Usedtabe (a much-used word from me) kids got their comics by sneaking them into mom's grocery basket. Had they needed to make a special stop at the comic-book store, most kids would never have seen one. Today, a kid needs a parent, brother or friend already in the hobby who has a car to take them. Comics must return to the newsstands if they are to survive. America-at-large sampled comics during the '92 boom and now would like to forget about them. It's the comic industry's responsibility to keep the drumbeat going, remain in the public eye. The last eight years are undeniable. Almost nobody's casually experimenting with comics anymore and that's because they've forgotten comics even exist.
5) COMICS AREN'T COOL ANYMORE -- Usedtabe, the school-age kids reading superhero comics were "hip," they were "in on" something that other kids could be jealous of. Comics were a subculture, a juvenile intelligencia, the non-delinquent/non-popular clique. That was supplanted by Playstations and PC games. Today, kids are jealous of those who have videogame technology, and the new subculture is focused around cheat codes and "naked" patches for Tomb Raider. To most kids, there's just no "cool" factor to comic books. Keep in mind, "Rock and Roll" died when kids saw their parents listening to it; the kids then jumped on rap and thrash metal. Whatever parents and teachers complain will "ruin kids' minds" is what they'll cling to. Comics are just too acceptable to adults for American kids to find rebellious or cool.
These are the problems with getting NEW blood into the ranks. Each company has problems that need fixing if they are to keep the readers they have. But that's another topic.
I fear Erik Larsen, in The Comics Journal, may be right. Maybe comics are doomed and there's no way to save them. There is a point where the dropping of sales will eventually close so many shops that there will be too few shops open to order product. Without sufficient alternative distribution, can there be any other future but disaster for comics?
Food for thought, [withheld]. Here's another take:

Dear Cap: Yes! Finally I feel like I got my money's worth! Okay so the art in the Batman story was a little weird at times and the extra story of The Jacobian was even stranger it was still awesome! The latest issue of Detective Comics (No. 746) brings back that wonderful art of the quickie! Just those few extra pages of something new and exciting make me look forward to getting the next issue already. This is what I like in my comics. If they are going to charge us an arm and a leg for these than the least they can do is try and give us our moneys worth.
I read the analogy about the videogame and I got to say its just not the same. For one thing you can read a comic over and over again but its still the same comic but videogames today have level after level of action, and let's face it, if they added a little more plot a videogame would be a comic book. But for now the only way you could compare the two is if you put Mario 64 on one table and every issue related to Batman's NML on the other table. Kids don't see comics like we do. I think we may have ruined it when we made them such collectibles. Kids use to carry comics rolled up in their back pockets and trade with their friends. They had that raggedy stack of books in their bedroom they use to pull one out and read to avoid doing homework. I used to read G.I. Joe 17 (I think) just to watch Grunt punch Major Blood's lights out on a moving bus and then joke about it as they take Blood to the ER. Now everything is bagged and boxed. I shudder to think about it but I think the best way to get kids to read comics is to publish five-six titles at 50 cents instead of one at $2.50 and if they want to beat the heck out of them, let them. And if the comic shops don't want to carry them, fine, Wal-Mart and Kmart I am sure would love to get kids asking their parents to take them to the store to get some comics. Kids don't collect comics, they consume and move on.

Whether video games have level after level depends largely. Back in the early years of games, there were a lot that would loop around endlessly. Even Tetris, a big favorite of mine, could do this depending on what edition and which company made it. But as time went by, various companies would simplify the games a tad, and they’d end after a certain number of levels/stages/rounds. For example, how about Double Dragon, the hand-to-hand combat game that led to plenty of imitators, including, most famously, Final Fight? After you’ve defeated the bosses and such, they have an epilogue and come to an end, and if your point score reaches the listed thresholds, you can type your initials if you do it in time. Some of these games can become more monotonous as a result, but at least today, there’s emulator systems online you can use to play them for free, to compensate for a misspent youth!

On the subject of Larsen, if there’s no way to save comics per se, maybe that’s because he isn’t being much help on his part. He’s a leftist with questionable positions, and he’s also turned out a pretty lame tale himself called The Savage Dragon. How is he availing when he does some pretty dumb things himself that aren’t worth the effort?

Dear Cap: You wrote:
<<Or the entire "New Universe" saga. Or ...>>
I just encountered a few of those in sorting through my boxes for sale (the wife allows me to keep some, but not all, in her desperate bid to convert our garage to, um, an actual garage). I noticed that John Byrne finished up Star Brand. From this, shouldn't we have seen the shape of things to come from him? (Not that it would have mattered -- in the late 'eighties I was such a Byrne-head I even bought his stupid Fear Book novel.)
Yup, I actually looked forward to Byrne's Star Brand at the time (which, as I recall, seemed to bear more than a passing similarity to a certain Emerald Gladiator). Maybe because I was also a Byrne-head, I thought Star Brand was the best of a bad bunch. I wonder what I'd think if I went back and read those now? Would I see the shape of things to come, or would it still be a passing-fair comic book? Given what I've read since, could I even be objective?

The short answer is “no”. He wasn’t objective on Identity Crisis, he didn’t take an objective approach to Civil War either, so what good is he as a columnist? Why, how do we know he wouldn’t ignore some of the more questionble takes on the female cast in Byrne’s writing? For example, there’s West Coast Avengers and the wretched tale where Scarlet Witch was reverted to a villainess, the worst part being her transformation into a short-haired cartoon vamp. What ruined the story was how the female cast was depicted so bizarrely ineffective – certainly in combat situations – and Wanda’s scratching Wonder Man across the chest was disgusting. The whole tale has some pretty embarrassing backstage history accompanying it as well, yet it may not matter to Major Moonbat. It certainly didn’t matter to one of his co-writers of recent on his website.

Captain Cee: Your 12 May 2000 column, "Some superheroes go south", shows you flunked U.S. geography. You wrote, "... Wonder Woman makes no bones about living in Washington. But you'll note that none of these towns, real or imagined, are located below the Mason-Dixon line."
The Mason-Dixon line is the border between the States of Maryland (to the south) and Pennsylvania (to the north). Washington, D.C., carved out of the southern edge of Maryland, lies about 50 miles SOUTH of the Mason-Dixon line.
I'll leave you with what JFK once said about DC, "Southern efficiency; Northern hospitality."
It's worse than that, […]: I KNEW that Washington was below the M-D line -- and just fudged it. D.C., while technically a "Southern" city, doesn't reflect any of the regional characteristics that make up a Southern city. (Except for those Godawful sweltering summers. Great idea, building a city in a swamp!) Anyway, I put in a whole paragraph explaining that Washington didn't count as a Southern city for the purposes of the discussion, but my wife and editor (in that order) convinced me the distinction was too subjective and ephemeral to waste time on, and should just be passed over without comment since most folks don't think of D.C. as particularly Southern anyway. (In fact, most Americans couldn't locate D.C., Virginia or their home state with an Atlas, but that's beside the point.)
But, alas, you caught me. I'd offer you a No-Prize, but I think that idea's been taken. Anyway, I removed the offending line.

Whatever, when it comes to Smith, I wouldn’t even offer him that much! And contrary to what he says, I can think of District of Columbia as a southern city, if it matters.

Dear Captain: I have found a decent site dedicated to toys -- comic-related ones. I don't know if you have seen it yet, but it has been getting me all quivery thinking about all the DC stuff coming out. I love my comics. Don't get me wrong, but I have become almost as addicted to the comic-related action figures. I have been a DC fan almost my entire life, and spend almost all my comic budget on DC and its related holdings. I am very pleased with the DC Direct toys and the KB exclusive JLA figures. Unfortunately, it is killing me with the added cost of my collection.
The site is www.toymania.com/main.shtml
You were the one who clued me in to the Martian Manhunter JLA figure. Now I also have the 10-inch (?) figure. Anyhow, check out the site & tell me what you think. See ya in the Funny Papers!
Thanks, [withheld]! I've added it to my links!

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read about somebody foolish enough to spend time on toys, when the comics and keeping their writing quality healthy is more important.

Dear Capn:
<<That's a good argument, but when have comics EVER been thought of as anything but a children's medium? It's not like superheroes BROUGHT comics to that level -- they were always there. And comics did turn away from superheroes in the '50s -- and nearly died on the vine.>>
See, this is what I'm not so sure of. The last thing I can claim to be is a comics historian, but from various things I've read, my impression was that comics in the '30s and '40s were read by people of all different ages. I can't by any means prove this, but that's what I seem to have gleaned over the years ... For just one small example, I thought that Pogo comics -- both the strip and the comic books -- were read largely by adults, do to the serious/political overtones in them. I thought comic books reached, to a greater extent than from the '50s on, more of a "the whole family" audience. And one thing I do know is that EC eventually concluded that the majority of their comics were read by men in their 20s.

<<Lots of different genres have been tried in comics -- war, Western, crime,romance, even piracy -- but the superhero soap opera was the only genre that lasted. To paraphrase Kurt Busiek's immortal words: "Superheroes aren't to blame for the decline of the industry -- they were just the Last Man Standing as the industry declined around them." To use MY immortal words, to blame superheroes for the decline of the industry is like blaming survivors of the Titanic for the existence of icebergs.>>
But the decline of superhero comics in the '50s was by no means the only major component of what made the industry suffer in the '50s. Not by a longshot. Even before Kefauver and Wertham and the irate moms of America, there was a strong institutional, governmental anti-comics rumble which that unholy trinity benefited from. The government was paying real attention to comics in the '50s, for American comic books were big hits overseas, and they weren't exactly towing the American Cold War line. In a time when America wanted to show why it should be accepted as a kind, just worldly leader, American comics were basking in racism and xenophobia. Even The New York Times reported and commented on this pre-Wertham anti-comic-books bent in America.
What I'm trying to say is that the collapse of comics after their '30s and '40s heyday is a complex thing, much more than just a case of "Well, superheroes were out, so of course the whole industry suffered grandly." There were forces at work that went beyond the simple question of genre. Content and ideology got comics in hot water with the government, for cry-aye.
But when comics basically went to the grave, not only did they do so with a "they've corrupted our children" reputation that characterized them more than ever as "kiddie stuff" in the public eye, but they also did indeed rise, Phoenix-like, on the back of superheroes -- further solidifying their "kiddie stuff" label. This did not open the door for comics to be seen as a medium that might invite adult readers, and I do honestly think that this is a notable reason why most people stay away from comics like they have cooties nowadays.
I don't think it's as simple as saying that today's non-superhero fail to sell really well because people don't want them in and of themselves. I think there are greater forces -- an Image, you might say -- working against them. And I think that in many cases that image is what prevents people from even considering the books; not the books themselves.
<<I think that the format of comics and superheroes just naturally go hand-in-hand: Colorful, larger-than-life characters on a huge canvas that are eye-popping and pulse-pounding in their native habitat, but look just silly in TV/movies and read somewhat juvenile in prose. On the other hand, other genres don't work as well in comics (or work better in other media). Romance novels sell like nobody's business, but in comics romance stories come across as talking heads. Science fiction can be an adrenline junkie's dream on film, but those spaceships just don't look as big and imposing on the flat page of comics.>>
I think this is more a function of the creators' input and the publishers' demands and the limits imposed by the fact that comic books are, for most companies, a business first, before being an art form -- or even just an entertainment form. I firmly believe that comics can do anything and do it great. Give me Walt Simonson sci-fi and I don't need to go to no movie theater. But does this mean comics DO do anything great? No. Sometimes, yeah. There are probably examples to be found in each and every genre. But most comics fail in satisfying in almost all genres, because most comics aren't well done, and so many are excreted primarily to meet a business demand. Theoretically it doesn't have to be this way -- like I said, with really talented creators involved, naive or not, I don't care -- I think comics can do anything.
Talking head comics can be done right. There's a sequence in Dave McKean's Cages in which a lonely, slightly senile old lady rambles to the "camera." It's done almost entirely in shots of her upper body, head, hands, even just her shadow. And it's incredible cartooning. Sadly funny and moving.
Comics can do anything. It's just that so often they don't. Heck, I won't argue with you that superheroes are very happily suited to comic books. I love superhero comic books, and the alchemy between the first part of the phrase and the second holds a gut-deep appeal for me and probably always will. But even tons of superhero comics don't succeed in their genre, because tons of superhero comics are crap. And I'd probably put forward the argument that superheroes aren't necessarily "especially" suited for comics books so much as they are immediately suited to comic books. Just slap a colorful costume guy on some paper and you can often get at least a cheap, fun, piece-of-junk thrill. Even if the comic really just stinks!!! :-)
But with other genres it might just take more time and effort. Partially because the desired effect is more ambitious than a cheap thrill, perhaps. Or just more talent, maybe. Which I think a lot of creators (in both the mainstream and alternative branches of comicdom, I might add) just don't have. There are tons of horrible prose authors out there. There are tons of bad singers, songwriters, actors, filmmakers, etc. Why should comic-book workers be any different? I'd say the edge that some alternafolks have is a greater degree of control over the work, a greater artistic freedom. If they don't have the skill or talent to back them up, they can still flop on their faces, but at least in some situations they have fewer of the demands of the publisher and marketplace.

Next:
<<Someone was wondering what was up with Grell. Well, in the latest issue of Comic Book Artist, he is interviewed and reports that he has written a Sable novel (I think it's already out; can't remember) and that he is planning on returning to writing (and I believe drawing) Jon Sable: Freelance as a comic book. I believe he said it would be an ongoing series, and he definitely is determined to do it, but I don't think he said how close he is to actually getting any of it published yet. People may want to pick up CBA 8 to see if Grell talks more about what he's doing lately -- I haven't read the whole interview yet.>>
I finished the interview. He doesn't get as explicit in spelling out his Sable comic book plans as I thought he did, but he definitely plans on bringing his man back to the comic-book pages -- and the implication was there that he would be drawing. Which would be nice. I like Grell. It's not that he's really such a swell artist. His rather ... personal vision of anatomy, human proportions and body language has been commented on many times. He lets himself get sloppy in general, too, ofttimes. But I just enjoy seeing his stuff, I dunno. I think part of it now is that I've discovered and love the work of George Evans, who I think Grell is a lot like. Just the lesser talent. And even Evans, I've noticed, could have his issues with the human form at times, creating a greater parallel between the two artists. So I like seeing that connection when I read Grell. But I really don't know how to explain it. It's often not all that technically good -- sometimes it's a downright mess! -- but I just enjoy looking at his work. And I loved Sable for really being his baby. A wholly-realized Grell production.

<< I enjoyed some of the Bacchus stuff I picked up about a decade ago, then my local comics shop stopped carrying it (I thought it was canceled). Then Westfield started carrying it (or I started noticing that they carried it), and now I'm afraid I've missed too much to catch up. Are there TPBs available to get me in the groove?>>
There are TPBs coming out the wazoo. Immortality Isn't Forever ($9.95); The Gods of Business ($9.95); Doing the Islands with Bacchus ($17.95); The Eyeball Kid: One Man Show ($8.50); Earth, Water, Air and Fire ($9.95); King Bacchus ($12.95). In that order, I think. Out this month, supposedly is 1001 Nights of Bacchus. There's also non-Bacchus collections: Graffiti Kitchen ($4.95); The Dance of Lifey Death ($4.95). Included in these volumes is his autiobio/psuedo-autibio Alec stuff. You can get them thru Top Shelf's web site if you have to. Years back I believe there was a big Alec collection; don't know if it's still in print -- since Campbell doesn't advertise it in his latest issue, I'd say not.
Avoid Alan Moore and Campbell's The Birth Caul at all costs. Unbearably pretentious diarrhea of the keyboard. And I have a pretty high threshold for pretentious stuff, too. Although, I will say, Campbell's work is absolutely beautiful.
But, again, I looked thru that latest issue, and it has no Bacchus material in it. Right now it's very much a short-strip anthology Avoid avoiding From Hell at all costs. It's about as good as comics can get.

<<The Galactus/Terrax/Sphinx storyline ran primarily from Fantastic Four 210-214, mostly with Byrne/Sinnott art. Byrne did some issues off and on (usually with Sinnott inks) for the next year or so, but where his run is really considered to have begun is issue 232, with a really terrific story called "Back to Basics!" He was fully behind the helm through issue (gulp!) 293.>>
Yeah, I've got all of the Byrne run, when he really owned the book, from No. 232. I think I may not have that last one he wrote and supposedly contributed to the art in some way; it not only looked horrible, but it didn't look like Byrne. So I might have skipped it. That might have been No. 294. Or maybe I stopped with No. 293 because it was the last one Byrne had any input in, even though the story continued in No. 294. Sadly, that wonderful run was just about the last decent thing Byrne had in him, I think. I guess I sorta liked his Superman stuff, but, eh. And even before he left FF, and especially when he was on Alpha Flight, he just really came close to even trying with his artwork at all. I always call that his "slap a few scratches on some toilet paper and turn it" period, and I don't really think he's ever left it. Still, though I am among the many who consider him a laughingstock, I do love some of his old stuff, I must say. And that FF run is still special to me. And that first, Diablo story was swell.
I also have 209 and 211-231, and enjoy them. Heck, I'm the only person on the face of the planet that had fun with the Moench/Sienciewicz/Sinnot run.
Anyway, the thing is, the Xandar/Skrull storyline completely segued into the Terrax/Galactus/Sphinx one that Byrne began with in No. 209. So I was wondering how far back I had to go to get to the beginning of that story (which hopefully has a definite beginning, so I don't feel compelled to go back even further!). But I guess you've cleared up for me that No. 209 was the first Byrne/Sinnott issue.
Oops! No, I misunderstood the question. I took the introduction of Terrax (issue 211) as what you were looking for. Actually, the storyline began in issue 204, with "Suzerain Adora" arriving by teleport beam from Xandar in the Andromeda Galaxy looking for help -- followed closely by the Super Skrull. The FF (minus the pouting Torch) take off to help and continue through issue 205 and 206 (the latter introducing The Sphinx, Nova, The Comet, Crime-Buster, Powerhouse, Diamond-Head and Doctor Sun to the mix). Issue 207 followed up on the Torch subplot back on Earth. Issue 208, however, gave us The Sphinx gaining all the knowledge of the Living Computers of Xandar and becoming muy macho. Reed vowed to recruit Galactus to stop him, leading into the issue which you already have (which DOES appear to be Byrne's first -- unless he did some fill-ins prior to issue 200, which is as far back as I went).
About superheroes and comics: I think we're arguing at cross-purposes, [name withheld], because I agree with most of your points. Particularly in that the decline of the comic-book industry IS a complex thing, which is why I'm unwilling to point to Superguys and say, "It's all their fault." In addition to the points you mention, there was also the rise of TV in the '50s, the abrupt loss of the captive military audience in '45 and again in '53, and especially the industry's horrendously grievous self-inflicted wound of reducing page count (and profitability) to the point where the primary magazine distribution system in the country lost interest in carrying comics.
It's just way too complex a thing to lay solely at the feet of superheroes.

What about the self-censorship, just to get a couple of rival companies out of their way back in 1954, when the CCA was formed following the whole Wertham debacle? Why, what about Wertham’s own leftism, something a lot of modern leftists supposedly concerned about the decline and fall of the medium seem uninterested in examining?

Dear Cap: Just read your latest review on the Avengers in Memphis. This was great! So many times us Southerners are stereotyped, Busiek, of course, appears a bit enlightened.
When was the last time Marvel was in Tennessee? Off the top of my head, I'd say it was Captain America 172 when the Banshee was assaulted by the Sentinel of Liberty shortly after he purchased Merle Haggard tickets! Sheesh!
The Captain America story you mention would have been around 1974. Professor X recruited Banshee from a performance of the Grand Ole Opry in Giant-Size X-Men 1 in 1975. After that, I can't think of a another time Marvel set a story in Tennessee until Avengers 28 -- 25 years later!

So many times conservatives are stereotyped to boot, yet neither Smith nor the correspondent seem particularly concerned.

Dear Cap: Once again, it seems that a big comics publisher is giving the shabby treatment to one of its greatest creators! Archie Comics has fired Dan DeCarlo, the man that defined the Archie look we all recognize to this day!
I personally think that this is rotten! DeCarlo deserves better treatment! What are your thoughts?
I am absolutely stunned. Just shocked. And after Silberkleit made such a stink about how Archie represents "heartland American values" and wrapped himself in the Bible and the Constitution when Melissa Joan Hart appeared in Maxim. I think I'm gonna be sick.
Here's more from [name withheld] on the subject:
Hello again, Cap: I was so infuriated with how Archie Comics handled this situation that I e-mailed Mr. Silberkleit about it. Below is the basic body of that e-mail, which I present as an open letter. BTW, I completely agree about the hypocrisy of Archie's publisher in regard to the comparison between what has happened with Dan DeCarlo and the Maxim deal. Even when Mr. Silberkleit was going on about those "heartland American values" he was spinning Ms. Hart's words around. I read her interview, and she made it clear that she DID NOT speak for or as Sabrina in that interview. That's not what Mr. Silberkeit led people to believe. But I digress, here is the message I sent to Archie's publisher:
<<I read on the Comic Book Resources web page's news for May 18, 2000, that Archie Comics has fired Dan DeCarlo rather than compensate him for creating Josie and the Pussycats (currently in the stages to become a major motion picture), and co-creating Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.>>
<<I find this to be an offensive tactic to silence him! This man created a style that has defined the Archie "look" for over 40 years! The same "look" that graces Archie's website, promotional art, and, well ... everything that represents the Archie characters in a cartoon form.>>
<<I am certain that the general public is not privy to all the details in this matter, but on the surface it stinks! As a comic book retailer, I have supported Archie comics in the past. I always thought that Archie comics represented good, wholesome qualities with strong, moral ethics. There is nothing moral or ethical about depriving a man in advanced years of his due credit, monetary and otherwise, for creating successful properties that Archie continues to benefit from. Dan DeCarlo is no hack artist that Archie can easily dismiss or toss away! He has breathed life into Archie characters for nearly a half-century! I feel that it is no exaggeration to suggest that Mr. DeCarlo is a PRIME reason that the Archie characters have lasted to this day! His look for the characters is the look that all American children recognize as the "Archie" look! He created Josie and The Pussy Cats and co-created Sabrina and the best that Archie could do for this man is hand him walking papers? >>
<<It is a sad day when the publisher of Archie comics would cast aside an elderly man who defined Archie comics for three generations. Mr. Silberkleit may have the money, but he had the heart! I hope that Mr. Silberkleit can sleep comfortably on that money knowing what he did to that man!>>
To which Silberkleit replied:
<<Archie Comics has always acknowledged that Dan DeCarlo participated in the original creation of the Josie property as part of a joint effort by Dan and Richard Goldwater (the son of one of the co-founders of Archie Comics) who, on behalf of Archie Comics, commissioned Dan in the early 1960s to work with him on the creation of a new set of teen-age characters on a work-for-hire basis. (Additional creative contributions to the Josie property were made later by Archie Comics co-founder John Goldwater.) The joint participation of Richard and Dan in the original creation of the Josie property was publicly acknowledged by Archie Comics by the placement of the legend "by Dan 'n' Dick" on the covers of many issues of Josie comics.>>
<<At the same time, over the last 30 years, Archie Comics has consistently exercised the rights of an exclusive copyright owner of the Josie property. Archie Comics has registered and renewed the copyrights in the Josie comics in its own name, licensed third parties to use the Josie property in animated cartoons and on other merchandise, and otherwise acted as the sole owner of the Josie property.>>
<<Throughout all these years, and during all of Archie Comics publishing and ancillary activities, Dan never raised any issue regarding his role in the joint creation or regarding Archie Comics ownership of the Josie property.>>
<<In recent years, Archie Comics elected to begin to make voluntary payments to Dan in recognition of his participation, on a work-for-hire basis, in the development of not only the Josie property, but also the Sabrina the Teenage Witch property. (The Sabrina property was conceived by Archie Comics employees who commissioned George Gladir to write the first Sabrina story and Dan DeCarlo to pencil it.)>>
<<Under the circumstances, we were dumbfounded when, in November 1999, Dan had his attorney write to us to raise, for the first time, an issue regarding ownership of the Josie property. We assumed that Dan and his attorney simply did not understand that, under the copyright law, as a commissioned work, Dan's contribution to the creation of the Josie property constituted a work-for-hire owned by Archie Comics. We met with Dan several times in an effort to amicably resolve the situation. Unfortunately, Dan responded by having his attorney sue us.>>
<<The allegations that Dan's attorney put into his Complaint bear no relation to the historical circumstances surrounding the creation of the Josie property. Nevertheless, even after Dan sued us, we tried to continue to work with Dan. Subsequently, however, Dan's attorney has taken such aggressive and unreasonable positions in the litigation that, under the circumstances, we have sadly been left with no alternative but to terminate our relationship with Dan. It simply is not possible for us to continue to work with someone who is pursuing such baseless legal claims against our company.>>
<<We at Archie Comics have enjoyed our relationship with Dan over the years and respect him as one of the best cartoonist in the industry. We feel terrible that after all these years and at Dan's stage in life we have had to sever our relations with Dan. However, there is just no way we could continue to buy work from an artist who is pressing such baseless claims against us.>>
<<I hope that you are now aware of the circumstances that regrettably left us no choice but to discontinue our relationship with Dan.>>
<<Further inquiries regarding this matter should be directed in writing to our legal counsel, [withheld].>>
<<Very truly yours,>>
<<Archie Comic Publications, Inc.
Michael Silberkleit
Chairman/Co-Publisher>>
I figured that I'd present this to you, Cap, in the spirit of giving "equal time" to Archie Comics.
Thanks, [withheld]. I have to give Silberkleit props for answering -- he could have blown you off or just referred you to the attorney. But it still stinks.

Make what you will of that whole deCarlo debacle, ditto Silberkleit himself, but the company in its current state does not look healthy with kooks like Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit in charge, nor the turf war that’s been taking place. Something Mr. Smith’s been largely oblivious to, as he embraced all that the late Mr. Silberkleit didn’t, and deCarlo likely didn’t either. It’s not just that whole frustrating affair at Archie that stinks.

Dear Cap: I've been pondering Stan Lee for a few weeks now. Such ponderings have been generated by his involvement with DC Comics, as well as his StanLee.net website. I'm sorry to say this, and no doubt such an opinion will get me stoned by raving crowds, but his work is poor. Very poor indeed. I've suffered watching his 7th Portal and The Accuser -- both of which are awful. The writing on these stories is horrendous, and not only that I'm sure Stan narrates some of them as well. These go down about as well as his narration on all the other early Marvel cartoons.
I think the highlight of the entire site is the evil clone section. I never realized Stan was into heavy bondage -- at his age, I'm amazed he isn't popping handfuls of Viagra. Now this whole DC/Stan Lee thing is a sad state of affairs. Newsarama reported that ."There is not another single person that we would let do this with our characters," DC president and editor in chief Jenette Kahn is quoted as saying."
I personally can name at least five writers who would do a far better job than Lee on this project -- Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennnis ... I could go on
Sorry I'm just venting.
Actually, I've mentioned on the site a time or two that I'm not expecting a second "Marvel Age of Comics." In fact, the last two times I remember Stan taking an active role in a series was Savage She-Hulk No. 1 and Ravage 2099 -- both of which had to be majorly re-tooled to make 'em workable.
But it's still an Event of unprecedented magnitude, and in a perfect world would result in the firing of some of those suits at Marvel who keep shooting the company in the foot. The mere FACT of it oughtta have Marvel sweating, which is good enough for me. And, what the hey? It's a one-time deal that might just be fun.

Gee, why should we take the word of a guy who’s not very critical of Dan Buckley for how he runs Marvel, and never publicly panned Bill Jemas for his equally bad dealings with the former House of Ideas?

And I don’t think any of the names the correspondent mentions would make a good substitute for Lee, not even Miller, no matter how much I respect him today politically.

With Planetary No. 10 Warren Ellis accomplished what the Legion of Doom couldn't -- killing Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman before they could begin their careers.
No. 10 was the first issue of the title I've read, but I loved Ellis's homage to the Challenge of the Super Friends episode which featured the origin of the aforementioned super trio. In that episode Luthor's Legion of Doom discovered the secret origins of the Man of Steel, the Amazon Princess and the Emerald Gladiator and traveled back in time to interfere with their beginnings, so the heroes would never be. Of course, the other Super Friends step in and upset the Legion of Doom's plans, but not on Earth Ellis. Planetary No. 10 is like the Silver Age meets the Twilight Zone. A very fun read.
I quite agree, although it was kinda depressing. Meanwhile, over in Authority, Jack Hawksmoor & Co. meet the Avengers, only thinly disguised and brutish beyond belief. I'm enjoying both tremendously, but I have to wonder what both books will do when they run out of old comics and pulp fiction to lampoon?

I can’t answer that, but I can say that, when Mr. Smith’s column is cancelled, it’ll be a blessing. And thumbs down to Planetary! Coming up next is June 1, 2000:

Hey, Cap. How is it going? Do you know that Humanoides Associes, the biggest publisher of SF comics in France has now a North American division? They have been publishing hardcover comics by extremely talented European creators like Enki Bilal, Alessandro Jodorowski and Juan Gimenez in the U.S. for months, but it seems like NO ONE noticed.

That is a shame, since comics like the "Saga of Metabarons" (published in the U.S. in an unexpensive comics format) are as good, if not better, than anything in U.S. comics these days. They even hired Travis Charest (Wildcats) to do some work for them!

It's been some time since European comics have been published in the U.S., so I think that you should write something about that.

Saudacoes ...
There have been some stabs at European comics in the U.S. NBM Publishing, for example, regularly reprints European graphic novels, and recently Dark Horse experimented with digest-sized reprints of Nathan Never, Dylan Dog and Martin Mystery from Italy. I'd certainly like to see more, though.

If there’s any import from Europe I can’t stand, it’s the Smurfs. No longer will I waste my time on those marxist metaphors, with Brainy Smurf an apparent allusion to Trotsky and Papa Smurf a stand-in for Karl Marx. There are some gems on that continent, but who knows if they’ll be picked, or ever have been?

Dear Cap: I was checking out AOL's posts again. While I was on the BYRNE WARD, I came across a post from a fellow that mentioned an article in St. Louis Riverfront news called, "Why do women in comics become Women in Refrigerators?" and written by Robert Wilonsky. This poster asked John Byrne about some comments in that article made by Mark Waid. I decided to check out the Riverfront's Online site to see if there really was such an article. There is, and here's a link:
St. Louis Riverfront Times Online -- riverfronttimes.com/Columnists/Fatal Femmes
Pretty interesting article, overall. I thought you'd find it interesting, as well. Here's a cut-n-paste of a post, with Byrne's response:
POSTER: The writer of the article was condemning the sad state of affairs for women in comics. Nothing new here. But the thing that caught my eye is what the professionals are quoted as saying. John Byrne was one of them, and his quote seems fairly legitimate (if they are quoting him in context), but Mark Waid's quote is interesting. Of course, some of the other information in the article is wrong, such as (that) a recent incarnation of Wonder Woman "is powerless and wearing an outfit not much bigger than a magic lariat." But the thing that gets me is a statement by Mark Waid. (And the paper calls this the obvious explanation for why comics treat women poorly.) They say, he says, that most fans of or in comics social outcasts who hate people, can't get laid, keep girlfriends and are ticked off at them.
I can't help but wonder if writer feels this way about his audience, then why's he in the field? Then again, I wonder if they quoted him right. Oh, the other seemingly biggest explaination for the treatment of women are writers going through divorces.
JOHN BYRNE: Sigh. You know, I've come to wonder if such things as WW2, Vietnam, Watergate, Monicagate and all the other colorful events of the 20th Century really happened, or happened as we think they did. After all, I read about all of them in the newspaper, and if the articles published in newspapers about things with which I am well acquainted (such as the comic-book industry) are to be taken as any sort of example, all those other articles must be equally (i.e., almost totally) wrong, too.
Although the quote from Waid sounds like him.
I read the article, and I must say the writer was bit harsh. On the other hand, I've often remarked about the "Gwen Stacy Syndrome" -- where girlfriends/wives are arbitrarily killed because the writer simply doesn't know what to do with them. In fact, I once answered a Q&A about dead girlfriends, and the list I compiled (which was nowhere near comprehensive) ran into 30 or 40 names. (Heck, Sub-Mariner alone had three entries!)

I’ve read Mr. Smith’s reply, and I must say he’s more than a bit weak and pretentious. After all, he threw away even this much after he praised Identity Crisis, and I’ll never tire of noting this.

I find Byrne’s comment more than a bit disgusting, since it runs the gauntlet of history denial. But then, as I’ve long been aware, Byrne did go downhill since the late 1990s more than ever before.

Dear Cap: In regard to Astronauts in Trouble:
Thoroughly enjoyed the first series, which was "Live from the Moon." If you get a chance, check it out. You have to give credit to a guy that publishes his first series entirely out of his own pocket. A series which I thoroughly enjoyed.
It's that sense of wonder that the title gives back to sci fi that I loved.
I'm just a sucker for sci fi ... I just picked up the Flash Gordon serials from 1936 on DVD. Iguanas fighting is damn fine viewing :)
Wouldn't you know it, my local shop was sold out of the AiT TPB -- and during a sale at that! I'll try to remember to order one next time I indulge in online shopping.
And, not only are iguanas fine viewing, but ducks are fine dining. GAIR-TRUDE! GAIR-TRUDE! VAIR IS GAIR-TRUDE???

He didn’t deserve to get any copies of AIT, far as I’m concerned.

Hi, Cap: This is my theory and observations about the alleged decline in the number of children reading comic books. I felt motivated enough to share:
It's highly likely that one of the major reasons kids don't consume more comic books (or other reading material) is because somewhere in their development adults simply failed to reinforce reading behavior. There's no excuse for it.
The best time to influence a young mind is before he (or she) consciously realizes that he's emulating adult behavior or seeking approval. If you're involved with a child early enough in his development, he naturally picks up on your actions and follows suit. Reading bedtime stories, for example, is not only an excellent way to bond with someone you love, but also teaches BY EXAMPLE that reading is a valuable, enjoyable activity. Later in his/her adolescence, he'll begin to make his/her own decisions. But previous experiences and emotional connections will naturally draw his attention in certain directions. Additionaly, casual reinforcements will help a developing mind make appropriate choices.
If, instead, you spend five evenings each week in front of a television (ostensibly to drown out psychic static accumulated from a hard day at work), children have absolutely no reason to pick up a magazine, book or newspaper on their own. Conversations about the latest Friends episode or setting the VCR permeate their brains -- as do commercials for videogames, movies and expensive designer sports shoes.
I'm not lecturing to you, Cap, because I know you're an intelligent, socially conscious person who knows better already. And I don't fault the comic-book store owner or rare customer who tries to interact with youths when they come in the store.
But it bugs the dickens out of me to hear so many other people complain about the inability of comic-book companies to capture a young market when I've seen so many of those people ignore their own responsibilities. I urge your readers to look closely at the environments children live in, not only their own offspring, but also their nieces and nephews, neighborhood kids, visitors, etc. We must also examine our intergenerational conversations for references to books and other reading material.
"Read a good book lately?" But why stop there? We should be trying to subtly influence other adults to do the same, once again leading by example. Don't just do this once or twice and feel self-righteously proud that you've done your job -- repeat it every day, naturally, unself-consciously. Set the standard. I know that individually, we each try a little here and there and then complain later that nothing seems to ever make a difference. But be patient -- it's going to take time and constant effort to reverse such a big trend.
We are the template on which children create their own futures.
Thank you for letting me vent in your forum.
Thanks for your thoughts, […]. Good advice, but doubtless the people who need it most will heed it least. Anyway, I've posted you to see what responses it sparks.

The correspondent who wrote this was a very pretentious leftist. So much you gotta wonder if he really meant what he said, because he ignored his own responsibilities to the world at large. That is, he took a very J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow-ish path as a reporter. And, he even upheld mature storytelling at all costs! That kind of clown belongs on a funny farm.

<<Kids don't see comics like we do. I think we may have ruined it when we made them such collectibles. Kids use to carry comics rolled up in their back pockets and trade with their friends.>>
Y'know, I think [name withheld] may have stumbled upon an important factor in why kids don't read comics anymore! As a dealer, what kids I do get seem only interested in a book's potential value, and even a parent accompanying the child will tell them not to open the comic if he were to buy it, because it will be "collectible" someday.

This way of thinking may have actually given the average child the assumption that collectibility is the only reason to buy a comic. Some children may not want to bother with a hobby where they believe they must always handle the product with kid gloves, so to speak.
That is one possiblie factor in the declining readership of recent years.
Cap writes:
<<I actually looked forward to Byrne's Star Brand at the time (which, as I recall, seemed to bear more than a passing similarity to a certain Emerald Gladiator). Maybe because I was also a Byrne-head, I thought Star Brand was the best of a bad bunch.>>
I, too, was a Byrne-head (perhaps we can start a club for recovering Byrne-heads) and I also bought Star Brand. I also thought it was the best of the drek that was Marvel's "New Universe," but that's not saying much. I found Byrne's issues too depressing. His stories dealt with the aftermath of the Pitt storyline in which Star Brand had obliterated Pittsburgh. It was, up to that point, the first time I quit collecting a John Byrne title once I had started it.
[name withheld] writes:
<<Now this whole DC/Stan Lee thing is a sad state of affairs. Newsarama reported that "There is not another single person that we would let do this with our characters," DC President and Editor in Chief Jenette Kahn is quoted as saying."
I personally can name at least five writers who would do a far better job than Lee on this project -- Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennnis ... I could go on>>
Ah, but then it wouldn't be the media sensation it is. Love him, hate him, or feel indifferent about him, Stan Lee IS Mr. Marvel. Period. And, Mr. Marvel coming to DC to rewrite its characters is mind-blowing, to say the least. The truth is that whether or not Stan Lee can still spin a good yarn is moot to DC. They know that they have a major coup in getting Stan Lee to write anything, good or bad, and that it will make more money than probably anything since the "Death of Superman."
Stan Lee was a great comics writer in his heyday. I dare say that his average story from the '60s can still run rings around an average comic story of today, excepting topical events, then-current slang and such. What one must realize is that the comics of today are the way they are in good part due to Stan's writing. It's easy for someone today, who has benefited from nearly 40(!) years of comic writing stemming from Stan's work, to dismiss that writing as simple or corny. To get a proper perspective, one must think about the writing compared with what was out at the time it was written. Context is important to appreciating why a trendsetter was a trendsetter.
Believe me, it isn't nostalgia when I say Stan is "The Man" when it comes to comics! Yes, his later work is sub-par, but I believe he didn't put his heart into it. He left his titles in other hands and became detached from the flow of things at Marvel.
Ravage 2099 -- well, that just blows ...
Cap writes:
<<Amazingly, he's (Bat-Mite) made some post-Crisis "serious" appearances. You mentioned his appearance in Superman/Batman: Generations 3 (1999) but he was also a Mr. Mxyzptlk-created Bat-imp in Book Six of the 10-issue World's Finest miniseries (also 1999). Also, he was imagined by a drug addict in Legends of the DC Universe 38 (1992) -- or WAS he imagined? The Batman: Mitefall one-shot in 1995 followed much the same lines. He also had a cameo on one of Bruce Wayne's computer screens in Kingdom Come No. 2. I won't mention his appearance in Ambush Bug 3, since we all know that stuff's all made up.>>
Both Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk will also be starring in World's Funnest, a one-shot special written by Evan (Milk and Cheese) Dorkin and illustrated by Frank Miller, Alex Ross and a score of other top-ranking talent. Alex Ross's section deals with Kingdom Come continuity. Ross says that this will be his final work on Kingdom Come, excepting possible anniversary specials, EVER! Yow! The release date is to be announced.
Cap writes:
<<As for stupid questions, my third-grade teacher always admonished that the only stupid question is the one you don't ask. Sure, some of these questions seem obvious, but are they to the questioner? To a newbie, or someone in an area with limited circulation, or to a fan with limited expertise on the Net? And if I can answer the question easily -- as I often can -- shouldn't I? It gives that isolated fan a feeling of being less alone and a greater knowledge of his favorite hobby so that he, too, can educate the next generation. It's also an opportunity for others to contribute their knowledge to an appreciative audience. I see nothing remotely useful to be gained by adopting a churlish attitude and brushing off someone whose circumstance I don't know -- and who may very well become a friend and contributor to the conversation down the road.
Look how readily knowledgeable fans contribute to this site: [many names withheld] -- the list is endless. If they take the time, can I do less? All have asked questions, and all have answered them. Where else can you find such a delightful give-and-take by such a bright bunch?
When I got on the Web, there were no sites that gave the more knowledgeable fan a place to exchange notes with his peers, and that adhered to standards of accuracy and reliability. I resolved to build one. And, with the help of people such as yourself and hundreds of other contributors, it's here. I can hardly let you all down now!
But thanks for the concern -- it's nice to be appreciated!>>
Ditto. I want you to know that I definitely appreciate the time you take to answer my questions and read my letters. One thing I like is that you are a "real" person, Cap. You don't mince words. You call it as you see it, and you admit if you have erred. You know your stuff, and I find that I agree with you on a great number of things! So much so, it's uncanny!
Thanks again, Cap! And, as always, Keep Up The Good Fight!

Thanks for the kinds words, [withheld]! Sure, I call 'em as I see 'em -- and I hope I back up that opinion with a reasonable rationale, so that the conversation doesn't devolve into throwing opinions back and forth. And sure, I own up to error -- no sense spreading false information. Besides, my mother always told me that being able to say "I'm wrong" is the right thing to do!
I agree wholeheartedly with your Stan Lee remarks. I don't expect the series to be "senses-shattering" -- in fact, it'll probably be pretty lame. Stan is indeed past his prime. But the mere fact of "Mr. Marvel" writing the seminal DC characters has got to be the coup of the century. Somebody at Marvel must be kicking himself around the office right now ...
And you bring up an interesting point about WHEN Stan wrote his best work. "Brand Echhh" in the '60s, by comparison, really was. When Stan had the courage to write about the UNpopular kid at school in Amazing Spider-Man, DC's heroes were all bland, interchangeable caricatures who all spoke exactly alike. Marvel's characters, by contrast, were an amazing departure from the norm. Now Stan's approach IS the norm, so younger readers might not understand what all the hoo-ha was about. But, oh, how we cranky old men remember!
And as to your comments (and [name witheheld]) about kids who collect instead of read, any ideas about how to reverse that trend?

Since that time, Lee’s approach is no longer, even in Marvel. Quesada and Alonso abandoned that come the crossovers they swamp their output with today.

Interesting that the store manager who wrote this once had children coming by who could qualify as junior speculators, since they bought some comics more for presumed monetary value and not for reading proper. That’s just as galling as the adult speculators who comprise a much bigger chunk of the market. I figure today, there are less younger speculators turning up because of the higher prices, but those who do may have been influenced by their irresponsible parents. It’s sad to have to criticize parents, but the sad truth is that even they’re not innocent.

And a shame the store manager thinks Smith was ever part of the good fight. What’s he done since then to think up ideas? Practically nothing, alas.

Dear Cap: Have you ever noticed that (when) in movies and books "monsters" from the deep come upon land, they always take the scenic route in order to scare the local folk and grab hold of the resident beauty queen? Well, you know what a ruckus that raises. Some ordinary "superman" declares that it is testostorene time and makes every effort to save the day ... and succeeds to boot!All in all, it leads one to question: If I ever saw an octopus the size of Manhattan misbehaving itself within city limits, would I want to play arm wrestle? Or how about when a great big,overly-confident meat-eater decides to grab a hold of the local bathing beauty and carry her to his lair, would you jump in to the rescue or say "Oh well, there are plenty of fish in the sea" and leave it at that?

While we would all like to think that we can and will be heroic when the fishy finger of fate points to us, perhaps it is wise to stop and ponder; do you really want to face an opponent on his own turf where his strength would be more than twice that of yours due to the fact that they are geared to take on the strong pressures of his natural habitat? After all, the next time that the fish-man comes for the lady of his stream, he just may be anxious to prove that he is the alpha male.

What is your opinion, cap?
Me, I always wonder why our piscean friends from the Black Lagoon find human women attractive. Wouldn't they rather put the grab on some sexy lobster, or make eyes at the entree at a sushi bar? Seems to me they'd find human women as repulsive as I would a female squid.

Sometimes I wonder if he really means what he says here, since he sure hasn’t been very convincing in proving he likes pretty girls. No joke. This was after all the same man who said he was perfectly fine with getting rid of Sue Dibny, and Jean Loring too. And, less than 2 years after Avengers: Disassembled, he gave telling signs he had no qualms over Scarlet Witch’s loss either.

<<Has it been established that Oracle "appropriates" criminal funds, or is that speculation?">>
From Birds of Prey 19:
Robin: "Where did you get the cash for this?" (In reference to some expensive computer hardware)
Oracle: "Some JLA funds. And I picked up a few bucks here and there from some people who won't miss it. (And didn't earn it.)"
That might not be enough for the District Attorney, but it'll do for me.
Works for me, too, particularly since a pivotal plot point in the upcoming (and eagerly awaited) Nightwing/Birds of Prey crossover is that Oracle has been systematically raiding Blockbuster's financial base. Sounds pretty conclusive to me -- although I have to wonder if ol' pointy-ears is aware of Barbara's foray into grand theft.

I wonder if Mr. Smith’s correspondents are aware of his own forays into apologia!

I read the letter in this week's Q&A about your answering readers' questions. I am turning 30 in June and hadn't read a comic (except for Maus in grad school) for over 16 years until about 18 months ago. An employee of mine turned my on to Kevin Smith's Dardevil, and then Dark Knight Returns, and then Kingdom Come, and then it was every Wednesday at the shops from there on out. Coming back to them as an adult, I think I enjoy them as much if not more know than when I was a kid. I read plenty of the non-Spandex independents but I must say I still love the superheroes, and unashamedly so. They are our modern mythology and morality plays and I think we as fans should encourage other adults as well as children to read them. From what I have seen in my short time back, they have never been as well written or illustrated as they are now. There is also something for everybody out there. Even with my limited knowledge, if you picked a non-comic-reading person at random I bet I could find at least one book or series that would hook them. And despite the gloom and doom from fans and creators about the industry, the stores in Kansas City always seem pretty packed on Wednesday afternoons.

I got off track a little, but my original intent was to thank you for patience in answering questions from "newbies" like me. I have learned quite a lot from reading your site every Thursday, and have picked up a lot of great books that I probably otherwise wouldn't have. My wife knows not to even try to get online on a Thursday evening until I have had my weekly dose of the Captain. Thanks again for providing an intellegent and entertaining site that has helped me get the most out of my great new hobby.
Thanks a lot, [name withheld]! It's my great joy and privilege to do so!

What a disappointment the guy’s co-worker thought Kevin Smith’s work is something to crow over (and Smith's site "intelligent"? Certainly not his own segments, that's for sure). And much as I wish I could say he’s right about mainstream superhero comics as they were circa 2000, even then, there were a growing number with increasingly bad writing and artwork. Green Lantern from 1994-2004 is one telling example, and the Heroes Reborn balderdash from 1997 is another.

Thanks for your gracious credit. I trust you know I had no intent to trip you up or "nail the Captain" in a mistake. As I mentioned, one of the principal aspects I enjoy about your column is your ability to view comics and comics collecting with a pragmatic eye, yet enjoying them all the while. Beyond that, I have made plenty a Silver Age gaffe in my time, on message boards and in other public forums. When I did, it was always because I went by memory, too -- instead of checking my references. Of all the Silver Age titles, Justice League of America was my favorite, too -- for the same reasons you have, although I never felt (Gardner) Fox had to reach that far to include guys like Aquaman and Green Arrow. Although it is interesting to note (I discovered this when I was putting together my E-mail to you) that while in the early days there was almost always a chapter or scene with Aquaman underwater, if you go through the Fox/Sekowsky stories through JLA 63 (Jun., '68), the last time Fox had a scene with Aquaman underwater was in issue 50 (Dec., '66) and that one was Aquaman's first underwater scene since No. 35 (May, '65). So, it is obvious, by halfway through the run, Fox had run dry of ways to squeeze Aquaman into a story adequately. (In a lot of issues, such as Nos. 33, 44 and 53, the Sea King is there; but he doesn't do anything in the way of super-heroics -- he may as well have been Joe Doakes.)
Again, I've let my love for the Silver Age JLA put me afield. When I wrote you, being 10,000 miles away from my collection, I was forced to rely on memory about the "Volthoom" business and the signs around the Crime Syndicate's prison, but I was very certain of those two facts. And I have to agree with you on the obvious insufficiency of placing a handful of multi-lingual warning signs around their prison. I don't agree with you, however, on the essential cruelty of their prison. One can presume that the bubble was a stasis chamber of sorts, keeping the villains in such a state that they did not require food, water or elimination. That leaves your point about lack of privacy. With bodily functions suspended, I don't see disallowing the Crime Syndicate members privacy as a deprivation of a "cruel and unusual" nature.
As far as Fox's formulae for Justice Leaguers' participation, I was pretty sure of my ground; but to be sure, before I wrote you, I downloaded a page from a site which posted all of the Silver Age JLA covers. With those to prompt my memory, I could be sure of my points.
And yes, Batman did grow to fill up available cover space. In fact, I always thought it was misleading for two of the JLA Giant Annuals to picture Batman so prominently on the covers when the stories reprinted within were mostly those in which he had played only a cameo part.
Again, the last thing on my mind was to make you look foolish. In fact, it would be hard to do so. You see, I have an advantage in that I stopped collecting or reading comics right after 1985. You, however, not only have to remember the past, but also keep current on the present. Especially with a whole new DCU after 1985, that's a great deal for any fellow. Even Captain Comics.
Fair winds and following seas ...
Don't worry, [name withheld], I was pretty sure you weren't out to "Nail the Captain" -- your polite and well-researched letter gave ample evidence of your good intentions. And I'm pleased to be able to make the corrections -- no sense spreading false information.
Your assumption of the Crime Syndicate's prison acting as some sort of "stasis chamber" sounds OK to me -- otherwise it really would have been both ineffective and inhumane, both of which would have been out of character for the World's Greatest Heroes. Still, it seems to me that there MUST have been a better solution that didn't require GL's ring to keep the place going. Seems to me that the Guardians had a prison planet somewhere for super-powerful felons that would have fit the bill -- unless Earth-3 was out of their jurisdiction.

I seem to recall this letter was written by somebody who could easily qualify as a right-wing moonbat, much like Shepard Smith on Fox News (what if it turns out he’s a Ron Paul-bot? I wouldn’t put it past him). Yes, there are some so-called righties out there whose MO offends me, and from what I recall of this scorpion, he was perfectly fine with Identity Crisis and turning Dr. Light into a rapist. Gee, I guess if DC editorial decided to turn Arthur Light or some other supercrook into a child molestor, he’d be jumping for joy about that too, eh? It’s a disgrace he doesn’t have the guts to admit he makes more than Silver Age gaffes! Hey, if it matters, I can make mistakes of all sorts too, I’ll admit that. In which case, why can’t he, starting with his support for Identity Crisis? Why can’t he admit it clashes very badly with his alleged fandom for all that is Silver Age, at which time they knew better than to depict costumed criminals as sex offenders, mainly because even grownups didn’t read adventure comics just to see rapists running around hurting innocent women and children through violations. Even today, writing such a story – especially for the sake of media attention alone – only guarantees you’ll lose audience in the long term. Most definitely if you handle the issue lightly.

And Mr. Smith, viewing comics with a pragmatic eye? Get out of town!

Dear Capn:
<<Let's take a look at blade-wielding superheroes (and non-super comic-book heroes) through the years. I'd be interested in a list from you and your readers.>>
What about The Swordsman? I don't think you mentioned him. He's my favorite ... er, swordsman. And he got around the swords-are-lethal bit by having a very broad blade that he could thump people on the noggin with the surface rather than (the) edge and by being the Hawkeye of blades: His was a trick sword, releasing flames, knock-out gas, etc. Granted, he was as often a bad guy as he was a good guy, if not moreso, but I really liked him.
<<BIG BOOK OF THE '70s: Having lived through the '70s, I approach this book with a combination of anticipation and bone-deep dread. God, what an exquisitely tasteless decade.>>
Well, the Big Books are pretty much about bad things, right?
And, hey, the '70s couldn't have been all bad. They gave us both Patti Smith and Pam Grier.
Thanks, thanks, thanks for plugging Maus.
So, have you read Good-bye, Chunky Rice yet? If nay, then git (it) in gear ... !
Oh, fer Pete's sake. Here I make a list of comic-book swordsmen, and omit Mr. Obvious. D'oh! Thanks, [name withheld]!

Sad to see that Chunky crap recommended again.

Dear Captain: Here's a quick question for you, or perhaps your legions of Internet readers:
If you've ever been to MightyBigTV.com, you know that they provide details synopses of popular TV shows (Buffy, Angel, etc.), usually the same week they air. My question is: Does anyone know of a similar site for comics?
I realize there are plenty of comic review sites on the Web, but they all tend to be frustratingly vague. ("I really enjoyed Superboy's fight with this issue's villain, and the plot twist at the end caught me completely off guard.") I'm looking for a point-by-point plot summary.
A site like this wouldn't reduce my pull list: I still enjoy reading the actual stories more than a retelling. But it would help me catch up when I miss an issue, or, as often happens, the story ties into a title I don't follow. ("Why is Flash suddenly older? Why is Wonder Woman's mom here? Why is Orion so annoying?") Do you know of any sites like this?
Y'know, I don't know of a one. I know of a few that synopsize certain titles -- JLA, Green Arrow, etc. -- but not the monthly, comprehensive site you're talking about. Does anybody reading this know of one?

There once was one circa 2005 called Spoilt, but the bloggers stopped updating it. I hope the correspondent realizes he just ran the gauntlet of committing the same error as Mr. Smith – panning the characters instead of the writers assigned.

Dear Cap:
First: I don't think Luthor created Red Kryptonite. My memory tells me that Mr. Mxyzptlk created it and gave it to Luthor in "Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite."
On the topic of comics creators with sword training: Coincidentally to your mailbag this week, Mike Grell is a trained swordsman, which reflects in a lot of his work: Warlord, Starslayer, Sable (had the ability, though it wasn't his main weapon), and I suppose even to some degree Green Arrow. It only stuck out in my mind because either Sable or Starslayer had a huge delay (back when that meant something) because Grell had suffered an eye injury while fencing.
I checked up on "Krisis," and Mxy was indeed behind the whole mess. Thanks, […]!

Alas, Grell soon threw away the ability to credit him fully on his talents, after he wrote that insulting 50th issue of Iron Man at the time. And it's terrible, because I've thought his work on Green Arrow was pretty good.

Dear Cap: Incidentally, WIZARD 16 had an article which noted that the revamped, Sandy-sidekicked Sandman was actually created by Bob Kane, but taken over by Kirby.
The Gold Kryptonite wasn't used to kill the Phantom Zone villains; the Pocket Universe's Krypto exposed himself to it to give Pa Kent the idea of using against Earth-Sigma's (post-Crisis regular universe) Superman. Pa Kent got the idea, loaded all the kryptonite he could find (not just gold -- various other isotopes were shown) into a lead container, and exposed Earth-Sigma's Superman to it -- to no effect. (The radiation given off by Pocket Universe kryptonite was too different from Earth-Sigma kryptonite.)
As to what happened to the gold and other isotopes, they were presumably destroyed by the Phantom Zone villains. I don't expect we'll ever see them again; other than a flashback in SUPERMAN/ALIENS (of all places!), the "Ghosts" annual from awhile back, and the continuing presence of Supergirl, the Pocket Universe is a can of worms that DC prefers not to open.
Earth-Sigma? Well, that's a new one.
Thanks for the info, […] -- would you happen to know the issue numbers where this Pa Kent/Krypto story took place? It doesn't even sound vaguely familiar! And wasn't the gold kryptonite used to strip the Phantom Zone criminals of their superpowers in the Pocket Universe?

Speaking of kryptonite, Smith’s writing has similar devastating qualities on the very medium he speaks about!

Dear Captain: Just a point on "modern" versions of kryptonite. During the "Krisis of Krimson Kryptonite" storyline, Mr. Mxy (you know who) created some red kryptonite. Gave it to Luthor, who promptly threw a fit. Seems the red "K" once in contact with Supes, took his powers away. Giving way to him trying to look like he was flying with aid of rope, using a "super suit" created by Prof. Hamilton. It also led to something that is still in the books. It was at the end of "KOKK" that Supes asked Lois to marry him. I seem to recall that Mr. M showed back up and made the red K inert. It's been awhile since I read it, so, I may have the particulars off, but I believe that to be the gist. Just a fanboy trying to help out.
And it's much obliged, […]! I just flipped through the KOKK TPB, and you're pretty much on the money on all your points.

Which is more than can be said of Mr. Smith. But I repeat myself.

Cap: Great stuff this week. A few comments:
1) I seem to remember reading, no more than 10 years ago, a Superman story that established Metropolis as twin cities with Baltimore. But there's no way Midway is in Minnesota -- too cold for the Hawks to fly around half-naked.
2) I think that the old Batman TV show was absolutely outstanding -- one of the most original things in the history of mainstream television. So visually creative, so witty, so much fun. It actually has been syndicated, as I managed to see just about every episode when I was a socially stunted preteen about 10 years ago -- an NYC station (the Fox affiliate, I think, but I don't recall) ran it on weekday afternoons and late nights.
Like you, Captain, I enjoy that show as something completely different from the "real" comic-book Batman. And while we may all cringe at the vision of Adam West making Batman look silly, this flexibility is exactly what's unusual and remarkable about Batman -- he has existed in so many versions, in so many media, that it is impossible to say what exactly "Batman" is. Is he a silly do-gooder on TV? A grim comic-book hero? An image on a T-shirt? More than any other character in the history of fiction, I'd say, Batman has existed in more forms, in more media, unbound by the limits or dictates of a single authoritative text. Sherlock Holmes has appeared in tons of stories and various media, but Conan Doyle's stories have always maintained the authority of the "real Holmes." Batman has no corresponding master text or concise body of work -- he has literally thousands of texts that have presented dramatically different characters under the name "Batman." Even the ubiquitous "created by Bob Kane" credit is invalid -- Batman was really created by Kane and Bill Finger, and Kane really did very little beyond the earliest stages of the character's history.
Of course, all of us can sort of agree on the "real" Batman because we're comics geeks -- it's a dark, costumed crime-fighting comic book character. (Some might opt for less grim -- the Sprang version -- but the rest of us go with someone like Kane or Adams or, in my case, Norm Breyfogle.) And we might feel that our version has authority because Batman was born in DC Comics, is owned by DC Comics and has been a staple of DC Comics for 61 years (well, not staple. Those are made of metal). But what we think -- the opinion of the tiny subculture of comic fandom -- means squat. Pop culture is a creature of the masses, defined by the whims of the consumer and the market. And the fact is, when most people think of Batman, they think of the movies (before that, the TV show) -- that is Batman for pop culture at large. Tim Burton said it during the pre-Batmania hype in '89 -- something to the effect of "I will be defining the character for a generation." (He basically did, although Schumacher kind of invalidated that pretty quickly.) More than that, even, Batman is just an image. I'd guess that most people in this country have heard of Batman, would recognize an image of him, his logo, and know that his partner is Robin and perhaps that his archenemy is The Joker. But I'd bet that very, very few people could tell you the plot of a single Batman story, from any medium. To culture at large, Batman is not a character (within a narrative), but an image, an icon, a product brand.
What's great about this is that Batman has the potential to be anything, and he more or less has been. Batman can be a TV clown or a dystopic avenger - - and we can enjoy both equally and not feel that our beloved cultural commodity is "threatened" in any way. Batman is a wonderful, malleable emblem of the last 60 years -- the most colorful 60 years in our nation's history -- of popular culture.
As I've said before, I can't wait for this darn Batman musical -- let's see him conquer yet another great American medium.
1) I agree that Midway City being in Minnesota is absurd. I dismiss most of the information in the DC Atlas as being apocryphal anyway -- Earth-Kupperberg, if you will. But -- Baltimore? Sigh. Another precinct heard from.
2) They say the true test of a myth is whether it can adapt to the new needs of new generations, and I think the Dark Knight has demonstrated just that flexibility. From "creature of the night" to clownish crimefighter to world's greatest detective to Batman Family man, the Gotham Guardian has continually evolved to find a niche in the pop psyche. And hey -- I love 'em all!
Great Bat-essay, [withheld]!

What, Minnesota doesn’t have summertimes? Heck, the deep southern USA recently had quite a winter! On the surface, Midway City would primarily appear to be a stand-in for Chicago, also known as Windy City because of all the blowy weather there. But it’s always possible to make it a stand-in for other cities as well. All the same, it doesn’t have to be based simply on what kind of clothing the heroes wear, and there is such a thing as surrealism. How strange to see people telling how much they like the late-60s Adam West Batman series complaining they can’t leave their reservations about real life weather conditions at the door.

Dear Captain Comics: I would like to get your thoughts on Marvel's Ultimate Project. (I read about it in a column by Michael Sangiacomo, who writes a weekly column on comics news for the Cleveland Plain Dealer -- a column that belongs on your page of links, for sure.)

In the fall, Marvel will launch a new Spider-Man and a new X-Men title that will introduce the characters as if they are starting out today, in 2000. In the Spider-Man title, Peter Parker will be a 15-year-old high school student; in the X-Men title, Professor X will form a team of teen-age mutants consisting of (if memory serves -- I don't still have the column) Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue and Colossus.

Marvel will continue to publish its other titles, and these new titles will fall outside the Marvel Universe and not be tied in any way to that continuity. It wasn't clear from the article if these new titles will share continuity.

The idea is to introduce the characters to new, young readers without encumbering them with 30 years of continuity. To that end, Marvel will distribute as many as 12 million copies of introductory issues of the titles, at bookstores, department stores and other places.

My thoughts:

1) It sounds very much like the Manga Spider-Man and Manga X-Men books, done for American readers. Or, like "Heroes Reborn" without making the mistake of canceling the ongoing adventures at the same time. It could work, but I wonder how soon it would be before these new titles develop impossible-to-follow continuity; I would hope Marvel would zealously guard against that. I would also hope that the creative teams strike in new directions, like Batman: Gotham Adventures and Superman Adventures, rather than retell and re-retell all the old stories.

2) I don't feel continuity is bad, per se; it's the idea that the reader has to know it all to get up to speed on the book that's before him.

For example, I gave up reading Uncanny X-Men way back when Dr. Doom teamed up with Arcade. (I couldn't stand it. Not only did that story show Arcade striking a match on Doom's armor without Doom incinerating him on the spot, it had Storm and Doom making goo-goo eyes at each other across the dinner table. I understand that that story has since been ret-conned to say that it was a renegade Doom-bot, and not the true Doom, working that scheme. But I digress.)

Anyway, I couldn't get back into reading X-Men now; since then, there has sprung up a dozen titles and countless miniseries, maxiseries, specials and one-shots. I don't know who the characters are and what the status quo is, and I can't dig through 15 years of titles to figure it out. Marvel was on the right track with those gatefold covers that listed the cast of characters and described what went on before; it should bring those back.

Batman: Gotham Adventures and Superman Adventures are a pleasure to read, in part, because they give the reader all they need in each story. They assume you are familiar with the characters, but you certainly don't have to know what happened in any previous issue to enjoy them.

And Marvel should do what Batman: Gotham Adventures and Superman Adventures do so well -- give us the familiar characters in familiar settings and not turn everything upside down. (Need I mention the clone saga?) And most of all -- give us stories that are COMPLETE IN ONE ISSUE! Never-ending epics and plotlines that dangle for years (X-Men, Legion of Super-Heroes) just make it too hard to jump in.

What do you say?
I'm a big fan of Batman: Gotham Adventures, so if Ultimate Marvel could establish that type of quality I'd be all for it.
But -- and you knew there had to be one -- Marvel's track record on this sort of thing is pretty abysmal (Spider-Man Adventures, Spider-Man Unlimited). The thing is, I don't see continuity as such a bad thing -- in fact, it was what first attracted me to Marvel in the first place, the idea that these were "real" people with "real" pasts who had adventures that "mattered." (As opposed to '60s DCs, where nobody remembered very much or changed very much from issue to issue.) Granted, there are exaggerated cases like the Impenetrable X-Folks, but I just consider that bad writing/editing. What makes me care about Spider-Man is PETER PARKER, a fella I consider an old friend who I check up on every month. I'm not sure I'll give a hoot about this "new" Parker guy who's a web-site designer for the Bugle instead of a chemistry geek.
Of course, I'll take a look and try to keep an open mind. And if Ultimate Marvel can re-introduce comics to mainstream distribution and rekindle excitement in a new generation, I'm all for it.
But I can't help feeling -- particularly with all the other loathsome news emanating from the House of Ideas -- that the Ultimate line shows a very basic lack of confidence by Marvel's executives in their core product.

While it’s true Marvel’s record with the Ultimate line turned out to be as bad as it was, Mr. Smith’s never argued to that effect in his column, so I dispute the credibility of what he says here. And does he really enjoy continuity? After he failed to take issue with Marvel over Civil War, I’d say he’s only produced laughs.

And how come he hasn’t commented on the lack of confidence Dan Buckley’s shown in their core output since? Or even his own that anybody would listen him if he’d be more objective?

Hey Cap: I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring on the whole Metropolis/Gotham muddle. I remember reading a book that was published when Superman turned 50 (appropriately titled Superman Turns 50 if memory serves) which included some information directly from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They had always conceived of Metropolis as Cleveland (being from Ohio themselves).
However, as the stories and legends of Superman grew, Metropolis was widely regarded as the biggest city in America. That biggest city, of course, is New York. As more writers got ahold of the character in comics and film, New York eventually supplanted Cleveland as the obvious location for Metropolis.
Unlike Metropolis, Gotham was always a cypher for New York (the Gotham nickname precedes the first Batman stories by more than a century). For years, nobody saw a problem in having two New York cities in DC Comics. Continuity wasn't exactly an everyday concern.
But now we are all slaves to continuity and so fans and pros alike have had to come up to a solution for this two NYC problem. The obvious solution -- having Metropolis be Cleveland again -- doesn't work. Metropolis is supposed to be about a bright future, and Cleveland with its past and present problems with pollution just doesn't fit our idea of a bright future. Nor is it even as big a metropolis now as Miami or Houston.
The second common solution is to conceive of Metropolis as New York and Gotham as Newark. I kind of like that idea but it's been muddled by the recent introduction of Bludhaven. Nightwing's new home is definitely down the coastline from Gotham and seems to share the whole New York/New Jersey relationship with the real U.S.
Third is an idea that you explored: conceiving of Metropolis as Chicago. Unlike Cleveland, Chicago is still thought of as a world-class city, rivaling even New York. There's only two problems with that solution. One, Metropolis is almost always on the eastern seaboard. In fact, it's usually right on the ocean (disqualifying the Philadelphia idea suggested by another reader, which isn't even on a major body of water). The Superman cartoon had Aquaman ride right up to the Metropolis harbour. Second, either Midway or Central is already Chicago.
The fourth idea was mentioned by another reader: Toronto. Like Chicago, it's a world-class city on a major body of water, this time Lake Ontario instead of Lake Michigan. It does have an international harbour which plays a crucial role in many Superman stories. It's definitely the largest city around, and the whole largest-city-in-the-country concept still applies. Plus, it has the added bonus of having been used by the Superman movies for filming purposes and Jerry Siegel lived there before moving to Cleveland. But like Chicago, Toronto isn't exactly on the Atlantic Ocean. And the largest-city-in-the-country concept doesn't work if it's a different country, and Superman is definitely an American. If Metropolis is Toronto, how does one explain the easy access from Kansas?
I think that any other city would have even more against it than Chicago, Cleveland or Toronto. Philly, like Cleveland, is no longer world class and isn't actually on the ocean. Boston doesn't seem to fit well, and if any DC city represents New England it's Starman's Opal. Baltimore's Chesapeake Bay is at least ocean access, explaining the presence of military ships, submarines and Atlanteans just outside the harbour but that would make Metropolis secondary to Washington, D.C., when they're written more often as equals. Even the pros are undecided. I've read stories in which Gotham is between Metropolis and D.C. and others in which the geography is the exact opposite.
With no perfect solutions, I propose that we're left to pick our favourite (another aspect of personal continuity, a favourite concept of mine). Of course, this means that if the pros pick differently, we have to cut them some slack for the story arc. Right now, Gotham is serving more frequently as the big harbour, so Metropolis could be Chicago or Philly but that's liable to revert. It also means that maybe we'd be best loosening our grip on continuity.
The best solution might be that Metropolis and Gotham are both NYC. Metropolis is all the best of New York: Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations. The New York that fascinates us, that we love and that we find in sitcoms like Seinfeld and Friends. Gotham is all the worst of New York. The New York that we fear, organized crime, street crime and muggings. The New York that fascinates us in a different way, the New York of Law and Order and NYPD Blue. Metropolis is Manhattan. Gotham the Bronx.
Of course, we haven't even worked out the fact that Kyle Rayner and the Titans live there (c'mon, Cap, how could you forget that Titans tower is located in New York harbour?). Nor have we solved the Midway-Central-Keystone-Gateway dilemma. There's a reason why we talk about a "suspension of disbelief" when it comes to cinema, the theater and even comic books.
p.s. I just couldn't resist. I've always thought Midway was Chicago, mostly because of Midway airport; Pennsylvania is the "Keystone" state, so that's Philly, although Pittsburgh could fit; I used to think Gateway was St. Louis because it's always been the "Gateway to the West" and it has the Gateway Arch, but I've read stories in which Gateway was on the east coast (as Boston, I guess) and on the west (San Francisco presumably); Central is also St. Louis the way that Metropolis and Gotham are both New York, but it could be Kansas City if we really need to be persnickety; and Star City equals Seattle but what was Coast City (San Fran? San Diego? L.A.?) and what else might I have missed?
I'm impressed with your well-reasoned analysis, […], which leads inevitably to the "personal continuity" theory.
In my head, Gotham and Metropolis are BOTH New York, but when I'm reading a Bat-book Superman doesn't exist, and vice versa. Batman in particular almost has to live in a self-contained universe, since the majority of his stories would cease to make sense if you consider that he has Thanagarian teleportation technology at his disposal that he doesn't use. Heck, "No Man's Land" almost demanded that we ignore the rest of the DCU.
When Superman and Batman coincide in the same story, then I fall back on the New York/Newark analogy; I can accept that Bludhaven is just a miserable suburb of Gotham. (What kind of name is that for a city? Nobody would ever move there.)
For me, Metropolis HAS to be the premier U.S. city, which means NYC. I have nothing against Toronto, but -- all jingoism aside -- Superman is American, period. I consider the New York that GL and the Titans live in to be the Earth-DC version, which is eclipsed by the City of Tomorrow, somewhere nearby.
On the other fronts, I have to give Gateway City to St. Louis (unless the story flatly contradicts it) because of that big ol' arch. If they locate a landmark in the city -- like Star City's Space Needle -- I feel like you pretty much have to accept what you're seeing. I haven't any idea what to make of Midway, unless it's ALSO St. Louis, or perhaps -- as you suggested -- Kansas City, KS.
I used to consider Central City Chicago -- and still prefer to -- but given its "sister city" status with Keystone, I'm tempted to think of it as Minneapolis/St. Paul. Since Flash can't bothered by the cold, he might be one of the few heroes who could operate up there!
As a kid, I always assumed Coast City was Los Angeles -- or at the least, San Diego. The DC Atlas locates it north of San Francisco, which at first seems like heresy until you take into consideration that the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of aviation R&D -- hence Ferris Aircraft. San Francisco is such a unique city that I really don't think I've seen it yet in the DCU -- its architecture and the Golden Gate would give it away. But I'm still shooting for Coast City to be L.A. -- if for no other reason, the idea that Mongul annihilated all TV and movie executives on Earth-DC gives me a warm feeling. Perhaps their network television is better.
Star City, as noted, is Seattle. Manchester (where Impulse lives) is Birmingham, AL, according to creator Mark Waid. Black Lightning's Brick City (according to creator Tony Isabella) is inner-city Cleveland. The Question's Hub City seems an awful lot like Detroit or Flint, MI -- unless, given its title as "Murder Capital, U.S.A." it might be East St. Louis, IL.
But it all falls back to suspension of disbelief, and if the story's good enough, I'm not gonna work too hard to make it all tie together with a neat bow.

Indeed, he never has worked very hard on anything as journalist, and his work is anything but neat. At worst, it’s very messy. And I find his comment about “warm feelings” disturbing, because he’s suggested he’s fine with the basic premise behind the prelude to Emerald Twilight.

Dear Cap: I just wanted to drop you a line to say how much I enjoy reading your weekly article. I really enjoyed reading your article today about Mark Alessi and his new company CrossGeneration Comics. The marriage between solid business practices and the creative process is usually a very rocky one. Mr. Alessi's background suggests that he is certainly talented in the business side and the talent that he has recruited covers the creative side. As a former freelancer (inker), I always had a strong interest in starting a comic-book production company with a very strong emphasis on great storytelling and art. I wish Mr. Alessi and his company best of luck.
Thank you once again for your weekly column. It never fails to be informative and entertaining.
Thanks, [...]! And the CrossGeneration experiment is an important one for our little niche of pop culture, so it bears our close attention.

Alas, Alessi turned out to be terribly incompetent, but you wouldn’t know that from reading Mr. Smith’s columns. Let's go on to June 8, 2000:

Dear Cap -- If you've read the latest Come In Alone from Warren Ellis (on comicbookresources.com), then there's an awful lot of things wrong with the industry that could be the end of it all. Fanboys seems to be harbingers of doom, because they resist change. To be honest, without change, then it's only a matter of time.
No doubt. But how many fanboys are that resistant? Ellis was quoting a few guys on one BBS, and I don't doubt they represent many more. But the folks who write me -- like you, for instance -- seem more curious and open-minded. Maybe it's an age thing, where you have more perspective.
What do the rest of y'all think?

I think Mr. Smith is just as bad as any insular fanboy, because people of his ilk are harbingers of doom to boot from another angle: that is, any change they push for is something detrimental to comics, like Identity Crisis. Pushing for darkness, which is actually what many of the fanboys whom Ellis and the correpondent speak of never seriously opposed. Certainly not if they embraced IC and Avengers: Disassembled, and there were some who did. That’s why “fanboy” can be a most embarrassing label in some circles.

Dear Cap -- Time for my favourite: numbered questions!
1) Am I crazy, or does this Marvel Boy series look terrible or what? Grant Morrison looks to have finally gone too far. I'll go out of my way to avoid this one.
2) On a related note, does anyone else think that Marvel Boy's artist J. G. Jones is over-rated? He draws some nice covers and pin-ups, but I found the first Black Widow series lacked any good storytelling sense whatsoever.
3) On a personal note, Cap'n, have you ever had a letter published in a comic? I would think that someone who has been collecting comics as long as you would have written in at one point. Personally, I've only written to Wizard, and had a letter published in No. 98.
After that shamless tooting of my own horn, I'm out of questions.
Oh, boy! Numbered questions!
1) Actually, I'm kinda curious about Marvel Boy -- Morrison seems to take pride in deconstructing the very genre in which he works, which, to quote Peter David, you do at your own extreme peril. Sometimes it works (JLA, Doom Patrol) and sometimes it's embarrassing (Animal Man, Invisibles). I know not everybody would agree with me on those examples, but I find in general that Morrison's ego digs himself some huge holes, and it's always fascinating to see him try to dig his way out.
2) I quite enjoyed the first Black Widow series, but what I remember is that the story is what hooked me. Well, that and the covers, where the Widow was stunningly sexy in a non-Image kind of way. I don't recall the interior art impressing me one way or the other.
3) As it happens, I've only written one letter to a comic book in 35 years of reading. And, yes, it did get published (in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen No. 3). I guess I've always been too lazy or chicken to write, and the pomposity of that one letter when it appeared in cold print -- which I certainly did not intend -- gave me good reason to never write another.

This from the same man who’s approved of deconstructing the DCU in Identity Crisis (which Morrison later said he was okay with), and also the MCU, as he particularly made clear when he fawned over Civil War. Let’s also not forget Morrison’s own take on X-Men, which Smith was never critical of, not even the weird pacifist take on the series. Worst, Smith only helps the industry bury itself.

And never mind the letter writing, where Smith’s a lazy chicken is his cowardice to address the aforementioned miniseries and crossovers from an objective view that doesn’t blot out the voice of the detractors who felt the former was misogyny incarnate.

I’ll even note that today, as someone who’s willing to say he’s embarrassed and depressed at his inability to bring up something more objective like ask Mr. Smith whether mainstream comics have addressed the Armenian Holocaust (Medz Yeghern), and could only think of otherwise cheap ideas for a discussion, that’s given me good reason never to waste time corresponding to people like him again. Guilty confession: I was lazy myself.

Dear Cap -- You wrote:
<<Thanks for the info, […] -- would you happen to know the issue numbers where this Pa Kent/Krypto story took place? It doesn't even sound vaguely familiar!>>
This story (Krypto in Pocket Universe) took place in Action Comics 591. The name "Earth-Sigma" was one that was never used in DC's comic books. I got it from a well-done CRISIS website. The site had quick entries on the major DC universes. Earth-Sigma, as noted on the site, was the universe that appeared in Crisis 11 and lasted until Zero Hour 1. That it did not last 10 years is due to the various problems discussed on the web site:
http://www.io.com/~woodward/chroma/atmain.html
Earth-Sigma
-- Also Known As: Post-Crisis Earth, Earth-PC (Post-Crisis), Earth-AC
(After Crisis)
-- Keyword(s): Post-Crisis, Pre-Zero Hour
-- Classification: no special classification, possibly a Hypertimeline
-- Key Events:
First Appearance: Crisis on Infinite Earths 11, 1986
Last Appearance: Zero Hour 1, 1994
Revealed as part of Hypertime: The Kingdom: Planet Krypton 1, 1999
Earth-Sigma (name proposed by me; "sigma" can mean "sum" in mathematics) was a merging of Earths 1, 2, 4, S and X. It was also a constant work in progress. When initially created, all heroes who had fought the Anti-Monitor at the Dawn of Time remembered their original universes. Shortly they all forgot, leaving the Psycho Pirate as the only one who remembered. Over the next few years, many major characters had their origins revamped and updated, including most of the most important heroes. Unfortunately, since this wasn't done all at once, massive contradictions arose. Eventually DC decided to clean house again, and Earth-Sigma was destroyed in Zero Hour. In Planet Krypton and The Kingdom several characters are seen who appeared during the Earth-Sigma period.
Thanks [name withheld], for the info.
I looked it up, and sure enough the "pocket universe" that gave us the Superboy story was the same one that was destroyed by the Phantom Zone villains. And it was in that universe that Superman broke his oath to take a life, by first robbing the PZ villains of their powers with gold K, and then executing them with green K (Superman 22).
Earth Sigma? Interesting concept.

Yeah, but too bad he was otherwise soft on Zero Hour, as I’ve always figured. Pure embarrassment.

Dear Cap -- In re: The Crime Syndicate's punishment in JLA 30
I don't think the Guardians were the type to worry overmuch about jurisdiction; and even if they were, they had jurisdiction over the Crime Syndicate once they committed crimes (which they did) on Earth-One. Extradition would not have been much of a problem, either, since the villains were finally defeated on Earth-Two. The JSA would have released them to the JLA, and that would have been that.
The Guardians did have a prison planet -- remember the two-part Green Lantern story with Al Magone and Charlie Vickers? But, as I remember it, I don't think it would have sufficiently contained the super-powered Crime Syndicate.
Actually, the best prison would have been the Phantom Zone, presuming one was free to ignore due process in the same manner as the original story did by imprisoning the villains in "the misty borderland between worlds". (There is something about that phrase that stays with me; I have never forgotten it from the first time I read it.)
Of all of the Fox/Sekowsky JLA/JSA team-ups, the one concerning Earth-Three was my least favourite. Not because the premise or the choice of villains was poor, but because -- as you pointed out -- the story was predicated on too much coincidence and an unreasonably orderly framework of events. I just couldn't see the beaten Crime Syndicators standing around docilely while the JLA decided what to do with them; nor did I buy the bit about the expressions on the villains' faces tipping the good guys off to the bombs on Earths One and Two.
Thanks again for the mention in your column and for being a continuing source of interesting commentary.
I do INDEED remember the two-part Green Lantern about the prison planet (the first two-parter I can remember in a Silver Age GL tale; perhaps it was the first). It was that two-parter (issues 55-56) that convinced me to continue buying Green Lantern despite my limited childhood funds. I had to add another lawn to my grass-cutting schedule, but in retrospect was quite worth it. Even though I thought "Al Magone" was just dopey and it was silly that Charlie Vickers was given a ring; he had shown no obvious evidence of being "without fear" and having two Earthmen with a ring seemed ethnocentric to me in what was an extremely diverse and egalitarian organization. (Of course, years later Kyle Rayner was given the ring by sheer chance while he was hanging out in an alley behind a bar where he'd been drinking all night -- you can imagine how I felt about THAT!).

Of course! He may have been disappointed in public, but in private, I’m sure he was quite fine and continued to buy the Kyle Rayner balderdash regardless.

And his correspondent is quite a clown. If that’s how he feels about the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3, does he also find it odd that Sandman would be pictured sitting docilely around a prison at the end of a Spider-Man special when he could still have a chance of escaping? How come that don’t matter to the fool? If the Justice League had emerged victorious and proven themselves formidable to the Syndicate, then I’d say it was plausible they saw little reason to continue with physical resistance, if not verbal.

Dear Cap -- I'm currently in college. I'd like to eventually work in the comic-book industry. I'm trying to develop an independent major at my school. Do you have any suggestions for curriculum, or know where I can find a model for a curriculum in comic-book writing/editing, or color separations? I'm also interested in screenwriting.
Nope, not a clue. Anybody else got any ideas?

Not many, but I’d be very happy if I knew the correspondent had come to realize how awful and unreliable Mr. Smith truly is. Anyone looking to work in comics should not ask him for advice.

Hey Cap'n -- I just read your latest column, "CAPTAIN COMICS: Rated X" and have to ask, why you think it would be necessary to purchase the 10 or so monthly X-titles to know what's what for the X-Men movie. It bothers me when people say, "There's too many X-titles out there." Mainly because those people think that you need to purchase all of them to get the full story. Don't you know that Generation X, X-Force, Cable, X-Man and all the rest consist of self-contained stories? You do not need to read the other to enjoy any one of the X-titles. Occasionally they have the mega-event summer crossover, but that's about it. I've yet to see the movie (as is everyone, of course) but I'm pretty sure not knowing a thing about the other second-tier X-teams won't make a bit of difference or make the movie any more confusing. Speaking of which, a while back you stated that the movie will bomb. You also cited the costume change as a possible reason for it's demise. The reason for the costume change was that the colors (yellow) just didn't translate well enough to film. So, give it a chance, who knows, it may turn out alright.
Actually I didn't say, nor did I mean to imply that you had to read ALL the X-titles to understand the movie. In fact, I think I made it pretty clear that the movie versions of the characters will vary from their comics counterparts substantially. All I meant to do was remind the newspaper audience for whom I write that, yes, there are still X-Men comics being published, and you should go read some of them so you won't be an ignorant boob when the movie comes out and everybody's talking about the X-Men.
But if I managed to perpetuate the pernicious myth that every X-book from Bishop to Generation X must be read to understand any of them, then I stand shamed. Currently, the only books that tie directly together are X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men Unlimited and, to varying degrees, Wolverine.
And I am looking forward to the movie. I NEVER predicted it would "bomb." I merely expressed puzzlement and disappointment that they changed the costumes, which I was looking forward to seeing. No, whether the movie succeeds or fails will depend on lots of factors, and the costumes probably won't enter into the equation much. I just wanted to see 'em!

Even if crossovers didn’t take up too much room back in the day, Cable and X-Man were two titles that sure weren’t worth the bother, ditto the Gambit ongoing, and I’d advise against spending money on them. Mind you, that’s not saying the characters are bad, just the way they’re scripted, but I suppose it’s worth noting that some moviegoers might be surprised if they found out some of the movie cast were based on characters suffering from bad writing.

Strange he talks about the color yellow, since that was on the black costumes in the film.

In regards to your statement about Marvel and DC trivia kings, I agree that Waid and Busiek are high on the list (as is James Robinson). But for all-out trivia knowledge, no one can top Roy Thomas. He knows all there is to know about Marvel and DC. Golden Age, Silver Age, etc. I dont always enjoy all of his stories or his excessive continuity habit. But he is the man without a doubt.
You've got a point there, [name withheld] -- when it comes to Golden Age and Silver Age, I often call on Rascally Roy's seemingly infinite knowledge. However, without slighting Roy the Boy, he hasn't demonstrated any particular knowledge post-Crisis, and I don't see him whupping young whippersnappers in trivia every year at San Diego. Still, he certainly deserves to be included in the pantheon of trivia kings.

But he has slighted Roy: he spoke very negatively about Infinity Inc, acting as though it’s wrong for the Justice Society to have younger successors, and claiming the new cast members were uninteresting because they were younger, while the older ones are superior in every way simply because they were created during the Golden Age. Compared to a dreadful scribe like Geoff Johns, who didn’t show much affection for anything Thomas, Roy is a genius of his time. And why must he demonstrate knowledge post-Crisis when post-1990s, there wasn’t much he could impress upon? Let’s also remember DC’s later editors trashed quite a few of the cast he created during Eclipso: The Darkness Within, Zero Hour, and even Final Crisis and Flashpoint.

Dear Cap'n -- I'm a bit irked by all this Byrne-bashing going on. If people don't like his work, fine. No one can like everything and no one can be liked by everybody. But for God's sake, people, apply the same criteria to everyone.
Byrne's done some great work, some good work, some OK work, and some dogs. But I can say the exact same thing about EVERY creator who ever worked in comics. Jack Kirby? More dogs than anybody, because he did more work than anybody. Ditko, other than Dr. Strange and Spider-man, I've never liked anything he did. Even my greatest hero, John Buscema, has hacked out his share. And don't get me started on those charlatans who started Image.
The point is, nowadays it's in vogue to bash Byrne. Was Byrne's Spidey relaunch worse than anything in the Heroes Reborn relaunch? I say not! Byrne has contributed to some of the greatest comics of all time. His X-Men art is the best the title ever saw. His FF run was (until the latter
portion) as good as Kirby and Lee. His Next Men was perhaps his best work of the '90s (and a far cry above the Image/Marvel/DC superhero fare of the time). And Byrne's Superman is the ONLY post-Crisis DC superhero to sustain his/her new character and continuity. To this very day, Bat-fans don't know which pre-'86 stories count and which don't.
If we're going to judge the industry's icons from "the bottom up" then that perspective must fairly be distributed among everybody, not just one artist. Only in comics do we consume our talent and throw them away &SHY;&SHY; far worse than the movie industry. Byrne's arrogance is but a candle to that of Harlan Ellison and sci-fi fans love Ellison for it! This industry desperately needs stars to light the way.
With sales in the dumps, we have a talent pool terrified for their jobs and without voice or vision. Byrne may not be the idea spokesman for everybody, but at least he isn't afraid to speak his mind. Y'know, it's not like Byrne ever said "I am the way, follow me" or anything like that. He just makes the comics like he thinks he should and lets the fans love him or hate him.
If you want to hate him, do so. But let's not be hypocrites about it.
You make some very valid points, [withheld].
Oddly enough, I think the reason folks (like me) indulge in so much Byrne-bashing is because we once LOVED him so. Frankly, anything with the name "Rob Liefeld" attached to it, I expect to be derivative, juvenile and poorly executed (like Heroes Reborn). But when I think of the anticipation I USED to have for a Byrne project, it makes me all the more unhappy when I read Spider-Man: Chapter One.
In other words, the reason we gripe about Byrne so much is because we know how GOOD he can be, and we're disappointed that he isn't living up to his own potential. But you're right -- we should rein it in. Nothing is served by it.

I’m very disappointed the correspondent doesn’t like Ditko outside of Spidey and Doc Strange. After all, this was the guy who co-created the much maligned Hawk and Dove, along with the 60s Blue Beetle and the first template for the Question.

Byrne may not have said he was the only way, but he did say some insulting things on his website’s message board once, and would erase the messages that were negative about his work. That’s hardly a way to let fans decide. His take on women could be insulting at times, as seen in West Coast Avengers in 1990. Oh, and before I forget, Superman no longer sustains Byrne’s continuity.

And funny how Mr. Smith laments how he once loved Byrne, but doesn’t say the same about Mark Waid, who’s plummeted in terms of talent and manners. June 15, 2000:

Dear Cap: This may be a little late in the game, but I thought I'd weigh in with an opinion of something I read in the Q&A section.
I think the Silver Age revival is fantastic! I am a shade under 30 right now. The bulk of my childhood comic-book reading was made up of mid- to late-'70s JLAs, Flashs and Brave and Bolds. I dropped out for a time and got back into it in high school and have been a fairly consistent reader/collector/enjoyer (did I just make up a word?) since the late '80s. I was there for the grim-and-gritty era. I was there for the launch of Image and their unique blend of ultra-violence, bad anatomy and insipid writing. I think the Silver Age revival is great for comics. If I want grim and gritty, I'll turn on the news. If I want insipid writing, I'll read some of my own attempts (ba-dum-dum). I don't want to read comic books and be depressed. I want to read comic books for the sense of wonder they inspire. I want to be taken to a world where magic rings exist, where people can run faster than the speed of sound, where a man can cling to the ceiling like a spider.
My previous Silver Age experience was in the odd, battered Flash or Metal Men I could find in a bargain box or the sometime reprints in the pages of comics I was reading. However, with the influx of Marvel's Essential line of trade paperbacks and DC's "Greatest Stories Ever Told" (books) and 80-Page Giants and 100-Page Super-Spectaculars, I have been able to read a wealth of Silver Age material.
The writing and art style of the Silver Age may not appeal to everybody. The stories can be downright silly but they had a certain sense of fun and wackiness that made them work. What is realistic about watching the JLA beat a giant starfish from outer space with quicklime? Realism in comic books can be a good thing; it lets writers flesh out characters that we can relate with. To me the Silver Age was about wonder and excitement, when the most outrageous things could and did happen to our heroes. If Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek and others want to take comic books and reinvest them with that wonder, then I am all for it. That is why I read comics, to take a few minutes and escape from the reality around me of work and mortgage and car payments. Thanks for listening.
I'm delighted to hear you say so, [withheld].
In my case, there's no helping it: I'm a Silver Age fan, and always will be. You never forget your first time, as they say, and like every fanboy on the planet the best comics in the world to me are the ones I read first.
The empathy I felt for Lee/Ditko's Peter Parker, the giddy wonder I felt as Hal Jordan discovered the Green Lantern Corps, the majesty of Lee/Kirby's Thor, the shameless excitment I felt when Earth-Two was introduced, the sense of safety I got from Lee/Kirby's Fantastic Four -- nothing I ever read until I die will equal those sensations. Those early issues are now chemically hard-wired into my brain, and no matter how silly a Silver Age book is, when I read it I'm 12 years old again, sitting in my back yard with my dog, a root beer and Wein/Trimpe's Incredible Hulk on an endless summer afternoon.
What I've always feared, though, is what younger fans think of the Silver Age. After all, their introduction to comics came in later periods that had a different feel (and often superior artwork and/or writing). I've always half-assumed that those who didn't grow up in the Silver Age would never see its goofy charm, its unqualified heroism and -- most importantly -- its proud sense of FUN.
It's really reassuring to hear that I'm dead wrong. Thanks for reminding me why I read these four-color pamphlets again!

Regret to inform, but if Emerald Twilight was any suggestion, it’s not entirely so that the Silver Age was revived in the 1990s. Why, when Waid rubbed out Blue Devil co-star Marla Bloom in Underworld Unleashed and James Robinson had the Mist’s daughter wipe out 3 members of Justice League Europe in 1998, I’d say that soaked the impact very badly. Even the “Final Chapter” of Spider-Man during 1998 and what followed – like Mary Jane Watson supposedly dying in a plane crash, but later revealed as just kidnapped – did a lot of harm and makes it hard to believe Marvel was trying to revive the Silver Age either.

Dear Cap: I was a little kid when DC came out with Crisis on Infinite Earths. As a little kid I didn't even know what continuity was or why it was so important that they had to change everything. I just remember being annoyed that the New Teen Titans weren't as good because the Crisis kept interrupting the stories.
Shaky memory and all, I do remember reading an editorial by Jim Shooter on the Marvel Bullpen Page (not even knowing who Jim Shooter was). Jim lambasted DC for starting over and stated that Marvel was too proud of their history to ever pull a stunt like that. He said it was possible for Marvel to start from scratch every seven or eight years but part of the creative challenge was working with characters who grew and matured.
That editorial came back to me during the Heroes Reborn experiment and when Marvel announced Spider-Man: Chapter One. Now, Marvel's trying to start over again (with the Ultimate line). I can't say I'm surprised. I even have to confess I'm a little excited because Brian Michael Bendis is being given the reins and because I've seen some promo art by Joe Quesada. But at the same time, won't it be a little confusing to have two books with the same title on the market? Cap, you said that we should watch the CrossGen experiment closely. I have to say that the Marvel Ultimate experiment is the one to more likely make or break the industry

True enough. The last time the 800-pound gorilla tried something this big (Heroes World), it collapsed the distribution system into the hands of Diamond. And like that previous effort, the Ultimate experiment is another one rife with disastrous possibilities.
Will it be confusing to have competing continuities (for surely the Ultimates will grow their own)? Will it simply dilute the existing fanbase? Does it betray a basic lack of confidence by Marvel bigwigs in their core product?
On the other hand, it is addressing one of the major problems all the pundits complain about: the lack of appeals (and appeal) of mainstream books to new readers. You have to give Marvel props for trying something, even something as unnerving as the Ultimate line.
Oh, no doubt Ultimate is a bigger gamble than CrossGen, with greater rewards and perils. And, frankly, my Magic 8-Ball is pretty fuzzy on it -- I haven't the slightest clue how it'll work out. I'm just crossing my fingers and watching.

Man, what a shame that correspondent is such a jerk: I own two issues of New Teen Titans connected to Crisis, and they actually didn’t push it as badly as I feared. I’m amazed at how fortunate that is. Maybe Marv Wolfman realized somewhere along the line that the crossover wasn’t helping much. Today, it would be even harder to tell something with more stand-alone elements during a crossover.

And he was hyped up for Bendis? Ugh, what a cringe-inducing moment.

Dear Cap'n: I guess I'm opening a big can of worms with this one, but if I'm gonna open it, I might as well dump out the whole can! In reference to Oracle's use of the "Sin Tax" to appropriate money from criminals, I'll say right up front I AGREE with you -- it isn't ethical. Ethics are what separates the heroes from the villains; without ethics, heroes and villains are pretty much the same (and lately, even that line is blurred). Is it ethical to steal, even from a criminal who didn't get the money honestly? Of course not. But in Oracle's case, what is her alternative? Oracle isn't mobile; cyberspace is her battlefield. Should she sit back and let the criminals keep the money, with no way for the law to touch them, and do nothing while they continue to prey on the weak and get richer? Not on your life. It's obvious in Birds of Prey 19 (when Oracle tells Robin where she got the money to pay for the computer equipment) she's not proud of what she's done; Oracle is hanging her head (great artwork from Butch Guice to get this point across). But I'm certain Babs sleeps better at night knowing she's done her best to help in the war on crime, even if her conscience bothers her because she's stolen the money. Think of it this way: Oracle isn't using the money to buy a luxurious lifestyle or for any other personal gain. She wants the best possible equipment to get criminals off the streets -- no more, no less.
As for Batman and what he knows about this...I can't imagine he doesn't know where Oracle gets the funds. NOTHING gets past his notice. At the same time, I have to believe Batman also takes funds from Oracle to fund his own personal war. It's simply too easy to trace his spending if he uses Bruce Wayne's money as he once did; Ra's Al Ghul isn't the only criminal who can track this paper trail. I'm sure the ethics of this bothers Batman, too, but he bends the rules when he must. As the Captain has said, isn't he violating the civil rights of every criminal he pummels? And didn't Batman use drugs to get information from one of Ra's Al Ghul's minions in a recent issue of Detective? I don't think the question should be if Batman knows about Oracle's actions; rather, the question should be what would Superman (the most ethical person in the DC universe) say about this?
One more thing ... if we were in the Silver Age, we wouldn't be having this discussion, would we? I imagine not, especially with the Comics Code at that time.
OK, Captain, it's your turn. Don't go easy on me.
Well, I won't pummel you or use gas on you -- that's Batman's bag.
No, I see your points quite readily; it's the ease with which we rationalize unethical behavior that makes it so tempting.
But any way you slice it, stealing is wrong. When Batman pummels a crook, he is arguably PREVENTING a crime. When Oracle lifts funds that are not hers, she is COMMITING a crime. And, as you say, we have to keep a line drawn in the sand somewhere, or else the heroes and the villains all blend into one.
I don't have much more to say about it; all arguments to the contrary just sound like self-justification to me. It's very simple to me: Stopping a crime is heroic, commiting one is not.

But did Oracle rob funds from an innocent man or woman? No, she drew them out of the databanks of a criminal (Blockbuster), so again, I’m not sure what his beef is.

Dear Cap: Thumbs Up to [name withheld]
Reading is "Coool" and the young [also withheld] got started thanks to his parents.
-- Newspaper in the Morning
-- Some 30 years of National Geographic, and other magazines.
-- Books were the routine gift from their business trips out of town.
Through gifts and allowance the youthful [same here] contributed to the bottom line of several local bookstores.
Please forward to the […].
Better than that, […], I'll just post it here for all to see.

The person the correspondent wanted this forwarded to was a J. Jonah Jameson type – a very creepy leftist moonbat at that – one who didn’t deserve thanks. I feel sorry for him that he thought otherwise.

On the subject of comics and the deathknell of collectibility ... I've already said that the price needs to go way down (like back to 75 cents). It doesn't have to be any of the current titles, the publishers can start up a special line if they want. The titles we currently buy at dealers are probably going to stay at the dealers. I think the content (certainly not the vocabulary) is just older than what it used to be. But the cheapies need to be kept out of the comic stores. Comic stores reek of collectibility. Cheapies need to be in drugstores and supermarkets. They need to be with all the other cheapie toys, like cap guns, plastic toy soldiers with parachutes on their back, kites and, of course, bubble makers. All stuff you play with and then lose, but that's OK 'cause Mom just bought it to make you stop bugging her and it was only a dollar max anyway.
I think the second thing they could work on is the ads and content. I
read comics in the fourth grade and I don't remember being into heavy rock at the time. The heavy-handed rock ads need to come out and the
paraphenalia needs to come back in. Marvel Super Hero Flip Flops and DC stationary, stuff you buy with points you cut out of the comic and quizzes to write in and characters you can cut out. I think your comic readers start before the teen years. Being a teen is being socially inept and generally depressed, being in grade school is seeing everything as either gross/cool or gross/uncool. It seemed like every time I opened a comic it always started with a big fight scene, Captain America was always in action even if it was in the Avengers training room tossing around the Black Knight. It all sounds campy but in grade school everything is campy.
I think most industry analysts and observers agree that comics have focused so tightly on the collector/older fan market -- where the bigger money is -- that they have completely forgotten about making comics accessible to younger fans (and I'm talking pre-teen here). The result, by all accounts, is that the comics industry completely lost a couple of generations in the late '80s and '90s -- which explains why there are so few newer fans signing up for the long haul.
I think in a healthy industry there's room for all kinds of comics, from the kind you roll up in your pocket to that poly-bagged issue of Captain Phlegm from 1956 that a collector is willing to pay mega-bucks for. But clearly the most important part is the former -- if you can't develop younger fans, you'll never have older ones.

Mr. Smith also forgot about arguing in his newspaper columns why comics need to be made accessible to younger fans, and that includes mainstream superhero tales.

And if he thinks there’s room for all kinds of comics, how come he doesn’t talk about those kinds, like ones with more conservative viewpoints, or ask why mainstream comics won’t welcome Armenians into their ranks?

<<And as to your comments (and [withheld]) about kids who collect instead of read, any ideas about how to reverse that trend?>>

I think one thing we, as an industry, can do to encourage children to pick up comics is to make them more accessible, yet do so without destroying continuity, if possible. I, for one, approve of Marvel's ULTIMATE line. It sounds like a great idea, and it doesn't sound like the books will be condescending to the younger reader just because it is geared toward them. Marvel also had a good idea, if somewhat poorly executed, with the "What Has Happened Before" type page that also included brief synopses of the characters in the comic. I think the gatefold cover was intrusive, but I applauded the effort. I wish that Marvel hadn't entirely scrapped that idea. We also need to downplay the collectibility of comics and play up the readability of the same.
Comics can provide entertainment and excitement that is not available in any other form. Yes, video games and big-budget movies provide a similar kind of adrenaline-charged action, and some TV shows provide the same kind of character development. And, yes, those examples have the benefit of movement and sound, but comics offer entire worlds that you still will only find in comics. Computer-generated effects are nice, but there is something to be said for the beautiful, and amazing art of a comic book great that can't be captured in any other form of entertainment. Imagine if we never got to experience the works of Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Jim Lee, Jim Steranko or whoever you believe is a Great. Movies, TV, and video games can replicate the action, but they can't copy the style!
<<[name withheld]: Dear Cap -- If you've read the latest Come In Alone from Warren Ellis (on comicbookresources.com), then there's an awful lot of things wrong with the industry that could be the end of it all. Fanboys seems to be harbingers of doom, because they resist change. To be honest, without change, then it's only a matter of time.>>
<<Cap: No doubt. But how many fanboys are that resistant? Ellis was quoting a few guys on one BBS, and I don't doubt they represent many more. But the folks who write me -- like you, for instance -- seem more curious and open-minded. Maybe it's an age thing, where you have more perspective. What do the rest of y'all think?>>
Ya wanna know what I think? ;-)
Here is my reply that I sent to Mr. Ellis (no response as of yet, BTW):
Re: Come In Alone, Friday May 26, 2000
Issue #26
Mr. Ellis,
Well, certainly there are those people that think along the lines of what you write, but broad, sweeping generalizations are never a good thing. No, in fact a good number of the posts I have personally read in regard to Marvel's ULTIMATE line have been enthusiastic and positive.

There is the tendency of those who may have an agenda to illustrate others that they perceive as "the enemy" as one collective mindset. We're all probably guilty of that, to a degree. The problem with this is that it smacks of the tactics that the "mother's groups" (another broad generalization, but you get the point) engage in, by erroneously claiming that all who play role-playing games worship Satan, or somesuch nonsense. To suggest that all, or at the least, to imply that most of those that post on message boards are these pathetic, isolationist, emotionally immature fanboys afraid of change is no better than that which the "mother's groups" have said about role-players and the like. It is a crude tactic to sway support in favor of their own opinion by demonizing the other group.
That said, I agree with your opinion of the ULTIMATE line. In the past, I have had a similar idea about an alternative line of Marvel superhero comics that echoes what Marvel is attempting now (of course, not being in the industry in any truly influential way, I had no way to initiate or propose such a thing). I just believe that to save our hobby we don't have to conjure up more enemies. Even those people out there that are like you described read comics, enjoy comics, buy comics. It is all opinion and does nothing to hinder or stall Marvel's plans.

I may not agree with the fans on the message boards that you quote, but I don't agree with your opinions of them, either. They are not the "enemy." They are fans with different opinions. We have enough real problems to concern ourselves with. Dividing our fellow readers into opposing camps for a difference of opinion can't be healthy for anyone.
That's my two cents. ---
<<Cap in response to a question regarding getting a letter published: "...As it happens, I've only written one letter to a comic book in 35 years of reading. And, yes, it did get published (in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen No. 3). I guess I've always been too lazy or chicken to write, and the pomposity of that one letter when it appeared in cold print -- which I certainly did not intend -- gave me good reason to never write another.">>
Now I have to go dig up that issue! <g> I wouldn't think that you are too lazy, Cap! And I don't believe yer a chicken, either! You prove you're not lazy by all the time you devote to the newspaper column and to the website. And a chicken would be afraid to voice his opinions. You certainly aren't a chicken in that regard!
I haven't been able to get my letters published in Wizard or a comic book, yet (and I've tried, darn it!), but Good 'Ol Cap has honored me on a regular basis on the web page and once in the column. I got my letter published in Comics Retailer, too. YAY! All five of us retailers left on Earth read that!!
<<[…]: Dear Cap -- I'm currently in college. I'd like to eventually work in the comic-book industry. I'm trying to develop an independent major at my school. Do you have any suggestions for curriculum, or know where I can find a model for a curriculum in comic-book writing/editing, or color separations? I'm also interested in screenwriting.>>
<<CAP: Nope, not a clue. Anybody else got any ideas?>>
Maybe […] could write to Joe Kubert's school. It is still around, isn't it?
<<CAP: "...In other words, the reason we gripe about Byrne so much is because we know how GOOD he can be, and we're disappointed that he isn't living up to his own potential. But you're right -- we should rein it in. Nothing is served by it.">>
Other than venting, you are correct. And you are also correct on why a lot of people bash John Byrne. He was my FAVORITE artist for most of my comics collecting/reading life. Bar none! And, sadly, I am very disappointed in the change that Byrne has went through since Next Men. Other bashers of Byrne do so because John Byrne is something of a legend, and there will always be those who want to tear down legends for its own sake. These people are the kind that bash Kirby around Kirby fans with a twinkle in their eye, just to see the reaction of the fan. Sad, but true. When I criticize Byrne it is because I am disappointed. When I look back at his early Fantastic Four and X-Men, it still ranks as some of my favorite stuff. Ah well, I can still pull out my favorite Byrne work and enjoy that stuff.
I couldn't agree more about the reading/collectibility issue. (In fact, read […]'s letter above on the same topic.)
But the issue that really strikes home is your remark about "Imagine if we never got to experience the works of Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Jim Lee, Jim Steranko ... "
That's a horrible thought, because, as you well know, only a fraction of a percent of Americans read comics, which means a LOT of people never get to experience the sheer, transcendant joy that is a good comic book -- and they don't even know what they are missing.
My wife, for example, told me when we got married that she didn't like comics because "the pictures get in the way" -- she'd rather imagine the scene (like when reading a novel) than have it spoon-fed to her. I didn't quite swallow that -- I enjoy both experiences, and she's certainly capable of both.
What I discovered on further questioning is that she didn't UNDERSTAND comics. For example, she pointed to a sound effect and said, "See? Comics are stupid -- nobody would ever say such a thing aloud." It suddenly dawned on me that she didn't know the difference between a sound effect, a word balloon, a caption or a thought balloon. She didn't know what speed lines meant. She didn't pick up on the visual cues distinguishing one character from another. In short: She didn't have the basic visual vocabulary to understand what she was reading!
I was appalled. It was like meeting a kid who never had a baseball glove, or an adult who never learned to read.
Being married to me -- and a sweetie par excellence -- she made a game effort to understand what it was I liked about these funny little four-color pamphlets. She liked Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, so she started leafing through those (particularly ones that starred Batgirl, Harley Quinn or Catwoman). She enjoyed them, and moved on to mroe challenging Bat-books, such as Huntress and Birds of Prey. Her most recent favorites are "upscale" books like Petrefax and Whiteout.
Would she continue to read if she wasn't married to me? Probably not. But I'm content that she's finding some of the fun I am, however vicariously. But what about the other 275,000 Americans who don't read comics? Suddenly I'm very depressed.
On a similar note, I've also corresponded with Warren Ellis. One of his CBR columns spoke of the "revolution" to bring comics to the mainstream media. Well, not to be immodest, but bringing comics to mainstream media is something I've been struggling to do for the last eight years. If he's got some ideas, I've got the forum. So I wrote to him, and we've had some brief, inconclusive e-mails. Nothing's come of it, but I don't take it personally -- he writes, what, 8,000 comic books and columns a month? But if he's serious about this "revolution," then so am I.
On a completely different note, the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art still does exist. It can be reached at:
[address withheld]
And finally, you'll see this week that the consensus is that we've gone a bit far in the Byrne-bashing, all pretty much for the reasons you cite. I'm gonna institute a personal moratorium -- of course, it'll be a lot easier now that Spider-Woman is canceled. Yeeechhh!

Wow, all this from a guy who doesn’t understand morality! Who doesn’t write objectively. And he’s worried about what the missus thought? Now about Spider-Woman:

Speaking of which:
Dear Captain: I just read on the internet that Spider-Woman will be canceled with issue 18. I have stated that I have been a fan of the Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew, but this relaunch with the new Spider-Woman was bad. I am talking I Spit on Your Grave kind of bad. I would show an issue of Spider-Woman to my little brother when he would visit me and we would spend hours trying to assume the inhuman poses the characters would strike -- and these were poses of characters just standing still or entering the doors! Bones just don't move that way.
The writing was atrocious. The art was worse. The main character, Mattie, was ill defined. Mattie was surrounded by other characters who were also ill defined (her classmates), resurrected without purpose (Madame Web) or just not used in 20 years (Jessica Drew.) The villains she confronted didn't serve any purpose and arguably weren't much of a threat. Sub-plots were left dangling to the point where I think the writer even forgot about them (where did Julia Carpenter go anyway?)
I wanted to like this book. Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew was the first superhero I ever saw as a child. Her really bad cartoon helped me learn English after I immigrated to this country. It was my interest in the original Spider-Woman (with Avengers 240) that helped get me into comics. However, this book wasn't about the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman. This original Spider-Woman series was better than the new series could ever dream of being. I hope the Captain agrees with me on that.
Reading Spider-Woman volume 3 was like passing a car crash on the highway, I couldn't help but peek. Now that it is canceled, I can't help but feel relieved that "traffic" seems to have let up. Like the Captain says, "Good-bye to bad rubbish."
I don't often wish a title to be canceled, but I've looked forward to S-W's demise since its inception. Both John Byrne and Bart Sears have done far superior work; I couldn't figure out why they were wasting their time with that rubbish.
Every comic is somebody's favorite, and somebody out there is mourning the end of Spider-Woman. But I personally found it insipid -- and little more than an excuse to keep the trademark alive. Let's hope the next incarnation of Spider-Woman gives a reason to root for it!

Gee, how come he never wished the next series with Gambit gave a reason to do so? Not that any of them since have managed though – terrible writing tainted virtually every successive Gambit series after the 1999 series – but if he’d just be consistent on criticizing the writers instead of the characters, we might’ve had a more palatable take on Gambit long ago. It's just like Smith not to clearly acknowledge the writers and editors alike led to the title's cancellation.

Dear Cap: Since it's still fun to bash Chris Claremont, I'll do it one more time. The thing that he did that really upset me was in the early FF issues he wrote, around issue 8 I think. Johnny Storm was practicing with one of those typical Claremont women that was hanging around. They had a play-fight in front of a school, and Reed told them that they might be presenting a bad example for the kids.
This is the stupid part. Johnny then made fun of Reed for being over-protective. He said something like "Yeah, you never know, those kids might hop in a rocket and fly into space just because of us!" I can't believe that Claremont had Johnny say that! I mean, that very thing had happened at least twice before. The Red Ghost and his Super-Apes AND the U-Foes all intentionally flew into cosmic rays to imitate the FF. Even worse, there was that kid who adored Johnny and lit himself on fire and then died. ( I think.) You'd think that Johnny would be a little more sensitive. It sure seems like Claremont never read a Marvel comic that he didn't write. I know that this story is something like two years old now, but I just heard someone mention how Claremont finally turned them off the FF for good, and I was reminded of when he did it to me.
What's scary to me is that I doubtless read that appalling scene you describe -- and don't even remember it. It's possible that I just skimmed that particular issue, but more likely I'm so accustomed to accepting patently unbelievable and insulting nonsense from Claremont books that I probably just blotted it from my memory.
And just for the record, I, too, have given up on Claremont's Fantastic Four here on the eve of his departure from the title.Yup, I'm a man who bought every issue of U.S. One, Kickers Inc. and Human Fly out of a weird sense of obligation, I have faithfully read Fantastic Four for 37 years ... and I couldn't get through issue 32. I just stopped midway through -- after a particularly pompous, overblown and humorless speech by, of all characters, the Human Torch -- and walked away. Haven't finished it to this day. Hope I never get a Q&A on how the storyline ended!

If it hasn’t happened yet, I hope he does! He’d deserve it after all the harm he’s contributed to comics on his part, and doesn’t have the guts to admit.

And it’s not really fun to bash Claremont, even if he did turn out some tales that galled me, like one of the character backgrounds featured in his short-lived take on Gen13. It’s just very disappointing how some writers succumb to leftism, is all.

Regarding the e-mail you posted about writing letters to comic books: I've written a few myself, with a decent publication ratio. I complimented the Milestone staff on the artistic merit of noses drawn in Kobalt (I got a signed issue for my efforts), prompted Marvel to produce the first Nightcrawler limited series with my own four-letter series of pleas (they replied with a letter, "OK! OK! It's in the works!"), tried to explain why it would have been more effective to have rain in the background when Forge withdrew his marriage proposal to Storm (I got a letter from a convicted killer in prison for that one), and slammed the writer's self-masturbatory introduction to his efforts on DC's Mosaic series (he fought back). Oh, yeah, and I won the "design your own danger room" contest in the quickly defunct Champions comic based on a role-playing game and published by some company I can't even remember (I used my friend's name in the hero's origin, winning some small amount of local notoriety for my effort).
In each case, very little good came of my efforts. Nightcrawler's series sucked, Kobalt was canceled, Ch'p the squirrel Green Lantern was killed in Mosaic, the X-Men editor cut my letter, and you really don't want to know what happened to my superhero friend.
I stopped writing letters when an assistant editor (who shall remain unidentified here) insulted my writing skills when I submitted a story idea for his consideration. Comic-book publishing just isn't what most people expect. I'm glad I work in newspaper journalism instead.
Regarding fans' Byrne-bashing: I also adored John B. years ago, and I also have felt hugely disappointed in his offerings of late. It's only recently, though, that I've realized my snide comments are pretty shameful and unfair. There's no reason to show disrespect to a guy who did so much good (accomplishing more than most of us), simply because he can't meet our expectations now. I still love his early FF work, and I'd take his X-Men over Marvel's offerings today without a second thought. I don't know if he used up his creative potential, got lazy, hit a run of weak products, or was simply the victim of fickle fans' tastes. Artists in many other fields face the same fates -- just look at the music industry. How many singers can stay on top of the charts for even a decade at a time? I just wish Mr. Byrne the best and leave it there.
Your account of your letter-writing career is pretty much a downer. What surprises me is how many letters I'm getting describing pretty much the same thing. Never having been a letterhack myself, but seeing those same names appear again and again in letter columns, it kinda looked like fun. I'd be curious to hear from those who had a positive experience.
And I think most of the correspondents on this site have come to the conclusion that we've gotten a little carried away with the bashing. Yeah, J.B.'s work is not what it was on Fantastic Four, but as somebody once said, not even Mark McGuire hits a home run every time at the plate.

This correspondent, a journalist of J. Jonah Jameson persuasion, will remain unidentified, though I will note that I once found him writing articles for a weekly paper that were hostile to conservatives, and to Israel. That aside, I think he’s boasting when he infers he prompted Marvel to produce a Nightcrawler mini. It’s not every editor who just up and greenlights a suggestion instantaneously, and I’m sure there were various other letterhacks who wrote in asking for specific minis before final approval came about. Still, doesn’t surprise me that some people are so full of themselves, they start blowing smoke. That part about a convict is also hard to swallow. And what was his beef with Gerard Jones’s scripting of Mosaic? Sure, there can be flaws in that run, but Jones was still way ahead of Ron Marz’s efforts, one more reason it’s terrible Kevin Dooley had to destroy all Jones’s hard work. Something tells me he didn't have many issues with Ch'p perishing in GL: Mosaic, if he didn't care about Israelis/Jews who met even worse fates.

Furthermore, his writing in the papers was poor, maybe more so than his writing to the comics editors, and if he was going to demonize Israel and conservatives, then I can only add insult to injury by panning his pseudo-talents. I’ll also note that, should I ever find out he said anything remotely hostile against 9-11 Families for a Safe America and Armenia, I will be very angry. I’ve got a sad feeling that, if he could be so hostile to Israel, he wouldn’t have a problem Byrne after he made an offensive comment about Latinos back in the mid-2000s.

Captain: Many congratulations on the richly deserved CBG gig. Your site's content provides abundant reason for the honor. But your gracious (and often lengthy) responses to every email are what make you a true hero in my book.
Thanks for your musings, and for being a class act.
Thanks a million, […]! Of course, now I'm on the spot -- and I can't think of a darn thing to say to turn this into a "gracious and lengthy" response! Darn!

Nope, his site’s content – or at least his own columns for Scripps-Howard – provides abundant reason to view him as a real life J. Jonah Jameson. But I repeat myself there. CBG’s since been cancelled, and while there were writers there who did good jobs, Smith did not deserve his role there one bit.

Dear Cap: Sometimes, the questions submitted by your readers strike me as the "geez, who wouldn't know the answer to that" kind -- until I realize that it has been 25 to 30 years since some of the answers appeared in a comic, and the questioner probably hadn't been born, yet.
Then, I feel ancient.
You and me both, brother! But as you noted, not everybody has the advantage we do in having been avid readers for lengthy periods of time. Sure, sometimes I'll get a question so patently obvious ("Who was first, Batman or Superman?") that 99.9 percent of all comics fans know the answer. But there's that other percent that DOESN'T know, and I feel honor-bound to help them get up to speed. We were all young once, and we oldsters have a responsibility to younger fans to help them enjoy our little hobby as much as we do.
Thanks for giving me the chance to air that particular thought, [name withheld]!

Well even I can’t claim to being a definite expert today, even as I’m now pushing 40, but Mr. Smith did not help get anyone up to speed, and I wonder if the reason he dropped these correspondence exchange concepts from his chores years ago was because he wanted to silence the voices of anyone who had the guts to protest Identity Crisis. Even publishing letters in his paper columns was something he quit doing about a decade ago, perhaps for the reasons I cite.

Actually, the idea that the Golden Age's Black Canary's daughter was the one in the JLA predates the Crisis.
You see, what happened was that around Justice League 219-220, the evil Johnny Thunder of Earth-1 returned. (He had last been seen in the Earth-A story from Nos. 37-38). He gained control of the Earth-2 Thunder's Thunderbolt. While he had control of it, it was discovered that the original Black Canary had had a daughter who had been cursed by the Wizard with the sonic scream so that her normal baby cries would cause destruction. As nobody could cure the child, Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt put it in suspended animation in his home dimension and erased everyone's memory of it.
Flash forward to circa JLA 75; the villain Aquarius killed the original Black Canary's husband. The Black Canary was herself hit by one of the villain's bolts. The result was internal bleeding that she did not know about. Unaware that she was dying, she asked that she could start a new life on Earth-1. During the transfer to Earth-1, the original Canary succumbed to her wounds, and perished. Thinking quickly, the Thunderbolt decided to transfer the original Black Canary's memories to her daughter, whom he aged to adulthood. The new Black Canary had no memory of her time in the Thunderbolt's dimension, believed herself to the original Black Canary, and thought Aquariaus's bolts had given her the sonic cry. (Of course, these events are not apparent from the issues of Justice League that contained the original Aquarius stories, but were revealed in JLA 220.)
This story came out well before the Crisis. It plugged a hole as to why the Black Canary of the Justice League was not as old as the JSA members were. The answer, of course, was that they were not the same person.
A few other (Batman) oves were Julie Madison (who was probably the earliest); she appeared as early as 'Tec 31-32 (reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told). She existed on both Earth-1 (she was referred to in 'Tec 474, reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told) and Earth-2. One of her last appearances pre-Crisis was in World's Finest Comics 248. She was a part of post-Crisis continuity. With the minor change that she was blonde (unlike pre-Crisis, where she was a brunette), she appeared in a retelling of the first Clayface story for Secret Origins 44. As far as I know,
Linda Page, the daughter of a wealthy oilman, was another early flame. Around 1942, Julie Madison stopped appearing regularly in the series, so Linda Page made her first appearance. Page was actually even used for the 1943 serial Batman, where she was played by Shirley Patterson. Page's last regular appearance was Batman 32. She returned in Brave and Bold 197, in a story firmly set on Earth-2. As far as I now, Linda Page did not have a counterpart on Earth-1. I can't vouch for her (or Madison's) existance on Earth-0 (the post Zero Hour DC Universe) or the Central Timeline.
As far as Vicki Vale goes, I have some interesting trivia. She actually did not first appear in the comic books, but in the Columbia 15-chapter serial Batman & Robin. She was played in that serial by Jane Adams. She made the transition to the comics because Bob Kane had met Marilyn Monroe and drawn some pictures of her, and wanted to use them for the comics! (See Batman and Me by Bob Kane if you don't believe me!) The colorist got the hair color wrong, though, so Vale ended up being a redhead, not a blonde. Vale disappeared in 1964, when Julius Schwartz took over as editor. Vale was, of course, used for the 1989 (movie) adaptation, where she was originally set to be played by Sean Young (as went over a couple of Captain Comics ago), who was fairly close-looking to the comic book version.
Actually, using Vicki Vale for the love interest was a bad idea -- after all, as the Cap has noted, she is not much different from Lois Lane, and four Superman movies had just come out within 11 years of the 1989 Batman movie! Ah well, otherwise, (screenwriter) Sam Hamm is (mostly) above criticism.
I know there was some Breyfogle era-story from the late 1980s/early 1990s involving Catwoman in which Vale was used, and also an annual (Batman Annual 19) and a few other appearances in the early/mid 1980s, but can anyone note other recent ( in the last ten years) appearances of Vicki Vale?
Finally, an odd love interest was Julia Pennyworth. It had been established (see Untold Legend of the Batman, which was reprinted in paperback form by Tor) that Alfred Pennyworth had fought in World War II. So, someone got the idea to have it that he may have had an affair with French resistance fighter Mademoiselle Marie (who was one of the top DC war comics heroes from the 1960s and 1970s). A woman named Julia Pennyworth appeared claming to be the result of this passion! Though referred to as late as Batman 384 (and it was never definitely revaeled that she was the daughter of Pennyworth and Mademoiselle Marie), the Who's Who Update '87 5 stated clearly in the appendix that Julia Pennyworth did not exist post-Crisis. Although an interesting attempt to incorporate one of their more conventional adventure characters into the costumed/masked-hero mythos, we could not have Alfred a veteran of World War II still at his job in 2000, so don't expect Julia Pennyworth to return.
Finally, an odd thought about casting for the Superman movie (if another one ever gets made, which is admittedly doubtful). While I agree that Nicolas Cage would not have been my first choice, I was surprised that no one ever thought about getting Gerard Christopher to play the part of Superman. After all, he played Superboy for a few years in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Its been about 10 years now, so he's old enough to play Superman. Whatever one's view on the quality or lack of quality of the Superboy TV show, Christopher facially looked the part of Superman, which cannot be said of Nicolas Cage.
Thanks for the additional details, [withheld]! I have to note for the record, though, that Vicki Vale debuted in Batman 45 (1948), a year before the Batman & Robin serial.

Well here’s something where the correspondent got some data wrong, but Mr. Smith still remains in a similar boat! Besides, Vale did make at least one appearance in a Batman special in 1978, and another about 4 years later, then a few more circa 1989-90, to coincide with the Batmovies. And those appearances were a lot more interesting than the original Batmovies will ever be! We now proceed to June 22, 2000, and two for starters about Oracle:

You said on Oracle's 'sin tax':
<< ... when Batman pummels a crook, he is arguably PREVENTING a crime. When Oracle lifts funds that are not hers, she is COMMITING a crime. And, as you say, we have to keep a line drawn in the sand somewhere, or else the heroes and the villains all blend into one. I don't have much more to say about it; all arguments to the contrary just sound like self-justification to me. It's very simple to me: Stopping a crime is heroic, commiting one is not.>>
Think with me ... When Batman acts punching some thief, as Batman is no policeman and (is) not (acting) in self-defense, he is commiting a crime (and we have to consider the aspect that the crime has already been made and Batman is preventing this thief acting again).
As Oracle acts in an illegal way too, after the crime has occurred and takes the money that would be used to buy guns or drugs -- isn't she preventing a crime in the same way the term is used for Batman?
That's my point.
And it's a good one. Here's someone who agrees with you:
Howdy, Cap'n: I wanted to throw my dime in on Oracle's "sin tax."
Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but I'd call Robin Hood a hero. Stealing the sheriff's money didn't invalidate this. The sheriff was overtaxing the people. The money was legally, but not rightfully, his. So (Robin) took it back and gave it to the people. The main difference with Oracle is she isn't giving the dirty money back to the people who had it before Blockbuster. She's using it to help them indirectly, by trying to put Blockbuster and other crooks out of business. So, while it may not be completely ethical, it's not without precedent in heroic fiction.
I still really enjoy the site. I read your column (and assorted other stuff) every week. And congratulations on the CBG gig!
You both make very good points -- the Robin Hood bit is particularly thought-provoking -- and I admit that my certainty is not what it was. I still feel a line of some sort is being crossed, though. What do the rest of you think?

That the first one makes better points than the latter! Why? Because the second person whose letter is featured was a moonbat who once worked for Newsarama, and supported Identity Crisis. Absolutely sick. As a result, his own argument falls flat and never recovers.

Hi Cap! You wrote:
<<What I discovered on further questioning is that (my wife) didn't UNDERSTAND comics. For example, she pointed to a sound effect and said, "See? Comics are stupid -- nobody would ever say such a thing aloud." It suddenly dawned on me that she didn't know the difference between a sound effect, a word balloon, a caption or a thought balloon. She didn't know what speed lines meant. She didn't pick up on the visual cues distinguishing one character from another. In short: She didn't have the basic visual vocabulary to understand what she was reading!>>
I was in the third or fourth grade, I think, when I first realized that there was a "visual vocabulary" to comics. I have always, I mean ALWAYS enjoyed comic books. Truth to tell, I can't remember never having read them or, at the least, looking at them. I guess it is due to the fact that I have older siblings, and therefore comics seemed to always be prevalent, that I can't recall my first comic. I also have been an artist since I was three years old. Just as I remember comics always being a part of my life, so too has drawing always been a part of it. That is why I think I found it unfathomable when, in the third-fourth grade, a female classmate who was watching me draw a superhero punching a villain asked me what all the lines were as the hero threw his punch. I was confused and somewhat shocked. How could this girl not know that those lines represented the motion of the character? It was then that I came to understand that thought balloons, sound effect captions, and everything you mentioned above were not common knowledge to everyone.
When I look back at the earliest comic strips, Hogan's Alley, Katzenjammer Kids, Little Nemo, and all the great, classic strips that helped form that language, I wonder how the reading public first reacted to the visual shorthand. Early political cartoons seem to show a banner that leads to the mouth of the speaker as a way to indicate speech. The early strips and comic-book stories used parentheses to distinguish thought from the spoken word, before coming upon the cloud-like word balloon. I suppose that the cloud was used to represent the dreamlike quality of internal thought. I find it fascinating to try to figure out how artists/cartoonists first decided on and developed what symbols to use to show such representations. The light bulb above a character's head who has an idea, or a dagger emitting from the eye of an angry person and aimed at another person who has upset him. These and others are some symbols that we comic readers take for granted, and that is why we are sometimes find the notion inconceivable that there are those who are not familiar with those symbols.
As for the artwork, does your wife still see it as intrusive, or has she learned to like and appreciate the talents of the artists? To me, the art is enjoyable on a level of its own. Comics are wonderful because of the marriage of words and pictures. There is most definitely something to be said for reading a novel and using your imagination to conjure up visually what is being in text, but it is inspiring and elevating to look at a great piece of art by a comics master. I honestly believe that the art of Alex Ross, Will Eisner, Winsor McCay, Jack Kirby and not a few others are every bit as uplifting and wonderful to look as a Picasso, Dali or Michelangelo.
It has always been interesting, and, frankly, a bit insulting that the art world chooses to honor the works of Lichtenstein and Warhol for swiping comic book panels, while showing disdain and ridicule for the comics that those artists "borrowed" from.
I agree wholeheartedly that comics greats are an equal level with artists in other fields -- painting, scupture, what have you. It's too bad the rest of the world doesn't see it that way -- and I suspect there will always be a percentage of people who just don't "get" comics no matter how mainstream they become, in the same way that I don't "get" opera or broadway musicals.
But I think we can both agree that there are plenty of folks out there who'd love comics if A) they weren't too embarrassed to read "children's literature" and B) if comics were easily available.

They’ve love them a lot more if the mainstream publishers didn’t go out of their way to turn them into an equivalent of bad fanfiction with rape fantasies and other gratuitous violence stuffed into the mess. Something that’s never occurred to Mr. Smith, even as he occasionally pretends to “get the picture”.

Dear Cap: Congratulations on the new writing gig. Onward and upward.
Some more details on Batman's romantic history: Julie Madison definitely was the big one in the very early days. Interestingly, she showed up in an Elseworlds story: Master of the Future, the sequel to Gotham By Gaslight, featuring the Victorian-era Batman. In fact, she was one of the main characters, playing a typically curious Victorian woman who is dually fascinated by her puzzling fiance, Mr. Wayne, and this mysterious Bat-Man. She figured it out at the end.
I always assumed that Vicki Vale was chosen for the 1989 movie because she really was the dominant Bat-babe for the '80s. She was a major player in the early part of the decade, during Gerry Conway's run, around when Jason Todd was introduced. And she stayed a recurring presence through the early '90s -- in fact, in one Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle story, Bruce came within a hair of telling her his secret. No dice, and she took up with a fellow journalist and left Gotham. (Interestingly, this fellow journalist was a black man, and their affair -- including deep kissing on panel -- was presented with absolutely zero commentary. Who says comics are full of conservative propaganda?)
Soon after, Bruce fell for his doctor, Shondra Kinsolving (a black woman!). Unfortunately, Bane came to town, Shondra was kidnapped, and the immobile Bruce trotted the globe to rescue her while Azbats held the home front. Don't recall what happened to poor Shondra, though.
A few weeks ago, you made an offhand reference to Grant Morrison's Animal Man series; something to the effect of "It didn't work." I'm curious to hear more detail on your thoughts. I've had choice words for Morrison on this site in the past, but I recently read Morrison's Animal Man stories for the first time, and I found them excellent. A very skillful balance of straightforward superheroics, real-world believability and insightful commentary on the form itself. Yes, toward the end he got weepily personal, and the existentialism was a little coy, but, dear lord, that stuff is endemic to "high" literature; the intelligent artists can be forgiven a little self-indulgence. That scene where Buddy Baker retreats to the desert, pops some peyote (take that, Comics Code), and turns around for a full-page shot of his face, staring at the reader, screaming "I can see you!" Very clever, very funny, and warm, too. It's too bad Animal Man has retreated into DC limbo. I'd love to see him and his unique view on the DC Universe appear from time to time.
What I didn't like about Animal Man was what most people liked about it. In my opinion, breaking down the fourth wall is a clever bit ONCE; as an ongoing thing it deconstructs what you're doing into parody and substitutes for actual writing. And by the end of the series, as you noted, Morrison's self-referents turned into self-reverence -- and it turned me off.
But that's just my opinion!

One that falls flat, because he’s a journalist who’s been otherwise lenient on Morrison, alas. Breaking the fourth wall in itself can be a clever idea, but not when Morrison’s the one doing the writing. On the other hand, when John Byrne wrote The Sensational She-Hulk (1989-93), he used a similar approach, at a time when he was relatively better a writer than he later became, and it worked pretty well for the duration.

But I digress. Here’s a case of the correspondent dampening the impact of his letter with some nonsense about “conservative propaganda”. Gee, did it ever occur to him that some righties could write a love story between Vicki Vale and an Afro-American reporter too? Speaking as a rightie myself, I’d be willing to give that a try! Today though, it’s uncertain whether the editors would allow such a tale to be published, because leftie PC’s taken over in ways that not many may have expected. Here’s the next batch from June 29, 2000:

Hey Cap and all my fellow correspondents:
Although I love reading everyone's thoughts from week to week, I thought I'd take a quick second to comment on a couple of things.
No kid has ever made the news for setting himself on fire while trying to be the Human Torch. However, public opinion-savvy TV executives realized that if such a thing ever did occur it could cost them millions of dollars and possibly bankrupt a network. For that reason, when TV finally saw fit to air the Fantastic Four, we were introduced to a different fourth member: H.E.R.B.I.E. One tragedy was averted for another. So, the event never happened, although the fear of it is real enough.
[name withheld], I have to say that I agreed with most of what you said about recapturing the readability of comics. As an adult, I've had to find new copies of my favourite childhood issues because they were so battered they finally fell apart.
However, I don't think either of your solutions would work. Marvel did try a 99-cent line only a couple of years ago. They introduced Avengers Unplugged, Fantastic Four Unplugged, Marvel Fanfare and Uncanny Origins. Regular readers didn't support these books as they were only loosely tied to continuity and didn't feature prominent creators. But without the support of those readers, the books couldn't make money on drugstores and corner shops alone. They didn't succeed and Marvel had to scrap all four.
Secondly, I'm sorry but Spider-Man and Superman have as little control over ads as Frasier and Friends. Companies sell ads to the companies willing to pay for them. If that's Sam Goody pushing the latest Heavy Metal wannabe and not some Gag Gift Emporium, Marvel is going to take the money and run. And to be frank, in a capitalist system, there shouldn't be anything wrong with that. Let's be honest, as much as we love the old pictures of Sea Monkeys, nobody was buying comics for the ads. I'm much more worried about Top Cow and Awesome who seem to only run ads for their other books. That means the company isn't actually selling advertising space outside of the company and I have to question the profitability (and survivability) of any company not bringing in that indirect revenue.
Here's hoping Alan Moore and J. Michael Straczynski never leave the comics biz.
I'd like to add Untold Tales of Spider-Man as another unsuccessful 99-cent comic which DID have big-name creators, specifically Kurt Busiek and Pat Olliffe. According to Busiek, not only did the low price fail to affect sales significantly, but also it reduced retailer profit margins and the books were not significantly supported at the distributor/retail level. In short: In the current market/distribution system, price doesn't seem to be a significant factor.

Once, Busiek was a big name in the biz. But no longer. In fact, I don’t think he’s had many prominent jobs since 2008. But never mind that. What matters here is that the correspondent embraced Identity Crisis, and if that’s how he’s going to go about, I don’t think he agrees with the other guy about recapturing readability for children at all.

And unlike him, I honestly wish JMS would leave comics altogether! Moore already has.

Dear Cap: Glad to hear you found my suggestions worthy of listing. I'll be looking forward to seeing them "in print" with the same anticipation I used to feel knowing a LOC of mine was going to show in my favorite comic's lettercol. Of course that was when I was buying, literally, every Marvel and DC superhero title on the stands. Today, Planetary is my sole four-color indulgence.
I stopped collecting comics 15 years ago. Chief among the reasons was the fact that, for me, the fun aspect of it all disappeared. Endless crossovers. Variant-cover releases. Etc. Sure, comics companies had always wanted our money. But now, it seemed, they wanted it all. At any rate ...
I'm thankful for finding Captain Comics and in it finding elements which remind me of the things I liked best about the hobby years ago. Nostalgia is a feeling I generally try to eschew for it suggests to some, at least, a dissatisfaction with one's current phase of life or the influences upon it. Rather than thinking about how good the "old days" were (if, indeed, good they were) I appreciate the value of reminiscences of the Golden Age or Silver Age as entertainment in an of itself.
You do a masterful job of presenting material that can be enjoyed on multiple levels. The online community-at-large and specifically those webmasters striving to create places of focused entertainment and interest would do well to take note of the seeming ease with which you do just that.
We wish you continued success.
Thanks for the kinds words, […]!
I think we share similar sentiments -- I enjoy reading Silver Age comics not just for the nostalgia they bring, but also for the sheer fun of it. At no time do I wish to be 12 again (that would involve going through adolescence a second time, surely the famed "fate worse than death"), nor do I wish for comics to return to the style of those halcyon days. In fact, I've often pontificated on the idea that THIS is the true Golden Age of comics, with the most sophisticated stories, art, coloring and printing ever seen in our little hobby, as well as the widest range of subject matter.
As Stan the Man used to say, "the best is yet to be!"

I don’t think he really enjoys reading Silver Age stuff, based on his negative attitude towards some of the co-stars from those superhero books. Makes you wonder why he’d even bother to start with. If only Stan Lee could forsee how pretentious people like Mr. Smith is, he have to figure that the worst is yet to come. A pity the correspondent wasted his time on Private Propaganda, much like I did.

Dear Cap: I couldn't disagree with you more about comics fans and their attitudes. We are a completely spoiled bunch. We whine when something happens that we don't to and complain when we say a story sucks because it does. We drop books because of it. Here are some examples:
People still whine about Kyle Rayner being the new Green Lantern, even though it's been more than five years. We say "How dare he mess with a legend?" Ron Marz and Zero Hour is on alot of people's hate list because of the Parallax thing. You want to know why Hal is the new Spectre? Blame the fans.
Some people still want Barry Allen to be the Flash, even though its been over 15 years since his death. They need to get over this.
They may kill a second-string hero every now and then but when was the last time a MAJOR hero died and stayed dead? Superman returned. So did Hal Jordan. The last hero I remember is Robin II (a.k.a. Jason Todd). And the fans were the ones that killed him.
We scream over costume changes. We need to realize that even heroes can't wear the same clothes forever.
With the exception of Oracle and Aquaman, has anything happened to characters that they just can't fix? You know Gotham City is going to be rebuilt so we are not that excited (by "No Man's Land").
You see what I mean. We are a picky bunch.
Another problem fans have is that they are sticklers for continuity. If a story comes along that contradicts a previous story they scream foul. An example is Hawkman. Let's get back to the basics, a man with a hawk mask and a mace. Forget the Egyptian hawkgods and Thanagar stuff.
Another example is Superboy. For every fan that knows his current history I can show you at least 10 people who thinks he's still Superman when he was younger. He's not accessible to new fans.
Fans say they want new, different books. But let's get real. If a character isn't somehow related to Batman, Superman,or the JLA your chances of a fanbase is nil. I can think of at least five quality books that got canceled within the last two years because they had a small fanbase.
Also, books become boring because fans won't let writers do anything that could possibly upset them. Alfred Pennyworth has no chance of dying or retiring in the Batman books because fans would be calling for their heads in 10 seconds. I'm sure Dan Jurgans would still be on the Superman books with new, great ideas if the fans would only let him initiate them. Instead we force him to have Superman fight the Cyborg every six months because it's safe.
Any thoughts?
Wow, […] -- you must have gotten up on the wrong side of the satellite headquarters before writing that last e-mail!
Sure enough, there are lots of whiney, obnoxious fans. But I've also met a lot of generous, upbeat fans -- many of whom correspond on this site. Maybe it's a glass half full/half empty sort of thing. Me, I just want another glass!
Oh, and just for the record, I've never met anybody who wanted Barry Allen back, including this hoary old Silver Ager. The character was a cipher, and if I want to read about him, the Comics Cave is chock-full of Flash comics!
I have to agree that fans are pretty hidebound about continuity. But then again, so are the publishers. DC certainly isn't about to let Superman change in any significant way, and that decision has more to do with their OWN conservative attitudes than that of the fans.
As for me personally, I don't mind continuity shifting (or being discarded) for the sake of a terrific story. On the other hand, I DO have a problem with continuity being chucked willy-nilly for a LOUSY story ("Emerald Twilight" and Zero Hour leap to mind here). If the creators don't care about their characters, why should we? If we're not to have any sort of recognizable status quo, how can we tell that it's unusual for Lois Lane to fly or for Robin to suddenly have heat vision? If there are no rules, then the stories are simple nonsense suited for children.

Judging by his failure to criticize DC for bringing back Barry for entirely commercial reasons, even as they injected repellent retcons into his background, I can only conclude he doesn’t mean what he said. Besides, while he personally may not have met anybody wishing Barry back, there have been some here and there, even asking about Barry on occasion at conventions. Geoff Johns is one of those who decided Wally West wasn’t good enough. In fact, he decided Linda Park West wasn’t either, so he retconned her out of existence in Flashpoint.

I’m of mixed minds about the correspondent’s arguments. People wouldn’t have been so fussy about Kyle Rayner if only Marz and Dooley had given Hal a respectable sendoff, even if they killed the guy at the end of the tale. And if Hal was ever a cipher, then Kyle was too, and nobody should act like it couldn’t happen.

But if alleged fans are to blame for anything, it’s because they continued to buy the product no matter how tarnished it became. And if any so-called fans sent threat letters, as was told in past years, that was wrong and makes it worse, since it could make the writers more callous, alienate potential allies sympathetic to the fans’ positions, and downright embarrass those fans with more rationale than the more troglodytic ones.

And, as I’ve said before, Mr. Smith has no business critiquing retcons if he accepts nasty stories like Identity Crisis, which is vulgar nonsense aimed at mentally adolescent grownups. Besides, I’ve never taken his pans of Emerald Twilight and ZH seriously.

Thanks for the info (about the Tintin parodies)! I guess I was just wondering if any of this sort of thing constitutes a copyright violation. It strikes me that the (National) Lampoon parody might fall closer to such a thing. Someone once told me that it can be a matter of intent. For example, Tintin's publishers would probably ignore such a one-shot parody, but would sue if someone started publishing a comic featuring Tintin and his pals on a regular basis. I always wondered about the borderline on this sort of thing, I remember being astonished as a kid at seeing someone who was obviously meant to be Clark Kent at a Daily Bugle Christmas party, and I'm pretty sure Spider-Man made it to at least one Legion of Super-Heroes wedding. Anyway, thanks again for the info.

I took some tort law classes in college, and what I was taught there was that you can use anything presented to the public (within limits) for the purposes of education use, parody, satire, review or news value. The limits were that you couldn't use somebody else's intellectual property three times in such a way as to make money off it.
For example, Elian Gonzalez appeared on every newspaper front in the country wearing a Batman shirt, but DC didn't get a penny: It was news value. My newspaper (and every other newspaper) reviewed Batman in 1989 -- and has referred to it in other articles numerous times -- and DC doesn't get a penny: It's a review. Clark Kent can show up in a panel in a Marvel comic and DC doesn't get a penny: It's satire. Mad magazine can run "Flatman and Ribbin" and DC doesn't get a penny: It's parody. And a textbook can run panels from a Batman comic to illustrate pop art and DC doesn't get a penny: That's education value.
On the other hand, if my newspaper ran the Bat-logo on the top right of the paper three days in a row, then DC could claim that we were trying to make money off their property -- and sue the pants off us.

And who is Mr. Smith to tell us about education value when he can’t make clear Identity Crisis has none to offer about sex crimes? Incidentally, I’m wondering what his papers had to say about the horrible way Gonzalez was treated? I don’t know, but now, here’s a letter about something I find insulting in retrospect:

Dear Cap: It's hard not to feel reserved about "mass origins" or any new origins because you just don't know which ones the comic company is actually willing to back up. Both Aztek and Primal Force were series I didn't think deserved cancellation. And of course Aztek has now gone the way of Will Payton and been permanently canceled.
It nice to read about something new though. I read the JLA annual with the intro of the Janissary. Luckily she did not just mysteriously appear when the JLA showed up, they did imply she had been around for a little while, Batman even thought she was one of the Manhunter's personalities. I was under the impression that was the goal of the annuals, to showcase heroes in other countries who already exist.
One thing I was really unhappy about in the JLA annual though was Wonder Woman taking the time to add some extra costuming in order to enter a Muslim temple. That an Amazon, who most certainly believes in a woman's equality with a man would lower herself out of political correctness burns me to no end. I am sure it was meant to be respectful but it felt demeaning.
One last thing, I did want to say I enjoyed your comments on Martian Manhunter a few weeks back. It is exciting to see how closely intertwined with the DC Universe he really is. He is a very unique character and I think he is doing what a lot of us would do if we had the time and the means, exploring the world one life at a time. I look forward to his meeting with Batman but I also would like him to revisit characters like Gypsy and Fire. He has become a kind of father figure to the younger generation of heroes. You would have thought Superman would play that role but even Batman has more heroes in training than Supes.
As I've mentioned on the site before, I've always been a J'onn J'onzz booster. He's been around since 1955, is more powerful than Superman, and is REALLY alien. I always thought a good writer could do a lot with a character who, essentially, has no permanent shape or gender -- but who can read our thoughts, which are all gender-based and sex-obsessed. Seeing ourselves through his eyes would make for a powerful observation on the human condition. It seems DC has finally decided to give the character a shot, and I'm delighted that John Ostrander is at the word processor.
I haven't read the JLA annual yet, but the way you describe it disturbs me. On the one hand, showing respect for another culture when in that country shows class. On the other hand, the fundamentalist Muslim view of women is at such odds with the Amazon philosophy (not to mention Western culture) that it offends ME. I guess Diana is simply more mature and flexible than I am and can take it all in stride.

Oh, give us all a break. After his forgiving attitudes towards Islam, I seriously doubt that clod ever considers Islamofascism offensive. Besides, what has he ever had to say about Muslim honor murders? Has he ever come to the defense of women like Rifqa Bary? Has he ever even spoken out against DC’s collaboration with the Kuwaiti propagandist who conceived The 99, or Marvel for concocting a Muslim Ms. Marvel? Note that he thinks its classy to respect another culture without distinguishing between good and bad cultures. The correspondent here did a lot better than Smith did. He’s right, it’s demeaning to women, and I doubt even William Marston would approve, no matter how questionable his relationship with both his wife and a house employee was back in his time.

And with that, we conclude another page on the hypocrisies and other double-standards of the J. Jonah Jameson wannabe who calls himself “Captain Comics”. I’ll deal with more on the next page to follow.

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