Some past memories and experiences, part seven

July 10, 2014

By Avi Green

Here we go with another installment where I comment on various entries from the old Captain Comics site’s mailbag section (with previous ones here, here and here). Our next few come from October 5, 2000:

Howdy, Cap: It's not often that I write in to praise an action figure, but this is an exception. I'm referring to McFarlane Toys' version of King Kong which just arrived at my local TRU for the insanely low price of only $12.99. The packaging is superb, and Mr. Kong never looked surlier. This has to be one of the best efforts by the folks at McFarlane Toys. Speaking as an aging baby-boomer who had his mind blown at the tender age of four in 1960 by a TV late show of King Kong, I've always had a special affection for the big guy. Now if they'd only do a cool version of the T-Rex that Kong battled in the movie ...

Duly noted, and I've posted your "review." I've never much liked McFarlane's comic-book work, but he does put out some snazzy action figures.

Tsk tsk tsk. That’s going a bit far. I think McFarlane’s early work is okay. Not without flaws, to be sure, and it can be an acquired taste, but unlike the awful Rob Liefeld’s pseudo-art, McFarlane’s was competent. I guess what really tanks today is McFarlane’s storytelling.

In re: Young Bruce Wayne/Flying Fox
Dear Cap: Can't imagine what the hoity-toity Waynes were doing in a burg like Smallville, though. How small is it? The "You-Are-Entering..." and "You-Are-Leaving..." signs are on the same stick.

It seemed like every character in the DCU found their way to Smallville at some point or another. Aquateen, young Oliver Queen, just about everybody. In fact, after the Silver Age, I was surprised to discover that Smallville was in Kansas -- from all the transient traffic, I had always assumed it was somewhere in the vicinity of Metropolis (at least the same state).

Oh for crying out loud. Even before Kansas was made the official location for Smallville, it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out it was somewhere farther away from Metropolis. Otherwise, Clark’s sojourn to from country mouse to city mouse wouldn’t have had much meaning.

Dear Cap: 1)Have you heard if there's any chance we might see an updated version of Jeff Rovin's Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes or the publication of something similar? I, for one, found Rovin's various encyclopedia extremely useful, but find that they are dated enough that a revised edtion would be welcome.
2) What do you think of Byrne's Lost Generation book? I've enjoyed some of it, although I've found it somewhat uneven. I have to laugh that Marvel always prided itself on having one big well-connected continuity, and now, between Lost Generation, Spider-Girl and the "Ultimate" books, Marvel's going to end up with as convoluted a continuity as DC has.

Honestly though, I think this sort of convolution is almost inevitable if you're not going to age your characters, as Lynn Johnston has in her excellent comic strip For Better Or For Worse. I'm sure that when Marvel tied Iron Man's origin to the Vietnam War or made Ed Sullivan Show references in early Spider-Man stories, they thought more about being topical than about the fact that by so doing they were guaranteeing that the stories would be dated one day.
Actually, I've always thought that comics in general miss out by not aging their characters. To take an example from television, as much as I enjoy The Simpsons, the one thing that might have improved the show would have been to have aged the characters one year per season. Maybe I've spent too much time thinking about this (check that, I've definitely spent too much time thinking about this), but Maggie Simpson's been an infant for about 11 years now, and it's just getting weird.
Plus, it's fun to think about what comics would be like if characters had aged normally from their introduction. Batman's great-grandson would be almost ready to take over as Robin by now. Peter Parker would be in his fifties and Tony Stark's liver would probably have expolded by now. Even Kitty Pryde would be starting to think about the fact that the X-Men don't offer a 401(k)! I never thought Generations covered this well enough. It would probably take a 12-issue maxiseries to do it justice.
Another thing I find amusing is the notion that the events of the modern Marvel Universe are said to have happened within an eight-year period (check some the text articles in Lost Generation for more of this). For the sake of easy math, let's say that the modern Marvel Universe covers the real-world period 1960-2000, a period of 40 years. That would make the real-world/Marvel Universe dichotomy break down as follows:

Real World 1960-65 = Marvel Universe Year One
1965-70 = Year Two
1970-75 = Year Three
1975-80 = Year Four
1980-85 = Year Five
1985-90 = Year Six
1990-95 = Year Seven
1995-00 = Year Eight
What I mean by the above is that the events depicted in five years of "real world" comics would cover one year of "Marvel Universe" time. This strikes me as interesting, to say the least. It certainly makes life in the Marvel Universe seem pretty hectic. Consider that if the above is true, then the past five years' worth of Marvel mega-crossover events happened within a one-year period in the Marvel Universe. It's a wonder more superheroes don't burn out! This was all much simpler in the days when I was a kid and I just figured that time flowed differently in comic book land ...
I was interested to hear your thoughts, [...]. Aging in comics is something that I've spent too much time worrying about, as well.
One of my chief complaints in years agone about Marvel is that in the '70s they stopped aging their heroes. That bothered me at the time because to me Marvel was more interesting than DC because events in the former "mattered;" that is, if Spidey met Thor in 1963 then he'd remember the meeting when next they crossed paths in 1964. And Spidey aged -- he was always about three years ahead of me, which was pretty cool. But when they STOPPED aging, they just became DC, where nothing "mattered" and with all the headaches of trying to explain Vietnam-era stories during Desert Storm when nobody had aged a day.
Of course, the converse argument is that superheroes SHOULDN'T age and that comics should just be for kids, who, as you said, just write it off as "comic-book time." This argument arranges that there'd be no continuity to explain; comics, as in ages past, would just freeze their characters and concepts and let the teenage and pre-teen audience turn over every three years. Of course, it's far too late to make that argument, since the average age of comic-book readers in the U.S. is 38, and that's just about the only audience comics have left.
It's a tricky one. As to your other questions, there is a History of the DC Universe that's updated every so often -- I hear editors talk about getting the new copy when it comes out and keeping it on their desk -- but it's a small-press, vanity affair that I don't know how to get. And as to Lost Generation, I find it unreadable.

I’ll believe that last part when I see him admitting his own work is unintelligible! I wonder if he thinks all heroes should literally age right into a geriatric nursing home? That Peter Parker and Steve Rogers’s hair should turn white or go totally bald, and lose all their teeth? Maybe Dick Tracy should also go hobbling around on a cane and Tess Trueheart should become a shotgun-wielding granny? Please. If comic strip cartoonists for newspapers don’t age their characters (with Doonesbury and For Better or for Worse being the few exceptions), then I don’t see why he’s so desperate for Marvel and DC’s to undergo such effects. Why, what if remaining forever young is a form of wish fulfillment? He should consider how even older folks might appreciate that.

MAD once did a parody of Peanuts that portrayed Charlie Brown and company as old geezers. But that doesn’t mean we’d want even them to age, and indeed, judging by how long the strip ran, many readers didn’t. So I do believe Mr. Smith should take his peculiar little argument and stuff it. That sound you hear is Dagwood Bumstead dozing off on the couch at the mere suggestion of aging.

Dear Cap: I imagine that you have already seen the U.S. News and World Report articl on the state of the comic book industry and the new Marvel Ultimate series, but just on the off chance that you haven't here is the URL:
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/000925/marvel.htm
Keep up the good work! I am a 47-year old male in Falls Church, VA and ever-hopeful fan of Dr. Strange. I live in the futile hope of a Dr. Strange movie with Alec Baldwin in the title role.
Keep sending those positive vibes, […] -- we must have a decent Dr. Strange movie to offset that weird 1978 travesty. And my cloak of levitation (sewed by my grandmother, bless her) awaits its summons in the clsoet as I write this.
I have indeed seen the USNAWR article, about the state of the industry, and thank you for offering the link for those who haven't. It's not the first article of its kind, and I want all comics fans reading this to be cognizant that the mainstream press has "discovered" the industry's problems. As a 20-year veteran of mainstream news, let me warn all of you that you're going to see a herd instinct on this one. It'll be on Entertainment Tonight by the end of the month, and "common wisdom" by the end of the year that comics are dead. We should all strive to stave off the bandwagon effect as much as we are able.

There is supposed to be a Dr. Strange movie in the works this year, but I’m at a point where special effects became too much for me. It’s mostly burnout that began with The Mummy in 1999, and has rapidly increased since. Now for October 12, 2000:

Dear Cap: In reference to gays in comics, I guess I hit a nerve. It would be interesting to know what percentage of readers nowadays are minorities, female, gay, whatever. I wonder if the media is doing studies of their target.
Comics have traditionally appealed to "minority" readers, from blacks to gays to women to Jews to geeky WASPS. I don't think that's any mystery. Anybody who's ever been rejected has fantasized about how their tormentors would have to eat their words if only the tormentee could do something spectacular (like lifting a bus over their head). And, heck, who hasn't felt like an alien from another planet at one point or another?
I've spoken to various editors who allude to reader surveys and such; one interesting "fact" that seems to be accepted as common wisdom in the '60s and '70s was that the audience for Legion of Super-Heroes is disproportionately gay. (I've heard figures as high as 40 percent.) Nobody seems to know why, but the fan speculation that Element Lad was gay was never discouraged as a result.

I’ve got a hunch this is just smoke he’s blowing. I’m sure there were some gays and lesbians who read LOSH at the time, but that doesn’t mean they comprised such a huge portion. That aside, I wonder if he considers communists and marxists “minorities” worth pandering to as well! Or the mentally insane. Or drug addicts. Or practitioners of bestiality and necrophilia. Let us be clear: homosexuality is a mentality, and if he doesn’t think so, then I guess the whole psychology industry should be discarded till the end of time. That, I suppose, is what people like him must think should be done.

Dear Cap: In your 09/29/00 CBG column, you stated that Mark Gruenwald "invented the Squadron Supreme." Although Mark certainly revitalized and enriched the concept, Roy Thomas was the one who conceptualized the original idea. Mark will always remain closely associated with this group, especially since his cremated ashes were mixed with printer's ink and used to publish the trade paperback reprint.

It is disappointing that Marvel did not also reprint Mark's graphic novel titled Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe. This was a sequel taking place directly after the reprinted 12-issue miniseries, which brought a degree of closure to many aspects of the series. Also, it is essential reading for anyone interested in the Squadron's subsequent appearances in the Marvel Universe. Perhaps someday Marvel will decide to reissue this relatively unknown series finale, but until then I encourage anyone interested in Mark Gruenwald or the Squadron not to overlook this exceptional story.

Thanks for the clarification, [withheld]. I have the original Avengers issues when Roy Thomas introduced the "Squadron Sinister" -- but wasn't it Gruenwald who changed them to Squadron Supreme? I admit I'm a little hazy on when that actually happened.

He’s a lot more hazy on understandings of discernment and objectivity, but again, I repeat myself.

Hey Cap'n: I just had a sudden revelation and had to share it with you before I thought twice about it: Marvel's recent release of a Majik series (she was dead) and the upcoming Blink series (she was dead in another reality) -- Nothing but attempts to market toys they've already got in stock!
Remember the New Mutants line of action figures that included a really ugly Wolfsbane, Doug/Warlocke and Majik (plus Lockheed) figures? Blink also had her own action figure, with Nate the X-Man and some short, blonde woman with a pet green monster. I figure we can expect her to get her own comic-book series, too, so that Marvel can increase its publishing tie-ins without the messy costs of retooling its Toy Biz line too much. Whatchathink?
Now if they could only come up with a decent Strong Guy series for his toys still left the bargain bin. That last special issue really sucked.)
What do you think of my theory?
Interesting hypothesis, […], but I doubt it. I do know that the molds used to make action figures are melted right back down after the line has been issued, so I doubt they've got a standing ability to make "Blink" action figures without assuming new overhead. Further, Toy Biz doesn't keep back stock, so that's not a consideration. Further still, virtually all male action figures have the same body, ditto females, so it's really all a matter of painting and a head mold or accessory mold.
My take on it is that there is such a paucity of ideas in the X-universe that they simply regurgitate old storylines and resuscitate old characters because of plain ol' bad writing -- which we've seen a LOT of in the X-titles, for years and years.

I think the correspondent’s theory is stupid. Odd that Mr. Smith says there’s such a dearth of ideas in the X-world, yet never made this point in his newspaper and CBG columns. If only he’d look at his own work…

Hey Cap: Now that we know Chris Claremont is being pulled off of the X-books (we have all heard this bit of news, haven't we?), I think it's time for a bit of reflection.

Back when we first were told that Claremont would be resuming his authorship on X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, I expressed reservations about his new tenure (Don't believe me? Check the Mailbox Archives). I hadn't enjoyed his work on Sovereign Seven (a series I never started collecting) or on Fantastic Four (a series I stopped collecting) and I didn't expect my current reaction to his work would change just because he was once again working with Marvel's mutants.

As it is, Chris Claremont, once a master of his trade, confirmed my low expectations.

First of all, Claremont continued his trend of Poor Scripting. Claremont has been accused for years of being "too wordy," a critique he dismisses as being on a par with saying Mozart used "too many notes." In one respect, Claremont's right. Other authors like Kurt Busiek and J. Michael Straczynski use just as many words. The difference is that all of Busiek's words are necessary.

Claremont continuously provides us with unnecessary dialogue and narration. To me, this demonstrates that Claremont doesn't trust his artist to tell the story or his reader to understand it. Instead he provides us with specific narration which should be clear from the drawings themselves. In one issue of Fantastic Four (I know I'm moving past my stated thesis), Claremont told us not only that the team was in Paris but also their relative location to the river, and what was lying to the North, South, East and West of our heroes. Obviously, some of those six directions were unnecessary for the forwarding of either the characters or the plot. If you can skip a box of narration without impacting the story, the box of narration probably didn't need to be there.

Claremont is often criticized for his pet phrases, like "the focused totality of my psychic powers." Although I can't defend his use of that particular phrase, such verbal trademarks can be very effective clues for new readers (think of Wolverine's "I'm the best there is at what I do," or the Flash's "I'm Wally West, I'm the fastest man alive"). I don't mind that he uses such phrases, however, I don't necessarily need Cable to tell me that Rogue has fallen into the water if I can see it for myself. Such obvious narration may be necessary in children's literature, but Claremont hasn't been writing children's literature for years.

Second, Chris Claremont has recently suffered from Poor Plotting. The X-Men have long been famous for dangling plot lines. Immediately after Alan Davis did his best to finally tie some of those up, Claremont has introduced a host of new ones.

The "six-month gap" in the X-titles were designed in order to allow the new writers (Warren Ellis and Chris Claremont) to avoid the plots left open by the previous creative teams. Instead, each was allowed to create a new status quo and work from there. In the Counter-X books, Ellis did just that. However, in the second storyline, he gave his readers the important back story so that they might understand how the various heroes got from there to here. Claremont has never addressed the "six-month gap" except for one X-Men Unlimited in which we learn the origin of the new Thunderbird. I don't mind if he never addresses the loose plotlines left behind by Joe Kelly, Steven Seagle and Alan Davis (a writer should be allowed to tell his own stories) but he hasn't even answered the questions created by his own stories. How did Phoenix and Psylocke switch powers and why? Since Psylocke's powers were holding the Shadow King in check, has he been released from his psychic prison? When and how did Cable join the team?

Besides those questions, Claremont has already lost track of Kitty Pryde. Does anybody know where she is? He also set up two distinct line-ups and then promptly confused us by having Angel show up as if he was a member of the team and not a guest-star.

As if Poor Scripting and Poor Plotting weren't enough, Chris Claremont's X-Men were Inaccessible to New Readers. In part, that flows right out of the previously discussed problems. However, those problems are magnified when one considers that the X-Men comic book was completely unable to take advantage of the success of an X-Men movie. Since Claremont holds an editorial position in which he reports to himself, I can hold Claremont primarily responsible for this failure.

New X-Men fans were introduced to a Jean Grey who had telekinetic powers but very limited telepathic ones. Claremont not only continued using Phoenix's developed telepathy but he dumped all of her telekinesis. I have to believe that in his position, Claremont had some idea of the plot of the movie before writing his scripts and therefore he had to have knowingly gone against the movie. Furthermore, two of the central characters of the movie (Cyclops and Professor X) are no longer present in the X-books in any way (although a large part of that must be blamed on the previous creative and editorial staffs).

Despite the great possibility of first-time readers, the books operated under the assumption we knew who all of these characters were and what their powers are. Apparently, Claremont thought we could figure this out for ourselves although we needed other characters to let us know whether or not Rogue had fallen into the Gulf of Mexico.

The X-books utilized nothing that new fans might recognize. How many Claremont issues utilized Cerebro, the Blackbird or parts of the mansion other than the Danger Room?

Not only wasn't Chris Claremont writing for new readers but he wasn't writing for old fans either. The X-Books were Inaccessible to Us, as well. The characters were handled poorly and acting abnormally. Cecilia Reyes, who had been written as a competent professional and who had established her own clinic in Westchester, is inexplicably back in New York, scatter-brained, flighty and addicted to drugs. Not only is Gambit forgiven for past transgressions and allowed to rejoin the team, but Jean Grey, Storm and Beast (all of whom lived through the Morlock Mutant Massacre, all of whom have previously held positions of leadership in X-Factor, the X-Men and the Defenders) are turning to him as a trusted leader.

Claremont introduced a new race of villains in issue 100 and by 106 we still don't know the answers to, "Who are the Neo?" and "Why are they so mad at the X-Men?" The Neo also apparently have sub-sets like the Shockwave Riders, the Lost Souls, the Warclan and the Goth. The Goth is apparently both a person and a group. Among the Neo, we have discovered that apparently Jaeger is both a person and a position.

Not only do we have such difficulty discerning Claremont's new plots, but he is readily borrowing from the past. The X-Men again crash a space-faring vehicle into New York's Jamaica Bay, this time held together by a telekinetic Psylocke instead of a telekinetic Jean Grey.

Not only is Claremont borrowing from his own plots of the distant past but he's grabbing them from the recent runs of Seagle and Kelly (and Howard Mackie's X-Factor). Only four years ago, Graydon Creed ran for president on a platform of anti-mutant histeria. At that time, we watched Mystique track down the potential president only to see him shot down by either Havok or Bastion. Now, Senator Kelly is running on the same platform (with no reference to Graydon Creed) and Mystique is tracking him down threatening to kill him. Are we supposed to remember the characters of long ago (like Peter Corbeau, Alexei Vashin and Senator Kelly himself) but forget the plots that they were involved in?

So there you have it. Chris Claremont's most recent run on the X-Men has been rife with Poor Scripting and Poor Plotting, it's been Inaccessible to New Fans and Inconsiderate of Old Ones (which leaves one to wonder, who exactly is Chris Claremont writing to please?).

There have been other problems that haven't been his fault (like the muted colors which make the books difficult to read, and the ridiculous new costumes: only Kitty's and Cable's new duds are any good and I know I'm in the minority when I say that I actually liked the Beast's experiment with goggles). However, enough of this tragedy can be blamed on the once Master of All Things Mutant that I have to say I'm happy to see him go.

I know that if Chris Claremont were to ever read this review he would completely dismiss it. After all, I've never professionally written one comic book let alone worked in the business for 30 years. Yet I think that's part of his problem. He's stopped listening to criticism, either constructive or destructive, and has therefore stopped honing his craft. The result is that he is no longer the writer he once was when he had to prove himself. I don't have to be an expert on the subject to know that this has been the worst run of X-Men and Uncanny X-Men since before Neal Adams took over on the original series. It is, in fact, one of the worst titles on the stands today.

I'm not the only fan who feels that way. Although the sales have remained steady (we didn't collect 500-odd issues to give up on the titles so easily), for the first time, X-Men didn't win Wizard's Fan Award for Favorite Book. That honour went to the well-written Avengers.

I apologize to those of you who think we've engaged in too much Claremont-bashing. I've tried to be very fair with my criticism but like I said, I didn't really want Claremont to return to the X-books in the first place.

P.S. I've heard that Joe Quesada has hired J. Michael Straczynski to write Amazing Spider-Man. I wonder if Grant Morrison is available to pen some new glory days for the characters I grew up with.

I have taken a vow to avoid gratuitous Claremont-bashing on the site, since some readers have complained. However, I said nothing about letting YOU Claremont-bash! All I'll add is that I can't disagree with much you said.

Whoa baby, that correspondent must’ve wanted to lose me after he brought up Straczynski and Morrison at the end! Sure, Claremont was outdating himself at the time, but Morrison’s considerably worse. So I’ll just add that I can disagree with what he said at the end.

Dear Captain: I am just writing first to commend you on your great Web site which I just discovered. Your sight is full of interesting information and ideas.

However, I have to point out a slight inaccuracy in your entry in the Book of the Dead for Swordsman (I hope you do not find me too pedantic). I recently bought and read the Essential Avengers Vol. 1, and unless Marvel reprinted them incorrectly in order to make you look bad then his history is slightly different.

As I read it the Swordsman's connection with Hawkeye is fully explained in Avengers 19-20, the flashback includes a great scene where Hawkeye chased up to the high wire with no where left to run, he adds in narration "In that moment I became a man." (or words to that affect) as he recalls striking out against his former mentor (who then cuts the wire out from under him). Also the plot for those two is more convuluted and slightly different from how you portray it. The Swordsman starts off wanting to join the Avengers so that he can commit crime with impunity, however he is beaten off by the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. He is not under the Mandarin's employ at this point. He then concocts a trap for Captain America and holds him hostage trying to force the Avengers to give him membership but they rescue him. Then the Mandarin nabs him and convinces him to do his dirty work and powers up his sword. The Mandarin then uses a fake image of Iron Man to convince the Avengers to accept the Swordsman into their ranks. As the days go by the Swordsman begins to have misgivings about his role. Now I am a bit sketchy on this but he decides to disarm a bomb, trap or bug that he previously set for the Mandarin (which I think the Mandarin was about to detonate) but the Avengers catch him in the act and assume he is trying to plant it (oh, the irony!) and so he is chased off (and laments that it was good to be an Avenger, even a fake one).

Since my comic-book collection is limited I can not say much else about your writeup, but I will say that in his first appearance the Swordsman was pretty fearsome (well at least not outclassed), able to defeat Captain America with a little help from the element of suprise and luck without the aid of the Mandarin's tricks in his sword. As I said I hope all this was not too pedantic or nitpicky, I am just trying to be helpful.

Anyway, I like your site -- keep up the good work and good luck. In case you're wondering, I found your site through the Google search engine. I was looking for info on Rick Jones, and thanks to your little review of his career I now know a lot more about what issues of what comics he was in.
Thanks for the Swordsman reverie, […]. No, I don't think you're being nitpicky -- possibly because I don't disagree with a word you said! I'll have to re-read and re-edit my Swordsman entry -- I must have telescoped too much info and been misleading.
Anyway, welcome to the club!

I don’t think the correspondent was being nitpicky either, but I do think Mr. Smith’s been plenty of times, what with his insults, subtle or otherwise, to fictional characters.

Dear Cap: I just read your CBG column about Spider-Man's organic shooters in the upcoming movie and thought I would put my two-cents' worth in about the issue. I have been a Spider-fan since John Romita Sr. started to draw him,but interest waned in the last several years(I hear I haven't missed a great deal).
I think the organic webshooter idea is much more logical than the original concept. Did no one read Spider-Man 2099? It worked in that series. Who is to say he can't still run out of webbing? A snake doesn't carry an unlimited supply of venom. The same should apply to the webbing -- if he doesn't have the time to regenerate internally he would have to run out. If he was tired or sick, it might influence the webbing as well Peter Parker could still invent the webshooter itself as a way to control the consistency and aim of his organic webbing.
This is not an idea to be afraid of. I heard some(one) wanted a gay android in one of the potential Superman movies (mercifully killed before production was greenlighted). THIS is the kind of idea to be most afraid of! Worry about stuff worth worrying about!
You make some good points, […]. Here are some opposing viewpoints:

Depending how the android was to be depicted, I’d say it would be for the best to scrap any such idea. Curious why Smith agrees with him, though. If the idea had been greenlighted, chances are he would be at his most utterly sugarcoated about it.

Dear Captain: I just read the latest in CBG 1403 on the controversy over Spider-Man's webshooters and felt for the first time in 15 years to write about such a thing.
To be honest I think it is a good idea. Spider-Man is supposed to be creepy, not your standard arms akimbo, flag-flapping-in-the-background kind of superhero. Unfortunately, we have grown accustomed to him. He does not seem terribly weird anymore. So I think the webshooters actually growing in him is pretty cool, where that is concerned.
But that is not what prompted me to write. Rather, it was Rick Bergh's comment, "If the fans are loud enough, there is a chance they can fix this webshooter problem before the movie begins filming." This attitude, that the producers in Hollywood give two shakes of J. Jonah Jameson's mustache what the fans think or feel, is simply delusional, yet every fan seems to think otherwise. This reminds me of when STAR TREK fans thought that their petitions led to the space shuttle being named ENTERPRISE, totally ignoring the fact that there has always been an ENTERPRISE in the U.S. Navy. But I digress ...
Let's pretend for a second that every monthly comics reader will go see SPIDER-MAN in the theater. Not going to happen, but for the sake of argument, they would not buy enough tickets to fill the seats for one week. Those same fans would have to see this movie in the area of seven times each in order to justify releasing it in the first place. In essence, if the comics readers ignored the movie all together, (Sony) would only lose somewhere around 15 percent of its revenue. So the idea of (comics) fans rising up in protest of a minor (yes, it is) detail when they can barely keep their own industry afloat makes me chuckle.
More good points, which wraps up this week. Y'all keep writing!

Oh for heaven’s sake. I think it’s foolish to say Spidey’s meant to be creepy. You could make a better argument to that effect about Dr. Octopus. Not good points at all. In that case, let’s proceed to October 17, 2000:

Dear Cap:
Re: Jon Sable fighting for South Africa.
Although I would not defend apartheid, it was at the time the lesser of two evils (to many people). You see, many countries neighboring South Africa at the time of Sable's Africa adventures had turned Marxist or semi-Marxist. In Africa the Communists once again had considerably more success than the Americans in creating allies. Openly and massively supportive with arms and troops all the anti-colonial Black-liberation movements, the Soviets managed to outsmart the Americans time and time again with an aggressive foreign policy which saw great swaths of that continent fall under Soviet influence.
The Soviets also played a major racial card by supporting the Black-liberation movements in South Africa and Rhodesia. This included the use of tens of thousands of Cuban troops in Angola to ward off South African incursions into that country during the 1970s and 1980s. Although the Americans covertly helped some anti-Communist Black guerrillas in Angola, using the South Africans as a supply line, they refused to aid South Africa or Rhodesia itself, not wanting to associate itself with the two white-supremacist governments.
So South Africa was in deep trouble, fearful that they would fall to Communism, too. It was felt that the liberal bias of Western countries had stopped them from aiding South Africa against Communism because it was an apartheid government, so Sable and others were proud to defend South Africa from Communism. (Also, a South Africa that had fallen to Communism would have been a disaster, as South Africa is an economically strategic site due to its great natural resources.)
Now, just because Sable fought for South Africa does not make him a white supremacist. Although, as noted, I would not recommend that our country adopt apartheid (and I know that Jesus was not white), consider how dangerous the Communism that South Africa was fighting against was (and to a lesser degree still is). Yes, Nazism, the Ku Klux Klan and other white-supremacist groups are horrible, but consider that proactively non-racist Communist governments have killed 90 million people! (Also note how oppressive Muslim fundamentalist governments have been, even though they, like the Communist governments, oppose racism, imperialism and colonialism.)
Consider that around the time that South Africa was under apartheid there were much more violent or repressive regimes in the world, such as Algeria's Muslim fundamentalist regime (run by Qadaffi), Uganda (run by Idi Amin) and Cambodia (run by Pol Pot). Neither of the latter governments was white supremacist, but they were much more violent than South Africa's apartheid government.
(Two prose adventure thrillers around this South Africa theme are Time Bomb, part of the "Phoenix Force" series published by Gold Eagle as a spin-off of Mack Bolan, and Joseph Rosenberger's "Death Merchant" No. 46, as part of another men's adventure series. Jon Sable was, of course, recently feautred in a prose novel.)
So I guess what you're saying is that the South African/Rhodesian situation wasn't completely ... black and white? Sorry. Of course, the comics question remains -- is that indeed what Mike Grell was referring to when he made the comments the correspondent remembered?

Maybe, but this correspondent has just committed the unpardonable sin of downplaying the sick ideologies of the Koran/Hadith. There is racism galore in many Muslim regimes, aimed at Jews and blacks, for example, and he dares to sugarcoat that? What a pure disgrace. Thus, what could’ve been a good focus on the perils of communism is soaked by a dangerous double standard.

Dear Cap: Two years ago I worked at a retail outlet that sold books, videos and CDs. We carried comics for a while in 1998 and ordered a comic-book spinner rack from a retail-supply house. It even had a metal plate attached to the top of each row that said -- yes -- "Hey kids! Comics!" I don't know the name of the company, but this item was purchased new, so they are out there.
Thanks […] -- it gives us all hope!

But Mr. Smith gives us none. Now, here’s some letters about – guess what – gun control!

Not to argue with your position regarding guns, but I must take issue with something you wrote in Thursday's Q&A.
What gets my goat in your post is this: You imply that only corporations should have the right to procure meat. That very suggestion sows the seeds of an Orwellian nightmare- - "let Big Brother do it for you"-- the antithesis of freedom. Citizens' defense against corporate tyranny rests solely on consumer freedom. And choosing between corporations is hardly choice at all. (You may boycott BP's high prices, but you must buy gas somewhere -- that's why gas prices all go up and down in harmony.)
Also, hunting is vital to survival of animal species. If deer numbers are not thinned by yearly hunting, then the population will grow so large that those numbers will be thinned by starvation anyway -- possibly to extinction. An area of land can support only so many animals. Same for the other hunted animals. And to say "let the Government thin the herds" is again an Orwellian solution.
This country is in a time of panic. And in EVERY instance, "concerned" citizens RUSH to hack off part of our Constitutionally protected freedoms -- "for our own good." It is foolish to EVER give up a freedom, especially since America has tried virtually NO OTHER possible solutions. Only as a last resort should loss of freedom be considered (and even then it should be rejected).
Making permanent changes using quick-fix philosophies is extremely dangerous to keeping a free society.
Which is why I emphasize that reasonable men and women must come together to find reasonable courses of action. I'm not an advocate of quick fixes of any kind. (Although I have to wonder about your fear of letting corporations provide our food -- for the most part, they already do.)

His take on corporations is ridiculous. Why does a corporation have to process food, but not a smaller company, provided they have a license for it? Gee, I wonder if he was writing a subtle assault on private business!

Dear Cap; I know your page is not a forum for political discussion, but I do have a couple of comments on the gun-control issue. I agree with a lot of your response to [name withheld] question. There is to much extreme retoric on either side, and this country could certainly benefit from a rational discussion on the subject (I suppose that last statement probably applies to almost any topic). In that vein I would like to shed a little light on the conservative view of the argument.
What most NRA supporters believe is that responsibility lies with the individual and not with guns themselves. I have never fired a gun myself, but if I came home from work and found that an AK-47 had accidentily been delivered to my house I would not suddenly start shooting people. On the other hand if I really wanted to kill my neighbor, I could easily do it with a baseball bat, a crowbar, a knife or my bare hands. The reason that nobody has to worry about me killing anyone is that I am a moral human being. I was raised to fear God, follow the golden rule, and with a Superman who didn't believe in moral relativism.
You also state that the presence of guns should be an outrage and not something to be proud of. I feel guns can be used for good as well as evil. This country was founded by a group of freedom-loving gun owners. The Nazis were stopped by guns. The fact of the matter is sometimes the bad guys get guns, and the good guys have to stop them. Once you let the technology genie out of the bottle you can't get him back in.
In conclusion, conservatives believe that the solution to gun violence does not lie with government, but with the family. You can't legislate morality, and placing more restrictions on gun ownership will just give an advantage to criminals. What we as individuals can do is teach our children the difference between right and wrong, and not be afraid to stand up for truth, justice and the American way.
Thanks for providing a counterpoint, and thanks especially for being polite and reasonable about it. My only comment is to note that while it's possible for you to kill your neighbor with a baseball bat (with a bit of doing, I imagine), it's not awfully likely for a six-year-old to find a baseball bat in his irresponsible father's closet and accidentally kill his schoolmate in a tenth of a second, as happened twice in Memphis last month with automatic handguns. Sure, your can prosecute the father -- but the kid is still dead. A baseball bat isn't by definition a lethal weapon, whereas a firearm is. I think that's worth discussing.
Otherwise I'm completely in harmony with your insistence on personal responsibility. I find we as a society almost irrational in our lawsuit-happy fixation on finding somebody else to pay for our own mistakes.

Oh, I’m skeptical he is. Let us remember, he’s a leftist, and whatever he says publicly, he may be speaking with a forked tongue about self-defense. Also, his argument that a baseball bat couldn’t kill is sloppy at best.

I would like to thank you for creating my favorite comic-book related Web site. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be reading Captain Marvel or Ring of the Nibelung, and boy would my life be lame then. If you don't mind, I'd like to chime in:
Personally, I don't see any problem with Spider-Man having organic webshooters. The move to organic webshooters over mechanical ones was probably cosemtic; webbing coming out of a guy's arm makes for a much cooler special effect (In Hollywood's opinion at least). Peter's scientific genius can always be shown in other ways. I think the major flaw in the Spider-Man movie will probably be the title character himself. Name the last mainstream action movie you saw where the protagonist was a science geek who gets picked on at school! Would X-Men have been as successful if the movie focused on Cyclops instead of Wolverine? I think Marvel may have been better off making a Captain America, or a Fantastic Four movie. That being said, I hope I'm wrong, and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the adventures of one of my all-time favorite characters on the big screen.
You make a good point with the Cyclops/Wolverine comparison. After all, how many times (and how many writers) have tried to dump Cyclops as being too "dull"? And how many covers does Wolvie appear on every month?
Eleventy-seven last month, by my count. Anyway, I'm also looking forward to Spider-Man: The Movie, organic webshooters or not. Oh, and I might as well stir up another hornet's nest: Sam Raimi announced last week he intends to change the costume a bit. (Hopefully along the lines of the published Alex Ross sketches, but you never know!)

Those scriptwriters, much like Mr. Smith himself, are obviously very lazy, otherwise they would’ve tried to modify Cyke’s persona to something they find more impressive. Now for October 24, 2000:

Dear Cap: I'm gonna get raked over the coals for the Clueless comparison to GHOST WORLD (Clowes himself has blanched at the very same idea thrown his way by Hollywood execs -- they were gonna try to get Alicia Silverstone to star in it) but, at the certain risk of underestimating your fanboy audience, who's gonna get a reference to Jane Austen? It's very much like the Silverstone flick (which itself a bit of black comedy in some ways) on the surface, as a "clique story" but carries a sharper, much more sobering message, and is the mirror image of that film in that it shines the light on the ugly and the outcasts, rather than the beautiful and popular. Still, Ghost World is as funny as heck and one of the better reads I've had the pleasure of experiencing, and I think the movie will be as entertaining as the source material.
I think you probably are underestimating the audience of this Web site, since a great many of them are older readers. Besides, comics fans as a whole are generally better read than the general populace, and not just comic books. I personally have a marked preference for great works of literature (particularly Russian), history (particularly Civil War and WWII) and science. I imagine a great many other comics fans are similarly eclectic.
But since the Clueless metaphor works, I see nothing wrong with a pop-culture reference! God knows comics fans are well-versed in that area!

Some of the readers of that site were intelligent, but not all. Certainly not the correspondent who wrote that particular letter! Yes, there are some intelligent people out there who read comics, but there’s also some very insular basement dwellers, including some of Mr. Smith’s own audience, whom we can’t overestimate. That’s something I say with a heavy heart, but I have to be a realist. Here’s a letter I wrote about the women from the X-Men:

Dear Cap: Am I right that Marvel Comics has almost always been referring to the Women of the X as X-Men too? Have you ever noticed that?
If you ask me, I think that it's very disrespectful of the writers to be using a masculine term in order to describe the X-Women. One could also say that it's very insulting to their sexuality and their womanhood. I never speak about girls using masculine words. No, I speak about and address them using the proper feminine (terms).
I know that when the X-Men began way back in 1963, there had only been one X-Woman, and that, of course, was Jean Grey. But when referring specifically to girls, they should be using the proper feminine terms. And I wouldn't be surprised if there are plenty of women in this world of ours who are appalled at Marvel's writers for addressing their girl characters with masculine slang.
So isn't it about time already that they started calling them in the proper feminine terms that they should, such as X-Women, X-Girls, X-Ladies, X-Femmes, and even best of all, X-Babes, X-Beauties, X-Lasses, X-Kittens, X-Tigeresses and X-Sirens?
With a new millenium coming in, I think it's about time that Marvel started correcting their addression of the girl characters in X-Men. And maybe they should even give some of them their own starring titles, since more titles with girls in the lead are needed at Marvel, and maybe even a miniseries featuring many of the X-Women in their own adventure together. It's about time that we started treating them like the ladies that they most definitely are.
Next, about Aquaman. I'd like to say that among the most ideal developments that the Aquatic Avenger has been given in the past several years is his current bearded look. It makes look a lot more mature, and also a lot more serious. And it also gives him the look of a Greek mythology figure.
And I have to admit that it's a definite shame if DC is canceling the current Aquaman series. I most certainly do hope that it can be revived as soon as possible, since Aquaman is one of the most appealing characters in the DC universe.
Although some characters do need some certain weak points, I suppose it's possible that Aquaman's ability to breathe regular air for only about an hour could be hindering to the writer's ability to come up with better and more expanded storylines. I wonder if it could be a good idea to do away with his overall weak point, since then it could enable him to do such things as visit alien worlds more at ease, and also -- yes! -- swim in the seas of alien worlds as well, and meet all sorts of new and bizarre sea life there too. Who knows? It could work.
This reminds me, as you said in your Sept. 28 column, Aquaman is still a regular member of the JLA. You know, I think that that could also be one of the reasons why Wonder Woman has been able to keep being a solid member of the DC universe all these years. In the March 9 issue of the Mailbag section, there's a letter by Matthew Hawes of Comics Unlimited that says that the estate of William Moulton Marston could get all the rights to WW back if DC ever stops publishing a WW comic book. Well, as a matter of fact, it could be that thanks to the fact that she's a major player in the JLA that DC's been able to keep a good grip on the character rights without too many problems. So have they ever really stopped publishing a comic book with the Amazonian princess? Not really.
You know, Wonder Woman isn't the only character in the DC universe whose rights are iffy, even the rights to Superman could have a catch: back in the mid-1970s, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster waged a very effective lawsuit against Warner Bros, which had aquired the rights to DC comics as early as 1973, and I wouldn't be surprised if the overall rights to Superman could revert to their estates too if DC isn't careful with the Man of Steel as well.
And you know, I have to admit it, while I most certainly do respect the creators' estates' rights to the characters, I'm glad that Superman and Wonder Woman are still very solid members of the DC universe, since the DC universe just wouldn't be the same without them. For Superman, Wonder Woman, and also Batman are among a couple of the leading cornerstones who helped to make the DC universe what it is, and if it hadn't been for them, we may never have seen a lot of the many other superheroes and superheroines who've appeared there. And they'll also be necessary when it comes to creating a lot more characters for DC in the future as well. Not to worry, I don't think that the estates of the creators really want to deprive DC and the fans of all these great characters, for they know that they've all brought joy to this and many future generations of comics readers, and I'm sure they're happy whenever they do. And when Siegel, Shuster and Marston see what joy they've brought to many people in this world, I'm sure that they're smiling up in heaven. And I am very grateful to them for their contributions to the comics industry.
One sure thing of course, DC, or, more precisely, Warner Bros., should always make sure to pay the creators' estates a big hefty share, since being respectful of the creators is always a very important matter.
Seriously though, if Wonder Woman and Superman suffered any sales slumps in the past decades, I think it's because the writers weren't trying to come up with any good writing: As John Byrne pointed out in an interview with Previews in 1995, for many years, Wonder Women never seemed to have any truly challenging enemies, and the only really tough opponent was the Cheetah. And in Superman's case, I had read in a book by Ron Goulart that some fool editor had decided as early as the '50s to see if Superman could survive silly stories. And I think that could explain why they eventually slumped in sales: The writers weren't coming up with any challenging or really intelligent stories. And today's readers are usually much more sophisticated than they were in the '50s, and they want their storytelling to be done with brains, including me. Sure, I just love reading comics about hot babes with heaving bosoms, but that alone cannot fuel a story, it's good writing that does.
And that's why I owe John Byrne a lot of credit for having identified and repaired a lot of the flaws that weighed down Superman and Wonder Woman in the past decades, and I think that his work on such titles has helped a lot in improving their sales in the past few years. If such characters are to survive, they're going to need some very good writing for that purpose. And that's why I'm hoping that all future generations of comics writers will remember that.
One last thing, I loved that interview you did with www.the-meat.net Web site. It was another very valuable contribution to the comics industry. I may have noticed one inaccuracy, however: the exact year you began the column. In the interview with The Beef, you said that you began the Captain Comics column in 1992, but on the FAQ page on your own website, it says that you began in 1993. Which year is the right one? I don't know how important it is, but if you began in 1992, do you think that the year given on the FAQ page should be corrected? It may be a good idea to do so.
Hmm. Well, I wrote my first three columns in Dec. '92, but the first didn't hit print until the first week of Jan, '93. I think. So I guess '93 is the number most folks would deem significant.
And I don't disgree with any of your comments about X-Women, as far as respect goes. We weren't very politically aware in '63, when the team was created, and the name has stuck. Others have brought up the same point (notably [name withheld]) -- but oddly, no women have complained! And it is a mouthful, and would doubtless give headaches to the person who had to design a logo. I'm inclined to let it go for simplicity's sake, unless some actual women complain.
Trivia note: Peter David asked for the bearded, long-haired Aquaman so that it would look more visually interesting as it floated in the water. The Greek god aspect is certainly a bonus, though.
The problem with Wonder Woman's ownership is undoubtedly why the character has seen print almost continuously since 1940, even in the many years Wonder Woman was losing money. That, and the merchandising angle. In addition, you'd probably be interested to know that the rights to Superman are currently being contested in court by the heirs of Jerry Siegel.
And you'll hear no disagreements from me that comics characters need good stories, or they'll dry up and blow away. Even great characters like Spider-Man and Batman can get into sales troubles when the writing isn't up to snuff. The Clone saga killed off two of Spidey's titles, and Detective has been on the verge of cancellation several times when the writing was weak. I've often said that there are no bad characters, only bad writers -- but you can flip that to say that bad writers can kill good characters.

No, I won’t hear disagreements from him, and behind the scenes could be a whole different story. That’s why his claim he recognizes the argument of no bad characters, only writers, falls flat. Because he was attacking several fictional characters himself years ago – and still is – as though the writers behind them didn’t exist. It makes me feel very embarrassed when I recall making that mistake myself years ago, and how I may have been partly influenced by his own insanity.

This letter was written at a time when I was too neutral to understand how dreadful Byrne's writing on Wonder Woman in the mid 90s was, and isn't even very accurate. That's why this is another letter I'm honestly embarrassed about. There was once a time when Byrne was talented enough, but when he took up West Coast Avengers, that's when he began to self-destruct in the early 90s, and he wasn't much better on WW.

Dear Captain: Superman:The Man of Steel serves more of a purpose than a place for Jim Rhod -- I mean, Steel to appear in. Why not make him a star? Because his own title failed so, why give this James Rhodes rip-off another chance? Personally, I'd prefer to have him stop making appearances(token or otherwise)in S:MOS. As I've stated, he's a rip-off, and his niece annoys me. As for Doug Mahnke's style, it's not as ill-suited to Superman as some of the guest-pencillers DC has used to pinch hit for the regular artists on the Super-titles (since none of the regulars can manage to draw 12 issues a year).
Natasha (and Boris) annoy me too, [name withheld]. But I like Steel more than Jim Rhodes (who takes a lot more abuse from Tony Stark than I prefer to see), and I really don't care much for Mahnke's style. Ah, well. That's what makes horse races.

Ah, see what I mean? He goes right along the next minute and derides the niece of John Henry Irons as though she were real life too. His comment on Rhodey is also fishy. Bleah. Come to think of it, so is his comment about Boris & Natasha from the famous Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon series.

Another slight comic-book tie with the South African situation of the 1970s was Gerald Bull. A weapons designer, Bull was born in Canada. Bull, with the implicit blessing of the CIA, aided South Africa in designing a 155-mm howitzer with 50 percent more range than anything else at the time. He sold them gun barrels for it and shells. With the new weapons, the South Africans were able to defeat Angola.
Then Jimmy Carter was elected, and South Africa was no longer a friend due to apartheid. Bull was charged with unlawful arms dealing. On the advice of his lawyer, he pleaded guilty and served six months in prison during the early 1980s.
http://world.std.com/~jlr/doom/bull.htm
How does this tie into comic books? Well, Gerald Bull later worked for Saddam Hussein, for which Isreal assassinated him. Mike Baron fictionalized this later incident in Bull's life for The Punisher, circa issues 47-48. Bull in that one designs weapons for "Trafia" and is called "Dr. Brattle." This helper of the Afrikaaners can take pride in the fact that he got to be a comic-book villain!
Well, if he wasn't dead, he could be proud. I guess.

While this is interesting history, the sad part is that it comes from the same correspondent who downplayed the harm of Islamofascism. So I can only appreciate it in the abstract.

Dear Cap: Gone are the days when female characters did such odd things like tripping over the smallest twigs while trying to escape well-heeled monsters. Now, they are kicking tails and taking names of those same beasts. Yessir, these ladies here are no ordinary grrrls. Warrior princesses and their best friends, she-devils with swords in hyborean ages, warrior nuns, university students and B-movie actresses to name a few are leading the fight against monsters in the comic books and films. It probably makes sense as all predators will tackle what they believe to be a weaker prey.

It seems that comics are finally learning what I picked up from having two older sisters -- don't mess with girls! They can be mighty mean if they want to be!

Wrong. As Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled have proven, anti-female bias is still lurking out there, in the sickest ways possible. And, as he's proven, it's accompanied by the most disgraceful apologists.

Dear Cap: Just read your Oct. 12 letter column on your Web site. Coincidentally, the released-so-recently-I-just-picked-it-up-yesterday Legion Archive Vol. 10 devotes quite a bit of time to the LSH costume changes, and has an introduction by Dave Cockrum, too!
Saturn Girl's pink bikini costume was designed by a reader, not Win Mortimer, and was based on a Diana Rigg outfit from an episode of The Avengers (much like Jean Grey's Black Queen outfit from the Claremont/Byrne X-Men was based on a different Rigg outfit from a different episode!).
Readers designed several other costumes which appeared in one story during the series' run as a Superboy back-up. They were pretty hideous, IMO. In particular, they had Princess Projectra and Shadow Lass wearing nearly nothing (yes, even less than their later outfits!).
Karate Kid's white-and-yellow costume was definitely designed by Cockrum, though he only drew it once, in one panel of Superboy 193. Then the Kid went back to his old, brown costume for a while, before Grell brought it back for good in No. 209.
I believe that Cockrum's design for Duo Damsel's orange-and-purple outfit was also based on a reader suggestion. Timber Wolf also got a new costume in No. 197.
I think Cosmic Boy's bare-chested costume was designed by Grell. (It looks essentially the same as Tyroc's costume, after all.) I could be wrong, though.
I've heard stories that other artists often found Cockrum's designs frustrating, because he included so many little design patterns which were time-consuming to get precisely right, and often got simplified by Cockrum's successors. (For instance, the black design on Shrinking Violet's costume, or pretty much any outfit worn by a Cockrum Shi'ar in X-Men.) Nonetheless, I think Cockrum is one of the best superhero costume designers in comic-book history. Even his choices of which Legionnaires to redesign and which to leave alone (Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Invisible Kid, Brainiac 5) was spot-on.
Thanks for the details, […] -- you can never have too much trivia!

You can also never have too much hypocrisy in the works!

Dear Captain: I don't really have an opinion on the whole organic webshooters controversy, but let me put my two cents in.
I remember picking up my first Spider-man comic when I was about seven years old. The splash page (John Romita? This would have been around 1972) showed Spider-man in full swing between buildings in New York, with one arm extended toward the reader. The shot clearly showed the hole on the inside of his wrist, right where all those blue veins are. My first reaction was "Cool! That webbing stuff comes out of his veins!" (This is one of those silly images that sticks with you from childhood, but you can't remember to feed the dog or where you put the car keys.)
I was later greatly disappointed to learn that the webshooters were really mechanical devices under his costume.
The funny thing is, I'm getting letters now from people like you who remember Spidey as being creepy in their youth, but that familiarity has made him less weird. Oddly, I NEVER found Spidey to be creepy -- the whole costume/secret ID convention was so "normal" to me by the time I started reading Spidey (Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1, No. 10) that he was just another guy in a union suit, who was actually more interesting to me OUT of costume. Maybe I'm just brain-damaged from reading too many comic books, but it was actually those awful '70s Spider-Man TV movies that brought across to me how repulsive it would be to actually see a guy "skitter" across a wall like a roach. Suddenly a lot of those early Spidey comics made a lot more sense.
It just goes to show how everybody's most powerful youthful experiences are wildly different -- and why we all have such strong, divergent opinions on our little hobby. It's one of the things that I really enjoy about comics -- each fan has a different perspective, and it's fascinating to learn, for example, about what stuck out in your youthful brain about the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. It would never have occurred to me otherwise.

I never found Spidey creepy, and that happens to be a good thing; it proves Martin Goodman was wrong with his initial assumption and reluctance to try out Lee’s creation! On the other hand, I do find Mr. Smith’s embrace of Identity Crisis creepy. Very creepy, in fact. Like I said before, his fluff-coated columns made my skin crawl.

As everyone argues the merits of Peter Parker's web-casting ability and the form it should take for the upcoming movie, I'd like to address another aspect of the issue.
Spider-Man's origin hinges on the one moment where Peter realizes he was bitten by a spider. If you take away the spider motif, what have you got? -- A super-strong guy with precognition ("spider sense"), an ability to stick to walls, and a gizmo that shoots sticky stuff. Without the web gizmo and a nod to the spider that bit him, Peter could have easily called himself Amazing Guy or Super Wall-Walking Man.
Motif is everything; it sets a mood and defines his abilities. His paranormal strength, resilience and agility are noted as those of a spider -- but why not a baboon? The precognitive ability could easily have been dubbed ... uh, "precognitive ability." Or let's call it "the warnings of my ancestral ghosts." The web-spinners strapped on his wrists could have taken the form of a gun or sight-directed goggles, assuming he had a reason to make webby stuff to begin with -- why not a gliding cape instead?
(Quick aside: Have you ever played the Champions roleplaying game? It's a classic delight. Instead of trying to provide a fully comprehensive list of every possible superpower in the history of comic books, the game approaches it from a generic-to-specific function. "Entangle," for example, works pretty much the same regardless of whether it belongs to Cotton Candy Gal, Dr. Putty or Web-Caster Man.)
In other words, if Peter hadn't seen the spider that bit him, who would he be now? Take a look at another icon and consider: If a squirrel had crashed through Bruce Wayne's window instead of a bat, all of his resulting crime-fighting gear could easily have been retooled with a squirrel motif (except the cape, of course; but he still could have constructed a faux bushy tail to strike fear into criminals. Trust me. It would have worked).
Where am I going with this? Darned if I know.
No, seriously, here's the point: Only in the most recent revamp of Peter's history -- the Ultimate Spider-Man series -- is it made sparkling clear that the boy immediately recognized the importance of the spider that bit him. In (almost?) all other retellings, he had no reason to become a spider-ish crimefighter.
Biologically based web-shooters, growing in his arms, would produce a more solid connection to his personal totem. Otherwise his origin reeks of simple-minded, motif-driven, comic-book geek fanboy writing. (Of course, that IS his origin. But there's no reason we can learn from our collective history and improve something now.)
But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.
An interesting point, [...], and it raises another question. If Peter Parker were bitten today -- which is sorta the point of Ultimate and Chapter One -- wouldn't he have the public-relations savvy to realize that a spider motif wouldn't play well with the masses? A clever kid like Pete might very well think, "Gee, these spider-powers are cool -- but everybody's gonna freak out if I dress like a spider. Hmmm. Why don't I call myself Lion-Man? Then I could say I have 'Lion-Strength' and 'Lion-Speed' and the wall-crawling thing ... um, I just won't do that much."
Then he'd appear fighting criminals in a noble, heroic outfit with a mane and be the media's darling. Probably get invited to join the Avengers right away. So, since Pete went ahead and designed a suit that the average guy would find pretty creepy -- does that mean he has a secret desire to be unpopular? Does he WANT to be rejected?
Where am I going with this? Darned if I know. :)

Indeed, he doesn’t know, and neither does the correspondent! He confusingly states Peter had no reason to become Spidey, except he did: his Uncle Ben Parker was murdered by a burglar, and this brought him to the decision to dedicate himself to serious crimefighting. Still, that correspondent happens to be a MSM journalist who makes me laugh at how he embraces a comic with a negative view of newspaper reporting, as embodied by J. Jonah Jameson. Now, here’s 4 letters together:

Dear Cap: Marvel Comics titles aren't really my bailiwick, but I can clear up the confusion about the Squadron Sinister/Supreme which developed from [withheld] letter in this week's Mailbag.

I regret to inform you that Mark Gruenwald was not the writer to convert the Squadron Sinister to the Squadron Supreme. Roy Thomas did that -- in the story he wrote for Avengers 85-86 (February and March, 1971).

In the first issue of this two-part story, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision and Goliath (the Clint Barton version) are part of the Avengers team departing from Arkon's other-dimensional world via Thor's hammer, when they find themselves diverted to a parallel Earth. This fact does not become known to our four wayward Assemblers until they return to what they think is the Avengers' Mansion and find Nighthawk (to the Avengers' perspective, a member of the Squadron Sinister) already in residence, along with four other costumed figures --Lady Lark, Tom Thumb, the American Eagle and Hawkeye (the Cockney counterpart who later assumed the identity of the Golden Archer).

After the traditional Marvel each-group-mistakes-the-other-for-villains battle, the Avengers piece together that they are on a parallel world and that Nighthawk and his friends are superheroes, five members of the Squadron Supreme. The three absent members of the Squadron Supreme -- Hyperion and Dr. Spectrum and the Whizzer (like Nighthawk, exact physical replicas of the Squadron Sinister members on the Avengers' Earth) -- are involved in overseeing the launch of a rocket into solar orbit. The consequences of this launch form the basis of the events of the second half of the story.

In the following issue, the four Avengers team with Nighthawk, Hyperion, the Whizzer and Dr. Spectrum against the true villain of the piece. The "lesser" Squadroners aren't seen in this issue, or again until, variously, Avengers 141 and 148.
Thanks for the update, [withheld]! Here are some letters on the subject:

Dear Cap: While Roy Thomas conceptualized the original idea of a group of evil characters loosely resembling the Justice League of America, Steve Englehart expanded on the concept in Avengers 141. He enhanced Roy's idea by using duplicates of the Squadron Sinister characters and combined them with others based on the JLA. Steve then established that this new group was from a parallel Earth and renamed them "Squadron Supreme." They appeared again a few times before Mark Guenwald's classic miniseries, where he took the group way beyond its roots as a simple JLA parody. Mark used this group to show us the probable futility of achieving a superhero-organized utopian society.
About a year later, while still loosely maintaining its JLA-related origins, Mark presented us with a majestic encore to this the miniseries, which even incorporated aspects of DC's Crisis. Although he subsequently used the group in Quasar, this was his final major involvement with the Squadron (published as a graphic novel titled Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe). In Marvel Age 82, Mark stated this story was his favorite of all he had written and his final quote in the interview was that, "If people only read one thing that I've done, I hope it's this."
I hope I've clarified what I wrote in my letter and further indicated why this story is essential reading. It is unfortunate for everyone who enjoyed the Squadron that Marvel has never made a reprinted version available.

Dear Cap: Okay, here's the history of the Squadron Supreme as I remember it. This is entirely from memory, so I'm probably slightly hazy on issues numbers/dates, however, I'm certain on the writers.
As you mentioned, Roy Thomas created both Squadrons Sinister and Supreme. The Squadron Sinister (consisting of Hyperion, Nighthawk, Dr. Spectrum and The Whizzer) made their debut in Avengers 69 and fought the Avengers in No. 70.
The Squadron Supreme made their debut in Avengers 85-86 in a story also written by Roy Thomas. Returning home from an other-dimensional world, some of the Avengers were accidentally sidetracked. Entering what they thought was Avengers Mansion they met up with Nighthawk and assumed that the Squadron Sinister was attacking. After the inevitable fight, the Avengers realised they were on a parallel Earth in which the Squadron Supreme (the Hyperion, Nighthawk, Dr. Spectrum and Whizzer of that Earth, along with several others) were the world's greatest heroes. The Avengers teamed up with the SS to prevent an embittered young mutant genius from destroying this Earth, and then returned home.
The Squadron Supreme made their next appearance that I know of in Avengers in 1976, somewhere around Issues 143-45 (as I said, I'm hazy on the actual dates). In a story written by then-regular Avengers scribe Steve Englehart, the SS attacked the Avengers at the behest of their own government, not realizing that President Nelson Rockefeller (!) was under the control of the Serpent Crown. At the end they patched things up again, and resolved not to be quite so ready to unquestioningly obey government authorities in the future (rather ironic in view of what eventually became of them).
Squadron Supreme member Hyperion (along with his Squadron Sinister equivalent) made a appearance in a 1979 issue of Thor, pencilled by none other than 1950s-60s Superman artist supreme Wayne Boring. However, the next appearance by the Squadron Supreme as a whole was in The Defenders (circa issues 110-112, late 1982 or early `83) in a this storyline by then-regular Defenders writer J M DeMatteis.
In this tale the SS, along with former member Nighthawk who had retired and, as Kyle Richmond, been elected President of the United States (beat that, Bruce Wayne!) were under the indirect control of an other-dimensional nasty and had pretty much taken over their world. With the help of the Defenders they defeated the menace, but at the end of the storyline their world was in pretty much the sorry state that it was at the start of Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme maxiseries. BTW, each of the stories I've described introduced a few more of the Squadron Supreme members who were featured in the maxiseries.
So yes, you were correct, Cap; Roy Thomas did create both of the Squadrons. However, I think it's also fair to say that a number of writers, including Mark Gruenwald, contributed to the creation and development of the version of the Squadron Supreme that we have seen since the Gruenwald-written maxiseries (which, by the way, I very much enjoyed, as I did all the other stories I've outlined; that's probably why I remember them).

Dear Cap: In reference to the Squadron Supreme's creation:
Roy Thomas did create the team, originally. Actually, it took him two tries. The first appearance of Hyperion, Nighthawk, The Whizzer and Doctor Spectrum was as a villianous group working for the Grandmaster in his duel with Kang, Avengers 69-71. These four hung around on the Avengers' Earth and remained known
as the Squadron Sinister, although Nightwawk reformed and joined the Defenders.
Unfortunately, the next issues are one of the gaps in my Avengers collection (sigh) but the Squadron Supreme of their own alternate earth (Earth-SS, anyone?) first appeared, I believe, in Avengers 86-87 (or somewhere close to that). More members, including Power Princess, were introduced (with Clint Barton getting the best line: "You're HAWKEYE? That's adding insult to injury!). The Squadron helped the Avengers stop Brain-Child, a young mutant with world-destroying powers.
It was Steve Englehart (the greatest Avengers writers ever) who really made the Squadron interesting as more than JLA parodies, in Avengers 141-149. In this storyline the Serpent Crown had (secretly, through business executives) taken over the government of the Squad's earth, and, being a bit naive at the time, the Squadron went right along with the flow, in The Whizzer's words, "still serving the good old USA."
Fortunately they ran up against a team of Avengers, and in the end were forced to realize what had happened. This story in many ways set up the situations that Mark Gruenwald was to use so brilliantly later on.
I've always been kind of surprised (pleasantly) that Marvel has been able to use the team as much as they have. I'd have thought that DC's attorneys would be kind of interested in the matter.
Once the characters moved beyond simple JLA parodies, the chances of a fan confusing Hyperion with Superman (and thereby diluting DC's sales) became difficult to prove. And DC would have to prove that their sales were suffering if they wanted to make a lawsuit stick. At least, that's my understanding of how it works.
Further, DC did an Avengers parody in Justice League around the same time Marvel introduced the Squadron Sinister (and I read somewhere that the writers of each did it on purpose to have fun), including Wandjina (Thor), Silver Sorceress (Scarlet Witch), Bluejay (Ant-Man) and Johnny B. Quick (Quicksilver). These characters also became semi-regulars, growing beyond their parody roots. So what's good for the goose ...

If it weren't for the seriousness of the issues he's trivialized, Mr. Smith would be a self-parody. And he's beyond galling in his leftism. Besides, in all due honesty, competition isn't wrong, nor is it wrong to come up with variants on the Man of Steel provided there's some kind of distinction.

Dear Cap: Kudos on the new site-update schedule, and the snappy design tune-up. The set of your jaw in the Mailbag illustration should utterly paralyze would-be spammers (that cowardly, superstitious lot). The new stuff-each-day schedule means I get to eat lunch on Thursday, instead of investing the better part of an hour on your site. Here's hoping it also makes your personal fight for right a little more manageable, too.
Just a brief amplification to your sound response to [name withheld] gun-control comments. You're absolutely right about a child being unlikely to accidentally maim or kill a peer and/or herself with a baseball bat, hunting knife, etc. To […]'s point about being able to kill his neighbor with one of those implements, given sufficient determination to do so, I'll agree, but only to a point. Killing one person unawares with a "low-tech" weapon is still harder than doing so with a gun, especially for someone acting impulsively and/or who is untrained in the use of the weapon. (I have no direct experience with this, thank goodness, but I've heard experts comment several times that killing a conscious, healthy adult with a knife is much harder in reality than it appears in movies and TV -- our bodies are remarkably tough, and adrenaline makes any person a formidable adversary.)
Still, I'll grant […] his basic point, where ONE victim is concerned. But an Uzi or an AK-47 makes it possible to execute an entire family (or classroom, or restaurant crowd) far more easily than one could with a baseball bat. And of course, military assault weapons are designed precisely to kill large numbers of people quickly.
This last point has always been one of my biggest quarrels with the heavily armed Punisher-type "heroes" that came into vogue in the late '80s. Setting aside the due-process problems inherent in their "I, the jury" methods, surgical precision just isn't possible with assault weapons. Even in comic-book reality, where the superhuman is commonplace, "civilian casualties" in the "war on crime" would quickly put these vigilantes on par with the worst mass killers in history. That would, of course, make even "uneasy alliances" with conventional heroes an utter impossibility.
Thanks […]. I hated using my "hammer" -- the ability to get in the last word -- to [withheld]'s remarks. I'd like to publicly apologize to [withheld], who was polite and reasonable -- but I couldn't let the baseball-bat comment go by. I agree with a lot of what the pro-gun lobby has to say in regard to personal responsibility and the gravity of talking about changing the Second Amendment. These are serious issues. By the same token, so is a six-year-old accidentally killing another six-year-old. Guns are lethal weapons, and we don't even insist on as much regulation (which the Constitution DOES call for) as we do driving a motor vehicle. I just think that we need to drop the hysteria and discuss sound ways to deal with real-world problems.

Oh, put a lid on it! With his brand of leftism, it’s very disputable. The correspondent’s argument that children couldn’t kill others with knives is also very slapdash and underestimates what harm they could do. Now for October 31, 2000:

Dear Cap: After reading your column for the last four months, I find that I have to put in my thoughts about one of the ongoing debates.
As a background, I started reading comics in June of 1960. Comics were much simpler then, with a whole story being resolved in six-to-eight pages, some 13-pagers and occasionally a full 26 pages. A continued story was very rare. DC was the only game in town.
Then a couple of years later Marvel appeared on the scene. Marvel also brought to comics the "C" word -- continuity. This was pretty easy because they ignored their history of the 'forties and 'fifties (only dragging out Sub-Mariner and Captain America). We watched Peter Parker graduate from high school and go to college. The characters aged. The stories had a relationship to each other and references were made to past events which we had read. We even found out that Reed Richards had served in World War II and met Sgt. Fury (that would make Reed in his late 30s-early 40s, if you wanted to do the math). The Marvel Universe was treated as a unified body, and it was great.
Meanwhile, over at DC, they were trying to bring back the heroes from the Golden Age, but there was a problem of where the character had been and how old were they (mid-40s by doing the math again). DC tried to create continuity, but they had too much baggage. Marvel laughed at DC and things went well until the '70s when Marvel suddenly realized that now they had a problem. The continuity that they had been preaching so hard for so long was now becoming a problem to them. Everybody should have aged more than 10 years, but that did not fit the Marvel profile and wasn't Reed Richards in his 50s by now? Marvel did the most logical thing. All the characters stopped aging. Period. Suddenly the readers who had the gospel of continuity preached to them found themselves getting older and their beloved characters had stopped. Everybody at Marvel had a picture of Dorian Gray in their closet.
Meanwhile, DC was getting into bigger trouble because all their younger Silver Age heroes were starting to get older too, let alone the Golden Age ones. In the '80s DC tried to resolve their multi-universe situation by their Crisis on Infinite Earths saga. A great series, but problems were arising even before the 12th issue came out. For example, all the Superboy stories that we had been reading were no longer valid because Superboy never existed. Boy, did I waste a lot of dimes and 12 cents and 15 cents, etc., reading something that never happened! Later Zero Hour tried to clean things up. It did not work either.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch where this whole mess started, Marvel was trying to reinvent characters and the loyal fans were getting upset.
So what are we faced with: One of the first considerations has been the change in the comic readership. At the start in the 'forties and even when I started reading in 1960, the assumption of the comic-book houses was that the average reader was from 11- to 13-years-old and had an average readership of two years. With a two-year cycle, stories could be recycled every so often and no one really noticed. With Marvel, the readership became older (they were the rage at colleges) and readers became more loyal reading for longer periods of time. I read the other day that the average comic-book reader is presently 38. This older, loyal readership expects good stories and plotlines (some lasting for years) and the "C" word, continuity. The second consideration is the difference in time between events in comics and the real world time line. With the exception of the comic strip Gasoline Alley, comics have never been good at matching the real timeline. Some like the comic strip Blondie started off good with the children aging, then it just stopped. The pinnacle of time standing still has to be in Archie. He was in high school in the early 1940s and he is still there. He has been through every fad since then, but he never gets any older nor does he graduate. My mother was in high school when he started and my granddaughter is there now. Third is the desire of the readers, the loyal ones at least, to treat their favorite character like a real person. The fans of Sherlock Holmes have tried to put all of his stories in a strict chronological sequence. Any discrepancies are blamed on errors on the part of Watson on his recordings. The truth is that the real author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was not overly concerned about the accuracy of his fictional character, because he was fiction.
Continuity is a necessary thing in comics. The hero can not be invulnerable to bullets in one story and then get wounded by one in the next. But continuity has limits when dealing with a timeline of a comic that is days or hours or even minutes for a story to transpire, but the comic comes out once a month or at best, monthly in the case of the Superman titles when they were unified. The readers have to cut the companies some slack about the time issue. I have no problem with Jay Garrick, now in his mid-40s, (having) an adventure in the current times (he does have to age a little) instead of coming up with a long theory of why he does not look 80. The Superboy stories that I read as a kid which took place during the 1930s (it had to be before 1938 when Superman first appeared) can now be during the '80s or, heaven forbid, the '70s (Superboy and disco is a bit much). The readers have to suspend reality as far as timeline and allow the characters to move through time, but not age at real time standards.
Finally, a few other thoughts:
1) Unlike the Captain, I always enjoyed Green Arrow as a kid. I always knew that he was an imitation of Batman, but there was something enjoyable about him wrapping up a complete adventure in six pages. The fact that I always liked archery and was fascinated by this arsenal of arrows had something to do with it.
2) The father of Arrowette? I don't think it was Oliver Queen. For my argument I use DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest No. 23, July 1982, an issue devoted to Green Arrow. The bridge between the stories is Black Canary looking at Oliver's scrapbook of past cases. The fourth story was the original appearance of Miss Arrowette. At the end of the story, Black Canary accuses him of being a male chauvinist because he had warned Miss Arrowette that fighting crime was not a game for a girl. He responded "I was a square back then, remember?" This does not sound like a confession of guilt and sounds more like a man that would not consider said actions.
3) To the individual inquiring about the Green Lantern ring, there was also a plastic promotional ring that was distributed in the early '90s. It was a solid green piece of plastic with a white circular insert on the face. Someone gave me mine, so I was never sure which Green Lantern story the promotion was for.
Thanks for the comprehensive continuity analysis, [name withheld]. It certainly is (and has been) a sticky question, and comments like yours help put it in perspective.I just have a few comments to add:
1) One of the things that made the "Marvel Age of Comics" so exciting in the '60s was the feeling that events "mattered" -- that is to say, the characters aged, changed their minds, had cohesive pasts and remembered past events and team-ups in the same way the readers did. This was in stark contrast to DC at the time, where everybody seemed perpetually 29, and team-ups were as perfunctory and frictionless as a Rotary meeting. And I still remember that when I realized sometime in the '70s that Peter Parker and Reed Richards had stopped aging, that I felt like something wondrous and irreplaceable had been lost. And I still feel that way.
2) I know you were being facetious in remarking "Boy, did I waste a lot of dimes ... " Of course we didn't waste them -- those old stories, whether retconned away or not, are part of our experience and we can enjoy them again and again, regardless of Crisis or whatever. Or, to paraphrase this site's own Chuck Miller, "I was really worried when I read Crisis and found out that Earth-Two had never existed! But when I looked in my closet, all those old Justice Leagues were still there! Whew!"
3) You mentioned Gasoline Alley as a comic strip where the characters aged in real time. There have been a couple of others, notably Prince Valiant and For Better or For Worse.
4) There's actually a lot of circumstantial evidence to support that Cissie "Arrowette" King-Jones is Ollie "Green Arrow" Queen's daughter. Aside from both having unerring (and possibly metahuman) archery skill, Cissie's mother Bonnie King (the original Miss Arrowette) was shown dating Oliver Queen in Justice League of America No. 7 (Oct.-Nov. 1961), with the story implying that she was his "significant other" as Lois Lane was to Superman and Steve Trevor to Wonder Woman. In Legends of the DC Universe No. 7 (Aug. 98), an unnamed, attractive blonde woman is shown attempting to inform Ollie that she is pregnant with his child -- but failing to get the message across (Bonnie King was, indeed, an attractive blonde woman). And in Green Arrow No. 1,000,000 (Nov. 1998) Connor "Green Arrow" Hawke (Ollie's son) is told by a descendant from the 853rd Century that he has an unnamed sister in the 21st Century that he's never met. Creators connected to the latter two books have denied that they intended to imply anything -- but they leave the possibility open, as does Peter David over in Young Justice.

Zero Hour definitely didn’t work, thanks to its horrific denigration of heroism, symbolized in the presentation of Hal Jordan as a savage. But again, I’m skeptical Smith ever publicly complained in his columns on a serious basis.

Oh, I enjoyed the article on Mr. Mxyzptlk but I have to say that I disagree with one finer point (and actually, I suppose I disagree with DC editorial more than with the Captain). I've always operated as if Mr. Mxyzptlk was a slurred way of saying "mixes-up-talk." Of course, when I learned to spell his name correctly, I discovered that the 't' and 'p' are backwards for my pronunciation. But then, it's always easier to slur three words that you already know that to try to pronounce it correctly.
All of which was complicated by Super Friends, which had him pronounced "Mix-el-plick" despite years of DC footnotes insisting on "Mix-yez-pit-el-ick." Ah, well. I pronounced Magneto as "Mag-NET-o" from '63 until the cartoon came out and Stan Lee himself pronounced it "Mag-NEET-o." And how many people out there still say Sub-Ma-REEN-er? Quite a few, I'd bet.

And how many newspaper propagandists still let DC and Marvel off the hook for some of the most obnoxious insults they’ve published?

Dear Cap: It has happened. Batman has been ousted from the JLA. I am not surprised as I thought that it would happen. I wonder if the writers will have the character experiencing humility now that he knows that he cannot behave as if he were king of the hill. I like the approach that has been taken with the Dark Knight. While he is the consummate professional, he has always been disrespectful of his fellow colleagues' talents and years of experience. I remember reading how he treated the Robin of Earth-Two and Green Arrow in the issues of the Brave & The Bold. I especially liked how the Earth-Two Robin did not get angry with him but let him know that he has trust goes both ways.
It may not bother him but what brilliant writing it would be if it were shown that it does. I suspect more than his ego would be affected. Prior to the re-construction of the JLA's origin, he was there with them from the beginning. Also, how would the rest of the Batman family take it? Would his enemies laugh? Can he live it down or does he even care if they do? The Dark Knight is a complex animal who I believe wants companionship like the rest of human beings. He is a loner up to a point and no more. After all, it is not easy being a loner or moreso, only human. Steven Grant of the Comic Book Resources Web site had written an article some weeks ago asking what is wrong with being a loner? Absolutely nothing once it is not taken to the point of over-exaggeration. Like anything else in life.
What I enjoyed about Batman's ouster was Waid's penchant for keeping everyone in character -- and how the plot was a natural outgrowth of those characters. As you say, Bats has been brutally condescending to his teammates (with the exception of J'onn and Superman) since the JLA relaunch a few years ago -- which is perfectly in keeping with his character as it is currently represented in all the Bat-books. But you'd have to expect it would get annoying to the other Leaguers once they got more familiar with (and less terrified of) him. And it's been implied a number of times that Bats (like Marvel's Black Panther) has a contingency plan for almost any conceivable event, up to and including the necessity of taking down his colleagues. Stir in the Dark Knight's native secrecy, and -- voila! A terrific story that, once read, seemed almost inevitable. That's what I call good writing.
But will Batman learn humility? Heh. I certainly doubt it!

A better query would be: will Smith ever learn to stop denigrating fictional characters? Sigh. I doubt it. And was that JLA storyline truly needed? I think not. It was stupid, and only perpetuated some of the same mistakes that began spiraling out of control since Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.

Hi Cap! Here's another comics-in-the-news URL, this time reporting on a part of the comics business that is actually growing and increasing in demand -- comics' presence in bookstores. Books like Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth, Ghost World, Lone Wolf and Cub and Good-bye, Chunky Rice are spotlighted: http://www.publishersweekly.com/articles/20001016_91770.asp
There's also bits about the new thinking at Marvel from Bill Jemas:
"We are very happy to invest in a major, costly, high-profile project that may or may not make money as an individual comic book, and allocate the cost over the trade paperback in the long haul"
(To this I say, "IT'S ABOUT TIME...!")
And:
"When a comic book gets sold out," Jemas explains, "we're doing two things right away: We plan for a trade paperback to come out as soon as we can, and within two weeks we'll put (the issue) out on marvel.com as a streamed comic, so people can read it in the meantime."
But there's still much work to do:
"Buyers privately grouse that publishers cater their release schedules to the nonreturnable, comics specialty-store market, rather than to general trade booksellers: 'When I say I need (DC's) Crisis on Infinite Earths in October, and they tell me they're bringing it out in January, that kills 1,000 copies,' one buyer protests."
Ending with hope for the future, and potentially a valuable relatively high-visibility venue:
(The article author) Douglas Wolk writes on comics and music for the Village Voice, Spin and Rolling Stone. He will edit PW's new comics department, which debuts in December.
As a personal obeservation, I think comics are starting to become cooler than pro wrestling, a definite sea change ... there's griping by the wrestling fanboy base about the product becoming stale and too continuity-obsessed:
Turn out the lights, the wrestling boom is over: http://www.prowrestlingtorch.com/cgi-bin/specialfeature.cgi?specialfeature/2000/20001021_12610
To paraphrase James Brown: Say it out loud, I'm a comics fan and I'm proud!
Thanks, […]! Now I've got MORE reading to do! :)

Just what the world needed, more hypocrisy from Jemas.

Some comments:
<<Boris the Bear was canceled in 1990, with its 34th issue.>>
Boris made a brief return in Boris's Adventure Magazine. This was a short-lived and infrequently published title, as well as being an anthology series. Only one short story per issue had Boris in it.
On a related note, early issues of Boris the Bear had Boris visiting a comic shop and interacting with the manager, Pat. That Pat is, in fact, Pat Richardson, the owner of the comic shop that I work in. He's also the brother of Mike Richardson, Dark Horse's big kahuna.
<<I can't comment on Jon Sable's "white supermacist" background; I wasn't worldly enough the first time I read those books to make the inference (if such there was) and I didn't enjoy the character enough that I'm going to go back and read them again. There are some Sable fans -- notably this site's Jeff Alan Polier -- who will be glad to rise to the defense, I'm sure.>>
Someone has already jumped to Sable's (and Grell's) defense, but I'll re-read the issues and get back to you.
<<IRON MAN: BAD BLOOD #4 (Of 4): I still don't see any reason this couldn't have been a four-issue storyline in the main title. I feel vaguely ripped off.>>
My -- limited -- understanding is that this was originally going to be part of the regular Iron Man series. It was because of scheduling problems (fitting the story into the timeline of the regular title) that it was made into a miniseries. Imagine that! A Marvel title that not only ships on time but has so many good stories that they have to publish "ahead" of schedule!
<<XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS #14>>
This is Dark Horse's last issue. [...]'s a bit bummed about it. This was a very good title.
<<Besides, if it was a creator I liked, chances are he'd be heading somewhere I'd eventually like.>>
Chances are, but not absolutely. I love Peter David's work, but not even he could make me like Aquaman. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn't bring myself to like Arthur Curry.

Why do I get the vibe this correspondent takes Mr. Smith’s same approach on fictional characters? If there’s any reason I could be dismayed with Aquaman penned by David, though, it could be thanks to the editorially mandated story by Kevin Dooley that Arthur Curry’s hand be severed. And this was overseen by the same editor who turned Hal Jordan evil! Now comes November 7, 2000, with somebody commenting on a letter I’d written about my puzzlement that X-Women aren’t called that:

From the last Mailbag:
"If you ask me, I think that it's very disrespectful of the writers to be using a masculine term in order to describe the X-Women." -- Avi Green
I think you are being too sensitive. A member of the Avengers is an Avenger. A member of the X-Men is an X-Man. You don't refer to Janet van Dyne as an Avengeress or an Avengerette, do you?
In our language, "man" is the root word used in descriptions of the species as a whole and the specific gender. "Mankind" and "human" are the two most common words to decribe Homo Sapiens. Calling Storm an X-Man isn't an insult, it is simply the way the language works.
"Without the web gizmo and a nod to the spider that bit him, Peter could have easily called himself Amazing Guy or Super Wall-Walking Man." – […]
Marvel covered this a couple of years ago when Peter took on four (four!) additional costumed identities, none of which were spider-related. It was a pretty interesting idea that, sadly, led to a pretty boring spin-off book.
From the Q&A:
"Since the Files place [Barry's] death at, variously, four years ago or six years ago, let's assume he was 24 when he got started and died at a nice round 30." -- The Captain
I'd add at least a year onto his age. We know he lived in the future with Iris before coming back in time to save reality. I don't think we know how long, but I like to imagine that they at least had one happy year before disaster.
"I also decided, after much thought, to accept characters who only stretched in certain ways, like Bouncing Boy or Thin Man, since that's sorta stretchy." -- The Captain
You could then add Big Bertha from the Great Lakes Avengers to your list.
(Yeah, I know they're not the GLA anymore but I hate the new name!)
The boring Spider-Man spin-off book you remember was Slingers, which I must say (with all due modesty) I slammed with tremendous, enthusiastic gusto in Canceled Comics Cavalcade when it was axed. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
I tend to agree with you about hypersensitivity in the use of language. In newspapers some years back we tried to accommodate the shrill calls for eliminating "man" and "anthro" as the root for many of our words, so as not to "foster a gender bias." But frankly, it got so ridiculous that the whole rubbish was rolled back and we take a common-sense approach to it now. If a crook is manhandled by police and manacled to a manhole, we say exactly that instead of "personhandled by police and personacled to a personhole." Which sounds kinda dirty if you squint just right. On the other hand, we use "firefighters" instead of firemen, "police officers" instead of policemen, and when it comes to "chairman" vs. "chairperson," we refer to the leader in question by whatever term is used by the organization he or she chairs. Simple. And if people object, we ask them politely to examine their own biases before questioning ours.
As to your Q&A remarks, I was including Barry's year with Iris in the future (and I think it was actually established as one year, somewhere) when I declared that his superhero career lasted six years. And Big Bertha has been officially added to the list of "stretchy" heroes.

Gee, isn’t that funny coming from somebody who probably thinks LGBT and Islamic beliefs should be accomodated at all costs, and that “homosexual” should just be substituted in some cases with “gays”. Or that no criticism of Islamofascism should be allowed, not even if it’s LGBT activists doing the criticism (and you can be sure a lot of the major movements won’t, proving their own hypocrisy).

In fact, today it’s possible they would be willing to foster some kind of “gender bias” despite everything he said some 14 years before. They certainly did foster a LGBT and Islam bias.

You said:
"The Spectre is equally hard to define, since he's being written these days as an aspect of God. Since I make no pretensions to divinity, that makes me ill-equipped to judge him. The new series will focus on Hal Jordan -- and HIM I can judge! Given that he went postal in "Emerald Twilight" and comitted mass murder, I'd say he has to fall in the "villain" category. He's attempting to redeem himself as the new Spectre, but mass murder is pretty hard to forgive. Let's see how well he does." -- The Captain
Isn't it just too darn bad that Nexus isn't a part of the DCU?
Heh! For the uninitiated, Nexus was a terrific character by Mike Baron and Steve Rude who had his own series at a number of publishers. But what's significant here is that Nexus's raison d'etre was that he was driven to assassinate mass murderers who had escaped justice -- which, if he lived in the DCU, would certainly have made a certain Hal Jordan nervous, at least when he was still Parallax ... !

Since this was brought up again, why didn’t Mr. Smith ask why the editors wouldn’t try to turn back the clock and erase all that was Emerald Twilight? When it comes to fictional characters, we shouldn’t think it impossible to repair wrongs that were done.

Also, how intriguing Mr. Smith spoke positively of Nexus without realizing the hero was written doing just what the Punisher was doing. No wonder Baron was also one of the guys who wrote Frank Castle back in the day; he clearly knew what he was doing with his own creations! Yet Smith calls him terrific! We must truly be missing something here. One can only wonder what Mr. Smith would say if Baron or somebody else took a different path with Nexus – that is, depicted him the same way Garth Ennis did years later, as a lunatic. An excellent question indeed. Now, here’s two-in-one about Jason Todd, the second Robin:

Dear Cap: Regarding your recent questions about the history of Dick Grayson and some of the events that happened with him as Robin, I would like to add my two cents from what I remember.
In Batman 408 (which started the origin story of Jason Todd), the opening sequence featured an attempt by Batman and Robin to capture The Joker on top of a building being constructed in Gotham City. Batman confronted the Joker while Robin attempted to sneak up from behind. Joker somehow sensed that Robin was behind him and turned around and shot him, grazing him in the shoulder. Robin fell off the side of the building but his life was saved because he got tangled up in a rope on the side and ended up on a ledge. After this, there is a scene where Bruce Wayne tells an angry Dick Grayson that he can no longer be Robin (although we know how long that lasted).
I also recall around that time that a story arc with Two-Face was going on in Detective, and I believe allusions were made back then about Two-Face nearly killing Dick. (I'm at work, or I'd give you the issue number.)
Now, I realize that in the period of time between when I stopped collecting comics (1989) and when I just started collecting again (2000), the character has probably been retconned into another existence, but I thought I would share my knowledge.
Thanks for all the info, […]! While it is certainly true that I own and have read virtually every Marvel and DC since 1963, it doesn't necessarily follow that I remember each and every story, particularly with massive retcons re-writing everything I "know" about given characters every few years. Sometimes I just decide for myself what "happened" and what didn't, and just plain forget stories I don't care for. Like the entire history of Jason Todd, for example. Here's another correspondent with a sharp memory:

Dear Cap: Yes, the story of The Joker almost killing Dick has been told, shortly post-Crisis. I believe the story was called "Did Robin Die Tonight?" and it began the bad reboot, rethink, and ultimate besmirchment of Jason Todd. Without warning, after years of Jason as Robin, we readers were suddenly presented with Dick as Robin again. In the first couple of pages, The Joker shot him, he fell from his batrope, nearly died, etc., and while recovering in stately Wayne Manor, Bruce forbade him to ever be Robin again, reasoning that it was just too dangerous. Dick recovered, left in a huff, and began his career leading The Titans. Later in that same issue, a scruffy street urchin tries to steal the Batmobile's hubcaps; Batman stops him, respects his spiritedness, and begins training him to be Robin.
It may not have been quite that simplistic, but that's how I remember it. That story was really the first time I realized that pretty much everything I knew about EVERY character could be arbitrarily thrown out the window. (I think it may have even pre-dated the release of Byrne's Man of Steel miniseries.) What stuck in my mind was that I had actually found the pre-Crisis Jason Todd to be pretty interesting and humanizing for Bruce, as he struggled with all the other role models in his life (Harvey Bullock, whom he viewed as a lovable uncle, and Nocturna, supervillain and foster mother). Then BAM! He became the annoying brat that everyone wanted to die. And make no mistake, the post-Crisis Jason was a jerk. Just goes to show you that there are no bad characters, just bad handling of them, because really, pre-Crisis, Jason was well on his way to becoming what Tim Drake is today.
And when it comes to your town (or more likely, on video), check out the superhero mockumentary starring Rob Lowe as The Weevil. A stretchy hero makes a brief cameo (Stretchy Boy, in fact), and mention is made that almost all stretchy heroes come from the Pacific Northwest, due to flouridation in the water. They also all tend to die early of mouth cancer.
No real point, I guess, but it makes a silly coda to a type of hero who is, usually, silly.
That's another video to add to my list, since I happen to really enjoy silliness. Thanks!
As to Jason Todd, I don't remember a point I EVER liked him, but time may have dulled my recollections. Anyway, thanks for the Robin info -- Dick Grayson's history has become more and more convoluted, and it's getting difficult to keep it straight.

Wow, despite what the correspondent said about no bad characters, just bad writers, Mr. Smith clearly failed to comprehend, and proceeded to do just that when he says he can never recall a time when he liked Jason. Tragically, the same correspondent who wrote the second letter was later discovered embracing Identity Crisis, so I’m not putting too much value on his arguments.

That told, the retcon to Dick’s history is definitely stupefying, since both he and Bruce risked their necks plenty of times, and Batman never asked him to throw in the towel. In fact, he was proud of him. As established in New Teen Titans, Dick took up the Nightwing costume because he saw it as the ideal way to break out on his own path and direction, coming out from behind Batman’s shadow being his own man as he reached adulthood. Yet editorial couldn’t appreciate that…and neither can Mr. Smith.

Dear Cap: 1) There's no need to apologize for disagreeing with me on the gun-control issue, but thanks anyway. I believe that debate is a good way to analyze and develop opinions. I often debate from a position I don't necessarily believe in just for the sake of argument (not this time though.)
I was appalled to hear about the two children who died of gun accidents. What kind of father leaves a deadly weapon where his six-year-old child can get to it? I just feel that we would be doing society an injustice by banning anything based on the actions of a few irresponsible individuals.
2) Since the issue of superheroes aging came up twice on your Web site this week, I thought I'd bring up one of my comic-book pet peeves. Even though superheroes' lives, particularly those of the Marvel variety, seem to remain static, the most fondly remembered stories almost always take place during periods of change. For example one of my favorite sagas of all time is Walt Simonson's run on Thor. Thor ditched his mortal secret identity, grew a beard and started wearing cool new armor. Odin was given a glorious end, and Balder took over the throne of Asgard. Almost every character in the Thor mythos went through major character development during Simonson's tenure. Simonson's writing duties on Thor ended after issue 382, and by the Thunder God's 400th issue all of the aforementioned changes had been eliminated. I figure this is because writers want to write the characters as they remember them from their childhood, but the writers could always set stories in their favorite time period of the characters' lives without throwing out any recent history. Of the other hand, DC does allow major changes in its characters from time to time, and we end up with 14 years without red kryptonite and that whole Emerald Twilight mess. I think when I started this rant I was moving toward some sort of discussion-inspiring question, but I've lost it now -- sorry.
1) What kind of father? In othe one case a jobless, petty-crook, cracked-out one (he was passed out in the next room), and in the other a fairly responsible middle-class one with a gun collection that he failed to lock up one day. Anecdotes are fairly useless for most purposes, but they do foster debate, so I throw them out for discussion.
2) I guess it's a given that we remember stories that involve tremendous change to the status quo (for good or ill). Which is one reason I generally disagree with fans who go ballistic when a character is changed. "Change," Mr. Spock said, "is the only constant in the universe." And characters that don't change become static and dull. Witness Spider-Man for the last 25 years, for example. On the other hand, change must be done well and with great foresight, instinct and talent -- or you end up with "Emerald Twilight" instead of Simonson's run on Thor. I'm probably just pointing out the obvious, but I don't know where I'm going with this, either.

Smith may not need to apologize if he was resorting to leftist gun control insanity, but he should apologize for fawning over Identity Crisis at the full expense of victims of rape and spousal/child abuse. Oh, and look who’s taling about foresight, instinct and talent! The same man who, as noted before, fully backed IC! Now for November 14, 2000:

Dear Cap: Just to muddy the waters further on this character, I seem to recall that he was originally called Mr. MxyzTPlk instead of MxyzPTlk. Looked quite a bit different, too. I also recall DC saying after the Crisis that the other-dimensional homelands of Mxyztplk and Mxyzptlk (Zrfff-1 and Zrfff-2?) were unaffected by the Crisis, leaving both characters free to return, but we only ever saw Mxyzptlk afterwards. Now I realize you're not a huge Golden Age fan, but perhaps one of your Faithful Correspondents might know when the character's name and appearance changed. Was it both at the same time? Or was it a gradual change? And what about Naomi?
Naomi, after leaving the legendary soap opera Love of Chair, changed her name to Ms. Gsptlnz and moved to Zrfff. She's been linked romantically with Mxyzptlk in some of the less-reputable fifth-dimension tabloids.
It's my understanding that Mr. MxyzTPlk was indeed the Golden Age spelling, but to know when and where it changed would require a more extensive Golden Age collection than I possess. Anyone who writes in with that info would have my undying gratitude.
And we know for a fact that Mxyzptlk's home dimension survived Crisis, as we've seen our heroes visit it twice (once in JLA: Heaven's Ladder, and in "Crisis Times Five!" in JLA 28-31). That latter story was a surprise to me, as it established that Johnny Thunder's thunderbolt wasn't a Bahdnisian djinn at all, but was instead yet another extradimensional imp from Zrfff named YZ ("Say you!" backwards). It makes sense when you think about it, but I never had never thought about it before!

Has he ever thought before that Identity Crisis and Civil War made no sense at all? Didn’t think so. But wow, is the correspondent right that Smith's not a Golden Age buff? Dear dear. Though even a so-called buff like James Robinson can be just as awful.

Hi, Cap! Have you heard about Marvel's new scheme?:
http://www.comicscontinuum.com/stories/0011/01/index.htm
http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/index.cgi?column=8
JEMAS TALKS MARVEL COMICS AS COLLECTIBLES
Marvel's Bill Jemas addressed the issues of collectibility and accessibility of the content of the Marvel Ultimate titles on Wednesday.
"With respect to Ultimate Spider-Man, we found ourselves in a situation -- half by accident and half on purpose -- what we ended up doing with Ultimate Spider-Man is promoting and advertising this book as much as we've ever advertised any book in recent memory," Jemas said. "We had pretty good initial sell-in, and then we made the decision over Matt Ragone and Diamond's pretty strenuous objections that we would print as many books as we had orders for, plus a few thousand more, and leave it at that, and not go back for a reprint, and let the people who supported the book in the first instance get the benefits of having themselves a collectible item.
"For me, as a person who's been in this market and the trading card market for a long time, I envisioned what Amazing Fantasy 15 would have been worth, if Marvel had went back and printed another 20, 30 or 40,000 copies beyond what the demand was at the time. One of the many pillars of the comic book business is collectibility, and as long as the publisher treats the book like ink and paper and nothing more, even well-placed ink, then the books are not going to become collectible.
"What happened was sort of fascinating and interesting -- this book that had been written for smart 12-year-olds turned out to be the favorite book among smart 40-year-olds, and there's a real collector craze about the book, and I'm not going to quote the eBay and online prices, but it is a solid book, and people are talking about and thinking about is the value of the book ..."
Anyone who has heard one of my long-winded rants<g> on the subject of speculating knows that I am not a big fan of that mentality. I believe that comics should be bought with the intention of personal enjoyment, whether that manifests itself as an affinity for great art or fun stories or any number of things. Sure, we're all happy to have something in our collections that may be worth a pretty penny. That's only natural. I just see the investing into comics in the pursuit of financial gain and nothing else as a hollow and ultimately disappointing endeavor that only hurts the industry in the long run. In the history of the comics market this has fact has been proven.
My view is that when you collect something because you truly enjoy it you are much happier and if the item becomes worth more than its original price, that's a bonus!
I understand and appreciate "collectibles" (I guess I'd better in my profession as a comics retailer, huh<g>?). I separate "collectibles," like Amazing Fantasy 15, from "hot" comics like, say, Harbinger once was. I do not like it when corporate heads of major comics companies try to treat our comics market as the stock market, especially at a time when the industry could use a boost. For a company like Marvel to purposefully manipulate the demand for a product is very shortsighted and shows a complete lack of knowledge for what factors into making a healthy market.
The reason for this tirade is that Marvel comics president, Bill Jemas, is going online in an interview about making comics "collectible." The comic in question this time is Ultimate Spider-Man. It is a very good comic and one that Marvel was touting as a catalyst to bring in newer readers. It is sad, then, to see that Mr. Jemas is really intent on creating the artificial "collector's items" of the early '90s. Marvel should be doing everything possible to get comics into the hands of new readers, not limiting supplies in order to force "collectibility" and suggest with a straight face that this is a reward to the comics fans.
The corporate leaders of the country's major comics companies need to wake up and realize that their place is to provide reading and visual entertainment for a nation of fans and readers. They need to cultivate a new crop of young readers and produce enough comics to satisfy the demand. Marvel makes no money off of the secondary market. Marvel's erroneous assumption is that by stoking the fires of "speculation" they can recreate the market place of the early 1990s. It won't happen that way. That market crash and burned for a reason. Marvel comics should not be playing as if they are the Franklin Mint.
It is said that one should learn from history so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. Sadly, no one at Marvel has heard this saying.
I was appalled also when I read that Jemas interview, [name withheld]. Given the chaos and destruction the pursuit of the collectible mentality has delivered on this industry in the past, to actively revive that discredited mindset is akin to somebody in Jonestown suggesting they like the taste of Kool-Aid.
But Marvel has made Ultimate Spider-Man available on the Net; I don't know what that strategy is meant to achieve (limit the product where it's paid for, then make it available for free? Huh?). Maybe Jemas is just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Keep your fingers crossed.

Maybe Dan DiDio was doing the same with IC 4 years later too! Did he ever think of that? I’m sure he didn’t do that either. Nor has had much to say about mindless collector’s mentality since this was originally written, so we know for a fact that he can’t be terribly concerned. Otherwise, we’d have seen his opinions voiced in his paper columns long ago. So now, here’s November 21, 2000:

<<But will Batman learn humility? Heh. I certainly doubt it! -- Captain Comics>>
Dear Cap: Last year in your end-of-the-year survey I predicted one of the greatest moments of this year would be a group unmasking of Batman, Nightwing and Robin to their respective teams, JLA, Titans, YJ.
I certainly haven't seen anything in Previews to suggest this was coming soon but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for 2001. It seems like every time I pick up a Bat-related title there is mention of the tension caused by not knowing the identity of the pointy-eared family as well as a Batman without a Bruce Wayne. His recent ousting by the JLA is the boiling point of the situation. I see the coming out of Bruce Wayne as the only real solution for coming back into the fold. And I have to say it's about time. Clark Kent has managed to stay in a lead role; why can't Bruce?
Side Note: Devin Grayson rocks! The latest Gotham Knights has Catwoman seen in a whole new light for me, making me wonder if Nightwing will someday suffer from an Oedipus complex.
Actually, Superman's secret ID hasn't been revealed to any of the JLA, outside of Wonder Woman, Batman and Martian Manhunter (and possibly Aquaman) -- most of whom know Batman's ID as well. Yet that doesn't cause any tension.
On the other hand, Superman isn't compiling dossiers on how to kill his fellow members ... Anyway, here's another point of view:

A better question would be if Mr. Smith will learn any humility. Alas, don’t expect him to ever think about doing that. As for Devin Grayson, maybe once she was a decent writer, but her work on Nightwing was the pits; possibly all part of a deliberate effort to knock off a few characters Chuck Dixon introduced there. Now for the other letter:

Hey! Just a quick, fanboy comment --
The recent "vote of no confidence" and removal of Batman from the JLA has to be one of the best story ines in a long time -- one that is "right up there" with the Superman storyline where we thought Lois wanted a divorce. Both stories have/had me on the edge of my seat with a knot in my stomach and resulted in fitful sleep.
When I thought Lois went and cheated on Clark with none other than Lex Luthor, I nearly lost my mind (of course, my wife was convinced I HAD lost my mind as I kept mumbling to myself, "how could she DO this to him!").
The recent JLA storyline has made me dislike the rest of the JLA. Yeah, yeah, I know, Batman was secretive and he kept notes on all of them. But that's how he ALWAYS operated. It's like sausage: It tastes great, but who wants to see how it's made? Batman always gets the job done and is always one step ahead of everyone else -- how did they THINK he managed that? He's the only non-enhanced member (Kyle Rayner has THE RING, which I consider an enhancement, and The Huntress has been booted out for being big on revenge -- heh) of the team. At one time or another, all the enhanced members have lost their minds or been taken over by an outside entity. If Batman is left alone to fight one of them during such a crisis, everybody should have confidence in knowing that IF he went down, he'd go down doing as much (if not more) damage than any of them would.
The "holier-than-thou" attitudes of some of the others is just beyond me. They question his loyalty and make statements that "they need to trust whomever they are working with." Yet Diana and Arthur are royalty and clearly have other loyalties. Superman has lost his mind several times and has, at times, made it quite clear that he is a true son of Krypton. Plas is a former crook and you have to HOPE he understands the gravity of most situations. Who knows WHAT kind of hero he'd be if he concentrated on the task at hand more than the joke in mouth. Moreover, Batman is clear that each one of the powerhouses COULD fry him at any time -- it seems to me that they have simply been startled by the fact that Batman could fry THEM at anytime. They have come to the realization that he actually IS as powerful as they. I think that's the true problem: their perception of the balance of power has been brought more into focus.
I know that Batman's protocols were used against the others and that they were hurt in the process, but each of them has injured everyone else when their powers have run amok (well ... except for Plas), and yet they weren't asked to leave.
ANYWAY ... as you can see, the story has stirred great emotion. That's what a story is supposed to do. It has made me see them as real people and has forced me to choose sides. The Superman/Lois/Parasite story line had me unable to eat some nights.
This is great writing, in my opinion.
I was wondering how your other readers felt and if they are choosing sides, too?
OH, YEAH . . . those other groups that are now having problems trusting Nightwing and Robin ... well, they're on my "list" too. Those two guys have been the brains and common sense focal points for the whole of their adventures. There's a reason for that.
The mail has been largely quiet on the Batman/JLA fallout, but what I have received has been mostly split. Some, like you, see Batman's "X-protocols" as a natural extension of his character, something the other characters would probably half expect -- and what makes Batman Batman (and useful to the League). In other words, to paraphrase your point, Batman's secretive planning IS his super-power, and for a change it was Batman's super-power that was turned against the League by a supervillain, instead of, say, Superman's (as in "Superman: King of the World").
The other half -- see the letter above from [name withheld] -- take the position that the Dark Knight has never been much of a team player and deserves to be held to account. In specific, […] holds Batman's toes to the fire for not revealing his ID to the others, and that his secrecy drives a wedge of trust into an otherwise tightly-knit superhuman response team.
I admit I lean toward your view. It seems to me that Batman is and always has been a team player through necessity, but not choice (Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, Robin, etc.). His reason for hanging with the League, it seems to me, is that he feels the need to rein herd on a bunch of outrageously powerful beginners (Kyle Rayner leaps to mind here) who essentially have the responsibility to protect the Earth but can't be counted on to do a decent job of it without "adult" supervision.
But it's not a job he sought nor necessarily enjoys. One of the defining moments for me was during Grant Morrison's run, when Superman took Batman to task for "not being more of a team player." Urging him to lighten up. Hang out more. Be a pal, not a scary guy.
Well, even I understood at the point (although Joel Schumacher apparently doesn't) that being scary is Batman's only edge. Should he become just another Spandex-clad Boy Scout, he might as well hang up the Bat-suit and be a cop or FBI agent. And why should he reveal his ID to the team when Superman hasn't?
And then Batman explained the rest:
"I don't bounce bullets off my chest. I don't have a magic ring. I don't run faster than the wind. And I can't afford to hang out with brightly-clad amateurs that do."
In other words, joining the League was DANGEROUS for him -- it makes him a target when he's the only guy in the room with no defense against a simple bullet. And it has the potential of making him less mysterious, which lessens his effectiveness. But he joined with higher goals in mind than self-interest. And a natural extension of that attitude is that these "amateurs" need to be kept on a tight leash. And who better for the job? Lex Luthor?
Another defining moment: During the aforementioned "Superman: King of the World" storyline, when the League resolved to bring down a mind-controlled Man of Steel, was there anybody in the room with half a chance of succeeding but Batman? That's who I was looking to for an ace-in-the-hole -- and so was the League.
But are those who say that Batman needs to change to fit into the League correct? I don't think so, but this story is turning out so naturally and so riveting that I'm pleased to turn off my critical fanboy facullties and just enjoy it. In hindsight, it seems a story that simply had to be told -- but only Mark Waid saw that. And I can't wait to see what happens next. Which, as you say, is pretty darn good writing.

Which isn’t what Mr. Smith specializes in. Now here’s another letter of mine, one I’d like to think raises interesting issues, but decidedly fails its potential, and just wait’ll you see how he replied:

Dear Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith: Recently, I went with my family to visit some relatives of mine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I was born, and while there I wondered, how come I never seem to have seen the City of Brotherly Love as the main story setting in any of my favorite comics?
I do know though, of at least two characters who come from the Philly: Robbie Robertson, the senior editor of the Daily Bugle in the Marvel Universe (that’s right, it’s not excluded to just Spider-Man, there are a lot of other Marvel titles where it’s appeared), and an adversary of his, Tombstone, who may or may not be an albino, it’s hard to say.
Before going to Philadelphia, I went to Paris, France, which has been seen in some comics (i.e. -- the Justice League International comics). And afterwards, I went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, which probably hasn’t, even though the Sunshine State could make a potentially good location for an action, mystery and adventure story.
Do you know how many cities there are, not just in North America, but even in the rest of the world, that haven’t been thought of as potential story settings? Although there have been plenty that have, including most recently Memphis in the Avengers, as you spoke about a few months ago, there are still so many, many, many that haven’t. Why should it just be New York much of the time, or even fictionalized versions like Metropolis and Gotham City?
As a native of such a huge metropolis as Philadelphia, I can tell you that it’s certainly a good place to write a story setting for some of the most popular of Marvel and DC comics, as either itself or in a fictionalized way. There are so many interesting locations within Philly itself, including the Liberty Bell Park, that make it an ideal choice for a story setting, whether it be as a location for an action/battle scene, or even dramatically.
And even there, it’s not enough, there are still a lot of other cities across the U.S. that are quite worthy as story locations. For example, there’s also New England areas like Boston, which is also very huge. (Speaking of Boston, this reminds me, I once saw Wonder Woman wearing a T-shirt that had "property of the Boston University" written on it in an issue from 1993, although that’s not saying that she’d ever acually been to Boston, I just don’t know right now). And there’s even cities like Chicago, which is very well known as a city. And then we have places like the twin cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul. Or even places like Lexington in Kentucky, Dallas in Texas, St. Louis in Missouri, Ogden in Utah, Rochester and Syracuse in upstate New York, Omaha in Nebraska, Denver in Colorado, Atlanta in Georgia, and even Pine Bluff in Arkansas.
Moving outside the U.S., we have places like Australia, where the X-Men had once been stationed for awhile, and even China, which has probably also appeared in comics. And then there are places that probably haven’t, like Montevideo in Uruguay (wow, what a name!) or even Ipswich in England, and also Syria, Algeria, Corsica, Sicily, Greenland, Samoa, Cyprus and even small places like Fiji and Vanuatu. And then there’s Istanbul in Turkey, Athens in Greece, Copenhagen in Denmark, Malmo in Sweden, and Bilbao in Spain. Even here!
Moving back to North America, we have the provinces of Canada, such as Ontario, which have certainly turned up in the now defunct Alpha Flight. But more than that are needed. We need to see even places like Vancouver in British Columbia, Halifax in New Brunswick, Winnipeg in Manitoba and even Montreal in Quebec featured in comic-book stories.
And then, moving back to the U.S., has a place like Hawaii ever been shown in a comic-book story? They too could be a great place to set a story. And even an underpopulated state like Montana could be good for a story setting, since it could be the ideal place for secret laboratories to established.
All or any of such places are quite ideal as as story locations, and I think that comic-book writers should really give them a try. I know that many artists and writers have lived primarily around New York and have otherwise only been used to dealing with that area, but that’s not saying that they can’t try to take a look at any of the places outside the Big Apple to know how to come up with a good storyline.
And none of Marvel’s characters, for example, have to live primarily in New York in order to be part of the Marvel Universe. They can live in other parts of the country as well.
Though I’ve never seen Philadelphia as a main story setting, I did manage to find an article in the Philadelphia City Paper about some "home-grown comics," or more precisely, underground comics, that are set there. Here’s the address:
http://www.citypaper.net/articles/101200/ae.comics.shtml
This article tells about Dave Yurkovich’s SuperHeroes Of Philadelphia (S.H.O.P), a self-published project and Jamar Nicholas's humor/action comics, The Jamar Chronicles. I hope it can be of interest.
The trip I took to Philly also helped me to get to see the dreadful state that the comics industry has suffered from in the past few years. In fact, it’s not just the comics industry that’s having a hard time making sales these days, it’s also a lot of the book industry too! Do you know that it was so hard to find that many bookstores in town? In Memphis, it’s possible that the situation is better, but in Philly it’s just dreadful. Encore Books, a pretty large business at one time, has closed down. On Bustleton Avenue there were practically no bookstores. On Roosevelt Boulevard there was a comic-book store, but it was closed down too. On Welsh Road, there was a Marlo Books store, but they didn’t sell any comics, although they did sell MAD magazine. And in Franklin Mills, a huge shopping mall, there was only one bookstore! Franklin Mills is so big that if you start at one end, it can take you at least 25 tiresome minutes to get to the other. And tragically, there was only one bookstore, and with no comics anywhere, not even books of past newspaper comic strips like Peanuts and Garfield. I remember seeing a comic-book store in Franklin Mills eight years ago, which was the last time I’d been there, but that too is gone.
Another sad discovery my family made is that a lot of Philadelphia’s Jewish community moved out of the city center in the past few years and has moved out to the suburbs. Philly used to have a very large Jewish population, and now it’s gotten smaller. But that’s still another story.
Things did start to get better when I found a Best Buy electronics store that sold copies of Wizard, but even that’s not really enough. But then, I started to get close when I found that the Barnes and Noble store on Walnut Street in the big part of town sold compliations of past titles from Marvel and DC as well as some graphic novels. But the problem is that those are past issues that being sold there in compliations, and not the newer stories that comic readers are usually interested in getting.
But then finally, I found comics being sold in the Miami airport on the way back to here. But even there, my family found something saddening: The price, which by now has gone up to about $2.25! My mother was disappointed. ‘Cause yeah, that’s a lot of dough.
As mentioned, it was very distressing for us to find such a dearth of bookstores. And you know what the reason for that could be? As someone in Philly told me, "people don’t read in this country anymore."
My goodness! Have things really become that bad in North America these days? Now that’s something to worry about. By contrast, over here in Israel, there are plenty of bookstores, with Steimatzky leading the way, and not only that, they also sell comics. There is however, a slight drawback: They only sell what comes as the most popular, mainly from Marvel and DC. They sell Superman and Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men, and that’s about it. Very few times have I ever seen them selling any of the other titles from such companies (I once found the first issue of the Avengers' second volume, Heroes Return, and more recently, an issue of Thor). There is however, a magazine store in the city that sells more of what Steimatzky doesn’t, including Fantastic Four and Green Lantern, but even there, there are still some things that they don’t sell. Example: Daredevil, which I
myself have read very little of, if at all, and so even there, I’m disappointed.
One sure thing, if people in the U.S. aren’t reading books as much as they could be, then no wonder the comics industry has also suffered.
And that’s a shame. Because comics in particular are something most wonderful to read, and if the public isn’t turning to reading as much as before, than how are kids going to get to read what can be the best thing for them either?
I’m happy to say though, that the movie industry doesn’t seem to be what’s causing the problem. Yes, even the rate of moviegoers has been declining in the past few years. But that isn’t my concern, knowing how many of today’s movies are absolutely awful. What is my concern, and yours too, of course, is that U.S. bookstores aren’t selling comics as they ought to, nor the supermarkets. Instead, what they sell are all these horrific tabloids like the National Enquirer. Tabloids like those truly repel me, and I think it’s tragic if the supermarkets are selling those.
I don’t buy the excuses that the supermarkets make that they find it hard to handle all sorts of different titles. As it so happens, they don’t have to buy that many just to make good business. And Marvel and DC are the first companies that one would think of when it comes to buying and selling comics at the supermarket. I think that the supermarkets are just greedy for too much money, which is always a bad sign. In fact, it could even be part of psychological warfare, in order to dumb down the public.
The bookstores and supermarkets should not be so reluctant to sell comics just because they don’t think that they cost enough or because they think it’s too much to handle. Such excuses are just diplomatic lies. They should start being willing to sell them again, and they don’t have to sell Marvel or DC’s entire line of titles in order to draw in the kids and their parents who like to read them.
Maybe what the public needs to do is to start petitioning the supermarkets like Kmart, for example, to start selling them again. In addition, the supermarkets could (and should) get rid of all those horrible tabloids, and put the comics on their shelves instead.
And maybe DC and Marvel should make some buisness deals with bookstores like Barnes and Noble (and, if it comes in handy, let me type in their Web site address, http://www.barnesandnoble.com) to try and sell some of their comics.
If all the above steps can be taken, then it’s possible that that way, the comics industry could help boost its sales again.
But most important of all, people have to start being encouraged to read again. As far as I can tell, the education system in the U.S. is pretty sloppy these days, and to improve the readership of books as a whole, improvements in the overall education system are required as well.
You've certainly raised some of the major challenges facing comic books and the regular book industry. While I'm not prepared to slam the entire U.S. education system, I will note that reading for pleasure is declining -- possibly due to competition from videogames and the Internet. Some of the solutions you've mentioned are being pursued -- particularly by Marvel with its "Ultimate" line, and DC with its trade paperback program. And if they're not, they ought to be!
As to your question about cities, the reason most comics are set where the creators live is ... well, they don't have to do any research! Still, a great many of the places you mentioned have been the settings for various comics. Wonder Woman did indeed live in Boston for a while, and Hawkman was set in Chicago in its last incarnation. Hawaii was home to Superboy for a few years. And Razorback was set in Texarkana, Ark., which isn't Pine Bluff but at least is in the same state. And Alpha Flight hit many Canadian locations and Martian Manhunter operates primarily in South America (where he's known as El Hombre Verdad. "El Hombre Verdad is muy macho!"). But don't look for Montevideo to be home to anybody at DC -- Vandal Savage blew it up with an nuclear bomb in the pages of DC One Million!

Now why am I disappointed in retrospect with my letter? Here’s one example: I wish I’d brought up a country like Armenia. I wish I’d argued that Armenians deserve their moment in the spotlight too. Ditto Portuguese, Bulgarians, Coptic Egyptians, Serbians, Burmese, Basque, Ainu from northern Japan and Samis from Scandanavia.

Then again, maybe it’s not that big a deal at all, because why should we expect Mr. Smith to take these ideas seriously enough to write about them in his columns, arguing why mainstream publishers would do well to give these ethnicities some focus? Indeed no, we couldn’t, despite that being the best place for these topics. And not doing research in the age of internet? Sigh. Despite any claim he might make to the contrary, the sad truth is that reporters like Mr. Smith are cheap in what they bring to the table. So much, in fact, that they even forget to mention some of the best artists, as happened in a CBG column that’s the subject of the following letter from November 28, 2000:

Dear Captain, I'm in the middle of reading your column in CBG No. 1409, and just noticed a glaring omission in your list of all Plastic Man's solo series. There was a series which continued from the '60s numbering with Vol. 4 No. 11 from Feb-Mar 1976 up to issue No. 20, Oct-Nov 1977. These all featured wonderful art by Ramona Fradon. Just remindin' ya. Keep up the good work.
You weren't the only one to note my omission, [withheld] -- but you were the first, so you get the honor of pointing out my gaffe. Sure enough, DC's first Plastic Man series was canceled with its 10th issue in 1968 (which I mentioned), but picked up again for 10 more issues eight years later (which I didn't). Thanks for the update!

Given how dishonest Smith’s MO really is, that’s why I honestly don’t know if it’s worth letting him know about omissions at this point, because what’s the use of letting him know he has an audience he doesn’t deserve? I feel sorry for quite a few of the people who wasted their time on him years before, and am disgusted at myself for bothering – especially after he supported Identity Crisis.

Actually, Superman's secret ID hasn't been revealed to any of the JLA, outside of Wonder Woman, Batman and Martian Manhunter (and possibly Aquaman) -- most of whom know Batman's ID as well. Yet that doesn't cause any tension. -- Captain Comics
Yeah, and I thought about that too. There was even a recent Superman story I think where Superboy finally found out Superman's secret ID. (Captain's Note: Superboy discovered Superman's secret ID some time ago,and has been waiting for the Man of Steel to trust him enough to tell him -- which Superman did, in Sins of Youth: Superboy Sr., Superman Jr.)
They are the only two with a secret identity really. Green Lantern tries but half of NYC must have figured out his alter ego.
When the JLA had to go after a rogue white Martian who thought he was Bruce Wayne, Superman commented on the fact that the mission would have gone smoother if the others knew who Batman was. Batman's reply was basically put up or shut up. (Side note: This was the famous Plastic-Man-as-Barda's-dress issue; oh, how I miss her! Isn't the JLA suddenly guy-heavy again? Huntress and Barda made for a more interesting grouping.)
If Batman reveals his (ID) then Supes has to follow. I just feel the general storylines are pointing to this. The only other option is a darker, more isolated knight whom I am not interested in dealing with again at this point.
As you've probably noticed, [withheld], your remarks have sparked many others. I'm curious to see how this debate will turn out -- and even more curious to see which way Mark Waid's going in JLA!

This correspondent probably hit on something regarding Ron Marz’s rendition of Kyle Rayner. Indeed, with the slapdash scripting involved, it wouldn’t be surprising if the DCU’s Big Apple population guessed Kyle’s true ID, making it all the more bewildering how no criminals discovered in turn, and why they didn’t use that against him! And that makes him another correspondent who's a lot more perceptive than Mr. Smith has ever been.

Dear Cap: There was one character who remembered everything about the Crisis: The second Psycho-Pirate in the pages of Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man. He was held in an asylum and babbling on about how "worlds will live, worlds will die, worlds will live, worlds will die" (one of the taglines from Crisis if I remember rightly). He named off several of the departed worlds, Earth-One, Earth-Two, Earth-Three, Earth-S, Earth-X, etc. He even asked if "the wolfman" (i.e. Marv Wolfman) had sent the main characters to see him. The whole storyline climaxed with the Psycho-Pirate returning many of the departed characters, such as Power Ring and Ultraman to the "real" DC Universe. Animal Man was able to defeat him, the Psycho-Pirate vanished and then Animal Man traveled to Comic-Book Limbo where he met other characters like Prince Ra-Man, the Grim (Gay) Ghost and Krypto, culminating in him getting into the real world (Earth-Prime) and meeting Grant Morrison. Personally, I liked it but Grant Morrison certainly doesn't appeal to everyone. It is a fairly interesting coda to the whole Crisis on Infinite Earths experience.
By golly, I'd forgotten all about Psycho-Pirate -- but you're right, originally he was supposed to be the only character who DID remember it all. I wonder where he's been since Animal Man? Looney bin, I guess.

Of course he’d forgotten, but that’s still not the worst of his memory losses. The worst involves forgetting morale.

Dear Cap: Lex Luthor as president of the United States of America? We have to be fair and say that we must wait and see what benefits he will bring to his native land. However, both the Dark Knight and theMan of Steel would have preferred for him to lose in the election bid. I can understand why they would feel that way. But then, this is the man who saved Gotham City when the U.S. government turned its back on it. Also, the Brainiac 13 virus was turned into a benefit (to a certain extent) for the city of Metropolis.

Hmm, I wonder what his official policy would be on vigilantes and officially recognized organizations like the JLA, JSA, Titans et al?

Marvel Comics' limited series Fantastic Four: Big Town has received positive reviews on the Fandom website. The concept of the book is an interesting one. After all, why isn't the world or at least the United States changed by the super sciences and alien cultures that are visited upon them? I was just wondering if Big Town could not be made into a regular series if it proves itself a commercial and critical success. Perhaps later on an animated series? I know that I am getting waaaaay ahead of myself here but you have to admit the theme makes for enjoyable reading.

Here are a few technological marvels of the super- and psuedo-sciences that may be burdens and/or boons to mankind. The list is composed of ideas that come not just from Marvel Comics: Doctor Mid-Nite's special glasses that enable him to see in the dark; the Amazons' Purple Ray; transporter technology; and unstable molecules (I do not know but there may be some use there. The trick is to figure out what. I would not recommend wearing clothes made of such material. At least, not until they prove themselves reliable).

You can add plenty more scientific advances in the comics' world that mysteriously have no impact on daily life there -- which has always been a mystery to me. Imagine how our world would be radically transformed if the following inventions were patented and made available for public or manufacturing use: Pym particles or white-dwarf matter that can shrink things for easy transport (Ant-Man, Atom); "web" guns that police can use to immobilize felons harmlessly for an hour (Spider-Man); light-weight mesh armor that is skin-tight and bulletproof (Iron Man); a method to reduce clothing to fit into a ring (Flash); cyborg replacement parts; personal foot jets (Iron Man again), Absorbascons to help anybody learn anything; an abundant metal that absorbs vibrations (vibranium, Black Panther); etc., etc.

And what about magic? It's everywhere at both Marvel and DC!

As to Luthor, I think my column on that topic covered your remarks. Luthor helped Gotham City and combated the B13 virus because it was in his own self-interest. This is NOT a man to be trusted! And I DO think one of his first acts as president will be to assign to the NSC, CIA, DOD, FBI and other military and law-enforcement branches the task of researching all known super-beings and finding ways to "neutralize" or incarcerate them. And who would say him nay? It would probably sound like a good idea...

This sounds like all the revelations that the Obama administration assigned the NSA to spy on American and European citizens who don’t deserve it. And the most galling thing is that Mr. Smith doubtlessly voted for Obama in both elections to date! All that aside, Smith is NOT a journalist to be trusted, any more than Lex Luthor. Now, here’s something about Hypertime from December 5, 2000, either:

Dear Cap: In the Nov 9 Q&A, you responded to a question about the Crisis on Infinite Earths. In your response, you explain the addition of "Hypertime" as:
"The latest wrinkle is that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -- and only those three, outside of cosmic beings -- are cognizant of 'Hypertime' and the concept of multiple timelines that can result in different versions of themselves. And it's been established that the Big Three think it too dangerous a concept to be shared, even with their fellow Justice Leaguers."
Your comments on Hypertime are innacurrate. While the Big Three were initially the only ones aware of Hypertime, other heroes have since become aware of it.
Flash met an alternate version of himself during the Dark Flash (Walter West) story arc at the end of Waid and Augustyn's run -- no pun intended. By the end of the story, Superman and Wonder Woman explained the existence of Hypertime to the Flash, Walter West, Linda Park, Angela Margolin, Max Mercury, Jesse Quick, Impulse and Jay Garrick. (Flash 152-159)
Superboy and the (original) Challengers of the Unknown also became aware of Hypertime during the "Hypertension" story arc (Superboy 60-64). During the story, Superboy encounters many different timelines and alternate versions of himself (including Black Zero, who first appeared in a very small picture in The Kingdom No. 2).
I believe Hourman and the JSA are also aware of Hypertime, but I can't recall the exact issues of their titles where they first encountered it.
So, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are not the only heroes aware of Hypertime.
You're right about Superboy's Hypertime adventure, Jeremy, so thanks for correcting the record. Not only Superboy and the Challs, but certainly the commanding officers of Project Cadmus are aware of Hypertime as well. And, sure enough, Supes and Wonder Woman briefly explained Hypertime (although not in detail) to the various super-speedsters in Flash 159 (Mar 00).
I actually was aware of both of those storylines, but had glossed over them in favor of a reference in the more recent JLA 80-Page Giant No. 3 (Oct 00), in which Wonder Woman begins to bring up the topic and Batman flatly shushes her -- implying it's too dangerous for the others to know about. Of course, most of the League is aware of alternate Earths -- witness JLA: Earth 2 -- and certainly Hourman knows all about Hypertime, being from the 853rd century. But I suspect (from that JLA scene) that DC's editorial intent is to imply that knowledge of the overarching Hypertime concept is restricted knowledge and that the Superboy and Flash stories were exceptions more than the rule. Well, at least until somebody gets the bug to do a "Secret Crisis of Hypertime Wars!" maxiseries to retcon away everything we know!
Anyway, as I said, thanks for setting the record straight, and I'll try to keep my impressions from overriding the facts in future.

Guess what? He didn’t, as his support for Identity Crisis should make crystal clear. Of course, the main problem was how he ignored past characterizations and accepted inconsistent and downright offensive ones, all for the sake of “relevancy” and political correctness. Here’s another letter I’d written:

Dear Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith: Several weeks ago, I sent a letter to Michael Sangiacomo, the comics columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio), in response to a column he'd written regarding Chris Claremont's messing up the X-Men titles. And in doing so, I made an interesting revelation that I'd never thought of myself.
What he wrote in his column was that there were a lot of people he knew who'd been reading Claremont's recent issues of the X-Men, and that they found the stories hard to follow and to understand. I hadn't read all of the most recent issues, since I'd been getting ready to go on the flight to my native Pennsylvania, and so I'd accidentally missed the point. And, having read more than plenty of issues myself in the past several years, I thought that he meant that the stories were just too complex for some of the new folks reading them, almost like some daytime soap operas. He corrected me by explaining that the stories had become a jumble, thanks to Claremont's carelessness. And so, later I took a look at some of the more recent issues that he's credited, and yes, now I see that indeed, he'd botched them badly. Pity. I certainly hope that the writers being recruited for the next few issues will make it more enjoyable again.
And, I also found out from Sangiacomo something interesting about Claremont that I'd never really thought about before. He told me in his reply:
"If you knew how much money he (Claremont) was making, you would not be so kind."
Gee whiz! Why didn’t I ever think about that before?
I've always known that there's an infinity of moviemakers who do their work solely for moneymaking, including those who make movies based on comics. But until recently, I'd never really thought that comic artists and writers (and editors) had lost their heads over money as well.
And no indeed, if Claremont's going to sell his soul for moolah, then no, I can't take to him very kindly. So just what's gotten into him this year? Has he gone senile? Or has he suddenly decided to scorn his fans? I'm very surprised. I give him a lot of credit for coming up with such characters as Rogue, one of the foxiest ladies in the Marvel universe, but I can't approve of him writing sloppily just now.
Comic-book artists and writers should not be following in the footsteps of Hollywood bigwigs, who are solidly in favor of money over true audience entertainment. If they do, then fans can get as appalled as moviegoers, who I think would be better off reading comics instead.
I'm glad that John Byrne understands all that. Back in July, he was interviewed by the Toronto Star (he used to live in Alberta, Canada), and he told them this:
<<Unlike people in other entertainment businesses, Byrne refuses to blame cable TV, VCRs and the Internet for the precipitous fall (of the comics industry). The real cause, according to Byrne? Greed.
''We stopped caring about the comic-book fans and started catering to the collectors. And by the time the collectors got a few brain cells and realized these weren't good investments, we'd driven away all the real fans we'd used to attract the collectors,'' said Byrne.
Still, with the circulation plunge has come a return to the simpler motivations of another era. ''People who are going into comic books today have to be doing it because they love it. Not because they're going to get rich.'' >>
(Special note, just in case: Yes, the above are three paragraphs that I copied from the Web edition of the Toronto Star's interview.)
Absolutely right. And from the way Claremont's behaved in the past few months, it appears that he's now turned to working in comics only for the moolah.
Comic artists cannot dabble in the buisness solely for money. Yes, they too have families to support, and it's good if they do, but fans are also just as important, and if they don't think about the fans, then how can they support their families at ease? The comics need to be able to sell well in order for the artists to have good job.
I think it'd be a good idea in the meantime if maybe John Byrne were brought back to work on the regular X-books as well as the Hidden Years title. We'd only have to hope then that he'd practice as he preaches.
And that's not all. I think it could be great idea if artists like Byrne were to pay visits to universities across the country, and not just art schools, in order to give speeches and encourage people to join the comics artistry (and writing), in almost the same way as Stanley Kauffmann, the film critic for the New Republic, who's been a visiting professor at the Yale and NY universities for many years. And who knows, maybe even you could try doing something like that! Have you ever thought of giving lectures at the University of Memphis, for example, on the subject of comics? It could be an interesting venture. For students studying comics also need to learn how to review them, form an opinion, and also how to point out the ups and downs of the writing, art and editing.
And that's why giving lectures on comics at universities can be just as important as good writing.
I have indeed done some lectures on comics, at conventions and other venues. I generally enjoy them, although dealing with the condescension of the public in regard to comics is sometimes disspiriting.
As to Claremont, longtime readers of my Web site are doubtless aware of my antipathy to his work. But fair is fair: I have no reason to believe he isn't trying his hardest. With all due respect to Sangiacomo, resenting somebody for how much money they make is petty at best. Nor am I going to accept at face value any argument from anyone save Claremont about what is actually going on in his head. As fans and critics, it's fair for us to say, "It looks like Claremont is doing hack work for the sake of money." It is manifestly NOT fair for us to flatly say, "Claremont's doing it for the money."
Or, to put it another way, we are well within our rights to criticize Claremont's work -- but we're out of bounds maligning his character.
As to Byrne, I richly enjoyed Hidden Years, but it's been given the axe (despite being profitable) by new Ediotr-In-Chief Joe Quesada and Publisher Bill Jemas on the grounds that it appeals to "in-the-know" older fans instead of the newer fans they're trying to attract. Byrne has publicly announced he will do no further work for Marvel as a result. So don't expect a Byrne Rennaissance in the X-books any time soon!

Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, with his leftist leanings, I’m skeptical he really means what he says about resenting people for their paycheck sum. This is another letter of mine I don’t think highly about, because Claremont, for all his disappointments after the 80s ended, does not strike me as the kind of writer who’s doing everything for the sake money only, unlike some others who certainly are, including novelists and screenwriters with no feeling for the characters they’re working with.

And I wouldn’t go to a lecture with Smith if I knew he was going to be dishonest and not even admit he was wrong to support Identity Crisis and excuse the horrific misogyny it was rife with. Nor would I be surprised if, were somebody to call him out on that at a lecture, he’d refuse to give a clear answer.

Byrne is also decidedly unfit for lecturing today, given his surprisingly cynical attitude that hasn't improved much.

Dear Cap: Now don't get me wrong. I love the DC Archive series, but some of the choices leave me in the dark.
Black Canary? Starman? Teen Titans (the Perez years)? What were they thinking?
Starman is a cash-in on the new series' popularity. Black Canary, I don't know what side of left field that came from. As for the Titans, while I loved the series I can get them all in the back-issue bins for cheaper than 50 bucks. Well while we are at it, why not a Golden Age Hourman reprint, since the regular series is out there and probally will pick up steam once Starman ends?
Now it is not that I don't enjoy them all, but 50 bucks is a bit steep for some of these heroes. I did not think for one second when I cracked my wallet for the Plastic Man Archives and will get the next one when it comes out, but sometimes I worry that poor choices in what is reprinted will kill the series.
What would I like to see? The Golden Age Spectre (killer stuff sort of like Little Nemo but grimmer). The Silver Age Doom Patrol (strange stuff that was amusing). Even cult stuff like Bat Lash with the right promotion could get sold.
What I think they need to do is start a softcover companion series (sort of like the Marvel Essentials format) for series that might not get the action for the hardcover treatment. This could be home to: The Secret Six, Metal Men ( good, goofy, robotic fun); Kamandi (a Kirby classic); Kirby's Jimmy Olsen (ditto); Adam Stange (beautiful art by Infantino); and even Plop!
As for the oringinal hardcover Archives. why not let the fans vote on what they want? I hope the series will go on but sometimes there is not a lot of hope out there.
I think voting is a swell idea! I doubt DC does, though -- voting, even online, is skewed toward the most vocal fans, who might not have the numbers to support their choices. Tony Isabella has run Archives polls on his Web site, and many of the titles you cite -- Metal Men, Secret Six, Silver Age Doom Patrol -- consistently rank high. But I sincerely doubt we'll see a $50 hardback Secret Six anytime soon. Trade paperbacks have become a solid winner for DC, so maybe that's a possibility.
As to Starman, you're absolutely correct -- the popularity of the current series has raised the Golden Age character's profile and DC was testing the waters. You could expect Hourman to get the same treatment -- except that the current Hourman will end with issue 25 in February due to low sales.
Black Canary is easily explainable -- not only is she currently appearing in two popular series (Birds of Prey and JSA), but ALL of her pre-1963 appearances can be contained in a single volume! And, personally, I'm glad to see it -- the only way I'll ever get to read reprints of some of the Golden Age's lesser lights is in the Archives.
Teen Titans Archives was an experiment that failed. The logic is apparent -- in the mid-'80s Teen Titans was DC's best-selling title, and DC wanted to test the waters for "Bronze Age" reprints. But they missed the problem you pointed out: Back issues are cheaper than the Archive edition. Retailers report that Teen Titans Archives Vol. 1 is the worst-selling of the entire series, so don't expect many more Bronze Age Archives. (Plastic Man, by the way, is one of the best-selling Archives. Whodathunkit?)

On Starman, I actually consider the Golden Age archives a relief from the pretentious modern day tommyrot. As for New Teen Titans, I think at this point, it wouldn’t be so difficult to sell archive books, but they’d have to be paperback, assuming DC really intends to make the prices $50 for hardcover, which is ludicrous.

And regarding Hourman, I’m of mixed minds at this point on the cancellation of the late 90s series, because Rags Morales was apparently involved, and I can’t stand his work today. UGH!

Cap: Sigil is History. Read the latest issue (No. 6), and it hasn't passed my intermission test. Halfway through a year's production and I ask the question:
Do I care about these characters? Do I care if they live or die? Answer to both is No!
I'm still interested in Meridian and Scion. I held on for a few more issue of Mystic and now that the plot has finally thickened and my fingers are sticking to the page. (For now that is) :-)
Sigil is, indeed, the weakest CrossGen title. My critical review of it is that it's little more than a sequence of cliches strung together. Well-written, well-drawn cliches, but still ...
Anyway, most of the creators attached to Sigil have been fired or let go for one reason or another, and CrossGen's publicity guru Ian Feller promises big changes down the road that he says I'll like. Stay tuned!

While I can understand if the correspondent found Sigil dreary, I’m disappointed he’s taking out his misgivings on the characters more than criticizing the writers, who curiously get no mention here. And I keep wondering how some comics criticism is so weak on objectivity. And am quite disappointed with his response (surprise!) to a letter about The Authority on December 12, 2000:

Dear Captain: It's been awhile, but I'm still reading. I like the new format.
I was wondering about your opinion on The Authority. I never read Stormwatch, but have followed The Authority since it came out. I enjoyed the cinematic/big-movie feel of the stories, but after a while there were some things that have disturbed me about both Ellis's and Millar's writing.
I don't look up to these heroes. Seeing them kill and degrade those that oppose them (see the latest issue and what Midnighter does to the villain) has disturbed me. Don't get me wrong -- I am not a prude about this and, yes, it is just a comic book, but thinking back to what I read as a kid and even to Ellis's take on the JLA and you see a more honorable team of superheroes. I know the villains in many of The Authority's books are despicable, but it seemed that the contrast of honorable heroes and dishonorable villains made the it much easier to cheer the heroes.
I also know it's a more complicated world and the stories presented when I was a kid were meant to be simple, as they were for kids. Nowadays comics must appeal to more than kids to survive. And all media has become more complicated.
But I just find myself not really enjoying The Authority as much as (Kurt) Busiek's Avengers, (Mark) Waid's JLA, (James) Robinson's Starman, or several other (teams) that act with honor but are not bland. These are complicated and engaging heroes who act like the heroes I can cheer for.
Maybe this will be explored in future issues of The Authority. Along with the consequences of dictating how the world should be run. I hope so.
By the way speaking of Busiek, when is the next Astro City coming out?
Kurt Busiek's Astro City? Your guess is as good as mine. Busiek's had some well-publicized health problems, and promises to get back to KBAC as soon as he can. When that will be is up to the gods. There is no Astro City solicited through February.
As to The Authority, I enjoy the book immensely on a visceral level; the cinematic look of it and the real-world, kick-butt aspect scratches an itch I didn't know I had. (How many times have you thought, "Come on, Batman, just kill The Joker and be done with it! He deserves it!") On the other hand, I often feel disturbed when I put the book down -- for example, recently when a "super-villain" who'd murdered millions was asked to join the team to put his genius to more positive use. OK, that makes sense from a realpolitik perspective -- but, for Pete's sake, the man's a mass murderer! Do the members of The Authority have no sense of conscience, or shame?
So, yeah, I'm with you -- I hope future issues address the fact that these guys act in an amoral and arrogant manner. Frankly, they're due for a comeuppance, and it would be a good story. If they don't address it, I'll probably lose interest as my suspension of disbelief wanes.

Gee, did he immensely enjoy the Authority’s bizarre anti-war politics too, including a part where they wipe out some politicians whose policies they don’t agree with? And seeing how little he had to say about the Wildstorm series in his columns in the years afterwards, that’s why I doubt he really cared what kind of people they recruited to their ranks. He certainly hasn’t complained about the Justice League doing anything similar under Geoff Johns’ writing! Next comes a letter I wrote about licensed products:

Dear Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith: Am I right that Marvel has stopped publishing comics based on licensed merchandise like movies, TV programs and toys? The last time I can remember them doing so was about four years ago, when they had briefly aquired permission to publish some comics based on Star Trek.
Not that it really bothers me, since I myself usually consider comics based on licensed merchandise to be very inauthentic. Admittedly, there were some they'd published that I'd found worthy of my time, such as the Star Wars comics, and even the G.I Joe and Transformers comics sometimes drew my interest (in the latter, they'd once done an interesting story involving something like media-scare tactics). But much of the rest of the stuff, including some comics based on the Power Rangers, was truly awful, and I wouldn't dare to lay a finger on trash like that.
But nevertheless, I'm curious: if Marvel stopped publishing comics based on licensed merchandise, then how come?
At a guess, I'd say that Marvel can't afford to do so in their current circumstances. In general, licensed comics have to sell substantially better than other comics for the publisher to make a profit, since the publisher has to split profits, pay a hefty licensing fee or otherwise feed money back to the license holder. Since Marvel has a library of 4,500 characters, it must seem foolish to the powers-that-be to spend money they don't have to "rent" characters on which they probably won't make much (if any) money.
As an interesting aside, the recent Marvel miniseries Spaceknights was based on their old ROM, Spaceknight title -- but because Marvel no longer has the rights to ROM, they couldn't even say the character's name!
Meanwhile, other publishers are picking up the slack, such as Dark Horse (Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Star Wars, etc.) and DC Comics (Star Trek, Cartoon Network Presents, etc.).

Marvel actually did publish a few more licensed products 5 or 6 years after this was written, like adaptations of Orson Scott Card’s novels (though they later insultingly and cowardly opted to distance themselves from him because of his disapproval of homosexuality). And it looks like, with Disney’s acquirement of Lucasfilm properties like Star Wars, they’ll be publishing those again (or will they?). Not that they deserve to though, and come to think of it, neither does DC with the way they treat their creations.

Since I brought this up, I can only wonder what Mr. Smith must’ve thought of that reference to something he’d probably be comfortable with if it were done in accordance with his leftism? I’m kinda disappointed in myself for not speaking about GI Joe with more enthusiasm than I did then, and equally so for implying the Star Wars comics were more so. Like others, I’m just plumb disappointed with George Lucas, not just for some of the politics hidden in the franchise, but also for how he insulted the intellect of franchise fans (whom we can only wonder still like his concept).

The following is being presented with quoted text from the above letter about JLA from 11-21-2000 left out because it was too long:

Re: Batman being ousted from the JLA […]

OH . . . My . . . GOODNESS! That made me laugh! The writing is excellent and I certainly can't wait to see what do with the story (and how the JLA's "NO" voters become comfortable with Bats -- that is, IF they ever become comfortable with him). I believe your two "defining moments" make the point concisely. Whether others agree is yet to be seen. I see the other side, but ... I'd be safer in the knowledge that Batman had these protocols than knowing he stopped creating them. As far as we can tell, he's the one character who is incorruptible -- he has no other interests besides being Batman -- he's not married or from another planet, he's not the new leader of a green-clad gang, he's not a former thief, he's not on loan from a land isolating themselves from the other gender, and he's not royalty from another land. He's a guy who's dedicated his life to fighting the fight.
Heh! This is GREAT writing! This is a comic-book-history-making event.
OH hey! Ghost Rider No. 13 (Mark Texiera, artist), a few pages in, street thugs, one has glasses, a knife, and a mock turtle-neck sweatshirt with "[…]" lightly written on it. ME! (I suggested to Mark to use the old "map with a line connecting points" to show that The Punisher had traveled a great distance). Mark put me in Ghost Rider. Short thug career, as the Ghost Rider mopped us up!
I don't know what to add, since you quoted me so extensively, […] -- but I will say that the Batman expulsion has had continuing effects on the League, and is supposed to come to some sort of climax in JLA No. 50. Here's another thought on the subject:
I don’t think either the story about Batman’s ouster, nor the response by Mr. Smith, was good writing, with the latter easily worse.
Greetings Captain: My name is [name withheld] and this is my first time to send you an e-mail. I just wanted to say that I enjoy your site very much. I have been collecting comics most of my 37 years. I read comics because I love the format and the stories. For me they have always been one of my most enjoyable escapes.
Now on to my comment. I enjoy JLA very much , but I am also a huge fan of the Batman titles. There was one vote for his removal that I did not think was in character, (and) that is Superman's. Who did Superman turn to when he thought he might need someone to take him out if he ever lost control? Not Wonder Woman, J'onn J'onzz, or any of the others. He chose Batman. He even provided Batman the means to take him out. It seems to me that Superman is saying, "Well, yes, I gave you the kryptonite, but I didn't think you would actually use it." To me it just doesn't fit the character. I know their relationship isn't like the old World's Finest portrayed it, but I think deep down the respect is still there. I do agree with you though, it makes for great reading. Well thanks for giving me a minute of your time. Keep up the good work. By the way I am a Captain too, in the Fire Dept.
To which I can only doff my cap, [same here] -- my admiration for firefighters is unlimited.
As to Superman, it is a difficult thing to wrap one's mind around his vote. The best I can do is suggest that perhaps he was thinking of what was good for the team as opposed to his personal feelings. That seems a very Superman-like thought process to me.
And here's yet another thought on the subject:

But before we get to that, I want to say that, if there’s anything truly out of character and definitely questionable, it’s why Batman would want to attack his fellow Leaguers. Heck, why would he even just accept a rookie like Kyle Rayner into the League when he should’ve had more experience first before fully qualifying? Speaking of which, in case I hadn’t mentioned before, there was a line in the series while Grant Morrison was on board where Batman told Kyle he liked him better than Hal Jordan because unlike Hal, he knew the meaning of fear! So we know where Morrison must’ve stood on the Emerald Twilight debacle.

Oh Captain, My Captain! I'm writing again after a long time.
I want to give my two cents about the Batman outing from the JLA. The big failure here is not what Batman has done, but his failure in saying, "I'm sorry." If I were one of those Leaguers, these are the words I would like to hear from a fellow Leaguer.
Speaking of the better Superman storyline in the regular titles, I have to choose the Smallville stories, for me these are the best Superman stories of 2000.
And the definitive Superman story of all Y2K is: Superman: The Last Son of Earth. These books blew me away with a sense of wonder and again a nice and twisted retelling of the Man of Steel. Not to talk about the artists of these two books (nice detailed art and wonderful colors), surely these will become a CLASSIC.
The big disappointment of Superman stories was the Superman/Predator series, being only a so-so story, unable to reach the height set for Superman/Aliens.
"We don't do it for the glory. We don't do it for the recognition. We do it because it needs to be done. Because if we don't, no one else will. And we do it even if no one knows what we've done. Even if no one knows we exist. Even if no one remembers that we ever existed." -- Supergirl (Kara Zor-El), Christmas With The Superheroes No. 2 (Dec 1989)
You have the honor of being the first to write me with your picks for the best of 2000, [withheld]! So let the floodgates open! What were the best comics of 2000, y'all?

It’s not just Batman who failed to apologize, it’s the writers too! Waid was the scripter at the time, and while there were good things he once did, I’d say that was a definite fumble on his part, which just compounded the ridiculous obsession with portraying Batman as a control freak, and a remorseless one at that. In fact, if there’s anything here that shocks me, it’s if nobody ever said they were disappointed with the story, and Batman’s modern characterization in general.

Dear Cap: I'm sorry but I have to take issue with you regarding Ultra the Multi-Alien. As a child growing up in the 'sixties I enjoyed the likes of Thor, Superman, etc., but the one which really sticks in my mind is Ultra. OK, I don't remember a great deal about it as I was only about six, but it was just the right thing to catch my imagination. Looking at it now it does seem a bit on the crappy side, but I was overjoyed when I re-discovered him on the Net.

Aww, don't worry about it [withheld] -- I read those Ultra stories avidly as a kid without once thinking about how stupid they were, and still re-read them as an adult just for a laugh. But as you said, they are a bit crappy, and that's why Ultra is listed in the Silly Super-Stories section. Doesn't mean I don't like'em -- it just means I recognize silly when I see it. And I like silly!

Ultra might be “a bit” crappy, but Mr. Smith’s columns are very crappy. After all these years, I can’t say I really have that much of a problem with Dave Wood’s story from the mid-60s, but still, given that they undid most of it pretty quickly, it’s clear they didn’t have much idea what else to do with it.

I’m also skeptical Mr. Smith really likes silly stories, depending on the definition. After all, as I’ve noted countless times already, he’s never shown any remorse for embracing a DC miniseries that soils past Silver/Bronze Age storytelling, and at the same time fails to depict serious issues as such.

Dear Cap Comic: I read over some of Avi Green's letter about the apparent lack of superheroes based in The City of Brotherly Love and immediately one who is (or perhaps now was due to her current involvement in the NYC-based team Titans) came to mind: JESSIE QUICK, DC's only femme super-speedster.
Her mom, Liberty Belle, was very prominently played in Philly because that was also the home of her namesake object, the Liberty Bell.
One comic where Jess was featured in Philly that I own is her one-shot special with Wonder Woman, titled Woman Woman Plus Jessie Quick. She was shown running through a park in Old City Philadelphia at one point early in that comic!
I tend to strongly notice comics taking place in Philly because I live right near there. For me getting there is just a hop across a bridge!
Thanks for the update, [witheld]! I was pretty sure Liberty Belle was based in Philadelphia (or a stand-in city), but a cursory search didn't turn up a reference -- so I didn't say anything. On the other hand, the Justice Society was certainly located in a faux-Philadelphia called Liberty City in their early days. (Now, of course, it's been retconned to be Gotham City from the outset.) Here's another letter on the same subject:

I thank the correspondent for her input. And I’m disappointed with Mr. Smith for failing to recall that the Justice Society’s HQ was shown to be in New York City in later years, located in a brownstone building.

In reference to the letter from Avi Green on November 21, 2000, and your response considering the location of characters, most of the heroes of the 'forties and 'fifties took place in fictional cities like Metropolis, Gotham City, Keystone City, etc. Some of the early Marvel stories did have a New York City setting, but it was not until the '60s when Marvel made New York City their main (head)quarters. The advantage of a fictitious city is that the writer and artist do not have to hold to any conventions or standards. The advantage of a real city is that it adds realism to the story and characters. The disadvantage is how realistic should it be?
The television series Law & Order takes place in New York City and prides itself on realism. When the characters go to places, the address is shown on the screen. The show has been criticized by people in the know that some of these addresses are non-existent, in the middle of a park, an empty lot, in the river, etc. For those of us not familiar with New York City they look good and if I lived in the city, I sure would not want my address showing up on some episode because of the sight-seers. Even in the movie Ghostbusters, which tried to establish an authentic New York atmosphere, the finale took place in a building that was fictional (it was a real building with a matte on the top) because they could not find exactly what they were looking for. Realism is fine, but it sometimes interferes with the storytelling.
Besides the other real locations that were mentioned, some other diverse points were in West Coast Avengers. The Oliver Queen Green Arrow spent time in a very realistic looking Seattle. Supergirl did a tour of duty in Chicago. One of the more unique was Wild Dog, who operated in the Quad Cities area of Davenport, IA-Moline and Rock Island, IL. Creator Max Allan Collins stated that it was the perfect setting because of the multiple jurisdictions involved.
One of the best tours went to Captain Marvel who in Captain Marvel Adventures No. 32 (February 1944) through No. 44 (March 1945) had adventures in Dallas (32), Omaha (33), Oklahoma City (34), Indianapolis, (35), St. Louis (36), Cincinnati (37), Chattanooga (38), Pittsburgh (39), Boston (40), Dayton (41), St. Paul (42), Chicago (43) and Washington, D.C. (44). There may have been others, these are the only ones that I know about.
Finally, if I were a villain out to make a lot of money, I would go to the largest city that I could find where I could pass as a local and make my career there. New York is a much better target then a small farming town in the Midwest.
The realism of the location depends on the objective of the writers and artist. A really realistic location puts constraints on the story where a fictional location gives more latitude. As far as where for a real location, it depends on the familiarity with the city.
I find myself without anything to add, [name withheld]. Thanks for your thoughts!

I thank this correspondent too, though I still have to voice misgivings about Law & Order, and not because the addresses seen in the series may not be existent, but because it was such a quagmire of leftism. The vision was so PC that, as a result, there were often episodes where they would only depict white people as villains, and almost never blacks, Asians and Latinos, if at all, as though there haven’t been felons in those communities. Maybe worse was their refusal to give Islamofascism some serious focus, and while there may have been one episode that did focus on female genital mutilation, such an issue was never looked at again after 9-11. In fact, some of this PC madness had begun very early on, and I recall an episode from the 2nd season where they made a Jewish businessman the guilty party who tries to frame a black man for a murder. Thinking back on that today, and the potential damage it could cause with its inciteful damage, I can only shake my head.

The main problem with L&O wasn’t questionable locations. It was the biases, racial, psychological or otherwise.

<<BATMAN: TURNING POINTS #4 (Of 5): By Chuck Dixon and Brent Anderson, both of whom are some of the best the Bat-office has to offer. -- Captain Comics>>
It's nice to see that Mr. Anderson is still working, considering that Kurt Busiek's Astro City seems to be on permament hiatus.
<<Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith, who is certain the next four years are going to be pretty interesting for Superman and the Justice League ...>>
To say the least! I'm surprised that DC did this but think it will lead to some great stories. Of course, the way comic-book time works, Luthor will be President in the DCU for about 15 years. Of course, he's still just President-elect at this point; something could come along and muck it up for him.
See the earlier letter about Kurt Busiek's Astro City.

Guess what? It didn’t lead to great stories. Definitely not after the Identity Crisis horror. There was a story published afterwards called Crisis of Conscience, co-written by Geoff Johns, where the team just quarreled it out with each other; nothing more than an excuse to see Batman and Hawkman duke it out. I don’t think the League has ever recovered from that fiasco.

I have seen information on this novel being considered for a movie on a few Web sites. Movies either about comic books or based on the concepts that are highlighted in them are being considered for screening.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay -- the image and idea of comic books is coming on strong out of Hollywood. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Michael (Wonder Boys) Chabon will adapt his acclaimed novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for Scott Rudin Productions and Paramount.
The story centers on the adventures of two boys who write comic books during the Golden Age of comic books during the 1930s, and has more than a few parallels to Superman's creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. If it's not already, you may want to add the novel onto your holiday shopping list. It's received high marks from the likes of Matt Wagner and other noted comic creators.
From what I've read, it's a must-buy for any comic-book fan. The fact that it's reflects accurately the history of the comic-book industry -- which is pretty arcane stuff to anybody who isn't a comic-book fan -- and is still getting rave reviews is pretty encouraging.

I don’t think Chabon’s novel ever made it to the screen, but that’s okay; he’s left-wing enough as it already is, and if I were Siegel or Shuster, I’d find him an embarrassment. I certainly think Wonder Boys was.

Dear Capn: Did you know that I just now realized that the senior editor of the Daily Bugle in the Marvel Universe and the chief force behind The Band have the same name?

Hmmm. Now that you mention it, I've never seen the two Robbie Robertsons in the same place at the same time. Gasp! Could it be ... ?

Who cares? What I want to know is whether Mr. Smith or anybody else realizes his very own MO is similar to that of the publisher, J. Jonah Jameson. Now comes another letter of mine:

Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith,
1) The following is a paragraph that John Byrne wrote on his message board on AOL, and was reprinted on the Comics Continuum:
<<Hidden Years, and a lot of other X-Books (all of which are profitable), are being axed. Joe Quesada was not able to give me any sort of reason that made sense -- killing profitable books in a failing market? -- so, since I have no interest in devoting my time and effort to a company apparently intent on committing suicide, my relationship with Marvel is over. -- John Byrne>>
Byrne was confirming that X-Men: The Hidden Years was being canceled by Marvel despite good sales. (As I write this, I’ve discovered that Generation X has also been canceled.) And from what I can see, unless they back off the threat of canceling such titles, then they’re also intent on losing a good artist.
And I’m shocked. Here, I thought Mr. Quesada was going to make some needed improvements, and instead it sounds to me as if he’s driving Marvel further into the muck.
Canceling titles is not the problem that Marvel has to deal with. It’s drawing more newcomers that is. And if the titles are selling well, then it’s all the more surprising that they should want to cancel them.
Karl Marx foresaw how history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. And what Marvel is doing is akin in some ways to what some TV networks have been doing: canceling shows with high ratings even if they’re audience favorites. And in Marvel’s case, they’re canceling titles that are popular with readers despite good readership.
Doesn’t Marvel realize that what they’re doing could trigger a domino effect by causing other artists, editors and writers to walk out on them if Byrne does so first? He’s got a point, Marvel is doing something that’s almost tantamount to suicide. By letting down any of their employees, others could get angry at them and may not want to work with them either. Yes, it’s possible.
Let’s be clear, this is not the same situation as network TV. If the readers want the titles to continue and to keep reading them, then Marvel shouldn’t be canceling them. By doing so, they’re scorning both the readers and the artists.
I can say this though, I don’t know if X-Men: The Hidden Years has to run that long. It should certainly be able to run at least five years, which is about the time that the 1970-75 hiatus of the X-Men lasted. Back in the late 'eighties, Marvel published what they described as an eight-year limited series called The ‘Nam, a title that chronicled the experiences of a Vietnam vet. It may even have still been in publication at the time that you’d begun your career as Captain Comics. I never saw this title myself, but it was probably a very interesting experiment. And if that title was produced as a miniseries, then why can’t the Hidden Years at least be done the same way?
In the meantime, it’s very contemptuous of Marvel to just cancel any of the X-books. Just because there are so many of them doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing. And I’m sure that there are many X-devotees who’re very eager to know what adventures they’d been on during their five-year hiatus. The X-universe alone has become a huge phenomenon within the past 25 years, and Marvel should be proud to have so many devotees. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re preparing a column about this already. I think that the time has come for X-fans to to unite and pressure Marvel to back off from their position.
(On a special note, Generation X was geared mainly at teens who’re looking for characters closer to their age, and so I’m surprised that they’d want to cancel that too. The list also includes Bishop, Gambit and X-Man, the title with Nate Grey.)
2) Speaking of canceled titles, by the way, did the Silver Surfer get canceled last year? That’s a shame, I had spent some time reading it in the past three years, and when I checked the Marvel subscription list recently, I could see that it was certainly gone. I must say though, it did have a very impressive run ever since it got revived in 1986, after a limbo of about 16 years, and so it ran about 13 successful years. I certainly hope that it’ll be revived in time, since I find space-traveling heroes like the Silver Surfer to be very enjoyable.
In fact, is there any chance that Doctor Strange can be revived in the near future? His title has been in limbo since about early 1996. Even wizards and magic can be a very enjoyable genre. I sure hope that it’s still an intriguing genre for comics readers.
3) As I write this, yep, I’ve already discovered, our new president is neither Bush nor Gore, but rather, Superman’s trickiest foe, Lex Luthor. I first discovered this when reading one of [name withheld]'s columns, then I discovered more about it when reading a column by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Michael Sangiacomo, and your current column fully confirms Lex’s victory. And I must congratulate you for having noted what even I had thought of: that Lex’s election will not only make things more difficult for Supes, it’ll make things even more difficult for the entire DC Universe as well! Yes, I certainly hope that DC’s writers will make good use out of all the possibilities surrounding Lex Luthor’s presidency for the next four years. And who knows, with any luck (good or bad, depending on how you see it), Lex could even get re-elected in the next four years as well!
Meanwhile, is the X-Men’s political foe, the senator Robert Kelly, going the same way as Lex? That too could make things even more difficult for the X-Men, and also the rest of the Marvel universe for the next four years as well! I’m very interested in seeing how the current storyline turns out.
4) And, turning back to Superman, in the upcoming 166th issue of Superman which will go on sale this January, the issue will make some discoveries that Krypton was a warm and fuzzy place after all. In the past decade, DC had made some changes in the background of Krypton, giving the assumption that it was a bit more of a cold and dark place than it was originally depicted as. But in issue 166, Superman discovers that it was really a warm and fuzzy atmosphere there after all. And that, I must say, is really a good thing.
1) The X-cancellations are a tricky thing, Avi. Here's my take:
I don't mind Marvel canceling a great many X-books -- there was a flotilla of them, and most of them were pretty bad. Moreover, none of them were accessible to new readers -- which is almost a criminal waste of an opportunity, given the success of the movie. Can you imagine someone who enjoyed the film wandering into a comics shop and picking up Uncanny X-Men or X-Men? He'd slap that book back on the shelf in a New York minute -- those two titles have been virtually incomprehensible since Chris Claremont came on board, even to a long-time reader like myself.
Plus given Marvel's extreme financial peril, dramatic (if not draconian) moves are called for. If canceling five or six X-titles can put Marvel back on the path to financial security, I'm all for it.
Having said that, I'm really disappointed in Hidden Years getting the axe. It was my favorite X-title. But in an exchange of e-mails with Joe Quesada I got the point: The very reason I liked Hidden Years is the very reason it's getting canceled. The premise of the book pre-supposed that I've been reading X-Men for 30 years -- and, in fact, it was the nostalgia factor that made me like it. But Marvel is trying to position itself for NEW readers -- and Hidden Years does the opposite.
Do I like it that Hidden Years was canceled? No. But I do understand it.
2) I never heard why Silver Surfer got canceled (in November, 1998), so it was probably due to sales. On the other hand, that was right in the middle of Marvel's frenzy to cancel every book with numbering in triple digits and start over -- Amazing Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Peter Parker and a host of other long-running titles were all axed and rebooted at right around the same time. So take your pick.
3) Isn't it strange how politics in both the real world and in comics have gotten so strange so fast?
4) I don't have any inside news about the "new" Krypton, Avi. Let's see what we shall see!

No, I don’t understand it. What makes him and them think new readers aren’t interested in stories focusing on times gone by? Maybe more to the point, why wouldn’t newer readers want to read the older stories from 1963 in Masterworks archives? (I'm the proud owner of one copy.) Their logic doesn’t compute. If I were the publisher, I’d want – and be very happy – if new readers checked out The Hidden Years just as much as the output taking place in the present.

Hi, Cap! This time I am writing to comment on a few news items in the comics world and also to discuss some points you brought up on the Fantastic Four.
First, the FF/Grant Morrison deal. Captain Comics writes:
<<... I'd bet Morrison doesn't have any sisters, or he wouldn't read Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four that way. See, the reason siblings fight like cats and dogs is because they don't see each other as sexual beings -- they hardly see each other as human beings. Subconsciously, siblings regard each other as rivals for limited resources -- parental affection, food, clothing, money and perks (like who gets control of the TV remote). If there's any "subconscious" desire between siblings, generally it's the desire to kill your competitor! There's certainly no subconscious urge to perform sexual favors! It would be like Archie having naughty thoughts about submitting to Reggie -- and doesn't that suggestion make your skin crawl?>>
Yes, it does. Of course, as anyone who has seen the movie CHASING AMY knows, Archie Andrews is gay. Heh. But Archie has a thing for Jughead, not Reggie.
Seriously, I have a problem with Grant Morrison's take on Johnny and Susan Storm's relationship. For the reasons that you cited and for the fact that there has never been any indication of a sexual relationship between those two siblings, I find Morrison's interpretation to be an excuse to take one of the more traditional relationships in the Marvel Universe and bastardize it.
This is not meant to be a slam on the British, but do you think that the reason so many British writers feel the need to tear down iconic and/or traditional structures is based on a psychological need to rationalize their county's loss of stature as a world power in the past century? I don't say this to be cute, it seems that after World War II Britain suffered a loss in confidence and, perhaps, in faith to a degree. If Britain was to have remained the great power it once was do you think there would have been a punk-rock movement? And the attitude that came from that that seems to permeate most of the British comics creator's works, particularly that of the 1980s and 1990s?
Captain Comics writes:
<<...Why did Ben feel like he could compete with Reed at all? Was his macho pride merely stung? Was a possible romance with Sue all in his head? Or isn't it pretty likely that teen-aged Sue flirted a bit when she met Grimm -- the BMOC of ESU and a decorated fighter pilot? Or that -- and this is pure speculation -- who's to say that Sue didn't date Ben a time or two before she ever met Reed? Who's to say that part of Grimm's bitterness -- that led him to quit the team a dozen times -- wasn't partially rooted in the feeling that the effete Richards had stolen his girl? Now there's a story worth telling, Mr. Morrison!>>
It could be interesting, except that Susan Storm was a young preteen girl when a college-aged Reed Richards became a boarder at her parent's home. That being the case, Ben Grimm, Reed's peer, would have been robbing the cradle and breaking the law if he had dated Susan before she met Reed.
Onto other subjects:
You may already be aware by now that X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS has been canceled. The news first broke on John Byrne's AOL board, THE BYRNE WARD, when Walt Simonson asked Byrne to confirm the office rumor that the title had been canned. Byrne confirmed this in a post that illustrated his anger at the situation. Originally, Byrne was told that X: THY would cease on issue No. 19. Since then, Marvel has bumped up the cancellation to issue No. 22.
Below is Marvel's news release on the matter, as reported on ComicBookResources.com:
<<"This Spring, the X-Mansion is in for one heck of a cleaning," the Your Man @ Marvel announcement read at the Marvel site. "For years, readers and retailers have complained there are just too many X-Men spin-off titles. We hear ya, friends! That's why (editor in chief) Joe Quesada, (X-Men editor) Mark Powers, (Marvel president) Bill Jemas and (editor) Mike Marts have set out to streamline the X-Men by making sure each title has a clear identity and distinct purpose.
"Therefore, the following titles will end with these issues:
"Bishop" #16 (on sale now)
"Gambit" #25 (on sale in December)
"Generation X" #75 (on sale in March)
"X-Man" #75 (on sale in March)
"Mutant X" #32 (on sale in April)
"X-Men: The Hidden Years" #22 (on sale in July)
"But fear not, X-fanatics: While the titles are disappearing, the characters that star in them are not. So don't think you're not going to see Jubilee or X-Man or Gambit again." >>
In SPIDER-MAN: THE MOVIE news, William Dafoe is to be cast as the Green Goblin after the role was turned down by actor John Malkovitch. Malkovitch was demeaning and condescending in his comments as to why he turned down the role citing that the movie was not his genre and that movies like SPIDER-MAN are "not about art," but marketing. This was said by the man who starred in CON-AIR. High art, that!
Speaking of egos, have you read Joe Madureira's comments concerning changes on a SUPERMAN comic he worked on? I sympathize with his feelings regarding editors making arbitrary decisions on artistic choices, but his vanity seems to be in overload. From ComicBookResources.com:
<<The creator of Battle Chasers is one of a number of artists contributing to a "jam" issue of DC Comics' Superman this December, featuring the Man of Steel interacting with the rest of the Justice League during the holidays.
Madureira sounded off on his message boards on Thursday.
"OK. I've learned something very important from posting on these boards, and that is that I have a tendency to fly off the handle, and allow my emotions to take over, causing me to write things that I later regret.
"Well, I've waited over a week, and I'm still pissed off, so here goes. Please keep in mind that I'm not out to badmouth anyone, but I DO feel like I have the right to inform my fans about things that directly affect my artwork.
"DC screwed with my pages. I am NOT happy. The changes may seem small to most people, but to me, they are huge. HUGE. On every page, they had someone redraw the bat-symbol on batman's chest, from the classic yellow and black that I drew, to the new black one.
"OK, this is lame for many reasons. First of all, I think for a special issue like this, with six different artists contributing work, they could have allowed a bit of artistic license. Especially since for most of us, it's the first time we are drawing these characters. Secondly, there are certain shots that I absolutely would not have done if I knew that I couldn't work with the yellow symbol (there's a Frank Milleresque silhouette shot of Supes and Bats, where only their chest symbols are visible. Once cool, now lame). The perspective on the bat is off on the MAJOR shot of Batman, the splash page. Which brings me to the MOST annoying thing about this. I turned those pencils in almost four months before the release date of this book. You would think that they could have called me and had me make the changes. Nah, let's do it without telling Joe and let him find out about it when it's in stores.
"Another minor, but annoying change is that I asked for a blur effect on a sequence where Batman is landing on a roof top (I did multiple images). At first, the colorists blurred the wrong one, but we caught it in time, and they made the change as per my request. Well, someone at DC (again, without ever once consulting me) decided they didn't LIKE the blur at all. They had it removed, and simply ghosted the figure instead. Ok, now this pisses me off. The FIRST change was probably a legal one, or a continuity one, they wanted the current bat symbol, whatever. But this is an instance of Editorial overriding my artistic decision, and there really is no reason for it. If I wanted a blur, leave the (profanity) blur alone.
"There's more, but it's minor. The point is, I had SO much difficulty with only three pages, I can't imagine what it must be like to work on an entire issue, or for that matter, an ongoing series at DC. There's a complete lack of respect for creators there, and this is a small, but to me, important example. I haven't had my work changed behind my back since back in MCP (Marvel Comics Presents) when I started, and even then I think I was notified. Total blow to my ego. I actually thought my penciling these pages had some importance (I guarantee you the sales, especially back orders, are going to go through the roof) but apparently, it wasn't important to DC.
"All I would have liked, was for someone at DC to at least CALL me and tell me they were making these changes. If I hadn't asked to see the color proofs, I literally would not have known until the issue was out and in my hands. I've heard grumbling from some of the other artists in this issue too. I was so excited about this project at first, and now, I'm just left with a really bad taste in my mouth. I'm not even looking forward to it coming out anymore. It will be hard for me to look at it.
"I really should have taken all this crap I just posted and told it to DC, but honestly, I don't have the energy to try and change what can't be changed. My apologies to my pals Jeff Loeb, and Ed McGuiness, I'm not trying to shoot down your book in any way, and you know where I'm coming from. You should both be proud of the work you've done. Superman rocks today because of you.
"There. I said my piece. Now I'll wait by the phone to get yelled at. Bwahahhahaha! Hey, now I know how Sinead O'Connor felt on her Saturday Night Live appearance years ago. FIGHT THE TRUE ENEMY I shout as I tear a copy of Green Lantern. Hahaha. It's fun to be a jackass." >>
Having posted the comments, Madureira appeared to cool down in subsequent comments to the thread:
<<"The truth is, DC owns that artwork, and technically, they can do whatever they want with it. Thank god I own (Battle Chasers) or they might decide Gully's hands are too big, or Garrison's eyebrows are too bushy. I won't even mention Red Monika. I'm over it now, I said my piece, so let's keep the flames to a minimum. No sense crying over spilled ink.
"This does not affect my relationship with WildStorm in any way. It doesn't even change my relationship with DC, it just opened my eyes to a few things, that's all.">>
To fans who thought that the blame lay with the editors involved, and not DC in its entirety, he replied:
<<"I AM blaming the company, and not the one or two people responsible. They can't be held accountable. The reason is, NO ONE has any control over there. With a corporation as huge as AOL and Warner (Brothers) in charge of DC, you never know quite where to put the blame. One person has to answer to another person, and them to someone else, until you have this big ball of red tape big enough to blot out the sun. It could have been an editor, it could have been the legal department, it could have been the vice president, president, head of licensing, sales, promotions, maybe even Warner Bros. Who the heck knows? When you call to find out, the answer you always get is, ' This is not my decision to make.' So you see, I can't hold one person accountable. Huge corporations suck. Period.
"(Disclaimer. I DO like Marvel lately. I have had a lot of positive talks with (editor-in-chief Joe Quesada), and it really seems like they are putting all the power back where it should be ... in the hands of the creators. I hope they keep it up, (profanity) it.)"
And as for why, knowing that the book and characters involved were owned by DC, Madureira thought he might be insulated from such editorial interference:
"Ego aside, I CAN tell you Battle Chasers is the highest selling book at DC. This isn't stroking my ego, it's just a fact, I can't help it! (Nor do I want to!) I think it's safe to assume that there are going to be quite a lot of BC readers picking up this issue while waiting for the next Battle Chasers book. I can also tell you that a majority of Battle Chasers readers do not read Superman, so these are NEW readers they are getting. Blah blah blah, sorry it came across as egotistical, but I was trying to avoid this long-winded explanation.
"I think to an extent, every artist has an ego. Especially good artists. Why strive to make your work great if no one is going to enjoy it, or if you don't enjoy it yourself? I think the trick is, to never stop learning. When you think your stuff is perfect, when you stop seeing flaws in your own work, but see it in everyone else's, then you become a problem. To me, THAT'S an ego. I don't think I have that problem.
"Yet.
"MuauAuAUHAhahahAHhah! I WILL rule the world!" >>
I guess if one rules the world, than one does not have to put out a comic but once every two years. Ah well ...
I read Joe Mad's comments with something akin to disbelief. Not only does he not have a leg to stand on -- the art, and the characters, are DC's property to do with as they please -- but his complaints struck me as, well, pretty minor. I mean, gee whiz -- who really cares if a background was altered? Is it going to affect my enjoyment of the comic book? Is anybody besides Joe Mad even going to know, or notice?
Frankly, with skin that thin, Mr. Mad wouldn't last five minutes where I work (The Commercial Appeal newspaper). I put up with a lot more humiliation than that to get my paycheck every week! The words "prima donna" spring to my mind -- which may be unfair, but they spring to mind nonetheless.

Funny he should bring up that part about the workplace. He had another correspondent who also worked for a paper, who seemed to have quite a hatred of anybody who dared criticize the press, and was also hostile to people who dared to say something negative about Islam. In other words, he had quite a J. Jonah Jameson for a “buddy”. With skin that thin, one can only wonder why he still had a job up to a certain point. I once found the same man writing anti-military propaganda opposing the war in Iraq, and while no sane conservative thinks the military are saints, he was writing his screed because he despised the notion of defeating tyrants like Saddam in Iraq, and opposing Islamofascism/sharia. What next, will we discover the man I speak of also thinks Mohammed’s marriage to Aisha when she was only nine years of age is perfectly fine, even in modern times?

The correspondent’s comments about Morrison boasting in an interview how he’d like to depict an incestuous relation between Sue and Johnny are interesting as the interview itself was disturbing. In fairness, he was putting things lightly about the British. If you look at the country’s mindset under a microscope, you’d see they have one of the worst grips on morale and reality possible to find in the modern world. Is it any wonder that sharia law has succeeded in taking hold in the UK and halal food forced upon the public, all at the expense of the taxpayers?

All that aside, when I look back at how Mr. Smith embraced Identity Crisis, it makes his suggestions for what Morrison could really have done – try an affair between Sue and Ben – all the more sickening, and Smith’s comment could be viewed more gravely today. I’m glad the correspondent pointed out that embarrasingly overlook. Shame on Mr. Smith. He really does know how to slip the tongue. And shame on him and a different correspondent if they consider one of the names mentioned on December 19, 2000, an auteur:

TIME Magazine names its Best (and Worst) Comics of 2000 (with a U.S. election-esque twist!) -- much welcomed hi-profile publicity for some very worthy works in the comics medium. The list is presented Casey Kasem countdown-style here, full descriptions are included within the article for those unfamiliar:
http://www.time.com/time/sampler/printout/0,8816,91291,00.html
Worst of 2000: StanLee.net
Best:
9. True Swamp: Underwoods and Overtime, by Jon Lewis
8. Luba, by Gilbert Hernandez
7. Naughty Bits, by Roberta Gregory
6. Louis Riel, by Chester Brown
5. Berlin: City of Stones, by Jason Lutes
4. "America's Best Comics" by Alan Moore
3. David Boring, by Daniel Clowes
2. Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District, by Ben Katchor
1. (tie) Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware
1. (tie) Safe Area Gorazde, by Joe Sacco
Thanks for the interesting link, […], as usual! Now I'll have to check on all the books on that list that I've never seen before ...

Man, Time just had to pick Joe Sacco for the list, didn’t they? What a sick disgrace.

I have often thought about this. If more superheroes knew Batman's identity, then its only a matter of time before it goes public. That's human nature. When it went public imagine the hassles it would create ...
Batman/Bruce Wayne sent Batmobile speeding tickets by mail
Groupies and hitmen camped out the gates of Wayne manor
The constant tailing by the Enquirer, Star and Weekly World News photographers
The I.R.S. dogging Wayne about forging business expenses (Had to heat the Batcave somehow).
But my favorite two scenarios:
Bruce Wayne getting sued over the Batman copyright and being forced to give up the costume
Bruce Wayne getting sued and losing all his fortune to The Joker ... emotional trauma, don't ya know.
I shudder at the prospect, [name withheld]! Thanks for the smile! Here's more on Batman's ouster from the JLA:

About a decade after this was written, Bruce Wayne did reveal his secret ID, not unlike how Tony Stark, in another poorly written story by Mike Grell, revealed he was Iron Man. But honestly, what’s the use? There may have once been a time when unmasking could’ve worked. But since the turn of the century, the train’s left the station.

Dear Cap: Batman was wrong. I know, there are many who feel that the only advantage Batman has in the JLA is his ability to be ready for anything. And he may have been justified because of the many times the JLA has been taken over, etc. But at what cost?
He missed the fundamental point of a team like the JLA: Trust is everything. And I find it kind of ironic that he could not trust his teammates, but he demands they and many others to trust him. Think about it: Dick Grayson, Commissioner Gordon, Tim Drake, the citizens of Gotham and the JLA must trust that Batman will always do something right. Yet, when it comes time to return that trust he believes the ends justifies the means.
I'm glad that this is still being explored by Mark Waid. Hopefully, when this is resolved ( I think in issue 50) the resolution will not be a pat one and maybe, just maybe, Batman will learn that trust between teammates is the most important thing for the JLA.
I think the issue of trust is indeed at the heart of this dispute. And I also think it's far from black and white. For example, I agree that Batman's lack of "team spirit" is a problem for the JLA. On the other hand, I think it would be an awful idea for his secret ID to become common knowledge within the JLA. Unlike the DEO's recent outing of all the Martian Manhunter's secret IDs (which, incidentally, he kept from his teammates), Batman's secret ID getting out would simply end his career. And, hey -- would YOU trust a bonehead like Kyle Rayner with an important secret? Or Plastic Man?
So should Batman change, or just quit? And if he becomes more open and trusting -- if that's even possible and still be Batman -- how far should he go?
These are just some of the questions that this terrific storyline forces on us. I'm eagerly awaiting JLA No. 50 myself.

As much as I dislike the Rayner GL travesty, it’s not his fault he was a bonehead. It was Ron Marz’s fault. Nor would it be Eel O’Brian’s fault if he were characterized as poorly. This exchange does remind me though of how offensive Identity Crisis was by implying girlfriends/wives of superheroes are untrustworthy. Something that’s never mattered to Mr. Smith, sadly.

Dear Cap: I wanted to chime in on the controversy over the canceled X-books. While I think it is difficult to understand why Marvel would cancel profitable titles, I think I have to applaud them for looking towards the future. I very much agree with you that the plotlines have become impenetrable to the casual fan, and it is extremely important for the industry to attract new (readers). To that point, I think Marvel is taking a step in the right direction, both with these cancellations and especially with the launch of the Ultimate line (although I think the catering to collectors is a very bad move).
One of the problems that I think is facing the industry is that many titles have become too bogged down by continuity, hence losing appeal to new readers. I remember that when I first started reading comics (age 5), I could care less about who-did-what-when. All I wanted was a good story with some heroic activities (either a good fight or a nice rescue mission). I honestly think that most other kids, at least initially, feel the same way. I used to love the old 100-page DC comics from the '70s with the reprints of old comics, and I remember that I didn't care if it was Batman and Robin in the '60s in one story and in the current era in another. I just wanted good stories.
I was very much reminded of this when I recently read Shazam!: Power of Hope. I had forgotten how much I liked Captain Marvel (most likely because nothing's really being done with him at the moment), and how kid-friendly he really is. This is not a character that is well served by being within DCU continuity, nor should he stay there, considering the appeal that he has for young readers.
Why can't DC and Marvel publish titles featuring their top characters that are non-continuity, non What-If, kid-friendly stories (I'm not talking about writing down, but more stories along the lines of the Silver Age)? Put 'em on newsprint, add some Silver Age reprints, price them reasonably and get them in drugstores and supermarkets. I think it would be much easier to get new readers interested in such comics, and then if they're interested, let them "graduate" to the continuity titles. I don't think you're going to build a new readership base with the way things are currently progressing.
I know I'm not saying anything new here, and that all the continuity junkies out there might even be outraged by my suggestion, but I do feel this is a step that should at least be attempted to attract new readers.
I couldn't agree with you more, […]. No doubt there are reasons why Marvel & DC aren't putting out cheap, mammoth reprint titles for the newsstand, but I'll be hanged if I know what they are. Frankly, I'd make a special trip to the Walgreen's for a monthly 100-page reprint Bat-title, with stories from the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s.

While DC and Marvel have published a few series that drew from their cartoon productions, most of them were cancelled as they never made a serious effort to market them to younger readers. As for Billy Batson, so this correspondent thinks it would’ve been better if he hadn’t been merged with the DCU proper post-Crisis. But I seem to recall he was another somebody who embraced Identity Crisis, his alleged misgivings about the offing of Jake Drake notwithstanding, and that’s not somebody I can assume to understand all about Captain Marvel either.

Dear Cap: It is one thing to have to ward off the occasional bully when you are trying to prove yourself to be the ideal catch of the day to the opposite sex at the beach, but what if he is not even human to begin with? The B-movies about bathing beauties, the beasts that would molest them and the hero of the beach who would muster the courage (only GOD knows from where) to rescue the damsel-in-distress were pure camp but they were still enjoyable in their own way.
Still, there have to be easier ways to prove onself to be the "alpha male" without the threat of getting a necessary body part ripped off.
I have to wonder why The Creature From the Black Lagoon found the human girl attractive in the first place. I mean, wouldn't he find FISH sexy?

I have to wonder why Mr. Smith doesn’t think Jean Loring and Sue Dibny are attractive enough from a physical perspective, and why he doesn’t want them to have personalities that are just as appealing. The same could be asked about Iris West Allen.

<<Marvel didn't make a dime directly off the X-Men movie, since a previous administration negotiated the original (bad) deal for the rights and didn't get a cut of the profit -- Captain Comics>>
This probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Consider: Marvel makes many concepts available, some are purchased ("optioned") by TV and movie studios, and those that are purchased are often stinkers. Even if they don't stink, they've never been successes, either. Not counting cartoons, the one exception I can think of is the Incredible Hulk TV show.
I imagine that Marvel had a couple of choices when they sold the rights to X-Men. Their first choice would have been to take a smaller initial payment and then receive a percentage of the box-office receipts and video sales. The second choice would have been to just take a larger payment up front with no profit sharing. Given their history, I probably would have made the same choice.
I don't know if it is true, but I was once told that the original cast of Star Wars was given the same choice: larger initial salary or a percentage of profits. Of the leads, only Carrie Fisher chose to take the percentage. Again, I don't know if that's true but what could have been a disasterous decision turned out great for Fisher.
<<Which hero/villainess and/ or heroine/villain relationships do you consider to be classic in comics – […]>>
A personal favorite for me was the Captain America/Diamondback relationship. I don't know if I'd call it classic, it being only a few years old, but I sure enjoyed it. For those who aren't in the know, here's a summary. The Serpent Society was a group of snake-themed villains/mercenaries that Diamondback belonged to. When the group comes under attack by a cadre of other snake-themed villains, Captain America is summoned to help out. Diamondback is almost intantly attracted to Cap and rapidly begins to mend her ways. She helped him out on many subsequent cases and they even went on a date in their civilian idenities.
Unfortunately, I don't know what happened with the relationship. The final few years of Mark Gruenwald's run of writing Captain America had such lame "A" stories (Cap turned into a woman, Cap turned into a wolf, Cap dying, etc) that I wasn't willing to stick around for the "B" stories.
<< Harley Quinn isn't stupid. She's got a doctorate in psychology. She's an Olympic-level gymnast. – […]>>
Okay, except for two points. First, it has been VERY heavily suggested that she used sex to obtain her doctorate. Second, her Olympic-level gymnastics are courtesy of something that Poison Ivy brewed up for her.
<<... and I can't believe I'm the only one who sees lesbian overtones in her friendship with Harley. – […]>>
[name withheld] isn't the only one who sees that. In fact, it seems to be one of […]'s -- she whose husband I am -- favorite points. ([…] is also a big Xena fan. Should I be worried?)
<<When he meets a young victim of domestic violence, he takes a direct hand -- showing that the World's Mightiest Mortal's greatest power is the size of his heart. -- Captain Comics>>
This was, sadly, the worst part of the story for me. When Billy fails to reason with the boy's bully of a father, he transforms into Captain Marvel and bullies the bully.
Oddly enough, it was the bully factor you mention that made the scene believable to me. Just as liars always assume that everybody is always lying, and burglars always lock their doors, my own experience in life has shown me that the only thing that will ever make a bully back down is a BIGGER bully. Violence and shows of strength are all they understand. Sure, it would have been nice if Billy could have reasoned with him -- in fact, he made an attempt at it -- but it wouldn't have been very realistic for the bully to suddenly have had the milk of human kindness fill his soul and become a changed man. I see your point, though, and it's worthy of discussion. How SHOULD Cap have handled it?
As to your remarks about [name withheld]’s Harley Quinn review:
1) You and I both read the flashback scenes in Batman Adventures: Mad Love and came away thinking that Harleen Quinzel had slept her way to a psychiatry degree. Yet, […] read those same scenes and came away with an entirely different interpretation. Her take on it was that A) it's impossible to sleep your way to doctorate, as sooner or later you'll have to take oral exams (no pun intended) and/or state certification, and B) Harleen obviously has low self-esteem, and probably talked HERSELF into believing that she didn't earn the degree that in all likelihood she probably did.
Both interpretations, I believe, are entirely valid. Yet you and I (probably because we're male), never thought of it the way […] did. That's why I find it fascinating to get different perspectives -- like […].
2) I don't see what difference it makes how Harley got her gymnastic skill -- the fact that she has it means she could do a lot more with her life than be The Joker's punching bag. Which, I think, was […] point.
As to Diamondback, I'm with you on the relationship -- I was pleased, sorta, to see Cap showing a healthy interest in a healthy young woman. Frankly, I feel it's wrong to present characters like Superman and Captain America as paragons of perfection and make them utterly sexless. I think it would be better for the characters and for the perceived pre-teen audience to show them as fully-functioning (ahem) adults who have the same physical urges as the rest of us, and to show them handling them responsibly. To make them indifferent to sex makes them less well-rounded characters, completely unbelievable -- and, to stretch the point, bad role models.
On the other hand, though, I didn't like Diamondback as a super-character. A gal who throws little minerals at people and has no other exceptional abilites would be shot dead in two seconds in real-life combat. I found her, outside of the "B" plot, utterly stupid.

Wow, more hypocrisy on display from Mr. Smith, as he says Cap and Supes shouldn’t be sexless, yet never argues why he’d be happier if some of the fictional ladies he's spited had what he considers more patalable personalities.

And the correspondent’s quite a leftist too, which could probably explain why he’d rather Capt. Marvel not use force to stop an abusive father. Funny thing is that he once spoke about how impressed he was with the 1977-82 Incredible Hulk series starring Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno, which had an episode in its 2nd season dealing with an abusive father, and the Hulk later came close to using force to stop him. One can only wonder if said correspondent would object to using force to send a message to Islamofascists, and if memory serves, he did. Let’s not be surprised if he feels the same way about Muslims who commit honor murders and homophobic assaults. In fact, let’s not be surprised if Mr. Smith were just as lenient, making his whole argument about Capt. Marvel very laughable and moot.

H'lo Captain: Thanks for the very informative and downright entertaining piece in CBG No. 1414.
I've long found the issue of superhero ages to be of interest, probably stemming from the curious way in which the industry itself (mis)handled the matter. I have a distinct memory of reading a DC letters column back in the '70s (although it was undoubtedly in an older comic, probably from the '60s), wherein the editor explained to a reader that the reason why the superheroes still looked so young after several decades in action was that they were privy to "secrets" of staving off the aging process!
And I once came across a copy of a Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane 80-Page Giant, circa 1965, at a garage sale (which, I have to tell you, remained one of my favorite comics for years!), and there was a brief "stats" bio of Superman in it that pegged his age officially at 33. It seems to me that the age of 29 was affixed to Superman during his early '70s "relevance" phase, when DC no doubt took the "Never trust anyone over 30" slogan to heart. Of course, given the fact that Kryptonians probably live a whole lot longer than Earthlings, what's the point of marking Superman's life with the chronological age of our world?
I remember really liking the fact that Steve Englehart affixed an actual year to the formation of the Justice League in one of his late-'70s stories (1959, I believe), and I'm surprised that Julie Schwartz let that get through, since it meant that the JLA were all pushing middle age by that point.
I agree with you that Green Arrow is probably the oldest at 48, and I also agree with the general vicinities of Batman and Hal Jordan's ages. I'd also have no problem moving Aquaman up towards GA's age (being a human/Atlantean hybrid, he's probably got a much longer lifespan than the rest). I do have to question Mark Waid's assertion that Barry Allen got his superhero start at around 23. The guy was a police scientist, for Pete's sake! You don't just walk out of college and into a cushy job like that in a major urban law-enforcement organization; it takes a few years cutting one's teeth first, I would imagine. Also, let's look at Iris West ... she, presumably, was close to Barry in age. She was also a leading newspaper reporter, something not likely for anyone fresh out of journalism school. I'd place both Barry and Iris at closer to 30 when The Flash debuted.
One final thought ... although he didn't affix an age to her at the time, Mike Grell made it clear early in his run with Green Arrow that Dinah Lance felt her biological clock was ticking, and she wanted to have a baby (this was before she was tortured by a villain, leaving her incapable of having children. I wonder if this fact has been forgotten by DC?). I kind of doubt that she would have had such concerns if she were still in her 20s, so I suspect she's older than the 31 you've set her at (of course, DC's artists have a habit of drawing her with the body of a 20-year-old no matter what. LOL)
Thanks again for a great article! I'd be interested in seeing you take a look at the Marvel heroes, particularly since so many of them (Spider-Man, the Human Torch, the X-Men) started their careers as teenagers, and aged during the normal course of their books.
Thanks for the comments! Since superhero ages vary wildly with whoever's writing or editing their adventures currently, we get to make up pretty much what we want to believe -- and argue it endlessly! What a fun hobby! Here's another take:

Reading this, I’m wondering why it’s such a big deal what age superheroes and their co-stars are, since nobody ever made the same ruckus about comic strip characters in newspapers. If it matters, I’d assume Dick Tracy could be late 30s-early 40s, and Brenda Starr, whose own strip was cancelled in 2011, is late 20s-early 30s! But seriously, does it matter at all? Not in the least. What matters is the entertainment value, which Smith’s CBG columns don’t have, any more than his newspaper columns.

Dear Captain: I enjoyed your article about the probable ages of DC superheroes, but I think that you erred in the case of Hal Jordan, and in the process maligned test pilots. You stated "I doubt test pilots need to matriculate, so we can't assume college." Quite the contrary. According to http://www.glcorps.org/hal.html, Green Lantern (third series) No. 104 showed that Hal Jordan was a test pilot in the United States Air Force prior to joining Ferris Aircraft Corporation. Not only do Air Force pilots need a college degree, preferrably in engineering, prior to being commissioned and entering pilot training, but as http://www.af.mil/news/Feb2000/n20000223_000276.html shows, most of those selected for test-pilot training have reached the rank of captain, which requires four years of service. Further, test-pilot training is a 27-month program, resulting in a master's degree in aeronautical or electrical engineering, which would be consistent with his description as having a degree in "aviation engineering." To sum it all up, Hal Jordan was probably at least 29 before he was discharged from the Air Force and joined Ferris Aircraft, which probably puts him on the far side of 40 when he (died).
I had forgotten that story about Hal being in the Air Force -- but even if I had remembered, I wouldn't have known that the USAF has such extensive requirements to be a test pilot. But writer Ron Marz did indeed establish that Hal was a captain in the USAF in GL No. 104 (Sep 1998), so I guess that supercedes Jim Owsley's depiction of Jordan as a young foul-up in Emerald Dawn I & II (in 1990 and 1991).
OK, so if we take this at face value, then Jordan received the ring at age 30 "about 12 years ago." That means he died at age 42, and would have been 44 if he had lived.
Sounds pretty good to me!

But not good enough for me. Why can’t disbelief be suspended for a change? All that aside, curious how a leftist like Marz decided to establish Hal’s air force service despite his leanings, which have certainly reached a low today. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if GL #104 Vol. 3 had some kind of leftist bias against the military in it somewhere.

Re: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Dear Cap: I don't think I've written to you before, although I have read your site religiously for a long time now. In fact, I'm not very active in comics, per se, though I do sometimes post as "Doctor Strange" on the WB Message Boards for Batman-Superman and Batman Beyond.
Like you, I am a vintage comics fan (45 years old) with great affection for the Silver Age, and, though I call myself a Marvel guy first and foremost, I literally learned to read on early '60s Superman, and have enjoyed most of the DC characters, and their various media adaptations, all along. My feelings for the Golden Age are those of huge respect minus nostalgia -- that '40s stuff is just too wacky for me to take seriously, for the most part. But it's the fount from which all comics flow; the motherlode. Like you, the stuff I've been impressed with the most in recent years is the guys who manage to take this old stuff and explore it in new syntheses: e.g., nearly everything Alex Ross has done with skilled writers like Paul Dini and (Kurt) Busiek or (Mark) Waid.
Which is a long-winded way of my saying that I want to join the chorus of praise for Michael Chabon's novel! You must read this book immediately. Not only is it the most serious treatment ever given to the comics as American art form, but it's a whole passel of other things too:
A fabulously well-written book; there are descriptive passages that will simply stop you in your tracks;
A magnificently well-researched book; I have never read more detailed depictions of the '30s-'50s (not that I lived through them, but I'm a lifelong retro type, a history/English major, and student of pop culture);
A book with fully-realized characters that are appropriately complex. You will care about them and understand them;
A study of Manhattan as the cultural capital of the world and the template for Metropolis, etc.;
A study of the (mostly) Jewish immigrant experience, and how this brought forth people who were uniquely talented and qualified to create superheroes;
A heartrending story of the perils of being gay in less enlightened times;
A compendium of all kinds of stuff that I was always personally interested in: stage magic and escape artistry, the Golem of Prague, classic radio and movies (Orson Welles makes a cameo appearance!), WW II, the growth of suburbia ... ;
And -- special bonus for folks like us -- it's dedicated to Jack Kirby and includes cameo appearances by Gil Kane and Stan Lee, and knowledgeable references to many other comics greats, from Siegel & Shuster and (Bob) Kane onwards.
I haven't read many novels recently. In fact, apart from a few authors I really admire, I never read novels when they're new -- I wait until they achieve classic status. This one's an instant classic. An important novel that's also fascinating and fun. You gotta check it out!
Okay, 'nuff said. Keep up the great work on your site!
P.S. - The highest praise I can give this book is that, even without paintings, it captures the same spirit of NYC in the '30s/'40s that Ross & Busiek do in Marvels!
OK, [name withheld], you've sold me! Thanks for the instant book review!

And he’s insulted me. I find any accepting view this book could have for homosexuality irksome, along with any other ultra-leftist viewpoints it may have too. As someone whose default religion is Orthodox Judaism, I want to make clear that homoseuxality is anathema to our beliefs, and it was for most past members of the Conservative sect. Lumping homosexuality in with our causes is ludicrous. The irony is that leftists like Chabon are likely to consider Muslim hostility to homosexuality – far worse than anything Judeo-Christianity could represent – acceptable and would never dare speak against it.

I'm probably the 47th person to e-mail you about this, but the weekly political satire strip This Modern World, this week gives the U.S. election results in the Bizarro universe! Check it out at http://www.salon.com/comics/tomo/2000/12/11/tomo/index.html
P.S. Thank you for saying it's OK to hate Gambit. Believe me, you're not the only one.
Thank God -- given the Ragin' Cajun's purported popularity, I was beginning to think that I was out of step with the entire world!
And thanks for the link to "This Bizarro World" -- you were the actually the first, and it ought to be required reading for every ideologue in the country!

Sigh. Don’t take anything from Mr. Smith at face value. But that’s what the fool who wrote that letter did, legitimizing childish behavior. Once, I was stupid enough to do that myself. But no longer. I am so glad I changed my approach, which I feel was partly influenced by Mr. Smith. Thinking back on that today, I feel very disgusted with myself for believing his POV was a worthy one. Here comes another letter of mine:

Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith: Here is a little more that I thought of to add to my previous letter about how comics are much better than movies. They’re also a lot better than watching TV, since much of today’s television is overly violent, lewd and immoral. In the past several years, I’ve been watching considerably less television than I ever did when I was younger, and I avoid a lot of the more explicit TV shows, such as Miami Vice, the Equalizer, Law & Order and also L.A. Law. Programs like these are among the most ultra-violent and even sexually explicit that I’ve ever known, and I think that they should be avoided as best as possible. There’s also some sitcoms that are as terrible as any of these programs, but other than Ellen, I can’t really think of any others.
Comic books, of course, are also much better than watching TV programs, since the stories and characters there are much more engrossing than those in a TV show. And, while sitting in front of the TV set all day can be very bad for the eyes, due to all the radiation, comic books have no such effects. Nor for that matter, do they have the kind of violent influences that TV programs can have. And just like regular books, you can come away from reading a comic book feeling much more relaxed. And much more entertained too.
And, comics are also much more interesting than playing a lot of videogames. Like some TV shows of course, videogames can have a very bad impact on the mental health of youngsters. And one of the most awful videogames I know of other than Doom is Mortal Kombat, which displayed some of the most horrific gore ever seen in a videogame to date. I was very appalled to discover that Midway, which built the game, even tried to go so far as to cash in on its success by having published what they described as a “kollectors edition komic book.” Did you ever see that comic? I wouldn’t have dared to buy something like that if the game it’s based on is so shamelessly violent.
And speaking of videogames, it amazes me that those made in North America are even more violent than those made in Japan. And whereas games like SNK’s Fatal Fury have all these exceedingly difficult joystick techniques in order to perform a massive damage blow, a decidedly better idea than gore, the Mortal Kombat games and other games made in North America had nothing of the sort, they only had all these horrifyingly gory execution techniques that could be performed after the opponent was officially defeated. Why is it that U.S. gamemakers are so obsessed with violence and Japanese gamemakers
otherwise less so? It really stinks that U.S. gamemakers are donning such a perverted image for themselves.
On a special note, when I play video and computer games, I prefer to play puzzle games like Taito’s Puzzle Bobble (which may be called Bust-A-Move, a less effective title, in North America), a most brilliant puzzle game, and also RTS games like Westwood’s Command & Conquer games. For those games are much more relaxing to play, and have some much better challenge too. In fact, if I were to play games like Capcom’s Street Fighter or even some of those light gun games like Data East’s Dragongun (I did), I found it very painful for my hands, and I rubbed blisters on them many times, so I’m surprised that a lot of teens want to hurt their hands over fighting and shooting junk.
And again on movies, I find it very absurd if anyone thinks that a comic book has to be made into a movie in order for it to sell well. Good grief, that’s not my way of thinking. I personally don’t think that comic books have to be made into movies in order to draw new fans to read them. Believe me, there are plenty of ways to encourage the public to read comics, and those ways can be found. For instance, the comics companies can advertise their royalties in all the newspapers, including USA Today. And even the newspapers that your columns appear in. And they have a right to do so too. I guess it’s only a question of if they can afford it.
I’ve just read your essay on Unbreakable though, and I must fully agree that it’s brilliant. Although you didn’t seem to mention it, the movie is set in Philadelphia, mine and also Bruce Willis’s and the director M. Shyamalan’s native metro, and I’m sure it makes very good use out of the urban locations. And yes, I suppose that’s a movie that I’ll have to go check out whenever I get the chance (although of course, the price for tickets here really spooks me even more than the movie could). As I can understand, the film is about a real-life human who discovers he’s been born with a power and some immunities to illnesses not unlike those of the many superbeings in comics. And so in other words, the film is not about superheroes but rather, about a guy who’s born with powers almost like theirs. That is a very inventive idea for a film indeed. It’s surprising though to note that the press in Philadelphia wasn’t as impressed with Unbreakable as they could have been. Now in Philly there’s two dailies and two weeklies, not counting some of the smaller suburban newspapers. The Philadelphia Weekly and the Inquirer gave it a star rating of two stars, while the Philadelphia Daily News and the City Paper gave it opinions within the range of two-and-a-half stars. I really wish they could’ve given it better than that, but generally speaking, no, the critics just don’t understand movies like this one. Do comics really get a bad rap in the U.S. though? There are times, yes, when comic-book stunts are tried out in live-action movies that the critics tend to be unimpressed with them, and so they tell people that they’re not impressed with such gimmicks. But the comics themselves don’t usually get the same kind of dismissal that comic-bookish and cartoonish movies get (or do they?). I did however read once in Cinemafantastique in Feb 1998 an article in which an artist said that if a bad comic book is made into a bad movie, then we tend to blame it on the comic, but if a good comic book is made into a bad movie, then we STILL throw the blame on the comic, and he rightfully said that it’s unfair. No indeed, it’s not fair, and if the critics can’t understand that it’s really just the filmmakers fault, then that’s very one-sided and disrespectful of them.
Meanwhile, if it’ll come in handy, I have here a couple of usable addresses. First:
http://studio.go.com/movies/unbreakable/intro.html
This is Unbreakable’s official website. And next, here’s some of the best reviews I could find:
http://www.rochestergoesout.com/mov/u/unbrea.html
This review is from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. And then,
http://www.ardemgaz.com/cgi/showreview.pl?Unbreakable
This very favorable review is from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. And then,
http://cincinnati.com/freetime/movies/mcgurk/112500_unbreakable.html
Another great review from the Cincinatti Enquirer. And then,
http://www.freetimes.com/issues/910/film-unbreak.php3
This review is from the Cleveland Free Times. And finally,
http://www.onnashville.com/movies/reviews/unbreakable-112400.shtml
Here’s a review from your home state newspaper, The Tennessean.
Meanwhile, thank you very much for your reply to my letter regarding the X-cancellations. When I first submitted the letter, it was about a week before you’d told me about how John Byrne was disillusioned with Marvel’s act, so I’d already known a little about his resignation. However, I forgot one important thing: I should have specified which X-titles I was sad they were canceling. And the only ones I’m really sad that they’re canceling are two: The Hidden Years and Generation X. Like you, I’d also read several issues of The Hidden Years, and I too had taken quite a liking to it. But I guess I can understand that maybe because it’s got a 1970s vibe, then that’s why they don’t feel that it’d click with today’s audience. Nevertheless, I still don’t think they had to take the risk in losing Byrne. Maybe they made a mistake in publishing it as an ongoing series, and as mentioned before, maybe they should’ve written as a limited series, just like The ‘Nam. They could probably fill in the 1970-75 gaps though with a couple of maxiseries, if they haven’t done it already.
And the other title was Generation X. Although I’m in my mid-twenties by now, I took quite a liking to that as well, mostly because I was a teen once, and I haven’t lost touch with my former teen self. And since the series was aimed at younger sets of teens, I found it surprising that they’d want to cancel that one as well.
Of the other four out of six that I’m decidedly not bothered that they’ve canceled, I’m not bothered if they’re canceling Mutant X. I most certainly didn’t like the reverse concept of the paralell world that Alex Summers had gotten thrown into. Now that it’s ending, I certainly hope that he’ll be able to find his way back to the regular Marvel Universe.
And no, I can’t say that the series with Gambit impressed me either. I vaguely remember reading the third issue and I found the story there revolting. And his personality and trade(?) just aren’t fit for getting his own title either. As for Bishop’s title, I haven’t gotten to see that so far, but it’s probably as dreary as you said it was in the CCC.
As for X-Man, that I’m undecided upon. As I know, Nate Grey was a product of the parallel time line shown in the Age of Apocalypse tale from 1995, a “rewrite” or a transmogrofication, of Nathan Summers/Cable. It was an interesting gimmick, a character who survives a time line, in a way vaguely reminicent of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, and I found some of the tales there to be interesting, so there I just can’t decide.
But I think the biggest flaw that Marvel committed in building the X-World was that they didn’t, or haven’t, tried to launch any titles starring any of the X-Women. In fact, any titles they’ve launched with women at all seem to have been failures, including the She-Hulk, Silver Sable and Elektra, the latter who I’ve heard may be returning eventually for another try. But that’s mainly because in the She-Hulk’s case, she was just too campy an idea to carry her own title (only in a multi-character title like the Avengers could she work out well), while as for Silver Sable, her title was boring. And when Marvel tried out Elektra, that too had failed. But, as mentioned before, they may try out Elektra again in time, and if they can make it exciting or engrossing enough, then it might have a chance.
In the meantime, if Marvel wants to launch any new X-titles, then they should make the X-Women the stars of such titles. The question is, which ones could be best for their own starring titles? Well, it may not be Jean Grey, possibly because she’s married, and hopefully Cyclops will be rescued from the inner depths of the Apocalypse eventually. The best candidates for their own title that I can think of just now are three: Psylocke, who’s probably the best bet; Storm, who’s one of the strongest X-Women; and also Shadowcat. All they need then are a couple of good artists and writers (decidedly NOT Chris Claremont), and then who knows, with that they might have something that’d really be worth reading.
Lastly, special thanks to [name withheld], and [same here], for their information on superhero stories that take place in Philadelphia. I myself know very little about Liberty Belle, and the only time I’d really heard of her until now was several years ago, and until now, I’d completely forgotten. As for her daughter, Jessie Quick, I hadn’t heard of her at all until now, and I sure hope I’ll be able to find out more about her in the future. Happy Hanukha!
And a Happy Holidays right back atcha, Avi!
And I see you're in the spirit of giving, what with all those Unbreakable links. Thanks -- I'll check 'em out with a glass of egg nog.
There's some good and bad news on the new X-title, given your remarks. The good news is that it's likely to star Psylocke and Shadowcat; the bad news is that it will be written by Chris Claremont. Well, at least you're one for two.
As to why comics get such a bad rap when they move to movies, my pet opinion is this: When Americans hear the words "comic book," they associate them with the idea of children's literature -- something they were supposed to grow out of. So they immediately disparage the concept, so as not to appear unsophisticated or immature.
Writer Peter David addressed the same topic while discussing Unbreakable in the latest Comics Buyer's Guide, No. 1415:
"The term 'comic-book movie' has come to have a certain delineated, usually pejorative, meaning. If a reviewer wants to use a dismissive shorthand for certain black-and-white elements in a film, he'll say it has a 'comic-book feel' to it. Any movie that has larger-than-life heroes or villains, or developments that border on the outrageous, is considered 'comic-booky.' The fact that comic books themselves have never been as circumscribed as those who don't read them would perceive is almost incidental. ... But the public prefers to pigeonhole 'comic-book movies' as the over-the-top of long-underwear super-doers in the same way that it decrees that 'science-fiction,' of necessity, must involve people in spaceships fighting aliens with laser beams."
Also, I have most of the Mortal Kombat comics, from back when I was on Acclaim's comp list. I read exactly one of them, and never cracked another. It wasn't necessarily the violence that turned me off -- it was just a lousy comic book.

At the time I'd written this, I wasn't enthusiastic about crime dramas like The Equalizer, because my interest in those kind of shows had worn down, but since that time, I've taken up viewing of vintage TV at times, and went on to see all 4 seasons of that series, being impressed with a lot of it, mainly because it did address most of its subjects with sincerity. Miami Vice did well enough in its time too, certainly a lot more than the awful movie based on it from 2007. L.A Law, however, has never appealed to me, and I've often thought it was far too sensationalized. Even so, this is decidedly one of the most slapdash letters I'd written, and if I held naive views at the time about what levels of violence mainstream comics could have, that was mighty stupid.

Since we’re on the subject of Unbreakable, I’ve grown less impressed with that movie over the years, and now, I think a former reader who was put off by that film and Smith's positive review was right to pan him for that. I mean, the ending, if anything, is what really sunk it. The revelation that Samuel Jackson’s character was so obsessed with finding his exact opposite in terms of endurance, he committed acts of sabotage on public transportation, was actually quite horrific because it perpetuates a stereotype of comics buffs as insane crackpots suited for the asylum. Whatever merits the movie could have when it began were destroyed in one fell swoop by that ending. Honestly, was it worth it to go through a story like that just to see such a bummer of an ending, if you realize what it could symbolize? That other letter I speak of, by the way, apppeared on December 26, 2000, and comes up below:

Capt'n, I've lost the faith!!! I can't believe you actually liked that lame movie Unbreakable!! It was slow and boring and was never even close to suspenseful. It drug on longer than my last root canal. Please tell me it was your evil twin or a lookalike being from an alternate dimension that wrote the article. Please!!!
OK, it was my evil twin, Skippy. That jerk is always spending my money and watching bad movies. Better?
Actually, as with comic books, it's all a matter of taste. I liked Unbreakable, you didn't. That's OK -- it's what makes horse races.

Yeah, I suppose even the beginning was slow and tiresome, but if we consider the ending’s impact, that’s what could really take the cake for disappointments. But you couldn’t expect Smith to think of that, could you?

Dear Cap: Re: "Jason's Quest" as The Invisible Hand
Read them back-to-back and you'll find they're far more similar than you remember. Both had lead characters having their "fathers" killed, only to find that he was not their real father, and that a group of bad guys had kidnapped the sister he never knew he had. Both series had the lead take to a motorcycle and roam across Europe in search of that sister, of whom his entire knowledge was a single photograph. Take another look at them and I'm sure that your doubts will be erased. By the way, I was just going through one of my many magazine boxes and found the X-Men comic that you drew for Memphis Comics & Records many years ago! It brought back some fond memories of a great era for comics shopping!
Ah, yes, one of the funnybooks I drew as a kid. If there's any interest -- write and say so -- and I'll scan it and post it to the site. Y'all let me know!
And I'm still ambivalent about your conjecture about "Jason's Quest" being re-written as The Invisible Hand. Not because I don't see the parallels -- I do -- but because the "Jason" character in Invisible Hand has sex with his sister at the denouement. Frankly, that makes me queasy. If, indeed, Invisible Hand was some sort of homage to "Jason's Quest," then yet another one of my childhood memories has been soiled. Yuck.

So sayeth the man who stood by in pure silence while many of mine and other people’s childhood memories were soiled. And the same man who doesn’t truly support character drama and making improvements on characters whose Silver Age renditions supposedly weren’t great. I don’t think he ever scanned that amateur drawing he did to post on the site, but no matter; with his penchant for talking out of 70 sides of his mouth, I see no reason why I should find his products impressive.

Dear Cap: I am sorry to read that […] is leaving your website indefinitely. I have enjoyed his column and I can see why you would give him a chance to stand in his own spotlight. I also see that you liked Unbreakable. I have yet to see it. Would you say that it is one of the best films that depict superhero fantasy that have come along in years?
I'm sorry to see […] go, too. Alas, life doesn't always go the way we'd like it to.
And, yes, I'd say Unbreakable is one of the best comic-book movies to come along in years -- but only if you have no idea it's a comic-book movie!

While I won’t reveal who the co-writer at his website was – hence, the omission of his name from the text – I will say he was a radical leftist who even dismissed complaints by African-Americans about the ghastly Mexican comic Memin Pinguin as mere drivel. He probably doesn’t even appreciate Will Eisner’s apology for his embarrassing rendition of Ebony White in The Spirit, even though, as some have argued, other than the character design, Eisner’s portrayal was a lot more respectable than what you could see in the Mexican-published embarrassment.

That co-writer actually did return a little later to write a few more items for his website, but honestly, he was not worth the bother to begin with. Up comes still another letter of mine (I was really, and stupidly, getting into the business of letter writing at the time), written at a time when some elements of history weren’t fully clear to me, like the age differences the FF have:

Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith: Let’s see, according to [name withheld], Reed Richards is several years older than Stormy Sue? Is that so? That could explain why in the past decade, the artists have been drawing him with white hair around the lower back end of his head. It’s a good question though, as to exactly how far apart they are, generally speaking, in age difference.
I must fully agree with you, by the way, that what Grant Morrison with the Storms did is very inexcusably lewd. ... And who knows what they’ll think of next, an incestuous affair between Captain Britain and Psylocke?
Meanwhile, onto something better. As I saw, [name withheld] wrote about his top picks for the best comics of the year, and I’d very much like to present mine too. And so, here are my picks for the best comics of 2000.
From Marvel, there is Avengers No. 35. I very much enjoyed the story in which the team did battle with Count Nefaria, who had gained such tremendous power that it turned into a “they could lick him but they couldn’t beat him” case. And so, a very long and exciting battle between the Avengers and almost undefeatable Nefaria raged on, and I had no idea as to how it would turn out. Would Nefaria reign victorious, or would the Avengers suceed in flooring him? For just when it seemed that they were nailing him, he shook them off and dealt them some very painful counterblows.
And, there is the X-Men Annual 2000. Though the regular issues by Chris Claremont this year were weak, the annual in which the X-Men did battle with Stryfe made my day too.
From DC, and arguably the best story, there is this year’s Superman storyline chronicling Lex Luthor’s run, and surprise victory, for U.S. presidency. DC’s writers, including J.M deMatteis and Tom Nguyen, are to be commended for making such a bold move that will make way for even more challenging adventures for not only the Man of Steel, but also for the entire DC universe as well. And if [name withheld] is right, then according to DC’s inner timeline, Lex’s presidency will last for at least a decade. Well, the first term anyway. And of course, Lois Lane’s deal with the devil will make it even harder to bring him down. For even if Superman were to try and do some sleuthing himself in his regular guise as Clark Kent, Luthor could still take out his revenge on Lois, since as a mortal woman, she could make the easier target. Maybe that’s why another character ought to try and be dispatched in the future to stop Luthor. It’s also an interesting question as to if President Luthor could be impeached in several years. Two years ago, R. Emmet Tyrell, the editor in chief of the American Spectator, and judge Robert Bork asked a similar question in the December 1997 issue of TAS as to if the Boy President, a term that Tyrell used for describing the now outgoing President Clinton, if Clinton should be impeached. But then, if President Luthor could indeed be impeached, then it should only be in another decade. For the meantime, it’ll be a very good thing if DC starts working on some very challenging tales involving Lex that’ll keep the members of the DC Universe on their toes for the next decade.
And it’s also interesting to point out that Pete Ross’s willingness to join Lex as his running mate and his wife Lana’s willingness to go along with that reflects how some politically aspiring people behave in reality: They get so blinded and naive by the prospects of power and wealth that they’re willing to do Whatever it Takes (as The Duke of Doonesbury has shown in the past several months, and as you could probably see on the Web site http://web.archive.org/web/20010425141843/http://www.doonesbury.com/) in order to get it. So in Pete Ross’s case, he was blinded entirely by the thought of having so much power that he decided to join Lex’s campaign. And in Lana’s case, she on the other hand agreed to it out of possible revenge: She’s apparently hoping that Luthor can be ousted via a scandal, which could enable Pete to ascend the Oval Office. Sadly, that is wishful thinking on her behalf, as it could be vice-versa: That Luthor could find a way to get rid of Pete, and to replace him with a
politician who’s closer to his sinister positions. Overall, only time will tell what will be the outcome of Luthor’s term as president.
And also, let me also make Wonder Woman No. 164 my second pick from DC. Phil Jimenez’s work here was very effective, making the Amazonian princess a very effective lead who could make very speedy decisions on how to handle the situation within Gotham.
And another pick of the year is Crossgen’s lineup, which features some of the greatest artwork to begin the 21st century with. Yeah, now they are a breakthrough all right. And that Giselle in Mystic is such a stunner of a wizardess. Oh, and that Skitter the Squit makes a very funny looking pet; I wouldn’t be surprised if he provided some comedy relief in the Mystic books. I do hope that all of Crossgen’s works can get here soon. While there most certainly are some stores here that sell independent publications, Crossgen may take some time to get here. So at the moment, I’ve only gotten to check out their stuff on the official Web site. But even though I’ve only gotten to look at parts of the artwork for now, I can tell that it’s wonderful and clever. Kudos to Ron Marz, Brandon Peterson, John Dell and Andrew Crossley for their work.
And you also might want to check out this story from the Marvel site, which is something that I previously told that I thought Marvel needs to do: Publish a title with a female lead.
http://www.marvel.com/news/buzz/121500_rogue.html
I sure hope that there’ll be plenty of other people who’ll submit their choices for the best comics of the year, it’s so exciting to tell about which comics are at the top of our lists.
Morrison's shocking-for-the-sake-of-it FF take has never been written, much less published. I was quoting from an online interview about what he'd LIKE to do to the FF.
Thanks for your "Best of 2000" list. I agree with many of them. Last year I had 20 or 30 lists and ran about 10 of them; I hope this year to get more and run them all.

As can be seen here, I may have thought highly about Marz’s work at Crossgen at the time. And I won’t argue about his work for Top Cow. But that’s decidedly as far as things can go. Any lenient view I might’ve once had about his Green Lantern work for DC at the time is less so now, as I’ve since written it off as one of the crappiest times in comics.

That aside, listing my favorite books from those times for Mr. Smith is something I hugely regret today. Again, I want nothing positive to do with him anymore. He helped destroy a lot of superhero comics, and it’s going to take an epoch to repair them again.

Dear Captain: It's been a couple of months since I ranted and raved at you and I thought I would try and catch up on some lost time. Here's some issues that have been going on in your column the past couple of weeks:
1) The Canceling of the X-titles: I have to take the opinion that this was one of the best ideas Marvel has had in a while. There are too many of them out there, most of them not good, and all are difficult to decide which one to try. I tried reading Generation X, X-Force, X-Men and Uncanny X-Men when they did that relaunch last spring. I dropped all of the titles quickly, with X-Men lasting the longest -- three issues. I didn't know who these characters were. Even the familiar characters (Storm, Nightcrawler, Jubilee, Shadowcat) were strangers to me. I didn't follow the plot, or worse, I found the plot to be horrendous. These books need to be retooled. The entile X-line needs a stronger focus. I believe with the cancellation of these titles, the writers will be able to work towards that goal.
I did like X-Men: The Hidden Years. Unfortunately, I found that the story dragged a bit too long and I dropped the title after issue 9 (rumor has it I wasn't the only one). I am sad to see this one go, however the X-Men are supposed to be about change (at least in Claremont's early run in the 1970s) and this title would ALWAYS have to maintain the status quo.
2) Any chance Grant Morrison was joking about Sue and Johnny Storm incest relationship?
3) (John) Byrne and (Joe) Madureira posting complaints on the Web: I believe in free speech. These people have the right to say whatever they want to on the Internet. I also have the right to view their complaints as "their opinion" and whining. I don't read those news groups because I really don't like what I read. If I talked the way they do about their job, naming names and incidents, I would be fired. It's unprofessional. These people are there to make a product. Did the changes make the product better or worse?
And may I point out that Byrne was working FOR Marvel and Madureira was working FOR DC. That makes Byne and Madureira the employees and Marvel and DC the employers. If you don't like your job, quit.
4) Wonder Woman in 2001: I am eagerly looking forward to the focus DC is giving Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman No. 164 will probably win the award for most improved comic with that issue alone. I was surprised how much I really liked that issue. I look forward to the other specials they have for her this year.
I disagree with the Captain that Wonder Woman is a limited concept. I feel over the course of her 60-year history she has been mistreated. I do like the idea of Superman being the Man of Tomorrow, Batman the Dark Knight Detective and Wonder Woman the Mythological Warrior (I need better rephrasing). George Perez, Mark Waid and even Eric Luke touched on that aspect of her. That concept does work.
1) That's my take, exactly. I sympathize with X-fans who've been following the many X-books for many years and know all the minutiae, but hey -- I had to forget everything I ever knew about DC and start over after Crisis on Infinite Earths! It happens, almost of necessity, that long continuities must eventually be overhauled. Get over it, fellas -- they were bad books, and they needed to be changed.
2) I suppose there's a chance Morrison was joking. He says he wasn't, and that Marvel was too chicken to take him up on it. But that alone suggests he was being outrageous for the sake of it. Your guess is as good as mine.
3) I believe in free speech absolutely. And part of that freedom is the freedom to embarass yourself, as I feel Madureira did. As you noted, quite accurately, Madureira and Byrne were doing work for hire. What did they expect? Egg with their beer? Ninety-nine percent of American employees work under much worse conditions than those prima donnas do -- like you and me -- and make a lot less money. I don't really have much sympathy for them.
4) I hope I never said that Wonder Woman is a limited concept -- I think she's a badly muddled concept. Read Les Daniels's Complete History of Wonder Woman and it's clearly evident that Charles Moulton Marson (who created WW as a role model for young girls) was quite the BD/SM fetishist. Typical quote: "Women are superior to men because they have learned to submit and enjoy it." As Seinfeld would say: Hey, nothing wrong with that! But it's not exactly, uh, mainstream. So Princess Di, from the get-go, was a pretty peculiar beast. Decades of confused handling since hasn't helped anything. What somebody needs to do is define her in a way that is palatable to the mainstream and make her entertaining and viable as a concept. If Phil Jimenez can do that, I'm all for it.

Sigh. All this from somebody who’s pretty muddled himself, as his frequently mentioned embrace of Identity Crisis proves. And, he was being outrageous for the sake of it too, not unlike Morrison. And that’s not something to joke about.

And let’s not take what he says about free speech at face value. This was somebody who remained virtually silent about Frank Miller’s Holy Terror graphic novel, and wouldn’t come to his defense against awful leftists who attacked it, all for the sake of it, Morrison included. Nor did he ever condemn Occupy Wall Street for their own vulgar behavior, or voice any disapproval of Gail Simone for writing a tribute called The Movement while she was working at DC.

Warning: What follows is long, rambling, and carries the potential to start a flamewar. Edit as necessary, print at your own risk.
<<"The Great Green Lantern Debate seems to epitomize these two viewpoints -- us oldsters are appalled by what they did to Hal Jordan, while fans of Kyle Rayner think we're a bunch of whiners who won't let go of the past." -- Captain Comics.>>
I must be in a strange place, then. I think that what happened to Hal was a travesty of bad writing, but I also like Kyle, and I never could figure out how to restore Hal without creating a noxious retcon that would cause any fan to shred the book.
Hal lived in Coast City. He loved the place. But I can't imagine him going off his rails the way he did just because it was destroyed. Being angry at the Guardians, yes. Telling them to take the ring and shove it, maybe. Taking a vacation, easily. But killing his friends, and destroying Oa? Ridiculous.
On the other hand, he lost interest for me long before I reduced my comics purchases due to money shortages, and Kyle has something that Hal hadn't had for a while, in my opinion.
Kyle can be beaten.
Illogical? Maybe. But in my view, being a hero doesn't mean anything without a risk of failure.
Superman isn't invulnerable to magic, fifth-dimensional entities, or Kryptonite. Kyle has lost a round dozens of times in a relatively short career. The Flash could be outfoxed -- once, anyway -- using one gadget from the DCU, one real-world device, and a two-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. Add two more DCU gadgets, a getaway truck and 20 henchmen, and that's everything needed for a successful robbery.
But at the time I gave up on Green Lantern, I couldn't imagine one way to beat Hal in a fight, assuming that he had a charged ring on his finger. And I still can't.
So what if it's yellow? Hal would just use his ring to grab something else, and use that something else as a club, or a spoon, or whatever he needed to deal with the problem. Yawn.
Maybe I missed something, by not reading GL in the last part of Hal's run. Maybe the authors found him a real challenge. But if I want to read about Hal Jordan, I'll go where I liked the stories -- his early years, or the GL/GA material.
Actually, [name witheheld], despite my long-standing defense of Hal Jordan, I agree with you. He was really boring. I couldn't imagine any situation that, if I'D had the ring, I couldn't end by page two. I used to get really annoyed when writers would have Jordan do dumb things like getting in punchouts with crooks, in an obvious attempt to stretch the story out for 22 pages.
On the other hand, Ron Marz wrote Kyle Rayner as such a bonehead that I didn't see any improvement -- in fact, Rayner seemed brain damaged compared to Jordan!

Gee, how come he never complained how Brad Meltzer wrote virtually all the cast in Identity Crisis as boneheads? Yeah, why is it wrong for Marz to depict Rayner that way, but okay for Meltzer to do the same? If Smith’s ever said he’d like to see more appealing characterization, that embrace of IC puts the lie to any such wish.

And oh my, Smith’s perpetuating the slams on fictional characters instead of how they’re written cliché yet again. No mention of John Broome, Denny O’Neil, Marv Wolfman, Gerard Jones or any of the other writers whose work I’d assume he’s got a problem with, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure he’s not asking for good writing either. The sheer irony is that he does mention Marz. Why does Marz count but not Broome, and the other writers mentioned above?

I can think of a way to repair things for Hal, and that’s to retcon away the decade that followed, and write instead that Hal was trapped by some supervillain in another dimension in cryogenic suspended animation or something. And it’s quite possible to do it all without irking any fans Kyle’s got, though as is apparent, nobody minded Hal's return in itself. What matters is that Geoff Johns's writing is pretentious in the extreme, right down to the ridiculous portrayal of Hal being bitter over the death of his father.

As for Kyle, it’s possible to reintroduce Kyle in a role he’d probably work better in – a supporting cast member! After all, supporting casts are something that have been badly marginalized in the past few years; just take a look at what came after the New 52! And IMO, if Kyle were reworked into a co-star with no superpowers, I think that could work better, have a clean slate with which to rebuild him again, decidedly, with Alexandra deWitt alive again! Yes, really. But I guess that’s all something best left for another occasion. Because now, here’s a letter in response to the one about Diamondback:

They were kinda low on the gimmick bin of ideas in the '80s as I remember it -- but, man, do I miss Diamondback! Rachel I think her real name was. That pink costume and up-front sexual attitude made me blush as much as Captain America. It made for interesting reading; a pity she got shoved to the side near the end of his original run.
As for sexless heroes I find it an interesting topic. Doc Savage deliberately avoided women to focus on being the perfect man. A lot of the major superheroes of literature may have had women in their hearts but they were rarely in the picture. Sherlock Holmes was closest to Savage's view. Batman would have to be next. Tarzan had Jane but he spent more time away from her than with. Odysseus? Spent the entire story trying to get home to his wife. My view is if I'm reading about male or female heroes I get instantly uninterested when romance begins dragging the story. Back to Cap and Diamondback, I would say their an exception because in the beginning the romance was the action. She tried to seduce him by threatening to crash a jet they both happened to be in.
See the latest Nightwing for another fun view of romance.
Most literary characters aimed at young boys take the approach that girls are "yucky." I assume it's deliberate, don't you? But, as I said before, I really liked the obvious sexual angle to Diamondback -- and, heck, she was a lot more like the women I dated than Lois Lane!

That’s a bit rich coming from someone upholding a miniseries with such a nasty, repellent view of women. The one who’s really doing yucky things here is Mr. Smith.

Dear Cap: I was just re-reading your Silly sections, and I realized one name that you left out.
As much as I enjoyed the character, the name Beta Ray Bill always conjured up the image of some alien with a pickup spaceship chewing tobacco and drinking moonshine. Even more humorous, considering that he was the god of thunder for a while.
Also, regarding silly costumes, I remember reading an issue of Amazing Spider-Man from the early '90s featuring the Black Cat. Now, the Cat had always shown a little cleavage and dressed in tight clothing, but this time she was dressed in a costume that was cut all the way down to her navel. Never mind throwing punches, how'd she even manage to walk down the street in that thing?
Great site. Keep up the good work.
[name withheld] of New Jersey made a similar observation about Wonder Woman, [same here]. I guess virtually all comics heroines these days are possessed of the power to defy gravity in a limited way.

Well gee, that’s the beauty of surrealism! Something he clearly doesn’t have what it takes to enjoy, seeing how he’s spent much of the past decade playing a part destroying it.

And that concludes this gathering of letters for now. I’ll have more to focus on in time, but for now, this should do well enough. The next entry is here.

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