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

October 2, 2015

By Avi Green

So here goes another entry focusing on the letter conversations once seen on the old, pretentious Captain Comics site, checking what’s dishonest in his statements/commentaries, among other bad things (and for part 9, click here). Up comes July 11, 2001:

Dear Cap: While I'm enjoying it more or less, I must say that I'm pretty disappointed with Kevin Smith's take on Green Arrow. DC had a peach of an opportunity here -- someone with mainstream cred and popularity agreeing to give 100 percent to a standard-issue superhero title, someone who's made his name with product that resonates among comic fandom and those who might be seduced into comics fandom -- and they're blowing it.
The whole thing is firmly mired in fanboy continuity worship that I have no clue how the merely curious could possibly enjoy it. I like it, but I'm a JLA geek -- the average person, even the average Kevin Smith fan, probably hasn't even heard of Green Arrow. (Never mind that he's getting a lot of details wrong -- Wonder Woman wasn't in the Silver Age JLA, J'onn had quit by the time Ollie and Hal went on their road trip, etc.). I love this stuff, but there's already 10,000 comics for people like me. I was hoping that Smith would create something that someone else could enjoy, for a change. If this is our best strategy, there's no way we're going to get normal human beings interested in superheroes.
As for the overly PC nature of the series that others have noticed -- well, that's sort of what Green Arrow was always about, no? And considering how starkly un-PC most superhero comics have traditionally been (problems are solved with physical violence, women and weak men are to be rescued, minorities are loyal sidekicks), it's an interesting change, more or less. Although Smith missed a prime opportunity with Black Manta -- originally, Manta had been a black guy who wanted to conquer the oceans as payback for the subjugation of his race on land. Somehow, he was turned into a fish-man (Neron?), and that nice political angle (which no doubt would have given Oliver Queen some pause) seems less obvious and went unremarked upon.
Boy, am I going to miss Starman.
You and me both, […]. And you won't get an argument from me about comics that are too arcane with fanboy foofaraw for the average Joe to understand.
Make no mistake, one of the things that attracted me to comics in the '60s -- specifically, Marvels -- was the idea that there was a lot that had already happened, and that it was significant, and I wanted to know all about it. (Earth-Two falls into this category as well.) But somehow, it didn't seem so impossibly complex in the '60s. Heck, Marvel had only been around for a few years -- how much could I have possibly have missed? But it seems to me that there's been a quantum change from Stan's "See ish #30 for how Spidey met The Scorpion!" in the '60s to today's -- oh, anything. An explanation for who on God's green Earth Cable is, for example.
But isn't it interesting that Green Arrow is selling like Aunt May's wheatcakes? It's not just fanboys like you and me buying it -- the outside world is buying Green Arrow, and it's getting plugged in People, Entertainment Weekly and on the infotainment shows. Just shows what a "name" can do, I guess.
Speaking of fan geekery, here's some Dial H For Hero commentary, where I responded to a reader's information and asked him for sources:

Guess who’s not going to miss James Robinson’s take on Starman? Me! But something tells me Robinson’s not going to miss it either! I mean, he did turn very disrespectful of the DCU in past years, and doesn’t seem the least disappointed DC jettisoned his run as the “New 52” took over. As for Green Arrow by Kevin Smith, did it really sell big at the time? It’s hard to say. On the surface, it might’ve, but if sales were well below a million copies, then how can one truly say it was a genuine victory? Besides, Smith’s credentials as a superhero fan, let alone a comics fan, are questionable at worst. After that repellent Black Cat miniseries he penned, it only compounds my skepticism all the more.

Dear Cap: NO clue as to specific issues. The website I cited likely knows more than I do. For all I know, it was revealed in background material in the Vicky Grant/Chris King series. I can only assume that's what the asker meant ... but he was right, Dial H was a one-man Legion, and one of the coolest ideas around. (Even if, to my dismay, the actual stories were rather lackluster and a bit juvenile ... when I finally read some of those back issues I was shocked by the lack of subtlety. Is it just me?) This is a concept begging for full-scale exploration at a way only hinted at in the recent Silver Age event (and somehow, I suspect, whichever writer it was handling the issue with the Martian Manhunter and Dial H actually had some plans in mind ...).
The original Dial H For Hero (in House of Mystery comics in the '60s) was pretty goofy -- I mean, the lead character's favorite epithet was "Sockamagee!" But it was no dumber than, say, an average Supergirl story in Action Comics of the same period.
But the second series (in Adventure Comics in the '80s), by Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino, was specifically geared toward "entry-level readers" before that term (and that consideration) was an issue. It was specifically aimed at readers younger than those who read Wolfman's Teen Titans.
And in my opinion, it was gawdawful. It made the mistake of writing "down" to kids -- which is the WORST way to write for anyone. Instead of challenging its presumed readers, the Adventure Dial H series offered utterly banal and mindless stories that no kid OR adult would want to read. I did read all those stories -- couldn't let my long run of Adventure go fallow -- but could barely stand to do so. And I was pretty young at the time, not far removed from the target market.
So, no, […], it's not just you!

Look who talks about mindlessness! He embraced Identity Crisis, which wrote downwards to people who seem to find perverted elements entertaining along with sensationalized violence, particularly the anal rape scene. He still belongs to a very juvenile segment, that’s for sure. And why do I get the feeling he’s not very respectful of Supergirl as a creation?

Hey there Captain! With all the talk on the page about TPBs supplanting standard comics, I got to thinking about all the old Silver/Bronze Age stories I loved that were never given this treatment. I'm one of those people who got back into comics after 10 years away solely because of TPB collections. I heard how great Sandman was, so I bought the trades. Ditto with Starman, and Preacher (which I ended up not liking, unfortunately). I have since dug up "The Korvac Saga," "Kraven's Last Hunt" and some of the Giffen run on JLA/JLI in trade form. I prefer these immensely to the original books (in fact, I refuse to buy Giffen's JLI #9-16 in standard form, instead looking all over for the relatively rare trade edition). They look great on my shelf, and I've noticed friends who claim not to like comics will pull a trade down and browse through it while in my home. People view comic books as "dinosaurs" or "juvenile," but won't hesitate to read a Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts collection -- or something packaged like one. I'm even considering scrapping my own low-press-run book in favor of a "squarebound" that will include approximately five issues worth of material.
Anyway, I was wondering what older storylines your readers would like to see
"TPB'ed" that probably will never get this treatment. For the record, my
first choices would be:
Marvel's excellent TOMB OF DRACULA series from the '70s in it's entirety. This is ludicrously expensive to collect, especially since the success of the BLADE movie. Tying it in with the Blade sequel might boost sales.
The first 14 issues of the old MICRONAUTS series. People joke about this series now, but for a while, it was as popular as the X-Men, and this first arc in issues #1-12 (with an epilogue of sorts in #13-14) is really good and a lot of fun. In fact, this was collected by Marvel as a "Special Edition" of five issues (the precurser to the TPB). Every once in a while interest in these toys revives -- if anything ever happens with it again, this would be a great release.
The (Brent) Anderson KA-ZAR series from the early '80s. Re-read this stuff if you're snickering. High fantasy a la Flash Gordon with some of the best characterzation and realistic dialogue I've ever read. The first 12 issues are classic. This will probably never get re-issued ...
Marvel's GODZILLA. A guilty pleasure -- 24 issues of total wackiness. And it took place in the mainstream Marvel Universe. Hey, continuity freaks, you realize that the Marvel U's version of Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, the Seattle Space Needle and the Golden Gate Bridge have all been destroyed according to this IN CONTINUITY book, don't you? Heck, Godzilla is always popular -- I don't see why this one couldn't happen (except for licensing reasons).
Well, those are my big four -- I'm interested in what other fans would like to see!
Me, too, […] -- most of the stuff that I've wanted to see collected HAS been collected, from Silver Age Spidey to World's Finest Archives to Frank Miller Daredevil. But I know there must be stuff I'd like to see (and for others to see), and just can't think of it. I mean, when you see something like DC's "Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite" storyline collected in TPB, you think, "Gee, that was a pretty good story -- but surely there are BETTER Superman stories that deserve this treatment?" Like, I dunno -- "Best of Imaginary Superman Stories" or "Best of Luthor/Brainiac Team-Ups" or Denny O'Neil's "Saga of the Sand Superman" or something ...?
As to Marvel's Godzilla: King of Monsters, that was indeed one wild ride, and one of the vastly underrated Herb Trimpe's shining moments. The curious thing -- which I've never seen explained -- is that Marvel threw SHIELD at Godzilla for all 24 issues, including the Heli-Carrier, references to the Avengers (who showed up at some point), Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Clay Quartermain, the Gaffer, Jasper Sitwell and the whole nine yards ... except Nick Fury. SHIELD was led by Dum-Dum Dugan for the 24 issues of Godzilla (with references to Nick being "away," of course) -- but why wasn't Fury there? He was showing up in Captain America during that period ... why couldn't he appear in Godzilla? There has to be SOME reason they deliberately excluded him, but I've never heard why. My guess is that Fury's rights were tied up with some competing firm (like TNT, which did the Nick Fury made-for-TV movies some time later) and couldn't legally appear with Toho's Godzilla.
Anyway, you're undoubtedly correct that Godzilla: King of Monsters will never be reprinted, due to Marvel no longer having any sort of rights agreement with Toho. Unfortunately, the same is true of Micronauts, ROM: Spaceknight and G.I. Joe. You'll note that the Micronauts have appeared lately in Captain Marvel, but without the TM'd characters like Acroyear and Baron Karza. Only the human characters appeared, and Bug (who probably can't be trademarked, being too similar to dozens of other characters). And they don't call themselves Micronauts anymore, either. Similiarly, if you were one of the six people who bought the recent Spaceknights miniseries, you'll note that the name ROM was never mentioned, even though he was the main characters' father.
So what about it, Legionnaires -- what storylines deserve the TPB treatment? We can drum up a petition!

I heard that Starman was great, bought the first collection, and after all these years, I reevaluated the whole premise and concluded it was not worthy of all the fuss years before. And judging by how most of the trades appear to have gone out of print, I may not be the only one who thinks so.

As for GI Joe, it has been reprinted, mainly by IDW, who’ve also reprinted some of the Transformers stories Marvel published in the 1984-94 era. So what a joke it is to say they wouldn’t be. Give it a little time and Micronauts will follow, ditto ROM: Spaceknight.

Cap Comics: I agree with you that comics are getting way too expensive!
I remember when I first started buying them back in the fall of '85 -- basic comics had just gone up from 60 cents to 75 cents. Now you have to triple that just to buy one issue of a single comic!
And prestige format? O-kay, how may stories are really good enough to warrant a $5.95 or $6.95 payment per issue? Just looked at JLA: Gods & Monsters and, while I saw a couple interesting moments, I didn't see anything impressive enough to make me want to spend that much money on it.
If people wonder why comics in general aren't selling better, here's an easy two-part answer:
1) Comics very rarely appear anywhere except comics stores (which means if a curious person wants to try them odds are they'll have to seek out a specific store).
2) Once they find them, they find cover prices so steep they may either be turned off to the idea of buying them at all or only opt to buy them on rare occasions.
When money becomes an issue, you're more likely to buy less comics. I know it's come between me and comics at times. I've picked up a comic, thought, "Say, this looks pretty good!" -- but put it back because I realized I just couldn't afford it along with my regular comics.
And I only buy six comics a month!
A while back on the site we had a brief skirmish where I said, "It's not our job to keep the monthly books in business" -- and what you said is what I meant. I DO think monthly books are necessary for the industry to continue, and I also think that we, as fans, have to support what we like. But it's the responsibility of the publishers to find a way to present a pleasing package that is affordable for fans and newbies alike -- and the current $2.25-and-up arrangement for 20 pages of content is becoming unviable for all but the hard core. Some new sort of "delivery system" has got to evolve, and I have confidence enough in the invisible hand of the marketplace that something will.
Meanwhile, it really is tough to introduce somebody new to the glories of comics, isn't it? When A) you can't find them, and B) they cost an arm, a leg and a prehensile tail.

Look who’s sticking to old-fashioned talk. Monthly pamphlets are not needed to keep the business going, paperbacks can take over pretty easily and save more money in the process. Think of it, paperbacks could be available at bookstores more easily, and there’d be no need to force anybody to spend 4 dollars – the price we’re at now – on books that may not even be worth the trees printing.

Dear Cap'n: Okay, my weekly perusal of the site, and some responses ...
<<I still think of Mark Bright, George Perez and Butch Guice as the definitive artists on the character. – [name withheld] on Iron Man>>
Mark Bright and Butch Guice -- over John Romita Jr. and/or Bob Layton? Explanation, please. But Simcoe's point about face icons accompanying narrator captions is well-made. I guess there IS a reason they call these things funnybooks ... Those pink elephants were really cute.
<<If Joe Kubert's TOR sells, I fully expect volumes featuring Enemy Ace and Sgt. Rock (Hawkman has his own Archives series). I know I'd buy 'em! -- Captain Comics>>
Everyone -- everyone, please please by TOR. I want more Kubert, desperately, and I'm even willing to pay these Godawful prices for him. But before the series dips into Sgt. Rock, I'd prefer we first get not only Ace but also Viking Prince. And (Hans) von Hammer also appears in Swamp Thing (second series) #83 during Veitch's (eventually aborted) time-travel storyline.
<<Oh, and speaking of The Ringmaster, how did he get the power to hypnotise people by using his eyes rather than a device kept in his hat? -- Avi Green>>
Sounds like the he was hit by a powerful blast of Lazy Editing, to me.
<<I admit it: Alan Moore has officially gone over my head on this title. I'm going to have to go back and re-read the last three issues again and try again to figure out what I'm reading. -- Captain Comics>>
But that's not in and of itself a bad thing! I'm grateful there are mainstream comic books like this one that actually require more than one read to understand. In the ever-more-disposable mainstream of this medium, it's so nice to be offered a book that expects you to have to think some about it! :-)
<<I had high hopes for this series (and the line as a whole) when it debuted, but after four issues of their first three titles I stopped reading all of them. There are some good ideas here, but the writing and artwork are still at the amateur level. These guys have potential, but they need some seasoning. -- Captain Comics>>
Well, at least as far as what I've read from Penny Farthing so far -- the five issues of Captain Gravity -- goes, I've got to basically agree with you. I gave CG a shot, out of a desire for some simple, "old-fashioned" and old-themed comic books (and a lack of easy access to all the Rocketeer material I don't own...). Now, on a pure junk level, I actually enjoyed these books. On a pure, nostalgic, mindless junk level. But junk they were, really. The art was awkward, although not reprehensible. I found its amateurishness a bit charming, actually. But the writing -- the writing! Nothing charming here. Talk about needing to read something over and over again to (try to) make sense out of it! But in CG's case, this was because the writer had a nonexistent grasp on plot, character and dialogue, all. At some point it becomes integral to the plot that the young hero regard the old professor (or whatever) as a father figure. Which comes completely out of nowhere, as we see nothing at all as deep as this happening between the two as of yet, despite them sharing several scenes. A few other major zingers are thrown our way -- plot elements or twists that are suddenly -- just -- announced! -- for no apparent reason other than the author wanted the story to -- suddenly! -- go there. Some of these other plot elements are also character-related, leaving the series all the muddier yet.
It's like the basics of plot structure and character dynamics haven't even been contemplated by the creators before fingers were put to keyboard or pen was put to paper. Extremely, almost shockingly amateurish writing.
Perhaps the greatest failure of Captain Gravity: After five comic books (one four-part miniseries and one one-shot), there is still almost no sense whatsoever who any of the characters are, certainly not as participants in relationships, but even more damning, not even as basic individuals!
I mean, it's fun and has some homey, old-timey flavor to it -- but it's SO badly done!
Captain Gravity: I couldn't have said it better myself, [withheld]. You've put your finger on it: At every point in the book, the characterization/plot/story suddenly veered in a new direction. The whole experience was like listening to a joke from an eight-year-old: "OK, OK, there was this bear, and it went into a bar, no wait, it was an ostrich, and it was in a men's room -- no wait, there was this priest, no wait, this ostrich, no wait, it was a panda bear, he and the priest went into a church ... "
And Captain Gravity was the best of the Penny Farthing books, primarily because of the retro-Rocketeer art. But it, too, needed some seasoning. The Victorian, for which I had high hopes, was a disappointment. And the less said about Decoy the better. I mean, really -- I don't enjoy books that I could write better myself.
Iron Man: Don't slap my man [withheld], [ditto]! :) But you bring up, sidereally, a point I can't make often enough. To wit: You think Iron Man only looks right when the Bob Layton/JRJR approach is taken. Me, I like Layton right fine -- but in MY mind, if it doesn't look like Gene Colan, it ain't Iron Man. And […]? Well, he has a different idea of what Iron Man looks like, because he had a different introduction to the character -- and it's just as valid as yours and mine.
Except, of course, you're both wrong. Only the Gene Colan version counts. :)
Promethea: You're absolutely right: I love the fact that a Promethea exists. I love it that it challenges me; I love it that the author is more literate than me.
The truth is, I made that remark about Promethea because I'm tired of Really Pompous People online pontificating about the book, and their Sage Remarks about same, when they clearly have no idea what they're talking about. I'm not the smartest guy in the world, or the best-read guy in the world, but I've got a one-sixty IQ and I've read wider than most. And, while I don't claim to know what Alan Moore is saying, I DO know that what these self-important ninnies are saying is just plain, old-fashioned BS. You see, I'm just smart enough to know when someone's talking over my head -- and it curls my nose hairs when somebody else runs a line of pseudo-intellectual crap past me on the same subject.
As an example, have you ever read a bad literary treatise on Finnegan's Wake? Same deal. Finnegan's Wake was a symbolic labyrinth where many of the symbols were so abstruse or personal to James Joyce that to "interpret" them is to suggest that the reviewer has knowledge of the writer's mind, that he clearly cannot have.
And I think that sort of thing is hurtful. Finnegan's Wake was a weird, personal thing for Joyce -- but also a deep well, from which each reader takes his fill. Ditto with Promethea. If we all admit that there's no "right" way to interpret Promethea, that it's literature and we glean from it only what corresponds to our personal viewpoint and experiences, it could find its way into the Maus pantheon. But if some people say they have the "right" answer, then those who have a different take will feel excluded and "dumb." So, The Captain is proud to be the first reviewer to say: I'm dumb, too! Sometimes I just don't get it!
TOR: I agree. Everybody go buy it.

Just not on Mr. Smith’s recommendation! Anyway, I appreciate the correspondent’s note on what became of the Ringmaster at the time.

Dear Cap: As to why so many top writers are British, I have to go along with the idea of "different perspective."
<<Most American comics writers, as the article points out, come from a pretty similar background -- upper middle class, long-time comics fans, U.S. public school system. ... The Brit (and Irish and Scottish) writers, by contrast, come from a different experience -- a different education system (with emphasis on different subjects), a different experience vis-a-vis reading (fewer U.S. comics and more UK/international comics, plus greater exposure to a wider variety of literature), a different socioeconomic standpoint (often blue collar, and NOT residents of the world's last remaining superpower, and therefore having fewer assumptions about inevitable upward mobility and possessed of a bleaker worldview), and -- I hope I'm forgiven this -- they come from a culture where streetfights are much more common (despite America's reputation for violence, I've never heard of American "football hooligans" erupting after a game, I've never been in a bar fight, and, frankly, I've never seen a physical altercation of any kind as an adult). -- Captain Comics>>
Well ... I have, and plenty of Americans do far too often. In fact, I think the United States is MUCH more violent than Great Britain or any other first-world country. We don't have football hooligans, but we do have riots after basketball games, firearm massacres in high schools, police officers physically attacking people they're supposed to protect, etc. But I think you're mostly correct -- British writers have an advantage because they do come from a different world, with a different viewpoint, one well-tuned to the desires of your typical comics reader.
But I don't think the British writers come from a different perspective because they're British, per se. It's just because they're NOT from the same, narrow, middle-class, overwhelmingly male, mostly white, left-leaning world as Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, you, me, etc. By that token, we should be able to find refreshingly different writers here in the United States -- women, African Americans, Latinos, etc., etc. And on the occasions when we do, I think the differences show. Look at Devin Grayson, who has publicly stated that she did not grow up immersed in comics like so many others in the industry. The result is that she's brought an extremely interesting and creative perspective to the Batman mythos, one that's not at all mired in the never-ending cliches that so many other writers are prone to (while still drawing from the history and tradition that we Bat-freaks know and love).
Most Americans come from blue-collar backgrounds, have a bleaker worldview, have a different educational history, etc., from the standard comic-book writer stereotype -- those differences are by no means exclusive to British lit-snob hipsters (e.g., Moore, Gaiman, Morrison). So I'm not exactly sure why this crowd became the popular alternative to the comics-writer hegemony -- especially since there's always been a considerable presence of American minorities as comics artists. Racism probably has a little to do with it, although the comics industry has always seemed to me a squarely liberal one (except in its stories, where criminals are unquestionably bad and problems are solved by physical violence).
I think it would be in the mainstream publishers' best interests, when they seek out differing viewpoints, to seek them out here in the United States, to encourage writers who don't come from the same world as the dorky white guy but are still vital parts of the American experience -- after all, this is their readership, potentially. It could be the thing to save comics (although when DC adopted that philosophy 10 years ago, results were disappointing. Remember Milestone Comics?)
Hope that makes sense.
It makes a lot of sense, […].
But you clearly have had a different experience than I vis-a-vis violence, and I come from a largely rural, redneck background. Just goes to show that everybody's experience -- and viewpoint -- is different.
I do take exception to the widely-held belief that America is horribly violent country. That hasn't been my experience as a newsman, much less personally. Yes, there are more shootings in the U.S. than in other industrialized countries -- but far fewer riots and civil disturbances. The "soccer hooligan" thing is something I read about routinely on the wire -- we ran yet another story and photo in my newspaper the other night -- but only occasionally do I read about a U.S. riot, a la Chicago after winning the NBA Finals. And U.S. crime statistics are waaay down -- but the perception continues that crime is the #1 problem, according to most polls. My experience is that America's violent reputation -- both domestically and abroad -- is more perception than reality.
This is just my opinion, of course, but I suspect the propensity of gunplay to settle arguments here to some degree reduces the willingness of most people to get into a fistfight. (That is NOT an endorsement of the NRA position -- just an observation.) Anyway, I think the America-is-a-bunch-of-cowboys thing borders on a stereotype and is overplayed in international media. This is NOT a nation of thugs, and I'm intolerant of the breezy acceptance of that idea as fact.
As for some bad-apple police officers persecuting those they're supposed to "protect and defend" ... happens everywhere, I suspect. Frankly, I find the zeal with which police malfeasance is reported and investigated in America to be a positive thing. You won't see uproar over bad apples in the police department in Jakarta, for example. I'd rather it be reported, than for it to be quietly accepted, even at the risk of adding to the U.S. stereotype. Bad Cops need to get weeded out, because Good Cops don't need the headache or the interference with their job -- and my experience on the cop beat is that the latter far outnumber the former.
Anyway, the bottom line, as I said before, is this: The UK writers are bringing a different perspective to comics, at the same time both bleaker (due to a bad economic stretch in the '80s) and more literary (due to an excellent school system), which appeals to teenagers. And I think it will be aped by other writers until it becomes status quo, as Chris Claremont's style was before this, and Stan Lee's before that, and Gardner Fox's before that. And when the "UK perspective" becomes the status quo, some new set of Beatles will explode that old warhorse with a new style. And that's a good thing.
Here's another viewpoint:

This makes me wonder: if he’s concerned about police corruption, is he also concerned about anti-white racism? Because in recent years, it’s become a big concern, and it’s uncertain if people like him really care.

It’s kind of odd the correspondent thinks most leftist writers in the USA don’t come from the same leftist background as the UK counterparts. It depends. In England today, most leftists aren’t all that different from their American counterparts.

Dear Cap: The comics industry, like other art and media forms, is a reflection of the people who create the works. Consider that the people who may be regarded as the architects of the Silver Age brought their own likes and experiences to their work. Julius Schwartz, E. Nelson Bridwell, John Broome and others brought their love of science fiction to their work. Artists like John Severin, Jack Kirby, Jack Davis, Wally Wood and so on brought their World War II experiences to their drawing. The result was some of the toughest writing and drawing they could get away with in a CCA-controlled environment. Steve Ditko brought his own sensibilities to his work, even if his political views did not come out until much later.
In the late '60s and '70s, it was the fans who became the writers -- people like Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. The artists, on the other hand, came from a pop art and realism background, so people like Jim Starlin, Gene Colan and Neal Adams brought a "New Look" to the media.
In the '80s and '90s there was the Brit explosion. At first it was from other media -- Alan Moore was a cartoonist in a music paper, Dez Skinn worked for UK Marvel, and so on. But throughout the Thatcher years a new, grittier and more cynical type of work emerged and was snapped up by the Americans, so that people like Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Grant Ennis and so on came to the fore. You also had Mark Waid, Peter David and others following the likes of Thomas and Wolfman from fandom into the profession.
With that in mind, what will be the next big step? Where will the next big movement come from? Do we need another Berke Breathed in the funnies to do something like Bloom County for the Dubya years? If Joe Quesada thinks new talent is the way forward, where does he see it coming from?
Where do any of us see it coming from?
Beats me. Although, the Japanese and South American influences can be seen strongly right now, particularly in art. And a lot of European influences can be seen currently, as the works of Manara, Moebius, Bilal and the like get wider U.S. distribution. I don't know if any will be the "Next Big Thing," but I'm enjoying the evolution of the form.

Since Milo Manara appears to have been brought up, we can only wonder what his stand is on the Spider-Woman variant cover he drew, which was almost censored by Marvel editorial to please what’re now known as “social justice warriors”, leftists of ludicrous positions. My only problem with the Manara illustration is that it wasn’t really very good. The SJWs seem to have a problem with sexy imagery, which is petty compared with more serious concerns like sensationalized violence and gore entering superhero comics once geared for family audiences.

Dear Cap: The confusion about Star Trek: Divided We Fall stems from that fact that Pocket Books has relaunched the series, in effect giving it an eighth season, and DC/WildStorm was just following suit with the new developments and characters. Divided We Fall takes place just after the Avatar novel, which introduced the changes. The plot of Avatar follows the series finale and the aftermath of the Dominion War, when a surprise attack threatens to destroy the new peace and a new discovery plunges Bajor into chaos. Capt. Picard and the Enterprise guest star. To answer some questions:
Who is Cmdr. Vaughn and why is he in command of the Defiant?
Elias Vaughn is Deep Space Nine's new executive officer and the Defiant's new commanding officer. He has had an 80-year career in Starfleet, making him more than 100 years old. Previously he was some sort of intelligence operative.
Why is Lt. Dax wearing command red instead of science blue?
Because of the events of Avatar, she decided to seek a leadership position.
How can Ro Laren, who betrayed Starfleet to join the Maquis, be walking around free on a space station run by Starfleet?
Technically the station is Bajoran property and Lt. Ro is a officer in the Bajoran Militia. I don't recall the novel addressing it, but I wouldn't be suprised if the Bajoran government sympathized with the Maquis and their confict against the Cardassians. Here's where it gets complicated. Ro also appeared in a few previous Next Generation and Deep Space Nine novels. The stories deal with her redemption, however, according to the editors; they are no longer in continuity, although I haven't seen anything to contradict them yet.
The storyline will continue in the novel Abyss. For more information you can visit:
http://www.psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db/feature/new-ds9/
http://www.treknation.com/reviews/ds9_avatar.shtml
http://www.treknation.com/interviews/interview_Palmieri.shtml
Thanks, [...]! I'm sure a lot of people were scratching their heads!

Maybe, but they should really be scratching their heads at how Mr. Smith can be so dishonest! Now another letter by me, and one that bothers me in retrospect because I think I acted stupidly here too:

Dear Cap: I recently read two issues of Captain America, #42 and #43, last week. In these issues, Cap was on assignment to a former Soviet republic to search for David Ferrari, the evil brother of his lawyer ladyfriend Connie, who was planning to fire a nuclear warhead as part of his world-domination plans. While helping a family whose mother had fallen ill, he was ambushed by two protagonists: One was the Crimson Dynamo, and the other who turned out to be none other than – Nick Fury!
During the few weeks I waited for the 43rd issue to arrive in stores, I had indeed been wondering to myself if Nick Fury had turned traitor. But then, as explained in the next issue, he’d only been injected with a very influential drug, and forced to collaborate with the baddies.
But what if he had turned traitor? I have to admit that it’d be a very daring idea. And last month, when reviewing the issue, one of the staff writers for the comics section on the IGN website said that such an idea would’ve been bold. The reason why some people may be fascinated with the idea of turning Nick Fury into a traitor appears to be because they don’t find an him interesting character these days. Indeed, these days he only seems to garner interest as a supporting character, and that’s apparently the reason why there’s various people who’d like to try out such an idea.
Personally, if I were the writer, I’d find it difficult to try such a thing since Nick is a war hero, having fought in WWII in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, which ran from 1963 to 1981, and is to be honored for his work. And I also wouldn’t want to create another controversy a la Hal Jordan. However, although I can’t think of any at the moment, there are and have been cases in reality in which decorated war heroes have done a volte-face, and have become villains. So if Nick were to become evil, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched.
I don’t mind if Dan Jurgens and the rest of Marvel’s editorial staff choose to refrain from such a possibility. But if they were to try it, then I admit, it could be very clever as it would be daring. ...
I’ve also recently read the "Paradise Lost" story in Wonder Woman #168-169, and I enjoyed it very much. Plenty of suspenseful battle scenes between good and bad Amazon groups, conflicts between the beliefs of the opposite sides, and a lot of well-written dialogue.
And yet, there was something that I wish that Phil Jimenez, Joe Kelly, or any other writer who’s working on WW could’ve tried out: Shakesperean dialogue.
Shakesperean dialogue is something that’s lent itself very well to Marvel comics like Thor and Silver Surfer. ... What do you think, could it work in comics like Wonder Woman as well? ...
Having read your thoughts on the cancellation of X-Men: The Hidden Years, I couldn’t agree more: It was fun, and it was like finding light at the end of the tunnel, a happy joy missing from the now gloom-filled world of the main X-books.
But that isn’t the only book that decidedly shouldn’t have been canceled: Generation X deserved a chance to continue. And given that the protagonists there were mainly kids in their teen years, as opposed to the now twentysomething protagonists of the other X-books, it was the perfect title for any new reader who happens to be a teenager.
Why couldn’t Marvel have given the Gen X writers the chance to fix all the mistakes made during the Counter-X crossover? They could’ve overcome all those errors. The last few issues were surprisingly an improvement. And they’re willing to cancel this little gem all for the sake of a personality-free book like Cable? Sigh. It all goes to show just how Marvel hasn’t really learned enough from their mistakes in the past decade.
Nick Fury has always been something of a problem for Marvel, as he was born of the James Bond fad of the '60s and couldn't seem to break free of that campy beginning -- or carry his own title. The good news is that Fury is all over the place in Marvel's new "MAX" adult line -- apparently everybody thought of Fury first when the Comics Code chains were removed. He IS a good character -- perhaps he'll shine in MAX, where he can be more John le Carre than Ian Fleming.
And Wonder Woman talking like Thor would have everybody complaining that Wonder Woman was talking like Thor. That's my take, anyway.
As to Generation X, Marvel seems to be counting on the Ultimate line to carry the teen-angst angle; it's the only line of books that's staying in the "all-ages" category. Even their mainstay superhero books are moving into the PG13 category. But I certainly wouldn't disagree with you that I'd rather see Generation X over Cable. Even though the term "Generation X" is now passe.

I’m not happy I ever wondered if turning Nick crooked was a worth idea. It’s not. Yet that’s exactly what has happened of recent with their awful company wide crossover called Original Sin. Whether Nick was ever a problem for Marvel, I’d say it’s only because the character was meant to represent good ideas from better days. And what’s all this nonsense about Nick growing out of the Bond fad? He began as a WW2 army sergeant; the spy angle only came 2 years after, as Stan Lee worked to establish a position for him in more modern times as well. Which could also be worked out plausibly today via cryogenics, but not with awful people like Quesada in charge.

Dear Cap: Hey, I recently read that Marvel plans to kill a long-time character in September, AND WOULD BE BRINGING HIM BACK! I fear that this character may be Captain America, seeing as there is concern over ownership of the character, and Marvel may have to pay Joe Simon for every appearance of the character. I hope this isn't true since I see Cap as a Marvel staple, who I don't want to die. But if they do kill Cap I hope they do it right.
I also heard that Joe Simon next plans to sue for rights to my favorite character, Spider-Man, because he closely resembles a character he created called Flyman, or something like that.
See the Captain Comics Message Board for a discussion of who Marvel might kill. And Simon & Kirby did create The Fly (later Fly Man or Fly-Man), but that's quite a stretch, and I haven't heard of any plans to sue. Doesn't mean there aren't any.

The answer to who the mystery character was who passed on is Odin. But what really matters is that the audience was expected to accept this no matter the circumstances surrounding the move, or that they made such a big deal out of it.

Dear Captain: I know you've praised Preacher more than once, but didn't you describe the conclusion as "disappointing?" I didn't get interested in Vertigo until close to the end of Preacher's run, so I've been reading it in trade paperback, and just finished the series. Without giving away too much, I was very pleased with the ending. Ennis had already done the apocalyptic climax two-thirds of the way through, in the "War in the Sun" arc. So I thought it was appropriate for the ending to be fairly low-key and personal. The series was really about love, friendship and responsibility, after all (despite the head-shots, dismemberment, and kinky sex). So can you say why you were disappointed, without spoiling the ending for new readers?
Sure, […]. Call me cynical, but I thought the ending too "neat" and happy. Given that Preacher often showed terrible consequences for ill-considered acts (like in real life), I found the ending too pat (unlike real life). It just seemed inconsistent. But that's just MY opinion, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

I’ll certainly call him cynical, because he doesn’t care about minor characters in a shared superhero universe. That said, Preacher sure doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.

Dear Cap: In a recent Mailbag, […] mentioned Slam Bradley and reminded me of something I've been seeing lately. In the promotional artwork for Turner Classic Movies, there is a "hard-boiled" character that I like to think of as ol' Slam. Take a look: http://www.turnerclassicmovies.com. You'll most likely see him in the upper left-hand corner of the pages of their website. Also, on a recent Memphist roadtrip, I was reminded of something I've thought about for years: Isn't that Krypto on the side of Greyhound buses?
Naw, Krypto was a beagle-mix -- a plain ol' American mutt. If he was a purebred Greyhound, he wouldn't be the same character. (I can't believe I just wrote that.)
And it's good to see a Golden Age character like Slam getting work, isn't it?

But it’s not good that propagandistic reporters like Mr. Smith still do at various newspapers and magazines.

<<I have reservations about Straczynski's take on the Spider-Man origin. I fear he might be diluting the wall-crawler's uniqueness. I'm concerned that, by making him one of many "Spider-Avatars" and by giving him a lineage and role models and mentors, that he could be fundamentally altering Pete's lone-wolf, coming-of-age, seat-of-the-pants persona. And if Spidey's persona changes, if he grows up and becomes part of a larger tapestry, is he still Spidey? Or just Captain Arachnid, and only the latest one at that? -- Captain Comics>>
It occurs to me that the only reason to believe that Peter Parker is drawing from the power of a totem spirit is that Ezekiel says so. Unless I've misread some of what's been going on, Morlun doesn't have any special ability to track people with totemic powers, or Spider-powers, or anything like that. He decided to hunt Spider-Man because of the obvious theme.
So, what if Peter is actually one of the "pretenders," given Spider-powers by chance, and not by some totem spirit?
Of course, this is all just a guess. I suspect that my chances of being right are about equal to the possibility that Hydro-Man could beat Firelord in a fight.
But if the plot doesn't twist in some unexpected fashion, I will be surprised.
Actually, […], I've read it exactly the reverse (which doesn't mean I'm right). Ezekiel's explanation of the Spider-Avatar bit has been buttressed with all sorts of anthropological stuff (mainly visual) taking the Spider-motif (and other avatars) back through very real anthropological, historical, mythological and physical manifestations. (God knows there's plenty of it to draw from, from Egyptian heiroglypics to Native American myths to the big spider-thingie carved into a rock in South America that's only visible from the air.) And Morlun HAS shown an ability to track Peter, in costume and out ... and was introduced as sucking the lifeforce from a Lightning Avatar (the German hero Blitzkrieg), whom he considered an appetizer, because his gig is spiders. Plus, Morlun's conversations and thought balloons have all been in line with Ezekiel's revelations. (He considers Peter to be his Spider-Avatar dinner, the purest and best he's ever "smelled," although he thinks there's "something off with this one." Looking forward to finding out why.)
That's my take, but as I said, your read is just as valid as mine. I do agree that some surprise revelation is in store, because Straczynski is too canny a storyteller to go where we expect.

Morlun was a pretty badly written supervillain, who got disposed of at one point pretty easily when the final showdown took place. He was later resurrected in a repellent story where – if you have a strong stomach for the following – devoured Peter Parker’s eyeball. Sure, he seemed to regain it soon enough, and defeated the villain yet again, but that still doesn’t excuse the incredibly shoddy tale.

Dear Captain: A recent Avengers issue had Cap getting Thor to reluctantly return to active duty, with Thor saying something to the effect that he would only do it because it was Captain America that asked him. Certainly this is not the first time that Thor has respected Cap so highly ... I wonder if it has been established when that great respect began exactly. I know that they first "met" in Avengers (vol. 1) #4 (yeah, they crossed paths during WW II in an issue of the Invaders, but both of them forgot about it). Cap also first met Iron Man then, and I remember that a few years ago an "untold" story set shortly after Avengers #4 explaining beginnings of the friendship between those two were published. Was anything similar ever done for Cap and Thor?
That's a darn good question, […]!
There have been a number of stories over the years detailing the ins and outs of the Tony Stark/Steve Rogers friendship -- but I don't remember too many directly dealing with Cap and Thor. It is true that Captain America can lift Thor's hammer, which is pretty darn rare. ("Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor!") I can count on one hand the folks who can lift that hammer, and virtually none of them are human (Odin, The Destroyer, Beta-Ray Bill, etc.). I'm sure that impressed the Thunderer, as it did me. (Bet Batman can't do it!)
My impression is that the respect has come over time -- I don't recall Thor giving Cap any special consideration (over, say, Iron Man) in the '60s, but after the Steve Englehart tenure on Avengers in the late '70s he was deferring to the Living Legend with great respect. And by the '90s he was saying things like "Thou mayst be human, Captain, but thou hast the heart of an Asgardian Born!" It sure does seem like a story is in there somewhere, and it's possible I missed it or forgot it.
So I'll throw it open to the Legion of Superfluous Heroes to see what they remember. They mayst be human, but they have the hearts of Asgardians Born!

Which is a lot more than can be said of Mr. Smith! His is pretty cold.

Hey Cap, A friend of mine is teaching a course for promising actors on "How to Audition." When I was talking to her, she mentioned that one of the biggest lessons she taught was that you shouldn't do anything that you would have to overcome. For instance, auditioning while your fly is down. The people that are casting the show will be so embarrassed for you or by you that it's unlikely they'll notice your talent. You've created something to overcome.
I often think that comic-book creators, and probably the publishers too, need that kind of a lesson and I was reminded of this by your recent comments on The Authority and especially Static.
I wasn't a comic collector when Milestone first got underway. I actually started collecting in '95-'96 when most of the industry was collapsing. But I heard good things about Static from other fans and the fan press. I checked out a couple of back issues and really enjoyed it. I started picking up more and more of them, and now I have about 80 percent of the initial series. And I loved it. I even did some fan art of Virgil Ovid Hawkins, known to the world as "Static."
So when I heard that Milestone was going to relaunch a "Static" miniseries in conjunction with the cartoon (wait a second, they're going to do a "Static" cartoon?), I was in very high spirits. Now I could collect the new books (and maybe catch a few episodes of the cartoon if I didn't sleep in). I picked up the first issue, and the second ... and now I can't remember if the third one ever came out. I don't remember the story and I'm not sure that I care enough to pick up the last issue.
I don't mean to sound fair-weather. I wanted this book. I even used to read Dwayne McDuffie's columns on Psycomic. But now my enthusiasm has been squandered.
Oh, I'll probably pick it up (I'm a bit of a completist) but I'm pretty disappointed and my high opinion of "Static" is a little diminished.
Doesn't the Milestone gang know that it's tough enough to put out a successful book without giving yourself obstacles to overcome? Don't they know that enthusiasm, attention and, yes, even sales wane when there's such a break in the series?
Those are mostly rhetorical questions. After all, Static isn't the first book to be chronically late and won't be the last. Heck, chronic lateness hasn't even fazed Battle Chasers which still sells in the Top Ten, when it sells, that is. It's just sad to me that so many books and publishers give themselves obstacles to overcome. And I needed to vent.
Oh, no, I'm with you all the way, […]. You don't go to a job interview in jeans and a T-shirt, you don't fail to show up for work, you don't diss your boss in public no matter how much you hate him, and you don't promise a four-issue, monthly miniseries and cobble it out in eight months. It's not professional, it's not living up the bargain -- and in the final analysis, no matter how good the product is, you've already disappointed. Just common sense.

What common sense? Coming from him, that doesn’t mean much, if at all. If I were an employer and knew that he embraced abhorrent works like Identity Crisis, I wouldn’t want to hire him even if he were the only person available for hiring.

Now, let’s continue to July 18, 2001, beginning with two together:

Dear Capn: Please tell me if Guy (Gardner) is going to be killed in "Our Worlds At War" this summer. I hope he doesn't! John Byrne tried to kill him during "Genesis" a few years back, so it looks like everybody hates him!
(SPOILER WARNING!) Well, it sure LOOKED like he died, [name withheld]! But it's not "official" yet -- what we saw was a single panel of Warrior getting skewered, and Blue Beetle and Booster Gold commenting that they thought he was dead. If I had to guess, though, I'd say he's probably going to be a casualty that sticks.
I'll take this opportunity to run the Guy Gardner commentary you sent me a few weeks ago ... just in case I don't get the chance again!

One year ago. A guy of about 13 goes to his PC. He turns on Internet Explorer. He searches on Yahoo! For Guy Gardner. He finds two websites about him. Two. He begins to take interest in this character, which has a wealth of history and powers. He starts collecting pics and info off the Internet.
Present Day. The guy, now 14, has most of the issues of Guy's run, and has a large webpage devoted to Guy Gardner at http://www.angelfire.com/comics/gg/index.html. He is an avid fan of Guy and hopes for his return in his own book. Why? Why all this over some second-rate loser who's book was canceled 'cause he was lame? Okay.
1) Guy is cool. He is what any 16-year-old guy (heh) would be if you were given great power. He likes cars, football, women, Stallone movies -- your typical gu ... ahem, dude.
2) He has awesome powers. He could turn his hand into a giant Vuldarian plasma cannon with interchangeable tachyon conduits and phased targeting abilities. Or, he could turn his index finder into a letter opener. K-E-W-L.
3) Lots of really hot babes hang around him. (In some cases, such as Beatrice, the term hot is literal.)
What's not to like? A guy (I did it again) with strength rivaling Superman's and an attitude to match. His costume is cool, and he has these neat tattoos on him. His intensely great comic was written very well by Gerard Jones and Beau Smith, and was penciled wonderfully by Joe Staton and later Mitch Byrd. He has an array of villains, from pirates to clones to dead demon half-brothers and insane psychotic killers. My message is clear: Guy is cool. He was the character to like for a while. The person you love to hate. The man you want watchin' your back in a fight. Bring Guy back, DC!
BRING GUY GARDNER: WARRIOR BACK!
A heartfelt plea, […]. But ... is it too late? (Piano chord)

It most certainly is, because pretentious reporters like Mr. Smith make sure of that! Whether Guy was killed at the time isn’t what matters. What does, and what I find offensive, is that this seems to be all they can think of doing, and just for the sake of media attention/publicity from reporters who’ll never criticize their MO, nor recommend that a boycott be initiated.

Dear Cap: I hope folks get that Walter Winchell comment (in your latest column). As a 37-year-old journalist, I am continually amazed at the number of people that don't know historical figures -- or current ones for that matter, like you see on The Tonight Show's "Jaywalking" segments. There's a lot of stupid people out there.
Then, again I wonder if it's a generation thing. I was shocked the other day when some friends and I were talking about them going to a Stevie Nicks concert and a twentysomething friend of ours said "Stevie who?" Mentioning Fleetwood Mac also drew a blank stare. At most, I and that girl are only 15 years apart -- isn't that supposed to be only half a generation?
Anyhow, I bring that up to mention something I read the other day in which a 19-year-old co-star of the Smallville series coming to the WB! said he and his friends weren't too familiar with Superman. How is anyone on the planet not familiar with the Man of Steel? Is Chris Reeve's version that far removed from the public consciousness?
The author commented that perhaps that will serve to benefit bringing in the young target audience for the series, as those viewers won't be caught up in the differences in his origin as compared to what we learned, or re-learned with Byrne's relaunch, or the other Supes-related TV series (Superboy, Lois & Clark) that came before.
Apparently Smallville is getting some good industry buzz and there's a website (kryptonsite.com) detailing some news on the new show.
I've put the comics collecting on the shelf, so to speak, the last few years since marriage and kids, although I did buy the softcover version of Kingdom Come when I saw it at Barnes & Noble recently, and was just floored by it. Powerful stuff and that Alex Ross art -- wow. But I'm afraid the remainder of my comics interest will have to be sated with reading your stuff and watching Smallville this fall. I just can't afford to start collecting again.
Thanks, Cap, for all you do.
And thanks for writing, [name withheld]. I'm not a bit surprised that Fleetwood Mac hasn't made the "cut" into permanent pop-culture consciousness -- unlike, say, Sinatra, The Beatles or Elvis (which have become permanently imbedded). After all, people will still be analyzing what Sinatra, The Beatles and Elvis meant to pop music and pop culture 40 years from now, but I doubt anybody will be doing college papers on Fleetwood Mac. Or to put it another way, I was a Mac fan when they were hot -- but when CDs came out I replaced my Beatles LPs, and didn't bother to replace my Fleetwood Mac albums. I'm afraid they're destined for the same cultural dustbin as Journey and Kansas and Average White Band.
But not knowing about Superman? That's pretty hard to believe, even given that the first Superman movie came out (gulp) 22 years ago. After all, car ads still have "Super-sales," the latest animated show still airs in reruns and the original Adventures of Superman TV show is still on Nick at Night, if nothing else. Superman is part of Americana, and not knowing about him (or Mickey Mouse or Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes) bespeaks a broad ignorance of one's own culture.

But one can only wonder if the comics still resonate with anybody, and how much longer anything Superman related will with the way they’re going.

As for Smallville, from what I found out about it, it’s not as imaginative as it could’ve been (writers who don’t seem to like Clark and his adoptive parents, and have no idea what really makes a superhero), and towards the end, leftist politics really started infiltrating the whole mess. One more reason why I find it so hard to care about live action sci-fi these days.

Dear Cap: I was going over the latest Mailbag, and after reading […]'s list of series that should be collected in TPB, would like to add my support for a Tomb of Dracula collection. I loved Gene Colan's Dracula. Hey, I loved whatever Gene did, his Daredevil run was great too. But I have some suggestions of my own.
First, I don't know if this was collected, but I haven't seen it: Kirby's Kamandi series for DC. This was brilliant high fantasy, Kirby-style, wild and creative. It mixes The Island of Dr. Moreau, Planet of the Apes and Flash Gordon and throws it in your face. Great stuff. But of course, Kirby was great.
Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy's run of Master of Kung Fu. I loved it. Weird, sexy and climactic. And the fight scenes were worth your while.
The story of Jarella, Hulk's lost, late lover, by Herb Trimpe. Trimpe's Abomination was genuinely scary, as was the ... uhn ... the four-eyed big bald monster whose name I've shamelessly forgotten. Ah, well. I don't have those issues, haven't read them in years, but have fond memories.
Kubert's Sgt. Rock, definitely. Write your congressman demanding it, if necessary.
(SPOILER WARNING!)And according to your latest column, Justice League's king fishman is gonna buy it, huh? Figures. Just in time for the upcoming JLA cartoon, too (the producers of said 'toon having already discarded him in favour of Hawkwoman, according to news reports). Now it's easy: Hey, he's dead, so we couldn't use him. Tough breaks. Here's one to consider: Can we consider this a sign of the times? Aquaman had been already updated, lost a hand and gained a different personality, in order to try and refresh his appeal. I actually liked the changes, and thought he was a great character, even if not actually a good team player. His grumpiness sometimes reminded me too much of the Sub-Mariner, is it just me? I also remember Grant Morrison gave him all these extra uses for his powers in (Grant's) JLA run, like the time he invaded a White Martian's mind and gave him seizures through telepathy. Actually kinda unpleasant for kiddie cartoons, if you think about it. Well, to paraphrase Humphery Bogart, we'll always have the Jim Aparo series. And hey, there's a TPB idea for ya!
And regarding Enemy Ace, the last story involving him I've read was in that "Swamp Thing" saga where Alec goes back in time, eventually meeting a younger Arcane and the Enemy Ace. I think it was by Rick Veitch and Alfredo Alcala.
Other than that, keep up the great job, the site looks sharp and good.
If I've read DC's solicitations correctly, it looks like Sgt. Rock will have his own Archives down the road. And the Hulk story you mentioned ("The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom!", by Harlan Ellison) and its sequels have been reprinted numerous times, and a couple of Jarella stories are slated for Ol' Greenskin's first 100-Page Monster.
As to the King of the Seven Seas, I never understood why Morrison & Co. didn't take his super-powers even further. If you think about it, Aquaman can't be remotely human -- to live at the depths he does, his eyes are not eyes, his skin is not skin, his bones are not bones, or he'd pop like a grape.So he would probably be more akin to a squid than a human (although mimicking one in shape) and his muscles would be powerful on the scale of Sub-Mariner. But they always played him as an ordinary human who happens to talk to fish. It struck me during the last few issues of his recently canceled title that when he and the "Aqua-Squad" went into battle, he was the weakest of the lot! Aqualad's new mystical powers are enormous, Mera has Green Lantern-like control over water, and even Dolphin has unexplored powers. Aquaman? Talks to fish. And let's not get started on what dead weight he was in the Justice League, where Green Lantern or somebody always had to provide him with a platform to stand on ... so he could talk to fish.
In other words, I'm not too broken up about it. Until they figure a way to make him more useful in combat, he can stay in Davy Jones's Locker. Besides, they can play the Wally West card and ring in Tempest as the All-New, All-Different Aquaman, right? Anyway, here's some more TPB suggestions:

Before we get to that, I can’t say I’ve ever gotten the impression the more authentic Atlanteans in the Marvel world with blue-colored skin bore particularly strong physics either, and while Namor can withstand some minor gunfire, he’s never been established as entirely bullet-proof. Knives can endanger him too. What we have here is a case of somebody who can’t suspend disbelief accordingly.

And Aquaman an “ordinary human”? Get out of town! He’s a humanoid; it’s always been pretty apparent, ditto Mera! Mr. Smith sure knows how to throw around petty complaints that pretty much end up spoiling everything, and already have.

Cap: In Rap with Cap 7/11/01, you asked about Silver/Bronze Age trade-paperback collections we'd like to see, so here is my wish list. First, DC would make my day if they began issuing their hardcover Archives in more affordable paper editions. I'd love to own the Silver Age Flash, Green Lantern and Atom editions, as well as copies of The Spirit and Plastic Man, but not at $50 a pop.
From the "never been collected" side of things at DC, my No. One choice would be a "best of" Challengers of the Unknown book. Some of the early Kirby/Wood stories along with the later Arnold Drake/Bob Brown material, which I loved reading as a kid, and I'd be thrilled. I also agree with you that a collection of the Denny O'Neil "Sand Superman" saga would be in order. Thirty years of discussion and controversy should qualify it for TPB status.
So far, Marvel has done a good job with their Essentials series and I anxiously await Essential Iron Man Vol. 2, which would cover the Gene Colan years. I'd also like to see a Marvel monster anthology featuring Dracula (with art by Colan), Werewolf by Night and Frankenstein (both featuring the work of Mike Ploog). And, though I don't think it will ever happen, I always enjoyed Master of Kung Fu written by Doug Moench with art by Paul Gulacy and later Mike Zeck. MOKF was a terrific series that doesn't get much attention these days, but it too would make a nice anthology.
Good choices, [name withheld] -- and that's two votes of Tomb of Dracula and Master of Kung Fu so far, both of which would get my votes as well.
I wouldn't hold my breath for TPB versions of the Archives, for the same reason that DC didn't want to do a TPB version of the $100 hardback Crisis of Infinite Earths collection (at least initially; they later relented). DC is quite aware that if people know a TPB version is coming, then they won't buy the hardback -- and Archive sales would plummet. And since DC, the distributors and the retailers all make a hefty profit on the hardbacks ... well, I just wouldn't look for it, is all. I've heard from quite a few fans, however, that Archives are often available on eBay and the like for half price or less, and I recommend you troll the auction sites.

Well if he really thought much of this stuff should be sold in cheaper archives, how come he didn’t argue to that effect in his newspaper columns? Sorry, but a mere online argument isn’t enough, not even today.

Dear Captain: I'm reading Fantastic Four: The World's Greatest Comic Magazine! The first issue I almost missed because my quick glance pegged it for a reprint and I have all those. But the second issue came and I took a look and said, I don't remember this one. Then the lightbub went on, issue one was still on the rack (my shop has a secondary rack where they keep stuff for up to a year) so I got that,and I've been having a ball every month since. The funny thing is, I see each issue and think, aaah, this won't be so great. But then when I read it, it is so great.
On another note, I've noticed Impulse is way down there on the Previews Top 300 list, below Martian Manhunter. This is my favorite title, with upbeat likeable characters and fun,clever stories. I'm assuming it's in danger and if it is, do you think we could try to save it?
Re: Green Arrow. Tried the first issue. Ho Hum. Picked up the second issue and hit a page where the dialogue was so smellbomb-stilted that I canceled it right then and there. I don't even remember what the story was about. Gimme Chuck Dixon any day.
I'm with you there -- I love Dixon's stuff. But none of his books have gone back to press twice (as Green Arrow #1 did). Chalk it up to the power of a Celebrity Name. As to Impulse, it's already had a brush with the headsman -- it was "canceled" about a year ago, but the outcry convinced DC to continue publishing. So I'm assuming (perhaps with rose-colored glasses on) that they'll continue to do so, despite tepid sales.
Glad you're enjoying FF:TWGCM (and responded to my question about same in the July 11 "Next Week's Comics" column)! Some issues hit me with a powerful wave of Lee/Kirby nostalgia, and some are clearly clumsy pastiches that leave me cold. But I'm sticking with it til the bitter end! Here's another opinion on Green Arrow:

Gee, did it ever occur to him that if DC wanted to, they could’ve advertised and marketed Dixon’s output to stratospheric levels? But no, they can only concern themselves with celebrities because they’re the ones with alleged recognition in the wider public. Men and women who’re mostly just into comics don’t count; only movie producers do. And he doesn’t even see fit to complain about that.

Dear Cap: In describing DC's approach to the relaunch of Green Arrow, [name withheld] stated in the 7/11 Mailbag:
<<The whole thing is firmly mired in fanboy continuity worship that I have no clue how the merely curious could possibly enjoy it ... the average person, even the average Kevin Smith fan, probably hasn't even heard of Green Arrow. I was hoping that Smith would create something that someone else could enjoy, for a change. If this is our best strategy, there's no way we're going to get normal human beings interested in superheroes. – [withheld again]>>
I respectfully disagree with […], as I think DC's approach is on the money (both literally & figuratively!). If DC wanted to package a Green Arrow series that would be appropriate for a non-comics reading, uninitiated audience, they could have published a series like Mike Grell's run. Grell's Green Arrow dealt with social issues and barely bordered on the realm of the DC Universe. No superheroes with super-powers ever appeared. No colorfully garbed villians, either. Sure, Black Canary, Hal Jordan and even Travis "Warlord" Morgan were there, but even they were portrayed out of costume. It was the perfect comic book for someone interested in a realistic adventure series, but without the "baggage" of the DC Universe.
Kevin Smith's run is different. His Green Arrow is fully-integrated in the DC Universe, much to comics fandom's delight.
<<It's not just fanboys like you and me buying it -- the outside world is buying Green Arrow, and it's getting plugged in People, Entertainment Weekly and on the infotainment shows. Just shows what a "name" can do, I guess. -- Captain Comics>>
And that's why DC's strategy works. Through Smith's Green Arrow series, the entire world -- including those outside of fandom -- are getting exposed to the characters, settings and history of the DC Universe. Basically, the "Quiver" storyline is a tour of the DC Universe (and it's fun, to boot!). With this kind of exposure, non-comics fans may be aware -- for the first time -- that Aquaman is not the same person he was on the Super Friends; that Batman is darker and has a different supporting cast; that there's a "new" Flash and Green Lantern; and that the JLA's roster consists of the DC's "Big Guns." Appearances by these characters may give people the incentive to buy DC books to learn more about these characters.
Recent attempts by Marvel to attract new readers center around the theory of: "If people enjoy Ultimate Spider-Man, maybe they will decide to try other books." I don't understand that theory. If a person likes Ultimate Spider-Man, they will probably buy Ultimate Spider-Man; they have no incentive to pick-up a copy of Fantastic Four or Avengers. In that respect, Ultimate Team-Up also fails to accomplish this task. They're basically saying "If you thought the Iron Man presented in Ultimate Team-Up #5 was
cool ... too bad! He doesn't have his own book, so you'll have to wait a few years until we get around to using him again!"
I applaud DC for taking a non-traditional approach to the series, and hope it serves its purpose in attracting new readers.
I hadn't looked at Green Arrow that way, [withheld] -- it is a sort of busman's tour of the DCU, isn't it? As each character is introduced, Green Arrow comments on how they've changed in the last 10 years ... Hmmm. You may be on to something there.

I gotta disagree with both correspondent and faux-reporter here. The whole tommyrot tripe was mired in over-the-top sleaze, though Smith’s Black Cat miniseries was probably worse, as he forced in a lot of overt, contrived ideas that didn’t work well for GA any more than many other superhero comics.

And did it really sell well? I’ve a hunch that even in 2001, sales weren’t sky high and popping like fireworks with millions and billions of copies sold. Some of those copies might even be gathering dust in the quarter bins today. Even people who might’ve liked it then could’ve reevaluated the book and experienced buyer’s remorse, something I’ve certainly gone through more than enough times in the past decade or so.

Dear Captain: Just thought I've add my thoughts on the infamous Five-Year-Gap Proty story in Legion of Super-Heroes. (Re-reading that sentence makes me realize just how inaccessible comics in general, and the Legion in particular, have become to newcomers.) Yes, Proty did take Lightning Lad's place after his supposed "resurrection," and went on to marry Saturn Girl and start a family. But the most unsettling thing about the story is that it was implied that Saturn Girl knew about the impersonation (she was one of the strongest telepaths in the universe, after all), and never said a word because she preferred Proty-Garth to the original! Talk about ice queens!
Thanks for the great site!
Thanks for the additional info, [name withheld]. And I hate to say it, but one reason Saturn Girl might have preferred the shape-variable Proty-Garth to the real thing is the old fan joke about why Sue Storm (Mrs. Fantastic) and Sue Dibney (Mrs. Elongated Man) are two of the happiest-married women in comics. And if you don't get it, then I'm sure not going to explain it!

As I’ve figured out over past years, the whole notion Sue Dibny and Sue Storm were both happy woman at all times is exaggerated at best. There were times when Ralph annoyed and frustrated Sue Dearbon, and in the mid-70s, there’d been an Elongated Man short story where Sue was mad at no longer being listed by the press as a Number One debutante since the time she and Ralph married. Sue Richards once had a feud with her own stretchy husband Reed in the mid-70s that led to their being estranged for a short time. And Mr. Smith should be ashamed of himself for furthering lies against just about any character, major and minor alike, just to suit PC visions.

Hey Cap: I like to say that although I've only written in once, I really enjoy your writing. I feel that you supply a much-needed feeling of community for the comic-book set.
In that vein, I attended a garage sale a few weeks ago and found someone giving away their entire old comic collection. I greedily bought about 200 comics for $10. The reason i wanted to share is that I felt you might appreciate how this was quite an education for me; I'm a 30-year-old who's read comics since I was 10. But all these books were from the early '70s, a little before I started, hence there were a few things I realized, such as: Rick Jones was once an interesting character! I gotta say that I could never stand him, couldn't understand why the Hulk hadn't "accidentally" killed him years ago. But in those Captain Mar-Vell Nega-Band issues, he actually seemed to have a personality for the first time, not just as a hero groupie.
Old Dr. Strange is the best; but then, I've always loved Doc. Classic Defenders were just plain cool as well: The Headmen, Nebulon ... awesome.
I (also) never realized comics were/are so sexist. An issue of Avengers -- I'm too lazy to run over and grab the issue number -- has Iron Man saying, as he destroys a group of androids, "They were no challenge, they weren't designed to be fighters, some were even women!"
Superman of the Julius Schwartz era, what the heck was going on here? Terra-Man calls Supers his "Super-bronco?" I feel like I'm in a gay porn video store.
Anyways, just wanted to share, thanks!
And I'm glad you did, [name withheld]! Like you, I'd occasionally stumble on a treasure trove of issues from just before I started collecting, and find out all sorts of things I'd never imagined before. In fact, I had a similar Rick Jones experience! My introduction to the character was as the be-bop, wannabe, tagalong to Captain America in mid-'60s Avengers/Tales of Suspense, and I loathed him with all my heart. Then I stumbled across the original six issues of Incredible Hulk from 1962 one day -- where he demonstrated loyalty, perseverance and maturity beyond his years. I couldn't believe it was the same character! Well, except for the awful pseudo-Beatnik dialogue. You'll be pleased to know he's a terrific character again (after the long, horrible drought of the ROM years) in the hands of writer Peter David, first in the original run of Incredible Hulk and now in Captain Marvel.
And I had to laugh out loud about your remarks about Terra-Man. I first read those issues in high school -- Terra-Man was first introduced in my tenth-grade year, I think -- and I remember thinking pretty much the same thing, although I didn't as yet have the concepts to phrase it as you did. I just thought there was something terribly, terribly wrong with Terra-Man conceptually, and he embarrassed me in some fashion I couldn't quite put my finger on. I do remember not letting my friends or my mother see those issues, for fear of ridicule and/or a cocked eyebrow. :)
Here's more on Schwartz Superman:

Fascinating how Mr. Smith fails to criticize whomever was in charge of writing Captain America’s stories during the Tales of Suspense run (Stan Lee? Roy Thomas?) for not writing Rick Jones up to the standards they allegedly believe in. The correspondent’s also appalling for how he clearly doesn’t have the courage to criticize any of the writers for embarrassingly sexist dialogue in any comic, old or new (unless maybe Mr. Smith omitted it, which is possible).

Dear Cap: A short while back on the Captain Comics Message Board, there was a brief discussion of why conservatives liked comics.
In you response to [name withheld]'s question in the 7/11/01 mailbag, one of your statements gave me an additional brain flash concerning the pervious discussion.
<<Make no mistake, one of the things that attracted me to comics in the '60s -- specifically, Marvels -- was the idea that there was a lot that had already happened, and that it was significant, and I wanted to know all about it. (Earth-Two falls into this category as well.) -- Captain Comics>>
(Generalization Alert -- Please no hate mail) In many cases comic-book fans are a form of (if not full-blown) history buffs. To use your own sentence, "(They want) to know all about it." To my memory, the consconservatives and their comic-book reading. Could it be that most comic-book readers as they grow older and (generally) more conservative, will simply continue with comics as a form of nourishment to the history-buff bug that burns inside them? Is that a gray hair I see, and a slowing metabolism I feel? I want to know!
I dunno what to make of the conservatives-reading-comics conversation, […] -- I feel, from my mail, that the readership of comics breaks down politically pretty much the way it does in the country in general. So I'm not sure what the question is. Sure, most of the WRITERS are fairly liberal, but not all, and the superhero schtick is in and of itself fairly conservative -- it's law & order, after all. And, certainly, the publishers have no wish to alienate one political group or another, and deliberately avoid controversy (as with religion). So the mish-mash that comes out doesn't strike me as overly conservative or liberal, either way. My guess is that the readership doesn't feel it's slanted, either, so both liberals and conservatives find equal pleasure in our little hobby. Of course, that's my opinion, and I could be wrong.
As to your history-buff suggestion, it seems predicated on the assumption that being fond of history is an indication of a conservative viewpoint. And that hasn't been my experience, so I can't go with that one.

After reading Mr. Smith’s claim publishers, mainstream or otherwise, don’t want to alienate any groups, I fell off my chair laughing. Even before 9-11, ultra-leftist politics have become far more prevalent in comicdom than ever before. And the July 26, 2001 mail isn’t any better:

Dear Cap: Let's look at last week's Mailbag:
[name withheld]: Sir, I believe every kid in the world should be sat down and taught about Walter Winchell and his part in war coverage, as well as all those who have helped shape our culture of today. The fact that people like these are forgotten is a sad indictment of our "blink and you miss it" society today. I also have no idea why Fleetwood Mac has been for gotten -- but then, I was into the Alan Parsons Project in the late '70s ;)
Paperback collections of old stories -- add my votes for Tomb of Dracula and Master of Kung Fu. I'd particularly love to see the Doctor Sun storyline collected -- (Marv) Wolfman and (Gene) Colan's finest moment IMHO. I'd also love to see a collected Doom Patrol from the Drake/Premiani days, and a properly bound collection of Jim Starlin's "Dark Warlock" stories. I do have one guilty desire however -- and that is for someone to do a collector's edition of the Atlas/Seaboard books. Yes, I know most of them were derivative, and some were plain awful, but the talent that was involved in them is deserving of wider recognition. End of rant.
Oh, before I forget -- one addition to the reprints I'd love to see. Now that Steve Gerber and Marvel are working together, how about a Howard The Duck collection? Pretty please?
[name withheld] on Green Arrow said:
<<Grell's Green Arrow dealt with social issues and barely bordered on the realm of the DC Universe. No superheroes with super-powers ever appeared. No colorfully garbed villians, either. Sure, Black Canary, Hal Jordan and even Travis "Warlord" Morgan were there, but even they were portrayed out of costume. >>
Mike Grell made a deliberate ploy to keep Ollie on the (fringes) of the DC Universe at that time. In fact, the only mainstream heroes I believe he used in costume (apart from Dinah) were Batman and The Question -- anyone else remember the three-part annual story over The Question, Green Arrow, Detective Comics and Batman which also involved Lady Shiva? The current Kevin Smith take is very interesting indeed -- I especially want to know how old Etrigan knows about Stanley's pet and this Green Arrow ...
Thanks, […]! But, y'know, I'm not surprised that you want to see Seaboard/Atlas stuff. I'm just surprised anybody besides me bought them! Here's more TPB requests:

The Kevin Smith run from 2001 is just more overrated garbage. Now that I think of it, Smith’s run on GA could be just as awful as his later run on Black Cat, and possibly worse, even though the latter is where retcons really led to offensive results.

Dear Cap: Quite a few people would like to see Shang-Chi collections. Well, there might be a problem with the Sax Rohmer estate: They may still own the trademark to Doctor Fu Manchu. (At http://www.sigma.net/burch, a Fu Manchu entry appears which has a note about this under "Megalomaniacal Types.") Thus, any reprints would have to be doctored to leave out Fu Manchu references.
By the way, Michael Moorcock's Elric appeared in the first year or two of Conan. Does anyone know if reprints of those issues are doctored to leave him out?
Good point about the good doctor, […]. Now that you mention it, while we've SEEN Shang-Chi's pop in Marvel Knights recently, he hasn't been NAMED. (They call him "O Celestial One" and such.) I guess people who never read MOKF are left to assume that he's a Generic Yellow Peril villain.
I haven't seen any recent Conan reprints, so I can't answer your question about Elric. Anybody know? Here's more:

Conan reprints have been published by Dark Horse, since Marvel lost the license by 1995. They’ve also reprinted Kull the Conqueror. And Red Sonja reprints have been published by Dynamite Entertainment. And we should be sorely disappointed that the Rohmer estate’s never granted rights to reprint MOKF unabridged. But don’t count on Mr. Smith to make a case for it.

Dear Cap: All right, you asked for it. Here are just a few (OK, more than a few) of the books I would like to see get the trade-paperback treatment:
Silver Age Doom Patrol
Bronze Age Defenders
Silver Age Adam Strange
DC's Invasion miniseries
The Suicide Squad (post Legends)
All-Star Squadron
Bronze Age Legion of Super-Heroes (I can't imagine the archives going very far into the '70s but I could be wrong.)
DC's Janus Directive crossover
Marvel's Galactic Storm crossover
Neal Adams's Deadman work
Thunderbolts
Marvel Team-Up
Hellblazer (I know there are several volumes already but I would like to see it get the Sandman/Preacher treatment and have them all collected. Ditto for the Moore Swamp Thing run and Morrison Animal Man/Doom Patrol run)
The Question (as done by Denny O'Neil)
Silver Age Challengers of the Unknown
More Sgt. Rock beyond the archive that is allegedly being released next year
Unknown Soldier (original series. DC already did the Ennis miniseries from a few years back.)
early New Mutants
the complete first Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans run (but not in Archive format. That book cost more than the issues it reprinted.)
Brave and Bold (Batman team-ups era)
Silver Age/Bronze Age Spectre
More Steranko Nick Fury
That would be a good start, although my wife might disagree when I start showing up with all these tomes. I know it's DC heavy but I have always been a DC guy.
Great Scott, […]! That's quite a list! And y'know, just looking it over ... I want all those TPBs too! Even though I've got the original books! (With 40,000 comics, the likelihood of me re-reading any given series is vanishingly small -- unless it's collected!) Here's more:

A lot of those books have been reprinted, but not all. Yet he’s never made a serious call for reprinting and promoting specific items, that’s for sure. Come to think of it, he’s never called for reprinting much of anything at all.

Dear Cap: […] asked for suggestions as to what forgotten or obscure storylines should be reprinted in trade-paperback form. What a coincidence -- I've been mulling that over myself. For what it's worth, here are some TPBs I'd like to see (with an emphasis on '70s Marvel, because that's my personal Golden Age):
Steve Englehart's Avengers. C'mon, this guy ranks alongside (Kurt) Busiek, (Roy) Thomas and (Roger) Stern as one of the definitive Avengers writers. The obvious choice here is that whole Mantis/Kang/Rama-Tut epic. It's chock-full of goodies: the Kang/Rama-Tut/Immortus connection laid out for the first time, the backstory on why the Kree and the Skrulls hate each other, the origin of Mantis and Moondragon, the untold story of how the original Human Torch became the Vision, the Legion of the Unliving, the death of the Swordsman, the wedding of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, and -- just for good measure -- the coolest, most arrogant Kang ever (at least, until Busiek got hold of him). The very definition of a sprawling, time-and-space-spanning Marvel epic. With Avengers Forever and the Kree/Skrull War TPBs on the shelf, not to mention Englehart's upcoming Celestial Quest sequel and the current Avengers storyline, this seems like a natural.
Another good Englehart Avengers collection would be issues #141-144 and #147-149. It's another far-flung epic, featuring the Squadron Supreme, the Serpent Crown, the Brand Corporation/Roxxon Oil, the origin of Hellcat (unbelievable though it may be) and a side trip back to 1873, where some Avengers teamed up with Marvel's Western heroes to stop Kang once and for all. On the Squadron Supreme's world, the U.S. President is a Serpent-Crown-wearing Nelson Rockefeller, and that sight alone is worth the price of a TPB. The early George Perez art is a bonus.
While I'm wishing, maybe we could also get a collection of Englehart's Captain America run, specifically the revival of the 1950s Cap and that Secret Empire/Watergate allegory. I've never read these issues, but they certainly loom large in the history of the Marvel Universe.
The other Steve from '70s Marvel: Steve Gerber. His complete Defenders run is worthy of reprinting, but I'd be happy just to have the Headmen saga. Man, this was some strange stuff to be appearing in a mainstream Marvel book of the time. Nighthawk's brain spent several issues sloshing around in a bowl. An international consciousness-raising movement (today, we'd call it New Age) urged its followers to don Bozo masks to acknowledge life's inherent absurdity. The Headmen transferred characters' brains from body to body with gleeful abandon -- we even had a cute, lovable baby deer with the villainous brain of Chondu the Mystic. And the grand finale was a philosophical debate between Nebulon and Dr. Strange in some strange astral realm, with an audience of one: then-President Gerald Ford. Y'know, they just don't make comics like that any more ...
Continuing on the topic of Gerber, let's get a Howard the Duck collection out there! Now this was great stuff! Please, forget that God-awful, unfortunate movie. Before Hollywood sent the duck on a one-way trip to oblivion, HTD was a biting, cynical (VERY cynical) satire of '70s American society. No, really, it was. Master of Quak Fu. The Reverend Joon Moon Yuc and his followers, the Yuccies. Remember when Howard ran for president? "My God, he's telling the truth! He'll be dead in a week!" After his campaign was ruined by a phony sex scandal (orchestrated by a Canadian nationalist called Le Beaver), Howard had a nervous breakdown and was committed to an asylum, where he encountered KISS and the Son of Satan, among others. And how can we forget the Kidney Lady? Again, this was downright bizarre, especially when it sat right there on the comic rack next to Batman and Spider-Man. These comics warped my young, impressionable mind, and to me, they seem even better now than they did then. With Gerber's upcoming return to Howard (as part of Marvel's mature line), maybe we can hope for some sort of HTD reprinting.
Another Defenders story: Dave Kraft's "Who Remembers Scorpio?", from Defenders #46-50 (or thereabouts). An aging, beer-guzzling Scorpio (a.k.a. Jake Fury, Nick's brother) reflects on his life -- the bad choices he made, the chances he missed, and how unfair it is that he'll never measure up to his brother, the war hero and S.H.I.E.L.D. leader -- while plotting to create an all-new, android Zodiac that will be completely obedient to him. The art is by a young Keith Giffen, working in his most heavily Kirby-esque style. This story holds up pretty well, even by modern standards.
Jim Starlin's Warlock. Another high point for Marvel in the '70s, and one of the definitive "cosmic" storylines. To my knowledge, it's never been collected. This one also holds up very well upon re-reading. with its religious/philisophical underpinnings.
The Invaders! OK, in hindsight, it seems kinda goofy. But it was oodles of fun. Roy Thomas loved these characters, and it showed. Even the, um, unique style of artist Frank Robbins grew on me after a while. The term "retcon" hadn't been invented at the time, but that's what we'd call this series today. And honestly, don't we all enjoy seeing Captain America opening a can of whoop-ass on some Nazis?
I still read plenty of new comics, but let me repeat: They just don't make 'em the way they used to!
You've just about mentioned every Marvel story from the '70s I'd ever be interested in reading again! Great choices, […]!

And some of these stories have been reprinted too. No thanks to Mr. Smith, of course.

Dear Cap: Since DC Comics became nothing more than shameless company crossovers, I have recently quit purchasing their books. I just read your article about the current "Our Worlds At War"storyline and the fact that it is expected to have a large body count. Who will join the original Dr. Mid-Nite and Hourman in the great beyond?
After Aquaman, Guy Gardner and Ma & Pa Kent (possibly), I've lost count. And the rumors I've heard are actually frightening. Anybody want to assemble a KIA list for OWAW?

The correspondent is right that DC transformed into a blatantly run company. But does he also take offense at all the characters who were transformed into cannon fodder? If so, Mr. Smith may have omitted that part!

Dear Cap: Have you seen this press release? I found it on the Comic Book Resources site, under the section for October 2001 DC solicitations. It appears to be the answer to many fans' prayers, and hopefully, is the beginning of a trend.
<<BATMAN ARCHIVES Volume 1 HC - NEW PRICE
For over a decade, DC's award-winning Archives series has presented classic DC material in attractive, hardcover volumes featuring high-quality paper stock and improved color separations -- offering material that hasn't been in print for decades in an easily attainable, affordable format for today's readers.
Now one of DC's earliest Archives is made even more affordable with the BATMAN ARCHIVES Volume 1 -- offered at a super-low price of only $19.95! That's a whopping 304 pages in hardcover format for less than twenty bucks!>>
My local comic-shop owner attended the DC Retailers Convention a few months back, and said this is an unusual situation not likely to be repeated. He said that DC vastly overprinted Batman Archives Vol. 1 in anticipation of demand that did not occur. The decision was made to sell them at a discount, rather than continue to pay to have them warehoused or pay to have them destroyed. But I have no confirmation on this, so my journalism sense continues to tingle. Anybody want to corroborate this story?

Sometimes I think various pamphlets today are vastly overprinted in anticipation of speculators coming in to buy multiple issues they can collect, even though they’re ultimately not worth the money paid. Naturally, you can’t expect Mr. Smith to argue about that.

Hi Cap: Regarding the comments about manga on the (Mailbag) of July 11. I would like to say that not everybody likes manga; the principal reason for that is because there are too many styles and genres to fit in just one category. It's like mixing all American comics that are published today (independents and from big companies like Marvel) in the same bag and say that they are all the same.
The first reaction for the new reader is one of hate/love and (to) assume that all of it is identical no matter the author. What the reader in your column suggests for reading is light-hearted manga and a bit of "shoujo" (sic), or girls comics, as they are known in Japan. They typically turn around a lot of confusion and circumstances that tend to be repetitive.
For an example, Ranma (from Ranma 1/2, by Rumiko Takahashi) is a boy cursed to transform into a girl when splashed with hot water; there are always buckets waiting to splash the protagonist and if you study it (in a critical way that is) the whole thing is kind of silly but funny at the same time. Almost every foe and friend turns into something (duck, cat, giant panda, etc.) when splashed. so there are a lot of jokes regarding that. Some find it interesting and I must accept that sometimes I have read them and had fun with it.
The problem with that kind of manga is the hollowness of the characters; the theme is always similar, like in: "Bad guy comes to destroy the world, could be interesting if not for the fact that there have been three guys who have tried to do the same in the series, the only difference is that this time he is more powerful than all of them together." Sailor Moon falls in that department, with the protagonist always saving the Earth from demons and extradimensional forces who always look for something in order to accomplish their schemes. As you can guess, the protagonist gets in the way and always gathers the missing weapon in order to vanquish the foe.
I am not complaining, I just don't read that kind of manga anymore, but I do not want that other people get misled by trying to generalize all manga into one category. I am not an expert but have been around a bit and been in discussions with people who will just hate the whole genre because they did not like one comic in (particular). You have to judge a book by his/her author, like ... here in the States. Everybody recognizes Mark Waid and do not mistake him for Alan Moore. The problem is that not everyone can remember the name of Akira Toriyama, Hirokai Samura or Katsuhiro Otomo (if I made a mistake on any of those I apologize) and that I think is the problem to begin with. The same applies in a lesser extent to the European market; names like Jodorowsky and Moebius may ring a bell, but Enki Bilal (does) not.
To end this mail I would like to recommend that if you buy manga you should try the trade paperback first (like if you wanted to read 100 Bullets but have never been exposed to the espionage-conspiracy-crime genre, I know it sounds difficult to imagine, but it happens with some of the Japanese context the titles are immersed in). Just buying the comic (at) #58 is going to be hard to figure out.
Dark Horse prints some of the best series made in Japan; personally (I find) Blade of the Inmortal (to be) a very good Samurai comic with interesting character development -- but only if you read after the first trade, which is kind of silly and gross. Lone Wolf & Cub and Akira are classics of the genre and should be read as such. Thanks for your time and hope that this helps and does not confound.
Thanks, […] -- any info on magna, a genre I have little experience in, is welcome.
But I am a bit confused. Are ALL Japanese comics manga? Or just the big-foot variety? I read Lone Wolf & Cub, Akira and a few other select Japanese comics -- does that make me a closet manga reader?

Hmm, I could probably criticize him for misspelling, but I think that would be a little too easy, so I won’t. But I will say that his style of writing in papers has quite a hollowness all its own, and it’s not healthy.

Hi Captain: Maybe this is a bit conspiratorial but here goes. Could Marvel be killing off Captain America because they anticipate losing to Joe Simon in court, and want to devalue the property? "He's dead. You can have him now." Jemas is a businessman at heart.
It wouldn't surprise me. The purpose of Harris Comics' manga-esque Vampi comic book was to have a replacement character in the wings in case Jim Warren's lawsuit to retain the Vampirella rights went against them. I'd be amazed if Marvel didn't have some sort of plan in mind in case Simon wins.

This was written long before Marvel turned to “diversity pandering”, and replaced Steve Rogers with Sam Wilson/Falcon. But not before retiring Steve in the most disgusting way possible.

All that aside, I don’t think Marvel’s ever worried about losing the rights to any particular characters, especially with all the movie money they’ve been making since.

Dear Captain: I just read Alter Ego #9, in which Roy Thomas talks about some of his dream projects. All of your readers interested in the Captain Marvel/Billy Batson debates ... should check it out.
However, my question is related to dream projects. Or perhaps projects that almost were. I know I have read about dozens of them over the years, including series that got announced but never saw the light of day, or worse, got started but never finished.
We all know about George Perez's Avengers/JLA crossover, that has several pages done for it but never happened. There's Grant Morrison/Mark Waid's proposal for Superman. Alan Moore's Youngblood that never got finished, although my understanding is more work was completed than published. And I know there must be others.
Can you think of any other "Dream Projects" that did not get made? Or perhaps the Legion might know. I would especially be interested in any creators that might frequent your website sharing some of their dream projects, or alternate endings/beginnings to titles they worked on.
Interesting question, [name withheld]. My dream projects would usually revolve around series that got canceled before their time, like Martian Manhunter. But I'd be curious to hear what others have to say.

Avengers/JLA has happened, but from what I’ve learned about it since – the kind of project that relies on nostalgia in the most absurd way possible – I’m wondering if it was ever worth it to start with.

My dream projects involve 3rd tier characters; all the kinds of heroes and co-stars that Mr. Smith likely shuns.

Dear Cap: Okay, I have to call a spade a spade here. We're looking at Stan Lee at DC, Just Imagine ..." Honest to goodness, all DC is doing is another round of Tangent comics -- and they didn't do so hot in the first (and second) place. The only difference here is that Stan Lee is writing the things this time. The amazing thing is that Stan Lee is working at DC, not that he's writing a dozen stories with characters called Batman, Superman, Flash, etc. Again, that was done with the Tangent books, and, depending on one's tastes, that might even have had MORE appeal than Stan Lee of today doing these stories. (Actually, I rather enjoyed a few of the Tangent books -- if they hadn't gone by existing names and dropped stupid sight and/or name gags every five seconds, I'd probably have liked 'em. 'Specially that Joker book -- I thought that was a lot of fun. But I
digress ...)
I would much rather have seen Stan Lee doing the characters as they were created; that is, give me a Stan Lee story with Batman and Robin, Gotham City, The Joker, etc., and do a take on THAT. Or Superman and Lois Lane, Luthor, the Daily Planet, and so on. That would be stir my interest; I'd like to see what he might have done with the characters.
But that would require a novel aspect to these stories that 70 years' worth of writers have NOT come up with yet. And quite frankly, a lot of these writers have worked for both Marvel and DC, so while they may not have written in that exact Marvel-esque style when doing Batman, the flavor of the writer is still at both companies.
Also, I would have liked to have seen more group dynamic books -- Lee always seemed to have a nice flair for Fantastic Four and Avengers. But the only group book he's doing is Justice League. I'd REALLY like to see Stan Lee doing a World's Finest miniseries, to get his take on the Batman/Superman relationship. (Was it Stan the Man who once said that when Batman and Superman met, they should've killed each other?)
Well, my Grecian Urn's worth on Stan's current escapades ... thank you for your consideration.
And thanks for your thoughts, […]. There's been a lot of cheering for the Stan books, and a lot of grumbling, too. I can see both sides. I finally have come down on the side of thinking it's a Good Thing; if nothing else, it's something that CAN'T be done a few years down the road when Stan is no longer with us. So, good or bad, we might as well give it a shot and try to have some fun.

I don’t think he can see either side (and come to think of it, neither can the correspondent). He certainly didn’t when Identity Crisis was published, so why should we think he can view both sides of any such topic?

Dear Cap: THE GOLDEN AGE … of DC's title count
In the late '80s, DC was doing well. The Justice League franchise was raking in a lot o' moolah due to Giffen and DeMatties's zany exploits. Batman had just had the "Year One" storyline, along with the anticipation of a movie soon coming. Superman had just had his 60th birthday, along with a fourth movie of his, as well. Wonder Woman had just had the excellent Legend of Wonder Woman miniseries by Trina Robbins, and a subsequent rebooting by the legendary George Perez.
Tons of exciting things were happening in DC. Then, Justice League turned from the prior moniker to Justice League International. Superman: The Man of Steel, an excellent monthly (one of the few still going out of this list) by the awesome team of Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove, started. Robin was killed and soon replaced by Tim Drake, who also soon gained his own monthly. The legendary Hal Jordan also got his own (second) title after the Emerald Dawn miniseries, sharing it with comrades John Stewart and the awesome Guy Gardner. Lobo, one of DC 's top cash cows at the time, also gained his own series after a wildly popular miniseries.
Keith Giffen experimented with the strangely funny Heckler, whose own series only lasted six issues. Maybe it's fitting that the funniest character in comics then, written by the most humorous and witty writer then, ended with a ridiculously short run.
The Ray, one of the mid-'90s cash cows for DC, was sprung into his own series after a 12-part miniseries. Written by the talented Christopher Priest, and originally pencilled by Joe Quesada, and then switching to then unknown artist Howard Porter, The Ray seemed to be a boot camp for some of the comics industry's finest. Look at them both now. Joe Quesada is doing amazing work over at Marvel, while Howard Porter has just finished a healthy and successful run on JLA.
Black Condor, another Golden Age redo (along withThe Ray), had his own series for 12 issues. He was cool too. With telekinetic powers that let him fly with artificial wings, he searched for his past and the links to his father, the Golden Age Black Condor.
Black Canary also had her own short-lived series, in which she did two things that most present BC fans resent: She had a short but steamy love affair with The Ray after distancing herself from Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), and she changed he style to a more "butch" look in which she had body armor in the shape of her traditional costume (the hot pants and the fishnet hose) and she cut her hair to a Navy regulation crew cut and stopped dying it blonde. She has since let her hair grow out, and ditched the crappy costume.
Valor and Eclipso suddenly had their own series which came out of the crossover Eclipso: The Darkness Within, which spanned all of the annuals of each title that month. It also marked the death of one of the DC's best, brightest and least-cared-about stars: Will Payton, Starman. He has recently been revealed as alive, but his powers, history and personality made up one of the late 'eighties and early 'nineties best comics.
Moving on, let me introduce you to four words, which in three years, multiple issues of multiple titles, thousands of dollars worth of advertising and merchandise, millions of dollars worth of profit and one of the '90s most significant cultural events is all summed up in: THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN. From 1992 to 1994, Superman died, returned, battled and re-introduced himself into the world. When first news of his death reached news channels, it was everywhere. Videogames. T-shirts. Cards. Comics. Whew! It was so big, that it is likely that if tried again, it would fail. Maybe in 2060 or some other far time away, Mike Carlin's descendent will do it again to him. Who knows?
Black Lightning also had his own title, but was canceled soon. Poor Jefferson Pierce. This guy can't get a break. Justice League International turned into Justice League America, and Justice League Europe started. Justice League Task Force began as well. Guy Gardner started his own rockin' series, but it was sadly canceled in 1996 with issue #44. Deathstroke the Terminator, the Teen Titans traitor (say that 10 times fast), had his own series, but it was canceled as well.
I consider "Underworld Unleashed" the bast crossover of the '90s, although many will probably disagree. It was the best because it was the last battle cry, the last hurrah of many assorted characters and titles which were all about to be given the axe. Like these:
Guy Gardner, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. Black Condor, Black Canary, Black Lightning, Steel, Outsiders, Chain Gang War, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow, Deathstroke: The Terminator, Huntress, Showcase, Eclipso, L.E.G.I.O.N., R.E.B.E.L.S., Lobo, Aquaman, Valor, Legion of Super-Heroes, Justice League America, Justice League International, Justice League Task Force, Justice League Quarterly, Green Lantern Corps Quarterly, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Mosaic, Anima, Scare Tactics, Psyba-Rats, Primal Force, Starman, Manhunter, Fate, Book of Fate, Dr. Fate, The Spectre, Doom Patrol, Takion, New Gods, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, The Eradicator , The Heckler.
These are just some of the many comics that were canceled in a period from 1987 to 2000. One of the best moneymaking times for DC, but also one of the most destructive. DC is still recovering. As the USA's oldest and finest comics publisher, DC should be producing around 25 or 30 different comics a month. They are producing less than half that. Unless DC starts making titles about it's second- and third-tier icons again, they'll be down the toilet within 15 to 20 years. I sincerely hope this doesn't happen, because I am on of DC's biggest fans. DC was really hurt from years and years of X-books beating the crap out of their titles. Now that Marvel is getting half of it's X-rags canceled, if DC takes advantage of this and starts printing new titles, DC could be on top again.
Who am I to argue with such enthusiasm? It's easy to see what YOUR Golden Age is! But I have to note for the record that DC isn't publishing "half" of 25-30 titles. I count 32 monthly superhero titles published in June in just the DCU -- not counting Vertigo, WildStorm, MAD, the cartoon books, and specials, annuals and TPBs.

While there are some examples this correspondent gives that are positive, the bad ones include Eclipso: The Darkness Within, which saw the death of Beth Chapel, the lady Dr. Mid-Nite, Yolanda Montez, the lady Wildcat, and the aforementioned Will Payton. That was truly disgusting, written only for the sake of killing off characters the editors deemed useless (they probably didn’t want to pay Roy Thomas any residuals either), and anybody who thinks nothing was wrong there has got to be out of their minds. Next up is August 1, 2001:

Dear Cap: Here's a link to a webpage that displays and describes the "F"amous "F"our-letter profanity on Ka-Zar #1. It's pretty subtle; I'm surprised anyone ever "discovered" it.
http://www.geocities.com/~nick-fury/Misc/kazar1.htm
Thanks a million, [withheld]!
Frankly, it looks like a coincidence to me -- I think the grass just happens to fall that way, and we're reading into it what we want to see. It reminds me of the "profanity" some right-wing groups "found" in Disney's Lion King when they did freeze frames on drifting smoke. I mean, really -- editors (of movies, or comic books or newspapers) are trained to have dirty minds. We LOOK for that sort of thing. I can't believe it's anything but an accident.
Of course, I could be wrong!

He’s wrong about plenty more than he thinks, most of which I’ve already mentioned plenty of times. He’s also wrong about “right-wing groups” being the only ones who could possibly have a beef with the entertainment industry; there’s been plenty of left-wing sources that have since taken up that role, leading in turn to the GamerGate campaign, which itself happens to be comprised of mostly leftist folk themselves.

Plus, wasn’t liberal senator Joe Lieberman the one who led a campaign against violent video games in the mid-90s?

Hi, Captain Comics: First I'd like to say how glad I am to have stumbled upon your site and how much I enjoy the various editorial and review columns. It's been a real treat for me as someone who isn't necessarily new to comics but has been away so long that the only way to catch up on all the goings-on is with a little help!
A little background on myself: I love comics and always have. I started reading them when I was about three or four years old. Through their colorful pictures and words, I learned to read and comprehend on my own very quickly and as I got older developed a love for art, literature and film and occasionally even writing and drawing my own stories.
As a kid my favorite heroes were Batman and Spider-Man, mainly because they seemed like maybe, just maybe, they could be real. Batman was, after all, human and had to deal with the the fact that he wasn't bulletproof, couldn't fly and had to use his wits to solve mysteries and escape death traps. And as a reader you could be right there with him trying to figure out the villain's latest plot. Same thing with Spider-Man, though he had some powers it wasn't like he was Superman, with heat vision, and a multitude of heavy-duty powers (nothing against Supes, its just that I was rarely able to relate to his storylines). Plus Spidey had REAL problems with family, friends, school, work, women, etc., something the reader could really identify with.
As I got older I discovered the wonders of the comic-book shop, having previously gotten my issues from supermarkets and drug stores (this was the mid-'80s BTW) and began to move into other titles. As time passed I fell in love with the X-Men and later X-Factor and other titles that were popular at the time. Comics were really good and got better as we entered what was basically a "Comics Renaissance" with Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns and Man of Steel. Not long after The Sandman debuted. It was like in the space of a few years comics had become a serious medium accepted by the general public (or at least open-minded readers and serious critics). It was great!
Then in the early '90s the bottom fell out.
It wasn't all at once for me, but in a slow, steady process. It started with the X-Men. I could no longer stomach the overly convoluted storylines of people dying, being replaced by clones, false memories, alternate realities/futures and so on. Especially in a time where comic prices were going up, a teen simply couldn't keep up with all of the crossovers, one-shots and tie-ins. I began to pick up X-related books less and less until I simply dropped the title(s) altogether. Spider-Man, which at this point I was only reading sporadically, was the next to go (this was around the end of McFarlane's run). It just wasn't worth the price of admission to me anymore. Then Alien Legion (a book I enjoyed immensely) was canceled.
At first I had thought that my tastes were just evolving (I was at this time reading far more DC books than Marvel) and it was just a natural change in preference. But it seemed that I was ending up with fewer and fewer reasons to go to the comics shop. Batman, Detective, Teen Titans (loved Perez's work!), JL (or was it JLI at the time?) and a few other books I liked were becoming mediocre reads. Justice League to the point that I was really only buying it because of Adam Hughes's amazing artwork. I found myself buying fewer and fewer regular titles and began focusing on TPBs and more underground stuff like The Crow and Grendel. But these weren't ongoing titles and my old standbys were getting weaker by the minute; some like Sandman ended their run before weakening but that was still one less reason to head for the shop.
Things only got worse as all those lame Image titles and their ilk exploded on the scene. Like most people I thought the idea of what they were doing was good (artist controlled and all) but the actual execution was terrible. And the Big Two weren't doing anything to write home about either, unless you count those stupid multiple covers and foil embossings as if all anyone cared about was cardstock. Through friends I began getting hip to Japanese and manga-inspired comics like Appleseed, Akira and the Dirty Pair (which was far too witty and funny to be considered a "Bad Girl" book, at least to me, more like a spoof of that sort of thing). But Appleseed ended its run and the Dirty Pair were soon canceled as well. At this point I was only picking up the occasional Bat-book or "special issue" of various titles like Supes.
After "Knightfall" and the "Death of Superman" I called it quits. I simply didn't care anymore.
Occasionally I would listen to a friend tell me about the latest goings-on but for the most part I simply wasn't interested. Not even in Batman.
Then suddenly around this past Christmas, after six years, like a bat shattering a window, it hit me. It was in Barnes & Noble that I was browsing the sci-fi books and found myself in the section where they keep the graphic novels and comics-related material. I flipped through the Batman/Venom TPB and was reminded of one of the better stories of my last days as a comics fan. At home I found myself re-reading some of my favorite old stories like Batman: The Cult and Watchmen and began wondering what was happening in comics after a six-year absence. I started checking out fan sites and comics news sites (and eventually found this one!) to start getting up to speed on what had been happening.
During this time my girlfriend (an artist and writer herself) noticed my interest in comics and became curious. Like me she also had been a Bat-fan as a kid (mainly through cartoons and movies) but, like many women, she had never really been that intrested in comics. Her first read was Batman: The Killing Joke. She was shocked by the reality and harshness of the story and horrified by the brutality of The Joker. She had no idea that comics were anything like this. Oh, and she was completely hooked :)
I found a local comics shop, which was much harder than I remember it being, and began getting back to the comics I loved. But it wasn't as easy as I anticipated. I found that there was a reason I had so much trouble finding a comics shop. The landscape had changed since the glory days I remembered. Shops were few and far between and had begun carrying a wider array of toys and games and memorabilia than ever before. In fact much to my surprise some even carried pornography. ("Not that there's anything wrong with that," just a shock!) And as I perused the racks I found that while characters and titles had changed there was still plenty of crap on the racks -- but thankfully there was some good stuff too.
I was excited to see that while a few changes had been made, old faithful Bats was essentially still there fighting crime in Gotham mainly with his wits (I LOVE how Detective Comics is being written and illustrated these days!). JLA was better than I remembered it and the new (to me) Gotham Knights was definitely a great title thanks to the characterizations of Devin Grayson. On the other hand, I briefly looked at the old Marvel titles I had read long ago and they just were unrecognizable. I had heard about various things during my years away about different changes especially in the X-books. Among them Wolverine's claws being natural? Where did THAT come from? I found myself wondering how the folks at Marvel were able to get by making this stuff without the fans stringing them up at dawn!
One great treat we discovered, thanks to your site, were the CrossGen books. It's amazing to see this small upstart company come out of nowhere and blow the Big Two out of the water! We're especially fans of Scion, Mystic, Meridian and Sojourn, (which) looks really promising. While I love Bats and most of the related titles, I think DC and especially Marvel could learn a LOT from these folks. Even the CrossGen stuff we didn't fall in love with are still decent reads.
Now as I've gotten back into the swing of things again I find out that the industry is really hurting and it's easy to see why. The majority of titles that I see just don't seem to care about the readers, particularly the stuff I see from Marvel. Aside from the CrossGen titles, Bats, JLA, Wonder Woman (you can tell that Phil Jimenez loves his work), and the new Green Arrow, there isn't a whole lot of stuff out there that I've seen that really grabs me. I've been checking out some of the different things I've seen recommended on your site and while I enjoy most of them, they only account for a small percentage of the comics on the stands. No wonder the industry is in such a slump. Besides not having the books in accessible places like newstands, supermarkets and drugstores, there just doesn't seem to be much worth the price of admission, certainly not if you're totally new to comics.
Speaking of which, I really hope these new gambles Marvel is taking like dropping the Comics Code (that's definitely a good move), the no-overprinting policy and revamping characters into more accessible books works out for them. Though I'm no longer a fan of any of their titles, what's good for one company is usually good for the industry as a whole.
Anyway I just wanted to share my thoughts with you as a returning reader and tell you how much I enjoy your site. Thanks!
Thank YOU, […], for reminding me why I pull all these &%$# all-nighters! I can't express how pleased I am that my site is in any way a factor in your re-discovering the joys of this little hobby (and your girlfriend finding them for the first time -- oh, the fun she's going to have!).
Oh, and sure there's a lot of crap out there. As Theodore Sturgeon (almost) famously said, "Ninety percent of everything is crap." And, people being people with a wide variety of opinions, we don't all agree on which ten percent isn't. But most of us generally agree on what constitutes a non-crap EFFORT, and there are a lot of books out there that talented people are pouring their hearts and souls into. We owe it to them and to ourselves to check 'em out and see which ones tickle our respective fancies.
I encourage you to continue checking out "Next Week's Comics," [names withheld]'s reviews, the [withheld], my own weekly column and other features on this site, not only to find stuff you like, not only to avoid stuff that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, but just to keep up in general with what's happening hither and yon -- you might not buy Captain Phlegm with any regularity, but on the odd occasion when a story appeals to you, this site (if it's doing its job) should be keeping you informed of the character's status. And be sure and sound off, both with questions and opinions.
Welcome to the Legion of Superfluous Heroes -- the organization for people who don't join organizations!

This correspondent’s got some interesting views, although I can’t really agree with him about Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. The angles they took wound up doing more harm than good to the medium as a whole. Though I do realize that’s partly the fault of the publishers who couldn’t resist.

He is right about the fate of X-Men though. Yep, they suffered very badly at that. Now, here’s yet the umpteenth letter I wrote to this fraudulent reporter, and it features an argument or viewpoint I no longer stand by:

Dear Cap: In the past two months, I’ve been feeling that Marvel is being dishonest towards their readers, and that they’re driving their stories way too editorially, and that they’re not providing enough creative freedom for their writers.
For example, there was the implausible way that Mary Jane was sent off on a vacation from Spider-Man. I think I know just the way now that they could’ve done it if it was necessary: They could’ve had a friend or a relative call her and ask her to stay over. I think that would’ve been much more plausible. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and so they really undermined the 2001 Annual.
And then, this month, they did something that really hurt me: They killed Psylocke. I was afraid they’d do it, and it happened. And what was really dishonest about this death in my opinion is that they did it all for the sake of bringing in Gambit for the fourth issue of X-Treme X-Men. And if that be the case, then that’ll explain why I’m bailing out of the title. Whatever your opinions on this Claremont-penned series, I myself had liked the first issue, but with Psylocke being thrown out, and Gambit now coming in, I can tell that it’s gonna take a tumble, and so I can’t continue with it.
This is how it all should’ve been: Gambit should’ve appeared in the first issue, and it’s he who should’ve been killed in the third issue. And instead of sparing us the pain of such a ludicrous character, they had to make the wounds deeper. And by killing one of the sweetest X-chicks all for the sake of a ratty bum like Gambit, they’ve done something very dishonest. In my opinion, she was a character worth developing and who had some potential, and Marvel just wouldn’t realize it. I was charmed by her love affair with Archangel, and they wouldn’t let it develop into a marriage, and even children who could have the chance to grow up an all but normal life just like Franklin Richards of the Fantastic Four. And given that they’re both co-starring characters, that could’ve made them perfect characters for a marriage.
However, there does appear to be a chance that she’ll be able to come back from the dead, even if it takes a long time: The Crimson Dawn may be able to save her again, and it’s probably protecting her soul even in death. And if you ask me, I think that Betsy should be allowed to be resurrected and that Gambit should be the one to go to grave in her stead. That Chris Claremont (I didn’t want to have to keep slamming him again, but sadly, it looks like I’m finding myself in the position of doing so again) should kill off such a nice girl all for the sake of a scoundrel like Gambit was inexcusable. And now, how is Thunderbird/Neal Shaara going to work at all? Now, he’ll be pretty much useless. And while Storm and Rogue are also very appealing characters, with Gambit in the way, they’ll be very seriously undermined. This in my opinion was a title where the women could shine, and now they’ve ruined it. A real shame. My request to Marvel is: Please spare Psylocke’s life and take Gambit in her place!
Another act that I find dishonest was that in the "Eve of Destruction" story arc in the two main X-books, they implausibly faked Dazzler’s death. She, on the other hand, is not one of my favorite X-women, and I wouldn’t mind of she’d been done in, and they really made a mess there. Jean said that the act of deception “was all a plan." Plan? What plan? It made no sense to me, and it was but one the most damaging things about the whole story arc. What was really clumsy about Dazzler’s concoction was first her roller skates and disco ball, and then that she looked too punked out when her hair was short cropped. And another silly thing about her background was that she first discovered her powers AFTER she’d begun her career as a disco singer! Ridiculous. She was expendable.
And then, just last year, they did something very dishonest with Shadowcat: They sent her off without a clear explanation of why she was departing. She’s a character who I very much want to come back, and I should hope that they do so.
In the latter case, it seems that Marvel’s editors had something to do with that: Claremont had wanted to write a specific explanation for Kitty Pryde’s departure, and the editors said no. I read a message on Cinescape’s forum that told that, and it also said that he’d told that the editors had caused him some serious problems with last year’s run, and that they undermined his attempts to write something better.
If such is the case, then Claremont may not be entirely to blame for failing the X-books last year (and by extension Fantastic Four); it could be that the editors too are to blame for misguiding the titles. Such a case is no doubt common, and it’s not a good one. Of course, to rehire Claremont to write the books was an all-too-obvious attempt to capitalize on the movie at the same time. Since Claremont was the one who sent the X-Men skyrocketing back in the '70s, they thought that attaching his name to the current books is what could bring in money. Now really, that wasn’t necessary at all in order to get more of the public to buy them. No matter what writer they’d assigned, the public would come in droves.
Editorial interference is surely also one of the reasons why the independent market really grew during the '80s: Since Marvel and DC weren’t providing proper creative freedom up to a point for many artists and writers, many of them decided to work in the indie market.
If Marvel and DC interfere with the works of their employees, then of course they’ll really damage what could be some really good stories, and only damage their chances of success.
Some brief addendum I can add about Wolverine's Native American wife: As you said,
<<(Wolverine) was once married to a Native American who has been killed (by Sabretooth, I believe)>>
I think her name was Silver Fox. And yes, it was Sabretooth who murdered her.
Thanks also to [name withheld] for all the details of the Original Human Torch's various appearances over the past decades. So Mantis once married a tree creature? Now that's bizarre!
While Psylocke wasn't one of my favorite characters, Lexicon, I understand your distress and sympathize with it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
And I certainly agree that ham-handed editorial direction is ALWAYS painful to read, from "Emerald Twilight" to Mary Jane's departure to editor-mandated deaths. Stories should grow ORGANICALLY, or they read falsely -- and badly.
Another such example was the Psyclocke/Archangel romantic liaison ending inexplicably, with Psylocke leaping abruptly into the new Thunderbird's arms. Since T-Bird had no personality at that point, and no origin had been given, and his presence on the team not explained (a Claremontian technique he uses quite frequently), Psylocke's sudden infatuation made no sense -- unless you're as cynical as I, who immediately assumed that the romantic switcheroo was done deliberately by Claremont to give the boring (but Claremont-created) Thunderbird some artificial depth and immediate fan interest by linking him to a popular character.
Anyway, I still haven't warmed up to Thunderbird -- who still has no personality, origin or explanation for how he joined the team, aside from some brief references -- and thought Psylocke's death to be one for shock's sake.
Ah, well, it's comics -- nobody stays dead forever! Well, except for Uncle Ben. And Bucky. And Thomas & Martha Wayne. And ...
Anyway, if it makes you feel any better, Marvel's getting quite a reputation in the industry for NOT being heavy-handed editorially, since the advent of the Quesada/Jemas team. I've been quite impressed with the revival of Fantastic Four, Avengers, Spider-Man, Hulk and some other mainstays, and some of their books (Marvel Boy, for example) are pretty doggone wild.
Oh, and Mantis did indeed once marry a tree-like alien called a Cotati, that was inhabited by the spirit of the dead Swordsman. I kid you not. In fact, it was a double marriage, with Scarlet Witch and Vision also tying the knot, in Giant-Size Avengers #4 (May 75).

Now make no mistake here. I do like Psylocke. But when I look back at what I wrote about Gambit, insisting he should be wiped out because of grave mistakes that weren’t his fault, I just have to shake my head and wonder what was wrong with me then? Heck, some of my other comments were pretty cloddish too.

And what’s this Mr. Smith told me about Quesada/Jemas not getting a reputation for heavy-handed editorial mandates? Granted, they weren’t churning out company wide crossovers at that time, but editorial mandates were still prevalent, and their choices for writers were still pretty poor. It may be irony, but the problems were still there. I faintly remember a Hawkeye series at the time that had some absurd politics shoved in, but the main problem was that it was despairingly dull and padded.

Captain Comics Queries:
<<But I am a bit confused. Are ALL Japanese comics manga? Or just the big-foot variety? I read Lone Wolf & Cub, Akira and a few other select Japanese comics -- does that make me a closet manga reader?>>
Here's my take on the matter, based on what I've been exposed to as a reader of comics from around the world:
"Manga" roughly translates into "irresponsible pictures" or "funny pictures," which makes it the Japanese equivalent for the term "funnybooks" or "funnies," which has been used as a popular term for "comics" since their current inception. The term "funnybooks" has, in English, been used as a catch-all term for comics -- even material that is not even primarily humorous (Spider-Man) or remotely humorous (Watchmen, which I've actually heard referred to as a "literate funny-book"). So it your view of whether or not you are a "manga" reader can depend on how you consider using the term "funnybooks."
Over the years, I've seen the term "manga" generally used in two ways:
The word for "Japanese comics," i.e., comics produced in Japan; and
The Japanese word for "comics."
Based on the definition of terms above, I would think the second is a proper definition of manga. I simply refer to comics produced in Japan as "Japanese comics," the same way I would refer to a car, motorcycle, camera, stereo, music, television or a videogame system produced there as a "Japanese" model. It would be like there was some term for comics produced by Todd McFarlane because he is from Canada. Note that there is no distinction in style, except for "funny."
To further muddy the waters a bit, there is ANOTHER term I know of: "gekiga," which means "serious pictures" or "dramatic pictures," so material like Lone Wolf and Cub, EAGLE: The Making of An Asian-American President and Sanctuary would fit under this term. Gekiga also seems to also have as part of its definition the notion of format -- material cited as definitive "gekiga" is often distinguished by its physical presentation, which is as squarebound books, so it may also be roughly analogous to "graphic novel," which again in the west is a catch-all term for "grown-up, serious comics."
So to answer your query, "Is Captain Comics a manga reader?", I offer this: I would define "manga" as something more inclusive yet more general than many of the definitions you have been presented, as the Japanese catch-all term for "comics," a reader of X-Men is a manga reader, as I've heard the cry of X-Men readers as "funnybook readers." So yes, Cap you are a manga reader, but I would think, additionally, you are a reader of gekiga, more serious, handsomely presented work.
Funny you should mention "big-foot variety," as I recently read in the interview collection by Will Eisner, Shop Talk (published by Dark Horse), an exchange between Eisner and Neal Adams, where they discuss the differences between humorous "big-feet" comics and dramatic "small-feet" comics, but they still refer them as "comics." This is the same way I feel about manga.
Of course now, someone will come about and prove me wrong ... which happens quite a lot :)
Thanks, […] -- I was taken to task by a reader once for being "sloppy" with my use of the terms manga and anime, by using them generically for Japanese comics and animation, respectively. Sounds like I was actually doing OK.
Now for some TPB suggestions:

I’m afraid he still is, though it’s nothing compared to his sense of rationale. Even the correspondent is guilty of some pretty awful leanings.

Dear Captain Smith: I may be a bit late, but could not resist the temptation to register my suggestions for comic collections in trade paperback (or hardback). Unlike yourself, most of what I would like to see available in a collected format has not yet been offered. However, hats off to DC for doing the best job so far in this regard.
Anyway, here goes in a somewhat prioritized order:
1) Golden Age Spectre
2) Silver Age Spectre
3) ... even Bronze Age Spectre (yeah, I LIKE The Spectre)
4) Detective Chimp (Mr. Infantino agreed with me at a recent convention signing. It is also his favorite work at DC. Couldn't they market this both as nostalgia and a children's book?)
5) Captain Comet
6) Golden and Atom Age Sub-Mariner (really, a complete Bill Everett collection would be wonderful, and apparently remarkable if seen at all)
7) Golden Age Vision
8) Atom/Silver Age Martian Manhunter (since the latest version is about to bite the dust, I doubt there is much chance of seeing this one soon, huh? )
9) Many, many more volumes of the Golden Age of Marvel Comics
10) Captain Marvel (starting with the Marvel Super Heroes debut, up to the currently (or previously?) available TPB
11) Thunder Agents (including solo Dynamo, NoMan and Undersea Agents ... talk about long overdue)
12) The complete '60s Space Ghost comics (however slim a volume it would be)
13) The finished run of Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
14) Strange Adventures/Mystery in Space (I think this should be marketed from the nostalgic slant, instead of the direction taken on the cover of the most recent attempt. An Atomic Knights collection would be greatly appreciated as well!)
15) Sword of the Atom (Gil Kane should be given his due, please. This could lead to other great collections, such as early Warlock, Captain Action, etc. -- keep those Silver Age Lanterns, Atoms and Flashes coming too!)
16) The complete Curt Swan Superman
17) Jimmy Olsen by Jack Kirby (call it Fourth World, or Superman and Jimmy Olsen or whatever -- just get it on the market already!)
18) Blue Beetle by Steve Ditko
19) (The Archie Goodwin Era of) Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella (I think I should have put this first. This would be great to see as a Russ Cochran Library-type oversized edition, with all those beautiful washes by Ditko, Adams, Frazetta, etc. ... Drool!)
20) The complete Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby (I should have put this second.)
21) The complete Neal Adams Batman (a la the recent Green Lantern/Arrow collection, and the upcoming -- I really hope it is still upcoming -- Deadman)
22) Doom Patrol ('60s)
23) The complete Neal Adams DC Comic Book Covers
24) The complete Brian Bolland DC Comic Book Covers (wow, what if these could be the start of a series?)
25) The Golden Age Sandman (a missed opportunity by not getting this one out previously )
That's all off the top of my head. Wish I had some time to give it more thought! I wonder how much of this we will ever see? Since most of the current comics I enjoy the most are canceled often, I would guess not many of them. But hope springs eternal. After all, if they ever utilize the CD-ROM format further, all could be done at much less cost ...
Enjoy your column! Keep them coming!
And thanks for the TPB suggestions! I think my remark about what I'd like to see being already in print was erroneous; what I should have said is that what I'd EXPECT to see is already been in print. You know, Green Lantern/Arrow, Watchmen, early X-Men, Miller Daredevil -- stuff that will both sell now and be in demand over time. I would love to see a Strange Adventures or '60s Doom Patrol or '60s Martian Manhunter or Mike Fleisher Spectre or just about ANY Golden Age collection -- but, realistically, what are the chances that they'd sell well enough for DC (or whomever) to trot them out? Similarly, some of your suggestions (THUNDER Agents, Vampirella) will almost certainly never see print, due to compilcations involving who owns the trademark/copyrights (both are in litigation).
But I'd sure like to see 'em! Here's more:

Plenty of those books are – or have – been in print since then. I do wonder why he hasn’t complained seriously in his paper columns why it’s not helpful if certain sources are stingy with litigation trademarks to the point it prevents them from being reprinted. Thank goodness we have the blogosphere today so that correspondents like the person who wrote that list can make their requests there, rather than on an awful site like Private Propaganda’s.

Dear Cap: The power of Captain Comics is truly awe-inspiring! Since I sent you my list of TPB suggestions, we've had news of the following:

A double dose of Englehart's Avengers: The long-awaited Celestial Madonna collection, plus the original Avengers/Defenders clash. The Celestial Madonna book has just been confirmed by Kurt Busiek at the Avengers message board. Contrary to earlier reports, it may even be released before the Avengers/Defenders book.

An Essential Howard the Duck collection! According to Steve Gerber himself, it'll contain everything: the two back-up stories from the unfortunately titled Giant-Size Man-Thing and the complete Gerber run of HTD (issues #1-27, plus one Annual). Seems like an awfully big Essentials volume, but that's how Gerber described it.

There's even been an online mention of a possible TPB of Englehart's Captain America.

Cap, I had no idea that you had this kind of influence over the powers-that-be at Marvel. Or is it possible that Quesada and Brevoort have been receiving my mental transmissions? Either way, it's a fine example of "ask and ye shall receive." Everyone concentrate now: Defenders/Headmen TPB ... Defenders/Headmen TPB ...

Well, I promised Joe Quesada and Paul Levitz that I wouldn't tell anybody, but those guys call me all the time. "What TPBs should we publish?" "Who should we get to draw Captain America?" "What's the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
Whine, whine, whine. I wish those guys'd get a life and leave me alone. What an awful duty, guiding the larger publishers through the shoals of comics fandom. Ah, well, I suppose that great responsibility comes with great power, or something like that. Hmmm. Might make a good slogan for a superhero if I worded it differently ...

A better question might be whether they should waste so much money on crossovers for newer output. But no, he’ll never ask those queries, because he doesn’t want to have a falling out with men who’re truly awful anyway.

Hi Andrew: I enjoyed your recent column on trade paperbacks. I really think that this format, more and more, reflects the future of the comics industry. Your question about what TPBs I'd like to see in the future really started me thinking, so here's a few suggestions in no particular order:
1) OMEGA THE UNKNOWN: A great series from the 1970s about a mute, enigmatic hero and his unknown ties to a teenage boy. Even with the lame wrap-up published in The Defenders several years after the brief series ended, this one was a hoot. I'd love to see the run reprinted, with a new ending.
2) THE INVADERS: Especially the first two dozen or so issues with the quirky yet wonderful art of Frank Robbins. This was a gas, a loving tribute to the Golden Age by Roy Thomas and a chance for us second-generation comic readers to find out just how cool those Timely characters could be.
3) CAPTAIN ACTION: An unappreciated short series with great art by Wally Wood and Gil Kane. The back issues can get sort of pricey these days, so I think a TPB would be great.
4) THE WAR OF THE WORLDS: From Marvel's Amazing Adventures, the story of Killraven and his band of rebels, with art by Herb Trimpe and later by P. Craig Russell, definitely deserves reprinting. Great science fiction and fabulous writing.
5) LEV GLEASON'S DAREDEVIL: One of my favorite Golden Age series, this was a great title until the Little Wise Guys totally took over the book. Worth reprinting, especially the early issues where DD battled the Claw.
6) THE BLACK KNIGHT: From the 1950s by Joe Maneely. It's too bad Joe didn't live into the Silver Age. His solid, detailed artwork would have given Kirby a run for his money.
7) THE YELLOW CLAW: Also from the 1950s. Another legendary series by the King, Jack Kirby. This probably won't be reprinted because of the obviuos Cold War content, but I can hope.
Slightly off the subject, I'd love to see a Masterworks of Marvel Mystery Comics, reprinting at least the Torch and Sub-Mariner stories, if not the whole book. With the success of DC's Archive Editions, maybe this one isn't as far-fetched as one might think.
Anyway, there are my suggestions. The likelihood of Marvel actually reprinting any of the above is, I realize, incredibly slim, but I can hope. Thanks for a great column week after week.
Thanks for the suggestions, [name withheld]! I remember reading some of those Joe Maneely Black Knight stories in the '60s (as reprints, probably in Marvel Tales or Fantasy Masterpieces) and being blown away. What a terrible disappointment to learn later that Maneely had died young.
I'm also curious about Lev Gleason's Daredevil and Yellow Claw, since I know next to nothing about them. (Wasn't Gleason's DD deaf?) And, of course, I'd be willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for some high-quality Timely reprints of their Big Three (Torch, Subby and Cap), since the few I've read have simply whetted my appetite. But I'd only go with an Omega The Unknown reprint if your suggestion was followed, and that lame Defenders story was nixed in favor of an ending more in line with what the series was suggesting.
And Marvel Mystery Comics #1 was recently reprinted in 80-Page Giant format. Here's more:

The chances Mr. Smith would try to persuade them in his column to reprint Yellow Claw are slim.

Dear Cap: A few things...
I read the first Just Imagine Stan Lee ... title and I enjoyed it, although I must confess I like the idea more than the execution. The tale read like a pastiche of superhero origin stories. You had (1) the violent death of the beloved parent (2) of a socially ostracized protagonist who (3) is bullied and (4) framed for a crime he didn't commit. He then (5) builds body and mind to the pinnacle of human perfection and (6), makes a costume. (7) With the help of a genius inventor who augments the costume with gadgets, our hero (8) gets revenge on his tormentor.
Twelve issues of this stuff really won't be worth it.
But the other thing that struck me was the hero's name -- Wayne Williams. There is a convicted serial killer by that name who was accused of the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-81, during which nearly 30 children between the ages of 7 to 12 died. Williams was tried for the murders of two adults, but was tied to the other killings by forensic evidence, and sentenced to two life terms.
It's forgotten now, but 20 years ago, that unsolved string of disappearances was a national sensation. I remember my mother -- in Baltimore -- going into a frenzy because the CBS Evening News reported that some child in Atlanta didn't come home from school; he had visited a friend without telling his family.
Evidently, neither Stan nor anyone at DC remembered that association with the name, but it hit me just as bluntly as if he'd called the hero "Jeffrey Dahmer." (But then, I suppose he'll be forgotten after two decades, too ...)
On a much less morbid note, here are some trade paperback collections I'd like to see:
1) The early Jonah Hex stories from Weird Western Tales, drawn by Tony deZuniga and written by John Albano and, later on, by Michael L. Fleisher.
2) David Michelinie and Gerry Talaoc's run on The Unknown Soldier in Star Spangled War Stories. Those were nice, tight tales that put the Soldier in an endless string of can't-win-for-losing situations.
3) "The War That Time Forgot" series from Star Spangled War Stories, in which, for no discernible reason, various soldiers, sailors and airmen from World War II found themselves fighting dinosaurs! (As Jack Kirby once wrote, "DON'T ASK! Just buy it!") A goofy concept, but rendered by top artists, including Russ Heath, Neal Adams and Ross Andru/Mike Esposito.
4) A Dr. Strange story arc, circa 1972, in which a would-be god named Sise-Neg (spell it backward) tries to remake the world in his own image. As he travels to the past, amassing greater and greater power, Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo follow, trying to influence him just like the angel and the devil in all those hokey cartoons. Some absolutely stunning art by Frank Brunner and the Crusty Bunkers, here.
5) DC's kiddie titles: Sugar and Spike, Scribbly, Angel and the Ape, etc.
6) The early Frank Miller Daredevil stories, written by Roger Mackenzie and inked by Klaus Janson.
7) Not Brand Echh, Marvel's answer to MAD Magazine.
8) Walt Simonson's run on Thor.
9) Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers's run on Detective Comics.
10) Some selected story arcs from Batman and Detective Comics in the '80s, when stories would begin in one title and end in the other (as the Superman titles did for far too long). In particular, the introduction of Harvey Bullock, who then was a corrupt stooge of Boss Rupert Thorne. I'd also like the story of The Joker's attempt to overthrow the government of Guatemala (Why? Why ask why?); the Hollywood crime school; and Batman and Robin's encounter with the Vampiri. The Batman stories were drawn by Gene Colan and written, if I recall correctly, by Doug Moench; the Detective stories were drawn by the late, underrated Don Newton and written, I believe, by Gerry Conway.
11) Some selected story arcs from Superman, before it was renamed Adventures of Superman. In particular, one from around issue #304-307 in which Supergirl told Superman he wasn't the Last Son of Krypton, but a superpowerful mutant -- that Krypton was a sheer fantasy! The truth, of course, was something else, but the fun was in unraveling the mystery. I forget the writer, but it was drawn beautifully (as always) by the underrated Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.
Another arc would be from #296-299, in which Superman discovers he has no super-powers as Clark Kent! He thinks his body and mind is rebelling from the secret identity thing, and decides to try living exclusively in one identity, and then the other, before permanently choosing which one to settle in. Unraveling that mystery was fun, too. Written, if I recall correctly, by Elliott S! Maggin, and drawn by the ever-steady Curt Swan and Bob Oksner. I'd throw in Superman #300, in which he's rocketed to Earth as in infant today -- "today" being July, 1976, the cover date of the issue -- and becomes the Man of Tomorrow in the future -- the "future" being 2001, at the turn of the millennium. (And if that doesn't make you feel old ...!)
12) And last but not least, the "Acts of Vengeance" storyline from Avengers, in which the Masters of Evil lay siege to the mansion. Hard to believe it's been 10 years, but I still get chills thinking about poor Jarvis being mangled by Mr. Hyde ... and still get misty-eyed at the ending, in which Captain America finds his mother's picture torn in half.
Excuse me, I think I've got something in my eye ...
That would be your finger, I'm thinking.
Some great suggestions, [withheld] -- although, some have already been done! The Englehart/Rogers Detectives were recently collected in TPB, Simonson's Thor was in print at one time, and virtually all of Miller's Daredevil work has seen reprint in one form or another. Oh, and the Sise-Neg Dr. Strange arc was partly collected in, of all places, Marvel's Treasury books! Which is not to say I wouldn't like them in handy TPB form!
Oh, and I didn't make the Wayne Williams connection at all -- now I'm REALLY creeped out! Here's more TPB stuff:

Sure, I’ll bet he’s “creeped out”. He certainly wasn’t when Identity Crisis was published, judging from the whimsical tone of his awful columns (the correspondent took the same side he did, BTW). Which, as a result, makes ME feel creeped out.

Hey Cap: I've really enjoyed reading all of the suggestions for trade paperbacks. A couple that I'd really like to see:
An Inhumans and a Black Widow featuring their individual runs in Amazing Adventures. Plus, and someone probably already mentioned this, Adam Strange from Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures.

As for lost projects, I'd love to get my hands on the 21 pages of the original JLA/Avengers, plus the 70 pages that George Perez finished on a Teen Titans Graphic Novel called Games, and the 13 pages he had completed for Crimson Plague #3. I'd also love both to see the unpublished issues of Youngblood by Alan Moore and the Youngblood story that Kurt Busiek wrote before he and Rob Liefeld had a falling out.
Rob Liefeld said in a recent interview that all the Moore and Busiek Youngblood material will see print. Of course, he's said that before. Here's more:

Yawn. Somebody wanted to finance Liefeld? If he’s the artist to Moore and Busiek’s scriptwriters, then that’s enough to make me run screaming from the room.

Dear Cap: Hail and greetings. Think I'll address some of the issues in your current Mailbag, in no particular order ...
ITEM THE FIRST: Green Arrow and other interactions during the Grell era -- the only other big interaction I can recall is during the Eclipso and Bloodlines annuals (and lord, we know how popular THOSE were, don't we?) I didn't collect GA then -- OK, I NEVER collected GA except for the (Mike W.) Barr/(Trevor) Von Eeden miniseries (it wasn't bad ...) So, I don't know about a lot of other appearances, but that's my fogey recollections ...
ITEM THE SECOND: TPBs I'd like to see. Well, a brief list (yeah, right ...)
1) Superman's Minis -- The World of Krypton, The Phantom Zone, The Krypton Chronicles -- I think it'd be fun!
2) Supergirl's arrival on Earth and subsequent presentation to the public -- it was all reprinted in an 80-Page Giant once (lo, these many years past) but that Mooney art was never better, and I think it deserves airing out again.
3) The New Teen Titans -- We could choose from: a collection of the Tales of the Titans miniseries, the Terra storyline, the DC Comics Presents preview, the Digest original story (Wolfman/Infantino), the really good "Runaways" story (that story MUST be reprinted -- it's too good and too significant), the Keebler Titans giveaway (it had Speedy and "The Protector" instead of Kid Flash and Robin), etc.
4) The Doom Patrol -- okay, I'd like to see the final issues of the Doom Patrol (Arnold Drake/Bruno Premiani), the DP Showcase run (Levitz?/Staton), the DCCP appearance (???/Giffen -- this is also the first appearance of Ambush Bug -- well, anything to sell the book, I guess), the New Titans appearance of whatever happened to the DP (Wolfman/Perez), and the Secret Origins Annual story (???/Byrne) -- now THAT'S an esoteric collection of stories! Oh, let's throw in the Super-Team Family/Superman Family team up of Supergirl and the Doom Patrol!
5) A Showcase TPB or two -- the introductions of the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Atom. (If more is needed, we could pack in Adam Strange and the Metal Men, but I think those first dozen books should be enough ...)
6) The best of The Brave and The Bold non-Batman team-ups.
7) The West Coast Avengers -- the miniseries, the first two books, and the companion Vision/Scarlet Witch books.
8) The Claremont/Byrne Marvel Team-Ups -- in particular, I remember Spider-Man/Red Sonja quite fondly, and this run also includes the first John Byrne art on the X-Men. Really.
9) Iron Man -- the first Michelinie/Layton (or Michelinie/Romita Jr./Layton) run was so darned good that pretty much anything from this era is worth reprinting. Some of it was, in The Power of Iron Man TPB, but there is a lot more -- maybe a run ending up with Iron Man #150 -- Dr. Doom and Iron Man in Camelot.
That, at least, is a bit of a start of stuff I'd like to see ...
ITEM THE THIRD: "Our Worlds At War" and deaths -- c'mon. Nobody dies forever in DC comics -- especially if there is the least amount of profit to be extracted from it. And believe you me, they went to all the trouble of keeping Ma and Pa Kent alive -- you'd KNOW if they were going to kill them off. It's too big a story to be subsumed into a silly little company-wide crossover -- the profit potential is too big to conflict with the profit potential of OWAW.
ITEM THE FOURTH: Dream Projects -- sure, I have some I'd like to have seen. The last issue of 1963. Michelinie/Layton's third part of the Iron Man/Doom/Camelot trilogy (yes, it's there -- Layton discusses it on his website.) The two sequels to Crisis on Infinite Earths -- Crisis of the Soul and the third Crisis book (if it was named, I've long since forgotten it.) "Twilight of the Gods" by Alan Moore (basically, his take on Kingdom Come -- save that I believe his concept predated KC. No plagiarism is implied -- the two stories are not very much alike.) Wolverine's origin -- oh, wait! Never mind! :-) Frank Miller's Superman story (he had one as a companion piece to The Dark Knight Returns.) The proposal of the alternate Man of Steel mini -- I heard this as a party around Mid-Ohio Con lo, these many years past, where some writers (sorry, I don't remember whom -- but I do recall Mr. Miller was there among others) were discussing how they would take Earth-One's Superman and, over the course of a six-issue mini, transform him and his milieu into what DC wanted, WITHOUT eradicating all the continuity. Stern and Byrne's continuation of the Captain America storyline, including the Cap/X-Men crossover and Stern/Byrne's story of Cap and Logan in WWII. And, just for the sake of curiosity, I'd like to read the story that would have been printed if "the readers" had NOT voted to kill Jason (Robin) Todd. And just for the sake of fun, I'd like to see a release of Canceled Comics Cavalcade -- the black-and-white Xerox paste-ups of the comics canceled with the DC Implosion (the last issues of Firestorm, Black Lightning, Secret Society of Super-Villains, etc.)
ITEM THE FIFTH: Solomon Grundy and Blockbuster -- and let us not forget that they actually MET once, during a JLA/JSA crossover (JLA #39-40? Who remembers at this late date?) This was also one of the JLA books that featured Batman in VERY PROMINENT COVER position, trying to capitalize on the TV show.
ITEM THE SIXTH: Favorite obscure titles. Well, that's kind of tough, but let me think ...
Starman (Stern's version -- Will Payton) I don't know how obscure this book is, but I know I can get almost a complete run out of dime or quarter bins -- and that's a crying shame, because Stern did a real bang-up job on this book! This was a companion piece to Stern's other "introductory" DC title (when he started writing for DC), and that was ...
Power of the Atom -- A nice book, great treatment of Ray Palmer, changing his powers so that he was functional at any size, without making him overwhelmingly tough, and really well written.
West Coast Avengers (miniseries) -- By Roger Stern and Bob Hall. This kicked off a whole new leg of the Avengers, and while Bob Hall is no Neal Adams or Alex Ross, his art was clean, clear and it looks like real people (oh, boy, let's not start THAT again!)
Nightcrawler (the miniseries) by Dave Cockrum -- gee, this was just a HECK of a good time! It was great fun -- if you can find it in the quarter boxes (I've seen it more than a few times), it's well worth it!
The New Teen Titans -- Okay, now you wouldn't think of this as an obscure title, but I see it ALL THE TIME in quarter boxes -- so I guess it must be obscure!
ITEM THE SEVENTH: Just a quick note to join in your call -- I also cannot stand Foolkiller, Lobo, Deadpool, The Punisher, etc. Believe me, if Batman and Superman should have been fighting when they met, then Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, etc., should have these clowns at the top of the Wanted lists. I agree; anti-heroes are just that, and killers are villains.
ITEM THE EIGHTH: The first married superheroes: Okay, technically, Elongated Man and Sue Dibny were shown as married -- but as of Flash #123, we saw that A) Jay Garrick was married and B) had been married for quite a while -- does this count in our calculations, or did it have to be "on screen"?
ITEM THE NINTH: I will concur (FWIW) that World of Krypton was the first miniseries (unless we're counting books that ran for five or six issues, and were listed as "try-outs" -- in which case, most every arc of Showcase could be considered a mini.
Thanks as always for consideration of my (excessive) bandwidth!
And thanks for your thoughts, […]! I think you'll be pleased to hear that a Supergirl Archives (featuring her first Action appearances chronologically) should be out later this year. Oh, and the Showcase/Brave & Bold debuts of Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Justice League, et al, have already been included in the Archives of those characters, respectively -- but there's no law that we couldn't have a Showcase or B&B Archive for characters unlikely to get their own separate Archives, like Cave Carson, Rip Hunter and I -- Spy!
And, yeah, I'm discounting Jay Garrick (and other Golden Age heroes) who were depicted retroactively as being married before Ralph & Sue Dibny. Almost arbitrarily, I'm saying that to be the First Married Superhero that it has to be "on camera" and occur within regular continuity where the hero continues his crime-fighting hobby with the ring on. So the Golden Agers don't count, unless we SAW the wedding IN CONTINUITY. Which, by those strict and arcane rules, leaves the Elongated Man as the first hero to tie the knot.
Here's more on "Our Worlds At War":

Interestingly, the correspondent didn’t have any serious objections to Identity Crisis any more than Mr. Smith did. In fact, he didn’t seem particularly galled by the awful treatment Ray Palmer and Jean Loring got in IC either. That could explain why he never seemed to bring these kind of topics up again so far.

I also wonder if he has no problem with characters turned into ghosts. Point: you can’t get much mileage or development out of a ghost, and what worked for Casper doesn’t work for everybody else.

Hey Cap: I read Wonder Woman #172 last night. Wow! Wasn't expecting that. And I always hated the idea of having two Wonder Women running around. It totally caught me off guard.
Anyway, I've been reading most of the "Our Worlds At War" titles except the Superman titles. (I know the whole crossover begins and ends with Superman, but I've just never been a huge fan.)
My question is: When "Our Worlds At War" is finished, could you provide a nice recap of what all happened for those of us who aren't reading every book in this crossover where the reader supposedly doesn't have to read every book to understand it? I'm particularly interested in a final list of the dead.
So far I have: Guy Gardner, Aquaman and Hippolyta. But I've heard that several others have died in those Superman titles that I'm not reading.
That's the second request I've had for a list of casualties from OWAW, […] -- and I'll be happy to provide one, if some eager beaver Legionnaire doesn't beat me to it and send one in! (That's an open request, by the way.)
At the moment, I'd add to your list Ma & Pa Kent, who are at least MIA at the moment. As of this writing I haven't read the July Super-books yet (I've been out of town), so there are quite a few I've missed so far.

Hmm, no complaints about death-in-battles used as a plot device, eh?

Sorry, Cap, but I have to take exception with you on this one:
<<Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja #1-16 was about, yes, a ninja, trained by the CIA to be so good he could break steel with his hands and so forth. It wasn't memorable enough for me to remember anything more.>>
While I shared your initial cynicism about this title when I first picked up the initial issue in a drugstore way back when, I soon became enthralled by the title. Far from being a CIA ninja tale (hmm, as was EVERY Wolverine story for the past 10 years, I think), Nth Man was far more. First, it was set in a post-WWIII world. Second, the protagonist had an interesting bete noir: his twin brother, who just so happened to have complete control over reality and was also completely unbalanced. The stories thus generated from this concept melded sci-fi, horror, action, adventure, humor and superheroics in a surprisingly effective package. Throw in some ironic references for comics fanboys, and a finale which wrapped up all the loose ends quite well, and Nth Man was a winner.
Give it another read -- you won't be disappointed.
You've convinced me, [withheld] -- such enthusiasm must be based on something! I'll dig those babies out and give 'em a re-read one of these days. Thanks -- and don't apologize for having a different opinion! We love differing opinions here on CaptainComics.net, the comics site for people who hate comics sites!

Oh, sure they love different opinions. If they’d employed more people of right-wing backgrounds, maybe they’d have a better image, but left-wingers like those can’t be relied on for much of anything. Onto August 9, 2001, beginning with one about the passing of the late John Buscema:

Dear Cap: This is hugely tragic news. A celebration of the man is in order (a tribute, if you will) while he is still with us.
To me he is what Curt Swan is to Superman, Jim Aparo is to Batman, John Romita is to Spider-Man and (for others I'm sure) Carl Barks is to the Ducks -- "Big John" is the Good Conan Artist (as big a fan of the Barry Smith Conan I am).
You are loved, Big John!
The Captain is so distraught he is almost speechless. He encourages everyone touched by Buscema's art to write to his family, using the address on the home page.
Now for some thoughts on "Our Worlds At War":

Sure he was distraught. Sure even the correspondent was. From what I can tell, Smith’s never been respectful in this century of Buscema’s hard work any more than he’s been of Gardner Fox and Gil Kane’s work. He had no business even addressing this topic to start with.

Dear Cap: I'm going to have to insist on revising the "published" casualty list so far on your site. In last week's issue of Superman, an orderly in the "superhero hospital" asks, "what can we use for Vuldarian plasma?" So, despite what Booster Gold said, Guy Gardner is not (yet) actually dead. Also, when asked about Aquaman being in the JLA/Avengers crossover now that he's gone, Mike Carlin said that Aquaman is actually MIA, so it shouldn't be a problem. The only character we can truly say without a doubt is dead is Hippolyta. And even then, I don't know.
Good points, […], which I mirrored in a recent CBG column (due to be published around the last week of August). I suspect that Aquaman, Guy Gardner, Lobo, Ma & Pa Kent, Strange Visitor/Kismet and a few others will find their way back to the land of the living. On the other hand, it looks likely that Hippolyta, Sam Lane and possibly Steel are really and truly dead. We'll have to wait and see. And speaking about who's dead and who's not:

Before we get to that, how fascinating that neither Smith nor the correspondent have what it takes to complain how stupid this is that DC’s putting an emphasis on killing off characters to begin with. And these are some of the same people who complain about how hard it was to comprehend anything about Crisis on Infinite Earths! So COIE is below criticism, but OWAW is above it? I fail to see the logic here.

Dear Captain: Just sending you a line to complain about an unfair trend I'm noticing. Why does everybody mock the casualties in OWAW and sneer at the way DC handles the deaths of its characters? I know that this is comics and the chestnut "They aren't dead unless you see a body" is true, but I think the wrong company is being maligned here.
Granted, people often complain about the characters DC chooses to kill and the way they do it, but (at) DC, dead is typically dead. Jor-El and Lara, Thomas and Martha Wayne, Jason Todd, Sarah Essen, Atom (Al Pratt), Sandman (Wesley Dodds), Hourman (Rex Tyler), Dr. Mid-Nite (Charles McNider), Mr. Terrific (Terry Sloan), Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Starman (Ted Knight), etc. In fact, the only DC character who hasn't stayed dead in recent memory is Green Arrow. (I don't count Hal Jordan. Yes, he is The Spectre now, but he is also still dead, no more alive than Boston Brand.)
Over at Marvel the only character that is guaranteed to stay dead is Bucky (and even that was almost overturned in Thunderbolts last year.) When I read about Hippolyta and Sam Lane dying, my reaction was, "Oh my God, they're gone!" With the Silver Surfer it was, "Ho-hum, he'll be back."
That's why I prefer DC over Marvel. It's the reputation that DC has built. When someone gets paralyzed, they stay paralyzed. When a city gets demolished, it stays demolished for the better part of a year. That's what is keeping DC up front even in the new Marvel Age of Quesada. OWAW will change the DC Universe for better or for worse. So before we throw out the, "Yeah, like they'll stay dead" comments during this storyline, let's keep in mind which company has a tendency to make the "events" (birth, marriage, death, etc.) matter. Thanks for the time to rant.

Three words, [withheld]: Death. Of. Superman.
That 1993 event was world famous -- and just as famously temporary. You have to forgive some cynicism after that malarkey.
And what's this about Marvel not keeping folks dead? Aside from Bucky, you've got Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, Captain Stacy, Kraven the Hunter, Colossus, Thunderbird I, Franklin Storm, Junior Juniper, Pamela Hawley, Karen Page, Heather Glenn, Captain Marvel I, Mockingbird, Betty Ross Banner, Bluebird, Lady Dorma, Microchip, Marrina, Mariko Yashida … and that's just off the top of my head!
Which isn't to say there haven't been umpty-ump Aunt Mays and Green Goblins in there, making us grind our teeth through another ridiculous resuscitation. It's just that I don't think you can single out one company over the other. Superhero comics often emulate soap-opera formula, where death is usually more plot device than the tragic end it is for us flesh-and-blood types. And with the promiscuous cross-pollination of talent between the two companies, they resemble each other more and more every day.
Which is not to say I fault you for loyalty to DC -- that's your privilege, and I salute you for your passion. But if anything separates the two companies, it's not their cavalier treatment of death, which goes in cycles at both brands depending on who's in charge today.
Of course, that's just my opinion -- I could be wrong! Here's more on OWAW:

He’s long been wrong. He also has no ability to distinguish between deaths that were written well and those that were written offensively or just plain dismally, all for shock’s sake. Nor does he suggest alternatives. Totally bankrupt.

Dear Cap:
<<The ultimate casualty of Our Worlds At War could be Superman's cheerful, mid-century American optimism -- Captain Comics>>
That would be a real tragedy. If Superman becomes just another cynical, dark, morose character, then it'll be the last I read any of those books.
The world is a lot more dark and cynical these days. What is refreshing to me about Superman, is that, despite all that, he manages to keep a positive outlook and hope for the future. I wouldn't expect him not to be affected by the apparent death of his parents ... there should be a mourning period. But Clark's character is such that it shouldn't be a permanent change in his outlook.
I have to agree with you […] -- if Superman became hard-bitten, pessimistic and downbeat, he wouldn't be Superman. He'd be Batman.
For that reason alone, I suspect that what we'll see is Superman struggling for some time with the repercussions of OWAW, especially if Ma & Pa kicked the bucket -- a mourning period, as you called it. And the aftermath will certainly complicate his marriage, since he failed to save Lois's father when it was within his power to do so. And certainly Wonder Woman will be no help, in mourning herself for her mother. (Boy, this crossover was hard on parents!)
But if Jeph Loeb & Co. write true to character -- and there's no reason to believe the estimable Loeb will suddenly become a lousy writer overnight -- we'll see Superman's true heroism win out over pessimism, depression and despair. After all, anybody can be a good guy when things are going smoothly. It takes a mensch to rise above travail, and Superman is, of course, the Uber-Mensch.
Of course, that's just my opinion -- I could be wrong!

Honestly, when has Loeb ever written true to character? Better yet, when has he ever even written anything worthwhile? His Hush storyline in Batman was one of the most vapid, overrated trivias ever published, for nothing more than eye candy.

And Superman did become more or less pessimistic and written very embarrassingly when Identity Crisis was published, ditto when a storyline where Wonder Woman broke Max Lord’s neck was written by Greg Rucka, where Superman was depicted turning WW into a scapegoat, acting like it didn’t matter to him that she’d broken a mind-control effect before Supes could end up causing real chaos under the influence of a co-star who was being written forcibly as a villain. Whatever the exact viewpoint of that tale, it was definitely not written for the cause of optimism.

Dear Cap: I really like your site! I had thoughts on a couple of things I read about there.
1) In discussing anthologies, you suggested that kids of today might not have the attention span necessary to make it through an 80-Page Giant. I'm not so sure. My nine-year-old son just finished churning through all nine of the volumes of the Legion Archives I have, in about two weeks -- and he wants more. It gives me hope for the future.
2) Someone suggested that people share ideas for bargain-bin shopping. Here's mine. If you have a collector's completist-type mentality, you have the opportunity to find complete sets of several entire universes! Most of these are dirt cheap, and the stories are often surprisingly good. For example: (a) the first Valiant Universe, especially Archer and Armstrong, (b) Malibu Ultraverse, (c) Marvel's New Universe, (d) Marvel's 2099, (e) Defiant and (f) Broadway. I'm proud to say I have (or think I have) all of the stories from a, b, c, e and f (not all the comics -- some of the stories are in TPBs), and the vast majority of them came from the cheapo bin. That gives me a strangely warm feeling. A comic like Eternal Warrior looks a lot better at 25 cents than it does at two bucks. (I don't have a complete set of 2099 yet because I refuse to pay more than a pittance for issues of Ghost Rider 2099.) I've had a lot of fun with this approach, and heartily recommend it.
3) I've been suspecting that the Marvel character with a long history that was going to die would be Namor, who must have more failed relaunches than any other Marvel character, and who's always been kind of a pain in the neck. The Silver Surfer, on the other hand, had a pretty long run, so I'd be surprised if he's gone for good (even if it always kind of a dopey concept).
I'm glad you enjoy the site! Makes the work worth it!
1) I'm glad to hear about your son. And certainly '60s-'70s Legion is a terrific book to launch a youngster into the wonderful world of reading for pleasure -- it's complicated but not complex (all those characters), it's accessible and it's generally upbeat. Plus, it's got Superboy as entry point -- every kid knows who Superman is.
2) Good suggestions on quarter-bin material. Some of those Valiant and Malibu books were pretty good.
3) Now we know: The dead '60s character is Odin. Surfer, presumably, will be resurrected after the events of Fantastic Four #46.

While I appreciate the correspondent’s success in offering the Silver/Bronze Age LOSH to his son – tales from those periods are something far better than what you’ll see today under DiDio’s regime – I’m a bit bothered by his recommendation of Archer & Armstrong, which strikes me as at least a bit pretentious. I can’t say the 2099 line’s the best recommendation either.

And Silver Surfer a "dopey" concept? Sorry, I gotta disagree there. It's just the writing efforts that matter.

Dear Cap: Enjoyed your column in CBG #1446 about comic periodicals vs. trade collections, and the future of comics. I kept waiting for you to make a point, and raise a question for discussion that I have addressed in an earlier e-mail to you.

Do we have history repeating itself here? In the '30s, standard-format comics began as collections of newspaper strips. When the format became viable, then original material took over, newspaper reprints were abandoned, and an industry was born.

Today, we see the birth of the comics trade business, and it begins as reprints of the last format. How long before we see standard Spider-Man, Superman, or X-Men stories appear for the first and only time as a trade, and lead to the demise of the monthly periodical appearance of the standard heroes?

Is this not where we are headed?

And my answer, [name withheld], is: I dunno. Certainly the parallel is compelling, but several things would have to happen first. For one thing, comics would have to become a mass medium again, so that there'd be enough people buying original TPBs to replace the consistent revenue the monthlies provide. Secondly, the price point would have to come down on trades -- at $15-20 a pop even your humble narrator, junkie that he is, wouldn't be able to buy more than a couple a week. I'd be reading less, and the publishers would be making less, and if you spread that across Fandom Assembled the publishers would be feeling a serious net loss.
Which is not to say it couldn't happen. As the Chinese say, we are living in interesting times. Here's another thought on the subject:

Unfortunately, we’re still stuck on the pamphlet mentality, mostly because knee-jerk dummies like Mr. Smith are uninterested in improving the medium for the better.

Dear Cap: Your opinions/insight, please: Now that Marvel has finally realized the value of TPBs in the evolving comic-book market, do you think it's affected the editorial direction to produce stronger story arcs in the company's regular monthly titles? Is this the end of Claremont-esque, drawn-out-forever mystery plot lines? For that matter, have DC editors/writers also been driven to craft their tales in longer, self-contained chunks with an eye towards the reprint market? And doesn't it bug you when people spell "toward" with an extra "s" tagged on the end?
Not nearly as much as it bothers me when they use the non-word "amidst" in lieu of "amid" or "in the midst." But don't get me started on America's declining ability to use spelling, grammar and punctuation correctly -- my rant about improper use of apostrophes alone would test the Pope's patience.
Anyway, to answer your question: Yes. Writers are being encouraged to write in four-issue and six-issue arcs. Not that many need the encouragement anyway; savvy writers have been writing with an eye toward TPB reprint (and the extra income that would generate) for quite some time. As mentioned on this site a few weeks ago, Neil Gaiman admitted years ago that he tailored the pacing of his final Sandman arc to read better as a TPB than it did as a monthly book. Both Grant Morrison and Joe Casey have said in online interviews that they are specifically writing their respective X-books as TPBs that just happen to have initial publication broken up into monthly chunks.
Will this spell the end of the Claremontian Neverending Subplot? Well, I certainly HOPE so! I'm no soothsayer, but I suspect that approach to comics writing is on its way out anyway, and the burgeoning demands of the TPB market will put the final nail in that coffin. But comics tend to be cyclical -- I can't say for sure what the future will bring. Other opinions are welcome.
Here are some more TPB suggestions:

This would’ve been funny if not for how they ignore a very huge mistake that they’re practically hinting at: not only has Marvel produced WEAKER storylines, they’ve practically padded them out for the sake of trade paperback sales too. To the point where 4 issues is not enough for them; only 6 issues or more will do, and they’ve practically forced many writers to go along with it. Brian Bendis is the writer who really took things way too far with padding (and “decompressed” may be another way to describe the overlong stories we see now). I wouldn’t go so far to say we’ve seen the last of Neverending Claremontian Subplots either, though we may have seen the last of Claremont in the medium, since he doesn’t seem to have written for them since 2010. He needn’t have to bother either, because the editorial mandates that make the storytelling additionally distasteful would only botch his now tepid writing all the more.

Oh, by the way, it sure bothers me that some newspapers are willing to hire ultra-leftist, anti-war reporters like the one who wrote the letter. I’ll never understand how they reconcile their views with the fact many mainstream superhero books were created by Jews either.

Captain Comics: Glad to see my Ka-Zar question answered – and with a graphic, too! I’ve always wondered about that. As for trade paperbacks I’d like to see:
1) Sword of the Atom: I’ve mentioned this to you before. Besides Gil Kane’s eye-popping fantasy art, the Sword of the Atom miniseries was a radically different take on Atom, placing him in a sword-and-sorcery setting that was a refreshing change of pace. He seemed more human to me here than in any other previous Atom tale, a man filled with anger and guilt over his wife’s adultery. Top-drawer characterization and storytelling, quite “adult” for its time. There were three specials after the miniseries, two of which I have but are somewhat inferior to the miniseries.
2) Ka-Zar the Savage by Bruce Jones and Brent Anderson: An underrated run of relatively grown-up adventure comics from the early ‘80s.
3) The Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden: I’m sorry to hear about Bill Mantlo. Since Marvel doesn’t own the rights to The Micronauts, this probably won’t be reprinted, right? What happened to the proposed Micronauts cartoon?
4) “Forgotten Heroes”: How about a trade paperback focusing on the debuts of Torpedo, Jack of Hearts, the 3-D Man, etc? Was the 3-D Man was only in one Marvel tale?
5) Suicide Squad: I loved this book, and I’m missing numerous issues
6) Warlord by Mike Grell: Another under-appreciated fantasy book. Grell drew some of the most gorgeous women in comic books.
7) The Mighty Crusaders: Don’t ask me why, but I have a fondness for those old Archie superhero titles. Are the Mighty Crusaders appearing in comics again?
8) Hercules by Bob Layton: Hysterically funny; I’ve never seen Galactus drunk before -- or since.
9) Lev Gleason's Daredevil: I've only heard stories about this book -- and panels of kids smoking cigarettes. I believe Daredevil beats up or kills a wife-beater in one issue. EC Comics received all of the credit for pushing the envelope.
10) Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay: See above.
That’s all for now!
Thanks, […] -- cool suggestions, including some I'd love to see. I know next to nothing about Lev Gleason's Daredevil, and would really like to learn.
As to your questions, 3-D Man had only one solo tryout adventure in Marvel Premiere #35-37, but has popped up in some cameos, such as the "What If the Avengers Formed in the '50s" issue of What If, and, I think, Avengers Forever. I don't recall if he appeared in John Byrne's Marvel: The Lost Generation, but I'd be surprised if he didn't. And keep an eye on the current run of Avengers; apparently Triathlon has some connection to 3-D Man that is a running subplot.
And the Mighty Crusaders appear in Arche's Weird Mysteries periodically, as well as the Super Teens specials on occasion.

I like the correspondent’s recommendation of SOTA. It’s since been reprinted, and I own a copy myself. But don’t buy into the notion Mr. Smith backs his standing, because he already spread lies and/or put down the story just because it supposedly places Ray Palmer in a setting that he thinks is worthless. Shame on him.

I also think Grell’s Warlord is a good recommendation, though I’m still very angry at Grell for a very gushing comment he made during an interview he gave about a botched Iron Man story he’d written where he thought making a guest character an Islamist was something to be proud of. It makes no difference whether it was before or after 9-11, that would be reprehensible at any time. Not to mention it completely ignored the real story about the Bosnia war (in fact, it even ignored the mindset of Sulejman Talovic).

Captain, hello: I just want to say how much I enjoy your site. I just discovered by reading about in your review in CrossGen Chronicles # 2. I just discovered CrossGen comics, much to my delight. I was reading back through some of your earlier Trivial Pursuits. In the Jan. 18 one I believe someone asked you about the next two books in a Spider-Man trilogy. The first one was The Gathering of the Sinister Six. A new publishing company has just picked the Marvel contract a few months back. In fact, The Revenge of the Sinister Six, the second volume of the trilogy was published in June 2001 with the last scheduled for publishing sometime early next year. Hope this helps, I look forward to enjoying your site each week in the future.
Thanks for writing, [name withheld]! Believe it or not, the WRITER of said books wrote this site a few weeks back, noting that publication had been resumed. So maybe he'll be reading your comments and know of at least one more fan out there!

While the erstwhile CG had some potential that was sadly failed because of Alessi’s shoddy business proceedings, I don’t think Mr. Smith’s qualified to recommend anything.

Dear Captain: I read your review of the Bat-titles in a recent CBG with great interest. I do not frequent Internet message boards or chat rooms. In the past, I have found too many of them to be forums for cynical fans to spout negative comments about titles that hadn't even been published yet. I enjoy visiting your site and reading the reviews there. They seem to be thoughtful critiques of recent stories, rather than the "That was stupid" mantra that I have encountered when trying to get some online fans to discuss current issues.
Anyhoo, I was surprised to read that some fans have found the current depiction of Batman to be unemotional. While he is certainly not as talkative as he was in the 1980s and even under Alan Grant's long tenure in the 1990s, he seems to me to be a much more open character under the guidance of Grayson, Rucka and Brubaker in the Bat-books and Waid in JLA than he has been since the days of "Knightfall."
I found the depiction of the Dark Knight to be so oppressively morbid under the team of Moench and Gulacy, and even Dixon and Nolan for part of their run on Detective, that I quit reading all but Batman Adventures. Do you remember when Bruce adopted the "new" costume design that was supposedly so different and scary that Tim didn't even recognize him at first? It was supposed to be a hallmark of a grimmer Batman, yet he looked exactly the same despite the writers' insistence that the costume was different. How about when a love interest was introduced for Harvey Bullock, only to be killed in the same issue? I still vividly remember the final page of that issue in which Bruce, once again, swears to the gods that no more innocents would die. I'm all for a driven Batman, but not one who shouts his barbaric cry of vengeance from the rooftops on a monthly basis.
Fortunately, with the current creative teams, we don't get scenes like that on anything resembling a regular basis. Under Grayson's tenure on Gotham Knights, we have been treated to Batman's in-depth introspection about himself in the form of his secret files. (I'll admit it. Up until the end of that story I thought those journals were being written by Clark, based on the fact that Grayson wrote the Superman guest shots during NML.) We've seen him finally acknowledge Dick as his son. Most recently, we've seen him deal with his loneliness in a quite endearing manner via the issue guest-starring Aquaman. While he may not be pouring out his heart to the Bat-crew, plot elements like the secret files and actions such as officially declaring Dick his heir, open the character's thoughts and emotions up to us readers. Although in the most recent issue of Robin, he does open up to Spoiler in yet another fascinating development.
Sure, he seemed a bit cold when Dick told him about his relationship with Barbara. However, I found his reaction to be one of unfamiliarity with how to deal with the development rather than interpreting it as disinterest or disapproval. He's never had a stable relationship of his own. How could he know what the proper reaction should be?
I realize that most of my opinions regarding Gotham Knights are a matter of interpretation of the art and dialogue. However, I think Batman's emotions are
tangibly displayed in Detective and Batman. In Tec, I think the shift in attitude was most evident during the recent "Lord of the Ring" storyline. Reading the
scene in which Bats and Supes reveal their scheme to Lois was an absolute delight. This is a far cry from the antagonistic relationship established by Byrne in Man of Steel. In fact, this issue took me back to my personal Golden Age of comics when Superman would regularly drop by the Batcave to consult on a case. I was especially delighted by JLA #50, which was predominantly composed of Bruce and Clark finally hashing out their differences in the Batcave and ending up on the friendliest terms the characters have shared since the Crisis. In both stories, Batman is SMILING, for crying out loud. We never saw that in the mid- to late 1990s.
Over in Batman, Brubaker has brought first-person narration back to the book and in doing so has let us back into Bruce's head and heart. Brubaker has also given us some fun scenes between Bats and Commissioner Akins, especially in the OWAW special. Here again we see Batman actually smiling, this time in recognition of a kindred spirit.
I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions regarding anything and everything, including the current characterization of the Dark Knight. I can tell you that this lifelong fan is receiving great pleasure from reading the core books and from getting to grok my favorite character all over again.
Thanks for "listening."
And thanks for writing, [withheld]!
Like you, I don't find Batman's current characterization unemotional so much as unsocialized. He DOES feel things, but is unaccustomed by habit and social ineptitude to expressing it in socially acceptable ways. As I've said before, Olympic athletes give up quite a few "normal" activities to become world-class at ONE thing, whereas Batman is world-class at EVERYTHING. One can easily imagine that he's spent every waking moment studying and training -- as opposed to the rest of us, who spent that time interacting with others and learning social graces. Well, presumably.
Anyway, I find this interesting on a number of levels: 1) It makes Batman's virtually superhuman abilities more believable when the cost of attaining them is apparent; 2) it demonstrates the depth of Bruce Wayne's sacrifice in the service of others; 3) it makes the Dark Knight a more complex, multi-layer character whose silences challenge the reader; 4) it makes Batman less picture-perfect in that there is one thing he's no darn good at it (expressing affection, a not uncommon failing among American men); and 5) it challenges the writers. On that last point, writing Batman culls the wheat from the chaff -- Rucka, Grayson and Dixon have proven themselves superior writers in their handling of this complex, non-verbal character, whereas others have failed abysmally.
I was almost moved to tears during the "adoption" scene. Nightwing's clumsy "confession" of his relationship with Oracle was deft. Batman's brusque response was perfectly in character -- in HIS mind he approved (and he was certainly aware of the relationship already and had taken no steps to end it), so why belabor the point? Nightwing's outrage was also in character for this passionate young man, followed by Batman's almost palpable discomfort and confusion that his tacit approval had been misinterpreted as indifference. And, finally, both his love for Dick Grayson and his almost superhuman ability to plan ahead were both demonstrated by having the adoption papers signed and sealed in advance. What a show!
I do understand other readers' visceral reactions -- we all have an image in our minds of who Batman is and how he ought to act, usually based on our first exposure to the character from our own personal Golden Age. But different points of view is what makes for good discussions -- and we wouldn't be having these discussions if we all weren't Bat-fans through and through.
Thanks again for your thoughts! One thing, though -- weren't the "journal entry" voiceovers in early issues of Gotham Knights eventually shown to be written by Hugo Strange? Or are we talking about two different things?

Sigh. What a shame that the correspondent thought Moench and Dixon’s writing wasn’t great, yet he, along with Mr. Smith, thought Rucka, Brubaker and Grayson were? I wouldn’t go that far. Mainly because of what utter tripe Rucka and Brubaker cooked up later in Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive, a crossover that wasted more money than it must’ve made. As for Grayson, there may have been a few stories she wrote that were interesting, but she soon stumbled, and her writing on Nightwing was truly awful. Especially a story where a character she came up with called Tarantula raped Nightwing on a rooftop! Amazingly enough, Grayson actually apologized for that embarrassment in 2014, which is more than can be said for Brad Meltzer, who’s never apologized for Identity Crisis to date, nor has he ever donated money to a charity for abuse victims, unlike artist Frank Cho, who did. Now for August 16, 2001:

Hey, Cap'n: On the subject of Odin and his "death," I had always been of the mind that Valhalla, Hel, Nifleheim, Breidablik, Himinbjorg and the other halls of the gods were more or less for MORTALS who deserved to go there, and that the afterlives of the gods were not known, and therefore undesireable.
Now, being that this is Odin of the Marvel Thor, there's nothing preventing the writers/editors of the book to go ahead and shunt the old boy to Valhalla, though it'd seem a bit odd for him to end up in his own hall ("I'm not just the president, I'm a client!"). Except when (Walt) Simonson was writing, adherence to the mythology has never been Marvel's strong suit.
I also keep wondering, what about all the other Norse gods that are getting short shrift in the book. What about Frey? Tyr? Skadhi? Ullr? These gods have wonderful personalities that could provide fresh perspective in the book, yet they're not even back-ups, relegating that task to the fairly dull Warriors Three.
At least Marvel has somewhat retconned away a mistake, according to their website. Loki is now the "adopted son" of Odin, now admitting that Loki's father was Farbauti, not Odin. It kinda chafed me that Loki was constantly being referred to as Thor's "half-brother," when actually Loki is closer to being an uncle, since he and Odin are brothers by blood-oath, according to the Eddas.
I am somewhat interested in what Marvel does with Thor now that his dad's dead. There's some historical evidence (don't tell me where, I'm getting that second-hand) that suggests that Thor was getting close to supplanting Odin as chief of the gods, at least in the minds of the Norse people, shortly before Christianity came in and made a blunder of everything (OPINION!). Thor was always more popular with the farmers and working class, which were greater in number than the nobles and scholars/alchemists, who favored Odin as a fellow leader and seeker-of-wisdom. This comic development, in a way, reflects the changes that might have happened had the missionaries ignored Scandinavia for a couple more centuries.
Anywho, just thought I'd add my own heathen opinion to the mix, so take it easy, and don't take any wooden gods!
Or Woden goods?
Anyway, your letter indicates that you know full well that the Marvel Norse gods only hold a passing resemblance to those of Snorri's Elder Eddas. Heck, the blond, intelligent Thunderer of Marvel's mythology bears little resemblance to the red-haired halfwit of Norse mythology in any circumstance -- regardless of whether Logi is his half-brother or his half-uncle. And he's the main character!
Anyway, to answer your queries:
Tyr has shown up before in Marvel's mythology. (And for those who don't know this, Tyr is very important figure, the Aesir war god, for whom Tuesday is named. See: Fenrir, sometimes Fenris.) In Stan Lee's mythology, he was just another god. In Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway's mythology, he was a bad guy. In recent years he hasn't been mentioned. Frey has shown up, sometimes as Freyr, sometimes as Freya, sometimes as brother/sister Frey and Freya. It hasn't been consistent or useful for this conversation. (Although they've often been referred to as Vanir and not Aesir under Thomas's aegis, for what that's worth. That goes along somewhat with Snorri.) The other gods you've mentioned haven't been used, but Odin's brothers, Bori and (mumble, mumble, somebody), have been (during, of course, the Thomas reign, and once again under Conway). Then there's Ullr, called Uller in Marvel Comics, who had a short stint. Skadhi, as far as I know, has made no appearances, unless his name was altered.
As to Odin's death, I'll give you points on mentioning Muspelheim and etc. The nine worlds were just that in the Eddas, and their various functions were important. But in Marvel mythology, you've got two shots: Valhalla and Hel (the Christian heaven and hell). And we've seen how they work. Various characters go to Hel if they've been bad guys (Skurge, Kurse, Malekith, Melodi). If you're a good guy you go to Valhalla (Honir, the brother of Hogun). And you get to keep hanging around; there is little barrier between the nine worlds. It's a revolving door.
You're right that Marvel has always avoided the good stuff in the Eddas. I attribute that to Stan Lee, who was a Shakespearean/modern guy and not a Norse expert. That's why we have the Warriors Three, Volstagg (Falstaff), Fandral (Errol Flynn) and Hogun (Charles Bronson). Lee drew on his OWN mythology to populate Asgard, instead of trying to be accurate to the Elder Eddas. After all, as mentioned, he transmogrified the main character -- Thor -- into something other than what he was in the actual Scandinavian mythology. Lee didn't hold to any of the literature (aside from the names, and some vague connection to relationships), and tried to tell Stan Lee stories instead of Snorri Snurlisson stories. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it's just what he did. And he did make Thor a household name again.
And speaking of that, it's arguably true that Thor overtook Odin as the main figure in historical Norse mythology toward the end; Icelanders were wearing Hammers of Thor and not Woden symbols in 1,000 A.D. -- and Thor took Odin's place as Sky God/Jupiter/Jesus in those days. Of course, it's arguable the Scandinavians did so because it was easy to turn the Hammer upside down and make it look like a cross to appease the Christians. And those were violent, rough days, with violent, rough Christians to deal with. From 700-900, German and French and Roman Christians were teaching Scandinavians to "turn the other cheek" by killing them if they didn't. The Icelanders wisely decided in 1,000 A.D. to go with the flow. But I'm curious: Why didn't you mention the warrior/Viking class in old Scandinavian society that worshipped Thor? Sure, you and I know that the women and slaves and religious/lawyer class were the guys who were really running the show 24/7 in Denmark, Sweden and Norway while the Thor-types were off a'viking most of the year -- but aulde Scandinavian society lived in terror of and dependency on those guys. They were an important part of that society (and the rest of the world!) too. And they were the strongest adherents to the Thor mythology.
Anyway, history aside, Marvel's mythology is that Good Guys go to Valhalla, and can drop by any time. So, theoretically, Odin and Honir can pop in at Asgard for mead. Even though, as you note, Odin hanging out in Valhalla instead of just being absentee landlord is theologically questionable. But this is Marvel Comics, not Snorri Sturlisson.
And, boy, I'm gonna get a lot of letters from Scandinavians on this one!

You’ll also get one from an American-Israeli who finds your MO utterly distasteful from a modern perspective. Frankly, I don’t see why he’s making a fuss over Lee’s take of liberties with Norse mythology. Simultaneously, I find it disappointing how the correspondent put down the Warriors Three. They all had impressive personalities, and made for very good co-stars in Marvel’s take on Asgard. Perhaps if Volstagg were real, he should have a word or two with Mr. Smith…

Dear Cap: If memory serves me correctly, I recall that 3-D Man appeared, or was referenced, in ROM. Wasn't there was some kind of connection between the Wraiths and 3-D Man's creation?
Does anyone else (mis)remember this?
Beats me. I hated ROM: Spaceknight, barely read it. Anybody know?

Oh, he did, did he? Shame on him! ROM was one of the first comics based on licensed merchandise like toys, and it was one of the most successful, even in terms of storytelling. Though his take on ROM is probably nowhere near as awful as his take on DC’s Outsiders!

Dear Cap: I was looking at some of your site's recent posts regarding the big 80-Page issues, the 100-pagers, and other special issues. I first got into reading superhero comics in the early '70s (my first issue was Justice League of America #91 with the annual JLA/JSA team up, and I don't think I missed another JLA issue for five or six years). The bigger issues that DC was putting out back then introduced me to a lot of stories that I never would have gotten to see from the '40s, '50s and '60s. One of my favorite features of those big issues was the Missing Hero and Villain reprints that DC would do in the back of their books. Among of the characters I remember them featuring were Tarantula and Tweedledum & Tweedledee. I was really disappointed when they went to the smaller 20-cent issues after a couple of years, but luckily I did have the 50-cent, 100-Page Super-Spectaculars that I could still refer to, plus the oversized 80-Page ones that sold for $1.00 (I recently dug out some of my old Shazam! copies to read to my five-year-old daughter). I really enjoyed the Famous First Editions that DC put out for a while. In addition, Marvel started putting out those $1.50 oversized editions (Marvel Treasury Editions) with Spider-Man, the FF and all the others. Thanks to those editions, I, and many others like me, were able to find out about a lot of great older stories. I hate that today's younger readers don't get to read these stories, unless they can buy these oversized, overpriced Archive editions. I think the fact that two of my favorite series (The Invaders and All Star Squadron) featured Golden Age heroes was due to the fact that I got to read so many of those cool stories from the '40s.
Personally, one reason that I stopped reading comics was that they were taken out of my neighborhood grocery store. When I was growing up, I could ride my bicycle to the grocery store on the highway and pick up an handful of comics for a dollar. When they took them out of the stores, the closest place for me to buy them was at a newsstand in a the closest large town about 30 miles away. I did that for awhile, but had to leave for college, where there was no distributor of comics anywhere that I could find. I know you've rehashed all this several times in your columns, but I think the change in distributors drove away tons of younger readers who would have picked up comics while grocery shopping with their mother, like I did. That's where they have to pick up their readership. A 20-year-old who's never read comics is not very likely to pick them up at that late age. Fortunately, it looks like now the companies are trying to draw the younger readers back in addition to the older readers and that can only help. Who knows? Maybe someday, I will get back into it as well.
I continue to enjoy your site. It brings back fond memories for me. Keep up the good work and thanks.
There's actually an interesting story -- anecdotal, of course -- about how and why DC jumped up to bigger pages and down again. Not worth repeating, since it can't be verified, but it was an interesting time to be a comics fan.

I’m sure there’s an equally interesting story, anecdotal or otherwise, for why Mr. Smith is such a knee-jerker. I hope the correspondent understands that and will post his memories of comics on a blog rather than write to a phony like him about it.

Dear Cap: I can think of two scenarios where trade-paperback collections of comics could either supplant old-fashioned 32-page comics or support a system where 32-page comics cease to exist as the main venue for first publication of comics.
I'd like to see Legion and your other correspondents kick both ideas around, as I really haven't had a chance to talk these around with any comic fans.
1) TRADES AS MANGA-STYLE "SUPER" COMICS: Most trade reprints feature at least seven 24-page comics, plus filler probably equivalent to each issue's letters page and advertising pages. Most color comics are going for $2.50 to $4 a pop today, so even at $14.95 to $17.95, a trade paperback containing seven NEW issues of seven DIFFERENT comics would not only be cheaper than what seven separate comics cost, but about equal to what most folks drop each week on comics anyway.
Admittedly, you might have to "hammock" more marginal comics in the same super-issue with better-selling titles: Each week's super-comic would be "anchored" by one of the Superman and Batman titles (or X-Men and Spider-Man on the Marvel side), with various one-title wonders like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Nightwing, Iron Man, Hulk, etc. popping up in one issue per month. And imagine, Cap: DC's kid-friendly Superman, Batman, Batman Beyond and JLA titles coming out monthly with various Cartoon Network tie-in stories all in one volume: stocking stuffers at Christmas, summer reading, or just a neat way to blow off an afternoon. Or on the opposite side, all the Vertigo titles coming out in one volume each month!
With a set-up like this, you wouldn't have to jump through continuity, logic, editorial or taste hoops to get people to check out a character with marginal sales but potential appeal: The character could exist at his own level, in his own stories as a separate story, no need for cheesy team-ups and crossover events to get folks to check him/her out. And when you DO stage big cross-over "events" like OWAW, it will be a LOT easier to follow, with all that week's tie-in titles in one single volume. You can still put out single-title reprint trade paperbacks down the line if the market was there for it.
2). TRADES AS "PRINTS" OF ON-LINE COMICS: To heck with all that expensive paper and ink and collating and shipping. Publish comics online first as good-sized, reasonably high-resolution JPGs or GIFs that can't be "saved" to your hard drive unless you go through some tiresome screen "snapshot" process or blow a lot of time trying to "hack" the system. But if the Big Two charge as little as $1 to $2 per "issue" of each title, with discounts for volume buys and subscriptions, only the craziest would bother hacking something like this for content.
The major drawback of this system is that kids would have to have some secure way to PAY for the comics, which would mean a parent would actually have to get INVOLVED with their child, and maybe even pay attention to what the little tykes are reading. You can view this as a good thing or a bad thing, but you'll probably get more kids to check out comics this way, at least compared to how many are checking them out now on conventional newstands and comic shops.
At the same time, though, this arrangement would actually put ADULTS in a better position to buy comics: They wouldn't have to hunt them down at specialty stores where VERY weird people hang out, AND they wouldn't have to worry about their less enlightened peers finding out they STILL read comics "at their age." And think about it: you get to view a seven-issue stretch of Spider-Man for $9.95 ... and if you LIKE it, Marvel will send you the trade paperback for only $5 or $6 more!
Both systems really could only work for the Big Two, though if CrossGen keeps growing or indies develop publishing "co-operatives", it might reach further down the food chain. For ON-LINE COMICS, you might see some kind of "virtual distributor" for the indies, somebody who offers various publishers' comics through one large, secure site for a cut of the sales. Virtual comics might kill the comics specialty store, make it dependent on low-tech indie comics, or force it to heavily diversify into games, cards and collectibles. But again, I'd really like to see these ideas kicked around.
As would I, [name withheld]. Lots of good ideas, well worth kicking around. What say you, Legionnaires?

Good ideas, yes, but not worth discussing at Smith’s site. A pity a lot of Marvel paperbacks today cost more than 25 dollars, which makes it very hard to decide if to buy them. That’s what we probably didn’t expect, and couldn’t expect Smith to complain about.

Isn't it funny that the throwaway comments we make in life are the ones that get the most attention? Case in point: My snide, throwaway remarks last week that I was pretty sick that Yankees -- no, make that New Yorkers -- were upset that temperatures were in the 90s in the summer. OMIGOD! Summer is HOT! A commonplace for anybody below the Mason-Dixon line, or west of the Mississippi, but somehow a crisis in NYC. And New York City drives the country's media, so if the eight million New Yorkers (who, apparently, have not figured out Mr. Carrier's invention) were in "crisis," then the rest of us -- the other 275 million people in the U.S. -- are ALSO supposed to be in crisis. This engendered lots of comments:

Dear Cap: While I usually love your rants, both rational and polemical, even when I DON'T agree with you, I have to take you to the mats on THIS one.
I've lived in Manchester and Hanover, New Hampshire (17 years), Miami, Florida (five full years plus six summers and various holidays during college and grad school), and Pittsburgh, Pa., for most of the last 20 years.
For starters, thanks to Miami, I know what HOT is: brutal, tropical whether in the high 80s to mid-90s plus 90-percent humidity. It's an oppressive, slap-you-in-the-face kind of heat, where walking our of an air-conditioned house or office building is like walking into a wet, rubbery brick wall. And it's that way pretty much all day long, maybe a five- or ten-degree temperature drop when night falls; and if you are VERY lucky, it only keeps that up 24/7 from late February until early December, although I recall going to the beach Christmas Eve day five or six years straight and catching heat-stroke on one of them.
In my 20 years in Pittsburgh, though, I can count only two previous summers where we've been hammered by consistent 90-plus-degree temperates, and only one of those where the humidity piled on in the 80-plus range at the same time. What makes it worse is that it hasn't been going away at night, because around here there's usually a good 20- or 30-degree temperature drop when the sun goes down. Ain't been happenin' this summer, brother: I've been sleeping on top of the covers with a fan blowing on me from four feet away, something that usually creates a delicious case of hypothermia around 3 a.m.. This summer, I'm lucky if I feel even the slightest bit chilly at 7 a.m. when I get up for work.
I've got family and friends in New Hampshire, and temps in the high 90s/low 100s are things that pop up a day or two a month, if that, in the course of a typical summer. But even in the mountains up north, they've been catching these kind of temps with very high humidity for weeks at a time, and most agree it's been the most ruthless butt-kicker of a summer that's been up there in many a year. And I'm getting similar reports of record-breakers, both highs and sustained heat, from people I know all over the Northeast and the northern Mid-West.
I don't doubt for a minute y'all's use to this kind of thing in Memphis, as my wife's got kin there: I'd rather do Christmas with the in-laws than August any time. But it ain't just New York getting hammered, McGee: it IS a goodly portion of the country, and it's hurting a lot of people one way or another (the only thing that's made me shiver this summer is the sight of my electric bill), and it's killing too many folks outright. Oh, yeah: And when the cotton, corn and other crop yields in your neck of the woods take a nose-dive in the fall because of long-term effects of this heat ... well, I don't think a fan would have helped them a bit even if you could have found extension cords long enough.
OMIGOD! You mean it's HOT at NIGHT? Blue blazes! Call out the National Guard! And let's assemble a national emergency committee to worry about you sweating when it's dark!
Sorry, White Guy, I gotta argue back. You don't have a very imposing argument. It NEVER gets below 90 degrees in Memphis, NEVER gets below 90-percent humidity, day or night, between early June to late September. EVERY YEAR. Rich people used to leave this area before the Civil War because Memphis and environs were "fever country" for six months out of the year. I'm supposed to feel sorry for you somehow? And that's not talking about people SOUTH and WEST of me.
Look, it gets hot in summer. It gets cold in winter. You deal with it. I've got lots of Yanks down here who laugh at me and mine when it snows and we have trouble with it -- it only snows about once every five or six years, so we don't invest in snowplows. We don't have sophisticated methods to deal with it -- the municipal governments throw sand and cinders on overpasses and cross their fingers. We don't know how to drive in it. But it's a firing offense where I work to not show up when it snows. Specifically. Written in the hiring contract. We grit our teeth and get through it. We don't make fun of other people. We don't wring our hands and say, "Oh, boo-hoo, it's not weather we're not used to, oh, sorry us."
Summer is hot. Winter is cold. We deal with it. We don't monopolize national media, like the Northeast does, and say things on CNN and MSNBC like, "This extraordinary heat wave has taken temperatures in the Northeast almost to the level of what the REST of the country deals with every year, but we can't deal with it because we're big babies. Film at 11."
Yes, 15 people died in the "heat wave." Fifteen people who (A) don't have air conditioners, (B) are over the age of 60 and live alone, (C) their relatives didn't check on them, and (D) when they got hot, they didn't do anything about it -- and died.
Sorry. No sympathy. When the weather got bad here in Redneckland -- particularly snow or ice, which us iggorant Sudners ain't used to -- I drove by to see if my grandmother was OK (she died at age 94). My grandmother had both A/C and heat, which my family had paid for. And if it got bad enough, we picked her up and took her to The House, whether it was my mother's house or my father's house or my sister's house or whomever. Whatever house had food and warmth. We had an ice storm in '94 that was so bad that most of the Southeast -- from Memphis (Tenn.) to Tallahassee (Fla.) to Dothan (Ga.) was without power for TWO MONTHS. A swath of mileage that would make a Northerner's head spin. Georgia alone is the biggest state east of the Mississippi -- and the whole state was without power for two weeks in sub-zero temperatures. It DIDN'T make national news -- it hit Newsweek's "Periscope" in a three-line brief.
In '94 I went by and picked up my grandmother. My brother moved in. My mother took in families from across the street -- she had a fireplace, they didn't. They -- about 15 of 'em -- slept in pallets on the floor around the hearth. My sister took her husband and three dogs and checked into a motel in Cincinatti -- 500 miles NORTH of where we live, where it was warmer, and there was power. You just deal. You don't whine and cry and say, "Oh, boo hoo. Old people are dying across a belt atop the country." Where are their families? Why are the municipal governments making excuses instead of doing what they can? Why aren't people simply picking up and dealing with a bad situation? NOBODY should die. Nobody did, in a 700-mile by 700-mile area in '94 in the most traumatic winter in the Southeast in 100 years. Which did not, I might add, dominate the news for three friggin' weeks.
And more to the point, why do I have to hear about it when Yankees have a problem? I didn't whine to people in Pittsburgh when I had a brother, a sister-in-law, two German shepherds, and a grandmother living with me for a couple of weeks in a one-bedroom house -- that's just what you do when things go bad. For a little while. And when the weather turns, everybody goes home.
But, gee whiz, if it happens somewhere north of Louisville, the national media has some kind of orgasm about it. And 15 old people died because their relatives didn't check on them -- and God knows that the media didn't let them forget that they should check on them. I'm sorry about the dead folks. But I blame their children, their siblings, their neighbors. And I blame them, for not taking simple precautions. For God's sake, this stuff isn't hard. It's hot in the summer, it's cold in the winter -- prepare for it.
When I listen to the news, what I hear is selfish people NOT checking on their grandmothers. Not one of those 15 people would have died if somebody had dropped by and knocked on the door. If they lived south or west of Pittsburgh, they WOULDN'T have died. Nobody did in the cold wave of '94, which makes the "heat wave" of '01 look, well, just silly. It reads to everybody from Dothan, Ga., to Mesa, Ariz., like a bunch of pampered, whiny Yanks snivelling about their little problems. There are currently eight million New Yorkers adjusting to the idea of sweating, even after dark. Zounds! The OTHER 270 million Americans do that every summer. Get over it.
And if you think I'm being a jerk ... well, I probably am. But I got almost 50 e-mails supporting my noise and only one -- yours -- arguing the reverse. Two from New York City. Here's a couple that I liked that agreed:

So he admits it! It’s just a pity he hasn’t admitted supporting Identity Crisis and Civil War were mistakes. Oh, and what’s this about not monopolizing the media? Leftists like him are monopolizing the media all the time, and lambasting Fox News despite being a mere drop in the bucket. Even though Rupert Murdoch’s chummy with a certain Saudi prince.

He should look at himself in the mirror when he blabbers about selfish people, because that’s how he acted when Identity Crisis was going to press. Some of the nastiest people I’ve met online have been apologists for that act of gender bigotry.

Dear Captain: This hasn't got a thing to do with comics, but I just had to let you know how much I agree with your sentiments about the media coverage of the so-called "heat wave." I live in Brooklyn, New York, and I'M fed up with the wailing and gnashing of teeth concerning the heat.
You gotta understand something: When it comes to weather, most people in New York are babies. They're never happy. When it's summer, they forget about the snowstorms and below-zero cold snaps that go on for MUCH longer than the heat waves (which only last a week or so). When it's winter, all you hear up and down the street are prayers for summer.
Personally, I'm like you. Whenever people I talk to cry and complain (and EVERYBODY feels compelled to point out the obvious ... namely, that it's hot), I just look at them and say "There's a reason why its so hot, y'know"
They take the bait and say, "What is it?"
"It's summer. That's what summer is, y'know ... hot."
Nuts ta this ... I'M movin' to Florida and live where folks know how to appreciate hot weather!
Lived in Florida for five years. Don't want to again.

I’ve been in Florida, and the heat’s the least of the state’s problems. If the correspondent’s fed up with teeth gnashing, maybe he should complain about “social justice warriors” who whine about petty details like beautiful imagery. Now another of my letters, including one that features something I regret looking forward to:

Dear Cap: From the release list for Aug. 8:
<<I've always been a Cyclops fan. I know, I know, a lot of you find him boring, and I can see why. But in the '60s he was just about the only X-Man with a respectable superpower, plus he was shy, skinny kid who couldn't take off his glasses ... like a certain journalist-to-be I could name. -- Captain Comics>>
I’ve also been quite a Cyclops fan, and I too support your defense of Scott Summers. What some people apparently have a hard time understanding about the character is that he’s intentionally written as a shy guy, and certainly when he was first introduced in 1963, and they probably have a hard time understanding that. It’s understandable, I suppose, that they’d confuse shyness with boredom, but contrary to what some audience may think, he’s simply shy, and in his case, he’s got an understandable reason for being so: he’s afraid that his optic beams, uncontrollable without his ruby-quartz visor, as they call it, could fry people if he’s not careful. He should be so lucky that Jean Grey’s got telepathy, so she can understand why, while he’s got a heavy crush on her, he’s still afraid of trying to lead a relationship with her for fear that he’d end up harming her. Or was.
Characters with shyness are people that anyone who’s been that way in real life can indentify with. Joe Shuster of Superman fame was shy around women too when he was young, and he lent that to the Man of Steel’s persona when drawing him. Even I’ve been a shy guy myself when I was a teen. Even you could’ve been shy when you were young.
And Cyclops is the perfect embodiment of the shy teenager (and even adult). If only some people could understand that. Plus the fact that he doesn’t seem like a character who enjoys mayhem so much. And that’s why, like Nick Fury, he’s a character so much worth defending, and why it’s possible to indentify with him. Which is why I too lend my support to defending Scott Summers.
Thanks, Avi. I mean, really -- thanks.
Is it so hard to admire a character who doesn't eviscerate his opponents, where nothing blows up in his presence, who thinks things through?
Apparently so. You have to have a Wolverine, or a Wildcats or something or nobody pays attention. Cyclops, to me, is the guy we all ought to want to be: A quiet kid, who grows into his own. And is darn good at it. That's who I want to be when I grow up, should that ever happen. Here's more from Avi:
<< ... up to and including Tony Stark giving up his fortune to live like a "normal guy." Newsflash: Life is MORE stressful WITHOUT money, Tony! I won't be too disturbed to see the new creative team on this title, due to commence in November. -- Captain Comics>>
Me neither! Heck, I’ll be GLAD when Mike Grell finally enters the scene, and most certainly if he gives Tony back his wealth! He’ll have to; I cannot buy the idea of Tony managing his crime-fighting career without his financial resources any more than you can. I mean, how’s he supposed to repair all the damage to his armor, or even get some new suits if he doesn’t have his wealth? Even Bruce Wayne couldn’t manage his career as Batman without his financial resources.
Bless you brother -- take this, may it serve you well -- John Lennon, Revolution No. 9, 1970.
Listen, I'm an old-fashioned Iron Man fan. I love the idea that a guy can MAKE himself a superhero. Lately on this site, folks have spoken highly of Sword of The Atom -- but to me, that defeated the purpose of the character. Ray Palmer MADE himself a superhero -- and so did Tony Stark. By dint of effort, by skill, by brains, and -- yes -- by money, Ray Palmer and Tony Stark CREATED their superhero roles. They weren't rocketed to another planet in a Moses-like spaceship. They didn't get hit by lightning. They weren't given a magic ring. They CREATED this stuff, out of whole cloth. Why take that away, by making them "Conan the Barbarian"? Sword of the Atom, "Teen Tony" -- stupid ideas. These guys built this idea (Iron Man, Atom) from NOWHERE -- but it does take money to keep it up. Let them be who they are.

Make no mistake here. Grell did write and draw some interesting stuff years before (Legion, Warlord, Green Arrow, John Sable). But his storyline in Iron Man was insulting to the intellect, since he made a Muslim woman the special guest in a form of propaganda that Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have already helped debunk. All that aside, the way Grell had Tony shed his secret identity was rushed and laughable. In fact, why did Tony have to be written canning his secret ID? There have been heroes in the MCU who’ve shed their secret ID, as did some in the DCU, but if it really matters, it should be done a lot more plausibly than just saving a pet animal from being run over by a car.

And how atrocious that he pans SOTA all because it put Ray in an environment where the inhabitants are the same size, and doesn’t base his judgement on the story quality beyond that. I certainly don’t put much value on the word of a man who acts as cheerleader for acts of gender bigotry and pretends nothing’s wrong. If Marvel’s staff really had to shed Tony’s secret ID and make his being IM public knowledge, they could’ve done it with far more patience and intelligence than the finished product had to offer, and that would’ve made it worthwhile. Interestingly, it was seemingly ignored soon after, but the damage was already done, and they may not have restored the secret ID status quo for long then either. And with that, we turn to August 23, 2001:

Dear Cap: you are so cool!
Soooooooo ... I've been reading comic books for some 25 years now, and I ALWAYS admit to others the impact that they've had in my life. Geez ... anybody who gets to know me can see the influence they have had.
One should always try to be a hero; one should always fight injustice; one should always be fair. (Which is merely another way of saying "do unto to others as you would have them do unto you." Heh.)
It's why I am an attorney (as much as I was fighting and arguing on behalf of others, I thought I should at least get a salary since no one was offering a clubhouse, a cape, or a flight ring).
Comic books are clear on their teachings about right and wrong (well ... mostly. The Punisher and Hitman and similar "anti-hero" books, well ... you know). Even the books that show life as being more shades of gray -- such as Marvel books. They show people trying to do the right thing. Honestly, it takes a lot of pressure off of parenting, if parents would REALLY look at it.
I hail from a single-parent household and grew up in the middle of New York City. Was tough, never went to jail, tried to do well in school and respected my mom (Hey! Batman's a GENIUS! Event Lobo is a genius-level chemist -- he created a designer virus to wipe out his whole planet cause they got on his nerves. According to comics, you must develop a quick mind and wit to make your weapons, your gadgets and conduct witty repartee while fighting. All that takes time to develop. You can't slack in school and think your gonna have a cool car like the Batmobile or spit out one-liners while going through your day. More importantly, the one thing most heroes would like to do is see their parents and share their day with them. They try never to take their parental figures for granted.)
I'm sure I should have been more "religious" as I was growing up -- at least that's what some of my friends say now that they have found the church again. Maybe they are right. But when I couldn't be sure what my mom would want me to do, I've always been able to ask and answer for myself, "What would Batman do?" or "What would Spider-Man do." Invariably, that would get me back on track.
"What would The Flash do?" Impulse would ask.
"What would Impulse do?" his friends would ask.
"What would Captain Comics do?" I ask.
"Hit the nail on the head in a creative way," I answer.
I hope to do the same as you have, during my travels. I'm gonna send the URL to your article to a few people. Thanks.
Thank YOU, […]. There's no question that most of my moral architecture comes from Spider-Man, Superman, Green Lantern and Captain America. The REAL world -- with its venality, petty in-fighting, hidden agendas and catty gossip -- often strikes me as sad. If more people had read Spider-Man growing up, the world would be a better place. And, I think, more people would be happier -- they wouldn't be so worried that the Joneses were getting ahead of them, so much as just being content to do the right thing, because it IS the right thing.

What a crock. Most of his “moral” architecture comes from the very ultra-left-liberal school of thought. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there was some liberal ideology you could see in the examples he gave, but even their writers didn’t have the kind of apathetic, lenient views he does, and they usually had the audacity to use much more subtlety than what you see today.

Which brings us to an important reminder: modern comics since the 2000s do not have a clear perspective on right and wrong, with Civil War a notable example to that effect. I hope the correspondent realizes this now.

And Mr. Smith is so not cool.

The more I read your columns ....
The more I like ya ...
Captain! You are a man of class!

Aw, heck, I'm gonna blush. Seriously, lots of NON-comics folks have commented on that column, from editors to co-workers to "ordinary" readers. Must have struck a nerve!

At this point, he comes off sounding like Anita Sarkeesian, who’s filmed propaganda videos about computer games with very poor data. Surprisingly, she did once film a tape about mistreatment of women in comics, but even there, she screwed up some details, or fell way short of the potential: she never said a word about Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled, and if she couldn’t talk about topics like those, she’s hardly doing anybody a favor. And back to Smith, he has no class any more than he has honesty.

Dear Cap: Seeing how Doctor Strange and Spider-Man related to one another is one of the finest exhibitions of respect between generations that has been displayed in comics. Neither party was shown to have disrespected the other's skill and ingenuity in overcoming alomost unbeatable odds when they had to work together.

A lesson that we could all learn regardless of our ages.
Well said, [name withheld]. Now here's [ditto] again, on other topics:
Dear Cap: No well-intentioned crusader should get himself involved in strange adventures with a scantily-clad, beautiful and well-endowed woman of questionable repute. A valuable lesson taught in any generic comic book. If one needs the lesson hammered into him, then Comic Conspiracy's Comic Book #3 is the issue to read. The story was simple and the art was good. It was an enjoyable story that ended all too soon.

It seems that the collaborators on the book are taking it slow in terms of not making "The Generic Comic Book" a monthly issue but a series of one-shot specials. That is fine by me (if) the quality of the series (is) kept up.

(Also), I was recently looking at the ads pages in some old comics and I remembered just how interesting were the items and opportunities that lay only a buck or two away. I bought a comic book for the main attraction which was the story, but I was also curious about growing and raising your own sea monkeys, seeing the world differently through X-rays, reaching manhood quickly (at least physically) thanks to the Charles Atlas kit, developing psychic abilities and being able to kick the heck out of more than one opponent via the instructions in the martial arts home-kit, to name a few. I never did make a purchase as I knew enough to know that at least some of the items offered were fake. It was fun just to imagine that many of these attractions that were advertised in the comics could actually exist in our world. It made my hobby feel that much closer to reality or at least did its job to fire up my imagination.

To tell the truth cap, if these items did actually exist, I am sure that they would be of special interests to scientists.

Even as a kid I realized that if any of those items actually worked they'd be on the cover of Newsweek, and not being sold in the backs of comics books for a buck or two!
Oh, and the amazing live sea monkeys were some kind of shrimp, and the X-Ray Specs just cast a double image -- the dark overlap of the two light images looked like bones if you squinted just right. Didn't work on clothes, of course. Or so I was told.
And thanks for the Comic Book review!

If most mainstream news editors were smart, they’d never employ such dishonest people like Newsweek does. Not that Mr. Smith’s likely to admit it.

Dear Captain: It seems to me what you are complaining about, more than that people are complaining about the weather, is that one of the most populous and influential regions in the country gets more news coverage. Well, that seems to me about as inevitable as heat in summer and cold in winter. Or I guess as people complaining about people complaining. Or people complaining about things that are and will not change.
In Canada the same thing happens, Toronto gets way more national media coverage than any other city and this annoys some people. Similiarly the U.S.A. gets way more new coverage in the press here than any foreign country and that also annoys some people. I somehow doubt that the people of the Northeast are any more whiny than the rest of the U.S., their voice is just louder. I am not sure I really see anyway to remove the bias of the media towards the big people, the big businesses, the big cities and the big countries. I am not sure it would be a good thing to remove that bias. Although I would love to hear alternatives.
Food for thought, I hope.
Anyway, I have to say that having read the Essential Uncanny X-Men, I agree Cyclops (a.k.a. Scott "Slim" Summers) was one of the more respectable characters from those early days of X-Men (I still can not quite get over the way Iceman looked in those days:). Also, Cyclops certainly evokes pathos with his worries over his heavy responsibilties. Although my favorite X-Man is still Beast (more for his portrayal in the cartoon than anything else).
I do have to take exception to the idea that a "respectable super-power" is needed to make a character worthy of interest (whether Cyke's power is all that respectable could be questioned I would think). Personally, I like characters with few if any super-powers or the like (like some of the early X-Men) but who manage to use whatever advantage they have with some brains and stand up to more fearsome opponents. The more subtle, weaker or oddball a power is the harder the character has to work it and the more interesting things get as far as I am concerned.
All I meant by the "respectable super-power" line is that, as a kid, I found it hard to believe that, say, the Angel would last two seconds with Magneto. To my young mind, it seemed that only Cyclops had a power that would give the menaces they faced a serious work-out, and none of them matched Professor Xavier for sheer power (who, it seemed to me, could have taken out most of their foes long distance on Page Two and not risked the lives of a bunch of teenagers!). So my suspension of disbelief was strained. I actually enjoyed that the X-Men were a "weak" team (as opposed the first lineup of Avengers), as I'm with you on seeing characters use their brains instead of their brawn. (For the same reason, I found the second lineup of Avengers -- Cap's Kooky Quartet -- terrific. For one thing, I was seriously worried about their survival! I could readily see Quicksilver or Hawkeye getting axed, since they didn't have their own titles.) I did not mean to imply that I have no interest in weaker or non-powered characters -- witness my Batmania. Just that of all of them, only Cyclops (and maybe The Beast) seemed to have a reasonable chance of surviving this or that month's slugfest. Angel and Marvel Girl (who'd faint if she lifted more than 100 pounds) seemed like cannon fodder. And Iceman never used his power for anything but slides and snowballs. But I digress ...
As to the "heat wave," you've hit the exact source of my annoyance. As a newspaperman, I'm inundated daily on the Associated Press wire with stories from the Northeast and the West Coast, with nary a word about what's happening 400 miles from me in any direction. And after 20 years I'm just plain tired of it. Broadway reviews? Features on the Mets and the Dodgers, even when they're in last place? Hollywood gossip? Who -- outside of New York and L.A. -- cares? But those are the Big Markets, so there you go. ("Subway Series"? Yawn.) And, while you're right that nothing can be done about it, I doubt I'm alone in my irritation.

Gee, did it ever occur to him the X-Men could also use their brains if scripted right? Which is far more than could be said about Mr. Smith! And here’s the gazillionth example of his not arguing whether he thinks Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did a bad job.

Hey, Cap: A couple of months ago, I recommended the Wild Cards series for people wanting a good example of comic books in novel form. At the time, the 15 books were long out of print.
Last weekend, I saw that the series is being reprinted. Book I is now an oversized paperback with new artwork and an afterword by series editor George R.R. Martin. It's definitely worth a look if you missed it the first time.
Thanks, […] -- lots of folks will be pleased to hear that, including me!

Not so much me, because Martin’s not very reliable, IMO. And if I were the correspondent, I wouldn’t be pleased to tell somebody like him that old news.

Dear Cap: A man who I've never met taught me to draw.
Oh, yeah, Dan DeCarlo taught me how to CARTOON, to do gag strips and funny stories. But John Buscema taught me how to DRAW: great sweeping vistas and dark dirty alleys; huge armies on the march and an old woman carrying a basket on her hip along a dusty road; common folks in rags and princes in silks; hoary, gibbering cavemen and clean-shaven executives with thousand-dollar suits and fifty-cent souls.
There are a lot of artists out there, old and young, who can tell a story in panelled pages, amuse me enough to keep me reading, and leave me interested in seeing what happens next month. John Buscema made me haunt magazine stands and comic shops like Marley's Ghost, ready to snap up the Conan and Savage Sword and the early Doc Savage black & whites that he pencilled. I remember how I ached when I sold them all to a crazed fanboy for money that I needed to cover some medical bills ... and how I danced on somebody's lawn when, a few months later, I found copies of just about all of them at a quarter each at a yard sale.
When I taught my daughters to draw, my two main "textbooks" were How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way and Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain, along with a pile of early Savage Sword of Conans. BOY, the trouble that got me into: Kids came crawling out of the woodwork asking me to teach THEM to draw the way my girls can. They're still asking, too, eight years later, except they want to do that anime/manga foolishness ... until I show them "A Witch Shall Be Born." And when they pick their jaws up off the floor, they're ready to learn from John Buscema the way I did, so they can one day rumble with the BIG people.
I draw mostly for pleasure. But every now and then I get a chance to make some money doing it; whatever my success, I owe it to John Buscema. So thank you John Buscema, for not only the pleasure your art has brought me and my family, but for helping to pay my utility bills, put food on my table, and keep my kids in shoes.
Thanks, [name withheld], for what clearly came from the heart. Big John deserves no less. (And, hey, you manga/anime kids! Go buy SSOC #5 -- I think -- I read "A Witch Shall Be Born!" […] sez so, and he's never wrong!)

If I were Buscema and saw what a contemptible man Smith was, I’d be ashamed of him. Smith was not suited to speak about Buscema, a man of much finer caliber than Smith will ever be.

Dear Cap:
<<One thing, though -- weren't the "journal entry" voiceovers in early issues of Gotham Knights eventually shown to be written by Hugo Strange? Or are we talking about two different things? -- Captain Comics>>
You two were talking about the same story, but Bruce Wayne had himself written the journals. It just coincided (cleverly) that as part of his deep post-hypnotic suggestion scheme that he had to analyze himself in the third person, helping convince Hugo Strange that Batman and Bruce Wayne were NOT the same person. An easy confusion to make, however, as certainly that was part of (writer Devin) Grayson's intent.
Well, when I'm wrong, I'm wrong. Thanks, […]. Here's more:

He’s very wrong, in many ways, many times.

Dick and Tim discovered the "journal entries" on the Bat-computer during Bruce's disappearance in those issues where Hugo attempted, once again, to subsume Batman's identity. Tim, and I believe maybe Dick, also commented on those entries in their respective letters to Bruce that both of them conveniently destroyed before he read them. (I have to admit that their destruction of the letters was a bit disappointing to me. I would rather have seen Bruce's reaction to their words.) The implication being that Bruce was trying to analyze himself in order to gain a better understanding of his decisions, feelings, etc. I'll have to double-check the issues in question to be sure, but I interpreted their discovery of the "journal entries" on the computer as the big revelation that Bruce himself was analyzing Batman.
You're right, [name withheld] -- I went back and re-read the final issue of that arc and that's what was established. I didn't remember it, because my suspension of disbelief had already snapped with the hypnotize-myself-to-fool-the-bad-guy trick. I mean, really, THAT'S the best plan the smartest guy in the world can come up with? And he doesn't TELL anybody that's what he's doing, to have Nightwing or Oracle or Robin watching his back? The story had me guessing right up to the end -- because I never dreamed Batman's cunning scheme would turn out to be so dopey!
Seriously, the whole arc seemed designed to have trick deaths, surprise covers and the like, as opposed to having internal story logic. Nobody in his right mind would cripple himself with self-hypnosis in the face of a deadly threat. The whole thing was transparently a writer gimmick. When I read the ending I felt like I was back in the '60s, reading a Bob Haney Brave & Bold.
Which is not to say using old '60s tricks is always a bad thing. Mark Waid used the old "split the hero from secret identity" ploy to good effect in JLA (and didn't even use red kryptonite!) and Superman and Batman conspired to fool everybody that they were at odds in the recent steal-the-kryptonite-ring-from-Luthor story, just like in the old days where you'd see the heroes fighting on the cover and blurbs shouting "What could bring the World's Finest heroes to blows????" It would always turn out to be a plan by Supes and Bats to fool Mr. Mxyzptlk, or somebody. I felt a flood of warm nostalgia when the WF team revealed their cunning scheme -- and it made internal story logic.

These days, Waid uses a lot of kryptonite that affects his writing, and wrecks the impact as a result. As for Mr. Smith, I wonder if he felt nostalgic warmth when he read Identity Crisis? It’s sickening to wonder if that could be the case.

Hi, Captain Comics: I think your website is one of the best ones out there. I try to check it out. Anyways, I have one question to ask and some information that could intrigue you.
First, I know that the Guardians were planing on giving Kal-El a ring once but that they backed out because he was not an earthling and was rather a Kryptonian. My question is, why did they give a ring to Guy Gardner? He was a GL of Earth, but it was revealed later on that he has alien genes in him. So why did they give a ring to Guy and not to Superman?
The other thing I wanted to talk about is the "Emerald Twilight" storyline. There's a possible explanation for it. Back in Action Comics #638, Hal Jordan seemingly killed a villain named Malvolio. Malvolio was a villain who had a GL ring that he stole by killing his father (who was a GL). He was insane. The Guardians sent Jordan to stop him (in sector 1634 I believe). At one point, they had a battle and Malvolio used a yellow laser to destroy Hal's ring. Hal then had to be resourceful and used a makeshift bow to fire an arrow into Malvolio chest seemingly killing him. Hal then took off Malvolio's ring from his finger and used it himself to get back home BUT Malvolio was very well alive and stood up when Jordan left and took out the arrow form his chest. Malvolio succeeded because his whole plan was to get Hal to take his ring
We never heard from Malvolio again, but Jordan was wearing Malvolio's ring during the Emerald Twilight storyline. The interesting thing about Malvolio is that he didn't need the ring to connect into the GL force. So when Hal left, Malvolio could have still been in control of the ring and slowly used it to drive Hal insane. He could have been using the ring Hal was wearing to send out telepathic signals and make Hal as insane as he is.
For me, this is the best explanation of the Emerald Twilight storyline. Hal never turned evil; he was brainwashed. Hal was a hero until the end. It would be a great story if DC did a storyline explaining how Hal was brainwshed and cleaning his legacy.
Hey, that's a pretty sharp explanation! I like it a lot! My explanation involves Sinestro (who was once imprisoned in Hal's ring) doing pretty much the same thing -- but yours is less forced. Cool.
As to Guy Gardner, it was explained back in his first appearance in Green Lantern (second series) #59 (May 68) that he was just as honest and fearless as Hal Jordan, but Hal got the ring because Hal was closest to Abin Sur as Abin lay dying and time was of the essence. So Guy became the backup. Of course, in those days, Guy was a pretty nice guy -- a high-school gym teacher, no less. Later on, possibly due to a head injury but almost certainly in an effort to make him a more interesting character, he became a jerk. But that's another story.
As to why a half-Vuldarian was given the ring ... well, are you sure that Kal-El wasn't give the ring because he was Kryptonian? I thought it was because the Guardians foresaw his future as a great hero in his own right.
But if your memory is better than mine -- which is likely -- then there's no real explanation, except that Guy was turned into a Vuldarian in yet another lame attempt to make him interesting, and nobody remembered the Superman story you and I do. Or possibly it's because half-human is better than all Kryptonian. Do any Legionnaires have any theories or information?

I notice he doesn’t seem to explain to the correspondent that the “revelation” Guy is half-alien was something that came up during the 1990s. It certainly wasn’t part of the original premise, as far as I know. Slipped his mind, I take?

Hi Cap: Just wanted vent a little about Our Worlds At War. I truly hope DC follows through and keeps the casualties permanent. This isn't out of some morbid desire to see a bunch of heroes slain, it's because of the desire the comics industry has to be taken seriously. Time after time, we read interviews with comics creators lamenting the fact that no one takes the industry seriously. There's a reason for that. When Wile E. Coyote falls off of a cliff in the desert, making a crater and then has a boulder fall on top of him do you shed any tears? Why not? Because you know he'll get right up and do it again. It becomes humorous because you know he's in no real danger and there's no reason to take it seriously.
To take the analogy one step furthur, and even closer to the world of comics, look at those old black-and-white Flash Gordon serials. Each episode would end with what had to be certain death. For this example let's say a crashing rocket ship. The screen would show the rocket falling and then exploding with the camera keeping the viewer informed of the fact that Flash was still inside. The following episode, Flash would be seen jumping out at the last minute retroactively! It's even more absurd when you watch them back to back.
This is how comics portray conflict, danger and death.
Even though I seem to be one of the few who thought Jason Todd was a decent Robin, I am glad that DC did not bring him back (I know he wasn't very popular, but still he was Robin). To do otherwise cheapens the characters, the creators and most importantly, insults the reader.
The industry has to realize you can't put out pulp entertainment and expect to have it received as cutting edge. Let's face it, there is a reason why people still talk about Alan Moore and Frank Miller when referring to "important" comics. It's not because because the works they created were simply "dark and edgy," it's because they knew not to insult the reader. Readers remember that and applaud it.
End of Rant :)
I knew I couldn't be the only person to pick up on the Wayne Williams connection in Just Imagine ... Batman! I was in Atlanta during those years, in fact I don't think I was quite 10 years old when the murders were taking place. It was just too eerie seeing that name after all these years and in, of all places, a comic book. While I'm sure it was just going back to Stan's old idea of giving characters the same initials for their first names (i.e., Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Sue Storm, etc.), it just struck me as bizarre that someone at DC wouldn't have picked up on the name of a well-known murderer.
Aside from that I thought Just Imagine ... Batman was an OK story -- kinda cliche, but a decent read. I think in order to really get it, you have to imagine there being no Batman in the first place, and transport yourself back to the time when this could have been Dectective Comics #27. Back then this would have been a great tale and may have spawned a completely different legend. So in the nostalgia department, I think it did pretty good. I'm looking forward to the Just Imagine ... Wonder Woman, as the preview looks pretty cool:
Speaking of Wonder Woman, now is a great time to check out that title if, like me, you've never really been intrested. Phil Jimenez is doing some great writing and beautiful art (plus those covers by Adam Hughes are breathtaking!). Although Jimenez didn't draw it, the Wonder Woman OWAW special is a great way to get a comprehensive history of WW (Wonder Woman, NOT Wayne Williams!) as Jimenez makes some sense of all the years of continuity and puts things in perspective for all the new readers. Kinda reminds me of the approach CrossGen takes by keeping (the books) accessible and interesting at the same time.
By the way, after reading Shazam: The Power or Hope, I was reminded of how much I used to like Captain Marvel. Are there any CM TPBs you would recommend?
Oh, sure! I'd get the Power of Shazam! graphic novel that kicked off the PoS! series, and any TPBs available FROM that series. That's the best modern take I've seen on the Big Red Cheese. For Fawcett era material, check out Shazam!: From the '40s to the '70s, an out-of-print hardback which you can probably find somewhere.
And I'd be pleased if the OWAW casualties stayed dead too, for exactly the reasons you've stated. Unfortunately, it looks like Aquaman and Steel are already on their way back, so ... sigh.

I sigh too, but not for the same reasons. Here we go again, with another apathetic fool parroting the insistence that the dead remain dead no matter the story quality. Doesn’t death also cheapen characters and insult the readers? Just take a look at how Identity Crisis was written, with a jaw-dropping anal rape on panel. And all without any female viewpoint of the topic.

And how does the correspondent feel about Jason Todd returning 4 years after he wrote that idiocy? Especially after it led nowhere, and the subsequent Red Hood and the Outlaws became a whole insult to everybody who likes Starfire?

Hi Captain: First time I've written you, but longtime reader of your column. Enjoy it much!
I felt though that you dropped the ball on [name withheld]'s letter in CBG #1446. She was complaining about the high price of comics, and you responded in so many words that publishers had come up with trade paperbacks as a solution to give readers more bang for the buck.
Now I realize this was the CBG issue on trade paperbacks, so it's only natural that this was the topic of your column, but I didn't think it was the answer Maxine was looking for.
Last time I checked, (and I honestly don't buy many comics or trades these days,) trade paperbacks were pretty much priced the same as the individual issues inside. Five $2.95 comics were gathered, and the TPB sells for $14.95 or so. Six $2.95 comics go into a $17.95 book. Where are the savings? In fact you get less, if you enjoy reading the letter columns in each issue that are not reprinted in the TPB.
Am I wrong? Are trades these days priced at less than the collected contents? I realize there are collections like the Marvel Essentials which are black and white and do give you a great value, but I don't see that the average TPB does.
Also, individual comics are more likely to go up in value over the years, at which point buyers can recoup some of their money. I don't think trades will appreciate. Just check ebay -- most are going pretty cheap.
Actually, that's probably the answer to […]. Wait a few months and buy her comics on eBay. Great savings to be found over (under) cover price on many current comics!
Oh no! You wait this long to write, just to tell me I'm a bonehead? Gee whiz, [withheld], at least butter me up a little first! You know how sensitive I am.
Anyway, while I can't fault your math, I have to note for the record that the cost of a TPB isn't based on the issues it's assembled from, or any other factor, except what it costs to produce -- and hit a target profit margin. (The distributors define the latter to some degree.) So some trades are more expensive than the books they collect or about the same -- but some cost substantially less, particularly if they're assembled from higher-end comics (those that cost more than $2.95 each). More important is something you brought up yourself -- that individual comics tend to climb in cost as back issues, while TPBs (as reprints) do not. So if you missed, say, a 1999 or 2000 miniseries and wanted to buy it today, the TPB would be cheaper than the back issues by a significant degree.

Mr. Smith drops the ball far more times than need be. He really screwed up big time in 2004.

Hi Cap: First I wanted to say that I really enjoy your site and visit as often as possible. In adding to […]'s answer to your question "Is Captain Comics a Manga Reader?," he's basically correct in stating that the term "manga" is used by the Japanese to refer to comics in general, just as "anime" is Japanese for animation. The Japanese actually like to use "komikkusu," which is the Japanese pronunciation for comics. Fans have taken to using the term "manga" as a way of distinguishing the Japanese from the American product. Similarly, fans of French comics will also use "bande desinee" to sound different, but essentially we're all refering to variations of "sequential art" ( I thought I'd throw that term in).

What's important to remember is that the basic term incorporates many styles and variations. Japanese publishers have successfully marketed to different niches, from pachinko addicts to military-history afficionados. While we here complain that publishers aren't doing enough to reach out to kids and female readers, Pokemon and Ranma are hits in Japan (whether they're good comics is something the reader can decide). Like in the United States, Japanese manga contain a variety of artistic styles. Just as American comics includes everything from the graphic minimalism of Chris Ware, to the lyricism of Charles Vess, to the frenetic energy of Jack Kirby, Japanese comics include the primitive style of King Terry to the traditional "bigfoot" style derived from Osamu Tezuka, to the realism of Katsushiro Otomo. In short there's something for everyone. You've already mentioned certain Japanese comics that you admire, such as Lone Wolf and Cub, so that makes you a manga reader both in the wider meaning that […] and I use, and the narrower meaning of manga as Japanese comics.

I recommend Frederick Schodt's Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (Stone Bridge Press) as a good introduction to the contemporary Japanese comics scene and to its more prominent artistic talent.

Thanks for clearing that up, […] -- I now proudly believe myself to be a manga reader. Here's more:
Thanks, […] -- any info on magna, a genre I have little experience in, is welcome. But I am a bit confused. Are ALL Japanese comics manga? Or just the big-foot variety? I read Lone Wolf & Cub, Akira and a few other select Japanese comics -- does that make me a closet manga reader?

I think Mr. Smith is a closet disgrace, that’s for sure.

Dear Cap: As far as I know, all the comic medium in Japan are called manga, with pornographic manga called Hentai and girls' manga Shoujo (or shojo), but I am not an expert. Reading Akira, Lone Wolf and Cub and such histories is like reading Watchmen or Squadron Supreme in TPB format because you could not collect it when printed for the first time and despairing about the lack of other good histories in the medium. I would not call that shortsightedness; it is the distance between countries (geographically and culturally) which forces readers to make assumptions and wait for the authors to be printed in the States. There is a market for every taste and I suppose it's just a matter of looking for the right kind of authors in Japan and wait for their works to be brought across the ocean. Television, much more so than comics, has been the fuse for the manga interest in my opinion; it is no coincidence that all the books our friend of last column recommended were first shown as anime shows (anime being the name for animated manga). From those TV shows people have begun looking for the comics. Which I don't think it is a bad thing since my hopes are that perhaps the reader will grow out of the simple-minded plots that plague such books and begin looking for better histories.
The funny thing is that in Japan, first is the comic and only the most popular are made into anime; that is a testiment to the great chunks of garbage you could find if you tried to learn Japanese and bought some untranslated manga on your own. Of course, I may be wrong and the real diamonds are waiting out there for us to pick. What I understand is that few people would be so interested on reading comics in their original language as to learn it just to avoid translations. I am one of those who prefer for the stories to make the jump. In the States I have found the following books and magazines which act as an introductory for new mangas and here is my opinion. Viz comics publishes a magazine by the name of Pulp (which) has some nice articles (Warren Ellis used to write a column there, I am not sure if that is still true) and a lot of serialized histories, when I have tried to read them I was confused because I just stumbled in the middle of the arc and because I am not a great fan of the crime genre (three of the four stories dealt with crime in one way or another). The violence was great physically, verbally and sexually. Later I was told by a friend that the Benkei series are quite good but at (that time) I did not like it at all.
Dark Horse does a similar compilation but more light-hearted, called Super Manga Blast! It seems that they are using it as some kind of probe for the comics that would be hard pressed to survive on their own. They publish two or three short stories of their more known characters ("Oh my Goddess!" "What's Michael?" among others) and amidst them the new stories in a serialized way. As far as I heard, "Shadow Star" was liked and is about to be collected in TPB. I found it much more enjoyable than Pulp, although I still got a lot of stories which were not to my liking.
I am currently reading the following mangas:
Lone Wolf and Cub: Easily the best of all the stories I read. Ogami Ito is a ronin Samurai who takes the path of the Assassin in order to avenge their family from a rival clan, the twist is that he carries around his one-yea-old son who acts like a witness of sorts. The first numbers just seemed like senseless violence as our hero wandered the country killing a lot (and I mean, a lot) of people. But as the history advances the plot shows up, the villains are really nasty and Ogami is like a vengeful spirit of death. Since The Crow I had not read a similar story of catharsis through killing.
Akira: Pressing hard for the first place is this classic history about power and decadence. Everything in this comic is great, from the biker gangs to the goverment's hidden agendas, all set in a futuristic setting reminiscent of Blade Runner. Forget the movie, read the comic. (10/10)
Blade of the Immortal: Not as widely known as the previous two, it is quite good on its own. Manji is a Samurai cursed with eternal life (who) has to kill a thousand evil guys before finding rest. Introduce Rin, a girl whose family was killed by a rival sword school. You can see where the story goes? Well you are right in assuming that Manji and Rin join forces to destroy the rival school. But that as far as you would be right; the first and second TPBs are like that, with Manji and Rin fighting the twisted evil guys town after town. But as the story advances (after the second volume) the evil guys begin to not be so evil as thought; they had their motives to do what they did and Rin begins to realize that what she is doing will not help at all to bury her memories and pain. It has a lot of good moments and the characters really mature along the history. I have lent it to friends that do not like manga (but they like comics) and always have given a good opinion.
Hope that this helps.
It certainly does, […] -- if nothing else, the fact that your taste runs close to mine on Lone Wolf and Akira, I may have to check out Blade of the Immortal!
Anyway, thanks again for the info!

His taste does not run even remotely close to the correspondent’s. Besides, if there’s any problem I see with this whole conversation, there’s no distinctions made between good and bad, even with content.

Thanks for the warm welcome Cap!
It's good to be back in the comics fold and it's great to see fans taking advantage of various resources on the Net. You mentioned reading the reviews and news sections of your site and I wanted to let you know that I have been enjoying them since I found your website and they have been a great help in figuring out what new titles I should keep and eye out for. Among the books that my girlfriend and I have checked out after reading about them on your site are Meridian, Mystic and Sojourn, which is our favorite CrossGen title yet. Sure it's a classic tale, but they're re-telling it in a fantastic way! I hope the other companies are paying attention to CrossGen cause these folks are doing EVERYTHING right! Even when I've picked up titles that haven't been for me like Sigil, I didn't feel like I had wasted my money. Now that is the sign of a good book!
Anyway, speaking of turning people onto new stuff, here's something that I thought might be of intrest to you and other readers of your site:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/zot/heartsandminds.shtml
It's an online version of Scott McCloud's Zot! I found it by accident the other day and really enjoyed it, so much in fact I went to the comics shop and bought the TPB of the first few original stories. It's a lighthearted story in the vein of the classic Buck Rogers serials. Kind of a nice change (like the CrossGen books) from the darker stuff I normally read, like Batman, Lone Wolf and Cub and Sin City. Plus it's a cool link to send to your non-comics reading friends.
I am delighted that you can use this site as a resource to rejoin the four-color world, [...] -- that's its purpose, and I love spreading the gospel about our funny, funky little hobby. I look forward to the day that we convert one fan at a time, until the whole world learns just how much fun we're having.
By the way, "One fan at a time" is CrossGen's company slogan, and I completely agree with you about their sure-footedness. CrossGen actually thanked me once for how much press I'd given them, and I had to laugh. I'm not doing them any favors -- I'm a critic, not a tout, and I say exactly what I think in every review. If their books were lousy, I'd say that with no apologies. But the fact that I've positively reviewed most CrossGen stuff is because -- in my opinion -- it is genuinely outstanding. They've earned every glowing review I've given them, because they ARE doing everything right.

Him, a critic? Stop pulling our legs, please. Besides, whatever attention he gave them, it didn’t work in the end.

Dear Cap: You know how people are always talking about who they'd cast in a movie based on a comic series if they were doing it? Well, several of my friends and I got together, and we made up a list of DC Comics characters and how we'd cast them. Here it is:
-- Batman: Alec Baldwin or Russell Crowe
-- Big Barda: Julie Strain
-- Big Blue (Superman): Bruce Campbell, Dougray Scott, or Patrick Warburton
-- Black Canary: Trish Stratus
-- Blue Beetle: David Arquette, Jon Stewart, or Matt Stone
-- Jake "Bobo" Bennetti: Michael Madsen
-- Booster Gold: Trey Parker
-- Catwoman: Rose McGowan
-- Elongated Man: Ryan Stiles
-- Fire: Penelope Cruz
-- Green Arrow (Oliver Queen): Ted Nugent
-- Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner): Brendan Fraser or Chris Klein
-- Jason Blood: Scott Bakula
-- Lex Luthor: Jack Nicholson
-- Lobo: Mark Calloway (The Undertaker)
-- Mist (Nash): Lori Petty
-- Mist (original): Geoffrey Rush
-- Mister Terrific (current): Laurence Fishburne
-- Neron: Vince McMahon
-- Nightwing: Dean Cain or Marc Decascos
-- Oracle: Gillian Anderson
-- Parallax: Alec Baldwin
-- Phantom Lady: Dita Von Tees
-- Ra's al Ghul: Gary Oldman, Jeremy Irons, or Richard O'Brien
-- Sentinel (Alan Scott): William H. Macy or Robert Redford
-- Shade: Johnny Depp
-- Starman (Jack Knight): John Cusack
-- Starman (Ted Knight): Paul Newman
-- Steel: Michael Clarke Duncan
-- Talia: Jessica Alba, Catherine Zeta-Jones, or Jenifer Lopez
-- Warrior (Guy Gardner): Lee Tergesen
-- Zatanna: Jennifer Connelly
-- Zauriel: Ben Affleck
So, what do you think? I know, I've got too much free time on my hands, but still, I think the list is impressive. Plus, I may be the only one to say this, but I hated the X-Men movie.
I think it's one heckuva list -- particularly Jeremy Irons as Ra's al Ghul. Man, that would be creepy as all get-out! Brrr!
I don't have much to add, except to challenge the Legion of Superfluous Heroes to provide lists of their own. C'mon, Legionnaires -- you gonna let […] and his friends have all the fun?

Wow, the correspondent has an opinion I can support, if only because the film was decidedly overrated, and made through a leftist lens by a director who’s recently been accused of sexual assault. But, I just don’t see the point of making Starman as envisioned by James Robinson into a film. That too was overrated, and does not hold up well in retrospect. Nor does some of the following letter from August 30, 2001:

Dear Cap: Y'know ... those who do not read comic books believe that comic books are merely "fluff" and have no connection to legitimate literature because they are essentially basic entertainment -- much like movies. But what people forget is that, just like movies, some comic books are so well-written, and some writers are so consistent in their work, that most of what they produce makes a point in a very creative and thought-provoking manner. We can all think of at least one movie that had a profound impact on our lives (Sergeant York, A Patch of Blue and Platoon, for me). What most people don't contemplate is the total impact of seeing such movies every couple of days would have had on their psyche. People don't generally think about what their lives would have been like if the wonder and magic and great social commentary of their favorite movies were constantly being reinforced -- on a weekly basis.

That's what comic books do for kids. They expose kids to wonder and magic and social commentary -- and issues of right and wrong and ways to discern the difference and the consequences of choosing various paths -- weekly. It's the reinforcement that makes the difference.

You tell a child to be respectful of others and to be law-abiding and help others just like their favorite comic-book character does, and then you conduct yourself in a similar manner and -- BOOM! -- you have THREE ways of getting your point across and one of those ways does not require you to be right next to your children (who generally need at least SOME space away from parents). THEN ... they talk to their friends about the comic books and you have a FOURTH instance of reinforcement -- their peers.

The same result would occur if ten-cent movies were still around or if great novels could get their points across in 22 pages (by the way, comic-book reading generally leads to reading everything else from classical literature, to technical manuals, to historical reference -- you have to know Norse mythology to "get" what Thor is all about -- but, I know you know this already. Heh).

Many people are threatened when methods other than church and religion are suggested as learning tools. Many people are going to be offended by the mere suggestion that one could learn right from wrong in a setting that does not involve parents, schools or the church (or synagogue or mosque ... you get my point). Those people fail to understand that, 1) there's no reason learning has to stop in those places -- comic books (literature) are an ADDITIONAL learning tool; and 2) life happens, and therefore lessons are learned, in many settings: People should always be on the lookout for opportunities to increase their knowledge and gain wisdom -- even when such lessons come from sources other than parents or outside of the church or school.

I hope that most of your readers agree with your position. I'm sure some will not. At any rate, all of our knowledge and wisdom has been increased by the dialogue.

Captain Comics RULEZZZZZ!
Well, I certainly agree with that last point! Ahem.
Anyway, [name withheld], I can't argue with a word you've said, and probably couldn't say it half as articulately. Yup, I started haunting the shool library for Norse mythology when I started reading Thor. Yup, reading comics routinely as a kid led to reading everything -- not only the stuff you mention, but cereal-box labels, classified ads, everything -- out of habit and a general curiosity nurtured by the wonder and magic of comic books. My favorite TV channels these days are Discover and The History Channel -- because I learn something every time, and comics nurtured in me a love of learning something new (and remembering it!) whenever I "play." In fact, I've become an incredible history whore -- I read history textbooks and analytical pieces for pleasure -- and there is no doubt in my mind that it was learning Spider-Man continuity that trained me to do so. (What is history but comic-book continuity in the real world?)
Following this thought, let me note that my third-grade teacher was utterly floored when I knew the melting point of lead off the top of my head. Thank you, E. Nelson Bridwell (I think) and Metal Men. My sixth-grade teacher was amazed when I knew that the speed of light was 186,000 miles per second -- thank you, Julius Schwartz and Flash. My college mythology professor was astounded when I was able to draw a freehand sketch of Yggdrasil, with the nine worlds located, and Ratatosk the squirrel racing up the side, on the blackboard. Thank you, Roy Thomas and Thor. And, of course, I was reading at a sixth-grade level (or higher) when I attended first grade. Thank you, Stan Lee and Fantastic Four.
Further, there is little doubt in my mind (or my wife's) that my entire moral architecture is based on ... comic books. Not the church, not the schools, not my parents -- all of whom let me down in profound ways as both child and adult. Spider-Man? He never let me down, and always believed in responsibility. Superman? Always did the right thing, no matter the cost. Batman? Sacrificed whatever it took to look out for others. Let any church or state or school on Earth match these qualities -- and live up to them -- and I'll sign up tomorrow. My wife says I have a WWII-generation view of the world, that I was an "old man" when she met me. That's true. At work and play, I feel a responsibility for others. And, frankly, I pity many of my peers, with their venal, petty, self-absorbed view of the world, where they adjudge their own self-worth on how quickly they can screw the other guy and get ahead of the Joneses. How sad it is. How unhappy they seem.
Me? I'm happy doing Captain Comics, even though it doesn't even pay my comic-book bill. It's fulfilling, it's enriching, and -- I hope -- it enriches others. Those unhappy folks at the office? I recommend they read some funnybooks. Could change their life.

There may have once been a time I’d think his role as a columnist was enriching. But that would be then and this is now. Does Mr. Smith believe in responsibility? In being informed? Forget Spidey, what I want to know is whether the readers share the same thoughts. And Smith’s never shown diddly squat, as evidenced by his pre-determined stand on Identity Crisis and Civil War. I figure his take on Avengers: Disassmbled was also specially fixed, just so he could have a morally equivalent argument on hand.

As for the correpondent, it’s horrific if he thought a mosque and/or the Koran would make a great learning tool. I’m decidedly adding that if he were to think a Satmar and Neturei Karta synagogue made a great place to learn, I’d be furious about that too.

Dear Cap: A few thoughts and comments on the latest round of mail in the Mailbag.
I do remember a story in Action Comics weekly where Superman was chosen by Abin Sur's ring and rejected because he wasn't from Earth. I think this story also mentioned several other candidates for the ring. Hal Jordan was picked because he was closest. To me this always kind of belittled the original origin of Hal being the only person on Earth totally without fear. By the same token I do seem to recall a story where the Guardians decided not to give a ring to Superman because they looked into the future and saw the hero he would become. I keep thinking this occurred in the 'seventies but short of digging through the archives, this is all I can remember. What does this mean to Guy and his half-Vuldarian heritage? I don't know. I'm sure, given enough time, we can work something out involving Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, Post-Zero Hour and Hypertime, but that might make my head explode.
Guy's obnoxious-jerk phase cropped up in the '80s. He was thought killed in an earlier Green Lantern story and Hal wound up dating his ex-girlfriend, Kari Limbo. I think they were almost married. Guy survived the power-ring explosion in a sort of limbo-like existence. What he saw between Hal and Kari drove him a little insane. I think there was some other sort of brain damage involved. He came back from wherever he was and was in a coma for a while. Then a renegade band of Guardians revived him and gave him a ring right around the time Crisis started. He suffered the head wound in Justice League International. Batman punched him out (sans Guy's ring) and when Guy came to and got the ring he hit his head and turned into a sickly-sweet version of himself. He hit his head again and came back to his obnoxious senses. I never followed his series although I am familiar with what happened to him after he lost his power ring. Personally, he never did much for me but I know he has his fans.
Regarding the trade paperback discussion, I find that they are more convenient for reading a complete story . It is easier for me to grab the Crisis on Infinite Earths or Secret Wars trade and read it in one sitting than it is for me to dig the issues out of the archive, remove them from the bags (trying not to snag the cover on the tape sealing the bag) and reading them an issue at a time. There is also something about a book that is more acceptable to others. My wife is not a fan of the monthly comics I buy but for some reason, she doesn't mind the trades. Maybe since they are "books" she can deal with them a little better, i.e., I can put them on a bookshelf as opposed to filing them in a three-foot-long white box snug in it's mylar bag (with attendant acid-free white board). I have friends who come over who would scoff at the boxes of comics I have but when they see a trade on the bookshelf they're more inclined to through it and read it.
My manga tastes run the same as yours. I got into Lone Wolf and Cub and Akira and have been enjoying both immensely. Dark Horse just started releasing another series by the creator of Akira called Domu that has piqued my interest. And Viz is releasing a series called Eagle: The Making of An
Asian-American President. I've found it to be a fascinating read, especially in its look at American politics and what goes into a presidential campaign.
That's all (enough?) for now. Keep up the great work!
I've gotten into Eagle, too -- in fact, my next newspaper column will be a (rave) review. And I'm with you on trades, in the aspect you mentioned about research -- I'd love it if every single comic book in my collection was bound as a book instead of nestled in plastic bags hidden inside boxes that stack up like cordwood around the Comics Cave. Not only are books easier to store (shelves), archive (put 'em in order, title out), but easier to use for research (as the Archives and Masterworks have proven to me). Of course, given that I've got 40,000 comics, I doubt they'll ALL be collected into trades in my lifetime. But I can dream.
Incidentally, I'm with you in disgust over the unfettered, unrelenting effort by DC post-Emerald Twilight to de-mythologize Hal Jordan. From the revised origins of Guy and John Stewart (Hal's not unique) to the first Emerald Dawn miniseries (Hal was a blue-collar, alcoholic loser who was only a test pilot groupie when picked by Abin Sur) to the unspeakable travesty of Emerald Twilight (no comment) to post-Twilight flashbacks showing him to be an unstable risk junkie from Day One ... well, it all leads me to wonder why on Earth anybody EVER considered him "the greatest Green Lantern of them all," and why Batman didn't take the darn ring away from him the first time they met and give it to somebody who wasn't blatantly insane. Even taking into account my subjective revulsion with Emerald Twilight, Hal's current characterization as a wacko doesn't match with 35 years of stable, level-headed heroism where he was lionized and admired by his peers. And what about the Pol Manning thing in the 41st century? People from the future kept pulling Hal forward because history showed him to be this outstanding hero ... shouldn't they have known better? It's not like they didn't know -- a post-Twilight scene (in Zero Hour or someplace) shows the 41st century leaders discussing "the terrible things (Hal) did" after the final time they brought him to the future to save their wimpy butts. Frankly, the harder DC works to make Emerald Twilight plausible, the more it invalidates everything else we know to the point where Hal's entire career as GL makes no sense.
And as long as I'm on a rant -- boy, this is fun -- I should mention how distressed I am that Hal's peers (Batman notwithstanding) still speak highly of him. Sorry, doesn't wash. In the real world, nothing disappoints a teacher more than a student who doesn't live up to potential. In the real world, nothing frustrates a professional more than a peer who screws up -- and tars the whole industry with his malfeasance. So where's the verisimilitude? If we're to take this fantasy world seriously, then the person who ought to be the MOST upset about Parallax ought to be Superman -- who, rightly, feels that the whole superhero community is his responsibility. Or Green Arrow, who saw his best friend become the Nazi he always half-jokingly said he was. Batman? He ought to grimly agree with Hal's intent, while dispassionately noting that Hal's tactics and strategy were poorly conceived and executed. After all, given the chance, wouldn't Batman change history to save his own parents? Anybody doubt that? And wouldn't Batman do a much better job of it than Hal Jordan, and privately fantasize about how he'd go about it?
Instead, it's Batman -- of all characters -- who is the only one to find Hal's behavior unacceptable. Normally I find myself viscerally at odds with Batman's narrow and Calvinistic worldview -- but here, he's the voice of common sense. And Superman, of all people, is defending Hal -- despite his own rigid moral compass. So I'm disgusted. Because -- and ready your pencils, kids, this is my ultimate complaint about the whole show -- ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE BEING WRITTEN IN REVERSE TO MAKE EMERALD TWILIGHT ACCEPTABLE. And that's bad writing, editorial heavy-handedness in support of a bad story.
Oh, and finally, for the record -- Guy also had a head injury in the '60s, where he was hit in the head with a bus (!) and was in a coma for a while.

Here we go again for the umpteenth time. The distress should be at how assigned writers at the time kept writing all the other heroes speaking highly of Hal even when they still set a status quo establishing him as a villian after Emerald Twilight. He misses a big chance to say he’s galled that wasn’t reversed at the time, and even today, it doesn’t look like they ever tried.

Dear Cap: At least Marvel has somewhat retconned away a mistake, according to their website. Loki is now the "adopted son" of Odin, now admitting that Loki's father was Farbauti, not Odin. It kinda chafed me that Loki was constantly being referred to as Thor's "half-brother," when actually Loki is closer to being an uncle, since he and Odin are brothers by blood-oath, according to the Eddas.
Actually, Loki was early on established at Marvel as being the son of Laufey, a Storm giant king who was slain during a battle with Odin. (Loki's mother was presumed to be a goddess, as Loki is not of giant stature.) Loki was thus the Marvel Thor's foster brother. This story appeared in Journey Into Mystery #112.
<<What about Frey? Tyr? Skadhi? Ullr?>>
Frey first appeared at Marvel in Thor #294, Tyr in Journey Into Mystery #85.
<<The other gods you've mentioned haven't been used, but Odin's brothers, Bori and (mumble, mumble, somebody), have been (during, of course, the Thomas reign, and once again under Conway).>>
Odin's brothers are Vili and Ve. Buri is Odin's grandfather, who as far as I know is still alive under the name Tiwaz; Bor was Odin's father, who is presumably dead.
<<Then there's Ullr, called Uller in Marvel Comics, who had a short stint.>>
Uller appeared in one of the early Tales of Asgard back-ups. He was presented as an athlete Thor admired.
<<As to Odin's death, I'll give you points on mentioning Muspelheim and etc. The nine worlds were just that in the Eddas, and their various functions were important. But in Marvel mythology, you've got two shots: Valhalla and Hel (the Christian heaven and hell). And we've seen how they work. Various characters go to Hel if they've been bad guys (Skurge, Kurse, Malekith, Melodi). If you're a good guy you go to Valhalla (Honir, the brother of Hogun). And you get to keep hanging around; there is little barrier between the nine worlds. It's a revolving door.>>
Actually, according to Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #1, Valhalla is for heroes, Hel is for the common dead and Niffleheim is for murderers and other evil-doers. Skurge the Executioner, by the way, did indeed die during the Walt Simonson run; however, though he died in Hel, he actually went to Valhalla, and has appeared there a couple of times.
<<That's why we have the Warriors Three, Volstagg (Falstaff), Fandral (Errol Flynn) and Hogun (Charles Bronson).>>
Hogun was supposed to be Lithuanian-American Charles Bronson?! That surprises me -- although I guess Bronson was already relatively well-known when Hogun was created, having appeared in (if I remember correctly) The Magnificent Seven and The Dirty Dozen.
Incidentally, Roy Thomas did a story in Thor #293-294, which explained that 2,000 years ago, the original Ragnarok happened. The gods in that original Ragnarok were closer to the original gods of Norse mythology. There were nine survivors of the original Ragnarok -- the original Balder, Vili, Ve, Vidar, Vali, Hoenir, Hoder, Magni and Modi -- Magni and Modi being the original Thor's sons. Asgard sprouted vegetation again, and the survivors found strange figurines somewhat -- but not exactly -- resembling their fallen friends and loved ones. They also found Odin's spear, the Gungnir. Touching it, it merged all nine into the modern version of Odin!
(Incidentally, this original Ragnarok supposedly took place simulataneously with the birth of the Christian/Muslim savior/prophet Jesus of Nazareth.)
On Malvolio:
http://www.glcorps.org/tomar-re.html
The story you have in mind is probably Superman#247.
http://www.glcorps.org/lord_mal.html
http://www.glcorps.org/priestpst.html
Both give interesting info on Malvolio. (Is that from Shakespeare?)
It certainly sounds Shakespearean, doesn't it? But probably we think so because of its obvious Middle English/Old French roots -- male plus violens (which also gives us malevolent).
And I was pretty sure that Skurge went to Hel because I remembered seeing him claimed by Hela in the Simonson run -- but then, maybe she also lords it over Niffleheim, too. Anyway, he's back -- AGAIN -- in the current Thor, which is my point: The Asgardian afterlife is pretty porous. I expect Odin will be hanging about, Obi-Wan Kenobi-like, dispensing advice to his son and generally being a nusiance. ("Dammit, Dad, you're DEAD -- Stop telling me what to DO!")
Thanks for reminding me of all those old Norse names that Roy used in his Ragnarok saga -- I couldn't remember them last week and didn't have time to look 'em up. Interestingly, Roy's explanation for why Marvel's Norse characters aren't like their mythological counterparts (i.e., they're the next incarnation) is remarkably similar to Kirby's description of the origin of the New Gods. And, one thing I'm curious about -- if Roy's Ragnarok saga is still canon (and it might not be), then how come all the other Asgardians aren't dead, too? That story established that Odin is LITERALLY "the light and the life" and "the All-Father" -- according to Thomas, his personal energy created all the other gods, and sustains them. Uh oh.

Forget the Norse topic. How come he can’t remember morale? As for Loki as Thor’s uncle, I honestly don’t see what the big deal is of retconning him that way.

Dear Cap: [name withheld], recently wrote: "Anyway, I have to say that having read the Essential X-Men, I agree Cyclops (a.k.a. Scott "Slim" Summers) was one of the more respectable characters from those early days of X-Men. ... Also, Cyclops certainly evokes pathos with his worries over his heavy responsibilties. ... I do have to take exception to the idea that a 'respectable super-power' is needed to make a character worthy of interest (whether Cyke's power is all that respectable could be questioned I would think). Personally, I like characters with few if any super-powers or the like (like some of the early X-Men) but who manage to use whatever advantage they have with some brains and stand up to more fearsome opponents. The more subtle, weaker or oddball a power is the harder the character has to work it and the more interesting things get."
To which I respond: I have always counted Cyclops among my favorite characters, for a couple of the reasons listed above. I met Scott when I was a kid in middle school, just eight issues before Jean died. I respected his leadership and combat prowess, and I actually felt bad for him when he lost his One True Love. A few issues later when he left the team, I quietly cheered, because Scott was "real" to me and I knew he needed a break. I sincerely hoped the comic-book writers would let him find a peaceful, satisfying life away from the chaos of being a superhero.
When Cyclops was brought back to the team again, I lost interest because it was obvious he had become nothing more than a cliched icon, a place-holder painted in broad strokes, without real personality or motivation. (Or maybe it was simply that I was older and saw the world in a different perspective.) He had a good team, but the real personality development took place around him.
It's only since his return from the horrendous Apocalypse gestalt that he's become interesting again, and that's because the new X-writers are TRYING. There's some effort being invested in making the characters behind the masks act like real people and not just human-shaped power sources. Maybe I'm misjudging his motivations, or mostly remembering earlier characterization, but it seems as though Scott is at his strongest and most attractive when he shoulders the weight of all mutantkind, questioning his own leadership and working around his funky father-son relationship with Xavier. The reluctant, overly responsible, alpha male? -- I'm guessing that the image rings true with at least a few comic-book readers.
In regards to […]'s second point, I agree that the more subtle the power the more fun it is to imagine what you'd do with it yourself. Some of my favorite New Mutant stories involved Cipher's seemingly weak translation ability. When the team went to Asgard (stories now collected in a TPB), I was more interested in his predicament than anyone else's. And how many times did he doubt his contribution to the group? I've often appreciated Angel for the same reason -- my wife liked his genetically engineered metal wings and "dart" feathers, but I'd rather watch him overcome challenges and try to be useful with nothing but his traditional soft, white feathers.
One of my disappointments with late '60s Legion of Super-Heroes is that DC introduced a really difficult-to-write character with "weak" powers -- Chemical King -- which could have been a really cool writer's challenge ... and did nothing with him. He COULD have been enormously useful and powerful, if the writer did a little research on chemical reactions (lots of 'em in the human body, folks, and fire is one of 'em, too), but nobody did a bloody thing with him, and then they killed him off. Cowards! :)
Unfortunately, I can't agree with you on Angel -- always disliked him. For one thing, I've always been irked by winged characters. Not because I don't like the concept or image (usually very striking), but they always seemed like a burden on whatever super-team they were on, and it stretched my credulity that the Justice League would fight foes that would give Superman a tussle -- and somehow Hawkman would survive? As big a target as a guy with a six-foot wingspan is? I just didn't believe it. And, what, exactly does a flying guy contribute to a team that has flying megapowered characters like Superman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman around? This is how I always pictured how '60s JLA meetings REALLY went:
Superman: Starro the Conqueror has taken over Australia. So: J'onn, I want you to take care of Canberra; Wonder Woman, you hit Sydney; Green Lantern, you clean out New Zealand; and I'm going after his battle fleet in orbit around Earth. Any questions?
Hawkman: What do you want me to do?
Green Lantern: (Stifles giggle)
Wonder Woman: (Rolls eyes)
Superman: Um, well ... the trophy room needs dusting. And you've got those big ol' feather-duster wings ...
Hawkman: That's Aquaman's job!
Superman: He's cleaning the pool.
Of course, I may have disliked Angel for the same reason I initially disliked Wolverine -- they both made a play for Jean Grey, and that was SCOTT'S girl! He'd been working up the nerve to ask her out for AGES! Those creeps! The poor guy has enough problems -- don't swipe his chick!
God, I'm such a fanboy.

Wow, the correspondent met Scott in school? Boy, did he lend him his fountain pen? That’s a strong sign the correspondent can’t distinguish fiction/reality. In any case, his “criticism” of Scott sans mention of the writer (Chris Claremont) drenches the non-existent impact.

As for Mr. Smith…wow. It’s the millionth time he’s panned a fictional character, rather than the scriptwriter’s efforts in working on said fictional.

<<And he WAS a respected actor in his day, presenting a chiseled profile in not only Double Indemnity, but also The Texas Rangers, The Caine Mutiny, The Apartment, and some 60 or 70 other movies, some of which didn't start with the word 'The.' -- Captain Comics, about Fred MacMurray>>
Just FYI, the best of his "non-The" films was a Disney vehicle entitled Follow Me, Boys! I saw it when it came out in 1966 and have been hoping to see it again ever since.
It is a charming film which draws heavily on a Capra-like ending. Fred MacMurray plays a traveling musician in the '30s who settles down in a small town with dreams of becoming a lawyer and ambitions of success for himself and his girl/fiancee/wife, played by Vera Miles. However, he is railroaded into becoming the scoutmaster for a troop composed of the town's troublesome and unruly boys. Of course, "hi-jinks" ensue.
The more MacMurray tries to break free of the town and his job as scoutmaster, the more his sense of duty to the boys -- despite his exasperation and frustration -- ties him down. For several more seasons, he deals with the younger brothers of the first group of kids and so forth.
You've seen the ending a mile off, I'm sure, but in case you'd rather not know, stop here ...
After 30 years of struggling, MacMurray retires, feeling his life has been a failure, that he let his wife down, himself down. On the day of his retirement, he is lured back to the camp where his first fiasco as a scoutmaster took place.
There he is met by a throng of the boys he taught and guided over the years. Boys, now men. Now doctors, engineers, decorated heroes from the War, governors and mayors, successful men in all walks of life. They have come from the four points of the country to pay their respects to the man whose decent, selfless example showed them the path to being responsible citizens.
Yes, it's corny. It's old-style Disney. It's Good Morning, Miss Dove by way of Mr. Holland's Opus -- but better than both of those films and worth seeing if you never have and ever get the chance.
Thanks, […]! If the enduring popularity of Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is any indication, I think there's a hunger for heart-warming stories that remind us that greed is NOT good and that success should be measured by how we affect others rather than material gain and career advancement.
God knows, I need to believe it. This Captain Comics gig doesn't pay squat!

There’s a request for warmhearted stories alright, but not only are the mainstream refusing to develop them, all because darkness is far more important to their egos, Mr. Smith isn’t urging them to change their direction. All his arguments are just so transparent.

Greetings and salutations, Cap! I just finished reading the end of the "Our Worlds At War" storyline (the latest Superman and Wonder Woman issues at least) and thought that, despite a few continuity problems, it was a very enjoyable storyline. I have always been a bigger DC fan and it seems that their crossovers are usually much bettter than any other company's (although I'm sure that within the next year we'll be seeing one from the folks at Crossgen, which is a shame, really; I really enjoy the titles that I collect -- Scion, Sojourn, Crux -- but I really don't want to have to buy all of them just to see what The First is up to ...) and I already kind of know the answer to the question that I'm about to ask (but I will anyway). Why do comics companies always have to drag all of their titles into one big event at least once a year? Of course, the easy and most logical answer is MONEY, but as a not so casual reader (I'm trying to knock down my $30-plus-a-week habit to at least $25/week) I would appreciate it (and respect the companies so much more) if more focus was spent on making each title better on its own. Don't get me wrong: Crossovers, when done well, are captivating ( I will always have a special place in my early teenage memory for Crisis on Infinite Earths) but most of them turn out to be crap like Secret Wars II or "War of the Gods" -- events that sound good on paper, but always end up being a total waste of time and an intrusion on certain title's momentums.
Having a company-wide crossover once a year also lessens the importance and excitement of each event; promises are almost always made that changes will be made that will have major ramifications on certain characters, but after a few months things are almost always back to status quo. I don't mind it when two or three titles have crossovers -- especially when written by the same author (loved "The Hunt for Oracle" in Nightwing and Birds of Prey last year and I am looking forward to the inevitable JLA/JSA team-up) but having these "epic," sweeping, universe-threatening events take place every summer starts to get old after a while.
Who knows? Maybe I've read too many comic books in my lifetime and it's time for something new (yes, I do read real books; I'm a big James Patterson and Iris Johansen fan; and if you like vampires, Michael Romkey is your man) but I love the medium too much to stop collecting. I'm sure that as long as people keep buying these annual big event storylines companies will keep churning them out, but I felt that I just had to rant.
Feel free, [name withheld] -- rants 'R' us at CaptainComics.net!
Like you, I've read comics for a loooong time -- and view crossovers with a jaundiced eye. As you say, it's usually much sound and fury signifying nothing -- and messes up the continuity in our favorite books, as well as forcing us to buy other books we don't want to keep up with the crossover, or forgo it altogether. Not pretty choices, and often not much fun. Particularly when the crossover stinks ("War of the Gods," "Bloodlines," most of the X-Men crossovers).
Having said that, I'll go ahead and shock regular readers of this site and say that I thought OWAW was pretty good. Not only will there be some actual changes -- Sam Lane and Hippolyta, I believe, are not only merely dead, but most sincerely dead -- but it was about as tightly written as a sprawling, 37-title story crammed into 36 weeks can be. Sure, there were some continuity blunders, or some events that came out of order, or story events in one book that ruined the surprise ending in another -- but the logistics of Our Worlds At War must have been daunting, to say the least, and I can forgive all that. In fact, I can forgive anything ... for a decent story. And, overall, OWAW was pretty decent.
Of course, they're following it right up with "The Joker's Last Laugh" -- and I hate THAT one already. Call it crossover fatigue, but I'd sure like to see my favorite books get back on track with their OWN stories for a little while. Hey, DC -- cut us some slack!
As for CrossGen -- fret not. CrossGen isn't contemplating crossovers. CrossGen is violently opposed to crossovers. CrossGen doesn't even USE the word "crossover" without making unpleasant sinus noises. They consider it a gimmick, and themselves a new sort of company that eschews gimmicks and gives 100-percent attention to the reader. And so far, that's exactly what they've done, so I tend to believe them.

Funny he talks about crossovers…as an afterthought. He sure didn’t say they stunk while they were going. And CG eventually did come up with a form of crossover…at the end of their run; they ran completely out of funds.

Hi Captain: I wrote you a while ago about giving up the hobby and using my view point of an outsider looking in. Today I would like to share my views on villains.
It is fairly easy to rattle off a number of Golden and Silver age villains off the top of my head but I will be darned if it is so easy to do the same with 'eighties and beyond dastardly doers. Why is it so? It's because some many of them are just plain forgettable. So the question comes to mind "What makes a good villain?"
In David Copperfield Uriah Heep is Copperfield¹s ideal foil. Why? In many ways he is the opposite of Copperfield. He is unattractive, manipulative and greedy. Now apply that to all the great villains. Lex Luthor is the brain while Superman's powers lie more in the physical. The Batman is for order while The Joker is for Chaos. Captain America stands for liberty and the American dream, the Red Skull for tyranny and conquest. In many ways the hero dictates the villain.
One of the reasons I hated the film Gone In 60 Seconds (other than Nicolas Cage going blond) was (that) the villain stank. Meanwhile Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan ruled because of a truly great villain.
There are more ingredients to a great villain. I remember somebody (whose name escapes me) stated that a villain does not see him- or herself as evil.
Uriah Heep sees himself as doing what is right because society screwed him over, making him be "humble" all the time as it made his father.
Doctor Doom does not see what he does as wrong. He feels that he could run the world better than anyone else. Spider-Man's foe The Lizard is just following the dictates of his reptile brain's urges. The Red Skull sees his political system as superior. Galactus does what he must to survive.
Any villain that admits to his villainy as being evil for evil's sake straddles that thin line between a viable character and being plain campy.
Now, a good villain should have an attractive element to them and a fatal flaw of character. Take Doctor Doom for example. He truly loves his country and let's face it, wouldn't you like to be large and in charge like him? As for Lex Luthor, there were times I rooted for him. In my mind Superman had his powers handed to him. He was the jock that everything came easy for. Luthor, whom Superman could have crushed like a soap bubble, on many occasions defeated Superman by using just his mind. Many people say one of the reasons that they like Batman is because he is an ideal people can aspire to, with hard work. Well you had it right there with Luthor. This is part of the paradox; we love good villains for their style and grandeur but at the same time we are repulsed by their antisocial behavior.
As for the fatal flaws: For Luthor it was his ego and vanity; for The Joker it was his chaotic nature and poor planning; for The Riddler it was his desire to leave clues at the scene of his crimes. The fatal flaw is interesting in that in some ways it makes the villains more human than the heroes. The Silver Age Superman and Batman were squeaky clean. Do you remember when Captain Cold and Heat Wave got into a fight for the love of Iris Allen? Now, many a guy out there can sympathize with making a fool of one's self in the pursuit of love.
Just remember, without a good villain comics would be awfully boring. How many issues could we watch Batman dusting his trophies in the Batcave?
Denny O'Neil, in The DC Comics Guide To Writing Comics, says, "If you're going to be a slacker, be lazy about your hero and save your industriousness for your villain. He or she is in some ways the most important character in your story. The reason is simple: A hero is only as good as his antagonist."
Who am I to argue with Denny O'Neil?

Oh, pish-tosh. He’s just so happened to have dissented with O’Neil for the wrong reasons. A co-writer of his certainly did. One who supported Identity Crisis despite his claim to be a Silver Age fan. One who’s definitely sick. And the correspondent disturbs me when he tells how he once rooted for Lex. Let’s go on September 6, 2001:

Dear Cap: With the recent death of Wonder Woman's mom, I have seen several reviewers and message board posters lamenting the loss of another Golden Age character. What?
Queen Hippolyta may have indeed appeared in the Golden Age Wonder Woman series, but not as WW herself. Her status as GA-WW was an ill-conceived retcon from John Byrne. So the loss of Lyta is not that tragic. She was just a bit player in the WW mythos. In the big picture, she was no more important (less so perhaps) than Steve Trevor or Etta Candy, both of whom are stuck in limbo.
I am also a bit teed off by those who claim that the GA Hawkman and Green Lantern are the true heroes to claim that mantle. These characters were the first but not the best. They disappeared during the 'fifties (maybe the 'forties for some of them). Not a long shelf life for Alan Scott or Carter Hall. In contrast, Hal Jordan and Katar Hol appeared more or less on a constant basis from the Silver Age to the recent past. Jordan's Green Lantern lasted much longer than Scott's. Same with Hol vs. Hall.
The GA/Earth-Two heroes did not really make much of an impact or appearance in comicdom until recently. Short stints in Adventure Comics and JLA guest shots was the extent of their carrers. I am not against these heroes; I think that they are great. However, it is the Silver Age heroes that have carried the workload and the fame of the names that are used. I think JSA did a great injustice to the fans of the SA Hawkman. Other than Roy Thomas's All-Star Squadron, when else has the GA Hawkman been important?
On a similar note, why do fans keep insisting on seeing the GA Superman? Don't they realize that they get to see him every month in the pages of Superman comics? The current Superman (modern, Silver Age, etc.) IS the Golden Age Superman. He and Bats are relatively the same characters as they were in the 1940s. The Superman who was lost in the Crisis and may have appeared in that awful Kingdom miniseries was not the GA Superman but the Earth-Two Superman. He was and is a carbon copy of our current hero.
Love to hear you thoughts on this.
Oh, Lordy, [...] -- you're going to get me strung up. No matter what I say, I'm going to outrage somebody. Ah, well. Wouldn't put my name in big, red letters at the top of every page if I was shy, would I?
First, let me lay my cards on the table and note for the record that MY Golden Age WAS the Silver Age -- and, in some part of my lizard brain, Hal Jordan will always be Green Lantern, and Katar Hol will always be Hawkman.
This being said, there's a lot in what you say that is objective. As you noted, both Hal Jordan and Katar Hol carried the names Green Lantern and Hawkman far longer and much, much more successfully than Alan Scott and Carter Hall. In the case of Green Lantern, Alan Scott ran for about a decade (1940-49 as the star of All-American Comics and Green Lantern, and possibly another two years in All Star Comics) whereas Hal Jordan's Emerald Crusader was a major player for 35 years, from 1959 to 1994! And, while neither Hawkman managed the sales and recognition of the Green Lanterns, the Silver Age Hawkman lasted decades longer than the GA version, and starred in his own eponymous title, something Carter Hall never did. Further, the Silver Age versions were better conceived, better written and better drawn than their Golden Age counterparts.
I don't fault Golden Age fans for their obsessions -- after all, in THEIR lizard brains, Alan Scott will always be Green Lantern, and Carter Hall will always be Hawkman. Can't fault them for that, when I'm guilty of the same charge. And I'm not ignoring the importance of being first. It goes without saying that there couldn't be a second Green Lantern or Hawkman if there hadn't been FIRST ones. Moreover, what endeared Carter Hall to rabid GA fans like Roy Thomas was his importance to the JSA -- he was the chairman, and (I think) the only character to appear in every single JSA adventure from 1940 to 1951. These are not facts to be handily dismissed.
Still, with all due respect to those accomplishments, my heart AND brain go with your argument that -- in the long run -- Hal Jordan and Katar Hol loom larger in significance than their GA counterparts, who almost seem like first drafts in comparison. I think that you've made a pretty good case that preference for the GA characters over the SA ones is subjective, and relatively unsupported by sales, history and common sense. I'm not inclined to rank one character over another, but if pushed -- and you just did -- I'd say Hal and Katar are the most significant characters to bear their respective mantles.
As to Hippolyta, you're absolutely right that she wasn't a heroine in the '40s, whatever later retcons would have us believe. I do think her death is significant, though, if for no other reason than her importance to Diana personally and in the Wonder Woman/Paradise Island mythology. And it's another link with DC's past sadly severed, adding to other JSA deaths, the Crisis, Zero Hour, etc. Further, our disgust with retcons aside, she HAS been established as the Justice Society's Wonder Woman, so younger fans have every right to complain about "another Golden Age hero" dying. That is her status in current continuity, so it's a valid complaint -- particularly for those without our lengthy perspective. To somebody who's only been reading DC comics for, say, three years, Hippolyta IS the Golden Age Wonder Woman -- and her death shocking.
As to Superman, you're technically correct that the current Superman is the same as the one introduced in 1938, by virtue of his being continuously published for 63 years. But I hasten to point out that today's Superman has evolved significantly from the original, who could only leap an eighth of a mile and was more concerned about social issues -- he was practically a socialist -- than supervillains. Nor is today's Superman identical to the Silver Age version, who had his own specific continuity and recognizable personality that no longer exist. I think it's valid to say that the Earth-Two Superman is a distinctly different character than the current version -- and an argument could be made that the Silver Age Man of Steel is yet a third version, lurking in Hypertime somewhere.
In other words, to maintain that today's Superman is the same character as the one that lives in the memories of Silver Age and Golden Age fans is semantics. Fans who remember -- and mourn -- previous versions of the character are entitled to feel that their concerns are no longer being addressed. I like all three versions, but they appear in my head as three distinct characters, tied to their respective eras.
Well, you asked for my thoughts, and for what it's worth, there they are. And, hoo-boy, have I laid myself open to flame mail! Lay on, Legionnaires, and damn'd be he who first cries "Hold, enough!"
Meanwhile, here are some tangentially related letters:

Before we get to that, I take issue with his inference that GA Superman was a “socialist”, or that Siegel/Shuster were. What is that, some kind of a putdown? Back in the 1930s, there were plenty of instances where rich socialist businessmen like Henry Ford were harming the position of workers, and Ford even once employed a gang of thugs to assault his opponents, including a couple of women. Truly repulsive.

And while superheroes may not be quite as important as co-stars, I still find it galling this correspondent seems to be favoring the whole goal of OWAW.

Dear Cap: Well, you had to know you'd push some buttons when you started in on Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. Boy, are you gonna get it on THIS one!
ITEM THE FIRST: I don't mind Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern. Now that he's no longer being written as "Gee, I have the most powerful weapon in the universe and I'm a new kid and I don't know what I'm doing" -- SHEESH, how long can THAT float? -- he's okay. Not Hal Jordan, but I'll bet that in the '60s, a whole mess of people said that Hal Jordan wasn't Alan Scott.
ITEM THE SECOND: Unless I'm wrong, Pol Manning lived in the 56th century, in the 5700s (5714? I'm not sure of the exact year ...)
ITEM THE THIRD: Why do people (a.k.a. editors) insist on heroes having feet of clay? Hal Jordan is no longer an expert test pilot who was selected because he was the most fearless person within range (I don't mind the Guy Gardner bit -- it was a neat plot device. However, I would have been a little happier if Hal had been shown to be a bit more worthy rather than just closer, but we'll let that lie for now ...) He was honest, fearless and an expert in his chosen line of work. Now, as you noted, he's devolved into a less than suitable character to receive the power ring. What, I wonder, do the DC editors think Abin Sur's standards were when they picked a drunk, a jailbird, a slacker, and someone who wasn't really fearless, but merely a jerk?
There's more. Superman went from being a super man (look, it's the only way I can put it) to a Kansas farmboy who happens to have super powers -- his "aw, gosh" attitude sunk fast, and he has not, to me, shown that he his a champion for truth, justice and the American way. (John) Byrne started some of this, and the direction that Superman was taken just didn't tell me that this was the Man of Steel. No, I don't suppose that the end of Earth-One Superman's runs were much better -- but, as I have always insisted, this betokens a failure in the writing, not in the character. If Superman can't be made interesting, this is a problem with the stories -- MAKE THEM WORK. Don't change or belittle the character.
Batman went from being a driven character to an insane one. I've pontificated on this previously -- enough said. Anyone reading Batman now should be able to tell the difference between the '60s/'70s Batman and this psychopath.
This seems to be the trend in comics; we don't WANT superheroes, we want super weaklings. We want characters with LOADS of human failings -- why? So we can feel superior? Let's hope not. If I need to feel superior to, say, Iron Man, then I have a REAL problem -- IT'S A COMIC BOOK.
Do we want a "soap opera"-type atmosphere? Again, why does the character have to be sublimated to the machinations of a plot? Incidentally, I feel that there is something to the possibility of a drama-show type attitude these days -- how many issues of Superman in the past 10 years didn't really need Superman to appear for the story? This crap isn't comic books, and it isn't superheroes.
Is it easier for the writers/editors? Well, obviously. No one wants to write a character who is always good, always right -- "it's dull." It's also hard to use the character. Easier by far to play on a character's weaknesses to make stories.
And so, we don't have a good Hal Jordan who stood up for what was right, fought the good fight and was fearless because it was in his nature. No, we have a Hal Jordan who was driven insane by the destruction of a city, and so decided that the way to correct this was to destroy the universe and start again. Perfectly logical. Perfectly ordered. Don't drive the character logically into a role of vengeance and duty (a la Batman.) Make him crazy -- make him a foil for other (characters).
Well, I guess that's enough rant for now, and I'd be interested in your opinions. Thank you, as always, for your consideration.
Uh-oh -- my opinion asked again. Cuss it, I can't resist.
Actually, […], I agree with most of what you said. Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) revolutionized superheroes in the '60s in what is universally described as a "heroes with problems" approach. But is that what Lee did? I think a better argument could be made that Lee's breakthrough was in combining several other genres within superhero convention -- like soap operas, Greek tragedy, Westerns and Shakespearean drama/comedy -- which broadened the superhero genre into one in which any sort of story could be told. A lot of Lee's work can be traced to other, subconscious sources, most of which were OUTSIDE of superhero comic books. I think the "superheroes with problems" tag was simplistic -- and erroneous.
If you'll accept that as a premise, then you can guess where I'm going: That the reasons for Lee's success were completely misinterpreted as the one-note "heroes with problems" schtick. And, in trying to emulate that imagined slant, his lesser successors carried the idea to its logical extreme -- from whiny slackers in the '70s (Nova, Firestorm) to anti-heroes in the '80s (Punisher, Lobo) to absolute jerks in the '90s (Guy Gardner, most of the Image characters).
So, yup, I agree with you that the current approach is often repulsive, in that it fails to put the "hero" in the "heroes with problems" formula, a formula that shouldn't exist in the first place, and often takes the place of real writing. And speaking of heroes:

Wow, even I don’t mind Kyle Rayner as a character, because I realize it’s not his fault he was so badly written, and that the blame must be laid at the feet of the writers in charge (Marz, Winick, Raab, et al), but what a shame if the correspondent doesn’t mind if Hal Jordan were kept in status quo of a tyrant. It’s just truly embarrassing.

Dear Cap: In reference to your comments in today's Mailbag:
<<Yup, I started haunting the school library for Norse mythology when I started reading Thor. Yup, reading comics routinely as a kid led to reading everything -- not only the stuff you mention, but cereal-box labels, classified ads, everything -- out of habit and a general curiosity nurtured by the wonder and magic of comic books. My favorite TV channels these days are Discover and The History Channel -- because I learn something every time, and comics nurtured in me a love of learning something new (and remembering it!) whenever I "play." In fact, I've become an incredible history whore -- I read history textbooks and analytical pieces for pleasure -- and there is no doubt in my mind that it was learning Spider-Man continuity that trained me to do so. (What is history but comic-book continuity in the real world?)
Following this thought, let me note that my third-grade teacher was utterly floored when I knew the melting point of lead off the top of my head. Thank you, E. Nelson Bridwell (I think) and Metal Men. My sixth-grade teacher was amazed when I knew that the speed of light was 186,000 miles per second -- thank you, Julius Schwartz and Flash. My college mythology professor was astounded when I was able to draw a freehand sketch of Yggdrasil, with the nine worlds located, and Ratatosk the squirrel racing up the side, on the blackboard. Thank you, Roy Thomas and Thor. And, of course, I was reading at a sixth-grade level (or higher) when I attended first grade. Thank you, Stan Lee and Fantastic Four.
Further, there is little doubt in my mind (or my wife's) that my entire moral architecture is based on ... comic books. Not the church, not the schools, not my parents -- all of whom let me down in profound ways as both child and adult. Spider-Man? He never let me down, and always believed in responsibility. Superman? Always did the right thing, no matter the cost. Batman? Sacrificed whatever it took to look out for others. Let any church or state or school on Earth match these qualities -- and live up to them -- and I'll sign up tomorrow. My wife says I have a WWII-generation view of the world, that I was an "old man" when she met me. That's true. At work and play, I feel a responsibility for others. And, frankly, I pity many of my peers, with their venal, petty, self-absorbed view of the world, where they adjudge their own self-worth on how quickly they can screw the other guy and get ahead of the Joneses. How sad it is. How unhappy they seem.>>
Cap, your account of how comics shaped your life is so eerily parallel to my own experience. Change a couple of the comic-book titles and science facts, and it could be my life you were recounting. This effect that comic books -- or at least, those of the Silver Age moral convictions -- has to be genuine, since our histories are virtually identical in so many experiences.
The third paragraph above is where I felt your experiences and mine leave the realm of coincidence and establish a legitimate causal effect. Like in your case, the other authority figures or establishments in my life let me down in never-forgotten-or-completely-expurged ways; in my case, this left me with an intense streak of cynicism which has never left me. I don't think I've ever fully, completely trusted anyone else -- except for my wife and one other. It's telling that one of "[...]'s Laws," as I put them, is that you get screwed over by your friends more often than by your enemies.
However, my four-colour heroes never flagged in the principles and morals which they espoused. Responsibility, duty, honour -- from the pens, typewriters and editorial decisions of countless talents I learned these values and took them to heart. (My one regret is that I have never had the opportunity to tell any of those talents the profound impact they had on my life. Oh, I've been to the Heroes Convention many times, but I've never been able to figure out how to convey my sincere gratitude for the course in which they gave me to steer my life in the 60 seconds or so I would get while the line behind me waits impatiently.) My wife and yours, Cap, could compare notes over a long coffee about how they are both married to refugees from the WWII generation. Not only does the good [name withheld] think I am an "old man," but my parents always said I was "born old".
The one thing you omitted from you account was your parents' reaction to your comic-book reading. Mine were not happy about it. They were aghast and distressed that I was still reading them past the age when they thought I should have "outgrown" them -- to their minds, somewhere around the age of 12. My parents were good people, with basically correct values, who did the best they knew how to do; but they both lacked imagination -- literally. They could not conceive of anything which was not in their personal experience; therefore, they considered the notion of anything real or substantive coming from reading comics as folly to the point of ridicule. Try being a 12-year-old and explaining to your parents that you believe in the values of Superman or Captain America, then see the looks on their faces as you try to figure out what they see wrong with that?
There is nothing wrong with that. Even though living by such a code has resulted in being snakebitten many times as an adult, I still think that honesty, duty, responsibility and honour are values to hold and to live by. No, I will never be as immaculate about them as, say, the Lone Ranger; but I can sure as blazes try. That was the object of the kind of heroes you and I lived by, Cap -- yes, they were near-perfect; no one could be expected to be that good in real life. But they gave us a standard to strive for.
This is what concerns me about the general theme of comics today, and I cannot honestly say if comics is the source of the problem or simply pandering to it; but comics no longer present heroes who stand out stridently for responsibility and honour. The few who still do so, like Captain America, are dismissed by writer and reader both as "boring." Most comic-book protagonists (I refuse to call them "heroes") fit loosely into the slippery mould of being violence-loving, amoral and possessing a homicidal tendency which is defensively described as "barely restrained." They are loud-mouthed, self-serving, borderline psychotic characters whose flaws are defended by the readership as being "realistic, just like real people have flaws." I leave the question of whether most of us real people are that seriously flawed to another essay; however, I will state that I do not turn to comic books to read about the activities of "real people" -- I can get that from Newsweek or Time. I turn to comics to read about those who are better than me -- to renew my inspiration to do the right thing. Somehow, I suspect -- and fear -- that most youngsters today do not take away the same values which you and I did from our comics reading. That is inestimably sad.
In mentioning the Lone Ranger above, I was reminded of the creed which he would espouse on his radio programme -- it was repeated at various times; and of all the creed, codes and oaths which heroes have handed down over the decades, his is the one which, in its simple decency and morality, says it best:
The Lone Ranger Creed
I believe.....
That to have a friend, a man must be one.
That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
That God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.
In being prepared physically, mentally and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
That "This government of the people, by the people, and for the people" shall live always.
That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
That sooner or later ... somewhere ... somehow ... we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
In my Creator, my country, my fellow man.
Thanks, Cap, for a most meaningful post. It's enheartening to know that I am not the last -- or the only -- of my kind.
Far from it, […]. In fact, to prove it, I'd like to hear from other Legionnaires who've been positively affected by comics -- and in what way. What say you, folks? And to kick it off, here's a letter with an oblique reference to same:

Before we arrive at that, I want to say I don’t think he was ever positively affected by any comics, and was certainly affected negatively by his own education system that reeks of socialism (and he says early Superman was “socialist”? Good grief). I also think it’s a disgrace the correspondent, who embraced Identity Crisis without question, is daring to bring up the Lone Ranger creed when he’s not fit to represent it.

Hello, Cap: A couple of comments on recent Mailbag stuff, beginning belatedly with Sword of The Atom.
I agree with you that one of the best things about Ray Palmer is the fact that he, like Tony Stark/Iron Man and Bruce Wayne/Batman, used his own brainpower to create his heroic identity. Another thing that made Atom great was the fact that his shrinking powers, and the adventures they lent themselves to, often reflected Ray's background as a physics professor: From the telephone-travel trick, to the Time Pool, to run-ins with microbes and subatomic particles, Atom stories usually had great sci-fi ingredients. While some of that was just plain goofy -- e.g. germs with human-like faces (a ploy that STILL makes me cringe, as in the JLA: Tower of Babel TPB prologue story) -- many Atom tales featured nifty facts about electrons, photons and on-and-ons, dutifully explained by good Prof. Palmer. Pure gold to a science-minded kid like my younger self. (Thank you, Mr. Schwartz!)
These things aside, what I may have liked most about the Atom -- and certainly the thing that made me notice him in the first place -- was his uniform. That simple, dynamic red-and-blue bodysuit is arguably the coolest of Silver Age getups, with allowances for Hal Jordan's snappy duds. The late, great Gil Kane, who designed both outfits, should be required study for all perpetrators of "Silly Super-Togs."
By stranding Ray Palmer at a height of six inches and making him warrior/savior to a Lilliputian jungle society, Sword of The Atom dispensed with all those endearing elements of the Atom mythology. A blatant attempt to shoehorn Ray into the regrettable early-'80s sword-and-sorcery fad, it even messed with that snazziest of uniforms. But I liked it just the same, for several reasons (in order of increasing importance):
It got the Atom back into a headliner role, albeit briefly and very sporadically. Even if it wasn't exactly the Atom I wanted, it was better than random JLA walk-ons or infrequent back-up appearances.
If they had to change Atom's classic outfit, at least DC had the sense to let Gil Kane handle the alterations, and to provide a plausible plot explanation for doing so. (Unable to return to normal size and replace his torn uniform, Ray had to modify it.) Kane's gorgeous pencils, which had become far too rare in mainstream comics by then, almost compensated all by themselves for SoTA's cliched main plot: "Stranger inspires downtrodden masses to overthrow their oppressor."
SoTA's chief subplot made up for the remaining triteness of the main arc, and then some: The failure of Ray's marriage to Jean Loring, due to his neglect and professional preoccupation -- certainly a realistic consequence of his "hobby," if not his day job -- was presented with considerable sensitivity without being (too) maudlin. So was Ray's need to re-examine his priorities and rebuild his confidence following the divorce. (Some might even see deep realism in Ray's approach to self-consolation, which combined midlife soul-searching with a scantily clad "trophy princess" and a decidedly, ahem, virile blade.)
Finally, SoTA emphasized -- though not as much as it could have -- a critical way in which the Atom is different from those other self-made heroes, Batman and Iron Man: Despite his scientific origin, Ray has practically zero reliance on technology for self-preservation. His armor-less uniform leaves him little better than naked. He carries no gadgetry or weapons (or didn't until he lost his size-and-weight controls and adopted the titular sword). Sure, the size-and-weight controls give him an edge, but they never make him stronger or less vulnerable than an ordinary man. At any given size, Ray must survive by his wits and his bare hands -- okay, gloved hands. (Hawkman is the only other hero who's similarly low-tech, but flails and crossbows are still weapons; and while I'm not well acquainted with his mystical Hawk of Ages powers, Mr. Hol was tougher and stronger than the average bird even when he was just a humble Thanagarian cop.)
Lacking a fatcat-industrialist's budget for jet boots or an AtomMobile, and faced with the knowledge that shrinking to avoid a gunsel might make him food for a rat or a spider, The Atom had to be more clever and resourceful than his less-vulnerable fellow heroes. Sword of The Atom was a noble attempt to showcase that resourcefulness -- and to explore how a brilliant scientist might apply his mind to a non-scientific world. It didn't quite live up to its own ambitions, but it was -- as a loincloth-sporting warrior might say -- an honorable effort.
Jumping ahead to this week's Mailbag, your comments to two separate correspondents had an amusing resonance for me. Your description of comics inspiring your love of reading and sparking your intellectual curiosity definitely hit home. But another remark -- your gleeful reply to the thought of Brad Pitt in flames (while playing the Human Torch or otherwise) -- reminded me that comics weren't the only form of "low culture" that pushed my young mind toward Higher Things. It's true that recognizing Thor's Volstagg as Prince Hal's Falstaff helped hook me on Shakespeare, but long before I knew Hamlet from a hole in the ground, I recognized the quote you used in response to the notion of barbecue Pitt, "Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd!"
The speaker of the immortal line was, of course, The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), who crowed it while contemplating the Dynamic Duo's death (in a vat of boiling wax, methinks) on the Batman TV show. That series' influence on my pre-literate self led directly to a love of comics, which led to a love of reading, which led to a love of literature, including Shakespeare. As a result, I must have watched or read Hamlet at least a dozen times -- and I've never been able to get through that famous soliloquy without mentally flashing on a maniac in question-mark pajamas. I guess it's a small price to pay.
"Question-mark pajamas" -- heh! That's a line I'll steal someday!
Thanks, […] -- and it's amazing how similar your reactions were to mine in regard to SoTA (as can be seen in last week's Q&A). And as for Shakespeare, just for you I added the "Lay on, MacDuff" line from MacBeth somewhere in this week's Mailbag. Which is not to say that I'm a Shakespeare expert, since the following letter had to correct me on Malvolio:

We’ll get to that soon enough. For now, I’m glad the correspondent doesn’t take the same kind of negative stance PC-advocates like Smith do on the SOTA topic. Taking one mere story turn and acting like it was literally becoming a status quo?!? Yeesh. Mr. Smith just doesn’t know how to appreciate character drama.

Dear Cap: Malvolio was the villain from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. His character was very similar to that of Frank Burns on MASH, in that he attempted to show himself as a person of very high moral fiber who disapproved of the bawdy antics of those around him, but when he had what he thought was an opportunity to romance Olivia (I think, I don't have the script with me), he proved himself to be as bawdy and foolish as everyone else, not to mention proving himself to be a hypocrite.
Thanks [name withheld] -- and to [ditto] and [double ditto], who also mentioned it.

But no thanks to Mr. Smith for being such a villain himself.

Dear Cap: In case it hasn't been brought to your attention yet, the Washington Post ran a feature-length article on the new Marvel series about the origin
of Wolverine.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43107-2001Sep4.html
Thanks, [name withheld]! And, while I'm glad to see comics get a big piece in the prestigious Post, I had to quit reading it when I found three mistakes in the first screen. I see no purpose in reading information I already know from somebody who doesn't know it as well.

Oh, look who’s just spoken, the man who didn’t know enough about the origins of the name Malvolio! And the Post is more like putrid, because of how hostile they are to conservative values and such. Much like several of the newspapers Mr. Smith’s column appears in!

Dear Captain: If you hear a 'bong, bong, bong' sound, that would be me, knocking on the metal door of the ol' yellow inverted rocket, requesting permission to try out for your Legion of Superflous Heroes. My qualifications are that I'm a 21-plus-year comic collector and fan, I would sooner pay NM prices for a Silver Age comic rather than slabbed prices, and I have cats named Zabu and Streaky! But most important to you, I really dig your column and analyses so much so that I'm going to respond to some of your comments.
This will probably be the last words you'd care to hear about DC Comics' "Our Worlds At War" storyline, but CBG #1450 arrived late so here goes. I agreed with your reasonings and explanations about OWAW's (supposed) dead until you wrote:
<<Steel? Hauled off by the Black Racer. Saw a body. Movie tanked. Dull character. Doesn't look good for John Henry Irons.>>
I really hope you are wrong about Steel's fate. While he certainly was no longer a headlining character, he is still a pretty respectable hero. His origins sprang out of the death of Superman himself, and out of the three resurrected imposters in that storyline, Steel proved to be the most well rounded, and easily accepted and excelled in his own super-identity.
We all know what valuable companion Steel is to Superman, and the JLA relies on him heavily for inventive and technical matters. I had hoped that DC would develop Steel as their version of Tony Stark minus the playboy billionaire role. I have a lot of respect for the character.
The fact that Steel is an African-American only further endears him to me. How many Black heroes are there in comics currently who are not motivated by racial injustice or some version thereof, complete with slang talk and swagger? (Thank goodness for Marvel's Black Panther, an excellent comic and character finally getting the respect he deserves). But race is not my sole appeal for Steel. He is a great character with undeveloped potential and it would be a shame to see him killed. Just my opinion.
Of course this could all be moot. Page 40 of this very issue of CBG states that Mark Schultz at the San Diego ComiCon states that the Steel issue will be "taken care of." What does he mean? Has there been a major outcry? Have e-mails like mine been sent to columns like yours, the DC offices and the JLA Watchtower? Enigmatic, to say the least. But that's part of the fun of funnybooks. You, dear Captain, are in a position to know and inform!
And I will if I can ... and what I can tell you is that DC has already released a cover showing a resurrected Steel. Looks like John Henry's stay in limbo will be a short one, and my analysis was wide of the mark!
And I wondered what that bonging noise was. Welcome to the Legion, […]!

He won’t and he doesn’t. His whole take on social issues is a disaster. Steel does have potential as a character, but not with DiDio’s kind in charge.

Hey Cap: I just finished reading the 8/30 Mailbag, and I couldn't help but make a few comments.
For some odd reason or another […]'s description of Cyclops made me think of Al Gore. A little bit awkward, lacking in social graces, but trying to take the whole world on his shoulders and living up to the high expectations of an influential father figure.
In response to […]'s inquiry about Atlas ... Unfortunately, despite billing themselves as "The 'New' House of Ideas," Atlas concentrated on rehashing already successful characters. They ran a Hulk rip-off called The Brute, a Sgt. Rock knock-off named Sgt. Hawk and a Vampirella clone monikered Devilina. Yet almost despite themselves, Atlas put out a few good books. Although I've seen people dismiss Destructor as a Spider-man facsimile, I really enjoyed those issues. I mean, how can you go wrong with Archie Goodwin, Steve Ditko and Wally Wood at the helm? I also thought Destructor was unique in that the main character was someone who had been a street hustler but was now trying to salvage his past. Yes, like Spidey, he was driven by a sense of guilt and responsibility, but that's like saying Captain America and Superman are the same simply because they both are driven by a sense of right and wrong that we call justice.
Besides […]'s recommendation of Planet of the Vampires, another high-quality book was Western Action. Comic Book Marketplace calls it "a must-have for any serious Western fan! Larry Lieber writes the 'Kid Cody' story that is illustrated by Jonny Quest creator Doug Wildey!" The back-up features the work of Steve Skeates and Jack Abel. Larry had been specializing in Westerns for years at Marvel and getting those other guys aboard must make for a real treat. I actually just picked up a copy yesterday and I hope it lives up to its billing.
Finally, in response to […]'s specific question: Yes, two of the Atlas characters popped up again, both amusingly enough in the pages of Marvel. David Kraft and Rich Buckler had invented the Demon-Hunter for Atlas, a title which only lasted the one issue. In 1977, Kraft and Buckler introduced a Marvel character by the name of Devil-Slayer and used him in both Deathlok and Defenders storylines (they even reused the same story title "Xenogenesis"). Then in 1981, Buckler self-published the concept as Bloodwing, going so far as to reintroduce the same Atlas alter-ego of Gideon Cross. Finally, a young Howard Chaykin had created an Atlas character called The Scorpion. He had a falling-out with Atlas over creative control and soon found himself at Marvel, where he re-introduced the concept as Dominic Fortune.
Dominic Fortune was The Scorpion? The things you learn ... Thanks, […]!
And if Cyclops is Al Gore, who's George W. Bush? Magneto? (Naw -- that's Dick Cheney. Which makes Dubya The Toad, right?) Here's more on Seaboard/Atlas:

Just look how his political bias was showing. I don’t find Dubya appealing, and he was just as poor on certain issues as his predecessor, Bill Clinton, but Mr. Smith, you can be sure, isn’t complaining for any of the right reasons. And all this comparison of Cyke to Al Gore is insulting. But it does give a good idea what the correspondent who originally spoke about Cyke thinks.

Dear Cap: Picking up on the letter about Atlas, Pacific and Seaboard ....
I'm down around here as a fan of the Atlas/Seaboard stuff, purely because of the art even though 90 percent of the writing was pure dreck. There were one or two shining lights in there, such as early Chaykin on The Scorpion and some of the Ditko artwork on The Protector, but they were fun. I always thought what killed them was a combination of poor editing (Larry Lieber allegedly being the main culprit) and the lack of newsstand distribution. You put a new slant on that tale.
Pacific went under, if I recall correctly, because they tied themselves up with one of the distribution companies that sprung up in the early '80s, which promptly went bust and took Pacific down with them. In fact, I have a nasty feeling they were also called Seaboard -- must be something about that name. At the time, they were about to start reprinting a lot of the Warrior material, including V For Vendetta -- and it took a good four years to get that sorted out.
Solson I remember from the early '80s as one of the most derivative companies out there. The gentlemen over at Gone & Forgotten have had occassion to comment on some of their work, and it makes for -- interesting reading, particularly in terms of their business practices.
Thanks, […]! It's always tough digging up information on obscure, pre-Internet companies, so I appreciate you providing what you know.

What a crock. That certainly doesn’t wash today in an age where you have Wikipedia to use as a starting point, even though their data can be very iffy. Even back then, I doubt there wasn’t any research available.

Dear Cap: I just wanted to throw suggestions in after reading this week's CBG:
-- "Titan's Hunt," which I feel was the one of the last great Titan epics Marv Wolfman wrote.
-- Roger Stern/John Byrne's short-lived run on Captain America
-- Dennis O'Neil/Neal Adams's Batman run -- this did revive The Batman to his darker side before Frank Miller did Dark Knight Returns
-- And since Marvel is doing Tomb Of Dracula, I think Dracula Lives! would make a good companion to it.
I would also suggest any of the old Master of Kung Fu or the old Deathlok stories from (I think) Amazing Adventures. Since Alan Davis is working on "War of the Worlds," how about the old Killraven stories?
On a side note, if it is British flavor you are interested in, I would suggest Marvel UK going back to reprinting (in color) several of the Doctor Who Magazine stories in trades. I think the last one they did was Voyager.
Thanks for the suggestions, [name withheld] -- those old MoKF stories seem to be really popular. And I'd like to see Dracula Lives! also -- there was a great "origin" of Dracula in one of the early issues by Neal Adams that I remember to this day.

Unfortunately, the Sax Rohmer estate still maintains the rights to some of the key characters in MOKF, making it difficult to reprint, and Marvel’s never reached any kind of agreement with them. As a result, the series has never been reprinted to date. Yet Mr. Smith has never argued in his columns why they should reach an agreement with each other. Not to my knowledge anyway. Some advocate for classics he is alright. Now another letter I wrote:

Dear Cap: The Ultimate Marvel magazine has failed (for now, at least), but with great thanks to [name and site withheld], currently affiliated with [this site also withheld], I think I may have dicovered the reasons why.
I read a report that he’d published on his site. Many of the Newsarama sections are published on Infopop software, and allow the registered users to post a reply to the stories right on the file itself. And I saw a few messages there that were very interesting, and which told that they didn’t see Ultimate Marvel being sold in regular stores next to magazines like Rolling Stone, as everybody was thinking they’d be. I e-mailed […] to ask about what went on in the sales of the magazine, and he sent me this reply:
<<The magazines were distributed by newsstand distributors, and even though Marvel suggested that they be racked next to computer gaming mags and maybe even Rolling Stone, retailers themselves control the shelf space and specific store-by-store racking of what they get in. From reports that have come in, retailers (mass market guys, not comic retailers) took a look at it, saw it was a comic book, and racked it with the comics, in some cases jamming it in the spinner rack when it wasn't the right dimensions for the wire holders.
Additionally, magazines on endcaps of places like Borders and Barnes and Noble, or in the check-out aisles of supermarkets, get there because the publisher pays to put them there. Marvel, despite its intentions, doesn't have the coin to do that, so they stayed in the ghetto of the magazine rack, pushed into the piles of comics, where people who didn't know about, or read comics weren't likely to go anyway.
All in all, the magazines were a good idea, and, if Marvel had the money to really, really push them, they might have worked and worked well. >>
So apparently, two of the leading reasons for Ultimate Marvel magazine’s failure was that A) the bookstore (and maybe even supermarket) managers betrayed them, and that B) Marvel didn’t have the financial resources to begin with to promote the magazine.
I must say, Marvel really shot themselves in the foot by trying to launch what could’ve been a breakout concept for them without maintaining the proper financial resources to get them onto the shelves where they would’ve been better noticed, and it’s a real shame that things had to turn out that way. If you don’t have the money required for the job, then launching such a project could be a very risky venture.
Hopefully, the failure of Ultimate Marvel will serve as an important lesson to many other publishers, and I hope that DC and CrossGen can learn from this too. I’d particularly like to see CrossGen launch a magazine version of their CrossGen Chronicles, but unless they’ve got the resources for promoting it and getting it onto the right shelves, then it may not be a good idea to do so. In a tough market like what we’re facing today, you need a lot of money in order to succeed in getting through to the public and getting them interested in buying it. I thank […] very much for providing us with the some of the best info on the subject.
Seeing some of the talk in the Q&A about comics adapted from licenced merchandise, such as Star Wars and Star Trek, and how LucasFilm LTD and Paramount maintain a stranglehold grip on any creative freedom whatsoever
-- well, that’s one of the reasons why I’ve so very often found licensed stuff to be very inauthentic: They don’t allow any natural character development (characters don’t have to age in order to develop though, right?), if at all, they can sometimes, if not always, be rather juvenile in focus, and none of the central characters are ever likely to be killed off, which pretty much frees the audience from any need to worry about them and their fates. Heck, in some of these items, such as GI Joe and Transformers, there aren’t even any human deaths; it’s about as menacing as your average episode of The A-Team and The Dukes of Hazzard.
That’s why, if there’s anything that worries me about the new series that Devil’s Due is preparing for Image based on GI Joe, it’s that there won’t be much character development or even human relations. I should hope that this will not turn out to be the case. And while it doesn’t have to be too adult, I certainly wouldn’t want it to be written too juvenile either. If there’s anything it should certainly be though, it’s fun. I expect it’ll have some good action and some T&A, and from some of the reports I’ve read, there’ll be a few new characters, but when it comes to all the most prominent characters who’re based on the toys, well, it remains to be seen as to if there’ll be any real character development.
So I understand completely why you and/or [withheld] don’t review comics based on licensed merchandise: Because of the stranglehold that conglomerate companies maintain on the creative freedom of the comics based on their properties, so even if they’re worth reading, the lack of free reign for the writers and possibly even character development doesn’t make it worth reviewing.
And yet, I have to hand it to [withheld], he does a very good job in reviewing the Star Trek comics. I wonder if his are among the few reviews we’re really likely to see anywhere on the Web. But they’re very good, and I’ve got to congratulate him for being so good at it.
As I mention in today's "Next Week's Comics," Avi, I think Image is well suited to do GI Joe -- precisely because, as a company, they're more noted for flashy action than character development. And even so, I imagine you'll see one or two "secondary" characters introduced that the writer can play around with, while leaving the licensed characters static.
And thanks for the info on Ultimate Marvel (and to the estimable […], as well, with whom I share column inches in Comics Buyer's Guide). I think most pros had a pretty clear-eyed idea of the uphill battle Marvel was facing with the magazine line -- and it failed for precisely the reasons everybody predicted it would. I think saying the retailers "betrayed" Marvel is too strong a word -- they were just doing what they've always done, what came naturally. The problem, as everyone predicted, was in Marvel finding some way to break those ingrained habits. They didn't, and the magazines went bust.

If I thought at the time that comics based on licensed products had serious restrictions, I’ve since concluded that was erroneous: most of the GI Joe comics were far more serious than the cartoons, and even Top Cow’s Tomb Raider tales were pretty good too. So too in fact were the Dungeons & Dragons tales DC was publishing during 1988-91, along with Dragonlance, based on the board games and books the late TSR Inc. was publishing at the time before they were later sold to Wizards of the Coast in 1997 (which in turn was sold to Hasbro but kept their logos and such). However, I figure today it’s more likely that smaller publishers like IDW will have better creative freedom than mainstream allow.

As for that Ultimate magazine, did Mr. Smith ever say in his articles that major bookchains should make their copies more visible? No. So what was the point in blabbing about a venture that was overrated to start with?

And this concludes the 10th gathering of all these letters of correspondence. We’ll conclude with the following.

Copyright 2015 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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