A look back at some past memories and experiences, part 11

October 2, 2015

By Avi Green

We now reach the last part of this retrospective of correspondence on the early Captain Comics website (click here for the penultimate part). Some of which may be trivial, including my own correspondence, but some of which does still offer what to think about. The letters here are from October 5, 2001, and begin with Q&As, while the discussions come afterwards:

Dear Cap: I know that this is hardly the time to be concerned with matters pertaining to our hobby, but I had to step away from (the Sept. 11) tragedy for a few minutes and decided to visit your site.
Fellow [state and name withheld] (no relation as far as I know) asked about a series focusing on the GCPD. You told him about Gotham Knights. However, he may have been referring to a news item from Newsarama about a possible series called Gotham Central. According to the story, the series would be written by both Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker with one writer taking the day shift and the other taking the night shift. That story is still posted on their site if you would like to check it out.
I hope that you and yours are coping as best as any of us can hope to do so.
Thanks, [name withheld]. I haven't been following comics news very closely lately, as there have been a few other things to deal with at the newspaper where I work. Duh. Anyway, I hope your fellow [state withheld] is reading this.

What an overrated piece of slop Gotham Central was. I don’t mind putting co-stars like the cops in the spotlight, but what Rucka (and Brubaker) cooked up was some of the most pretentious, contrived ideas ever seen in modern DC books. Like the part where Renee Montoya was turned into a lesbian. As if that really, absolutely was necessary. While Armenians are considered inferior by the writers, I guess.

Dear Cap: Way back in CBG #1442 (July 6; I'm way behind) you were discussing the proposed silly All-Desktop Squadron, and someone mentioned the old Wonder Woman foe Angle Man, saying he didn't know if AM had appeared since Crisis.
The answer would be a resounding no. He died in Crisis. Jonni Thunder and others found his corpse in a hotel room; I think it was in Vegas during a detectives convention (maybe). I don't know what tie-in issue he might have actually died in -- it was just a panel in Crisis. Maybe it was a classic locked-room mystery? Maybe it was just a renegade shadow demon?
(Caveat to all this: if they haven't brought in a new Angle Man for the new Wonder Woman, I'm sure they will. Phil Jimenez is probably just looking for the right ... no, I won't say it, that's waaaaay too cheap of a shot.)
Thanks, […]. Actually, DC did have an Angle Man show up at some point post-Crisis, I think. Then a volley of letters reminded them that he was dead. I have forgotten how they explained him away, or perhaps I dreamed this while thing. Legionnaires? Anyone follow Wonder Woman?

The correspondent would do well to consider that a lot of the topics Mr. Smith writes about past and present are pretty cheap too. Nothing challenging at all.

Dear Captain: I am sorry to have bothered you ... but (I) do have (a) question about Morlocks. What ties besides being an ally is Callisto?
None that I'm aware of, [name withheld]. However, Storm once defeated Callisto in combat for the leadership of the Morlocks, so Callisto (and the other Morlocks) are bound by some implausible Claremontian code of honor to regard Ororo as their unquestioned leader. Yeah, disfigured, diseased people living like animals in a sewer behave like 6th-century French knights. Sure.
If other readers have more information for [same here] -- my Morlock memory is fuzzy -- feel free to chime in.

Wow, his memory is fuzzy? So’s his grip on morale and sincerity. No wonder he couldn’t even be bothered to say the approach used in Avengers: Disassembled was offensive to women.

Dear Cap:
http://www.norse-man.net/Marvel/Char-I/IronMonger.htm
has more extensive info about Obadiah Stane, using info from his Official History of the Marvel Universe entry. (I must say, the origin of Obadiah Stane's baldness is a whole lot better than the origin of Luther's baldness from Adventure Comics #271!)
A while ago, we compared the Kingpin to Lex Luthor. I stated that Eliot S. Maggin created LexCorp in one of his prose Superman novels in the late 1970s/early 1980s. He may not have done it in there, but Eliot S. Maggin did create Lexcorp. In Superman #416:
http://www.fortress.am/tales2/ghost/
http://www.fortress.am/Maggin/lex.html
Not to be morbid, but the plane crashes today remind me of the prose Nick Fury novel Empyre.
http://www.geocities.com/seekeroftruth001/books.html
It involved terrorists crashing planes.
http://www.idyllmtn.com/rac/dc/vertigo/#DCUniverse
http://polisci.spc.uchicago.edu/~jtlevy/other.html
http://www.ionet.net/~hodge/vertigo/vertigo.htm
http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~kts/vertigo/vertigo_faq.html
http://www.io.com/~woodward/chroma/crisis.html#wherenow
The Monitor and the Anti-Monitor are both still dead. They are rarely even depicted in comics. Luthor IV has not reappeared (and most likely never will). Harbinger was the "narrator" of The History of the DC Universe. She also appeared in Millennium #1-8 (and assorted crossovers), and was a member of The New Guardians for its full run. She has also appeared in Guy Gardner: Reborn. Pariah popped up in several titles during "War of the Gods," including Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman #53-54 (Pérez series). He also was in Starman #8 (Will Payton series), in which he appeared to have developed an unhealthy fixation on Lady Quark. He was usually cast in the role of doomsayer, and has not been seen in several years. Lady Quark attempted to romance Starman (Will Payton) in issue #8 of his series, then left Earth and eventually joined the Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network, first appearing in L.E.G.I.O.N. '90 #16. She was killed in L.E.G.I.O.N. '94 #62, and replaced by a parasitic shapeshifter, who was in turn killed in L.E.G.I.O.N. '94 #70.
Doctor Light II helped the post-Legends Justice League on a few missions (Justice League #1-4, Annual #1, and Justice League America #54-56). She rejoined the League full time in Justice League Spectacular #1 and Justice League Europe #37. She remained a member through JLE's name change to Justice League International (volume 2), and then quit in #67, just before Zero Hour. She has not been seen since. See also DC Comics Presents #94, which appeared at the very end of the Crisis, and featured Harbinger, Pariah and Lady Quark.
Thanks for all the research, […]! I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember half the debates your info relates to. Did we really discuss Obadiah Stane?
And you're right about Empyre. It was frighteningly similar to real-world events. In that novel, Hydra (a freelance terrorist organization, like Al Qaeda), hooks up with a Saddam Hussein-like sponsor (read: Taliban) to finance and support their plan to hijack multiple commercial airliners and fly them into significant American targets with full loads of fuel (including NYC and the Pentagon), disrupting command-and-control, frightening the citizenry, and generally creating chaos by which they could destroy the U.S. political infrastructure. Fury foiled the plan, of course. What else can I say?

Today, there’s no chance you’d see any storylines like those involving Hydra. Not in the era of PC-plagued Marvel.

Hi Cap'n, it's good to see that your site is back up!
Regarding your question about Marvel Universe showing up on some editions of Tangled Web: Marvel Universe is the title that Marvel uses for newsstand distribution of some limited series or one-shots. For example, a copy of Startling Stories: Banner I found at Books-A-Million carried the title of Marvel Universe: Banner. Likewise, the Iron Fist/Wolverine limited series from last year was released to the newsstand as X-Men Universe: Iron Fist and Wolverine. I believe that it saves Marvel and the distributors time and trouble to have the one catch-all title rather than create a new record for each and every miniseries that Marvel wants to release to the newsstand market. In the past, it has also cost more money to add a new title to the newsstand market. This is why Journey Into Mystery was renamed Thor while keeping the same numbering.
By the bye, Avengers Universe, Spider-Man Universe and X-Men Universe started out as title that reprinted two or three stories from recent issues of
each line of comics. When that experiment failed, Marvel started using those generic titles to release the miniseries and one-shots.
Of course, to add to the confusion, Marvel started releasing Chuck Dixon and Eduardo Barreto's Marvel Knights team book to the newsstand market as Marvel Knights Universe. I guess they were hedging their bets in case of the cancellation that recently occurred.
Thanks, [name withheld] -- I had no idea about the name changes, and now I do! Incidentally, the reason for keeping numbering and indicia titles in the '60s while changing cover titles is as you said -- it saved money and time. For one thing, Marvel had a limited number of newsstand slots in the early '60s, thanks to a bad deal with DC's disributor. So when Journey Into Mystery started starring Thor in issue #83 in August 1962 (the name didn't change officially until issue #126, Mar 66, but it changed on the cover around issue #110 or so), they kept the JIM name to keep it in the same JIM distribution slot (with the same number of issues ordered) rather than start over with #1, which would have counted as a "new" title and would require paperwork and would start at a lower circulation figure. (New titles were considered chancy in those days, and distributors would order fewer of them.) Also, they would have had to pay for a new Second Class Mail permit for the "new" title for subscriptions. Man, were they cheap.

Not as much as Mr. Smith’s MO! Now for two in one:

Dear Cap: Could you give me some background on this character, Master of the World?
I'd like to, […], but that would require me to go re-read old Alpha Flights, and no power on Earth can make me do that. Besides, I had him confused in a recent "Next Week's Comics" column with "The Master" (later, "Destiny") from early issues of Sub-Mariner, so I'm hardly an authority. Which one reader was decent enough to point out:

Hi Cap'n! I wanted to point out that the "Master of the World" was featured in several issues of Alpha Flight (volume 1). I did not know that he was a character from Sub-Mariner, and in fact his appearances in AF at the time led me to believe that he was new. (Of course I could be wrong ...)
Nope, you're right, [withheld], and I'm wrong. Now, will somebody tell us who this guy is/was?

How about if Mr. Smith were to tell who HE really is?

Dear Cap: I just thought of this, in the Star Trek book X-Planet, the mutagenics these people are getting are like the same type of powers Earth's heroes have, almost -- the guy who gets the power beams in his arms is like Cyclops, and the guy who reads minds is the same as Xavier, and the girl who talks to fast is the same as Quicksilver. The rest I can't identify. When they wrote this book did they consult you or not? Because it seems that they'd have to get the names from you.
Well, as much as I'd like credit, but they may have actually read X-books all on their own. Thanks for the insight, […].

Nobody in the right frame of mind should consult Mr. Smith on anything. Because he’s not the kind of man who truly thinks the customer is right on issues like story merit, for example. Now here comes a query I wrote:

Dear Cap: How many characters with alliterative names are there in both the Marvel and DC universes? And does the MCU contain more characters with alliterative names than the DCU? It's certainly seemed like Marvel's got more -- Peter Parker being the most notable -- at times.
While I can't tell you how many characters have alliterative names, Avi -- there's way too many to count -- I can tell you why it's so.
According to his own admission, Stan Lee has a lousy memory. To help him remember his characters' names -- and, remember, he was writing about eight books a month in the early days of Marvel Comics and created hundreds of characters -- he made them alliterative. So most of the early Marvel characters had names like Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Warren Worthington, Scott Summers, Dr. Doom, Silver Surfer, etc. (Interestingly, Stan still got it wrong, once referring to the Hulk's alter ego as Bob Banner throughout an entire issue of Fantastic Four -- #26, to be exact. To cover up this SNAFU, Stan established that the scientist's full name was Robert Bruce Banner! Fun facts to know and tell ...). Other writers, aping Stan's style, often followed this technique, such as Marv Wolfman in Nova (Richard Ryder). So Marvel has lots of alliterative names.
Over at DC, the alliteration mainly concentrated in the Superman titles, where Mort Weisinger used the initials "LL" as a story gimmick, apparently playing off Lois Lane. Each time he introduced a major character to the Superman mythos, he'd give them those initials. So Luthor became Lex Luthor (when he was finally given a first name around 1960), Supergirl was Linda Lee, Superman's mermaid girlfriend was Lori Lemaris, his pre-explosion Kryptonian girlfriend in a time-travel story was Lyla Lerrol, his teenage sweetheart was Lana Lang, and so forth.
There are lots of other alliterative names that have nothing to do with these twin stories, like Mr. Mxyzptlk, but I attribute that to the simple fact that alliterative names sound kinda zippy, and writers like zippy!

But not according to his own admissions, which he’s never made, Mr. Smith has a lousy grasp on morale. He can’t even recall how Dr. Light was characterized in the Silver Age, so it’s no wonder he’s not reliable. Or, he’s refusing to admit Dr. Light was far from being depicted as a sex offender in the past decades, which is surely worse. If I were Weisinger, I’d very disgusted at Smith for his dishonesty by omission.

Just a few thoughts and questions …
I finished reading Black Panther #36 and was wondering whether this Achebe character is a pirated version of Scarface from Batman with his like hand-puppet friend. Is Achebe a pre-existing character in Black Panther continuity, and if so, what is his background? Otherwise, I guess Marvel is asking for a lawsuit.
I also checked out Captain Marvel, as you suggested and I am hooked! I have tracked down most of the back issues and have bought the First Contact TPB. I had forgotten how good a writer Peter David is, as I read his run on X-Factor (go Strong Guy!). Call me juvenile, but I laughed out loud when I read the sequence where Genis tests the Supreme Intelligence with an unforeseen result.
Have you seen a hardcover TPB called JLA: A League of One, which has this cover of Wonder Woman with the remaining JLA members lying around unconscious? As the TPB is sealed in plastic, I have no idea if it is worth getting -- have you read/reviewed this volume?
I also read in your column that Captain America is moving to a relaunch to the Marvel Knights line. Given the tragic circumstances recently, I feel that it is better to have such a powerful symbol of America in his present state. Do you think Quesada & Co. will have a change of heart on this move?
I don't recall if Achebe had appeared before the current Panther run, [withheld] -- but the hand-puppet thing is definitely new! But, no, I wouldn't say they were swiping from Scarface. There's very little similarity between the characters, aside from a puppet being involved -- and no grounds for a lawsuit. (DC would have to prove that Achebe was not only a direct swipe, but that Marvel was profiting at DC's expense on that character -- unlikely, in both cases.) In fact, it's more likely that South Park's Mr. Garrison could sue than could DC!
I did read JLA: A League of One, and was mildly amused that this expensive, richly painted book was essentially a familiar Silver Age plot. That plot, used in too many books to name, is that some member of a super-team gets irrefutable evidence that the whole team is going to be wiped out in a coming battle -- so she/he gets everybody else kicked off the team so that she/he is the only member left, and, heroically, will be the only one to die. And the other members are all shocked and dismayed at her/his apparent betrayal until the truth comes out.
But, the fact that it's a familiar plot doesn't make it bad -- the reason some plots are recycled is because they're good ideas! And League of One was pretty good -- the art was gorgeous, and Wonder Woman's methods for getting rid of the other Leaguers (particularly powerhouses like Superman and Martian Manhunter) are pretty ingenious. Yeah, it's expensive, but a fun read if you don't expect too much.
As to Captain America, Marvel hasn't made any noises about changing their plans. Since I don't know what those plans are, I can't comment on whether that's good or bad. But it does seem like really bad timing for them -- Cap, as currently written, is perfectly in synch with the national mood for the first time in decades.

I think he did – and does – know what those plans are, but refuses to speak up because he doesn’t want to bite the hands that feed him in the medium. A pure disgrace.

Dear Cap: You'll have to farm this one out, but: Did an issue of Sandman Mystery Theatre deal with a flashback to the Spanish Civil War? I remember hearing that there was an issue in which Franco appeared with the Axis leaders?
There was a four-parter that dealt with the Spanish Civil War, in which Wesley Dodds contributed to the anti-Fascist forces -- I think. As far as I recall, it was in "real" time -- Dodds began his career in '39, according to DC mythology (not his actual first appearance). I could be wrong, though, because as you surmised, I'm not going to dig those issues out and will instead "farm this out" to the Legion for the details. What about it Legionnaires? I'll never get this &%$# Mailbag posted if I stop to look everything up!

He’ll never convince either if he doesn’t question arbitrary changes made to established characters, not to mention out-of-character portrayals.

So there I was, waiting in line in the bookstore at my alma mater when I spy something that catches me completely off-guard. After a polite question, I hear the answer only dreams are made of. One of the Communications professors assigns her students Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns as compulsory reading. Hooray for breaking out of the comic-books-are-for-kids mentality!
Well, how about that!

I’ve got a hunch they’d be less likely to recommend Miller’s work today after he published Holy Terror and condemned the Occupy movement, something Mr. Smith remained curiously quiet about. Including the correspondent himself, who’s quite disgusting charlatan.

Dear Cap: I mentioned that Will Eisner recently opened his website and that it would be interesting to see if he would put his trailblazing flag forward into yet another frontier, and it looks like he will be!
http://willeisner.tripod.com/johnlaw/
I'll have to check it out. Thanks, […]!

And I wouldn’t be surprised if even this correspondent wouldn’t recommend Eisner so much these days after he published his last graphic novel, The Plot, which dealt with Muslim anti-semitism. Now for the more typical letters:

Dear Cap: The new Marvel “no heroes smoking” policy is just plain stupid. Sorry if I sound petulant, but that’s my opinion.
In my own opinion, Marvel tends to have the more human, realistic and believable characters. If they get rid of smoking in the main characters, they cheapen the characters making them empty shadows of their former glory.
Why are they stopping? So kids don’t pick up the habit? I think they’re missing the point. I don’t smoke. I could if I wanted to; I’m almost 21 now. But I never have and probably never will. Do I have any problems with smoking? A few, but not many.
I believe you stated in a previous comic something about learning morals from comics. If anything comics have taught me not to smoke. Think about it. When I think of smokers in comics of today a couple names come to mind. Nick Fury, Wolverine, The Thing and Spider Jerusalem.
Nick Fury is ancient (OK, maybe not, but he’s been around since WWII and doesn’t look too shabby). He’s a grizzled old vet (no disrespect meant to Fury or anyone) and isn’t the kind of guy I think most kids under 18 want to emulate.
Wolverine, on the other hand, is, as well as being the most popular single character in the X-franchise. I can see why Marvel would want to cut him off. But he has a healing factor! He’s more likely to die in battle than of lung cancer.
Thing? I don’t know what to say. The realism will be gone from the traditional Fury, Thing and Wolvie poker games.
Spider is DC (Vertigo I guess, and “kids” shouldn't read Vertigo). But he is definitely an example of why you shouldn’t smoke.
And on manga:
A wise Manga Guru once relayed to me, “Don’t go around comparing all manga to a series you liked. If you do that you’re not a manga fan, you’re a poseur.” What I mean is that while I will agree that Lone Wolf and Cub is a cool series (though I haven't had a chance to get too far into it), don't go around trying to compare everything to it, even if it’s the same genre.
Where would we be if we compared all comics to, say, Superman? Batman -- he’s just a guy, boring. Spider-Man -- sure he’s strong, but he can’t fly! Flash -- he’s fast, but Superman could kick his butt around the block. Captain America -- he, too, is just a guy when you get down to it.
See what I mean? That saps the fun out of it. If you find a genre you like, read more in that genre.* But don’t go into the grocery expecting to leave with an apple that tastes like an orange.
*As swordfighting ninja/samurai/etc. epics go I would suggest you look in
to the series Blade of the Immortal from Dark Horse, or the anime series (I don’t think they’ve translated the manga yet) Rurrouni Kenshin (also called Samurai X). The first part of the Kenshin series is slightly humorous, but it becomes more serious as it goes along.
On Manga: I assume your remarks are in response to what I said in "Next Week's Comics," about doubting that a certain pseudo-manga book would be as good as Lone Wolf and Cub. Don't worry -- I don't lump all manga books into the same category. I know there are different styles and genres within manga, just as there are in American comics. I was just making a lame joke about that particular book and using a well-known book as reference -- nothing more. Otherwise, we're pretty much in agreement.
On Smoking: This has been such a controversy, I used your remarks (and others) as fuel for a smoking column in Comics Buyer's Guide in which I didn't come down on one side or the other.
Initially I had no problem with Marvel's smoking ban, as I am a reluctant smoker and wouldn't wish this hell on anyone. But comments like yours raised some very pertinent issues about political correctness, characterization, art vs. politics and publisher responsibility. Now I'm undecided -- and, being an unhappy smoker, I have trouble being objective about it. I hope comments continue to come in, so that the debate may guide me. Here's more:

Straight from the keyboard of a man who didn’t actually have any problem turning Scarlet Witch into a crazy crackpot in Avengers: Disassembled. He certainly didn’t describe what the story was like, that’s for sure. Hence, I don’t buy a word he says.

Dear Cap: Hooray for Marvel Comics! If fans want “realism” let the BAD guys smoke! One of the healthy signs coming out of the terrorism cataclysm was the collective OOOPS from Hollywood as they pulled their “Glamorous Terrorists” pics for the coming season. Responsible adults promote responsible behavior – duhhhh.
P.S. -- if you don’t have room to print this, please forward it to (Bill) Jemas, (Joe) Quesada, et al -- they should know MANY people appreciate their initiative. Thanks!
Thank you, [name withheld]. And you're absolutely right, publishers ought to be more responsible, and the no-smoking ban is an example of Marvel being responsible, which we should all applaud. Here's more:

Well now, what have we here? Mr. Smith speaking with a forked tongue! Gee, how come he can’t make up his scatterbrained mind? Either it’s censorship or it isn’t. If they’re going to depict heroes and their co-stars smoking cigarettes, at least suggest they have some kind of health-based lesson about it involved. That way, we can get heroes and co-stars who have moral flaws but can also learn from them.

Dear Captain: In response to the smoking ban in Marvel Comics, I have a short list of questions for the good folks at Marvel.
1) Nick Fury and Wolverine have been smoking cigars for 30-40 years minimum, with seemingly no ill effects. Are they going to suddenly quit cold turkey and not experience withdrawal? That may give kids the inaccurate idea that it's easy to quit smoking. Is Wolverine going to chew nicotine gum to beat his cravings? Are you going to put Nick Fury on the patch? You certainly don't want to mislead people.
2) Since obesity is also a highly self-destructive, unhealthy condition, perhaps Kingpin and The Blob should go on diets. After all, their hearts must be under incredible strain. Maybe they should spend some time in the Danger Room to burn off some of those unsightly love handles.
3. Drunkenness also seems to plague the comics, (Generation X/NeXt, anyone?) You not only send kids the message that alcohol consumption is a perfectly viable way to deal with frustration, but you never show the whole story. In one particular comic, a character is so drunk they can't see straight, and sober on the very next page. You need to show that person spending the night hugging a toilet seat and staggering around with a hangover the next morning. Maybe you could have a kind word from Professor X concerning alcohol's damaging effects on the liver.
4) What about basic moral behavior? Green Lantern lives with his girlfriend without the benefit of marriage! It's a wonder that unwanted pregnancy isn't on the rise because of you people and your perverted ethics. And what about the situation in Spider-Man? Do you call a man who works all day and goes out on the town all night, leaving his wife home alone almost constantly, a recipe for a good marriage? For shame Marvel, for shame!
And superheroes as a whole encourage taking the law into your own hands. That alone is not a good thing, but there is one hero in particular that is just unacceptable and must be dealt with immediately:
The Punisher: A guy with a bunch of guns who drives around in a van killing people who he deems "guilty" so he can protect the "innocent." How can you condone such a vigilante? Maybe he, Ghost Rider and Venom should channel their concerns in a more constructive way by joining their local Neighborhood Watch program.
You guys need to realize that most kids know smoking is bad for them, especially with anti-smoking ads sprinkled throughout the average comic book. If you're worried that they don't know that, then you should probably consider the fact that your comics also tell kids that radiation can give you superpowers, guys in rubber suits fly around throwing exploding pumpkins at people, people almost never die (and if they do, they can always come back as a clone or something!), your most popular heroes have metal skeletons, laser eyes and the ability to control the weather. Stop worrying whether or not the scourge of Big Tobacco can fell the forces of Truth and Justice and give Nick and Wolvie back their stogies!
Bottom line Marvel. It's fantasy, don't take it too seriously.
Good points, [withheld], and you're absolutely right, the no-smoking ban is hypocritical, and it betrays the stories and the characters to "clean up" their revealing character flaws. That's bad writing! Here's more:

Mr. Smith’s double-talk is bad discussion. Since topics like obesity came up, let me add that perhaps Northstar should be seen trying to get a course in psychotherapy so he can repair his thinking to heterosexual again. Unfortunately, in the ultra-leftist dominated comics medium, it’s forbidden to be even remotely negative about homosexuality, because that’s only the politically correct, Orwellian thing to do. Unlike with obesity, where in real life, no sane overweight person denies that it’s a physical health problem, even if they don’t try to exercise it away. Now for one I wrote about the smoking issue:

Dear Cap: I’m glad you brought up the subject of smoking in comic books this week. I certainly agree that to show characters smoking in comics is a very tricky business, and it’s very unhealthy for children to try and practice.
As I know, one of the reasons why Wolverine smokes cigarettes is because his healing powers make him immune to cancer. The problem is however, that to do it with a character like Wolverine could still give the wrong impression to kids about the effects of smoking. Of course, when folks like Shadowcat tried it, so they found it terrible. Maybe the idea is to show some characters with no immunities like what Logan’s got trying to smoke and coming to realize that smoking is unhealthy and tastes terrible? Whatever, if you ask me, smoking should not, if anything, be presented in a positive light. ...
If I can offer my thoughts on [name withheld]’s message, well, he’s right that it’s very double-talking of Marvel to say that a character like Wolverine can’t smoke, but can be shown being victimized by graphic gore. I think though, that you may have slightly misunderstood what [withheld] was trying to get at in his message: I think what he was asking was if it’s okay to see Wolverine being maimed, but not okay to see him smoking.
Well, I must say that [withheld] has a point. Graphic violence, after all, is something very repulsive, and to see people getting gored is far worse than seeing people smoke. I usually find smoking cigarettes a very appalling sight. But it does not have the same devastating effect on me that graphic violence does.
By golly, Avi ... you're right. Marvel shouldn't stop with the smoking ban, they should be more aware of their impact on kids and refrain from other irresponsible depictions, like graphic violence. After all, this is their "all ages" books, and they should tone everything down a notch. Here's more:

Hey, do I notice correctly, or is he saying Marvel should’ve kept a ban on smoking? Again it’s the say-so see-saw on display. And he’s never made a serious argument about much of the jarring violence in their modern books either.

Dear Cap: I just read your article from this past Sunday. My first reaction when I read the title was, "Are they serious?" I'm not a smoker myself, but I have to agree with the sentiment of some of responses you printed in your article. To address smoking in this manner means you would also have to address drinking, womanizing, violence with respect to super-powers, and weapons violence a la Punisher. I'm sure there may be at least one kid somewhere who loved a comic-book character so much that they took up smoking just to be like their hero, but this type of rampant political correctness is turning us all into mindless drones afraid to do/say anything lest we offend. Smoking is a part of all of our lives and though I'm not at all for encouraging people to smoke, simply denying its existence in comics by having all of its characters kick the habit isn't going to affect future cancer rates. Having Wolverine smoke a cigar is not an advertisement on behalf of the tobacco industry to promote smoking. It's simply a part of our culture.
More good points, [name withheld], and you're absolutely right, in that the smoking ban is ludicrous when other "unwholesome" activities are commonplace. It's hypocrisy. Here's more:

Such PC has also come to affect how Islam is depicted in mainstream, yet he’s never said anything about it. Isn’t that also hypocrisy?

Dear Cap: Last week's mention of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund got me wondering: Does the CBLDF have anything to say about Marvel's new no-smoking policy?
Sorry, but this has really got me cheesed off. No more cigars for Wolverine? And Nick Fury? Fury without that stogie clenched between his teeth is ... well, it's just not right. (Yeah, I know he can still light up in the MAX line, but still.)
Honestly, doesn't this qualify as a form of censorship, a stifling of creative freedom? And this comes AFTER Marvel dumps the Comics Code as an outdated set of pointless restrictions? What a complete load of PC crap.
Yes, I'm a smoker. Yes, I know it's bad for you and can kill you. It's not smoking per se that's got me so wound up; it's the sniveling, craven PC aspect of it. Alcohol causes as much damage as -- if not more than -- tobacco. Can Wolverine and Fury no longer pop open a cold one? If there's a Marvel scene set in a bar, will everyone be drinking lemonade? Many, many people die on the wrong end of a gun. Does this mean The Punisher will have to hang up his weapons in favor of a more PC approach? Frank Castle, social worker! Tony Stark is a womanizer who goes through girlfriends the way some people go through socks. Will he now have to practice monogamy?
Look, lots of people smoke in real life. That doesn't make it right, but it's still a fact. For Joe Quesada to hand down this "no heroes smoking" edict is a Disney-like whitewashing of life. Even worse, it's completely counter to the comics world created by Lee, Kirby and Ditko back in the early '60s. Marvel was where the heroes seemed more real! OK, we're talking about men in tights who can fly, stick to walls, etc. But within that context, those characters behaved in a more realistic fashion. They weren't perfect. They had flaws. They didn't always do the right thing. Sometimes they had trouble even knowing what the right thing was. That's what made Marvel ... well, Marvel. Were we supposed to emulate Tony Stark or Frank Castle? No! But their often flawed, sometimes misguided humanity was what made them great characters.
Sorry for the rant, Cap'n, but I had to get this off my chest. I fully expect a heavy response from the rabid anti-smokers out there (and God knows there are plenty of 'em). But I stand by this: Contrary to what the forces of political correctness will tell us, cigarettes are FAR from being one of the top sources of grief and misery in this world.
Doggoneit, [withheld], you're absolutely right also! This is escapist fantasy, not Emily Post. More comments, Legionnaires?

The correspondent is right, but Mr. Smith is wrong, based on his forked tongue display. It’s hilarious, by the way, how men like Quesada seem to consider sex and marriage between a heterosexual couple bad too, yet homosexuality is allowed, as seen a few years ago in X-Men, where Northstar married a same-sex partner.

Interestingly, about 4-5 years after this was written, Spider-Woman was seen smoking a cigarette in the Avengers when Brian Bendis took over. Which begs the question: why is he allowed to have his cast smoke, but nobody else? Assuming the ban on smoking is still intact save for certain exceptions. Now here’s a few about how comics affect readers:

Dear Captain: Comics hit me square in the eyes when I was 10 and I haven't been right since.

It absolutely influenced me to reach outside the medium and read voraciously. It made want to write as easily and confidently as a Chris Claremont (X-Men heydey) or Bruce Jones (the '80s Ka-Zar series). It's probably the easiest thing I can pinpoint as to why I spent five years and $20,000 and some odd change on a Journalism degree. I had Peter Parker and Ben Urich as role models.

Someone had mentioned that it was hard when you're a teenager to explain to your mother and father that comic books are still cool. The peer pressure hit when I was a sophomore in high school and I dropped comic books for about a year -- mostly because I was dating this girl and I didn't think comic books would go over well with her. Well, when she dumped my ass some six months later, I realized that I had shut myself off from the only pleasure that had been constant and true for me. I vowed to never quit because of what someone else thought. "To thine own self, be true." I had to find all the back issues the next year come my birthday ($150 in birthday money didn't hurt for that endeavor).

The one point I would like to mention is that I took great pride in the things I learned from reading them. When Marvel released the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe in the mid-'80s, it was fascinating to me what you could glean from those pages. Who would think that I could starting thinking about the Unified Field Theory when I was 12? Also, nothing has ever come close to replacing Elliot Brown's technical spec drawings for everything from Wolverine's skeleton to the Wizard's flying discs to the Avengers Mansion. Wish they would update them in a sensible manner again.

Anyway, comics rule and I'll only stop reading when they pry my copy of Captain America #1104 (old numbering restored) out of my cold, dead hands.

Glad to see an intelligent discourse on comics is still being sheltered from the normally raucous and insulting message boards on the rest of the Internet.
"To thine own self, be true." What a great saying. You'd think some writer would use it in a play, or something.:)
Anyway, I think all longtime comics readers have a crisis of confidence at some point, vis-a-vis peer pressure. Mine came early, when a girl I had a crush on in high school got a job as a checkout clerk at the Rexall Pharmacy where I bought my comics. The first time I saw here there, from my position at the comics stand, I slooooowly moved over to the "real" magazines and nonchalantly started leafing through more "appropriate" matter. Then I thought, "What am I doing? Why should I act like I'm ashamed? I've never acted like this before in my life! This is who I AM -- if she can't accept that I 'still' read comics, then the hell with her." So I marched up there with my stack of comics and shoved them on the counter. She did roll her eyes, and there was a lot of giggling the next day at school among certain crowds when I walked by.
Yes, I was crushed and embarrassed beyond belief.
But a funny thing happened. I got over it quickly enough, and was sort of relieved that I didn't have to hide my "habit" any more. And the people who were laughing at me -- well, they were the jocks and cheerleaders who looked down their noses at me anyway. What was I trying to impress them for? I actually started to feel pretty smug about it all! And besides, I scored a perfect "5" on the AP English test, one of only two people in the state to do so, and was among the top one percentile in the state on the ACT and SAT, and that shut 'em up pretty quick, particularly when the scholarship offers starting rolling in. Thanks, Stan and Julie and Gardner and Otto and Arnold and Mort! Not only did you make me smarter, you made me feel poised and confident in my geekhood!
P.S. -- I did eventually go out with that checkout girl when I was in college -- and she was still a checkout girl! It was a pretty boring date, as you'd imagine. By that time she was impressed with me, and I was no longer really interested in her. Great body, but the mind of a mule. There's a lesson in there somewhere ...
As for your Journalism degree, I have a BJ myself (insert your own joke here). I wanted to go into newspapers, not because of Clark Kent or Peter Parker specifically, but because my impression was that journalists were the good guys. And, after reading comics for decades, there was no way I could go into any profession that wasn't in some fashion doing some good in the world. Being too puny to be a firefighter or policeman ... journalism it was.
And that's how comics influenced ME -- I want to grow up to be a Silver Age hero.

No, he wanted to go into journalism because he saw J. Jonah Jameson’s MO as the role model he should emulate. Bethany Snow’s too. He wanted to be a Silver Age hero? What a load. He’s nothing but a Dark Age villain.

Quoth the Captain:
<<... 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 part of being a hero is, in my opinion, rising above one's limitations. Peter Parker wasn't just an insecure nobody as Spider-Man, because he wouldn't let himself be so limited.
On the other hand, Lobo is a "cold hearted, murdering bastich," and he doesn't care to rise above that. He revels in it.
I like the Golden Age and Silver Age heroes, but I like Spider-Man more, because he didn't start as "the most fearless man on Earth," or a millionaire, or with gifts from the gods. He was a normal person suddenly given the powers to take on an extraordinary load, but he had to face his own insecurities and beat them, even while he was facing enemies who were his equal or superior in power.
If there's anything I took from reading Spider-Man comics, it's the belief that losing once isn't a character flaw. Giving up is a character flaw. Peter Parker always came back to the fight. Sometimes he had a new technological toy, sometimes he altered his webbing, and several times, he came back with nothing more than the belief that he would give his opponent "one heck of a fight."
And that, coming from a former bookworm and wallflower, one of the most heroic things I can imagine.
I can't add a word, [name withheld]. Well said.

By the correspondent; not by Smith. I can add a word, and it’s tommyrot, in response to his commentaries.

Dear Cap: Ooo, more discussion! Woo hoo!
1) A correspondent , Jim Corrigan (The Spectre? Wow, are you getting e-mail from far away! :-) asked what was so special about the Golden Age Green Lantern and Hawkman as opposed to today's versions. Well, a couple of thoughts:
They were the first of their genre; were they the first flying heroes save for Superman? I don't have the dates in front of me, and I don't know of any Golden Age Fogeys -- save, perhaps, for Jerry Bails and Roy Thomas, and they won't return my calls. :-)
They were what readers in that era wanted. They must have been; do you realize that Green Lantern was holding up four books at once in that era (along with Flash and Wonder Woman, granted): All-American, Green Lantern, All Star Comics and Comics Cavalcade. (Remember that anthology title? GL, Flash and Wonder Woman were all holding down strips there as well as their own books and anthologies.)
Hawkman was so popular that he drew more cover time in Flash Comics than The Flash did -- now, that's GOTTA say something about the character's popularity! And, in answer to your question, Hawkman was the character to appear in the most issues of All Star Comics -- he appeared in every Golden Age issue and all save one that Gerry Conway wrote when the series was restarted in the '70s. Also, Roy Thomas put Hawkman in every issue of All-Star Squadron (one way or another ... but he did appear.)
I am not saying whether they or their Silver Age counterparts were better or worse -- but in and of themselves, they had a lot of what brought in the folding green at the time. And which brought a larger hue and cry -- Hawkman joining the JLA or Crisis on Earth-One/Earth-Two? Inquiring minds want to know ...
2) In my response to you, I mistyped -- the year 5714 is in the 58th century, not the 56th century, of course. Typo on my part!
Also, I agree with you about Stan Lee -- he did NOT write one-note characters with problems, but he wrote characters in the real world. Ben Grimm often worried about hurting or killing people with his great strength, something that Superman had never considered. That isn't a question of right or wrong -- it was how Stan did The Thing and Mort Weisinger did the Man of Steel. When lesser writers tried to stand on Stan's shoulders, they tumbled quickly by falling into formulaic compositions instead of real writing.
3) [name withheld] e-penned about heroism in the real world, and about how comics helped him learn. You betcha! I learned a TON from comics that Gardner Fox wrote (and even other writers, to a lesser degree.) The significant one I learned is that sound doesn't travel in a vacuum -- I floored my third-grade teacher with that one that I got from a Legion of Super-Heroes story! And so many more little tidbits. God, do I miss "Flash Facts!"
A World War II point of view? Well, you may as well add me to that list, then. While there were certain aspects of that society that were pretty reprehensible (bigotry comes to mind quickly), there was also an attitude of helping and trusting that I think is admirable, and would make the world better today. Call me a middle-aged man with an old soul, then, if you will. (And let us not even start into my being what my wife refers to as "a gentleman" -- nobody wants to know about that.)
Adam -- you get screwed over more by your friends than your enemies because you trust your friends, and you don't trust your enemies. The unhappy alternative, of course, is to trust NO ONE -- and end up screwing yourself. (Oh, gee, heavy philosophy ...)
My parents were a little distressed by the fact that I was reading comics -- but I was smart enough to read, which was a good thing. I was smart enough to remember what I read and learn from it, which was a good thing. I could even extrapolate and theorize about things I saw from things I read in comics. Compared to some of the illiterates who were reading at a fifth-grade level as seniors in high school, my parents weren't all that upset -- they just didn't understand an ongoing fascination with comics. But they tolerated it pretty well ...
Personally, I still stick with what Elliot S! Maggin has written: There is a right and wrong in the universe, and the difference isn't very hard to understand. I like to stick with what is "right" -- which puts me into a class of "weirdos," I suppose, but also puts me into a class with Superman, Captain America, the Lone Ranger -- good company, even if they are fictional. (And you and [...] too -- I don't THINK you're fictional, are you?)
So I believe in being a modern hero. I believe in holding a door for someone with their hands full. I believe in helping to push a stuck car out of a snow bank. I believe in helping my neighbor carry in her heavy packages. I believe in sticking up for someone with a queer opinion by saying to detractors, "Hey, I don't agree, but he has a right to speak his opinion." This doesn't make one a superhero, but if Batman can do it ...
Yeah, I guess I am an old man already. Pity, I hardly feel as if I'm through adolescence!
4) In re: Sword of the Atom -- what everyone forgot was that all Ray Palmer had to do to grow again was to take off his silly costume. Ray Palmer had no super-powers; the shrinking was a function of his white-dwarf-star costume. Of course, with the controls destroyed, it was a one-way trip, and Ray would've lost his little yellow friends, and he really had nothing to return to in the "real" world. (I don't buy that, actually -- his wife cheated and they divorced, and THAT was a reason to leave society? Y'know, it happens to a lot of people, and most of them don't strip down to chain-mail bikini underwear and broadswords ... but I digress.)
Oh, and JSA is right -- Atom and Green Lantern had the COOLEST costumes! Followed closely by the Flash and Adam Strange ... and I kind of liked the Doom Patrol's outfits too. Man, could they design costumes in the '60s! No leather, no jackets, no guns (okay, except Adam Strange ...), no pouches ... ah, for the old days!
5) [withheld] commented on Chemical King: I always felt bad that they had to include him because of the Adult Legionnaires story. Boy, if Shooter had only known the can of worms he was opening with that story ... well, he probably would have made it three issues instead of two! (If there HAD been such a thing as three-part stories in DC Comics at the time. The only one that ran that long was Supergirl's first big storyline. Otherwise, two issues was as long as a continued story ran. But I digress ...) I agree with their analysis of Chemical King. He seemed an ideal counterpart to Element Lad; one could transmute elements, one could make them "do" things. However, the complaint about freezing the air -- wouldn't that be a counter to the combustive process, a chemical reaction? See, the problem is that it was so very hard to tell what exactly a chemical reaction was. That, again, was a failing on the part of the writers to deal with a very powerful character. (I do get annoyed when Chem is put into the Matter-Eater Lad/Bouncing Boy/Duo Damsel class of Legionnaires ...) And Chemical King was undoubtedly one of the more powerful Legionnaires, but I think he became a precursor for Tyroc -- "what do we do with this character? We don't get him."
Hey, and about the Legion clones -- notwithstanding moral questions (which we're dealing with in our society today), couldn't Chemical King have prevented them from exploding after 48 hours? Or couldn't the clones have been created and then projected into the Phantom Zone? Y'know, I'll bet Tom and Mary Bierbaum missed a BIG bet when they introduced the SW6 Legion -- if they would only have remembered this cloning! :-)
6) Green Lantern's use of the power ring certainly should have been more imaginative. Look, I remember a grand total of twice that GL used his ring to shrink himself to escape a trap. First of all, why didn't he wear his ring UNDER his glove so that when he got splashed with yellow paint that it didn't affect the ring? Secondly, why did he never use the ring on himself? He could have made himself tougher, faster, stronger -- but usually when he got caught, he just gave up on trying to escape. It wasn't a case of bad writing, but with an item that powerful, it probably could have used some real flights of imagination...
7) Lord, what a lot of wind! Please feel free to snip and slice as you need; and as always, I shall await your comments with the greatest anticipation! Thank you for your consideration.
An [withheld] letter! Woo hoo! I do enjoy shooting the breeze with you, [ditto]! Apparently, we read exactly the same comic books growing up ...:) Let me address your remarks quickly:
1) I agreed initially that the GA Hawkman and Green Lantern were pretty significant, so let's accept our agreement there.
But I can't go with you on all your points. For example, Hawkman starred on Flash Comics covers fairly often because Flash was already on the cover of three other titles (All-Flash, Comics Cavalcade and All Star) and Hawkman, significantly, only appeared in two titles -- Flash and All Star. So he got the nod pretty often on Flash Comics covers to avoid Flash-saturation, according to some accounts. He was not a particularly popular character with the readers as far as I can tell from sales and number of appearances. And Hawkman and Green Lantern weren't the first heroes after Superman to fly -- there were quite a few, including The Spectre and Dr. Fate, and Ibis the Invincible sorta, and The Ray pretty much at the same time. And Crisis on Earth-One/Earth-Two made a much bigger splash than Hawkman joining the JLA, which was only controversial in that it took so long. (Hawkman joined in issue #31, whereas Green Arrow joined with issue #4 and Atom in issue #14.) And petulant old JSA fans were annoyed that Hawkman's unbroken string in the JSA was being broken by him not being in the JLA. But the first Crisis was an event of such astonishing magnitude that even li'l ol' me, isolated from comics fandom in Memphis, was aware of the excitement.
Oh, golly, I'm nitpicking, which I hate when it's done to me. Sorry!
2) I am so pleased to find another Stan-booster! Stan, in my humble etc., really created the "feel" of the Marvel Age of Comics. Not the look of it -- that was Kirby and Ditko. And Kirby and Ditko were both master plotters and storytellers, which weighed in enormously and the line wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful without them. But, folks, the personalities of the characters -- their dialogue, their actions, their personae -- that was pure Stan. So was the "we're all in a secret club" feel of it; the bombast of the hype and cover blurbs; the outreach to older readers; the literate, college-level scripts ... I mean, you look at a Marvel Comic from 1960-65 and it just screams Stan's personality and literary interests (Shakespeare, The Bible).
I'm not trying to slight Kirby's contribution -- in fact, what I'm trying to do is counter the pervasive and pernicious myth that somehow Kirby did all the heavy lifting and Stan took all the credit. It just ain't so, folks. They were a TEAM, like Lennon & McCartney and Abbott & Costello. Later, lesser writers took the Stan Lee style and reduced it to dreary formula and made his style a joke -- but that doesn't change what the man did, which was almost single-handedly change how superhero books were written, by adding romance elements, Western elements, teen-humor elements and the like -- all in his singular, infectiously enthusiastic style.
Or to put it another way: Everybody says Kirby created the Silver Surfer because he drew him into Fantastic Four #48 when he wasn't in the script. Fine and dandy -- Stan admits that he was surprised to see him there. But what makes the Surfer the Surfer? How he looks? Noooo ... How he acts. How he talks. His philosophical musings. His melodramatic soliloquies. His drama-drenched backstory. Which was done by ... Stan Lee, with John Buscema on art. No Kirby in sight.
Q: Without Stan, what's the Silver Surfer? A: The Black Racer. Which character is more memorable? The defense rests.
3) I miss "Flash Facts" too -- and also the Metal Men info bits. Strangely, I've never taken a science course in my life, but I've always had a much better handle on inertia, friction and other scientific concepts than most of my peers (who are astonishingly science-illiterate from my perspective). Even my science-crazy wife is impressed when I show an intuitive understanding of something she just read in Discover. But I'm not bragging on me -- all of this is entirely attributable to Stan Lee, Julus Schwartz, Gardner Fox, and their peers. God bless 'em.
(And you look at today's comics, written by the sub-literate likes of Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld, and you fear for the future.)
<<And let us not even start into my being what my wife refers to as "a gentleman" -- nobody wants to know about that.>>
I can guess: Nice guys finish last, and gentlemen let ladies go first. Which is why guys like us always get a second invite to the bedroom. Good lord, I can't believe I just wrote that. (But it's true.)
As to my own mother and comic-book reading: She never said a word about it. In my 30s I finally quizzed her about it. Her answer was that, as far as she was concerned, what I did with money I earned myself was up to me. She never bought me a single comic book -- well, except for a few when I had my tonsils out in the third grade -- so, from her Nitzchean perspective about personal responsibility, as long as I was handling it all myself, she had no cause to intervene. She did acknowledge that she thought I'd eventually grow out of it, but wasn't concerned when I didn't -- she thought all of her kids were special (she had four), and if that was part of my specialness, then so be it. And besides, she said, as peculiar teen behavior went, reading comics was preferable to many other things, and might actually be good for me, in a reading-skills sort of way. Further, she said, I showed aptitude for writing and drawing at an early age -- I was drawing Batman on the backs of the church donation envelopes at age five -- so the comics just seemed to her a natural interest for me. In short, she found it more or less normal that a child of her loins would be different/odd/exceptional in some manner and thought about it not at all.
Oh, and to answer your question: I am not a fictional character.
However, [...] is. :)
4) I think Sword of the Atom addressed in some clumsy way why Ray couldn't take off the costume. But to me, the whole series was clumsy. I mean, they take a brains vs. brawn character and put him in a situation where he uses brawn (swordplay) instead of brains. Huh? And by the way -- how did Ray get so good with a sword, hmmmm? The little yellow warriors had been using swords all their lives, but Atom picks one up and is instantly good enough to fight several of them at once? Huh, again? It reminds me of one reason I don't like "jungle lord" books, where a white guy shows up in the jungle, and is instantly better at living in the jungle than all the po' iggorant black folks that have lived there all their lives. Man, that just stinks.
5) No further comments about the abused and misused Chemical King -- I agree with all your points -- but I will note for the record that the recent Superboy's Legion stated flatly that Bouncing Boy was invulnerable. Yeah, it was an Elseworlds tale, but I choose to believe it's true in the "real" continuity anyway. Just because Bouncing Boy looked like a beach ball, all of us '60s kids just assumed that he had the properties of a beach ball. But think about it: He had internal organs, he had bones -- how could he bounce around like that and not do himself serious damage? Answer: He was invulnerable. And that puts him in the Superboy/Mon-El/Ultra Boy class. Hah!
6) I'll say about Green Lantern what I've said before: He should use the ring to give himself Kryptonian or Daxamite DNA, halt all cellular degeneration (stop aging), make himself immune to all diseases and kryptonite, reverse dental decay and hair loss, and generally be invulnerable, immortal and omnipotent. While he was at it, he could use the ring to permanently alter his cell structure so that he had everybody's super-powers, from Atom to Elongated Man. And he shouldn't ever get into combat -- he could fight crime or alien invasions or whatever from his living room without ever putting himself in personal danger. Big, green boxing gloves? Oh, please. Give me that ring for five bloody minutes and nobody on Earth will ever die of cancer again.
7) Write more fun letters, […]!

Well, well, well. I have just spotted a glaring error: he says Ray couldn’t take off the costume. Wrong. I own the SOTA trade paperback, and he COULD, in the 2nd part of the miniseries (in a panel where he thinks about how he managed to pick up on the native language of the Katarthans). And he couldn’t grow back to normal size all at once because his size-and-weight belt short-circuited when the drug dealers’ plane crashed. It was only after a Katarthan machine exploded that it restored his belt to working form again at the end of the mini. The correspondent doesn’t do any better, IMHO. Next up are some commentaries about 9-11, including one I wrote:

Dear Captain: First thing, I would like to thank you for continuing writing and your continued devotion to your site despite its many technical difficulties. I enjoy the views of you and the crew. It’s a refreshing site that is in my Top 5 when it comes to comic news.
On September 11:
The question was once “Where were you when JFK was shot?” The question is now “Where were you when the WTC was hit?” I can only turn red in the face and say that I was sleeping. I woke up right around the time they said one of the towers collapsed. I went and took a shower and when I came back I decided to turn on the TV before classes, and there it was, right in front of me, the most frightening thing I’d ever seen. As my friend Stu said: “In the time it took me to take a shower (yep, everything was dandy 'til then), this world went from bad to crap.”
At first came a sudden feeling of shock, disbelief. I thought that maybe I was watching some bizarre early morning movie. Then the reality sunk in.
And now over two weeks later, and the news I hear almost makes me sorry to be an American. All I hear is people wanting to go to war and turn the desert to glass. And I hear horror stories taking place on American soil of people of Arabs and Muslims and the like being beaten up and blamed. I was reading a newspaper article about a guy down in Columbia, Missouri, who was the modern-day story of rags to upper-middle class. Unfortunately for him, his first name is Osama. He is of no relation to the suspected leader of the attacks, but ignorant fools are vandalizing his property. I would hate to think that if some Irish bloke with the first name of Shaun (or Sean) decided to do something stupid like attacking the U.S., that I would have to fear for my well-being and/or life.
A lot of people died and we can’t bring them back. Killing and hurting more people isn’t going to do it. As the old adage goes: “An eye for an eye soon leaves us all blind.” We should take vengeance but against the proper parties and we should practice some restraint.
Thanks for your thoughts, […]. Let me address them as best I can:
I actually was watching CNN when the second plane hit. I was pulling yet another all-nighter writing two columns and updating the site when I saw the alert on AOL about the first tower and turned on the tube. As the realization that this was deliberately done hit me, and other bad news started piling up (airports shut down, National Guard called out, border with Mexico closed ...) I actually grew dizzy. It seemed the world had lurched off its axis. Shock, I suppose.
As to your comments vis-a-vis hate crimes: They're absolutely despicable. Those same people assaulting innocent Arab-Americans would probably have agreed a week before that interning Japanese-Americans during World War II was a national disgrace. What a bunch of unpatriotic creeps.
Yes, unpatriotic. The avowed purpose of Osama bin Laden and his ilk is to destroy America. If we stop acting like Americans, with tolerance and pluralism for all, then he's won. People who attack innocent Arab-Americans and Muslims are traitors, pure and simple. They're aiding and abetting the enemy in his purpose. I have no tolerance for them.
On the other hand, I do agree that something must be done. This is a mortal threat, and pacifism in the face of this implacable hatred, however well-meaning, is suicidal at best. And doing nothing, or changing our foreign policy, as some smug talking heads suggest, is morally indefensible -- tantamount to, yes, aiding and abetting the enemy -- because it invites more of the same. ("We don't like what the U.S. is doing in Guam. Go kill 6,000 of their citizens, and then they'll do what we want. It worked back in '01!")
Normally I'm a big fan of negotiation, but not in this case. Osama bin Laden's avowed purpose is the utter destruction of our country and culture ... not much room for discussion there. We can't offer him anything that will make him stop hating us ... and killing us, one by one. Negotiation is pointless, when the other side wants nothing but your death. And it would show nothing but weakness to a guy who's shown great cunning in exploiting weakness, and whose culture perceives our willingness to talk as spinelessness and proof that our culture/religion/belief system is Godless and evil.
And to those who say that America "deserves" it for support for Israel, or the Gulf War, or some other action with which they disagree ... I wonder: If their sister was raped, would they excuse the rapist and say their sister "deserved" it for some past action? That's called "blaming the victim," folks, and it's moral and ethical cowardice. No action America has ever taken -- and there have been lots of NICE things America has done, mind you -- deserves this kind of response. Nothing excuses or justifies the outright slaughter of 6,000 people. These ratbags are murdering thugs, and they must be stopped -- because whether we act or not, the killing will go on. They'll just be killing US instead of us killing THEM, while we wring our hands in self-loathing impotence. Me, I know which side I'm on in that debate.
So a fierce and effective response is called for. But as you say, it must be done with caution and intelligence and with compassion for civilians. I don't counsel any restraint whatsoever when we catch up with the scum who did this -- but we must be sure it's THEM, and that no others are caught in the crossfire. Otherwise we just create more foes for the future. Further, disregard for life is -- here's a theme -- un-American. We can't become monsters to fight monsters.

Look who’s blathering again. This is the fuller version of a letter I’d posted a quote from earlier, and here he was, not only buying into the notion that typical white/black/Latino/Asian Americans were assaulting Arabs/Muslims en masse, but also arguing against pacifism while on other occasions he was writing negative comments about the Dubya administration’s war in Iraq to defeat a real life variation on Doctor Doom. And, just 3 years after he wrote this, he fawned over Identity Crisis, where the rape of a superhero’s wife took place, and much like the book’s own structure, he excused the rape and was only worried about the so-called “lobotomy” of Dr. Light. Not sure where he gets off asking if those who blame America would justify sexual assault on their sister. If he looked under a microscope, he’d see that many Islamisogynists do blame theirs, and commit honor murders against female relatives who do something they consider haram (taboo), like having affairs with non-Muslim men. If Mr. Smith really believed what he said, he’d also call for putting a stop to Islamic indoctrination that leads to situations like honor murders, rapes, and even child marriage. But he’s never done that.

Dear Cap: I guess in the UK we're more used to seeing terrorist attacks and bombings, but nothing could have prepared anyone for the sights and events of what is now becoming known as 9-11. I posted a eulogy on another board which I'll put here as well for passing on if you feel fit.
"There have been a number of occassions in my life when I have seen tragedies and terrorist atrocities unfold, and each time I had an empty feeling in my heart and a deep sense of mourning for those caught in the middle of it. Lockerbie, the City of London bombings, the Manchester City Centre bombing, Munich, Omagh -- all occasions on which religion was used as a cover for brutal and senseless killing of innocents.
"But the events of last Tuesday (9-11), as we watched them unfold worldwide on our televisions, put all of those terrible occasions into a new and dreadful perspective. Naturally, people are outraged, and in their grief they cry out for vengeance and retribution. We need to step back from that, however, and take time to honour, mourn and assess.
"I mourn for those who died for no other reason than been in the wrong place at the wrong time, those on the planes, in the buildings and those who were just visiting the areas concerned.
"I honour those who gave their lives that day, both in attempting to rescue those who were trapped and those on that fourth jet who apparently had the courage and will to fight back.
"My deepest condolences, sympathies and feelings go out to those who are left behind, both those in the certain knowledge that they have lost loved ones, and perhaps more dreadfully those who do not yet know.
"I weep for the parents who have lost children, the husbands and wives who have lost their partners, the children who have lost parents.
"There are no further words of comfort I can offer beyond these. Those who perpetrated these acts have not in my opinion gone to paradise, but to meet One whose judgment is far greater and harsher than ours. Those who gave the orders, whoever they are, I pray and firmly believe will be caught, brought to justice and made to pay."
Since then, things have been in that strange sense of lull and foreboding I last felt in 1982 with the Falklands and 1991 in the Gulf. That some sort of military action will happen is certain -- that there will be no winners in Afghanistan is also certain. Things will change closer to home as well -- Identity Cards, something that scares me more than war in many ways, will come in in this country. We live in a much darker and more foreboding world which in many ways is not of our making.
It touches closer to home as well. Although I am thankful none of my family was caught in NY or Washington, I have friends who work on Wall Street and watched the events unfolding. I also have a relative in the British army who will be involved in any action. I know that, they know that, but we cannot talk because (a) I don't know where he/she is, and (b) even if I did, he/she would not be able to. As for me, my faith and personal beliefs mean I would not sign up, and my age would be against me anyway. If it came to draft, then I would take the conscientious-objector path -- not from fear, but because my beliefs are so strong (if a little shaken) I could not do that.
These next few weeks are going to define the world for the next few decades.
All we can do is pray that somehow good comes out of this dark evil, and that this is not the end.
Given my comments above, you might find it odd that I admire your sense of conviction about the conscientious-objector path -- and do NOT find it cowardly. It is a sign of faith and principle, and respect for faith -- whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim -- is one of the founding principles of our culture. And, despite what the Taliban might think, it's one of the most admirable.
On your other points, I also fear the coming of national ID cards ... because if we live in a quasi-police state, the bad guys win again. Dammit!
Incidentally, one little-mentioned factoid is that Sept. 11 was also the worst terrorist attack in the history of England -- more Brits died at the WTC than in any terrorist attack on her own soil!
But thanks again for chiming in, […] -- England is America's staunchest friend, and hopefully the reverse is true. But England is not alone in giving sympathy and support. I got e-mails and IMs from all over the globe -- from Australia to Norway to Brazil -- and here's one from a regular corresondent in the Mideast:

That correspondent is me, but before we get to that, let me note that 4 years after he wrote that, England had its own first horrific jihadist attack that saw several dozen people murdered, and there’ve been more horrors since, like a British military cadet, Drummer Lee Rigby, who was run over and then beheaded by two other jihadists.

And even before that, weren’t a lot of people killed in the bombings Germany launched on Britain during WW2? Coventry also sustained terrible damage. What happened during WW2 could easily be called terrorism today. So to say what occurred on 9-11 was worse than anything that happened in the UK is trivializing the tragedies they went through in the past century. Mr. Smith has more or less insulted the memory of any and all innocent UK residents who suffered terrible experiences past and present. He also fails to distinguish between good and bad religions, and what the correspondent says about Afghanistan also reeks of anti-war sentiment. I’m sorry, but this man is not fit to clean toilets. Now, about my letter, which today, I don’t think was very good at all:

Dear Cap: I wanted to congratulate you for your Sept. 24 column. It was surely one of the most powerful you've ever published, and it also provides encouragement and hope for many people in Israel too.
Even here in Israel, we too can be a fractious people. But even for us, fractiousness can be our strength. And we too have to tolerate opposing opinions in order to reach some firm decisions. And yes, even we too have to remember that we can't be monsters in order to fight monsters. And so too will we be doing it until all of Israel's citizenry can go about the streets without having to worry. Because for us too, it's our job. In fact, on Sept. 12, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for a day of mourning for the victims of the WTC destruction, to show our solidarity with the U.S. citizenry during a time of national tragedy. I think I'll be e-mailing the column to some of my relatives in the U.S. so that they can read it too.
This also reminds me, my mother's got a cousin who worked in the WTC, who luckily wasn't there when it was hit. My family considers itself very fortunate that one of our relatives is safe, but finds it utterly tragic that so many thousands of others lost their lives.
A great many Israelis died at the WTC too -- as well as a great many Muslims! Further proof, if any is needed, that maniacs who kill in the name of God have clearly misread His little phrase found in The Bible, The Torah and The Koran ... "Thou shalt not kill." It's only four one-syllable words, and it's not a complicated concept. Amazing how Osama got it so bollixed up. Not only Jews and Christians, but other Muslims must be amazed. Maybe he's a poor reader.
But thanks for your words, LL -- Israel knows better than most countries about terrorism and suicide attacks, and what it feels like to be under siege. That it can maintain basic civil liberties at all is a testament to the courage of her people.

First, I want to say that since I wrote this, I have lost all respect for Sharon, after he committed the “disengagement” from Gaza, and not only destroyed tons of homes belonging to people who never committed murder or rape, but also endangered many Israeli residents living alongside Gaza, who since have had to cope with rocket attacks by Hamas. Sharon has also been exposed since as a man who abused his foreign-born house servants, led a corrupt lifestyle, and committed aggravated assault at the time he was working with the Palmach. His past misdeeds have led me to question whether he really meant what he said on 9-11.

With that told, we arrive at a topic I view very gravely – Mr. Smith’s claim that the phrase “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is found in the Koran, which is factually untrue, and he certainly didn’t do any research. What the Koran does contain, however, is the verse 2:191-193, which says, "And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing... but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful.  And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone.  But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)"

There’s also verse 47:3-4, which says, "Those who disbelieve follow falsehood, while those who believe follow the truth from their Lord... So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah's Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives)... If it had been Allah's Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you). But (He lets you fight), in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost."

So, what’s that about the Koran abhorring death and destruction again? Is that what Mr. Smith thinks qualifies as a religion promoting civility?

Mr. Smith lied to me, and to just about everyone else. And he did it all because he didn’t want to step off the PC plantation and recognize the real evils in this world. That’s certainly how I view the whole matter today. It’s a shame I didn’t know at the time where to find the right resources for researching any verses from the Koran/Hadith, but then, I probably wouldn't have had what it took to let him know anyway, which just shows how I’m not perfect myself either.

In any case, Mr. Smith is the one here who’s the poor reader. If he’d really researched the Koran, he’d know that bin Laden was simply following what the Koran preached. And maybe he does know it, but refuses to admit it. His distortion is as much an insult to the victims of 9-11 as it is to everyone else. Millions of innocent people worldwide were murdered and raped in the name of the verses cited above, and he had the gall to obscure the reasons why so many innocents lost their lives?

Now let’s turn to one written by Jim Steranko, in a very sloppy argument that’s as ignorant as Mr. Smith, if not more so:

Jim Steranko
Open letter to the Internet
TERRORIST COMICS: Make Your Choice Now!
You're in danger!
We all are. We've watched as our beliefs, our work, our way of life, our country, and our very existence has become increasingly corrupted. The 9-11 attack on America has pushed me and probably most of you to the razor's edge of endurance for the destructive forces around us -- and the people behind them.
Those who know me can confirm that I've never thought of myself as one of the good guys. But the malevolence I've seen in the recent past, culminating in the WTC tragedy, has put that perception in a different perspective.
Like many others, I'm repulsed by the plague of violence and death ravaging our nation and feel frustrated, even helpless, to combat it. I find it particularly disturbing that the artistic form with which I'm most closely identified has seemed to turn its back on the virtues upon which it was built.
Today's comics are possessed by brutality, destruction, depravity, cynicism, and obscenity. No? Here's a press release I received a few weeks ago:
<<ENNIS, CONNER, PALIMIOTTI TURN A TRICK!
August 19: Ever wonder what it would be like to sleep with a super-powered prostitute? Garth Ennis has and he's enlisted Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti to flesh out the story in PRO, a 64 page one-shot coming next summer from Image. Following the announcement on the "Image All Stars" panel at WizardWorld, Palmiotti told the SPLASH, 'This will probably keep the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund very busy for the next five years. It's the world's first superhero prostitute and pretty much every comic-book character's run in with her. It's done Garth style so it won't be the actual characters, but it'll be like mainstream superhero comics with a prostitute thrown in the mix. It's evil, it's gonna be worse than Hitler's testicles. It's Garth, which guarantees it's madness. It's Amanda, so it's a woman drawing this evil stuff, which makes it even more evil. And then it's me and I usually like trouble anyway.' Conner and Palmiotti signed at the CBLDF table on Saturday afternoon to start building the war chest.">>
If this is supposed to be funny, I'm not laughing. Are some of the most-publicized talents in the field so desperate they've turned to celebrating evil? Apparently so. They obviously think of themselves as cultural terrorists and want the world to know they've allied themselves with evil. They're welcome to it.
Personally, I'm sick of evil, particularly the psychotic, nihilistic garbage that's pitched as entertainment and has signalled the twilight of the comics era. All I have to do to witness evil in its highest form is to look out any window -- it's FREE! I don't have to pay $2.95 to know that I'm surrounded by hatred, fear, destruction and death. And I'll be damned if I'll endure having it thrown in my face by those who clothe their contempt for the rest of us with tragically-cool posing and bubble-gum arrogance.
Well, gang, if you fancy yourselves as terrorists, there are those among us who'll treat you as terrorists.
I felt like my creative soul was crushed as I saw the Twin Towers collapse. At that moment, most people realized the time for equivocation was over. Now, it's a MATTER OF SURVIVAL! Our families, our friends, our lives are at stake and it's time to take action, to take a stand AGAINST evil and all those who ally themselves with it.
A few years ago, I asked Stan Lee about the bleak direction comics had taken. It was easy to see that he wasn't pleased with it, but he said, "It's what the readers want." I don't believe it. I do believe we want well-developed characters, compelling dialogue, interesting plots and our money's worth of solid entertainment -- God forbid, something that suggests
an atom of virtuosity or a new age of awareness.
Instead, we are confronted with an avalanche of over-priced booklets in which it's no longer possible to distinguish between the heroes and the villains because of panels choked with numbingly repetitive fangs and claws, blood and gore, fanboy rage and T&A chaos. Instead of social mythology, the lillipop esthetic has produced a monument of intellectual and moral poverty. It would be laughable if it wasn't so damned pathetic. Am I being too subtle?
I'm alive, but I'm not all right. I'm in the same position as you and all Americans are at the moment. We've let the world around us get out of hand because we've been too complacent, too careless, too politically correct. The everyday tradition of simply civility, gratitude, courtesy and thoughtfulness has been replaced by scowling indignation, virulent language, towering disrespect, and open hostility. Our nation is being crushed by evil. I don't know what you're doing about it, but I can no longer turn my back on what I call the Kervorkian Age of Comics. I'm ready to fight it using every resource I can muster.
If there's enough of us, we can put the irresponsible bastards out of business and out of our lives with terminal efficiency -- and if that doesn't work, I'll personally provide tickets to the caves of the Taliban.
Is there anyone out there who's had it with devil-worshipping heroes who aren't content unless they're picking shrapnel out of their skulls? Stand up now and fight for the kind of ethics, values and ideals you believe in. If you don't, you deserve everything you get -- and it won't be pleasant!
I'd like to know what side YOU're on.
Mr. Steranko, for those who don't know, was a breakthrough artist in the '60s on such titles as The X-Men and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. His vision and creativity has been justly lionized for decades, inspiring a generation of artists who followed in his wake.
So it's with a great sadness that I find this rant appalling, and feel compelled to say so.
Mr. Steranko, what on Earth are you talking about? Because Spawn exists, the WTC was attacked? Because Ennis and Connor are smirking about doing an adolescent, naughty funnybook, 6,000 people were killed in New York and Washington? Is there some connection here that I missed? Your reasoning, as such, is specious at best.
No, I don't like Spawn either. No, I don't like the coarsening of our civil discourse as it's manifested in recent years. No, I don't find that Pro press release very high-minded or admirable.
But, for heaven's sake, Mr. Steranko, I don't think the solution to the WTC is for Americans with an axe to grind to start pointing fingers at each other or using 6,000 deaths to get a leg up on pushing their political agenda (See: Jerry Falwell). And I don't think the solution to crappy comic books is to demand that people take sides, or to threaten them with consequences that "won't be pleasant" if they disagree with me. That's -- all together now, class -- un-American.
The solution, of course, is to put out better comic books, and outsell Spawn into the ground. That's the American way. Which begs a question, Mr. Steranko -- where have YOU been for the last 20 years? The first thought I had when I read your letter was that it was much akin to a man who had abandoned his family 20 years ago complaining about how the kids turned out. Why haven't you been on the front lines? Would Spawn still be around if it was outsold two-to-one in 1992 by Jim Steranko's Comics & Stories? Would Image have come into existence if Steranko Comics Group had given Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld a home for creator-owned work in '92? Wouldn't more "wholesome" comic books by Big Name creators such as yourself have changed the course of the industry, just by being big sellers? We'll never know, though, because you abandoned the field.
And further ... didn't Nick Fury solve everything with a GUN?
I'm hoping that your letter was written in the grief and shock of Sept. 11, which would be completely forgiveable. But otherwise, I find it hypocritical and self-serving, a cynical and ghastly use of a national tragedy to further one's own politics, and -- here we go again -- un-American in its insistence that we all march in lockstep with a particular point of view, which just happens to be yours. Your letter was a screed that would be right at home in the Al Qaeda manifesto.
I'm well aware of your legendary status in the industry, Mr. Steranko, and I was so shaken at my own violent reaction to your rant, that I wrote a colleague to check me on my reasoning. Here's what he said:

Before getting to that, isn’t it bizarre how Mr. Smith apparently defends Nick Fury’s use of guns, yet he won’t exactly do so when talking about the Punisher? Oh sure, I know that Frank Castle was depicted operating outside the law, unlike Nick, who operates within, but still…

Sure, I think Steranko’s implication America’s culture is to blame for what it suffered is embarrassingly bad, and unbecoming of a well regarded artist. But Mr. Smith negated all effectiveness of his own rebuttal 3 years later after he embraced Identity Crisis, which drew from conspiracy theories far worse than what Steranko was coming up with. And neither he nor the correspondent he mentioned did any better with the following:

Dear Cap: I hear voices like his all too often any more. The terrorist attacks seem to have given every "I'm Tired Of This S***" speech special legitimacy, no matter who you are, where you live, or what you've done previously with your life. Steranko, I'm afraid, is simply riding an overburdened bandwagon ("New 2002 models just arrived!") that's running on a fuel mix of 50-percent Self-Righteous Indignation and 50-percent Sense of Community.
I can't say with certainty that you and I agree for exactly the same reason or on all prickly points, but, yes, I also see a problem here. A few aspects immediately bother me:
Our culture is now, and has been for a LONG TIME, rife with the "evils" of self-determination and freedom of expression. Steranko, just like anyone else in the comic-book industry, has profited from various portrayals of (at the very least) violence in four colors. Has he ever spoken out before about stories where adults solve miscommunications by punching each other? I may have missed his previous insightful tirades against his own work, but I don't think so.
That same freedom of expression allows us to explore such naughty, gritty subjects as prostitution without looking over our shoulder to see who's going to set our printing press on fire. Yeah, it also protects our rights to complain about that same material -- to condemn it and its authors to hell, if we're so moved. But that freedom has tied to it an implied acceptance of our differences and all the wonderful/disgusting diversity that comes with it. Steranko's choice of words ("If there's enough of us, we can put the irresponsible bastards out of business and out of our lives with terminal efficiency -- and if that doesn't work, I'll personally provide tickets to the caves of the Taliban") show he has crossed that line.
Is he suggesting that we think as he thinks or risk losing our homes to deportation or something more "terminal?" He suggests that we "fight for the kind of ethics, values and ideals you believe in." But immediately follows up with a threat: "If you don't, you deserve everything you get -- and it won't be pleasant!" This is not the rant of a thoughtful individual; it's the beginning of angry mob mentality.
Unfortunately, it's a popular stance now to allow common sense and civility to be swept under the rug in the name of patriotism and self-preservation. What Steranko and others like him are forgetting is that the elements that comprise our lives did not magically change between 8 and 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. The process of getting up in the morning, walking the dog, going to work, drawing comic-book characters, griping about your neighbors, earning a paycheck and going to a movie was just as valid Monday as it should have been Wednesday. Yes, we've been slapped in the face since then. But Steranko-anger, left unchecked, can be just as damaging as the terrorism that inspired it.
It is my opinion that you should respond exactly as you feel appropriate. If you decide to speak out against Steranko, know that at least one person out here respects and/or agrees with your opinion.
Thanks […]. You brought up some points that were nibbling at the edges of my own response, but didn't articulate, and I thank you for them.
For example, the "mob mentality" aspect. The WTC atrocity does not give us leave to abandon our principles. It actually imposes a responsibility on us to live up to them -- to refrain, for example, from abandoning the very marketplace of ideas that Mr. Steranko seems to find so objectionable. Because what Osama bin Laden wants is to destroy the concept of America, the very principles of free speech and enlightened dialogue and personal responsibility that mob mentality sweeps away.
As opposed to joining Mr. Steranko's "side," I would instead champion the right of Ennis and Connor to print objectionable comics -- while at the same time refusing to buy Pro, encouraging others not to buy it, and saying scathing things about it in reviews and online. THAT'S what America is about, and what bin Laden wants to destroy.
And, who knows? I might like Pro.

Alas, people like Mr. Smith and his own correspondent, a very reprehensible anti-military leftist, want to destroy all criticism of Islam, and for men like them, the attack on 9-11 seems to give special legitimacy to demonizing all who dare oppose the ummah. That’s what a lot of the people dominating comicdom today are like – including those who wouldn’t publish Frank Miller’s Holy Terror GN – yet does Mr. Smith ever say they’re making terrible mistakes? No, he never says anything.

Hi Cap: The world situation has dampened my enthusiasm to discuss much in the way of comics. Dampened, but not eliminated, that is. Anyway, I wanted to let you know about something I am trying to do to provide assistance to those affected by the World Trade Center attack, as well as those directly affected by the Pentagon attack and the crashed airliner in Pennsylvania.
I have decided to put on an auction in an effort to raise money to donate to a charity associated with the tragedies. ... The comic being auctioned off is a Fine copy of Captain America #100 from 1968. I choose this comic not only because of its' importance to comic-book history, but because Captain America remains a symbol for what's best with this country. Of course, the courageous rescue workers, firefighters and police of New York, as well as many valiant citizens, are the true heroes. I am hoping that the proceeds from this auction will help in some small way. In a sense, it would be like Captain America is helping to fight injustice and provide assistance to those in need.
I have chosen to send the proceeds for this auction to The New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund. The fund was created as Governor George E. Pataki urged all New Yorkers and concerned Americans wishing to support the World Trade Center emergency response and victim support effort to contribute to the newly established Fund. The fund will be coordinated with the September 11th Fund, established by the United Way of New York City and the New York Community Trust, and the Twin Towers Fund established by the City of New York. For more information about the New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund, visit their official website at http://www.helping.org/wtc/ny/nystate.htm or call: [number redacted]
International calls: [same here].
Even if you do not wish to bid, please consider helping in any way. Thank you and more than ever, Keep Up The Good Fight!
Before I could post [name withheld]'s first letter -- due to my &%$# technical problems -- this second one arrived:

Hi Cap! The auction ended on Sept. 29, and I am happy to report that the Captain America #100 brought over $100 that I will be donating to the NEW YORK STATE WORLD TRADE CENTER RELIEF FUND.
http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1008467190
I intend to hold another charity auction soon, for all the victims and people affected by donating to the Red Cross. I am just waiting to find an appropriate comic that is worthy of the cause and to inform the Red Cross of my intentions. After I put on the auction for the World Trade Center fund, I realized that I should try to help the victims in Pennsylvania and Washington, as well.
Have you seen some of the preview art to Marvel and DC Comics charity comics? There's some nice work! Here is a link to an article on Comics Continuum that shows Todd McFarlane and Joe Quesada's contribution:
http://www.comicscontinuum.com/stories/0109/28/index.htm
It is nice to see Mr. McFarlane putting aside differences to help America. While I may not agree with some of his past actions, I feel his present actions are commendable. Alan Moore will also be contributing to Marvel's comic.
For anyone wanting to assist the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, here are two very worthwhile organizations to contact:
American Red Cross: [number redacted].
NEW YORK STATE WORLD TRADE CENTER RELIEF FUND
www.state.ny.us
[this number redacted too].
New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund,
[address redacted], New York 12205.
Thank you again, Cap and Keep Up The Good Fight!
There's nothing I can add, [withheld], except a sincere salute. If you're looking for a real American hero, you need look no further than the mirror.

And if you’re looking for a real villain, look no further than Mr. Smith, deceiver that he is.

Cappy: It's been a while. The past week has been a strain on all of us. For those in New York, D.C. and the families of those on the planes, it's been worse. It took me about a week to finally get the strength to write this.
We have been told that we need to start the healing process and I thank God for the contribution that comic books give me to deal with this cowardly act.
The option of being able to find comfort in a world where maybe this would have been averted helps. I keep imagining what Superman or Green Lantern ( Hal Jordan without the Emerald Twilight crap) would have done. Could the JLA, FF, Avengers have stopped this? If they had not, I picture Captain America and SHIELD stepping in to track these butchers down. Imagine the sheer anger by Batman in tracking down these murders. It chills the spine.
I know, comic books are fantasy. The true heroes are those at ground zero still looking for survivors even though the odds are against it. That those who are respnsible will pay. I understand all this, but once in a while I wish for the Man of Tomorrow to be there to prevent this.
As Kal-el said after Kara's death, "The days will be shorter and the nights that much longer without you." Indeed, many will be missed, but not forgotten.
God Bless America.
God bless it indeed, [name withheld]. I hope you can take comfort in knowing that there are no stronger people on Earth than Americans. We will endure this, we will find the ratbags who did it, we will keep the world from sliding into the 11th century. And we will do it as Americans, standing on the shoulders of giants who gave us a nation where we are proud and free. No Osama bin Laden can reduce us -- because no man, having tasted freedom, will ever return to slavery. THAT is the mentality Osama is facing, and he doesn't stand a chance.

Trouble is, many leftists like Mr. Smith want to reduce a one proud nation to asphalt, and look what’s happened today: you have politics that wrecked comedy, and all this PC insanity’s wrecked creativity. Mr. Smith himself has even sided with “social justice warriors” on petty issues while turning his back to more serious ones.

Cap Comics: I know we're going through a difficult time in our country due to (the Sept. 11) terrorist nightmare.

I was really curious to read your thoughts on it. Several fans, myself included, thought about our fave comics heroes & what they might've done to help out in this disaster.

In my case, I dreamed of Superman & The JSA helping recover victims from the World Trade Center while Obsidian helped military bases in California gear up for defensive operations.

At least we do have some real-life superheroes. The rescue squads who are combing through the wreckage in the getting-vainer-as-time-passes possibility of finding anyone alive, or at least recovering bodies so that they can have proper burials by their loved ones. Unfortunately, they are all too mortal and some have paid the price either being injured or killed in their work.

But if you had the chance to ask them if they knew their fates ahead whether they would've still helped with the search and rescues or backed off to protect themselves most if not all wouldn't have changed their minds.

That smacks of true superheroism to me!
Absolutely!
No, [name withheld], I didn't envision superheroes saving the day on Sept. 11 (although, according to a psychiatrist in Newsweek, "control fantasies" like that are not only common, but helpful in dealing with irrational situations). It seemed disrespectful to me to envision Superman swooping in. After all, I was watching real superheroes on CNN charging into a blazing, 110-story inferno in the hope of saving a life. Hundreds of them died, and I cried unashamededly.
And, while I understand and empathize with your reaction, mine was something else. I felt something hardening in me, and it wasn't vengeance, or anger. It was determination. If these ordinary men and women can risk their lives, can I be any less brave in the days to come? Can I be any less a superhero, and betray that sacrifice?
We all have a job to do in this sad, new world. And we must all be superheroes, each and every one of us. The military/espionage aspect is necessary and just, and is the way our goverment will necessarily respond. But this isn't a war between governments. There's only so much an air strike can do against this shadowy, elusive, almost conceptual foe. No, this war will be won or lost in hearts and minds. It's a fight for the dignity and signicance of the common man, an ethos that the Osama bin Ladens of the world find a direct threat to their archaic, barbaric mentality. We are, each and every one of us, on the front lines of this war. That's more than metaphorical -- it will be American civilians who will pay the price in blood in car bombs, bioterror and other terror tactics.
But those firefighters, police and rescue workers -- "common" men and women all -- showed us the way to fight it. With dignity, with bravery, with compassion and with determination. They showed us how to be superheroes, and we must show the same courage.
We owe them that.

Then why did he support Identity Crisis, which portrays heroes negatively? Why did he condone a book featuring a subtle message that America is to blame for 9-11? And why doesn’t he consider sexual assault a serious issue?

Hey Cap: Knowing your site was one of the few that I could say this on and have people understand, I send you this.
I am pretty sure everyone knows what happened Sept. 11 in New York, so I won't rehash what we all know. I had picked that do to go to Pennsylvania to see a friend and do some sightseeing. I left about 6:30 a.m. from Knoxville, Tenn., going to Pittsburgh, Pa., and a few other spots. So, I got to hear all about what happened before I ever saw it. So, of course I had a mental image of what it looked like. When I turned around and got back home, I had to see it. Watching that second building starting to fall, even though I knew it was going to happen, moved me almost to tears. As I saw it fall and fall again in slow motion, I never wished that Superman existed more. I wanted to see a red-and-blue (figure) come flying out of the side of the screen and save us all. Alas, as we all know, it did happen. And as we all know, the heroes were down below, doing the best the could/can.
After seeing the way the country acted, I really understood what I read in Roy Thomas's All-Star Squadron books set right after Pearl Harbor was attacked. People scared, not knowing what was going to happen next. We read about that in history books and it's hard to understand, really understand. Oh sure, we know what fear is like, but it's like reading a book that doesn't have the last part of the story.
You know Cap, when I went to bed that night, I was scared. I didn't feel safe in my own (rented) home. My last thought as sleep took me was, "I don't like the world I live in anymore." When the comics came out this week, I thought I wouldn't really care. But you know what? It really helped me. It showed me that somethings continued and my oldest non-family support was still there. Even though the Superman issue (forget which one it was) had a shot of two smoking towers towards the front, which of course was utter unintentional, but slightly strange to see.
But, I saw again, as a 32-year-old man, I never wanted (more) for Superman or some superhero to exist and save us that day. I never did see him in the sky. I saw several below, but no miracle last-minute save from some four-color paladin. Guess we all felt something like that. Anybody else keep looking at it and thinking it was some bad Independence Day sequel that looked fake? I don't like this movie, somebody change the channel.
Thanks for listening.
And thanks for writing, [name withheld]. As you can see from [same here]'s letter above, your desperate fantasy of a last-minute save was not uncommon. It's a normal human reaction to tragedy, and you're not alone.
And why shouldn't you enjoy your comics? It's no accident that the best-selling periods for comics ('40s and '60s) were times of great turmoil. We NEED our escape fantasies, all the moreso when the world is so grim.
Me, I'm gonna keep reading my comics. They're all the more poignant, now that we've seen larger-than-life events in our own world, and when true heroism has been so starkly displayed in the crumbling towers of New York.
Here's another letter on the same lines:

I don’t think he believes what he said here either, given how he’s supported darkening established franchises that once emphasized escapism and optimism, Marvel included. That’s right, even Marvel didn’t embrace grittiness 100 percent years before. What a phony he is, as usual.

Hello Cap: The last few days I have never wished superheroes were more true. It's days like these that a Superman, Green Lantern or Captain America would be such a help and comfort.
But there are lots of heroes already there. I watched over and over as firefighters, police officers and rescue workers went in. After the first tower collapsed and before the second, a reporter asked a firefighter who came out for a new oxygen tank why he was going back in.
Like a true hero he replied, "It's my job."
Since I last wrote you I have become a writer myself for the fan-based Marvel 2099 Underground. (http://www.geocities.com/ug2099) and have been having a debate with some writers. They want to stop production of thier comics for a month. I am not so sure. It strikes me that since WWII comics have been a escape that people need to get away from horrors like this.
The more thought I gave it the more I think it needs to be taken a step further. I think Marvel and DC need to have comics that touch what happened two short days ago. The horror of it the tragedy are very hard for children to understand. Its very hard for a child or even a teen to realize the real issues. Its hard not to cover an entire religion or ethnic group with a blanket of hate.
Who better than Captain America, who better than Superman, to address this? Captian America and Superman are men of justice, not hate. They are men with souls who could bring this to the kids in a way they could understand. Captain America would mourn the dead as he has so often done, and at the same time help kids to realize that Muslims and Arabic people are part of the vital fabric of the United States. Superman has lost his entire planet and all the people he cared for. He is the strongest man on the planet, yet he was helpless for that situation as well. How better to teach kids it's OK to be afraid as long as you don't let that fear make you helpless? Who else could express that sorrow of you not doing anything wrong, and yet still being helpless while bad things happen?
And who more than these two characters could teach that you must take the fear and the hate and the anger and build good things with it?
Cap, my heart goes out to all in New York, D.C. and the entire United States.
May Thor, Vishnu, Christ or whomever you worship help protect and shelter them all.
I think you're absolutely right, [name withheld] -- there is no better vehicle for exploring this atrocity than our four-color heroes. Who else could explain it better?
And I wrote you privately about your website's plan to stop writing, and for the elucidation of others, I reprint my objection here:
<<Writers write to make sense of the world. Writers write to reflect the world, and from that reflection, glean understanding. Writers write, because they must.
The world needs writers more when it's aflame, when tempers are hot, than when it's not. The world needs that pause, that reflection, that thumb-sucking, desperate need to understand that drives all writers.
At a time when the world is at its most brutal, primitive and non-reflective, writers are needed more than ever. Writers represent civilization. They must be there to offset the thugs who'd like nothing better than to drive civilization off the rails.
Don't let the bad guys win. Write. Think, and write some more. And I'll read it, and think some more. Aside from giving blood, I can't think of a more noble contribution.>>

Here’s another correspondent who IMO cannot make a distinction between Arabs and Islam. There’s plenty of folks from Arabic background who’ve proven they’re vital parts of the American fabric. But to say Islam is? There may be moderate Muslims, but there’s no moderate Islam, and it’s risky to say Muslims are contributing when they adhere to a violent religion.

And about Mr. Smith’s quotation: if he really believed what he said, why did he embrace Identity Crisis, which ended with Chronos telling the villains, “told you we’d win.” It was a story sympathetic to villains, and yet he upheld it?

Dear Cap: In a very eerie turn of life imitating art, a few Superman readers felt an icy chill as they turned to page two of Adventures of Superman #596 yesterday. The issue’s story -- the cleanup after the “Our Worlds At War” storyline, featured a panel where the twin LexCorp Towers in Metropolis are shown to have extensive damage in their upper portions, with smoke pouring out of them. ...
It is chilling, isn't it? I was watching an episode of Spin City the other night, and the establishing shots between scenes were the New York skyline. Filmed months ago, the show had the WTC standing proudly, glinting silver in the sun. My wife and I had to look away each time. I imagine a number of comics will have the Twin Towers in them for a month or two to come, and it will not be an easy sight.

This reminds me that a couple years ago, Rick Veitch published a screed called “The Big Lie”, which built on 9-11 Trutherism. But did he ever speak out against it’s vision? Nope, so in all due honesty, I find myself in the sad position of questioning his sincerity here too. Now for some of the last letters from the time:

Dear Cap: A couple of answers to [name withheld], who responded to my comments. He wrote (this is quote in quote in quote in ...)
<<How strong is Wolverine? In Uncanny X-Men #135, it was shown that he was able to lift a full-size tree (20 feet or so, depending on how you look at Byrne's perspective) once -- before Dark Phoenix turned it into gold, far heavier than Wolverine's strength (although, even then, he was strong enough that it didn't crush him to death.) – […]>>

<<If I recall the scene in Uncanny X-Men #135, that was Colossus hefting that tree, not Wolverine. – […]>>

He does recall the scene correctly -- but not completely. The whole thing is that Colossus uproots the tree, trying to swat Dark Phoenix (!!! Strong, but not too bright ...) Dark Phoenix transforms him back to Peter Rasputin, and he is overwhelmed by the weight of the tree. Wolverine comes running over and barely lifts the tree off him -- until Dark Phoenix transforms it to gold, and traps Wolverine under it as well. Then, the Beast has to free them eventually -- which should give us a relative idea of the strengths of Peter Rasputin, Logan and Hank McCoy. (A solid gold tree?!? How many TONS could that have weighed? It should flattened under its own weight, and probably pulped Colossus. Maybe Logan could have survived ...) Grundy-Batman fight -- could be, but it escapes my (admittedly fallible) memory. But if everyone remembers this, I'd surely like to know what issue it is -- or is this turning into an urban legend?
The many letters I've gotten have established exactly one (1) Solomon Grundy appearance in Batman or Detective as the main villain in the years 1964-1991 ... which means it's almost insignicant. Why are we still bothering to talk about it? The original question was: Was Solomon Grundy principally a Batman foe in those years? The answer, obviously, is: No.
And that solid-gold-tree thing is a mess, isn't it? Any way you look at it, it just doesn't make any darn sense!

Not as much of a mess as Smith’s own morale. But I guess I repeat myself.

Dear Cap: Having read your account of the effect of comics in your life and then [...]'s account of the same, I thought I would weigh in with my experiences.
All I can say is: ditto.
My first experience with superheroes in general came from '60s-era Batmanbreruns/Marvel Super Heroes/Aquaman cartoons and the Super Friends of the '70s. When I realized that these cartoons came from comic books that came out monthly and were different every month, and that there were years (heck, decades) of stories to track down, well, I was in hog heaven. A lot of my childhood revolved around comics. Like you, I learned about science from the Metal Men and Flash. Green Lantern and The Atom taught me to think around problems. (A yellow meteor is falling on the city and my power ring doesn't affect yellow. If I don't come up with something I can kiss the city goodbye.) Batman was the pinnacle of human achievement, a highly trained detective relying on his skills, who, try as hard as he might, could never quite erase the memory of his parents' murders. Superman fought for truth, justice and the American Way. If an alien could do it, could I do any less? My moral fiber was set by superheroes. There is right and there is wrong. Sometimes doing what is right is not easy. Sometimes wrong will win and all we can do is try harder the next time.
Like [...], my parents weren't too happy with my comic-book reading as high school wore on. They couldn't understand the allure. And my wife is none too happy with it now. But it is something I genuinely enjoy. It reminds me of my childhood and takes me back to a time when I believed a guy with a power ring or someone who could run at the speed of light was out there looking out for us.
The comic books I read inspired me to be a better person and, like you Cap, inspired me to read more. I look at reading as my main form of entertainment. There are a few television shows I enjoy but from the time I get home from work to the time I go to bed I spend most of my time reading. I would say I read roughly 300 pages a week. And the books I read are all over the map, just like the comics I enjoy. If a comic happened to mention or reference a book then I would track down the book and read it to see how it related to the comic. (And as an aside, I can pinpoint the exact moment I started getting interested in Elvis Costello. Spidey made mention of him in a Marvel Team-Up Annual. In fact, Spidey was singing some Elvis, Oliver's Army, at the behest of the Purple Man. So comics even had an influence on my musical tastes.) Comics contributed to my love of stories, in any form. I find myself enjoying the smaller, lower budget, "indie" flicks more than the big summer blockbusters because the smaller flicks focus more on story, character and plot, elements I learned to appreciate from comic books.
I, too, share some concern about the comics of today. I look at the Batman of today and the Batman of the late '70s that I grew up with and it is night and day. Batman was always obsessed about stopping crime and criminals but he never seemed so ... borderline about it. I know, I know, somewhere out there in Hypertime is the Bronze Age Batman who is different than the current Batman but it is still somewhat jarring to see Batman and Superman have such a chilly relationship these days. They're the World's Finest team, for cryin' out loud! To this day, I still miss Barry Allen. He was the epitome of hero to me when I was a kid. When I started reading the current Flash series, I was aghast. Wally West was a jerk. An obnoxious, arrogant jerk. Barry would have kicked his snot-nosed butt from here to Central City. But the early Wally West stories paved the way for the great stories of Mark Waid, about Wally not feeling worthy of Barry's legacy and finally, accepting that he is his own man and the he will never be Barry but he can be as good as him in his own way. And reading Wally West's adventures now I harken back the the glory days of Barry Allen and I smile.
I could go on and on about comic books and what they mean to me as I'm sure this disjointed missive shows. For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed them and sought them out. They have brought me no small amount of joy over the years. They have helped shape my moral fiber, opened new avenues of fiction to me and, in all likelihood, helped me develop a good memory. Hey, all those years of reading and re-reading comics, figuring out (maybe obsessively) continuity, appearances, powers, timelines, who could beat whom, etc. had to have SOME sort of beneficial affect. Thanks for reading and keep up the great work!
That's an inspiring story, [name withheld], and thank you for sharing. I can't add a word.
Is there any wonder why I think comics fans are generally the most well-read, thoughtful, intelligent and moral people I know?

Straight from a man who isn’t very thoughtful, intelligent or moral himself. And sadly, there’s others like him out there.

Hey Cap: Why? Why won't DC (and the industry at large) respect us, the folks who buy their entertainment? As you've doubtlessly read, Steel, the Kents, and more than likely Aquaman and possibly others, are all alive and (in Steel and the Kents' case) already reappearing. This is insulting to have these big events with the writers talking about all the big changes and deaths and after-effects on the characters and the DC Universe only to have things begin returning to normal right away.
I'm not a big Superman fan or regular reader but I'm sure in the months to come he'll be portrayed as brooding or regretful about the events that took place and the "lives lost." But you know what? It will ring completely false, not at all like the serious entertainment the industry wants to be known for. Things would be different had he lost one or both of his parents or Steel or even Aquaman permanently, but we know he hasn't. Sure the argument could be made that although the reader knows this, Supes doesn't and that's drama, I have to say no it isn't. Because in a few issues time that missing person will return and things will go back to normal. The thing is, it's not that I feel serious work has to involve violence, death, sex, or gratuitous obscenities, (in fact one of my favorite superhero related titles is Batman: Gotham Adventures) but if you're going to take the road of an all-encompassing war with major repercussions, don't do it halfway. Come heavy or don't come at all.
Speaking of respecting the readers, what's going on with Birds of Prey? Based on some recommendations a few months back, I decided to try it and I have yet to see why this comic is so highly thought of. Three issues into this whole Ra's Al Ghul and Black Canary-in-love thing and I feel it's been terrible. While I haven't read much with BC, I have read many stories featuring Ra's and I've never seen him portrayed in such a run-of-the-mill/ villain-of-the-week manner. His characterization is almost a parody and doesnt match any of his previous portrayals. I don't know much about BC so I can't say if hers has been accurate, but if it is, what a waste of a potentially cool heroine. Same thing for Barbara; (it) just doesn't ring true to me -- at least in comparison with how she is portrayed in the other Bat-titles. This is especially unfortunate at a time when comics seem to really be trying to appeal to female readers.
Anyway enough of that. I'd like to mention a few really GREAT reads.
First is Alan Moore and Eddie Cambells' From Hell. This a plausible intrepretation of the Whitechapel murders that introduced the world at large to Jack the Ripper. There is a truly stunning attention to detail at work here, both in the text and visuals. Reading this you really begin to imagine being in England during the time of the atrocities and it makes you wonder if the events and intrigue as presented here could have occured as Moore and Cambell envision them. I don't want to go into too much of the story for those who haven't yet read it except to say that this is one of the finest works of literature I've read in a very long time, regardless of genre.
Second is Love and Rockets X by Gilbert Hernandez. This is my first foray into L&R books and I see what all the fuss is about! Reading this book was like watching a movie, a really well-done indie film about a diverse group of kids in Los Angeles and the trials of their lives. In fact it in some ways it reminds me of the haunting 1995 film Kids by Larry Clark, which is about lost youth growing up in NYC, but L&R X is much lighter in tone and funnier.
And lastly Mark Kalesnikos's brilliant graphic novel Mail Order Bride. Mail Order Bride is about just that -- a woman, Kyung, from Korea, who emigrates to Canada to be wed to a guy, Monty, who probably couldn't get married any other way. Monty will be at once familiar to readers as the stereotypical comic-book-shop guy who is unlucky in love, immature and whose house could pass for a comic-shop-store room. But before you think that this is a setup to poke fun at comic-shop owners or readers, you're wrong. It's a way of opening up the reader to the world of steroetypes so that you at once recognize how ugly they can be whether they are accurate or not. Kyung is bombarded with ignorant comments and stereotypes of what she should be by everyone around her. From her own husband to his family, to people she encounters during the story's course, everyone knows just who they think she is based on where she's from and how she looks. But no one, maybe not even Kyung herself, really knows who she truly is or aspires to be. I can't recommend this book highly enough!
Thanks for listening!
And thanks for writing […]. I can't disagree with any of your recommendations, and I'll leave them as they lie for others to read.
As to your other comments, let me address them in reverse order:
I was one of the guys who recommended Birds of Prey, and I'm coming to regret it. It's not a BAD book, but it is no longer by any stretch of the imagination a GOOD one. I have no evidence of this, but I suspect an abrupt change of tone was ordered for the title -- because there manifestly was one.
Initially, BoP was about two strikingly different women -- the intense, wounded, ends-justifies-the-means, almost-Machiavellian Barbara Gordon, and the sunny, honest-to-a-fault, thrill-junkie, almost-shallow Black Canary -- and their peculiar, weirdly plausible friendship. They had never met each other, and Oracle's ham-handed, remote-control efforts and BC's resist-and-surrender reactions were almost like a strange male/female mating dance, or a conservative/liberal argument written in personal-relationship terms -- and their dialogue reflected this.
In fact, the dialogue was the thing. Babs and Dinah talked like real women I've met, hashing out this and that, fighting, agreeing, pushing, pulling, inevitably finding common ground. It was intense, it was mesmerizing, it was funny, sad, poignant and wry -- and it was darn good writing! I couldn't WAIT for the next issue, to see what these people I'd come to like would say to each other next!
... And then it stopped. Suddenly there were a lot of Spandex guest stars, and the characters began acting out of character in really cliched ways. As I said, I dunno what happened -- but something did. Maybe sales slipped, and Dixon was ordered to make it more palatable to teenage boys, or what would be perceived to be palatable to teenage boys. Don't know.
But it stopped being an exceptional book. It became a rather insipid, sub-par one, instead. It was like everybody forgot who these characters were, and just substituted stilted caricatures from other books that had worked. It was almost like Chuck Dixon had been possessed by the spirit of Howard Mackie or Scott Lobdell or Paul Kupperburg, or something. My wife, a former BoP fan, won't touch it now.
So I apologize. I was steering you toward the book it used to be, instead of the one it is now.
As to your comments about "Worlds At War," I am wholly in agreement with the implications of what you said.
I don't want to see massive death and destruction in my funnybooks. I don't want to see a hand-wringing Superman, a dead Aquaman, guts & glory spread everywhere.
But that's the story they promised to tell. They promised a story where Superman would be wrenched to the root of his principles, where major characters would be gone forever, where war's consequences would be displayed and its ramifications explored.
Instead, they chickened out. It's not that I'm upset about Aquaman being revived -- it's that they lied to me. That's the bottom line, and even though I always knew that Aquaman was too valuable a property to kill, I can't excuse it. His revival is dishonest, and I'm disappointed.
I enjoyed "Our Worlds At War" for many reasons -- but the abrupt return to the status quo has left a bad taste in my mouth.
And speaking of Oracle (which we were a few paragraphs ago), here's a reader who obviously read the "Debates" page back when I had one, and wants to comment on Barbara's "sin tax," and whether or not it's justified:

Gee, if he were seriously opposed to massive deaths in superhero comics, he wouldn’t have been so fluff-coated about OWAW. Nor would he have supported Infinite Crisis and other such horrors. Simply put, he would’ve complained that the crossover had ever been greenlighted in the first place.

And what’s so wrong with Kupperberg’s work during the mid-80s? Sure, he’s a sad case of left-wing lunacy these days, but most of his writing at DC during the Bronze/Iron Ages wasn’t that bad. It’s just a pity he has to be so full of his ultra-leftism today at Archie. I don’t agree Dixon’s work on BoP had become that bad at the time either.

Dear Cap: The arguments used to justify Batman's actions over Oracle's are pretty weak. The only legal authority he has is as a citizen making an arrest or helping out IF a crime is being committed. He has no authority to arrest or even use force on The Joker or any other criminal. It's not up to him to decide who gets arrested & who doesn't. In your perfect ethical world, he'd be on the FBI's most wanted list.
He's a vigilante, pure and simple. But a vigilante whose actions contribute to a greater good in a city being torn apart by violent crime and corrupt officials. I think it's important to remember just WHERE Batman and Oracle do their crimefighting. Gotham is a sleazy cesspool, and Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon decided long ago that they're going to have to play by a different set of rules in order to be effective. The citizens, including Bruce and Babs, are living in an intolerable situation. The police and the judicial system aren't doing their job. So what would you do?
Oracle is not The Punisher. Even though she and Batman are in a war on crime (and that is what it is), she's not killing or physically harming anyone. She's taking tainted money from a person she knows to be a hardened criminal. Where would the money go if that criminal was apprehended? Into the pockets of whatever corrupt officials have their hands near the cookie jar, something that knowledgable detectives like Batman and Oracle already know. As I said, this is Gotham.
It's very easy to judge these characters because most of us don't live in the situation they do. In a more moral and ethical society, with a police or judicial system doing their jobs properly, the efforts of B & O wouldn't be needed. Yes, what Batman and Oracle are doing is illegal and unethical. But I think, in their situation, that (sadly) the ends DO justify the means.
Good points, [name withheld], and well articulated. I won't argue with any of it in real-world terms. Yup, Gotham's a cesspool, and most of us in that situation would do whatever was necessary to get the job done. And the FBI would be after Batman (and Oracle and the rest) big time.
What raised the issue, though, is that in our funnybook world, there are certain rules that are respected. Among them, of course, is that vigilantiism is more or less condoned in the DC Universe, since the FBI ISN'T after Batman & Co. But more to the point of this discussion, is that the vigilantes of the DCU operate under a certain code of conduct (those that deviate from it, like The Vigilante, are mercilessly hunted down by the "respectable" vigilantes). That code, boiled down, is this: From Batman to Superman, they all parrot these words: "We aren't judge and jury." That's how all this outlaw behavior is accepted, the code of honor that we assume our superheroes live up to, even though they aren't quite within the law.
Yeah, Batman's a supercop, and he uses intimidation, and he's a vigilante. We accept that for many reasons, one of which is that we know he won't go any further, that he won't stop being a "good guy." He has a certain set of self-imposed parameters, and we -- and Commissioner Gordon -- trust he won't break them. (Killing The Joker, for example.)
But Barbara has taken it a step further. Not only is she illegally arresting people, as Batman does, she's also fining them -- acting as judge and jury. That's a line other superheroes, including Batman, don't cross.
Batman is acting illegally to arrest people. Well, there's a precedent for that: citizen's arrest. But there is NO precedent in jurisprudence or common law for Barbara's actions -- there is no "citizen's tribunal." (Actually there is, and we call it a "lynch mob" or "kangaroo court" or "Star Chamber" or "Inquisition.") That's acting as a JUDGE. Batman beats up thugs and intimidates them and "arrests" them -- and then turns them over to the civil authorities for judgment. Nothing permanent there. He's just STOPPING them -- arresting their actions. But Barbara ... well, she does the judging, too. And what made me uncomfortable is that it's only a matter of degree between fining someone, and imprisoning someone, and executing them. That's what judges DO. Not cops, like Batman. Judges, as Barbara has appointed herself to be.
What ethical barrier exists for Barbara NOT to kill The Joker, if it was in her power? She's already assumed judicial fiat, so it would be an easy thing for her to rationalize from a purely operational aspect. In other words, something that would be completely alien and out of character and impossible for Batman ... looks awfully easy for Babs to do. It's a faint line to most -- but to me, a very obvious one, and a scary one.
Pertinent to this conversation is that Batman has never been shown to be aware of Barbara's actions. Naturally, we assume that control-freak Batman WOULD know about it, and turns a blind eye. But it's significant that it's never been depicted in the comics. My argument is that they can't depict it in the comics. As his character has been established, Batman wouldn't condone it. It would violate his "code of honor." He would finally be living down to all the disapproval Superman heaps on him.
I'm not pretending this is cut and dried -- after all, this is a debate. What makes me uncomfortable -- that conceptual line being crossed -- obviously doesn't bother you. And that's what this forum is for: To discuss this stuff.
And I'm certainly having fun! You made me think, and that makes it all worthwhile.

Uh oh, is he perpetuating the perception Batman is literally a control freak? Tsk tsk tsk. He doesn’t make me think with that approach.

Dear Cap'n: Any idea where I can get any info about Dell/Gold-Key licensed-properties comic books (particularly the Disney, Warner Bros., and MGM animation characters)? I'd like to start buying some, but I have no idea what is out there. Also, what is your opinion on these books, as a lover of comic books? I notice that the speculator/fan-boy driven Wizard magazine doesn't even mention any of these types of books in their "price guide." Must be because CGC doesn't bother with them ... On a related note, did you see Wizard's listing of the "Top 100 Cartoons"? It seemed very "age-centric" to me. I don't know why that surprises me though ...
What I know about Dell/Gold Key's licensed properties books is that -- outside of Star Trek -- they aren't considered "collectible." Like war comics, Archies, Harveys and some other non-superhero genres, the problem isn't the price -- it's finding them. Nobody saved them, and they're rare. It's no surprise the peurile and eternally adolescent Wizard takes no notice of them.
Nor is their Top 100 Cartoons list any surprise. A few years ago, they did a Top 100 Comics of All Time -- and only a paltry handful were published before 1992. Avengers #4 (debut/return of Captain America) wasn't on the list, but the first appearance of The Violator (some early issue of Spawn) was. As well as Spawn #1 and a couple of other issues of Spawn. But no Captain America Comics #1 (1941), no Avengers #4 (1964). Aw, kids today -- waddaya gonna do?

Again hath spoken the man who does no better than Wizard. He may not stoop to the same juvenile angle they did, but one thing he does have in common with them is dishonesty and lockstep obedience to his PC masters, both in journalism and in the comics industry proper.

Hey Cap! First off, I love the site and the CBG articles ...

Something hit me the other night as I was reading Bendis's latest Ultimate Spidey issues (no, not my wife). I was laughing out loud at the dialogue. Peter's stand-up routine at The Kingpin's expense and then the scene with May trying to find out how much Pete knows about sex were extremely funny. I was trying to remember when I had LOL at a comic book recently, and it dawned on me: Spidey's dialogue in the Essentials by Stan Lee. His witty banter in the mouths of Pete or ol' Ben Grimm are pure comedic poetry. While I love Superman and Bats, their comedy was usually confined to very bad punning. So thanks to Lee for the wise-guy superhero and thanks to Bendis for continuing in that lovely art.

Also, Cap, have you heard of any plans to re-release the Fantastic Four issues before and after the #51-60 book in Masterworks form? Ditko and Romita's art in the Essential Spidey still looks great in black and white. But Jack Kirby art, to me, just NEEDS to be in color to seem right. The greatest superhero book in history really should be kept in print forever in sturdy, hardback books.
You'll get no argument from me that Stan's dialogue in the '60s was pure gold. Just about all comics fans my age have patterned their own snappy patter after Stan -- and so have a couple of generations of comics writers.
What's really cool to me about the Modern Age is that there are so many flat-out terrific writers out there who AREN'T aping Stan, but have somehow found the same creative lodestone in their own voice. Brian Bendis, Brian Azzarello, Peter David -- their dialogue is LOL good, and is uniquely their own, like Stan's was. It's a delight to read their work.
As to the Masterworks, all of the Fantastic Fours up to issue #51 HAVE been printed in that format, back in the late '80s. As I write this, I glance up at the bookshelf and see 27 of 'em, ranging from FF to Daredevil to Spidey to X-Men to Thor to Hulk to Avengers to Silver Surfer to Iron Man to Captain America to Doctor Strange -- all reprinting work from the early to late '60s (with some Claremont/Byrne X-Men thrown in for good measure). The recent Masterworks was picking up where that aborted series left off. Maybe you can get 'em through eBay or Amazon.com.

This is pure comedy gold coming from Mr. Smith. What sloppy tommyrot. I can buy that David’s dialogue is good (or used to be), but Bendis? He’s long proven even his dialogue isn’t worth squat. The same can be said for Azzarello. And the correspondent’s letter actually gives a clue to how Ultimate Spidey wasn’t entry level, which was a definite problem. Modern writers may not be aping Stan’s writing, and that’s hardly the problem either. No, what is the problem is how they’re wallowing in very poorly written, unintelligent storytelling that actually takes superhero comics huge steps backwards.

Dear Cap: I was reading today's column, and got to the first Errata and Addenda subject from [name withheld] and he says:
<<1b) What would be wrong with bringing back Kal-L? As long as someone works with him like Mark Waid did with Jay Garrick during his Flash run, I have no problem with it. Just don't let some two-bit hack get hold of him.>>
I noticed you didn't even respond to this point. But I have to, I'm sorry. Put it on your page or not, but I gotta say something.
This is ridiculous.This is part of what (I) feel is wrong with comics nowadays: Writers not following past continuity. Kal-L (the Golden Age Superman, of course) was WRITTEN OUT OF CONTINUITY by the Crisis and the Man of Steel limited series. This is why Kal-L shouldn't appear in Superman, because there is only one Supes. Heck, if you do use Kal-L, and with the Silver Age Krypton appearing recently and Krypto and all that, they might as well throw the Crisis out altogether. Whether or not you agree what John Byrne did in his reboot, DC should follow it, not do retcons here and there to say what parts of the "new" (post-Crisis) Superman origin they paid good money to have done is canon. DC has never been known for close watch on continuity, but wholesale slaughter of their fictional past post-Crisis isn't good. That and thinking of Hypertime (don't get me started on this concept), DC might as well say the Crisis never happened. Darned trying to get new readers in and the older readers ...
Sorry to rant. When I see stuff like that I get (annoyed). As you can probably tell, I'm passionate about comics, having reading them for quite a few years. (I've been reading comics since I was eight. Now I'm 25. Do the math.) I have other interests, of course, but comics is one of them ...
And a passionate one, which I applaud. Why bother with any pastime or hobby, comics or otherwise, if you don't care about it?
Which is why I didn't respond to […]'s point -- I didn't feel passionate about that particular argument, and he did. So I let him have his say, and kept my shiny nose out of it, and left it to others to agree or disagree. We all have things about comics we care strongly about, and I'm pleased to offer a forum where those rants can be aired.
... Like yours. You clearly feel strongly about maintaining a strong post-Crisis continuity. Once again, I'm in the position of not feeling strongly about it. I've got a long, possibly jaded perspective on issues like this (I've been reading comics since I was five. Now I'm 43. Do the math. :), and I've seen continuity come and go. I've seen the Weisinger Superman, the O'Neil Superman, the Elliot S! Maggin Superman, the pre-Crisis Superman, the post-Crisis Superman,the Earth-Two Superman, the Earth-Three Superman, the Earth-Marvel/DC Superman, the single Superman, the married Superman, the George Reeves Superman, the Lois & Clark Superman, the Kingdom Come Superman, the dead Superman, the resurrected Superman, the animated Superman ... I just can't get worked up about it any more. All I care about now is a good story. If that involves ringing in Kal-L -- well, OK. As long as it's a good story, I'll abide. (I'm not completely blase. If it's a lousy story, I'll squeal like a stuck pig about unnecessary continuity complications.)
Which is not to say I fault YOU for getting worked up about it. I would've too, at 25. And you have every right to argue for YOUR comics, YOUR experience to be valid. As I said, I applaud that passion.
So rant away! I welcome your response, and you may get some more comments as well.

Oh, do tell us all about it, he who’s never done the math on the most pressing, overlooked issues. And does he really think his readers’ views are valid? Only selectively, I’m afraid. I don’t even buy that he cares about the reading hobby.

And that brings us to a close about what kind of letters Mr. Smith presented in debates, and just how fake his whole approach to arguing truly was. A man who speaks out of multiple sides of his mouth, and throws away all morale to suit the advocates of PC. He’s certainly tumbled farther downhill in the years since, and become one of the most insulting SJWs around. Why did I ever bother to read his junk years before? Why did a lot of these correspondents whose positions I could agree with ever bother writing to him? Today, I’ve changed a lot myself, doing my best to avoid the kind of PC pitfalls he sticks himself in, and say more clearly what I think. That doesn’t mean I think I’ll be perfect even now, but I do my best. And in my new career these days as a blogger, I’ll do my best to tell why I feel the writings of men like Mr. Smith are not worth the paper and kilobytes they’re printed on.

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