A look back at some past memories and experiences, part
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
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.
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
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
Not to be morbid, but the plane crashes today remind me of
the prose Nick Fury novel Empyre.
It involved terrorists crashing planes.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
*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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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,
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
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
[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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
<<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
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
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
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
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
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
... 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
<<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
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
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
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
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.
Copyright 2015 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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