A look back at some personal experiences and memories,
March 10, 2014
By Avi Green
If there was any place where I came close at an early time to
experiencing how the left thinks, it was surely at the Captain
Comics website. This also applies to how the man who ran the site,
and some of his own correspondents, could think, opine and argue.
And admittedly, that could even include my own mindset of the times
too! How glad I am to have largely changed since then.
I recently found a CD containing some HTML files of old Q&A and
mailbag files from that old site I’d saved to disk, since I thought
they might have some kind of value in the future. Now, after all
these years and my trip from left to right on the political
spectrum, from someone who’d foolishly read The Washington Post to
someone who now wisely reads The Washington Times (okay, maybe not that
wisely, since they do have their own share of disappointments as
well), I think they most certainly do have some value, and that’s
for figuring out not only how the leftist mindset and educational
system can screw up so badly, but also what went wrong with the
comics industry and how writing – not to mention artwork in some
situations – became so horrifically bad.
So in this article, I’m going to feature some of the examples I
found – both political and comics connected – and have my say on
what I think is right or wrong with any of them. This even includes
some of my own correspondence to the site, which, after more than a
decade, I myself don’t think too highly of. Still, I was rather
naive and superficial in some cases back in the day, or my ideas
were just too easy, so maybe I shouldn’t be too bothered. The names
of the people who wrote them will be kept classified/omitted.
Let’s begin with this item, from approximately July 1999, the
earliest I have from any official Q&A correspondence the site
got at the time:
Q: Do you believe that the quality of DC Comics's
crossovers have lessened in quality production since The Crisis
On Infinite Earths saga?
A: I actually think they've improved, as has the general quality
of writing at DC since the '80s. For my money, Crisis was a
confused, poorly-written mishmash in 1985-6, and time hasn't
improved it any. It was historically important, but that doesn't
mean it was any good!
Wow. This is exactly why the quality of
DC’s crossovers has become absolutely abysmal by 2010. Because
MSMers like Mr. Smith aren’t willing to ask whether this is all
we’ve come down to since that time. Most of the x-overs they’ve
coughed up post-1990 have been for little more than killing off
characters they seem to think are worthless, including but not
limited to Hal Jordan. No Man’s Land, which took place in the
Bat-franchise, was egregious too. Just think, if the MSM that
focuses on comic books had called all this junk out for the
short-term monstrosities they were, comics might not be at dismal
level they are now.
Here's another exchange that in itself features a credible argument,
but, thanks to his dishonesty and forked tongue, rings hollow:
Q: What is your opinion on the possible return of Hal
Jordan as The Spectre? Do you think that he should "stay dead"?
A: I think they've mucked up Hal Jordan so badly that I wish
they'd just leave the poor sod alone. Every time they resurrect
him and polish him up a little, it just makes things worse. Unless
they're willing to undo "Emerald Twilight" altogether, they should
leave bad enough alone.
What bugs me specifically is that Hal is still thought of as a
hero. Nonsense! If we're to believe "Emerald Twilight," Hal Jordan
is the greatest villain in history! He managed to do what Sinestro
and Darkseid failed to do: Wipe out the Corps. Hal Jordan has the
blood of more than 3,500 superheroes on his hands. Tell me, do YOU
consider that to be terribly heroic? Good intentions or madness
aside, he's a mass murderer of appalling dimension.
Let me put it another way: Do you think Bill Clinton will be
remembered for Kosovo? For health care? For the Irish peace
accord? Nope -- he'll be remembered for Monica Lewinsky. Nixon
isn't remembered for opening China, he's remembered for Watergate.
And if I went berserk tomorrow and killed everybody in the office,
how do you think my obit would read? "Loving husband"?
"Good-natured co-worker"? Ha! My obit would read: "Andrew Smith,
who massacred 30 people at his newspaper in a shooting spree, died
today ... "
So, what's the sense of Hal becoming The Spectre? HE'S NOT A HERO.
True, if Hal Jordan is
going to be depicted as someone who slaughtered tons of GL Corp
members, then even Day of Judgement, an early “effort” of Geoff
Johns, bombs out big time. Alan Scott was shown in the story
supporting the idea of making Hal the Spectre because “it feels
right”. Yet if he hasn’t been cleared of the crimes (and the story
even today may not have been entirely reversed), then it’s just
But if Mr. Smith didn’t slam Zero Hour as soundly as he could have
back in 1994, when it came out and littered the horizon so badly,
then to find him criticizing the degradation of Hal Jordan falls
flat. And I may recall once reading at least one old item of his
circa 1995 where he sounded pretty mild, with no tour de force
critique involved. He later wrote 2 columns 4 years after this
debacle where he claimed to supposedly care about Hal's situation,
but spoiled everything after he parroted a line once uttered by DC
editors that Hal was "less imaginative" than Kyle Rayner! I
shouldn't have to tell anyone how laughable it is to say a fictional
character is at fault for a claim that's flimsy at best.
And now that I think of it, his commentary on health care (and
Kosovo) at the time of the Clinton administration is fishy. If
Clinton tried to run any policies similar to what Obama’s been doing
on health care services, and Smith is implying that it was positive,
then that’s very sad.
Even today, Hal Jordan is still being messed up in more than one
way, what with all the bloody violence taking place in the mainstay
book that’s supposed to star him, but has recently made way for
Sinestro, of all people, and even been
exploited for introducing a Muslim adherent with no honesty
offered about the Religion of Peace. I’d rather not get into
too many more details at this point, but leave it for later. I will
say for now though that Smith’s failure to criticize Johns’
most repellently violent stories in Green Lantern is serious
reason to doubt his sincerity in the above conversation. (And if
he’d ever once been critical of Johns in the early 2000s, it’s
changed considerably since.)
Next item is from August 1999, about Peter David:
There sure have been a lot of dismissals from popular
titles lately -- Peter David from the Hulk and Aquaman, Erik
Larsen from Aquaman, John Byrne from the Hulk, Mark Waid from
Captain America, etc. What in the name of J. Jonah Jameson is
going on? Are these writers in possession of poor work habits or
attitudes or is it more sinisterly, Editors with Egos the size
of Major League Baseball Owners? What's the scoop?
The best response is "creative differences." In Peter David's
case, Marvel management wanted to go back to the "dumb" Hulk, and
David didn't want to erase the 10 years of characterization he'd
put in on the book, so he opted not to continue. Larsen and DC
management didn't see eye to eye; he has been quoted extensively
in the fan press about how they kept changing his stories, making
arbitrary and peculiar demands, etc. Byrne has kept a closed mouth
about his dismissal; no doubt his "Hulk" also met with editorial
disappointment. And Waid has also stated that there were editorial
differences, and he couldn't write Cap the way they wanted. And,
like David, rather than write a character he loved in a way he
found false, he didn't want to write it at all. There may be more
to that story -- there's a lot of speculation in the fan press
that Waid and Busiek (who also recently quit Iron Man and
Thunderbolts) may be starting up their own creator-owned "shop"
called Gorilla Comics. At any rate, it appears that in almost all
the cases you mentioned, the creators felt ham-strung by editorial
fiat, and the editors felt the creators weren't producing the
product asked for.
Unfortunately, in the case of Peter David,
something has been terribly left out – his termination of Betty
Banner, from radiation poisoning that seemingly came from Bruce
Banner, but turned out to be the Abomination’s work. (This may have
been reversed at long last recently - and even Glenn Talbot’s death
was! - but for now, the work of the past remains the main concern.)
David may have been suffering from personal problems at the time (I
can’t remember clearly if it was a divorce), and killing Betty may
have been a way of taking out his anger over his personal problems.
But he was abusing established characters for this very thing, and
you certainly aren’t going to solve anything by taking out your
anger on fictional characters you didn’t create yourself and
violating Mark Gruenwald’s famous argument that every character is
someone’s favorite. Some way to end his impressive 11-year run on
the book, by capping it with a dismaying death. Yet that doesn’t get
any mention. For a writer who didn’t want to write the Hulk in a way
that he found false, it’s really dumbfounding he would strike such a
false note himself on his way out. Kind of brings to mind
Spider-Man’s execrable One More Day!
Another problem here though, is that Mr. Smith seems to draw a moral
equation between writers and editors, and what both sides wanted or
not. Whose side is he on anyway? I guess he just didn’t have the
courage to decide which to take. And still another problem is that
some of the writers mentioned here have gone way downhill since.
Next is an item about religion that first appeared on December 2,
1999, and also appeared in a Scripps-Howard column on January 20,
Q: What religion are Batman and Superman?
A: It's never been firmly established, [name withheld], no doubt
deliberately to avoid offending any segment of DC's audience.
Which means we have to examine the facts and draw our own
For openers, I'd say both are -- at the very least -- deists.
After all, they hang out with Zauriel (an actual angel) in the
Justice League and have met The Spectre (the Wrath of God). And
they've both battled demons (Etrigan, Neron) and visited Hell (the
recent Day of Judgment) so I think we find ourselves pretty much
in Judeo-Christian territory.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Superman is a
Protestant (what denomination I don't know, but I'd guess
Methodist). His creators -- ironically, two Jewish kids from urban
Cleveland -- were shooting for the ultimate corn-fed WASP and had
young Clark Kent grow up in rural Kansas. If parental units Martha
and Jonathan Kent had been anything BUT Protestant in that
environment, we'd have heard about it by now. And Superman's a big
believer in personal responsibility and encouraging morality by
quiet example -- both of which are strong tenets of Protestantism.
Batman is a little more problematic. While he might like to
believe in an Old Testament god of vengeance, he is far too
ultra-rational to entertain notions he would doubtless consider
superstition. His is a very concrete world, and I feel it unlikely
that he practices any religion as an adult.
But how was he raised? Well, let's see: His parents were rich and
moved freely in the upper stratosphere of East Coast society in
the 1940s -- that means probably Christian. And Batman is
motivated in part by survival guilt -- so I'm leaning toward
Catholicism, where mea culpa is taught from an early age.
Of course, that's pure supposition -- Bruce Wayne might easily
have been reared Episcopalian or Lutheran. But I really enjoy the
juxtaposition of Batman and Superman having the
Catholic/Protestant divide to go along with their whole night vs.
day, human vs. alien, grim vs. cheerful schtick. After all, they
can't agree on anything else, so why should they go to the same
Such big talk about responsibility and
morality from somebody who doesn't follow those virtues himself. If
he did, he would never have supported sick, disgusting books like
Identity Crisis in 2004 or been so dishonest about them. Now, how
about this one from December 15, 1999, about Melissa Joan Hart, who
starred in the sitcom based on Archie’s Sabrina the Teenage
Witch in the mid 90s:
Q: Are the rumors of Melissa Joan Hart true? She
is/was my favorite actress but hearing that she came to
interviews wearing skimpy clothes and talking sex & drugs is
not a good influence on younger kids who look up to her. Well,
just trying to get the facts! ... Please e-mail me if you know
why she is doing such things.
A: Yup, Melissa did sexy photo spreads in Maxim and Bikini
magazine. They weren't tasteless or nude -- we're not talking
Playboy here -- but they were typically sexy shots in skimpy
clothes designed to, eh, arouse the interest of men. Her interview
referenced drinking games associated with various TV shows, and
made it apparent she was no stranger to sex.
I don't want to alarm you, because you'll see worse in any given
issue of Cosmo. But the publisher of Archie Comics, who owns the
copyright and trademark to Sabrina and leases it to ABC for the
show, was strongly concerned that the spreads would sully the
Sabrina franchise. If it had been any other actress, it wouldn't
have raised an eyebrow. I see the man's point, though -- Hart is
strongly associated with the Sabrina character. And it leaves a
bad taste in my mouth, too --there are far too few role models on
TV and in movies, and Hart's actions let us all down in that
Which I doubt was a concern. It's become clear that the photo
shoot was a calculated move by Hart and her manager/mother to
distance her from squeaky-clean roles and open up career
possibilities. Witness her turn last week on That Seventies Show
as a seductress in a hot tub. To be fair to Hart, she is now in
her twenties and forever being associated with teen-age roles
would be a career-ender.
And the Archie company’s descent
into “diversity pandering” come 2011 is bound to be a business
ender! Besides, I’ve been doubting that even then, he really meant
what he said, especially if he still upholds Identity Crisis as a
“classic”. And honestly, I can’t say Hart’s turn to those kind of
photo shoots bothers me if they’re in magazines with better taste
than the average issue of a monstrosity like Hustler.
And what’s said here back in January 6, 2000, about movies:
Q: Got a movie question for you, though your answer
will have to be more speculation than fact I'm sure. What does
Marvel have against the live-action incarnations of their
characters looking like the comic-book incarnations? DC does it
and does it well. Superman, Supergirl, Wonder Woman and Batman
have all been done live action and have looked the way they
should. You saw Chris Reeves in his blue tights and you knew
instantly that he was Superman. Ditto for Supergirl, Wonder
Woman and Batman. Even that prime-time comedy DC did starring a
live-action Justice League many years back gave us instantly
recognizable characters. Now, look at the crap Marvel's dumped
Oh, their Spider-Man and Captain American live-action
versions were OK, but does anybody remember their live-action
incarnations of Thor and Daredevil back in those live-action,
made-for-TV Hulk movies? "Sucked" is too weak a description for
them. And The Punisher! How hard would it have been to give
Dolph Lundgren a shirt with a skull logo on it? I won't even
torture you with that horrible live-action Dr. Strange. Now,
they're about to do it again. Rumors, if you trust them, have it
that the costumes in the X-Men movie are nothing like the ones
in the book. What's Marvel's deal? Never has Cyclops or Jean
Grey worn black leather, so why is that the proposed costume for
them in the movie? I hope they at least remember to put X's on
them. And that Magneto outfit. Ugh. Why is it so hard to take a
comic costume and make it real? When making a superhero movie,
if the character on screen looks like the one in the books, your
battle's half won. Fans will be so happy to see their favorite
hero become reality that even if the movie sucks (read: SPAWN)
we'll still enjoy it for the visuals. Give us some lame version
we can't recognize and we're instantly turned off and it's an
uphill struggle from there to get us to enjoy the movie.
Before anyone says costumes don't translate well to real
life, let me reiterate four names: Superman, Batman, Supergirl
and Wonder Woman. Their real-life incarnations exactly mirrored
their comic-book counter parts, so it can be done. So, why does
Marvel not do it? Just curious, because I see myself sitting in
the X-Men movie saying again and again "Who the heck is that
supposed to be"?
A: My pet theory about the problems Marvel has with its movies can
all boil down to a single unalterable fact: DC has the vast
resources and corporate interest of media conglomerate Time Warner
behind its movie efforts and so have greater control over the
product. Marvel, on the other hand, sells its rights to the
highest bidder, then sits back with its fingers crossed. Without
fail, whoever gets the rights grabs some hired-gun director who
wishes he was doing The Magnificent Ambersons instead of some
silly comic-book movie and and has nothing but contempt for the
subject matter. For example, the guy who did the Captain America
movie was quoted as saying that he was deliberately limiting the
amount of time Steve Rogers would be in costume (to about six
minutes overall, I think) because "nobody wants to see a grown man
in a costume." Brilliant.
I have sympathy for the difficulty of, say, making Wolverine's
"ears" stand up. But as the movies you mentioned prove, you CAN do
it if you try hard enough. Doesn't sound like Singer & Co. are
really interested in trying very hard. They'd just as soon do a
heartwarming love story or a coming-of-age story or some other
familiar genre. "Costumes? The heck with that!"
Costumes as we know them may translate to
live action well enough, but that’s as far as it goes – what about
the lousy screenplays that accompanied all those fancy suits? Or
even the miscastings? Frankly, I don’t think any of the four
initial Batman movies were done right – definitely not the latter
two – and the man who brought them down to embarrassing affairs was
none other than the overrated Joel Schumacher. And while the
Christopher Nolan Batman movies are much better done, with the third
taking an approach to the focus on Bane that makes his MO look
similar to the anarchy committed by Occupy Wall Street, none of the
other adaptations of DC products made to date have been successful.
There was the
Catwoman movie, for example, and even Superman
Returns, which featured an embarrassing depiction of Supes as
a beta-male plus single parenthood messages. And what good is the
movie’s resolution if we don’t even know whether the father of Lois
Lane’s child is Superman or another boyfriend of hers? Another
serious detractor was how Perry White’s line of “truth, justice and
the American Way” was deliberately replaced with “truth, justice,
all that stuff?”
Since that time, most filmmakers who produced movies based on Marvel
products have long ceased to have any serious problems with colorful
costumes, the X-Men’s dulling of the clothes notwithstanding, and
DC’s troubles still prevail with bad scripting in departments other
than the wardrobe, as the Green
Lantern movie’s failure can attest.
Here’s a little something from January 13, 2000:
Q: Do you know why Byrne left the Avengers and
Avengers West Coast in early 1990? It seemed an abrupt exit
since he didn't have time to finish some of his storylines.
Also, do you know why Stern left Amazing Spider-Man? His
departure seemed abrupt as well. Years later, in '96, he wrote
Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives to finally but his end to the
storylines that were finished by other writers.
A: Well, [redacted], the answer is -- well, I haven't the
slightest idea. So let's turn it over to fandom in general, and
see if anybody out there can "Help the Captain!"
Oh, I’ll help out alright, you can be sure
of that. By stating that while Byrne’s run on the mainstay Avengers
was decent enough, his run on AWC was a disaster, with Scarlet Witch
turned into a short-cropped wicked mage, yet otherwise ineffective
in combat, after Byrne “revealed” that her children with the Vision
were just magical constructs, and this drives her to madness,
rejoining her father Magneto along with her twin brother Quicksilver
who’d also descended back into villainy. I recall one part of that
story where she scratched a paralyzed Wonder Man on the chest,
possibly drawing blood. Yet she was otherwise ineffective in combat,
as was certainly the case with the Wasp. As for Stern, he sadly left
Spider-Man because – get this – he didn’t like that Peter Parker and
Mary Jane Watson would marry! Mountains out of molehills, I’d say.
Then, I can see his bizarre bias forming in the following from
February 17, 2000:
Q: What are your opinions of the following comic-book
characters: DC Comics' Black Lightning; Marvel Comics' Storm
(Ororo Munroe) and The Falcon; DC Comics' Tyroc; Marvel Comics'
Moses Magnum; and DC Comics' The Vixen.
A: Black Lightning: I was ambivalent to his original '70s
incarnation -- he just seemed another guy in Spandex -- and I
thought his joining the Outsiders was completely antithetical to
the stated motivation of the character. (You can't fight crime in
the streets of Brick City if you're in Markovia all the time.) But
his recent incarnations, particularly the recent Isabella/Newell
series, have been outstanding. The murkier urban world he now
inhabits has more verisimilitude, more gravitas and more dramatic
potential. And it's really nice to see an urban hero who isn't as
repulsive and brutal as the bad guys. The contrast of his personal
integrity and character to his bleak surroundings is a breath of
fresh air. I'd be pleased to see a regular series.
Storm: I've always been a big Storm fan, although Chris Claremont
should be hung for stealing Modesty Blaise's origin for her. (By
damn, she deserves her OWN!)
The Falcon: He really seemed to be a token in the '70s, but, like
Black Lightning, seems to have grown into his own. I hope the
"Snap Wilson" origin is gone forever, though -- another really bad
Tyroc: Look up "token" in the Encyclopedia Galactica, and there's
Moses Magnum: A really lame villain when first introduced, but
getting better. Kurt Busiek actually gave him a little pathos
recently in Avengers.
The Vixen: Lost in the shuffle in Suicide Squad for the most part.
Nothing terribly original about the character, but a great visual.
She made a cameo in JLA recently, so maybe they'll do more with
her in future.
Now what do I take issue with here:
Smith’s intellect-insulting answer on Black Lightning, whom I
consider impressive since the beginning because he was a hero of
African-American descent who gained his own role, unlike say, the
new Firestorm Jason Rusch from around 2004, who was put into Ronnie
Raymond’s role all for the sake of “diversity” at all costs, while
Ronnie was slain in Identity Crisis. And what’s this about being in
Markovia “all the time”? Because they weren’t there all the
time, and by Smith’s dumb logic, I guess Batman, Green Arrow and
Black Canary shouldn’t leave Star City and Gotham City ever in their
lifetimes (or so long as DC Comics publishes stories like theirs).
Gee, what’s the point of a Justice League then? The reason Jeff
Pierce joined the Outsiders is because Batman, desperately in need
of help in rescuing one of Wayne Enterprises’ business managers,
Lucius Fox, after he was taken hostage by Baron Bedlam in Markovia,
turned to Jeff for help, and when the official team was formed, we
can say it suited Jeff a lot more than the Justice League, probably
because they didn’t see themselves as being held hostage to
political correctness like the League unfortunately was!
And Falcon was hardly a “token” when he co-starred in Captain
America in the mid-70s, so I don’t see where he gets off making that
claim either. I also don’t see why he would consider Vixen not so
original when she was the first African-American superheroine in the
DCU. All I can see here are traces of a man with a wretched bias in
all the wrong places. A problem that turned up on February 24, 2000
Whatever happened to the team members of Batman &
The Outsiders? I know that Metamorpho is dead but I have no
knowledge of the fate of the other Outsiders.
Oy vey! You would ask me that! Outsiders was one of those books
that aroused so little interest on my part that I could barely
read it even when it was free. Consequently, I have only vague
memories of how the characters ended up. But I'll give it a try
(and assume that other readers will chime in with more current
information where I'm off).
Black Lightning is busy fighting crime on the mean streets of
"Brick City" -- according to his recent (1995-96) series -- which
creator Tony Isabella has helpfully informed us in a recent Comics
Buyer's Guide is actually in Cleveland, Ohio. BL recently appeared
in a single panel of Day of Judgment No. 4, helping The Outsiders
Looker, the last I remember, was turned into a vampire and became
Queen of the Underworld (an underground vampire civilization). I
think it was in the Batman & The Outsiders/New Teen Titans
crossover, but I could be wrong. My colleague Chuck Miller of the
Mobile Register remembers an appearance in Detective Comics in the
last 10 years, but a book-by-book search failed to turn her up.
Katana was a major player on Batman's team during Day of Judgment,
and referred to her katana as a "soulsword" which was particularly
effective dispatching demons.
Geo-Force is the King of Markovia -- or what's left of it, after
the Millennium Giants trashed it in that mega-Superman crossover.
He also appeared in that single panel in Day of Judgment No. 4.
Metamorpho died in JLA No. 1.
Faust, the son of Felix Faust, first appeared in (and joined) The
Outsiders, later appeared with (and joined) Primal Force and last
appeared in Day of Judgment Secret Files where he joined the
"Sentinels of Magic," an ad-hoc group of mystic defenders that
includes Alan (Sentinel) Scott, Blue Devil, Zatanna, Dr. Fate,
Phantom Stranger, Madame Xanadu, Ragman and Dr. Occult. I have to
snidely note here, as one wag put it, that Faust is always
described as "a loner" despite having joined a different team in
his every appearance.
Halo and Terra II appeared in the background in that overworked
DOJ No. 4 panel, fighting demons in Markovia.
Of the lesser members, Wylde became a bear permanently, Eradicator
was recently featured in the "Metropolis 2000" and I don't recall
Technocrat or Windfall appearing anywhere since Outsiders was
And just why wasn’t he interested, I
wonder? Because it depicted a small team of crimefighters trying to
do the right thing while operating on the outskirts of the law for
the right reasons, and save a country in danger from the clutches of
evil? Specifically, they were on a mission for starters to both
rescue Lucius Fox and save the rest of Markovia from the evil Baron
Bedlam, a neo-nazi type villain who’d taken over Markovia and was
planning to destroy the royal family of prince Brion Markov, alias
Geo-Force. Fortunately, all turned out well in the end, and the
Outsiders, a name Metamorpho thought up by coincidence, went on to
work on more cases where they could be vigilantes working without
the kind of obstacles the JLA either faced, or didn’t have the
courage to. Gee, I guess Mr. Smith wasn’t so eager to see the Soviet
Union (or even the Berlin Wall) collapse, and probably isn’t worried
about its looming rise again in different form under the premiership
of Vladimir Putin!
And he’s wrong about the time when Looker became a vampire – this
happened during the 1993-95 run of the Outsiders, and I think she
was saved from that state eventually. What a shame that Katana and
Faust had to be exploited for the sake of Geoff Johns’ awful Day of
Judgement miniseries, BTW.
Q: Correct me if I'm wrong, Cap, but didn't He-Man
(Masters of the Universe) make his first appearance in a
A: Yes and no, [redacted]. What you're thinking of was the "Free
16-Page Insert" in Superman 377 (Nov., 1982). That preview
featured He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but they didn't
interact with the Man of Steel (who was quite busy with
Terra-Man), and graduated to their own three-issue Masters of the
Universe miniseries the very next month. The MOTU then gravitated
to Western Publishing in 1984, and were picked up by Marvel's Star
Comics line with issue No. 7 of that series, which lasted until
issue 12 (1988).
Yes and no indeed! This guy’s got no real
grip on history at all! He forgot to mention that MOTU made at least
one guest appearance in DC Comics Presents #47, also
published in 1982-83, and appeared alongside the Man of Steel there.
Poor fellow, he just doesn’t do his homework, or he’s plain
forgetful. And, he’s as clownish as Skeletor and his band of
Next, from March 2, 2000:
While I'm thinking about it, what happened to three
of DC's longest-running series -- Adventure, World's Finest and
The Brave and the Bold? I think it's a shame to lose three
titles running several hundred issues each.
Yup, but low sales killed 'em all. Anthologies as a rule don't
Well they did at one time! It was by the
mid-80s that they finally began to wane, and one of the last ones at
the time was the Secret Origins anthology that Roy Thomas
contributed to, including another reworking of the Black Canary’s
background, since what he’d thought of in Justice League of America
219-220 just didn’t seem right.
Anthologies today certainly don’t deliver, thanks mainly to Dan
DiDio’s wrecking crew. And Mr. Smith doesn’t deliver very well
either, if he can’t make a clearer distinction between how
anthologies sold in the past and present.
Isn't Blackhawk an American? I mean, I only treasure
good Silver Age and '70s comics, but the retcon Polish Blackhawk
sounds like the result of an editorial agenda to me, instead of
the story of an American fighting with the oppressed against
Germany as pilots.
I don't recall a time when it was stated that Blackhawk was
American, but it was always ASSUMED that he was. Recent series
have established that his name is Janos Prohaska and he is Polish.
I haven't any problem with that, editorial agenda or not, as it
makes sense. The Blackhawks were supposed to be a band of pilots
from Axis-conquered countries who created their own air force
since their own had been destroyed. As such, it made little sense
to have any Americans on the squad, much less two (Chuck was an
American). Since Poland was the first European country conquered
by the Axis (the Japs were already in Manchuria and China, and the
Italians in Ethiopia in 1939), it makes perfect story sense that
the first two Blackhawks -- "Blackhawk" and Stanislaus -- would be
Polish. The others were Chop Chop (Chinese), Andre (French),
Hendricksen (Dutch) and Olaf (Swedish) -- all from conquered
countries. (Actually, it would have made more sense for Olaf to be
Norse, since the Nazis occupied Norway but not Sweden. But Sweden,
despite its official neutrality, was pretty bullied and controlled
by the Nazis, so I guess I won't let it bug me.)
I thought to include this intriguing
historical note because it alludes to something I’ve thought could
make the medium work even better today, if “diversity” is really,
truly that important to them: make the heroes/supporting cast
members Armenian, Bulgarian, Ghanian, Burmese, Serbian, Danish,
Portuguese, Arabs (and Maronites) of Christian and other non-Muslim
backgrounds, Copts from Egypt, Jews from North African countries,
stuff like that. These are precisely the kind of “diverse”
backgrounds that I’ve never seen seriously put to use in mainstream
comics, and despite what Mr. Smith brings up here…I’ve got a sad
feeling even he isn’t interested.
Now, look what he says about one of two different series on March 9,
[…] I was just wondering what you think about two of
my favorite comics: Mutant X and The Tick.
I was prepared to loath Mutant X, as it was yet ANOTHER "alternate
X-Men" story. After "Days of Future Past," "Age of Apocalypse,"
"Ages of Apocalypse," ad nauseum, I didn't think my poor brain
could handle another one. But it has turned out to be pretty good
-- probably because it's open-ended, so it's not COMPLETELY
depressing like all the others.
As to The Tick, I can't say I'm a BIG fan, but I like it OK
Well, I can’t argue about the Tick, but I
will argue about Mutant X: I’d say it was just another worthless
over-expansion of the X-Franchise, and shouldn’t have been
greenlighted in the first place. And Alex Summers deserved much
better too. The Mutant X series may not have been as depressing as
most other X-books became by that time, but it was still depressing
enough nevertheless. So he’s merely being lenient with that
time-wasting series. On the other hand, he’s obscuring the writers
who are at fault for a character’s personality – or at least his
perceptions along those lines – in the March 16, 2000 entry he did:
What do you think of Quicksilver? He's become my
favorite Marvel Comics character. He's been tangled with the
Fantastic Four, Avengers and X-Men. He seems to have his busy
nose in everybody's business. And his canceled series actually
read like a nice extended miniseries. Like that 12-issue
Vision/Scarlet Witch series in the '80s. I also thought he
should be an official X-Man. He's worked closely with them, was
a member in the "Age of Apocalypse" and would be a great member
considering who his daddy is. So what do you think?
Quicksilver has been offered slots in the X-Men numerous times,
going back officially at least to Uncanny X-Men 43 in the '60s --
and unofficially as far back as issue 3. He always turns 'em down,
so Marvel must not like the idea.
As to what I think of Quicksilver -- well, my opinion was formed
when he was in Avengers in the '60s, and he was pretty obnoxious.
Come to think of it, he's still pretty obnoxious! But if he's your
fave, more power to you!
Why thank you! Because he is my favorite
character too, and I recognize – and certainly try to – that the
writer is at fault for any characterization you consider poor, not
the character himself. Put another way, while I have a lot of
respect for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, I still realize that if Pietro
Maximoff was a hothead, it’s because they characterized him that
way; he doesn’t exist in real life, so he couldn’t form his own
personalities! What an idiot. I suppose he’s just too afraid to
criticize Stan and Jack because he thinks it’ll imply he’s not a
fan. Nonsense. There’s plenty of writers who’ve had their share of
screw-ups in all mediums, yet kept their great reputations all the
same. This is just the icing on the cake of how Mr. Smith’s got a
problem of attacking other people’s creations instead of writing an
unambiguous argument on how the writing was sloppy, if he feels that
was the case.
Q: 1) Why did the DC staff feel the need to negate
Gardner Fox's superior work?
2) Whatever happened to Mars II?
3) Add Cyclops to the (silly) costumes section. What are
in all those pouches seen in X-Men 1? What's with the extra
strap? Didn't the cowled costume have enough functionality?
4) Nightwing, as much as I like the name and costume, is
guilty of similar crimes. In fact, if you put Troia in the evil
box, stick Nightwing in too. What is a Night wing? It's a name
with similar connotations as Batman, only sleeker and younger.
Like Troia is to Wonder Woman. Troia's name is like Nightwing in
that respect. Too old to be sidekick, too young to take up the
A: 1) I assume you're referring to Crisis, or Zero Hour or
possibly JLA: Earth 2? If so, then the reason for all the
retconning is that 1) DC decided that the multiple-Earths scenario
was too confusing for new readers, and 2) a lot of it doesn't hold
up. Take for example "Crisis on Earth-Three!" that introduced the
Crime Syndicate of America in Justice League of America 29. The
actual storyline is full of eye-rolling coincidence and laughable
motivation, and Ultraman was completely unworkable -- he gained a
NEW superpower with every exposure to kryptonite. The Crime
Syndicate wasn't even very evil -- they basically indulged in bank
robberies and thrill crimes. Criminals, yes, but hardly the
frightening, more "realistic" villains of JLA: Earth 2.
Don't get me wrong -- Gardner Fox was a master comics writer for
his time. But 30 years later the audiences are different, and
demand different kinds of stories. Fox's don't hold up very well.
2) If you're referring to the proposed sequel to Marc Hempel and
Mark Wheatley's 12-issue First Comics series Mars, there was no
Mars II because First Comics went out of business.
3) I agree with you that the straps and pouches are silly -- but
they are so ubiquitous now, I can't isolate one guy for the Silly
The blue/black-and-yellow Cyclops outfit introduced in Uncanny
X-Men 41 was a classic -- particularly as rendered by Neal Adams,
and currently by John Byrne in X-Men: The Hidden Years. But, as
[name removed] mentions in the Silly Super-Togs section, Cable's
success in the late '80s made superfluous straps and pouches
almost a requirement for all costumes. Even the Legion of
Super-Heroes fell prey to the trend for a while. (That's a lot of
straps and pouches!) I try to think of them as utility belts full
of communication gear and survival rations and stuff, and forge on
4) I actually covered the origin of Nightwing's name in the
Q&A section a few years back -- it has a long, storied history
at DC. Originally, Nightwing and Flamebird were Superman and Jimmy
Olsen playing "Batman and Robin" in the Bottle City of Kandor,
back when it was full of Kryptonians in the '60s. Later, a
Kryptonian scientist named Van-Zee -- who just happened to be a
dead ringer for Supes -- and his lab partner picked up the roles,
and even had a short-run series in Superman Family. A Teen Titans
story established that Dick Grayson adopted the name to honor the
two men who'd influenced his life the most -- Superman and Batman.
Post-Crisis there were no Kryptonians in Kandor, so there have
been several flashback stories to establish that when Dick adopted
the Nightwing identity, it was due to Superman telling him of two
heroes from Krypton's past named Nightwing and Flamebird. (In case
you're wondering, nightwings and flamebirds were some sort of
avian creatures on Krypton.) There you have it -- a Nightwing is a
Excuse me? Just who does he think he is
saying that Fox’s stories don’t hold up? As products of the time,
they certainly do, and in that context make for perfect pastime. I
can understand why today a more sophisticated approach is
appreciated, but that does not make Fox’s approach any less worthy
than say, how the Mod Squad didn’t usually pack pistols in the
1968-73 TV series broadcast on ABC. As for Mars II, no comment.
On the other hand, Cable in his current form only began in the early
90s, not the late 80s, as he states, and what made his costume
dreadful was actually all that bulky stuff including all those
excess guns, not just merely the straps and pouches. As for the
Nightwing stuff, that should make for good historical reference. And
as for his take on pricing from March 30, 2000:
Q: What's your opinion on DC's Comics price hikes?
A: I think it was inevitable. The price of EVERYTHING goes up
sooner or later, and comics are no exception. I expected it --
Marvel went up this month, and historically DC has followed every
Marvel increase within a month or two.
Well it wouldn’t have gone up so much –
four dollars for some items last time I looked – if they actually
wanted to do better writing and not make their superhero line so
jaw-droppingly insular as they’ve done lately with an obvious
romance between Superman and Wonder Woman. If they’d actually made
an effort to keep selling in the bookstores and reformatted from
pamphlets to something more effective like paperbacks, they’d be
doing a lot better there too.
Next, here’s something more TV related, from April 6, 2000:
Finally, I hope you or perhaps one of your loyal
readers can help me with this one, or point me toward a web site
with the answer. I realize this isn't a comics question, but you
always seem to know the answers (or know someone who does). I
read recently of the death of actor John Colicos, whose
best-known roles were in a single episode of the original Star
Trek series and, of course, a recurring role as Baltar in
Battlestar Galactica. The TV series Battlestar Galactica began
on ABC-TV in 1978, and I remember I never missed an episode. At
least I didn't until I joined the Navy a few months after the
show premiered and I was shipped overseas. I never have found
out what happened to the group of humans who always managed to
stay one step ahead of the Cylons on their heels. I've seen
repeats on the Sci-Fi Channel, but HOW DID IT END? Did the
humans find Earth, or did they settle on some planet they found
along the way? Did they ever defeat the Cylons? And for good
measure, was a comic ever published using the Galactica's
characters? I've wondered for years how it ended, and Colicos's
death has brought the question to mind once more.
Battlestar Galactica hasn't ended at all! There was a short-lived
Galactica: 1980 series that depicted the ragtag fleet finding
Earth -- which, to their disappointment, wasn't technologically
advanced enough to help them. There have also been five telemovies
adapted from two-parters aired in the original series.
But both Glen Larson, who owns the rights, and Richard Hatch, who
played Capt. Apollo, have been trying to get a sequel on the air
for years. Hatch produced a trailer that aired at last summer's
conventions, and Larson has been quoted in recent months as
wanting to do a big-budget Galactica movie.
About that 1980 “revival”: it was widely
panned, mostly because it trivialized the Holocaust in a time travel
story, and didn’t exactly do many favors for the 1978-79 series
either (if they’re humans from a futuristic society yet this is the
present, how does that make much sense?). That said, as of today, my
facination with sci-fi and fantasy in live action films and TV is
very limited compared to my interest in the genres in other mediums,
so I guess I can’t even care enough about Galactica to get angry.
The series was remade a few years after this conversation was
written and managed to make more of an impression the second time
around, even without Lorne Greene as Adama to helm the starship,
running for at least 4 seasons and even spun off a short-lived
prequel called Caprica. But, that kind of sci-fi just isn’t my thing
today. Next, here’s another dialogue from the same week, though I’m
only going to include parts:
What is your thoughts about the following comics
creators and industry folk: Warren Ellis; Grant Morrison; Kurt
Busiek; Todd McFarlane; Rob Liefeld; Frank Miller; Alan Moore;
Warren Ellis: His commentaries can be a little grating, and his
work sometimes downright repulsive (Strange Kiss). But he (and to
some degree, the rest of the so-called "British Invasion") are
adding a jolt of electricity to the Frankenstein monster that is
the American comics industry. Planetary and The Authority are
riveting, and have jump-started the ongoing maturation of
action/adventure books. I read everything he writes. Send up the
kites! It's alive! It's alive!
Sorry, but this one flubs because Ellis,
even at that time, had written negative takes on America in books
like those, and in a book called Global Frequency that he wrote the
following years, he even extended his hostilities to Israel. Michael
Medved may not be perfect at everything, but thank goodness he
spoke about this in 2003. Send down the tomatoes, I say!
Grant Morrison: There are those Brits again! I enjoyed
Doom Patrol (until it devolved into incoherence, which I think was
under another writer), but I found Invisibles and Animal Man too
self-referential and smug. However, his JLA is outstanding -- as
close to Authority as it can get and still be a DCU comic book.
From deconstructing and rethinking the concept of the superhero to
clever dialogue and personal interaction, it's the best team book
on the stands. OK, he's a little weak on plotting, but I can
Not me! Not anymore anyway, because of how
increasingly tasteless Morrison’s work has become, notably in New
X-Men for starters, but there’s more. Even before that
embarrassment, curiously enough, he inserted a conversation between
Batman and the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern in JLA where the Masked
Manhunter told him he likes him better than Hal Jordan because
unlike the Silver Age hero, Kyle knows the meaning of fear. And I
guess that means Batman should be a coward? He wouldn’t be Batman if
he were. All Morrison did there was tell all we need to know about
where he could stand on Hal’s case, and suggests he wasn’t
particularly bothered about Hal going to heel in Emerald
Twilight/Zero Hour in 1994.
Todd McFarlane: His artwork betrays a basic lack of
understanding of anatomy, design and perspective, disguised by a
lot of scritchy-scratchy over-rendering. His writing appears to me
amateurish at best. Spawn is a terrible idea, given life only by
circumstance (the '92 speculator boom) and given legs by the
collector mentality. I shun his work as I would a pustulent sore.
I don’t think Spawn is worth anything
either, but in fairness to McFarlane, I will say that when he began
his art career in the early 80s, he did turn out some pretty good –
if not perfect – illustrations. And his takes on anatomy at the time
were competent too. Even J. Scott Campbell’s art, while an acquired
taste for some, is sufficiently competent without looking repellant
like the work of another artist who can be read about below:
Rob Liefeld: I find his concepts and artwork derivative
to the point of being devoid of originality; a relentless parade
of swipes from recognizeable sources.
Gee, that’s putting it lightly. Sure, his
art is derivative to the point of potentially trace-drawing off of
other artists’ efforts, but that doesn’t even begin to describe
Liefeld. His takes on the anatomy are revolting, sloppy, and
sometimes even downright creepy! Worst, they give new meaning to the
term “wooden”, because the facial expressions look stiff as a board.
Gary Groth: Huge vocabulary, churlish attitude. His
tirades in The Comics Journal are self-righteous, pompous,
self-important, intellectually dishonest and as irritating and
repetitive as a scratch on a record. I react violently to his
assumptions and conclusions from my brain stem.
Some of his descriptions of Groth from
back in the day would make a perfect mirror for Mr. Smith look at
himself in, and see how he’s really no different. Alas, he’s so
self-indulgent in his own way that we just can’t expect him to wake
up and smell the coffee.
Do you think Marvel will realize that cutting a title
off before it has a chance to gain a following is every bit as
detrimental to our lil' hobby's health as it is to flood the
market with gimmicks and variants?
I have to defend Marvel here -- it's not the editors and
executives pulling the trigger on axed titles necessarily, it's
the bankers. Marvel is being micromanaged by the holders of their
debt: Faceless, soulless beancounters who work for large financial
institutions who couldn't care less if the entire industry went
belly up as long as they got their interest payments. Ugly, but
I’m not sure I can go along with this – at
least not if he’s willing to overlook their continuing obsession
with variant covers. If a series does well overall, then it should
be kept going as it’ll make money for those pesky bankers. If not,
then their discontinuation is understandable. I’m not defending
Marvel on this one.
Betty or Veronica, Gwen or Mary Jane, Lois or Lana
... and why?
Why, Betty, of course; Veronica is a selfish, vain, cruel
rhymes-with-witch. Betty is sweet, loyal and just as sexy. Maybe
moreso, since she'd be eager to please, if you get my drift. I got
over my attraction to "bad" girls a long time ago.
I also have to go with Gwen, but I feel less strongly about it.
Frankly, Gwen had zero personality. But MJ has been flighty and
thoughtless -- particularly during the Gerry Conway days -- and
Gwen has never been anything but sweet and loyal. The absence of
bad news give her the edge.
As for LL girls, I'd have to go with Lana. Lois has been portrayed
in recent years as a help, not a hindrance, to the Man o' Steel
for the first time in her 62-year history. But for decades the
reverse was true. Her bullheadedness and enormous ego make her
less attractive to me than self-effacing, staunch, down-to-earth
So I like sweet girls. What can I say? I've discovered that
self-absorbed women are lousy in bed. (So you can probably guess
how I'd vote in the Mary Ann/Ginger contest, as well.)
So Veronica is selfish and self-absorbed?
Well gee, isn’t that the writers’ fault, and the editors? I do think
there’s something awfully screwed up if she can be one of the leads
despite this kind of persona, but in any case, if that’s the kind of
persona they’ve ascribed and you don’t like it, don’t blame her!
Blame the writers.
Zero persona for Gwen? And whose fault is that? Much as I admire
Stan Lee, if he fouled up in developing her personality, then the
blame must be laid at his feet. And while I won’t say killing Gwen
off was bad so long as they avoided going for revolting shock value
like today’s writers do, I do think that Conway technically failed
at creativity, and John Romita, who was one of his editors at the
time along with Roy Thomas, failed to help him develop better skills
in knowing how work on the role a girlfriend plays in a hero’s life.
Or, they went the easy route and took the audience for granted,
assuming they’d be quite fine with terminating Gwen’s life. Author
Sean Howe told in his book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story that when
Stan Lee went to a convention at a university, he got yelled at, yet
was unwilling to admit to failure on his part, claiming the story
must’ve been done “while I was out of town”, and leaving
Conway to be the fall guy.
And regarding Lois, she came of age by the time the Bronze Age came
into effect, but in any case, I am quite tired of hearing his
mentally adolescent view of fictional characters drone on.
Is the market missing out by not publishing comics on
current TV shows (a la Dell & Gold Key), like Dawson's
Creek, Third Rock from The Sun and any others that might be
appropriate comic-book material and/or draw in a fresh, young
Of course I do. I wouldn't allow Marvel or DC to get near them,
though, as they always try to turn TV-show books into superhero
books and they just stink. I'd let Oni or Dark Horse take a crack
at 'em -- Dark Horse, in particular, has done a good job with
Buffy and the Alien, Predator and Terminator spinoffs.
Oh, I don’t think so. Buffy has become
increasingly tainted with overly leftist positions, like a recent
story where she gets an abortion. As for Aliens and Terminator, if
not Predator, I lost interest in those films after realizing just
how umm…anti-capitalist and even anti-science their vision was. Come
to think of it, even Predator was just a lot of baloney. Next is the
first letter I wrote to him, on April 27, 2000, which features a
pretty goofy idea I had for whom to draw inspiration from
Q: I've been reading your columns in the Memphis
Commercial Appeal for almost a year now, and I find you to be
one of the best (and even funniest) comics historians around.
I've decided that now is the time to get around to asking you
some questions, among a few other things, and so the first
letter I shall try to write will be about your column from April
16. I noticed that in what you told one of your other readers
about the Hulk was that the first-run series had been canceled
after six issues. Are you sure? I thought that it had been on a
steady run since it was first published back in 1962. I guess I
may not know as much about such comics as I thought. So, could
you please tell me how exactly the Incredible Hulk was published
over the years? I know that, yes, the Hulk was one of the cast
members in the Avengers, but I just may not know as much about
the character's own title as I think.
Next, I have a suggestion for something that may be of
interest to you as a subject to write about: actors and models
who can serve as inspirations for comic-book heroes and
heroines. I just had an idea that maybe Jennifer Aniston of
Friends fame could be a perfect inspiration for conceiving a
comic-book heroine from. I'm one of many men who have been
smitten by her and her Botticelli hairdo, and then, a few months
ago, the idea came to me that she could be a perfect inspiration
for such ideas. I had also read in the Orange County Register
two years ago that, just like in her sitcom, she's also very
sweet in real life too. And there's another reason why I think
that she'd be one of the best people to get the inspiration for
creating comic-book characters from. Does that sound like as
interesting subject for you write about? Please try it sometime.
A: Yup, the Green Goliath's first outing was a failure. The Hulk
debuted in Incredible Hulk No. 1, 1962, but that title was
canceled with the sixth issue. He was shoehorned quickly into
Avengers when that title debuted in 1963, but only for the first
three issues (the first two as a member, the third as a
"villain"). Meantime, he kept a high profile as an "event" guest
star in famous issues like Fantastic Four 25-26, Amazing
Spider-Man 14 and Journey Into Mystery (starring Thor) 112. That
led to him "guest starring" as the antagonist in Giant-Man's strip
in Tales to Astonish 59, and taking over the backup slot in that
title with issue 60 (1965). With Astonish 70 Giant-Man was
replaced by Sub-Mariner, and the titanic twosome alternated covers
and lead spots in that book until issue 101 (1968). Subby gained
his own title then, whereas Astonish was renamed Incredible Hulk
with its 102nd issue, and the Green Goliath continued to hang his
purple trousers there until it was canceled with No. 474 in 1999.
Hulk debuted that same year, changing its name to Incredible Hulk
with issue 12 (which explains how the current issue can be
Incredible Hulk VOLUME ONE No. 15 -- there never has been an
Incredible Hulk 7-101 until now).
The Hulk has had a number of other series, as well. He was a
founding member of Marvel's non-team The Defenders in Marvel
Feature 1 (1971), and remained a member of that team, off and on,
for years. He also had a B&W magazine (Rampaging Hulk, later
just Hulk) debuting in 1977 that ran for 27 issues and purported
to tell his early years in more detail -- before being retconned
later as having been a sort of alien TV show. He also starred in
the short-lived 1998 Rampaging Hulk comic book 1-6 -- that ALSO
purported to tell his early years in more detail.
He's certainly appeared in more places than I can add here, but I
think those are the highlights.
As to your second question, picking thespians for superhero roles
is a popular pastime these days -- in fact, Wizard magazine has a
standing feature wherein they "cast" superhero movies with popular
actors and actresses. I'm afraid I don't indulge in it much,
though. Not only is it frustrating to imagine how good a superhero
movie would be with such-and-so actor in it, but also I don't see
much TV (I work nights) and am somewhat at sea as to who the
popular actors and actresses are these days. (I'm only vaguely
familiar with Jennifer Aniston, for example, and that's from
But I'm game. Anybody wanna play?
Years after I regretted ever corresponding
to him after he praised Identity Crisis, I can't say I'm happy to
have bothered writing this one in the first place. And why should I?
It really wasn't the cleverest thing I could bring up for a
discussion anyway, and Aniston's own politics are very questionable,
1) I agree with you that Power Girl's joining the
Birds of Prey permanently would be a mistake. But as to your
idea that Huntress should join, well, I don't think Babs would
go for that. She's probably still holding a grudge about that
Batgirl thing from "No Man's Land." I wish Chuck Dixon would get
his wish and Hawkwoman would join the group, but Dixon has said
the editors nixed that notion. What do you think?
2) I don't read Aquaman, and I've been wondering how he
lost his left hand. And is he still using that hook/harpoon, or
has he got a bionic hand now?
1) I think Babs would hold a bigger grudge against Huntress
because of her, eh, indiscretion with Nightwing! As to Hawkwoman,
we simply don't know anything about her yet, which is one of the
usual complaints I hear about JSA. There's supposed to be a
storyline coming up that the writers claim will straighten out the
Hawk-stuff enough for the characters to be viable again. I'd
really like to avoid shooting my mouth off in total ignorance --
I'd prefer to reserve opinion until we find out what this
character's all about.
2) Arthur lost his hand to piranha in Aquaman 2, 1994. A villain
named Charybdis -- who has a new name now, which I don't remember
-- had stolen Aquaman's telepathic powers and used the fish
against him. He still has only the one hand, but with the advent
of Dan Jurgens on the title (issue 63), he has a prosthestic hand.
Why would Babs hold anything against
Huntress? She's only an imaginary creation! It's the writer who
creates the tension (and under Gail Simone, that was all patched up
best as possible), and as much as I admire Chuck Dixon, if anyone
had a problem with that direction, why don't they just say so?
Interesting that the loss of Aquaman's hand came up the same year
Hal Jordan was desecrated and Alexandra deWitt was refrigerated.
Both Green Lantern and Aquaman were edited by Kevin Dooley at the
time, so we can only guess how the latter's direction came around.
A shame Dixon didn't get the chance to add Hawkgirl to Birds of
Prey, even as a guest star, because what if he had a better handle
on developing her background than James Robinson and Geoff Johns
did? Honestly, after all these years, I don't see the point of tying
in older adversaries like Gentleman Ghost with the backgrounds of
the newer characters (and why do Smith and the correspondent call
her Hawkwoman, when here, they're going with Hawk-GIRL, the original
moniker?), and DC editorial threw it all away with the New 52.
Now, here’s something Mr. Smith said in reply to a query about
Spider-Woman on May 5, 2000 that’s superficial at best:
I could be wrong but Marvel's original Spider-Woman
had never seemed to be that much of a popular character to me.
Do you know what prompted them to give her her own animated
I must say that her life was hard and a bit of a tragedy in her
early comics. Imagine people and genetically-enhanced animals
steering away from her because they could sense a "difference"
about her; that and her need to find acceptance from a group. I
guess the character and the title was all about making life as
pleasant for yourself as much as you can, especially when it is
neither fair nor unfair but simply just is.
The reason that Spider-Woman became a cartoon is the same reason
that Marvel trots out a new S-W series every few years: To keep
the copyright/trademark current.
Oh, please! After the 1978-83 series for
Jessica Drew ended, it’s not like Marvel made any serious attempts
to launch another one for at least a decade. Besides, they created
it, they own it. Same goes for She-Hulk. Sames goes for Dazzler too,
now that I think of it, if only because her 1981-86 series shares a
little in common with S-W in that for its time, it was a relatively
successful book with a female star, even on the direct market and
its cutback to bi-monthly in the middle of its run notwithstanding.
The whole notion they couldn’t possibly manage it is nonsense.
Anyway, I appreciate how the guy who wrote to him about S-W does
seem to like that female take on a role that first began with a male
protagonist. Jessica Drew was a worthy addition to the MCU back in
the day. It’s just a pity that writers like Brian Bendis don’t have
respect for her.
Next up, from May 11, 2000:
What is your opinion of the portrayal of the
following characters as heroines from the 1970s to the 1980s:
Marvel Comics' Scarlet Witch and DC Comics' Mary Marvel, Power
Girl, Batgirl and Supergirl?
Heroines in general have been written better and better with each
succeeding decade, and all the characters you mention (save one)
have improved with time. The Scarlet Witch, who started as one of
Stan Lee's many "pose and point" heroines, has reclaimed her gypsy
heritage to good effect, her powers have been beefed up (and make
a tad more sense than before) and often serves as leader or
co-leader of the Avengers. Mary Marvel has gone from being a clone
of C.M. to becoming a "Captain Marvel" in her own right -- and, as
is usual at Mary & Billy's age, is often more mature and
level-headed than the Billy Batson Captain Marvel. The original
'60s Batgirl didn't make a lick of sense -- putting on a costume
does NOT miraculously transform you into someone who can take out
a group of heavily-armed thugs -- whereas the new Batgirl has
(like Bruce Wayne) trained from an early age to do the things she
does. (Her history also gives her a bit more pathos and motivation
than Barbara Gordon, who lived a relatively sheltered life.) And
the new Supergirl, while leaving me occasionally troubled by her
overtly Christian iconography, has a much more interesting life
and personality than Kara Zor-El, whose main concern in the '60s
and '70s was "landing a boy."
The one exception, of course, is Power Girl, whose origin has been
retconned at least twice. As a result, her history in the '70s and
'80s is a patchwork of shifting personalities, origins and powers,
and whose current bullying attitude leaves me cold.
If there’s anything regrettable here, it’s
how the improvement of past heroines isn’t entirely true if we take
into account what’s happened since Brian Bendis got his mitts on the
Avengers in 2004, and did an utter hack job on Wanda Maximoff. And
Mary, if you saw what happened to her in the year-long Countdown
series that followed 52, was turned into a dark version of herself
who even took to using a guy’s own body like a club! Ugh! Hardly
what I’d call an improvement over what came before.
On Batgirl: okay, so they didn’t say early on whether Barbara Gordon
studied martial arts that would help make her more qualified for the
role. But if you ask me, that’s actually a rather minor nitpick, and
very easy to fix (and they did circa the 80s). And on Supergirl:
something wrong with her hoping to find Mr. Right? Of course it
probably shouldn’t be the only thing she’s worried about in an
adventure story, but still, that in itself is something most teenage
girls do like to do. The real problem was how the writers depicted
her slinking away in tears if her heart was broken by a breakup,
when it’d be better for her to maintain a thicker skin in romantic
relations that might lead nowhere.
And his argument about PG’s renditions leaves ME cold. Her
personality traits have been played tongue-in-cheek in the best
stories. I will say that under Geoff Johns, that’s where things do
come under a question mark.
What was your impression of the Blade character in
his early days in Dracula's issues?
I didn't care much for Blade as he appeared in Tomb of Dracula or
any subsequent series. He seemed to have a lot of attitude for a
guy armed with only wooden knives. However, the movie version in
Blade explained the attitude while making him a lot more
interesting, a lot more capable and a lot more heroic -- a rare
example of a comic-book character being improved by Hollywood.
Nope, I don’t think so. Marv Wolfman’s
famous creation was actually a lot better than he makes him out to
be, and no movie is going to improve on that.
I was wondering if the Sci-Fi Channel should not try
its hand at airing a show based on superhero fantasy for its
original programming. What is your opinion on that score?
While TV executives try to copy success as quickly as possible,
they flee like madmen from failure. Since no superhero-based show
since the '60s has been a breakout hit, they are unlikely to try
Umm, that’s not quite so.
Let’s take the 1977-82 Incredible Hulk series starring Bill
Bixby/Lou Ferrigno as an example. It was only loosely based on the
comics series, and here’s an interesting bit of trivia: at one point
in Hulk history, a technical error was made and Bruce Banner’s name
was mistakenly listed as “Robert”, leading to the subsequent
implication that Bruce was his middle name. In the rendition with
Bixby, his first name was changed to David, although Bruce still
remained as his middle name. It was developed as a drama along the
same lines as The Fugitive (and, as writer/producer Kenneth Johnson
once noted, drew a bit from Les Misrables too), and other than the
Hulk himself, other sci-fi elements weren’t that common during the
run. But, it was pretty good, addressing the times a lot more
directly than even the live action series based on Superman, Batman
and Wonder Woman, as the scientist who’d spawned an alter ego while
searching for “inner strengths” following the death of his wife in a
car accident and his failure to get her out in time before it burst
into flames wandered the USA helping other people with their
misfortunes as he sought a cure for the transformations. His
adversary was a reporter named Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) working for
a tabloid-ish paper called The National Register who hoped to find
and capture the Hulk, who he assumed was responsible for killing
Banner and his lab assistant, when, even if it wasn’t intentional,
he himself knocked over a chemical container that caused the
explosion in a storage he was hiding inside. The unfortunate part is
that, towards the end, NBC decided to cut its last season down to
only 7 episodes and Bixby and company were unsuccessful in
persuading them to take more or sell it to another network. But,
they did manage to produce three reunion TV movies 6 years
afterwards on CBS, which culminated in the death of the hero; that’s
how, in Banner’s dying words, he was cured.
I’ll admit that NBC didn’t give it enough of a chance, but I
wouldn’t say that particular series wasn’t a success in its own way.
What surely made it work well at the time was that they only based
it loosely on the source material, and another plus was that, in
sharp contrast to how Marvel’s been operating today, the comics
editors didn’t try to mandate anything totally similar on the
And Smith’s assertion that there haven’t been any “breakout hits”
since the 60s also flies in the face of the Lois & Clark series
and even Smallville, though I’ll have to note that the latter
series, while it ran even longer than the former, was not a success
towards the end when it became more politicized.
Did the Super Friends (DC Comics) exist in the
The Super Friends have never existed in the DC Universe
continuity, before or after Crisis. They were in a world all their
own -- Earth-TV, I guess. (Although Zan and Jayna have appeared --
presumably as jokes -- in Final Night and Kingdom Come. And there
was one Superman story where two characters remarkably similar to
Zan and Jayna made an appearance, but the concept has never been
revisited. You can also forget altogether about Wendy and Marvin
-- except for Kingdom Come 2, where Marvin was depicted drinking
heavily with Lobo.)
That changed, at least for a while: during
Geoff Johns’ run on Teen Titans – a very bad one at that – he
introduced a take on Wendy and Marv into the DCU proper, yet never
really did anything special with them. And then, to make matters
worse, when Sean McKeever took over, he coughed out a
story where these Wonder Twins were attacked by a demonic version
of Wonder Dog, leaving Marv dead and Wendy in a wheelchair.
And Johns didn’t seem to have any problem whatsoever with McKeever’s
publicity stunt. Now, onto another letter:
Where is Mike Grell? Is he writing anything at the
I haven't heard much from Mike Grell since Shaman's Tears went
under at Image. I read in CSNsider that he was still pitching the
series to various publishers, but that's the last I heard.
I want to take the time here to say that
Grell disgusted me during his Iron Man run (blessedly short, but
still…) by touting a guest character in his first story on the
grounds that she was a Muslim. What specifically offended me was how
it was being referenced/depicted so superficially, without being
transparent about the components in the Islamic belief system, that
being the Koran/Hadith. The name of the woman in the IM story was,
interestingly enough, Ayisha! What would Grell say if he knew that
the girl the woman in the IM story was named after was
only 6 years old when the “prophet” of Islam, Muhammed, bought her
as a child bride and fully consummated the marriage when she was 9?
What would even Mr. Smith say?
The IM story itself may have been written as a metaphor for the war
in the former Yugoslavia, which, as the
following research should make clear, was started by the
Bosnian Muslims. See also this
harrowing report on Pamela Geller’s site about what one vile
monster did (and
The writer to Mr. Smith who asked the query about Grell also asked
what he thought of the current state of Marvel, and he replied:
The state of Marvel in general: A sorry one, I'm sad to
say. It's more editor-driven (as opposed to creator-driven) than
ever before, and "ideas" coming from top down are rarely any good.
I know they're in a lot of financial trouble, and the scrutiny of
the banks is at the root of their editorial cowardice.
Understanding that doesn't make the books any better, though.
And it doesn't look like it will improve. The new publisher
granted an interview to The Comics Retailer recently where he kept
referring to Marvel Comics as appealing to the "teen market." And
a Wall Street Journal article this week quoted the company's
intention to "move away" from comics and into TV and films. (Like
they've had any success whatsoever in those fields.)
Seeing how he failed to recognize that DC
suffers the same problem, both then and today, I’m not taking that
statement at face value. But wow, look what he cited there – the
intention by Marvel to drift from comics into movies instead; just
look where they are now! Sure, I’d like to think the movie success
they’ve had is something to admire, but when I see how it was all
done at the expense of the comics, I can’t help but wonder if it’s
really worth the bother. Now for the next letter:
A few years ago you had an article about famous
comic-book death scenes. Are there any comic-book characters
that you are glad survived their near-death experience? And why?
Well, Superman of course -- his "death," if permanent, would have
altered DC's comic-book universe profoundly, and not in a good
way. The same is true of the "deaths" of Professor X and Jean Grey
-- their absence would have changed the warp and woof of the
X-titles in a negative way. (One reason I'm counting on the return
of Cyclops.) In fact, most major characters have died at one time
or another and come back -- to my great relief.
You didn't ask me about characters who have returned that I wish
had STAYED dead -- and there are many. Start with Norman (Green
Goblin) Osborn and work your way down.
Yeah, right, he wishes, doesn’t he? After
Osborn became a leading villain in Civil War and Dark Reign, I
didn’t see him feeling particularly bothered with Norman’s contrived
return to life. Come to think of it, I don’t see him feeling
particularly bothered with the second demise of Jean Grey in New
X-Men either. He fails to convince. And now, for a really goofy
reply to a rather pedestrian query from May 18, 2000:
What color of ink is used most in publishing comic
books (after black)?
I'd say blue is the most common color after black. Yellow has to
be used with discretion -- too much and you can see through to the
next page -- and red is too overpowering. Blue is the natural
color for background (sea and sky) and for highlights (metal,
glass, Superman's hair).
Wow, when did the Man of Steel get his
hair dyed to look like an anime character? (Incidentally, I think a
lot more women in anime have blue hair than men do!) Seriously, as
anybody who drinks their coffee often enough knows, Kal-El’s hair is
black, and his eye color is blue. The way the particular query this
came from was written up was pretty sloppy, but at least the reply
provided some good belly laughs at how inept it was. LOL. On the
What did you think of the stories of the original
Challengers of the Unknown?
I didn't much care for the Challengers, particularly in the Bob
Haney/Dick Dillin era -- after all, we had an "updated" version of
the Challs in the form of the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four that was
much better. But I'd take any of the original stories over either
of the recent revamps.
Tsk tsk tsk. To think that Jack Kirby
created those early space explorers all so that banal writers like
Mr. Smith would denigrate his work, just like he did to Gardner Fox
and John Broome? Shameful. The next item is pretty clumsy:
Being born in the '70s, I missed the Batman (TV)
heydays. Had to catch it in syndication on weekends and days I
was home sick from school. ... I guess I just never realized how
huge it was back in its original run. How many years did the
Batman started as a mid-season replacement in 1966, running twice
a week its first year (Tuesdays and Thursdays in Memphis). It only
ran for three years altogether (1966-68), but for the first two
the impact on popular culture was nothing short of amazing.
"Batmania" inspired a national fan club attached to the only
"national" radio station (WLS in Chicago, which could be heard
coast to coast after dark), a dance craze (the "Batusi") and more
Bat-paraphernalia than you could shake a Batarang at (most of
which was junk, because the toy industry was not nearly as
developed or as sophisticated as it is now). Most kids (and Adam
West) took the show seriously, whereas adults laughed themselves
sick. I was somewhere in the middle -- I was glad to see Batman
getting national exposure, but realized it was a mixed blessing
when he was treated as a clown.
The result in DC Comics was mixed as well. Suddenly Batman and
Detective were selling well again -- both were on the verge of
cancellation -- and virtually every cover of Justice League of
America had the Caped Crusader in a prominent position. (To that
point he had, like Superman, been mostly on honorary member.) On
the other hand, the character was visually changed to look like
the TV show -- short ears and all smiles -- and "Zap! Bam! Pow!"
was on every cover. In short, he was a clown. It took Denny O'Neil
and Neal Adams to restore the Dark Knight to his '40s glory,
sometime around 1970. That's why to ME the ultimate Bat-artist is
Neal Adams -- he saved the Dark Knight from The Curse of Adam
West. (Incidentally, I only collected Marvel in the '60s. It took
Neal Adams on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow to get me
interested in DCs, which -- with the exception of Green Lantern,
Atom and one or two others -- were all patterned after the TV show
and were beneath my notice. I have, of course, since gone back and
filled in DC to '63.)
If there’s one thing I do give the West
series credit for, it’s how a request by the producers for a
character to model their idea for Batgirl on be created led to the
introduction of Babs Gordon. (Funny thing is that while in the
comics, Babs was emphatically redheaded and wore her hair long,
Yvonne Craig was brunette and wore her own hair short under a longer
redheaded wig and cowl.) But if there’s one rare thing I do concur
with here, it’s that yes, the 1966-68 series was a very mixed
blessing, even if the special effects were such howlers (in one
episode, Batman, while fighting a henchman “threw him” across a
room, and the cable-hook carrying him was obvious!).
However, depending on your viewpoint, it wasn’t all that far removed
from the angle used during the Silver Age, when at least some of the
stories were played tongue-in-cheek, and the Joker was depicted more
like the Prankster in Superman and the Trickster in Flash. However,
the approach in the comics at the time had an advantage in that they
managed to balance out some more sophisticated/intelligent ideas
much better than the live action Bat-series ever did, and the
characters in their four color world were a lot more engaging than
the live actors ever were, IMO.
His assertion that much of DC’s output during the late 60s-early 70s
was similar to the TV show is also very greatly exaggerated and
definitely misleading – during the Silver Age, plenty of comics
could incorporate a tongue-in-cheek approach, though as mentioned,
with a lot more sophistication than the live action productions ever
had, and while I realize that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea,
there’s still plenty about those Silver Age DC stories that can be
appreciated. So, I can only look down my nose at him for resorting
to that bias.
Speaking of The Flash, my friends and I kept hoping
Barry Allen would make a guest appearance on Lois & Clark,
especially after Martha mentioned "that nut in Gotham," thus
proving that Superman wasn't the only hero on that Earth
(Earth-TV?) Do you think this would have worked as well as my
friends and I do, or do you think the show's tones were too
I think it would have been swell. Except for the Flash suit --
clearly modeled after the Tim Burton Batman suit -- Flash wasn't a
terribly serious show. I think it would have mixed well from a
writing standpoint. But Flash failed because of exorbitant costs
(reportedly a million dollars per episode) and being scheduled
against The Simpsons and the The Cosby Show. One of the selling
points for Lois & Clark was that they were going to keep F/X
costs to a minimum by focusing on the "relationship" instead of
superheroics -- I don't think they could have swung a Flash
crossover from a cost standpoint alone.
I’m not sure if the costume was modeled
after the overrated Burton movie, though the music by Danny Elfman
certainly was. Maybe it failed because of the problematic budget,
but artistically speaking, it was a failure too. In fact, calling it
a not very serious show is something of an oxymoron: if the setup
for the hero’s origin was to kill off his brother to serve as a
motivation, then obviously there’s something dark to it, and not all
that far removed from Batman’s own origins.
This should be enough for this first entry. The next Q&A files I
worked on will be in another
page, coming up next.
Copyright 2013 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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