Some past memories and experiences, part seven
July 10, 2014
By Avi Green
Here we go with another installment where I comment on various
entries from the old Captain Comics site’s mailbag section (with
previous ones here,
here and here).
Our next few come from October 5, 2000:
Howdy, Cap: It's not often that I write in to praise
an action figure, but this is an exception. I'm referring to
McFarlane Toys' version of King Kong which just arrived at my
local TRU for the insanely low price of only $12.99. The
packaging is superb, and Mr. Kong never looked surlier. This has
to be one of the best efforts by the folks at McFarlane Toys.
Speaking as an aging baby-boomer who had his mind blown at the
tender age of four in 1960 by a TV late show of King Kong, I've
always had a special affection for the big guy. Now if they'd
only do a cool version of the T-Rex that Kong battled in the
Duly noted, and I've posted your "review." I've never much liked
McFarlane's comic-book work, but he does put out some snazzy
Tsk tsk tsk. That’s going a bit far. I
think McFarlane’s early work is okay. Not without flaws, to be sure,
and it can be an acquired taste, but unlike the awful Rob Liefeld’s
pseudo-art, McFarlane’s was competent. I guess what really tanks
today is McFarlane’s storytelling.
In re: Young Bruce Wayne/Flying Fox
Dear Cap: Can't imagine what the hoity-toity Waynes were
doing in a burg like Smallville, though. How small is it? The
"You-Are-Entering..." and "You-Are-Leaving..." signs are on the
It seemed like every character in the DCU found their way to
Smallville at some point or another. Aquateen, young Oliver Queen,
just about everybody. In fact, after the Silver Age, I was
surprised to discover that Smallville was in Kansas -- from all
the transient traffic, I had always assumed it was somewhere in
the vicinity of Metropolis (at least the same state).
Oh for crying out loud. Even before Kansas
was made the official location for Smallville, it shouldn’t be that
hard to figure out it was somewhere farther away from Metropolis.
Otherwise, Clark’s sojourn to from country mouse to city mouse
wouldn’t have had much meaning.
Dear Cap: 1)Have you heard if there's any chance we
might see an updated version of Jeff Rovin's Encyclopedia of
Super-Heroes or the publication of something similar? I, for
one, found Rovin's various encyclopedia extremely useful, but
find that they are dated enough that a revised edtion would be
2) What do you think of Byrne's Lost Generation book? I've
enjoyed some of it, although I've found it somewhat uneven. I
have to laugh that Marvel always prided itself on having one big
well-connected continuity, and now, between Lost Generation,
Spider-Girl and the "Ultimate" books, Marvel's going to end up
with as convoluted a continuity as DC has.
Honestly though, I think this sort of convolution is
almost inevitable if you're not going to age your characters, as
Lynn Johnston has in her excellent comic strip For Better Or For
Worse. I'm sure that when Marvel tied Iron Man's origin to the
Vietnam War or made Ed Sullivan Show references in early
Spider-Man stories, they thought more about being topical than
about the fact that by so doing they were guaranteeing that the
stories would be dated one day.
Actually, I've always thought that comics in general miss
out by not aging their characters. To take an example from
television, as much as I enjoy The Simpsons, the one thing that
might have improved the show would have been to have aged the
characters one year per season. Maybe I've spent too much time
thinking about this (check that, I've definitely spent too much
time thinking about this), but Maggie Simpson's been an infant
for about 11 years now, and it's just getting weird.
Plus, it's fun to think about what comics would be like if
characters had aged normally from their introduction. Batman's
great-grandson would be almost ready to take over as Robin by
now. Peter Parker would be in his fifties and Tony Stark's liver
would probably have expolded by now. Even Kitty Pryde would be
starting to think about the fact that the X-Men don't offer a
401(k)! I never thought Generations covered this well enough. It
would probably take a 12-issue maxiseries to do it justice.
Another thing I find amusing is the notion that the events
of the modern Marvel Universe are said to have happened within
an eight-year period (check some the text articles in Lost
Generation for more of this). For the sake of easy math, let's
say that the modern Marvel Universe covers the real-world period
1960-2000, a period of 40 years. That would make the
real-world/Marvel Universe dichotomy break down as follows:
Real World 1960-65 = Marvel Universe Year One
1965-70 = Year Two
1970-75 = Year Three
1975-80 = Year Four
1980-85 = Year Five
1985-90 = Year Six
1990-95 = Year Seven
1995-00 = Year Eight
What I mean by the above is that the events depicted in
five years of "real world" comics would cover one year of
"Marvel Universe" time. This strikes me as interesting, to say
the least. It certainly makes life in the Marvel Universe seem
pretty hectic. Consider that if the above is true, then the past
five years' worth of Marvel mega-crossover events happened
within a one-year period in the Marvel Universe. It's a wonder
more superheroes don't burn out! This was all much simpler in
the days when I was a kid and I just figured that time flowed
differently in comic book land ...
I was interested to hear your thoughts, [...]. Aging in comics is
something that I've spent too much time worrying about, as well.
One of my chief complaints in years agone about Marvel is that in
the '70s they stopped aging their heroes. That bothered me at the
time because to me Marvel was more interesting than DC because
events in the former "mattered;" that is, if Spidey met Thor in
1963 then he'd remember the meeting when next they crossed paths
in 1964. And Spidey aged -- he was always about three years ahead
of me, which was pretty cool. But when they STOPPED aging, they
just became DC, where nothing "mattered" and with all the
headaches of trying to explain Vietnam-era stories during Desert
Storm when nobody had aged a day.
Of course, the converse argument is that superheroes SHOULDN'T age
and that comics should just be for kids, who, as you said, just
write it off as "comic-book time." This argument arranges that
there'd be no continuity to explain; comics, as in ages past,
would just freeze their characters and concepts and let the
teenage and pre-teen audience turn over every three years. Of
course, it's far too late to make that argument, since the average
age of comic-book readers in the U.S. is 38, and that's just about
the only audience comics have left.
It's a tricky one. As to your other questions, there is a History
of the DC Universe that's updated every so often -- I hear editors
talk about getting the new copy when it comes out and keeping it
on their desk -- but it's a small-press, vanity affair that I
don't know how to get. And as to Lost Generation, I find it
I’ll believe that last part when I see him
admitting his own work is unintelligible! I wonder if he thinks all
heroes should literally age right into a geriatric nursing home?
That Peter Parker and Steve Rogers’s hair should turn white or go
totally bald, and lose all their teeth? Maybe Dick Tracy should also
go hobbling around on a cane and Tess Trueheart should become a
shotgun-wielding granny? Please. If comic strip cartoonists for
newspapers don’t age their characters (with Doonesbury and For
Better or for Worse being the few exceptions), then I don’t
see why he’s so desperate for Marvel and DC’s to undergo such
effects. Why, what if remaining forever young is a form of wish
fulfillment? He should consider how even older folks might
MAD once did a parody of Peanuts that portrayed Charlie Brown and
company as old geezers. But that doesn’t mean we’d want even them to
age, and indeed, judging by how long the strip ran, many readers
didn’t. So I do believe Mr. Smith should take his peculiar little
argument and stuff it. That sound you hear is Dagwood Bumstead
dozing off on the couch at the mere suggestion of aging.
Dear Cap: I imagine that you have already seen the
U.S. News and World Report articl on the state of the comic book
industry and the new Marvel Ultimate series, but just on the off
chance that you haven't here is the URL:
Keep up the good work! I am a 47-year old male in Falls
Church, VA and ever-hopeful fan of Dr. Strange. I live in the
futile hope of a Dr. Strange movie with Alec Baldwin in the
Keep sending those positive vibes, […] -- we must have a decent
Dr. Strange movie to offset that weird 1978 travesty. And my cloak
of levitation (sewed by my grandmother, bless her) awaits its
summons in the clsoet as I write this.
I have indeed seen the USNAWR article, about the state of the
industry, and thank you for offering the link for those who
haven't. It's not the first article of its kind, and I want all
comics fans reading this to be cognizant that the mainstream press
has "discovered" the industry's problems. As a 20-year veteran of
mainstream news, let me warn all of you that you're going to see a
herd instinct on this one. It'll be on Entertainment Tonight by
the end of the month, and "common wisdom" by the end of the year
that comics are dead. We should all strive to stave off the
bandwagon effect as much as we are able.
There is supposed to be a Dr. Strange
movie in the works this year, but I’m at a point where special
effects became too much for me. It’s mostly burnout that began with
The Mummy in 1999, and has rapidly increased since. Now for October
Dear Cap: In reference to gays in comics, I guess I
hit a nerve. It would be interesting to know what percentage of
readers nowadays are minorities, female, gay, whatever. I wonder
if the media is doing studies of their target.
Comics have traditionally appealed to "minority" readers, from
blacks to gays to women to Jews to geeky WASPS. I don't think
that's any mystery. Anybody who's ever been rejected has
fantasized about how their tormentors would have to eat their
words if only the tormentee could do something spectacular (like
lifting a bus over their head). And, heck, who hasn't felt like an
alien from another planet at one point or another?
I've spoken to various editors who allude to reader surveys and
such; one interesting "fact" that seems to be accepted as common
wisdom in the '60s and '70s was that the audience for Legion of
Super-Heroes is disproportionately gay. (I've heard figures as
high as 40 percent.) Nobody seems to know why, but the fan
speculation that Element Lad was gay was never discouraged as a
I’ve got a hunch this is just smoke he’s
blowing. I’m sure there were some gays and lesbians who read LOSH at
the time, but that doesn’t mean they comprised such a huge portion.
That aside, I wonder if he considers communists and marxists
“minorities” worth pandering to as well! Or the mentally insane. Or
drug addicts. Or practitioners of bestiality and necrophilia. Let us
be clear: homosexuality is a mentality, and if he doesn’t think so,
then I guess the whole psychology industry should be discarded till
the end of time. That, I suppose, is what people like him must think
should be done.
Dear Cap: In your 09/29/00 CBG column, you stated
that Mark Gruenwald "invented the Squadron Supreme." Although
Mark certainly revitalized and enriched the concept, Roy Thomas
was the one who conceptualized the original idea. Mark will
always remain closely associated with this group, especially
since his cremated ashes were mixed with printer's ink and used
to publish the trade paperback reprint.
It is disappointing that Marvel did not also reprint
Mark's graphic novel titled Squadron Supreme: Death of a
Universe. This was a sequel taking place directly after the
reprinted 12-issue miniseries, which brought a degree of closure
to many aspects of the series. Also, it is essential reading for
anyone interested in the Squadron's subsequent appearances in
the Marvel Universe. Perhaps someday Marvel will decide to
reissue this relatively unknown series finale, but until then I
encourage anyone interested in Mark Gruenwald or the Squadron
not to overlook this exceptional story.
Thanks for the clarification, [withheld]. I have the original
Avengers issues when Roy Thomas introduced the "Squadron Sinister"
-- but wasn't it Gruenwald who changed them to Squadron Supreme? I
admit I'm a little hazy on when that actually happened.
He’s a lot more hazy on understandings of
discernment and objectivity, but again, I repeat myself.
Hey Cap'n: I just had a sudden revelation and had to
share it with you before I thought twice about it: Marvel's
recent release of a Majik series (she was dead) and the upcoming
Blink series (she was dead in another reality) -- Nothing but
attempts to market toys they've already got in stock!
Remember the New Mutants line of action figures that
included a really ugly Wolfsbane, Doug/Warlocke and Majik (plus
Lockheed) figures? Blink also had her own action figure, with
Nate the X-Man and some short, blonde woman with a pet green
monster. I figure we can expect her to get her own comic-book
series, too, so that Marvel can increase its publishing tie-ins
without the messy costs of retooling its Toy Biz line too much.
Now if they could only come up with a decent Strong Guy
series for his toys still left the bargain bin. That last
special issue really sucked.)
What do you think of my theory?
Interesting hypothesis, […], but I doubt it. I do know that the
molds used to make action figures are melted right back down after
the line has been issued, so I doubt they've got a standing
ability to make "Blink" action figures without assuming new
overhead. Further, Toy Biz doesn't keep back stock, so that's not
a consideration. Further still, virtually all male action figures
have the same body, ditto females, so it's really all a matter of
painting and a head mold or accessory mold.
My take on it is that there is such a paucity of ideas in the
X-universe that they simply regurgitate old storylines and
resuscitate old characters because of plain ol' bad writing --
which we've seen a LOT of in the X-titles, for years and years.
I think the correspondent’s theory is
stupid. Odd that Mr. Smith says there’s such a dearth of ideas in
the X-world, yet never made this point in his newspaper and CBG
columns. If only he’d look at his own work…
Hey Cap: Now that we know Chris Claremont is being
pulled off of the X-books (we have all heard this bit of news,
haven't we?), I think it's time for a bit of reflection.
Back when we first were told that Claremont would be
resuming his authorship on X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, I expressed
reservations about his new tenure (Don't believe me? Check the
Mailbox Archives). I hadn't enjoyed his work on Sovereign Seven
(a series I never started collecting) or on Fantastic Four (a
series I stopped collecting) and I didn't expect my current
reaction to his work would change just because he was once again
working with Marvel's mutants.
As it is, Chris Claremont, once a master of his trade,
confirmed my low expectations.
First of all, Claremont continued his trend of Poor
Scripting. Claremont has been accused for years of being "too
wordy," a critique he dismisses as being on a par with saying
Mozart used "too many notes." In one respect, Claremont's right.
Other authors like Kurt Busiek and J. Michael Straczynski use
just as many words. The difference is that all of Busiek's words
Claremont continuously provides us with unnecessary
dialogue and narration. To me, this demonstrates that Claremont
doesn't trust his artist to tell the story or his reader to
understand it. Instead he provides us with specific narration
which should be clear from the drawings themselves. In one issue
of Fantastic Four (I know I'm moving past my stated thesis),
Claremont told us not only that the team was in Paris but also
their relative location to the river, and what was lying to the
North, South, East and West of our heroes. Obviously, some of
those six directions were unnecessary for the forwarding of
either the characters or the plot. If you can skip a box of
narration without impacting the story, the box of narration
probably didn't need to be there.
Claremont is often criticized for his pet phrases, like
"the focused totality of my psychic powers." Although I can't
defend his use of that particular phrase, such verbal trademarks
can be very effective clues for new readers (think of
Wolverine's "I'm the best there is at what I do," or the Flash's
"I'm Wally West, I'm the fastest man alive"). I don't mind that
he uses such phrases, however, I don't necessarily need Cable to
tell me that Rogue has fallen into the water if I can see it for
myself. Such obvious narration may be necessary in children's
literature, but Claremont hasn't been writing children's
literature for years.
Second, Chris Claremont has recently suffered from Poor
Plotting. The X-Men have long been famous for dangling plot
lines. Immediately after Alan Davis did his best to finally tie
some of those up, Claremont has introduced a host of new ones.
The "six-month gap" in the X-titles were designed in order
to allow the new writers (Warren Ellis and Chris Claremont) to
avoid the plots left open by the previous creative teams.
Instead, each was allowed to create a new status quo and work
from there. In the Counter-X books, Ellis did just that.
However, in the second storyline, he gave his readers the
important back story so that they might understand how the
various heroes got from there to here. Claremont has never
addressed the "six-month gap" except for one X-Men Unlimited in
which we learn the origin of the new Thunderbird. I don't mind
if he never addresses the loose plotlines left behind by Joe
Kelly, Steven Seagle and Alan Davis (a writer should be allowed
to tell his own stories) but he hasn't even answered the
questions created by his own stories. How did Phoenix and
Psylocke switch powers and why? Since Psylocke's powers were
holding the Shadow King in check, has he been released from his
psychic prison? When and how did Cable join the team?
Besides those questions, Claremont has already lost track
of Kitty Pryde. Does anybody know where she is? He also set up
two distinct line-ups and then promptly confused us by having
Angel show up as if he was a member of the team and not a
As if Poor Scripting and Poor Plotting weren't enough,
Chris Claremont's X-Men were Inaccessible to New Readers. In
part, that flows right out of the previously discussed problems.
However, those problems are magnified when one considers that
the X-Men comic book was completely unable to take advantage of
the success of an X-Men movie. Since Claremont holds an
editorial position in which he reports to himself, I can hold
Claremont primarily responsible for this failure.
New X-Men fans were introduced to a Jean Grey who had
telekinetic powers but very limited telepathic ones. Claremont
not only continued using Phoenix's developed telepathy but he
dumped all of her telekinesis. I have to believe that in his
position, Claremont had some idea of the plot of the movie
before writing his scripts and therefore he had to have
knowingly gone against the movie. Furthermore, two of the
central characters of the movie (Cyclops and Professor X) are no
longer present in the X-books in any way (although a large part
of that must be blamed on the previous creative and editorial
Despite the great possibility of first-time readers, the
books operated under the assumption we knew who all of these
characters were and what their powers are. Apparently, Claremont
thought we could figure this out for ourselves although we
needed other characters to let us know whether or not Rogue had
fallen into the Gulf of Mexico.
The X-books utilized nothing that new fans might
recognize. How many Claremont issues utilized Cerebro, the
Blackbird or parts of the mansion other than the Danger Room?
Not only wasn't Chris Claremont writing for new readers
but he wasn't writing for old fans either. The X-Books were
Inaccessible to Us, as well. The characters were handled poorly
and acting abnormally. Cecilia Reyes, who had been written as a
competent professional and who had established her own clinic in
Westchester, is inexplicably back in New York, scatter-brained,
flighty and addicted to drugs. Not only is Gambit forgiven for
past transgressions and allowed to rejoin the team, but Jean
Grey, Storm and Beast (all of whom lived through the Morlock
Mutant Massacre, all of whom have previously held positions of
leadership in X-Factor, the X-Men and the Defenders) are turning
to him as a trusted leader.
Claremont introduced a new race of villains in issue 100
and by 106 we still don't know the answers to, "Who are the
Neo?" and "Why are they so mad at the X-Men?" The Neo also
apparently have sub-sets like the Shockwave Riders, the Lost
Souls, the Warclan and the Goth. The Goth is apparently both a
person and a group. Among the Neo, we have discovered that
apparently Jaeger is both a person and a position.
Not only do we have such difficulty discerning Claremont's
new plots, but he is readily borrowing from the past. The X-Men
again crash a space-faring vehicle into New York's Jamaica Bay,
this time held together by a telekinetic Psylocke instead of a
telekinetic Jean Grey.
Not only is Claremont borrowing from his own plots of the
distant past but he's grabbing them from the recent runs of
Seagle and Kelly (and Howard Mackie's X-Factor). Only four years
ago, Graydon Creed ran for president on a platform of
anti-mutant histeria. At that time, we watched Mystique track
down the potential president only to see him shot down by either
Havok or Bastion. Now, Senator Kelly is running on the same
platform (with no reference to Graydon Creed) and Mystique is
tracking him down threatening to kill him. Are we supposed to
remember the characters of long ago (like Peter Corbeau, Alexei
Vashin and Senator Kelly himself) but forget the plots that they
were involved in?
So there you have it. Chris Claremont's most recent run on
the X-Men has been rife with Poor Scripting and Poor Plotting,
it's been Inaccessible to New Fans and Inconsiderate of Old Ones
(which leaves one to wonder, who exactly is Chris Claremont
writing to please?).
There have been other problems that haven't been his fault
(like the muted colors which make the books difficult to read,
and the ridiculous new costumes: only Kitty's and Cable's new
duds are any good and I know I'm in the minority when I say that
I actually liked the Beast's experiment with goggles). However,
enough of this tragedy can be blamed on the once Master of All
Things Mutant that I have to say I'm happy to see him go.
I know that if Chris Claremont were to ever read this
review he would completely dismiss it. After all, I've never
professionally written one comic book let alone worked in the
business for 30 years. Yet I think that's part of his problem.
He's stopped listening to criticism, either constructive or
destructive, and has therefore stopped honing his craft. The
result is that he is no longer the writer he once was when he
had to prove himself. I don't have to be an expert on the
subject to know that this has been the worst run of X-Men and
Uncanny X-Men since before Neal Adams took over on the original
series. It is, in fact, one of the worst titles on the stands
I'm not the only fan who feels that way. Although the
sales have remained steady (we didn't collect 500-odd issues to
give up on the titles so easily), for the first time, X-Men
didn't win Wizard's Fan Award for Favorite Book. That honour
went to the well-written Avengers.
I apologize to those of you who think we've engaged in too
much Claremont-bashing. I've tried to be very fair with my
criticism but like I said, I didn't really want Claremont to
return to the X-books in the first place.
P.S. I've heard that Joe Quesada has hired J. Michael
Straczynski to write Amazing Spider-Man. I wonder if Grant
Morrison is available to pen some new glory days for the
characters I grew up with.
I have taken a vow to avoid gratuitous
Claremont-bashing on the site, since some readers have complained.
However, I said nothing about letting YOU Claremont-bash! All I'll
add is that I can't disagree with much you said.
Whoa baby, that correspondent must’ve
wanted to lose me after he brought up Straczynski and Morrison at
the end! Sure, Claremont was outdating himself at the time, but
Morrison’s considerably worse. So I’ll just add that I can disagree
with what he said at the end.
Dear Captain: I am just writing first to commend you
on your great Web site which I just discovered. Your sight is
full of interesting information and ideas.
However, I have to point out a slight inaccuracy in your
entry in the Book of the Dead for Swordsman (I hope you do not
find me too pedantic). I recently bought and read the Essential
Avengers Vol. 1, and unless Marvel reprinted them incorrectly in
order to make you look bad then his history is slightly
As I read it the Swordsman's connection with Hawkeye is
fully explained in Avengers 19-20, the flashback includes a
great scene where Hawkeye chased up to the high wire with no
where left to run, he adds in narration "In that moment I became
a man." (or words to that affect) as he recalls striking out
against his former mentor (who then cuts the wire out from under
him). Also the plot for those two is more convuluted and
slightly different from how you portray it. The Swordsman starts
off wanting to join the Avengers so that he can commit crime
with impunity, however he is beaten off by the Scarlet Witch and
Quicksilver. He is not under the Mandarin's employ at this
point. He then concocts a trap for Captain America and holds him
hostage trying to force the Avengers to give him membership but
they rescue him. Then the Mandarin nabs him and convinces him to
do his dirty work and powers up his sword. The Mandarin then
uses a fake image of Iron Man to convince the Avengers to accept
the Swordsman into their ranks. As the days go by the Swordsman
begins to have misgivings about his role. Now I am a bit sketchy
on this but he decides to disarm a bomb, trap or bug that he
previously set for the Mandarin (which I think the Mandarin was
about to detonate) but the Avengers catch him in the act and
assume he is trying to plant it (oh, the irony!) and so he is
chased off (and laments that it was good to be an Avenger, even
a fake one).
Since my comic-book collection is limited I can not say
much else about your writeup, but I will say that in his first
appearance the Swordsman was pretty fearsome (well at least not
outclassed), able to defeat Captain America with a little help
from the element of suprise and luck without the aid of the
Mandarin's tricks in his sword. As I said I hope all this was
not too pedantic or nitpicky, I am just trying to be helpful.
Anyway, I like your site -- keep up the good work and good
luck. In case you're wondering, I found your site through the
Google search engine. I was looking for info on Rick Jones, and
thanks to your little review of his career I now know a lot more
about what issues of what comics he was in.
Thanks for the Swordsman reverie, […]. No, I don't think you're
being nitpicky -- possibly because I don't disagree with a word
you said! I'll have to re-read and re-edit my Swordsman entry -- I
must have telescoped too much info and been misleading.
Anyway, welcome to the club!
I don’t think the correspondent was being
nitpicky either, but I do think Mr. Smith’s been plenty of times,
what with his insults, subtle or otherwise, to fictional characters.
Dear Cap: I just read your CBG column about
Spider-Man's organic shooters in the upcoming movie and thought
I would put my two-cents' worth in about the issue. I have been
a Spider-fan since John Romita Sr. started to draw him,but
interest waned in the last several years(I hear I haven't missed
a great deal).
I think the organic webshooter idea is much more logical
than the original concept. Did no one read Spider-Man 2099? It
worked in that series. Who is to say he can't still run out of
webbing? A snake doesn't carry an unlimited supply of venom. The
same should apply to the webbing -- if he doesn't have the time
to regenerate internally he would have to run out. If he was
tired or sick, it might influence the webbing as well Peter
Parker could still invent the webshooter itself as a way to
control the consistency and aim of his organic webbing.
This is not an idea to be afraid of. I heard some(one)
wanted a gay android in one of the potential Superman movies
(mercifully killed before production was greenlighted). THIS is
the kind of idea to be most afraid of! Worry about stuff worth
You make some good points, […]. Here are some opposing viewpoints:
Depending how the android was to be
depicted, I’d say it would be for the best to scrap any such idea.
Curious why Smith agrees with him, though. If the idea had been
greenlighted, chances are he would be at his most utterly
sugarcoated about it.
Dear Captain: I just read the latest in CBG 1403 on
the controversy over Spider-Man's webshooters and felt for the
first time in 15 years to write about such a thing.
To be honest I think it is a good idea. Spider-Man is
supposed to be creepy, not your standard arms akimbo,
flag-flapping-in-the-background kind of superhero.
Unfortunately, we have grown accustomed to him. He does not seem
terribly weird anymore. So I think the webshooters actually
growing in him is pretty cool, where that is concerned.
But that is not what prompted me to write. Rather, it was
Rick Bergh's comment, "If the fans are loud enough, there is a
chance they can fix this webshooter problem before the movie
begins filming." This attitude, that the producers in Hollywood
give two shakes of J. Jonah Jameson's mustache what the fans
think or feel, is simply delusional, yet every fan seems to
think otherwise. This reminds me of when STAR TREK fans thought
that their petitions led to the space shuttle being named
ENTERPRISE, totally ignoring the fact that there has always been
an ENTERPRISE in the U.S. Navy. But I digress ...
Let's pretend for a second that every monthly comics
reader will go see SPIDER-MAN in the theater. Not going to
happen, but for the sake of argument, they would not buy enough
tickets to fill the seats for one week. Those same fans would
have to see this movie in the area of seven times each in order
to justify releasing it in the first place. In essence, if the
comics readers ignored the movie all together, (Sony) would only
lose somewhere around 15 percent of its revenue. So the idea of
(comics) fans rising up in protest of a minor (yes, it is)
detail when they can barely keep their own industry afloat makes
More good points, which wraps up this week. Y'all keep writing!
Oh for heaven’s sake. I think it’s foolish
to say Spidey’s meant to be creepy. You could make a better argument
to that effect about Dr. Octopus. Not good points at all. In that
case, let’s proceed to October 17, 2000:
Re: Jon Sable fighting for South Africa.
Although I would not defend apartheid, it was at the time
the lesser of two evils (to many people). You see, many
countries neighboring South Africa at the time of Sable's Africa
adventures had turned Marxist or semi-Marxist. In Africa the
Communists once again had considerably more success than the
Americans in creating allies. Openly and massively supportive
with arms and troops all the anti-colonial Black-liberation
movements, the Soviets managed to outsmart the Americans time
and time again with an aggressive foreign policy which saw great
swaths of that continent fall under Soviet influence.
The Soviets also played a major racial card by supporting
the Black-liberation movements in South Africa and Rhodesia.
This included the use of tens of thousands of Cuban troops in
Angola to ward off South African incursions into that country
during the 1970s and 1980s. Although the Americans covertly
helped some anti-Communist Black guerrillas in Angola, using the
South Africans as a supply line, they refused to aid South
Africa or Rhodesia itself, not wanting to associate itself with
the two white-supremacist governments.
So South Africa was in deep trouble, fearful that they
would fall to Communism, too. It was felt that the liberal bias
of Western countries had stopped them from aiding South Africa
against Communism because it was an apartheid government, so
Sable and others were proud to defend South Africa from
Communism. (Also, a South Africa that had fallen to Communism
would have been a disaster, as South Africa is an economically
strategic site due to its great natural resources.)
Now, just because Sable fought for South Africa does not
make him a white supremacist. Although, as noted, I would not
recommend that our country adopt apartheid (and I know that
Jesus was not white), consider how dangerous the Communism that
South Africa was fighting against was (and to a lesser degree
still is). Yes, Nazism, the Ku Klux Klan and other
white-supremacist groups are horrible, but consider that
proactively non-racist Communist governments have killed 90
million people! (Also note how oppressive Muslim fundamentalist
governments have been, even though they, like the Communist
governments, oppose racism, imperialism and colonialism.)
Consider that around the time that South Africa was under
apartheid there were much more violent or repressive regimes in
the world, such as Algeria's Muslim fundamentalist regime (run
by Qadaffi), Uganda (run by Idi Amin) and Cambodia (run by Pol
Pot). Neither of the latter governments was white supremacist,
but they were much more violent than South Africa's apartheid
(Two prose adventure thrillers around this South Africa
theme are Time Bomb, part of the "Phoenix Force" series
published by Gold Eagle as a spin-off of Mack Bolan, and Joseph
Rosenberger's "Death Merchant" No. 46, as part of another men's
adventure series. Jon Sable was, of course, recently feautred in
a prose novel.)
So I guess what you're saying is that the South African/Rhodesian
situation wasn't completely ... black and white? Sorry. Of course,
the comics question remains -- is that indeed what Mike Grell was
referring to when he made the comments the correspondent
Maybe, but this correspondent has just
committed the unpardonable sin of downplaying the sick ideologies of
the Koran/Hadith. There
is racism galore in many Muslim regimes, aimed at Jews and
blacks, for example, and he dares to sugarcoat that? What a pure
disgrace. Thus, what could’ve been a good focus on the perils of
communism is soaked by a dangerous double standard.
Dear Cap: Two years ago I worked at a retail outlet
that sold books, videos and CDs. We carried comics for a while
in 1998 and ordered a comic-book spinner rack from a
retail-supply house. It even had a metal plate attached to the
top of each row that said -- yes -- "Hey kids! Comics!" I don't
know the name of the company, but this item was purchased new,
so they are out there.
Thanks […] -- it gives us all hope!
But Mr. Smith gives us none. Now, here’s
some letters about – guess what – gun control!
Not to argue with your position regarding guns, but I
must take issue with something you wrote in Thursday's Q&A.
What gets my goat in your post is this: You imply that
only corporations should have the right to procure meat. That
very suggestion sows the seeds of an Orwellian nightmare- - "let
Big Brother do it for you"-- the antithesis of freedom.
Citizens' defense against corporate tyranny rests solely on
consumer freedom. And choosing between corporations is hardly
choice at all. (You may boycott BP's high prices, but you must
buy gas somewhere -- that's why gas prices all go up and down in
Also, hunting is vital to survival of animal species. If
deer numbers are not thinned by yearly hunting, then the
population will grow so large that those numbers will be thinned
by starvation anyway -- possibly to extinction. An area of land
can support only so many animals. Same for the other hunted
animals. And to say "let the Government thin the herds" is again
an Orwellian solution.
This country is in a time of panic. And in EVERY instance,
"concerned" citizens RUSH to hack off part of our
Constitutionally protected freedoms -- "for our own good." It is
foolish to EVER give up a freedom, especially since America has
tried virtually NO OTHER possible solutions. Only as a last
resort should loss of freedom be considered (and even then it
should be rejected).
Making permanent changes using quick-fix philosophies is
extremely dangerous to keeping a free society.
Which is why I emphasize that reasonable men and women must come
together to find reasonable courses of action. I'm not an advocate
of quick fixes of any kind. (Although I have to wonder about your
fear of letting corporations provide our food -- for the most
part, they already do.)
His take on corporations is ridiculous.
Why does a corporation have to process food, but not a smaller
company, provided they have a license for it? Gee, I wonder if he
was writing a subtle assault on private business!
Dear Cap; I know your page is not a forum for
political discussion, but I do have a couple of comments on the
gun-control issue. I agree with a lot of your response to [name
withheld] question. There is to much extreme retoric on either
side, and this country could certainly benefit from a rational
discussion on the subject (I suppose that last statement
probably applies to almost any topic). In that vein I would like
to shed a little light on the conservative view of the argument.
What most NRA supporters believe is that responsibility
lies with the individual and not with guns themselves. I have
never fired a gun myself, but if I came home from work and found
that an AK-47 had accidentily been delivered to my house I would
not suddenly start shooting people. On the other hand if I
really wanted to kill my neighbor, I could easily do it with a
baseball bat, a crowbar, a knife or my bare hands. The reason
that nobody has to worry about me killing anyone is that I am a
moral human being. I was raised to fear God, follow the golden
rule, and with a Superman who didn't believe in moral
You also state that the presence of guns should be an
outrage and not something to be proud of. I feel guns can be
used for good as well as evil. This country was founded by a
group of freedom-loving gun owners. The Nazis were stopped by
guns. The fact of the matter is sometimes the bad guys get guns,
and the good guys have to stop them. Once you let the technology
genie out of the bottle you can't get him back in.
In conclusion, conservatives believe that the solution to
gun violence does not lie with government, but with the family.
You can't legislate morality, and placing more restrictions on
gun ownership will just give an advantage to criminals. What we
as individuals can do is teach our children the difference
between right and wrong, and not be afraid to stand up for
truth, justice and the American way.
Thanks for providing a counterpoint, and thanks especially for
being polite and reasonable about it. My only comment is to note
that while it's possible for you to kill your neighbor with a
baseball bat (with a bit of doing, I imagine), it's not awfully
likely for a six-year-old to find a baseball bat in his
irresponsible father's closet and accidentally kill his schoolmate
in a tenth of a second, as happened twice in Memphis last month
with automatic handguns. Sure, your can prosecute the father --
but the kid is still dead. A baseball bat isn't by definition a
lethal weapon, whereas a firearm is. I think that's worth
Otherwise I'm completely in harmony with your insistence on
personal responsibility. I find we as a society almost irrational
in our lawsuit-happy fixation on finding somebody else to pay for
our own mistakes.
Oh, I’m skeptical he is. Let us remember,
he’s a leftist, and whatever he says publicly, he may be speaking
with a forked tongue about self-defense. Also, his argument that a
baseball bat couldn’t kill is sloppy at best.
I would like to thank you for creating my favorite
comic-book related Web site. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be
reading Captain Marvel or Ring of the Nibelung, and boy would my
life be lame then. If you don't mind, I'd like to chime in:
Personally, I don't see any problem with Spider-Man having
organic webshooters. The move to organic webshooters over
mechanical ones was probably cosemtic; webbing coming out of a
guy's arm makes for a much cooler special effect (In Hollywood's
opinion at least). Peter's scientific genius can always be shown
in other ways. I think the major flaw in the Spider-Man movie
will probably be the title character himself. Name the last
mainstream action movie you saw where the protagonist was a
science geek who gets picked on at school! Would X-Men have been
as successful if the movie focused on Cyclops instead of
Wolverine? I think Marvel may have been better off making a
Captain America, or a Fantastic Four movie. That being said, I
hope I'm wrong, and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the
adventures of one of my all-time favorite characters on the big
You make a good point with the Cyclops/Wolverine
comparison. After all, how many times (and how many writers)
have tried to dump Cyclops as being too "dull"? And how many
covers does Wolvie appear on every month?
Eleventy-seven last month, by my count. Anyway, I'm also looking
forward to Spider-Man: The Movie, organic webshooters or not. Oh,
and I might as well stir up another hornet's nest: Sam Raimi
announced last week he intends to change the costume a bit.
(Hopefully along the lines of the published Alex Ross sketches,
but you never know!)
Those scriptwriters, much like Mr. Smith
himself, are obviously very lazy, otherwise they would’ve tried to
modify Cyke’s persona to something they find more impressive. Now
for October 24, 2000:
Dear Cap: I'm gonna get raked over the coals for the
Clueless comparison to GHOST WORLD (Clowes himself has blanched
at the very same idea thrown his way by Hollywood execs -- they
were gonna try to get Alicia Silverstone to star in it) but, at
the certain risk of underestimating your fanboy audience, who's
gonna get a reference to Jane Austen? It's very much like the
Silverstone flick (which itself a bit of black comedy in some
ways) on the surface, as a "clique story" but carries a sharper,
much more sobering message, and is the mirror image of that film
in that it shines the light on the ugly and the outcasts, rather
than the beautiful and popular. Still, Ghost World is as funny
as heck and one of the better reads I've had the pleasure of
experiencing, and I think the movie will be as entertaining as
the source material.
I think you probably are underestimating the audience of this Web
site, since a great many of them are older readers. Besides,
comics fans as a whole are generally better read than the general
populace, and not just comic books. I personally have a marked
preference for great works of literature (particularly Russian),
history (particularly Civil War and WWII) and science. I imagine a
great many other comics fans are similarly eclectic.
But since the Clueless metaphor works, I see nothing wrong with a
pop-culture reference! God knows comics fans are well-versed in
Some of the readers of that site were
intelligent, but not all. Certainly not the correspondent who wrote
that particular letter! Yes, there are some intelligent people out
there who read comics, but there’s also some very insular basement
dwellers, including some of Mr. Smith’s own audience, whom we can’t
overestimate. That’s something I say with a heavy heart, but I have
to be a realist. Here’s a letter I wrote about the women from the
Dear Cap: Am I right that Marvel Comics has almost
always been referring to the Women of the X as X-Men too? Have
you ever noticed that?
If you ask me, I think that it's very disrespectful of the
writers to be using a masculine term in order to describe the
X-Women. One could also say that it's very insulting to their
sexuality and their womanhood. I never speak about girls using
masculine words. No, I speak about and address them using the
proper feminine (terms).
I know that when the X-Men began way back in 1963, there
had only been one X-Woman, and that, of course, was Jean Grey.
But when referring specifically to girls, they should be using
the proper feminine terms. And I wouldn't be surprised if there
are plenty of women in this world of ours who are appalled at
Marvel's writers for addressing their girl characters with
So isn't it about time already that they started calling
them in the proper feminine terms that they should, such as
X-Women, X-Girls, X-Ladies, X-Femmes, and even best of all,
X-Babes, X-Beauties, X-Lasses, X-Kittens, X-Tigeresses and
With a new millenium coming in, I think it's about time
that Marvel started correcting their addression of the girl
characters in X-Men. And maybe they should even give some of
them their own starring titles, since more titles with girls in
the lead are needed at Marvel, and maybe even a miniseries
featuring many of the X-Women in their own adventure together.
It's about time that we started treating them like the ladies
that they most definitely are.
Next, about Aquaman. I'd like to say that among the most
ideal developments that the Aquatic Avenger has been given in
the past several years is his current bearded look. It makes
look a lot more mature, and also a lot more serious. And it also
gives him the look of a Greek mythology figure.
And I have to admit that it's a definite shame if DC is
canceling the current Aquaman series. I most certainly do hope
that it can be revived as soon as possible, since Aquaman is one
of the most appealing characters in the DC universe.
Although some characters do need some certain weak points,
I suppose it's possible that Aquaman's ability to breathe
regular air for only about an hour could be hindering to the
writer's ability to come up with better and more expanded
storylines. I wonder if it could be a good idea to do away with
his overall weak point, since then it could enable him to do
such things as visit alien worlds more at ease, and also -- yes!
-- swim in the seas of alien worlds as well, and meet all sorts
of new and bizarre sea life there too. Who knows? It could work.
This reminds me, as you said in your Sept. 28 column,
Aquaman is still a regular member of the JLA. You know, I think
that that could also be one of the reasons why Wonder Woman has
been able to keep being a solid member of the DC universe all
these years. In the March 9 issue of the Mailbag section,
there's a letter by Matthew Hawes of Comics Unlimited that says
that the estate of William Moulton Marston could get all the
rights to WW back if DC ever stops publishing a WW comic book.
Well, as a matter of fact, it could be that thanks to the fact
that she's a major player in the JLA that DC's been able to keep
a good grip on the character rights without too many problems.
So have they ever really stopped publishing a comic book with
the Amazonian princess? Not really.
You know, Wonder Woman isn't the only character in the DC
universe whose rights are iffy, even the rights to Superman
could have a catch: back in the mid-1970s, Jerry Siegel and Joe
Shuster waged a very effective lawsuit against Warner Bros,
which had aquired the rights to DC comics as early as 1973, and
I wouldn't be surprised if the overall rights to Superman could
revert to their estates too if DC isn't careful with the Man of
Steel as well.
And you know, I have to admit it, while I most certainly
do respect the creators' estates' rights to the characters, I'm
glad that Superman and Wonder Woman are still very solid members
of the DC universe, since the DC universe just wouldn't be the
same without them. For Superman, Wonder Woman, and also Batman
are among a couple of the leading cornerstones who helped to
make the DC universe what it is, and if it hadn't been for them,
we may never have seen a lot of the many other superheroes and
superheroines who've appeared there. And they'll also be
necessary when it comes to creating a lot more characters for DC
in the future as well. Not to worry, I don't think that the
estates of the creators really want to deprive DC and the fans
of all these great characters, for they know that they've all
brought joy to this and many future generations of comics
readers, and I'm sure they're happy whenever they do. And when
Siegel, Shuster and Marston see what joy they've brought to many
people in this world, I'm sure that they're smiling up in
heaven. And I am very grateful to them for their contributions
to the comics industry.
One sure thing of course, DC, or, more precisely, Warner
Bros., should always make sure to pay the creators' estates a
big hefty share, since being respectful of the creators is
always a very important matter.
Seriously though, if Wonder Woman and Superman suffered
any sales slumps in the past decades, I think it's because the
writers weren't trying to come up with any good writing: As John
Byrne pointed out in an interview with Previews in 1995, for
many years, Wonder Women never seemed to have any truly
challenging enemies, and the only really tough opponent was the
Cheetah. And in Superman's case, I had read in a book by Ron
Goulart that some fool editor had decided as early as the '50s
to see if Superman could survive silly stories. And I think that
could explain why they eventually slumped in sales: The writers
weren't coming up with any challenging or really intelligent
stories. And today's readers are usually much more sophisticated
than they were in the '50s, and they want their storytelling to
be done with brains, including me. Sure, I just love reading
comics about hot babes with heaving bosoms, but that alone
cannot fuel a story, it's good writing that does.
And that's why I owe John Byrne a lot of credit for having
identified and repaired a lot of the flaws that weighed down
Superman and Wonder Woman in the past decades, and I think that
his work on such titles has helped a lot in improving their
sales in the past few years. If such characters are to survive,
they're going to need some very good writing for that purpose.
And that's why I'm hoping that all future generations of comics
writers will remember that.
One last thing, I loved that interview you did with
www.the-meat.net Web site. It was another very valuable
contribution to the comics industry. I may have noticed one
inaccuracy, however: the exact year you began the column. In the
interview with The Beef, you said that you began the Captain
Comics column in 1992, but on the FAQ page on your own website,
it says that you began in 1993. Which year is the right one? I
don't know how important it is, but if you began in 1992, do you
think that the year given on the FAQ page should be corrected?
It may be a good idea to do so.
Hmm. Well, I wrote my first three columns in Dec. '92, but the
first didn't hit print until the first week of Jan, '93. I think.
So I guess '93 is the number most folks would deem significant.
And I don't disgree with any of your comments about X-Women, as
far as respect goes. We weren't very politically aware in '63,
when the team was created, and the name has stuck. Others have
brought up the same point (notably [name withheld]) -- but oddly,
no women have complained! And it is a mouthful, and would
doubtless give headaches to the person who had to design a logo.
I'm inclined to let it go for simplicity's sake, unless some
actual women complain.
Trivia note: Peter David asked for the bearded, long-haired
Aquaman so that it would look more visually interesting as it
floated in the water. The Greek god aspect is certainly a bonus,
The problem with Wonder Woman's ownership is undoubtedly why the
character has seen print almost continuously since 1940, even in
the many years Wonder Woman was losing money. That, and the
merchandising angle. In addition, you'd probably be interested to
know that the rights to Superman are currently being contested in
court by the heirs of Jerry Siegel.
And you'll hear no disagreements from me that comics characters
need good stories, or they'll dry up and blow away. Even great
characters like Spider-Man and Batman can get into sales troubles
when the writing isn't up to snuff. The Clone saga killed off two
of Spidey's titles, and Detective has been on the verge of
cancellation several times when the writing was weak. I've often
said that there are no bad characters, only bad writers -- but you
can flip that to say that bad writers can kill good characters.
No, I won’t hear disagreements from him,
and behind the scenes could be a whole different story. That’s why
his claim he recognizes the argument of no bad characters, only
writers, falls flat. Because he was attacking several fictional
characters himself years ago – and still is – as though the writers
behind them didn’t exist. It makes me feel very embarrassed when I
recall making that mistake myself years ago, and how I may have been
partly influenced by his own insanity.
This letter was written at a time when I was too neutral to
understand how dreadful Byrne's writing on Wonder Woman in the mid
90s was, and isn't even very accurate. That's why this is another
letter I'm honestly embarrassed about. There was once a time when
Byrne was talented enough, but when he took up West Coast Avengers,
that's when he began to self-destruct in the early 90s, and he
wasn't much better on WW.
Dear Captain: Superman:The Man of Steel serves more
of a purpose than a place for Jim Rhod -- I mean, Steel to
appear in. Why not make him a star? Because his own title failed
so, why give this James Rhodes rip-off another chance?
Personally, I'd prefer to have him stop making appearances(token
or otherwise)in S:MOS. As I've stated, he's a rip-off, and his
niece annoys me. As for Doug Mahnke's style, it's not as
ill-suited to Superman as some of the guest-pencillers DC has
used to pinch hit for the regular artists on the Super-titles
(since none of the regulars can manage to draw 12 issues a
Natasha (and Boris) annoy me too, [name withheld]. But I like
Steel more than Jim Rhodes (who takes a lot more abuse from Tony
Stark than I prefer to see), and I really don't care much for
Mahnke's style. Ah, well. That's what makes horse races.
Ah, see what I mean? He goes right along
the next minute and derides the niece of John Henry Irons as though
she were real life too. His comment on Rhodey is also fishy. Bleah.
Come to think of it, so is his comment about Boris & Natasha
from the famous Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon series.
Another slight comic-book tie with the South African
situation of the 1970s was Gerald Bull. A weapons designer, Bull
was born in Canada. Bull, with the implicit blessing of the CIA,
aided South Africa in designing a 155-mm howitzer with 50
percent more range than anything else at the time. He sold them
gun barrels for it and shells. With the new weapons, the South
Africans were able to defeat Angola.
Then Jimmy Carter was elected, and South Africa was no
longer a friend due to apartheid. Bull was charged with unlawful
arms dealing. On the advice of his lawyer, he pleaded guilty and
served six months in prison during the early 1980s.
How does this tie into comic books? Well, Gerald Bull
later worked for Saddam Hussein, for which Isreal assassinated
him. Mike Baron fictionalized this later incident in Bull's life
for The Punisher, circa issues 47-48. Bull in that one designs
weapons for "Trafia" and is called "Dr. Brattle." This helper of
the Afrikaaners can take pride in the fact that he got to be a
Well, if he wasn't dead, he could be proud. I guess.
While this is interesting history, the sad
part is that it comes from the same correspondent who downplayed the
harm of Islamofascism. So I can only appreciate it in the abstract.
Dear Cap: Gone are the days when female characters
did such odd things like tripping over the smallest twigs while
trying to escape well-heeled monsters. Now, they are kicking
tails and taking names of those same beasts. Yessir, these
ladies here are no ordinary grrrls. Warrior princesses and their
best friends, she-devils with swords in hyborean ages, warrior
nuns, university students and B-movie actresses to name a few
are leading the fight against monsters in the comic books and
films. It probably makes sense as all predators will tackle what
they believe to be a weaker prey.
It seems that comics are finally learning what I picked up from
having two older sisters -- don't mess with girls! They can be
mighty mean if they want to be!
Wrong. As Identity Crisis and Avengers:
Disassembled have proven, anti-female bias is still lurking out
there, in the sickest ways possible. And, as he's proven, it's
accompanied by the most disgraceful apologists.
Dear Cap: Just read your Oct. 12 letter column on
your Web site. Coincidentally, the
Archive Vol. 10 devotes quite a bit of time to the LSH costume
changes, and has an introduction by Dave Cockrum, too!
Saturn Girl's pink bikini costume was designed by a
reader, not Win Mortimer, and was based on a Diana Rigg outfit
from an episode of The Avengers (much like Jean Grey's Black
Queen outfit from the Claremont/Byrne X-Men was based on a
different Rigg outfit from a different episode!).
Readers designed several other costumes which appeared in
one story during the series' run as a Superboy back-up. They
were pretty hideous, IMO. In particular, they had Princess
Projectra and Shadow Lass wearing nearly nothing (yes, even less
than their later outfits!).
Karate Kid's white-and-yellow costume was definitely
designed by Cockrum, though he only drew it once, in one panel
of Superboy 193. Then the Kid went back to his old, brown
costume for a while, before Grell brought it back for good in
I believe that Cockrum's design for Duo Damsel's
orange-and-purple outfit was also based on a reader suggestion.
Timber Wolf also got a new costume in No. 197.
I think Cosmic Boy's bare-chested costume was designed by
Grell. (It looks essentially the same as Tyroc's costume, after
all.) I could be wrong, though.
I've heard stories that other artists often found
Cockrum's designs frustrating, because he included so many
little design patterns which were time-consuming to get
precisely right, and often got simplified by Cockrum's
successors. (For instance, the black design on Shrinking
Violet's costume, or pretty much any outfit worn by a Cockrum
Shi'ar in X-Men.) Nonetheless, I think Cockrum is one of the
best superhero costume designers in comic-book history. Even his
choices of which Legionnaires to redesign and which to leave
alone (Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Invisible Kid, Brainiac 5) was
Thanks for the details, […] -- you can never have too much trivia!
You can also never have too much hypocrisy
in the works!
Dear Captain: I don't really have an opinion on the
whole organic webshooters controversy, but let me put my two
I remember picking up my first Spider-man comic when I was
about seven years old. The splash page (John Romita? This would
have been around 1972) showed Spider-man in full swing between
buildings in New York, with one arm extended toward the reader.
The shot clearly showed the hole on the inside of his wrist,
right where all those blue veins are. My first reaction was
"Cool! That webbing stuff comes out of his veins!" (This is one
of those silly images that sticks with you from childhood, but
you can't remember to feed the dog or where you put the car
I was later greatly disappointed to learn that the
webshooters were really mechanical devices under his costume.
The funny thing is, I'm getting letters now from people like you
who remember Spidey as being creepy in their youth, but that
familiarity has made him less weird. Oddly, I NEVER found Spidey
to be creepy -- the whole costume/secret ID convention was so
"normal" to me by the time I started reading Spidey (Amazing
Spider-Man, Vol. 1, No. 10) that he was just another guy in a
union suit, who was actually more interesting to me OUT of
costume. Maybe I'm just brain-damaged from reading too many comic
books, but it was actually those awful '70s Spider-Man TV movies
that brought across to me how repulsive it would be to actually
see a guy "skitter" across a wall like a roach. Suddenly a lot of
those early Spidey comics made a lot more sense.
It just goes to show how everybody's most powerful youthful
experiences are wildly different -- and why we all have such
strong, divergent opinions on our little hobby. It's one of the
things that I really enjoy about comics -- each fan has a
different perspective, and it's fascinating to learn, for example,
about what stuck out in your youthful brain about the friendly
neighborhood Spider-Man. It would never have occurred to me
I never found Spidey creepy, and that
happens to be a good thing; it proves Martin Goodman was wrong with
his initial assumption and reluctance to try out Lee’s creation! On
the other hand, I do find Mr. Smith’s embrace of Identity Crisis
creepy. Very creepy, in fact. Like I said before, his
fluff-coated columns made my skin crawl.
As everyone argues the merits of Peter Parker's
web-casting ability and the form it should take for the upcoming
movie, I'd like to address another aspect of the issue.
Spider-Man's origin hinges on the one moment where Peter
realizes he was bitten by a spider. If you take away the spider
motif, what have you got? -- A super-strong guy with
precognition ("spider sense"), an ability to stick to walls, and
a gizmo that shoots sticky stuff. Without the web gizmo and a
nod to the spider that bit him, Peter could have easily called
himself Amazing Guy or Super Wall-Walking Man.
Motif is everything; it sets a mood and defines his
abilities. His paranormal strength, resilience and agility are
noted as those of a spider -- but why not a baboon? The
precognitive ability could easily have been dubbed ... uh,
"precognitive ability." Or let's call it "the warnings of my
ancestral ghosts." The web-spinners strapped on his wrists could
have taken the form of a gun or sight-directed goggles, assuming
he had a reason to make webby stuff to begin with -- why not a
gliding cape instead?
(Quick aside: Have you ever played the Champions
roleplaying game? It's a classic delight. Instead of trying to
provide a fully comprehensive list of every possible superpower
in the history of comic books, the game approaches it from a
generic-to-specific function. "Entangle," for example, works
pretty much the same regardless of whether it belongs to Cotton
Candy Gal, Dr. Putty or Web-Caster Man.)
In other words, if Peter hadn't seen the spider that bit
him, who would he be now? Take a look at another icon and
consider: If a squirrel had crashed through Bruce Wayne's window
instead of a bat, all of his resulting crime-fighting gear could
easily have been retooled with a squirrel motif (except the
cape, of course; but he still could have constructed a faux
bushy tail to strike fear into criminals. Trust me. It would
Where am I going with this? Darned if I know.
No, seriously, here's the point: Only in the most recent
revamp of Peter's history -- the Ultimate Spider-Man series --
is it made sparkling clear that the boy immediately recognized
the importance of the spider that bit him. In (almost?) all
other retellings, he had no reason to become a spider-ish
Biologically based web-shooters, growing in his arms,
would produce a more solid connection to his personal totem.
Otherwise his origin reeks of simple-minded, motif-driven,
comic-book geek fanboy writing. (Of course, that IS his origin.
But there's no reason we can learn from our collective history
and improve something now.)
But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.
An interesting point, [...], and it raises another question. If
Peter Parker were bitten today -- which is sorta the point of
Ultimate and Chapter One -- wouldn't he have the public-relations
savvy to realize that a spider motif wouldn't play well with the
masses? A clever kid like Pete might very well think, "Gee, these
spider-powers are cool -- but everybody's gonna freak out if I
dress like a spider. Hmmm. Why don't I call myself Lion-Man? Then
I could say I have 'Lion-Strength' and 'Lion-Speed' and the
wall-crawling thing ... um, I just won't do that much."
Then he'd appear fighting criminals in a noble, heroic outfit with
a mane and be the media's darling. Probably get invited to join
the Avengers right away. So, since Pete went ahead and designed a
suit that the average guy would find pretty creepy -- does that
mean he has a secret desire to be unpopular? Does he WANT to be
Where am I going with this? Darned if I know. :)
Indeed, he doesn’t know, and neither does
the correspondent! He confusingly states Peter had no reason to
become Spidey, except he did: his Uncle Ben Parker was murdered by a
burglar, and this brought him to the decision to dedicate himself to
serious crimefighting. Still, that correspondent happens to be a MSM
journalist who makes me laugh at how he embraces a comic with a
negative view of newspaper reporting, as embodied by J. Jonah
Jameson. Now, here’s 4 letters together:
Dear Cap: Marvel Comics titles aren't really my
bailiwick, but I can clear up the confusion about the Squadron
Sinister/Supreme which developed from [withheld] letter in this
I regret to inform you that Mark Gruenwald was not the
writer to convert the Squadron Sinister to the Squadron Supreme.
Roy Thomas did that -- in the story he wrote for Avengers 85-86
(February and March, 1971).
In the first issue of this two-part story, Quicksilver,
Scarlet Witch, Vision and Goliath (the Clint Barton version) are
part of the Avengers team departing from Arkon's
other-dimensional world via Thor's hammer, when they find
themselves diverted to a parallel Earth. This fact does not
become known to our four wayward Assemblers until they return to
what they think is the Avengers' Mansion and find Nighthawk (to
the Avengers' perspective, a member of the Squadron Sinister)
already in residence, along with four other costumed figures
--Lady Lark, Tom Thumb, the American Eagle and Hawkeye (the
Cockney counterpart who later assumed the identity of the Golden
After the traditional Marvel
each-group-mistakes-the-other-for-villains battle, the Avengers
piece together that they are on a parallel world and that
Nighthawk and his friends are superheroes, five members of the
Squadron Supreme. The three absent members of the Squadron
Supreme -- Hyperion and Dr. Spectrum and the Whizzer (like
Nighthawk, exact physical replicas of the Squadron Sinister
members on the Avengers' Earth) -- are involved in overseeing
the launch of a rocket into solar orbit. The consequences of
this launch form the basis of the events of the second half of
In the following issue, the four Avengers team with
Nighthawk, Hyperion, the Whizzer and Dr. Spectrum against the
true villain of the piece. The "lesser" Squadroners aren't seen
in this issue, or again until, variously, Avengers 141 and 148.
Thanks for the update, [withheld]! Here are some letters on the
Dear Cap: While Roy Thomas conceptualized the original idea of
a group of evil characters loosely resembling the Justice League
of America, Steve Englehart expanded on the concept in Avengers
141. He enhanced Roy's idea by using duplicates of the Squadron
Sinister characters and combined them with others based on the
JLA. Steve then established that this new group was from a
parallel Earth and renamed them "Squadron Supreme." They
appeared again a few times before Mark Guenwald's classic
miniseries, where he took the group way beyond its roots as a
simple JLA parody. Mark used this group to show us the probable
futility of achieving a superhero-organized utopian society.
About a year later, while still loosely maintaining its
JLA-related origins, Mark presented us with a majestic encore to
this the miniseries, which even incorporated aspects of DC's
Crisis. Although he subsequently used the group in Quasar, this
was his final major involvement with the Squadron (published as
a graphic novel titled Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe).
In Marvel Age 82, Mark stated this story was his favorite of all
he had written and his final quote in the interview was that,
"If people only read one thing that I've done, I hope it's
I hope I've clarified what I wrote in my letter and
further indicated why this story is essential reading. It is
unfortunate for everyone who enjoyed the Squadron that Marvel
has never made a reprinted version available.
Dear Cap: Okay, here's the history of the Squadron Supreme
as I remember it. This is entirely from memory, so I'm probably
slightly hazy on issues numbers/dates, however, I'm certain on
As you mentioned, Roy Thomas created both Squadrons
Sinister and Supreme. The Squadron Sinister (consisting of
Hyperion, Nighthawk, Dr. Spectrum and The Whizzer) made their
debut in Avengers 69 and fought the Avengers in No. 70.
The Squadron Supreme made their debut in Avengers 85-86 in
a story also written by Roy Thomas. Returning home from an
other-dimensional world, some of the Avengers were accidentally
sidetracked. Entering what they thought was Avengers Mansion
they met up with Nighthawk and assumed that the Squadron
Sinister was attacking. After the inevitable fight, the Avengers
realised they were on a parallel Earth in which the Squadron
Supreme (the Hyperion, Nighthawk, Dr. Spectrum and Whizzer of
that Earth, along with several others) were the world's greatest
heroes. The Avengers teamed up with the SS to prevent an
embittered young mutant genius from destroying this Earth, and
then returned home.
The Squadron Supreme made their next appearance that I
know of in Avengers in 1976, somewhere around Issues 143-45 (as
I said, I'm hazy on the actual dates). In a story written by
then-regular Avengers scribe Steve Englehart, the SS attacked
the Avengers at the behest of their own government, not
realizing that President Nelson Rockefeller (!) was under the
control of the Serpent Crown. At the end they patched things up
again, and resolved not to be quite so ready to unquestioningly
obey government authorities in the future (rather ironic in view
of what eventually became of them).
Squadron Supreme member Hyperion (along with his Squadron
Sinister equivalent) made a appearance in a 1979 issue of Thor,
pencilled by none other than 1950s-60s Superman artist supreme
Wayne Boring. However, the next appearance by the Squadron
Supreme as a whole was in The Defenders (circa issues 110-112,
late 1982 or early `83) in a this storyline by then-regular
Defenders writer J M DeMatteis.
In this tale the SS, along with former member Nighthawk
who had retired and, as Kyle Richmond, been elected President of
the United States (beat that, Bruce Wayne!) were under the
indirect control of an other-dimensional nasty and had pretty
much taken over their world. With the help of the Defenders they
defeated the menace, but at the end of the storyline their world
was in pretty much the sorry state that it was at the start of
Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme maxiseries. BTW, each of the
stories I've described introduced a few more of the Squadron
Supreme members who were featured in the maxiseries.
So yes, you were correct, Cap; Roy Thomas did create both
of the Squadrons. However, I think it's also fair to say that a
number of writers, including Mark Gruenwald, contributed to the
creation and development of the version of the Squadron Supreme
that we have seen since the Gruenwald-written maxiseries (which,
by the way, I very much enjoyed, as I did all the other stories
I've outlined; that's probably why I remember them).
Dear Cap: In reference to the Squadron Supreme's creation:
Roy Thomas did create the team, originally. Actually, it
took him two tries. The first appearance of Hyperion, Nighthawk,
The Whizzer and Doctor Spectrum was as a villianous group
working for the Grandmaster in his duel with Kang, Avengers
69-71. These four hung around on the Avengers' Earth and
as the Squadron Sinister, although Nightwawk reformed and
joined the Defenders.
Unfortunately, the next issues are one of the gaps in my
Avengers collection (sigh) but the Squadron Supreme of their own
alternate earth (Earth-SS, anyone?) first appeared, I believe,
in Avengers 86-87 (or somewhere close to that). More members,
including Power Princess, were introduced (with Clint Barton
getting the best line: "You're HAWKEYE? That's adding insult to
injury!). The Squadron helped the Avengers stop Brain-Child, a
young mutant with world-destroying powers.
It was Steve Englehart (the greatest Avengers writers
ever) who really made the Squadron interesting as more than JLA
parodies, in Avengers 141-149. In this storyline the Serpent
Crown had (secretly, through business executives) taken over the
government of the Squad's earth, and, being a bit naive at the
time, the Squadron went right along with the flow, in The
Whizzer's words, "still serving the good old USA."
Fortunately they ran up against a team of Avengers, and in
the end were forced to realize what had happened. This story in
many ways set up the situations that Mark Gruenwald was to use
so brilliantly later on.
I've always been kind of surprised (pleasantly) that
Marvel has been able to use the team as much as they have. I'd
have thought that DC's attorneys would be kind of interested in
Once the characters moved beyond simple JLA parodies, the chances
of a fan confusing Hyperion with Superman (and thereby diluting
DC's sales) became difficult to prove. And DC would have to prove
that their sales were suffering if they wanted to make a lawsuit
stick. At least, that's my understanding of how it works.
Further, DC did an Avengers parody in Justice League around the
same time Marvel introduced the Squadron Sinister (and I read
somewhere that the writers of each did it on purpose to have fun),
including Wandjina (Thor), Silver Sorceress (Scarlet Witch),
Bluejay (Ant-Man) and Johnny B. Quick (Quicksilver). These
characters also became semi-regulars, growing beyond their parody
roots. So what's good for the goose ...
If it weren't for the seriousness of the
issues he's trivialized, Mr. Smith would be a self-parody. And he's
beyond galling in his leftism. Besides, in all due honesty,
competition isn't wrong, nor is it wrong to come up with variants on
the Man of Steel provided there's some kind of distinction.
Dear Cap: Kudos on the new site-update schedule, and
the snappy design tune-up. The set of your jaw in the Mailbag
illustration should utterly paralyze would-be spammers (that
cowardly, superstitious lot). The new stuff-each-day schedule
means I get to eat lunch on Thursday, instead of investing the
better part of an hour on your site. Here's hoping it also makes
your personal fight for right a little more manageable, too.
Just a brief amplification to your sound response to [name
withheld] gun-control comments. You're absolutely right about a
child being unlikely to accidentally maim or kill a peer and/or
herself with a baseball bat, hunting knife, etc. To […]'s point
about being able to kill his neighbor with one of those
implements, given sufficient determination to do so, I'll agree,
but only to a point. Killing one person unawares with a
"low-tech" weapon is still harder than doing so with a gun,
especially for someone acting impulsively and/or who is
untrained in the use of the weapon. (I have no direct experience
with this, thank goodness, but I've heard experts comment
several times that killing a conscious, healthy adult with a
knife is much harder in reality than it appears in movies and TV
-- our bodies are remarkably tough, and adrenaline makes any
person a formidable adversary.)
Still, I'll grant […] his basic point, where ONE victim is
concerned. But an Uzi or an AK-47 makes it possible to execute
an entire family (or classroom, or restaurant crowd) far more
easily than one could with a baseball bat. And of course,
military assault weapons are designed precisely to kill large
numbers of people quickly.
This last point has always been one of my biggest quarrels
with the heavily armed Punisher-type "heroes" that came into
vogue in the late '80s. Setting aside the due-process problems
inherent in their "I, the jury" methods, surgical precision just
isn't possible with assault weapons. Even in comic-book reality,
where the superhuman is commonplace, "civilian casualties" in
the "war on crime" would quickly put these vigilantes on par
with the worst mass killers in history. That would, of course,
make even "uneasy alliances" with conventional heroes an utter
Thanks […]. I hated using my "hammer" -- the ability to get in the
last word -- to [withheld]'s remarks. I'd like to publicly
apologize to [withheld], who was polite and reasonable -- but I
couldn't let the baseball-bat comment go by. I agree with a lot of
what the pro-gun lobby has to say in regard to personal
responsibility and the gravity of talking about changing the
Second Amendment. These are serious issues. By the same token, so
is a six-year-old accidentally killing another six-year-old. Guns
are lethal weapons, and we don't even insist on as much regulation
(which the Constitution DOES call for) as we do driving a motor
vehicle. I just think that we need to drop the hysteria and
discuss sound ways to deal with real-world problems.
Oh, put a lid on it! With his brand of
leftism, it’s very disputable. The correspondent’s argument that
children couldn’t kill others with knives is also very slapdash and
underestimates what harm they could do. Now for October 31, 2000:
Dear Cap: After reading your column for the last four
months, I find that I have to put in my thoughts about one of
the ongoing debates.
As a background, I started reading comics in June of 1960.
Comics were much simpler then, with a whole story being resolved
in six-to-eight pages, some 13-pagers and occasionally a full 26
pages. A continued story was very rare. DC was the only game in
Then a couple of years later Marvel appeared on the scene.
Marvel also brought to comics the "C" word -- continuity. This
was pretty easy because they ignored their history of the
'forties and 'fifties (only dragging out Sub-Mariner and Captain
America). We watched Peter Parker graduate from high school and
go to college. The characters aged. The stories had a
relationship to each other and references were made to past
events which we had read. We even found out that Reed Richards
had served in World War II and met Sgt. Fury (that would make
Reed in his late 30s-early 40s, if you wanted to do the math).
The Marvel Universe was treated as a unified body, and it was
Meanwhile, over at DC, they were trying to bring back the
heroes from the Golden Age, but there was a problem of where the
character had been and how old were they (mid-40s by doing the
math again). DC tried to create continuity, but they had too
much baggage. Marvel laughed at DC and things went well until
the '70s when Marvel suddenly realized that now they had a
problem. The continuity that they had been preaching so hard for
so long was now becoming a problem to them. Everybody should
have aged more than 10 years, but that did not fit the Marvel
profile and wasn't Reed Richards in his 50s by now? Marvel did
the most logical thing. All the characters stopped aging.
Period. Suddenly the readers who had the gospel of continuity
preached to them found themselves getting older and their
beloved characters had stopped. Everybody at Marvel had a
picture of Dorian Gray in their closet.
Meanwhile, DC was getting into bigger trouble because all
their younger Silver Age heroes were starting to get older too,
let alone the Golden Age ones. In the '80s DC tried to resolve
their multi-universe situation by their Crisis on Infinite
Earths saga. A great series, but problems were arising even
before the 12th issue came out. For example, all the Superboy
stories that we had been reading were no longer valid because
Superboy never existed. Boy, did I waste a lot of dimes and 12
cents and 15 cents, etc., reading something that never happened!
Later Zero Hour tried to clean things up. It did not work
Meanwhile, back at the ranch where this whole mess
started, Marvel was trying to reinvent characters and the loyal
fans were getting upset.
So what are we faced with: One of the first considerations
has been the change in the comic readership. At the start in the
'forties and even when I started reading in 1960, the assumption
of the comic-book houses was that the average reader was from
11- to 13-years-old and had an average readership of two years.
With a two-year cycle, stories could be recycled every so often
and no one really noticed. With Marvel, the readership became
older (they were the rage at colleges) and readers became more
loyal reading for longer periods of time. I read the other day
that the average comic-book reader is presently 38. This older,
loyal readership expects good stories and plotlines (some
lasting for years) and the "C" word, continuity. The second
consideration is the difference in time between events in comics
and the real world time line. With the exception of the comic
strip Gasoline Alley, comics have never been good at matching
the real timeline. Some like the comic strip Blondie started off
good with the children aging, then it just stopped. The pinnacle
of time standing still has to be in Archie. He was in high
school in the early 1940s and he is still there. He has been
through every fad since then, but he never gets any older nor
does he graduate. My mother was in high school when he started
and my granddaughter is there now. Third is the desire of the
readers, the loyal ones at least, to treat their favorite
character like a real person. The fans of Sherlock Holmes have
tried to put all of his stories in a strict chronological
sequence. Any discrepancies are blamed on errors on the part of
Watson on his recordings. The truth is that the real author, Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle, was not overly concerned about the accuracy
of his fictional character, because he was fiction.
Continuity is a necessary thing in comics. The hero can
not be invulnerable to bullets in one story and then get wounded
by one in the next. But continuity has limits when dealing with
a timeline of a comic that is days or hours or even minutes for
a story to transpire, but the comic comes out once a month or at
best, monthly in the case of the Superman titles when they were
unified. The readers have to cut the companies some slack about
the time issue. I have no problem with Jay Garrick, now in his
mid-40s, (having) an adventure in the current times (he does
have to age a little) instead of coming up with a long theory of
why he does not look 80. The Superboy stories that I read as a
kid which took place during the 1930s (it had to be before 1938
when Superman first appeared) can now be during the '80s or,
heaven forbid, the '70s (Superboy and disco is a bit much). The
readers have to suspend reality as far as timeline and allow the
characters to move through time, but not age at real time
Finally, a few other thoughts:
1) Unlike the Captain, I always enjoyed Green Arrow as a
kid. I always knew that he was an imitation of Batman, but there
was something enjoyable about him wrapping up a complete
adventure in six pages. The fact that I always liked archery and
was fascinated by this arsenal of arrows had something to do
2) The father of Arrowette? I don't think it was Oliver
Queen. For my argument I use DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest No.
23, July 1982, an issue devoted to Green Arrow. The bridge
between the stories is Black Canary looking at Oliver's
scrapbook of past cases. The fourth story was the original
appearance of Miss Arrowette. At the end of the story, Black
Canary accuses him of being a male chauvinist because he had
warned Miss Arrowette that fighting crime was not a game for a
girl. He responded "I was a square back then, remember?" This
does not sound like a confession of guilt and sounds more like a
man that would not consider said actions.
3) To the individual inquiring about the Green Lantern
ring, there was also a plastic promotional ring that was
distributed in the early '90s. It was a solid green piece of
plastic with a white circular insert on the face. Someone gave
me mine, so I was never sure which Green Lantern story the
promotion was for.
Thanks for the comprehensive continuity analysis, [name withheld].
It certainly is (and has been) a sticky question, and comments
like yours help put it in perspective.I just have a few comments
1) One of the things that made the "Marvel Age of Comics" so
exciting in the '60s was the feeling that events "mattered" --
that is to say, the characters aged, changed their minds, had
cohesive pasts and remembered past events and team-ups in the same
way the readers did. This was in stark contrast to DC at the time,
where everybody seemed perpetually 29, and team-ups were as
perfunctory and frictionless as a Rotary meeting. And I still
remember that when I realized sometime in the '70s that Peter
Parker and Reed Richards had stopped aging, that I felt like
something wondrous and irreplaceable had been lost. And I still
feel that way.
2) I know you were being facetious in remarking "Boy, did I waste
a lot of dimes ... " Of course we didn't waste them -- those old
stories, whether retconned away or not, are part of our experience
and we can enjoy them again and again, regardless of Crisis or
whatever. Or, to paraphrase this site's own Chuck Miller, "I was
really worried when I read Crisis and found out that Earth-Two had
never existed! But when I looked in my closet, all those old
Justice Leagues were still there! Whew!"
3) You mentioned Gasoline Alley as a comic strip where the
characters aged in real time. There have been a couple of others,
notably Prince Valiant and For Better or For Worse.
4) There's actually a lot of circumstantial evidence to support
that Cissie "Arrowette" King-Jones is Ollie "Green Arrow" Queen's
daughter. Aside from both having unerring (and possibly metahuman)
archery skill, Cissie's mother Bonnie King (the original Miss
Arrowette) was shown dating Oliver Queen in Justice League of
America No. 7 (Oct.-Nov. 1961), with the story implying that she
was his "significant other" as Lois Lane was to Superman and Steve
Trevor to Wonder Woman. In Legends of the DC Universe No. 7 (Aug.
98), an unnamed, attractive blonde woman is shown attempting to
inform Ollie that she is pregnant with his child -- but failing to
get the message across (Bonnie King was, indeed, an attractive
blonde woman). And in Green Arrow No. 1,000,000 (Nov. 1998) Connor
"Green Arrow" Hawke (Ollie's son) is told by a descendant from the
853rd Century that he has an unnamed sister in the 21st Century
that he's never met. Creators connected to the latter two books
have denied that they intended to imply anything -- but they leave
the possibility open, as does Peter David over in Young Justice.
Zero Hour definitely didn’t work, thanks
to its horrific denigration of heroism, symbolized in the
presentation of Hal Jordan as a savage. But again, I’m skeptical
Smith ever publicly complained in his columns on a serious basis.
Oh, I enjoyed the article on Mr. Mxyzptlk but I have
to say that I disagree with one finer point (and actually, I
suppose I disagree with DC editorial more than with the
Captain). I've always operated as if Mr. Mxyzptlk was a slurred
way of saying "mixes-up-talk." Of course, when I learned to
spell his name correctly, I discovered that the 't' and 'p' are
backwards for my pronunciation. But then, it's always easier to
slur three words that you already know that to try to pronounce
All of which was complicated by Super Friends, which had him
pronounced "Mix-el-plick" despite years of DC footnotes insisting
on "Mix-yez-pit-el-ick." Ah, well. I pronounced Magneto as
"Mag-NET-o" from '63 until the cartoon came out and Stan Lee
himself pronounced it "Mag-NEET-o." And how many people out there
still say Sub-Ma-REEN-er? Quite a few, I'd bet.
And how many newspaper propagandists still
let DC and Marvel off the hook for some of the most obnoxious
insults they’ve published?
Dear Cap: It has happened. Batman has been ousted
from the JLA. I am not surprised as I thought that it would
happen. I wonder if the writers will have the character
experiencing humility now that he knows that he cannot behave as
if he were king of the hill. I like the approach that has been
taken with the Dark Knight. While he is the consummate
professional, he has always been disrespectful of his fellow
colleagues' talents and years of experience. I remember reading
how he treated the Robin of Earth-Two and Green Arrow in the
issues of the Brave & The Bold. I especially liked how the
Earth-Two Robin did not get angry with him but let him know that
he has trust goes both ways.
It may not bother him but what brilliant writing it would
be if it were shown that it does. I suspect more than his ego
would be affected. Prior to the re-construction of the JLA's
origin, he was there with them from the beginning. Also, how
would the rest of the Batman family take it? Would his enemies
laugh? Can he live it down or does he even care if they do? The
Dark Knight is a complex animal who I believe wants
companionship like the rest of human beings. He is a loner up to
a point and no more. After all, it is not easy being a loner or
moreso, only human. Steven Grant of the Comic Book Resources Web
site had written an article some weeks ago asking what is wrong
with being a loner? Absolutely nothing once it is not taken to
the point of over-exaggeration. Like anything else in life.
What I enjoyed about Batman's ouster was Waid's penchant for
keeping everyone in character -- and how the plot was a natural
outgrowth of those characters. As you say, Bats has been brutally
condescending to his teammates (with the exception of J'onn and
Superman) since the JLA relaunch a few years ago -- which is
perfectly in keeping with his character as it is currently
represented in all the Bat-books. But you'd have to expect it
would get annoying to the other Leaguers once they got more
familiar with (and less terrified of) him. And it's been implied a
number of times that Bats (like Marvel's Black Panther) has a
contingency plan for almost any conceivable event, up to and
including the necessity of taking down his colleagues. Stir in the
Dark Knight's native secrecy, and -- voila! A terrific story that,
once read, seemed almost inevitable. That's what I call good
But will Batman learn humility? Heh. I certainly doubt it!
A better query would be: will Smith ever
learn to stop denigrating fictional characters? Sigh. I doubt it.
And was that JLA storyline truly needed? I think not. It was stupid,
and only perpetuated some of the same mistakes that began spiraling
out of control since Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.
Hi Cap! Here's another comics-in-the-news URL, this
time reporting on a part of the comics business that is actually
growing and increasing in demand -- comics' presence in
bookstores. Books like Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On
Earth, Ghost World, Lone Wolf and Cub and Good-bye, Chunky Rice
There's also bits about the new thinking at Marvel from
"We are very happy to invest in a major, costly,
high-profile project that may or may not make money as an
individual comic book, and allocate the cost over the trade
paperback in the long haul"
(To this I say, "IT'S ABOUT TIME...!")
"When a comic book gets sold out," Jemas explains, "we're
doing two things right away: We plan for a trade paperback to
come out as soon as we can, and within two weeks we'll put (the
issue) out on marvel.com as a streamed comic, so people can read
it in the meantime."
But there's still much work to do:
"Buyers privately grouse that publishers cater their
release schedules to the nonreturnable, comics specialty-store
market, rather than to general trade booksellers: 'When I say I
need (DC's) Crisis on Infinite Earths in October, and they tell
me they're bringing it out in January, that kills 1,000 copies,'
one buyer protests."
Ending with hope for the future, and potentially a
valuable relatively high-visibility venue:
(The article author) Douglas Wolk writes on comics and
music for the Village Voice, Spin and Rolling Stone. He will
edit PW's new comics department, which debuts in December.
As a personal obeservation, I think comics are starting to
become cooler than pro wrestling, a definite sea change ...
there's griping by the wrestling fanboy base about the product
becoming stale and too continuity-obsessed:
Turn out the lights, the wrestling boom is over:
To paraphrase James Brown: Say it out loud, I'm a comics
fan and I'm proud!
Thanks, […]! Now I've got MORE reading to do! :)
Just what the world needed, more hypocrisy
<<Boris the Bear was canceled in 1990, with its 34th
Boris made a brief return in Boris's Adventure Magazine. This
was a short-lived and infrequently published title, as well as
being an anthology series. Only one short story per issue had
Boris in it.
On a related note, early issues of Boris the Bear had
Boris visiting a comic shop and interacting with the manager,
Pat. That Pat is, in fact, Pat Richardson, the owner of the
comic shop that I work in. He's also the brother of Mike
Richardson, Dark Horse's big kahuna.
<<I can't comment on Jon Sable's "white supermacist"
background; I wasn't worldly enough the first time I read those
books to make the inference (if such there was) and I didn't enjoy
the character enough that I'm going to go back and read them
again. There are some Sable fans -- notably this site's Jeff Alan
Polier -- who will be glad to rise to the defense, I'm
Someone has already jumped to Sable's (and Grell's) defense,
but I'll re-read the issues and get back to you.
<<IRON MAN: BAD BLOOD #4 (Of 4): I still don't see any
reason this couldn't have been a four-issue storyline in the main
title. I feel vaguely ripped off.>>
My -- limited -- understanding is that this was originally
going to be part of the regular Iron Man series. It was because
of scheduling problems (fitting the story into the timeline of
the regular title) that it was made into a miniseries. Imagine
that! A Marvel title that not only ships on time but has so many
good stories that they have to publish "ahead" of schedule!
<<XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS #14>>
This is Dark Horse's last issue. [...]'s a bit bummed about it.
This was a very good title.
<<Besides, if it was a creator I liked, chances are he'd be
heading somewhere I'd eventually like.>>
Chances are, but not absolutely. I love Peter David's work, but
not even he could make me like Aquaman. As much as I wanted to,
I just couldn't bring myself to like Arthur Curry.
Why do I get the vibe this correspondent
takes Mr. Smith’s same approach on fictional characters? If there’s
any reason I could be dismayed with Aquaman penned by David, though,
it could be thanks to the editorially mandated story by Kevin Dooley
that Arthur Curry’s hand be severed. And this was overseen by the
same editor who turned Hal Jordan evil! Now comes November 7, 2000,
with somebody commenting on a letter I’d written about my puzzlement
that X-Women aren’t called that:
From the last Mailbag:
"If you ask me, I think that it's very disrespectful of the
writers to be using a masculine term in order to describe the
X-Women." -- Avi Green
I think you are being too sensitive. A member of the Avengers
is an Avenger. A member of the X-Men is an X-Man. You don't
refer to Janet van Dyne as an Avengeress or an Avengerette, do
In our language, "man" is the root word used in
descriptions of the species as a whole and the specific gender.
"Mankind" and "human" are the two most common words to decribe
Homo Sapiens. Calling Storm an X-Man isn't an insult, it is
simply the way the language works.
"Without the web gizmo and a nod to the spider that bit him, Peter
could have easily called himself Amazing Guy or Super Wall-Walking
Man." – […]
Marvel covered this a couple of years ago when Peter took on
four (four!) additional costumed identities, none of which were
spider-related. It was a pretty interesting idea that, sadly,
led to a pretty boring spin-off book.
From the Q&A:
"Since the Files place [Barry's] death at, variously, four years
ago or six years ago, let's assume he was 24 when he got started
and died at a nice round 30." -- The Captain
I'd add at least a year onto his age. We know he lived in the
future with Iris before coming back in time to save reality. I
don't think we know how long, but I like to imagine that they at
least had one happy year before disaster.
"I also decided, after much thought, to accept characters who only
stretched in certain ways, like Bouncing Boy or Thin Man, since
that's sorta stretchy." -- The Captain
You could then add Big Bertha from the Great Lakes Avengers to
(Yeah, I know they're not the GLA anymore but I hate the
The boring Spider-Man spin-off book you remember was
Slingers, which I must say (with all due modesty) I slammed with
tremendous, enthusiastic gusto in Canceled Comics Cavalcade when
it was axed. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
I tend to agree with you about hypersensitivity in the use of
language. In newspapers some years back we tried to accommodate
the shrill calls for eliminating "man" and "anthro" as the root
for many of our words, so as not to "foster a gender bias." But
frankly, it got so ridiculous that the whole rubbish was rolled
back and we take a common-sense approach to it now. If a crook is
manhandled by police and manacled to a manhole, we say exactly
that instead of "personhandled by police and personacled to a
personhole." Which sounds kinda dirty if you squint just right. On
the other hand, we use "firefighters" instead of firemen, "police
officers" instead of policemen, and when it comes to "chairman"
vs. "chairperson," we refer to the leader in question by whatever
term is used by the organization he or she chairs. Simple. And if
people object, we ask them politely to examine their own biases
before questioning ours.
As to your Q&A remarks, I was including Barry's year with Iris
in the future (and I think it was actually established as one
year, somewhere) when I declared that his superhero career lasted
six years. And Big Bertha has been officially added to the list of
Gee, isn’t that funny coming from somebody
who probably thinks LGBT and Islamic beliefs should be accomodated
at all costs, and that “homosexual” should just be substituted in
some cases with “gays”. Or that no criticism of Islamofascism should
be allowed, not even if it’s LGBT activists doing the criticism (and
you can be sure a lot of the major movements won’t, proving their
In fact, today it’s possible they would be willing to foster some
kind of “gender bias” despite everything he said some 14 years
before. They certainly did foster a LGBT and Islam bias.
"The Spectre is equally hard to define, since he's being written
these days as an aspect of God. Since I make no pretensions to
divinity, that makes me ill-equipped to judge him. The new series
will focus on Hal Jordan -- and HIM I can judge! Given that he
went postal in "Emerald Twilight" and comitted mass murder, I'd
say he has to fall in the "villain" category. He's attempting to
redeem himself as the new Spectre, but mass murder is pretty hard
to forgive. Let's see how well he does." -- The Captain
Isn't it just too darn bad that Nexus isn't a part of the DCU?
Heh! For the uninitiated, Nexus was a terrific character by Mike
Baron and Steve Rude who had his own series at a number of
publishers. But what's significant here is that Nexus's raison
d'etre was that he was driven to assassinate mass murderers who
had escaped justice -- which, if he lived in the DCU, would
certainly have made a certain Hal Jordan nervous, at least when he
was still Parallax ... !
Since this was brought up
again, why didn’t Mr. Smith ask why the editors wouldn’t try to turn
back the clock and erase all that was Emerald Twilight? When it
comes to fictional characters, we shouldn’t think it impossible to
repair wrongs that were done.
Also, how intriguing Mr. Smith spoke positively of Nexus without
realizing the hero was written doing just what the Punisher was
doing. No wonder Baron was also one of the guys who wrote Frank
Castle back in the day; he clearly knew what he was doing with his
own creations! Yet Smith calls him terrific! We must truly be
missing something here. One can only wonder what Mr. Smith would say
if Baron or somebody else took a different path with Nexus – that
is, depicted him the same way Garth Ennis did years later, as a
lunatic. An excellent question indeed. Now, here’s two-in-one about
Jason Todd, the second Robin:
Dear Cap: Regarding your recent questions about the
history of Dick Grayson and some of the events that happened
with him as Robin, I would like to add my two cents from what I
In Batman 408 (which started the origin story of Jason
Todd), the opening sequence featured an attempt by Batman and
Robin to capture The Joker on top of a building being
constructed in Gotham City. Batman confronted the Joker while
Robin attempted to sneak up from behind. Joker somehow sensed
that Robin was behind him and turned around and shot him,
grazing him in the shoulder. Robin fell off the side of the
building but his life was saved because he got tangled up in a
rope on the side and ended up on a ledge. After this, there is a
scene where Bruce Wayne tells an angry Dick Grayson that he can
no longer be Robin (although we know how long that lasted).
I also recall around that time that a story arc with
Two-Face was going on in Detective, and I believe allusions were
made back then about Two-Face nearly killing Dick. (I'm at work,
or I'd give you the issue number.)
Now, I realize that in the period of time between when I
stopped collecting comics (1989) and when I just started
collecting again (2000), the character has probably been
retconned into another existence, but I thought I would share my
Thanks for all the info, […]! While it is certainly true that I
own and have read virtually every Marvel and DC since 1963, it
doesn't necessarily follow that I remember each and every story,
particularly with massive retcons re-writing everything I "know"
about given characters every few years. Sometimes I just decide
for myself what "happened" and what didn't, and just plain forget
stories I don't care for. Like the entire history of Jason Todd,
for example. Here's another correspondent with a sharp memory:
Dear Cap: Yes, the story of The Joker almost killing Dick has
been told, shortly post-Crisis. I believe the story was called
"Did Robin Die Tonight?" and it began the bad reboot, rethink,
and ultimate besmirchment of Jason Todd. Without warning, after
years of Jason as Robin, we readers were suddenly presented with
Dick as Robin again. In the first couple of pages, The Joker
shot him, he fell from his batrope, nearly died, etc., and while
recovering in stately Wayne Manor, Bruce forbade him to ever be
Robin again, reasoning that it was just too dangerous. Dick
recovered, left in a huff, and began his career leading The
Titans. Later in that same issue, a scruffy street urchin tries
to steal the Batmobile's hubcaps; Batman stops him, respects his
spiritedness, and begins training him to be Robin.
It may not have been quite that simplistic, but that's how
I remember it. That story was really the first time I realized
that pretty much everything I knew about EVERY character could
be arbitrarily thrown out the window. (I think it may have even
pre-dated the release of Byrne's Man of Steel miniseries.) What
stuck in my mind was that I had actually found the pre-Crisis
Jason Todd to be pretty interesting and humanizing for Bruce, as
he struggled with all the other role models in his life (Harvey
Bullock, whom he viewed as a lovable uncle, and Nocturna,
supervillain and foster mother). Then BAM! He became the
annoying brat that everyone wanted to die. And make no mistake,
the post-Crisis Jason was a jerk. Just goes to show you that
there are no bad characters, just bad handling of them, because
really, pre-Crisis, Jason was well on his way to becoming what
Tim Drake is today.
And when it comes to your town (or more likely, on video),
check out the superhero mockumentary starring Rob Lowe as The
Weevil. A stretchy hero makes a brief cameo (Stretchy Boy, in
fact), and mention is made that almost all stretchy heroes come
from the Pacific Northwest, due to flouridation in the water.
They also all tend to die early of mouth cancer.
No real point, I guess, but it makes a silly coda to a
type of hero who is, usually, silly.
That's another video to add to my list, since I happen to really
enjoy silliness. Thanks!
As to Jason Todd, I don't remember a point I EVER liked him, but
time may have dulled my recollections. Anyway, thanks for the
Robin info -- Dick Grayson's history has become more and more
convoluted, and it's getting difficult to keep it straight.
Wow, despite what the correspondent said
about no bad characters, just bad writers, Mr. Smith clearly failed
to comprehend, and proceeded to do just that when he says he can
never recall a time when he liked Jason. Tragically, the same
correspondent who wrote the second letter was later discovered
embracing Identity Crisis, so I’m not putting too much value on his
That told, the retcon to Dick’s history is definitely stupefying,
since both he and Bruce risked their necks plenty of times, and
Batman never asked him to throw in the towel. In fact, he was proud
of him. As established in New Teen Titans, Dick took up the
Nightwing costume because he saw it as the ideal way to break out on
his own path and direction, coming out from behind Batman’s shadow
being his own man as he reached adulthood. Yet editorial couldn’t
appreciate that…and neither can Mr. Smith.
Dear Cap: 1) There's no need to apologize for
disagreeing with me on the gun-control issue, but thanks anyway.
I believe that debate is a good way to analyze and develop
opinions. I often debate from a position I don't necessarily
believe in just for the sake of argument (not this time though.)
I was appalled to hear about the two children who died of
gun accidents. What kind of father leaves a deadly weapon where
his six-year-old child can get to it? I just feel that we would
be doing society an injustice by banning anything based on the
actions of a few irresponsible individuals.
2) Since the issue of superheroes aging came up twice on
your Web site this week, I thought I'd bring up one of my
comic-book pet peeves. Even though superheroes' lives,
particularly those of the Marvel variety, seem to remain static,
the most fondly remembered stories almost always take place
during periods of change. For example one of my favorite sagas
of all time is Walt Simonson's run on Thor. Thor ditched his
mortal secret identity, grew a beard and started wearing cool
new armor. Odin was given a glorious end, and Balder took over
the throne of Asgard. Almost every character in the Thor mythos
went through major character development during Simonson's
tenure. Simonson's writing duties on Thor ended after issue 382,
and by the Thunder God's 400th issue all of the aforementioned
changes had been eliminated. I figure this is because writers
want to write the characters as they remember them from their
childhood, but the writers could always set stories in their
favorite time period of the characters' lives without throwing
out any recent history. Of the other hand, DC does allow major
changes in its characters from time to time, and we end up with
14 years without red kryptonite and that whole Emerald Twilight
mess. I think when I started this rant I was moving toward some
sort of discussion-inspiring question, but I've lost it now --
1) What kind of father? In othe one case a jobless, petty-crook,
cracked-out one (he was passed out in the next room), and in the
other a fairly responsible middle-class one with a gun collection
that he failed to lock up one day. Anecdotes are fairly useless
for most purposes, but they do foster debate, so I throw them out
2) I guess it's a given that we remember stories that involve
tremendous change to the status quo (for good or ill). Which is
one reason I generally disagree with fans who go ballistic when a
character is changed. "Change," Mr. Spock said, "is the only
constant in the universe." And characters that don't change become
static and dull. Witness Spider-Man for the last 25 years, for
example. On the other hand, change must be done well and with
great foresight, instinct and talent -- or you end up with
"Emerald Twilight" instead of Simonson's run on Thor. I'm probably
just pointing out the obvious, but I don't know where I'm going
with this, either.
Smith may not need to apologize if he was
resorting to leftist gun control insanity, but he should apologize
for fawning over Identity Crisis at the full expense of victims of
rape and spousal/child abuse. Oh, and look who’s taling about
foresight, instinct and talent! The same man who, as noted before,
fully backed IC! Now for November 14, 2000:
Dear Cap: Just to muddy the waters further on this
character, I seem to recall that he was originally called Mr.
MxyzTPlk instead of MxyzPTlk. Looked quite a bit different, too.
I also recall DC saying after the Crisis that the
other-dimensional homelands of Mxyztplk and Mxyzptlk (Zrfff-1
and Zrfff-2?) were unaffected by the Crisis, leaving both
characters free to return, but we only ever saw Mxyzptlk
afterwards. Now I realize you're not a huge Golden Age fan, but
perhaps one of your Faithful Correspondents might know when the
character's name and appearance changed. Was it both at the same
time? Or was it a gradual change? And what about Naomi?
Naomi, after leaving the legendary soap opera Love of Chair,
changed her name to Ms. Gsptlnz and moved to Zrfff. She's been
linked romantically with Mxyzptlk in some of the less-reputable
It's my understanding that Mr. MxyzTPlk was indeed the Golden Age
spelling, but to know when and where it changed would require a
more extensive Golden Age collection than I possess. Anyone who
writes in with that info would have my undying gratitude.
And we know for a fact that Mxyzptlk's home dimension survived
Crisis, as we've seen our heroes visit it twice (once in JLA:
Heaven's Ladder, and in "Crisis Times Five!" in JLA 28-31). That
latter story was a surprise to me, as it established that Johnny
Thunder's thunderbolt wasn't a Bahdnisian djinn at all, but was
instead yet another extradimensional imp from Zrfff named YZ ("Say
you!" backwards). It makes sense when you think about it, but I
never had never thought about it before!
Has he ever thought before that Identity
Crisis and Civil War made no sense at all? Didn’t think so. But wow,
is the correspondent right that Smith's not a Golden Age buff? Dear
dear. Though even a so-called buff like James Robinson can be just
Hi, Cap! Have you heard about Marvel's new scheme?:
JEMAS TALKS MARVEL COMICS AS COLLECTIBLES
Marvel's Bill Jemas addressed the issues of collectibility
and accessibility of the content of the Marvel Ultimate titles
"With respect to Ultimate Spider-Man, we found ourselves
in a situation -- half by accident and half on purpose -- what
we ended up doing with Ultimate Spider-Man is promoting and
advertising this book as much as we've ever advertised any book
in recent memory," Jemas said. "We had pretty good initial
sell-in, and then we made the decision over Matt Ragone and
Diamond's pretty strenuous objections that we would print as
many books as we had orders for, plus a few thousand more, and
leave it at that, and not go back for a reprint, and let the
people who supported the book in the first instance get the
benefits of having themselves a collectible item.
"For me, as a person who's been in this market and the
trading card market for a long time, I envisioned what Amazing
Fantasy 15 would have been worth, if Marvel had went back and
printed another 20, 30 or 40,000 copies beyond what the demand
was at the time. One of the many pillars of the comic book
business is collectibility, and as long as the publisher treats
the book like ink and paper and nothing more, even well-placed
ink, then the books are not going to become collectible.
"What happened was sort of fascinating and interesting --
this book that had been written for smart 12-year-olds turned
out to be the favorite book among smart 40-year-olds, and
there's a real collector craze about the book, and I'm not going
to quote the eBay and online prices, but it is a solid book, and
people are talking about and thinking about is the value of the
Anyone who has heard one of my long-winded rants<g>
on the subject of speculating knows that I am not a big fan of
that mentality. I believe that comics should be bought with the
intention of personal enjoyment, whether that manifests itself
as an affinity for great art or fun stories or any number of
things. Sure, we're all happy to have something in our
collections that may be worth a pretty penny. That's only
natural. I just see the investing into comics in the pursuit of
financial gain and nothing else as a hollow and ultimately
disappointing endeavor that only hurts the industry in the long
run. In the history of the comics market this has fact has been
My view is that when you collect something because you
truly enjoy it you are much happier and if the item becomes
worth more than its original price, that's a bonus!
I understand and appreciate "collectibles" (I guess I'd
better in my profession as a comics retailer, huh<g>?). I
separate "collectibles," like Amazing Fantasy 15, from "hot"
comics like, say, Harbinger once was. I do not like it when
corporate heads of major comics companies try to treat our
comics market as the stock market, especially at a time when the
industry could use a boost. For a company like Marvel to
purposefully manipulate the demand for a product is very
shortsighted and shows a complete lack of knowledge for what
factors into making a healthy market.
The reason for this tirade is that Marvel comics
president, Bill Jemas, is going online in an interview about
making comics "collectible." The comic in question this time is
Ultimate Spider-Man. It is a very good comic and one that Marvel
was touting as a catalyst to bring in newer readers. It is sad,
then, to see that Mr. Jemas is really intent on creating the
artificial "collector's items" of the early '90s. Marvel should
be doing everything possible to get comics into the hands of new
readers, not limiting supplies in order to force
"collectibility" and suggest with a straight face that this is a
reward to the comics fans.
The corporate leaders of the country's major comics
companies need to wake up and realize that their place is to
provide reading and visual entertainment for a nation of fans
and readers. They need to cultivate a new crop of young readers
and produce enough comics to satisfy the demand. Marvel makes no
money off of the secondary market. Marvel's erroneous assumption
is that by stoking the fires of "speculation" they can recreate
the market place of the early 1990s. It won't happen that way.
That market crash and burned for a reason. Marvel comics should
not be playing as if they are the Franklin Mint.
It is said that one should learn from history so that the
mistakes of the past are not repeated. Sadly, no one at Marvel
has heard this saying.
I was appalled also when I read that Jemas interview, [name
withheld]. Given the chaos and destruction the pursuit of the
collectible mentality has delivered on this industry in the past,
to actively revive that discredited mindset is akin to somebody in
Jonestown suggesting they like the taste of Kool-Aid.
But Marvel has made Ultimate Spider-Man available on the Net; I
don't know what that strategy is meant to achieve (limit the
product where it's paid for, then make it available for free?
Huh?). Maybe Jemas is just throwing everything at the wall to see
what sticks. Keep your fingers crossed.
Maybe Dan DiDio was doing the same with IC
4 years later too! Did he ever think of that? I’m sure he didn’t do
that either. Nor has had much to say about mindless collector’s
mentality since this was originally written, so we know for a fact
that he can’t be terribly concerned. Otherwise, we’d have seen his
opinions voiced in his paper columns long ago. So now, here’s
November 21, 2000:
<<But will Batman learn humility? Heh. I certainly
doubt it! -- Captain Comics>>
Dear Cap: Last year in your end-of-the-year survey I predicted
one of the greatest moments of this year would be a group
unmasking of Batman, Nightwing and Robin to their respective
teams, JLA, Titans, YJ.
I certainly haven't seen anything in Previews to suggest
this was coming soon but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for
2001. It seems like every time I pick up a Bat-related title
there is mention of the tension caused by not knowing the
identity of the pointy-eared family as well as a Batman without
a Bruce Wayne. His recent ousting by the JLA is the boiling
point of the situation. I see the coming out of Bruce Wayne as
the only real solution for coming back into the fold. And I have
to say it's about time. Clark Kent has managed to stay in a lead
role; why can't Bruce?
Side Note: Devin Grayson rocks! The latest Gotham Knights
has Catwoman seen in a whole new light for me, making me wonder
if Nightwing will someday suffer from an Oedipus complex.
Actually, Superman's secret ID hasn't been revealed to any of the
JLA, outside of Wonder Woman, Batman and Martian Manhunter (and
possibly Aquaman) -- most of whom know Batman's ID as well. Yet
that doesn't cause any tension.
On the other hand, Superman isn't compiling dossiers on how to
kill his fellow members ... Anyway, here's another point of view:
A better question would be if Mr. Smith
will learn any humility. Alas, don’t expect him to ever think about
doing that. As for Devin Grayson, maybe once she was a decent
writer, but her work on Nightwing was the pits; possibly all part of
a deliberate effort to knock off a few characters Chuck Dixon
introduced there. Now for the other letter:
Hey! Just a quick, fanboy comment --
The recent "vote of no confidence" and removal of Batman
from the JLA has to be one of the best story ines in a long time
-- one that is "right up there" with the Superman storyline
where we thought Lois wanted a divorce. Both stories have/had me
on the edge of my seat with a knot in my stomach and resulted in
When I thought Lois went and cheated on Clark with none
other than Lex Luthor, I nearly lost my mind (of course, my wife
was convinced I HAD lost my mind as I kept mumbling to myself,
"how could she DO this to him!").
The recent JLA storyline has made me dislike the rest of
the JLA. Yeah, yeah, I know, Batman was secretive and he kept
notes on all of them. But that's how he ALWAYS operated. It's
like sausage: It tastes great, but who wants to see how it's
made? Batman always gets the job done and is always one step
ahead of everyone else -- how did they THINK he managed that?
He's the only non-enhanced member (Kyle Rayner has THE RING,
which I consider an enhancement, and The Huntress has been
booted out for being big on revenge -- heh) of the team. At one
time or another, all the enhanced members have lost their minds
or been taken over by an outside entity. If Batman is left alone
to fight one of them during such a crisis, everybody should have
confidence in knowing that IF he went down, he'd go down doing
as much (if not more) damage than any of them would.
The "holier-than-thou" attitudes of some of the others is
just beyond me. They question his loyalty and make statements
that "they need to trust whomever they are working with." Yet
Diana and Arthur are royalty and clearly have other loyalties.
Superman has lost his mind several times and has, at times, made
it quite clear that he is a true son of Krypton. Plas is a
former crook and you have to HOPE he understands the gravity of
most situations. Who knows WHAT kind of hero he'd be if he
concentrated on the task at hand more than the joke in mouth.
Moreover, Batman is clear that each one of the powerhouses COULD
fry him at any time -- it seems to me that they have simply been
startled by the fact that Batman could fry THEM at anytime. They
have come to the realization that he actually IS as powerful as
they. I think that's the true problem: their perception of the
balance of power has been brought more into focus.
I know that Batman's protocols were used against the
others and that they were hurt in the process, but each of them
has injured everyone else when their powers have run amok (well
... except for Plas), and yet they weren't asked to leave.
ANYWAY ... as you can see, the story has stirred great
emotion. That's what a story is supposed to do. It has made me
see them as real people and has forced me to choose sides. The
Superman/Lois/Parasite story line had me unable to eat some
This is great writing, in my opinion.
I was wondering how your other readers felt and if they
are choosing sides, too?
OH, YEAH . . . those other groups that are now having
problems trusting Nightwing and Robin ... well, they're on my
"list" too. Those two guys have been the brains and common sense
focal points for the whole of their adventures. There's a reason
The mail has been largely quiet on the Batman/JLA fallout, but
what I have received has been mostly split. Some, like you, see
Batman's "X-protocols" as a natural extension of his character,
something the other characters would probably half expect -- and
what makes Batman Batman (and useful to the League). In other
words, to paraphrase your point, Batman's secretive planning IS
his super-power, and for a change it was Batman's super-power that
was turned against the League by a supervillain, instead of, say,
Superman's (as in "Superman: King of the World").
The other half -- see the letter above from [name withheld] --
take the position that the Dark Knight has never been much of a
team player and deserves to be held to account. In specific, […]
holds Batman's toes to the fire for not revealing his ID to the
others, and that his secrecy drives a wedge of trust into an
otherwise tightly-knit superhuman response team.
I admit I lean toward your view. It seems to me that Batman is and
always has been a team player through necessity, but not choice
(Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, Robin, etc.). His reason for hanging
with the League, it seems to me, is that he feels the need to rein
herd on a bunch of outrageously powerful beginners (Kyle Rayner
leaps to mind here) who essentially have the responsibility to
protect the Earth but can't be counted on to do a decent job of it
without "adult" supervision.
But it's not a job he sought nor necessarily enjoys. One of the
defining moments for me was during Grant Morrison's run, when
Superman took Batman to task for "not being more of a team
player." Urging him to lighten up. Hang out more. Be a pal, not a
Well, even I understood at the point (although Joel Schumacher
apparently doesn't) that being scary is Batman's only edge. Should
he become just another Spandex-clad Boy Scout, he might as well
hang up the Bat-suit and be a cop or FBI agent. And why should he
reveal his ID to the team when Superman hasn't?
And then Batman explained the rest:
"I don't bounce bullets off my chest. I don't have a magic ring. I
don't run faster than the wind. And I can't afford to hang out
with brightly-clad amateurs that do."
In other words, joining the League was DANGEROUS for him -- it
makes him a target when he's the only guy in the room with no
defense against a simple bullet. And it has the potential of
making him less mysterious, which lessens his effectiveness. But
he joined with higher goals in mind than self-interest. And a
natural extension of that attitude is that these "amateurs" need
to be kept on a tight leash. And who better for the job? Lex
Another defining moment: During the aforementioned "Superman: King
of the World" storyline, when the League resolved to bring down a
mind-controlled Man of Steel, was there anybody in the room with
half a chance of succeeding but Batman? That's who I was looking
to for an ace-in-the-hole -- and so was the League.
But are those who say that Batman needs to change to fit into the
League correct? I don't think so, but this story is turning out so
naturally and so riveting that I'm pleased to turn off my critical
fanboy facullties and just enjoy it. In hindsight, it seems a
story that simply had to be told -- but only Mark Waid saw that.
And I can't wait to see what happens next. Which, as you say, is
pretty darn good writing.
Which isn’t what Mr. Smith specializes in.
Now here’s another letter of mine, one I’d like to think raises
interesting issues, but decidedly fails its potential, and just
wait’ll you see how he replied:
Dear Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith: Recently, I went
with my family to visit some relatives of mine in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, where I was born, and while there I wondered, how
come I never seem to have seen the City of Brotherly Love as the
main story setting in any of my favorite comics?
I do know though, of at least two characters who come from
the Philly: Robbie Robertson, the senior editor of the Daily
Bugle in the Marvel Universe (that’s right, it’s not excluded to
just Spider-Man, there are a lot of other Marvel titles where
it’s appeared), and an adversary of his, Tombstone, who may or
may not be an albino, it’s hard to say.
Before going to Philadelphia, I went to Paris, France,
which has been seen in some comics (i.e. -- the Justice League
International comics). And afterwards, I went to Ft. Lauderdale,
Florida, which probably hasn’t, even though the Sunshine State
could make a potentially good location for an action, mystery
and adventure story.
Do you know how many cities there are, not just in North
America, but even in the rest of the world, that haven’t been
thought of as potential story settings? Although there have been
plenty that have, including most recently Memphis in the
Avengers, as you spoke about a few months ago, there are still
so many, many, many that haven’t. Why should it just be New York
much of the time, or even fictionalized versions like Metropolis
and Gotham City?
As a native of such a huge metropolis as Philadelphia, I
can tell you that it’s certainly a good place to write a story
setting for some of the most popular of Marvel and DC comics, as
either itself or in a fictionalized way. There are so many
interesting locations within Philly itself, including the
Liberty Bell Park, that make it an ideal choice for a story
setting, whether it be as a location for an action/battle scene,
or even dramatically.
And even there, it’s not enough, there are still a lot of
other cities across the U.S. that are quite worthy as story
locations. For example, there’s also New England areas like
Boston, which is also very huge. (Speaking of Boston, this
reminds me, I once saw Wonder Woman wearing a T-shirt that had
"property of the Boston University" written on it in an issue
from 1993, although that’s not saying that she’d ever acually
been to Boston, I just don’t know right now). And there’s even
cities like Chicago, which is very well known as a city. And
then we have places like the twin cities, Minneapolis and St.
Paul. Or even places like Lexington in Kentucky, Dallas in
Texas, St. Louis in Missouri, Ogden in Utah, Rochester and
Syracuse in upstate New York, Omaha in Nebraska, Denver in
Colorado, Atlanta in Georgia, and even Pine Bluff in Arkansas.
Moving outside the U.S., we have places like Australia,
where the X-Men had once been stationed for awhile, and even
China, which has probably also appeared in comics. And then
there are places that probably haven’t, like Montevideo in
Uruguay (wow, what a name!) or even Ipswich in England, and also
Syria, Algeria, Corsica, Sicily, Greenland, Samoa, Cyprus and
even small places like Fiji and Vanuatu. And then there’s
Istanbul in Turkey, Athens in Greece, Copenhagen in Denmark,
Malmo in Sweden, and Bilbao in Spain. Even here!
Moving back to North America, we have the provinces of
Canada, such as Ontario, which have certainly turned up in the
now defunct Alpha Flight. But more than that are needed. We need
to see even places like Vancouver in British Columbia, Halifax
in New Brunswick, Winnipeg in Manitoba and even Montreal in
Quebec featured in comic-book stories.
And then, moving back to the U.S., has a place like Hawaii
ever been shown in a comic-book story? They too could be a great
place to set a story. And even an underpopulated state like
Montana could be good for a story setting, since it could be the
ideal place for secret laboratories to established.
All or any of such places are quite ideal as as story
locations, and I think that comic-book writers should really
give them a try. I know that many artists and writers have lived
primarily around New York and have otherwise only been used to
dealing with that area, but that’s not saying that they can’t
try to take a look at any of the places outside the Big Apple to
know how to come up with a good storyline.
And none of Marvel’s characters, for example, have to live
primarily in New York in order to be part of the Marvel
Universe. They can live in other parts of the country as well.
Though I’ve never seen Philadelphia as a main story
setting, I did manage to find an article in the Philadelphia
City Paper about some "home-grown comics," or more precisely,
underground comics, that are set there. Here’s the address:
This article tells about Dave Yurkovich’s SuperHeroes Of
Philadelphia (S.H.O.P), a self-published project and Jamar
Nicholas's humor/action comics, The Jamar Chronicles. I hope it
can be of interest.
The trip I took to Philly also helped me to get to see the
dreadful state that the comics industry has suffered from in the
past few years. In fact, it’s not just the comics industry
that’s having a hard time making sales these days, it’s also a
lot of the book industry too! Do you know that it was so hard to
find that many bookstores in town? In Memphis, it’s possible
that the situation is better, but in Philly it’s just dreadful.
Encore Books, a pretty large business at one time, has closed
down. On Bustleton Avenue there were practically no bookstores.
On Roosevelt Boulevard there was a comic-book store, but it was
closed down too. On Welsh Road, there was a Marlo Books store,
but they didn’t sell any comics, although they did sell MAD
magazine. And in Franklin Mills, a huge shopping mall, there was
only one bookstore! Franklin Mills is so big that if you start
at one end, it can take you at least 25 tiresome minutes to get
to the other. And tragically, there was only one bookstore, and
with no comics anywhere, not even books of past newspaper comic
strips like Peanuts and Garfield. I remember seeing a comic-book
store in Franklin Mills eight years ago, which was the last time
I’d been there, but that too is gone.
Another sad discovery my family made is that a lot of
Philadelphia’s Jewish community moved out of the city center in
the past few years and has moved out to the suburbs. Philly used
to have a very large Jewish population, and now it’s gotten
smaller. But that’s still another story.
Things did start to get better when I found a Best Buy
electronics store that sold copies of Wizard, but even that’s
not really enough. But then, I started to get close when I found
that the Barnes and Noble store on Walnut Street in the big part
of town sold compliations of past titles from Marvel and DC as
well as some graphic novels. But the problem is that those are
past issues that being sold there in compliations, and not the
newer stories that comic readers are usually interested in
But then finally, I found comics being sold in the Miami
airport on the way back to here. But even there, my family found
something saddening: The price, which by now has gone up to
about $2.25! My mother was disappointed. ‘Cause yeah, that’s a
lot of dough.
As mentioned, it was very distressing for us to find such
a dearth of bookstores. And you know what the reason for that
could be? As someone in Philly told me, "people don’t read in
this country anymore."
My goodness! Have things really become that bad in North
America these days? Now that’s something to worry about. By
contrast, over here in Israel, there are plenty of bookstores,
with Steimatzky leading the way, and not only that, they also
sell comics. There is however, a slight drawback: They only sell
what comes as the most popular, mainly from Marvel and DC. They
sell Superman and Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men, and that’s
about it. Very few times have I ever seen them selling any of
the other titles from such companies (I once found the first
issue of the Avengers' second volume, Heroes Return, and more
recently, an issue of Thor). There is however, a magazine store
in the city that sells more of what Steimatzky doesn’t,
including Fantastic Four and Green Lantern, but even there,
there are still some things that they don’t sell. Example:
Daredevil, which I
myself have read very little of, if at all, and so even
there, I’m disappointed.
One sure thing, if people in the U.S. aren’t reading books
as much as they could be, then no wonder the comics industry has
And that’s a shame. Because comics in particular are
something most wonderful to read, and if the public isn’t
turning to reading as much as before, than how are kids going to
get to read what can be the best thing for them either?
I’m happy to say though, that the movie industry doesn’t
seem to be what’s causing the problem. Yes, even the rate of
moviegoers has been declining in the past few years. But that
isn’t my concern, knowing how many of today’s movies are
absolutely awful. What is my concern, and yours too, of course,
is that U.S. bookstores aren’t selling comics as they ought to,
nor the supermarkets. Instead, what they sell are all these
horrific tabloids like the National Enquirer. Tabloids like
those truly repel me, and I think it’s tragic if the
supermarkets are selling those.
I don’t buy the excuses that the supermarkets make that
they find it hard to handle all sorts of different titles. As it
so happens, they don’t have to buy that many just to make good
business. And Marvel and DC are the first companies that one
would think of when it comes to buying and selling comics at the
supermarket. I think that the supermarkets are just greedy for
too much money, which is always a bad sign. In fact, it could
even be part of psychological warfare, in order to dumb down the
The bookstores and supermarkets should not be so reluctant
to sell comics just because they don’t think that they cost
enough or because they think it’s too much to handle. Such
excuses are just diplomatic lies. They should start being
willing to sell them again, and they don’t have to sell Marvel
or DC’s entire line of titles in order to draw in the kids and
their parents who like to read them.
Maybe what the public needs to do is to start petitioning
the supermarkets like Kmart, for example, to start selling them
again. In addition, the supermarkets could (and should) get rid
of all those horrible tabloids, and put the comics on their
And maybe DC and Marvel should make some buisness deals
with bookstores like Barnes and Noble (and, if it comes in
handy, let me type in their Web site address,
http://www.barnesandnoble.com) to try and sell some of their
If all the above steps can be taken, then it’s possible
that that way, the comics industry could help boost its sales
But most important of all, people have to start being
encouraged to read again. As far as I can tell, the education
system in the U.S. is pretty sloppy these days, and to improve
the readership of books as a whole, improvements in the overall
education system are required as well.
You've certainly raised some of the major challenges
facing comic books and the regular book industry. While I'm not
prepared to slam the entire U.S. education system, I will note
that reading for pleasure is declining -- possibly due to
competition from videogames and the Internet. Some of the
solutions you've mentioned are being pursued -- particularly by
Marvel with its "Ultimate" line, and DC with its trade paperback
program. And if they're not, they ought to be!
As to your question about cities, the reason most comics are set
where the creators live is ... well, they don't have to do any
research! Still, a great many of the places you mentioned have
been the settings for various comics. Wonder Woman did indeed live
in Boston for a while, and Hawkman was set in Chicago in its last
incarnation. Hawaii was home to Superboy for a few years. And
Razorback was set in Texarkana, Ark., which isn't Pine Bluff but
at least is in the same state. And Alpha Flight hit many Canadian
locations and Martian Manhunter operates primarily in South
America (where he's known as El Hombre Verdad. "El Hombre Verdad
is muy macho!"). But don't look for Montevideo to be home to
anybody at DC -- Vandal Savage blew it up with an nuclear bomb in
the pages of DC One Million!
Now why am I disappointed in retrospect
with my letter? Here’s one example: I wish I’d brought up a country
like Armenia. I wish I’d argued that Armenians deserve their moment
in the spotlight too. Ditto Portuguese, Bulgarians, Coptic
Egyptians, Serbians, Burmese, Basque, Ainu from northern Japan and
Samis from Scandanavia.
Then again, maybe it’s not that big a deal at all, because why
should we expect Mr. Smith to take these ideas seriously enough to
write about them in his columns, arguing why mainstream publishers
would do well to give these ethnicities some focus? Indeed no, we
couldn’t, despite that being the best place for these topics. And
not doing research in the age of internet? Sigh. Despite any claim
he might make to the contrary, the sad truth is that reporters like
Mr. Smith are cheap in what they bring to the table. So much, in
fact, that they even forget to mention some of the best artists, as
happened in a CBG column that’s the subject of the following letter
from November 28, 2000:
Dear Captain, I'm in the middle of reading your
column in CBG No. 1409, and just noticed a glaring omission in
your list of all Plastic Man's solo series. There was a series
which continued from the '60s numbering with Vol. 4 No. 11 from
Feb-Mar 1976 up to issue No. 20, Oct-Nov 1977. These all
featured wonderful art by Ramona Fradon. Just remindin' ya. Keep
up the good work.
You weren't the only one to note my omission, [withheld] -- but
you were the first, so you get the honor of pointing out my gaffe.
Sure enough, DC's first Plastic Man series was canceled with its
10th issue in 1968 (which I mentioned), but picked up again for 10
more issues eight years later (which I didn't). Thanks for the
Given how dishonest Smith’s MO really is,
that’s why I honestly don’t know if it’s worth letting him know
about omissions at this point, because what’s the use of letting him
know he has an audience he doesn’t deserve? I feel sorry for quite a
few of the people who wasted their time on him years before, and am
disgusted at myself for bothering – especially after he supported
Actually, Superman's secret ID hasn't been revealed to
any of the JLA, outside of Wonder Woman, Batman and Martian
Manhunter (and possibly Aquaman) -- most of whom know Batman's ID
as well. Yet that doesn't cause any tension. -- Captain Comics
Yeah, and I thought about that too. There was even a recent
Superman story I think where Superboy finally found out
Superman's secret ID. (Captain's Note: Superboy discovered
Superman's secret ID some time ago,and has been waiting for the
Man of Steel to trust him enough to tell him -- which Superman
did, in Sins of Youth: Superboy Sr., Superman Jr.)
They are the only two with a secret identity really. Green
Lantern tries but half of NYC must have figured out his alter
When the JLA had to go after a rogue white Martian who
thought he was Bruce Wayne, Superman commented on the fact that
the mission would have gone smoother if the others knew who
Batman was. Batman's reply was basically put up or shut up.
(Side note: This was the famous Plastic-Man-as-Barda's-dress
issue; oh, how I miss her! Isn't the JLA suddenly guy-heavy
again? Huntress and Barda made for a more interesting grouping.)
If Batman reveals his (ID) then Supes has to follow. I
just feel the general storylines are pointing to this. The only
other option is a darker, more isolated knight whom I am not
interested in dealing with again at this point.
As you've probably noticed, [withheld], your remarks have sparked
many others. I'm curious to see how this debate will turn out --
and even more curious to see which way Mark Waid's going in JLA!
This correspondent probably hit on
something regarding Ron Marz’s rendition of Kyle Rayner. Indeed,
with the slapdash scripting involved, it wouldn’t be surprising if
the DCU’s Big Apple population guessed Kyle’s true ID, making it all
the more bewildering how no criminals discovered in turn, and why
they didn’t use that against him! And that makes him another
correspondent who's a lot more perceptive than Mr. Smith has ever
Dear Cap: There was one character who remembered
everything about the Crisis: The second Psycho-Pirate in the
pages of Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man. He was held in an
asylum and babbling on about how "worlds will live, worlds will
die, worlds will live, worlds will die" (one of the taglines
from Crisis if I remember rightly). He named off several of the
departed worlds, Earth-One, Earth-Two, Earth-Three, Earth-S,
Earth-X, etc. He even asked if "the wolfman" (i.e. Marv Wolfman)
had sent the main characters to see him. The whole storyline
climaxed with the Psycho-Pirate returning many of the departed
characters, such as Power Ring and Ultraman to the "real" DC
Universe. Animal Man was able to defeat him, the Psycho-Pirate
vanished and then Animal Man traveled to Comic-Book Limbo where
he met other characters like Prince Ra-Man, the Grim (Gay) Ghost
and Krypto, culminating in him getting into the real world
(Earth-Prime) and meeting Grant Morrison. Personally, I liked it
but Grant Morrison certainly doesn't appeal to everyone. It is a
fairly interesting coda to the whole Crisis on Infinite Earths
By golly, I'd forgotten all about Psycho-Pirate -- but you're
right, originally he was supposed to be the only character who DID
remember it all. I wonder where he's been since Animal Man? Looney
bin, I guess.
Of course he’d forgotten, but that’s still
not the worst of his memory losses. The worst involves forgetting
Dear Cap: Lex Luthor as president of the United
States of America? We have to be fair and say that we must wait
and see what benefits he will bring to his native land. However,
both the Dark Knight and theMan of Steel would have preferred
for him to lose in the election bid. I can understand why they
would feel that way. But then, this is the man who saved Gotham
City when the U.S. government turned its back on it. Also, the
Brainiac 13 virus was turned into a benefit (to a certain
extent) for the city of Metropolis.
Hmm, I wonder what his official policy would be on
vigilantes and officially recognized organizations like the JLA,
JSA, Titans et al?
Marvel Comics' limited series Fantastic Four: Big Town has
received positive reviews on the Fandom website. The concept of
the book is an interesting one. After all, why isn't the world
or at least the United States changed by the super sciences and
alien cultures that are visited upon them? I was just wondering
if Big Town could not be made into a regular series if it proves
itself a commercial and critical success. Perhaps later on an
animated series? I know that I am getting waaaaay ahead of
myself here but you have to admit the theme makes for enjoyable
Here are a few technological marvels of the super- and
psuedo-sciences that may be burdens and/or boons to mankind. The
list is composed of ideas that come not just from Marvel Comics:
Doctor Mid-Nite's special glasses that enable him to see in the
dark; the Amazons' Purple Ray; transporter technology; and
unstable molecules (I do not know but there may be some use
there. The trick is to figure out what. I would not recommend
wearing clothes made of such material. At least, not until they
prove themselves reliable).
You can add plenty more scientific advances in the comics' world
that mysteriously have no impact on daily life there -- which has
always been a mystery to me. Imagine how our world would be
radically transformed if the following inventions were patented
and made available for public or manufacturing use: Pym particles
or white-dwarf matter that can shrink things for easy transport
(Ant-Man, Atom); "web" guns that police can use to immobilize
felons harmlessly for an hour (Spider-Man); light-weight mesh
armor that is skin-tight and bulletproof (Iron Man); a method to
reduce clothing to fit into a ring (Flash); cyborg replacement
parts; personal foot jets (Iron Man again), Absorbascons to help
anybody learn anything; an abundant metal that absorbs vibrations
(vibranium, Black Panther); etc., etc.
And what about magic? It's everywhere at both Marvel and DC!
As to Luthor, I think my column on that topic covered your
remarks. Luthor helped Gotham City and combated the B13 virus
because it was in his own self-interest. This is NOT a man to be
trusted! And I DO think one of his first acts as president will be
to assign to the NSC, CIA, DOD, FBI and other military and
law-enforcement branches the task of researching all known
super-beings and finding ways to "neutralize" or incarcerate them.
And who would say him nay? It would probably sound like a good
This sounds like all the revelations that
the Obama administration assigned
the NSA to spy on American and
European citizens who don’t deserve it. And the most galling
thing is that Mr. Smith doubtlessly voted for Obama in both
elections to date! All that aside, Smith is NOT a journalist to be
trusted, any more than Lex Luthor. Now, here’s something about
Hypertime from December 5, 2000, either:
Dear Cap: In the Nov 9 Q&A, you responded to a
question about the Crisis on Infinite Earths. In your response,
you explain the addition of "Hypertime" as:
"The latest wrinkle is that Superman, Batman and Wonder
Woman -- and only those three, outside of cosmic beings -- are
cognizant of 'Hypertime' and the concept of multiple timelines
that can result in different versions of themselves. And it's
been established that the Big Three think it too dangerous a
concept to be shared, even with their fellow Justice Leaguers."
Your comments on Hypertime are innacurrate. While the Big
Three were initially the only ones aware of Hypertime, other
heroes have since become aware of it.
Flash met an alternate version of himself during the Dark
Flash (Walter West) story arc at the end of Waid and Augustyn's
run -- no pun intended. By the end of the story, Superman and
Wonder Woman explained the existence of Hypertime to the Flash,
Walter West, Linda Park, Angela Margolin, Max Mercury, Jesse
Quick, Impulse and Jay Garrick. (Flash 152-159)
Superboy and the (original) Challengers of the Unknown
also became aware of Hypertime during the "Hypertension" story
arc (Superboy 60-64). During the story, Superboy encounters many
different timelines and alternate versions of himself (including
Black Zero, who first appeared in a very small picture in The
Kingdom No. 2).
I believe Hourman and the JSA are also aware of Hypertime,
but I can't recall the exact issues of their titles where they
first encountered it.
So, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are not the only
heroes aware of Hypertime.
You're right about Superboy's Hypertime adventure, Jeremy, so
thanks for correcting the record. Not only Superboy and the
Challs, but certainly the commanding officers of Project Cadmus
are aware of Hypertime as well. And, sure enough, Supes and Wonder
Woman briefly explained Hypertime (although not in detail) to the
various super-speedsters in Flash 159 (Mar 00).
I actually was aware of both of those storylines, but had glossed
over them in favor of a reference in the more recent JLA 80-Page
Giant No. 3 (Oct 00), in which Wonder Woman begins to bring up the
topic and Batman flatly shushes her -- implying it's too dangerous
for the others to know about. Of course, most of the League is
aware of alternate Earths -- witness JLA: Earth 2 -- and certainly
Hourman knows all about Hypertime, being from the 853rd century.
But I suspect (from that JLA scene) that DC's editorial intent is
to imply that knowledge of the overarching Hypertime concept is
restricted knowledge and that the Superboy and Flash stories were
exceptions more than the rule. Well, at least until somebody gets
the bug to do a "Secret Crisis of Hypertime Wars!" maxiseries to
retcon away everything we know!
Anyway, as I said, thanks for setting the record straight, and
I'll try to keep my impressions from overriding the facts in
Guess what? He didn’t, as his support for
Identity Crisis should make crystal clear. Of course, the main
problem was how he ignored past characterizations and accepted
inconsistent and downright offensive ones, all for the sake of
“relevancy” and political correctness. Here’s another letter I’d
Dear Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith: Several weeks
ago, I sent a letter to Michael Sangiacomo, the comics columnist
for the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio), in response to a column
he'd written regarding Chris Claremont's messing up the X-Men
titles. And in doing so, I made an interesting revelation that
I'd never thought of myself.
What he wrote in his column was that there were a lot of
people he knew who'd been reading Claremont's recent issues of
the X-Men, and that they found the stories hard to follow and to
understand. I hadn't read all of the most recent issues, since
I'd been getting ready to go on the flight to my native
Pennsylvania, and so I'd accidentally missed the point. And,
having read more than plenty of issues myself in the past
several years, I thought that he meant that the stories were
just too complex for some of the new folks reading them, almost
like some daytime soap operas. He corrected me by explaining
that the stories had become a jumble, thanks to Claremont's
carelessness. And so, later I took a look at some of the more
recent issues that he's credited, and yes, now I see that
indeed, he'd botched them badly. Pity. I certainly hope that the
writers being recruited for the next few issues will make it
more enjoyable again.
And, I also found out from Sangiacomo something
interesting about Claremont that I'd never really thought about
before. He told me in his reply:
"If you knew how much money he (Claremont) was making, you
would not be so kind."
Gee whiz! Why didn’t I ever think about that before?
I've always known that there's an infinity of moviemakers
who do their work solely for moneymaking, including those who
make movies based on comics. But until recently, I'd never
really thought that comic artists and writers (and editors) had
lost their heads over money as well.
And no indeed, if Claremont's going to sell his soul for
moolah, then no, I can't take to him very kindly. So just what's
gotten into him this year? Has he gone senile? Or has he
suddenly decided to scorn his fans? I'm very surprised. I give
him a lot of credit for coming up with such characters as Rogue,
one of the foxiest ladies in the Marvel universe, but I can't
approve of him writing sloppily just now.
Comic-book artists and writers should not be following in
the footsteps of Hollywood bigwigs, who are solidly in favor of
money over true audience entertainment. If they do, then fans
can get as appalled as moviegoers, who I think would be better
off reading comics instead.
I'm glad that John Byrne understands all that. Back in
July, he was interviewed by the Toronto Star (he used to live in
Alberta, Canada), and he told them this:
<<Unlike people in other entertainment businesses,
Byrne refuses to blame cable TV, VCRs and the Internet for the
precipitous fall (of the comics industry). The real cause,
according to Byrne? Greed.
''We stopped caring about the comic-book fans and started
catering to the collectors. And by the time the collectors got a
few brain cells and realized these weren't good investments,
we'd driven away all the real fans we'd used to attract the
collectors,'' said Byrne.
Still, with the circulation plunge has come a return to
the simpler motivations of another era. ''People who are going
into comic books today have to be doing it because they love it.
Not because they're going to get rich.'' >>
(Special note, just in case: Yes, the above are three
paragraphs that I copied from the Web edition of the Toronto
Absolutely right. And from the way Claremont's behaved in
the past few months, it appears that he's now turned to working
in comics only for the moolah.
Comic artists cannot dabble in the buisness solely for
money. Yes, they too have families to support, and it's good if
they do, but fans are also just as important, and if they don't
think about the fans, then how can they support their families
at ease? The comics need to be able to sell well in order for
the artists to have good job.
I think it'd be a good idea in the meantime if maybe John
Byrne were brought back to work on the regular X-books as well
as the Hidden Years title. We'd only have to hope then that he'd
practice as he preaches.
And that's not all. I think it could be great idea if
artists like Byrne were to pay visits to universities across the
country, and not just art schools, in order to give speeches and
encourage people to join the comics artistry (and writing), in
almost the same way as Stanley Kauffmann, the film critic for
the New Republic, who's been a visiting professor at the Yale
and NY universities for many years. And who knows, maybe even
you could try doing something like that! Have you ever thought
of giving lectures at the University of Memphis, for example, on
the subject of comics? It could be an interesting venture. For
students studying comics also need to learn how to review them,
form an opinion, and also how to point out the ups and downs of
the writing, art and editing.
And that's why giving lectures on comics at universities
can be just as important as good writing.
I have indeed done some lectures on comics, at conventions and
other venues. I generally enjoy them, although dealing with the
condescension of the public in regard to comics is sometimes
As to Claremont, longtime readers of my Web site are doubtless
aware of my antipathy to his work. But fair is fair: I have no
reason to believe he isn't trying his hardest. With all due
respect to Sangiacomo, resenting somebody for how much money they
make is petty at best. Nor am I going to accept at face value any
argument from anyone save Claremont about what is actually going
on in his head. As fans and critics, it's fair for us to say, "It
looks like Claremont is doing hack work for the sake of money." It
is manifestly NOT fair for us to flatly say, "Claremont's doing it
for the money."
Or, to put it another way, we are well within our rights to
criticize Claremont's work -- but we're out of bounds maligning
As to Byrne, I richly enjoyed Hidden Years, but it's been given
the axe (despite being profitable) by new Ediotr-In-Chief Joe
Quesada and Publisher Bill Jemas on the grounds that it appeals to
"in-the-know" older fans instead of the newer fans they're trying
to attract. Byrne has publicly announced he will do no further
work for Marvel as a result. So don't expect a Byrne Rennaissance
in the X-books any time soon!
Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, with his
leftist leanings, I’m skeptical he really means what he says about
resenting people for their paycheck sum. This is another letter of
mine I don’t think highly about, because Claremont, for all his
disappointments after the 80s ended, does not strike me as the kind
of writer who’s doing everything for the sake money only, unlike
some others who certainly are, including novelists and screenwriters
with no feeling for the characters they’re working with.
And I wouldn’t go to a lecture with Smith if I knew he was going to
be dishonest and not even admit he was wrong to support Identity
Crisis and excuse the horrific misogyny it was rife with. Nor would
I be surprised if, were somebody to call him out on that at a
lecture, he’d refuse to give a clear answer.
Byrne is also decidedly unfit for lecturing today, given his
surprisingly cynical attitude that hasn't improved much.
Dear Cap: Now don't get me wrong. I love the DC
Archive series, but some of the choices leave me in the dark.
Black Canary? Starman? Teen Titans (the Perez years)? What
were they thinking?
Starman is a cash-in on the new series' popularity. Black
Canary, I don't know what side of left field that came from. As
for the Titans, while I loved the series I can get them all in
the back-issue bins for cheaper than 50 bucks. Well while we are
at it, why not a Golden Age Hourman reprint, since the regular
series is out there and probally will pick up steam once Starman
Now it is not that I don't enjoy them all, but 50 bucks is
a bit steep for some of these heroes. I did not think for one
second when I cracked my wallet for the Plastic Man Archives and
will get the next one when it comes out, but sometimes I worry
that poor choices in what is reprinted will kill the series.
What would I like to see? The Golden Age Spectre (killer
stuff sort of like Little Nemo but grimmer). The Silver Age Doom
Patrol (strange stuff that was amusing). Even cult stuff like
Bat Lash with the right promotion could get sold.
What I think they need to do is start a softcover
companion series (sort of like the Marvel Essentials format) for
series that might not get the action for the hardcover
treatment. This could be home to: The Secret Six, Metal Men (
good, goofy, robotic fun); Kamandi (a Kirby classic); Kirby's
Jimmy Olsen (ditto); Adam Stange (beautiful art by Infantino);
and even Plop!
As for the oringinal hardcover Archives. why not let the
fans vote on what they want? I hope the series will go on but
sometimes there is not a lot of hope out there.
I think voting is a swell idea! I doubt DC does, though -- voting,
even online, is skewed toward the most vocal fans, who might not
have the numbers to support their choices. Tony Isabella has run
Archives polls on his Web site, and many of the titles you cite --
Metal Men, Secret Six, Silver Age Doom Patrol -- consistently rank
high. But I sincerely doubt we'll see a $50 hardback Secret Six
anytime soon. Trade paperbacks have become a solid winner for DC,
so maybe that's a possibility.
As to Starman, you're absolutely correct -- the popularity of the
current series has raised the Golden Age character's profile and
DC was testing the waters. You could expect Hourman to get the
same treatment -- except that the current Hourman will end with
issue 25 in February due to low sales.
Black Canary is easily explainable -- not only is she currently
appearing in two popular series (Birds of Prey and JSA), but ALL
of her pre-1963 appearances can be contained in a single volume!
And, personally, I'm glad to see it -- the only way I'll ever get
to read reprints of some of the Golden Age's lesser lights is in
Teen Titans Archives was an experiment that failed. The logic is
apparent -- in the mid-'80s Teen Titans was DC's best-selling
title, and DC wanted to test the waters for "Bronze Age" reprints.
But they missed the problem you pointed out: Back issues are
cheaper than the Archive edition. Retailers report that Teen
Titans Archives Vol. 1 is the worst-selling of the entire series,
so don't expect many more Bronze Age Archives. (Plastic Man, by
the way, is one of the best-selling Archives. Whodathunkit?)
On Starman, I actually consider the Golden
Age archives a relief from the pretentious modern day tommyrot. As
for New Teen Titans, I think at this point, it wouldn’t be so
difficult to sell archive books, but they’d have to be paperback,
assuming DC really intends to make the prices $50 for hardcover,
which is ludicrous.
And regarding Hourman, I’m of mixed minds at this point on the
cancellation of the late 90s series, because Rags Morales was
apparently involved, and I can’t stand his work today. UGH!
Cap: Sigil is History. Read the latest issue (No. 6),
and it hasn't passed my intermission test. Halfway through a
year's production and I ask the question:
Do I care about these characters? Do I care if they live
or die? Answer to both is No!
I'm still interested in Meridian and Scion. I held on for
a few more issue of Mystic and now that the plot has finally
thickened and my fingers are sticking to the page. (For now that
Sigil is, indeed, the weakest CrossGen title. My critical review
of it is that it's little more than a sequence of cliches strung
together. Well-written, well-drawn cliches, but still ...
Anyway, most of the creators attached to Sigil have been fired or
let go for one reason or another, and CrossGen's publicity guru
Ian Feller promises big changes down the road that he says I'll
like. Stay tuned!
While I can understand if the
correspondent found Sigil dreary, I’m disappointed he’s taking out
his misgivings on the characters more than criticizing the writers,
who curiously get no mention here. And I keep wondering how some
comics criticism is so weak on objectivity. And am quite
disappointed with his response (surprise!) to a letter about The
Authority on December 12, 2000:
Dear Captain: It's been awhile, but I'm still
reading. I like the new format.
I was wondering about your opinion on The Authority. I
never read Stormwatch, but have followed The Authority since it
came out. I enjoyed the cinematic/big-movie feel of the stories,
but after a while there were some things that have disturbed me
about both Ellis's and Millar's writing.
I don't look up to these heroes. Seeing them kill and
degrade those that oppose them (see the latest issue and what
Midnighter does to the villain) has disturbed me. Don't get me
wrong -- I am not a prude about this and, yes, it is just a
comic book, but thinking back to what I read as a kid and even
to Ellis's take on the JLA and you see a more honorable team of
superheroes. I know the villains in many of The Authority's
books are despicable, but it seemed that the contrast of
honorable heroes and dishonorable villains made the it much
easier to cheer the heroes.
I also know it's a more complicated world and the stories
presented when I was a kid were meant to be simple, as they were
for kids. Nowadays comics must appeal to more than kids to
survive. And all media has become more complicated.
But I just find myself not really enjoying The Authority
as much as (Kurt) Busiek's Avengers, (Mark) Waid's JLA, (James)
Robinson's Starman, or several other (teams) that act with honor
but are not bland. These are complicated and engaging heroes who
act like the heroes I can cheer for.
Maybe this will be explored in future issues of The
Authority. Along with the consequences of dictating how the
world should be run. I hope so.
By the way speaking of Busiek, when is the next Astro City
Kurt Busiek's Astro City? Your guess is as good as mine. Busiek's
had some well-publicized health problems, and promises to get back
to KBAC as soon as he can. When that will be is up to the gods.
There is no Astro City solicited through February.
As to The Authority, I enjoy the book immensely on a visceral
level; the cinematic look of it and the real-world, kick-butt
aspect scratches an itch I didn't know I had. (How many times have
you thought, "Come on, Batman, just kill The Joker and be done
with it! He deserves it!") On the other hand, I often feel
disturbed when I put the book down -- for example, recently when a
"super-villain" who'd murdered millions was asked to join the team
to put his genius to more positive use. OK, that makes sense from
a realpolitik perspective -- but, for Pete's sake, the man's a
mass murderer! Do the members of The Authority have no sense of
conscience, or shame?
So, yeah, I'm with you -- I hope future issues address the fact
that these guys act in an amoral and arrogant manner. Frankly,
they're due for a comeuppance, and it would be a good story. If
they don't address it, I'll probably lose interest as my
suspension of disbelief wanes.
Gee, did he immensely enjoy the
Authority’s bizarre anti-war politics too, including a part where
they wipe out some politicians whose policies they don’t agree with?
And seeing how little he had to say about the Wildstorm series in
his columns in the years afterwards, that’s why I doubt he really
cared what kind of people they recruited to their ranks. He
certainly hasn’t complained about the Justice League doing anything
similar under Geoff Johns’ writing! Next comes a letter I wrote
about licensed products:
Dear Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith: Am I right that
Marvel has stopped publishing comics based on licensed
merchandise like movies, TV programs and toys? The last time I
can remember them doing so was about four years ago, when they
had briefly aquired permission to publish some comics based on
Not that it really bothers me, since I myself usually
consider comics based on licensed merchandise to be very
inauthentic. Admittedly, there were some they'd published that
I'd found worthy of my time, such as the Star Wars comics, and
even the G.I Joe and Transformers comics sometimes drew my
interest (in the latter, they'd once done an interesting story
involving something like media-scare tactics). But much of the
rest of the stuff, including some comics based on the Power
Rangers, was truly awful, and I wouldn't dare to lay a finger on
trash like that.
But nevertheless, I'm curious: if Marvel stopped
publishing comics based on licensed merchandise, then how come?
At a guess, I'd say that Marvel can't afford to do so in their
current circumstances. In general, licensed comics have to sell
substantially better than other comics for the publisher to make a
profit, since the publisher has to split profits, pay a hefty
licensing fee or otherwise feed money back to the license holder.
Since Marvel has a library of 4,500 characters, it must seem
foolish to the powers-that-be to spend money they don't have to
"rent" characters on which they probably won't make much (if any)
As an interesting aside, the recent Marvel miniseries Spaceknights
was based on their old ROM, Spaceknight title -- but because
Marvel no longer has the rights to ROM, they couldn't even say the
Meanwhile, other publishers are picking up the slack, such as Dark
Horse (Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Star Wars, etc.) and DC
Comics (Star Trek, Cartoon Network Presents, etc.).
Marvel actually did publish a few more
licensed products 5 or 6 years after this was written, like
adaptations of Orson Scott Card’s novels (though they later
insultingly and cowardly opted to distance themselves from him
because of his disapproval of homosexuality). And it looks like,
with Disney’s acquirement of Lucasfilm properties like Star Wars,
they’ll be publishing those again (or will they?). Not that they
deserve to though, and come to think of it, neither does DC with the
way they treat their creations.
Since I brought this up, I can only wonder what Mr. Smith must’ve
thought of that reference to something he’d probably be comfortable
with if it were done in accordance with his leftism? I’m kinda
disappointed in myself for not speaking about GI Joe with more
enthusiasm than I did then, and equally so for implying the Star
Wars comics were more so. Like others, I’m just plumb disappointed
with George Lucas, not just for some of the politics hidden in the
franchise, but also for how he insulted the intellect of franchise
fans (whom we can only wonder still like his concept).
The following is being presented with quoted text from the above
letter about JLA from 11-21-2000 left out because it was too long:
Re: Batman being ousted from the JLA […]
OH . . . My . . . GOODNESS! That made me laugh! The
writing is excellent and I certainly can't wait to see what do
with the story (and how the JLA's "NO" voters become comfortable
with Bats -- that is, IF they ever become comfortable with him).
I believe your two "defining moments" make the point concisely.
Whether others agree is yet to be seen. I see the other side,
but ... I'd be safer in the knowledge that Batman had these
protocols than knowing he stopped creating them. As far as we
can tell, he's the one character who is incorruptible -- he has
no other interests besides being Batman -- he's not married or
from another planet, he's not the new leader of a green-clad
gang, he's not a former thief, he's not on loan from a land
isolating themselves from the other gender, and he's not royalty
from another land. He's a guy who's dedicated his life to
fighting the fight.
Heh! This is GREAT writing! This is a
OH hey! Ghost Rider No. 13 (Mark Texiera, artist), a few
pages in, street thugs, one has glasses, a knife, and a mock
turtle-neck sweatshirt with "[…]" lightly written on it. ME! (I
suggested to Mark to use the old "map with a line connecting
points" to show that The Punisher had traveled a great
distance). Mark put me in Ghost Rider. Short thug career, as the
Ghost Rider mopped us up!
I don't know what to add, since you quoted me so extensively, […]
-- but I will say that the Batman expulsion has had continuing
effects on the League, and is supposed to come to some sort of
climax in JLA No. 50. Here's another thought on the subject:
I don’t think either the story about Batman’s ouster, nor the
response by Mr. Smith, was good writing, with the latter easily
Greetings Captain: My name is [name withheld] and this is my first
time to send you an e-mail. I just wanted to say that I enjoy your
site very much. I have been collecting comics most of my 37 years.
I read comics because I love the format and the stories. For me
they have always been one of my most enjoyable escapes.
Now on to my comment. I enjoy JLA very much , but I am also a huge
fan of the Batman titles. There was one vote for his removal that
I did not think was in character, (and) that is Superman's. Who
did Superman turn to when he thought he might need someone to take
him out if he ever lost control? Not Wonder Woman, J'onn J'onzz,
or any of the others. He chose Batman. He even provided Batman the
means to take him out. It seems to me that Superman is saying,
"Well, yes, I gave you the kryptonite, but I didn't think you
would actually use it." To me it just doesn't fit the character. I
know their relationship isn't like the old World's Finest
portrayed it, but I think deep down the respect is still there. I
do agree with you though, it makes for great reading. Well thanks
for giving me a minute of your time. Keep up the good work. By the
way I am a Captain too, in the Fire Dept.
To which I can only doff my cap, [same here] -- my admiration for
firefighters is unlimited.
As to Superman, it is a difficult thing to wrap one's mind around
his vote. The best I can do is suggest that perhaps he was
thinking of what was good for the team as opposed to his personal
feelings. That seems a very Superman-like thought process to me.
And here's yet another thought on the subject:
But before we get to that, I want to say
that, if there’s anything truly out of character and definitely
questionable, it’s why Batman would want to attack his fellow
Leaguers. Heck, why would he even just accept a rookie like Kyle
Rayner into the League when he should’ve had more experience first
before fully qualifying? Speaking of which, in case I hadn’t
mentioned before, there was a line in the series while Grant
Morrison was on board where Batman told Kyle he liked him better
than Hal Jordan because unlike Hal, he knew the meaning of fear! So
we know where Morrison must’ve stood on the Emerald Twilight
Oh Captain, My Captain! I'm writing again after a
I want to give my two cents about the Batman outing from
the JLA. The big failure here is not what Batman has done, but
his failure in saying, "I'm sorry." If I were one of those
Leaguers, these are the words I would like to hear from a fellow
Speaking of the better Superman storyline in the regular
titles, I have to choose the Smallville stories, for me these
are the best Superman stories of 2000.
And the definitive Superman story of all Y2K is: Superman:
The Last Son of Earth. These books blew me away with a sense of
wonder and again a nice and twisted retelling of the Man of
Steel. Not to talk about the artists of these two books (nice
detailed art and wonderful colors), surely these will become a
The big disappointment of Superman stories was the
Superman/Predator series, being only a so-so story, unable to
reach the height set for Superman/Aliens.
"We don't do it for the glory. We don't do it for the
recognition. We do it because it needs to be done. Because if we
don't, no one else will. And we do it even if no one knows what
we've done. Even if no one knows we exist. Even if no one
remembers that we ever existed." -- Supergirl (Kara
Zor-El), Christmas With The Superheroes No. 2 (Dec 1989)
You have the honor of being the first to write me with your picks
for the best of 2000, [withheld]! So let the floodgates open! What
were the best comics of 2000, y'all?
It’s not just Batman who failed to
apologize, it’s the writers too! Waid was the scripter at the time,
and while there were good things he once did, I’d say that was a
definite fumble on his part, which just compounded the ridiculous
obsession with portraying Batman as a control freak, and a
remorseless one at that. In fact, if there’s anything here that
shocks me, it’s if nobody ever said they were disappointed with the
story, and Batman’s modern characterization in general.
Dear Cap: I'm sorry but I have to take issue with you
regarding Ultra the Multi-Alien. As a child growing up in the
'sixties I enjoyed the likes of Thor, Superman, etc., but the
one which really sticks in my mind is Ultra. OK, I don't
remember a great deal about it as I was only about six, but it
was just the right thing to catch my imagination. Looking at it
now it does seem a bit on the crappy side, but I was overjoyed
when I re-discovered him on the Net.
Aww, don't worry about it [withheld] -- I read those Ultra stories
avidly as a kid without once thinking about how stupid they were,
and still re-read them as an adult just for a laugh. But as you
said, they are a bit crappy, and that's why Ultra is listed in the
Silly Super-Stories section. Doesn't mean I don't like'em -- it
just means I recognize silly when I see it. And I like silly!
Ultra might be “a bit” crappy, but Mr.
Smith’s columns are very crappy. After all these years, I
can’t say I really have that much of a problem with Dave Wood’s
story from the mid-60s, but still, given that they undid most of it
pretty quickly, it’s clear they didn’t have much idea what else to
do with it.
I’m also skeptical Mr. Smith really likes silly stories, depending
on the definition. After all, as I’ve noted countless times already,
he’s never shown any remorse for embracing a DC miniseries that
soils past Silver/Bronze Age storytelling, and at the same time
fails to depict serious issues as such.
Dear Cap Comic: I read over some of Avi Green's
letter about the apparent lack of superheroes based in The City
of Brotherly Love and immediately one who is (or perhaps now was
due to her current involvement in the NYC-based team Titans)
came to mind: JESSIE QUICK, DC's only femme super-speedster.
Her mom, Liberty Belle, was very prominently played in
Philly because that was also the home of her namesake object,
the Liberty Bell.
One comic where Jess was featured in Philly that I own is
her one-shot special with Wonder Woman, titled Woman Woman Plus
Jessie Quick. She was shown running through a park in Old City
Philadelphia at one point early in that comic!
I tend to strongly notice comics taking place in Philly
because I live right near there. For me getting there is just a
hop across a bridge!
Thanks for the update, [witheld]! I was pretty sure Liberty Belle
was based in Philadelphia (or a stand-in city), but a cursory
search didn't turn up a reference -- so I didn't say anything. On
the other hand, the Justice Society was certainly located in a
faux-Philadelphia called Liberty City in their early days. (Now,
of course, it's been retconned to be Gotham City from the outset.)
Here's another letter on the same subject:
I thank the correspondent for her input.
And I’m disappointed with Mr. Smith for failing to recall that the
Justice Society’s HQ was shown to be in New York City in later
years, located in a brownstone building.
In reference to the letter from Avi Green on November
21, 2000, and your response considering the location of
characters, most of the heroes of the 'forties and 'fifties took
place in fictional cities like Metropolis, Gotham City, Keystone
City, etc. Some of the early Marvel stories did have a New York
City setting, but it was not until the '60s when Marvel made New
York City their main (head)quarters. The advantage of a
fictitious city is that the writer and artist do not have to
hold to any conventions or standards. The advantage of a real
city is that it adds realism to the story and characters. The
disadvantage is how realistic should it be?
The television series Law & Order takes place in New
York City and prides itself on realism. When the characters go
to places, the address is shown on the screen. The show has been
criticized by people in the know that some of these addresses
are non-existent, in the middle of a park, an empty lot, in the
river, etc. For those of us not familiar with New York City they
look good and if I lived in the city, I sure would not want my
address showing up on some episode because of the sight-seers.
Even in the movie Ghostbusters, which tried to establish an
authentic New York atmosphere, the finale took place in a
building that was fictional (it was a real building with a matte
on the top) because they could not find exactly what they were
looking for. Realism is fine, but it sometimes interferes with
Besides the other real locations that were mentioned, some
other diverse points were in West Coast Avengers. The Oliver
Queen Green Arrow spent time in a very realistic looking
Seattle. Supergirl did a tour of duty in Chicago. One of the
more unique was Wild Dog, who operated in the Quad Cities area
of Davenport, IA-Moline and Rock Island, IL. Creator Max Allan
Collins stated that it was the perfect setting because of the
multiple jurisdictions involved.
One of the best tours went to Captain Marvel who in
Captain Marvel Adventures No. 32 (February 1944) through No. 44
(March 1945) had adventures in Dallas (32), Omaha (33), Oklahoma
City (34), Indianapolis, (35), St. Louis (36), Cincinnati (37),
Chattanooga (38), Pittsburgh (39), Boston (40), Dayton (41), St.
Paul (42), Chicago (43) and Washington, D.C. (44). There may
have been others, these are the only ones that I know about.
Finally, if I were a villain out to make a lot of money, I
would go to the largest city that I could find where I could
pass as a local and make my career there. New York is a much
better target then a small farming town in the Midwest.
The realism of the location depends on the objective of
the writers and artist. A really realistic location puts
constraints on the story where a fictional location gives more
latitude. As far as where for a real location, it depends on the
familiarity with the city.
I find myself without anything to add, [name withheld]. Thanks for
I thank this correspondent too, though I
still have to voice misgivings about Law & Order, and not
because the addresses seen in the series may not be existent, but
because it was such a quagmire of leftism. The vision was so PC
that, as a result, there were often episodes where they would only
depict white people as villains, and almost never blacks, Asians and
Latinos, if at all, as though there haven’t been felons in those
communities. Maybe worse was their refusal to give Islamofascism
some serious focus, and while there may have been one episode that
did focus on female genital mutilation, such an issue was never
looked at again after 9-11. In fact, some of this PC madness had
begun very early on, and I recall an episode from the 2nd season
where they made a Jewish businessman the guilty party who tries to
frame a black man for a murder. Thinking back on that today, and the
potential damage it could cause with its inciteful damage, I can
only shake my head.
The main problem with L&O wasn’t questionable locations. It was
the biases, racial, psychological or otherwise.
<<BATMAN: TURNING POINTS #4 (Of 5): By Chuck Dixon
and Brent Anderson, both of whom are some of the best the
Bat-office has to offer. -- Captain Comics>>
It's nice to see that Mr. Anderson is still working,
considering that Kurt Busiek's Astro City seems to be on
<<Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith, who is certain the next
four years are going to be pretty interesting for Superman and the
Justice League ...>>
To say the least! I'm surprised that DC did this but think it
will lead to some great stories. Of course, the way comic-book
time works, Luthor will be President in the DCU for about 15
years. Of course, he's still just President-elect at this point;
something could come along and muck it up for him.
See the earlier letter about Kurt Busiek's Astro City.
Guess what? It didn’t lead to great
stories. Definitely not after the Identity Crisis horror. There was
a story published afterwards called Crisis of Conscience, co-written
by Geoff Johns, where the team just quarreled it out with each
other; nothing more than an excuse to see Batman and Hawkman duke it
out. I don’t think the League has ever recovered from that fiasco.
I have seen information on this novel being
considered for a movie on a few Web sites. Movies either about
comic books or based on the concepts that are highlighted in
them are being considered for screening.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay -- the image
and idea of comic books is coming on strong out of Hollywood.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Michael (Wonder Boys)
Chabon will adapt his acclaimed novel, The Amazing Adventures of
Kavalier and Clay for Scott Rudin Productions and Paramount.
The story centers on the adventures of two boys who write
comic books during the Golden Age of comic books during the
1930s, and has more than a few parallels to Superman's creators
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. If it's not already, you may want
to add the novel onto your holiday shopping list. It's received
high marks from the likes of Matt Wagner and other noted comic
From what I've read, it's a must-buy for any comic-book fan. The
fact that it's reflects accurately the history of the comic-book
industry -- which is pretty arcane stuff to anybody who isn't a
comic-book fan -- and is still getting rave reviews is pretty
I don’t think Chabon’s novel ever made it
to the screen, but that’s okay; he’s left-wing enough as it already
is, and if I were Siegel or Shuster, I’d find him an embarrassment.
I certainly think Wonder Boys was.
Dear Capn: Did you know that I just now realized that
the senior editor of the Daily Bugle in the Marvel Universe and
the chief force behind The Band have the same name?
Hmmm. Now that you mention it, I've never seen the two Robbie
Robertsons in the same place at the same time. Gasp! Could it be
Who cares? What I want to know is whether
Mr. Smith or anybody else realizes his very own MO is similar to
that of the publisher, J. Jonah Jameson. Now comes another letter of
Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith,
1) The following is a paragraph that John Byrne wrote on
his message board on AOL, and was reprinted on the Comics
<<Hidden Years, and a lot of other X-Books (all of
which are profitable), are being axed. Joe Quesada was not able
to give me any sort of reason that made sense -- killing
profitable books in a failing market? -- so, since I have no
interest in devoting my time and effort to a company apparently
intent on committing suicide, my relationship with Marvel is
over. -- John Byrne>>
Byrne was confirming that X-Men: The Hidden Years was
being canceled by Marvel despite good sales. (As I write this,
I’ve discovered that Generation X has also been canceled.) And
from what I can see, unless they back off the threat of
canceling such titles, then they’re also intent on losing a good
And I’m shocked. Here, I thought Mr. Quesada was going to
make some needed improvements, and instead it sounds to me as if
he’s driving Marvel further into the muck.
Canceling titles is not the problem that Marvel has to
deal with. It’s drawing more newcomers that is. And if the
titles are selling well, then it’s all the more surprising that
they should want to cancel them.
Karl Marx foresaw how history repeats itself, first as
tragedy, then as farce. And what Marvel is doing is akin in some
ways to what some TV networks have been doing: canceling shows
with high ratings even if they’re audience favorites. And in
Marvel’s case, they’re canceling titles that are popular with
readers despite good readership.
Doesn’t Marvel realize that what they’re doing could
trigger a domino effect by causing other artists, editors and
writers to walk out on them if Byrne does so first? He’s got a
point, Marvel is doing something that’s almost tantamount to
suicide. By letting down any of their employees, others could
get angry at them and may not want to work with them either.
Yes, it’s possible.
Let’s be clear, this is not the same situation as network
TV. If the readers want the titles to continue and to keep
reading them, then Marvel shouldn’t be canceling them. By doing
so, they’re scorning both the readers and the artists.
I can say this though, I don’t know if X-Men: The Hidden
Years has to run that long. It should certainly be able to run
at least five years, which is about the time that the 1970-75
hiatus of the X-Men lasted. Back in the late 'eighties, Marvel
published what they described as an eight-year limited series
called The ‘Nam, a title that chronicled the experiences of a
Vietnam vet. It may even have still been in publication at the
time that you’d begun your career as Captain Comics. I never saw
this title myself, but it was probably a very interesting
experiment. And if that title was produced as a miniseries, then
why can’t the Hidden Years at least be done the same way?
In the meantime, it’s very contemptuous of Marvel to just
cancel any of the X-books. Just because there are so many of
them doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing. And I’m sure that there
are many X-devotees who’re very eager to know what adventures
they’d been on during their five-year hiatus. The X-universe
alone has become a huge phenomenon within the past 25 years, and
Marvel should be proud to have so many devotees. I wouldn’t be
surprised if you’re preparing a column about this already. I
think that the time has come for X-fans to to unite and pressure
Marvel to back off from their position.
(On a special note, Generation X was geared mainly at
teens who’re looking for characters closer to their age, and so
I’m surprised that they’d want to cancel that too. The list also
includes Bishop, Gambit and X-Man, the title with Nate Grey.)
2) Speaking of canceled titles, by the way, did the Silver
Surfer get canceled last year? That’s a shame, I had spent some
time reading it in the past three years, and when I checked the
Marvel subscription list recently, I could see that it was
certainly gone. I must say though, it did have a very impressive
run ever since it got revived in 1986, after a limbo of about 16
years, and so it ran about 13 successful years. I certainly hope
that it’ll be revived in time, since I find space-traveling
heroes like the Silver Surfer to be very enjoyable.
In fact, is there any chance that Doctor Strange can be
revived in the near future? His title has been in limbo since
about early 1996. Even wizards and magic can be a very enjoyable
genre. I sure hope that it’s still an intriguing genre for
3) As I write this, yep, I’ve already discovered, our new
president is neither Bush nor Gore, but rather, Superman’s
trickiest foe, Lex Luthor. I first discovered this when reading
one of [name withheld]'s columns, then I discovered more about
it when reading a column by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Michael
Sangiacomo, and your current column fully confirms Lex’s
victory. And I must congratulate you for having noted what even
I had thought of: that Lex’s election will not only make things
more difficult for Supes, it’ll make things even more difficult
for the entire DC Universe as well! Yes, I certainly hope that
DC’s writers will make good use out of all the possibilities
surrounding Lex Luthor’s presidency for the next four years. And
who knows, with any luck (good or bad, depending on how you see
it), Lex could even get re-elected in the next four years as
Meanwhile, is the X-Men’s political foe, the senator
Robert Kelly, going the same way as Lex? That too could make
things even more difficult for the X-Men, and also the rest of
the Marvel universe for the next four years as well! I’m very
interested in seeing how the current storyline turns out.
4) And, turning back to Superman, in the upcoming 166th
issue of Superman which will go on sale this January, the issue
will make some discoveries that Krypton was a warm and fuzzy
place after all. In the past decade, DC had made some changes in
the background of Krypton, giving the assumption that it was a
bit more of a cold and dark place than it was originally
depicted as. But in issue 166, Superman discovers that it was
really a warm and fuzzy atmosphere there after all. And that, I
must say, is really a good thing.
1) The X-cancellations are a tricky thing, Avi. Here's my
I don't mind Marvel canceling a great many X-books -- there was a
flotilla of them, and most of them were pretty bad. Moreover, none
of them were accessible to new readers -- which is almost a
criminal waste of an opportunity, given the success of the movie.
Can you imagine someone who enjoyed the film wandering into a
comics shop and picking up Uncanny X-Men or X-Men? He'd slap that
book back on the shelf in a New York minute -- those two titles
have been virtually incomprehensible since Chris Claremont came on
board, even to a long-time reader like myself.
Plus given Marvel's extreme financial peril, dramatic (if not
draconian) moves are called for. If canceling five or six X-titles
can put Marvel back on the path to financial security, I'm all for
Having said that, I'm really disappointed in Hidden Years getting
the axe. It was my favorite X-title. But in an exchange of e-mails
with Joe Quesada I got the point: The very reason I liked Hidden
Years is the very reason it's getting canceled. The premise of the
book pre-supposed that I've been reading X-Men for 30 years --
and, in fact, it was the nostalgia factor that made me like it.
But Marvel is trying to position itself for NEW readers -- and
Hidden Years does the opposite.
Do I like it that Hidden Years was canceled? No. But I do
2) I never heard why Silver Surfer got canceled (in November,
1998), so it was probably due to sales. On the other hand, that
was right in the middle of Marvel's frenzy to cancel every book
with numbering in triple digits and start over -- Amazing
Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Peter Parker and a host of
other long-running titles were all axed and rebooted at right
around the same time. So take your pick.
3) Isn't it strange how politics in both the real world and in
comics have gotten so strange so fast?
4) I don't have any inside news about the "new" Krypton, Avi.
Let's see what we shall see!
No, I don’t understand it. What makes him
and them think new readers aren’t interested in stories focusing on
times gone by? Maybe more to the point, why wouldn’t newer readers
want to read the older stories from 1963 in Masterworks archives?
(I'm the proud owner of one copy.) Their logic doesn’t compute. If I
were the publisher, I’d want – and be very happy – if new readers
checked out The Hidden Years just as much as the output taking place
in the present.
Hi, Cap! This time I am writing to comment on a few
news items in the comics world and also to discuss some points
you brought up on the Fantastic Four.
First, the FF/Grant Morrison deal. Captain Comics writes:
<<... I'd bet Morrison doesn't have any sisters, or he
wouldn't read Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four that way. See, the reason
siblings fight like cats and dogs is because they don't see each
other as sexual beings -- they hardly see each other as human
beings. Subconsciously, siblings regard each other as rivals for
limited resources -- parental affection, food, clothing, money and
perks (like who gets control of the TV remote). If there's any
"subconscious" desire between siblings, generally it's the desire
to kill your competitor! There's certainly no subconscious urge to
perform sexual favors! It would be like Archie having naughty
thoughts about submitting to Reggie -- and doesn't that suggestion
make your skin crawl?>>
Yes, it does. Of course, as anyone who has seen the movie
CHASING AMY knows, Archie Andrews is gay. Heh. But Archie has a
thing for Jughead, not Reggie.
Seriously, I have a problem with Grant Morrison's take on
Johnny and Susan Storm's relationship. For the reasons that you
cited and for the fact that there has never been any indication
of a sexual relationship between those two siblings, I find
Morrison's interpretation to be an excuse to take one of the
more traditional relationships in the Marvel Universe and
This is not meant to be a slam on the British, but do you
think that the reason so many British writers feel the need to
tear down iconic and/or traditional structures is based on a
psychological need to rationalize their county's loss of stature
as a world power in the past century? I don't say this to be
cute, it seems that after World War II Britain suffered a loss
in confidence and, perhaps, in faith to a degree. If Britain was
to have remained the great power it once was do you think there
would have been a punk-rock movement? And the attitude that came
from that that seems to permeate most of the British comics
creator's works, particularly that of the 1980s and 1990s?
Captain Comics writes:
<<...Why did Ben feel like he could compete
with Reed at all? Was his macho pride merely stung? Was a possible
romance with Sue all in his head? Or isn't it pretty likely that
teen-aged Sue flirted a bit when she met Grimm -- the BMOC of ESU
and a decorated fighter pilot? Or that -- and this is pure
speculation -- who's to say that Sue didn't date Ben a time or two
before she ever met Reed? Who's to say that part of Grimm's
bitterness -- that led him to quit the team a dozen times --
wasn't partially rooted in the feeling that the effete Richards
had stolen his girl? Now there's a story worth telling, Mr.
It could be interesting, except that Susan Storm was a young
preteen girl when a college-aged Reed Richards became a boarder
at her parent's home. That being the case, Ben Grimm, Reed's
peer, would have been robbing the cradle and breaking the law if
he had dated Susan before she met Reed.
Onto other subjects:
You may already be aware by now that X-MEN: THE HIDDEN
YEARS has been canceled. The news first broke on John Byrne's
AOL board, THE BYRNE WARD, when Walt Simonson asked Byrne to
confirm the office rumor that the title had been canned. Byrne
confirmed this in a post that illustrated his anger at the
situation. Originally, Byrne was told that X: THY would cease on
issue No. 19. Since then, Marvel has bumped up the cancellation
to issue No. 22.
Below is Marvel's news release on the matter, as reported
<<"This Spring, the X-Mansion is in for one heck of a
cleaning," the Your Man @ Marvel announcement read at the Marvel
site. "For years, readers and retailers have complained there are
just too many X-Men spin-off titles. We hear ya, friends! That's
why (editor in chief) Joe Quesada, (X-Men editor) Mark Powers,
(Marvel president) Bill Jemas and (editor) Mike Marts have set out
to streamline the X-Men by making sure each title has a clear
identity and distinct purpose.
"Therefore, the following titles will end with these issues:
"Bishop" #16 (on sale now)
"Gambit" #25 (on sale in December)
"Generation X" #75 (on sale in March)
"X-Man" #75 (on sale in March)
"Mutant X" #32 (on sale in April)
"X-Men: The Hidden Years" #22 (on sale in July)
"But fear not, X-fanatics: While the titles are disappearing, the
characters that star in them are not. So don't think you're not
going to see Jubilee or X-Man or Gambit again." >>
In SPIDER-MAN: THE MOVIE news, William Dafoe is to be cast as
the Green Goblin after the role was turned down by actor John
Malkovitch. Malkovitch was demeaning and condescending in his
comments as to why he turned down the role citing that the movie
was not his genre and that movies like SPIDER-MAN are "not about
art," but marketing. This was said by the man who starred in
CON-AIR. High art, that!
Speaking of egos, have you read Joe Madureira's comments
concerning changes on a SUPERMAN comic he worked on? I
sympathize with his feelings regarding editors making arbitrary
decisions on artistic choices, but his vanity seems to be in
overload. From ComicBookResources.com:
<<The creator of Battle Chasers is one of a number of
artists contributing to a "jam" issue of DC Comics' Superman this
December, featuring the Man of Steel interacting with the rest of
the Justice League during the holidays.
Madureira sounded off on his message boards on Thursday.
"OK. I've learned something very important from posting on these
boards, and that is that I have a tendency to fly off the handle,
and allow my emotions to take over, causing me to write things
that I later regret.
"Well, I've waited over a week, and I'm still pissed off, so here
goes. Please keep in mind that I'm not out to badmouth anyone, but
I DO feel like I have the right to inform my fans about things
that directly affect my artwork.
"DC screwed with my pages. I am NOT happy. The changes may seem
small to most people, but to me, they are huge. HUGE. On every
page, they had someone redraw the bat-symbol on batman's chest,
from the classic yellow and black that I drew, to the new black
"OK, this is lame for many reasons. First of all, I think for a
special issue like this, with six different artists contributing
work, they could have allowed a bit of artistic license.
Especially since for most of us, it's the first time we are
drawing these characters. Secondly, there are certain shots that I
absolutely would not have done if I knew that I couldn't work with
the yellow symbol (there's a Frank Milleresque silhouette shot of
Supes and Bats, where only their chest symbols are visible. Once
cool, now lame). The perspective on the bat is off on the MAJOR
shot of Batman, the splash page. Which brings me to the MOST
annoying thing about this. I turned those pencils in almost four
months before the release date of this book. You would think that
they could have called me and had me make the changes. Nah, let's
do it without telling Joe and let him find out about it when it's
"Another minor, but annoying change is that I asked for a blur
effect on a sequence where Batman is landing on a roof top (I did
multiple images). At first, the colorists blurred the wrong one,
but we caught it in time, and they made the change as per my
request. Well, someone at DC (again, without ever once consulting
me) decided they didn't LIKE the blur at all. They had it removed,
and simply ghosted the figure instead. Ok, now this pisses me off.
The FIRST change was probably a legal one, or a continuity one,
they wanted the current bat symbol, whatever. But this is an
instance of Editorial overriding my artistic decision, and there
really is no reason for it. If I wanted a blur, leave the
(profanity) blur alone.
"There's more, but it's minor. The point is, I had SO much
difficulty with only three pages, I can't imagine what it must be
like to work on an entire issue, or for that matter, an ongoing
series at DC. There's a complete lack of respect for creators
there, and this is a small, but to me, important example. I
haven't had my work changed behind my back since back in MCP
(Marvel Comics Presents) when I started, and even then I think I
was notified. Total blow to my ego. I actually thought my
penciling these pages had some importance (I guarantee you the
sales, especially back orders, are going to go through the roof)
but apparently, it wasn't important to DC.
"All I would have liked, was for someone at DC to at least CALL me
and tell me they were making these changes. If I hadn't asked to
see the color proofs, I literally would not have known until the
issue was out and in my hands. I've heard grumbling from some of
the other artists in this issue too. I was so excited about this
project at first, and now, I'm just left with a really bad taste
in my mouth. I'm not even looking forward to it coming out
anymore. It will be hard for me to look at it.
"I really should have taken all this crap I just posted and told
it to DC, but honestly, I don't have the energy to try and change
what can't be changed. My apologies to my pals Jeff Loeb, and Ed
McGuiness, I'm not trying to shoot down your book in any way, and
you know where I'm coming from. You should both be proud of the
work you've done. Superman rocks today because of you.
"There. I said my piece. Now I'll wait by the phone to get yelled
at. Bwahahhahaha! Hey, now I know how Sinead O'Connor felt on her
Saturday Night Live appearance years ago. FIGHT THE TRUE ENEMY I
shout as I tear a copy of Green Lantern. Hahaha. It's fun to be a
Having posted the comments, Madureira appeared to cool down in
subsequent comments to the thread:
<<"The truth is, DC owns that artwork, and technically, they
can do whatever they want with it. Thank god I own (Battle
Chasers) or they might decide Gully's hands are too big, or
Garrison's eyebrows are too bushy. I won't even mention Red
Monika. I'm over it now, I said my piece, so let's keep the flames
to a minimum. No sense crying over spilled ink.
"This does not affect my relationship with WildStorm in any way.
It doesn't even change my relationship with DC, it just opened my
eyes to a few things, that's all.">>
To fans who thought that the blame lay with the editors
involved, and not DC in its entirety, he replied:
<<"I AM blaming the company, and not the one or two people
responsible. They can't be held accountable. The reason is, NO ONE
has any control over there. With a corporation as huge as AOL and
Warner (Brothers) in charge of DC, you never know quite where to
put the blame. One person has to answer to another person, and
them to someone else, until you have this big ball of red tape big
enough to blot out the sun. It could have been an editor, it could
have been the legal department, it could have been the vice
president, president, head of licensing, sales, promotions, maybe
even Warner Bros. Who the heck knows? When you call to find out,
the answer you always get is, ' This is not my decision to make.'
So you see, I can't hold one person accountable. Huge corporations
"(Disclaimer. I DO like Marvel lately. I have had a lot of
positive talks with (editor-in-chief Joe Quesada), and it really
seems like they are putting all the power back where it should be
... in the hands of the creators. I hope they keep it up,
And as for why, knowing that the book and characters involved were
owned by DC, Madureira thought he might be insulated from such
"Ego aside, I CAN tell you Battle Chasers is the highest selling
book at DC. This isn't stroking my ego, it's just a fact, I can't
help it! (Nor do I want to!) I think it's safe to assume that
there are going to be quite a lot of BC readers picking up this
issue while waiting for the next Battle Chasers book. I can also
tell you that a majority of Battle Chasers readers do not read
Superman, so these are NEW readers they are getting. Blah blah
blah, sorry it came across as egotistical, but I was trying to
avoid this long-winded explanation.
"I think to an extent, every artist has an ego. Especially good
artists. Why strive to make your work great if no one is going to
enjoy it, or if you don't enjoy it yourself? I think the trick is,
to never stop learning. When you think your stuff is perfect, when
you stop seeing flaws in your own work, but see it in everyone
else's, then you become a problem. To me, THAT'S an ego. I don't
think I have that problem.
"MuauAuAUHAhahahAHhah! I WILL rule the world!" >>
I guess if one rules the world, than one does not have to put
out a comic but once every two years. Ah well ...
I read Joe Mad's comments with something akin to disbelief. Not
only does he not have a leg to stand on -- the art, and the
characters, are DC's property to do with as they please -- but his
complaints struck me as, well, pretty minor. I mean, gee whiz --
who really cares if a background was altered? Is it going to
affect my enjoyment of the comic book? Is anybody besides Joe Mad
even going to know, or notice?
Frankly, with skin that thin, Mr. Mad wouldn't last five minutes
where I work (The Commercial Appeal newspaper). I put up with a
lot more humiliation than that to get my paycheck every week! The
words "prima donna" spring to my mind -- which may be unfair, but
they spring to mind nonetheless.
Funny he should bring up that part about
the workplace. He had another correspondent who also worked for a
paper, who seemed to have quite a hatred of anybody who dared
criticize the press, and was also hostile to people who dared to say
something negative about Islam. In other words, he had quite a J.
Jonah Jameson for a “buddy”. With skin that thin, one can only
wonder why he still had a job up to a certain point. I once found
the same man writing anti-military propaganda opposing the war in
Iraq, and while no sane conservative thinks the military are saints,
he was writing his screed because he despised the notion of
defeating tyrants like Saddam in Iraq, and opposing
Islamofascism/sharia. What next, will we discover the man I speak of
also thinks Mohammed’s marriage to Aisha when she was only nine
years of age is perfectly fine, even in modern times?
The correspondent’s comments about Morrison boasting in an interview
how he’d like to depict an incestuous relation between Sue and
Johnny are interesting as the interview itself was disturbing. In
fairness, he was putting things lightly about the British. If you
look at the country’s mindset under a microscope, you’d see they
have one of the worst grips on morale and reality possible to find
in the modern world. Is it any wonder that sharia
law has succeeded in taking hold in the UK and halal
food forced upon the public, all at the expense of the
All that aside, when I look back at how Mr. Smith embraced Identity
Crisis, it makes his suggestions for what Morrison could really have
done – try an affair between Sue and Ben – all the more sickening,
and Smith’s comment could be viewed more gravely today. I’m glad the
correspondent pointed out that embarrasingly overlook. Shame on Mr.
Smith. He really does know how to slip the tongue. And shame on him
and a different correspondent if they consider one of the names
mentioned on December 19, 2000, an auteur:
TIME Magazine names its Best (and Worst) Comics of
2000 (with a U.S. election-esque twist!) -- much welcomed
hi-profile publicity for some very worthy works in the comics
medium. The list is presented Casey Kasem countdown-style here,
full descriptions are included within the article for those
Worst of 2000: StanLee.net
9. True Swamp: Underwoods and Overtime, by Jon Lewis
8. Luba, by Gilbert Hernandez
7. Naughty Bits, by Roberta Gregory
6. Louis Riel, by Chester Brown
5. Berlin: City of Stones, by Jason Lutes
4. "America's Best Comics" by Alan Moore
3. David Boring, by Daniel Clowes
2. Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty
Supply District, by Ben Katchor
1. (tie) Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris
1. (tie) Safe Area Gorazde, by Joe Sacco
Thanks for the interesting link, […], as usual! Now
I'll have to check on all the books on that list that I've never
seen before ...
Man, Time just had to pick Joe
Sacco for the list, didn’t they? What a sick disgrace.
I have often thought about this. If more superheroes
knew Batman's identity, then its only a matter of time before it
goes public. That's human nature. When it went public imagine
the hassles it would create ...
Batman/Bruce Wayne sent Batmobile speeding tickets by mail
Groupies and hitmen camped out the gates of Wayne manor
The constant tailing by the Enquirer, Star and Weekly
World News photographers
The I.R.S. dogging Wayne about forging business expenses
(Had to heat the Batcave somehow).
But my favorite two scenarios:
Bruce Wayne getting sued over the Batman copyright and
being forced to give up the costume
Bruce Wayne getting sued and losing all his fortune to The
Joker ... emotional trauma, don't ya know.
I shudder at the prospect, [name withheld]! Thanks for the smile!
Here's more on Batman's ouster from the JLA:
About a decade after this was written,
Bruce Wayne did reveal his secret ID, not unlike how Tony Stark, in
another poorly written story by Mike Grell, revealed he was Iron
Man. But honestly, what’s the use? There may have once been a time
when unmasking could’ve worked. But since the turn of the century,
the train’s left the station.
Dear Cap: Batman was wrong. I know, there are many
who feel that the only advantage Batman has in the JLA is his
ability to be ready for anything. And he may have been justified
because of the many times the JLA has been taken over, etc. But
at what cost?
He missed the fundamental point of a team like the JLA:
Trust is everything. And I find it kind of ironic that he could
not trust his teammates, but he demands they and many others to
trust him. Think about it: Dick Grayson, Commissioner Gordon,
Tim Drake, the citizens of Gotham and the JLA must trust that
Batman will always do something right. Yet, when it comes time
to return that trust he believes the ends justifies the means.
I'm glad that this is still being explored by Mark Waid.
Hopefully, when this is resolved ( I think in issue 50) the
resolution will not be a pat one and maybe, just maybe, Batman
will learn that trust between teammates is the most important
thing for the JLA.
I think the issue of trust is indeed at the heart of this dispute.
And I also think it's far from black and white. For example, I
agree that Batman's lack of "team spirit" is a problem for the
JLA. On the other hand, I think it would be an awful idea for his
secret ID to become common knowledge within the JLA. Unlike the
DEO's recent outing of all the Martian Manhunter's secret IDs
(which, incidentally, he kept from his teammates), Batman's secret
ID getting out would simply end his career. And, hey -- would YOU
trust a bonehead like Kyle Rayner with an important secret? Or
So should Batman change, or just quit? And if he becomes more open
and trusting -- if that's even possible and still be Batman -- how
far should he go?
These are just some of the questions that this terrific storyline
forces on us. I'm eagerly awaiting JLA No. 50 myself.
As much as I dislike the Rayner GL
travesty, it’s not his fault he was a bonehead. It was Ron Marz’s
fault. Nor would it be Eel O’Brian’s fault if he were characterized
as poorly. This exchange does remind me though of how offensive
Identity Crisis was by implying girlfriends/wives of superheroes are
untrustworthy. Something that’s never mattered to Mr. Smith, sadly.
Dear Cap: I wanted to chime in on the controversy
over the canceled X-books. While I think it is difficult to
understand why Marvel would cancel profitable titles, I think I
have to applaud them for looking towards the future. I very much
agree with you that the plotlines have become impenetrable to
the casual fan, and it is extremely important for the industry
to attract new (readers). To that point, I think Marvel is
taking a step in the right direction, both with these
cancellations and especially with the launch of the Ultimate
line (although I think the catering to collectors is a very bad
One of the problems that I think is facing the industry is
that many titles have become too bogged down by continuity,
hence losing appeal to new readers. I remember that when I first
started reading comics (age 5), I could care less about
who-did-what-when. All I wanted was a good story with some
heroic activities (either a good fight or a nice rescue
mission). I honestly think that most other kids, at least
initially, feel the same way. I used to love the old 100-page DC
comics from the '70s with the reprints of old comics, and I
remember that I didn't care if it was Batman and Robin in the
'60s in one story and in the current era in another. I just
wanted good stories.
I was very much reminded of this when I recently read
Shazam!: Power of Hope. I had forgotten how much I liked Captain
Marvel (most likely because nothing's really being done with him
at the moment), and how kid-friendly he really is. This is not a
character that is well served by being within DCU continuity,
nor should he stay there, considering the appeal that he has for
Why can't DC and Marvel publish titles featuring their top
characters that are non-continuity, non What-If, kid-friendly
stories (I'm not talking about writing down, but more stories
along the lines of the Silver Age)? Put 'em on newsprint, add
some Silver Age reprints, price them reasonably and get them in
drugstores and supermarkets. I think it would be much easier to
get new readers interested in such comics, and then if they're
interested, let them "graduate" to the continuity titles. I
don't think you're going to build a new readership base with the
way things are currently progressing.
I know I'm not saying anything new here, and that all the
continuity junkies out there might even be outraged by my
suggestion, but I do feel this is a step that should at least be
attempted to attract new readers.
I couldn't agree with you more, […]. No doubt there
are reasons why Marvel & DC aren't putting out cheap, mammoth
reprint titles for the newsstand, but I'll be hanged if I know
what they are. Frankly, I'd make a special trip to the Walgreen's
for a monthly 100-page reprint Bat-title, with stories from the
'40s, '50s, '60s and '70s.
While DC and Marvel have published a few
series that drew from their cartoon productions, most of them were
cancelled as they never made a serious effort to market them to
younger readers. As for Billy Batson, so this correspondent thinks
it would’ve been better if he hadn’t been merged with the DCU proper
post-Crisis. But I seem to recall he was another somebody who
embraced Identity Crisis, his alleged misgivings about the offing of
Jake Drake notwithstanding, and that’s not somebody I can assume to
understand all about Captain Marvel either.
Dear Cap: It is one thing to have to ward off the
occasional bully when you are trying to prove yourself to be the
ideal catch of the day to the opposite sex at the beach, but
what if he is not even human to begin with? The B-movies about
bathing beauties, the beasts that would molest them and the hero
of the beach who would muster the courage (only GOD knows from
where) to rescue the damsel-in-distress were pure camp but they
were still enjoyable in their own way.
Still, there have to be easier ways to prove onself to be
the "alpha male" without the threat of getting a necessary body
part ripped off.
I have to wonder why The Creature From the Black Lagoon found the
human girl attractive in the first place. I mean, wouldn't he find
I have to wonder why Mr. Smith doesn’t
think Jean Loring and Sue Dibny are attractive enough from a
physical perspective, and why he doesn’t want them to have
personalities that are just as appealing. The same could be asked
about Iris West Allen.
<<Marvel didn't make a dime directly off the X-Men
movie, since a previous administration negotiated the original
(bad) deal for the rights and didn't get a cut of the profit --
This probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Consider:
Marvel makes many concepts available, some are purchased
("optioned") by TV and movie studios, and those that are
purchased are often stinkers. Even if they don't stink, they've
never been successes, either. Not counting cartoons, the one
exception I can think of is the Incredible Hulk TV show.
I imagine that Marvel had a couple of choices when they
sold the rights to X-Men. Their first choice would have been to
take a smaller initial payment and then receive a percentage of
the box-office receipts and video sales. The second choice would
have been to just take a larger payment up front with no profit
sharing. Given their history, I probably would have made the
I don't know if it is true, but I was once told that the
original cast of Star Wars was given the same choice: larger
initial salary or a percentage of profits. Of the leads, only
Carrie Fisher chose to take the percentage. Again, I don't know
if that's true but what could have been a disasterous decision
turned out great for Fisher.
<<Which hero/villainess and/ or heroine/villain
relationships do you consider to be classic in comics –
A personal favorite for me was the Captain America/Diamondback
relationship. I don't know if I'd call it classic, it being only
a few years old, but I sure enjoyed it. For those who aren't in
the know, here's a summary. The Serpent Society was a group of
snake-themed villains/mercenaries that Diamondback belonged to.
When the group comes under attack by a cadre of other
snake-themed villains, Captain America is summoned to help out.
Diamondback is almost intantly attracted to Cap and rapidly
begins to mend her ways. She helped him out on many subsequent
cases and they even went on a date in their civilian idenities.
Unfortunately, I don't know what happened with the
relationship. The final few years of Mark Gruenwald's run of
writing Captain America had such lame "A" stories (Cap turned
into a woman, Cap turned into a wolf, Cap dying, etc) that I
wasn't willing to stick around for the "B" stories.
<< Harley Quinn isn't stupid. She's got a doctorate in
psychology. She's an Olympic-level gymnast. – […]>>
Okay, except for two points. First, it has been VERY heavily
suggested that she used sex to obtain her doctorate. Second, her
Olympic-level gymnastics are courtesy of something that Poison
Ivy brewed up for her.
<<... and I can't believe I'm the only one who sees lesbian
overtones in her friendship with Harley. – […]>>
[name withheld] isn't the only one who sees that. In fact, it
seems to be one of […]'s -- she whose husband I am -- favorite
points. ([…] is also a big Xena fan. Should I be worried?)
<<When he meets a young victim of domestic violence, he
takes a direct hand -- showing that the World's Mightiest Mortal's
greatest power is the size of his heart. -- Captain Comics>>
This was, sadly, the worst part of the story for me. When Billy
fails to reason with the boy's bully of a father, he transforms
into Captain Marvel and bullies the bully.
Oddly enough, it was the bully factor you mention that made the
scene believable to me. Just as liars always assume that everybody
is always lying, and burglars always lock their doors, my own
experience in life has shown me that the only thing that will ever
make a bully back down is a BIGGER bully. Violence and shows of
strength are all they understand. Sure, it would have been nice if
Billy could have reasoned with him -- in fact, he made an attempt
at it -- but it wouldn't have been very realistic for the bully to
suddenly have had the milk of human kindness fill his soul and
become a changed man. I see your point, though, and it's worthy of
discussion. How SHOULD Cap have handled it?
As to your remarks about [name withheld]’s Harley Quinn review:
1) You and I both read the flashback scenes in Batman Adventures:
Mad Love and came away thinking that Harleen Quinzel had slept her
way to a psychiatry degree. Yet, […] read those same scenes and
came away with an entirely different interpretation. Her take on
it was that A) it's impossible to sleep your way to doctorate, as
sooner or later you'll have to take oral exams (no pun intended)
and/or state certification, and B) Harleen obviously has low
self-esteem, and probably talked HERSELF into believing that she
didn't earn the degree that in all likelihood she probably did.
Both interpretations, I believe, are entirely valid. Yet you and I
(probably because we're male), never thought of it the way […]
did. That's why I find it fascinating to get different
perspectives -- like […].
2) I don't see what difference it makes how Harley got her
gymnastic skill -- the fact that she has it means she could do a
lot more with her life than be The Joker's punching bag. Which, I
think, was […] point.
As to Diamondback, I'm with you on the relationship -- I was
pleased, sorta, to see Cap showing a healthy interest in a healthy
young woman. Frankly, I feel it's wrong to present characters like
Superman and Captain America as paragons of perfection and make
them utterly sexless. I think it would be better for the
characters and for the perceived pre-teen audience to show them as
fully-functioning (ahem) adults who have the same physical urges
as the rest of us, and to show them handling them responsibly. To
make them indifferent to sex makes them less well-rounded
characters, completely unbelievable -- and, to stretch the point,
bad role models.
On the other hand, though, I didn't like Diamondback as a
super-character. A gal who throws little minerals at people and
has no other exceptional abilites would be shot dead in two
seconds in real-life combat. I found her, outside of the "B" plot,
Wow, more hypocrisy on display from Mr.
Smith, as he says Cap and Supes shouldn’t be sexless, yet never
argues why he’d be happier if some of the fictional ladies he's
spited had what he considers more patalable personalities.
And the correspondent’s quite a leftist too, which could probably
explain why he’d rather Capt. Marvel not use force to stop an
abusive father. Funny thing is that he once spoke about how
impressed he was with the 1977-82 Incredible Hulk series starring
Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno, which had an episode in its 2nd season
dealing with an abusive father, and the Hulk later came close to
using force to stop him. One can only wonder if said correspondent
would object to using force to send a message to Islamofascists, and
if memory serves, he did. Let’s not be surprised if he feels the
same way about Muslims who commit honor
murders and homophobic assaults. In fact, let’s not be
surprised if Mr. Smith were just as lenient, making his whole
argument about Capt. Marvel very laughable and moot.
H'lo Captain: Thanks for the very informative and
downright entertaining piece in CBG No. 1414.
I've long found the issue of superhero ages to be of
interest, probably stemming from the curious way in which the
industry itself (mis)handled the matter. I have a distinct
memory of reading a DC letters column back in the '70s (although
it was undoubtedly in an older comic, probably from the '60s),
wherein the editor explained to a reader that the reason why the
superheroes still looked so young after several decades in
action was that they were privy to "secrets" of staving off the
And I once came across a copy of a Superman's Girlfriend
Lois Lane 80-Page Giant, circa 1965, at a garage sale (which, I
have to tell you, remained one of my favorite comics for
years!), and there was a brief "stats" bio of Superman in it
that pegged his age officially at 33. It seems to me that the
age of 29 was affixed to Superman during his early '70s
"relevance" phase, when DC no doubt took the "Never trust anyone
over 30" slogan to heart. Of course, given the fact that
Kryptonians probably live a whole lot longer than Earthlings,
what's the point of marking Superman's life with the
chronological age of our world?
I remember really liking the fact that Steve Englehart
affixed an actual year to the formation of the Justice League in
one of his late-'70s stories (1959, I believe), and I'm
surprised that Julie Schwartz let that get through, since it
meant that the JLA were all pushing middle age by that point.
I agree with you that Green Arrow is probably the oldest
at 48, and I also agree with the general vicinities of Batman
and Hal Jordan's ages. I'd also have no problem moving Aquaman
up towards GA's age (being a human/Atlantean hybrid, he's
probably got a much longer lifespan than the rest). I do have to
question Mark Waid's assertion that Barry Allen got his
superhero start at around 23. The guy was a police scientist,
for Pete's sake! You don't just walk out of college and into a
cushy job like that in a major urban law-enforcement
organization; it takes a few years cutting one's teeth first, I
would imagine. Also, let's look at Iris West ... she,
presumably, was close to Barry in age. She was also a leading
newspaper reporter, something not likely for anyone fresh out of
journalism school. I'd place both Barry and Iris at closer to 30
when The Flash debuted.
One final thought ... although he didn't affix an age to
her at the time, Mike Grell made it clear early in his run with
Green Arrow that Dinah Lance felt her biological clock was
ticking, and she wanted to have a baby (this was before she was
tortured by a villain, leaving her incapable of having children.
I wonder if this fact has been forgotten by DC?). I kind of
doubt that she would have had such concerns if she were still in
her 20s, so I suspect she's older than the 31 you've set her at
(of course, DC's artists have a habit of drawing her with the
body of a 20-year-old no matter what. LOL)
Thanks again for a great article! I'd be interested in
seeing you take a look at the Marvel heroes, particularly since
so many of them (Spider-Man, the Human Torch, the X-Men) started
their careers as teenagers, and aged during the normal course of
Thanks for the comments! Since superhero ages vary
wildly with whoever's writing or editing their adventures
currently, we get to make up pretty much what we want to believe
-- and argue it endlessly! What a fun hobby! Here's another take:
Reading this, I’m wondering why it’s such
a big deal what age superheroes and their co-stars are, since nobody
ever made the same ruckus about comic strip characters in
newspapers. If it matters, I’d assume Dick Tracy could be late
30s-early 40s, and Brenda Starr, whose own strip was cancelled in
2011, is late 20s-early 30s! But seriously, does it matter at all?
Not in the least. What matters is the entertainment value, which
Smith’s CBG columns don’t have, any more than his newspaper columns.
Dear Captain: I enjoyed your article about the
probable ages of DC superheroes, but I think that you erred in
the case of Hal Jordan, and in the process maligned test pilots.
You stated "I doubt test pilots need to matriculate, so we can't
assume college." Quite the contrary. According to
http://www.glcorps.org/hal.html, Green Lantern (third series)
No. 104 showed that Hal Jordan was a test pilot in the United
States Air Force prior to joining Ferris Aircraft Corporation.
Not only do Air Force pilots need a college degree, preferrably
in engineering, prior to being commissioned and entering pilot
training, but as
http://www.af.mil/news/Feb2000/n20000223_000276.html shows, most
of those selected for test-pilot training have reached the rank
of captain, which requires four years of service. Further,
test-pilot training is a 27-month program, resulting in a
master's degree in aeronautical or electrical engineering, which
would be consistent with his description as having a degree in
"aviation engineering." To sum it all up, Hal Jordan was
probably at least 29 before he was discharged from the Air Force
and joined Ferris Aircraft, which probably puts him on the far
side of 40 when he (died).
I had forgotten that story about Hal being in the Air Force -- but
even if I had remembered, I wouldn't have known that the USAF has
such extensive requirements to be a test pilot. But writer Ron
Marz did indeed establish that Hal was a captain in the USAF in GL
No. 104 (Sep 1998), so I guess that supercedes Jim Owsley's
depiction of Jordan as a young foul-up in Emerald Dawn I & II
(in 1990 and 1991).
OK, so if we take this at face value, then Jordan received the
ring at age 30 "about 12 years ago." That means he died at age 42,
and would have been 44 if he had lived.
Sounds pretty good to me!
But not good enough for me. Why can’t
disbelief be suspended for a change? All that aside, curious how a
leftist like Marz decided to establish Hal’s air force service
despite his leanings, which have certainly reached a low today. Then
again, I wouldn’t be surprised if GL #104 Vol. 3 had some kind of
leftist bias against the military in it somewhere.
Re: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Dear Cap: I don't think I've written to you before,
although I have read your site religiously for a long time now.
In fact, I'm not very active in comics, per se, though I do
sometimes post as "Doctor Strange" on the WB Message Boards for
Batman-Superman and Batman Beyond.
Like you, I am a vintage comics fan (45 years old) with
great affection for the Silver Age, and, though I call myself a
Marvel guy first and foremost, I literally learned to read on
early '60s Superman, and have enjoyed most of the DC characters,
and their various media adaptations, all along. My feelings for
the Golden Age are those of huge respect minus nostalgia -- that
'40s stuff is just too wacky for me to take seriously, for the
most part. But it's the fount from which all comics flow; the
motherlode. Like you, the stuff I've been impressed with the
most in recent years is the guys who manage to take this old
stuff and explore it in new syntheses: e.g., nearly everything
Alex Ross has done with skilled writers like Paul Dini and
(Kurt) Busiek or (Mark) Waid.
Which is a long-winded way of my saying that I want to
join the chorus of praise for Michael Chabon's novel! You must
read this book immediately. Not only is it the most serious
treatment ever given to the comics as American art form, but
it's a whole passel of other things too:
A fabulously well-written book; there are descriptive
passages that will simply stop you in your tracks;
A magnificently well-researched book; I have never read
more detailed depictions of the '30s-'50s (not that I lived
through them, but I'm a lifelong retro type, a history/English
major, and student of pop culture);
A book with fully-realized characters that are
appropriately complex. You will care about them and understand
A study of Manhattan as the cultural capital of the world
and the template for Metropolis, etc.;
A study of the (mostly) Jewish immigrant experience, and
how this brought forth people who were uniquely talented and
qualified to create superheroes;
A heartrending story of the perils of being gay in less
A compendium of all kinds of stuff that I was always
personally interested in: stage magic and escape artistry, the
Golem of Prague, classic radio and movies (Orson Welles makes a
cameo appearance!), WW II, the growth of suburbia ... ;
And -- special bonus for folks like us -- it's dedicated
to Jack Kirby and includes cameo appearances by Gil Kane and
Stan Lee, and knowledgeable references to many other comics
greats, from Siegel & Shuster and (Bob) Kane onwards.
I haven't read many novels recently. In fact, apart from a
few authors I really admire, I never read novels when they're
new -- I wait until they achieve classic status. This one's an
instant classic. An important novel that's also fascinating and
fun. You gotta check it out!
Okay, 'nuff said. Keep up the great work on your site!
P.S. - The highest praise I can give this book is that,
even without paintings, it captures the same spirit of NYC in
the '30s/'40s that Ross & Busiek do in Marvels!
OK, [name withheld], you've sold me! Thanks for the
instant book review!
And he’s insulted me. I find any accepting
view this book could have for homosexuality irksome, along with any
other ultra-leftist viewpoints it may have too. As someone whose
default religion is Orthodox Judaism, I want to make clear that
homoseuxality is anathema to our beliefs, and it was for most past
members of the Conservative sect. Lumping homosexuality in with our
causes is ludicrous. The irony is that leftists like Chabon are
likely to consider Muslim hostility to homosexuality – far worse
than anything Judeo-Christianity could represent – acceptable and
would never dare speak against it.
I'm probably the 47th person to e-mail you about
this, but the weekly political satire strip This Modern World,
this week gives the U.S. election results in the Bizarro
universe! Check it out at
P.S. Thank you for saying it's OK to hate Gambit. Believe
me, you're not the only one.
Thank God -- given the Ragin' Cajun's purported popularity, I was
beginning to think that I was out of step with the entire world!
And thanks for the link to "This Bizarro World" -- you were the
actually the first, and it ought to be required reading for every
ideologue in the country!
Sigh. Don’t take anything from Mr. Smith
at face value. But that’s what the fool who wrote that letter did,
legitimizing childish behavior. Once, I was stupid enough to do that
myself. But no longer. I am so glad I changed my approach, which I
feel was partly influenced by Mr. Smith. Thinking back on that
today, I feel very disgusted with myself for believing his POV was a
worthy one. Here comes another letter of mine:
Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith: Here is a little
more that I thought of to add to my previous letter about how
comics are much better than movies. They’re also a lot better
than watching TV, since much of today’s television is overly
violent, lewd and immoral. In the past several years, I’ve been
watching considerably less television than I ever did when I was
younger, and I avoid a lot of the more explicit TV shows, such
as Miami Vice, the Equalizer, Law & Order and also L.A. Law.
Programs like these are among the most ultra-violent and even
sexually explicit that I’ve ever known, and I think that they
should be avoided as best as possible. There’s also some sitcoms
that are as terrible as any of these programs, but other than
Ellen, I can’t really think of any others.
Comic books, of course, are also much better than watching
TV programs, since the stories and characters there are much
more engrossing than those in a TV show. And, while sitting in
front of the TV set all day can be very bad for the eyes, due to
all the radiation, comic books have no such effects. Nor for
that matter, do they have the kind of violent influences that TV
programs can have. And just like regular books, you can come
away from reading a comic book feeling much more relaxed. And
much more entertained too.
And, comics are also much more interesting than playing a
lot of videogames. Like some TV shows of course, videogames can
have a very bad impact on the mental health of youngsters. And
one of the most awful videogames I know of other than Doom is
Mortal Kombat, which displayed some of the most horrific gore
ever seen in a videogame to date. I was very appalled to
discover that Midway, which built the game, even tried to go so
far as to cash in on its success by having published what they
described as a “kollectors edition komic book.” Did you ever see
that comic? I wouldn’t have dared to buy something like that if
the game it’s based on is so shamelessly violent.
And speaking of videogames, it amazes me that those made
in North America are even more violent than those made in Japan.
And whereas games like SNK’s Fatal Fury have all these
exceedingly difficult joystick techniques in order to perform a
massive damage blow, a decidedly better idea than gore, the
Mortal Kombat games and other games made in North America had
nothing of the sort, they only had all these horrifyingly gory
execution techniques that could be performed after the opponent
was officially defeated. Why is it that U.S. gamemakers are so
obsessed with violence and Japanese gamemakers
otherwise less so? It really stinks that U.S. gamemakers
are donning such a perverted image for themselves.
On a special note, when I play video and computer games, I
prefer to play puzzle games like Taito’s Puzzle Bobble (which
may be called Bust-A-Move, a less effective title, in North
America), a most brilliant puzzle game, and also RTS games like
Westwood’s Command & Conquer games. For those games are much
more relaxing to play, and have some much better challenge too.
In fact, if I were to play games like Capcom’s Street Fighter or
even some of those light gun games like Data East’s Dragongun (I
did), I found it very painful for my hands, and I rubbed
blisters on them many times, so I’m surprised that a lot of
teens want to hurt their hands over fighting and shooting junk.
And again on movies, I find it very absurd if anyone
thinks that a comic book has to be made into a movie in order
for it to sell well. Good grief, that’s not my way of thinking.
I personally don’t think that comic books have to be made into
movies in order to draw new fans to read them. Believe me, there
are plenty of ways to encourage the public to read comics, and
those ways can be found. For instance, the comics companies can
advertise their royalties in all the newspapers, including USA
Today. And even the newspapers that your columns appear in. And
they have a right to do so too. I guess it’s only a question of
if they can afford it.
I’ve just read your essay on Unbreakable though, and I
must fully agree that it’s brilliant. Although you didn’t seem
to mention it, the movie is set in Philadelphia, mine and also
Bruce Willis’s and the director M. Shyamalan’s native metro, and
I’m sure it makes very good use out of the urban locations. And
yes, I suppose that’s a movie that I’ll have to go check out
whenever I get the chance (although of course, the price for
tickets here really spooks me even more than the movie could).
As I can understand, the film is about a real-life human who
discovers he’s been born with a power and some immunities to
illnesses not unlike those of the many superbeings in comics.
And so in other words, the film is not about superheroes but
rather, about a guy who’s born with powers almost like theirs.
That is a very inventive idea for a film indeed. It’s surprising
though to note that the press in Philadelphia wasn’t as
impressed with Unbreakable as they could have been. Now in
Philly there’s two dailies and two weeklies, not counting some
of the smaller suburban newspapers. The Philadelphia Weekly and
the Inquirer gave it a star rating of two stars, while the
Philadelphia Daily News and the City Paper gave it opinions
within the range of two-and-a-half stars. I really wish they
could’ve given it better than that, but generally speaking, no,
the critics just don’t understand movies like this one. Do
comics really get a bad rap in the U.S. though? There are times,
yes, when comic-book stunts are tried out in live-action movies
that the critics tend to be unimpressed with them, and so they
tell people that they’re not impressed with such gimmicks. But
the comics themselves don’t usually get the same kind of
dismissal that comic-bookish and cartoonish movies get (or do
they?). I did however read once in Cinemafantastique in Feb 1998
an article in which an artist said that if a bad comic book is
made into a bad movie, then we tend to blame it on the comic,
but if a good comic book is made into a bad movie, then we STILL
throw the blame on the comic, and he rightfully said that it’s
unfair. No indeed, it’s not fair, and if the critics can’t
understand that it’s really just the filmmakers fault, then
that’s very one-sided and disrespectful of them.
Meanwhile, if it’ll come in handy, I have here a couple of
usable addresses. First:
This is Unbreakable’s official website. And next, here’s
some of the best reviews I could find:
This review is from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
This very favorable review is from the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette. And then,
Another great review from the Cincinatti Enquirer. And
This review is from the Cleveland Free Times. And finally,
Here’s a review from your home state newspaper, The
Meanwhile, thank you very much for your reply to my letter
regarding the X-cancellations. When I first submitted the
letter, it was about a week before you’d told me about how John
Byrne was disillusioned with Marvel’s act, so I’d already known
a little about his resignation. However, I forgot one important
thing: I should have specified which X-titles I was sad they
were canceling. And the only ones I’m really sad that they’re
canceling are two: The Hidden Years and Generation X. Like you,
I’d also read several issues of The Hidden Years, and I too had
taken quite a liking to it. But I guess I can understand that
maybe because it’s got a 1970s vibe, then that’s why they don’t
feel that it’d click with today’s audience. Nevertheless, I
still don’t think they had to take the risk in losing Byrne.
Maybe they made a mistake in publishing it as an ongoing series,
and as mentioned before, maybe they should’ve written as a
limited series, just like The ‘Nam. They could probably fill in
the 1970-75 gaps though with a couple of maxiseries, if they
haven’t done it already.
And the other title was Generation X. Although I’m in my
mid-twenties by now, I took quite a liking to that as well,
mostly because I was a teen once, and I haven’t lost touch with
my former teen self. And since the series was aimed at younger
sets of teens, I found it surprising that they’d want to cancel
that one as well.
Of the other four out of six that I’m decidedly not
bothered that they’ve canceled, I’m not bothered if they’re
canceling Mutant X. I most certainly didn’t like the reverse
concept of the paralell world that Alex Summers had gotten
thrown into. Now that it’s ending, I certainly hope that he’ll
be able to find his way back to the regular Marvel Universe.
And no, I can’t say that the series with Gambit impressed
me either. I vaguely remember reading the third issue and I
found the story there revolting. And his personality and
trade(?) just aren’t fit for getting his own title either. As
for Bishop’s title, I haven’t gotten to see that so far, but
it’s probably as dreary as you said it was in the CCC.
As for X-Man, that I’m undecided upon. As I know, Nate
Grey was a product of the parallel time line shown in the Age of
Apocalypse tale from 1995, a “rewrite” or a transmogrofication,
of Nathan Summers/Cable. It was an interesting gimmick, a
character who survives a time line, in a way vaguely reminicent
of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, and I found some of the tales
there to be interesting, so there I just can’t decide.
But I think the biggest flaw that Marvel committed in
building the X-World was that they didn’t, or haven’t, tried to
launch any titles starring any of the X-Women. In fact, any
titles they’ve launched with women at all seem to have been
failures, including the She-Hulk, Silver Sable and Elektra, the
latter who I’ve heard may be returning eventually for another
try. But that’s mainly because in the She-Hulk’s case, she was
just too campy an idea to carry her own title (only in a
multi-character title like the Avengers could she work out
well), while as for Silver Sable, her title was boring. And when
Marvel tried out Elektra, that too had failed. But, as mentioned
before, they may try out Elektra again in time, and if they can
make it exciting or engrossing enough, then it might have a
In the meantime, if Marvel wants to launch any new
X-titles, then they should make the X-Women the stars of such
titles. The question is, which ones could be best for their own
starring titles? Well, it may not be Jean Grey, possibly because
she’s married, and hopefully Cyclops will be rescued from the
inner depths of the Apocalypse eventually. The best candidates
for their own title that I can think of just now are three:
Psylocke, who’s probably the best bet; Storm, who’s one of the
strongest X-Women; and also Shadowcat. All they need then are a
couple of good artists and writers (decidedly NOT Chris
Claremont), and then who knows, with that they might have
something that’d really be worth reading.
Lastly, special thanks to [name withheld], and [same
here], for their information on superhero stories that take
place in Philadelphia. I myself know very little about Liberty
Belle, and the only time I’d really heard of her until now was
several years ago, and until now, I’d completely forgotten. As
for her daughter, Jessie Quick, I hadn’t heard of her at all
until now, and I sure hope I’ll be able to find out more about
her in the future. Happy Hanukha!
And a Happy Holidays right back atcha, Avi!
And I see you're in the spirit of giving, what with all those
Unbreakable links. Thanks -- I'll check 'em out with a glass of
There's some good and bad news on the new X-title, given your
remarks. The good news is that it's likely to star Psylocke and
Shadowcat; the bad news is that it will be written by Chris
Claremont. Well, at least you're one for two.
As to why comics get such a bad rap when they move to movies, my
pet opinion is this: When Americans hear the words "comic book,"
they associate them with the idea of children's literature --
something they were supposed to grow out of. So they immediately
disparage the concept, so as not to appear unsophisticated or
Writer Peter David addressed the same topic while discussing
Unbreakable in the latest Comics Buyer's Guide, No. 1415:
"The term 'comic-book movie' has come to have a certain
delineated, usually pejorative, meaning. If a reviewer wants to
use a dismissive shorthand for certain black-and-white elements in
a film, he'll say it has a 'comic-book feel' to it. Any movie that
has larger-than-life heroes or villains, or developments that
border on the outrageous, is considered 'comic-booky.' The fact
that comic books themselves have never been as circumscribed as
those who don't read them would perceive is almost incidental. ...
But the public prefers to pigeonhole 'comic-book movies' as the
over-the-top of long-underwear super-doers in the same way that it
decrees that 'science-fiction,' of necessity, must involve people
in spaceships fighting aliens with laser beams."
Also, I have most of the Mortal Kombat comics, from back when I
was on Acclaim's comp list. I read exactly one of them, and never
cracked another. It wasn't necessarily the violence that turned me
off -- it was just a lousy comic book.
At the time I'd written this, I wasn't
enthusiastic about crime dramas like The Equalizer, because my
interest in those kind of shows had worn down, but since that time,
I've taken up viewing of vintage TV at times, and went on to see all
4 seasons of that series, being impressed with a lot of it, mainly
because it did address most of its subjects with sincerity. Miami
Vice did well enough in its time too, certainly a lot more than the
awful movie based on it from 2007. L.A Law, however, has never
appealed to me, and I've often thought it was far too
sensationalized. Even so, this is decidedly one of the most slapdash
letters I'd written, and if I held naive views at the time about
what levels of violence mainstream comics could have, that was
Since we’re on the subject of Unbreakable, I’ve grown less impressed
with that movie over the years, and now, I think a former reader who
was put off by that film and Smith's positive review was right to
pan him for that. I mean, the ending, if anything, is what really
sunk it. The revelation that Samuel Jackson’s character was so
obsessed with finding his exact opposite in terms of endurance, he
committed acts of sabotage on public transportation, was actually
quite horrific because it perpetuates a stereotype of comics buffs
as insane crackpots suited for the asylum. Whatever merits the movie
could have when it began were destroyed in one fell swoop by that
ending. Honestly, was it worth it to go through a story like that
just to see such a bummer of an ending, if you realize what it could
symbolize? That other letter I speak of, by the way, apppeared on
December 26, 2000, and comes up below:
Capt'n, I've lost the faith!!! I can't believe you
actually liked that lame movie Unbreakable!! It was slow and
boring and was never even close to suspenseful. It drug on
longer than my last root canal. Please tell me it was your evil
twin or a lookalike being from an alternate dimension that wrote
the article. Please!!!
OK, it was my evil twin, Skippy. That jerk is always spending my
money and watching bad movies. Better?
Actually, as with comic books, it's all a matter of taste. I liked
Unbreakable, you didn't. That's OK -- it's what makes horse races.
Yeah, I suppose even the beginning was
slow and tiresome, but if we consider the ending’s impact, that’s
what could really take the cake for disappointments. But you
couldn’t expect Smith to think of that, could you?
Dear Cap: Re: "Jason's Quest" as The Invisible Hand
Read them back-to-back and you'll find they're far more
similar than you remember. Both had lead characters having their
"fathers" killed, only to find that he was not their real
father, and that a group of bad guys had kidnapped the sister he
never knew he had. Both series had the lead take to a motorcycle
and roam across Europe in search of that sister, of whom his
entire knowledge was a single photograph. Take another look at
them and I'm sure that your doubts will be erased. By the way, I
was just going through one of my many magazine boxes and found
the X-Men comic that you drew for Memphis Comics & Records
many years ago! It brought back some fond memories of a great
era for comics shopping!
Ah, yes, one of the funnybooks I drew as a kid. If there's any
interest -- write and say so -- and I'll scan it and post it to
the site. Y'all let me know!
And I'm still ambivalent about your conjecture about "Jason's
Quest" being re-written as The Invisible Hand. Not because I don't
see the parallels -- I do -- but because the "Jason" character in
Invisible Hand has sex with his sister at the denouement. Frankly,
that makes me queasy. If, indeed, Invisible Hand was some sort of
homage to "Jason's Quest," then yet another one of my childhood
memories has been soiled. Yuck.
So sayeth the man who stood by in pure
silence while many of mine and other people’s childhood memories
were soiled. And the same man who doesn’t truly support character
drama and making improvements on characters whose Silver Age
renditions supposedly weren’t great. I don’t think he ever scanned
that amateur drawing he did to post on the site, but no matter; with
his penchant for talking out of 70 sides of his mouth, I see no
reason why I should find his products impressive.
Dear Cap: I am sorry to read that […] is leaving your
website indefinitely. I have enjoyed his column and I can see
why you would give him a chance to stand in his own spotlight. I
also see that you liked Unbreakable. I have yet to see it. Would
you say that it is one of the best films that depict superhero
fantasy that have come along in years?
I'm sorry to see […] go, too. Alas, life doesn't always go the way
we'd like it to.
And, yes, I'd say Unbreakable is one of the best comic-book movies
to come along in years -- but only if you have no idea it's a
While I won’t reveal who the co-writer at
his website was – hence, the omission of his name from the text – I
will say he was a radical leftist who even dismissed complaints by
African-Americans about the ghastly
Mexican comic Memin Pinguin as mere drivel. He probably
doesn’t even appreciate Will Eisner’s apology for his embarrassing
rendition of Ebony White in The Spirit, even though, as some have
argued, other than the character design, Eisner’s portrayal was a
lot more respectable than what you could see in the
That co-writer actually did return a little later to write a few
more items for his website, but honestly, he was not worth the
bother to begin with. Up comes still another letter of mine (I was
really, and stupidly, getting into the business of letter
writing at the time), written at a time when some elements of
history weren’t fully clear to me, like the age differences the FF
Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith: Let’s see,
according to [name withheld], Reed Richards is several years
older than Stormy Sue? Is that so? That could explain why in the
past decade, the artists have been drawing him with white hair
around the lower back end of his head. It’s a good question
though, as to exactly how far apart they are, generally
speaking, in age difference.
I must fully agree with you, by the way, that what Grant
Morrison with the Storms did is very inexcusably lewd. ... And
who knows what they’ll think of next, an incestuous affair
between Captain Britain and Psylocke?
Meanwhile, onto something better. As I saw, [name
withheld] wrote about his top picks for the best comics of the
year, and I’d very much like to present mine too. And so, here
are my picks for the best comics of 2000.
From Marvel, there is Avengers No. 35. I very much enjoyed
the story in which the team did battle with Count Nefaria, who
had gained such tremendous power that it turned into a “they
could lick him but they couldn’t beat him” case. And so, a very
long and exciting battle between the Avengers and almost
undefeatable Nefaria raged on, and I had no idea as to how it
would turn out. Would Nefaria reign victorious, or would the
Avengers suceed in flooring him? For just when it seemed that
they were nailing him, he shook them off and dealt them some
very painful counterblows.
And, there is the X-Men Annual 2000. Though the regular
issues by Chris Claremont this year were weak, the annual in
which the X-Men did battle with Stryfe made my day too.
From DC, and arguably the best story, there is this year’s
Superman storyline chronicling Lex Luthor’s run, and surprise
victory, for U.S. presidency. DC’s writers, including J.M
deMatteis and Tom Nguyen, are to be commended for making such a
bold move that will make way for even more challenging
adventures for not only the Man of Steel, but also for the
entire DC universe as well. And if [name withheld] is right,
then according to DC’s inner timeline, Lex’s presidency will
last for at least a decade. Well, the first term anyway. And of
course, Lois Lane’s deal with the devil will make it even harder
to bring him down. For even if Superman were to try and do some
sleuthing himself in his regular guise as Clark Kent, Luthor
could still take out his revenge on Lois, since as a mortal
woman, she could make the easier target. Maybe that’s why
another character ought to try and be dispatched in the future
to stop Luthor. It’s also an interesting question as to if
President Luthor could be impeached in several years. Two years
ago, R. Emmet Tyrell, the editor in chief of the American
Spectator, and judge Robert Bork asked a similar question in the
December 1997 issue of TAS as to if the Boy President, a term
that Tyrell used for describing the now outgoing President
Clinton, if Clinton should be impeached. But then, if President
Luthor could indeed be impeached, then it should only be in
another decade. For the meantime, it’ll be a very good thing if
DC starts working on some very challenging tales involving Lex
that’ll keep the members of the DC Universe on their toes for
the next decade.
And it’s also interesting to point out that Pete Ross’s
willingness to join Lex as his running mate and his wife Lana’s
willingness to go along with that reflects how some politically
aspiring people behave in reality: They get so blinded and naive
by the prospects of power and wealth that they’re willing to do
Whatever it Takes (as The Duke of Doonesbury has shown in the
past several months, and as you could probably see on the Web
in order to get it. So in Pete Ross’s case, he was blinded
entirely by the thought of having so much power that he decided
to join Lex’s campaign. And in Lana’s case, she on the other
hand agreed to it out of possible revenge: She’s apparently
hoping that Luthor can be ousted via a scandal, which could
enable Pete to ascend the Oval Office. Sadly, that is wishful
thinking on her behalf, as it could be vice-versa: That Luthor
could find a way to get rid of Pete, and to replace him with a
politician who’s closer to his sinister positions.
Overall, only time will tell what will be the outcome of
Luthor’s term as president.
And also, let me also make Wonder Woman No. 164 my second
pick from DC. Phil Jimenez’s work here was very effective,
making the Amazonian princess a very effective lead who could
make very speedy decisions on how to handle the situation within
And another pick of the year is Crossgen’s lineup, which
features some of the greatest artwork to begin the 21st century
with. Yeah, now they are a breakthrough all right. And that
Giselle in Mystic is such a stunner of a wizardess. Oh, and that
Skitter the Squit makes a very funny looking pet; I wouldn’t be
surprised if he provided some comedy relief in the Mystic books.
I do hope that all of Crossgen’s works can get here soon. While
there most certainly are some stores here that sell independent
publications, Crossgen may take some time to get here. So at the
moment, I’ve only gotten to check out their stuff on the
official Web site. But even though I’ve only gotten to look at
parts of the artwork for now, I can tell that it’s wonderful and
clever. Kudos to Ron Marz, Brandon Peterson, John Dell and
Andrew Crossley for their work.
And you also might want to check out this story from the
Marvel site, which is something that I previously told that I
thought Marvel needs to do: Publish a title with a female lead.
I sure hope that there’ll be plenty of other people who’ll
submit their choices for the best comics of the year, it’s so
exciting to tell about which comics are at the top of our lists.
Morrison's shocking-for-the-sake-of-it FF take has never been
written, much less published. I was quoting from an online
interview about what he'd LIKE to do to the FF.
Thanks for your "Best of 2000" list. I agree with many of them.
Last year I had 20 or 30 lists and ran about 10 of them; I hope
this year to get more and run them all.
As can be seen here, I may have thought
highly about Marz’s work at Crossgen at the time. And I won’t argue
about his work for Top Cow. But that’s decidedly as far as things
can go. Any lenient view I might’ve once had about his Green Lantern
work for DC at the time is less so now, as I’ve since written it off
as one of the crappiest times in comics.
That aside, listing my favorite books from those times for Mr. Smith
is something I hugely regret today. Again, I want nothing positive
to do with him anymore. He helped destroy a lot of superhero comics,
and it’s going to take an epoch to repair them again.
Dear Captain: It's been a couple of months since I
ranted and raved at you and I thought I would try and catch up
on some lost time. Here's some issues that have been going on in
your column the past couple of weeks:
1) The Canceling of the X-titles: I have to take the
opinion that this was one of the best ideas Marvel has had in a
while. There are too many of them out there, most of them not
good, and all are difficult to decide which one to try. I tried
reading Generation X, X-Force, X-Men and Uncanny X-Men when they
did that relaunch last spring. I dropped all of the titles
quickly, with X-Men lasting the longest -- three issues. I
didn't know who these characters were. Even the familiar
characters (Storm, Nightcrawler, Jubilee, Shadowcat) were
strangers to me. I didn't follow the plot, or worse, I found the
plot to be horrendous. These books need to be retooled. The
entile X-line needs a stronger focus. I believe with the
cancellation of these titles, the writers will be able to work
towards that goal.
I did like X-Men: The Hidden Years. Unfortunately, I found
that the story dragged a bit too long and I dropped the title
after issue 9 (rumor has it I wasn't the only one). I am sad to
see this one go, however the X-Men are supposed to be about
change (at least in Claremont's early run in the 1970s) and this
title would ALWAYS have to maintain the status quo.
2) Any chance Grant Morrison was joking about Sue and
Johnny Storm incest relationship?
3) (John) Byrne and (Joe) Madureira posting complaints on
the Web: I believe in free speech. These people have the right
to say whatever they want to on the Internet. I also have the
right to view their complaints as "their opinion" and whining. I
don't read those news groups because I really don't like what I
read. If I talked the way they do about their job, naming names
and incidents, I would be fired. It's unprofessional. These
people are there to make a product. Did the changes make the
product better or worse?
And may I point out that Byrne was working FOR Marvel and
Madureira was working FOR DC. That makes Byne and Madureira the
employees and Marvel and DC the employers. If you don't like
your job, quit.
4) Wonder Woman in 2001: I am eagerly looking forward to
the focus DC is giving Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman No. 164 will
probably win the award for most improved comic with that issue
alone. I was surprised how much I really liked that issue. I
look forward to the other specials they have for her this year.
I disagree with the Captain that Wonder Woman is a limited
concept. I feel over the course of her 60-year history she has
been mistreated. I do like the idea of Superman being the Man of
Tomorrow, Batman the Dark Knight Detective and Wonder Woman the
Mythological Warrior (I need better rephrasing). George Perez,
Mark Waid and even Eric Luke touched on that aspect of her. That
concept does work.
1) That's my take, exactly. I sympathize with X-fans who've been
following the many X-books for many years and know all the
minutiae, but hey -- I had to forget everything I ever knew about
DC and start over after Crisis on Infinite Earths! It happens,
almost of necessity, that long continuities must eventually be
overhauled. Get over it, fellas -- they were bad books, and they
needed to be changed.
2) I suppose there's a chance Morrison was joking. He says he
wasn't, and that Marvel was too chicken to take him up on it. But
that alone suggests he was being outrageous for the sake of it.
Your guess is as good as mine.
3) I believe in free speech absolutely. And part of that freedom
is the freedom to embarass yourself, as I feel Madureira did. As
you noted, quite accurately, Madureira and Byrne were doing work
for hire. What did they expect? Egg with their beer? Ninety-nine
percent of American employees work under much worse conditions
than those prima donnas do -- like you and me -- and make a lot
less money. I don't really have much sympathy for them.
4) I hope I never said that Wonder Woman is a limited concept -- I
think she's a badly muddled concept. Read Les Daniels's Complete
History of Wonder Woman and it's clearly evident that Charles
Moulton Marson (who created WW as a role model for young girls)
was quite the BD/SM fetishist. Typical quote: "Women are superior
to men because they have learned to submit and enjoy it." As
Seinfeld would say: Hey, nothing wrong with that! But it's not
exactly, uh, mainstream. So Princess Di, from the get-go, was a
pretty peculiar beast. Decades of confused handling since hasn't
helped anything. What somebody needs to do is define her in a way
that is palatable to the mainstream and make her entertaining and
viable as a concept. If Phil Jimenez can do that, I'm all for it.
Sigh. All this from somebody who’s pretty
muddled himself, as his frequently mentioned embrace of Identity
Crisis proves. And, he was being outrageous for the sake of it too,
not unlike Morrison. And that’s not something to joke about.
And let’s not take what he says about free speech at face value.
This was somebody who remained virtually silent about Frank Miller’s
Holy Terror graphic novel, and wouldn’t come to his defense against
awful leftists who attacked it, all for the sake of it, Morrison
included. Nor did he ever condemn Occupy Wall Street for their own
vulgar behavior, or voice any disapproval of Gail Simone for writing
a tribute called The Movement while she was working at DC.
Warning: What follows is long, rambling, and carries
the potential to start a flamewar. Edit as necessary, print at
your own risk.
<<"The Great Green Lantern Debate seems to epitomize these
two viewpoints -- us oldsters are appalled by what they did to Hal
Jordan, while fans of Kyle Rayner think we're a bunch of whiners
who won't let go of the past." -- Captain Comics.>>
I must be in a strange place, then. I think that what happened
to Hal was a travesty of bad writing, but I also like Kyle, and
I never could figure out how to restore Hal without creating a
noxious retcon that would cause any fan to shred the book.
Hal lived in Coast City. He loved the place. But I can't
imagine him going off his rails the way he did just because it
was destroyed. Being angry at the Guardians, yes. Telling them
to take the ring and shove it, maybe. Taking a vacation, easily.
But killing his friends, and destroying Oa? Ridiculous.
On the other hand, he lost interest for me long before I
reduced my comics purchases due to money shortages, and Kyle has
something that Hal hadn't had for a while, in my opinion.
Kyle can be beaten.
Illogical? Maybe. But in my view, being a hero doesn't
mean anything without a risk of failure.
Superman isn't invulnerable to magic, fifth-dimensional
entities, or Kryptonite. Kyle has lost a round dozens of times
in a relatively short career. The Flash could be outfoxed --
once, anyway -- using one gadget from the DCU, one real-world
device, and a two-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. Add
two more DCU gadgets, a getaway truck and 20 henchmen, and
that's everything needed for a successful robbery.
But at the time I gave up on Green Lantern, I couldn't
imagine one way to beat Hal in a fight, assuming that he had a
charged ring on his finger. And I still can't.
So what if it's yellow? Hal would just use his ring to
grab something else, and use that something else as a club, or a
spoon, or whatever he needed to deal with the problem. Yawn.
Maybe I missed something, by not reading GL in the last
part of Hal's run. Maybe the authors found him a real challenge.
But if I want to read about Hal Jordan, I'll go where I liked
the stories -- his early years, or the GL/GA material.
Actually, [name witheheld], despite my long-standing defense of
Hal Jordan, I agree with you. He was really boring. I couldn't
imagine any situation that, if I'D had the ring, I couldn't end by
page two. I used to get really annoyed when writers would have
Jordan do dumb things like getting in punchouts with crooks, in an
obvious attempt to stretch the story out for 22 pages.
On the other hand, Ron Marz wrote Kyle Rayner as such a bonehead
that I didn't see any improvement -- in fact, Rayner seemed brain
damaged compared to Jordan!
Gee, how come he never complained how Brad
Meltzer wrote virtually all the cast in Identity Crisis as
boneheads? Yeah, why is it wrong for Marz to depict Rayner that way,
but okay for Meltzer to do the same? If Smith’s ever said he’d like
to see more appealing characterization, that embrace of IC puts the
lie to any such wish.
And oh my, Smith’s perpetuating the slams on fictional characters
instead of how they’re written cliché yet again. No mention
of John Broome, Denny O’Neil, Marv Wolfman, Gerard Jones or any of
the other writers whose work I’d assume he’s got a problem with, and
it doesn’t take a genius to figure he’s not asking for good writing
either. The sheer irony is that he does mention Marz. Why does Marz
count but not Broome, and the other writers mentioned above?
I can think of a way to repair things for Hal, and that’s to retcon
away the decade that followed, and write instead that Hal was
trapped by some supervillain in another dimension in cryogenic
suspended animation or something. And it’s quite possible to do it
all without irking any fans Kyle’s got, though as is apparent,
nobody minded Hal's return in itself. What matters is that Geoff
Johns's writing is pretentious in the extreme, right down to the
ridiculous portrayal of Hal being bitter over the death of his
As for Kyle, it’s possible to reintroduce Kyle in a role he’d
probably work better in – a supporting cast member! After all,
supporting casts are something that have been badly marginalized in
the past few years; just take a look at what came after the New 52!
And IMO, if Kyle were reworked into a co-star with no superpowers, I
think that could work better, have a clean slate with which to
rebuild him again, decidedly, with Alexandra deWitt alive again!
Yes, really. But I guess that’s all something best left for another
occasion. Because now, here’s a letter in response to the one about
They were kinda low on the gimmick bin of ideas in
the '80s as I remember it -- but, man, do I miss Diamondback!
Rachel I think her real name was. That pink costume and up-front
sexual attitude made me blush as much as Captain America. It
made for interesting reading; a pity she got shoved to the side
near the end of his original run.
As for sexless heroes I find it an interesting topic. Doc
Savage deliberately avoided women to focus on being the perfect
man. A lot of the major superheroes of literature may have had
women in their hearts but they were rarely in the picture.
Sherlock Holmes was closest to Savage's view. Batman would have
to be next. Tarzan had Jane but he spent more time away from her
than with. Odysseus? Spent the entire story trying to get home
to his wife. My view is if I'm reading about male or female
heroes I get instantly uninterested when romance begins dragging
the story. Back to Cap and Diamondback, I would say their an
exception because in the beginning the romance was the action.
She tried to seduce him by threatening to crash a jet they both
happened to be in.
See the latest Nightwing for another fun view of romance.
Most literary characters aimed at young boys take the approach
that girls are "yucky." I assume it's deliberate, don't you? But,
as I said before, I really liked the obvious sexual angle to
Diamondback -- and, heck, she was a lot more like the women I
dated than Lois Lane!
That’s a bit rich coming from someone
upholding a miniseries with such a nasty, repellent view of women.
The one who’s really doing yucky things here is Mr. Smith.
Dear Cap: I was just re-reading your Silly sections,
and I realized one name that you left out.
As much as I enjoyed the character, the name Beta Ray Bill
always conjured up the image of some alien with a pickup
spaceship chewing tobacco and drinking moonshine. Even more
humorous, considering that he was the god of thunder for a
Also, regarding silly costumes, I remember reading an
issue of Amazing Spider-Man from the early '90s featuring the
Black Cat. Now, the Cat had always shown a little cleavage and
dressed in tight clothing, but this time she was dressed in a
costume that was cut all the way down to her navel. Never mind
throwing punches, how'd she even manage to walk down the street
in that thing?
Great site. Keep up the good work.
[name withheld] of New Jersey made a similar observation about
Wonder Woman, [same here]. I guess virtually all comics heroines
these days are possessed of the power to defy gravity in a limited
Well gee, that’s the beauty of surrealism!
Something he clearly doesn’t have what it takes to enjoy, seeing how
he’s spent much of the past decade playing a part destroying it.
And that concludes this gathering of letters for now. I’ll have more
to focus on in time, but for now, this should do well enough. The
next entry is here.
Copyright 2014 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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