A look back at some personal experiences and memories,
October 2, 2015
By Avi Green
So here goes another entry focusing on the letter conversations once
seen on the old, pretentious Captain Comics site, checking what’s
dishonest in his statements/commentaries, among other bad things
part 9, click here). Up comes July 11, 2001:
Dear Cap: While I'm enjoying it more or less, I must
say that I'm pretty disappointed with Kevin Smith's take on
Green Arrow. DC had a peach of an opportunity here -- someone
with mainstream cred and popularity agreeing to give 100 percent
to a standard-issue superhero title, someone who's made his name
with product that resonates among comic fandom and those who
might be seduced into comics fandom -- and they're blowing it.
The whole thing is firmly mired in fanboy continuity
worship that I have no clue how the merely curious could
possibly enjoy it. I like it, but I'm a JLA geek -- the average
person, even the average Kevin Smith fan, probably hasn't even
heard of Green Arrow. (Never mind that he's getting a lot of
details wrong -- Wonder Woman wasn't in the Silver Age JLA,
J'onn had quit by the time Ollie and Hal went on their road
trip, etc.). I love this stuff, but there's already 10,000
comics for people like me. I was hoping that Smith would create
something that someone else could enjoy, for a change. If this
is our best strategy, there's no way we're going to get normal
human beings interested in superheroes.
As for the overly PC nature of the series that others have
noticed -- well, that's sort of what Green Arrow was always
about, no? And considering how starkly un-PC most superhero
comics have traditionally been (problems are solved with
physical violence, women and weak men are to be rescued,
minorities are loyal sidekicks), it's an interesting change,
more or less. Although Smith missed a prime opportunity with
Black Manta -- originally, Manta had been a black guy who wanted
to conquer the oceans as payback for the subjugation of his race
on land. Somehow, he was turned into a fish-man (Neron?), and
that nice political angle (which no doubt would have given
Oliver Queen some pause) seems less obvious and went unremarked
Boy, am I going to miss Starman.
You and me both, […]. And you won't get an argument from me about
comics that are too arcane with fanboy foofaraw for the average
Joe to understand.
Make no mistake, one of the things that attracted me to comics in
the '60s -- specifically, Marvels -- was the idea that there was a
lot that had already happened, and that it was significant, and I
wanted to know all about it. (Earth-Two falls into this category
as well.) But somehow, it didn't seem so impossibly complex in the
'60s. Heck, Marvel had only been around for a few years -- how
much could I have possibly have missed? But it seems to me that
there's been a quantum change from Stan's "See ish #30 for how
Spidey met The Scorpion!" in the '60s to today's -- oh, anything.
An explanation for who on God's green Earth Cable is, for example.
But isn't it interesting that Green Arrow is selling like Aunt
May's wheatcakes? It's not just fanboys like you and me buying it
-- the outside world is buying Green Arrow, and it's getting
plugged in People, Entertainment Weekly and on the infotainment
shows. Just shows what a "name" can do, I guess.
Speaking of fan geekery, here's some Dial H For Hero commentary,
where I responded to a reader's information and asked him for
Guess who’s not going to miss
James Robinson’s take on Starman? Me! But something tells me
Robinson’s not going to miss it either! I mean, he did turn very
disrespectful of the DCU in past years, and doesn’t seem the least
disappointed DC jettisoned his run as the “New 52” took over. As for
Green Arrow by Kevin Smith, did it really sell big at the time? It’s
hard to say. On the surface, it might’ve, but if sales were well
below a million copies, then how can one truly say it was a genuine
victory? Besides, Smith’s credentials as a superhero fan, let alone
a comics fan, are questionable at worst. After that repellent Black
Cat miniseries he penned, it only compounds my skepticism all the
Dear Cap: NO clue as to specific issues. The website
I cited likely knows more than I do. For all I know, it was
revealed in background material in the Vicky Grant/Chris King
series. I can only assume that's what the asker meant ... but he
was right, Dial H was a one-man Legion, and one of the coolest
ideas around. (Even if, to my dismay, the actual stories were
rather lackluster and a bit juvenile ... when I finally read
some of those back issues I was shocked by the lack of subtlety.
Is it just me?) This is a concept begging for full-scale
exploration at a way only hinted at in the recent Silver Age
event (and somehow, I suspect, whichever writer it was handling
the issue with the Martian Manhunter and Dial H actually had
some plans in mind ...).
The original Dial H For Hero (in House of Mystery comics in the
'60s) was pretty goofy -- I mean, the lead character's favorite
epithet was "Sockamagee!" But it was no dumber than, say, an
average Supergirl story in Action Comics of the same period.
But the second series (in Adventure Comics in the '80s), by Marv
Wolfman and Carmine Infantino, was specifically geared toward
"entry-level readers" before that term (and that consideration)
was an issue. It was specifically aimed at readers younger than
those who read Wolfman's Teen Titans.
And in my opinion, it was gawdawful. It made the mistake of
writing "down" to kids -- which is the WORST way to write for
anyone. Instead of challenging its presumed readers, the Adventure
Dial H series offered utterly banal and mindless stories that no
kid OR adult would want to read. I did read all those stories --
couldn't let my long run of Adventure go fallow -- but could
barely stand to do so. And I was pretty young at the time, not far
removed from the target market.
So, no, […], it's not just you!
Look who talks about mindlessness! He
embraced Identity Crisis, which wrote downwards to people who seem
to find perverted elements entertaining along with sensationalized
violence, particularly the anal rape scene. He still belongs to a
very juvenile segment, that’s for sure. And why do I get the feeling
he’s not very respectful of Supergirl as a creation?
Hey there Captain! With all the talk on the page
about TPBs supplanting standard comics, I got to thinking about
all the old Silver/Bronze Age stories I loved that were never
given this treatment. I'm one of those people who got back into
comics after 10 years away solely because of TPB collections. I
heard how great Sandman was, so I bought the trades. Ditto with
Starman, and Preacher (which I ended up not liking,
unfortunately). I have since dug up "The Korvac Saga," "Kraven's
Last Hunt" and some of the Giffen run on JLA/JLI in trade form.
I prefer these immensely to the original books (in fact, I
refuse to buy Giffen's JLI #9-16 in standard form, instead
looking all over for the relatively rare trade edition). They
look great on my shelf, and I've noticed friends who claim not
to like comics will pull a trade down and browse through it
while in my home. People view comic books as "dinosaurs" or
"juvenile," but won't hesitate to read a Calvin and Hobbes or
Peanuts collection -- or something packaged like one. I'm even
considering scrapping my own low-press-run book in favor of a
"squarebound" that will include approximately five issues worth
Anyway, I was wondering what older storylines your readers
would like to see
"TPB'ed" that probably will never get this treatment. For
the record, my
first choices would be:
Marvel's excellent TOMB OF DRACULA series from the '70s in
it's entirety. This is ludicrously expensive to collect,
especially since the success of the BLADE movie. Tying it in
with the Blade sequel might boost sales.
The first 14 issues of the old MICRONAUTS series. People
joke about this series now, but for a while, it was as popular
as the X-Men, and this first arc in issues #1-12 (with an
epilogue of sorts in #13-14) is really good and a lot of fun. In
fact, this was collected by Marvel as a "Special Edition" of
five issues (the precurser to the TPB). Every once in a while
interest in these toys revives -- if anything ever happens with
it again, this would be a great release.
The (Brent) Anderson KA-ZAR series from the early '80s.
Re-read this stuff if you're snickering. High fantasy a la Flash
Gordon with some of the best characterzation and realistic
dialogue I've ever read. The first 12 issues are classic. This
will probably never get re-issued ...
Marvel's GODZILLA. A guilty pleasure -- 24 issues of total
wackiness. And it took place in the mainstream Marvel Universe.
Hey, continuity freaks, you realize that the Marvel U's version
of Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, the Seattle Space Needle and the
Golden Gate Bridge have all been destroyed according to this IN
CONTINUITY book, don't you? Heck, Godzilla is always popular --
I don't see why this one couldn't happen (except for licensing
Well, those are my big four -- I'm interested in what
other fans would like to see!
Me, too, […] -- most of the stuff that I've wanted to see
collected HAS been collected, from Silver Age Spidey to World's
Finest Archives to Frank Miller Daredevil. But I know there must
be stuff I'd like to see (and for others to see), and just can't
think of it. I mean, when you see something like DC's "Krisis of
the Krimson Kryptonite" storyline collected in TPB, you think,
"Gee, that was a pretty good story -- but surely there are BETTER
Superman stories that deserve this treatment?" Like, I dunno --
"Best of Imaginary Superman Stories" or "Best of Luthor/Brainiac
Team-Ups" or Denny O'Neil's "Saga of the Sand Superman" or
As to Marvel's Godzilla: King of Monsters, that was indeed one
wild ride, and one of the vastly underrated Herb Trimpe's shining
moments. The curious thing -- which I've never seen explained --
is that Marvel threw SHIELD at Godzilla for all 24 issues,
including the Heli-Carrier, references to the Avengers (who showed
up at some point), Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Clay
Quartermain, the Gaffer, Jasper Sitwell and the whole nine yards
... except Nick Fury. SHIELD was led by Dum-Dum Dugan for the 24
issues of Godzilla (with references to Nick being "away," of
course) -- but why wasn't Fury there? He was showing up in Captain
America during that period ... why couldn't he appear in Godzilla?
There has to be SOME reason they deliberately excluded him, but
I've never heard why. My guess is that Fury's rights were tied up
with some competing firm (like TNT, which did the Nick Fury
made-for-TV movies some time later) and couldn't legally appear
with Toho's Godzilla.
Anyway, you're undoubtedly correct that Godzilla: King of Monsters
will never be reprinted, due to Marvel no longer having any sort
of rights agreement with Toho. Unfortunately, the same is true of
Micronauts, ROM: Spaceknight and G.I. Joe. You'll note that the
Micronauts have appeared lately in Captain Marvel, but without the
TM'd characters like Acroyear and Baron Karza. Only the human
characters appeared, and Bug (who probably can't be trademarked,
being too similar to dozens of other characters). And they don't
call themselves Micronauts anymore, either. Similiarly, if you
were one of the six people who bought the recent Spaceknights
miniseries, you'll note that the name ROM was never mentioned,
even though he was the main characters' father.
So what about it, Legionnaires -- what storylines deserve the TPB
treatment? We can drum up a petition!
I heard that Starman was great, bought the
first collection, and after all these years, I reevaluated the whole
premise and concluded it was not worthy of all the fuss years
before. And judging by how most of the trades appear to have gone
out of print, I may not be the only one who thinks so.
As for GI Joe, it has been reprinted, mainly by IDW, who’ve also
reprinted some of the Transformers stories Marvel published in the
1984-94 era. So what a joke it is to say they wouldn’t be. Give it a
little time and Micronauts will follow, ditto ROM: Spaceknight.
Cap Comics: I agree with you that comics are getting
way too expensive!
I remember when I first started buying them back in the
fall of '85 -- basic comics had just gone up from 60 cents to 75
cents. Now you have to triple that just to buy one issue of a
And prestige format? O-kay, how may stories are really
good enough to warrant a $5.95 or $6.95 payment per issue? Just
looked at JLA: Gods & Monsters and, while I saw a couple
interesting moments, I didn't see anything impressive enough to
make me want to spend that much money on it.
If people wonder why comics in general aren't selling
better, here's an easy two-part answer:
1) Comics very rarely appear anywhere except comics stores
(which means if a curious person wants to try them odds are
they'll have to seek out a specific store).
2) Once they find them, they find cover prices so steep
they may either be turned off to the idea of buying them at all
or only opt to buy them on rare occasions.
When money becomes an issue, you're more likely to buy
less comics. I know it's come between me and comics at times.
I've picked up a comic, thought, "Say, this looks pretty good!"
-- but put it back because I realized I just couldn't afford it
along with my regular comics.
And I only buy six comics a month!
A while back on the site we had a brief skirmish where I said,
"It's not our job to keep the monthly books in business" -- and
what you said is what I meant. I DO think monthly books are
necessary for the industry to continue, and I also think that we,
as fans, have to support what we like. But it's the responsibility
of the publishers to find a way to present a pleasing package that
is affordable for fans and newbies alike -- and the current
$2.25-and-up arrangement for 20 pages of content is becoming
unviable for all but the hard core. Some new sort of "delivery
system" has got to evolve, and I have confidence enough in the
invisible hand of the marketplace that something will.
Meanwhile, it really is tough to introduce somebody new to the
glories of comics, isn't it? When A) you can't find them, and B)
they cost an arm, a leg and a prehensile tail.
Look who’s sticking to old-fashioned talk.
Monthly pamphlets are not needed to keep the business going,
paperbacks can take over pretty easily and save more money in the
process. Think of it, paperbacks could be available at bookstores
more easily, and there’d be no need to force anybody to spend 4
dollars – the price we’re at now – on books that may not even be
worth the trees printing.
Dear Cap'n: Okay, my weekly perusal of the site, and
some responses ...
<<I still think of Mark Bright, George Perez and Butch
Guice as the definitive artists on the character. – [name
withheld] on Iron Man>>
Mark Bright and Butch Guice -- over John Romita Jr. and/or Bob
Layton? Explanation, please. But Simcoe's point about face icons
accompanying narrator captions is well-made. I guess there IS a
reason they call these things funnybooks ... Those pink
elephants were really cute.
<<If Joe Kubert's TOR sells, I fully expect volumes
featuring Enemy Ace and Sgt. Rock (Hawkman has his own Archives
series). I know I'd buy 'em! -- Captain Comics>>
Everyone -- everyone, please please by TOR. I want more Kubert,
desperately, and I'm even willing to pay these Godawful prices
for him. But before the series dips into Sgt. Rock, I'd prefer
we first get not only Ace but also Viking Prince. And (Hans) von
Hammer also appears in Swamp Thing (second series) #83 during
Veitch's (eventually aborted) time-travel storyline.
<<Oh, and speaking of The Ringmaster, how did he get the
power to hypnotise people by using his eyes rather than a device
kept in his hat? -- Avi Green>>
Sounds like the he was hit by a powerful blast of Lazy Editing,
<<I admit it: Alan Moore has officially gone over my head
on this title. I'm going to have to go back and re-read the last
three issues again and try again to figure out what I'm reading.
-- Captain Comics>>
But that's not in and of itself a bad thing! I'm grateful there
are mainstream comic books like this one that actually require
more than one read to understand. In the ever-more-disposable
mainstream of this medium, it's so nice to be offered a book
that expects you to have to think some about it! :-)
<<I had high hopes for this series (and the
line as a whole) when it debuted, but after four issues of their
first three titles I stopped reading all of them. There are some
good ideas here, but the writing and artwork are still at the
amateur level. These guys have potential, but they need some
seasoning. -- Captain Comics>>
Well, at least as far as what I've read from Penny
Farthing so far -- the five issues of Captain Gravity --
goes, I've got to basically agree with you. I gave CG a shot,
out of a desire for some simple, "old-fashioned" and old-themed
comic books (and a lack of easy access to all the Rocketeer
material I don't own...). Now, on a pure junk level, I actually
enjoyed these books. On a pure, nostalgic, mindless junk level.
But junk they were, really. The art was awkward, although not
reprehensible. I found its amateurishness a bit charming,
actually. But the writing -- the writing! Nothing charming here.
Talk about needing to read something over and over again to (try
to) make sense out of it! But in CG's case, this was because the
writer had a nonexistent grasp on plot, character and dialogue,
all. At some point it becomes integral to the plot that the
young hero regard the old professor (or whatever) as a father
figure. Which comes completely out of nowhere, as we see nothing
at all as deep as this happening between the two as of yet,
despite them sharing several scenes. A few other major zingers
are thrown our way -- plot elements or twists that are suddenly
-- just -- announced! -- for no apparent reason other than the
author wanted the story to -- suddenly! -- go there. Some of
these other plot elements are also character-related, leaving
the series all the muddier yet.
It's like the basics of plot structure and character
dynamics haven't even been contemplated by the creators before
fingers were put to keyboard or pen was put to paper. Extremely,
almost shockingly amateurish writing.
Perhaps the greatest failure of Captain Gravity: After
five comic books (one four-part miniseries and one one-shot),
there is still almost no sense whatsoever who any of the
characters are, certainly not as participants in relationships,
but even more damning, not even as basic individuals!
I mean, it's fun and has some homey, old-timey flavor to
it -- but it's SO badly done!
Captain Gravity: I couldn't have said it better myself,
[withheld]. You've put your finger on it: At every point in the
book, the characterization/plot/story suddenly veered in a new
direction. The whole experience was like listening to a joke from
an eight-year-old: "OK, OK, there was this bear, and it went into
a bar, no wait, it was an ostrich, and it was in a men's room --
no wait, there was this priest, no wait, this ostrich, no wait, it
was a panda bear, he and the priest went into a church ... "
And Captain Gravity was the best of the Penny Farthing books,
primarily because of the retro-Rocketeer art. But it, too, needed
some seasoning. The Victorian, for which I had high hopes, was a
disappointment. And the less said about Decoy the better. I mean,
really -- I don't enjoy books that I could write better myself.
Iron Man: Don't slap my man [withheld], [ditto]! :) But you bring
up, sidereally, a point I can't make often enough. To wit: You
think Iron Man only looks right when the Bob Layton/JRJR approach
is taken. Me, I like Layton right fine -- but in MY mind, if it
doesn't look like Gene Colan, it ain't Iron Man. And […]? Well, he
has a different idea of what Iron Man looks like, because he had a
different introduction to the character -- and it's just as valid
as yours and mine.
Except, of course, you're both wrong. Only the Gene Colan version
Promethea: You're absolutely right: I love the fact that a
Promethea exists. I love it that it challenges me; I love it that
the author is more literate than me.
The truth is, I made that remark about Promethea because I'm tired
of Really Pompous People online pontificating about the book, and
their Sage Remarks about same, when they clearly have no idea what
they're talking about. I'm not the smartest guy in the world, or
the best-read guy in the world, but I've got a one-sixty IQ and
I've read wider than most. And, while I don't claim to know what
Alan Moore is saying, I DO know that what these self-important
ninnies are saying is just plain, old-fashioned BS. You see, I'm
just smart enough to know when someone's talking over my head --
and it curls my nose hairs when somebody else runs a line of
pseudo-intellectual crap past me on the same subject.
As an example, have you ever read a bad literary treatise on
Finnegan's Wake? Same deal. Finnegan's Wake was a symbolic
labyrinth where many of the symbols were so abstruse or personal
to James Joyce that to "interpret" them is to suggest that the
reviewer has knowledge of the writer's mind, that he clearly
And I think that sort of thing is hurtful. Finnegan's Wake was a
weird, personal thing for Joyce -- but also a deep well, from
which each reader takes his fill. Ditto with Promethea. If we all
admit that there's no "right" way to interpret Promethea, that
it's literature and we glean from it only what corresponds to our
personal viewpoint and experiences, it could find its way into the
Maus pantheon. But if some people say they have the "right"
answer, then those who have a different take will feel excluded
and "dumb." So, The Captain is proud to be the first reviewer to
say: I'm dumb, too! Sometimes I just don't get it!
TOR: I agree. Everybody go buy it.
Just not on Mr. Smith’s recommendation!
Anyway, I appreciate the correspondent’s note on what became of the
Ringmaster at the time.
Dear Cap: As to why so many top writers are British,
I have to go along with the idea of "different perspective."
<<Most American comics writers, as the article points
out, come from a pretty similar background -- upper middle
class, long-time comics fans, U.S. public school system. ... The
Brit (and Irish and Scottish) writers, by contrast, come from a
different experience -- a different education system (with
emphasis on different subjects), a different experience
vis-a-vis reading (fewer U.S. comics and more UK/international
comics, plus greater exposure to a wider variety of literature),
a different socioeconomic standpoint (often blue collar, and NOT
residents of the world's last remaining superpower, and
therefore having fewer assumptions about inevitable upward
mobility and possessed of a bleaker worldview), and -- I hope
I'm forgiven this -- they come from a culture where streetfights
are much more common (despite America's reputation for violence,
I've never heard of American "football hooligans" erupting after
a game, I've never been in a bar fight, and, frankly, I've never
seen a physical altercation of any kind as an adult). -- Captain
Well ... I have, and plenty of Americans do far too often. In
fact, I think the United States is MUCH more violent than Great
Britain or any other first-world country. We don't have football
hooligans, but we do have riots after basketball games, firearm
massacres in high schools, police officers physically attacking
people they're supposed to protect, etc. But I think you're
mostly correct -- British writers have an advantage because they
do come from a different world, with a different viewpoint, one
well-tuned to the desires of your typical comics reader.
But I don't think the British writers come from a
different perspective because they're British, per se. It's just
because they're NOT from the same, narrow, middle-class,
overwhelmingly male, mostly white, left-leaning world as Mark
Waid, Kurt Busiek, you, me, etc. By that token, we should be
able to find refreshingly different writers here in the United
States -- women, African Americans, Latinos, etc., etc. And on
the occasions when we do, I think the differences show. Look at
Devin Grayson, who has publicly stated that she did not grow up
immersed in comics like so many others in the industry. The
result is that she's brought an extremely interesting and
creative perspective to the Batman mythos, one that's not at all
mired in the never-ending cliches that so many other writers are
prone to (while still drawing from the history and tradition
that we Bat-freaks know and love).
Most Americans come from blue-collar backgrounds, have a
bleaker worldview, have a different educational history, etc.,
from the standard comic-book writer stereotype -- those
differences are by no means exclusive to British lit-snob
hipsters (e.g., Moore, Gaiman, Morrison). So I'm not exactly
sure why this crowd became the popular alternative to the
comics-writer hegemony -- especially since there's always been a
considerable presence of American minorities as comics artists.
Racism probably has a little to do with it, although the comics
industry has always seemed to me a squarely liberal one (except
in its stories, where criminals are unquestionably bad and
problems are solved by physical violence).
I think it would be in the mainstream publishers' best
interests, when they seek out differing viewpoints, to seek them
out here in the United States, to encourage writers who don't
come from the same world as the dorky white guy but are still
vital parts of the American experience -- after all, this is
their readership, potentially. It could be the thing to save
comics (although when DC adopted that philosophy 10 years ago,
results were disappointing. Remember Milestone Comics?)
Hope that makes sense.
It makes a lot of sense, […].
But you clearly have had a different experience than I vis-a-vis
violence, and I come from a largely rural, redneck background.
Just goes to show that everybody's experience -- and viewpoint --
I do take exception to the widely-held belief that America is
horribly violent country. That hasn't been my experience as a
newsman, much less personally. Yes, there are more shootings in
the U.S. than in other industrialized countries -- but far fewer
riots and civil disturbances. The "soccer hooligan" thing is
something I read about routinely on the wire -- we ran yet another
story and photo in my newspaper the other night -- but only
occasionally do I read about a U.S. riot, a la Chicago after
winning the NBA Finals. And U.S. crime statistics are waaay down
-- but the perception continues that crime is the #1 problem,
according to most polls. My experience is that America's violent
reputation -- both domestically and abroad -- is more perception
This is just my opinion, of course, but I suspect the propensity
of gunplay to settle arguments here to some degree reduces the
willingness of most people to get into a fistfight. (That is NOT
an endorsement of the NRA position -- just an observation.)
Anyway, I think the America-is-a-bunch-of-cowboys thing borders on
a stereotype and is overplayed in international media. This is NOT
a nation of thugs, and I'm intolerant of the breezy acceptance of
that idea as fact.
As for some bad-apple police officers persecuting those they're
supposed to "protect and defend" ... happens everywhere, I
suspect. Frankly, I find the zeal with which police malfeasance is
reported and investigated in America to be a positive thing. You
won't see uproar over bad apples in the police department in
Jakarta, for example. I'd rather it be reported, than for it to be
quietly accepted, even at the risk of adding to the U.S.
stereotype. Bad Cops need to get weeded out, because Good Cops
don't need the headache or the interference with their job -- and
my experience on the cop beat is that the latter far outnumber the
Anyway, the bottom line, as I said before, is this: The UK writers
are bringing a different perspective to comics, at the same time
both bleaker (due to a bad economic stretch in the '80s) and more
literary (due to an excellent school system), which appeals to
teenagers. And I think it will be aped by other writers until it
becomes status quo, as Chris Claremont's style was before this,
and Stan Lee's before that, and Gardner Fox's before that. And
when the "UK perspective" becomes the status quo, some new set of
Beatles will explode that old warhorse with a new style. And
that's a good thing.
Here's another viewpoint:
This makes me wonder: if he’s concerned
about police corruption, is he also concerned about anti-white
racism? Because in recent years, it’s become a big concern,
and it’s uncertain if people like him really care.
It’s kind of odd the correspondent thinks most leftist writers in
the USA don’t come from the same leftist background as the UK
counterparts. It depends. In England today, most
leftists aren’t all that different from their American
Dear Cap: The comics industry, like other art and
media forms, is a reflection of the people who create the works.
Consider that the people who may be regarded as the architects
of the Silver Age brought their own likes and experiences to
their work. Julius Schwartz, E. Nelson Bridwell, John Broome and
others brought their love of science fiction to their work.
Artists like John Severin, Jack Kirby, Jack Davis, Wally Wood
and so on brought their World War II experiences to their
drawing. The result was some of the toughest writing and drawing
they could get away with in a CCA-controlled environment. Steve
Ditko brought his own sensibilities to his work, even if his
political views did not come out until much later.
In the late '60s and '70s, it was the fans who became the
writers -- people like Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman and Len Wein.
The artists, on the other hand, came from a pop art and realism
background, so people like Jim Starlin, Gene Colan and Neal
Adams brought a "New Look" to the media.
In the '80s and '90s there was the Brit explosion. At
first it was from other media -- Alan Moore was a cartoonist in
a music paper, Dez Skinn worked for UK Marvel, and so on. But
throughout the Thatcher years a new, grittier and more cynical
type of work emerged and was snapped up by the Americans, so
that people like Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Grant Ennis and
so on came to the fore. You also had Mark Waid, Peter David and
others following the likes of Thomas and Wolfman from fandom
into the profession.
With that in mind, what will be the next big step? Where
will the next big movement come from? Do we need another Berke
Breathed in the funnies to do something like Bloom County for
the Dubya years? If Joe Quesada thinks new talent is the way
forward, where does he see it coming from?
Where do any of us see it coming from?
Beats me. Although, the Japanese and South American influences can
be seen strongly right now, particularly in art. And a lot of
European influences can be seen currently, as the works of Manara,
Moebius, Bilal and the like get wider U.S. distribution. I don't
know if any will be the "Next Big Thing," but I'm enjoying the
evolution of the form.
Since Milo Manara appears to have been
brought up, we can only wonder what his stand is on the Spider-Woman
variant cover he drew, which was almost censored by Marvel editorial
to please what’re now known as “social justice warriors”, leftists
of ludicrous positions. My only problem with the Manara illustration
is that it wasn’t really very good. The SJWs seem to have a problem
with sexy imagery, which is petty compared with more serious
concerns like sensationalized violence and gore entering superhero
comics once geared for family audiences.
Dear Cap: The confusion about Star Trek: Divided We
Fall stems from that fact that Pocket Books has relaunched the
series, in effect giving it an eighth season, and DC/WildStorm
was just following suit with the new developments and
characters. Divided We Fall takes place just after the Avatar
novel, which introduced the changes. The plot of Avatar follows
the series finale and the aftermath of the Dominion War, when a
surprise attack threatens to destroy the new peace and a new
discovery plunges Bajor into chaos. Capt. Picard and the
Enterprise guest star. To answer some questions:
Who is Cmdr. Vaughn and why is he in command of the
Elias Vaughn is Deep Space Nine's new executive officer
and the Defiant's new commanding officer. He has had an 80-year
career in Starfleet, making him more than 100 years old.
Previously he was some sort of intelligence operative.
Why is Lt. Dax wearing command red instead of science
Because of the events of Avatar, she decided to seek a
How can Ro Laren, who betrayed Starfleet to join the
Maquis, be walking around free on a space station run by
Technically the station is Bajoran property and Lt. Ro is
a officer in the Bajoran Militia. I don't recall the novel
addressing it, but I wouldn't be suprised if the Bajoran
government sympathized with the Maquis and their confict against
the Cardassians. Here's where it gets complicated. Ro also
appeared in a few previous Next Generation and Deep Space Nine
novels. The stories deal with her redemption, however, according
to the editors; they are no longer in continuity, although I
haven't seen anything to contradict them yet.
The storyline will continue in the novel Abyss. For more
information you can visit:
Thanks, [...]! I'm sure a lot of people were scratching their
Maybe, but they should really be
scratching their heads at how Mr. Smith can be so dishonest! Now
another letter by me, and one that bothers me in retrospect because
I think I acted stupidly here too:
Dear Cap: I recently read two issues of Captain
America, #42 and #43, last week. In these issues, Cap was on
assignment to a former Soviet republic to search for David
Ferrari, the evil brother of his lawyer ladyfriend Connie, who
was planning to fire a nuclear warhead as part of his
world-domination plans. While helping a family whose mother had
fallen ill, he was ambushed by two protagonists: One was the
Crimson Dynamo, and the other who turned out to be none other
than – Nick Fury!
During the few weeks I waited for the 43rd issue to arrive
in stores, I had indeed been wondering to myself if Nick Fury
had turned traitor. But then, as explained in the next issue,
he’d only been injected with a very influential drug, and forced
to collaborate with the baddies.
But what if he had turned traitor? I have to admit that
it’d be a very daring idea. And last month, when reviewing the
issue, one of the staff writers for the comics section on the
IGN website said that such an idea would’ve been bold. The
reason why some people may be fascinated with the idea of
turning Nick Fury into a traitor appears to be because they
don’t find an him interesting character these days. Indeed,
these days he only seems to garner interest as a supporting
character, and that’s apparently the reason why there’s various
people who’d like to try out such an idea.
Personally, if I were the writer, I’d find it difficult to
try such a thing since Nick is a war hero, having fought in WWII
in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, which ran from 1963 to
1981, and is to be honored for his work. And I also wouldn’t
want to create another controversy a la Hal Jordan. However,
although I can’t think of any at the moment, there are and have
been cases in reality in which decorated war heroes have done a
volte-face, and have become villains. So if Nick were to become
evil, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched.
I don’t mind if Dan Jurgens and the rest of Marvel’s
editorial staff choose to refrain from such a possibility. But
if they were to try it, then I admit, it could be very clever as
it would be daring. ...
I’ve also recently read the "Paradise Lost" story in
Wonder Woman #168-169, and I enjoyed it very much. Plenty of
suspenseful battle scenes between good and bad Amazon groups,
conflicts between the beliefs of the opposite sides, and a lot
of well-written dialogue.
And yet, there was something that I wish that Phil
Jimenez, Joe Kelly, or any other writer who’s working on WW
could’ve tried out: Shakesperean dialogue.
Shakesperean dialogue is something that’s lent itself very
well to Marvel comics like Thor and Silver Surfer. ... What do
you think, could it work in comics like Wonder Woman as well?
Having read your thoughts on the cancellation of X-Men:
The Hidden Years, I couldn’t agree more: It was fun, and it was
like finding light at the end of the tunnel, a happy joy missing
from the now gloom-filled world of the main X-books.
But that isn’t the only book that decidedly shouldn’t have
been canceled: Generation X deserved a chance to continue. And
given that the protagonists there were mainly kids in their teen
years, as opposed to the now twentysomething protagonists of the
other X-books, it was the perfect title for any new reader who
happens to be a teenager.
Why couldn’t Marvel have given the Gen X writers the
chance to fix all the mistakes made during the Counter-X
crossover? They could’ve overcome all those errors. The last few
issues were surprisingly an improvement. And they’re willing to
cancel this little gem all for the sake of a personality-free
book like Cable? Sigh. It all goes to show just how Marvel
hasn’t really learned enough from their mistakes in the past
Nick Fury has always been something of a problem for Marvel, as he
was born of the James Bond fad of the '60s and couldn't seem to
break free of that campy beginning -- or carry his own title. The
good news is that Fury is all over the place in Marvel's new "MAX"
adult line -- apparently everybody thought of Fury first when the
Comics Code chains were removed. He IS a good character -- perhaps
he'll shine in MAX, where he can be more John le Carre than Ian
And Wonder Woman talking like Thor would have everybody
complaining that Wonder Woman was talking like Thor. That's my
As to Generation X, Marvel seems to be counting on the Ultimate
line to carry the teen-angst angle; it's the only line of books
that's staying in the "all-ages" category. Even their mainstay
superhero books are moving into the PG13 category. But I certainly
wouldn't disagree with you that I'd rather see Generation X over
Cable. Even though the term "Generation X" is now passe.
I’m not happy I ever wondered if turning
Nick crooked was a worth idea. It’s not. Yet that’s exactly what has
happened of recent with their awful company wide crossover called
Original Sin. Whether Nick was ever a problem for Marvel, I’d say
it’s only because the character was meant to represent good ideas
from better days. And what’s all this nonsense about Nick growing
out of the Bond fad? He began as a WW2 army sergeant; the spy angle
only came 2 years after, as Stan Lee worked to establish a position
for him in more modern times as well. Which could also be worked out
plausibly today via cryogenics, but not with awful people like
Quesada in charge.
Dear Cap: Hey, I recently read that Marvel plans to
kill a long-time character in September, AND WOULD BE BRINGING
HIM BACK! I fear that this character may be Captain America,
seeing as there is concern over ownership of the character, and
Marvel may have to pay Joe Simon for every appearance of the
character. I hope this isn't true since I see Cap as a Marvel
staple, who I don't want to die. But if they do kill Cap I hope
they do it right.
I also heard that Joe Simon next plans to sue for rights
to my favorite character, Spider-Man, because he closely
resembles a character he created called Flyman, or something
See the Captain Comics Message Board for a discussion of who
Marvel might kill. And Simon & Kirby did create The Fly (later
Fly Man or Fly-Man), but that's quite a stretch, and I haven't
heard of any plans to sue. Doesn't mean there aren't any.
The answer to who the mystery character
was who passed on is Odin. But what really matters is that the
audience was expected to accept this no matter the circumstances
surrounding the move, or that they made such a big deal out of it.
Dear Captain: I know you've praised Preacher more
than once, but didn't you describe the conclusion as
"disappointing?" I didn't get interested in Vertigo until close
to the end of Preacher's run, so I've been reading it in trade
paperback, and just finished the series. Without giving away too
much, I was very pleased with the ending. Ennis had already done
the apocalyptic climax two-thirds of the way through, in the
"War in the Sun" arc. So I thought it was appropriate for the
ending to be fairly low-key and personal. The series was really
about love, friendship and responsibility, after all (despite
the head-shots, dismemberment, and kinky sex). So can you say
why you were disappointed, without spoiling the ending for new
Sure, […]. Call me cynical, but I thought the ending too "neat"
and happy. Given that Preacher often showed terrible consequences
for ill-considered acts (like in real life), I found the ending
too pat (unlike real life). It just seemed inconsistent. But
that's just MY opinion, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!
I’ll certainly call him cynical, because
he doesn’t care about minor characters in a shared superhero
universe. That said, Preacher sure doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.
Dear Cap: In a recent Mailbag, […] mentioned Slam
Bradley and reminded me of something I've been seeing lately. In
the promotional artwork for Turner Classic Movies, there is a
"hard-boiled" character that I like to think of as ol' Slam.
Take a look: http://www.turnerclassicmovies.com. You'll most
likely see him in the upper left-hand corner of the pages of
their website. Also, on a recent Memphist roadtrip, I was
reminded of something I've thought about for years: Isn't that
Krypto on the side of Greyhound buses?
Naw, Krypto was a beagle-mix -- a plain ol' American mutt. If he
was a purebred Greyhound, he wouldn't be the same character. (I
can't believe I just wrote that.)
And it's good to see a Golden Age character like Slam getting
work, isn't it?
But it’s not good that propagandistic
reporters like Mr. Smith still do at various newspapers and
<<I have reservations about Straczynski's take
on the Spider-Man origin. I fear he might be diluting the
wall-crawler's uniqueness. I'm concerned that, by making him one
of many "Spider-Avatars" and by giving him a lineage and role
models and mentors, that he could be fundamentally altering
Pete's lone-wolf, coming-of-age, seat-of-the-pants persona. And
if Spidey's persona changes, if he grows up and becomes part of
a larger tapestry, is he still Spidey? Or just Captain Arachnid,
and only the latest one at that? -- Captain Comics>>
It occurs to me that the only reason to believe that Peter
Parker is drawing from the power of a totem spirit is that
Ezekiel says so. Unless I've misread some of what's been going
on, Morlun doesn't have any special ability to track people with
totemic powers, or Spider-powers, or anything like that. He
decided to hunt Spider-Man because of the obvious theme.
So, what if Peter is actually one of the "pretenders,"
given Spider-powers by chance, and not by some totem spirit?
Of course, this is all just a guess. I suspect that my
chances of being right are about equal to the possibility that
Hydro-Man could beat Firelord in a fight.
But if the plot doesn't twist in some unexpected fashion,
I will be surprised.
Actually, […], I've read it exactly the reverse (which doesn't
mean I'm right). Ezekiel's explanation of the Spider-Avatar bit
has been buttressed with all sorts of anthropological stuff
(mainly visual) taking the Spider-motif (and other avatars) back
through very real anthropological, historical, mythological and
physical manifestations. (God knows there's plenty of it to draw
from, from Egyptian heiroglypics to Native American myths to the
big spider-thingie carved into a rock in South America that's only
visible from the air.) And Morlun HAS shown an ability to track
Peter, in costume and out ... and was introduced as sucking the
lifeforce from a Lightning Avatar (the German hero Blitzkrieg),
whom he considered an appetizer, because his gig is spiders. Plus,
Morlun's conversations and thought balloons have all been in line
with Ezekiel's revelations. (He considers Peter to be his
Spider-Avatar dinner, the purest and best he's ever "smelled,"
although he thinks there's "something off with this one." Looking
forward to finding out why.)
That's my take, but as I said, your read is just as valid as mine.
I do agree that some surprise revelation is in store, because
Straczynski is too canny a storyteller to go where we expect.
Morlun was a pretty badly written
supervillain, who got disposed of at one point pretty easily when
the final showdown took place. He was later resurrected in a
repellent story where – if you have a strong stomach for the
following – devoured
Peter Parker’s eyeball. Sure, he seemed to regain it soon
enough, and defeated the villain yet again, but that still doesn’t
excuse the incredibly shoddy tale.
Dear Captain: A recent Avengers issue had Cap getting
Thor to reluctantly return to active duty, with Thor saying
something to the effect that he would only do it because it was
Captain America that asked him. Certainly this is not the first
time that Thor has respected Cap so highly ... I wonder if it
has been established when that great respect began exactly. I
know that they first "met" in Avengers (vol. 1) #4 (yeah, they
crossed paths during WW II in an issue of the Invaders, but both
of them forgot about it). Cap also first met Iron Man then, and
I remember that a few years ago an "untold" story set shortly
after Avengers #4 explaining beginnings of the friendship
between those two were published. Was anything similar ever done
for Cap and Thor?
That's a darn good question, […]!
There have been a number of stories over the years detailing the
ins and outs of the Tony Stark/Steve Rogers friendship -- but I
don't remember too many directly dealing with Cap and Thor. It is
true that Captain America can lift Thor's hammer, which is pretty
darn rare. ("Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall
possess the power of Thor!") I can count on one hand the folks who
can lift that hammer, and virtually none of them are human (Odin,
The Destroyer, Beta-Ray Bill, etc.). I'm sure that impressed the
Thunderer, as it did me. (Bet Batman can't do it!)
My impression is that the respect has come over time -- I don't
recall Thor giving Cap any special consideration (over, say, Iron
Man) in the '60s, but after the Steve Englehart tenure on Avengers
in the late '70s he was deferring to the Living Legend with great
respect. And by the '90s he was saying things like "Thou mayst be
human, Captain, but thou hast the heart of an Asgardian Born!" It
sure does seem like a story is in there somewhere, and it's
possible I missed it or forgot it.
So I'll throw it open to the Legion of Superfluous Heroes to see
what they remember. They mayst be human, but they have the hearts
of Asgardians Born!
Which is a lot more than can be said of
Mr. Smith! His is pretty cold.
Hey Cap, A friend of mine is teaching a course for
promising actors on "How to Audition." When I was talking to
her, she mentioned that one of the biggest lessons she taught
was that you shouldn't do anything that you would have to
overcome. For instance, auditioning while your fly is down. The
people that are casting the show will be so embarrassed for you
or by you that it's unlikely they'll notice your talent. You've
created something to overcome.
I often think that comic-book creators, and probably the
publishers too, need that kind of a lesson and I was reminded of
this by your recent comments on The Authority and especially
I wasn't a comic collector when Milestone first got
underway. I actually started collecting in '95-'96 when most of
the industry was collapsing. But I heard good things about
Static from other fans and the fan press. I checked out a couple
of back issues and really enjoyed it. I started picking up more
and more of them, and now I have about 80 percent of the initial
series. And I loved it. I even did some fan art of Virgil Ovid
Hawkins, known to the world as "Static."
So when I heard that Milestone was going to relaunch a
"Static" miniseries in conjunction with the cartoon (wait a
second, they're going to do a "Static" cartoon?), I was in very
high spirits. Now I could collect the new books (and maybe catch
a few episodes of the cartoon if I didn't sleep in). I picked up
the first issue, and the second ... and now I can't remember if
the third one ever came out. I don't remember the story and I'm
not sure that I care enough to pick up the last issue.
I don't mean to sound fair-weather. I wanted this book. I
even used to read Dwayne McDuffie's columns on Psycomic. But now
my enthusiasm has been squandered.
Oh, I'll probably pick it up (I'm a bit of a completist)
but I'm pretty disappointed and my high opinion of "Static" is a
Doesn't the Milestone gang know that it's tough enough to
put out a successful book without giving yourself obstacles to
overcome? Don't they know that enthusiasm, attention and, yes,
even sales wane when there's such a break in the series?
Those are mostly rhetorical questions. After all, Static
isn't the first book to be chronically late and won't be the
last. Heck, chronic lateness hasn't even fazed Battle Chasers
which still sells in the Top Ten, when it sells, that is. It's
just sad to me that so many books and publishers give themselves
obstacles to overcome. And I needed to vent.
Oh, no, I'm with you all the way, […]. You don't go to a job
interview in jeans and a T-shirt, you don't fail to show up for
work, you don't diss your boss in public no matter how much you
hate him, and you don't promise a four-issue, monthly miniseries
and cobble it out in eight months. It's not professional, it's not
living up the bargain -- and in the final analysis, no matter how
good the product is, you've already disappointed. Just common
What common sense? Coming from him, that
doesn’t mean much, if at all. If I were an employer and knew that he
embraced abhorrent works like Identity Crisis, I wouldn’t want to
hire him even if he were the only person available for hiring.
Now, let’s continue to July 18, 2001, beginning with two together:
Dear Capn: Please tell me if Guy (Gardner) is going
to be killed in "Our Worlds At War" this summer. I hope he
doesn't! John Byrne tried to kill him during "Genesis" a few
years back, so it looks like everybody hates him!
(SPOILER WARNING!) Well, it sure LOOKED like he died,
[name withheld]! But it's not "official" yet -- what we saw was
a single panel of Warrior getting skewered, and Blue Beetle and
Booster Gold commenting that they thought he was dead. If I had
to guess, though, I'd say he's probably going to be a casualty
I'll take this opportunity to run the Guy Gardner
commentary you sent me a few weeks ago ... just in case I don't
get the chance again!
One year ago. A guy of about 13 goes to his PC. He turns
on Internet Explorer. He searches on Yahoo! For Guy Gardner. He
finds two websites about him. Two. He begins to take interest in
this character, which has a wealth of history and powers. He
starts collecting pics and info off the Internet.
Present Day. The guy, now 14, has most of the issues of
Guy's run, and has a large webpage devoted to Guy Gardner at
http://www.angelfire.com/comics/gg/index.html. He is an avid fan
of Guy and hopes for his return in his own book. Why? Why all
this over some second-rate loser who's book was canceled 'cause
he was lame? Okay.
1) Guy is cool. He is what any 16-year-old guy (heh) would
be if you were given great power. He likes cars, football,
women, Stallone movies -- your typical gu ... ahem, dude.
2) He has awesome powers. He could turn his hand into a
giant Vuldarian plasma cannon with interchangeable tachyon
conduits and phased targeting abilities. Or, he could turn his
index finder into a letter opener. K-E-W-L.
3) Lots of really hot babes hang around him. (In some
cases, such as Beatrice, the term hot is literal.)
What's not to like? A guy (I did it again) with strength
rivaling Superman's and an attitude to match. His costume is
cool, and he has these neat tattoos on him. His intensely great
comic was written very well by Gerard Jones and Beau Smith, and
was penciled wonderfully by Joe Staton and later Mitch Byrd. He
has an array of villains, from pirates to clones to dead demon
half-brothers and insane psychotic killers. My message is clear:
Guy is cool. He was the character to like for a while. The
person you love to hate. The man you want watchin' your back in
a fight. Bring Guy back, DC!
BRING GUY GARDNER: WARRIOR BACK!
A heartfelt plea, […]. But ... is it too late? (Piano chord)
It most certainly is, because pretentious
reporters like Mr. Smith make sure of that! Whether Guy was killed
at the time isn’t what matters. What does, and what I find
offensive, is that this seems to be all they can think of doing, and
just for the sake of media attention/publicity from reporters who’ll
never criticize their MO, nor recommend that a boycott be initiated.
Dear Cap: I hope folks get that Walter Winchell
comment (in your latest column). As a 37-year-old journalist, I
am continually amazed at the number of people that don't know
historical figures -- or current ones for that matter, like you
see on The Tonight Show's "Jaywalking" segments. There's a lot
of stupid people out there.
Then, again I wonder if it's a generation thing. I was
shocked the other day when some friends and I were talking about
them going to a Stevie Nicks concert and a twentysomething
friend of ours said "Stevie who?" Mentioning Fleetwood Mac also
drew a blank stare. At most, I and that girl are only 15 years
apart -- isn't that supposed to be only half a generation?
Anyhow, I bring that up to mention something I read the
other day in which a 19-year-old co-star of the Smallville
series coming to the WB! said he and his friends weren't too
familiar with Superman. How is anyone on the planet not familiar
with the Man of Steel? Is Chris Reeve's version that far removed
from the public consciousness?
The author commented that perhaps that will serve to
benefit bringing in the young target audience for the series, as
those viewers won't be caught up in the differences in his
origin as compared to what we learned, or re-learned with
Byrne's relaunch, or the other Supes-related TV series
(Superboy, Lois & Clark) that came before.
Apparently Smallville is getting some good industry buzz
and there's a website (kryptonsite.com) detailing some news on
the new show.
I've put the comics collecting on the shelf, so to speak,
the last few years since marriage and kids, although I did buy
the softcover version of Kingdom Come when I saw it at Barnes
& Noble recently, and was just floored by it. Powerful stuff
and that Alex Ross art -- wow. But I'm afraid the remainder of
my comics interest will have to be sated with reading your stuff
and watching Smallville this fall. I just can't afford to start
Thanks, Cap, for all you do.
And thanks for writing, [name withheld]. I'm not a bit surprised
that Fleetwood Mac hasn't made the "cut" into permanent
pop-culture consciousness -- unlike, say, Sinatra, The Beatles or
Elvis (which have become permanently imbedded). After all, people
will still be analyzing what Sinatra, The Beatles and Elvis meant
to pop music and pop culture 40 years from now, but I doubt
anybody will be doing college papers on Fleetwood Mac. Or to put
it another way, I was a Mac fan when they were hot -- but when CDs
came out I replaced my Beatles LPs, and didn't bother to replace
my Fleetwood Mac albums. I'm afraid they're destined for the same
cultural dustbin as Journey and Kansas and Average White Band.
But not knowing about Superman? That's pretty hard to believe,
even given that the first Superman movie came out (gulp) 22 years
ago. After all, car ads still have "Super-sales," the latest
animated show still airs in reruns and the original Adventures of
Superman TV show is still on Nick at Night, if nothing else.
Superman is part of Americana, and not knowing about him (or
Mickey Mouse or Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes) bespeaks a broad
ignorance of one's own culture.
But one can only wonder if the comics
still resonate with anybody, and how much longer anything Superman
related will with the way they’re going.
As for Smallville, from what I found out about it, it’s not as
imaginative as it could’ve been (writers who don’t seem to like
Clark and his adoptive parents, and have no idea what really makes a
superhero), and towards the end, leftist politics really started
infiltrating the whole mess. One more reason why I find it so hard
to care about live action sci-fi these days.
Dear Cap: I was going over the latest Mailbag, and
after reading […]'s list of series that should be collected in
TPB, would like to add my support for a Tomb of Dracula
collection. I loved Gene Colan's Dracula. Hey, I loved whatever
Gene did, his Daredevil run was great too. But I have some
suggestions of my own.
First, I don't know if this was collected, but I haven't
seen it: Kirby's Kamandi series for DC. This was brilliant high
fantasy, Kirby-style, wild and creative. It mixes The Island of
Dr. Moreau, Planet of the Apes and Flash Gordon and throws it in
your face. Great stuff. But of course, Kirby was great.
Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy's run of Master of Kung Fu. I
loved it. Weird, sexy and climactic. And the fight scenes were
worth your while.
The story of Jarella, Hulk's lost, late lover, by Herb
Trimpe. Trimpe's Abomination was genuinely scary, as was the ...
uhn ... the four-eyed big bald monster whose name I've
shamelessly forgotten. Ah, well. I don't have those issues,
haven't read them in years, but have fond memories.
Kubert's Sgt. Rock, definitely. Write your congressman
demanding it, if necessary.
(SPOILER WARNING!)And according to your latest column,
Justice League's king fishman is gonna buy it, huh? Figures.
Just in time for the upcoming JLA cartoon, too (the producers of
said 'toon having already discarded him in favour of Hawkwoman,
according to news reports). Now it's easy: Hey, he's dead, so we
couldn't use him. Tough breaks. Here's one to consider: Can we
consider this a sign of the times? Aquaman had been already
updated, lost a hand and gained a different personality, in
order to try and refresh his appeal. I actually liked the
changes, and thought he was a great character, even if not
actually a good team player. His grumpiness sometimes reminded
me too much of the Sub-Mariner, is it just me? I also remember
Grant Morrison gave him all these extra uses for his powers in
(Grant's) JLA run, like the time he invaded a White Martian's
mind and gave him seizures through telepathy. Actually kinda
unpleasant for kiddie cartoons, if you think about it. Well, to
paraphrase Humphery Bogart, we'll always have the Jim Aparo
series. And hey, there's a TPB idea for ya!
And regarding Enemy Ace, the last story involving him I've
read was in that "Swamp Thing" saga where Alec goes back in
time, eventually meeting a younger Arcane and the Enemy Ace. I
think it was by Rick Veitch and Alfredo Alcala.
Other than that, keep up the great job, the site looks
sharp and good.
If I've read DC's solicitations correctly, it looks like Sgt. Rock
will have his own Archives down the road. And the Hulk story you
mentioned ("The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the
Atom!", by Harlan Ellison) and its sequels have been reprinted
numerous times, and a couple of Jarella stories are slated for Ol'
Greenskin's first 100-Page Monster.
As to the King of the Seven Seas, I never understood why Morrison
& Co. didn't take his super-powers even further. If you think
about it, Aquaman can't be remotely human -- to live at the depths
he does, his eyes are not eyes, his skin is not skin, his bones
are not bones, or he'd pop like a grape.So he would probably be
more akin to a squid than a human (although mimicking one in
shape) and his muscles would be powerful on the scale of
Sub-Mariner. But they always played him as an ordinary human who
happens to talk to fish. It struck me during the last few issues
of his recently canceled title that when he and the "Aqua-Squad"
went into battle, he was the weakest of the lot! Aqualad's new
mystical powers are enormous, Mera has Green Lantern-like control
over water, and even Dolphin has unexplored powers. Aquaman? Talks
to fish. And let's not get started on what dead weight he was in
the Justice League, where Green Lantern or somebody always had to
provide him with a platform to stand on ... so he could talk to
In other words, I'm not too broken up about it. Until they figure
a way to make him more useful in combat, he can stay in Davy
Jones's Locker. Besides, they can play the Wally West card and
ring in Tempest as the All-New, All-Different Aquaman, right?
Anyway, here's some more TPB suggestions:
Before we get to that, I can’t say I’ve
ever gotten the impression the more authentic Atlanteans in the
Marvel world with blue-colored skin bore particularly strong physics
either, and while Namor can withstand some minor gunfire, he’s never
been established as entirely bullet-proof. Knives can endanger him
too. What we have here is a case of somebody who can’t suspend
And Aquaman an “ordinary human”? Get out of town! He’s a humanoid;
it’s always been pretty apparent, ditto Mera! Mr. Smith sure knows
how to throw around petty complaints that pretty much end up
spoiling everything, and already have.
Cap: In Rap with Cap 7/11/01, you asked about
Silver/Bronze Age trade-paperback collections we'd like to see,
so here is my wish list. First, DC would make my day if they
began issuing their hardcover Archives in more affordable paper
editions. I'd love to own the Silver Age Flash, Green Lantern
and Atom editions, as well as copies of The Spirit and Plastic
Man, but not at $50 a pop.
From the "never been collected" side of things at DC, my
No. One choice would be a "best of" Challengers of the Unknown
book. Some of the early Kirby/Wood stories along with the later
Arnold Drake/Bob Brown material, which I loved reading as a kid,
and I'd be thrilled. I also agree with you that a collection of
the Denny O'Neil "Sand Superman" saga would be in order. Thirty
years of discussion and controversy should qualify it for TPB
So far, Marvel has done a good job with their Essentials
series and I anxiously await Essential Iron Man Vol. 2, which
would cover the Gene Colan years. I'd also like to see a Marvel
monster anthology featuring Dracula (with art by Colan),
Werewolf by Night and Frankenstein (both featuring the work of
Mike Ploog). And, though I don't think it will ever happen, I
always enjoyed Master of Kung Fu written by Doug Moench with art
by Paul Gulacy and later Mike Zeck. MOKF was a terrific series
that doesn't get much attention these days, but it too would
make a nice anthology.
Good choices, [name withheld] -- and that's two votes of Tomb of
Dracula and Master of Kung Fu so far, both of which would get my
votes as well.
I wouldn't hold my breath for TPB versions of the Archives, for
the same reason that DC didn't want to do a TPB version of the
$100 hardback Crisis of Infinite Earths collection (at least
initially; they later relented). DC is quite aware that if people
know a TPB version is coming, then they won't buy the hardback --
and Archive sales would plummet. And since DC, the distributors
and the retailers all make a hefty profit on the hardbacks ...
well, I just wouldn't look for it, is all. I've heard from quite a
few fans, however, that Archives are often available on eBay and
the like for half price or less, and I recommend you troll the
Well if he really thought much of this
stuff should be sold in cheaper archives, how come he didn’t argue
to that effect in his newspaper columns? Sorry, but a mere online
argument isn’t enough, not even today.
Dear Captain: I'm reading Fantastic Four: The World's
Greatest Comic Magazine! The first issue I almost missed because
my quick glance pegged it for a reprint and I have all those.
But the second issue came and I took a look and said, I don't
remember this one. Then the lightbub went on, issue one was
still on the rack (my shop has a secondary rack where they keep
stuff for up to a year) so I got that,and I've been having a
ball every month since. The funny thing is, I see each issue and
think, aaah, this won't be so great. But then when I read it, it
is so great.
On another note, I've noticed Impulse is way down there on
the Previews Top 300 list, below Martian Manhunter. This is my
favorite title, with upbeat likeable characters and fun,clever
stories. I'm assuming it's in danger and if it is, do you think
we could try to save it?
Re: Green Arrow. Tried the first issue. Ho Hum. Picked up
the second issue and hit a page where the dialogue was so
smellbomb-stilted that I canceled it right then and there. I
don't even remember what the story was about. Gimme Chuck Dixon
I'm with you there -- I love Dixon's stuff. But none of his books
have gone back to press twice (as Green Arrow #1 did). Chalk it up
to the power of a Celebrity Name. As to Impulse, it's already had
a brush with the headsman -- it was "canceled" about a year ago,
but the outcry convinced DC to continue publishing. So I'm
assuming (perhaps with rose-colored glasses on) that they'll
continue to do so, despite tepid sales.
Glad you're enjoying FF:TWGCM (and responded to my question about
same in the July 11 "Next Week's Comics" column)! Some issues hit
me with a powerful wave of Lee/Kirby nostalgia, and some are
clearly clumsy pastiches that leave me cold. But I'm sticking with
it til the bitter end! Here's another opinion on Green Arrow:
Gee, did it ever occur to him that if DC
wanted to, they could’ve advertised and marketed Dixon’s output to
stratospheric levels? But no, they can only concern themselves with
celebrities because they’re the ones with alleged recognition in the
wider public. Men and women who’re mostly just into comics don’t
count; only movie producers do. And he doesn’t even see fit to
complain about that.
Dear Cap: In describing DC's approach to the relaunch
of Green Arrow, [name withheld] stated in the 7/11 Mailbag:
<<The whole thing is firmly mired in fanboy continuity
worship that I have no clue how the merely curious could
possibly enjoy it ... the average person, even the average Kevin
Smith fan, probably hasn't even heard of Green Arrow. I was
hoping that Smith would create something that someone else could
enjoy, for a change. If this is our best strategy, there's no
way we're going to get normal human beings interested in
superheroes. – [withheld again]>>
I respectfully disagree with […], as I think DC's
approach is on the money (both literally & figuratively!).
If DC wanted to package a Green Arrow series that would be
appropriate for a non-comics reading, uninitiated audience, they
could have published a series like Mike Grell's run. Grell's
Green Arrow dealt with social issues and barely bordered on the
realm of the DC Universe. No superheroes with super-powers ever
appeared. No colorfully garbed villians, either. Sure, Black
Canary, Hal Jordan and even Travis "Warlord" Morgan were there,
but even they were portrayed out of costume. It was the perfect
comic book for someone interested in a realistic adventure
series, but without the "baggage" of the DC Universe.
Kevin Smith's run is different. His Green Arrow is
fully-integrated in the DC Universe, much to comics fandom's
<<It's not just fanboys like you and me buying it -- the
outside world is buying Green Arrow, and it's getting plugged in
People, Entertainment Weekly and on the infotainment shows. Just
shows what a "name" can do, I guess. -- Captain Comics>>
And that's why DC's strategy works. Through
Smith's Green Arrow series, the entire world -- including those
outside of fandom -- are getting exposed to the characters,
settings and history of the DC Universe. Basically, the "Quiver"
storyline is a tour of the DC Universe (and it's fun, to boot!).
With this kind of exposure, non-comics fans may be aware -- for
the first time -- that Aquaman is not the same person he was on
the Super Friends; that Batman is darker and has a different
supporting cast; that there's a "new" Flash and Green Lantern;
and that the JLA's roster consists of the DC's "Big Guns."
Appearances by these characters may give people the incentive to
buy DC books to learn more about these characters.
Recent attempts by Marvel to attract new readers center
around the theory of: "If people enjoy Ultimate Spider-Man,
maybe they will decide to try other books." I don't understand
that theory. If a person likes Ultimate Spider-Man, they will
probably buy Ultimate Spider-Man; they have no incentive to
pick-up a copy of Fantastic Four or Avengers. In that respect,
Ultimate Team-Up also fails to accomplish this task. They're
basically saying "If you thought the Iron Man presented in
Ultimate Team-Up #5 was
cool ... too bad! He doesn't have his own book, so you'll
have to wait a few years until we get around to using him
I applaud DC for taking a non-traditional approach to the
series, and hope it serves its purpose in attracting new
I hadn't looked at Green Arrow that way, [withheld] -- it is a
sort of busman's tour of the DCU, isn't it? As each character is
introduced, Green Arrow comments on how they've changed in the
last 10 years ... Hmmm. You may be on to something there.
I gotta disagree with both correspondent
and faux-reporter here. The whole tommyrot tripe was mired in
over-the-top sleaze, though Smith’s Black Cat miniseries was
probably worse, as he forced in a lot of overt, contrived ideas that
didn’t work well for GA any more than many other superhero comics.
And did it really sell well? I’ve a hunch that even in 2001, sales
weren’t sky high and popping like fireworks with millions and
billions of copies sold. Some of those copies might even be
gathering dust in the quarter bins today. Even people who might’ve
liked it then could’ve reevaluated the book and experienced buyer’s
remorse, something I’ve certainly gone through more than enough
times in the past decade or so.
Dear Captain: Just thought I've add my thoughts on
the infamous Five-Year-Gap Proty story in Legion of
Super-Heroes. (Re-reading that sentence makes me realize just
how inaccessible comics in general, and the Legion in
particular, have become to newcomers.) Yes, Proty did take
Lightning Lad's place after his supposed "resurrection," and
went on to marry Saturn Girl and start a family. But the most
unsettling thing about the story is that it was implied that
Saturn Girl knew about the impersonation (she was one of the
strongest telepaths in the universe, after all), and never said
a word because she preferred Proty-Garth to the original! Talk
about ice queens!
Thanks for the great site!
Thanks for the additional info, [name withheld]. And I hate to say
it, but one reason Saturn Girl might have preferred the
shape-variable Proty-Garth to the real thing is the old fan joke
about why Sue Storm (Mrs. Fantastic) and Sue Dibney (Mrs.
Elongated Man) are two of the happiest-married women in comics.
And if you don't get it, then I'm sure not going to explain it!
As I’ve figured out over past years, the
whole notion Sue Dibny and Sue Storm were both happy woman at all
times is exaggerated at best. There were times when Ralph annoyed
and frustrated Sue Dearbon, and in the mid-70s, there’d been an
Elongated Man short story where Sue was mad at no longer being
listed by the press as a Number One debutante since the time she and
Ralph married. Sue Richards once had a feud with her own stretchy
husband Reed in the mid-70s that led to their being estranged for a
short time. And Mr. Smith should be ashamed of himself for
furthering lies against just about any character, major and minor
alike, just to suit PC visions.
Hey Cap: I like to say that although I've only
written in once, I really enjoy your writing. I feel that you
supply a much-needed feeling of community for the comic-book
In that vein, I attended a garage sale a few weeks ago and
found someone giving away their entire old comic collection. I
greedily bought about 200 comics for $10. The reason i wanted to
share is that I felt you might appreciate how this was quite an
education for me; I'm a 30-year-old who's read comics since I
was 10. But all these books were from the early '70s, a little
before I started, hence there were a few things I realized, such
as: Rick Jones was once an interesting character! I gotta say
that I could never stand him, couldn't understand why the Hulk
hadn't "accidentally" killed him years ago. But in those Captain
Mar-Vell Nega-Band issues, he actually seemed to have a
personality for the first time, not just as a hero groupie.
Old Dr. Strange is the best; but then, I've always loved
Doc. Classic Defenders were just plain cool as well: The
Headmen, Nebulon ... awesome.
I (also) never realized comics were/are so sexist. An
issue of Avengers -- I'm too lazy to run over and grab the issue
number -- has Iron Man saying, as he destroys a group of
androids, "They were no challenge, they weren't designed to be
fighters, some were even women!"
Superman of the Julius Schwartz era, what the heck was
going on here? Terra-Man calls Supers his "Super-bronco?" I feel
like I'm in a gay porn video store.
Anyways, just wanted to share, thanks!
And I'm glad you did, [name withheld]! Like you, I'd occasionally
stumble on a treasure trove of issues from just before I started
collecting, and find out all sorts of things I'd never imagined
before. In fact, I had a similar Rick Jones experience! My
introduction to the character was as the be-bop, wannabe, tagalong
to Captain America in mid-'60s Avengers/Tales of Suspense, and I
loathed him with all my heart. Then I stumbled across the original
six issues of Incredible Hulk from 1962 one day -- where he
demonstrated loyalty, perseverance and maturity beyond his years.
I couldn't believe it was the same character! Well, except for the
awful pseudo-Beatnik dialogue. You'll be pleased to know he's a
terrific character again (after the long, horrible drought of the
ROM years) in the hands of writer Peter David, first in the
original run of Incredible Hulk and now in Captain Marvel.
And I had to laugh out loud about your remarks about Terra-Man. I
first read those issues in high school -- Terra-Man was first
introduced in my tenth-grade year, I think -- and I remember
thinking pretty much the same thing, although I didn't as yet have
the concepts to phrase it as you did. I just thought there was
something terribly, terribly wrong with Terra-Man conceptually,
and he embarrassed me in some fashion I couldn't quite put my
finger on. I do remember not letting my friends or my mother see
those issues, for fear of ridicule and/or a cocked eyebrow. :)
Here's more on Schwartz Superman:
Fascinating how Mr. Smith fails to
criticize whomever was in charge of writing Captain America’s
stories during the Tales of Suspense run (Stan Lee? Roy Thomas?) for
not writing Rick Jones up to the standards they allegedly believe
in. The correspondent’s also appalling for how he clearly doesn’t
have the courage to criticize any of the writers for embarrassingly
sexist dialogue in any comic, old or new (unless maybe Mr. Smith
omitted it, which is possible).
Dear Cap: A short while back on the Captain Comics
Message Board, there was a brief discussion of why conservatives
In you response to [name withheld]'s question in the
7/11/01 mailbag, one of your statements gave me an additional
brain flash concerning the pervious discussion.
<<Make no mistake, one of the things that attracted me to
comics in the '60s -- specifically, Marvels -- was the idea that
there was a lot that had already happened, and that it was
significant, and I wanted to know all about it. (Earth-Two falls
into this category as well.) -- Captain Comics>>
(Generalization Alert -- Please no hate mail) In many cases
comic-book fans are a form of (if not full-blown) history buffs.
To use your own sentence, "(They want) to know all about it." To
my memory, the consconservatives and their comic-book reading.
Could it be that most comic-book readers as they grow older and
(generally) more conservative, will simply continue with comics
as a form of nourishment to the history-buff bug that burns
inside them? Is that a gray hair I see, and a slowing metabolism
I feel? I want to know!
I dunno what to make of the
conservatives-reading-comics conversation, […] -- I feel, from my
mail, that the readership of comics breaks down politically pretty
much the way it does in the country in general. So I'm not sure
what the question is. Sure, most of the WRITERS are fairly
liberal, but not all, and the superhero schtick is in and of
itself fairly conservative -- it's law & order, after all.
And, certainly, the publishers have no wish to alienate one
political group or another, and deliberately avoid controversy (as
with religion). So the mish-mash that comes out doesn't strike me
as overly conservative or liberal, either way. My guess is that
the readership doesn't feel it's slanted, either, so both liberals
and conservatives find equal pleasure in our little hobby. Of
course, that's my opinion, and I could be wrong.
As to your history-buff suggestion, it seems predicated on the
assumption that being fond of history is an indication of a
conservative viewpoint. And that hasn't been my experience, so I
can't go with that one.
After reading Mr. Smith’s claim
publishers, mainstream or otherwise, don’t want to alienate any
groups, I fell off my chair laughing. Even before 9-11,
ultra-leftist politics have become far more prevalent in comicdom
than ever before. And the July 26, 2001 mail isn’t any better:
Dear Cap: Let's look at last week's Mailbag:
[name withheld]: Sir, I believe every kid in the world
should be sat down and taught about Walter Winchell and his part
in war coverage, as well as all those who have helped shape our
culture of today. The fact that people like these are forgotten
is a sad indictment of our "blink and you miss it" society
today. I also have no idea why Fleetwood Mac has been for gotten
-- but then, I was into the Alan Parsons Project in the late
Paperback collections of old stories -- add my votes for
Tomb of Dracula and Master of Kung Fu. I'd particularly love to
see the Doctor Sun storyline collected -- (Marv) Wolfman and
(Gene) Colan's finest moment IMHO. I'd also love to see a
collected Doom Patrol from the Drake/Premiani days, and a
properly bound collection of Jim Starlin's "Dark Warlock"
stories. I do have one guilty desire however -- and that is for
someone to do a collector's edition of the Atlas/Seaboard books.
Yes, I know most of them were derivative, and some were plain
awful, but the talent that was involved in them is deserving of
wider recognition. End of rant.
Oh, before I forget -- one addition to the reprints I'd
love to see. Now that Steve Gerber and Marvel are working
together, how about a Howard The Duck collection? Pretty please?
[name withheld] on Green Arrow said:
<<Grell's Green Arrow dealt with social issues and barely
bordered on the realm of the DC Universe. No superheroes with
super-powers ever appeared. No colorfully garbed villians,
either. Sure, Black Canary, Hal Jordan and even Travis "Warlord"
Morgan were there, but even they were portrayed out of costume.
Mike Grell made a deliberate ploy to keep Ollie on
the (fringes) of the DC Universe at that time. In fact, the only
mainstream heroes I believe he used in costume (apart from
Dinah) were Batman and The Question -- anyone else remember the
three-part annual story over The Question, Green Arrow,
Detective Comics and Batman which also involved Lady Shiva? The
current Kevin Smith take is very interesting indeed -- I
especially want to know how old Etrigan knows about
Stanley's pet and this Green Arrow ...
Thanks, […]! But, y'know, I'm not surprised that you want to see
Seaboard/Atlas stuff. I'm just surprised anybody besides me bought
them! Here's more TPB requests:
The Kevin Smith run from 2001 is just more
overrated garbage. Now that I think of it, Smith’s run on GA could
be just as awful as his later run on Black Cat, and possibly worse,
even though the latter is where retcons really led to offensive
Dear Cap: Quite a few people would like to see
Shang-Chi collections. Well, there might be a problem with the
Sax Rohmer estate: They may still own the trademark to Doctor Fu
Manchu. (At http://www.sigma.net/burch, a Fu Manchu entry
appears which has a note about this under "Megalomaniacal
Types.") Thus, any reprints would have to be doctored to leave
out Fu Manchu references.
By the way, Michael Moorcock's Elric appeared in the first
year or two of Conan. Does anyone know if reprints of those
issues are doctored to leave him out?
Good point about the good doctor, […]. Now that you mention it,
while we've SEEN Shang-Chi's pop in Marvel Knights recently, he
hasn't been NAMED. (They call him "O Celestial One" and such.) I
guess people who never read MOKF are left to assume that he's a
Generic Yellow Peril villain.
I haven't seen any recent Conan reprints, so I can't answer your
question about Elric. Anybody know? Here's more:
Conan reprints have been published by Dark
Horse, since Marvel lost the license by 1995. They’ve also reprinted
Kull the Conqueror. And Red Sonja reprints have been published by
Dynamite Entertainment. And we should be sorely disappointed that
the Rohmer estate’s never granted rights to reprint MOKF unabridged.
But don’t count on Mr. Smith to make a case for it.
Dear Cap: All right, you asked for it. Here are just
a few (OK, more than a few) of the books I would like to see get
the trade-paperback treatment:
Silver Age Doom Patrol
Bronze Age Defenders
Silver Age Adam Strange
DC's Invasion miniseries
The Suicide Squad (post Legends)
Bronze Age Legion of Super-Heroes (I can't imagine the
archives going very far into the '70s but I could be wrong.)
DC's Janus Directive crossover
Marvel's Galactic Storm crossover
Neal Adams's Deadman work
Hellblazer (I know there are several volumes already but I
would like to see it get the Sandman/Preacher treatment and have
them all collected. Ditto for the Moore Swamp Thing run and
Morrison Animal Man/Doom Patrol run)
The Question (as done by Denny O'Neil)
Silver Age Challengers of the Unknown
More Sgt. Rock beyond the archive that is allegedly being
released next year
Unknown Soldier (original series. DC already did the Ennis
miniseries from a few years back.)
early New Mutants
the complete first Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans run (but
not in Archive format. That book cost more than the issues it
Brave and Bold (Batman team-ups era)
Silver Age/Bronze Age Spectre
More Steranko Nick Fury
That would be a good start, although my wife might
disagree when I start showing up with all these tomes. I know
it's DC heavy but I have always been a DC guy.
Great Scott, […]! That's quite a list! And y'know, just looking it
over ... I want all those TPBs too! Even though I've got the
original books! (With 40,000 comics, the likelihood of me
re-reading any given series is vanishingly small -- unless it's
collected!) Here's more:
A lot of those books have been reprinted,
but not all. Yet he’s never made a serious call for reprinting and
promoting specific items, that’s for sure. Come to think of it, he’s
never called for reprinting much of anything at all.
Dear Cap: […] asked for suggestions as to what
forgotten or obscure storylines should be reprinted in
trade-paperback form. What a coincidence -- I've been mulling
that over myself. For what it's worth, here are some TPBs I'd
like to see (with an emphasis on '70s Marvel, because that's my
personal Golden Age):
Steve Englehart's Avengers. C'mon, this guy ranks
alongside (Kurt) Busiek, (Roy) Thomas and (Roger) Stern as one
of the definitive Avengers writers. The obvious choice here is
that whole Mantis/Kang/Rama-Tut epic. It's chock-full of
goodies: the Kang/Rama-Tut/Immortus connection laid out for the
first time, the backstory on why the Kree and the Skrulls hate
each other, the origin of Mantis and Moondragon, the untold
story of how the original Human Torch became the Vision, the
Legion of the Unliving, the death of the Swordsman, the wedding
of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, and -- just for good
measure -- the coolest, most arrogant Kang ever (at least, until
Busiek got hold of him). The very definition of a sprawling,
time-and-space-spanning Marvel epic. With Avengers Forever and
the Kree/Skrull War TPBs on the shelf, not to mention
Englehart's upcoming Celestial Quest sequel and the current
Avengers storyline, this seems like a natural.
Another good Englehart Avengers collection would be issues
#141-144 and #147-149. It's another far-flung epic, featuring
the Squadron Supreme, the Serpent Crown, the Brand
Corporation/Roxxon Oil, the origin of Hellcat (unbelievable
though it may be) and a side trip back to 1873, where some
Avengers teamed up with Marvel's Western heroes to stop Kang
once and for all. On the Squadron Supreme's world, the U.S.
President is a Serpent-Crown-wearing Nelson Rockefeller, and
that sight alone is worth the price of a TPB. The early George
Perez art is a bonus.
While I'm wishing, maybe we could also get a collection of
Englehart's Captain America run, specifically the revival of the
1950s Cap and that Secret Empire/Watergate allegory. I've never
read these issues, but they certainly loom large in the history
of the Marvel Universe.
The other Steve from '70s Marvel: Steve Gerber. His
complete Defenders run is worthy of reprinting, but I'd be happy
just to have the Headmen saga. Man, this was some strange stuff
to be appearing in a mainstream Marvel book of the time.
Nighthawk's brain spent several issues sloshing around in a
bowl. An international consciousness-raising movement (today,
we'd call it New Age) urged its followers to don Bozo masks to
acknowledge life's inherent absurdity. The Headmen transferred
characters' brains from body to body with gleeful abandon -- we
even had a cute, lovable baby deer with the villainous brain of
Chondu the Mystic. And the grand finale was a philosophical
debate between Nebulon and Dr. Strange in some strange astral
realm, with an audience of one: then-President Gerald Ford.
Y'know, they just don't make comics like that any more ...
Continuing on the topic of Gerber, let's get a Howard the
Duck collection out there! Now this was great stuff! Please,
forget that God-awful, unfortunate movie. Before Hollywood sent
the duck on a one-way trip to oblivion, HTD was a biting,
cynical (VERY cynical) satire of '70s American society. No,
really, it was. Master of Quak Fu. The Reverend Joon Moon Yuc
and his followers, the Yuccies. Remember when Howard ran for
president? "My God, he's telling the truth! He'll be dead in a
week!" After his campaign was ruined by a phony sex scandal
(orchestrated by a Canadian nationalist called Le Beaver),
Howard had a nervous breakdown and was committed to an asylum,
where he encountered KISS and the Son of Satan, among others.
And how can we forget the Kidney Lady? Again, this was downright
bizarre, especially when it sat right there on the comic rack
next to Batman and Spider-Man. These comics warped my young,
impressionable mind, and to me, they seem even better now than
they did then. With Gerber's upcoming return to Howard (as part
of Marvel's mature line), maybe we can hope for some sort of HTD
Another Defenders story: Dave Kraft's "Who Remembers
Scorpio?", from Defenders #46-50 (or thereabouts). An aging,
beer-guzzling Scorpio (a.k.a. Jake Fury, Nick's brother)
reflects on his life -- the bad choices he made, the chances he
missed, and how unfair it is that he'll never measure up to his
brother, the war hero and S.H.I.E.L.D. leader -- while plotting
to create an all-new, android Zodiac that will be completely
obedient to him. The art is by a young Keith Giffen, working in
his most heavily Kirby-esque style. This story holds up pretty
well, even by modern standards.
Jim Starlin's Warlock. Another high point for Marvel in
the '70s, and one of the definitive "cosmic" storylines. To my
knowledge, it's never been collected. This one also holds up
very well upon re-reading. with its religious/philisophical
The Invaders! OK, in hindsight, it seems kinda goofy. But
it was oodles of fun. Roy Thomas loved these characters, and it
showed. Even the, um, unique style of artist Frank Robbins grew
on me after a while. The term "retcon" hadn't been invented at
the time, but that's what we'd call this series today. And
honestly, don't we all enjoy seeing Captain America opening a
can of whoop-ass on some Nazis?
I still read plenty of new comics, but let me repeat: They
just don't make 'em the way they used to!
You've just about mentioned every Marvel story from the '70s I'd
ever be interested in reading again! Great choices, […]!
And some of these stories have been
reprinted too. No thanks to Mr. Smith, of course.
Dear Cap: Since DC Comics became nothing more than
shameless company crossovers, I have recently quit purchasing
their books. I just read your article about the current "Our
Worlds At War"storyline and the fact that it is expected to have
a large body count. Who will join the original Dr. Mid-Nite and
Hourman in the great beyond?
After Aquaman, Guy Gardner and Ma & Pa Kent (possibly), I've
lost count. And the rumors I've heard are actually frightening.
Anybody want to assemble a KIA list for OWAW?
The correspondent is right that DC
transformed into a blatantly run company. But does he also take
offense at all the characters who were transformed into cannon
fodder? If so, Mr. Smith may have omitted that part!
Dear Cap: Have you seen this press release? I found
it on the Comic Book Resources site, under the section for
October 2001 DC solicitations. It appears to be the answer to
many fans' prayers, and hopefully, is the beginning of a trend.
<<BATMAN ARCHIVES Volume 1 HC - NEW PRICE
For over a decade, DC's award-winning Archives series has
presented classic DC material in attractive, hardcover volumes
featuring high-quality paper stock and improved color
separations -- offering material that hasn't been in print for
decades in an easily attainable, affordable format for today's
Now one of DC's earliest Archives is made even more
affordable with the BATMAN ARCHIVES Volume 1 -- offered at a
super-low price of only $19.95! That's a whopping 304 pages in
hardcover format for less than twenty bucks!>>
My local comic-shop owner attended the DC Retailers Convention a
few months back, and said this is an unusual situation not likely
to be repeated. He said that DC vastly overprinted Batman Archives
Vol. 1 in anticipation of demand that did not occur. The decision
was made to sell them at a discount, rather than continue to pay
to have them warehoused or pay to have them destroyed. But I have
no confirmation on this, so my journalism sense continues to
tingle. Anybody want to corroborate this story?
Sometimes I think various pamphlets today
are vastly overprinted in anticipation of speculators coming in to
buy multiple issues they can collect, even though they’re ultimately
not worth the money paid. Naturally, you can’t expect Mr. Smith to
argue about that.
Hi Cap: Regarding the comments about manga on the
(Mailbag) of July 11. I would like to say that not everybody
likes manga; the principal reason for that is because there are
too many styles and genres to fit in just one category. It's
like mixing all American comics that are published today
(independents and from big companies like Marvel) in the same
bag and say that they are all the same.
The first reaction for the new reader is one of hate/love
and (to) assume that all of it is identical no matter the
author. What the reader in your column suggests for reading is
light-hearted manga and a bit of "shoujo" (sic), or girls
comics, as they are known in Japan. They typically turn around a
lot of confusion and circumstances that tend to be repetitive.
For an example, Ranma (from Ranma 1/2, by Rumiko
Takahashi) is a boy cursed to transform into a girl when
splashed with hot water; there are always buckets waiting to
splash the protagonist and if you study it (in a critical way
that is) the whole thing is kind of silly but funny at the same
time. Almost every foe and friend turns into something (duck,
cat, giant panda, etc.) when splashed. so there are a lot of
jokes regarding that. Some find it interesting and I must accept
that sometimes I have read them and had fun with it.
The problem with that kind of manga is the hollowness of
the characters; the theme is always similar, like in: "Bad guy
comes to destroy the world, could be interesting if not for the
fact that there have been three guys who have tried to do the
same in the series, the only difference is that this time he is
more powerful than all of them together." Sailor Moon falls in
that department, with the protagonist always saving the Earth
from demons and extradimensional forces who always look for
something in order to accomplish their schemes. As you can
guess, the protagonist gets in the way and always gathers the
missing weapon in order to vanquish the foe.
I am not complaining, I just don't read that kind of manga
anymore, but I do not want that other people get misled by
trying to generalize all manga into one category. I am not an
expert but have been around a bit and been in discussions with
people who will just hate the whole genre because they did not
like one comic in (particular). You have to judge a book by
his/her author, like ... here in the States. Everybody
recognizes Mark Waid and do not mistake him for Alan Moore. The
problem is that not everyone can remember the name of Akira
Toriyama, Hirokai Samura or Katsuhiro Otomo (if I made a mistake
on any of those I apologize) and that I think is the problem to
begin with. The same applies in a lesser extent to the European
market; names like Jodorowsky and Moebius may ring a bell, but
Enki Bilal (does) not.
To end this mail I would like to recommend that if you buy
manga you should try the trade paperback first (like if you
wanted to read 100 Bullets but have never been exposed to the
espionage-conspiracy-crime genre, I know it sounds difficult to
imagine, but it happens with some of the Japanese context the
titles are immersed in). Just buying the comic (at) #58 is going
to be hard to figure out.
Dark Horse prints some of the best series made in Japan;
personally (I find) Blade of the Inmortal (to be) a very good
Samurai comic with interesting character development -- but only
if you read after the first trade, which is kind of silly and
gross. Lone Wolf & Cub and Akira are classics of the genre
and should be read as such. Thanks for your time and hope that
this helps and does not confound.
Thanks, […] -- any info on magna, a genre I have little experience
in, is welcome.
But I am a bit confused. Are ALL Japanese comics manga? Or just
the big-foot variety? I read Lone Wolf & Cub, Akira and a few
other select Japanese comics -- does that make me a closet manga
Hmm, I could probably criticize him for
misspelling, but I think that would be a little too easy, so I
won’t. But I will say that his style of writing in papers has quite
a hollowness all its own, and it’s not healthy.
Hi Captain: Maybe this is a bit conspiratorial but
here goes. Could Marvel be killing off Captain America because
they anticipate losing to Joe Simon in court, and want to
devalue the property? "He's dead. You can have him now." Jemas
is a businessman at heart.
It wouldn't surprise me. The purpose of Harris Comics' manga-esque
Vampi comic book was to have a replacement character in the wings
in case Jim Warren's lawsuit to retain the Vampirella rights went
against them. I'd be amazed if Marvel didn't have some sort of
plan in mind in case Simon wins.
This was written long before Marvel turned
pandering”, and replaced Steve Rogers with Sam Wilson/Falcon.
But not before retiring Steve in the most disgusting way possible.
All that aside, I don’t think Marvel’s ever worried about losing the
rights to any particular characters, especially with all the movie
money they’ve been making since.
Dear Captain: I just read Alter Ego #9, in which Roy
Thomas talks about some of his dream projects. All of your
readers interested in the Captain Marvel/Billy Batson debates
... should check it out.
However, my question is related to dream projects. Or
perhaps projects that almost were. I know I have read about
dozens of them over the years, including series that got
announced but never saw the light of day, or worse, got started
but never finished.
We all know about George Perez's Avengers/JLA crossover,
that has several pages done for it but never happened. There's
Grant Morrison/Mark Waid's proposal for Superman. Alan Moore's
Youngblood that never got finished, although my understanding is
more work was completed than published. And I know there must be
Can you think of any other "Dream Projects" that did not
get made? Or perhaps the Legion might know. I would especially
be interested in any creators that might frequent your website
sharing some of their dream projects, or alternate
endings/beginnings to titles they worked on.
Interesting question, [name withheld]. My dream projects would
usually revolve around series that got canceled before their time,
like Martian Manhunter. But I'd be curious to hear what others
have to say.
Avengers/JLA has happened, but from what
I’ve learned about it since – the kind of project that relies on
nostalgia in the most absurd way possible – I’m wondering if it was
ever worth it to start with.
My dream projects involve 3rd tier characters; all the kinds of
heroes and co-stars that Mr. Smith likely shuns.
Dear Cap: Okay, I have to call a spade a spade here.
We're looking at Stan Lee at DC, Just Imagine ..." Honest to
goodness, all DC is doing is another round of Tangent comics --
and they didn't do so hot in the first (and second) place. The
only difference here is that Stan Lee is writing the things this
time. The amazing thing is that Stan Lee is working at DC, not
that he's writing a dozen stories with characters called Batman,
Superman, Flash, etc. Again, that was done with the Tangent
books, and, depending on one's tastes, that might even have had
MORE appeal than Stan Lee of today doing these stories.
(Actually, I rather enjoyed a few of the Tangent books -- if
they hadn't gone by existing names and dropped stupid sight
and/or name gags every five seconds, I'd probably have liked
'em. 'Specially that Joker book -- I thought that was a lot of
fun. But I
I would much rather have seen Stan Lee doing the
characters as they were created; that is, give me a Stan Lee
story with Batman and Robin, Gotham City, The Joker, etc., and
do a take on THAT. Or Superman and Lois Lane, Luthor, the Daily
Planet, and so on. That would be stir my interest; I'd like to
see what he might have done with the characters.
But that would require a novel aspect to these stories
that 70 years' worth of writers have NOT come up with yet. And
quite frankly, a lot of these writers have worked for both
Marvel and DC, so while they may not have written in that exact
Marvel-esque style when doing Batman, the flavor of the writer
is still at both companies.
Also, I would have liked to have seen more group dynamic
books -- Lee always seemed to have a nice flair for Fantastic
Four and Avengers. But the only group book he's doing is Justice
League. I'd REALLY like to see Stan Lee doing a World's Finest
miniseries, to get his take on the Batman/Superman relationship.
(Was it Stan the Man who once said that when Batman and Superman
met, they should've killed each other?)
Well, my Grecian Urn's worth on Stan's current escapades
... thank you for your consideration.
And thanks for your thoughts, […]. There's been a lot of cheering
for the Stan books, and a lot of grumbling, too. I can see both
sides. I finally have come down on the side of thinking it's a
Good Thing; if nothing else, it's something that CAN'T be done a
few years down the road when Stan is no longer with us. So, good
or bad, we might as well give it a shot and try to have some fun.
I don’t think he can see either side (and
come to think of it, neither can the correspondent). He certainly
didn’t when Identity Crisis was published, so why should we think he
can view both sides of any such topic?
Dear Cap: THE GOLDEN AGE … of DC's title count
In the late '80s, DC was doing well. The Justice League
franchise was raking in a lot o' moolah due to Giffen and
DeMatties's zany exploits. Batman had just had the "Year One"
storyline, along with the anticipation of a movie soon coming.
Superman had just had his 60th birthday, along with a fourth
movie of his, as well. Wonder Woman had just had the excellent
Legend of Wonder Woman miniseries by Trina Robbins, and a
subsequent rebooting by the legendary George Perez.
Tons of exciting things were happening in DC. Then,
Justice League turned from the prior moniker to Justice League
International. Superman: The Man of Steel, an excellent monthly
(one of the few still going out of this list) by the awesome
team of Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove, started. Robin was
killed and soon replaced by Tim Drake, who also soon gained his
own monthly. The legendary Hal Jordan also got his own (second)
title after the Emerald Dawn miniseries, sharing it with
comrades John Stewart and the awesome Guy Gardner. Lobo, one of
DC 's top cash cows at the time, also gained his own series
after a wildly popular miniseries.
Keith Giffen experimented with the strangely funny
Heckler, whose own series only lasted six issues. Maybe it's
fitting that the funniest character in comics then, written by
the most humorous and witty writer then, ended with a
ridiculously short run.
The Ray, one of the mid-'90s cash cows for DC, was sprung
into his own series after a 12-part miniseries. Written by the
talented Christopher Priest, and originally pencilled by Joe
Quesada, and then switching to then unknown artist Howard
Porter, The Ray seemed to be a boot camp for some of the comics
industry's finest. Look at them both now. Joe Quesada is doing
amazing work over at Marvel, while Howard Porter has just
finished a healthy and successful run on JLA.
Black Condor, another Golden Age redo (along withThe Ray),
had his own series for 12 issues. He was cool too. With
telekinetic powers that let him fly with artificial wings, he
searched for his past and the links to his father, the Golden
Age Black Condor.
Black Canary also had her own short-lived series, in which
she did two things that most present BC fans resent: She had a
short but steamy love affair with The Ray after distancing
herself from Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), and she changed he
style to a more "butch" look in which she had body armor in the
shape of her traditional costume (the hot pants and the fishnet
hose) and she cut her hair to a Navy regulation crew cut and
stopped dying it blonde. She has since let her hair grow out,
and ditched the crappy costume.
Valor and Eclipso suddenly had their own series which came
out of the crossover Eclipso: The Darkness Within, which spanned
all of the annuals of each title that month. It also marked the
death of one of the DC's best, brightest and least-cared-about
stars: Will Payton, Starman. He has recently been revealed as
alive, but his powers, history and personality made up one of
the late 'eighties and early 'nineties best comics.
Moving on, let me introduce you to four words, which in
three years, multiple issues of multiple titles, thousands of
dollars worth of advertising and merchandise, millions of
dollars worth of profit and one of the '90s most significant
cultural events is all summed up in: THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN. From
1992 to 1994, Superman died, returned, battled and re-introduced
himself into the world. When first news of his death reached
news channels, it was everywhere. Videogames. T-shirts. Cards.
Comics. Whew! It was so big, that it is likely that if tried
again, it would fail. Maybe in 2060 or some other far time away,
Mike Carlin's descendent will do it again to him. Who knows?
Black Lightning also had his own title, but was canceled
soon. Poor Jefferson Pierce. This guy can't get a break. Justice
League International turned into Justice League America, and
Justice League Europe started. Justice League Task Force began
as well. Guy Gardner started his own rockin' series, but it was
sadly canceled in 1996 with issue #44. Deathstroke the
Terminator, the Teen Titans traitor (say that 10 times fast),
had his own series, but it was canceled as well.
I consider "Underworld Unleashed" the bast crossover of
the '90s, although many will probably disagree. It was the best
because it was the last battle cry, the last hurrah of many
assorted characters and titles which were all about to be given
the axe. Like these:
Guy Gardner, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. Black Condor,
Black Canary, Black Lightning, Steel, Outsiders, Chain Gang
War, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow, Deathstroke: The
Terminator, Huntress, Showcase, Eclipso, L.E.G.I.O.N.,
R.E.B.E.L.S., Lobo, Aquaman, Valor, Legion of Super-Heroes,
Justice League America, Justice League International, Justice
League Task Force, Justice League Quarterly, Green Lantern
Corps Quarterly, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Mosaic,
Anima, Scare Tactics, Psyba-Rats, Primal Force, Starman,
Manhunter, Fate, Book of Fate, Dr. Fate, The Spectre, Doom
Patrol, Takion, New Gods, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, The
Eradicator , The Heckler.
These are just some of the many comics that were canceled
in a period from 1987 to 2000. One of the best moneymaking times
for DC, but also one of the most destructive. DC is still
recovering. As the USA's oldest and finest comics publisher, DC
should be producing around 25 or 30 different comics a month.
They are producing less than half that. Unless DC starts making
titles about it's second- and third-tier icons again, they'll be
down the toilet within 15 to 20 years. I sincerely hope this
doesn't happen, because I am on of DC's biggest fans. DC was
really hurt from years and years of X-books beating the crap out
of their titles. Now that Marvel is getting half of it's X-rags
canceled, if DC takes advantage of this and starts printing new
titles, DC could be on top again.
Who am I to argue with such enthusiasm? It's easy to
see what YOUR Golden Age is! But I have to note for the record
that DC isn't publishing "half" of 25-30 titles. I count 32
monthly superhero titles published in June in just the DCU -- not
counting Vertigo, WildStorm, MAD, the cartoon books, and specials,
annuals and TPBs.
While there are some examples this
correspondent gives that are positive, the bad ones include Eclipso:
The Darkness Within, which saw the death of Beth Chapel, the lady
Dr. Mid-Nite, Yolanda Montez, the lady Wildcat, and the
aforementioned Will Payton. That was truly disgusting, written only
for the sake of killing off characters the editors deemed useless
(they probably didn’t want to pay Roy Thomas any residuals either),
and anybody who thinks nothing was wrong there has got to be out of
their minds. Next up is August 1, 2001:
Dear Cap: Here's a link to a webpage that displays
and describes the "F"amous "F"our-letter profanity on Ka-Zar #1.
It's pretty subtle; I'm surprised anyone ever "discovered" it.
Thanks a million, [withheld]!
Frankly, it looks like a coincidence to me -- I think the grass
just happens to fall that way, and we're reading into it what we
want to see. It reminds me of the "profanity" some right-wing
groups "found" in Disney's Lion King when they did freeze frames
on drifting smoke. I mean, really -- editors (of movies, or comic
books or newspapers) are trained to have dirty minds. We LOOK for
that sort of thing. I can't believe it's anything but an accident.
Of course, I could be wrong!
He’s wrong about plenty more than he
thinks, most of which I’ve already mentioned plenty of times. He’s
also wrong about “right-wing groups” being the only ones who could
possibly have a beef with the entertainment industry; there’s been
plenty of left-wing sources that have since taken up that role,
leading in turn to the GamerGate campaign, which itself happens to
be comprised of mostly leftist folk themselves.
Plus, wasn’t liberal senator Joe Lieberman the one who led a
campaign against violent video games in the mid-90s?
Hi, Captain Comics: First I'd like to say how glad I
am to have stumbled upon your site and how much I enjoy the
various editorial and review columns. It's been a real treat for
me as someone who isn't necessarily new to comics but has been
away so long that the only way to catch up on all the goings-on
is with a little help!
A little background on myself: I love comics and always
have. I started reading them when I was about three or four
years old. Through their colorful pictures and words, I learned
to read and comprehend on my own very quickly and as I got older
developed a love for art, literature and film and occasionally
even writing and drawing my own stories.
As a kid my favorite heroes were Batman and Spider-Man,
mainly because they seemed like maybe, just maybe, they could be
real. Batman was, after all, human and had to deal with the the
fact that he wasn't bulletproof, couldn't fly and had to use his
wits to solve mysteries and escape death traps. And as a reader
you could be right there with him trying to figure out the
villain's latest plot. Same thing with Spider-Man, though he had
some powers it wasn't like he was Superman, with heat vision,
and a multitude of heavy-duty powers (nothing against Supes, its
just that I was rarely able to relate to his storylines). Plus
Spidey had REAL problems with family, friends, school, work,
women, etc., something the reader could really identify with.
As I got older I discovered the wonders of the comic-book
shop, having previously gotten my issues from supermarkets and
drug stores (this was the mid-'80s BTW) and began to move into
other titles. As time passed I fell in love with the X-Men and
later X-Factor and other titles that were popular at the time.
Comics were really good and got better as we entered what was
basically a "Comics Renaissance" with Watchmen and The Dark
Knight Returns and Man of Steel. Not long after The Sandman
debuted. It was like in the space of a few years comics had
become a serious medium accepted by the general public (or at
least open-minded readers and serious critics). It was great!
Then in the early '90s the bottom fell out.
It wasn't all at once for me, but in a slow, steady
process. It started with the X-Men. I could no longer stomach
the overly convoluted storylines of people dying, being replaced
by clones, false memories, alternate realities/futures and so
on. Especially in a time where comic prices were going up, a
teen simply couldn't keep up with all of the crossovers,
one-shots and tie-ins. I began to pick up X-related books less
and less until I simply dropped the title(s) altogether.
Spider-Man, which at this point I was only reading sporadically,
was the next to go (this was around the end of McFarlane's run).
It just wasn't worth the price of admission to me anymore. Then
Alien Legion (a book I enjoyed immensely) was canceled.
At first I had thought that my tastes were just evolving
(I was at this time reading far more DC books than Marvel) and
it was just a natural change in preference. But it seemed that I
was ending up with fewer and fewer reasons to go to the comics
shop. Batman, Detective, Teen Titans (loved Perez's work!), JL
(or was it JLI at the time?) and a few other books I liked were
becoming mediocre reads. Justice League to the point that I was
really only buying it because of Adam Hughes's amazing artwork.
I found myself buying fewer and fewer regular titles and began
focusing on TPBs and more underground stuff like The Crow and
Grendel. But these weren't ongoing titles and my old standbys
were getting weaker by the minute; some like Sandman ended their
run before weakening but that was still one less reason to head
for the shop.
Things only got worse as all those lame Image titles and
their ilk exploded on the scene. Like most people I thought the
idea of what they were doing was good (artist controlled and
all) but the actual execution was terrible. And the Big Two
weren't doing anything to write home about either, unless you
count those stupid multiple covers and foil embossings as if all
anyone cared about was cardstock. Through friends I began
getting hip to Japanese and manga-inspired comics like
Appleseed, Akira and the Dirty Pair (which was far too witty and
funny to be considered a "Bad Girl" book, at least to me, more
like a spoof of that sort of thing). But Appleseed ended its run
and the Dirty Pair were soon canceled as well. At this point I
was only picking up the occasional Bat-book or "special issue"
of various titles like Supes.
After "Knightfall" and the "Death of Superman" I called it
quits. I simply didn't care anymore.
Occasionally I would listen to a friend tell me about the
latest goings-on but for the most part I simply wasn't
interested. Not even in Batman.
Then suddenly around this past Christmas, after six years,
like a bat shattering a window, it hit me. It was in Barnes
& Noble that I was browsing the sci-fi books and found
myself in the section where they keep the graphic novels and
comics-related material. I flipped through the Batman/Venom TPB
and was reminded of one of the better stories of my last days as
a comics fan. At home I found myself re-reading some of my
favorite old stories like Batman: The Cult and Watchmen and
began wondering what was happening in comics after a six-year
absence. I started checking out fan sites and comics news sites
(and eventually found this one!) to start getting up to speed on
what had been happening.
During this time my girlfriend (an artist and writer
herself) noticed my interest in comics and became curious. Like
me she also had been a Bat-fan as a kid (mainly through cartoons
and movies) but, like many women, she had never really been that
intrested in comics. Her first read was Batman: The Killing
Joke. She was shocked by the reality and harshness of the story
and horrified by the brutality of The Joker. She had no idea
that comics were anything like this. Oh, and she was completely
I found a local comics shop, which was much harder than I
remember it being, and began getting back to the comics I loved.
But it wasn't as easy as I anticipated. I found that there was a
reason I had so much trouble finding a comics shop. The
landscape had changed since the glory days I remembered. Shops
were few and far between and had begun carrying a wider array of
toys and games and memorabilia than ever before. In fact much to
my surprise some even carried pornography. ("Not that there's
anything wrong with that," just a shock!) And as I perused the
racks I found that while characters and titles had changed there
was still plenty of crap on the racks -- but thankfully there
was some good stuff too.
I was excited to see that while a few changes had been
made, old faithful Bats was essentially still there fighting
crime in Gotham mainly with his wits (I LOVE how Detective
Comics is being written and illustrated these days!). JLA was
better than I remembered it and the new (to me) Gotham Knights
was definitely a great title thanks to the characterizations of
Devin Grayson. On the other hand, I briefly looked at the old
Marvel titles I had read long ago and they just were
unrecognizable. I had heard about various things during my years
away about different changes especially in the X-books. Among
them Wolverine's claws being natural? Where did THAT come from?
I found myself wondering how the folks at Marvel were able to
get by making this stuff without the fans stringing them up at
One great treat we discovered, thanks to your site, were
the CrossGen books. It's amazing to see this small upstart
company come out of nowhere and blow the Big Two out of the
water! We're especially fans of Scion, Mystic, Meridian and
Sojourn, (which) looks really promising. While I love Bats and
most of the related titles, I think DC and especially Marvel
could learn a LOT from these folks. Even the CrossGen stuff we
didn't fall in love with are still decent reads.
Now as I've gotten back into the swing of things again I
find out that the industry is really hurting and it's easy to
see why. The majority of titles that I see just don't seem to
care about the readers, particularly the stuff I see from
Marvel. Aside from the CrossGen titles, Bats, JLA, Wonder Woman
(you can tell that Phil Jimenez loves his work), and the new
Green Arrow, there isn't a whole lot of stuff out there that
I've seen that really grabs me. I've been checking out some of
the different things I've seen recommended on your site and
while I enjoy most of them, they only account for a small
percentage of the comics on the stands. No wonder the industry
is in such a slump. Besides not having the books in accessible
places like newstands, supermarkets and drugstores, there just
doesn't seem to be much worth the price of admission, certainly
not if you're totally new to comics.
Speaking of which, I really hope these new gambles Marvel
is taking like dropping the Comics Code (that's definitely a
good move), the no-overprinting policy and revamping characters
into more accessible books works out for them. Though I'm no
longer a fan of any of their titles, what's good for one company
is usually good for the industry as a whole.
Anyway I just wanted to share my thoughts with you as a
returning reader and tell you how much I enjoy your site.
Thank YOU, […], for reminding me why I pull all these &%$#
all-nighters! I can't express how pleased I am that my site is in
any way a factor in your re-discovering the joys of this little
hobby (and your girlfriend finding them for the first time -- oh,
the fun she's going to have!).
Oh, and sure there's a lot of crap out there. As Theodore Sturgeon
(almost) famously said, "Ninety percent of everything is crap."
And, people being people with a wide variety of opinions, we don't
all agree on which ten percent isn't. But most of us generally
agree on what constitutes a non-crap EFFORT, and there are a lot
of books out there that talented people are pouring their hearts
and souls into. We owe it to them and to ourselves to check 'em
out and see which ones tickle our respective fancies.
I encourage you to continue checking out "Next Week's Comics,"
[names withheld]'s reviews, the [withheld], my own weekly column
and other features on this site, not only to find stuff you like,
not only to avoid stuff that doesn't sound like your cup of tea,
but just to keep up in general with what's happening hither and
yon -- you might not buy Captain Phlegm with any regularity, but
on the odd occasion when a story appeals to you, this site (if
it's doing its job) should be keeping you informed of the
character's status. And be sure and sound off, both with questions
Welcome to the Legion of Superfluous Heroes -- the organization
for people who don't join organizations!
This correspondent’s got some interesting
views, although I can’t really agree with him about Watchmen and
Dark Knight Returns. The angles they took wound up doing more harm
than good to the medium as a whole. Though I do realize that’s
partly the fault of the publishers who couldn’t resist.
He is right about the fate of X-Men though. Yep, they suffered very
badly at that. Now, here’s yet the umpteenth letter I wrote to this
fraudulent reporter, and it features an argument or viewpoint I no
longer stand by:
Dear Cap: In the past two months, I’ve been feeling
that Marvel is being dishonest towards their readers, and that
they’re driving their stories way too editorially, and that
they’re not providing enough creative freedom for their writers.
For example, there was the implausible way that Mary Jane
was sent off on a vacation from Spider-Man. I think I know just
the way now that they could’ve done it if it was necessary: They
could’ve had a friend or a relative call her and ask her to stay
over. I think that would’ve been much more plausible.
Unfortunately, they didn’t, and so they really undermined the
And then, this month, they did something that really hurt
me: They killed Psylocke. I was afraid they’d do it, and it
happened. And what was really dishonest about this death in my
opinion is that they did it all for the sake of bringing in
Gambit for the fourth issue of X-Treme X-Men. And if that be the
case, then that’ll explain why I’m bailing out of the title.
Whatever your opinions on this Claremont-penned series, I myself
had liked the first issue, but with Psylocke being thrown out,
and Gambit now coming in, I can tell that it’s gonna take a
tumble, and so I can’t continue with it.
This is how it all should’ve been: Gambit should’ve
appeared in the first issue, and it’s he who should’ve been
killed in the third issue. And instead of sparing us the pain of
such a ludicrous character, they had to make the wounds deeper.
And by killing one of the sweetest X-chicks all for the sake of
a ratty bum like Gambit, they’ve done something very dishonest.
In my opinion, she was a character worth developing and who had
some potential, and Marvel just wouldn’t realize it. I was
charmed by her love affair with Archangel, and they wouldn’t let
it develop into a marriage, and even children who could have the
chance to grow up an all but normal life just like Franklin
Richards of the Fantastic Four. And given that they’re both
co-starring characters, that could’ve made them perfect
characters for a marriage.
However, there does appear to be a chance that she’ll be
able to come back from the dead, even if it takes a long time:
The Crimson Dawn may be able to save her again, and it’s
probably protecting her soul even in death. And if you ask me, I
think that Betsy should be allowed to be resurrected and that
Gambit should be the one to go to grave in her stead. That Chris
Claremont (I didn’t want to have to keep slamming him again, but
sadly, it looks like I’m finding myself in the position of doing
so again) should kill off such a nice girl all for the sake of a
scoundrel like Gambit was inexcusable. And now, how is
Thunderbird/Neal Shaara going to work at all? Now, he’ll be
pretty much useless. And while Storm and Rogue are also very
appealing characters, with Gambit in the way, they’ll be very
seriously undermined. This in my opinion was a title where the
women could shine, and now they’ve ruined it. A real shame. My
request to Marvel is: Please spare Psylocke’s life and take
Gambit in her place!
Another act that I find dishonest was that in the "Eve of
Destruction" story arc in the two main X-books, they implausibly
faked Dazzler’s death. She, on the other hand, is not one of my
favorite X-women, and I wouldn’t mind of she’d been done in, and
they really made a mess there. Jean said that the act of
deception “was all a plan." Plan? What plan? It made no sense to
me, and it was but one the most damaging things about the whole
story arc. What was really clumsy about Dazzler’s concoction was
first her roller skates and disco ball, and then that she looked
too punked out when her hair was short cropped. And another
silly thing about her background was that she first discovered
her powers AFTER she’d begun her career as a disco singer!
Ridiculous. She was expendable.
And then, just last year, they did something very
dishonest with Shadowcat: They sent her off without a clear
explanation of why she was departing. She’s a character who I
very much want to come back, and I should hope that they do so.
In the latter case, it seems that Marvel’s editors had
something to do with that: Claremont had wanted to write a
specific explanation for Kitty Pryde’s departure, and the
editors said no. I read a message on Cinescape’s forum that told
that, and it also said that he’d told that the editors had
caused him some serious problems with last year’s run, and that
they undermined his attempts to write something better.
If such is the case, then Claremont may not be entirely to
blame for failing the X-books last year (and by extension
Fantastic Four); it could be that the editors too are to blame
for misguiding the titles. Such a case is no doubt common, and
it’s not a good one. Of course, to rehire Claremont to write the
books was an all-too-obvious attempt to capitalize on the movie
at the same time. Since Claremont was the one who sent the X-Men
skyrocketing back in the '70s, they thought that attaching his
name to the current books is what could bring in money. Now
really, that wasn’t necessary at all in order to get more of the
public to buy them. No matter what writer they’d assigned, the
public would come in droves.
Editorial interference is surely also one of the reasons
why the independent market really grew during the '80s: Since
Marvel and DC weren’t providing proper creative freedom up to a
point for many artists and writers, many of them decided to work
in the indie market.
If Marvel and DC interfere with the works of their
employees, then of course they’ll really damage what could be
some really good stories, and only damage their chances of
Some brief addendum I can add about Wolverine's Native
American wife: As you said,
<<(Wolverine) was once married to a Native American who
has been killed (by Sabretooth, I believe)>>
I think her name was Silver Fox. And yes, it was Sabretooth who
Thanks also to [name withheld] for all the details of the
Original Human Torch's various appearances over the past
decades. So Mantis once married a tree creature? Now that's
While Psylocke wasn't one of my favorite characters, Lexicon, I
understand your distress and sympathize with it. Thanks for
sharing your thoughts.
And I certainly agree that ham-handed editorial direction is
ALWAYS painful to read, from "Emerald Twilight" to Mary Jane's
departure to editor-mandated deaths. Stories should grow
ORGANICALLY, or they read falsely -- and badly.
Another such example was the Psyclocke/Archangel romantic liaison
ending inexplicably, with Psylocke leaping abruptly into the new
Thunderbird's arms. Since T-Bird had no personality at that point,
and no origin had been given, and his presence on the team not
explained (a Claremontian technique he uses quite frequently),
Psylocke's sudden infatuation made no sense -- unless you're as
cynical as I, who immediately assumed that the romantic switcheroo
was done deliberately by Claremont to give the boring (but
Claremont-created) Thunderbird some artificial depth and immediate
fan interest by linking him to a popular character.
Anyway, I still haven't warmed up to Thunderbird -- who still has
no personality, origin or explanation for how he joined the team,
aside from some brief references -- and thought Psylocke's death
to be one for shock's sake.
Ah, well, it's comics -- nobody stays dead forever! Well, except
for Uncle Ben. And Bucky. And Thomas & Martha Wayne. And ...
Anyway, if it makes you feel any better, Marvel's getting quite a
reputation in the industry for NOT being heavy-handed editorially,
since the advent of the Quesada/Jemas team. I've been quite
impressed with the revival of Fantastic Four, Avengers,
Spider-Man, Hulk and some other mainstays, and some of their books
(Marvel Boy, for example) are pretty doggone wild.
Oh, and Mantis did indeed once marry a tree-like alien called a
Cotati, that was inhabited by the spirit of the dead Swordsman. I
kid you not. In fact, it was a double marriage, with Scarlet Witch
and Vision also tying the knot, in Giant-Size Avengers #4 (May
Now make no mistake here. I do
like Psylocke. But when I look back at what I wrote about Gambit,
insisting he should be wiped out because of grave mistakes that
weren’t his fault, I just have to shake my head and wonder what was
wrong with me then? Heck, some of my other comments were pretty
And what’s this Mr. Smith told me about Quesada/Jemas not getting a
reputation for heavy-handed editorial mandates? Granted, they
weren’t churning out company wide crossovers at that time, but
editorial mandates were still prevalent, and their choices for
writers were still pretty poor. It may be irony, but the problems
were still there. I faintly remember a Hawkeye series at the time
that had some absurd politics shoved in, but the main problem was
that it was despairingly dull and padded.
Captain Comics Queries:
<<But I am a bit confused. Are ALL Japanese comics manga?
Or just the big-foot variety? I read Lone Wolf & Cub, Akira
and a few other select Japanese comics -- does that make me a
closet manga reader?>>
Here's my take on the matter, based on what I've been exposed
to as a reader of comics from around the world:
"Manga" roughly translates into "irresponsible pictures"
or "funny pictures," which makes it the Japanese equivalent for
the term "funnybooks" or "funnies," which has been used as a
popular term for "comics" since their current inception. The
term "funnybooks" has, in English, been used as a catch-all term
for comics -- even material that is not even primarily humorous
(Spider-Man) or remotely humorous (Watchmen, which I've actually
heard referred to as a "literate funny-book"). So it your view
of whether or not you are a "manga" reader can depend on how you
consider using the term "funnybooks."
Over the years, I've seen the term "manga" generally used
in two ways:
The word for "Japanese comics," i.e., comics produced in
The Japanese word for "comics."
Based on the definition of terms above, I would think the
second is a proper definition of manga. I simply refer to comics
produced in Japan as "Japanese comics," the same way I would
refer to a car, motorcycle, camera, stereo, music, television or
a videogame system produced there as a "Japanese" model. It
would be like there was some term for comics produced by Todd
McFarlane because he is from Canada. Note that there is no
distinction in style, except for "funny."
To further muddy the waters a bit, there is ANOTHER term I
know of: "gekiga," which means "serious pictures" or "dramatic
pictures," so material like Lone Wolf and Cub, EAGLE: The Making
of An Asian-American President and Sanctuary would fit under
this term. Gekiga also seems to also have as part of its
definition the notion of format -- material cited as definitive
"gekiga" is often distinguished by its physical presentation,
which is as squarebound books, so it may also be roughly
analogous to "graphic novel," which again in the west is a
catch-all term for "grown-up, serious comics."
So to answer your query, "Is Captain Comics a manga
reader?", I offer this: I would define "manga" as something more
inclusive yet more general than many of the definitions you have
been presented, as the Japanese catch-all term for "comics," a
reader of X-Men is a manga reader, as I've heard the cry of
X-Men readers as "funnybook readers." So yes, Cap you are a
manga reader, but I would think, additionally, you are a reader
of gekiga, more serious, handsomely presented work.
Funny you should mention "big-foot variety," as I recently
read in the interview collection by Will Eisner, Shop Talk
(published by Dark Horse), an exchange between Eisner and Neal
Adams, where they discuss the differences between humorous
"big-feet" comics and dramatic "small-feet" comics, but they
still refer them as "comics." This is the same way I feel about
Of course now, someone will come about and prove me wrong
... which happens quite a lot :)
Thanks, […] -- I was taken to task by a reader once for being
"sloppy" with my use of the terms manga and anime, by using them
generically for Japanese comics and animation, respectively.
Sounds like I was actually doing OK.
Now for some TPB suggestions:
I’m afraid he still is, though it’s
nothing compared to his sense of rationale. Even the correspondent
is guilty of some pretty awful leanings.
Dear Captain Smith: I may be a bit late, but could
not resist the temptation to register my suggestions for comic
collections in trade paperback (or hardback). Unlike yourself,
most of what I would like to see available in a collected format
has not yet been offered. However, hats off to DC for doing the
best job so far in this regard.
Anyway, here goes in a somewhat prioritized order:
1) Golden Age Spectre
2) Silver Age Spectre
3) ... even Bronze Age Spectre (yeah, I LIKE The Spectre)
4) Detective Chimp (Mr. Infantino agreed with me at a
recent convention signing. It is also his favorite work at DC.
Couldn't they market this both as nostalgia and a children's
5) Captain Comet
6) Golden and Atom Age Sub-Mariner (really, a complete
Bill Everett collection would be wonderful, and apparently
remarkable if seen at all)
7) Golden Age Vision
8) Atom/Silver Age Martian Manhunter (since the latest
version is about to bite the dust, I doubt there is much chance
of seeing this one soon, huh? )
9) Many, many more volumes of the Golden Age of Marvel
10) Captain Marvel (starting with the Marvel Super Heroes
debut, up to the currently (or previously?) available TPB
11) Thunder Agents (including solo Dynamo, NoMan and
Undersea Agents ... talk about long overdue)
12) The complete '60s Space Ghost comics (however slim a
volume it would be)
13) The finished run of Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and
14) Strange Adventures/Mystery in Space (I think this
should be marketed from the nostalgic slant, instead of the
direction taken on the cover of the most recent attempt. An
Atomic Knights collection would be greatly appreciated as well!)
15) Sword of the Atom (Gil Kane should be given his due,
please. This could lead to other great collections, such as
early Warlock, Captain Action, etc. -- keep those Silver Age
Lanterns, Atoms and Flashes coming too!)
16) The complete Curt Swan Superman
17) Jimmy Olsen by Jack Kirby (call it Fourth World, or
Superman and Jimmy Olsen or whatever -- just get it on the
18) Blue Beetle by Steve Ditko
19) (The Archie Goodwin Era of) Creepy, Eerie and
Vampirella (I think I should have put this first. This would be
great to see as a Russ Cochran Library-type oversized edition,
with all those beautiful washes by Ditko, Adams, Frazetta, etc.
20) The complete Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby
(I should have put this second.)
21) The complete Neal Adams Batman (a la the recent Green
Lantern/Arrow collection, and the upcoming -- I really hope it
is still upcoming -- Deadman)
22) Doom Patrol ('60s)
23) The complete Neal Adams DC Comic Book Covers
24) The complete Brian Bolland DC Comic Book Covers (wow,
what if these could be the start of a series?)
25) The Golden Age Sandman (a missed opportunity by not
getting this one out previously )
That's all off the top of my head. Wish I had some time to
give it more thought! I wonder how much of this we will ever
see? Since most of the current comics I enjoy the most are
canceled often, I would guess not many of them. But hope springs
eternal. After all, if they ever utilize the CD-ROM format
further, all could be done at much less cost ...
Enjoy your column! Keep them coming!
And thanks for the TPB suggestions! I think my remark
about what I'd like to see being already in print was erroneous;
what I should have said is that what I'd EXPECT to see is already
been in print. You know, Green Lantern/Arrow, Watchmen, early
X-Men, Miller Daredevil -- stuff that will both sell now and be in
demand over time. I would love to see a Strange Adventures or '60s
Doom Patrol or '60s Martian Manhunter or Mike Fleisher Spectre or
just about ANY Golden Age collection -- but, realistically, what
are the chances that they'd sell well enough for DC (or whomever)
to trot them out? Similarly, some of your suggestions (THUNDER
Agents, Vampirella) will almost certainly never see print, due to
compilcations involving who owns the trademark/copyrights (both
are in litigation).
But I'd sure like to see 'em! Here's more:
Plenty of those books are – or have – been
in print since then. I do wonder why he hasn’t complained seriously
in his paper columns why it’s not helpful if certain sources are
stingy with litigation trademarks to the point it prevents them from
being reprinted. Thank goodness we have the blogosphere today so
that correspondents like the person who wrote that list can make
their requests there, rather than on an awful site like Private
Dear Cap: The power of Captain Comics is truly
awe-inspiring! Since I sent you my list of TPB suggestions,
we've had news of the following:
A double dose of Englehart's Avengers: The long-awaited
Celestial Madonna collection, plus the original
Avengers/Defenders clash. The Celestial Madonna book has just
been confirmed by Kurt Busiek at the Avengers message board.
Contrary to earlier reports, it may even be released before the
An Essential Howard the Duck collection! According to
Steve Gerber himself, it'll contain everything: the two back-up
stories from the unfortunately titled Giant-Size Man-Thing and
the complete Gerber run of HTD (issues #1-27, plus one Annual).
Seems like an awfully big Essentials volume, but that's how
Gerber described it.
There's even been an online mention of a possible TPB of
Englehart's Captain America.
Cap, I had no idea that you had this kind of influence
over the powers-that-be at Marvel. Or is it possible that
Quesada and Brevoort have been receiving my mental
transmissions? Either way, it's a fine example of "ask and ye
shall receive." Everyone concentrate now: Defenders/Headmen TPB
... Defenders/Headmen TPB ...
Well, I promised Joe Quesada and Paul Levitz that I wouldn't tell
anybody, but those guys call me all the time. "What TPBs should we
publish?" "Who should we get to draw Captain America?" "What's the
air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
Whine, whine, whine. I wish those guys'd get a life and leave me
alone. What an awful duty, guiding the larger publishers through
the shoals of comics fandom. Ah, well, I suppose that great
responsibility comes with great power, or something like that.
Hmmm. Might make a good slogan for a superhero if I worded it
A better question might be whether they
should waste so much money on crossovers for newer output. But no,
he’ll never ask those queries, because he doesn’t want to have a
falling out with men who’re truly awful anyway.
Hi Andrew: I enjoyed your recent column on trade
paperbacks. I really think that this format, more and more,
reflects the future of the comics industry. Your question about
what TPBs I'd like to see in the future really started me
thinking, so here's a few suggestions in no particular order:
1) OMEGA THE UNKNOWN: A great series from the 1970s about
a mute, enigmatic hero and his unknown ties to a teenage boy.
Even with the lame wrap-up published in The Defenders several
years after the brief series ended, this one was a hoot. I'd
love to see the run reprinted, with a new ending.
2) THE INVADERS: Especially the first two dozen or so
issues with the quirky yet wonderful art of Frank Robbins. This
was a gas, a loving tribute to the Golden Age by Roy Thomas and
a chance for us second-generation comic readers to find out just
how cool those Timely characters could be.
3) CAPTAIN ACTION: An unappreciated short series with
great art by Wally Wood and Gil Kane. The back issues can get
sort of pricey these days, so I think a TPB would be great.
4) THE WAR OF THE WORLDS: From Marvel's Amazing
Adventures, the story of Killraven and his band of rebels, with
art by Herb Trimpe and later by P. Craig Russell, definitely
deserves reprinting. Great science fiction and fabulous writing.
5) LEV GLEASON'S DAREDEVIL: One of my favorite Golden Age
series, this was a great title until the Little Wise Guys
totally took over the book. Worth reprinting, especially the
early issues where DD battled the Claw.
6) THE BLACK KNIGHT: From the 1950s by Joe Maneely. It's
too bad Joe didn't live into the Silver Age. His solid, detailed
artwork would have given Kirby a run for his money.
7) THE YELLOW CLAW: Also from the 1950s. Another legendary
series by the King, Jack Kirby. This probably won't be reprinted
because of the obviuos Cold War content, but I can hope.
Slightly off the subject, I'd love to see a Masterworks of
Marvel Mystery Comics, reprinting at least the Torch and
Sub-Mariner stories, if not the whole book. With the success of
DC's Archive Editions, maybe this one isn't as far-fetched as
one might think.
Anyway, there are my suggestions. The likelihood of Marvel
actually reprinting any of the above is, I realize, incredibly
slim, but I can hope. Thanks for a great column week after week.
Thanks for the suggestions, [name withheld]! I remember reading
some of those Joe Maneely Black Knight stories in the '60s (as
reprints, probably in Marvel Tales or Fantasy Masterpieces) and
being blown away. What a terrible disappointment to learn later
that Maneely had died young.
I'm also curious about Lev Gleason's Daredevil and Yellow Claw,
since I know next to nothing about them. (Wasn't Gleason's DD
deaf?) And, of course, I'd be willing to pay exorbitant amounts of
money for some high-quality Timely reprints of their Big Three
(Torch, Subby and Cap), since the few I've read have simply
whetted my appetite. But I'd only go with an Omega The Unknown
reprint if your suggestion was followed, and that lame Defenders
story was nixed in favor of an ending more in line with what the
series was suggesting.
And Marvel Mystery Comics #1 was recently reprinted in 80-Page
Giant format. Here's more:
The chances Mr. Smith would try to
persuade them in his column to reprint Yellow Claw are slim.
Dear Cap: A few things...
I read the first Just Imagine Stan Lee ... title and I
enjoyed it, although I must confess I like the idea more than
the execution. The tale read like a pastiche of superhero origin
stories. You had (1) the violent death of the beloved parent (2)
of a socially ostracized protagonist who (3) is bullied and (4)
framed for a crime he didn't commit. He then (5) builds body and
mind to the pinnacle of human perfection and (6), makes a
costume. (7) With the help of a genius inventor who augments the
costume with gadgets, our hero (8) gets revenge on his
Twelve issues of this stuff really won't be worth it.
But the other thing that struck me was the hero's name --
Wayne Williams. There is a convicted serial killer by that name
who was accused of the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-81, during
which nearly 30 children between the ages of 7 to 12 died.
Williams was tried for the murders of two adults, but was tied
to the other killings by forensic evidence, and sentenced to two
It's forgotten now, but 20 years ago, that unsolved string
of disappearances was a national sensation. I remember my mother
-- in Baltimore -- going into a frenzy because the CBS Evening
News reported that some child in Atlanta didn't come home from
school; he had visited a friend without telling his family.
Evidently, neither Stan nor anyone at DC remembered that
association with the name, but it hit me just as bluntly as if
he'd called the hero "Jeffrey Dahmer." (But then, I suppose
he'll be forgotten after two decades, too ...)
On a much less morbid note, here are some trade paperback
collections I'd like to see:
1) The early Jonah Hex stories from Weird Western Tales,
drawn by Tony deZuniga and written by John Albano and, later on,
by Michael L. Fleisher.
2) David Michelinie and Gerry Talaoc's run on The Unknown
Soldier in Star Spangled War Stories. Those were nice, tight
tales that put the Soldier in an endless string of
3) "The War That Time Forgot" series from Star Spangled
War Stories, in which, for no discernible reason, various
soldiers, sailors and airmen from World War II found themselves
fighting dinosaurs! (As Jack Kirby once wrote, "DON'T ASK! Just
buy it!") A goofy concept, but rendered by top artists,
including Russ Heath, Neal Adams and Ross Andru/Mike Esposito.
4) A Dr. Strange story arc, circa 1972, in which a
would-be god named Sise-Neg (spell it backward) tries to remake
the world in his own image. As he travels to the past, amassing
greater and greater power, Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo follow,
trying to influence him just like the angel and the devil in all
those hokey cartoons. Some absolutely stunning art by Frank
Brunner and the Crusty Bunkers, here.
5) DC's kiddie titles: Sugar and Spike, Scribbly, Angel
and the Ape, etc.
6) The early Frank Miller Daredevil stories, written by
Roger Mackenzie and inked by Klaus Janson.
7) Not Brand Echh, Marvel's answer to MAD Magazine.
8) Walt Simonson's run on Thor.
9) Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers's run on Detective
10) Some selected story arcs from Batman and Detective
Comics in the '80s, when stories would begin in one title and
end in the other (as the Superman titles did for far too long).
In particular, the introduction of Harvey Bullock, who then was
a corrupt stooge of Boss Rupert Thorne. I'd also like the story
of The Joker's attempt to overthrow the government of Guatemala
(Why? Why ask why?); the Hollywood crime school; and Batman and
Robin's encounter with the Vampiri. The Batman stories were
drawn by Gene Colan and written, if I recall correctly, by Doug
Moench; the Detective stories were drawn by the late, underrated
Don Newton and written, I believe, by Gerry Conway.
11) Some selected story arcs from Superman, before it was
renamed Adventures of Superman. In particular, one from around
issue #304-307 in which Supergirl told Superman he wasn't the
Last Son of Krypton, but a superpowerful mutant -- that Krypton
was a sheer fantasy! The truth, of course, was something else,
but the fun was in unraveling the mystery. I forget the writer,
but it was drawn beautifully (as always) by the underrated Jose
Another arc would be from #296-299, in which Superman
discovers he has no super-powers as Clark Kent! He thinks his
body and mind is rebelling from the secret identity thing, and
decides to try living exclusively in one identity, and then the
other, before permanently choosing which one to settle in.
Unraveling that mystery was fun, too. Written, if I recall
correctly, by Elliott S! Maggin, and drawn by the ever-steady
Curt Swan and Bob Oksner. I'd throw in Superman #300, in which
he's rocketed to Earth as in infant today -- "today" being July,
1976, the cover date of the issue -- and becomes the Man of
Tomorrow in the future -- the "future" being 2001, at the turn
of the millennium. (And if that doesn't make you feel old ...!)
12) And last but not least, the "Acts of Vengeance"
storyline from Avengers, in which the Masters of Evil lay siege
to the mansion. Hard to believe it's been 10 years, but I still
get chills thinking about poor Jarvis being mangled by Mr. Hyde
... and still get misty-eyed at the ending, in which Captain
America finds his mother's picture torn in half.
Excuse me, I think I've got something in my eye ...
That would be your finger, I'm thinking.
Some great suggestions, [withheld] -- although, some have already
been done! The Englehart/Rogers Detectives were recently collected
in TPB, Simonson's Thor was in print at one time, and virtually
all of Miller's Daredevil work has seen reprint in one form or
another. Oh, and the Sise-Neg Dr. Strange arc was partly collected
in, of all places, Marvel's Treasury books! Which is not to say I
wouldn't like them in handy TPB form!
Oh, and I didn't make the Wayne Williams connection at all -- now
I'm REALLY creeped out! Here's more TPB stuff:
Sure, I’ll bet he’s “creeped out”. He
certainly wasn’t when Identity Crisis was published, judging from
the whimsical tone of his awful columns (the correspondent took the
same side he did, BTW). Which, as a result, makes ME feel creeped
Hey Cap: I've really enjoyed reading all of the
suggestions for trade paperbacks. A couple that I'd really like
An Inhumans and a Black Widow featuring their individual
runs in Amazing Adventures. Plus, and someone probably already
mentioned this, Adam Strange from Mystery in Space and Strange
As for lost projects, I'd love to get my hands on the 21
pages of the original JLA/Avengers, plus the 70 pages that
George Perez finished on a Teen Titans Graphic Novel called
Games, and the 13 pages he had completed for Crimson Plague #3.
I'd also love both to see the unpublished issues of Youngblood
by Alan Moore and the Youngblood story that Kurt Busiek wrote
before he and Rob Liefeld had a falling out.
Rob Liefeld said in a recent interview that all the Moore and
Busiek Youngblood material will see print. Of course, he's said
that before. Here's more:
Yawn. Somebody wanted to finance Liefeld?
If he’s the artist to Moore and Busiek’s scriptwriters, then that’s
enough to make me run screaming from the room.
Dear Cap: Hail and greetings. Think I'll address some
of the issues in your current Mailbag, in no particular order
ITEM THE FIRST: Green Arrow and other interactions during
the Grell era -- the only other big interaction I can recall is
during the Eclipso and Bloodlines annuals (and lord, we know how
popular THOSE were, don't we?) I didn't collect GA then -- OK, I
NEVER collected GA except for the (Mike W.) Barr/(Trevor) Von
Eeden miniseries (it wasn't bad ...) So, I don't know about a
lot of other appearances, but that's my fogey recollections ...
ITEM THE SECOND: TPBs I'd like to see. Well, a brief list
(yeah, right ...)
1) Superman's Minis -- The World of Krypton, The Phantom
Zone, The Krypton Chronicles -- I think it'd be fun!
2) Supergirl's arrival on Earth and subsequent
presentation to the public -- it was all reprinted in an 80-Page
Giant once (lo, these many years past) but that Mooney art was
never better, and I think it deserves airing out again.
3) The New Teen Titans -- We could choose from: a
collection of the Tales of the Titans miniseries, the Terra
storyline, the DC Comics Presents preview, the Digest original
story (Wolfman/Infantino), the really good "Runaways" story
(that story MUST be reprinted -- it's too good and too
significant), the Keebler Titans giveaway (it had Speedy and
"The Protector" instead of Kid Flash and Robin), etc.
4) The Doom Patrol -- okay, I'd like to see the final
issues of the Doom Patrol (Arnold Drake/Bruno Premiani), the DP
Showcase run (Levitz?/Staton), the DCCP appearance (???/Giffen
-- this is also the first appearance of Ambush Bug -- well,
anything to sell the book, I guess), the New Titans appearance
of whatever happened to the DP (Wolfman/Perez), and the Secret
Origins Annual story (???/Byrne) -- now THAT'S an esoteric
collection of stories! Oh, let's throw in the Super-Team
Family/Superman Family team up of Supergirl and the Doom Patrol!
5) A Showcase TPB or two -- the introductions of the
Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Atom. (If more is needed,
we could pack in Adam Strange and the Metal Men, but I think
those first dozen books should be enough ...)
6) The best of The Brave and The Bold non-Batman team-ups.
7) The West Coast Avengers -- the miniseries, the first
two books, and the companion Vision/Scarlet Witch books.
8) The Claremont/Byrne Marvel Team-Ups -- in particular, I
remember Spider-Man/Red Sonja quite fondly, and this run also
includes the first John Byrne art on the X-Men. Really.
9) Iron Man -- the first Michelinie/Layton (or
Michelinie/Romita Jr./Layton) run was so darned good that pretty
much anything from this era is worth reprinting. Some of it was,
in The Power of Iron Man TPB, but there is a lot more -- maybe a
run ending up with Iron Man #150 -- Dr. Doom and Iron Man in
That, at least, is a bit of a start of stuff I'd like to
ITEM THE THIRD: "Our Worlds At War" and deaths -- c'mon.
Nobody dies forever in DC comics -- especially if there is the
least amount of profit to be extracted from it. And believe you
me, they went to all the trouble of keeping Ma and Pa Kent alive
-- you'd KNOW if they were going to kill them off. It's too big
a story to be subsumed into a silly little company-wide
crossover -- the profit potential is too big to conflict with
the profit potential of OWAW.
ITEM THE FOURTH: Dream Projects -- sure, I have some I'd
like to have seen. The last issue of 1963. Michelinie/Layton's
third part of the Iron Man/Doom/Camelot trilogy (yes, it's there
-- Layton discusses it on his website.) The two sequels to
Crisis on Infinite Earths -- Crisis of the Soul and the third
Crisis book (if it was named, I've long since forgotten it.)
"Twilight of the Gods" by Alan Moore (basically, his take on
Kingdom Come -- save that I believe his concept predated KC. No
plagiarism is implied -- the two stories are not very much
alike.) Wolverine's origin -- oh, wait! Never mind! :-) Frank
Miller's Superman story (he had one as a companion piece to The
Dark Knight Returns.) The proposal of the alternate Man of Steel
mini -- I heard this as a party around Mid-Ohio Con lo, these
many years past, where some writers (sorry, I don't remember
whom -- but I do recall Mr. Miller was there among others) were
discussing how they would take Earth-One's Superman and, over
the course of a six-issue mini, transform him and his milieu
into what DC wanted, WITHOUT eradicating all the continuity.
Stern and Byrne's continuation of the Captain America storyline,
including the Cap/X-Men crossover and Stern/Byrne's story of Cap
and Logan in WWII. And, just for the sake of curiosity, I'd like
to read the story that would have been printed if "the readers"
had NOT voted to kill Jason (Robin) Todd. And just for the sake
of fun, I'd like to see a release of Canceled Comics Cavalcade
-- the black-and-white Xerox paste-ups of the comics canceled
with the DC Implosion (the last issues of Firestorm, Black
Lightning, Secret Society of Super-Villains, etc.)
ITEM THE FIFTH: Solomon Grundy and Blockbuster -- and let
us not forget that they actually MET once, during a JLA/JSA
crossover (JLA #39-40? Who remembers at this late date?) This
was also one of the JLA books that featured Batman in VERY
PROMINENT COVER position, trying to capitalize on the TV show.
ITEM THE SIXTH: Favorite obscure titles. Well, that's kind
of tough, but let me think ...
Starman (Stern's version -- Will Payton) I don't know how
obscure this book is, but I know I can get almost a complete run
out of dime or quarter bins -- and that's a crying shame,
because Stern did a real bang-up job on this book! This was a
companion piece to Stern's other "introductory" DC title (when
he started writing for DC), and that was ...
Power of the Atom -- A nice book, great treatment of Ray
Palmer, changing his powers so that he was functional at any
size, without making him overwhelmingly tough, and really well
West Coast Avengers (miniseries) -- By Roger Stern and Bob
Hall. This kicked off a whole new leg of the Avengers, and while
Bob Hall is no Neal Adams or Alex Ross, his art was clean, clear
and it looks like real people (oh, boy, let's not start THAT
Nightcrawler (the miniseries) by Dave Cockrum -- gee, this
was just a HECK of a good time! It was great fun -- if you can
find it in the quarter boxes (I've seen it more than a few
times), it's well worth it!
The New Teen Titans -- Okay, now you wouldn't think of
this as an obscure title, but I see it ALL THE TIME in quarter
boxes -- so I guess it must be obscure!
ITEM THE SEVENTH: Just a quick note to join in your call
-- I also cannot stand Foolkiller, Lobo, Deadpool, The Punisher,
etc. Believe me, if Batman and Superman should have been
fighting when they met, then Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the
Avengers, etc., should have these clowns at the top of the
Wanted lists. I agree; anti-heroes are just that, and killers
ITEM THE EIGHTH: The first married superheroes: Okay,
technically, Elongated Man and Sue Dibny were shown as married
-- but as of Flash #123, we saw that A) Jay Garrick was married
and B) had been married for quite a while -- does this count in
our calculations, or did it have to be "on screen"?
ITEM THE NINTH: I will concur (FWIW) that World of Krypton
was the first miniseries (unless we're counting books that ran
for five or six issues, and were listed as "try-outs" -- in
which case, most every arc of Showcase could be considered a
Thanks as always for consideration of my (excessive)
And thanks for your thoughts, […]! I think you'll be pleased to
hear that a Supergirl Archives (featuring her first Action
appearances chronologically) should be out later this year. Oh,
and the Showcase/Brave & Bold debuts of Atom, Flash, Green
Lantern, Hawkman, Justice League, et al, have already been
included in the Archives of those characters, respectively -- but
there's no law that we couldn't have a Showcase or B&B Archive
for characters unlikely to get their own separate Archives, like
Cave Carson, Rip Hunter and I -- Spy!
And, yeah, I'm discounting Jay Garrick (and other Golden Age
heroes) who were depicted retroactively as being married before
Ralph & Sue Dibny. Almost arbitrarily, I'm saying that to be
the First Married Superhero that it has to be "on camera" and
occur within regular continuity where the hero continues his
crime-fighting hobby with the ring on. So the Golden Agers don't
count, unless we SAW the wedding IN CONTINUITY. Which, by those
strict and arcane rules, leaves the Elongated Man as the first
hero to tie the knot.
Here's more on "Our Worlds At War":
Interestingly, the correspondent didn’t
have any serious objections to Identity Crisis any more than Mr.
Smith did. In fact, he didn’t seem particularly galled by the awful
treatment Ray Palmer and Jean Loring got in IC either. That could
explain why he never seemed to bring these kind of topics up again
I also wonder if he has no problem with characters turned into
ghosts. Point: you can’t get much mileage or development out of a
ghost, and what worked for Casper doesn’t work for everybody else.
Hey Cap: I read Wonder Woman #172 last night. Wow!
Wasn't expecting that. And I always hated the idea of having two
Wonder Women running around. It totally caught me off guard.
Anyway, I've been reading most of the "Our Worlds At War"
titles except the Superman titles. (I know the whole crossover
begins and ends with Superman, but I've just never been a huge
My question is: When "Our Worlds At War" is finished,
could you provide a nice recap of what all happened for those of
us who aren't reading every book in this crossover where the
reader supposedly doesn't have to read every book to understand
it? I'm particularly interested in a final list of the dead.
So far I have: Guy Gardner, Aquaman and Hippolyta. But
I've heard that several others have died in those Superman
titles that I'm not reading.
That's the second request I've had for a list of casualties from
OWAW, […] -- and I'll be happy to provide one, if some eager
beaver Legionnaire doesn't beat me to it and send one in! (That's
an open request, by the way.)
At the moment, I'd add to your list Ma & Pa Kent, who are at
least MIA at the moment. As of this writing I haven't read the
July Super-books yet (I've been out of town), so there are quite a
few I've missed so far.
Hmm, no complaints about death-in-battles
used as a plot device, eh?
Sorry, Cap, but I have to take exception with you on
<<Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja #1-16 was about, yes, a
ninja, trained by the CIA to be so good he could break steel
with his hands and so forth. It wasn't memorable enough for me
to remember anything more.>>
While I shared your initial cynicism about this title when I
first picked up the initial issue in a drugstore way back when,
I soon became enthralled by the title. Far from being a CIA
ninja tale (hmm, as was EVERY Wolverine story for the past 10
years, I think), Nth Man was far more. First, it was set in a
post-WWIII world. Second, the protagonist had an interesting
bete noir: his twin brother, who just so happened to have
complete control over reality and was also completely
unbalanced. The stories thus generated from this concept melded
sci-fi, horror, action, adventure, humor and superheroics in a
surprisingly effective package. Throw in some ironic references
for comics fanboys, and a finale which wrapped up all the loose
ends quite well, and Nth Man was a winner.
Give it another read -- you won't be disappointed.
You've convinced me, [withheld] -- such enthusiasm must be based
on something! I'll dig those babies out and give 'em a re-read one
of these days. Thanks -- and don't apologize for having a
different opinion! We love differing opinions here on
CaptainComics.net, the comics site for people who hate comics
Oh, sure they love different opinions. If
they’d employed more people of right-wing backgrounds, maybe they’d
have a better image, but left-wingers like those can’t be relied on
for much of anything. Onto August 9, 2001, beginning with one about
the passing of the late John Buscema:
Dear Cap: This is hugely tragic news. A celebration
of the man is in order (a tribute, if you will) while he is
still with us.
To me he is what Curt Swan is to Superman, Jim Aparo is to
Batman, John Romita is to Spider-Man and (for others I'm sure)
Carl Barks is to the Ducks -- "Big John" is the Good Conan
Artist (as big a fan of the Barry Smith Conan I am).
You are loved, Big John!
The Captain is so distraught he is almost speechless. He
encourages everyone touched by Buscema's art to write to his
family, using the address on the home page.
Now for some thoughts on "Our Worlds At War":
Sure he was distraught.
Sure even the correspondent was. From what I can tell, Smith’s never
been respectful in this century of Buscema’s hard work any more than
he’s been of Gardner Fox and Gil Kane’s work. He had no business
even addressing this topic to start with.
Dear Cap: I'm going to have to insist on revising the
"published" casualty list so far on your site. In last week's
issue of Superman, an orderly in the "superhero hospital" asks,
"what can we use for Vuldarian plasma?" So, despite what Booster
Gold said, Guy Gardner is not (yet) actually dead. Also, when
asked about Aquaman being in the JLA/Avengers crossover now that
he's gone, Mike Carlin said that Aquaman is actually MIA, so it
shouldn't be a problem. The only character we can truly say
without a doubt is dead is Hippolyta. And even then, I don't
Good points, […], which I mirrored in a recent CBG column (due to
be published around the last week of August). I suspect that
Aquaman, Guy Gardner, Lobo, Ma & Pa Kent, Strange
Visitor/Kismet and a few others will find their way back to the
land of the living. On the other hand, it looks likely that
Hippolyta, Sam Lane and possibly Steel are really and truly dead.
We'll have to wait and see. And speaking about who's dead and
Before we get to that, how fascinating
that neither Smith nor the correspondent have what it takes to
complain how stupid this is that DC’s putting an emphasis on killing
off characters to begin with. And these are some of the same people
who complain about how hard it was to comprehend anything about
Crisis on Infinite Earths! So COIE is below criticism, but OWAW is
above it? I fail to see the logic here.
Dear Captain: Just sending you a line to complain
about an unfair trend I'm noticing. Why does everybody mock the
casualties in OWAW and sneer at the way DC handles the deaths of
its characters? I know that this is comics and the chestnut
"They aren't dead unless you see a body" is true, but I think
the wrong company is being maligned here.
Granted, people often complain about the characters DC
chooses to kill and the way they do it, but (at) DC, dead is
typically dead. Jor-El and Lara, Thomas and Martha Wayne, Jason
Todd, Sarah Essen, Atom (Al Pratt), Sandman (Wesley Dodds),
Hourman (Rex Tyler), Dr. Mid-Nite (Charles McNider), Mr.
Terrific (Terry Sloan), Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal
Jordan), Starman (Ted Knight), etc. In fact, the only DC
character who hasn't stayed dead in recent memory is Green
Arrow. (I don't count Hal Jordan. Yes, he is The Spectre now,
but he is also still dead, no more alive than Boston Brand.)
Over at Marvel the only character that is guaranteed to
stay dead is Bucky (and even that was almost overturned in
Thunderbolts last year.) When I read about Hippolyta and Sam
Lane dying, my reaction was, "Oh my God, they're gone!" With the
Silver Surfer it was, "Ho-hum, he'll be back."
That's why I prefer DC over Marvel. It's the reputation
that DC has built. When someone gets paralyzed, they stay
paralyzed. When a city gets demolished, it stays demolished for
the better part of a year. That's what is keeping DC up front
even in the new Marvel Age of Quesada. OWAW will change the DC
Universe for better or for worse. So before we throw out the,
"Yeah, like they'll stay dead" comments during this storyline,
let's keep in mind which company has a tendency to make the
"events" (birth, marriage, death, etc.) matter. Thanks for the
time to rant.
Three words, [withheld]: Death. Of. Superman.
That 1993 event was world famous -- and just as famously
temporary. You have to forgive some cynicism after that malarkey.
And what's this about Marvel not keeping folks dead? Aside from
Bucky, you've got Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, Captain Stacy, Kraven the
Hunter, Colossus, Thunderbird I, Franklin Storm, Junior Juniper,
Pamela Hawley, Karen Page, Heather Glenn, Captain Marvel I,
Mockingbird, Betty Ross Banner, Bluebird, Lady Dorma, Microchip,
Marrina, Mariko Yashida … and that's just off the top of my head!
Which isn't to say there haven't been umpty-ump Aunt Mays and
Green Goblins in there, making us grind our teeth through another
ridiculous resuscitation. It's just that I don't think you can
single out one company over the other. Superhero comics often
emulate soap-opera formula, where death is usually more plot
device than the tragic end it is for us flesh-and-blood types. And
with the promiscuous cross-pollination of talent between the two
companies, they resemble each other more and more every day.
Which is not to say I fault you for loyalty to DC -- that's your
privilege, and I salute you for your passion. But if anything
separates the two companies, it's not their cavalier treatment of
death, which goes in cycles at both brands depending on who's in
Of course, that's just my opinion -- I could be wrong! Here's more
He’s long been wrong. He also has no
ability to distinguish between deaths that were written well and
those that were written offensively or just plain dismally, all for
shock’s sake. Nor does he suggest alternatives. Totally bankrupt.
<<The ultimate casualty of Our Worlds At War could be
Superman's cheerful, mid-century American optimism -- Captain
That would be a real tragedy. If Superman becomes just another
cynical, dark, morose character, then it'll be the last I read
any of those books.
The world is a lot more dark and cynical these days. What
is refreshing to me about Superman, is that, despite all that,
he manages to keep a positive outlook and hope for the future. I
wouldn't expect him not to be affected by the apparent death of
his parents ... there should be a mourning period. But Clark's
character is such that it shouldn't be a permanent change in his
I have to agree with you […] -- if Superman became hard-bitten,
pessimistic and downbeat, he wouldn't be Superman. He'd be Batman.
For that reason alone, I suspect that what we'll see is Superman
struggling for some time with the repercussions of OWAW,
especially if Ma & Pa kicked the bucket -- a mourning period,
as you called it. And the aftermath will certainly complicate his
marriage, since he failed to save Lois's father when it was within
his power to do so. And certainly Wonder Woman will be no help, in
mourning herself for her mother. (Boy, this crossover was hard on
But if Jeph Loeb & Co. write true to character -- and there's
no reason to believe the estimable Loeb will suddenly become a
lousy writer overnight -- we'll see Superman's true heroism win
out over pessimism, depression and despair. After all, anybody can
be a good guy when things are going smoothly. It takes a mensch to
rise above travail, and Superman is, of course, the Uber-Mensch.
Of course, that's just my opinion -- I could be wrong!
Honestly, when has Loeb ever written true
to character? Better yet, when has he ever even written anything
worthwhile? His Hush storyline in Batman was one of the most vapid,
overrated trivias ever published, for nothing more than eye candy.
And Superman did become more or less pessimistic and written very
embarrassingly when Identity Crisis was published, ditto when a
storyline where Wonder Woman broke Max Lord’s neck was written by
Greg Rucka, where Superman was depicted turning WW into a scapegoat,
acting like it didn’t matter to him that she’d broken a mind-control
effect before Supes could end up causing real chaos under the
influence of a co-star who was being written forcibly as a villain.
Whatever the exact viewpoint of that tale, it was definitely not
written for the cause of optimism.
Dear Cap: I really like your site! I had thoughts on
a couple of things I read about there.
1) In discussing anthologies, you suggested that kids of
today might not have the attention span necessary to make it
through an 80-Page Giant. I'm not so sure. My nine-year-old son
just finished churning through all nine of the volumes of the
Legion Archives I have, in about two weeks -- and he wants more.
It gives me hope for the future.
2) Someone suggested that people share ideas for
bargain-bin shopping. Here's mine. If you have a collector's
completist-type mentality, you have the opportunity to find
complete sets of several entire universes! Most of these are
dirt cheap, and the stories are often surprisingly good. For
example: (a) the first Valiant Universe, especially Archer and
Armstrong, (b) Malibu Ultraverse, (c) Marvel's New Universe, (d)
Marvel's 2099, (e) Defiant and (f) Broadway. I'm proud to say I
have (or think I have) all of the stories from a, b, c, e and f
(not all the comics -- some of the stories are in TPBs), and the
vast majority of them came from the cheapo bin. That gives me a
strangely warm feeling. A comic like Eternal Warrior looks a lot
better at 25 cents than it does at two bucks. (I don't have a
complete set of 2099 yet because I refuse to pay more than a
pittance for issues of Ghost Rider 2099.) I've had a lot of fun
with this approach, and heartily recommend it.
3) I've been suspecting that the Marvel character with a
long history that was going to die would be Namor, who must have
more failed relaunches than any other Marvel character, and
who's always been kind of a pain in the neck. The Silver Surfer,
on the other hand, had a pretty long run, so I'd be surprised if
he's gone for good (even if it always kind of a dopey concept).
I'm glad you enjoy the site! Makes the work worth it!
1) I'm glad to hear about your son. And certainly '60s-'70s Legion
is a terrific book to launch a youngster into the wonderful world
of reading for pleasure -- it's complicated but not complex (all
those characters), it's accessible and it's generally upbeat.
Plus, it's got Superboy as entry point -- every kid knows who
2) Good suggestions on quarter-bin material. Some of those Valiant
and Malibu books were pretty good.
3) Now we know: The dead '60s character is Odin. Surfer,
presumably, will be resurrected after the events of Fantastic Four
While I appreciate the correspondent’s
success in offering the Silver/Bronze Age LOSH to his son – tales
from those periods are something far better than what you’ll see
today under DiDio’s regime – I’m a bit bothered by his
recommendation of Archer & Armstrong, which strikes me as at
least a bit pretentious. I can’t say the 2099 line’s the best
And Silver Surfer a "dopey" concept? Sorry, I gotta disagree there.
It's just the writing efforts that matter.
Dear Cap: Enjoyed your column in CBG #1446 about
comic periodicals vs. trade collections, and the future of
comics. I kept waiting for you to make a point, and raise a
question for discussion that I have addressed in an earlier
e-mail to you.
Do we have history repeating itself here? In the '30s,
standard-format comics began as collections of newspaper strips.
When the format became viable, then original material took over,
newspaper reprints were abandoned, and an industry was born.
Today, we see the birth of the comics trade business, and
it begins as reprints of the last format. How long before we see
standard Spider-Man, Superman, or X-Men stories appear for the
first and only time as a trade, and lead to the demise of the
monthly periodical appearance of the standard heroes?
Is this not where we are headed?
And my answer, [name withheld], is: I dunno. Certainly the
parallel is compelling, but several things would have to happen
first. For one thing, comics would have to become a mass medium
again, so that there'd be enough people buying original TPBs to
replace the consistent revenue the monthlies provide. Secondly,
the price point would have to come down on trades -- at $15-20 a
pop even your humble narrator, junkie that he is, wouldn't be able
to buy more than a couple a week. I'd be reading less, and the
publishers would be making less, and if you spread that across
Fandom Assembled the publishers would be feeling a serious net
Which is not to say it couldn't happen. As the Chinese say, we are
living in interesting times. Here's another thought on the
Unfortunately, we’re still stuck on the
pamphlet mentality, mostly because knee-jerk dummies like Mr. Smith
are uninterested in improving the medium for the better.
Dear Cap: Your opinions/insight, please: Now that
Marvel has finally realized the value of TPBs in the
evolving comic-book market, do you think it's affected the
editorial direction to produce stronger story arcs in the
company's regular monthly titles? Is this the end of
Claremont-esque, drawn-out-forever mystery plot lines? For that
matter, have DC editors/writers also been driven to craft their
tales in longer, self-contained chunks with an eye towards the
reprint market? And doesn't it bug you when people spell
"toward" with an extra "s" tagged on the end?
Not nearly as much as it bothers me when they use the non-word
"amidst" in lieu of "amid" or "in the midst." But don't get me
started on America's declining ability to use spelling, grammar
and punctuation correctly -- my rant about improper use of
apostrophes alone would test the Pope's patience.
Anyway, to answer your question: Yes. Writers are being encouraged
to write in four-issue and six-issue arcs. Not that many need the
encouragement anyway; savvy writers have been writing with an eye
toward TPB reprint (and the extra income that would generate) for
quite some time. As mentioned on this site a few weeks ago, Neil
Gaiman admitted years ago that he tailored the pacing of his final
Sandman arc to read better as a TPB than it did as a monthly book.
Both Grant Morrison and Joe Casey have said in online interviews
that they are specifically writing their respective X-books as
TPBs that just happen to have initial publication broken up into
Will this spell the end of the Claremontian Neverending Subplot?
Well, I certainly HOPE so! I'm no soothsayer, but I suspect that
approach to comics writing is on its way out anyway, and the
burgeoning demands of the TPB market will put the final nail in
that coffin. But comics tend to be cyclical -- I can't say for
sure what the future will bring. Other opinions are welcome.
Here are some more TPB suggestions:
This would’ve been funny if not for how
they ignore a very huge mistake that they’re practically hinting at:
not only has Marvel produced WEAKER storylines, they’ve practically
padded them out for the sake of trade paperback sales too. To the
point where 4 issues is not enough for them; only 6 issues or more
will do, and they’ve practically forced many writers to go along
with it. Brian Bendis is the writer who really took things way too
far with padding (and “decompressed” may be another way to describe
the overlong stories we see now). I wouldn’t go so far to say we’ve
seen the last of Neverending Claremontian Subplots either, though we
may have seen the last of Claremont in the medium, since he doesn’t
seem to have written for them since 2010. He needn’t have to bother
either, because the editorial mandates that make the storytelling
additionally distasteful would only botch his now tepid writing all
Oh, by the way, it sure bothers me that some newspapers are willing
to hire ultra-leftist, anti-war reporters like the one who wrote the
letter. I’ll never understand how they reconcile their views with
the fact many mainstream superhero books were created by Jews
Captain Comics: Glad to see my Ka-Zar question
answered – and with a graphic, too! I’ve always wondered about
that. As for trade paperbacks I’d like to see:
1) Sword of the Atom: I’ve mentioned this to you before.
Besides Gil Kane’s eye-popping fantasy art, the Sword of the
Atom miniseries was a radically different take on Atom, placing
him in a sword-and-sorcery setting that was a refreshing change
of pace. He seemed more human to me here than in any other
previous Atom tale, a man filled with anger and guilt over his
wife’s adultery. Top-drawer characterization and storytelling,
quite “adult” for its time. There were three specials after the
miniseries, two of which I have but are somewhat inferior to the
2) Ka-Zar the Savage by Bruce Jones and Brent Anderson: An
underrated run of relatively grown-up adventure comics from the
3) The Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden: I’m
sorry to hear about Bill Mantlo. Since Marvel doesn’t own the
rights to The Micronauts, this probably won’t be reprinted,
right? What happened to the proposed Micronauts cartoon?
4) “Forgotten Heroes”: How about a trade paperback
focusing on the debuts of Torpedo, Jack of Hearts, the 3-D Man,
etc? Was the 3-D Man was only in one Marvel tale?
5) Suicide Squad: I loved this book, and I’m missing
6) Warlord by Mike Grell: Another under-appreciated
fantasy book. Grell drew some of the most gorgeous women in
7) The Mighty Crusaders: Don’t ask me why, but I have a
fondness for those old Archie superhero titles. Are the Mighty
Crusaders appearing in comics again?
8) Hercules by Bob Layton: Hysterically funny; I’ve never
seen Galactus drunk before -- or since.
9) Lev Gleason's Daredevil: I've only heard stories about
this book -- and panels of kids smoking cigarettes. I believe
Daredevil beats up or kills a wife-beater in one issue. EC
Comics received all of the credit for pushing the envelope.
10) Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay: See above.
That’s all for now!
Thanks, […] -- cool suggestions, including some I'd love to see. I
know next to nothing about Lev Gleason's Daredevil, and would
really like to learn.
As to your questions, 3-D Man had only one solo tryout adventure
in Marvel Premiere #35-37, but has popped up in some cameos, such
as the "What If the Avengers Formed in the '50s" issue of What If,
and, I think, Avengers Forever. I don't recall if he appeared in
John Byrne's Marvel: The Lost Generation, but I'd be surprised if
he didn't. And keep an eye on the current run of Avengers;
apparently Triathlon has some connection to 3-D Man that is a
And the Mighty Crusaders appear in Arche's Weird Mysteries
periodically, as well as the Super Teens specials on occasion.
I like the correspondent’s recommendation
of SOTA. It’s since been reprinted, and I own a copy myself. But
don’t buy into the notion Mr. Smith backs his standing, because he
already spread lies and/or put down the story just because it
supposedly places Ray Palmer in a setting that he thinks is
worthless. Shame on him.
I also think Grell’s Warlord is a good recommendation, though I’m
still very angry at Grell for a very gushing comment he made during
an interview he gave about a botched Iron Man story he’d written
where he thought making a guest character an Islamist was something
to be proud of. It makes no difference whether it was before or
after 9-11, that would be reprehensible at any time. Not to mention
it completely ignored the real story about the Bosnia war (in fact,
it even ignored the mindset of Sulejman Talovic).
Captain, hello: I just want to say how much I enjoy
your site. I just discovered by reading about in your review in
CrossGen Chronicles # 2. I just discovered CrossGen comics, much
to my delight. I was reading back through some of your earlier
Trivial Pursuits. In the Jan. 18 one I believe someone asked you
about the next two books in a Spider-Man trilogy. The first one
was The Gathering of the Sinister Six. A new publishing company
has just picked the Marvel contract a few months back. In fact,
The Revenge of the Sinister Six, the second volume of the
trilogy was published in June 2001 with the last scheduled for
publishing sometime early next year. Hope this helps, I look
forward to enjoying your site each week in the future.
Thanks for writing, [name withheld]! Believe it or not, the WRITER
of said books wrote this site a few weeks back, noting that
publication had been resumed. So maybe he'll be reading your
comments and know of at least one more fan out there!
While the erstwhile CG had some potential
that was sadly failed because of Alessi’s shoddy business
proceedings, I don’t think Mr. Smith’s qualified to recommend
Dear Captain: I read your review of the Bat-titles in
a recent CBG with great interest. I do not frequent Internet
message boards or chat rooms. In the past, I have found too many
of them to be forums for cynical fans to spout negative comments
about titles that hadn't even been published yet. I enjoy
visiting your site and reading the reviews there. They seem to
be thoughtful critiques of recent stories, rather than the "That
was stupid" mantra that I have encountered when trying to get
some online fans to discuss current issues.
Anyhoo, I was surprised to read that some fans have found
the current depiction of Batman to be unemotional. While he is
certainly not as talkative as he was in the 1980s and even under
Alan Grant's long tenure in the 1990s, he seems to me to be a
much more open character under the guidance of Grayson, Rucka
and Brubaker in the Bat-books and Waid in JLA than he has been
since the days of "Knightfall."
I found the depiction of the Dark Knight to be so
oppressively morbid under the team of Moench and Gulacy, and
even Dixon and Nolan for part of their run on Detective, that I
quit reading all but Batman Adventures. Do you remember when
Bruce adopted the "new" costume design that was supposedly so
different and scary that Tim didn't even recognize him at first?
It was supposed to be a hallmark of a grimmer Batman, yet he
looked exactly the same despite the writers' insistence that the
costume was different. How about when a love interest was
introduced for Harvey Bullock, only to be killed in the same
issue? I still vividly remember the final page of that issue in
which Bruce, once again, swears to the gods that no more
innocents would die. I'm all for a driven Batman, but not one
who shouts his barbaric cry of vengeance from the rooftops on a
Fortunately, with the current creative teams, we don't get
scenes like that on anything resembling a regular basis. Under
Grayson's tenure on Gotham Knights, we have been treated to
Batman's in-depth introspection about himself in the form of his
secret files. (I'll admit it. Up until the end of that story I
thought those journals were being written by Clark, based on the
fact that Grayson wrote the Superman guest shots during NML.)
We've seen him finally acknowledge Dick as his son. Most
recently, we've seen him deal with his loneliness in a quite
endearing manner via the issue guest-starring Aquaman. While he
may not be pouring out his heart to the Bat-crew, plot elements
like the secret files and actions such as officially declaring
Dick his heir, open the character's thoughts and emotions up to
us readers. Although in the most recent issue of Robin, he does
open up to Spoiler in yet another fascinating development.
Sure, he seemed a bit cold when Dick told him about his
relationship with Barbara. However, I found his reaction to be
one of unfamiliarity with how to deal with the development
rather than interpreting it as disinterest or disapproval. He's
never had a stable relationship of his own. How could he know
what the proper reaction should be?
I realize that most of my opinions regarding Gotham
Knights are a matter of interpretation of the art and dialogue.
However, I think Batman's emotions are
tangibly displayed in Detective and Batman. In Tec, I
think the shift in attitude was most evident during the recent
"Lord of the Ring" storyline. Reading the
scene in which Bats and Supes reveal their scheme to Lois
was an absolute delight. This is a far cry from the antagonistic
relationship established by Byrne in Man of Steel. In fact, this
issue took me back to my personal Golden Age of comics when
Superman would regularly drop by the Batcave to consult on a
case. I was especially delighted by JLA #50, which was
predominantly composed of Bruce and Clark finally hashing out
their differences in the Batcave and ending up on the
friendliest terms the characters have shared since the Crisis.
In both stories, Batman is SMILING, for crying out loud. We
never saw that in the mid- to late 1990s.
Over in Batman, Brubaker has brought first-person
narration back to the book and in doing so has let us back into
Bruce's head and heart. Brubaker has also given us some fun
scenes between Bats and Commissioner Akins, especially in the
OWAW special. Here again we see Batman actually smiling, this
time in recognition of a kindred spirit.
I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their
opinions regarding anything and everything, including the
current characterization of the Dark Knight. I can tell you that
this lifelong fan is receiving great pleasure from reading the
core books and from getting to grok my favorite character all
Thanks for "listening."
And thanks for writing, [withheld]!
Like you, I don't find Batman's current characterization
unemotional so much as unsocialized. He DOES feel things, but is
unaccustomed by habit and social ineptitude to expressing it in
socially acceptable ways. As I've said before, Olympic athletes
give up quite a few "normal" activities to become world-class at
ONE thing, whereas Batman is world-class at EVERYTHING. One can
easily imagine that he's spent every waking moment studying and
training -- as opposed to the rest of us, who spent that time
interacting with others and learning social graces. Well,
Anyway, I find this interesting on a number of levels: 1) It makes
Batman's virtually superhuman abilities more believable when the
cost of attaining them is apparent; 2) it demonstrates the depth
of Bruce Wayne's sacrifice in the service of others; 3) it makes
the Dark Knight a more complex, multi-layer character whose
silences challenge the reader; 4) it makes Batman less
picture-perfect in that there is one thing he's no darn good at it
(expressing affection, a not uncommon failing among American men);
and 5) it challenges the writers. On that last point, writing
Batman culls the wheat from the chaff -- Rucka, Grayson and Dixon
have proven themselves superior writers in their handling of this
complex, non-verbal character, whereas others have failed
I was almost moved to tears during the "adoption" scene.
Nightwing's clumsy "confession" of his relationship with Oracle
was deft. Batman's brusque response was perfectly in character --
in HIS mind he approved (and he was certainly aware of the
relationship already and had taken no steps to end it), so why
belabor the point? Nightwing's outrage was also in character for
this passionate young man, followed by Batman's almost palpable
discomfort and confusion that his tacit approval had been
misinterpreted as indifference. And, finally, both his love for
Dick Grayson and his almost superhuman ability to plan ahead were
both demonstrated by having the adoption papers signed and sealed
in advance. What a show!
I do understand other readers' visceral reactions -- we all have
an image in our minds of who Batman is and how he ought to act,
usually based on our first exposure to the character from our own
personal Golden Age. But different points of view is what makes
for good discussions -- and we wouldn't be having these
discussions if we all weren't Bat-fans through and through.
Thanks again for your thoughts! One thing, though -- weren't the
"journal entry" voiceovers in early issues of Gotham Knights
eventually shown to be written by Hugo Strange? Or are we talking
about two different things?
Sigh. What a shame that the correspondent
thought Moench and Dixon’s writing wasn’t great, yet he, along with
Mr. Smith, thought Rucka, Brubaker and Grayson were? I wouldn’t go
that far. Mainly because of what utter tripe Rucka and Brubaker
cooked up later in Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive, a crossover that
wasted more money than it must’ve made. As for Grayson, there may
have been a few stories she wrote that were interesting, but she
soon stumbled, and her writing on Nightwing was truly awful.
Especially a story where a character she came up with called
Tarantula raped Nightwing on a rooftop! Amazingly enough, Grayson
actually apologized for that embarrassment in 2014, which is more
than can be said for Brad Meltzer, who’s never apologized for
Identity Crisis to date, nor has he ever donated money to a charity
for abuse victims, unlike artist Frank Cho, who did. Now for August
Hey, Cap'n: On the subject of Odin and his "death," I
had always been of the mind that Valhalla, Hel, Nifleheim,
Breidablik, Himinbjorg and the other halls of the gods were more
or less for MORTALS who deserved to go there, and that the
afterlives of the gods were not known, and therefore
Now, being that this is Odin of the Marvel Thor, there's
nothing preventing the writers/editors of the book to go ahead
and shunt the old boy to Valhalla, though it'd seem a bit odd
for him to end up in his own hall ("I'm not just the president,
I'm a client!"). Except when (Walt) Simonson was writing,
adherence to the mythology has never been Marvel's strong suit.
I also keep wondering, what about all the other Norse gods
that are getting short shrift in the book. What about Frey? Tyr?
Skadhi? Ullr? These gods have wonderful personalities that could
provide fresh perspective in the book, yet they're not even
back-ups, relegating that task to the fairly dull Warriors
At least Marvel has somewhat retconned away a mistake,
according to their website. Loki is now the "adopted son" of
Odin, now admitting that Loki's father was Farbauti, not Odin.
It kinda chafed me that Loki was constantly being referred to as
Thor's "half-brother," when actually Loki is closer to being an
uncle, since he and Odin are brothers by blood-oath, according
to the Eddas.
I am somewhat interested in what Marvel does with Thor now
that his dad's dead. There's some historical evidence (don't
tell me where, I'm getting that second-hand) that suggests that
Thor was getting close to supplanting Odin as chief of the gods,
at least in the minds of the Norse people, shortly before
Christianity came in and made a blunder of everything
(OPINION!). Thor was always more popular with the farmers and
working class, which were greater in number than the nobles and
scholars/alchemists, who favored Odin as a fellow leader and
seeker-of-wisdom. This comic development, in a way, reflects the
changes that might have happened had the missionaries ignored
Scandinavia for a couple more centuries.
Anywho, just thought I'd add my own heathen opinion to the
mix, so take it easy, and don't take any wooden gods!
Or Woden goods?
Anyway, your letter indicates that you know full well that the
Marvel Norse gods only hold a passing resemblance to those of
Snorri's Elder Eddas. Heck, the blond, intelligent Thunderer of
Marvel's mythology bears little resemblance to the red-haired
halfwit of Norse mythology in any circumstance -- regardless of
whether Logi is his half-brother or his half-uncle. And he's the
Anyway, to answer your queries:
Tyr has shown up before in Marvel's mythology. (And for those who
don't know this, Tyr is very important figure, the Aesir war god,
for whom Tuesday is named. See: Fenrir, sometimes Fenris.) In Stan
Lee's mythology, he was just another god. In Roy Thomas and Gerry
Conway's mythology, he was a bad guy. In recent years he hasn't
been mentioned. Frey has shown up, sometimes as Freyr, sometimes
as Freya, sometimes as brother/sister Frey and Freya. It hasn't
been consistent or useful for this conversation. (Although they've
often been referred to as Vanir and not Aesir under Thomas's
aegis, for what that's worth. That goes along somewhat with
Snorri.) The other gods you've mentioned haven't been used, but
Odin's brothers, Bori and (mumble, mumble, somebody), have been
(during, of course, the Thomas reign, and once again under
Conway). Then there's Ullr, called Uller in Marvel Comics, who had
a short stint. Skadhi, as far as I know, has made no appearances,
unless his name was altered.
As to Odin's death, I'll give you points on mentioning Muspelheim
and etc. The nine worlds were just that in the Eddas, and their
various functions were important. But in Marvel mythology, you've
got two shots: Valhalla and Hel (the Christian heaven and hell).
And we've seen how they work. Various characters go to Hel if
they've been bad guys (Skurge, Kurse, Malekith, Melodi). If you're
a good guy you go to Valhalla (Honir, the brother of Hogun). And
you get to keep hanging around; there is little barrier between
the nine worlds. It's a revolving door.
You're right that Marvel has always avoided the good stuff in the
Eddas. I attribute that to Stan Lee, who was a
Shakespearean/modern guy and not a Norse expert. That's why we
have the Warriors Three, Volstagg (Falstaff), Fandral (Errol
Flynn) and Hogun (Charles Bronson). Lee drew on his OWN mythology
to populate Asgard, instead of trying to be accurate to the Elder
Eddas. After all, as mentioned, he transmogrified the main
character -- Thor -- into something other than what he was in the
actual Scandinavian mythology. Lee didn't hold to any of the
literature (aside from the names, and some vague connection to
relationships), and tried to tell Stan Lee stories instead of
Snorri Snurlisson stories. That's not necessarily a bad thing;
it's just what he did. And he did make Thor a household name
And speaking of that, it's arguably true that Thor overtook Odin
as the main figure in historical Norse mythology toward the end;
Icelanders were wearing Hammers of Thor and not Woden symbols in
1,000 A.D. -- and Thor took Odin's place as Sky God/Jupiter/Jesus
in those days. Of course, it's arguable the Scandinavians did so
because it was easy to turn the Hammer upside down and make it
look like a cross to appease the Christians. And those were
violent, rough days, with violent, rough Christians to deal with.
From 700-900, German and French and Roman Christians were teaching
Scandinavians to "turn the other cheek" by killing them if they
didn't. The Icelanders wisely decided in 1,000 A.D. to go with the
flow. But I'm curious: Why didn't you mention the warrior/Viking
class in old Scandinavian society that worshipped Thor? Sure, you
and I know that the women and slaves and religious/lawyer class
were the guys who were really running the show 24/7 in Denmark,
Sweden and Norway while the Thor-types were off a'viking most of
the year -- but aulde Scandinavian society lived in terror of and
dependency on those guys. They were an important part of that
society (and the rest of the world!) too. And they were the
strongest adherents to the Thor mythology.
Anyway, history aside, Marvel's mythology is that Good Guys go to
Valhalla, and can drop by any time. So, theoretically, Odin and
Honir can pop in at Asgard for mead. Even though, as you note,
Odin hanging out in Valhalla instead of just being absentee
landlord is theologically questionable. But this is Marvel Comics,
not Snorri Sturlisson.
And, boy, I'm gonna get a lot of letters from Scandinavians on
You’ll also get one from an
American-Israeli who finds your MO utterly distasteful from a modern
perspective. Frankly, I don’t see why he’s making a fuss over Lee’s
take of liberties with Norse mythology. Simultaneously, I find it
disappointing how the correspondent put down the Warriors Three.
They all had impressive personalities, and made for very good
co-stars in Marvel’s take on Asgard. Perhaps if Volstagg were real,
he should have a word or two with Mr. Smith…
Dear Cap: If memory serves me correctly, I recall
that 3-D Man appeared, or was referenced, in ROM. Wasn't there
was some kind of connection between the Wraiths and 3-D Man's
Does anyone else (mis)remember this?
Beats me. I hated ROM: Spaceknight, barely read it. Anybody know?
Oh, he did, did he? Shame on him! ROM was
one of the first comics based on licensed merchandise like toys, and
it was one of the most successful, even in terms of storytelling.
Though his take on ROM is probably nowhere near as awful as his take
on DC’s Outsiders!
Dear Cap: I was looking at some of your site's recent
posts regarding the big 80-Page issues, the 100-pagers, and
other special issues. I first got into reading superhero comics
in the early '70s (my first issue was Justice League of America
#91 with the annual JLA/JSA team up, and I don't think I missed
another JLA issue for five or six years). The bigger issues that
DC was putting out back then introduced me to a lot of stories
that I never would have gotten to see from the '40s, '50s and
'60s. One of my favorite features of those big issues was the
Missing Hero and Villain reprints that DC would do in the back
of their books. Among of the characters I remember them
featuring were Tarantula and Tweedledum & Tweedledee. I was
really disappointed when they went to the smaller 20-cent issues
after a couple of years, but luckily I did have the 50-cent,
100-Page Super-Spectaculars that I could still refer to, plus
the oversized 80-Page ones that sold for $1.00 (I recently dug
out some of my old Shazam! copies to read to my five-year-old
daughter). I really enjoyed the Famous First Editions that DC
put out for a while. In addition, Marvel started putting out
those $1.50 oversized editions (Marvel Treasury Editions) with
Spider-Man, the FF and all the others. Thanks to those editions,
I, and many others like me, were able to find out about a lot of
great older stories. I hate that today's younger readers don't
get to read these stories, unless they can buy these oversized,
overpriced Archive editions. I think the fact that two of my
favorite series (The Invaders and All Star Squadron) featured
Golden Age heroes was due to the fact that I got to read so many
of those cool stories from the '40s.
Personally, one reason that I stopped reading comics was
that they were taken out of my neighborhood grocery store. When
I was growing up, I could ride my bicycle to the grocery store
on the highway and pick up an handful of comics for a dollar.
When they took them out of the stores, the closest place for me
to buy them was at a newsstand in a the closest large town about
30 miles away. I did that for awhile, but had to leave for
college, where there was no distributor of comics anywhere that
I could find. I know you've rehashed all this several times in
your columns, but I think the change in distributors drove away
tons of younger readers who would have picked up comics while
grocery shopping with their mother, like I did. That's where
they have to pick up their readership. A 20-year-old who's never
read comics is not very likely to pick them up at that late age.
Fortunately, it looks like now the companies are trying to draw
the younger readers back in addition to the older readers and
that can only help. Who knows? Maybe someday, I will get back
into it as well.
I continue to enjoy your site. It brings back fond
memories for me. Keep up the good work and thanks.
There's actually an interesting story -- anecdotal, of course --
about how and why DC jumped up to bigger pages and down again. Not
worth repeating, since it can't be verified, but it was an
interesting time to be a comics fan.
I’m sure there’s an equally interesting
story, anecdotal or otherwise, for why Mr. Smith is such a
knee-jerker. I hope the correspondent understands that and will post
his memories of comics on a blog rather than write to a phony like
him about it.
Dear Cap: I can think of two scenarios where
trade-paperback collections of comics could either supplant
old-fashioned 32-page comics or support a system where 32-page
comics cease to exist as the main venue for first publication of
I'd like to see Legion and your other correspondents kick
both ideas around, as I really haven't had a chance to talk
these around with any comic fans.
1) TRADES AS MANGA-STYLE "SUPER" COMICS: Most trade
reprints feature at least seven 24-page comics, plus filler
probably equivalent to each issue's letters page and advertising
pages. Most color comics are going for $2.50 to $4 a pop today,
so even at $14.95 to $17.95, a trade paperback containing seven
NEW issues of seven DIFFERENT comics would not only be cheaper
than what seven separate comics cost, but about equal to what
most folks drop each week on comics anyway.
Admittedly, you might have to "hammock" more marginal
comics in the same super-issue with better-selling titles: Each
week's super-comic would be "anchored" by one of the Superman
and Batman titles (or X-Men and Spider-Man on the Marvel side),
with various one-title wonders like Wonder Woman, Aquaman,
Nightwing, Iron Man, Hulk, etc. popping up in one issue per
month. And imagine, Cap: DC's kid-friendly Superman, Batman,
Batman Beyond and JLA titles coming out monthly with various
Cartoon Network tie-in stories all in one volume: stocking
stuffers at Christmas, summer reading, or just a neat way to
blow off an afternoon. Or on the opposite side, all the Vertigo
titles coming out in one volume each month!
With a set-up like this, you wouldn't have to jump through
continuity, logic, editorial or taste hoops to get people to
check out a character with marginal sales but potential appeal:
The character could exist at his own level, in his own stories
as a separate story, no need for cheesy team-ups and crossover
events to get folks to check him/her out. And when you DO stage
big cross-over "events" like OWAW, it will be a LOT easier to
follow, with all that week's tie-in titles in one single volume.
You can still put out single-title reprint trade paperbacks down
the line if the market was there for it.
2). TRADES AS "PRINTS" OF ON-LINE COMICS: To heck with all
that expensive paper and ink and collating and shipping. Publish
comics online first as good-sized, reasonably high-resolution
JPGs or GIFs that can't be "saved" to your hard drive unless you
go through some tiresome screen "snapshot" process or blow a lot
of time trying to "hack" the system. But if the Big Two charge
as little as $1 to $2 per "issue" of each title, with discounts
for volume buys and subscriptions, only the craziest would
bother hacking something like this for content.
The major drawback of this system is that kids would have
to have some secure way to PAY for the comics, which would mean
a parent would actually have to get INVOLVED with their child,
and maybe even pay attention to what the little tykes are
reading. You can view this as a good thing or a bad thing, but
you'll probably get more kids to check out comics this way, at
least compared to how many are checking them out now on
conventional newstands and comic shops.
At the same time, though, this arrangement would actually
put ADULTS in a better position to buy comics: They wouldn't
have to hunt them down at specialty stores where VERY weird
people hang out, AND they wouldn't have to worry about their
less enlightened peers finding out they STILL read comics "at
their age." And think about it: you get to view a seven-issue
stretch of Spider-Man for $9.95 ... and if you LIKE it, Marvel
will send you the trade paperback for only $5 or $6 more!
Both systems really could only work for the Big Two,
though if CrossGen keeps growing or indies develop publishing
"co-operatives", it might reach further down the food chain. For
ON-LINE COMICS, you might see some kind of "virtual distributor"
for the indies, somebody who offers various publishers' comics
through one large, secure site for a cut of the sales. Virtual
comics might kill the comics specialty store, make it dependent
on low-tech indie comics, or force it to heavily diversify into
games, cards and collectibles. But again, I'd really like to see
these ideas kicked around.
As would I, [name withheld]. Lots of good ideas, well worth
kicking around. What say you, Legionnaires?
Good ideas, yes, but not worth discussing
at Smith’s site. A pity a lot of Marvel paperbacks today cost more
than 25 dollars, which makes it very hard to decide if to buy them.
That’s what we probably didn’t expect, and couldn’t expect Smith to
Isn't it funny that the throwaway comments we make in
life are the ones that get the most attention? Case in point: My
snide, throwaway remarks last week that I was pretty sick that
Yankees -- no, make that New Yorkers -- were upset that
temperatures were in the 90s in the summer. OMIGOD! Summer is HOT!
A commonplace for anybody below the Mason-Dixon line, or west of
the Mississippi, but somehow a crisis in NYC. And New York City
drives the country's media, so if the eight million New Yorkers
(who, apparently, have not figured out Mr. Carrier's invention)
were in "crisis," then the rest of us -- the other 275 million
people in the U.S. -- are ALSO supposed to be in crisis. This
engendered lots of comments:
Dear Cap: While I usually love your rants, both rational and
polemical, even when I DON'T agree with you, I have to take you
to the mats on THIS one.
I've lived in Manchester and Hanover, New Hampshire (17
years), Miami, Florida (five full years plus six summers and
various holidays during college and grad school), and
Pittsburgh, Pa., for most of the last 20 years.
For starters, thanks to Miami, I know what HOT is: brutal,
tropical whether in the high 80s to mid-90s plus 90-percent
humidity. It's an oppressive, slap-you-in-the-face kind of heat,
where walking our of an air-conditioned house or office building
is like walking into a wet, rubbery brick wall. And it's that
way pretty much all day long, maybe a five- or ten-degree
temperature drop when night falls; and if you are VERY lucky, it
only keeps that up 24/7 from late February until early December,
although I recall going to the beach Christmas Eve day five or
six years straight and catching heat-stroke on one of them.
In my 20 years in Pittsburgh, though, I can count only two
previous summers where we've been hammered by consistent
90-plus-degree temperates, and only one of those where the
humidity piled on in the 80-plus range at the same time. What
makes it worse is that it hasn't been going away at night,
because around here there's usually a good 20- or 30-degree
temperature drop when the sun goes down. Ain't been happenin'
this summer, brother: I've been sleeping on top of the covers
with a fan blowing on me from four feet away, something that
usually creates a delicious case of hypothermia around 3 a.m..
This summer, I'm lucky if I feel even the slightest bit chilly
at 7 a.m. when I get up for work.
I've got family and friends in New Hampshire, and temps in
the high 90s/low 100s are things that pop up a day or two a
month, if that, in the course of a typical summer. But even in
the mountains up north, they've been catching these kind of
temps with very high humidity for weeks at a time, and most
agree it's been the most ruthless butt-kicker of a summer that's
been up there in many a year. And I'm getting similar reports of
record-breakers, both highs and sustained heat, from people I
know all over the Northeast and the northern Mid-West.
I don't doubt for a minute y'all's use to this kind of
thing in Memphis, as my wife's got kin there: I'd rather do
Christmas with the in-laws than August any time. But it ain't
just New York getting hammered, McGee: it IS a goodly portion of
the country, and it's hurting a lot of people one way or another
(the only thing that's made me shiver this summer is the sight
of my electric bill), and it's killing too many folks outright.
Oh, yeah: And when the cotton, corn and other crop yields in
your neck of the woods take a nose-dive in the fall because of
long-term effects of this heat ... well, I don't think a fan
would have helped them a bit even if you could have found
extension cords long enough.
OMIGOD! You mean it's HOT at NIGHT? Blue blazes! Call out the
National Guard! And let's assemble a national emergency committee
to worry about you sweating when it's dark!
Sorry, White Guy, I gotta argue back. You don't have a very
imposing argument. It NEVER gets below 90 degrees in Memphis,
NEVER gets below 90-percent humidity, day or night, between early
June to late September. EVERY YEAR. Rich people used to leave this
area before the Civil War because Memphis and environs were "fever
country" for six months out of the year. I'm supposed to feel
sorry for you somehow? And that's not talking about people SOUTH
and WEST of me.
Look, it gets hot in summer. It gets cold in winter. You deal with
it. I've got lots of Yanks down here who laugh at me and mine when
it snows and we have trouble with it -- it only snows about once
every five or six years, so we don't invest in snowplows. We don't
have sophisticated methods to deal with it -- the municipal
governments throw sand and cinders on overpasses and cross their
fingers. We don't know how to drive in it. But it's a firing
offense where I work to not show up when it snows. Specifically.
Written in the hiring contract. We grit our teeth and get through
it. We don't make fun of other people. We don't wring our hands
and say, "Oh, boo-hoo, it's not weather we're not used to, oh,
Summer is hot. Winter is cold. We deal with it. We don't
monopolize national media, like the Northeast does, and say things
on CNN and MSNBC like, "This extraordinary heat wave has taken
temperatures in the Northeast almost to the level of what the REST
of the country deals with every year, but we can't deal with it
because we're big babies. Film at 11."
Yes, 15 people died in the "heat wave." Fifteen people who (A)
don't have air conditioners, (B) are over the age of 60 and live
alone, (C) their relatives didn't check on them, and (D) when they
got hot, they didn't do anything about it -- and died.
Sorry. No sympathy. When the weather got bad here in Redneckland
-- particularly snow or ice, which us iggorant Sudners ain't used
to -- I drove by to see if my grandmother was OK (she died at age
94). My grandmother had both A/C and heat, which my family had
paid for. And if it got bad enough, we picked her up and took her
to The House, whether it was my mother's house or my father's
house or my sister's house or whomever. Whatever house had food
and warmth. We had an ice storm in '94 that was so bad that most
of the Southeast -- from Memphis (Tenn.) to Tallahassee (Fla.) to
Dothan (Ga.) was without power for TWO MONTHS. A swath of mileage
that would make a Northerner's head spin. Georgia alone is the
biggest state east of the Mississippi -- and the whole state was
without power for two weeks in sub-zero temperatures. It DIDN'T
make national news -- it hit Newsweek's "Periscope" in a
In '94 I went by and picked up my grandmother. My brother moved
in. My mother took in families from across the street -- she had a
fireplace, they didn't. They -- about 15 of 'em -- slept in
pallets on the floor around the hearth. My sister took her husband
and three dogs and checked into a motel in Cincinatti -- 500 miles
NORTH of where we live, where it was warmer, and there was power.
You just deal. You don't whine and cry and say, "Oh, boo hoo. Old
people are dying across a belt atop the country." Where are their
families? Why are the municipal governments making excuses instead
of doing what they can? Why aren't people simply picking up and
dealing with a bad situation? NOBODY should die. Nobody did, in a
700-mile by 700-mile area in '94 in the most traumatic winter in
the Southeast in 100 years. Which did not, I might add, dominate
the news for three friggin' weeks.
And more to the point, why do I have to hear about it when Yankees
have a problem? I didn't whine to people in Pittsburgh when I had
a brother, a sister-in-law, two German shepherds, and a
grandmother living with me for a couple of weeks in a one-bedroom
house -- that's just what you do when things go bad. For a little
while. And when the weather turns, everybody goes home.
But, gee whiz, if it happens somewhere north of Louisville, the
national media has some kind of orgasm about it. And 15 old people
died because their relatives didn't check on them -- and God knows
that the media didn't let them forget that they should check on
them. I'm sorry about the dead folks. But I blame their children,
their siblings, their neighbors. And I blame them, for not taking
simple precautions. For God's sake, this stuff isn't hard. It's
hot in the summer, it's cold in the winter -- prepare for it.
When I listen to the news, what I hear is selfish people NOT
checking on their grandmothers. Not one of those 15 people would
have died if somebody had dropped by and knocked on the door. If
they lived south or west of Pittsburgh, they WOULDN'T have died.
Nobody did in the cold wave of '94, which makes the "heat wave" of
'01 look, well, just silly. It reads to everybody from Dothan,
Ga., to Mesa, Ariz., like a bunch of pampered, whiny Yanks
snivelling about their little problems. There are currently eight
million New Yorkers adjusting to the idea of sweating, even after
dark. Zounds! The OTHER 270 million Americans do that every
summer. Get over it.
And if you think I'm being a jerk ... well, I probably am. But I
got almost 50 e-mails supporting my noise and only one -- yours --
arguing the reverse. Two from New York City. Here's a couple that
I liked that agreed:
So he admits it! It’s just a pity he
hasn’t admitted supporting Identity Crisis and Civil War were
mistakes. Oh, and what’s this about not monopolizing the media?
Leftists like him are monopolizing the media all the time, and
lambasting Fox News despite being a mere drop in the bucket. Even
though Rupert Murdoch’s chummy with a certain Saudi prince.
He should look at himself in the mirror when he blabbers about
selfish people, because that’s how he acted when Identity Crisis was
going to press. Some of the nastiest people I’ve met online have
been apologists for that act of gender bigotry.
Dear Captain: This hasn't got a thing to do with
comics, but I just had to let you know how much I agree with
your sentiments about the media coverage of the so-called "heat
wave." I live in Brooklyn, New York, and I'M fed up with the
wailing and gnashing of teeth concerning the heat.
You gotta understand something: When it comes to weather,
most people in New York are babies. They're never happy. When
it's summer, they forget about the snowstorms and below-zero
cold snaps that go on for MUCH longer than the heat waves (which
only last a week or so). When it's winter, all you hear up and
down the street are prayers for summer.
Personally, I'm like you. Whenever people I talk to cry
and complain (and EVERYBODY feels compelled to point out the
obvious ... namely, that it's hot), I just look at them and say
"There's a reason why its so hot, y'know"
They take the bait and say, "What is it?"
"It's summer. That's what summer is, y'know ... hot."
Nuts ta this ... I'M movin' to Florida and live where
folks know how to appreciate hot weather!
Lived in Florida for five years. Don't want to again.
I’ve been in Florida, and the heat’s the
least of the state’s problems. If the correspondent’s fed up with
teeth gnashing, maybe he should complain about “social justice
warriors” who whine about petty details like beautiful imagery. Now
another of my letters, including one that features something I
regret looking forward to:
Dear Cap: From the release list for Aug. 8:
<<I've always been a Cyclops fan. I know, I know, a lot
of you find him boring, and I can see why. But in the '60s he
was just about the only X-Man with a respectable superpower,
plus he was shy, skinny kid who couldn't take off his glasses
... like a certain journalist-to-be I could name. -- Captain
I’ve also been quite a Cyclops fan, and I too
support your defense of Scott Summers. What some people
apparently have a hard time understanding about the character is
that he’s intentionally written as a shy guy, and certainly when
he was first introduced in 1963, and they probably have a hard
time understanding that. It’s understandable, I suppose, that
they’d confuse shyness with boredom, but contrary to what some
audience may think, he’s simply shy, and in his case, he’s got
an understandable reason for being so: he’s afraid that his
optic beams, uncontrollable without his ruby-quartz visor, as
they call it, could fry people if he’s not careful. He should be
so lucky that Jean Grey’s got telepathy, so she can understand
why, while he’s got a heavy crush on her, he’s still afraid of
trying to lead a relationship with her for fear that he’d end up
harming her. Or was.
Characters with shyness are people that anyone who’s been
that way in real life can indentify with. Joe Shuster of
Superman fame was shy around women too when he was young, and he
lent that to the Man of Steel’s persona when drawing him. Even
I’ve been a shy guy myself when I was a teen. Even you could’ve
been shy when you were young.
And Cyclops is the perfect embodiment of the shy teenager
(and even adult). If only some people could understand that.
Plus the fact that he doesn’t seem like a character who enjoys
mayhem so much. And that’s why, like Nick Fury, he’s a character
so much worth defending, and why it’s possible to indentify with
him. Which is why I too lend my support to defending Scott
Thanks, Avi. I mean, really -- thanks.
Is it so hard to admire a character who doesn't eviscerate his
opponents, where nothing blows up in his presence, who thinks
Apparently so. You have to have a Wolverine, or a Wildcats or
something or nobody pays attention. Cyclops, to me, is the guy we
all ought to want to be: A quiet kid, who grows into his own. And
is darn good at it. That's who I want to be when I grow up, should
that ever happen. Here's more from Avi:
<< ... up to and including Tony Stark giving up his
fortune to live like a "normal guy." Newsflash: Life is MORE
stressful WITHOUT money, Tony! I won't be too disturbed to see
the new creative team on this title, due to commence in
November. -- Captain Comics>>
Me neither! Heck, I’ll be GLAD when Mike Grell finally enters
the scene, and most certainly if he gives Tony back his wealth!
He’ll have to; I cannot buy the idea of Tony managing his
crime-fighting career without his financial resources any more
than you can. I mean, how’s he supposed to repair all the damage
to his armor, or even get some new suits if he doesn’t have his
wealth? Even Bruce Wayne couldn’t manage his career as Batman
without his financial resources.
Bless you brother -- take this, may it serve you well -- John
Lennon, Revolution No. 9, 1970.
Listen, I'm an old-fashioned Iron Man fan. I love the idea that a
guy can MAKE himself a superhero. Lately on this site, folks have
spoken highly of Sword of The Atom -- but to me, that defeated the
purpose of the character. Ray Palmer MADE himself a superhero --
and so did Tony Stark. By dint of effort, by skill, by brains, and
-- yes -- by money, Ray Palmer and Tony Stark CREATED their
superhero roles. They weren't rocketed to another planet in a
Moses-like spaceship. They didn't get hit by lightning. They
weren't given a magic ring. They CREATED this stuff, out of whole
cloth. Why take that away, by making them "Conan the Barbarian"?
Sword of the Atom, "Teen Tony" -- stupid ideas. These guys built
this idea (Iron Man, Atom) from NOWHERE -- but it does take money
to keep it up. Let them be who they are.
Make no mistake here. Grell did write and
draw some interesting stuff years before (Legion, Warlord, Green
Arrow, John Sable). But his storyline in Iron Man was insulting to
the intellect, since he made a Muslim woman the special guest in a
form of propaganda that Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have
already helped debunk. All that aside, the way Grell had Tony shed
his secret identity was rushed and laughable. In fact, why did Tony
have to be written canning his secret ID? There have been heroes in
the MCU who’ve shed their secret ID, as did some in the DCU, but if
it really matters, it should be done a lot more plausibly than just
saving a pet animal from being run over by a car.
And how atrocious that he pans SOTA all because it put Ray in an
environment where the inhabitants are the same size, and doesn’t
base his judgement on the story quality beyond that. I certainly
don’t put much value on the word of a man who acts as cheerleader
for acts of gender bigotry and pretends nothing’s wrong. If Marvel’s
staff really had to shed Tony’s secret ID and make his being IM
public knowledge, they could’ve done it with far more patience and
intelligence than the finished product had to offer, and that
would’ve made it worthwhile. Interestingly, it was seemingly ignored
soon after, but the damage was already done, and they may not have
restored the secret ID status quo for long then either. And with
that, we turn to August 23, 2001:
Dear Cap: you are so cool!
Soooooooo ... I've been reading comic books for some 25
years now, and I ALWAYS admit to others the impact that they've
had in my life. Geez ... anybody who gets to know me can see the
influence they have had.
One should always try to be a hero; one should always
fight injustice; one should always be fair. (Which is merely
another way of saying "do unto to others as you would have them
do unto you." Heh.)
It's why I am an attorney (as much as I was fighting and
arguing on behalf of others, I thought I should at least get a
salary since no one was offering a clubhouse, a cape, or a
Comic books are clear on their teachings about right and
wrong (well ... mostly. The Punisher and Hitman and similar
"anti-hero" books, well ... you know). Even the books that show
life as being more shades of gray -- such as Marvel books. They
show people trying to do the right thing. Honestly, it takes a
lot of pressure off of parenting, if parents would REALLY look
I hail from a single-parent household and grew up in the
middle of New York City. Was tough, never went to jail, tried to
do well in school and respected my mom (Hey! Batman's a GENIUS!
Event Lobo is a genius-level chemist -- he created a designer
virus to wipe out his whole planet cause they got on his nerves.
According to comics, you must develop a quick mind and wit to
make your weapons, your gadgets and conduct witty repartee while
fighting. All that takes time to develop. You can't slack in
school and think your gonna have a cool car like the Batmobile
or spit out one-liners while going through your day. More
importantly, the one thing most heroes would like to do is see
their parents and share their day with them. They try never to
take their parental figures for granted.)
I'm sure I should have been more "religious" as I was
growing up -- at least that's what some of my friends say now
that they have found the church again. Maybe they are right. But
when I couldn't be sure what my mom would want me to do, I've
always been able to ask and answer for myself, "What would
Batman do?" or "What would Spider-Man do." Invariably, that
would get me back on track.
"What would The Flash do?" Impulse would ask.
"What would Impulse do?" his friends would ask.
"What would Captain Comics do?" I ask.
"Hit the nail on the head in a creative way," I answer.
I hope to do the same as you have, during my travels. I'm
gonna send the URL to your article to a few people. Thanks.
Thank YOU, […]. There's no question that most of my moral
architecture comes from Spider-Man, Superman, Green Lantern and
Captain America. The REAL world -- with its venality, petty
in-fighting, hidden agendas and catty gossip -- often strikes me
as sad. If more people had read Spider-Man growing up, the world
would be a better place. And, I think, more people would be
happier -- they wouldn't be so worried that the Joneses were
getting ahead of them, so much as just being content to do the
right thing, because it IS the right thing.
What a crock. Most of his “moral”
architecture comes from the very ultra-left-liberal school of
thought. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there was some liberal
ideology you could see in the examples he gave, but even their
writers didn’t have the kind of apathetic, lenient views he does,
and they usually had the audacity to use much more subtlety than
what you see today.
Which brings us to an important reminder: modern comics since the
2000s do not have a clear perspective on right and wrong, with Civil
War a notable example to that effect. I hope the correspondent
realizes this now.
And Mr. Smith is so not cool.
The more I read your columns ....
The more I like ya ...
Captain! You are a man of class!
Aw, heck, I'm gonna blush. Seriously, lots of NON-comics folks
have commented on that column, from editors to co-workers to
"ordinary" readers. Must have struck a nerve!
At this point, he comes off sounding like
Anita Sarkeesian, who’s filmed propaganda videos about computer
games with very poor data. Surprisingly, she did once film a tape
about mistreatment of women in comics, but even there, she screwed
up some details, or fell way short of the potential: she never said
a word about Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled, and if she
couldn’t talk about topics like those, she’s hardly doing anybody a
favor. And back to Smith, he has no class any more than he has
Dear Cap: Seeing how Doctor Strange and Spider-Man
related to one another is one of the finest exhibitions of
respect between generations that has been displayed in comics.
Neither party was shown to have disrespected the other's skill
and ingenuity in overcoming alomost unbeatable odds when they
had to work together.
A lesson that we could all learn regardless of our ages.
Well said, [name withheld]. Now here's [ditto] again, on other
Dear Cap: No well-intentioned crusader should get himself
involved in strange adventures with a scantily-clad, beautiful
and well-endowed woman of questionable repute. A valuable lesson
taught in any generic comic book. If one needs the lesson
hammered into him, then Comic Conspiracy's Comic Book #3 is the
issue to read. The story was simple and the art was good. It was
an enjoyable story that ended all too soon.
It seems that the collaborators on the book are taking it
slow in terms of not making "The Generic Comic Book" a monthly
issue but a series of one-shot specials. That is fine by me (if)
the quality of the series (is) kept up.
(Also), I was recently looking at the ads pages in some
old comics and I remembered just how interesting were the items
and opportunities that lay only a buck or two away. I bought a
comic book for the main attraction which was the story, but I
was also curious about growing and raising your own sea monkeys,
seeing the world differently through X-rays, reaching manhood
quickly (at least physically) thanks to the Charles Atlas kit,
developing psychic abilities and being able to kick the heck out
of more than one opponent via the instructions in the martial
arts home-kit, to name a few. I never did make a purchase as I
knew enough to know that at least some of the items offered were
fake. It was fun just to imagine that many of these attractions
that were advertised in the comics could actually exist in our
world. It made my hobby feel that much closer to reality or at
least did its job to fire up my imagination.
To tell the truth cap, if these items did actually exist,
I am sure that they would be of special interests to scientists.
Even as a kid I realized that if any of those items actually
worked they'd be on the cover of Newsweek, and not being sold in
the backs of comics books for a buck or two!
Oh, and the amazing live sea monkeys were some kind of shrimp, and
the X-Ray Specs just cast a double image -- the dark overlap of
the two light images looked like bones if you squinted just right.
Didn't work on clothes, of course. Or so I was told.
And thanks for the Comic Book review!
If most mainstream news editors were
smart, they’d never employ such dishonest people like Newsweek does.
Not that Mr. Smith’s likely to admit it.
Dear Captain: It seems to me what you are complaining
about, more than that people are complaining about the weather,
is that one of the most populous and influential regions in the
country gets more news coverage. Well, that seems to me about as
inevitable as heat in summer and cold in winter. Or I guess as
people complaining about people complaining. Or people
complaining about things that are and will not change.
In Canada the same thing happens, Toronto gets way more
national media coverage than any other city and this annoys some
people. Similiarly the U.S.A. gets way more new coverage in the
press here than any foreign country and that also annoys some
people. I somehow doubt that the people of the Northeast are any
more whiny than the rest of the U.S., their voice is just
louder. I am not sure I really see anyway to remove the bias of
the media towards the big people, the big businesses, the big
cities and the big countries. I am not sure it would be a good
thing to remove that bias. Although I would love to hear
Food for thought, I hope.
Anyway, I have to say that having read the Essential
Uncanny X-Men, I agree Cyclops (a.k.a. Scott "Slim" Summers) was
one of the more respectable characters from those early days of
X-Men (I still can not quite get over the way Iceman looked in
those days:). Also, Cyclops certainly evokes pathos with his
worries over his heavy responsibilties. Although my favorite
X-Man is still Beast (more for his portrayal in the cartoon than
I do have to take exception to the idea that a
"respectable super-power" is needed to make a character worthy
of interest (whether Cyke's power is all that respectable could
be questioned I would think). Personally, I like characters with
few if any super-powers or the like (like some of the early
X-Men) but who manage to use whatever advantage they have with
some brains and stand up to more fearsome opponents. The more
subtle, weaker or oddball a power is the harder the character
has to work it and the more interesting things get as far as I
All I meant by the "respectable super-power" line is that, as a
kid, I found it hard to believe that, say, the Angel would last
two seconds with Magneto. To my young mind, it seemed that only
Cyclops had a power that would give the menaces they faced a
serious work-out, and none of them matched Professor Xavier for
sheer power (who, it seemed to me, could have taken out most of
their foes long distance on Page Two and not risked the lives of a
bunch of teenagers!). So my suspension of disbelief was strained.
I actually enjoyed that the X-Men were a "weak" team (as opposed
the first lineup of Avengers), as I'm with you on seeing
characters use their brains instead of their brawn. (For the same
reason, I found the second lineup of Avengers -- Cap's Kooky
Quartet -- terrific. For one thing, I was seriously worried about
their survival! I could readily see Quicksilver or Hawkeye getting
axed, since they didn't have their own titles.) I did not mean to
imply that I have no interest in weaker or non-powered characters
-- witness my Batmania. Just that of all of them, only Cyclops
(and maybe The Beast) seemed to have a reasonable chance of
surviving this or that month's slugfest. Angel and Marvel Girl
(who'd faint if she lifted more than 100 pounds) seemed like
cannon fodder. And Iceman never used his power for anything but
slides and snowballs. But I digress ...
As to the "heat wave," you've hit the exact source of my
annoyance. As a newspaperman, I'm inundated daily on the
Associated Press wire with stories from the Northeast and the West
Coast, with nary a word about what's happening 400 miles from me
in any direction. And after 20 years I'm just plain tired of it.
Broadway reviews? Features on the Mets and the Dodgers, even when
they're in last place? Hollywood gossip? Who -- outside of New
York and L.A. -- cares? But those are the Big Markets, so there
you go. ("Subway Series"? Yawn.) And, while you're right that
nothing can be done about it, I doubt I'm alone in my irritation.
Gee, did it ever occur to him the X-Men
could also use their brains if scripted right? Which is far more
than could be said about Mr. Smith! And here’s the gazillionth
example of his not arguing whether he thinks Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
did a bad job.
Hey, Cap: A couple of months ago, I recommended the
Wild Cards series for people wanting a good example of comic
books in novel form. At the time, the 15 books were long out of
Last weekend, I saw that the series is being reprinted.
Book I is now an oversized paperback with new artwork and an
afterword by series editor George R.R. Martin. It's definitely
worth a look if you missed it the first time.
Thanks, […] -- lots of folks will be pleased to hear that,
Not so much me, because Martin’s not very
reliable, IMO. And if I were the correspondent, I wouldn’t be
pleased to tell somebody like him that old news.
Dear Cap: A man who I've never met taught me to draw.
Oh, yeah, Dan DeCarlo taught me how to CARTOON, to do gag
strips and funny stories. But John Buscema taught me how to
DRAW: great sweeping vistas and dark dirty alleys; huge armies
on the march and an old woman carrying a basket on her hip along
a dusty road; common folks in rags and princes in silks; hoary,
gibbering cavemen and clean-shaven executives with
thousand-dollar suits and fifty-cent souls.
There are a lot of artists out there, old and young, who
can tell a story in panelled pages, amuse me enough to keep me
reading, and leave me interested in seeing what happens next
month. John Buscema made me haunt magazine stands and comic
shops like Marley's Ghost, ready to snap up the Conan and Savage
Sword and the early Doc Savage black & whites that he
pencilled. I remember how I ached when I sold them all to a
crazed fanboy for money that I needed to cover some medical
bills ... and how I danced on somebody's lawn when, a few months
later, I found copies of just about all of them at a quarter
each at a yard sale.
When I taught my daughters to draw, my two main
"textbooks" were How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way and Drawing
On the Right Side of the Brain, along with a pile of early
Savage Sword of Conans. BOY, the trouble that got me into: Kids
came crawling out of the woodwork asking me to teach THEM to
draw the way my girls can. They're still asking, too, eight
years later, except they want to do that anime/manga foolishness
... until I show them "A Witch Shall Be Born." And when they
pick their jaws up off the floor, they're ready to learn from
John Buscema the way I did, so they can one day rumble with the
I draw mostly for pleasure. But every now and then I get a
chance to make some money doing it; whatever my success, I owe
it to John Buscema. So thank you John Buscema, for not only the
pleasure your art has brought me and my family, but for helping
to pay my utility bills, put food on my table, and keep my kids
Thanks, [name withheld], for what clearly came from the heart. Big
John deserves no less. (And, hey, you manga/anime kids! Go buy
SSOC #5 -- I think -- I read "A Witch Shall Be Born!" […] sez so,
and he's never wrong!)
If I were Buscema and saw what a
contemptible man Smith was, I’d be ashamed of him. Smith was not
suited to speak about Buscema, a man of much finer caliber than
Smith will ever be.
<<One thing, though -- weren't the "journal entry"
voiceovers in early issues of Gotham Knights eventually shown to
be written by Hugo Strange? Or are we talking about two
different things? -- Captain Comics>>
You two were talking about the same story, but Bruce Wayne had
himself written the journals. It just coincided (cleverly) that
as part of his deep post-hypnotic suggestion scheme that he had
to analyze himself in the third person, helping convince Hugo
Strange that Batman and Bruce Wayne were NOT the same person. An
easy confusion to make, however, as certainly that was part of
(writer Devin) Grayson's intent.
Well, when I'm wrong, I'm wrong. Thanks, […]. Here's more:
He’s very wrong, in many ways, many times.
Dick and Tim discovered the "journal entries" on the
Bat-computer during Bruce's disappearance in those issues where
Hugo attempted, once again, to subsume Batman's identity. Tim,
and I believe maybe Dick, also commented on those entries in
their respective letters to Bruce that both of them conveniently
destroyed before he read them. (I have to admit that their
destruction of the letters was a bit disappointing to me. I
would rather have seen Bruce's reaction to their words.) The
implication being that Bruce was trying to analyze himself in
order to gain a better understanding of his decisions, feelings,
etc. I'll have to double-check the issues in question to be
sure, but I interpreted their discovery of the "journal entries"
on the computer as the big revelation that Bruce himself was
You're right, [name withheld] -- I went back and re-read the final
issue of that arc and that's what was established. I didn't
remember it, because my suspension of disbelief had already
snapped with the hypnotize-myself-to-fool-the-bad-guy trick. I
mean, really, THAT'S the best plan the smartest guy in the world
can come up with? And he doesn't TELL anybody that's what he's
doing, to have Nightwing or Oracle or Robin watching his back? The
story had me guessing right up to the end -- because I never
dreamed Batman's cunning scheme would turn out to be so dopey!
Seriously, the whole arc seemed designed to have trick deaths,
surprise covers and the like, as opposed to having internal story
logic. Nobody in his right mind would cripple himself with
self-hypnosis in the face of a deadly threat. The whole thing was
transparently a writer gimmick. When I read the ending I felt like
I was back in the '60s, reading a Bob Haney Brave & Bold.
Which is not to say using old '60s tricks is always a bad thing.
Mark Waid used the old "split the hero from secret identity" ploy
to good effect in JLA (and didn't even use red kryptonite!) and
Superman and Batman conspired to fool everybody that they were at
odds in the recent steal-the-kryptonite-ring-from-Luthor story,
just like in the old days where you'd see the heroes fighting on
the cover and blurbs shouting "What could bring the World's Finest
heroes to blows????" It would always turn out to be a plan by
Supes and Bats to fool Mr. Mxyzptlk, or somebody. I felt a flood
of warm nostalgia when the WF team revealed their cunning scheme
-- and it made internal story logic.
These days, Waid uses a lot of kryptonite
that affects his writing, and wrecks the impact as a result. As for
Mr. Smith, I wonder if he felt nostalgic warmth when he read
Identity Crisis? It’s sickening to wonder if that could be the case.
Hi, Captain Comics: I think your website is one of
the best ones out there. I try to check it out. Anyways, I have
one question to ask and some information that could intrigue
First, I know that the Guardians were planing on giving
Kal-El a ring once but that they backed out because he was not
an earthling and was rather a Kryptonian. My question is, why
did they give a ring to Guy Gardner? He was a GL of Earth, but
it was revealed later on that he has alien genes in him. So why
did they give a ring to Guy and not to Superman?
The other thing I wanted to talk about is the "Emerald
Twilight" storyline. There's a possible explanation for it. Back
in Action Comics #638, Hal Jordan seemingly killed a villain
named Malvolio. Malvolio was a villain who had a GL ring that he
stole by killing his father (who was a GL). He was insane. The
Guardians sent Jordan to stop him (in sector 1634 I believe). At
one point, they had a battle and Malvolio used a yellow laser to
destroy Hal's ring. Hal then had to be resourceful and used a
makeshift bow to fire an arrow into Malvolio chest seemingly
killing him. Hal then took off Malvolio's ring from his finger
and used it himself to get back home BUT Malvolio was very well
alive and stood up when Jordan left and took out the arrow form
his chest. Malvolio succeeded because his whole plan was to get
Hal to take his ring
We never heard from Malvolio again, but Jordan was wearing
Malvolio's ring during the Emerald Twilight storyline. The
interesting thing about Malvolio is that he didn't need the ring
to connect into the GL force. So when Hal left, Malvolio could
have still been in control of the ring and slowly used it to
drive Hal insane. He could have been using the ring Hal was
wearing to send out telepathic signals and make Hal as insane as
For me, this is the best explanation of the Emerald
Twilight storyline. Hal never turned evil; he was brainwashed.
Hal was a hero until the end. It would be a great story if DC
did a storyline explaining how Hal was brainwshed and cleaning
Hey, that's a pretty sharp explanation! I like it a lot! My
explanation involves Sinestro (who was once imprisoned in Hal's
ring) doing pretty much the same thing -- but yours is less
As to Guy Gardner, it was explained back in his first appearance
in Green Lantern (second series) #59 (May 68) that he was just as
honest and fearless as Hal Jordan, but Hal got the ring because
Hal was closest to Abin Sur as Abin lay dying and time was of the
essence. So Guy became the backup. Of course, in those days, Guy
was a pretty nice guy -- a high-school gym teacher, no less. Later
on, possibly due to a head injury but almost certainly in an
effort to make him a more interesting character, he became a jerk.
But that's another story.
As to why a half-Vuldarian was given the ring ... well, are you
sure that Kal-El wasn't give the ring because he was Kryptonian? I
thought it was because the Guardians foresaw his future as a great
hero in his own right.
But if your memory is better than mine -- which is likely -- then
there's no real explanation, except that Guy was turned into a
Vuldarian in yet another lame attempt to make him interesting, and
nobody remembered the Superman story you and I do. Or possibly
it's because half-human is better than all Kryptonian. Do any
Legionnaires have any theories or information?
I notice he doesn’t seem to explain to the
correspondent that the “revelation” Guy is half-alien was something
that came up during the 1990s. It certainly wasn’t part of the
original premise, as far as I know. Slipped his mind, I take?
Hi Cap: Just wanted vent a little about Our Worlds At
War. I truly hope DC follows through and keeps the casualties
permanent. This isn't out of some morbid desire to see a bunch
of heroes slain, it's because of the desire the comics industry
has to be taken seriously. Time after time, we read interviews
with comics creators lamenting the fact that no one takes the
industry seriously. There's a reason for that. When Wile E.
Coyote falls off of a cliff in the desert, making a crater and
then has a boulder fall on top of him do you shed any tears? Why
not? Because you know he'll get right up and do it again. It
becomes humorous because you know he's in no real danger and
there's no reason to take it seriously.
To take the analogy one step furthur, and even closer to
the world of comics, look at those old black-and-white Flash
Gordon serials. Each episode would end with what had to be
certain death. For this example let's say a crashing rocket
ship. The screen would show the rocket falling and then
exploding with the camera keeping the viewer informed of the
fact that Flash was still inside. The following episode, Flash
would be seen jumping out at the last minute retroactively! It's
even more absurd when you watch them back to back.
This is how comics portray conflict, danger and death.
Even though I seem to be one of the few who thought Jason
Todd was a decent Robin, I am glad that DC did not bring him
back (I know he wasn't very popular, but still he was Robin). To
do otherwise cheapens the characters, the creators and most
importantly, insults the reader.
The industry has to realize you can't put out pulp
entertainment and expect to have it received as cutting edge.
Let's face it, there is a reason why people still talk about
Alan Moore and Frank Miller when referring to "important"
comics. It's not because because the works they created were
simply "dark and edgy," it's because they knew not to insult the
reader. Readers remember that and applaud it.
End of Rant :)
I knew I couldn't be the only person to pick up on the
Wayne Williams connection in Just Imagine ... Batman! I was in
Atlanta during those years, in fact I don't think I was quite 10
years old when the murders were taking place. It was just too
eerie seeing that name after all these years and in, of all
places, a comic book. While I'm sure it was just going back to
Stan's old idea of giving characters the same initials for their
first names (i.e., Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Sue Storm, etc.),
it just struck me as bizarre that someone at DC wouldn't have
picked up on the name of a well-known murderer.
Aside from that I thought Just Imagine ... Batman was an
OK story -- kinda cliche, but a decent read. I think in order to
really get it, you have to imagine there being no Batman in the
first place, and transport yourself back to the time when this
could have been Dectective Comics #27. Back then this would have
been a great tale and may have spawned a completely different
legend. So in the nostalgia department, I think it did pretty
good. I'm looking forward to the Just Imagine ... Wonder Woman,
as the preview looks pretty cool:
Speaking of Wonder Woman, now is a great time to check out
that title if, like me, you've never really been intrested. Phil
Jimenez is doing some great writing and beautiful art (plus
those covers by Adam Hughes are breathtaking!). Although Jimenez
didn't draw it, the Wonder Woman OWAW special is a great way to
get a comprehensive history of WW (Wonder Woman, NOT Wayne
Williams!) as Jimenez makes some sense of all the years of
continuity and puts things in perspective for all the new
readers. Kinda reminds me of the approach CrossGen takes by
keeping (the books) accessible and interesting at the same time.
By the way, after reading Shazam: The Power or Hope,
I was reminded of how much I used to like Captain Marvel. Are
there any CM TPBs you would recommend?
Oh, sure! I'd get the Power of Shazam! graphic novel that kicked
off the PoS! series, and any TPBs available FROM that series.
That's the best modern take I've seen on the Big Red Cheese. For
Fawcett era material, check out Shazam!: From the '40s to the
'70s, an out-of-print hardback which you can probably find
And I'd be pleased if the OWAW casualties stayed dead too, for
exactly the reasons you've stated. Unfortunately, it looks like
Aquaman and Steel are already on their way back, so ... sigh.
I sigh too, but not for the same reasons.
Here we go again, with another apathetic fool parroting the
insistence that the dead remain dead no matter the story quality.
Doesn’t death also cheapen characters and insult the readers? Just
take a look at how Identity Crisis was written, with a jaw-dropping
anal rape on panel. And all without any female viewpoint of the
And how does the correspondent feel about Jason Todd returning 4
years after he wrote that idiocy? Especially after it led nowhere,
and the subsequent Red Hood and the Outlaws became a whole insult to
everybody who likes Starfire?
Hi Captain: First time I've written you, but longtime
reader of your column. Enjoy it much!
I felt though that you dropped the ball on [name
withheld]'s letter in CBG #1446. She was complaining about the
high price of comics, and you responded in so many words that
publishers had come up with trade paperbacks as a solution to
give readers more bang for the buck.
Now I realize this was the CBG issue on trade paperbacks,
so it's only natural that this was the topic of your column, but
I didn't think it was the answer Maxine was looking for.
Last time I checked, (and I honestly don't buy many comics
or trades these days,) trade paperbacks were pretty much priced
the same as the individual issues inside. Five $2.95 comics were
gathered, and the TPB sells for $14.95 or so. Six $2.95 comics
go into a $17.95 book. Where are the savings? In fact you get
less, if you enjoy reading the letter columns in each issue that
are not reprinted in the TPB.
Am I wrong? Are trades these days priced at less than the
collected contents? I realize there are collections like the
Marvel Essentials which are black and white and do give you a
great value, but I don't see that the average TPB does.
Also, individual comics are more likely to go up in value
over the years, at which point buyers can recoup some of their
money. I don't think trades will appreciate. Just check ebay --
most are going pretty cheap.
Actually, that's probably the answer to […]. Wait a few
months and buy her comics on eBay. Great savings to be found
over (under) cover price on many current comics!
Oh no! You wait this long to write, just to tell me I'm a
bonehead? Gee whiz, [withheld], at least butter me up a little
first! You know how sensitive I am.
Anyway, while I can't fault your math, I have to note for the
record that the cost of a TPB isn't based on the issues it's
assembled from, or any other factor, except what it costs to
produce -- and hit a target profit margin. (The distributors
define the latter to some degree.) So some trades are more
expensive than the books they collect or about the same -- but
some cost substantially less, particularly if they're assembled
from higher-end comics (those that cost more than $2.95 each).
More important is something you brought up yourself -- that
individual comics tend to climb in cost as back issues, while TPBs
(as reprints) do not. So if you missed, say, a 1999 or 2000
miniseries and wanted to buy it today, the TPB would be cheaper
than the back issues by a significant degree.
Mr. Smith drops the ball far more times
than need be. He really screwed up big time in 2004.
Hi Cap: First I wanted to say that I really enjoy
your site and visit as often as possible. In adding to […]'s
answer to your question "Is Captain Comics a Manga Reader?,"
he's basically correct in stating that the term "manga" is used
by the Japanese to refer to comics in general, just as "anime"
is Japanese for animation. The Japanese actually like to use
"komikkusu," which is the Japanese pronunciation for comics.
Fans have taken to using the term "manga" as a way of
distinguishing the Japanese from the American product.
Similarly, fans of French comics will also use "bande desinee"
to sound different, but essentially we're all refering to
variations of "sequential art" ( I thought I'd throw that term
What's important to remember is that the basic term
incorporates many styles and variations. Japanese publishers
have successfully marketed to different niches, from pachinko
addicts to military-history afficionados. While we here complain
that publishers aren't doing enough to reach out to kids and
female readers, Pokemon and Ranma are hits in Japan (whether
they're good comics is something the reader can decide). Like in
the United States, Japanese manga contain a variety of artistic
styles. Just as American comics includes everything from the
graphic minimalism of Chris Ware, to the lyricism of Charles
Vess, to the frenetic energy of Jack Kirby, Japanese comics
include the primitive style of King Terry to the traditional
"bigfoot" style derived from Osamu Tezuka, to the realism of
Katsushiro Otomo. In short there's something for everyone.
You've already mentioned certain Japanese comics that you
admire, such as Lone Wolf and Cub, so that makes you a manga
reader both in the wider meaning that […] and I use, and the
narrower meaning of manga as Japanese comics.
I recommend Frederick Schodt's Dreamland Japan: Writings
on Modern Manga (Stone Bridge Press) as a good introduction to
the contemporary Japanese comics scene and to its more prominent
Thanks for clearing that up, […] -- I now proudly believe myself
to be a manga reader. Here's more:
Thanks, […] -- any info on magna, a genre I have little experience
in, is welcome. But I am a bit confused. Are ALL Japanese comics
manga? Or just the big-foot variety? I read Lone Wolf & Cub,
Akira and a few other select Japanese comics -- does that make me
a closet manga reader?
I think Mr. Smith is a closet disgrace,
that’s for sure.
Dear Cap: As far as I know, all the comic medium in
Japan are called manga, with pornographic manga called Hentai
and girls' manga Shoujo (or shojo), but I am not an expert.
Reading Akira, Lone Wolf and Cub and such histories is like
reading Watchmen or Squadron Supreme in TPB format because you
could not collect it when printed for the first time and
despairing about the lack of other good histories in the medium.
I would not call that shortsightedness; it is the distance
between countries (geographically and culturally) which forces
readers to make assumptions and wait for the authors to be
printed in the States. There is a market for every taste and I
suppose it's just a matter of looking for the right kind of
authors in Japan and wait for their works to be brought across
the ocean. Television, much more so than comics, has been the
fuse for the manga interest in my opinion; it is no coincidence
that all the books our friend of last column recommended were
first shown as anime shows (anime being the name for animated
manga). From those TV shows people have begun looking for the
comics. Which I don't think it is a bad thing since my hopes are
that perhaps the reader will grow out of the simple-minded plots
that plague such books and begin looking for better histories.
The funny thing is that in Japan, first is the comic and
only the most popular are made into anime; that is a testiment
to the great chunks of garbage you could find if you tried to
learn Japanese and bought some untranslated manga on your own.
Of course, I may be wrong and the real diamonds are waiting out
there for us to pick. What I understand is that few people would
be so interested on reading comics in their original language as
to learn it just to avoid translations. I am one of those who
prefer for the stories to make the jump. In the States I have
found the following books and magazines which act as an
introductory for new mangas and here is my opinion. Viz comics
publishes a magazine by the name of Pulp (which) has some nice
articles (Warren Ellis used to write a column there, I am not
sure if that is still true) and a lot of serialized histories,
when I have tried to read them I was confused because I just
stumbled in the middle of the arc and because I am not a great
fan of the crime genre (three of the four stories dealt with
crime in one way or another). The violence was great physically,
verbally and sexually. Later I was told by a friend that the
Benkei series are quite good but at (that time) I did not like
it at all.
Dark Horse does a similar compilation but more
light-hearted, called Super Manga Blast! It seems that they are
using it as some kind of probe for the comics that would be hard
pressed to survive on their own. They publish two or three short
stories of their more known characters ("Oh my Goddess!" "What's
Michael?" among others) and amidst them the new stories in a
serialized way. As far as I heard, "Shadow Star" was liked and
is about to be collected in TPB. I found it much more enjoyable
than Pulp, although I still got a lot of stories which were not
to my liking.
I am currently reading the following mangas:
Lone Wolf and Cub: Easily the best of all the stories I
read. Ogami Ito is a ronin Samurai who takes the path of the
Assassin in order to avenge their family from a rival clan, the
twist is that he carries around his one-yea-old son who acts
like a witness of sorts. The first numbers just seemed like
senseless violence as our hero wandered the country killing a
lot (and I mean, a lot) of people. But as the history advances
the plot shows up, the villains are really nasty and Ogami is
like a vengeful spirit of death. Since The Crow I had not read a
similar story of catharsis through killing.
Akira: Pressing hard for the first place is this classic
history about power and decadence. Everything in this comic is
great, from the biker gangs to the goverment's hidden agendas,
all set in a futuristic setting reminiscent of Blade Runner.
Forget the movie, read the comic. (10/10)
Blade of the Immortal: Not as widely known as the previous
two, it is quite good on its own. Manji is a Samurai cursed with
eternal life (who) has to kill a thousand evil guys before
finding rest. Introduce Rin, a girl whose family was killed by a
rival sword school. You can see where the story goes? Well you
are right in assuming that Manji and Rin join forces to destroy
the rival school. But that as far as you would be right; the
first and second TPBs are like that, with Manji and Rin fighting
the twisted evil guys town after town. But as the story advances
(after the second volume) the evil guys begin to not be so evil
as thought; they had their motives to do what they did and Rin
begins to realize that what she is doing will not help at all to
bury her memories and pain. It has a lot of good moments and the
characters really mature along the history. I have lent it to
friends that do not like manga (but they like comics) and always
have given a good opinion.
Hope that this helps.
It certainly does, […] -- if nothing else, the fact that your
taste runs close to mine on Lone Wolf and Akira, I may have to
check out Blade of the Immortal!
Anyway, thanks again for the info!
His taste does not run even remotely close
to the correspondent’s. Besides, if there’s any problem I see with
this whole conversation, there’s no distinctions made between good
and bad, even with content.
Thanks for the warm welcome Cap!
It's good to be back in the comics fold and it's great to
see fans taking advantage of various resources on the Net. You
mentioned reading the reviews and news sections of your site and
I wanted to let you know that I have been enjoying them since I
found your website and they have been a great help in figuring
out what new titles I should keep and eye out for. Among the
books that my girlfriend and I have checked out after reading
about them on your site are Meridian, Mystic and Sojourn, which
is our favorite CrossGen title yet. Sure it's a classic tale,
but they're re-telling it in a fantastic way! I hope the other
companies are paying attention to CrossGen cause these folks are
doing EVERYTHING right! Even when I've picked up titles that
haven't been for me like Sigil, I didn't feel like I had wasted
my money. Now that is the sign of a good book!
Anyway, speaking of turning people onto new stuff, here's
something that I thought might be of intrest to you and other
readers of your site:
It's an online version of Scott McCloud's Zot! I found it
by accident the other day and really enjoyed it, so much in fact
I went to the comics shop and bought the TPB of the first few
original stories. It's a lighthearted story in the vein of the
classic Buck Rogers serials. Kind of a nice change (like the
CrossGen books) from the darker stuff I normally read, like
Batman, Lone Wolf and Cub and Sin City. Plus it's a cool link to
send to your non-comics reading friends.
I am delighted that you can use this site as a resource to rejoin
the four-color world, [...] -- that's its purpose, and I love
spreading the gospel about our funny, funky little hobby. I look
forward to the day that we convert one fan at a time, until the
whole world learns just how much fun we're having.
By the way, "One fan at a time" is CrossGen's company slogan, and
I completely agree with you about their sure-footedness. CrossGen
actually thanked me once for how much press I'd given them, and I
had to laugh. I'm not doing them any favors -- I'm a critic, not a
tout, and I say exactly what I think in every review. If their
books were lousy, I'd say that with no apologies. But the fact
that I've positively reviewed most CrossGen stuff is because -- in
my opinion -- it is genuinely outstanding. They've earned every
glowing review I've given them, because they ARE doing everything
Him, a critic? Stop pulling our legs,
please. Besides, whatever attention he gave them, it didn’t work in
Dear Cap: You know how people are always talking
about who they'd cast in a movie based on a comic series if they
were doing it? Well, several of my friends and I got together,
and we made up a list of DC Comics characters and how we'd cast
them. Here it is:
-- Batman: Alec Baldwin or Russell Crowe
-- Big Barda: Julie Strain
-- Big Blue (Superman): Bruce Campbell, Dougray Scott, or
-- Black Canary: Trish Stratus
-- Blue Beetle: David Arquette, Jon Stewart, or Matt Stone
-- Jake "Bobo" Bennetti: Michael Madsen
-- Booster Gold: Trey Parker
-- Catwoman: Rose McGowan
-- Elongated Man: Ryan Stiles
-- Fire: Penelope Cruz
-- Green Arrow (Oliver Queen): Ted Nugent
-- Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner): Brendan Fraser or Chris
-- Jason Blood: Scott Bakula
-- Lex Luthor: Jack Nicholson
-- Lobo: Mark Calloway (The Undertaker)
-- Mist (Nash): Lori Petty
-- Mist (original): Geoffrey Rush
-- Mister Terrific (current): Laurence Fishburne
-- Neron: Vince McMahon
-- Nightwing: Dean Cain or Marc Decascos
-- Oracle: Gillian Anderson
-- Parallax: Alec Baldwin
-- Phantom Lady: Dita Von Tees
-- Ra's al Ghul: Gary Oldman, Jeremy Irons, or Richard
-- Sentinel (Alan Scott): William H. Macy or Robert
-- Shade: Johnny Depp
-- Starman (Jack Knight): John Cusack
-- Starman (Ted Knight): Paul Newman
-- Steel: Michael Clarke Duncan
-- Talia: Jessica Alba, Catherine Zeta-Jones, or Jenifer
-- Warrior (Guy Gardner): Lee Tergesen
-- Zatanna: Jennifer Connelly
-- Zauriel: Ben Affleck
So, what do you think? I know, I've got too much free time
on my hands, but still, I think the list is impressive. Plus, I
may be the only one to say this, but I hated the X-Men movie.
I think it's one heckuva list -- particularly Jeremy
Irons as Ra's al Ghul. Man, that would be creepy as all get-out!
I don't have much to add, except to challenge the Legion of
Superfluous Heroes to provide lists of their own. C'mon,
Legionnaires -- you gonna let […] and his friends have all the
Wow, the correspondent has an opinion I
can support, if only because the film was decidedly overrated, and
made through a leftist lens by a director who’s recently been
accused of sexual assault. But, I just don’t see the point of making
Starman as envisioned by James Robinson into a film. That too was
overrated, and does not hold up well in retrospect. Nor does some of
the following letter from August 30, 2001:
Dear Cap: Y'know ... those who do not read comic
books believe that comic books are merely "fluff" and have no
connection to legitimate literature because they are essentially
basic entertainment -- much like movies. But what people forget
is that, just like movies, some comic books are so well-written,
and some writers are so consistent in their work, that most of
what they produce makes a point in a very creative and
thought-provoking manner. We can all think of at least one movie
that had a profound impact on our lives (Sergeant York, A Patch
of Blue and Platoon, for me). What most people don't contemplate
is the total impact of seeing such movies every couple of days
would have had on their psyche. People don't generally think
about what their lives would have been like if the wonder and
magic and great social commentary of their favorite movies were
constantly being reinforced -- on a weekly basis.
That's what comic books do for kids. They expose kids to
wonder and magic and social commentary -- and issues of right
and wrong and ways to discern the difference and the
consequences of choosing various paths -- weekly. It's the
reinforcement that makes the difference.
You tell a child to be respectful of others and to be
law-abiding and help others just like their favorite comic-book
character does, and then you conduct yourself in a similar
manner and -- BOOM! -- you have THREE ways of getting your point
across and one of those ways does not require you to be right
next to your children (who generally need at least SOME space
away from parents). THEN ... they talk to their friends about
the comic books and you have a FOURTH instance of reinforcement
-- their peers.
The same result would occur if ten-cent movies were still
around or if great novels could get their points across in 22
pages (by the way, comic-book reading generally leads to reading
everything else from classical literature, to technical manuals,
to historical reference -- you have to know Norse mythology to
"get" what Thor is all about -- but, I know you know this
Many people are threatened when methods other than church
and religion are suggested as learning tools. Many people are
going to be offended by the mere suggestion that one could learn
right from wrong in a setting that does not involve parents,
schools or the church (or synagogue or mosque ... you get my
point). Those people fail to understand that, 1) there's no
reason learning has to stop in those places -- comic books
(literature) are an ADDITIONAL learning tool; and 2) life
happens, and therefore lessons are learned, in many settings:
People should always be on the lookout for opportunities to
increase their knowledge and gain wisdom -- even when such
lessons come from sources other than parents or outside of the
church or school.
I hope that most of your readers agree with your position.
I'm sure some will not. At any rate, all of our knowledge and
wisdom has been increased by the dialogue.
Captain Comics RULEZZZZZ!
Well, I certainly agree with that last point! Ahem.
Anyway, [name withheld], I can't argue with a word you've said,
and probably couldn't say it half as articulately. Yup, I started
haunting the shool library for Norse mythology when I started
reading Thor. Yup, reading comics routinely as a kid led to
reading everything -- not only the stuff you mention, but
cereal-box labels, classified ads, everything -- out of habit and
a general curiosity nurtured by the wonder and magic of comic
books. My favorite TV channels these days are Discover and The
History Channel -- because I learn something every time, and
comics nurtured in me a love of learning something new (and
remembering it!) whenever I "play." In fact, I've become an
incredible history whore -- I read history textbooks and
analytical pieces for pleasure -- and there is no doubt in my mind
that it was learning Spider-Man continuity that trained me to do
so. (What is history but comic-book continuity in the real world?)
Following this thought, let me note that my third-grade teacher
was utterly floored when I knew the melting point of lead off the
top of my head. Thank you, E. Nelson Bridwell (I think) and Metal
Men. My sixth-grade teacher was amazed when I knew that the speed
of light was 186,000 miles per second -- thank you, Julius
Schwartz and Flash. My college mythology professor was astounded
when I was able to draw a freehand sketch of Yggdrasil, with the
nine worlds located, and Ratatosk the squirrel racing up the side,
on the blackboard. Thank you, Roy Thomas and Thor. And, of course,
I was reading at a sixth-grade level (or higher) when I attended
first grade. Thank you, Stan Lee and Fantastic Four.
Further, there is little doubt in my mind (or my wife's) that my
entire moral architecture is based on ... comic books. Not the
church, not the schools, not my parents -- all of whom let me down
in profound ways as both child and adult. Spider-Man? He never let
me down, and always believed in responsibility. Superman? Always
did the right thing, no matter the cost. Batman? Sacrificed
whatever it took to look out for others. Let any church or state
or school on Earth match these qualities -- and live up to them --
and I'll sign up tomorrow. My wife says I have a WWII-generation
view of the world, that I was an "old man" when she met me. That's
true. At work and play, I feel a responsibility for others. And,
frankly, I pity many of my peers, with their venal, petty,
self-absorbed view of the world, where they adjudge their own
self-worth on how quickly they can screw the other guy and get
ahead of the Joneses. How sad it is. How unhappy they seem.
Me? I'm happy doing Captain Comics, even though it doesn't even
pay my comic-book bill. It's fulfilling, it's enriching, and -- I
hope -- it enriches others. Those unhappy folks at the office? I
recommend they read some funnybooks. Could change their life.
There may have once been a time I’d think
his role as a columnist was enriching. But that would be then and
this is now. Does Mr. Smith believe in responsibility? In being
informed? Forget Spidey, what I want to know is whether the readers
share the same thoughts. And Smith’s never shown diddly squat, as
evidenced by his pre-determined stand on Identity Crisis and Civil
War. I figure his take on Avengers: Disassmbled was also specially
fixed, just so he could have a morally equivalent argument on hand.
As for the correpondent, it’s horrific if he thought a mosque and/or
the Koran would make a great learning tool. I’m decidedly adding
that if he were to think a Satmar and Neturei Karta synagogue made a
great place to learn, I’d be furious about that too.
Dear Cap: A few thoughts and comments on the latest
round of mail in the Mailbag.
I do remember a story in Action Comics weekly where
Superman was chosen by Abin Sur's ring and rejected because he
wasn't from Earth. I think this story also mentioned several
other candidates for the ring. Hal Jordan was picked because he
was closest. To me this always kind of belittled the original
origin of Hal being the only person on Earth totally without
fear. By the same token I do seem to recall a story where the
Guardians decided not to give a ring to Superman because they
looked into the future and saw the hero he would become. I keep
thinking this occurred in the 'seventies but short of digging
through the archives, this is all I can remember. What does this
mean to Guy and his half-Vuldarian heritage? I don't know. I'm
sure, given enough time, we can work something out involving
Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, Post-Zero Hour and Hypertime, but that
might make my head explode.
Guy's obnoxious-jerk phase cropped up in the '80s. He was
thought killed in an earlier Green Lantern story and Hal wound
up dating his ex-girlfriend, Kari Limbo. I think they were
almost married. Guy survived the power-ring explosion in a sort
of limbo-like existence. What he saw between Hal and Kari drove
him a little insane. I think there was some other sort of brain
damage involved. He came back from wherever he was and was in a
coma for a while. Then a renegade band of Guardians revived him
and gave him a ring right around the time Crisis started. He
suffered the head wound in Justice League International. Batman
punched him out (sans Guy's ring) and when Guy came to and got
the ring he hit his head and turned into a sickly-sweet version
of himself. He hit his head again and came back to his obnoxious
senses. I never followed his series although I am familiar with
what happened to him after he lost his power ring. Personally,
he never did much for me but I know he has his fans.
Regarding the trade paperback discussion, I find that they
are more convenient for reading a complete story . It is easier
for me to grab the Crisis on Infinite Earths or Secret Wars
trade and read it in one sitting than it is for me to dig the
issues out of the archive, remove them from the bags (trying not
to snag the cover on the tape sealing the bag) and reading them
an issue at a time. There is also something about a book that is
more acceptable to others. My wife is not a fan of the monthly
comics I buy but for some reason, she doesn't mind the trades.
Maybe since they are "books" she can deal with them a little
better, i.e., I can put them on a bookshelf as opposed to filing
them in a three-foot-long white box snug in it's mylar bag (with
attendant acid-free white board). I have friends who come over
who would scoff at the boxes of comics I have but when they see
a trade on the bookshelf they're more inclined to through it and
My manga tastes run the same as yours. I got into Lone
Wolf and Cub and Akira and have been enjoying both
immensely. Dark Horse just started releasing another series by
the creator of Akira called Domu that has piqued my interest.
And Viz is releasing a series called Eagle: The Making of An
Asian-American President. I've found it to be
a fascinating read, especially in its look at American politics
and what goes into a presidential campaign.
That's all (enough?) for now. Keep up the great work!
I've gotten into Eagle, too -- in fact, my next newspaper column
will be a (rave) review. And I'm with you on trades, in the aspect
you mentioned about research -- I'd love it if every single comic
book in my collection was bound as a book instead of nestled in
plastic bags hidden inside boxes that stack up like cordwood
around the Comics Cave. Not only are books easier to store
(shelves), archive (put 'em in order, title out), but easier to
use for research (as the Archives and Masterworks have proven to
me). Of course, given that I've got 40,000 comics, I doubt they'll
ALL be collected into trades in my lifetime. But I can dream.
Incidentally, I'm with you in disgust over the unfettered,
unrelenting effort by DC post-Emerald Twilight to de-mythologize
Hal Jordan. From the revised origins of Guy and John Stewart
(Hal's not unique) to the first Emerald Dawn miniseries (Hal was a
blue-collar, alcoholic loser who was only a test pilot groupie
when picked by Abin Sur) to the unspeakable travesty of Emerald
Twilight (no comment) to post-Twilight flashbacks showing him to
be an unstable risk junkie from Day One ... well, it all leads me
to wonder why on Earth anybody EVER considered him "the greatest
Green Lantern of them all," and why Batman didn't take the darn
ring away from him the first time they met and give it to somebody
who wasn't blatantly insane. Even taking into account my
subjective revulsion with Emerald Twilight, Hal's current
characterization as a wacko doesn't match with 35 years of stable,
level-headed heroism where he was lionized and admired by his
peers. And what about the Pol Manning thing in the 41st century?
People from the future kept pulling Hal forward because history
showed him to be this outstanding hero ... shouldn't they have
known better? It's not like they didn't know -- a post-Twilight
scene (in Zero Hour or someplace) shows the 41st century leaders
discussing "the terrible things (Hal) did" after the final time
they brought him to the future to save their wimpy butts. Frankly,
the harder DC works to make Emerald Twilight plausible, the more
it invalidates everything else we know to the point where Hal's
entire career as GL makes no sense.
And as long as I'm on a rant -- boy, this is fun -- I should
mention how distressed I am that Hal's peers (Batman
notwithstanding) still speak highly of him. Sorry, doesn't wash.
In the real world, nothing disappoints a teacher more than a
student who doesn't live up to potential. In the real world,
nothing frustrates a professional more than a peer who screws up
-- and tars the whole industry with his malfeasance. So where's
the verisimilitude? If we're to take this fantasy world seriously,
then the person who ought to be the MOST upset about Parallax
ought to be Superman -- who, rightly, feels that the whole
superhero community is his responsibility. Or Green Arrow, who saw
his best friend become the Nazi he always half-jokingly said he
was. Batman? He ought to grimly agree with Hal's intent, while
dispassionately noting that Hal's tactics and strategy were poorly
conceived and executed. After all, given the chance, wouldn't
Batman change history to save his own parents? Anybody doubt that?
And wouldn't Batman do a much better job of it than Hal Jordan,
and privately fantasize about how he'd go about it?
Instead, it's Batman -- of all characters -- who is the only one
to find Hal's behavior unacceptable. Normally I find myself
viscerally at odds with Batman's narrow and Calvinistic worldview
-- but here, he's the voice of common sense. And Superman, of all
people, is defending Hal -- despite his own rigid moral compass.
So I'm disgusted. Because -- and ready your pencils, kids, this is
my ultimate complaint about the whole show -- ALL THE CHARACTERS
ARE BEING WRITTEN IN REVERSE TO MAKE EMERALD TWILIGHT ACCEPTABLE.
And that's bad writing, editorial heavy-handedness in support of a
Oh, and finally, for the record -- Guy also had a head injury in
the '60s, where he was hit in the head with a bus (!) and was in a
coma for a while.
Here we go again for the umpteenth time.
The distress should be at how assigned writers at the time kept
writing all the other heroes speaking highly of Hal even when they
still set a status quo establishing him as a villian after Emerald
Twilight. He misses a big chance to say he’s galled that wasn’t
reversed at the time, and even today, it doesn’t look like they ever
Dear Cap: At least Marvel has somewhat retconned away
a mistake, according to their website. Loki is now the "adopted
son" of Odin, now admitting that Loki's father was Farbauti, not
Odin. It kinda chafed me that Loki was constantly being referred
to as Thor's "half-brother," when actually Loki is closer to
being an uncle, since he and Odin are brothers by blood-oath,
according to the Eddas.
Actually, Loki was early on established at Marvel as being
the son of Laufey, a Storm giant king who was slain during a
battle with Odin. (Loki's mother was presumed to be a goddess,
as Loki is not of giant stature.) Loki was thus the Marvel
Thor's foster brother. This story appeared in Journey Into
<<What about Frey? Tyr? Skadhi? Ullr?>>
Frey first appeared at Marvel in Thor #294, Tyr in Journey Into
<<The other gods you've mentioned haven't been used, but
Odin's brothers, Bori and (mumble, mumble, somebody), have been
(during, of course, the Thomas reign, and once again under
Odin's brothers are Vili and Ve. Buri is Odin's grandfather,
who as far as I know is still alive under the name Tiwaz; Bor
was Odin's father, who is presumably dead.
<<Then there's Ullr, called Uller in Marvel Comics, who
had a short stint.>>
Uller appeared in one of the early Tales of Asgard back-ups. He
was presented as an athlete Thor admired.
<<As to Odin's death, I'll give you points on mentioning
Muspelheim and etc. The nine worlds were just that in the Eddas,
and their various functions were important. But in Marvel
mythology, you've got two shots: Valhalla and Hel (the Christian
heaven and hell). And we've seen how they work. Various
characters go to Hel if they've been bad guys (Skurge, Kurse,
Malekith, Melodi). If you're a good guy you go to Valhalla
(Honir, the brother of Hogun). And you get to keep hanging
around; there is little barrier between the nine worlds. It's a
Actually, according to Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe
Deluxe Edition #1, Valhalla is for heroes, Hel is for the common
dead and Niffleheim is for murderers and other evil-doers.
Skurge the Executioner, by the way, did indeed die during the
Walt Simonson run; however, though he died in Hel, he actually
went to Valhalla, and has appeared there a couple of times.
<<That's why we have the Warriors Three, Volstagg
(Falstaff), Fandral (Errol Flynn) and Hogun (Charles
Hogun was supposed to be Lithuanian-American Charles Bronson?!
That surprises me -- although I guess Bronson was already
relatively well-known when Hogun was created, having appeared in
(if I remember correctly) The Magnificent Seven and The Dirty
Incidentally, Roy Thomas did a story in Thor #293-294,
which explained that 2,000 years ago, the original Ragnarok
happened. The gods in that original Ragnarok were closer to the
original gods of Norse mythology. There were nine survivors of
the original Ragnarok -- the original Balder, Vili, Ve, Vidar,
Vali, Hoenir, Hoder, Magni and Modi -- Magni and Modi being the
original Thor's sons. Asgard sprouted vegetation again, and the
survivors found strange figurines somewhat -- but not exactly --
resembling their fallen friends and loved ones. They also found
Odin's spear, the Gungnir. Touching it, it merged all nine into
the modern version of Odin!
(Incidentally, this original Ragnarok supposedly took
place simulataneously with the birth of the Christian/Muslim
savior/prophet Jesus of Nazareth.)
The story you have in mind is probably Superman#247.
Both give interesting info on Malvolio. (Is that from
It certainly sounds Shakespearean, doesn't it? But probably we
think so because of its obvious Middle English/Old French roots --
male plus violens (which also gives us malevolent).
And I was pretty sure that Skurge went to Hel because I remembered
seeing him claimed by Hela in the Simonson run -- but then, maybe
she also lords it over Niffleheim, too. Anyway, he's back -- AGAIN
-- in the current Thor, which is my point: The Asgardian afterlife
is pretty porous. I expect Odin will be hanging about, Obi-Wan
Kenobi-like, dispensing advice to his son and generally being a
nusiance. ("Dammit, Dad, you're DEAD -- Stop telling me what to
Thanks for reminding me of all those old Norse names that Roy used
in his Ragnarok saga -- I couldn't remember them last week and
didn't have time to look 'em up. Interestingly, Roy's explanation
for why Marvel's Norse characters aren't like their mythological
counterparts (i.e., they're the next incarnation) is remarkably
similar to Kirby's description of the origin of the New Gods. And,
one thing I'm curious about -- if Roy's Ragnarok saga is still
canon (and it might not be), then how come all the other
Asgardians aren't dead, too? That story established that Odin is
LITERALLY "the light and the life" and "the All-Father" --
according to Thomas, his personal energy created all the other
gods, and sustains them. Uh oh.
Forget the Norse topic. How come he can’t
remember morale? As for Loki as Thor’s uncle, I honestly don’t see
what the big deal is of retconning him that way.
Dear Cap: [name withheld], recently wrote: "Anyway, I
have to say that having read the Essential X-Men, I agree
Cyclops (a.k.a. Scott "Slim" Summers) was one of the more
respectable characters from those early days of X-Men. ... Also,
Cyclops certainly evokes pathos with his worries over his heavy
responsibilties. ... I do have to take exception to the idea
that a 'respectable super-power' is needed to make a character
worthy of interest (whether Cyke's power is all that respectable
could be questioned I would think). Personally, I like
characters with few if any super-powers or the like (like some
of the early X-Men) but who manage to use whatever advantage
they have with some brains and stand up to more fearsome
opponents. The more subtle, weaker or oddball a power is the
harder the character has to work it and the more interesting
To which I respond: I have always counted Cyclops among my
favorite characters, for a couple of the reasons listed above. I
met Scott when I was a kid in middle school, just eight issues
before Jean died. I respected his leadership and combat prowess,
and I actually felt bad for him when he lost his One True Love.
A few issues later when he left the team, I quietly cheered,
because Scott was "real" to me and I knew he needed a break. I
sincerely hoped the comic-book writers would let him find a
peaceful, satisfying life away from the chaos of being a
When Cyclops was brought back to the team again, I lost
interest because it was obvious he had become nothing more than
a cliched icon, a place-holder painted in broad strokes, without
real personality or motivation. (Or maybe it was simply that I
was older and saw the world in a different perspective.) He had
a good team, but the real personality development took place
It's only since his return from the horrendous Apocalypse
gestalt that he's become interesting again, and that's because
the new X-writers are TRYING. There's some effort being invested
in making the characters behind the masks act like real people
and not just human-shaped power sources. Maybe I'm misjudging
his motivations, or mostly remembering earlier characterization,
but it seems as though Scott is at his strongest and most
attractive when he shoulders the weight of all mutantkind,
questioning his own leadership and working around his funky
father-son relationship with Xavier. The reluctant, overly
responsible, alpha male? -- I'm guessing that the image rings
true with at least a few comic-book readers.
In regards to […]'s second point, I agree that the more
subtle the power the more fun it is to imagine what you'd do
with it yourself. Some of my favorite New Mutant stories
involved Cipher's seemingly weak translation ability. When the
team went to Asgard (stories now collected in a TPB), I was more
interested in his predicament than anyone else's. And how many
times did he doubt his contribution to the group? I've often
appreciated Angel for the same reason -- my wife liked his
genetically engineered metal wings and "dart" feathers, but I'd
rather watch him overcome challenges and try to be useful with
nothing but his traditional soft, white feathers.
One of my disappointments with late '60s Legion of Super-Heroes is
that DC introduced a really difficult-to-write character with
"weak" powers -- Chemical King -- which could have been a really
cool writer's challenge ... and did nothing with him. He COULD
have been enormously useful and powerful, if the writer did a
little research on chemical reactions (lots of 'em in the human
body, folks, and fire is one of 'em, too), but nobody did a bloody
thing with him, and then they killed him off. Cowards! :)
Unfortunately, I can't agree with you on Angel -- always disliked
him. For one thing, I've always been irked by winged characters.
Not because I don't like the concept or image (usually very
striking), but they always seemed like a burden on whatever
super-team they were on, and it stretched my credulity that the
Justice League would fight foes that would give Superman a tussle
-- and somehow Hawkman would survive? As big a target as a guy
with a six-foot wingspan is? I just didn't believe it. And, what,
exactly does a flying guy contribute to a team that has flying
megapowered characters like Superman, Martian Manhunter, Green
Lantern and Wonder Woman around? This is how I always pictured how
'60s JLA meetings REALLY went:
Superman: Starro the Conqueror has taken over Australia.
So: J'onn, I want you to take care of Canberra; Wonder Woman, you
hit Sydney; Green Lantern, you clean out New Zealand; and I'm
going after his battle fleet in orbit around Earth. Any questions?
Hawkman: What do you want me to do?
Green Lantern: (Stifles giggle)
Wonder Woman: (Rolls eyes)
Superman: Um, well ... the trophy room needs dusting. And
you've got those big ol' feather-duster wings ...
Hawkman: That's Aquaman's job!
Superman: He's cleaning the pool.
Of course, I may have disliked Angel for the same reason I
initially disliked Wolverine -- they both made a play for Jean
Grey, and that was SCOTT'S girl! He'd been working up the nerve to
ask her out for AGES! Those creeps! The poor guy has enough
problems -- don't swipe his chick!
God, I'm such a fanboy.
Wow, the correspondent met Scott in
school? Boy, did he lend him his fountain pen? That’s a strong sign
the correspondent can’t distinguish fiction/reality. In any case,
his “criticism” of Scott sans mention of the writer (Chris
Claremont) drenches the non-existent impact.
As for Mr. Smith…wow. It’s the millionth time he’s panned a
fictional character, rather than the scriptwriter’s efforts in
working on said fictional.
<<And he WAS a respected actor in his day,
presenting a chiseled profile in not only Double Indemnity, but
also The Texas Rangers, The Caine Mutiny, The Apartment, and
some 60 or 70 other movies, some of which didn't start with the
word 'The.' -- Captain Comics, about Fred MacMurray>>
Just FYI, the best of his "non-The" films was a Disney vehicle
entitled Follow Me, Boys! I saw it when it came out in 1966 and
have been hoping to see it again ever since.
It is a charming film which draws heavily on a Capra-like
ending. Fred MacMurray plays a traveling musician in the '30s
who settles down in a small town with dreams of becoming a
lawyer and ambitions of success for himself and his
girl/fiancee/wife, played by Vera Miles. However, he is
railroaded into becoming the scoutmaster for a troop composed of
the town's troublesome and unruly boys. Of course, "hi-jinks"
The more MacMurray tries to break free of the town and his
job as scoutmaster, the more his sense of duty to the boys --
despite his exasperation and frustration -- ties him down. For
several more seasons, he deals with the younger brothers of the
first group of kids and so forth.
You've seen the ending a mile off, I'm sure, but in case
you'd rather not know, stop here ...
After 30 years of struggling, MacMurray retires, feeling
his life has been a failure, that he let his wife down, himself
down. On the day of his retirement, he is lured back to the camp
where his first fiasco as a scoutmaster took place.
There he is met by a throng of the boys he taught and
guided over the years. Boys, now men. Now doctors, engineers,
decorated heroes from the War, governors and mayors, successful
men in all walks of life. They have come from the four points of
the country to pay their respects to the man whose decent,
selfless example showed them the path to being responsible
Yes, it's corny. It's old-style Disney. It's Good Morning,
Miss Dove by way of Mr. Holland's Opus -- but better than both
of those films and worth seeing if you never have and ever get
Thanks, […]! If the enduring popularity of Capra's It's a
Wonderful Life is any indication, I think there's a hunger for
heart-warming stories that remind us that greed is NOT good and
that success should be measured by how we affect others rather
than material gain and career advancement.
God knows, I need to believe it. This Captain Comics gig doesn't
There’s a request for warmhearted stories
alright, but not only are the mainstream refusing to develop them,
all because darkness is far more important to their egos, Mr. Smith
isn’t urging them to change their direction. All his arguments are
just so transparent.
Greetings and salutations, Cap! I just finished
reading the end of the "Our Worlds At War" storyline (the latest
Superman and Wonder Woman issues at least) and thought that,
despite a few continuity problems, it was a very enjoyable
storyline. I have always been a bigger DC fan and it seems that
their crossovers are usually much bettter than any other
company's (although I'm sure that within the next year we'll be
seeing one from the folks at Crossgen, which is a shame, really;
I really enjoy the titles that I collect -- Scion, Sojourn, Crux
-- but I really don't want to have to buy all of them just to
see what The First is up to ...) and I already kind of know the
answer to the question that I'm about to ask (but I will
anyway). Why do comics companies always have to drag all of
their titles into one big event at least once a year? Of course,
the easy and most logical answer is MONEY, but as a not so
casual reader (I'm trying to knock down my $30-plus-a-week habit
to at least $25/week) I would appreciate it (and respect the
companies so much more) if more focus was spent on making each
title better on its own. Don't get me wrong: Crossovers, when
done well, are captivating ( I will always have a special place
in my early teenage memory for Crisis on Infinite Earths) but
most of them turn out to be crap like Secret Wars II or "War of
the Gods" -- events that sound good on paper, but always end up
being a total waste of time and an intrusion on certain title's
Having a company-wide crossover once a year also lessens
the importance and excitement of each event; promises are almost
always made that changes will be made that will have major
ramifications on certain characters, but after a few months
things are almost always back to status quo. I don't mind it
when two or three titles have crossovers -- especially when
written by the same author (loved "The Hunt for Oracle" in
Nightwing and Birds of Prey last year and I am looking forward
to the inevitable JLA/JSA team-up) but having these "epic,"
sweeping, universe-threatening events take place every summer
starts to get old after a while.
Who knows? Maybe I've read too many comic books in my
lifetime and it's time for something new (yes, I do read real
books; I'm a big James Patterson and Iris Johansen fan; and if
you like vampires, Michael Romkey is your man) but I love the
medium too much to stop collecting. I'm sure that as long as
people keep buying these annual big event storylines companies
will keep churning them out, but I felt that I just had to rant.
Feel free, [name withheld] -- rants 'R' us at CaptainComics.net!
Like you, I've read comics for a loooong time -- and view
crossovers with a jaundiced eye. As you say, it's usually much
sound and fury signifying nothing -- and messes up the continuity
in our favorite books, as well as forcing us to buy other books we
don't want to keep up with the crossover, or forgo it altogether.
Not pretty choices, and often not much fun. Particularly when the
crossover stinks ("War of the Gods," "Bloodlines," most of the
Having said that, I'll go ahead and shock regular readers of this
site and say that I thought OWAW was pretty good. Not only will
there be some actual changes -- Sam Lane and Hippolyta, I believe,
are not only merely dead, but most sincerely dead -- but it was
about as tightly written as a sprawling, 37-title story crammed
into 36 weeks can be. Sure, there were some continuity blunders,
or some events that came out of order, or story events in one book
that ruined the surprise ending in another -- but the logistics of
Our Worlds At War must have been daunting, to say the least, and I
can forgive all that. In fact, I can forgive anything ... for a
decent story. And, overall, OWAW was pretty decent.
Of course, they're following it right up with "The Joker's Last
Laugh" -- and I hate THAT one already. Call it crossover fatigue,
but I'd sure like to see my favorite books get back on track with
their OWN stories for a little while. Hey, DC -- cut us some
As for CrossGen -- fret not. CrossGen isn't contemplating
crossovers. CrossGen is violently opposed to crossovers. CrossGen
doesn't even USE the word "crossover" without making unpleasant
sinus noises. They consider it a gimmick, and themselves a new
sort of company that eschews gimmicks and gives 100-percent
attention to the reader. And so far, that's exactly what they've
done, so I tend to believe them.
Funny he talks about crossovers…as an
afterthought. He sure didn’t say they stunk while they were going.
And CG eventually did come up with a form of crossover…at the end of
their run; they ran completely out of funds.
Hi Captain: I wrote you a while ago about giving up
the hobby and using my view point of an outsider looking in.
Today I would like to share my views on villains.
It is fairly easy to rattle off a number of Golden and
Silver age villains off the top of my head but I will be darned
if it is so easy to do the same with 'eighties and beyond
dastardly doers. Why is it so? It's because some many of them
are just plain forgettable. So the question comes to mind "What
makes a good villain?"
In David Copperfield Uriah Heep is Copperfield¹s ideal
foil. Why? In many ways he is the opposite of Copperfield. He is
unattractive, manipulative and greedy. Now apply that to all the
great villains. Lex Luthor is the brain while Superman's powers
lie more in the physical. The Batman is for order while The
Joker is for Chaos. Captain America stands for liberty and the
American dream, the Red Skull for tyranny and conquest. In many
ways the hero dictates the villain.
One of the reasons I hated the film Gone In 60 Seconds
(other than Nicolas Cage going blond) was (that) the villain
stank. Meanwhile Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan ruled because
of a truly great villain.
There are more ingredients to a great villain. I remember
somebody (whose name escapes me) stated that a villain does not
see him- or herself as evil.
Uriah Heep sees himself as doing what is right because
society screwed him over, making him be "humble" all the time as
it made his father.
Doctor Doom does not see what he does as wrong. He feels
that he could run the world better than anyone else.
Spider-Man's foe The Lizard is just following the dictates of
his reptile brain's urges. The Red Skull sees his political
system as superior. Galactus does what he must to survive.
Any villain that admits to his villainy as being evil for
evil's sake straddles that thin line between a viable character
and being plain campy.
Now, a good villain should have an attractive element to
them and a fatal flaw of character. Take Doctor Doom for
example. He truly loves his country and let's face it, wouldn't
you like to be large and in charge like him? As for Lex Luthor,
there were times I rooted for him. In my mind Superman had his
powers handed to him. He was the jock that everything came easy
for. Luthor, whom Superman could have crushed like a soap
bubble, on many occasions defeated Superman by using just his
mind. Many people say one of the reasons that they like Batman
is because he is an ideal people can aspire to, with hard work.
Well you had it right there with Luthor. This is part of the
paradox; we love good villains for their style and grandeur but
at the same time we are repulsed by their antisocial behavior.
As for the fatal flaws: For Luthor it was his ego and
vanity; for The Joker it was his chaotic nature and poor
planning; for The Riddler it was his desire to leave clues at
the scene of his crimes. The fatal flaw is interesting in that
in some ways it makes the villains more human than the heroes.
The Silver Age Superman and Batman were squeaky clean. Do you
remember when Captain Cold and Heat Wave got into a fight for
the love of Iris Allen? Now, many a guy out there can sympathize
with making a fool of one's self in the pursuit of love.
Just remember, without a good villain comics would be
awfully boring. How many issues could we watch Batman dusting
his trophies in the Batcave?
Denny O'Neil, in The DC Comics Guide To Writing Comics,
says, "If you're going to be a slacker, be lazy about your hero
and save your industriousness for your villain. He or she is in
some ways the most important character in your story. The reason
is simple: A hero is only as good as his antagonist."
Who am I to argue with Denny O'Neil?
Oh, pish-tosh. He’s just so happened to
have dissented with O’Neil for the wrong reasons. A co-writer of his
certainly did. One who supported Identity Crisis despite his claim
to be a Silver Age fan. One who’s definitely sick. And the
correspondent disturbs me when he tells how he once rooted for Lex.
Let’s go on September 6, 2001:
Dear Cap: With the recent death of Wonder Woman's
mom, I have seen several reviewers and message board posters
lamenting the loss of another Golden Age character. What?
Queen Hippolyta may have indeed appeared in the Golden Age
Wonder Woman series, but not as WW herself. Her status as GA-WW
was an ill-conceived retcon from John Byrne. So the loss of Lyta
is not that tragic. She was just a bit player in the WW mythos.
In the big picture, she was no more important (less so perhaps)
than Steve Trevor or Etta Candy, both of whom are stuck in
I am also a bit teed off by those who claim that the GA
Hawkman and Green Lantern are the true heroes to claim that
mantle. These characters were the first but not the best. They
disappeared during the 'fifties (maybe the 'forties for some of
them). Not a long shelf life for Alan Scott or Carter Hall. In
contrast, Hal Jordan and Katar Hol appeared more or less on a
constant basis from the Silver Age to the recent past. Jordan's
Green Lantern lasted much longer than Scott's. Same with Hol vs.
The GA/Earth-Two heroes did not really make much of an
impact or appearance in comicdom until recently. Short stints in
Adventure Comics and JLA guest shots was the extent of their
carrers. I am not against these heroes; I think that they are
great. However, it is the Silver Age heroes that have carried
the workload and the fame of the names that are used. I think
JSA did a great injustice to the fans of the SA Hawkman. Other
than Roy Thomas's All-Star Squadron, when else has the GA
Hawkman been important?
On a similar note, why do fans keep insisting on seeing
the GA Superman? Don't they realize that they get to see him
every month in the pages of Superman comics? The current
Superman (modern, Silver Age, etc.) IS the Golden Age Superman.
He and Bats are relatively the same characters as they were in
the 1940s. The Superman who was lost in the Crisis and may have
appeared in that awful Kingdom miniseries was not the GA
Superman but the Earth-Two Superman. He was and is a carbon copy
of our current hero.
Love to hear you thoughts on this.
Oh, Lordy, [...] -- you're going to get me strung up. No matter
what I say, I'm going to outrage somebody. Ah, well. Wouldn't put
my name in big, red letters at the top of every page if I was shy,
First, let me lay my cards on the table and note for the record
that MY Golden Age WAS the Silver Age -- and, in some part of my
lizard brain, Hal Jordan will always be Green Lantern, and Katar
Hol will always be Hawkman.
This being said, there's a lot in what you say that is objective.
As you noted, both Hal Jordan and Katar Hol carried the names
Green Lantern and Hawkman far longer and much, much more
successfully than Alan Scott and Carter Hall. In the case of Green
Lantern, Alan Scott ran for about a decade (1940-49 as the star of
All-American Comics and Green Lantern, and possibly another two
years in All Star Comics) whereas Hal Jordan's Emerald Crusader
was a major player for 35 years, from 1959 to 1994! And, while
neither Hawkman managed the sales and recognition of the Green
Lanterns, the Silver Age Hawkman lasted decades longer than the GA
version, and starred in his own eponymous title, something Carter
Hall never did. Further, the Silver Age versions were better
conceived, better written and better drawn than their Golden Age
I don't fault Golden Age fans for their obsessions -- after all,
in THEIR lizard brains, Alan Scott will always be Green Lantern,
and Carter Hall will always be Hawkman. Can't fault them for that,
when I'm guilty of the same charge. And I'm not ignoring the
importance of being first. It goes without saying that there
couldn't be a second Green Lantern or Hawkman if there hadn't been
FIRST ones. Moreover, what endeared Carter Hall to rabid GA fans
like Roy Thomas was his importance to the JSA -- he was the
chairman, and (I think) the only character to appear in every
single JSA adventure from 1940 to 1951. These are not facts to be
Still, with all due respect to those accomplishments, my heart AND
brain go with your argument that -- in the long run -- Hal Jordan
and Katar Hol loom larger in significance than their GA
counterparts, who almost seem like first drafts in comparison. I
think that you've made a pretty good case that preference for the
GA characters over the SA ones is subjective, and relatively
unsupported by sales, history and common sense. I'm not inclined
to rank one character over another, but if pushed -- and you just
did -- I'd say Hal and Katar are the most significant characters
to bear their respective mantles.
As to Hippolyta, you're absolutely right that she wasn't a heroine
in the '40s, whatever later retcons would have us believe. I do
think her death is significant, though, if for no other reason
than her importance to Diana personally and in the Wonder
Woman/Paradise Island mythology. And it's another link with DC's
past sadly severed, adding to other JSA deaths, the Crisis, Zero
Hour, etc. Further, our disgust with retcons aside, she HAS been
established as the Justice Society's Wonder Woman, so younger fans
have every right to complain about "another Golden Age hero"
dying. That is her status in current continuity, so it's a valid
complaint -- particularly for those without our lengthy
perspective. To somebody who's only been reading DC comics for,
say, three years, Hippolyta IS the Golden Age Wonder Woman -- and
her death shocking.
As to Superman, you're technically correct that the current
Superman is the same as the one introduced in 1938, by virtue of
his being continuously published for 63 years. But I hasten to
point out that today's Superman has evolved significantly from the
original, who could only leap an eighth of a mile and was more
concerned about social issues -- he was practically a socialist --
than supervillains. Nor is today's Superman identical to the
Silver Age version, who had his own specific continuity and
recognizable personality that no longer exist. I think it's valid
to say that the Earth-Two Superman is a distinctly different
character than the current version -- and an argument could be
made that the Silver Age Man of Steel is yet a third version,
lurking in Hypertime somewhere.
In other words, to maintain that today's Superman is the same
character as the one that lives in the memories of Silver Age and
Golden Age fans is semantics. Fans who remember -- and mourn --
previous versions of the character are entitled to feel that their
concerns are no longer being addressed. I like all three versions,
but they appear in my head as three distinct characters, tied to
their respective eras.
Well, you asked for my thoughts, and for what it's worth, there
they are. And, hoo-boy, have I laid myself open to flame mail! Lay
on, Legionnaires, and damn'd be he who first cries "Hold, enough!"
Meanwhile, here are some tangentially related letters:
Before we get to that, I take issue with
his inference that GA Superman was a “socialist”, or that
Siegel/Shuster were. What is that, some kind of a putdown? Back in
the 1930s, there were plenty of instances where rich socialist
businessmen like Henry Ford were harming the position of workers,
and Ford even once employed a gang of thugs to assault his
opponents, including a couple of women. Truly repulsive.
And while superheroes may not be quite as important as co-stars, I
still find it galling this correspondent seems to be favoring the
whole goal of OWAW.
Dear Cap: Well, you had to know you'd push some
buttons when you started in on Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. Boy,
are you gonna get it on THIS one!
ITEM THE FIRST: I don't mind Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern.
Now that he's no longer being written as "Gee, I have the most
powerful weapon in the universe and I'm a new kid and I don't
know what I'm doing" -- SHEESH, how long can THAT float? -- he's
okay. Not Hal Jordan, but I'll bet that in the '60s, a whole
mess of people said that Hal Jordan wasn't Alan Scott.
ITEM THE SECOND: Unless I'm wrong, Pol Manning lived in
the 56th century, in the 5700s (5714? I'm not sure of the exact
ITEM THE THIRD: Why do people (a.k.a. editors) insist on
heroes having feet of clay? Hal Jordan is no longer an expert
test pilot who was selected because he was the most fearless
person within range (I don't mind the Guy Gardner bit -- it was
a neat plot device. However, I would have been a little happier
if Hal had been shown to be a bit more worthy rather than just
closer, but we'll let that lie for now ...) He was honest,
fearless and an expert in his chosen line of work. Now, as you
noted, he's devolved into a less than suitable character to
receive the power ring. What, I wonder, do the DC editors think
Abin Sur's standards were when they picked a drunk, a jailbird,
a slacker, and someone who wasn't really fearless, but merely a
There's more. Superman went from being a super man (look,
it's the only way I can put it) to a Kansas farmboy who happens
to have super powers -- his "aw, gosh" attitude sunk fast, and
he has not, to me, shown that he his a champion for truth,
justice and the American way. (John) Byrne started some of this,
and the direction that Superman was taken just didn't tell me
that this was the Man of Steel. No, I don't suppose that the end
of Earth-One Superman's runs were much better -- but, as I have
always insisted, this betokens a failure in the writing, not in
the character. If Superman can't be made interesting, this is a
problem with the stories -- MAKE THEM WORK. Don't change or
belittle the character.
Batman went from being a driven character to an insane
one. I've pontificated on this previously -- enough said. Anyone
reading Batman now should be able to tell the difference between
the '60s/'70s Batman and this psychopath.
This seems to be the trend in comics; we don't WANT
superheroes, we want super weaklings. We want characters with
LOADS of human failings -- why? So we can feel superior? Let's
hope not. If I need to feel superior to, say, Iron Man, then I
have a REAL problem -- IT'S A COMIC BOOK.
Do we want a "soap opera"-type atmosphere? Again, why does
the character have to be sublimated to the machinations of a
plot? Incidentally, I feel that there is something to the
possibility of a drama-show type attitude these days -- how many
issues of Superman in the past 10 years didn't really need
Superman to appear for the story? This crap isn't comic books,
and it isn't superheroes.
Is it easier for the writers/editors? Well, obviously. No
one wants to write a character who is always good, always right
-- "it's dull." It's also hard to use the character. Easier by
far to play on a character's weaknesses to make stories.
And so, we don't have a good Hal Jordan who stood up for
what was right, fought the good fight and was fearless because
it was in his nature. No, we have a Hal Jordan who was driven
insane by the destruction of a city, and so decided that the way
to correct this was to destroy the universe and start again.
Perfectly logical. Perfectly ordered. Don't drive the character
logically into a role of vengeance and duty (a la Batman.) Make
him crazy -- make him a foil for other (characters).
Well, I guess that's enough rant for now, and I'd be
interested in your opinions. Thank you, as always, for your
Uh-oh -- my opinion asked again. Cuss it, I can't resist.
Actually, […], I agree with most of what you said. Stan Lee (and
Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) revolutionized superheroes in the '60s
in what is universally described as a "heroes with problems"
approach. But is that what Lee did? I think a better argument
could be made that Lee's breakthrough was in combining several
other genres within superhero convention -- like soap operas,
Greek tragedy, Westerns and Shakespearean drama/comedy -- which
broadened the superhero genre into one in which any sort of story
could be told. A lot of Lee's work can be traced to other,
subconscious sources, most of which were OUTSIDE of superhero
comic books. I think the "superheroes with problems" tag was
simplistic -- and erroneous.
If you'll accept that as a premise, then you can guess where I'm
going: That the reasons for Lee's success were completely
misinterpreted as the one-note "heroes with problems" schtick.
And, in trying to emulate that imagined slant, his lesser
successors carried the idea to its logical extreme -- from whiny
slackers in the '70s (Nova, Firestorm) to anti-heroes in the '80s
(Punisher, Lobo) to absolute jerks in the '90s (Guy Gardner, most
of the Image characters).
So, yup, I agree with you that the current approach is often
repulsive, in that it fails to put the "hero" in the "heroes with
problems" formula, a formula that shouldn't exist in the first
place, and often takes the place of real writing. And speaking of
Wow, even I don’t mind Kyle Rayner as a
character, because I realize it’s not his fault he was so badly
written, and that the blame must be laid at the feet of the writers
in charge (Marz, Winick, Raab, et al), but what a shame if the
correspondent doesn’t mind if Hal Jordan were kept in status quo of
a tyrant. It’s just truly embarrassing.
Dear Cap: In reference to your comments in today's
<<Yup, I started haunting the school library for Norse
mythology when I started reading Thor. Yup, reading comics
routinely as a kid led to reading everything -- not only the
stuff you mention, but cereal-box labels, classified ads,
everything -- out of habit and a general curiosity nurtured by
the wonder and magic of comic books. My favorite TV channels
these days are Discover and The History Channel -- because I
learn something every time, and comics nurtured in me a love of
learning something new (and remembering it!) whenever I "play."
In fact, I've become an incredible history whore -- I read
history textbooks and analytical pieces for pleasure -- and
there is no doubt in my mind that it was learning Spider-Man
continuity that trained me to do so. (What is history but
comic-book continuity in the real world?)
Following this thought, let me note that my third-grade
teacher was utterly floored when I knew the melting point of
lead off the top of my head. Thank you, E. Nelson Bridwell (I
think) and Metal Men. My sixth-grade teacher was amazed when I
knew that the speed of light was 186,000 miles per second --
thank you, Julius Schwartz and Flash. My college mythology
professor was astounded when I was able to draw a freehand
sketch of Yggdrasil, with the nine worlds located, and Ratatosk
the squirrel racing up the side, on the blackboard. Thank you,
Roy Thomas and Thor. And, of course, I was reading at a
sixth-grade level (or higher) when I attended first grade. Thank
you, Stan Lee and Fantastic Four.
Further, there is little doubt in my mind (or my wife's)
that my entire moral architecture is based on ... comic books.
Not the church, not the schools, not my parents -- all of whom
let me down in profound ways as both child and adult.
Spider-Man? He never let me down, and always believed in
responsibility. Superman? Always did the right thing, no matter
the cost. Batman? Sacrificed whatever it took to look out for
others. Let any church or state or school on Earth match these
qualities -- and live up to them -- and I'll sign up tomorrow.
My wife says I have a WWII-generation view of the world, that I
was an "old man" when she met me. That's true. At work and play,
I feel a responsibility for others. And, frankly, I pity many of
my peers, with their venal, petty, self-absorbed view of the
world, where they adjudge their own self-worth on how quickly
they can screw the other guy and get ahead of the Joneses. How
sad it is. How unhappy they seem.>>
Cap, your account of how comics shaped your life
is so eerily parallel to my own experience. Change a couple of
the comic-book titles and science facts, and it could be my life
you were recounting. This effect that comic books -- or at
least, those of the Silver Age moral convictions -- has to be
genuine, since our histories are virtually identical in so many
The third paragraph above is where I felt your experiences
and mine leave the realm of coincidence and establish a
legitimate causal effect. Like in your case, the other authority
figures or establishments in my life let me down in
never-forgotten-or-completely-expurged ways; in my case, this
left me with an intense streak of cynicism which has never left
me. I don't think I've ever fully, completely trusted anyone
else -- except for my wife and one other. It's telling that one
of "[...]'s Laws," as I put them, is that you get screwed over
by your friends more often than by your enemies.
However, my four-colour heroes never flagged in the
principles and morals which they espoused. Responsibility, duty,
honour -- from the pens, typewriters and editorial decisions of
countless talents I learned these values and took them to heart.
(My one regret is that I have never had the opportunity to tell
any of those talents the profound impact they had on my life.
Oh, I've been to the Heroes Convention many times, but I've
never been able to figure out how to convey my sincere gratitude
for the course in which they gave me to steer my life in the 60
seconds or so I would get while the line behind me waits
impatiently.) My wife and yours, Cap, could compare notes over a
long coffee about how they are both married to refugees from the
WWII generation. Not only does the good [name withheld] think I
am an "old man," but my parents always said I was "born old".
The one thing you omitted from you account was your
parents' reaction to your comic-book reading. Mine were not
happy about it. They were aghast and distressed that I was still
reading them past the age when they thought I should have
"outgrown" them -- to their minds, somewhere around the age of
12. My parents were good people, with basically correct values,
who did the best they knew how to do; but they both lacked
imagination -- literally. They could not conceive of anything
which was not in their personal experience; therefore, they
considered the notion of anything real or substantive coming
from reading comics as folly to the point of ridicule. Try being
a 12-year-old and explaining to your parents that you believe in
the values of Superman or Captain America, then see the looks on
their faces as you try to figure out what they see wrong with
There is nothing wrong with that. Even though living by
such a code has resulted in being snakebitten many times as an
adult, I still think that honesty, duty, responsibility and
honour are values to hold and to live by. No, I will never be as
immaculate about them as, say, the Lone Ranger; but I can sure
as blazes try. That was the object of the kind of heroes you and
I lived by, Cap -- yes, they were near-perfect; no one could be
expected to be that good in real life. But they gave us a
standard to strive for.
This is what concerns me about the general theme of comics
today, and I cannot honestly say if comics is the source of the
problem or simply pandering to it; but comics no longer present
heroes who stand out stridently for responsibility and honour.
The few who still do so, like Captain America, are dismissed by
writer and reader both as "boring." Most comic-book protagonists
(I refuse to call them "heroes") fit loosely into the slippery
mould of being violence-loving, amoral and possessing a
homicidal tendency which is defensively described as "barely
restrained." They are loud-mouthed, self-serving, borderline
psychotic characters whose flaws are defended by the readership
as being "realistic, just like real people have flaws." I leave
the question of whether most of us real people are that
seriously flawed to another essay; however, I will state that I
do not turn to comic books to read about the activities of "real
people" -- I can get that from Newsweek or Time. I turn to
comics to read about those who are better than me -- to renew my
inspiration to do the right thing. Somehow, I suspect -- and
fear -- that most youngsters today do not take away the same
values which you and I did from our comics reading. That is
In mentioning the Lone Ranger above, I was reminded of the
creed which he would espouse on his radio programme -- it was
repeated at various times; and of all the creed, codes and oaths
which heroes have handed down over the decades, his is the one
which, in its simple decency and morality, says it best:
The Lone Ranger Creed
That to have a friend, a man must be one.
That all men are created equal and that everyone has
within himself the power to make this a better world.
That God put the firewood there, but that every man must
gather and light it himself.
In being prepared physically, mentally and morally to
fight when necessary for that which is right.
That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
That "This government of the people, by the people, and
for the people" shall live always.
That men should live by the rule of what is best for the
That sooner or later ... somewhere ... somehow ... we must
settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
That all things change but truth, and that truth alone,
lives on forever.
In my Creator, my country, my fellow man.
Thanks, Cap, for a most meaningful post. It's enheartening
to know that I am not the last -- or the only -- of my kind.
Far from it, […]. In fact, to prove it, I'd like to
hear from other Legionnaires who've been positively affected by
comics -- and in what way. What say you, folks? And to kick it
off, here's a letter with an oblique reference to same:
Before we arrive at that, I want to say I
don’t think he was ever positively affected by any comics, and was
certainly affected negatively by his own education system that reeks
of socialism (and he says early Superman was “socialist”? Good
grief). I also think it’s a disgrace the correspondent, who embraced
Identity Crisis without question, is daring to bring up the Lone
Ranger creed when he’s not fit to represent it.
Hello, Cap: A couple of comments on recent Mailbag
stuff, beginning belatedly with Sword of The Atom.
I agree with you that one of the best things about Ray
Palmer is the fact that he, like Tony Stark/Iron Man and Bruce
Wayne/Batman, used his own brainpower to create his heroic
identity. Another thing that made Atom great was the fact that
his shrinking powers, and the adventures they lent themselves
to, often reflected Ray's background as a physics professor:
From the telephone-travel trick, to the Time Pool, to run-ins
with microbes and subatomic particles, Atom stories usually had
great sci-fi ingredients. While some of that was just plain
goofy -- e.g. germs with human-like faces (a ploy that STILL
makes me cringe, as in the JLA: Tower of Babel TPB prologue
story) -- many Atom tales featured nifty facts about electrons,
photons and on-and-ons, dutifully explained by good Prof.
Palmer. Pure gold to a science-minded kid like my younger self.
(Thank you, Mr. Schwartz!)
These things aside, what I may have liked most about the
Atom -- and certainly the thing that made me notice him in the
first place -- was his uniform. That simple, dynamic
red-and-blue bodysuit is arguably the coolest of Silver Age
getups, with allowances for Hal Jordan's snappy duds. The late,
great Gil Kane, who designed both outfits, should be required
study for all perpetrators of "Silly Super-Togs."
By stranding Ray Palmer at a height of six inches and
making him warrior/savior to a Lilliputian jungle society, Sword
of The Atom dispensed with all those endearing elements of the
Atom mythology. A blatant attempt to shoehorn Ray into the
regrettable early-'80s sword-and-sorcery fad, it even messed
with that snazziest of uniforms. But I liked it just the same,
for several reasons (in order of increasing importance):
It got the Atom back into a headliner role, albeit briefly
and very sporadically. Even if it wasn't exactly the Atom I
wanted, it was better than random JLA walk-ons or infrequent
If they had to change Atom's classic outfit, at least DC
had the sense to let Gil Kane handle the alterations, and to
provide a plausible plot explanation for doing so. (Unable to
return to normal size and replace his torn uniform, Ray had to
modify it.) Kane's gorgeous pencils, which had become far too
rare in mainstream comics by then, almost compensated all by
themselves for SoTA's cliched main plot: "Stranger inspires
downtrodden masses to overthrow their oppressor."
SoTA's chief subplot made up for the remaining triteness
of the main arc, and then some: The failure of Ray's marriage to
Jean Loring, due to his neglect and professional preoccupation
-- certainly a realistic consequence of his "hobby," if not his
day job -- was presented with considerable sensitivity without
being (too) maudlin. So was Ray's need to re-examine his
priorities and rebuild his confidence following the divorce.
(Some might even see deep realism in Ray's approach to
self-consolation, which combined midlife soul-searching with a
scantily clad "trophy princess" and a decidedly, ahem, virile
Finally, SoTA emphasized -- though not as much as it could
have -- a critical way in which the Atom is different from those
other self-made heroes, Batman and Iron Man: Despite his
scientific origin, Ray has practically zero reliance on
technology for self-preservation. His armor-less uniform leaves
him little better than naked. He carries no gadgetry or weapons
(or didn't until he lost his size-and-weight controls and
adopted the titular sword). Sure, the size-and-weight controls
give him an edge, but they never make him stronger or less
vulnerable than an ordinary man. At any given size, Ray must
survive by his wits and his bare hands -- okay, gloved hands.
(Hawkman is the only other hero who's similarly low-tech, but
flails and crossbows are still weapons; and while I'm not well
acquainted with his mystical Hawk of Ages powers, Mr. Hol was
tougher and stronger than the average bird even when he was just
a humble Thanagarian cop.)
Lacking a fatcat-industrialist's budget for jet boots or
an AtomMobile, and faced with the knowledge that shrinking to
avoid a gunsel might make him food for a rat or a spider, The
Atom had to be more clever and resourceful than his
less-vulnerable fellow heroes. Sword of The Atom was a noble
attempt to showcase that resourcefulness -- and to explore how a
brilliant scientist might apply his mind to a non-scientific
world. It didn't quite live up to its own ambitions, but it was
-- as a loincloth-sporting warrior might say -- an honorable
Jumping ahead to this week's Mailbag, your comments to two
separate correspondents had an amusing resonance for me. Your
description of comics inspiring your love of reading and
sparking your intellectual curiosity definitely hit home. But
another remark -- your gleeful reply to the thought of Brad Pitt
in flames (while playing the Human Torch or otherwise) --
reminded me that comics weren't the only form of "low culture"
that pushed my young mind toward Higher Things. It's true that
recognizing Thor's Volstagg as Prince Hal's Falstaff helped hook
me on Shakespeare, but long before I knew Hamlet from a hole in
the ground, I recognized the quote you used in response to the
notion of barbecue Pitt, "Tis a consummation devoutly to be
The speaker of the immortal line was, of course, The
Riddler (Frank Gorshin), who crowed it while contemplating the
Dynamic Duo's death (in a vat of boiling wax, methinks) on the
Batman TV show. That series' influence on my pre-literate self
led directly to a love of comics, which led to a love of
reading, which led to a love of literature, including
Shakespeare. As a result, I must have watched or read Hamlet at
least a dozen times -- and I've never been able to get through
that famous soliloquy without mentally flashing on a maniac in
question-mark pajamas. I guess it's a small price to pay.
"Question-mark pajamas" -- heh! That's a line I'll steal someday!
Thanks, […] -- and it's amazing how similar your reactions were to
mine in regard to SoTA (as can be seen in last week's Q&A).
And as for Shakespeare, just for you I added the "Lay on, MacDuff"
line from MacBeth somewhere in this week's Mailbag. Which is not
to say that I'm a Shakespeare expert, since the following letter
had to correct me on Malvolio:
We’ll get to that soon enough. For now,
I’m glad the correspondent doesn’t take the same kind of negative
stance PC-advocates like Smith do on the SOTA topic. Taking one mere
story turn and acting like it was literally becoming a status quo?!?
Yeesh. Mr. Smith just doesn’t know how to appreciate character
Dear Cap: Malvolio was the villain from Shakespeare's
Twelfth Night. His character was very similar to that of Frank
Burns on MASH, in that he attempted to show himself as a person
of very high moral fiber who disapproved of the bawdy antics of
those around him, but when he had what he thought was an
opportunity to romance Olivia (I think, I don't have the script
with me), he proved himself to be as bawdy and foolish as
everyone else, not to mention proving himself to be a hypocrite.
Thanks [name withheld] -- and to [ditto] and [double ditto], who
also mentioned it.
But no thanks to Mr. Smith for being such
a villain himself.
Dear Cap: In case it hasn't been brought to your
attention yet, the Washington Post ran a feature-length article
on the new Marvel series about the origin
Thanks, [name withheld]! And, while I'm glad to see comics get a
big piece in the prestigious Post, I had to quit reading it when I
found three mistakes in the first screen. I see no purpose in
reading information I already know from somebody who doesn't know
it as well.
Oh, look who’s just spoken, the man who
didn’t know enough about the origins of the name Malvolio! And the
Post is more like putrid, because of how hostile they are to
conservative values and such. Much like several of the newspapers
Mr. Smith’s column appears in!
Dear Captain: If you hear a 'bong, bong, bong' sound,
that would be me, knocking on the metal door of the ol' yellow
inverted rocket, requesting permission to try out for your
Legion of Superflous Heroes. My qualifications are that I'm a
21-plus-year comic collector and fan, I would sooner pay NM
prices for a Silver Age comic rather than slabbed prices, and I
have cats named Zabu and Streaky! But most important to you, I
really dig your column and analyses so much so that I'm going to
respond to some of your comments.
This will probably be the last words you'd care to hear
about DC Comics' "Our Worlds At War" storyline, but CBG #1450
arrived late so here goes. I agreed with your reasonings and
explanations about OWAW's (supposed) dead until you wrote:
<<Steel? Hauled off by the Black Racer. Saw
a body. Movie tanked. Dull character. Doesn't look good for John
I really hope you are wrong about Steel's fate. While he
certainly was no longer a headlining character, he is still a
pretty respectable hero. His origins sprang out of the death of
Superman himself, and out of the three resurrected imposters in
that storyline, Steel proved to be the most well rounded, and
easily accepted and excelled in his own super-identity.
We all know what valuable companion Steel is to Superman,
and the JLA relies on him heavily for inventive and technical
matters. I had hoped that DC would develop Steel as their
version of Tony Stark minus the playboy billionaire role. I have
a lot of respect for the character.
The fact that Steel is an African-American only further
endears him to me. How many Black heroes are there in comics
currently who are not motivated by racial injustice or some
version thereof, complete with slang talk and swagger? (Thank
goodness for Marvel's Black Panther, an excellent comic and
character finally getting the respect he deserves). But race is
not my sole appeal for Steel. He is a great character with
undeveloped potential and it would be a shame to see him killed.
Just my opinion.
Of course this could all be moot. Page 40 of this very
issue of CBG states that Mark Schultz at the San Diego ComiCon
states that the Steel issue will be "taken care of." What does
he mean? Has there been a major outcry? Have e-mails like mine
been sent to columns like yours, the DC offices and the JLA
Watchtower? Enigmatic, to say the least. But that's part of the
fun of funnybooks. You, dear Captain, are in a position to know
And I will if I can ... and what I can tell you is that DC has
already released a cover showing a resurrected Steel. Looks like
John Henry's stay in limbo will be a short one, and my analysis
was wide of the mark!
And I wondered what that bonging noise was. Welcome to the Legion,
He won’t and he doesn’t. His whole take on
social issues is a disaster. Steel does have potential as a
character, but not with DiDio’s kind in charge.
Hey Cap: I just finished reading the 8/30 Mailbag,
and I couldn't help but make a few comments.
For some odd reason or another […]'s description of
Cyclops made me think of Al Gore. A little bit awkward, lacking
in social graces, but trying to take the whole world on his
shoulders and living up to the high expectations of an
influential father figure.
In response to […]'s inquiry about Atlas ...
Unfortunately, despite billing themselves as "The 'New' House of
Ideas," Atlas concentrated on rehashing already successful
characters. They ran a Hulk rip-off called The Brute, a Sgt.
Rock knock-off named Sgt. Hawk and a Vampirella clone monikered
Devilina. Yet almost despite themselves, Atlas put out a few
good books. Although I've seen people dismiss Destructor as a
Spider-man facsimile, I really enjoyed those issues. I mean, how
can you go wrong with Archie Goodwin, Steve Ditko and Wally Wood
at the helm? I also thought Destructor was unique in that the
main character was someone who had been a street hustler but was
now trying to salvage his past. Yes, like Spidey, he was driven
by a sense of guilt and responsibility, but that's like saying
Captain America and Superman are the same simply because they
both are driven by a sense of right and wrong that we call
Besides […]'s recommendation of Planet of the Vampires,
another high-quality book was Western Action. Comic Book
Marketplace calls it "a must-have for any serious Western fan!
Larry Lieber writes the 'Kid Cody' story that is illustrated by
Jonny Quest creator Doug Wildey!" The back-up features the work
of Steve Skeates and Jack Abel. Larry had been specializing in
Westerns for years at Marvel and getting those other guys aboard
must make for a real treat. I actually just picked up a copy
yesterday and I hope it lives up to its billing.
Finally, in response to […]'s specific question: Yes, two
of the Atlas characters popped up again, both amusingly enough
in the pages of Marvel. David Kraft and Rich Buckler had
invented the Demon-Hunter for Atlas, a title which only lasted
the one issue. In 1977, Kraft and Buckler introduced a Marvel
character by the name of Devil-Slayer and used him in both
Deathlok and Defenders storylines (they even reused the same
story title "Xenogenesis"). Then in 1981, Buckler self-published
the concept as Bloodwing, going so far as to reintroduce the
same Atlas alter-ego of Gideon Cross. Finally, a young Howard
Chaykin had created an Atlas character called The Scorpion. He
had a falling-out with Atlas over creative control and soon
found himself at Marvel, where he re-introduced the concept as
Dominic Fortune was The Scorpion? The things you learn ... Thanks,
And if Cyclops is Al Gore, who's George W. Bush? Magneto? (Naw --
that's Dick Cheney. Which makes Dubya The Toad, right?) Here's
more on Seaboard/Atlas:
Just look how his political bias was
showing. I don’t find Dubya appealing, and he was just as poor on
certain issues as his predecessor, Bill Clinton, but Mr. Smith, you
can be sure, isn’t complaining for any of the right reasons. And all
this comparison of Cyke to Al Gore is insulting. But it does give a
good idea what the correspondent who originally spoke about Cyke
Dear Cap: Picking up on the letter about Atlas,
Pacific and Seaboard ....
I'm down around here as a fan of the Atlas/Seaboard stuff,
purely because of the art even though 90 percent of the writing
was pure dreck. There were one or two shining lights in there,
such as early Chaykin on The Scorpion and some of the Ditko
artwork on The Protector, but they were fun. I always thought
what killed them was a combination of poor editing (Larry Lieber
allegedly being the main culprit) and the lack of newsstand
distribution. You put a new slant on that tale.
Pacific went under, if I recall correctly, because they
tied themselves up with one of the distribution companies that
sprung up in the early '80s, which promptly went bust and took
Pacific down with them. In fact, I have a nasty feeling they
were also called Seaboard -- must be something about that name.
At the time, they were about to start reprinting a lot of the
Warrior material, including V For Vendetta -- and it took a good
four years to get that sorted out.
Solson I remember from the early '80s as one of the most
derivative companies out there. The gentlemen over at Gone &
Forgotten have had occassion to comment on some of their work,
and it makes for -- interesting reading, particularly in terms
of their business practices.
Thanks, […]! It's always tough digging up information on obscure,
pre-Internet companies, so I appreciate you providing what you
What a crock. That certainly doesn’t wash
today in an age where you have Wikipedia to use as a starting point,
even though their data can be very iffy. Even back then, I doubt
there wasn’t any research available.
Dear Cap: I just wanted to throw suggestions in after
reading this week's CBG:
-- "Titan's Hunt," which I feel was the one of the last
great Titan epics Marv Wolfman wrote.
-- Roger Stern/John Byrne's short-lived run on Captain
-- Dennis O'Neil/Neal Adams's Batman run -- this did
revive The Batman to his darker side before Frank Miller did
Dark Knight Returns
-- And since Marvel is doing Tomb Of Dracula, I think
Dracula Lives! would make a good companion to it.
I would also suggest any of the old Master of Kung Fu or
the old Deathlok stories from (I think) Amazing Adventures.
Since Alan Davis is working on "War of the Worlds," how about
the old Killraven stories?
On a side note, if it is British flavor you are interested
in, I would suggest Marvel UK going back to reprinting (in
color) several of the Doctor Who Magazine stories in trades. I
think the last one they did was Voyager.
Thanks for the suggestions, [name withheld] -- those old MoKF
stories seem to be really popular. And I'd like to see Dracula
Lives! also -- there was a great "origin" of Dracula in one of the
early issues by Neal Adams that I remember to this day.
Unfortunately, the Sax Rohmer estate still
maintains the rights to some of the key characters in MOKF, making
it difficult to reprint, and Marvel’s never reached any kind of
agreement with them. As a result, the series has never been
reprinted to date. Yet Mr. Smith has never argued in his columns why
they should reach an agreement with each other. Not to my knowledge
anyway. Some advocate for classics he is alright. Now another letter
Dear Cap: The Ultimate Marvel magazine has failed
(for now, at least), but with great thanks to [name and site
withheld], currently affiliated with [this site also withheld],
I think I may have dicovered the reasons why.
I read a report that he’d published on his site. Many of
the Newsarama sections are published on Infopop software, and
allow the registered users to post a reply to the stories right
on the file itself. And I saw a few messages there that were
very interesting, and which told that they didn’t see Ultimate
Marvel being sold in regular stores next to magazines like
Rolling Stone, as everybody was thinking they’d be. I e-mailed
[…] to ask about what went on in the sales of the magazine, and
he sent me this reply:
<<The magazines were distributed by
newsstand distributors, and even though Marvel suggested that
they be racked next to computer gaming mags and maybe even
Rolling Stone, retailers themselves control the shelf space and
specific store-by-store racking of what they get in. From
reports that have come in, retailers (mass market guys, not
comic retailers) took a look at it, saw it was a comic book, and
racked it with the comics, in some cases jamming it in the
spinner rack when it wasn't the right dimensions for the wire
Additionally, magazines on endcaps of places like Borders
and Barnes and Noble, or in the check-out aisles of
supermarkets, get there because the publisher pays to put them
there. Marvel, despite its intentions, doesn't have the coin to
do that, so they stayed in the ghetto of the magazine rack,
pushed into the piles of comics, where people who didn't know
about, or read comics weren't likely to go anyway.
All in all, the magazines were a good idea, and, if Marvel
had the money to really, really push them, they might have
worked and worked well. >>
So apparently, two of the leading reasons for Ultimate Marvel
magazine’s failure was that A) the bookstore (and maybe even
supermarket) managers betrayed them, and that B) Marvel didn’t
have the financial resources to begin with to promote the
I must say, Marvel really shot themselves in the foot by
trying to launch what could’ve been a breakout concept for them
without maintaining the proper financial resources to get them
onto the shelves where they would’ve been better noticed, and
it’s a real shame that things had to turn out that way. If you
don’t have the money required for the job, then launching such a
project could be a very risky venture.
Hopefully, the failure of Ultimate Marvel will serve as an
important lesson to many other publishers, and I hope that DC
and CrossGen can learn from this too. I’d particularly like to
see CrossGen launch a magazine version of their CrossGen
Chronicles, but unless they’ve got the resources for promoting
it and getting it onto the right shelves, then it may not be a
good idea to do so. In a tough market like what we’re facing
today, you need a lot of money in order to succeed in getting
through to the public and getting them interested in buying it.
I thank […] very much for providing us with the some of the best
info on the subject.
Seeing some of the talk in the Q&A about comics
adapted from licenced merchandise, such as Star Wars and Star
Trek, and how LucasFilm LTD and Paramount maintain a
stranglehold grip on any creative freedom whatsoever
-- well, that’s one of the reasons why I’ve so very often
found licensed stuff to be very inauthentic: They don’t allow
any natural character development (characters don’t have to age
in order to develop though, right?), if at all, they can
sometimes, if not always, be rather juvenile in focus, and none
of the central characters are ever likely to be killed off,
which pretty much frees the audience from any need to worry
about them and their fates. Heck, in some of these items, such
as GI Joe and Transformers, there aren’t even any human deaths;
it’s about as menacing as your average episode of The A-Team and
The Dukes of Hazzard.
That’s why, if there’s anything that worries me about the
new series that Devil’s Due is preparing for Image based on GI
Joe, it’s that there won’t be much character development or even
human relations. I should hope that this will not turn out to be
the case. And while it doesn’t have to be too adult, I certainly
wouldn’t want it to be written too juvenile either. If there’s
anything it should certainly be though, it’s fun. I expect it’ll
have some good action and some T&A, and from some of the
reports I’ve read, there’ll be a few new characters, but when it
comes to all the most prominent characters who’re based on the
toys, well, it remains to be seen as to if there’ll be any real
So I understand completely why you and/or [withheld] don’t
review comics based on licensed merchandise: Because of the
stranglehold that conglomerate companies maintain on the
creative freedom of the comics based on their properties, so
even if they’re worth reading, the lack of free reign for the
writers and possibly even character development doesn’t make it
And yet, I have to hand it to [withheld], he does a very
good job in reviewing the Star Trek comics. I wonder if his are
among the few reviews we’re really likely to see anywhere on the
Web. But they’re very good, and I’ve got to congratulate him for
being so good at it.
As I mention in today's "Next Week's Comics," Avi, I
think Image is well suited to do GI Joe -- precisely because, as a
company, they're more noted for flashy action than character
development. And even so, I imagine you'll see one or two
"secondary" characters introduced that the writer can play around
with, while leaving the licensed characters static.
And thanks for the info on Ultimate Marvel (and to the estimable
[…], as well, with whom I share column inches in Comics Buyer's
Guide). I think most pros had a pretty clear-eyed idea of the
uphill battle Marvel was facing with the magazine line -- and it
failed for precisely the reasons everybody predicted it would. I
think saying the retailers "betrayed" Marvel is too strong a word
-- they were just doing what they've always done, what came
naturally. The problem, as everyone predicted, was in Marvel
finding some way to break those ingrained habits. They didn't, and
the magazines went bust.
If I thought at the time that comics based
on licensed products had serious restrictions, I’ve since concluded
that was erroneous: most of the GI Joe comics were far more serious
than the cartoons, and even Top Cow’s Tomb Raider tales were pretty
good too. So too in fact were the Dungeons & Dragons tales DC
was publishing during 1988-91, along with Dragonlance, based on the
board games and books the late TSR Inc. was publishing at the time
before they were later sold to Wizards of the Coast in 1997 (which
in turn was sold to Hasbro but kept their logos and such). However,
I figure today it’s more likely that smaller publishers like IDW
will have better creative freedom than mainstream allow.
As for that Ultimate magazine, did Mr. Smith ever say in his
articles that major bookchains should make their copies more
visible? No. So what was the point in blabbing about a venture that
was overrated to start with?
And this concludes the 10th gathering of all these letters of
correspondence. We’ll conclude with the
Copyright 2015 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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