A look back at some past memories and experiences, part
July 10, 2014
By Avi Green
So here we come to another point in this little journey of ours
through the very bizarre world of a real life J. Jonah Jameson, that
being Andrew Smith, formerly of Scripps-Howard News Service and now
McClatchy-Tribune, and our next look is at July 13, 2000 (previous
Dear Cap: Just curious: did you at least enjoy how
Grant Morrison got "trapped" in the DC Universe as a result of
Animal Man and had to join the Suicide Squad? I believe that in
"War of the Gods" (which I've tried really, really hard to
remember the actual plot and can't), he showed up, armed with a
word processor and considered insane because he believed that he
could influence events around him by writing about them. If I
remember correctly, he was quickly killed, and I laughed really
I do remember Morrison joining the Suicide Squad -- and also
laughing myself out of my chair. It was a fitting, inane
counterpoint to the self-importance I perceived when Morrison
wrote himself into Animal Man. It makes a nice bookend.
So says the reporter who’s full of
inanities himself. There are some times when I’ve fallen out of my
chair laughing at Mr. Smith’s own incompetence, but honestly, when
it comes to specific issues, it’s no laughing matter.
Dear Cap: [name withheld]'s and your stories reminded
me of when I first realized that not everyone understood
comic-book visual conventions. It was when I first picked up an
issue of Ranma 1/2. The Japanese comic (manga) was filled with
visual cues that made no sense to me at the time. I'm sitting
there thinking, "Why's his nose bleeding? No one hit him ..."
Thankfully, I quickly picked up the basics, but that was when I
first realized, "Well, if I don't understand this, maybe there
are people out there who don't understand our conventions ..."
I've come to understand some manga conventions -- like the
ellipses in a word balloon to indicate a pause or confusion -- but
they still annoy me! I guess I'm just too set in my ways: Kirby's
in my blood!
At this point, Mr. Smith practically
repels me, because truly, he doesn’t understand anything, only
seeing what he wants to, in comics and manga.
1) <<Not that I care -- the only attraction to
(Fathom) that I can, eh, fathom is the cheesecake, and I can see
real breasts on the Internet if that's what I'm after.>>
Silly me. I just turn to my wife.
2) <<Green Arrow may be in stores by the end of the
year or the beginning of 2001, Smith says.>>
I literally won't believe it until I see it.
3) On the "sin tax" subject: What do legal agencies
(police/FBI/DEA/etc.) do with seized money and/or property?
Don't they turn around and use it for good? Considering that
Oracle doesn't use the money she aquires for personal gain I
really don't have a problem with her diverting funds to worthy
causes. Considering all the good she does for the Bat-team, the
JLA, and Young Justice --plus the missions that she sends Black
Canary on -- I think she is morally in the clear. Legally,
probably not, but morally yes.
4) On Titan A.E.: The animation in this movie is terrific
but the story
copies elements from too many other stories. The Cylon
theme song from Battlestar Galactica played in my head several
times when watching this movie. What worked the least for me,
though, is how little humanity had evolved by the far future
time this movie is supposed to take place. Humanity today is so
far removed from humanity of 1,000 years ago that I'd expect
even more changes in the next 1,000 years.
1) Not everybody reading the site is married to your wife. At
least, I'm pretty sure.
2) Same here.
3) The questions was: Is it ethical? I consider it practical but
unethical, but I seem to be in the definite minority in that
4) Your complaint about Titan A.E. is the same one I had about DC:
One Million. I'd think our technology, society and perhaps our
very species would have changed so much by the 853rd century that
we would be almost unrecognizeable. Instead, though, DC: One
Million showed us a "flying car" story:
DC and Marvel alike are already
unrecognizable, and as for Smith and his leftist cronies, I think
they’ve long been that way already. In fact, as their embrace of
Identity Crisis suggests, humanity hasn’t evolved much even now, if
they’re to serve as an example.
Dear Cap: Rules are okay. But do people realize
characters must change? Alfred Pennyworth is going to die
someday. Someone other than Bruce Wayne is going to be Batman
someday. Some of the couples are going to have kids someday,
like Superman and Lois Lane. Tim Drake has to grow up like Dick
Grayson did. Some rules should be broken.
(For those just coming in, […] has been making some points about
fandom's attachment to continuity as a sticking point for comics
to sell to a broader audience.)
Well, IS it necessary that Alfred die? Or that somebody else be
Batman? Bruce Wayne's hung in there for 60 years already. It may
be that some comics characters -- icons like Batman and Superman
-- will remain as static in their main particulars as Tarzan and
Sherlock Holmes. I'd be interested what you think of that point
JLA, but you'll probably be too busy with the following letter,
responding to your broadside of June 29:
We’ll get to that in a moment. First, for
someone arguing about Alfred, I wonder why he hasn’t asked if it’s
necessary that Sue Dibny and Jean Loring die either? Not to mention
Elongated Man, Lilith Clay, Ronnie Raymond and Ted Kord? But then,
he’s long proven how hypocritical he really is. Now for that next
letter he speaks of:
Dear Capn: The letter by [withheld] really gets my
What bugs me is this somewhat pervasive attitude in
comicdom that comics are somehow "real." Comics are NOT real.
They're fiction. Fanciful fabrications. Imaginations on paper,
and that's it.
When a fan has such absurdities as the Hal Jordan fiasco,
Zero Hour, even Crisis, shoved down their throat (meaning
favored characters become dead or drastically changed), people
like [withheld] say "well, life is change and you gotta get over
it." Which sounds to me like I'm being told to just buy the damn
books whether I like them or not.
The furor over the Spidey-Clone debacle wasn't just
whining. Fans were being told they spent hundreds, maybe
thousands, of dollars on 30 years of multiple Spidey titles that
were NOT about Peter Parker! And fans of Hal Jordan feel just as
mistreated. I don't know about [withheld], but I don't feel any
obligation to support ANY entertainment product that displeases
Change is a factor of real life. Comics are not real life.
Comics are whatever the creative teams make them. And they can
make them any way they wish. Doing what fans don't like is
inexcusable. It's a slap in the face. If creators are bored with
a property, it is THEY who should make a change. Real life is
where people get fired because the boss hates them, evicted
because they're too broke to keep up the rent, and divorced
because the wife found a handsomer man. This is the realm of
"have to live with." This is what people "must get over."
Fiction is the escape from all that. There is no "have to" in
"We need to realize that even heroes can't wear the same
clothes forever," says […]. I want to know why not? It's a
simple matter of the artist drawing the same lines as before.
As for Jurgens and Superman, Jurgens may have plenty of
ideas but they're not Superman ideas. Jurgens is moving to Thor
because he has Thor stories to tell. Letting Jurgens turn Supes
into a Norse god for the sake of telling different stories would
be a disservice to Superman and all his fans.
It's funny, but only in comics have the sellers convinced
the buyers they have no choice in the product! Anyone remember
"New Coke"? Coca-Cola tried to force a new flavor on the
consumer, essentially telling them "life is change, get over
it," and the consumers said "no, we don't want that so we're not
buying it." And golly, if that didn't work! Hello again, old
The downward spiral in fanbase pretty much mirrors the
industry's trend of forcing unwanted changes on its consumers. I
don't think that's a coincidence. Cost is a problem, but this is
America -- we pay through the nose for what we want. It's the
content that's driven all these people away.
Capitalism is about selling what people want. Communism is
about telling the consumer what they must buy. We see which
economics, and which entertainment form, is on its death bed.
Wow, [name withheld], that's quite a dissertation. You've clearly
given this a great deal of thought.
I have to agree that it's puzzling when DC pulls an "Emerald
Twilight," from a simple economic standpoint. I understand the
impulse to create a new Green Lantern if the old GL's fan base
isn't strong enough to support a book (although MY solution would
be to write Hal Jordan BETTER). But if your concern is sales, why
alienate the existing fan base, small as it is? Why thumb your
nose at ANY of your customers? As we know in newspapers, in a
shrinking industry you jump through hoops to keep every customer.
Tis a puzzlement. Let's see what the rest of the gang thinks!
I probably repeat myself by this point,
but, I think Smith was just blowing smoke. Why didn’t he think it
was puzzling when DC pulled an Identity Crisis, and went on to write
stories that turned it even more into a repulsive joke, including Cry
for Justice? And if he really believed Hal should’ve been
written better, why didn’t he think the same about Jean Loring, Sue
Dibny, and come to think of it, even Gwen Stacy? I’m not saying Gwen
had to remain Peter Parker’s girlfriend, but she could’ve been
quietly dropped from the cast and sent to live in London, at a time
when they weren’t as bad as they’ve become today. Say, what about
Jean Grey? I don’t buy this jerk’s façade.
The correspondent here has a surprisingly impressive view that
reflects my own today. Indeed, the big two’s MO today could easily
reflect how communists run their sick business. I wouldn’t mind if
GL got cancelled today, because there’s always the chance of
bringing it back as happened before. That told, it’s already become
apparent that any claims sales were low are exaggerated at best. Why
would GL lead to at least 2 spinoff series (GL: Mosaic, Guy Gardner)
if it hadn’t been doing well? And that proves there’s every chance
that, much like the case surrounding the Justice Society of America
title that ran during 1992-3, the publishers lied about sales
receipts to justify their belief that the age of a character matters
more than good storytelling. Dooley may have written an editorial in
1996 telling people that no matter what they think of Emerald
Twilight, they just have to buy GL. And during the same time, they
even claimed Hal was being replaced because he didn't have the
imagination Kyle did! A very insulting and illogical defense for
This is so amazing that I almost wish the correspondent hadn’t
written to Smith, who’s long pulled the wool over many eyes. Today,
I hope the guy’s a blogger, and wherever he is, I want to thank him
for his astute observations, something I wish I’d been consistent
about years before. Since then, I’ve learned the hard way, and long
regretted ever wasting time with Smith.
Hello Captain: Right off the bat, I'd like to say
that I think the Ultimate line proposed by Marvel has the
potential to work, not to say that it also doesn't have the
potential to fail tremenously. I doubt that simply making Peter
Parker work on a web site is going to draw in the kids. But I do
applaud Marvel's decision to distribute their comics to more
mainstream outlets. You gotta stick these comics right under the
kids' noses for them to notice them I think. And putting an
excellent writer such as Bendis at the helm of (Ultimate)
Spider-Man is an intelligent decision.
But I don't think that Marvel has the right idea about who
they're marketing to. Everyone moans about having to get
children to pick up comic books, but it is the parents, the
adults, who have the money -- the considerable amounts of money
-- to actually buy the comics. We (the comics industry ) should
instead be focusing their attention on bringing in adults to the
comics industry, adults having much more money to spend on
Most industries thrive on the commerce of adults, why
shouldn't the comic industry? In the movie industry, it is
almost always the R-rated movies, movies supposedly aimed at
adults (though some are blatantly aimed at the younger
audiences) which garner the highest-gross profits.
Comics don't need to eliminate the "oppressive
continuity," oppressive continuity never being cited by anyone I
know of who doesn't read comics as a reason why they don't read
them. More often than not, they, including all of the
mainstream, are so ignorant of comic books that they aren't even
aware of the large amounts of continuity. Anyway, under good
writers, continuity can only help, not hinder, a story. It is
the poor writers and hacks who with unwieldly stories give
continuity a bad name.
Back to what I said about bringing adults into the market.
I often attempt to act as a missonary of comicdom, seeking
converts. Usually I shove Watchmen or Sandman or something along
those lines at them. My friends will read them, become amazed at
the level of depth and straight-up talent shown in these pieces
of art, and then -- well, just drop the comics. What I mean to
say is that, after throughly enjoying a certain comic, they'll
just walk away and not give comics another thought. They won't
walk into a comic shop and pick up a recent comic, or even
browse the trade paperbacks. And even for those few individuals
who will walk into comic shops looking for some various (Neil)
Gaiman or (Alan) Moore work, they'll simply walk over to that,
pick it up, buy it, and leave. Without ever giving a second,
even a first, glance at anything else.
The industry has been ignoring this tremendous mass
audience, instead making futile attempts to lure in children who
won't give comics the time of day, engrossed with their
PlayStations and Limp Bizkit. It's adults, the intelligent adult
market we must focus on, though I'm not saying there is no
market for children's comics, there always should be. I'm just
saying we should be marketing to the adult masses, something
Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison are currently attempting with
varying degrees of success.
Wow, I kinda got away from my thoughts on the Ultimate
line, didn't I? Well, thanks for reading my lengthy letter.
Though I don't attempt to propose any sure-fire answers for the
predicament we are in, I hope to at least have made my opinion
known, allowing others to disect, debase, support, devour what
I've written. At least that's something.
It's a big something, […]. Only by dissecting and analyzing the
problem, then discussing solutions, can we find our way to a
healthier induustry. That's why I welcome remarks such as yours,
[name withheld]'s and [also]'s. Let's keep talking folks -- we've
got a world to save!
And speaking of "Ultimate" answers, I agree that the new Marvel
line has the potential for tremendous success -- and equally bleak
failure. It's all in the execution, and Marvel's not been noted
for its success in that arena (See: Heroes World). I've got my
fingers crossed, though -- if Ultimate can revitalize comics in
the 12-20 market in mainstream distribution, then the NEXT
generation of comics fans could be twice the size of ours.
After it turned out the Ultimate line was
anything but kid-friendly, it’s clear it is a failure, but these MSM
clowns don't bring it up anymore.
<<Both Aztek and Primal Force were series I didn't think
deserved cancellation. And of course Aztek has now gone the way of
Will Payton and been permanently canceled.>>
This is not true. Will Payton has been found to be alive and is
now a split person with Prince Gayvin, another former Starman
(long story). He is now ruler of Prince Gayvin's world and is
set to make another apperance in the either the current Starman
story "Grand Guignol" or is the followup arc.
I agree though I think Aztek's death was not really needed, I
almost think Morrison killed him as to not let anyone else use his
character. But who knows?
Thanks for the Starman update, [withheld] -- should have caught
that one myself.
Who does he think he’s kidding? He
couldn’t have noticed, though that’s the least of his faults. As for
Aztek, I don’t think killing the character off guarantees nobody
will be able to use him anew – they can always resurrect Aztek, and
at far less a cost than it would take to make a movie!
Dear Cap: In the mailbag, [withheld] wrote:
<<No kid has ever made the news for setting himself on fire
while trying to be the Human Torch. However, public opinion-savvy
TV executives realized that if such a thing ever did occur it
could cost them millions of dollars and possibly bankrupt a
network. For that reason, when TV finally saw fit to air the
Fantastic Four, we were introduced to a different fourth member:
H.E.R.B.I.E. One tragedy was averted for another. So, the event
never happened, although the fear of it is real enough.>>
Actually, this is comics' version of the Urban Myth. The boring
truth is that Human Torch was optioned by another company at
that time (he did appear, in all his flaming glory, in the 1960s
Hanna Barbera FF cartoon, with no concern about encouraging kids
Of course, I don't have the source for this at my
fingertips, but when I dig it up I'll send it along.
Thanks, […], for shining the glaring spotlight of truth on the
cringing celebrity of pernicious urban myth. Or something like
But no thanks to Mr. Smith for being such
a wimp. And, as this suggests, he's not very accurate in his
Dear Cap: Another interesting column this week, as
usual. Please allow me to provide you a little assist with one
of the questions in your Q&A from this week.
If there is anything I know better than comics from the
Silver Age, it's television from the same era; and being home on
leave this week afforded me the opportunity to consult my vast
library of television references.
According to Karen Rhodes excellent book, Booking Hawaii
Five-O, the final episode of the long-running series aired on
April 5, 1980. This episode was entitled "Woe to Wo Fat", and,
yes, granite-jawed Steve McGarrett does, indeed, put the wily
Chinaman behind bars for good. The story itself is a bit
ludicrous, coming across as rather James-Bondish, too
melodramatic, and full of clichés. Overall, a rather lackluster
ending to the frequent McGarrett/Wo Fat confrontations.
Hope this helps. Looking forward to next week.
Thanks, […]. Nice to know that the nefarious Wo Fat met his
comeuppance, regardless of how anticlimactic it might have been.
Dan-o, at last, got to "book 'im."
Oops, somebody’s missed a beat again!
James MacArthur, who played Danny Williams, left the series after
its penultimate season, so whoever got to book Wo Fat, it wasn’t
him. As for the correspondent, he’s full of ludicrous cliches
himself, and way too pathetic to convince.
Dear Cap: I do not know if you have ever watched any
episode of The Kid Super Power Hour Show featuring SHAZAM! and
Hero High but I tried no to miss any episode when I was much
younger. It seems that cartoon series do not last long and that
is sad. Here is a web site that talks a little about the next
generation of spandexed do-gooders at Hero High.
Please, do enjoy
If you have memories of cartoon shows of the 1980s then
here are fine
web sites to visit.
Please, do enjoy
I must say that B-movies are not always the best example
to quote when it comes to fine scripting and scene production
but they have an appeal that reminds steadfastly and uniquely
all their own. The ideas and concepts that have resulted in
films especially in the science fiction, fantasy, espionage and
horror genres show that quirky imagination went into them.
Furthermore, it was bravery on the part of filmmakers who did it
"their way" and did not care what others thought. B-movie actors
and fellow contributors to the genre may not be remembered in
the same vein as their A-list cohorts but what an interesting
autobiography one could write about oneself if one's life
consisted of the storylines of these "little treasures." After
all, Cap, just imagine any of these events taking place in your
life ... being chased by giant- sized ants, beach babes and
their accompanying beast-men, flying saucers, over-eager
spies,evil dead, grateful dead, buxom androids, scorned lovers,
crawling eyes or just being stranded on an island with a mad
Here's the site: http://www.bmonster.com/
Thanks for the web sites and the paean to B-movies, [name
withheld] -- after all, if it weren't for B-movies, what would
Warren Ellis write about in Planetary?
Bad idea using Ellis’s nonsense as an
example. Don’t Stan Lee’s own sci-fi tales count? In fact, what
about Jules Verne and H.G. Wells?
Dear Cap: I remember when I saw the image of the
Earth-2 Superman on one of DC Comics' books that had a picture
of the elderly Man of Steel among a few other characters who
were there to adverise an upcoming turn of events of TITANIC
proportions. It was hard to make him out at first but when I did
I was glad as it meant that he would most likley be playing a
pivotal role during the Crisis Of Infinite Earths. He did. How
little did I know that it had meant that he would never be seen
again. Ever. We saw very little of a man who was Earth's first
superhero in DC Comics' 50-year history. Well, cheer up because
this web site features him along with his more popular Earth-1
Here is a website that is dedicated to the Man of Steel
mythos. Please, do enjoy http://fortress.am/welcome.phtml.
(And) here is the thinking man's article on the concept of
the secret identity and its role in superhero fantasy.
Please, do enjoy
The article in question explores the uses and symbology of
superhero secret identities. I don't agree with all of his points,
and he lost some credibility with me when he confused Billy Batson
with Freddy Freeman (he referred to Captain Marvel's secret ID as
"a crippled newsboy.") But it is pretty interesting.
Yawn. Mr. Smith lost credibility himself
after he fawned over Identity Crisis and Civil War. Why, now that I
think of it, he never spoke out in his newspaper columns about The
Truth: Red, White and Black, Marvel’s contribution to Chomskyism
that tarnished the Captain America background. In fact, they seem to
be slowly moving back to the same vision with James Robinson, now
that he’s been assigned to write The Invaders.
Dear Cap: As to what Bolan thought about the Punisher
... well, it should be noted that, in the first 10 years of the
Punisher's existance, he was rarely used outside of Amazing
Spider-Man. By 1983, he had made about 10 appearances. Since
Marvel did not seem to be using the character, Pendleton seems
to have let it slide; he was willing, in fact, to give Marvel an
exclusive interview that appeared in Marvel Preview 2 (the
origin issue for the Punisher).
However, later, after the 1985 miniseries, the Punisher
was used more frequently. Also, the Executioner made his
comic-book debut in 1993. Innovation put it out shortly before
it ceased to exist.
As noted at http://stonyland.******.com/faq/faq6.html
Pendleton told Advance Comics:
<<Isn't Bolan based on The Punisher? Neither Marvel
Comics nor the writer had permission to use The Executioner
In 1993 Pendleton had this to say in an interview by James
Eisele for Advance Comics and published in their July 1993
issue: "Let's just say The Punisher has taken a lot of liberties
with my work. Anyone who knows the history of The Executioner
has known that all along. I elected many years ago to just let
it pass, feeling that there is room for both of us in this
industry. Of course, new Executioner readers may get the
impression that I have "borrowed" from The Punisher, but let me
set the record straight: War Against the Mafia debuted in 1968,
and has been a flagship of action/adventure in all mediums
throughout these years. Sad to say, my own publisher at Pinnacle
began the trend, firing off invitations to various writers with
copies of my books and stating that he would be interested in
considering similar stories for his publication. The way this
business works, practically every other major publisher jumped
on the bandwagon. Of course, I have no bitterness or sense of
loss from any of that; it is the highest form of complement for
a writer to become a standard-bearer, and certainly The
Executioner has remained in that special place all these years,
Eisele asked <<They weren't taking stories that you
Pendleton continued <<No, not exactly chapter and
verse, but The Punisher took a lot of what I consider "signature
pieces" including Bolan's War Journal, the War Wagon, and
various situations which The Punisher incorporated. I created
the high tech War Wagon in 1973, after using a much simpler
version in previous books. The new War Wagon was built around a
gutted GMC motor home put together by Bolan with the help of
engineers who were sympathetic to his cause. It was a fantastic
vehicle with high tech weapons on board.">>
(Information courtesy of the now-defunct Stony Man Farm
The site also had info on the Bolan comic books:
<<Was there ever a comic book adaptation of the
Executioner series? Yes! Innovation Comics
published three parts of the four parts of War Against
the Mafia in 1993 but the company went bankrupt before issuing
part four. The comic was scripted and adapted by Don and Linda
Pendleton. Vivid Comics published in November, 1996, a 128-page
black-and -white graphic novel adaptation of Death Squad,
scripted and adapted by Linda Pendleton. Artist Sandu Flora, who
had worked very closely with the Pendletons on the Innovation
Comics War Against the Mafia editions, was publisher and artist
on the Vivid publication. By the way, Death Squad the graphic
novel is still available from Vivid and is worth checking
(Information courtesy Alice in Stonyland)
H.E.R.B.I.E., by the way, was actually created because the
Human Torch's rights were tied up elsewhere. It did not have
anything to do with the fear of children imitating those
Buddhist monks who protested the Vietnam war (though that is why
Firestar was created for the Spider-Man series of the 1980s --
but that is another story ...)
Which I hope we'll get to hear. Anyway, I had a nagging itch in
the back of my skull that I'd read an interview with Pendleton
somewhere (Marvel Premiere?) where he beefed about Punisher but
wasn't going to sue. I couldn't remember the details, though, and
now you've scratched the itch. Thanks!
Well Pendleton was certainly doing a lot
better than Mr. Smith, who beefed about the Punisher’s MO, even as
he had no problem with WW2 heroes doing the same.
Dear Cap: [name withheld] should be told that,
contrary to his speculation, in the latest issue of Alter Ego,
Mike Grell talks about his plans to bring back Jon Sable,
Freelance, in comic-book form. Plans he swears are going to come
Darren McGavin's The Night Stalker was based on an
unpublished story (prose rather than comic, I assume) by Jeff
Rice. There were actually two TV movies before the Kolchak: The
Night Stalker series. The Night Stalker premiered in 1972 and
just happened to have for its leading lady my favorite actress,
Carol Lynley. It was followed the next year by The Night
Strangler; Jo Ann Pflug was the lucky gal this time. Both
telefilms, like the series, co-starred the wonderful Simon
Oakland as Carl Kolchak's irascible editor boss, Tony Vincenzo.
The Night Stalker flick was a great piece of work,
combining horror, romance, smart deadpan humor and pathos, with
a fantastic cast giving super performances. But, further, just
as Chris Lee feature films had over a decade earlier, The Night
Stalker, in Barry Atwater's Janos Skorzeny, totally revisions
film's concept of the vampire. No longer Lugosi's aloof,
aristocratic and tragic mesmerist, nor Lee's seductive, eldritch
creature of sexuality, Atwater's vampire is now a voracious,
maniac and violently physical menace. Never before had a vampire
moved so dang much, nor seemed such a feral, blood-lusting
Along with 1973's Isn't It Shocking?, it's probably just
about my favorite made-for-TV film.
Thanks for the Night Stalker info. I never knew much about the
genesis of that show -- which I enjoyed -- and now I do.
I’ve got a hunch he doesn’t know much
about the genesis of many comic book characters behind the scenes,
nor does he truly appreciate the hard work many veterans put into
them! Up next comes July 20, 2000, and one by a “concept hijacker”:
Dear Cap: First, just a note to say how much I enjoy
your site! I look forward to reading it every week, it is a very
professional and intelligent conversation about comics. I also
appreciate how you allow people to have their differing
opinions. I just have been thinking about the loss of readers in
comics and I think that it is very simple and it has been
mentioned many times, but I think it also bears mentioning
When I was a kid, if there were any comics book shops
around, I knew nothing of them, I got most of my comics at the
7-Eleven within walking distance of my house (although I usually
went on my bike). I also got many that my mom would buy for me
at the grocery store. She would even pick them up for me if I
wasn't there because she knew I liked them and they are a good
entryway to get kids reading (I know it was for me). I also got
many on vacation in the convenience stores to help me keep
occupied during the long drives. I even remember that my mom
reading some when she ran out of magazines - she didn't like ROM
but she did like Spider-Man and my sister liked the Thing. If
comics were not around on those spinner tracks in grocery stores
and convenience stores, I would not have gotten started on
comics. Do you know why those are not there any more?
Comic-book shops for the most part I have found very
intimidating, and I am 29 years old! The people who work there
can be very condescending and not nice at times. I patronize
only the stores where people are friendly (LEE'S COMICS in Palo
Alto) and where I see they treat the kids who wander in for the
latest Pokemon cards well. (I think they should stick a Pokemon
comic book in their hands at the same time -- what mother does
not want to encourage their kids to read?). But they have to
make a special trip to these stores. We were always at the
grocery store. Like you said, put them where kids are. And put
them on spinner racks -- not with the magazines. I don't think
trades will help that much -- they are too expensive.
The more I think about it, the more exasperated I get --
why did the spinner racks disappear from the 7-Elevens?
Spider-Man helped me through my awkward teen years.
Peter's troubles I could relate to and his perserverence helped
me to develop my own. Growing up gay in the midwest was not
easy. Peter for years to me was gay. He still is in my Marvel
Universe. These comics also helped me learn about sacrifice and
friendship and like I said, they lead me to reading books, which
helped me so much in school. I feel bad that kids nowadays do
not get this experience. It also encouraged me to create and
draw my own comics. Bad as my comics were, they were a great
outlet for my imagination. What do kids gain from video games?
In closing: SPINNER RACKS, SPINNER RACKS, SPINNER RACKS AT
Hey, […], thanks for your thoughts!
The reason that the spinner racks disappeared is because the
rising cost of comics made them economically infeasible for
standarad magazine distributors to fool with them. If you're a
distributor to 7-Eleven, and you can clear a buck off every issue
of Newsweek sold but only a quarter from a copy of Action, which
one are you going to spend your time on? It became so bad in the
late '70s that tons of comics were sitting unclaimed on
distrubution docks -- and most thought the industry would
collapse. But the "direct market" evolved, where retailers keep
unsold copies instead of distributors having to freight them back
to the publishers for a refund -- and that, in turn, resulted in
comics shops. Regular "newsstand" distribution, though, has all
As to Peter Parker, I'm right with you there. I'm not gay, but I
also identified with Peter -- which shows the broad reach and
power of the character. He was a few years older than me in the
early '60s, and his travails in high school, then college, then
grad school formed a Road Map Of Life for me -- and even though
he's stopped aging (and I haven't) I still think of him as an old
friend that I like to visit every month. I just wish the character
in current Marvel Comics resembled my old friend as written by
Wow, this moonbat – one who was probably
also oblivious to the
real story of who the culprit was in the Matthew Shepard case
and simultaneously the
persecution of gays in Muslim countries – thought Peter was
gay despite his asking to date a girl named Sally in the premiere
story from 1962? Yeesh, what’s the world coming to? This brings to
mind something a guy on Breitbart was saying about LGBT activists
trying to hijack the X-Men in the 1990s (we may have Scott Lobdell
to blame for that). As I’ve come to learn over the years, some of
those LGBT fruitcakes can be the most selfish of all. Hey, I may
have seen Peter as Jewish, but then, I realize it wouldn’t be the
sole idea of somebody whom certain minority groups could identify
with. What about Armenians? What about Celtic peoples? What about
Arab Christians? What about Lebanese Maronites?
And Mr. Smith’s comment that he’s not gay but still ID’d with Peter
is disturbing; I remember a Hollywood leftist saying something that
sounded an awful lot like she was saying she wished she were a
lesbian! Very serious risk she was taking there alright.
Dear Cap'n: For months now, I've been in the process
of composing a letter to you regarding various items in your
Mailbag and Q&A columns, and as nearly every week adds
another snippet or two to my lengthy collection of Things Upon
Which I Wish To Comment, I decided to address a few current
items immediately, rather than append them to my epistolary
behemoth which may never see completion.
In your most recent (June 29) Mailbag, a letter from [name
withheld] says that the old (late '70s, if my memory serves me
correctly) Fantastic Four Saturday-morning cartoon series
substituted H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot in place of the Human Torch
because TV executives feared the possibility that some
impressionable youngster might be inspired by the Torch to set
himself on fire, prompting the poor tyke's parents to sue for
vast quantities of money; thus the presence of a flaming hero
was forbidden, and the relatively innocuous H.E.R.B.I.E. added
so that they wouldn't have to call the program The Fantastic
Three. Unfortunately, this story, though widely circulated, is
apocryphal, and the reality isn't quite as entertaining: In
actuality, the television rights to the Human Torch, but not the
rest of the FF, had already been optioned to another production
company, and while the proposed Human Torch show was never made,
no one else could use the Torch on television as long as the
option was in effect. I learned this information from The Jack
Kirby Collector, though I couldn't tell you which issue without
a much more time-consuming search than I'm willing to undertake.
As stupid as the series with H.E.R.B.I.E. was, by the way,
it could have been a lot worse. Remember the Thing solo cartoon
from -- I think -- a couple of years or so later, in which a
teenage Ben (or possibly "Benjy") Grimm would use some sort of
device to cause orange rock-like objects to fly at him from
who-knows-where and adhere to his body, turning him into the
Thing? After the danger was past, he'd cause the rocks to fly
off of him and back to who-knows-where, turning him back into
young Benjy Grimm. Yeesh! (A further note: after writing the
preceding, I discussed the topic with my brother, who thinks
Benjy effected the transformation by touching two rings together
and saying something like "Thing rings, do your thing!" If this
is indeed the case, I must have blotted it from my mind,
doubtless sparing myself years of emotional trauma.)
Also in the June 29 Mailbag was a letter from [withheld]
commenting upon the recent JLA Annual, which included a sequence
with "Wonder Woman taking the time to add some extra costuming
in order to enter a Muslim temple." This "burn(ed [withheld]) no
end," and, through [withheld again] description of it, disturbed
even our stalwart Captain. I, like you, haven't read the JLA
Annual, and cannot judge the merits of the story itself, but I'd
like to reflect upon the matter discussed here. First of all,
much depends on just how much "extra costuming" Wonder Woman
added. If she completely covered herself in voluminous robes
from head to toe, leaving only her eyes exposed, then this could
indeed be considered demeaning to women. If, on the other hand,
she simply put on a shirt and pants so she wouldn't offend the
Muslim worshippers by looking like a stripper, then that's
another matter -- which prompts a further reflection: While
Wonder Woman's costume has always been rather scanty in
comparison with the fashions of the time, over the years it has
become considerably scantier than it once was. (Her shorts, for
example, today can display only a small fraction of the stars
they contained at the end of her original series in the mid-'80s
-- which even then was a drastic reduction from her original
culottes.) Her costume today exposes more skin than that of any
male Justice Leaguer (including the
Aquaman). This is not because she's a liberated woman who can
wear anything she pleases, no matter how revealing it is, but
because she's drawn by male artists for (nowadays, anyway --
unfortunately) male readers, who enjoy looking at pictures of
shapely women in skimpy outfits. (To those who might dispute
this, I ask: Why do you think her breasts are drawn so much
larger today than they were when her stories were aimed at
girls?) In light of this, the idea that if Wonder Woman wears
extra clothing, it somehow demeans women, seems somewhat odd.
(Having said that, let me confess once again that I haven't read
the comic in question, and for all I know, the sequence may in
fact be exremely offensive to women. But for the supposed
champion of women's equality to dress like a pin-up is probably
offensive to a lot of women, too.)
In other matters, in the June 29 Q&A, you said,
<<To my knowledge, McGarrett never nailed Wo-Fat, but I'm no
expert in this area. Worse, I'm going to have the Hawaii Five-0
theme song running through my head for the rest of the day.
I'm no expert either, and many years have passed, but if my
memory again serves me correctly, McGarrett did, in the final
episode of the series, finally put Wo-Fat behind bars, where we
saw the villain wearing a prison uniform complete with
old-fashioned black-and-white stripes. And there are far worse
fates than having the Ventures' excellent instrumental Hawaii
Five-O (which predates the TV series by a few years, by the way)
running through one's head. (All together now: "Tiptoe, through
the tulips ...")
Regarding the matter of Oracle skimming off some of
various wrongdoers' ill-gotten gains in order to pay for her
computers: This disturbs me, too, even if the money is used in a
good cause, to help her fight and prevent crime. I think what
really bothers me about it is who is doing it. I wouldn't mind
it if a writer were to create a new character who stole from
criminals to finance his own war on crime. And I could even see
someone like Ollie Queen, who -- after Denny O'Neil gave him a
personality, anyway -- tended to be more concerned with justice
than the niceties of the law, turning a crime lord's cash over
to charity (though I couldn't see him keeping any for himself,
not even to fund his own arsenal against crime). But Babs, in
her Batgirl days, was always squeaky clean, even after Batman
returned to his roots as The Batman, grim avenger of the night.
Babs fought crime not out of vengeance, but idealism. She was
always utterly honest-despite being elected to Congress! -- and
this new method of operating somehow makes her character seem
Furthermore, it's completely unnecessary. Bruce Wayne
could buy her any computer equipment she could possibly need.
And I don't buy the argument that Bruce can't finance
superheroic activities anymore, since his spending could be
traced back to him and reveal his secret identity. Yes, Ra's al
Ghul was able to discover his identity this way, but I'm sure
that since then, the Batman has taken sufficient steps to cover
his tracks with chains of fictitious purchasers and multiple
shipping addresses to make his purchases untraceable. Besides,
while Bruce Wayne buying a Batmobile might raise some questions,
isn't the public at large unaware of Oracle's existence? What
would be suspicious about the head of a multi-billion-dollar
corporation buying state-of-the-art computer equipment? Would
anybody really say, "Hmmm ... Waynetech just bought a
supercomputer ... Gasp! Bruce Wayne must be Batman!"?
I guess that's all for now, so, until the federal
government forcibly abandons Duckburg -- Make mine Scripps
Howard! (Hmmm ... doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?)
Hey, […]! As to Wonder Woman, you're inarguably on the money about
Diana's diminishing costume. The only visible support -- ahem -- I
can give to her decreasing outfit is that post-Crisis she's been
depicted as more or less invulnerable, so she doesn't really need
much in the way of protection. That's not much of a defense --
after all, why is Superman covered head to toe? -- but it's all I
can offer (see Silly Super-Togs on this site for more on this
subject). And it IS ironic that WW putting on MORE clothing can be
a cause for argument! I haven't read the JLA Annual yet, so I
can't comment more, but I am curious how it was presented.
And I have to agree with you about Batman covering his tracks with
his money -- he said he was going to "plug those holes" in the
very issue where Ra's tracked Bruce Wayne's expenditures to the
Batcave. I assume somebody as efficient, competent and savvy as
Batman has, indeed, plugged those holes. As the expression goes,
fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Oh, and thanks for agreeing with me on Oracle -- I think you're
the only correspondent who does! And here's more on Hawaii Five-O:
First, while I understand the argument
about whether too skimpy a costume is a good idea, I want to make
clear that doing the bidding of a violence-advocating religion like
Islam can be very costly. Mainly because demanding a woman dress in
a way that conceals nearly the whole body – particularly the face –
is dehumanizing and stigmatizes women as solely sex objects. If it
matters, I’d even argue that, while Haredis aren’t usually accused
of the same horrors, I wouldn’t approve of dressing “respectably” to
suit their ludicrous beliefs either. It’s not ironic at all that
putting on more clothes would be cause for argument, and definitely
not if it happens to be summertime. Vitamin D is a very crucial
matter for women’s health.
"Head to toe" isn't very accurate, by the way, since Superman's head
is fully exposed/visible, so it may be fully dressed, but not
covered entirely, that's for sure. And WW's never been throughly
invulnerable to bullets, if anything; why else does she still use
her bracelets to deflect those little weenies the baddies shoot at
Dear Cap: Hate to tell you this, Cap, but Dan-o
didn't get to "book him." James MacArthur, who played
McGarrett's right-hand man, Danny Williams, left the show the
So I guess McGarrett had to do all that annoying paperwork
himself for a change.
No, he had other colleagues who could do
it, including Herman Wedemeyer as Duke Lukela. The correspondent
clearly forgot. There was even a guy in the last season called James
Carew (played by William Smith), with the nickname "Kimo", which
almost rhymes with "Dan-O", so McGarrett didn't have to look far
when calling for a crook to get booked. Regardless of all that, it's
worth noting that in the finale, when McGarrett finally defeats Wo
Fat, he tells the Chinese Commie that now, "I'm going to have
the pleasure of booking you myself!" After all the times Wo
Fat managed to give McGarrett the slip, it only figures his feelings
would be quite the opposite of what the dummy writing to Mr. Smith
Dear Cap: I'm wondering if the creative team on The
Authority is going down the path of Squadron Supreme. The idea
of beneficial godlings ruling the world and making everything
better is only sustainable if those self-appointed protectors
remain in power and never lose their good judgment. The
now-cliche "With great power comes great responsibility" is
destined to clash with "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." And
yet the powerful beings who comprise The Authority seem to be
without number. Everyone seems to have the same general agenda.
And the bad guys keep losing. ... So maybe the plan IS
self-sustaining? I haven't heard anything about the series
reaching a point of closure where everything falls apart. Have
If you ask some of your friends a "what if?" question
about how they would use absolute power (say, for example, being
given a Green Lantern ring), it's sort of surprising how many of
them will back down and refuse to make truly stupendous,
worldwide changes. Most folks seem to have a built-in aversion
to taking responsibility into their own hands, especially if
they believe they'll be judged by others for doing it. If you
know a certain movie star slashed his wife to death and is still
free on the streets, would you be willing to wrap an airtight
telekinetic bubble around his head as punishment? I might; I
might not. But that's exactly what someone in The Authority
would do. And in the real world, readers "ooh" and "aah" about
the portrayal, and sometimes they even applaud. It's an
interesting situation. Other opinions about the topic?
You raise some interesting points, […]. For example, I've often
wondered what I'd do with Green Lantern's ring and come to the
conclusion you point out -- not much. It's not so much a fear of
responsibility, as it is one of screwing up! I'd probably be
willing to handle injustices that fell on my doorstep -- but as to
the bigger questions, who am I to decide? In clear-cut cases like
the slasher incident you describe, I'd have no problem with
nabbing the bad guy and handing him over to the police. But I
wouldn't kill him outright -- I haven't the right. And I'd be
terrified of tackling more complex, gray-area issues.
And the Indonesia thing that The Authority did seems pointless to
me -- if the Indonesians allowed one corrupt regime to rise,
they'll simply allow another to take its place. Perhaps, if I
really had the ring (and therefore didn't have to go to work every
darn day!) I'd sit down, dream up an organization to TEACH people
how to govern themselves. Then I could limit the brute force of
the ring to simply preventing Army troops from shooting civilians
and other obvious coercion.
Hmm. The more I think about it, the more complex it gets. It'll be
interesting to see what discussion your questions raise.
All that from a correspondent who was a
newspaper propagandist himself! Who really doesn’t take
responsibility then? Who really got corrupted, even if he wasn’t a
millionaire or a politician? And who's scared of responsibility?
It's interesting the Authority featured Indonesia as a target for
destruction, because today, that's less likely to happen, even if
the writers at the time didn't bring up the country's adherence to
Islam, and probably wouldn't focus on Brunei's
horrific adherence to the same belief system.
Dear Cap: You're both a brave and a bold man for
taking on Hawkman's history in your latest column. You covered
it well, though.
One of the most interesting moments at last year's San
Diego Comic-Con was when the JLA/JSA panel wrapped up and the
moderator, Dan Raspler, asked die-hard Hawkman fans to remain
behind. About half the audience left and the doors were closed.
He then confessed that Hawkman's history was a "train wreck,"
that DC's writers and editors didn't know how to fix it, and
that they were looking for ideas.
Hawkman fans around the room stood up in turn to theorize.
I quickly realized that I was out of my league and totally
unworthy of these Hawkman historians. I suppressed the urge to
bolt for the door and sat still and listened as the diehards
pleaded their cases before Mark Waid, Geoff Johns David Goyer
There were plenty of interesting solutions from the
audience. But Raspler said he was looking for something that
could be explained away in two panels so that new readers could
jump into the comic without having to understand Hawkman's
Well, that may have been too much to ask. I don't know. I
certainly understand the benefits of a simply origin story, but
it may be too late for that. Still, it was a fun panel, and that
was when it was first announced that 2000 would be the Year of
the Hawk. I'm happy to see they didn't shy away from the
challenge. And it'll be interesting to see how they handle it.
Thanks for the background, [name withheld] -- I'd heard from a
number of sources that DC was completely stumped on how to rescue
Hawkman from his own twisted continuity, but I'd never heard where
it originated. Now I know. And here's another Hawk-view:
I understand if the correspondent didn’t
think himself worthy, but that’s because those so-called historians
weren’t what he might’ve thought they were! Besides, if they really
wanted to save Hawkman, they would’ve done whatever they could to
reverse the effects from Zero Hour, ditto Emerald Twilight! All that
sci-fi mishmash really ruined mainstream superhero retcons, and
Millenium – and especially Identity Crisis – ruined so-called
character drama along the same lines. Indeed, many of the worst
story ideas came as a result of the crossovers.
I got bored of the Hawkman reintroductions long ago (I no longer own
any of Johns’s takes on the Hawks and JSA), and there were a few
things in those tales that, in retrospect, disappoint me even more.
Like Jayita Sahir being killed off, apparently because they couldn’t
decide if Carter Hall should be paired up with ladies other than
Hawkgirl on a long-term basis. Or worse, they wanted to make it look
as though hangin’ with Hawkman spells grave danger to one and all,
which is disturbing. Now about that other Hawk-view:
Dear Cap: I just read your article about Hawkman. It
was a very good read but I've never been a strong fan of
Hawkman. Never loved him, never hated him. He's been barely a
blip on my herometer (lol)!
So now most everyone's running around like chickens with
their heads cut off over the wondrous return of Hawkman coming
in the new JSA (which to me could stand for some improvement
itself, I think the '92 JSA was much better -- excepting Steve
Sadowski's art which I love, this new JSA is basically throwaway
to me. It is kinda cute but I think it could stand to be much
better than it is)! And now I'm sitting around reading various
comic message boards wondering what's the big deal? Hawkman's
just never done much for me!
If Hawkman took a permanent flying leap off the Earth I
wouldn't much care. I might be a little sad for his fans but
that would be all! (I'm a big fan of Obsidian so I can
sympathize with the neglect/abuse syndrome that takes place with
so many comic book characters & it's affect on their fans.
In plain English, I HATE what JSA has done with Obie thus far.
Making Obsidian, who was a somewhat troubled hero, into a
villian was highly uncreative & obvious. Doesn't seem like
much brainwork went into that idea. Now imagine the uproar there
would've been if Charles Shultz had turned Charlie Brown evil in
his Peanuts strip just because poor Chuck had many troubles? I
think you get my drift! So while the JSA writers are planning
their big Hawkman return party, I'm sitting around wondering
what they'll do with Obsidian, who is my fave comics character,
in the future!)
Now I don't hate Hawk-everything mind you. I do like the
new Hawkgirl, Kendra Sanders, but I don't think even she'll be
enough to make me like Hawkman!
But it does leave me in kind of an interesting position. I
get to shake my head while watching people go crazy over a
character who means little to me. Well, sometimes that can be
I'm on record as wondering what use a guy with wings can possibly
be on a major super-team. I can just imagine the first meeting of,
say, the JLA:
Superman: Hi, I'm Superman! I can fly and my other amazing powers
let me do anything I can imagine!
Green Lantern: And I'm Green Lantern! My ring lets me fly, and do
just about anything I can imagine!
Wonder Woman: And I'm Wonder Woman! I can fly and my Amazonian
powers allow me to do just about anything I can imagine!
Hawkman: Hi, I'm Hawkman! My wings let me fly, and, uh ... well, I
can dust real good!
Ah, well. At least he looks really sharp.
Maybe with Sadowski’s art, but far less so
with Rags Morales’s uninspired designs. Smith’s reply is laughably
superficial, reducing Hawkman to a guy with wings while ignoring his
combat skills with maces, and come to think of it, even his fists.
The correspondent’s letter is a very mixed bag, and doesn’t exactly
have a comprehension for why the story quality is what counts. I do
appreciate the fandom she has for Obsidian, but then, that’s why I
hope she’s let down by how a]they turned Todd Rice homosexual for
the sake of having gay superheroes in the DCU, b]had Rice murder his
stepfather, the influence by Ian Karkull notwithstanding, c]how they
otherwise don’t know what else to do with Todd, or d]aren’t
interested, and erased him post-Flashpoint. I have appreciation for
Roy Thomas’ work, and I fully support him after he
was disgusted by the hack job DC did, disgracing much of his
hard work in 2012.
Personally, I’d recommend that correspondent read the Golden Age
Hawkman tales to know what good storytelling is like for Hawkman,
and that’s how she can appreciate Gardner Fox’s
Dear Cap: I (just) read Batman: No Man's Land (by
Greg Rucka). Two BIG probs -- the whole Escape From New York
premise was tough to swallow (though the political wrap-up was
good), and the idea that Bats would desert Gotham for the first
three months (not to mention the first NIGHT!) was absurd to me.
However, I will say that it was a damn good read -- all the
characters were well rounded, especially Oracle, Two-Face,
Montoya, Cassandra, & Huntress. And the reunion with Batman
& Gordon brought tears to my eyes. Honorable mention should
go to Garrett, Penguin, Mercy and Luthor as well, not to mention
Joker (Nighty-Knight -- heh) & Harley. Even with my
reservations, I'd love to see this done as a miniseries on HBO.
Regardless, I'm glad I waited for the novel -- methinks Mr.
Rucka's storytelling (and my own visualizations, minus TOO many
artists) had much to do with the enjoyment.
I also had real problems with Batman abandoning Gotham in its
moment of greatest need. I just didn't get it -- what, he was so
traumatized that he just wandered away? Huh? When Gordon, Oracle
and others lit into him for it, I have to say I thought they were
But, like you, I so enjoyed seeing Montoya, Bullock and other
"minor"characters being fleshed out in full 3-D novel form that I
forgave everything else. It really added to my enjoyment of NML --
in fact, it contributed to my being able to get over the
ridiculous premise to be able to enjoy NML at all!
Sorry, but the crossover had some serious
weaknesses to boot, not the least being the Joker’s plot to commit
infanticide, and the murder of Sarah Essen Gordon, all for the sake
of killing off a character. Actually, what really irritates me in
retrospect was how the Joker got off easy, as Batman persuaded Jim
Gordon not to kill the Clown Prince of Crime. All Jim did was injure
the Joker in the leg, and he’s recovered from that since too. I
don’t think Huntress fared very well either, even though she was
once one of DC’s best tough-as-nails femmes.
Dear Cap: Congratulations on a great article!
Your story writing and storytelling was magnificent. As I
was reading, I felt this prickly sensation on my arms. I looked
down to see what it was and, lo and behold, I had goose bumps.
It was as if I was reading once again an exciting adventure of
those Mighty Marvel Misfits. Job well done.
Thanks, [withheld]! Apparently my "Who Are The X-Men" article ran
in the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a
number of other newspapers that normally don't carry me. I was
also interviewed by U.S. News & World Report, Harper's and a
few other big-name magazines and radio stations -- and my movie
review was quoted in The New York Times. I suspect this "X-Men"
thing took most major news organs by surprise, and they found
themselves needing "X-perts" on pretty short notice. I think my 15
minutes are over, though -- everybody knows who the X-Men are now!
He shouldn’t have gotten even 3! But hey,
I realize that leftarded papers like the ones he’s cited can’t be
expected to know why J. Jonah Jamesons like Mr. Smith aren’t
And even if everybody knows the X-Men now, do they know any and all
of the stories, from best to worst? They have a right to know,
including about some of the worst output like Scott Lobdell and
Fabian Nicieza’s junk from the 1990s that’s not worth a paltry
nickel, and ruined the X-books since.
Dear Cap: Believe it or not, some of us find
Claremont's X-Men "fun," cliches and all. "Comics are supposed
to be fun" -- that is something that I thought was your motto.
That is what I like about your site. You have always seemed to
me to be a person who recognized superhero comics to be a craft
and not an art. That's why it is fun, the creators do not get
too serious about it and neither should the readers. The
creators are serious to the point that they want to make a
decent living and the readers are serious to the point where
they will spend their money on the product. But that's as far as
So why do you have to bash Chris Claremont every week? It
is getting old with me and I really enjoy your site except for
the weekly Claremont-bashing. I was an original "Marvel-maniac"
in the '60s and '70s. I made some "forays" into DC during that
period and I really felt that what I read (maybe it was the
wrong stuff) was crap. But that's cool and I enjoy reading the
dialogue that you have with others regarding the trivia of that
But, from what you've said, the Claremont-Byrne period of
Uncanny X-Men was the only interesting run in that comic. So,
what were you reading during that period -- while many people
were reading Uncanny?
It's OK that you don't like the guy (Claremont), it's OK
for you to express that opinion (you have every right on your
web site), but why not chill out and follow the title for a
while? Maybe you could find the groove that was there when Byrne
was working with him. Maybe the right artist could bring back
the magic. I think the artist has alot to do with how
Claremont's work comes across.
I don't think it's for the good of anyone for you to bash
Claremont every week. You like it, you don't like it, you don't
have to buy it if you don't want to. It's craft, it's there if
you want to collect it. If you don't, you don't buy it and
that's the biggest message you can send. You don't have to trash
it on your web site every week.
The thing is, Claremont's return to the X-Men is a
somewhat special situation. You have every right, and we expect
you, to be a critic, but I think just a little respect for the
past is called for on your part.
As I did with John Byrne, I've probably allowed the criticism of
Claremont to go far beyond what is strictly necessary. You're
right; a moratorium of snotty remarks is hereby called.
Mr. Smith might claim that, but truly, it
was never his motto. Not if he embraced Identity Crisis and the
direction that came in its wake. Come to think of it, not if he
lambasted the two leading ladies of The Flash and The Atom either.
It may not be good to bash Claremont, but it’s also not healthy to
bash fictional characters instead of the writing quality and efforts
by specific scribes. Something I don’t think Mr. Smith did
convincingly, even when he spoke negatively about Claremont!
Dear Cap: All right, so I'm a geek. I was checking
out your Comic Book Continuum page, and I spotted the following:
<<In fact, the Captain is still wondering why the X-Men's
Storm switched to a mohawk-and-black-leather look a decade ago,
then switched back to her Earth-goddess persona without a word
balloon of explanation. (Perhaps she was jealous of the attention
Black Canary was getting.)>>
Now, given that you wrote this on Saturday, June 27, 1998, it's
probable that you've already figured this out or have reached a
point where you no longer care. But, in case you're still
curious, Storm undergoes her Punk-stage as a result of her
ordeal with the Brood (and her peculiar relationship with
Dracula); her prolonged absence from Earth, her alien
relationship with and subsequent separation from the Space Whale
(Asanti?), and the decline of her relationship with Kitty Pride
(who is, after all, growing up) leave her feeling emotionally
unbalanced. Whereas most of us would just have a beer and get
over it, she goes over the edge, 'hawks her hair, and affects a
punk return to her thiefy roots. Following Secret Wars, Storm
rediscovers her balance, and the mohawk goes. Thank God. Then
she gets shot by Forge's power-zapper, yadda-yadda-yadda. By the
time she gets her powers back, she's pretty much back to her old
Any other questions? :-)
And you say, "Just a moment, I've almost finished If on a
winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino."
Don't worry about being a geek, [withheld] -- we're all geeks on
this bus. Anyway, thanks for the Storm update. We actually did get
around to discussing it later, and my point then remains my point
now: That when Claremont actually got around to explaining the
mohawk, not only was it a flimsy explanation but it had taken so
long I no longer cared.
Nowhere near as flimsy as Mr. Smith’s own
journalism, I’m afraid. And he’s not on the same bus as the
correspondent, but rather, a Volkswagen Microbus (Transporter),
carrying a small number of readers with very selfish ideas of what
comics should be.
Dear Cap: Some unsolicited thoughts on DC 2000:
1) The artwork is great! I particularly noticed that in the
1941 scenes Jay Garrick was drawn in a way that was strongly
reminiscent of the way he was drawn in the Flash Comics reprints
that I've seen in the past.
2) I disapprove strongly of the way The Spectre's character
has been retconned into the "Spirit of Vengeance". My first
exposure to DC Comics was in the giant-sized reprints which were
available when I was a kid (I just turned 37) and I remember
espcially a reprint of All Star Comics 3,with the first meeting
of the JSA. I expect I was a fairly rare phenomenon in those
days, a seven-year-old who knew more about the Jay Garrick Flash
than he did the Barry Allen Flash. At any rate, The Spectre was
not portrayed then the way he is now. Now I grant that a
character has to change with the times or risk losing interest,
but did The Spectre have to be made so vicious and vindictive?
Good grief, for the JSA it would be like working with a ticking
time-bomb that might at any moment decide to go off and wipe out
the human race!
3) T.O. Morrow has always seemed to be an extremely
inadequate villain for the JLA. Young Justice maybe, but not the
JLA. They're doing their best to make him seem interesting but I
can't shake the feeling that Per Degaton is going to show up in
Part Two and sue Morrow for what The Rock has called "gimmick
infringement" ("FINALLY, Per Degaton has come BACK to 1941!").
4) I've always loved time-travel stories, but by the same
token, they're all prey to the basic pitfall of all time-travel
stories, and that is if you change your own past you're liable
to encounter our old friend Grandfather Paradox.
5) Oh no, it's the old "Heroes meet, heroes must fight"
trick! As Agent 86 would no doubt say, "That's the third time
I've fallen for that one this week!" (As an aside, how come
"Nick at Nite" can show us endless episodes of Gilligan's
Island, but we never see a single episode of Get Smart? Or is it
all over on "TV Land"? Why doesn't my cable system carry TV
Land? Arrh!) Why is it heroes who can defeat the Antichrist's
Evil Twin so frequently betray an utter ignorance of basic human
psychology? Have the JLA already forgotten how they felt when
they met Justice Legion A? I realize the League was trying to
make this a stealth mission to avoid further disruption of the
timestream, but didn't they have any plan for what to do in case
they met the Society? Was having J'onn J'onzz sneak down to the
cellar to nab the stuff the BEST plan the combined intellects of
the JLA could come up with?
Ah, well. Maybe some of these issues will be resolved in
Part Two. Despite my rantings, it's not so bad of a story that
I'm not looking forward to the conclusion.
Thanks for listening.
And thanks for writing, [name withheld]!
I have to admit I'm also a bit annoyed at the "retconning" of The
Spectre to make him more like his current persona back in the
'40s. The JSA was a pretty happy-go-lucky crew, and The Spectre
was always depicted in those old stories as just "one of the
boys." Heck, he used his fists as often as the other guys, and his
dialogue was that weird comic-book '40s slang that existed nowhere
in real life.
However, my real objection is that it doesn't make sense for The
Spectre to be the fierce, frightening Spirit of Vengeance in the
'40s. The other Justice Society members would have been horrified
by such a teammate -- and probably would have tried to put him
down. And over in Starman it's been established that Ted Knight
didn't really believe The Spectre was a ghost -- and when he was
confronted with undeniable proof of the supernatural (after the
war), he actually lost his mind. Further, having The Spectre this
horrific vision undercuts the point of the series; to wit, that
the JSA is shocked and appalled by modern superheroing -- which
The Spectre now represents. Phooey.
Also, I'm disappointed that the JLA resorted to trickery and
chicanery to get the modern weapons back. God knows both the JLA
and the JSA have been involved in all sorts of time-traveling
adventures -- heck, their Wonder Woman was a time-traveling
Hippolyta, according to John Byrne's Wonder Woman stint. It just
beggars credulity that Wonder Woman wouldn't have gone back in
time, talked to her mother, and gotten the weapons back. Just that
simple, and just the sort of thing Diana would have suggested.
Still and all, I can overlook most of this for the fun of seeing
the JSA in their prime again.
I’d almost thought so too, years before.
But when I think about the over-nostalgic approach used by Johns
(and David Goyer), to say nothing of how the former’s work, if not
the latter’s, mirrors a lot of Robinson’s MO, I conclude that it was
one of the most overrated books of its time.
So Mr. Smith’s bothered by the Spectre’s vindictive modern persona.
But he’s not bothered one bit about Dr. Light being retconned into a
rapist? What next, if Doctor Light were retconned into a pedophile,
would he be fine with that too? The usual hypocrisy on display, and
I’m not happy with how Robinson turned Ted Knight into a headcase as
a result of supernatural experience either. While the heroes and
their co-stars are certainly the ones we should care about, even the
depictions of villains can require our concern, and if Dr. Light
never committed "worse than death" crimes and kept an honorable MO
throughout his criminal career, then retconning him into a sex
offender doesn't wash, and should be cause for offense. It's not
like the audience wants to read about specific villains just to see
them committing repellent crimes in a sexual vein.
And gee, if the JSA was portrayed as being galled at “modern”
superheroing, that’s actually bad. It’s just the kind of mentality
that destroyed the Punisher.
Hey Cap: You recently wrote that you're overly
conscious of avoiding Christian iconography for fear of
insulting Muslims or Jews. That hit a nerve with me. You see, I
think a lot of writers go out of their way to insult Christians.
I don't mean to implicate you, Cap; I've never felt insulted by
you. Rather, you seem to treat all of your readers and
correspondents with respect. You just happened to stumble into
something that's been bothering me since I read last week's
I know that Alan Moore isn't a Christian, so I don't
expect him or his characters to act as if they are. But in the
middle of last week's issue, someone invoked the name of Christ
in Promethea's presence. She responded by yelling, "You dare?
You dare invoke the name of Christ? When you have murdered? When
you have made compact with hell?" She continued, saying, "The
Lord Christ is more kin to me than you could ever comprehend. We
are both sacred. We are both stories ..."
Now, I understand Promethea's indignation that those who
were trying to assassinate her would beg her "in Christ's name."
What I don't understand is why Mr. Moore couldn't have ended
with "the Lord Christ is more kin to me than you could ever
comprehend." The story loses nothing if he ends the statement
there. Instead, Mr. Moore introduced us to his philosophy of
religion, one in which Jesus Christ is no more real than
Promethea, in which Jesus Christ is just a sacred story,
something like a Superman. He didn't have to do it. But he did.
He went out of his way to insult Christians (and Muslims, too,
who at least believe that Jesus was a historical prophet).
I have to confess, this wasn't entirely unexpected. Having
read interviews with Alan Moore, I knew something of his
religious leanings. And knowing the premise of Promethea, I'm
surprised it didn't happen earlier. I guess I'm just hurt, and a
little bitter. Why is it okay to insult or offend Christians?
Why do writers go out of their way to do it?
I'm not quite ready to give up on Alan Moore's work. I
enjoy his writing skill too much to abandon him so quickly. But
I can't read Warren Ellis anymore because he wrote two stories
in less than a year that proclaimed, "There is no God." Not
through characters either, but on one of those occasions as the
narrator. I'm also relieved that Zauriel is out of the JLA.
Honestly, I loved Zauriel and whenever Grant Morrison wrote him,
he was a great character. But whenever somebody else got their
hands on him in a cross-over or an 80-Page Giant, he became a
cipher or a foil. He was a way to poke fun at Christians, either
by having the angel tell them they're all wrong or by using
Zauriel to portray the negative stereotypes.
Sorry about that, I just had to vent.
I'm glad you brought the issue back up, [withheld], because you've
gone a long way toward explaining my "discomfort with overt
Christian iconography" better than I did!
Because, not only am I worried that it will offend non-Christians,
but it's a dead certainty to offend many Christians as well. When
you establish anything about an existing religion as "fact,"
you're bound to offend SOMEone. Every word out of Zauriel's mouth
is a minefield -- depending on the interpretation of the reader.
Any innocuous statement can be read to mean that he does or does
not support baptism, transubstantion, "born again" theology -- in
short, almost anything can be interpreted to support or undermine
one particular sect of Christianity over another. Heck, some sects
of Christianity hold that angels are just mythology -- yet, lo and
behold, here's an actual walking, talking angel as part of the
JLA. And religion, by its very definition, is faith-based and
interpretive -- any doubt of that, all you have to do is note how
many different Christian sects interpret the Bible differently,
while most claim it to be the literal word of God! From an
objective viewpoint, the word of God shouldn't be open to
interpretation -- but the reality of all those different sects
establishes that it is.
A case in point about interpretation is the issue of Promethea
that you mention. You were offended -- but here I am, raised
Methodist, an editor trained to be anxious about religion, and I
breezed right over that line. If you intertpret that dialogue as
Alan Moore speaking, hitting us over the head with his view of the
universe, then we BOTH have reason to be offended. But I didn't
interpret it that way -- I saw it as the CHARACTER speaking. From
that viewpoint, it's almost a compliment -- the character, being
"story-based," sees other more-than-human concepts like Christ as
kin -- as like her, also story-based. In that sense, it's good
writing -- letting us get a glimpse into how Promethea evaluates
Which doesn't invalidate your point. I'm just illustrating my own,
in that any discussion of religion in superhero comics is a
disaster waiting to happen. In fact, I quite agree that mass media
makes a hobby of ridiculing faith. The child-molesting priest, the
fanatical cleric and the narrow-minded hellfire preacher are all
cliches on TV and in the movies (and in the comics).
Further, I've got a larger point that I hope I can articulate. It
is this: The establishment of the Judeo-Christian heirarchy in the
DC Universe DIMINISHES the other characters. Batman has been
established as believing in a God (however Old Testament), which
tells us something of his worldview, his inner life, his opinions
-- in short, makes him a more three-dimensional character ... IF
IT'S BASED ON FAITH. But with the hosts of heaven marching down
the Avenue of the Americas in Day of Judgment (and filmed on a
million camcorders), and an actual angel in the JLA -- well,
Batman would be a damn fool NOT to believe in God. Heaven and
hell, God and the devil, the existence of souls -- these are all
facts to Batman, like gravity. It tells us nothing about Batman at
all that he is a deist. And it alters the DC Universe so
fundamentally from our own (where we have no objective proof about
the afterlife and must make life-altering decisions based on
ephemeral faith) that these people really ARE different from us.
They are straw men, and we have less in common with them.
I hope that makes sense, and I fully realize that everything I'VE
just said will probably be interpreted by SOMEbody as offensive.
But what the heck -- I wouldn't have my name in big red letters at
the top of the page if I was thin-skinned.
Look who’s talking, the guy who has issues
with anybody who dares criticize the press! And he actually read
Spider-Man and New Teen Titans years ago! As two series I know of
where the MSM wasn’t presented in the most flattering of lights (I’m
sure there’s more, but I can’t think of them all just now), I’ve
never understood why any left-wing journalist who read those books
would remain a stalwart supporter long after, because it shouldn’t
be too difficult to figure out that, even if political views aren’t
explicitly mentioned in the books, there’s every chance they can and
do mirror the left's positions.
Granted, there’s a legitimate argument that Christians are being
bashed far too much. But unfortunately, Judaism isn’t faring any
better, if at all. Islam, on the other hand, if you look at how
otherwise favorable Hollywood’s depictions are today, is faring a
lot better, while Judeo-Christianity is not.
That said, the correspondent is a man who embraced Identity Crisis,
and as a result, I’m honestly not sure he really is a true
Christian. But if he is, then I’d like to know if he’s comfy with
Sura 98:6 in the Koran, which says: “The Christians, Jews and
idol worshipers, who do not believe in Mohammed or the Qur'an, are
going to burn forever in Hell and are the worst creatures on
earth”. Is he?
Dear Cap: In a magazine I was reading on cartoons (I
can't remember, it was years ago in Barnes and Nobles), it was
noted that, originally, the Human Torch and Iceman would have
guest starred in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. However,
the fear that kids light themselves on fire, unlike other times,
came up. (However, it never occurred to them that kids would
lock themselves in old refrigerators to imitate Iceman.) So,
Firestorm was created to replace the Human Torch, as she did not
cover her body with flame. She has since been incorporated into
the Marvel Universe. However, as noted, I don't remember the
magazine where I read this, but many someone else will (or will
come up with a similar source).
Anybody else remember?
Nope, but the correspondent, alas, forgets
that Firestar is the name of the heroine; Firestorm is a
male DC hero. Angelica Jones was originally created by animator
Christy Marx in the 1981 cartoon and translated into the MCU proper
4 years later. How they missed that part is beyond me.
Where can I find the CBG column? You're welcome.
1) Why can't heroes wear the same clothes everyday? I
doubt Lois would get close to Clark if he was sweating and
smelling. Would you?
2) With the exception of the Disney Tarzan movie and the
recent Batman/Tarzan crossover, when was the last time Tarzan
made a splash really? Sherlock Homes hasn't been seen in years
with the exception of airing his old movies on a movie channel.
Same goes with alot of the classic movie monsters. Although they
have made a ton of vampire flicks when was the last time Dracula
HIMSELF made a appearence.
3) I know comics are complete fiction. Plus, I'm not
telling you what to buy, I'm just saying give new characters,
costumes, ideas a chance. (Although the Spidey-Clone thing was
4) Could the reason be that comic sales are falling is
that the public sees them as old hat. When you get right down to
it Batman today isn't a whole lot different really then when he
was first created. Could the public think they are outdated?
(Batman is my favorite character by the way, I'm just using him
as an example.)
You can see the CBG column in ... uh, well, CBG!
As to your other points, the debate goes on! Here's another view:
But before we get to that, I’d argue that
the correspondent made a mistake to care about his CBG column,
because that could be just as leftarded as his syndicated newspaper
column, and was! But I’ll respond to his queries. For example:
1]yeah, laundry is a pretty good puzzlement, but if it were
established that most superheroes keep a few copies of the same
costume handy, then it wouldn’t be too much of an issue!
2]not for a long time, probably because Tarzan was long played out,
3]I’d certainly give new characters a chance, if not new costumes,
but I strongly believe supporting/recurring cast members should come
before the superheroes at this point.
4]not necessarily. I think it’s because of the awful scriptwriting
that’s poisoned the medium today. Now for that next item:
Dear Capn: I don't mean to hog your letters column,
but there's more to this "realism in comics" issue than is being
said. If realism is to be expected in comics, then a
reassessment of our heroes is in order.
Take Superman. DC has tried to put realism into his
stories, but they're pretty much only micro-realism -- about
Superman himself (marriage, death, etc). But put Superman in our
world today. If Supes REALLY wants to help this country, he
could save the public billions by using his superspeed to help
build foundations for new roads, bridges, etc.; build housing
for the homeless; retrieve stolen (or illegally sold)
technologies from despotic nations such as China; the list is
truly endless. If Supes REALLY wanted to expose Luthor's
criminal schemes, he could do so easily. But he'd rather play a
game of cat and mouse. Which brings me to Batman ...
Batman, in a realistic perspective, is a joke. He's at
least partly responsible for hundreds of deaths caused every
year by Arkham Asylum escapees. For 60 years, Batman has played
a cat-and-mouse game with The Joker (and others) with no real
intention of ever putting an end to this lethal threat to
society. Joker kills people; Batman throws him in Arkham; Joker
escapes to kill more people; Batman throws him back in Arkham;
and so on and so on. The Joker is completely un-rehabilitatable
(same goes for the rest of Bats' rogues gallery) and Batman's a
fool if he doesn't know it. Insanity has been defined as "doing
the same thing over and over but expecting a different result."
That's Batman. Gotham City's 60 years of terror is a product of
Batman's inability or unwillingness to solve it's problems. When
push comes to shove, Bats plays games. He's been nothing more
than a band-aid stuck on a cancer patient.
Superheroes just don't work well with realism. That's why
the public at large has turned away from comics (which is
synonymous with superheroes, unfortunately). They wonder why a
man with Superman's powers or Batman's resources can't solve
problems, but Dirty Harry Callahan, a cop with a pistol, can.
Funny, but when Hal Jordan used a very realistic solution
to save/restore Coast City, he was cast as a villain. Hal could
have saved millions of lives. But the true nature of superhero
comics prevailed and Hal was deemed "evil" and thwarted. (But in
Superman: The Movie, Supes alters time to save one life-- Lois
Lane-- and the public at large believed he was justified in
doing so.) Superman's one-time "realistic" solution remains an
ignored/forgotten anomaly (when he killed the Phantom Zone
criminals around ish 21).
Superheroes are unrealistic. Their problems are
unrealistic. And their solutions, too, are unrealistic. Realism
is a monkey wrench to the whole superhero structure. And forcing
realism into it will expose the whole concept as a sham. They
must be presented as allegory, or they just begin to look silly.
Well, if that doesn't start a firestorm, [name
withheld], I dunno what will.
I admit to having some problems with the Batman/Joker thing --
I've long wondered why Batman hasn't "accidentally" let The Joker
"slip" off a rooftop -- or, at the least, simply fail to save him
when he's in jeopardy. But that wouldn't be very heroic, would it?
My real problem is that Gotham City justice system hasn't taken
some action. Why is he always thrown into the revolving door that
is Arkham? Why isn't a harsher penalty meted out by the courts?
In the real world, the cops caught Jeffrey Dahmer -- and the
courts, recognizing a threat to society, dealt harshly with him.
Damer was adjudged insane by court psychiatrists -- but he wasn't
sent to a civilian asylum, he was found guilty and sent to a
maximum-security prison (where, as fate would have it, he was
killed by a fellow inmate -- something that was very, very likely
My complaint isn't that Batman is unrealistic -- he does his job,
capturing The Joker and turning him over to the authorities. My
suspension of disbelief problems come from the court systems not
dealing with him properly.
What about the editors in charge, who
won’t approve of a story where the Joker as we know him is finally
sent to the depths of hell where he belongs? After Identity Crisis
took a sympathetic approach to the villains, and he showed no
concern, I’m skeptical he has any problems with how Gotham City’s
hall of justice deals with the Joker. And while he may not have a
problem with Batman’s non-realism, why doesn’t he have one with
Identity Crisis being unrealistic? Next is July 27, 2000:
Dear Cap: Not exactly off topic, but I just had to
wonder, having just seen the movie, what they thought they were
doing with our favorite storm goddess.
Dunno. Halle Berry said in interviews that she felt like she was
"slumming" in the role (she's saying nicer things about it now),
and to be fair she really didn't have much to do. Maybe she'll be
more prominent in the sequel.
Or maybe not, and leftism will still turn
up. But the correspondent here’s got a point: Storm was so underused
in the first movie. Yet thinking back on Berry’s personal politics,
I’m not sure I can care.
Dear Cap: I'm sure you've gotten a lot of
(unsolicited?) response about the X-Men movie. Here's my
opinion, for the record: I enjoyed it immensely. I've got
20-plus years of comic-book reading experience to deal with, and
I still loved the movie. So did my wife (also a comic-book fan).
She's smitten with Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine.
On the down side, though, I actually liked the movie more
than the current comic-book series. I almost wish they could
start the X-Men titles over again. And I pity anyone who tries
to pick up an X-comic book for the first time after being hooked
by the movie.
I certainly agree with that last point; X-Men comics can be
utterly confusing even for the knowledgeable readers. And is
anyone in the Marvel Universe NOT a mutant any more?
Well that’s because people like him were
letting Marvel’s disastrous editors at the time get away with it.
The correspondent is no better, and I’m skeptical he was bothered by
the poor writing Scott Lobdell did. Heck, I don’t see the point in a
movie if the comics aren’t doing well.
Dear Cap: Yeah, I liked the X-Men movie too. Kudos to
Hugh Jackman for his perfect portrayal of Logan (kinda wish he'd
had more body hair, but that's Hollywood), Anna Paquin (not the
Roque of the comics, but a real, genuinely troubled teenager),
Stewart & McKellen (obviously), and -- surprisingly --
Rebecca Romjin-Stamos & Ray Park, for turning two
secondary villains into characters that I looked forward to
seeing on the screen. And another thanks to RRS -- mebbe now
we'll see a bunch of Mystique "costumes" at Halloween & at
future conventions, eh? A fanboy can dream ...
Surprisingly, the main criticism that I've heard from the
mainstream press was that there wasn't enough of a "wow" factor.
Roger Ebert said that this was one of the few films of this
genre that could've benefited from MORE money in the F/X, and
that forty-five minutes had been cut from the final running
time. Mebbe the DVD will reinsert those! Anyway, I'm sure that
the sequels will address these issues (it's the Sentinels in the
second, with Phoenix slated for the third, right?)
I'm still a bit annoyed about the costumes. Oh, it didn't
keep me from thorough enjoying the film ( I have seen it twice,
which already puts it ahead of Phantom Menace) and I loved the
comment Cyke made to Logan about yellow spandex, but I also
heard (as with the Batman films) how the actors found it
difficult to move or were sweating a lot in that heavy leather.
HELLOOO? My willing suspension of disbelief is finding it
easier to swallow Toad's elastic tongue than athletes (the
closest analogy) running around in hot leather!! If not Spandex,
why not gortex? Hell, Lance Armstrong is sporting more colorful
and practical garb in the Tour de France as we speak. Howzabout
a Captain Comics contest for better X-Men movie costumes? You
know we're all working on 'em now anyway -- except for Mystique,
of course (drool ...).
I was also disappointed in Storm. Sorry, but I just don't
think Halle Berry had the gravitas for that role. Ororo was
worshipped as a goddess (which wasn't even mentioned), she
wouldn't have any self-esteem problems; except for the scene
with Toad she often seemed ready to morph into Anna Paquin's
Rogue. In Berry's defense, her role was underwritten, and the
focus was on Logan. I know many fans were rooting for Angela
Bassett (and) I also think Lynne Whitfield (no relation)
would've been good. An older actress at least -- Berry was hired
for her cleavage.
As for the next Trek film ...When I first heard that the
title for the last one was Insurrection, I had brief hopes that
maybe we were finally going to see the long-awaited conclusion
of Spock's mission on Romulus. Alas, 'twas not so. The Star Trek
franchise leaves me yawning nowadays, which is sad considering I
used to get such inspiration from that dream. They have such a
huge panorama to play with -- why stick with the future, for
instance? I'd love to see something like Spock's World get a
movie or miniseries treatment. But I forgot -- Rick Berman
doesn't really like Star Trek, does he?
Forgive me if I repeat myself, but I just dunno why the
first Spider-Man film just doesn't focus on his origin. Spidey
has Marvel's best origin: You've got teen angst, you've got
wrestling, you've got celebrity culure and finally, tragedy
& responsibility. We all know it's gonna be a franchise,
don't crowd the origin just to get some colorful villains
(who'll probably be all decked out in black leather -- grrrr!)
so merchandising can have something to do! Save it for the next
film! Have the X-Men cameo! Or the FF! Or the Avengers! Use the
Marvel UNIVERSE, darnit! That's what always made them so much
fun in the first place -- you never knew WHO was gonna pop up
(the Impossible Man?)!
And Tobey Maguire would be an excellent Peter Parker! So
what if he doesn't have the physique! Have the executives at
Columbia READ any of the old Lee/Ditko issues? Have they seen
what a skinny punk Pete was when he started out! Don't they
realize what fun they could have with that in the script?
Maquire could always tone up (not bulk up) for the following
films, but it would be a hoot to have a good ol' skinny Spidey
again! And if they're smart they'll be sure to have the scene
with Pete going to the laundromat in his civvies and a paper bag
to wash his costume for his TV appearance! (Yeah, I know that
was in a later ish, but it would be so easy to splice in!)
Oh, no! You mean we already have to start worrying about them
making a lousy Spidey movie?
Not the first one, but when the 2012
reboot came about, I’d say that was lousy, yet wouldn’t
expect him to admit it. But I wonder if the correspondent
here has a point that Berman’s not fond of the franchise he was in
charge of once? That’s certainly the case with a lot of modern
comics publishing staffers.
Dear Cap: You wrote:
<<The establishment of the Judeo-Christian heirarchy in the
DC Universe DIMINISHES the other characters. Batman has been
established as believing in a God (however Old Testament), which
tells us something of his worldview, his inner life, his opinions
-- in short, makes him a more three-dimensional character ... IF
IT'S BASED ON FAITH. >>
I could not agree more. Religious faith makes a character
interresting, and if written well, can definitly expand a
character, as long as its not too specific. Like your recent
writer who saw Peter Parker as gay, even though the character
was not written that way, I believe we all look for hooks that
we can grab on to a charater with. Things that make them feel
more like us. Well-written vagueness can be an excellent tool
for accomplishing this, because it lets our own imaginations
fill in the blanks.
As a pagan who worships some of the older deities that can
be found in comics, I could take great offense at Thor being
transformed into a blond Malibu surfer by Marvel Comics, or I
can accept that we all see the universe our own way, and enjoy
how that character overcomes great odds, and has a very stark
and pronounced sense of duty and self value. Similarly I could
bemoan the fact the once Dr. Strange met "God" in one of his
comics, which could have easily been interpreted as the
Judeo-Christian concept of God, but once again good writing
saved the day.
As for what I would think if I was living in the DC
Universe and had witnessed the hosts of heaven, or an angel in
the JLA ... let's just say that it would be easy for Superman to
claim to be the son of God, and with his powers make it very
believable. It would also be very easy to see a man with wings
and think him an angel, like Hawkman. In a universe full of
fantastic powers and odd events, what you accept as proof or
truth is a very subjective thing ... much like our own universe
in that regard. It's one thing to think you are an angel, and
another to prove it. Though I agree that perhaps DC should take
a step back a little.
I really like that phrase: "well-written vagueness." DC's
specificity is the very thing I'm questioning. When DC Comics
establishes that the Judeo-Christian God and Heaven and Hell exist
in a specific and objective way -- well, it's simply exclusionary.
Not only to non-Christians, but I think to a variety of Christian
sects and quite possibly to most individuals as well. You as a
pagan must feel some sense of exclusion -- and so do I, despite
being a nice Southern boy reared a Methodist. The ecclesiastical
world established in stone at DC doesn't match the one I was
taught, nor does it dovetail with the faith structure I've built
in my head. Certainly we're all grown-ups and recognize fiction
when we see it, but it just seems like common sense for DC and
other publishers to avoid specificity and attempt "well-written
vagueness" so that we can all fit the story we're reading into our
own worldview. It just seems to me like they're dancing with
By contrast, there was a great Swamp Thing story a decade or so
ago where The Spectre or the Phantom Stranger or somebody is
walking Swampy through Hell and he is surprised to see all these
Thanagarians and Oans and Kryptonians and whatnot experiencing all
kinds of weird torments and pleasures. Swamp Thing notes that he
thought they were in the Judeo-Christian Hell and The Spectre (or
the Stranger) says something to the effect of: "Well, everybody
has their own idea about what they deserve in the afterlife -- and
they all get it." It was just a throwaway bit, but it had me
thinking for days, and it was just the sort of "well-written
vagueness" that let me draw my own conclusions.
And speaking of the Stranger, I thought it brilliant when he was
featured in Secret Origins No. 10 -- and he had four origins! In
one he was an angel who refused to pick sides during Lucifer's
fall (and was sentenced to never be able to pick sides again), in
another he was the Wandering Jew, in another he was a
Diogenes-type and a pagan ... at the end of it, he basically said:
"Hey, pick the one you like!"
On your last topic, if I was Superman or Hawkman, I doubt I'd leap
to the conclusion that I was Jesus or an angel. We've seen plenty
of stories where characters with godlike powers make that
assumption, and they're the BAD guys! The subtext I've always
gotten from comics is that humility is an intrinsic part of being
Thanks for making me think, [name withheld]!
As a blogger, I’ve seen many reports about
Islamofascists who practically conclude they have the right to do
everything they want, including
to annihilate Jews, Christians, and even apostates
from the Muslim religion. Curious he’s never seemed concerned.
Hello, Cap: The site's occasional discussions of
religious matters always fascinate me. I generally agree with
you about the risks comics creators run by integrating "living"
belief systems into comics mythology. It's far less likely to
offend readers (and therefore a wiser course) to tap into
"obsolete" religions (the Norse, Egyptian and Greco-Roman
pantheons, etc.) or invent new ones when mystical or godlike
characters are needed.
The recent exchanges about Wonder Woman's decision to
cover her skin before entering a Mosque, however, strikes me as
a far different matter -- one of earthly human respect rather
than theology or sexual politics. With a disclaimer on not
having read the story in question, I must assume that WW
wouldn't pause to don extra togs in an emergency. She was
therefore entering the Mosque when worshippers -- entitled to
exercise their beliefs without disruption or discourtesy -- were
present, or likely to be. Regardless of her views on Islamic
law, it would be incalculably insulting -- to male and female
worshippers alike -- to enter a Mosque in her gravity-defying
On this level, WW's covering up is no different from
Superman putting on a yarmulke in an Orthodox Synagogue, or Jay
Garrick removing his doughboy helmet upon entering a Cathedral.
These are customary behaviors expected from visitors of any
faith who enter one of those houses of worship. Any considerate
person -- much less a heroic one -- would abide by them (or
choose not to enter). Furthermore, any reasonable person would
understand that by making those accommodations, s/he is not
necessarily endorsing the belief system that prevails in that
house of worship; rather s/he is showing (human) consideration
for those who DO believe. (On a far more pragmatic level, adding
the extra clothing presumably spared WW the practical problem of
having innocent worshippers protest her appearance, try to throw
her out, etc. -- and the risk of having to use force against
bystanders to accomplish whatever she needed to do in the
Admittedly, as a demigoddess, it would require a great
deal of humility and compassion for Wonder Woman to accommodate
any other religious law -- much less one that has historically
been used to oppress women (which would include Mosaic and
Christian law, as well as Islam and many others). But, absent a
fundamental respect and compassion for humankind and its myriad
beliefs, fallacies and failings, a being with WW's origins would
NEVER bother to play the superhero game. (Ditto for Thor and
Hercules -- two characters whose mythological swagger make them
even less likely than an Amazon to defer to human folly).
With full heroic intent, for the "good" of all humans, WW
could easily -- and may well have in an Elseworld somewhen --
use her lasso to "evangelize" her own belief system to the world
at large, or even set up a cult that worships and pays tribute
to herself . She doesn't do so in "our" world because she
subscribes to a humanistic notion of live-and-let-live
tolerance. Not coincidentally, given her star-spangled getup --
that humanistic tolerance is largely an American value -- in
theory, at least, if all too often not in practice.
It'd be interesting to see how (American-spawned) heroes
would handle a fundamentalist-religious super-being, infused
with evangelical zeal and godly righteousness, who subscribed to
a "living" creed with evangelical tenets. Proselytizers with
belief systems sufficiently "other" to avoid (obvious) overlap
with "living" religions are usually seen as villains. Think
Darkseid; Ares in the Silver Age WW pantheon; (occasionally)
Loki and Mephisto; or even Apollo in Star Trek's "Who Mourns
Adonis?". How would Justice Leaguers or Avengers respond if
telepathy were suddenly conferred upon, say, a Jesuit
missionary, or a Hare Krishna, or an Ayatollah, and that
individual began using his/her powers to lead others down the
"correct path?" I don't suppose we'll ever know, and it's
probably best that way, for the reasons spelled out at the start
of this missive. Fun to ponder these things, though, through the
safe lens of comics.
Thanks as always for your good work.
Thanks for your thoughts, […]! But I have to note that I receive a
lot of letters from pagans, who do not consider Norse or
Graeco-Roman belief systems "obsolete." One of the dangers of
these sorts of discussions is that incautious phrasing can so
easily offend someone.
As to the rest of your points, you make them well and I generally
find myself in agreement.
But I don’t, and let me note that I’ve
been to an Orthodox synagogue where, while it’s a custom for men and
women to sit in separate sections during service, since they want
both sexes to concentrate on prayers and not each other while the
synagogue’s in session, there were women there who dressed skimpily
with cleavage, believe it or not. I once even saw a woman wearing a
midriff-baring shirt riding a bus while reading a bible. It’s all a
matter of opinion, I suppose, but they were probably doing a lot
better than how some Haredis run their customs. And when the
correspondent fails to ponder that for every good religion, there’s
a bad one too, then I can’t credit his argument. Let us be clear:
that whole disgusting story by Vaughan was uncalled for, and even
prior to 9-11, it was still a stinker.
Dear Cap: Geez, now I feel bad about criticizing such
a likeable person as yourself (about Claremont-bashing). I kind
of feel now that I need to make some sort of concession also.
I know, maybe it's about time that I spent a little more
cash and experienced some of the other comic titles out there,
besides my old X-standbys regardless of who publishes them. The
area that I live in is woefully lacking in comic shops so this
will give me a little incentive for a little road trip now and
Your site is the greatest. And again, thanks so much for
your thoughtful responses to our e-mails. There are other great
sites out there but yours is very "comfy" for us old-timers who
still find the whole thing entertaining, regardless of whatever
ups and downs the comic industry is going through.
I appreciate the kind words, [name withheld]! I think "comfy" may
be the nicest thing I've ever been called ... !
I feel bad I ever bothered to read the
works of such a propagandist to start with! And that’s surely the
worst thing anyone’s ever called him, but hey, IMO, he deserves it.
Dear Cap: Decent story on comic-books and film in the
New York Times.
Thanks, [name withheld]! As usual with mainstream press pieces,
they're not exactly dead on, but pretty interesting, anyway.
Whoa baby, look who’s talking about the
mainstream! What about his own work? They’re not even worth diddly
squat! That’s self-indulgence for you, I guess.
Dear Capn: Maybe you're right, I'm transposing the
'70s revision of '50s Captain America onto the real thing, but I
still have this feeling I saw panels from the '50s comic of him
and Bucky beating up a group of 3 black men, playing cards in a
warehouse, sitting on orange crates and supposedly involved in
Communist organizing. Was it in Steranko's History of Comics or
another book? I can't remember. You wrote:
<<The 1950s Captain America wasn't a "Negro-basher" to my
knowledge. Atlas Comics (later Marvel) attempted to revive the
character in "Captain America Comics" 76-78, "Young Men" 24-28 and
"Men's Adventures" 27-28 in 1954 -- but apparently they didn't
sell, as the character lapsed back into limbo until his triumphant
return in "Avengers" 4 (1964). I've only read two reprints from
that period, and neither depicted Cap as a racist -- but they DID
depict him as an almost laughably rabid anti-Communist, something
he WASN'T in World War II, when the Soviets were U.S. allies. (The
Red Skull, formerly a Nazi mastermind, had an entirely new reason
to be "red" in the '50s!)>>
But I have a working theory the young Stan Lee was at Timely or
National when it was publishing that racist stuff, if it
includes blacks or not ("yellow scum" is well attested), and the
young editor might have been greatly ashamed of being a 1950s
almost white American later, when racism went out of fashion.
There's no way he would ever let those things be reprinted. The
attempt to cover up would explain the need to create 4 Captain
Americas (or are there more now? Was Spirit of '76 a real
They already passed the media law I mentioned. The
Lithuanian parliament adopted it last week. That means we will
now have two state censorship agencies making sure everything is
fit to print before it gets printed. Things like bureaucrats'
bank accounts are strictly off-limits, the range of the law is
so broad, it reads almost like the Comics Code manifesto or
code, I guess it is, more correctly. A wide brush, based on
appearances, public norms and so on. Free speech can't be at the
mercy of the whims of politicians anymore than it can be at the
mercy of public whim. I'm really upset by this. It is a step
backward for my adopted country, back to the days of Soviet
censorship, when everything had to pass muster at Glavlit before
it was published, shown or otherwise distributed.
I know it might not be very interesting to an outsider,
but the Lithuanian media went the way of self-regulation, in
1997 or so. They formed a Media Ethics Commission to review
cases of defamation, violation of law (we have laws banning "the
divulgance of personal lives, the impugnment of a person's
dignity" and so on in the press), and most (with one exception)
media outlets signed on to the new insitution voluntarily. It
has worked phenomenally better than the CCA worked, in the sense
that it hasn't closed down newspapers and squeezed quality out
of the market. It's a screwed-up situation and the parallels are
many with America ca. 1950.
I've been studying journalism at Vilnius University for
one year. Most of my time is spent on arcanities of the
Lithuanian language and poring over legislation. When we do
something besides that, we talk about how great the media in the
USA is. I know better, because I've seen how wimpy networks have
gotten even wimpier, how interviewers who never knew the hard
questions to ask to begin with have slipped into solipistic
sillogies between the "pundits," usually those abhorrent
round-table discussions between journalists which should be left
off the TV screens and take place in seamy bars in Jakarta. Be
that as it may, America commands a lot of respect, for its
democracy, traditions of freedom and other reasons, among which
is the wealthier ,healther lifestyle Americans enjoy.
So what I want to do is point out that freedom didn't come
easily, there were points along the timeline in this most actual
of worlds were the censors and fearmongers almost ruined the
day, and sometimes did. CCA is a case in point. I want to
counterpose two comics: "Judgment Day" by Orlando in EC's Weird
Science Fantasy and Captain America out on a rampage beating up
ethnic miorities. The first was rejected by CCA, because it
pictured a black man as an astronaut, an impossible thing in
1950s America. The second totally went by CCA without any
problems (or maybe racist CA was BEFORE the CCA came into
existance? Help me here, please!), or at least fit social norms
and hence wasn't subject to censorship. In one case a tale of
morality is banned, in another an immoral story is a role model
for children. How fickle the whims of ever-changing society.
That's what I want to show, and I want to compare the CCA code
with the Lithuanian Media Law, since both use almost the same
language (if it's translated, I mean!) to outlaw things somebody
<<Several storylines over the years established that Captain
America and Bucky from late 1945 to 1950 (when Cap's series was
canceled the first time) was actually a series of imposters hired
by the U.S. government to fool the public into believing that Cap
and Bucky were still alive. There were plenty of candidates, since
red-white-and-blue heroes were as common as rocks during the war.
One such character was Jeff "The Patriot" Mace, whose demise was
chronicled in CA 284-285.>>
I think I have some issues from that period lying around.
Captain America is the ultimate in public relations. A real
symbol of America -- the good, the bad. I don't think they
should have made him schizophrenic, I think the real explanation
for 1950s Captain America lies in the American soul itself.
<<For your purposes, though, there's no dearth of cautionary
tales from the '50s. The launch of the hypocritical and draconian
Comics Code was just part of a larger picture, in which the House
Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), radio demagogue Father
Coughlin and Sen. "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy had outsized influence
-- and not for the better. The acquisition by the USSR of atomic
And the Baltic states! Much of 1950s U.S. policy was based on
the Riga Doctrine, otherwise known as "containment." There's a
story of pathos in how Western intelligence agencies promised
aid to Baltic partisians, who fought into the 1980s anyway
(well, there were some old guys left hiding in the forests in
Estonia and Lithuania, some say until independence in 1990 even.
Most were killed off in the 1950s with some notable holdouts
until 1965), and then never delivered, or were thoroughly
hoodwinked by dupe Soviet operations pretending to be authentic
partisians, Soviet agents gaining access into Western
intelligence circles that way.
<<followed by Sputnik and coupled with their rabid anti-U.S.
rhetoric ("We will bury you!")>>
Freeman Dyson the nuclear physicist pointed out the phrase
sounds less ominous in Krushchev's native Ukrainian, where it is
a folk saying meaning simply, we will outlive you, our way is
better than yours.
<<had Americans building bomb shelters, doing "duck and
cover" drills in elementary schools, watching the skies for
nuclear armageddon -- and looking under every bed for the Red
Menace. By current standards, none of it was rational -- and
yet, there it was: The world's greatest democracy in the grip of
horrific paranoia, and curtailing the very rights of man that
are our greatest pride. (For a current comic-book look at this
period, read Realworlds: Wonder Woman by DC Comics -- it's
I can't get comics here at all! Wah!
<<As to Gaines, HUAC was trying to determine if comics
caused juvenile delinquency, and what the other publishers had
against him primarily was that he was OUTSELLING them all.>>
There's the smell of that in the new Lithuanian censorship law
<<There could well have been some anti-Semitism involved
from some quarters, but since most comics publishers (and many
creators) were Jewish it seems unlikely. (Archie and Atlas, for
example, were published/owned by Jews. Mort Weisinger, Julius
Schwartz, Stan Lee, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby and
many, many other major comics players were also Jewish.) The Code
was specifically worded to outlaw Gaines's top books: Vault of
Horror, Crypt of Terror, Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, etc.
(For a complete version of all the Comics Codes and a thorough --
although boringly pedantic -- analysis, read Seal of Approval: The
History of the Comics Code, by Amy Kiste Nyberg, Mississippi
Press.) And, while Gaines's performance before HUAC was an
extraordinary botch job -- he was on painkillers and diet pills
and made an absolute fool of himself -- it's rarely remembered
that HUAC ruled in FAVOR of comics But it was too late -- the
witch hunt had begun.>>
I thought Gaines was joking about Johny's cover, you know, the
one with the severed head, until I looked at it carefully. You
can't actually tell if the head is severed, whether the body
lying on the floor belongs to the head. In a way, it IS
<<I hope that helps. As I said, I'll post your question and
my response this week, and see if the Legion of Superfluous Heroes
can fill in some of the blanks.>>
Thanks Cap! You're a great help. What I need most of all is to
get the timeline down: Were the Captain America 1950s books
handled by CCA? Did they have to go through that, or were they
Brief answers to your letter:
1) I couldn't find Cap story you mentioned in Steranko's History
2) The Spirit of '76 was indeed one of the Cap imposters.
3) I'm sorry to hear the law passed in Lithuania. It's amazing how
frightened people in power are of other people speaking their
4) Americans who know about post-war U.S. policy toward the
Baltics generally have the courtesy to be deeply ashamed.
5) I have no doubt you're right that Kruschev's remark about
burying the U.S. was a product of language differences. But, you
have to admit, nobody in the U.S. in the '50s would have known
that -- or had any reason to suspect it. I mean, the man was
beating on the podium with his shoe! So, to Americans, it looked
to be a serious threat.
6) Gaines said in later interviews that he was really trying to
make a serious point that, for a horror comic, they WERE being
tasteful. But he regretted how badly he explained it.
7) If you can't get comics in Lithuania, order them from the
Internet! I recommend The Westfield Co. highly, or Another
Universe, Wizard or My Comics Shop.
8) Some Legionnaires did write in about Cap in the '50s. See the
Q&A this week, and the letter below.
Oh sure, I’ll bet he’s “sorry” about
Lithuania’s censorship law. He hasn’t shown any signs he’s sorry
about Obamacare! Still, the correspondent’s given some interesting
insight to what’s wrong in Europe, depending on the situation, and,
he’s noted that bizarre, awful comment Mr. Smith made about
communism, as though it were no big deal. Curious that he brings up
Gaines’s arguments, but never argued honestly why he thought
Identity Crisis was tasteful, and never gave any clear
descriptions/annotations of the going-ons to help people form an
The Earth-Two Batman died in Adventure Comics 462. Jeff
Mace did not die in costume. He died of cancer at the age of 85.
You were thinking of the Spirit of '76, who was killed by Adam
<<With the exception of the Disney Tarzan movie and the
recent Batman/Tarzan crossover, when was the last time Tarzan made
a splash really? Sherlock Homes hasn't been seen in years with the
exception of airing his old movies on a movie channel.>>
The last straight Sherlock Holmes movie (excluding off-beat
projects such as Young Sherlock Holmes and Without a Clue) was
Murder By Decree from 1979. Several upcoming possible film
projects include a Dracula film (which partially answers part of
below) based on a story made for the screen, and adaptions of
pastiches by David Stuart Davies, Laurier R. King, and Michael
TV projects with Holmes released in the 1980's and 1990's
included Ian Richardson and Christopher Lee's
telemovies/miniseries. Most comprehensive, however, was the
Jeremy Brett adaptions, shown on A&E and PBS. It was
considered by many to be among the most important attempts to
adapt the stories.
Admittedly, as Alan Eyles has pointed out in Sherlock
Holmes: A Cennetary Celebration, no Sherlock Holmes film
released in modern times has been a major hit. However, remember
that in the first place that the Basil Rathbone movies weren't
A-list films, either (with the exception of the first two). When
they came out, they were second feature B-movies.
But, over time, they kept a stable group of fans and thus
had their impact. Keep in mind that staying power cannot be
judged by your success at the present time alone. Robert E.
Howard's Conan stories caught the public's attention in the
1960s and 1970s with eye-popping Frank Frazetta covers, and the
movie adaptions in the 1980s, though only moderate hits in the
U.S., were still many times more successful overseas than any
Sherlock Holmes movie; yet, today, none of the collections of
Howard's stories in book form are in print. (Indeed, if the Baen
collections of Howard's short stories go out of print, none of
Howard's fiction at all will be in print.)
To continue the comparison, many books that were turned
into movies that were manyfold more successful than any Sherlock
Holmes film (both domestically and overseas) are now out of
print. (First Blood, for example, as well as the Shaft series of
books. And also the books that Die Hard was based on ...) Yet,
the Sherlock Holmes stories have not been out of print for 40
years. And, though as noted, Holmes has not made a straight
movie appearance in over 20 years, the character still has a
level of fame unmatched by most other fictional creations.
Remember that, sometimes, even if you can't be in the lead in
the race, its at least worth it to stay in it.
<<Same goes with alot of the classic movie monsters.
Although they have made a ton of vampire flicks when was the last
time Dracula HIMSELF made a appearence?>>
Well -- Bram Stoker's Dracula, with Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves and
Wynona Ryder. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein brought back the
Frankenstein's Monster (with Robert De Niro in the part).
<<Superheroes just don't work well with realism. That's why
the public at large has turned away from comics (which is
synonymous with superheroes, unfortunately). They wonder why a man
with Superman's powers or Batman's resources can't solve problems,
but Dirty Harry Callahan, a cop with a pistol, can.>>
Well, you've appealed to what the most successful movies are
for your ideas. Then, let's examine some of the most successful
movies of all time. (I'll keep it to non-comic book based
films). Movies tha made the list of the 40 most successful
movies of all time. Movies that were even more successful than
the Dirty Harry movies. (As were, by the way, some of the
Superman and Batman movies.)
Star Wars -- as stylized as Superman or Batman, I should
think. (Actually, owes much to the New Gods). (Fun fact: the
last Star Wars movie came out as recently as 1999 -- but the
last Dirty Harry movie came out in 1988)
Indiana Jones -- less sytlized than Superman or Batman,
but still a tad stylized compared to the Dirty Harry movies
(Indiana Jones owes much to Doc Savage -- who was also an
inspiration for Superman and Batman, incidentally).
The James Bond films -- okay, this should, intuitively, be
in the Conservative, anti-gay Scottish Presbyterian class with
the Dirty Harry movies, which they outnumber. That they are
British does not exclude them. Who says the British can't do
Conservative Scottish anti-gay Presbyterians? Just look at
Northern Ireland's Loyalist groups -- some are as fanatical as
American militias or the Ku Klux Klan!
(Not that I seek to slur any Conservatives or
Presbyterians. I would not slur the Scots, who are cousin Celts,
no matter what their form of Christianity. Our Celtic identity
owes nothing to or loses anything because of Jesus. One must
remember that Jesus was not only not Celtic, but he was not
white. Our Celticity is for us to defend, the Church is for our
But, these films are far more stylized than the Dirty
Harry movies. In fact, these films have often been referred to
as comic-book movies or superhero movies. Note that these films
got more sytlized as the Dirty Harry movies (and other R-rated,
gritty thrillers) started to come out. Note that attempts to
destylized these films have failed.
<<Superheroes are unrealistic. Their problems are
unrealistic. And their solutions, too, are unrealistic. Realism is
a monkey wrench to the whole superhero structure. And forcing
realism into it will expose the whole concept as a sham. They must
be presented as allegory, or they just begin to look
Well, while the Dirty Harry characthers are more mimetic than
superheroes, there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief
even with these characters. The latter Dirty Harry movies (Sudden
Impact, Deadpool), as noted by some critics, particularly showed a
degree of sytlizing. (You fall in the sea and you are dry five
minutes later! )
How stylized a work is does not form the sole criteria for a
work's success or failure. (Consider that similar movies like
Cobra, I, the Jury, and Year of the Dragon have failed. None of
these movies were superhero movies, and all were R-rated.) While
one's personal enjoyment is a function of one's personality, a
work's public success is based on a multiplicity of factors.
(Final, interesting digression: there were few super-hero movies
made during the time that the early Dirty Harry movies came out.
But then, poor special effects made superhero movies impossible at
the time of the early Dirty Harry movies. Consider: during the
Golden Age of comics, when comic books had spectacular print runs
in the 1930s and 1940s, super-heroes didn't light up the cinema
either -- it was more cowboys or private eyes.)
An issue I and Jess Nevins (who does a great annotations page) is
whether DC ever owned the rights to Sherlock Holmes the way they
owned the rights to the Shadow. Nevins said that they did. DC,
after all, has put out some of the more recent Holmes appearances
in comic books: Detective Comics 572, Eclipso 8-9, The Big Book of
Bad (hand an entry on Moriarty), Big Book of the Unexplained
(brief Holmes appearance), and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
5. Besides which, that last series uses many characters (Moriarty,
Mycroft) from the Doyle stories in other issues. Is the use of the
Sherlock Holmes characters in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
covered by any liscensing agreement DC has with the Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle Estate? But what complicates this further is that
Holmes has also appeared in fairly recent comics from ACG, Malibu,
Caliber and Moonstone.
Thanks for your insights, […]!
Strange, I thought he said Captain America
came up in this letter, but it didn’t. Gee, how insulting to the
Dear Cap: Usually I think that your opinions are the
end-all-be-all when it comes to comics and those characters that
populate our funnybooks. However, I completely disagree with
your recent statements about Hawkman. You stated that a
character whose only ability was the gift of flight was
basically useless in terms of the powers of other superheroes. I
could not disagree more. First, flight aside, Hawkmen (GA and SA
versions) are great hand-to-hand combatants, brilliant leaders,
great combat skills, and the SA Hawkman is well versed in not
only many ancient weapons, but several Thanagarian (futuristic)
weapons as well. On those merits alone, Hawkman can hang with
anybody in the DCU (or Marvel for that matter). Secondly, if a
hero who can only fly is unneccesary, then what about
non-powered heroes such as Batman, Black Canary, etc? They would
be even more redundant. Surely you arent suggesting that the Bat
is out of his depth are you? Hawkman has proven his worth in the
DCU. Now a lot of fanboys would start up that whole business of
what use is he against a Darksied, Maggedon or even a Galactus.
Simple truth is that a character whether it be Hawkman,
Superman, Batman or Ma Hunkel can defeat anyone in the
comic-book universe as long as the writers want it to happen.
Cap, I love you man. but you owe Carter and Katar an
I'd feel funny apologizing to fictional characters, […] -- but I
promise to take it easy on the Feathered Fury while waiting for
what I hope will be a decent resurrection later this year.
Once, I might’ve thought it was a decent
revival. But today, I’ve concluded it wasn’t. not what followed
afterwards anyway; it was all for naught. All that aside, Mr. Smith
owes Sue Dibny and Jean Loring an apology. Why, he even owes Gambit
an apology. I’m sure he knows Remy LeBeau is fictional too, and not
responsible for any of the bad characteristics that damaged him as a
character, yet he continues to act otherwise, his citation of
fictional characters here notwithstanding. Man, what a hypocrite!
The same could be said about his response to the following on August
Dear Cap: I believe that the Dark Knight of DC comics
can be held up as an example to persons if you wish to teach
them the value of being the best that you can be in whatever
career that you choose to get into. I am talking about
concentrating on the fact that he has trained himself to be a
master of the martial arts, a grade-A detective and
olympic-level athlete in the preparation and effective execution
of his craft in the "caped crusader" trade. There is a value to
preparing yourself properly for all aspects of the career of
your choice, you may not be invincible all of the time but it
establishes a mindset within yourself that carries over to every
job that you are in. Always remember, such an attitude in the
little jobs carries over into the large ones.
I've discovered on this Web site alone that a profound focus on
the job at hand makes it not only easy, but inevitable. That
explains a lot of human history, doesn't it?
But not why he’s never been inspired by
any lesson the Masked Manhunter has to offer. Unlike Batman, he’s
never strove to be the best possible, because he’s remained very
unobjective in his news coverage. Whatever he’s discovered on his
erstwhile site amounts to nothing but wasted bytes.
Dear Cap: A-hah ... leafing through Amazing Heroes
13, I find Lou Mougin's Thor article. He notes that circa Thor
301, after the Celestials had destroyed the Destroyer (which all
Asgardians had been possessing save for Thor), Thor went on his
tour of the Marvel pantheons. It was then that he met Shiva, and
fought him. Shiva was inaccurately portrayed, so that one Hindu
theologian wrote in to the Comics Buyers' Guide's "Fit to Print"
column in protest. The theologian backed up his complaint with a
copy of a picture of Shiva from an Indian religous comic book!
(By the way, this was not the first or only use of the
Hindu gods in comics. Besides cameos in, I think, the Infinity
Gauntlet and What If? during the "Timequake" storyline, the
Hindu gods were used in an issue of The Atom and Hawkman. Also,
Marvel Team-Up had a story in which the X-Men and Spider-Man
confronted villains who had the powers of the Hindu Gods, though
they were not actually the Hindu deities.)
a list of the Marvel Roman numerals, including the Captain
Americas. As far as appearances of the rogue 1950s Cap, he died
in the identity of the Grand Director of the neo-Nazi National
Force in Captain America 236. An interesting use of the
character was in What If? 44 (original series).
<<I assumed that Magneto was Jewish for the longest time,
and the shift to his being a gypsy struck me as revisionism born
of cowardice (Marvel not wanting to make a major villain Jewish).
Of course, you're right, he's a gypsy -- but I prefer to think of
him as Jewish. Gives his story more "oomph.">>
Actually, Magneto as a gypsy is not such a bad idea. It was
actually foreshadowed when it was revealed that the Scarlet
Witch and Quicksilver were his children. It had been noted long
before that The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver had been raised by
gypsies, so it was revealed that Magneto had given the Scarlet
Witch and Quicksilver to Django Maximoff, a gypsy, to raise. It
makes sense that if Magneto were a gypsy that he would have
given his children to gypsies to raise.
(By the way, just for the record, the gypsies are actually
descendants of wandering tribes from India. That is what made
the Parrajamos [see below] so tragic; according to Nazi
ideology, the gypsies were Aryans, as their language comes
directly from Sanskrit, the language of the original Aryans who
lived and ruled in Iran -- "land of the Aryans" -- and India
before mixing with the conquered population.)
I think that the change was made for the movie because the
powers that be decided that audiences would think that he had
been a gypsy in the comics, but that the moviemakers were trying
to sanitize the concept by having him be a gypsy. Audiences
would be unaware that he was in fact a gypsy in the original
Keep in mind that you have to second guess the audience
sometimes. The author of the aforementioned Dracula/Sherlock
Holmes movie that I mentioned noted that, while he was
originally going to work Holmes's drug addiction into the
screenplay, he was told to leave it out, as people would think
that it was something he had added for shock value -- even
though Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had established that Holmes used
cocaine as far back as "The Sign of Four." But, the general
public wouldn't know that ...
By the way, during the "Acts of Vengeance" crossover,
Magneto attacked the Red Skull in order to punish him for his
part in the Parrajamos (what the Romani and Sinti call the
genocide). Doctor Doom (who is also a gypsy!), in an unrelated
story that ran in Marvel Universe, in his early days used a time
machine to go back and kill Adolf Hitler for his part in the
Parrajamos, but ultimately decided to let history run its
This story supercedes Invaders 32-33, in which it was
revealed that as a young man (and a natural temporal inhabitant
of the 1940s), Doom had concealed his gypsy heritage and found
his way into Nazi Germany. There, in April 1942, Doom as an
assistant to a Dr. Olsen, a Quisling Norwegian scientist, met
Adolf Hilter. Doom and Olsen used technology on behalf of the
Nazis to summon Thor from Asgard. (Hitler convinced the Thunder
God to get rid of Stalin. All things considered, some readers
may wish that the Invaders had failed to stop Thor ...)
However, this story is probably not in continuity anymore,
at least not without the subtraction of Doctor Doom, as any
reference to his having been around during World War II would
have be left out -- it would make him a little old now. (In the
same vein, although it was established in Fantastic Four 11,
Fantastic Four 21, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes 3, and
Captain Savage and His Leatherneck Raiders 7 that Reed Richards
and Ben Grimm were in the army in World War II, one does not see
reference to that in current comics.) It is also not clear how
this story affects Thor continuity (more on Thor below).
Finally, I should mention that Marvel's version of Dracula
also involves gypsies. It was revealed that, since the real,
historical Dracula (Vlad Tepes) had persectued gypsies, the
Marvel Univere's Vlad Tepes had become a vampire due to the bite
of a gypsy healing woman (who was secretly a vampire), who had
vampirized him in retribution for his anti-gypsy antics. This
took place in Dracula Lives 1.
The (Superboy) story you refer to (July 27) ran in Legion
37-38, Superman 8, and Action Comics 591. The Superboy in that
story was not the Earth-Prime Superboy seen in Crisis 12. (In
Superman 8 Superman does, however, make reference to the
Superboy of Earth-Prime seen during the Crisis, as distinct from
the Pocket Universe Superboy.)
Instead, it was the pocket universe Superboy in that
story. The Pocket Universe was created when the Time Trapper
took a temporal "clipping" of Earth-Sigma, and grew it into a
full universe. He then pared down its planets so that it held
only two inhabited worlds: Krypton and Earth. The Krypton of
this universe closely resembled the Krypton of Earth-1. Krypton
then exploded, and Kal-El came to Earth, where he became
In doing this, the Time Trapper exploited folk tales that
were popular in the Legion's era that had grown up around
Superman. Much as real-life historical figures such as George
Washington have had their youths glorified (in Washington's
case, the patently false story of the apple tree contrived by
Parson Weems), stories which held that Superman had been an
adventurer in his youth had been told throughout the universe
during the Legion's era. The Time Trapper molded his universe
around these folk tales.
The Pocket Universe Superboy died in the aforementioned
Legion story. Subsequently, the benevolent Lex Luthor of the
Pocket Universe discovered Superboy's lab., and was tricked into
freeing the The Phantom Zone criminals Interestingly, Luthor
formed a team comprised of himself and non-superheroic
counterparts of Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen to
fight the Phantom Zone criminals. He also created an artificial,
protomatter Supergirl with the memories of Lana Lang (the
current Supergirl). The latter teamed up with Superman after a
trip to Superman's world, and came to Earth-Sigma (main
Post-Crisis DC Universe) after the death of the Phantom Zone
criminals, Luthor's team, and everyone on the Pocket Universe's
Earth. The Pocket Universe presumably still exists, empty of all
life. It was last seen in Superman 22.
Dr. Mist figured in the Primal Force regular series, and
appeared at least in No. 0. Fun fact: Who's Who (first edition)
stated that Mist first appeared (under another name) in Chapter
18 of H. Rider Haggard's Wisdom's Daughter! (Haggard created
Allan Quatermain, the adventurer who appears in The League of
I've never read Crisis on Infinite Earths, but I know that
at the end Superman-1, Lois Lane-1, Superboy-Prime, and the son
of Luthor were spared from annihilation by entering some pocket
dimension from which they could never leave because of the
consequent destruction of the unified Multiverse. Again, this
set-up seems too promising to completely abandon; do you know of
any further exploration of these characters and their
Actually, the Earth-Two Superman implicitly appeared in
The Kingdom 1-2, as the white templed Superman who was bashing
at the barrier. There is a Web site devoted to the Earth-Two
Superman that is part of the JSA webring that may have more
info, or another appearance.
The Earth-Two Superman website is at
And DC One Million 80-Page Giant 1 was an implied
appearance of the Earth-Two Superman in a quick cameo in the
story "Crisis One Million".
Batwoman's appearance in Planet Krypton was as a
Hypertimeline ghost. Hypertimeline ghosts appear whenever
someone is messing around with the dimensional energy so much
that images of people from other Hypertimelines appear. The
Batwoman Hypertimeline ghost indicates that a world with a
similar history to Earth-Two exists somewhere as a
hypterimeline. See Jonathan Woodward's Crisis on Infinite Earths
<<Were there any issues that had revealed what happened to
the Earth-Two versions of the Riddler, Mr. Freeze and the
Batman mentioned in Crisis 11 that only one Riddler and Penguin
existed. There may not have been an Earth-Two Mr. Freeze; Mr.
Freeze first appeared as Mr. Zero in an issue of Batman that
came out towards the mid/late 1950s, so it is arguable as to
whether that was before or after the stories did the
Earth-1/Earth-Two switch. If after, there is no reason to think
Mr. Freeze has an Earth-Two counterpart.
Arkham did exist pre-Crisis, altough it only predates
Crisis by a few years. It appeared at least as early as Batman
327, which was released in 1980.
Thanks for all the info, [name withheld]. I find it odd that two
of Marvel's top three villains (Magneto and Dr. Doom) are both
gypsies, and another (Dracula) has his origin rooted in gypsy
shenanigans. As if the Romani don't face enough persecution! And
it is ironic, as you noted, that Hitler was determined to wipe
them out, despite their Indo-European origins.
I also freely admit my confusion about the various Superboys,
since I categorically refuse to accept that there was an
Earth-Prime Superboy. Earth-Prime was supposed to be OUR Earth,
the real world. And while I'll accept that the Earth-Prime Julius
Schwartz, Cary Bates, Elliott Maggin, et al, actually met the
Justice League of Earth-One, I feel that the introduction of the
Earth-Prime Superboy and the Earth-Prime Ultra irreparably damaged
the concept and those stories just didn't happen. Since it's just
comics (and it changes all the time anyway), I will stubbornly
continue to believe what I want.
Incidentally, Reed and Ben of the FF weren't in the Army in WWII.
Reed was in the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, predecessor to
the CIA), and was stationed in the French Underground (at least
according to "Midnight on Massacre Mountain" in Sgt. Fury 3). And
Ben was a fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater, presumably with
the Navy. Of course, that's all moot now, as the FF's WWII roots
have been retconned away. (Ben is now a fighter pilot "in the last
war" -- but they never specifiy what that war was.)
I agree with the correspondent that making
Magneto a Roma (that’s what the Gypsies are actually called in many
parts of Europe, because they lived mainly in Romania), was probably
a better idea, maybe because the notion that a Jew would take up the
same MO as the nazis and jihadists after WW2 was just too stupefying
and embarrassing, and besides, note that folks like Stan Lee are
Jewish, so they might’ve frowned on the notion of making him Jewish.
Whatever, thinking in retrospect about changing Magneto to Jewish
for real, it was just a botch job when I think about how
one-dimensional Erik Lensherr is compared to his comics counterpart.
Dear Cap: I've been reading your column in Memphis'
Commercial Appeal for about three years now. I have always found
it entertaining. Ironically, I discovered it about a month after
I had to stop collecting comics due to financial
responsibilities. I used to spend between 40 and 100 dollars a
week on comics, cards, books and toys. I'm finally back in a
position to start reading comics again although my friends try
to talk me out of it because of the money. Thanks to your
article on CrossGen comics, I think I'm going to try to limit
myself to those few titles at first. I used to buy every (and I
do mean every) book that came out about Spider-Man and his
related characters and every book about the X-Men and any of
their related characters. Not to mention several other books
that would catch my fancy. At the time I quit collecting I was
getting into all the different Batman books. ANYWAY, at this
time, the only thing keeping me from heading completely back
into the comic world I used to love is the new world I found,
professional gambling, (Tunica, MS).
I realize it might seem like a big jump in genres, but I
think WWF is about the next best thing to having a live-action
comic played out three nights a week right in my living room for
I don't see it as a big jump at all. Comics have always had
natural affinities with varying entertainment subcultures -- rock
music, videogames, movies, the Society for Creative Anachronism,
etc. Wrestling seems the shortest stretch of all: Good guys and
bad guys, larger-than-life characters, soap-opera plots. If you
like the one you'll probably like the other.
I’m glad it wasn’t his crappy columns that
encouraged me to read Crossgen; some other sites actually did. About
wrestling though, I’ve long found the WWF – now called WCW – pretty
fake; it’s not like any of the more obscure brawlers ever defeated
Hulk Hogan and Jake the Snake Roberts, though there were more major
ones who did, and that annoys me when I realize it was surely all an
act. Worse, the tabloid atmosphere surrounding the proceedings also
took away whatever credibility could be found in such a spectacle.
The way they spoke also sounded unintelligable. And seriously, what
soap opera plots were in there?
Dear Cap: 1) Your STAR TREK story was certainly
imaginative but I somehow don't see the Paramount executives
going in that direction. I loved the Data playing solitaire bit!
2) "And is anyone in the Marvel Universe NOT a mutant any
Fortunately, we still have our Friendly Neighborhood
Spider-Man, the Non-Mutant Superhero!
3) "I thought the flameball was made by Tabitha "Meltdown"
I think someone called the guy with the flameball "James."
My opinion is that the guy with the flame-flower is Pyro. Hey,
not all of the professor's students have to turn out to be
4) "I also enjoyed the Godzilla movies."
I never liked the original Godzilla movies. They were, in
my opinion, horribly produced. Strangely, that seems to be what
so many people like about them. The American version, on the
other hand, had terrific production values and a more-or-less
believable monster. I didn't enjoy the film enough to buy a
copy, but I'm sure glad I saw it.
5) "I've never read a Trek comic that managed the
excitement of the various series."
Recommended reading: STAR TREK: ALL OF ME from Wildstorm.
STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE issues 1-2 from Malibu. STAR TREK:
MIRROR, MIRROR from Marvel. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
issues 47-50 ("The Worst of Both Worlds") from DC. I haven't
read it yet, but Jenn recommends STAR TREK: VOYAGER--AVALON
RISING from Wildstorm.
6) "Just out of curiosity, what didn't you like about
I hadn't thought about the consequences on society but I
certainly agree with it. I also agree that it was badly written
and over marketed. For a better "everybody has powers" story I
suggest JUSTICE LEAGUE: MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE.
The X-Men cast listing on the Cinescape site shows Alex Burton as
Pyro/St. John Allerdyce, so I think you're right about the kid
with the fireball. Storm did address him as "John."
Interestingly, the Internet Movie Database lists Jon Davey as Sam
Guthrie/Cannonball and Donald Mackinnon as Piotr Rasputin/Colossus
(as well as Sumela Kay as Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat). I'll have to see
the movie again, and watch a little more carefully!
Gee, doesn’t Moon Knight count as a
non-mutant? Captain America? Ms. Marvel/Warbird? Misty Knight? Iron
Man? Seriously, what’s wrong is the writing quality, but don’t count
on Smith to be clear about that.
Hi from a fellow boomer who grew up reading comics in
the Silver Age. You list one of my favorites: Ultra the
Multi-Alien. I remember that first issue of Mystery in Space and
how I loved that weird character. I would like to point out my
choice for the worst hero ever. It is a Golden Age charcter
called The Key. You can read his first adventure on my website
at http://www.crash.to/comics. I enjoyed your website.
I've post the link for all to enjoy. And I hope to find time to
look at it soon myself!
I’d like to think the correspondent was let down by
The Key because of the writing quality, but I’ve a sad feeling
that’s not the case. Still, I’m beginning to have second thoughts
about Ultra, and hope that the story is better written than Smith
would make it all out to be!
Dear Cap: I don't know about anyone else, but I
started watching Hawaii Five-O with my grandfather. Grampa was a
police detective and loved to relax by watching such "cop shows"
as Hawaii Five-O, Adam-12 and even Barney Miller. On the other
hand, he wouldn't watch The Rockford Files because the
protagonist was an ex-con! At any rate, Hawaii Five-O is linked
in my mind with the time I spent with Grampa, who was as
loveable an old cuss as anyone I've ever known, and whom I still
miss a great deal even after all these years.
As for why comics fans in general might like Five-O, well,
consider the fact that Steve McGarrett was as upright as any
Silver Age Justice Leaguer, and just as prone to spouting
homilies on why it was a good idea to do good and a bad idea to
do evil. It's true there wasn't alot of great "acting" happening
on that show. Jack Lord, God rest his soul, was not stealing any
parts from Olivier. There wasn't alot of character development
going on either, and the plots were fairly formulaic. On the
other hand, they were all competent actors and you can't beat
Hawaii for gorgeous backgrounds and luscious bikini babes. Come
to think of it, we need a Hawaii Five-O comic. But who to draw
it? Hmmm ... Alex Ross!
And thanks for the warm memories, […]. Would that we all had
grandfathers like yours.
Oh no, not Alex Ross, he’d be awful due to
his left-wing politics. Besides, I don’t think his computer-like
illustrations really cut it anyway. I guess I’ll use this moment to
tell how my grandfather was a dentist, and it figures that, as a
result, I’d be able to get free dental care when I was a tot. Yep,
that was the case when I was little. And I really miss him.
1) Having sadly long since sold off my X-Men collection, I
can't be absolutely sure on this, but I think that Magneto's
history in the concentration camp was established as early (if
not earlier) as X-Men 150. That was the issue which also set the
stage for his brief (and to me actually more interesting)
reformation: He'd almost killed Kitty Pryde, and realized that
he was going as far as the people who had tormented him. So
maybe that was only an allusion to his being in the camps,
rather than an explicit revelation. (But that scene definitely
leapt to mind when watching the movie, where McKellen's Magneto
has no compunctions against sacrificing Rogue for his master
plan -- chilling, believable, and all-too human.)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the main
reason Magneto was made a gypsy was so he could be the father to
Pietro and Wanda, who from the outset had clearly been gypsies.
2) At the Comic-Con in San Diego, the frighteningly
effective spy Harry Knowles claimed that Hugh Jackman has a
clause in his contract to do a Wolverine solo film should Fox
want it. And you'll note in my interview with David Hayter that
he, too, is fixated with Weapon X. So I think that that story is
one of the likeliest to be adapted, should Fox choose to work so
closely with the comics. (No guarantee).
3) Also, Famke Janssen mentioned in a press junket that
one of the reasons shetook the role of Jean Grey was the
possibility of working toward being Dark Phoenix. So who knows?
It's the musings of an actress, but I'm just impressed that the
actors (with the possible exception of Halle Berry) actually
know their stuff.
4) Kid Eternity in the modern age: Yes, he was snuffed in
JSA 1. But before Vertigo got ahold of him, and, admittedly
pre-Crisis, Kid Eternity showed up in DC's Shazam! series when
it shuffled over to the digest-sized book (was that Adventure
Comics?). Anyway, the Marvels accepted him into their "family,"
and gave him a secret identity as Freddy Freeman's long-lost
5) The Superboy of Earth-Prime is not the one who
sacrificed himself in Action, though two Superboys have, indeed,
sacrificed themselves there. The first was the "pocket universe"
Superboy, the loss of whom of course allowed the three
Kryptonian supervillains to take over that Earth until executed
by Superman. The second, during Zero Hour, still closely
resembled the Superboy some of us grew up with. He met with
Kon-El, and that's how Kon found out that Superman was Clark
Kent. The Earth-Prime Superboy actually had parents other than
Jonathan and Martha, and grew up upper-middle class, though his
secret identity was still Clark Kent.
I've never seen any post-Crisis reference to that
Superboy, the young Alex Luthor, or Earth-Two Lois. But in
Kingdom I'm told that we saw the Earth-Two Superman. I'll take
people's word for it, because I couldn't find the actual clues
that would have made that clear. He's in a domed version of
Metropolis. I'll assume, too, that Lois, Alex, and Superboy are
probably in there, too, since they all went off together.
1) Uncanny 150 is the earliest mention I've found to Magneto's
concentration-camp experience, also. It may have been mentioned
prior to that. In fact, given that Stan & Jack were WWII vets
and often referenced the war in their work, it seems likely that
it had been established before Uncanny 150 and that issue (and
issue 161) just fleshed it out. I don't remember an earlier
2) Weapon X or Dark Phoenix are my top two choices for the sequel.
3) I saw Halle Berry on The Daily Show, where they showed the clip
where Storm challenges Wolverine to take sides. Afterwards, she
identified the Hugh Jackman character as "Sabretooth." OK, she's
no rocket scientist.
4) Adventure Comics did indeed end its run as a digest comic.
5) I've been corrected already on the Pocket Universe Superboy.
We've seen glimpses of the Earth-Two Superman -- apparently he's
not content to stay in HIS pocket universe.
What’s so human about a man who tries to
kill a helpless girl in pure cold blood with no remorse? It depends
on how one sees it, and I don’t think the 1st movie’s rendition of
Erik Lensherr was very nice. In fact, it was awful. So too is
Smith’s description of a supporting character from X-Men on August
Dear Cap: I loved your list of X-appearances in the
recent Comics Buyer's Guide, but you missed one. The Angel
appeared in a solo story that started in Ka-Zar 2, continued in
Ka-Zar 3 and completed in Marvel Tales 30. It's a great story!
It's certainly one that's important to X-fans, […]. Not only is it
credited to Jerry Siegel (co-creator of Superman) and George
Tuska, but it features the death of Warren Worthington III's
father (Warren Worthington Jr., 'natch) and a certain bombshell
named Candy! Of course, she's called Candy Summers instead of
Southern (or, sometimes, Sothern), and she's a riveting redhead
instead of a bombastic brunette! But thanks for pointing it out --
I actually remembered that story when I was writing the column,
and talked myself into believing it happened earlier when I
couldn't find it. D'oh!
I don’t appreciate his calling Candy
“bombastic”, because it sounds crude. And what are the odds he didn’t
remember the Ka-Zar story brought up?
Dear Cap: This from a recent mailbag:
<<It'd be interesting to see how (American-spawned)
heroes would handle a fundamentalist-religious super-being,
infused with evangelical zeal and godly righteousness, who
subscribed to a "living" creed with evangelical tenets.
Proselytizers with belief systems sufficiently "other" to avoid
(obvious) overlap with "living" religions are usually seen as
No one seems to remember that Marvel had/has EXACTLY such
a character. "The Crusader" was a fundamentalist Christian who
was given powers by a being of light that either claimed to be
or was assumed by The Crusader to be (the Christian) God or an
agent of same. He appeared only once, attempting to stop Thor
from claiming that he was the actual pagan deity of myth. I
can't remember the issue number, but it was written in a
non-judgmental way so that you could both see The Crusader's
point of view yet at the same time not totally condone his
actions. I always thought this character would make a GREAT
addition to a super-team (after all, team books are propelled by
inner conflict). Imagine a character who considers himself a
hero, subscribes to all the positive ideals of Christianity
(thou shalt not kill, etc.) yet at the same time has major
issues with characters like Thor, Hercules, and let's not even
mention the Son of Satan! The character could be written to
question our own perceptions about Christianity, or written
"safe" simply as a source of conflict within the group. I can't
believe The Crusader never appeared again ...
As I recall, [name withheld], The Crusader did appear a second
time -- although where or when I couldn't tell you. At any rate,
my vague memory of the character is that he was written as ...
well, a loon. I could be wrong, but my impression is that he
couldn't possibly be mistaken for a character who represented
modern mainstream Christianity.
So says somebody who doesn’t seem too
worried about the negative portrayals of Christianity in 21st
century showbiz. And who doesn’t seem too bothered about Liam
Neeson’s movie called Non-Stop,
a relative of 9-11 victims while depicting a Muslim character
positively till the very end.
Hey man: I just read your thingy about Gwen Stacy.
Just curious, but do you miss her as much as I do? LOL, your
probably couldn't care less, but just curious. I was also
curious as to who else you thought had the "Gwen Stacy
syndrome." I've often thought that killing off Mary Jane (in an
epic storyline) would do good to help Spider-Man. It wouldn't be
just because there was nothing to do with her, but because I
think it's something that Spidey needs. He's revolved around
death in his life, and responsibility, and I think that her
dying would add to that, help bring him back to his roots. Well,
I suppose there is a selfish reason for it too: I've always been
a bigger fan of Gwen than MJ. After all, Gwen was better than MJ
at all those things, and she was just too sweet. :) You had to
love Gwen. What do you think? Am I wrong in those thoughts?
Well, I also must say I'm one that thinks it would be good if
few people lived, making it for a more realistic and dramatic
storyline, such as that of Rising Stars and such. Just an
opinion, though. :) I seriously doubt I would ever kill MJ if I
wrote (Spider-Man), but you gotta admit it would help Spidey
out. I mean, could it actually get much worse? LOL Thank god for
Paul Jenkins :)
I have to confess, as an aging Silver Ager, that I've always
thought of MJ as -- well, the consolation prize. Sure, she's
gorgeous and spunky and has great hair, but it was GWEN that
Spidey loved, and was obviously going to marry. So Amazing
Spider-Man 122 really through me for a loop, and Mary Jane's
brusque treatment of Peter Parker for the next five years or so
(until Gerry Conway left the series) reinforced in me the idea
that she was too flighty to take seriously and that a confused
Peter was just pursuing her "on the rebound." MJ is still, to me,
the "new chick." I'm getting used to MJ now (after, what -- 20
years?), so I'd prefer they didn't kill her off. ONE dead
girlfriend is enough for anyone, don't you think?
As to who else was victim to the "Gwen Stacy Syndrome," the
numbers are enormous! Lady Dorma and Marinna (Sub-Mariner),
Heather Glenn and Karen Page (Daredevil), Alex DeWitt (Green
Lantern), Betty Ross Banner (Hulk), Mockingbird (Hawkeye), half
the women Iron Man has ever dated -- I once drew up a list of dead
girlfriends/wives on this very Web site, and it ran over 50 names!
On the one hand, the correspondent is
right – Mr. Smith couldn’t care less; he hasn’t been particularly
vocal about Stracynski and Quesada’s screed against Gwen in Sins
Past. On the other hand, he blows it big time when he suggests
killing off MJ would help Spidey. Shudder. What’s with these people?
Already, it’s been made worse after Quesada technically had her make
a deal of her own with Mephisto. It’s not just Spidey who did. And
while there’s nothing wrong with liking Gwen, it shouldn’t be at
MJ’s expense, nor vice versa.
Smith may prefer MJ not be killed off, but does he prefer she be
depicted condoning Faustian pacts? Depending on one's view, that's
just as offensive as her being killed, if not more so. And that
correspondent loses me further when he blabbers about reality and
drama at all costs. And does Mr. Smith believe all these 50-plus
gals-in-the-grave has helped comics in the long run? I get the vibe
he does. Now, here’s three-in-one about wrestling:
Dear Cap: I recently read your column that included a
reference to Chyna's new comic book. In it you stated you didn't
know what the Eighth Wonder of the World was and in reading that
an old memory came up. I've never been a big wrestling fan but I
do remember another WWF wrestler that was often called the
Eighth Wonder of the World. No other than Andre the Giant. Just
a little useless info for you.
The things you learn in this business! Thanks for taking the time
to clue me in, [withheld]! And, here's some more:
Dear Cap: Regarding your review of Chyna 1, to WWF fans the
Eighth Wonder of the World was the late, great Andre the Giant.
To old movie buffs, of course, it was King Kong.
And still more:
Dear Cap: You muse in your July 30 article "who or what the
Eighth Wonder of the World is" in relation to female wrestling
phenom Chyna, the Ninth Wonder of the World. The "Eighth Wonder
of the World" is yet another pro-wrasslin' legend, the late
ANDRE THE GIANT, who was referred to as the Eighth Wonder on
many telecasts and wrestling events during his illustrious
Who says there's no such thing as continuity in pro
Does this sound like a fanboy? Taken from the usenet
rec.sport.pro-wrestling newsgroup FAQ:
1) What is a mark? What is a smart?
There are many interpretations and beliefs on this matter,
and hopefully this will educate you enough for you to make your
own decision on it.
The first, and most traditional, meaning of the word
"mark" comes from carnivals and con-men, who called the paying
customers "marks" in reference to them being the target of the
scam. Under this criteria, we are all marks, because we are all
wrestling fans and thus all the targets of the giant scam that
But ... Modern times have changed the meaning of the word
somewhat. Thanks to the proliferation of the internet and
"insider" newsletters, the word "mark" has come to stand for the
ever-dwindling group of wrestling fans who still "believe." That
is to say, those who think that wrestling is real and will cheer
and boo those that the federations wish them to.
But ... There are another group of fans, the
self-proclaimed "smarts", who have access to what they think is
the inner workings of the business and who tend to view
wrestling on a different level than the so-called "marks." These
fans will tend to cheer the heels and boo the babyfaces. Most
people who are actually connected inside the wrestling business
refer to these "smarts" as "smart marks" or "smarks" for short.
98 percent of the fans on the internet are "smart marks." Always
remember that we only know what they want us to know, and any
information divulged by either Eric Bischoff or Vince McMahon is
probably a lie told to sell tickets.
But ... Many "smart marks" will actually classify
themselves as "marks" for specific things. For example, WWF fans
will call themselves a "WWF mark" because they watch WWF
programming and buy WWF merchandise. Some even extend this to a
given wrestler (Chris Benoit being the best example).
But ... Futhermore, many of the "smart marks" will
actually end up displaying the very behavior they think they
oppose, upon entrance into the atmosphere of a given live
wrestling show. ECW fans go out of their way to act the opposite
of what they think "marks" should act like, while at the same
time actually going all the way around and becoming marks
themselves because that's how ECW expects them to act.
So ... In the end, a mark is whatever you want it to be.
Many times on the Net the term "marks" is used as a blanket
reference to those who are not "in the know" and who generate
the majority of the revenue for the various promotions. This is
the most popular usage and most generally accepted. But, of
course, we are all marks.
Good lord! That is ENTIRELY more than I wanted to know about
For me, it’s a waste of time, since, as I
may have mentioned already, the WWF is a real turnoff due to the
tabloid view they take there of wrestling, reducing an art form to
sleazy spectacle. And why throw away money on all that merchandise?
Dear Cap: I'm a 30-year veteran of the comics wars,
so I'll try to shed a little light on the question of Barry
Windsor-Smith drawing Avengers.
His first stint came in Avengers 66-67. This was the first
return of Ultron after his initial appearance. He was credited
only as "Barry Smith;" high-falutin' artiste status came later.
The art is very cool, in a late-'60s Kirby/Steranko kind of way.
These issues are also notable for introducing adamantium to the
Marvel Universe. The story didn't conclude until issue 68, which
I believe was drawn by Sal Buscema (in what may have been his
Smith returned to Avengers Mansion for issues 98-100, in
which the Assemblers went up against Ares and other assorted
characters from Greek mythology. By this time, his art was much
more stylized and distinctive; the Kirby/Steranko influence
isn't nearly as apparent. Issue 100 featured every character
who'd been an Avenger up to that time, which must've been a
treat and/or chore for Smith! Also in this storyline, Clint
Barton reverted from Goliath to Hawkeye -- but he began wearing
that hideous, pale-blue, maskless outfit. Honestly, he looked
like he was wearing a skirt and a headband! Don't know if that
was Smith's design or not; if so, even the great ones can have
their off days. Either way, the outfit was gone within a year,
and Hawkeye returned to the classic look we know and love.
Hope this adds to the general pool of knowledge and/or
Y'know, I completely forgot about Avengers 66-67 -- probably
because I wasn't very impressed with Smith's debut (he also drew
Uncanny X-Men 53 right around that time, and a couple of
Daredevils). Those early Kirby-clone efforts were ... well, bad.
The Raphael-esque technique we're familiar with now began
appearing in his early Conan work, circa 1970-73. So by the time
he did Avengers 98-100 (1972), he was much closer to the "artiste"
that we know and love now.
But thanks for the correction!
Oh please! Every artist begins rather
simplistically, and builds to more sophistication later! Just like
early concepts such as Superman begin with simple ideas and become
more complicated as time goes by. And I never thought of that old
costume design for Hawkeye as skirt-like. More like a coat, it was.
Dear Cap: As regards the [withheld]'s comments about
Godzilla movies, I have noticed that most people either really
like them or really dislike them. And that most people who
really liked the Japanese Godzilla movies really disliked the
American Godzilla movie. It is also true that they films
themselves varied in quality a great deal over the years. The
original 1954 Godzilla, King of the Monsters was a fairly grim
picture, and the only one that really dealt with the kind of
casualties a Godzilla attack would produce. It must have been
particularly resonant in a Japan that was only nine years away
from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One should also bear in mind that
while the U.S. was occupying Japan in the late '40s and early
'50s the Occupation censors prohibited any kind of public debate
on the atomic attacks. Godzilla may well have been of the first
films to even obliquely refer to them. On the other hand, by the
'70s, Godzilla had become almost lovable, fighting alien
monsters like a pro wrestler. It's very interesting to watch the
character of Godzilla develop over the years. And I think that
may be a clue as to why many of us old-line Godzillaphiles
didn't like the new G-Film -- It's Godzilla didn't have a
Thanks for the recap on the Big G, [withheld]. I fall into the
pro-Toho camp on Godzilla; I still find the original film
engrossing and his subsequent "pro wrestler" career fun in an Adam
West/Batman kinda way. The recent U.S. film I found to be
overblown and boring (except for the French "accountant" who
happened to have all sorts of black-ops equipment on his person --
that was good for a couple of laughs).
How come he didn’t find Civil War and
Avengers vs. X-Men overblown and boring? I’m not convinced he meant
what he said about Roland Emmerich’s tripe.
Dear Cap: I just wanted to add a little to letter
writer Blastaar's question about when The Batman became a master
detective. No corrections, or even pointing out when something
"first" happened. Just some commentary.
I can never remember a time when The Batman wasn't
considered a master detective. Granted, I started reading comics
in the late '50s -- the start of the Silver Age, for those who
mark the debut of the revived Flash as the beginning (as I do).
But The Batman was always considered a detective -- even by some
of the alien visitors the Masked Manhunter encountered in the
early '60s. With the "New Look" (May, 1964), editor Julius
Schwartz had his writers re-emphasize the detective aspect of
his career and the stories became much deductive in content.
This lasted until The Batman television show shifted the focus
of the stories. In the early '70s, Denny O'Neil, assisted ably
by Neal Adams's art, again underscored the detective in The
But, one might say, what about before you started reading
DC comics? Before the Silver Age? During the Silver Age, DC
published quite a few Batman Giant Annuals, reprinting stories
from the '40s and '50s; and in nearly all of those, The Batman
was shown to be a detective. Some of those 80-Pagers had as a
central theme "mystery stories," and again nearly all of these
referred to The Batman as "the world's greatest detective."
In Detective Comics 226 (Dec 1955), the lead story reveals
that the pre-teen but level-headed Bruce Wayne -- in preparation
for his anticipated career -- apprenticed himself with "the
great detective" Harvey Harris to learn the science and skill of
criminology and detective work (as opposed to today's take on
the subject, where a psychotic Bruce Wayne spends his life
studying under mystics, gurus and yoga masters -- ye gods!)
But Blastaar's question refers to the gradual evolution of
The Batman into being a master detective. This implies that at
the start of the Caped Crusader's career, he did not function in
I would argue differently. It seems to me that, from the
start, the concept of The Batman -- or "The Bat-Man" -- embraced
the idea that he was a detective, that he didn't solve cases by
knocking down walls or melting them or seeing through them with
X-ray vision - -but by putting clues together and deducing the
facts leading to uncovering and/or catching the villain. The
fact that DC debuted his character in Detective Comics strongly
implies that. And a reading of those first 15 or 20 "Batman"
stories, in both Detective and later on, Batman, shows clearly
that the character collected clues, and pieced them together to
reach fact. Many of these clues were scientific in bent -- as
goes back to his chemistry training; but many more of them were
I will stipulate that, in the earliest of stories, The
Batman's level of deduction would not put Dr. Watson to shame,
let alone Sherlock Holmes. In his first recorded case, "The Case
of the Criminal Syndicate," the most ratiocination The Batman
applies to the case is catching two thugs stealing a secret
contract, putting them out of action, and then reading the
contract, which essentially tells him everything he needs to
know. But these initial rudimentary puzzles and solutions were
due to the limitations of Bob Kane's writing. As other, more
knowledgable and more versatile writers came along, to prepare
more ingenious mysteries, the level of The Batman's deductive
skills leapt proportionately. But the concept of The Batman as a
skilled detective was there from the beginning.
On a different subject, I wanted to weigh in with my vote
on the conflicted responses between you and your lovely missus
on the "Should Wonder Woman have had sex with the tyrannical
despot in return for his ending the war?"
I have to agree with the good Mrs. Comics' answer, Cap.
The sacrifice to WW's principles would have been minor (in
relative terms) to the much greater good in the lives she would
You rely upon the higher ideal, which is admirable;
however, it is sometimes, regrettably, not practical. I'm not
saying that one should sacrifice one's principles if there is an
alternative but more difficult way of accomplishing the goal. In
those instances, principles come first. But there are occasions
in life, when there is no viable alternative to a goal but to
sacrifice one's own principles.
You wrote, "(Wonder Woman would) find another way to stop
the war without violating her principles." But you don't state
how. A similar argument raged through the Captain America letter
pages about 15 years ago, when Cap was forced to gun down a
member of a terrorist group to prevent him from killing
hostages. Many of those who deplored this argued that "Cap would
have found another way to stop the gunman without killing him;"
but none of them proposed a workable solution that would have
not have resulted in the death of at least one of the innocents.
This is the thing: it's a simple thing for a reader to insist
that a character uphold his principles; but the charge lacks
validity if that same reader cannot provide just how that
character would have effectively accomplished that. I feel that
was the situation which Wonder Woman confronted (knowing only
the details you provided).
Not to be too critical of you, Cap --as I said, I admire
your stand for principle, and nine times out of 10 I would agree
with you. But in this case, a principled solution for Wonder
Woman would not have been practical. The only other option might
have been to kill the despot in cold blood. Presumably, that be
a violation of an even stronger ethic. So I put it to you, Cap,
what was WW's alternative?
You answered The Batman question as I should have […]. I mean, the
guy debuted in DETECTIVE Comics. A-duh.
As to Wonder Woman, I have to agree with you: In a real-world
practical sense I'd see no alternative to her sacrificing some
personal dignity for the higher principle of saving lives. No
In a comic-book world, though, it's a lot easier: The writer can
give her a way out! I guess my sense of outrage was heightened by
the fact that OTHER heroes are always given ways out to avoid
The only reason I mention this is because the denouement of the
Captain America question you mentioned played out exactly that
way: Marvel's higher-ups decreed that Cap would in no circumstance
use a gun to kill again. And he hasn't, lucky guy -- because the
writers have arranged it that way.
Which brings me to another irksome nettle that's settled in my
craw: When did Cap get to be such a stickler about gunplay? The
guy was a soldier (and superhero) in World War II! Are we to
believe that he's gun-shy? That he never used a weapon in his many
combat adventures? That every time he dropped a hand grenade into
a German pillbox that he was careful not to hurt anybody?
Frankly, Cap's world-weary understanding of his role (as
envisioned by Stan Lee and Jack Kiby in those old Tales of
Suspense backups) was part of the reason I preferred him to
namby-pamby heroes like Superman and Batman in the '60s. This was
a guy who was prepared to do whatever was necessary for the common
good, and he knew it wasn't always pretty, and he knew that
sometimes people got killed no matter what you did. Of course, now
Cap is the bleeding heart, and Batman is the hard-nose!
Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful insights, […], as always!
Even if Steve Rogers is now depicted as a
bleeding heart, as is pretty apparent under Axel Alonso’s regime, I
wouldn’t say Batman’s been depicted as hard-nosed. In fact, under
Dan DiDio and Bob Harras, he’s been injected with more than a
modicum of the same leftism that’s affected Cap for goodness knows
The WW story they're talking about apparently came from Legends
of the DCU #32. I don't know if it was an allusion to Saddam’s
tyrannical rule over Iraq. But I do know this: the whole notion of
WW having sex with a dictator just to get him to back off the war
he’s currently declaring against another community of inhabitants is
ludicrous in the extreme, and I think with a sensible writer at the
helm, WW could find a way to stop him without sacrificing her
principles. It’s Mr. Smith I’m skeptical would care. This is
somebody whom I recall giving telling hints he was against the war
in Iraq to bring down a despot, so I don’t take this gibberish at
face value either. And the correspondent’s an alleged conservative
who just put his credentials in doubt once more. Putting aside the
out-of-character depictions during 2005, I’ve got a hunch he was
against WW breaking Max Lord’s neck to free Superman from his
control, and not because he liked Max, but because mind-controlling
heroes to commit destruction is just fine compared to punishing
villains for horrific crimes they commit. Or, put another way, what
if he embraced the leftist mindset behind that whole botch?
<<LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #32 ... Frankly, I'd like our
original take to have been the actual plot, since it provoked a
long discussion between the Vixen and I. I voted Diana NOT appease
the dictator with sex ("She'd find another way to stop the war
without violating her principles!") and my sweet, lovely, innocent
wife voted yes ("Oh, get off your high horse -- if one night of
meaningless sex can save lives, then it would be selfish of her to
say no. Think of all the women raped daily while the war goes
on"). It was an interesting, revealing moment, when we both
realized that we had taken opposite stands from what we ourselves
would have expected. Say, how would YOU have voted?>>
Tricky situation! You and your wife both make good and valid
points! I'm leaning more with your side, Cap, but your wife may
be right that it is a more selfish decision. I'd like to believe
that Diana would find a way to save lives and still not bow to
such a demand, though.
<<I admit I enjoyed the 1978 (Superman) movie thoroughly,
despite the ridiculous turn-back-the-clock scene and the utterly
pointless inclusion of Marlon Brando.>>
I prefer to look upon the "turn-back-the-clock" scene as
symbolic, rather than literal. I think of it as Superman going
back in time, as opposed to reversing it.
Marlon Brando was added to Superman: The Movie solely as a
draw. It wasn't to long after Apocalypse Now and the Godfather
movies. Brando was not only already a legendary actor at that
time, but a "hot" actor, still. The flake that he was/is, Brando
was originally wanting to play Jor-El as a piece of luggage or
something (no joke). Thankfully, that indulgence wasn't humored
by the producers and director.
<<Oh, and the new Spider-Man has been cast: An actor named
Tobey Maguire, about whom I know exactly nothing. I hope he's a
skinny, nerdy Steve Ditko illustration brought to life!>>
Tobey Maguire was the teen brother of Reese Witherspoon's
character in Pleasantville and he was also in Cider House Rules.
He looks like a decent enough choice for Peter Parker (and a
better choice than I was afraid we'd get). Of course, Hollywood
being Hollywood, they can't leave well enough alone; Spider-Man
will reputedly have organic webshooters. Ugh! This is being
done, according to the movie's director, Sam Raimi, in order to
make Peter feel like an outcast. Pardon, but wasn't Peter Parker
already an outcast before the radioactive spider bite? If
anything, the spider-powers make Peter feel more accepted and he
shows off, to boot! -- That is, until Uncle Ben is murdered ...
<<Uncanny 150 is the earliest mention I've found to
Magneto's concentration-camp experience, also. It may have been
mentioned prior to that. In fact, given that Stan & Jack were
WWII vets and often referenced the war in their work, it seems
likely that it had been established before Uncanny 150 and that
issue (and issue 161) just fleshed it out. I don't remember an
earlier reference, though.>>
There was some discussion about this very topic lately on A**'s
"Byrne Ward" message board. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby never
indicated that Magneto was Jewish or a Gypsy. Neither did Roy
Thomas or Neal Adams, for that matter. In fact, Stan and Jack
have Magneto acting very Nazi-like in his earliest appearance,
which would be very strange for a Jewish person. Byrne was one
of the first people to suggest that Magneto was the real father
of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, therefore making it possible
he was a Gypsy.
<<I can't remember any story addressing why the FF's
original outfits demonstrated the same abilities as their owners.
Of course, we've never learned where the Hulk's mass comes from
when Bruce Banner transforms, or where it goes to when he changes
back! Hopefully, some of the correspondents reading this have some
The way I remember it, the Fantastic Four's space outfits were
affected by the cosmic radiation as much as they were,
themselves. That is why the outfits don't tear (well, except for
The Thing's outfit), burn, stretch, etc. The costumes molecules
basically became unstable when irradiated.
<<Was racist or anti-commie (1950s) Captain America pre- or
post-Comics Code Authority? What's the time line? [name withheld]
A: I'd think it was pre-Code. The attempted Captain America
revival ran from roughly May to September of 1954, and the CCAA
code that we are most familiar with was adopted in October,
Those issues with Captain America were pre-code, as you
So, Cap, have you seen the pictures of Ultimate X-Men and
Ultimate Spider-Man in Previews and recent select Marvel comics?
I know that the Ultimate line is a separate continuity from the
regular Marvel Universe, but I think Marvel still doesn't quite
understand its own characters anymore. Aunt May is shown to be
younger and full of energy. The text says that she will no
longer be an old biddy. If Aunt May is so healthy, why does she
need Peter to look after her? Part of the reason for May was
that it gave Peter an added responsibility and made him more
humanistic. Sure, it got to be annoying the umpteenth time May
had a heart attack, but her frailness and Peter's doting over
her added to his character. Uncle Ben now looks fit enough to
have beaten the burglar on his own! Over in the X-Men book,
Beast is shown furless. I hate to break it to older fans, but as
a retailer I've noticed that the "blue" Beast is more popular
with the youngsters; the ones that Marvel hopes to attract with
Marvel Ultimate. It seems an odd choice, considering that is the
case. Sabretooth looks more like Wild Child ...
Oh well, I don't want to knock the books before they
arrive. In fact, I am supportive of the line in general, but I
hope they don't get too screwy with the changes.
I think that the Marvel understanding of Peter Parker these days
is so askew of what I knew him to be in the '60s and early '70s
that an energetic Aunt May and organic webshooters probably makes
as much sense to them as Ben Reilly. Funny that I'm pinning my
hopes for a restoration of "my" Peter Parker on Paul Jenkins --
who's probably half my age. Sheesh.
The time’s come and gone, and I’m not
pinning my hopes on Jenkins or anybody else of his kind to restore
Spidey to glory. Besides, there was more than enough editorial
mandate plaguing the Jenkins run regardless. And again, about that
WW sleeping with despot tale: if it were a tale with sci-fi
trappings and the overlord was superpowered, yes I suppose the
choices would be difficult to make. All the same, that doesn’t mean
WW shouldn’t use her head and find alternatives to selling out like
Mr. Smith does.
Dear Cap: Pre-Crisis, it was revealed that Kid
Eternity and Cap Jr. literally were brothers! This revelation
took place in World's Finest Comics. It was established that Kid
Eternity (Kit Freeman) and Cap Jr. (Freddie Freeman) had been
brothers, who, after their parents died, where adopted by
diffrent grandfathers (one went with the paternal grandfather,
the other the maternal grandfather). Kit's grandfather was a
sailor who was killed by a Nazi U-boat. Kit died too -- but
Shazam stopped him from going on to the afterlife, as Kit had
been taken before his time. The occult being Mr. Keeper argued
with Shazam, pointing out that a Freeman was due to die at the
hands of a Nazi.
But it was the wrong Freeman and the wrong Nazi. Freddie
Freeman was supposed to have been killed by Captain Nazi (as per
his origin), not Kit by the U-boat. To make the most of a bad
situation, Kit was allowed to become the semi-deceased Kid
Eternity, and Freddie Captain Marvel Jr. Freddie did not know
that Kit existed as Kid Eternity until World's Finest Comics.
This story was unusual for several reasons. First, though
the original Kid Eternity comics were published by Quality
Comics, not Fawcett (the publisher of the original Captain
Marvel stories), this story established that Kid Eternity
existed on Earth-S (where the Fawcett characters existed), not
Earth-X (where the Quality characters were set). This
complicated matters, as Kid Eternity had summoned Blackhawk and
Plastic Man (both Quality Comics characters) during his original
Quality Comics run in the 1940s. This seems to establish that
these heroes had counterparts on Earth-S-unlucky ones, actually.
Since Kid Eternity's power was only effective in summoning dead
people, we must assume that the Earth-S Blackhawk and Plastic
Man were dead by the 1940s!
Second, this story also involved Sherlock Holmes (see
It was revealed that Kid Eternity had secretly helped
Freddie over the years, including summoning Sherlock Holmes to
help Freddie defeat Captain Nazi. I don't have the actual issue
of World's Finest with me, so I can't say whether or not there
was an actual Golden Age story in which Freddie teamed up with
Sherlock Holmes against Captain Nazi that this story retconned
by having it that Kid Eterntiy, who, as noted, was never even a
Fawcett comics character, and thus could not have been mentioned
in the original story, had summoned Holmes. Earth-S's Sherlock
Holmes's presence in the story would have to be explained in
this way, for, if his history followed that of the original
Conan Doyle Holmes, he would have been 80-90 years old by the
time Captain Marvel Jr. showed up ...
By the way, in the Who's Who Update'87, someone asked how
the wiping away of the Marvel Family that was done with the
Shazam: The New Beginning series (and undone years later by
Jerry Ordway) would influence Kid Eternity, him having been Cap
Jr.'s brother. It was noted that this letter got Karen Berger
thinking about doing a Kid Eternity project ... and we all know
where that led.
It led to an unrecognizeable character in Vertigo's brief Kid
But that was still no excuse for killing
off Kid Eternity in the first issues of JSA at the hands of Mordru
(who originally began as a villain in Amethyst: Princess of
Gemworld). Something that noticably was left out of this whole
Hello Cap'n! While gathering material for my radio
show, I came across this. Hope you like it.
Rules for Choosing a Superhero Name
1. Don't call yourself by your real name, e.g., Ms. Jenny
Pinchuck, The Amazing Stevie Foster.
2. Don't call yourself by someone else's real name, e.g.,
Mr. Teddy Kennedy, Captain Al Gore.
3. Choose a name that suggests power, heroism, and
prowess, e.g., Captain Power, Thunderman, Mr. Invincible,
4. Don't be too modest, e.g., Mr. Pretty Good, Captain
So-so, Fairly Incredibleman.
5. But don't labor the point, e.g., Mr.
6. Don't choose a name detrimental to your crime fighting
image, e.g., Captain Spongecake, Mr. Silly, Yellow Streak,
Purple Slippers, Captain Evil.
7. Don't choose the name of an existing Superhero unless
you have lots of money and enjoy fighting litigation rather than
8. It's no use calling yourself Captain Invincible if your
only power is control over Hostess Twinkies and you suffer from
a congenital hole-in-the-heart condition. That's just asking for
9. Don't call yourself the Invisible Boy if you're not.
10. Don't call yourself the Invisible Boy if you're a
11. Don't call yourself the Invisible Lady if you're a man
-- even if you do feel like a woman trapped in a man's body.
12. Don't give away important information in your name,
e.g., The Glass Jaw, Captain Vulnerable To Strontium 90.
13. Don't call yourself The Green Avenger if you wear an
orange costume. You'll confuse people.
(Author unknown, from http://www.the-mouth.com/)
I'm pretty sure Captain Spongecake, Mr. Silly, Yellow Streak and
Purple Slippers have all applied for membership with the Legion of
Let me add another suggestion to that
list: don’t call yourself a true authority on comics if you can’t
keep from being a brownnose. And, don’t follow the examples
presented by characters like J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow if
you really enjoy the medium!
<<It was an interesting, revealing moment, when we both
realized that we had taken opposite stands from what we ourselves
would have expected. Say, how would YOU have voted>>
I'd go with your assessment; Diana would have found another
way. [name withheld], on the other hand, agreed with [withheld].
Figure that one out.
<<BOFFY THE VAMPIRE LAYER #2: Oooh, what a clever
You don't know the half of it. Or, to be more accurate, you
know exactly half of it. I saw a copy and the cover proclaims,
"Boffy the Vampire Layer Meets Sabreena the Teenage Wench." Oh,
those wacky Eros guys.
<<Can you imagine Jack Kirby's Capt. America running the
trenchs, dodging bombs, sporting around 40 lbs. of rubber? No
amount of Super-Soldier Serum could prevent him from sweating to
40 lbs. of rubber is probably lightweight when compared to the
chain-mail shirt that the "real" Cap wears!
<<Would you happen to know if Marvel ever put together a
collection of his stint with Conan, & if it's still in
I just finished reading the recently released Essential Conan,
which reprints the first twenty-some issues of the barbarian's
first Marvel series. I've never been a Conan fan before but I
sure enjoyed these stories!
The first 24 issues of Conan the Barbarian are some of the best
comics Marvel has ever done. Here's another corroboration:
I don’t think the correspondent goes with
Smith’s alleged assessment at all, because I’m aware he’s an
anti-war leftist who opposed bringing down Saddam! And even back in
the Golden Age, there was Spandex around, so I’m not sure what
rubber’s got to do with this.
Dear Cap: To add to your answer regarding Barry
Windsor-Smith, there is the excellent ESSENTIAL CONAN collection
that was done less than three months ago that should still be
easily available. This is in the B&W "phonebook" format that
characterizes the Marvel Essentials, and contains Conan the
Barbarian 1-17 and 19-24, also including a non-Smith story by
Gil Kane. Needless to say: GET THIS!
Off the top of my head, BWS didn't do any other interior
Conan work beyond that initial run except for 1995(?)'s CONAN
VERSUS RUNE crossover.
That "Rune" book was indeed in 1995, Jose, and I don't believe BWS
did any interior Conan comic-book work aside from what we
mentioned. He did do interior work for the original Savage Tales
magazine, though, as well as some work for Savage Sword of Conan.
And a bunch of his work was reprinted in Conan Saga magazine.
There's probably one or two other things I'm not thinking about,
Indeed no, he’s not! What about morale and
honesty, for example? There’s more, to be sure, but I’ve probably
covered it already.
Dear Capn: I haven't even seen (X-Men), but I'll
comment on the sequel anyway.
If they don't include the Sentinels, they are pretty
freakin' stupid. The first film is a success, they'll have a
bigger budget for the second one. Passing up the chance to use
it to apply F/X wizardry to a such a cinematic concept as the
Sentinels -- think how impressive they could be on a big screen,
if done right -- would be a sign of stupidity practically.
Bryan Singer said at San Diego that he imagined the second movie
as being about the Sentinels -- all the stuff in the first movie
would lead directly to it, and they'd have a big enough budget to
do it. Of course, he was talking through his hat: No script has
even been started, and he might not even be the director. But it's
nice to see Singer, DeSanto and other movie muckety-mucks thinking
like us fanboys!
Don’t make me laugh. Singer, who was
recently accused in a lawsuit of child molestation in Hawaii and
London, didn’t want any comics brought onto the movie set;
apparently, he considered them an embarrassment, hence, the switch
to black leather costumes too. Personally, I’ve grown weary of comic
movies, and a lot of live action sci-fi to boot, and would rather
just read about it in books.
In a previous Mailbag, [name withheld] brings up
"realism in comics."
For me, complaining that comics are unrealistic is like
complaining that rain is wet. Moreover, I find that any time
anyone talks about making comics "realistic," they inevitably
mean doing something that takes all the fun out of it.
[withheld] criticizes Batman for playing cat-and-mouse
with the Joker "with no real intention of ever putting an end to
this lethal threat to society. Joker kills people; Batman throws
him in Arkham; Joker escapes to kill more people; Batman throws
him back in Arkham; and so on and so on."
He doesn't say how, exactly, Batman is to put an "end" to
the Joker's lethal threat, although he implies very strongly
that a "realistic" solution is a final sanction. Let us be
clear: Batman is not a killer and, more important, Batman is not
a murderer. (Let us also be clear: Dirty Harry's way of solving
problems leads to more problems, like L.A.P.D.'s Rampart
scandal. Or detectives in New York shooting an unarmed man to
death because they can't tell the difference between a gun and a
Besides, what's so "unrealistic" about catching a crook
again and again? There are police officers all over this country
who re-arrest people who have gone through the criminal justice
system more than once. I wouldn't say those cops are responsible
for the new crimes those people commit; it's unfair to blame
Batman for the new crimes Arkham escapees commit. Criminals are
at fault for their crimes.
What strikes me as "unrealistic" is the idea that, once
caught, the Joker isn't chained to the wall in his cell 23 hours
a day, and let out only for an hour's exercise while being
watched every second by a contingent of burly guards. And given
that the Joker has murdered, injured, terrorized or harmed a
relative of just about everybody in the big house, it's
"unrealistic" to think somebody in there wouldn't use him for a
demonstration of the versatile uses of a shiv.
You'll notice that, half the time, they don't even bother
showing the Joker being delivered to Arkham; that way, they
don't have to explain how he got away. I thought it was
extremely poor planning on DC's part to have the Joker surface
in BIRDS OF PREY within weeks of the end of "No Man's Land" --
and apparently without the knee injury Commissioner Gordon
inflicted on him.
Which brings me to my main point: It's time for a
moratorium on Joker stories. At least two years, maybe three ...
maybe even five. The character is overexposed, and now that he's
personally struck our family of heroes, more than once, it's
ever harder to suspend our disbelief. I'm not surprised that
Gordon didn't put that bullet in the Joker's heart; after all,
he'd spent a year leading a volunteer force to maintain the rule
of law, so he could hardly be the one to violate that ideal, no
matter how much it pained him. On the other hand, I don't
believe that someone else -- Harvey Bullock, say -- wouldn't
have finished the Joker off. (I remember when Harvey wasn't so
noble; he'd have done it for sure, except for the shortage of
Denny O'Neil has said in interviews that part of the
reason for "Knightfall" was to explore what it means to be a
hero in these times, and to show the readers that a Batman who
is brutal and bloodthirsty isn't really a hero, and isn't really
Batman. I think that's why there needs to be a Joker moratorium
-- so that when the character is reintroduced, the writers can
explore that theme some more. They need to show the readers why
Batman doesn't just "accidentally" let the Joker "slip" from a
rooftop. Or why Oracle doesn't hack into Arkham's systems and,
say, steer Killer Croc into the Joker's cell for a late-night
heart-to-heart. Or why Commissioner Gordon doesn't change his
mind and aim his next shot a little higher. It clearly needs to
Thanks for a thoughtful, insightful letter, [withheld].
I've mentioned before that where "realism" is lost in the Joker
situation isn't Batman or Gordon: It's the courts. I use as my
example Jeffrey Dahmer. Yes, he was crazy -- the court ruled so.
But he was also dangerous. So what did the court do? Send him to
Earth-Prime's version of Arkham? Nope -- they sent him to a
That's how society deals with predators, crazy or not. And need I
mention what happened to Jeffrey Dahmer in prison?
But, of course, DC can't send a great villain like The Joker to
"Ryker's Island" and have him offed by another inmate.
I guess where we have a problem is that they haven't offered any
sort of explanation, even a bad one, for the revolving-door
treatment of The Joker. He's not an ordinary crook -- he's
murdered, what, thousands of people by now? And clearly intends to
go ON killing people. So Earth-DC's court system ought to do
SOMETHING -- and if they don't, a fig leaf of explanation would
But, no, I wouldn't want Batman to provide final sanction, either
in comics, or in the real world. That way lies madness.
Anyway, thanks again for a great letter!
Wow, all this from a correspondent who
never had a problem with Identity Crisis taking the fun out of a
whole universe by affecting practically every character making an
appearance, including Tim Drake, whose father was slain by Capt.
Boomerang. Let us be clear: if it’s perfectly fine that Jack Drake
be wiped out in a storyline connected to that atrocity, then the
correspondent obviously doesn’t mean what he says. That’s why this
letter is neither thoughtful nor insightful. You want insight? Go
buy a Honda of the same name. And let’s go next to August 17, 2000:
While re-reading Kingdom Come (which the more I read
the more I am amazed at the greatness I see in it) I was struck
with how true the fate of Captain Marvel was. His inability to
live as a light-hearted superhero in today's comic-book world
shows why he does not have a series anymore. Think about it,
this is a guy who is on par with Superman in power and in the
early days of his publishing existence was beating Supes in
sales! We all have heard how between court battles with DC and
the general decline in sales killed him at a time when his
adventures could work.
I remember the revival that was tried in the '70s. Even
with C.C. Beck as artist and some of DC's best writers of that
day it still did not work. And the latest series with Jerry
Ordway drawing/writing it was still, I think, uneven. I think it
was hard to balance the whimsy of the early adventures with the
"realism" that is wanted by the comic-book audience to make a
I also remember the characterization that Captain Marvel
had during his stint with the JLA in the '80s. He was portrayed
as being a"Captain Whitebread." I found this to be a problem.
Yes, Cap was basically a kid at heart but remember he also had
the wisdom of Solomon to rely on. This also another problem with
writing Cap today.
This is a shame because I think a book with that light
tone that the early Captain Marvel had would make a great
introduction for young kids. The problem is that it still might
not last. We see that today any book must be a moneymaker to
last. Look at the small number of such books.
I look forward to Paul Dini/Alex Ross's take on Cap in the
oversized format and hope it works. Maybe Dini will prove to be
the right person to write Cap and hopefully bring him back to
the DC Universe the right way.
I've speculated on my site before that perhaps Captain Marvel is
just a character whose time has come and gone. What made the Big
Red Cheese separate and distinct from other caped folks in the
'40s was his sense of childlike whimsy -- and that sort of thing
doesn't fly any more. In the cynical '80s and '90s that approach
just appears naive and childish. But if you update Cap -- which
has been done numerous times -- then is he even Captain Marvel any
more? And if not, then what's the point?
Worth thinking about, anyway. Thanks, [name withheld]!
The reason the child-style mirth of the
Golden Age doesn’t fly now is mainly because Mr. Smith doesn’t care
squat about it either! If he did, he wouldn’t have embraced Identity
Crisis. Honestly, I’d say it’s mainly because the mainstream press
has been mainstreaming bleakness all for the sake of it, and going
miles out of their way to praise darkness at all costs, at the full
expense of optimism and escapism.
Hey Cap: Your columns are just too good. It's hard
enough to read all of one week's new stuff in one sitting let
alone catch up on past lettercols. But I did it. And naturally,
I have a comment or two.
1) I thought that Rachel Summers gave Jean Grey back the
name of Phoenix. It happened in either The Adventures of Cyclops
and Phoenix miniseries or over in Excalibur (issue 73 or 75) as
a wedding present to her mother. Now that Rachel is Mother
Askani, she doesn't really need the code name.
2) There are not one but two comic stores on my drive from
home to work. One concentrates more on trading cards and has
about a quarter of the back issues I do (as in they have only
four boxes of back issues and I'm closer to 14). The other store
is simply incredible. It's amazing how the little things like
finding a good comics store can make a new city less
3) […] was wondering about the ramifications of
super-powered zealots. Although most books shy away from that
topic, the Wolfman-Perez era of The New Teen Titans dealt with
it on a regular basis. Check out the Brother Blood storylines,
although some of the more interesting discussions took place
between major story arcs as the heroes debated their course of
4) When Mike Baron started the Wally West Flash series,
Wally used to have to stop and eat a huge meal in almost every
issue. He took a number of odd jobs (such as speed-delivering
vital organs for transplant surgeries) in order to defray his
expenses. I thought that Baron made that aspect of The Flash
very interesting but as later writers switched to standard
superhero fare it didn't work as well. I'm content with "The
Speed Force" as an explanation. If I wanted real science, I
wouldn't be reading comic books.
5) Tobey Maguire (the new Spider-Man) is most famous for
his role in The Cider House Rules (the movie that earned Michael
Caine another Best Supporting Actor). However, I will always
remember him for his appearance on Saturday Night Live and one
of most hilarious skits I've ever seen. He impersonated Dustin
Diamond (Screech from Saved by the Bell) as a guest on the
6) Magneto is Jewish and I don't really care if Marvel has
changed their official stance on that. I don't mean to offend
those of you who have Gypsy in your heritage but that's the way
I feel. Why else was Erik Magnus Lensherr working in an Israeli
hospital when he met Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller?
I know that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are very proud
of their Gypsy heritage and in my opinion they should be. They
were raised by Gypsies, particularly Django Maximoff, not by
their Jewish father. Like many adopted children they choose to
celebrate the culture that raised them. That isn't such a
stretch, as both Wanda and Pietro have kept their adopted
surname of Maximoff rather than reverting to their birth name
Lensherr. If it's essential that Wanda and Pietro be Gypsy by
blood, the history of their mother Magda is relatively
undeveloped and she could very well have been a Gypsy.
I don't know why anyone would have retconned Magneto's
heritage. He was established as a Jew for a long time and I
thought that worked very well for the character. It gave him yet
another connection to Charles.
7) Okay, okay, I relent. After the esteemed Captain Comics
kept praising Captain Marvel, I decided to give it a try. I
picked up six back issues and dagnabbit if I'm not on pins and
needles waiting for the next issue. Cap just said that Young
Justice is one of Peter David's best books. I've read YJ since
the beginning but Captain Marvel is much better. Unlike YJ, the
humour is never forced and I was laughing out loud during the
scene in which Rick and Marlo were making out while thier
respective "ghosts" watched.
8) Okay, I relent again. I was the one who said that Black
Panther was indecipherable but so many people have stood up to
me and said that isn't the case that I've decided to give it
another shot. I found a string of eight back issues and read
them all in a row. I still wish that Everett Ross (and
Christopher Priest for that matter) could tell a story in order
(why was that Hulk issue out of place?) but I have to admit that
I was really enjoying the showdown between T'Challa and
9) I also gave all of the CrossGen and Gorilla Comics a
try. Boy, I'm picking up a lot of new books lately. And just
when they're all becoming $2.50 or $2.99. What do you think,
Cap? Of the Gorilla books, Shockrockets is easily my favourite
but that's mostly because we've seen four issues of it and only
one of any of the others. I wasn't very excited about Section
Zero, but the first issue was incredible and if it gets better
with each installment (i.e. Shockrockets) it could become one of
my favourite books. Empire was interesting but I don't know if I
could read about villains all the time. And Crimson Plague was
kind of boring and confusing. I am one of George Perez's biggest
fans (I even own copies of I*Bots) but there were just too many
characters to meet in one issue.
As for CrossGen, Scion is easily my favourite book out of
the bunch. I really like the art and I can't wait to find out
what kind of trouble Ashleigh and our hero will get up to.
Meridian and Mystic are both quality books and I'll keep picking
them up but Sigil has been sort of disappointing. Part of it is
the art. Two of the main characters are indistinguishable from
each other (the two blond guys) and it makes the story hard to
follow. Of all the books, it's also the one that is the least
accessible. Mystic explained the guilds, Meridian the two flying
cities, but I have no idea what the world of Sigil is like
except that the ships look like Titan A.E.
10) One of these days I'm going to write a long letter
about Oracle's unethical actions. For now, I'll just say that
the Robin Hood comparisons don't hold up. Robin gave the money
away. Barbara keeps the money for herself. Yes, she uses that
money to buy equipment that she then uses to help the world's
superheroes in their quests to improve society but Robin Hood
did more than buy a bow and arrow with the money he
commandeered. She is using the money.
Second, Barbara has access to other funds (such as Bruce
Wayne's fortune) and therefore she doesn't have to steal in
order to make her job as Oracle effective. Rather she is
choosing to take this money. The money may not be Blockbuster's
by right, but it definitely doesn't belong to Barbara Gordon.
By doing this she has stepped across a line. Batman and
his like have long endorsed vigilantism as a way to get around
the inefficiencies of the police system. But Barbara has now set
herself up as a court system, in effect, leveling fines against
unconvicted felons. How many times has Batman told his
associates that they aren't "judge and jury"? Like I said, I
could write about this all day as it ties into the discussion as
to why Batman lets criminals continue to escape from Arkham. For
now, Cap, suffice to say, I agree with you that Barbara has
stepped out of line.
11) I agree with you again, Cap. The Legends of the DCU
story was a lot more interesting when I thought the dictator was
talking about more than a date. Now it's a sleeper whose only
real purpose is to reintroduce Fury.
Here are my responses where they seem justified:
1) Jean is indeed calling herself Phoenix these days -- but so is
Rachel Summers, at least according to her last two miniseries
(X-Men: True Friends, Sep-Nov 1999, and X-Men: Phoenix, Dec
1999-Feb 2000). In fact, in the third issue of True Friends Chris
Claremont wrote, "She is named for the Bird of Fire -- that fabled
creature out of legend, part and parcel of the mythology of every
planet which ever spawned a sentient race ... She was born Rachel
Anne Summers, but she is far better known as Phoenix!" Meanwhile,
Claremont is referring to Jean as Phoenix over in Uncanny X-Men.
Hey, don't ask ME to explain it!
2) I had the same experience in Austin, TX, in 1985. A good comics
ship can really be a warm, fuzzy blanket.
3) I could have taken the Brother Blood story more seriously if he
didn't call himself by such an obvious supervillain name, and
wasn't wearing a skull on his head. I mean, really -- how many
people is he going to fool?
4) I'm content with the "Speed Force" explanation as well.
Frankly, during his "gotta eat, gotta run" phase, Wally came off
as something of a pig.
6) I'm with you. Marvel can tell me Magneto's a Gypsy until
they're blue in the face, but as far as I'm concerned, he's
Jewish. It makes more sense for the character as established, it
makes the character's motivation stronger, and it's better for
story purposes. Besides, I can believe what I want!
(And point of information for all budding copy editors out there:
Magneto has been Erik Magnus Lensherr in the comics for about 20
years. But all of the official newspaper movie promo material
lists him as "Lehnsherr" and IMDB and Starlog and Cinescape and
all newspaper articles are following suit. It will be interesting
to see if Chris Claremont -- who named him originally, and is
Grand Poo-Bah For Style at Marvel now -- will follow suit.)
7) Yup, Cap's a hoot and some of David's best work. I'd have
pushed CM harder, but I just assumed everybody was reading it. We
are all reading it, aren't we?
9) My column next week elaborates on my feelings vis-a-vis
CrossGen/Gorilla, but my faves resemble yours. Either Shockrockets
or Section Zero is my favorite primate (depending on which one
I've read most recently) with Crimson Plague unreadable gibberish.
And I enjoyed the first Empire, but I'll be darned if I can figure
out where he can go now -- the protagonist's character arc is
complete, and the most sympathetic character (who wasn't terribly
sympathetic) is dead. At CrossGen, Mystic and Scion compete for my
favorite title, but Sigil remains cliched and unremarkable.
10) I'm having a hard time arguing the point successfully, but I
really don't think Oracle should be lifting funds, vigilante or
not. And as you note, she has other funding sources, including the
I think you've hit on something, though: The line she's crossed
(for me, at least) is that she's stopped acting as the executive
branch (cops and law enforcement, like Batman) and is now acting
like the judiciary branch (by "fining" crooks). The judiciary
(like the Supreme Court) is the branch we rely on to sort out the
"gray areas," as opposed to the law-enforcement branch, which is
pretty straightforward (stop the mugger/rapist/murderer before he
hurts somebody). You may have cut to the chase on the argument
11) Yeah, the Wonder Woman story in Legends could have been a real
thumbsucker -- but instead, as you noted, it became simply another
"secret origin." Although I was mildly surprised to see Superman
acting like a jealous schoolkid. What was THAT all about?
1]And don’t ask me to appreciate your
2]And bad journalism can be the undoing of an entire industry.
3]How many people does Smith think he’s fooling these days? Even
Bethany Snow doesn’t fool as many any longer.
4]Opinions can vary on the early issues of Wally West as the Flash,
but neither Smith nor his correspondent are qualified to make them.
I’ll say for now that I do think it could’ve worked if Wally got a
home freelance job in writing!
5]I don’t care much for SNL.
6]Is it really so helpful for Magneto to be Jewish or even Gypsy?
Actually, what irritates me about the movies in retrospect was the
more one-dimensional rendition of Erik Lensherr. But I repeat
myself. I can say that his tripping to Israel in itself doesn’t
confirm he’s of Jewish background per se. There’s plenty of non-Jews
living here too!
7]If Genis-Vell, the son of Captain Marvel, was so great, why didn’t
he publicly denounce Bill Jemas for ruining everything with some
8]If that correspondent thinks Priest’s BP is indecipherable, he
should look at his own stupidity, like supporting Identity Crisis!
Yes, he did. Sick.
9]Too bad he didn’t elaborate on Jemas’s insulting attacks on
Crossgen. That could’ve helped show what’s wrong with the comics
10]And I don’t think Mr. Smith should be defending the indefensible,
as he did with IC in 2004. That was absolutely creepy as the book
11]Sometimes I think Mr. Smith is a jealous schoolkid.
Dear Cap: Just to give credit where it's due: Those
rules cited by [name withheld] are adapted from the book How To
Be A Superhero. I can't remember the actual author, but it's
illustrated by a pre-Preacher Steve Dillon, and if you can find
it, it's well worth a read.
Duly noted, sir. Posted to set the record straight.
[name withheld] again
<<I always figured the reason that DD changed his suit was a
never-before-seen panel from Amazing Spider-Man 16 where the
webspinner says, "Nice teaming up with you DD, those Circus of
Crime boys are tough! But I gotta ask you: Who designed your
outfit? A blind man?" Chagrined, Matt slinks home and sews a new
costume ... >>
Actually, a scene like that appeared in a What If ... ? (Can't
remember the number.) The story was "What if the world knew
Daredevil was blind?" Spider-Man and DD fought Electro, who used
his power to flare up brightly, blinding Spider-Man but of
course not DD. Electro accused him of being blind, and proved it
by asking DD what color Electro's costume was (a lovely
pre-Byrne green). Afterward, Spider-Man commented that his
blindness should have been obvious because of the red-and-yellow
That scene probably settled into my subconscious, […], and came
out of my fingers years later. Thanks for the info! Now if only I
could lay my hands on the issue number of What If ... ? I've
flipped through my "What Ifs" and found 12 stories involving
Daredevil, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna read them all to look
Gee, if only he’d do the same with some of
the more minor DCU inhabitants, then we’d be getting somwhere! Maybe
we wouldn’t have to worry so much about Identity Crisis either! But
for Mr. Smith, there’s no caring about 3rd tiers, is there? Not even
Daredevil, come to think of it! Why else would he ignore the
insulting tale Mark Waid crafted where a criminal dug up the remains
of Matt Murdock’s father and left them on his desk?
Please! Someone called Section Zero a rip-off of
Planetary? That's like calling one Elvis impersonator a rip-off
of another Elvis impersonator! I'm with you. I love Section
Zero. Frankly, I like it better than Planetary. Section Zero is
Hear, hear! That's another vote for Section Zero! We'll win over
the unbelievers yet!
Planetary wasn’t much good with folks like
Warren Ellis behind it, thus, I don’t see why I should care about
Section Zero. For all I know, it might rate just that!
<<As to the Human Torch connection, for a while
there it was completely true. Roy Thomas established in the
long-running "Celestial Madonna" storyline criss-crossing Avengers
and Giant-Size Avengers in 1974-75 that Ultron had customized the
original Human Torch's inanimate android body to create the
Vision. Unfortunately, other writers resurrected the Torch,
causing a contradiction. We all know what that means: It's Retcon
Time! So it's been RE-established that Ultron kidnapped Prof.
Horton (the original Torch's creator) and forced him to use his
schematics to create the Vision. The original Torch, it now
appears, was slumbering under the sands of a Nevada desert all
along, unaware of his near-miss with Avengerhood.>>
And just to top it off, the Avengers Forever limited series has
somebody claiming that the body that Vizh was rebuilt from was a
duplicate created by Kang, leaving the original to be buried in
the desert. I think that's how it worked, anyhow ...
Is that definite? Now I'll have to go look it up. The whole
Avengers Forever series struck me as a "possible" take on the
Marvel Universe, and I didn't memorize it -- like all the "Ages of
Apocalypse" and other X-stories featuring alternate futures. I
mean, are we to accept as carved in stone that Songbird (the
former Screaming Mimi) will not only be an Avenger in the future,
but will still be wearing the same clunky, unflattering outfit
she's currently wearing in Thunderbolts?
Yeah, he says he’ll do the math, but past
experience suggests he does anything but that! Go figure.
Hey! Good to get a reply! It's always great to talk
to someone that knows more about comics than what the cartoon
shows (which aren't even right half the time). On the others
that you felt suffered the "Gwen Stacy Syndrome," I agree with
them all except Betty Ross and Karen Page. I think those two
were kosher deaths. And yes, that would suck to have two of your
girlfriends killed, but I think the same way you do, Gwen was
Spidey's girl. Have you read the Spider-Man: Webspinners any? I
can't recall what issue right now (second or third or so) but in
the back was a nice little Gwen Stacy story. What I remember
most is how excited Peter was after seeing her. He was jumping
up and down and screaming "woo hoo!" Y'know, it just truly
showed he loved her.
I've tried to forget Webspinners entirely, but the story you're
referring to is "The Kiss," by J.M. DeMatteis and John Romita Sr.
in the very first issue (Jan 1999). Anyway, I'm with you -- call
me an unreconstructed Silver Ager, but in the back of my head Gwen
Stacy is Spidey's girl, and nobody else.
Regret to inform, but neither Betty’s nor
Karen’s deaths were very “kosher”. Come to think of it, nothing has
been since the mid-90s. Peter David admitted he was taking out his
anger on Betty because of a family feud and because Bob Harras took
away creative freedom from him on the Hulk. And Karen’s curtain call
was written by the massively overrated Kevin Smith, who proved he’s
no auteur with the Black Cat miniseries he wrote in 2002, and took a
very long time to complete. And when that happened, he stuffed a
nasty retcon to Felicia Hardy’s background into an already
disastrous mess. No way somebody that crude rates a high score in my
book. So let’s shift over to August 24, 2000:
Dear Cap: A few thoughts:
1) Wasn't it established in Avengers Forever that Kang
interfered with The Vision's timeline and made it contradictory
for some nefarious purpose of his (Kang's) own?
2) Regarding Wonder Woman's momentous decision: Since I'm
not familiar with the story in question, I don't know all the
details. I do believe that there are times when we have to do
things we aren't happy with for survival's sake. On the other
hand, I wouldn't have been surprised if WW had offed the
dictator in question as soon as the opportunity presented
itself. As for the argument that the writer could have written
her a way out, since that's not option in "real life," perhaps
the writer was trying to be "realistic"
3) On the other hand, perhaps it's unrealistic to expect
to much "realism" in superhero comics, when Superman, the
original superhero, was so inherently unrealistic. I mean, did
anybody ever really buy the fact the Daily Planet reporters (And
what is a reporter but a trained observer?) spent a fair amount
of time with both Clark Kent and Superman and never figured out
they were the same guy? Even when I was eight, I never bought
1) Yep, I forgot all about that Avengers Forever bit, because,
frankly, I don't trust anything Immortus or the Space Phantom have
to say. In Avenger Forever 8 (Jul 1999), the Space Phantom said
that Immortus created a divergent time stream, and then merged the
"alternate" Torch into our own, so that there were TWO Torches --
one of whom became The Vision at the hands of Ultron. So I guess
that's the way things stand -- at least for now.
2) I have to wonder, though, how the other JLAers (and the world)
would view Wonder Woman if she openly prostituted herself, even in
the course of saving lives. While I don't know what Themysciran
philosophy would have to say on the matter -- it's rife with
contradictions -- but Western civilization calls prostitution a
crime. Superman would have been profoundly disappointed, I'd
guess, and Green Lantern would probably have been turned on (Hey!
I have a chance!). Dunno what Batman's take would be -- probably a
grudging practical approval, but more evidence for his belief
(according to Kingdom Come) that WW's "mission" is more grounded
in hypocritical elitism than anything to admire. Would have been
interesting, to say the least, and I'm curious what others think.
3) When I was a kid in the '60s I dismissed Lois anyway -- hey,
she was a girl, and had cooties -- but I always thought that
Superman must have really bad taste to love a girl who was always
trying to reveal his greatest secret, and was too dumb to realize
that two guys she had kissed were the same guy -- with only a pair
of glasses standing in the way. Many efforts have been made
subsequent to the Silver Age to make Superman's "disguise" more
plausible -- including mass super-hypnotism in the '70s! -- but I
guess the ultimate answer is simply "suspension of disbelief."
After all, we accept that a man can fly -- with no visible means
Whoa, baby, once again, Mr. Smith lets
everybody know he pans the characters as thought they exist in real
life, but doesn’t complain about the quality of the writing, be it
by Otto Binder, John Broome or goodness knows who else was helming
the two ongoings published at the time. Whether she acted like a
jerk or was depicted acting stupidly, that’s all the fault of the
writers, and Captain Charlatan’s clearly not educated enough to say
he couldn’t understand why the writers/editors did this and that.
Nope, just a lot of blame-gaming.
And what a shame the writer in charge of that WW story in Legends
wouldn’t give her a chance to play kunoichi. But I wonder if this is
where the idea of depicting Hal Jordan as some kind of absurd
one-nighter came from.
Dear Cap: You said:
<<Unfortunately, other writers resurrected the Torch,
causing a contradiction. We all know what that means: It's Retcon
Time! So it's been RE-established that Ultron kidnapped Prof.
Horton (the original Torch's creator) and forced him to use his
schematics to create The Vision. The original Torch, it now
appears, was slumbering under the sands of a Nevada desert all
along, unaware of his near-miss with Avengerhood.>>
Actually, I believe in Avengers Forever this was
re-re-established again so that Immortus split the body of the
Human Torch into two identical bodies. One was turned into The
Vision, the other was buried. He then mentally manipulated Hank
Pym and Professor Horton into making every one believe that The
Vision wasn't the original Human Torch. The "other writer" was
Byrne during his Avengers West Coast run IIRC. Unfortunately, I
don't really remember why Immortus did this, but the issue in
question had Immortus splitting the Torch in two on the cover.
You also said:
<<Hellstorm was driven to suicide in Hellstorm 14 by
D'Spayre. But she was resurrected in Thunderbolts 2000.>>
Well you obviously meant to say Hellcat instead of Hellstorm. I
also believe that she was goaded by Deathurge (that guy from
Quasar) not D'Spayre, but my memory could be faulty.
D'oh! You're right on both counts, […]. I addressed the Avengers
Forever question above, and Hellcat was driven to suicide by the
minor demon Deathurge, not the minor demon D'Spayre. Gee, how
could I have made THAT mistake?
Thanks for the corrections!
Why does he think he’d make those errors?
It’s pretty easy, it’s because he’s not the genius he claims to be!
I certainly can’t claim to know everything, and there are some
things I used to know that become rusty knowledge after many years
of not thinking about them.
Dear Cap: You wrote:
<<(Captain America) was a soldier (and superhero) in World
War II ...This was a guy who was prepared to do whatever was
necessary for the common good, and he knew it wasn't always
pretty, and he knew that sometimes people got killed no matter
what you did.>>
I couldn't agree with you more, Cap. No, I do not find today's
crop of barely-restrained homicidal psycho-heroes as heroic. A
superhero is to preserve life -- all life. That goes with the
cape and cowl. However, I readily admit there is a rare occasion
when killing will be the only choice, such as in the Captain
America story I referenced in my last post. (And to which I'll
return in five or so paragraphs.) While I don't hold with a
so-called hero slaying his foes right and left; the other side
of the coin is, I can understand the circumstance when the hero
truly has no other choice but to kill.
The only exception I have to this pragmatic stance is the
case of Superman. The old, pre-Crisis Superman, that is. The
real Superman. (I couldn't care less what the new guy does or
Superman does not kill. It has been part of his code of
ethics for most of his career. With his array of powers, he has
the greatest opportunity to find an alternative to killing, so
from that aspect, his code makes sense. To be honest, his vow to
retire/remove his superpowers (take your pick) if he ever does
kill is a bit extreme and unfair. You have to ponder the moral
imperative if Superman, after accidentally killing, say, the
Parasite, removes his powers with gold kryptonite; and the next
day a busload of schoolchildren plunges off a bridge right
before Clark Kent's eyes.
Nevertheless, it is a keystone to the Superman mythos, a
corollary to the notion that Superman is the most decent, noble
hero of them all.
Ironically, I have no problems with a character such as
The Punisher. Frankly, he is the kind of individual I would be
if I had Superman's powers. There are criminals who have
abrogated their right to treatment as human beings. They have to
be put down, just like rabid dogs. (As might be apparent, Cap, I
have no spiritual concerns about the nature of life.) But when a
character like this is presented, it should be depicted that
this kind of revenge-driven behaviour could only be called
"good" in a relative sense; that it brings its own set of
negative consequences. I don't have a problem with the
"judge-jury-and-executioner" aspect of such a character, since
the writers (usually) take pains to show that The Punisher's
kills are those whose acts are reprehensible and whose guilt is
But somewhere between these two extremes, the other heroes
should lie. And more to Superman's end, frankly. Superheroes
should make every effort to preserve all life. However, if a
circumstance forces a hero to kill, while it should be
regretted, it is not to be abhorred.
My vision of Captain America was formed from the same
Tales of Suspense stories which you read, Cap. And my take on
him was the same as yours. Captain America did not kill
wantonly, nor casually. But he was also a soldier, and he killed
when necessary; like every other American fighting man in World
War II, he killed for the greater good. And the Sentinal of
Liberty regretted it, but it was an inescapable part of war.
Reflecting this verity, there are few scenes of Cap and
Bucky committing any lethal acts in those stories, or for that
matter, even in the Captain America magazine back in the '40s.
But there are a few. In the retold origin of Captain America run
in the Tales of Suspense title, the final scene shows Cap and
Bucky, after having defeated a group of Nazi infiltrators, load
their raft with explosives and send it back to the delivery
U-boat. The charges are set and blow on target, sending the
U-boat -- and the seamen within -- to the bottom.
But there are few scenes like this. When Cap and Bucky
were shown in action with G.I.s, as with their appearances with
the Howling Commandoes, they did not use guns. (Yet, they had no
problem with the soldiers who did use them.)
My memories of the theme of the Captain America series at
the time when Captain America was forced to kill that member of
the terrorist group ULTIMATUM are vague, so I can't remember how
far from the notion of being a soldier the image of Cap had
drifted. But I do remember that subsequent issues depicted
Captain America in a crisis of conscience. I found that to be a
bit absurd. Surely, Captain America is decent, noble -- by
implication and inferrence, the most noble and decent hero in
the Marvel Universe -- however, he is also pragmatic. He
understands that sometimes life doesn't present a choice of
good-or-bad; that sometimes it's a choice of bad-or-worse.
When the Marvel writers started steering Cap down this
"representing the American dream" path, it also turned him from
a practical man striving for an ideal to a man impractically and
foolishly adhering to an ideal.
I don't even want to think about the essence of heroism
lost when DC changed the Batman from a well-adjusted man who
overcame terrible tragedy to a psychotic warped by it.
What made me first start thinking about the Cap-doesn't-kill thing
was that Ultimatum story you mentioned, in that I was surprised
and annoyed that Cap was having a crisis of confidence/conscience.
I just couldn't accept that a guy who sunk a whole boatload of
Germans (as you noted) and other wartime acts would have the same
reaction to having to kill as did Superman when he executed the
Phantom Zone supercriminals.
I WANT Superman to have that crisis of confidence/conscience. For
Cap, though, it just didn't make sense to me.
And I'm enjoying the new Punisher series enormously; I haven't any
problem with the character -- except when he's portrayed as a
HERO. He is not. That's how he was more-or-less depicted in the
'80s (other heroes, like Spidey, seemed to grudgingly accept him
into the "fraternity") and I couldn't accept it. As the looney,
revenge-crazed wacko he is now, though, I'm having a blast reading
So says the same news propagandist who
supported Identity Crisis, a book with a sympathetic view of
villains. And the same man who had no problems with Civil War doing
anything similar. Oh, I won’t say it’s a good idea to depict Frank
Castle 100 percent heroically. But compared to what the criminals he
pursued when the book was better written than Garth Ennis’s tommyrot
were like, what the Punisher’s doing is simply retribution, and
sending a message that murderers who think they can get away with
their crimes should think again. Smith was just perpetuating his
left-liberal garbage, trivializing the actions of the vile criminals
and worrying only about the star of the show.
<< Well, except for one visceral reaction. Spider
webs shooting out of a guy's hands? Yuk!>>
Hi there, a similar scene appeared in the film version of
Mortal Kombat with the character Scorpion. In the game, Scorpion
throws out a harpoon on a line, stabs his opponent and reels
them back while shouting "get over here!" In the film a creature
comes (literally, and quite graphically) out of Scorpion's hand.
This creature is tethered to him and (unlike the game) can hunt
for it's prey and twist and turn around in all directions. I
would have preferred that they kept the original license the way
it was, but for the scene they wanted, it worked.
So is that a vote for the organic webshooters? Here's some more on
Oh, what disgust! Somebody just had to
bring up Mortal Kombat, didn’t he? Even the movie version is pretty
bottom of the barrel.
Dear Cap: It's been awhile since I wrote in, but I
have been following (and enjoying) your columns every week. I
thought I would add some things to questions or comments I have
seen on your letters page:
As to the appearance of Colossus in the movie X-Men,
Colossus appears in what I like to call the "enroll-at-Xavier"
scenes of the movie. These are the scenes where Xavier tells
Wolverine of his school, what Xavier is doing, etc. I call it
the "enroll-at-Xavier's" scenes because they remind me of
college commercials. The way those scenes are shown looks like a
commercial for Xavier's Academy. Lots of exterior shots of the
school, people being taught, etc. Anyway, in the shot where the
kid runs over the pond, on the left of the shot is a boy
painting an image on an easel. That's Colossus.
As for the movie itself, I really enjoyed it. I thought
that despite the changes to some characters (Rogue's and Cyke's
age, Jean Grey as a scientist), the movie nailed the
characterization of each character perfectly. Sure, Rogue was
younger than portrayed in the comics, but that is how she would
have acted at that age. I would even go as far to say that I
almost liked Rogue better in the movie than in the comics. After
all, of all the X-Men, her mutant power may be the biggest curse
in the fact that she can't never touch someone's warm skin or
share a kiss or be physically intimate. Given that, one can
imagine that her story at its most tragic is when she had just
discovered her powers, is a teenager and is just beginning to
deal with the implications of her powers.
One of your readers mentioned that one of the reasons they
didn't want to see the movie is because Wolverine was a foot
taller than he should be. While it may be nice to have found
someone matching Wolverine's height, his height is almost the
only thing missing from Jackman's performance. That and his lack
of huge amounts of body hair, but I think we are all grateful
that we didn't see the movie Wolverine be faithful to that
aspect of the character. Regardless, Jackman did a superb job of
being the Wolverine we all know and love.
On to Spider-Man, recent rumors (one even from a Sony
Films newsletter) have said that Nicolas Cage may be cast as
Norman Osborn/the Green Goblin. I think that may be a good fit,
at least a lot better than Cage as Superman. Plus, the guy has
to be in a movie adapting a comic book once. After all, when he
changed his last name from Coppola, he chose Cage after the
Marvel charcter Luke Cage.
Now on to the organic webshooters. I am not going to say
that I think it's the best thing in the world and that I am all
for it. As people have pointed out, other than being faithful,
the mechanical webshooters seem to have two advantages over
organics. 1) The fact that Peter invented the webbing and
shooters demonstrates his genius. 2) The fact that the
webshooters can run out of fluid has made for some great drama
in the books.
Playing Devil's Advocate, does the movie need to show
Peter making the webbing and shooters to establish his genius?
No, that can be done in other ways. Plus, one rumor I heard
(based on a draft of the script) has the shooters being organic
and mechanical. Peter has the shooters in his wrists, but alone
he is unable to accurately shoot and control the webbing. So he
creates two wrist-directional devices that allows him to direct
his webbing where he wants it and presumably allows him to make
nets, shields, etc. For me, if this rumor is true, it takes a
lot of the problems with the organic shooters.
However, this still leaves the "running-out-of-fluid"
problem. Someone I correspond with suggested this can still be
accomplished by showing that Peter's organic fluid isn't an
infinite supply. He may run out and have to consume more food,
etc. to create more webbing. While this can be used, to me, it's
not as good as the mechanical fluid and cartridges and may be
harder to get across to the audience.
However, in the end, I am willing to put up with organics.
Why? I have read some interviews with Sam Raimi the director
about Spider-Man and the movie. This guy truly seems to love the
character and understand his appeal. Unlike other directors who
have made comic book movies (cough -- Schumacher), he gets the
character. If getting a great Spider-Man movie means that I have
to accept some differences from the comics (like the organic
shooters), fine. The end project is what counts more. The most
important thing is that they nail the characterization, so that
when I see the final product I say "that's Peter Parker, the
Finally, are you going to do a column for the last issue
of Preacher? Sort of a culmination piece? I don't think you have
done one yet (though I could easily be wrong). This series has
been phenomeonal and the last issue should be commemorated.
While I have questioned its some aspects of the story (some of
the graphic violence and deviant sex), the story and
characterization have been great. And what may be the best thing
about the series is that all the issues are (or will be) in
trade paperback form allowing people to hop on and get the
entire story without hunting for back issues. That's how I got
I hadn't thought about a Preacher finale, and in fact haven't done
much with the series in my newspaper gig. The problem, as you
noted, is the sex and violence -- that's going to be hard to
address without triggering the "Outraged Moms of America" or
somesuch. But it was such a good series that it's worth a thought.
As I've said before about the webshooters, my preference is to
stick with the source material, but I'd be fine with it if it was
handled as well as the X-Men uniform switch.
And I never gave a moment's worry to Hugh Jackman's height (or
lack of body hair). The actor carried the whole movie, made me
BELIEVE he was Wolverine, and did it superbly. That's all that
matters to me -- anything else is picking nits.
And here's still more on the webshooter controversy:
But before we get to that, my comment here
is how galling the depiction of Rogue was for many years, as they
seemed disinterested in thinking of a way to overcome her power
problem. Something that’s only been made worse when Rick Remender
killed her off in Uncanny Avengers.
If he never bothered to write about Preacher, was it because he
wanted to keep all the mayhem a secret, compounding the perception
of the industry as self-conscious?
Dear Cap: Hey, I read your Captain Comics column in
the News Tribune, and was thinking of writing to you about the
travesty otherwise known as Spider-Man's organic webshooters.
You beat me to it, though, by mentioning the issue in your
latest column. I agree that the organic webshooters are gross
and unnecessary, and have the potential to completely mess up
the character of Peter Parker. There are a lot of people that
feel that way, so a couple of fellows (who I've never even
talked to, I just thought I'd spread the word) who are very
dedicated Spider-Fans have started a Web site called
http://www.no-organic-webshooters.com/. It is a site made to
draw attention to this, erm, issue, and lets people discuss
their opinions of changes to Spider-Man in his upcoming moive.
The site also features a no organic webshooters petition, which
they intend to send to Sony and Sam Raimi when they have an
impressive enough number of signatures. The site has only been
around for a couple of weeks, and has already been mentioned at
a number of major Web sites and has grown tremendously so far.
I, as well as countless other fans, would appreciate it if you
were to mention this site at some point in your column, so
people upset by the organic webshooters will know that there is
a place where their voice will be heard. This is different than
most changes to characters in comic book movies, because they
aren't just changing the costume or anything, they're changing
his powers and possibly his entire outlook and behavior.
Comic-book fans deserve more than unfaithful movies, and it
would be a pity if X-Men was the first and last of the great
modern comic adaptations. If the fans are loud enough, there is
a chance they can fix this webshooter problem before the movie
begins filming in November.
And as I've said before, I'd prefer seeing the Spidey movie stick
as close to the source material as possible. If director Sam Raimi
does the organic thing WELL, I suppose I'd have no complaint. But
that's the trick, isn't it? Here's a lighter look:
Oddly enough, when Sony rebooted the movie
franchise in 2012, they did turn back to mechanical webshooters. But
by that time, after all the damage Joe Quesada left in his wake back
at Marvel publishing, it was just too hard to care, and as far as
the movie was concerned, I already knew the story, and just didn’t
find the newer retelling as interesting anymore. Isn’t that ironic
when Raimi does it well yet the later director fails? Now about that
RE: Your Aug. 13 article and the new Spider-Man
If they wanted to stay true to the "spider" powers idea
and have "organic" web hooters, they'd have the web come out of
Peter Parker's butt ...
Also in a bit of Spidey-flick news, Nicolas Cage has been
asked to portray the Green Goblin -- a role he's much more
suited for than Superman.
(And) if Spider-Man was Jewish, it would be "Spiderman."
I really, really try not to think about that
spinnerets-on-the-butt bit, […]! Can you imagine how he'd SWING?
Gee, how crude can one be? I guess they
should go way beyond what Stan Lee wrote circa the 100th issue when
Peter grew 8 arms and make it look truly revolting? How disgusting.
Now I can’t appreciate that part involving the hyphen differences!
Interestingly, Sherlock Holmes fan David Stuart
Davies runs a magazine called Sherlock Holmes Detective Magazine
that recently did an article on The Batman. (It also did one on
The Hulk's mass, it was conjectured in Official Handbook
of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition, comes from and goes to an
extradimensional source, as does Giant-Man's, Goliath's, etc.
The 'fifties Captain America stories were recently
reprinted in The Golden Age of Marvel Comics tpb.
Atari, in the 1980s, had a sword-and-sorcery videogame
called Swordquest. It came with a premium comic book in small
size. I have one with me, and the art looks to be like it was
done by George Perez. Did he in fact draw it?
As to the Crusader, he appeared in Thor 330.
A few times in the Capn Comics site the issue of when
Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman's adventures switched from
Earth-Two to Earth-One. The Cap used 'Tec 327 as the marking
point of the switch for Batman, and although Who's Who seemed to
agree in its entries for Batman and Nightwing (based on the
addition of the gold emblem around the bat-symbol), it was
fairly recently pointed out that that is not so, as later
stories indicated that the Earth-One Batman had in fact worn a
costume without the gold oval.
It is even trickier for Superman, as his costume did not
have as dramatic a change. The Cosmic Cards set that came out a
while ago listed Superman 76 as the first appearance for the
Silver Age Superman, although the only milestone in that issue
was an important Superman/Batman team-up. (Batman, by the way,
did not appear in the Cosmic Cards set, which were released in
1992). Who's Who scuttled the issue by not covering Superman's
Silver Age history in his entry, but rather the Byrne version
,with Action Comics 1 listed as the first appearance in homage
to Siegel and Shuster. The Official Index of the JLA also did
the latter, although it noted that the definitive origin of the
Earth-One Superman was Superman 146.
But, perusing some Crisis sites, I found that it was noted
that the Earth-Two Superman did not have a career as Superboy,
as established in 1970s stories. So, any Superboy stories
involved the Earth-One Superman's youth. Hence, More Fun Comics
101 was the first Earth-One story -- and thus the first
appearance of the Earth-One Superman, as Superboy.
Sigh. Now I'm REALLY confused! So when did the SuperMAN switchover
Incidentally, the Handbook also used that unnamed dimension to
explain where the "equal and opposite reaction" inertia goes when
Cyclops fires his power beam. Pretty convenient, that extra
But his dishonesty is most certainly not.
And how strange the correspondent says Earth-2’s Superman never had
a teen career, when the first take on his teen years appeared in the
Dear Cap: I have a question for ya. Why do most word
balloons have a word in bold-face type? I thought it might be
because it was an important word or maybe it was where the
inflection should be. But it seems that (many words are) in
bold-face type for no reason whatsoever! Why is that? I need to
I have always assumed that the bolded words were for emphasis, or
to give the dialogue a more "natural" feel. Without taking
anything away from Jack Kirby, a genius by any stretch of the
imagination, he was just awful at it. His "Fourth World" dialogue
-- particularly Terrible Turpin's -- was so eccentric in its use
of emphasis that it's become a running gag in Kirby parodies and
Kirby’s clumsiness with boldfacings
couldn’t possibly be as bad as Mr. Smith’s own pretensions. If it
weren’t for the seriousness of some of the topics, his own columns
might be a running gag. But they’re not.
Dear Cap: Interesting bit from [name withheld] about
The Joker. I recently re-read the Devil's Advocate graphic novel
by Dixon and Nolan, which attempted to deal a little more deeply
with the character from a legal standpoint (he's finally given
the death penalty, but for a crime Batman knows he didn't
commit). The story was okay, could have been better, but it got
me to thinking, too.
I've always found The Joker to be a sticky obstacle in the
"realism" of Batman. In the real world, he'd be dead by
somebody's hand -- if not Batman's, then Gordon's, an enraged
citzen's, or another criminal's. For a little while, I thought
that DC should actually have Batman kill The Joker for good,
within continuity. Yes, Batman isn't a killer and shouldn't be,
and it would be editorial idiocy to kill off a valuable property
like The Joker, but I thought that having Batman consciously
decide to make this one exception would be a nice bit of
dramatic realism. We have gotten to see it a few times in
Elseworlds stories (Dark Knight Returns, of course, and JLA: The
Nail), the results were always pretty powerful.
The real problem with the Joker is that he is so
incredibly weird. Most of the Batman cast we could imagine
existing in the real world, more or less. The Joker is beyond
any scope of reality. That's part of his appeal, of course, but
it makes fitting him into a logical framework of
three-dimensional characters with actions and consequences very
difficult. Personally, I tend to see him less as a character --
a guy with thoughts and emotions and reactions -- and more as a
sheer force of destruction, like a hurricane or something.
(Strangely, I love The Killing Joke, which more than anything
else attempts to frame The Joker as a real person. Alan Moore,
after all.) Frank Miller once put it well when he said that The
Joker is less an evil doppleganger of Batman and more of an
antithesis. Batman is grim darkness in the service of good and
order; The Joker is light-hearted frivolity in the service of
evil and chaos. That's the dichotomy between the two of them,
and that's why their rivalry is so appealing.
[name withheld]'s suggestion -- that The Joker has been
overused lately and there should be a moratorium on Joker
stories for a few years -- is a good one. They tried that in the
late '80s, after Jason Todd died -- he wasn't really around for
at least two years (in the comics -- the movie hit and he was
everywhere else). But they really should try a hiatus again.
He's been used a lot lately, and The Joker is really a difficult
character to do right. There are far more stupid or awkward
Joker stories than truly good ones.
I remember a great line from one of the many reviews I read
about the first Batman movie. It said "Batman is depressed because
there's so much evil in the world, and The Joker is a happy guy
because there's so much evil yet to commit." I still chuckle over
Incidentally, Batman didn't kill The Joker in Dark Knight Returns.
Joker killed himself by breaking his own neck, just to frame
I've always had trouble with The Joker's continued survival, too,
simply because he's not super-powered and pulls all sorts of
outrageous stunts that would kill a normal guy (leaping off
rooftops onto blimps, fighting Batman on a swinging girder). Plus,
he's constantly offing his henchmen for imagined slights -- who
would sign up? And why hasn't one of them put a bullet into the
back of his head by now out of revenge or self-preservation? I
accept that somehow he can take on Batman toe to toe because he's
sneaky and his madness may give him extra strength -- but madness
doesn't make it any easier to maintain your footing on slick
rooftops in hand-to-hand combat.
Ah, well, as you say: DC will never let him die. And I have no
problem with Batman not killing him and re-arresting him
constantly -- I just have a problem with the court system not
finding some way to keep him locked up. Arkham is a joke, and the
lawsuits from victims' relatives ought to force the issue.
Oh, I doubt he’s ever had trouble,
because if he goes along and fawns over the latest “event” involving
the Clown Prince of Crime, then that contradicts everything! Or, put
another way, if he doesn’t complain in his columns, then clearly, he
can’t be very concerned. Incidentally, I do think Dixon and Nolan
were being foolish with that GN they wrote. Here comes August 31,
Dear Cap: I just read your (Tony Twist) column online
and thought I would weigh in with my two-cents' worth. I live in
St. Louis and I am an avid hockey fan. So I followed this case
closely, seeing as how it involved my favorite hobby and my
favorite sport. It is my belief that if the case was held in any
other city than St. Louis, Twist would not have had such a large
settlement awarded him, if he was awarded it at all.
Twist had a few endorsements here in St. Louis. He hosted
a Blues pregame show on a local channel and he appeared in
commercials for a TV station and a car dealer. That is all I can
think of. He was an enforcer, a fighter who played maybe five
minutes a game when he was in the lineup at all. He wasn't even
really prominently featured in the Blues commercials, billboards
or any other marketing campaign. The Blues actually drafted Tony
Twist in the late '80s. He was promptly traded after he took a
run at a goalie in a minor-league game, ending this goalie's
career. And just at the end of the 1998-99 season, the Blues had
decided to not offer Twist a contract, making him an
unrestricted free agent. That day he had an accident on his
motorcycle and suffered potentially career-ending leg and hip
injuries. I can't really see the advertisers beating down his
door for endorsement opportunities.
Now for the comic-book angle. An average issue of Spawn
sells, what, 100,000-125,000 copies? Would these people avoid
any product endorsed by Tony Twist because he shares a name with
a mobster in a comic book? Or do advertisers read Spawn and
avoid Tony Twist for an endorsement opportunity because of the
I read the summaries of the laws involved in the case in
your column and I think Twist has a leg to stand on, especially
with it being a recurring character. But I also think Twister
(as he is referred to by Blues fans) got a classic home-town
call from a St. Louis jury in this case. I think if the trial
was held in Chicago, or Kansas City or Des Moines or anywhere
else where Tony Twist isn't a popular enforcer for the local
hockey team, the award would have been smaller, if not dismissed
No doubt having the "home-team advantage" helped, particularly
with the enormous size of the award. But my honest take on it is
that McFarlane stepped out of bounds, and got his knuckles rapped
-- and that probably would have happened anywhere.
Mr. Smith also stepped out of bounds
through his endorsement of Identity Crisis. As for Spawn’s sales, it
might’ve been 100,000 back in the day, but today, it barely sells
more than 5,000.
Hey Cap: It seems that everyone on this Web site
spends a lot more time talking about writers than artists. I
also turn to comic books more for plots than pretty pictures,
but it strikes me that bad art can ruin a good story, and that
all of our favourite plotlines of the past were enhanced by the
quality of the visuals.
So, I was wondering, who are your favourite artists?
You've mentioned that you don't really care for manga or
Japanese-stylized work but are there other styles that turn you
off or that cause you to pay attention?
I myself have never been a big fan of Mike Mignola. His
style does work with Hellboy but any time he gets his hands on
superheroes like Batman or the X-Men, I shudder. Of course, part
of what makes his style work is that he has such an incredible
sense of page layout. Some of his imitators don't share that
trait and so I've been scared away from Judgment Day and from
the recent Hawkman story because of the art.
Another recent trend that has me distressed is muted
colours. For some reason (and perhaps we rightly blame Joel
Schumacher and his Batman and Robin debacle), the comics
industry is starting to shy away from bright colours and quite
frankly, it's making some books hard to read. The current
Inhumans is a case in point. If everything has the same brownish
overtone, it's difficult to make out foregrounds and
backgrounds. I don't know if (Jose) Ladronn is to blame for that
as well, but the colours don't help.
The same thing is happening over in the X-titles where
both the colourist and I have trouble figuring out if any one
figure is Shadowcat, Rogue or Psylocke. Pay attention sometime.
Every issue features Psylocke in Rogue's colours speaking with a
Southern accent or Rogue wearing Psylocke's purples and speaking
like a Brit. I wonder, what was wrong with using the whole
The last complaint I have is the Kirby imitators. You
know, I love reading Kirby's work. I have a large number of
hardcovers and paperbacks featuring his work on Captain America,
the Fantastic Four or the New Gods, but when current artists try
to make a Kirbyesque story, the characters just look blocky.
What made Kirby great was that his figures were always in action
and that every story was a new world. If people imitated that
instead of the square heads, I'd be a lot happier.
Now, I don't want to just complain.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: My absolute
favourite artist is George Perez. He's probably the only artist
that I'll pick up no matter what the title. Unlike the vast
majority of artists, each of his characters have different
facial features. He gave Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch a
distinctive jaw so that they look like siblings. For that
matter, Hawkeye and Captain America finally had jaws that didn't
match. Not only does he differentiate faces but also body types.
The Wasp is somewhat boy-ish, Warbird is lithe and athletic, the
Scarlet Witch is also thin but not quite as muscular. I loved
Joe Madrueira while he worked on the X-Men but you just can't
say the same. Everybody from Iceman to Cyclops to Cannonball had
the same basic facial structure.
I'm also a big fan of Chris Bachalo but I just couldn't
follow him over to Steampunk. I had no idea what was going on in
the story and the technojargon was unnecessary and
indecipherable. However, with a good writer, Bachalo is one of
the best at using the scenery to create a mood. He's also trying
to break new ground and his use of visual keys tying together an
issue are usually interesting and fun (see his run on Generation
X where he used apples, bubbles, ship piping, frogs and even
Stan Lee to give each issue its own unique visual feel). He was
still experimenting on the Witching Hour and I enjoyed that
series more for the art than the plot.
I'm also a big fan of Carlos Pacheco and Salvador Larroca.
I try to follow Pacheco but then again he's been working with
Kurt Busiek of late while Larroca's been stuck with Chris
Claremont. That seems to be my pattern. I just can't follow a
good artist when he gets saddled with a bad writer.
Finally, I like a lot of the new guys like Leonardo Manco,
German Garcia and Leinil Yu (who, in my opinion, was more suited
to an individual book like Wolverine than a team piece). I'll
usually look into the work of Tony Harris (Starman, Dr.
Strange), Steve Skroce (great on Youngblood and Wolverine,
half-hearted on Gambit), Travis Charest, Scott McDaniel (who got
me to finally read a Batman book) and Jim Lee. And I'll never
turn down a book by a competent professional like Brent Anderson
or Barry Kitson.
I don't want to get into who I like and who i don't
-- that would take all day. But my general feeling about artists
is that, while I appreciate virtuosity, what I really want to see
is art that serves the story. Art that makes it difficult to tell
one character from another, or makes it difficult to tell what's
going on, is an immediate turn-off.
Also, as you noted, artists that lift bodily from other artists
are annoying. Whether you're copying Jim Lee or Jack Kirby, I'm
disappointed. I'd rather see a mediocre artist with his own style
than a polished style that is actually somebody else's.
Once, I may have thought Harris was great
too, but, sorry to say, that’s all changed. And while Skroce
might’ve been better than Liefeld, I won’t be surprised if he was
still saddled with terrible writing.
I’m also a fan of Perez, but to buy everything he’s worked on no
matter what is taking a serious risk. He was once going to draw a
cover for a Superman issue that would’ve been written by Chris
Roberson, but after the story where Kal-El “gives up his US
citizenship”, the script was discarded and the coverscan too,
presumably because, at that time, they didn’t want to attract more
attention to themselves. Yet when Geoff Johns did more or less the
same thing at least a year later, they fully accepted it.
Batman:Year Two was wiped out of the continuity by
Zero Hour, when it was decided that for the new continuity,
never caught his parents' murderer. Batman:Year Two was thus
effectively superseded by Batman: The Long Halloween.
(Unfortunately, the jettisoning of Batman:Year Two also wipes
out the one-shot Batman: Full Circle, a tigher sequel to Year
Two which was well-liked by some.)
During Zero Month in 1994, the zero issues of the Batman
titles such as Detective, Batman and Shadow of the Bat
established that the murder of the Waynes was never solved.
(Doung Moench has also commented on this in an article about him
for Comics Scene.)
Batman's part as a detective was recently covered in the
magazine Sherlock Holmes Detective Magazine, a periodical edited
by David Stuart Davies. (The same magazine also ran an article
on The Shadow the issue before.)
Thanks for the updates, [name withheld]!
Make what you will of retconning Batman:
Year Two out of continuity, what I want to know is why Zero Hour was
even needed to justify doing that! It only costs more money to
publish such crap, and there were plenty of ways they could’ve
changed continuity without resorting to a crossover to do it.
Something I doubt Mr. Smith really would’ve cared about.
Hey Cap: Just checked out your last couple of
Mailbags and thought I would throw in my two cents on a couple
<<Actually, a scene like that appeared in a What If ... ?
(Can't remember the number.) The story was "What if the world knew
Daredevil was blind?" Spider-Man and DD fought Electro, who used
his power to flare up brightly, blinding Spider-Man but of course
not DD. Electro accused him of being blind, and proved it by
asking DD what color Electro's costume was (a lovely pre-Byrne
green). Afterward, Spider-Man commented that his blindness should
have been obvious because of the red-and-yellow costume.
That scene probably settled into my subconscious, […], and came
out of my fingers years later. Thanks for the info! Now if only I
could lay my hands on the issue number of What If ... ? I've
flipped through my What Ifs and found about 12 stories involving
Daredevil, and I'll be darned if I'm gonna read them all to look
That must have been a recurring theme in those old What If ...
? stories then! I remember a What If in which Peter Parker never
became a crimefighter, but instead concentrated on his show-biz
career (and turned into a totally pretentious creep). When DD
subsequently makes his public debut, Spider-Man contacts him and
becomes his agent... and suggests an immediate costume change,
because he'd have to be color-blind to have come up with that
<<Jubilee did appear in the X-Men movie: she was the Asian
student that was the last to leave Xavier's office (after Kitty
phased thru the door) when Wolverine barged in on the class the
Prof was teaching. She's in her distinctive yellow jacket.>>
She's also sitting next to Kitty in class, if I remember
<<As I recall, […], The Crusader did appear a second time --
although where or when I couldn't tell you. At any rate, my vague
memory of the character is that he was written as ... well, a
loon. I could be wrong, but my impression is that he couldn't
possibly be mistaken for a character who represented modern
He appeared a second time in Avengers Spotlight 39, where he
battled the Black Knight, but ended up surrendering and
shattering his sword & shield.
He was written as extremely overzealous, and I think was
supposed to be a bit of a takeoff on Don Quixote (especially
considering his fat squire, a gravedigger or cabbie I think, who
was the cynical yet dopily gullible observer of his
misadventures much like Pancho Sanza was for DQ). I'm not sure
if I would go so far as to say he was written as a loon (since,
after all, the visions of his ancestors extolling him to fight
paganism really did result in him developing superhuman powers,
so they weren't grounded in madness), but he was certainly an
extremist totally blinded by faith. No, he can't be mistaken for
a character representing mainstream Christianity, but could
represent some of the fringe sects.
<<Thanks for the recap on the Big G, […]. I fall into the
pro-Toho camp on Godzilla; I still find the original film
engrossing and his subsequent "pro wrestler" career fun in an Adam
West/Batman kinda way. The recent U.S. film I found to be
overblown and boring (except for the French "accountant" who
happened to have all sorts of black-ops equipment on his person --
that was good for a couple of laughs).>>
I'm definitely in the Toho camp too. Here's an interesting
tidbit about the big G: the Japanese title of the first sequel
to Godzilla translates as Godzilla Raids Again. However, when it
was released in the U.S., the title of the movie (and name of
the monster as he's referred to in the flick) was changed to
"Gigantis." At the end of Gigantis, the big G gets buried under
a ton of ice. At the beginning of the next movie, King Kong vs.
Godzilla, big G is shown digging his way out of the ice (meaning
it was the same monster buried in Gigantis). So, technically, in
the American continuity, the monster that appears in all of the
subsequent sequels (up to 1975) isn't Godzilla at all -- it's
<<Which brings me to another irksome nettle that's settled
in my craw: When did Cap get to be such a stickler about gunplay?
The guy was a soldier (and superhero) in World War II! Are we to
believe that he's gun-shy? That he never used a weapon in his many
combat adventures? That every time he dropped a hand grenade into
a German pillbox that he was careful not to hurt anybody?>>
Retcon, Cap, retcon. A lot of the actual WWII era comics show
the classic characters of the era (Captain America & Bucky,
Namor, the Human Torch & Toro) doing some pretty bloody
stuff. I remember seeing an old issue with the Sub-Mariner
mowing down the crew on the deck of a submarine (German, I
think) with a machine gun, and cracking wise about it. They
don't acknowledge any of that in the current continuity since
the rules nowadays say that real heroes don't kill, ever. Not
even in wartime, even though there's no real stigma attached to
wartime killing (it's seen as a necessary evil, but not a
dishonorable one). So, now, whenever they show a WWII appearance
by Cap or one of the other Golden Age characters, they never
resort to or reference the rough stuff. I agree that it doesn't
make much sense for Cap, who was, after all, intended to be the
ultimate super soldier.
I think the only one of those old violent incidents still
in the official continuity is the one that has the Human Torch
and Toro incinerating Hitler in his bunker (the suicide story
being a lie concocted by Hitler's followers to save face),
unless that's been retconned out since the last time I picked up
<<Marlon Brando was added to Superman: The Movie solely as a
draw. It wasn't too long after Apocalypse Now and the Godfather
movies. Brando was not only already a legendary actor at that
time, but a "hot" actor, still. The flake that he was/is, Brando
was originally wanting to play Jor-El as a piece of luggage or
something (no joke). Thankfully, that indulgence wasn't humored by
the producers and director.>>
I'm not sure what that line about playing the part as a piece
of luggage means ...? In any case, one interesting tidbit:
Marlon Brando's brief cameo made him the highest-paid actor in
history for a single role, according to Guiness Book of World
Records (at least, as of a few years ago -- it may have been
surpassed since then). See, he made sure to get a few points of
the gross in his contract, and, at the time, Superman: The Movie
was one of the highest grossing movies of all time. Brando was
obscenely paid for his now much reviled cameo, though I don't
have the exact figure here.
<<Spider-Man will reputedly have organic webshooters. Ugh!
This is being done, according to the movie's director, Sam Raimi,
in order to make Peter feel like an outcast. Pardon, but wasn't
Peter Parker already an outcast before the radioactive spider
bite? If anything, the spider-powers make Peter feel more accepted
and he shows off, to boot!>>
I'm in the minority here, but I don't mind the webshooters
being organic. I think it's a good change for the movie.
Frankly, I've always had a bit of a problem with the idea that a
high-school student could whip up a chemical formula as
sophisticated as he did. Granted, Peter's supposed to have been
a science whiz, but over the years they've shown a number of
real geniuses and/or corporate research labs trying and failing
to duplicate the formula. How the heck did he ever make
something so sophisticated so quickly and easily?
Granted, in a comic book this sort of thing is perfectly
acceptable. A comic-book reader automatically brings a certain
suspension of disbelief to the table every time he picks up an
issue. So does anyone who goes to see a Spider-Man movie, but
there are different degrees of suspension of disbelief. A movie
has to appeal to a much broader audience, and I think the "young
kid invents super-polymer in his spare time" thing doesn't sell
as easily to that audience as it does to comic-book fans.
My real objection is the choice of Sam Raimi as director
in the first place. I like some of his stuff, but I'm not sure I
want to see his over-the-top, wild motion, semi-surreal
cinematography style applied to a Spidey flick.
<<What strikes me as "unrealistic" is the idea that, once
caught, The Joker isn't chained to the wall in his cell 23 hours a
day, and let out only for an hour's exercise while being watched
every second by a contingent of burly guards.>>
Yep, and let's not forget: they've lobotomized patients for
significantly less aberrant behavior. Lobotomy is reserved as
the last recourse when it's determined that no other treatment
will be effective. I think in The Joker's case, it's safe to say
that determination has been reached.
What strikes me as even more "unrealistic" is that Arkham
continues to operate at all despite their abysmal security
failures. The Joker and others escape at will, have run their
criminal empires from within Arkham, and have even taken over
the institution on numerous occasions. One would think that the
state (or city or county, whomever foots the bill) would, at the
very least, put them under new management. I mean, the lawsuits
alone from the families of the escapees' victims must be costing
many millions of dollars.
<<I've mentioned before that where "realism" is lost in The
Joker situation isn't Batman or Gordon: It's the courts. I use as
my example Jeffrey Dahmer. Yes, he was crazy -- the court ruled
so. But he was also dangerous. So what did the court do? Send him
to Earth-Prime's version of Arkham? Nope -- they sent him to a
Uh, say what? The courts didn't rule him insane. He claimed a
defense of not guilty by reason of insanity (against his
lawyer's advice), but the case presented by prosecutor Mike
McCann convinced the jury that he was not legally insane. Dahmer
was found sane and guilty on 15 counts of murder.
Dahmer was a psychopath (that was the cornerstone of his
defense), but psychopathy alone does not constitute legal
insanity. Legal insanity is defined as an inability to
distinguish right from wrong. Had the court ruled that he had
such an inability, that he was legally insane, he could not have
been legally convicted of murder. He would, indeed, have been
sent to a mental hospital, rather than prison (which, frankly,
is the right thing to do). But, they never made such a ruling,
and, in fact, Dahmer's confession to the police after the arrest
repeatedly indicated that he felt great guilt over his crimes
and therefore did understand the difference between right and
wrong. That's why they sent him to a maximum-security prison
(incidentally, there are maximum-security wards in mental
hospitals too -- apparently just not in Gotham).
So Dahmer was ruled NOT insane? I must have misinterpreted what I
read. Well, let's rule The Joker sane, and put him out Gotham's
And it is pretty hard to believe a high-school kid could come up
with such a clever super-glue ... but, of course, it's hard to
believe that a police scientist could whip up a costume that
shrinks automatically into a ring (Flash) or that a college
professor could turn a hunk of white dwarf matter into a costume,
complete with size-and-weight controls (Atom) or that Tony Stark
could come up with the amazing armor that he has, when nobody else
on the planet has anywhere near the same technology. But I get
But not so hard to believe a newspaper
reporter could be so dishonest, his reading about J. Jonah Jameson’s
anti-Spidey smears notwithstanding! The notes about the possible
changes to the MO of superheroes working during WW2 in later decades
is troubling, especially if it happened during the 1990s. I wouldn’t
be surprised if it stemmed more from leftist thinking of the same
kind that Mr. Smith voices his disdain for the Punisher with. Next
up is a letter I wrote about the organic webshooters in the
Dear Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith: So too do I agree
that altering Spider-Man's webshooters from mechanical ones to
organic in the planned movie would be too unfaithful to the
premise of the good ol' comics. And what's really wrong is that
it could make his battles much less challenging: Although Peter
Parker/Spider-Man has some superhuman strength, he's still far
from being as powerful as say, Superman, and so he's but one of
many characters who use their brains to outwit and beat the
brawn. In fact, there are a lot of characters in both the Marvel
and DC universes, including Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman,
Wolverine, The Punisher, Beast, etc, who use their brains to
conquer brawn. By changing Spidey's webshooters to organic ones,
they'd be giving the character the advantage of never having to
refill his webshooters with web fluid, which would make it much
too easy for him to face some of his foes.
I once read a reprint of the very first Spider-Man story
from Amazing Fantasy No.15 about a decade ago, and I think he'd
first manufactured his web fluid from rice and milk (he probably
came up with tougher materials later). And when it came to
battling enemies like Dr. Octopus and Doctor Doom, he had to use
his brains to beat them. And boy, were those stories brilliant.
So to change his webshooters to organic ones would be making it
too easy to battle the baddies.
Luckily, for all those loyal to the comics, some loyalists
have ridden to the rescue on the Web, and they've formed a Web
site called http://www.no-organic-webshooters.com/ to try and
persuade Sam Raimi and the other writers not to make such
changes. On this Web site, readers can find a signup form on
which to join the effort to petition Columbia Pictures, and also
some hypertext links to the IMDB's pages about the movie.
Hopefully, there's still time to petition the studio.
If the subject of manga-style artwork finding it's way
into U.S. comics is an interesting one, I think I've started
spotting some signs of it. In a recent X-Men annual, one of my
favorite heroines, Psylocke, was drawn with an adorable purple
coiffure, which is what a lot of manga comics artists have done
in the past years, draw girls (and sometimes boys) with bizarre
hair colors. It's something very stylish and clever that I hope
to see in more American comics to come.
For more on the subject of manga and anime, you can go to
http://www.manga.com/ and http://www.animeiga.com/
Thanks for adding to the webshooter debate, Avi -- it seems to be
running neck-and-neck. I'm sure the web site you mentioned will
have some strong opinions!
I really shouldn’t have, because honestly,
there are some liberties a moviemaker can take with the source
material that aren’t the most serious problems you could find by
contrast to the original books. Like I’ve said before, Mr. Smith was
not worth bolstering, and today I’m not going to do that. Still, I
do appreciate what the webmasters of that old site were trying to
do. I just don’t think Smith’s site was the place to campaign for
Dear Cap: Hate to correct you, but in the interest of
historical accuracy, I'm afraid I must.
Regarding your answer to Ben-Jonathan Tribble, Congo Bill
did indeed have a young male sidekick. Janu's origin and time of
introduction escapes me. His creation though, owes more to the
depiction of "Boy" in the Weissmuller/Tarzan series than
anything else. And while the African sun may have tanned his
normal complexion quite a lot, make no mistake, he was white.
As for a "straight" line between Ebony and T'Challa, I
think that's a bit of a stretch (even for Plastic Man). Unless
you want to run that line through Amos 'n Andyville. Eisner's
Spirit is a masterpiece of superb storytelling, populated with
colorful characters. But, no matter what type of paint job you
put on Ebony, that's one black eye the Spirit can never hide
behind a mask
The early '40s Congo Bills didn't have Janu in them, and my next
encounter with Congo Bill was the late '50s/early '60s, and Janu
was there. I wasn't really sure where or when he first appeared;
I'm the Silver Age Captain, and the Golden Age Captain is trapped
in a time/space distortion and unavailable for comment. The "Boy"
connection makes tremendous sense. (I did toss in a weasel phrase
in the original column, if you noticed, where I mentioned that the
sidekicks didn't necessarily begin with the strip. Well, except
for Lothar. I was aware that all the characters I mentioned
weren't necessarily born of the Golden Age, and just spoke in
As to Ebony -- ahh, don't be so crabby. Amos and Andy was TV.
After state-sanctioned Jim Crow ended in the '20s and '30s, it
continued culturally -- Blacks were virtually invisible and
marginalized in America for decades, including "mainstream"
entertainment -- except for comics, which attempted here and there
to portray African-Americans as something a bit more than butlers
and maids. Credit where it's due; Lee & Kirby (a couple of New
York Jews) established the cliche-shattering Black Panther months
before Lt. Uhura did the same for TV in ultra-liberal L.A.
We, as comics fans, have something to crow about here: Ebony
wasn't a stereotypical black character in the '40s. Sure, he was a
blackface, minstrel-lookin' comic relief type -- but little else
would have been accepted in the '40s by white America. Eisner did
a LITTLE bit more with the character than that, pushed the
envelope a bit, and comics in general (well, perhaps excluding the
'50s) have kept up the trend.
Of course, Ebony is hard to swallow these days, and I'm not about
to give Eisner the MLK award. But to carry on the Jackie Robinson
analogy, look at the misery Robinson went through -- and look how
unremarkable it is to have blacks in sports (or anywhere else)
now. I think it unfair to judge '40s Eisner work by '00s
standards. Instead I look to the period in question and what he
did within those confines -- and Eisner was doing better than his
contemporaries, wasn't he?
Eisner also did better than Mr. Smith,
that’s for sure! I’m wondering what Smith thinks of Eisner now,
after he published his last graphic novel, The Plot, which dealt
with Muslim anti-Semitism. I have a hunch he doesn’t have a very
flattering opinion of him for that, and it wouldn’t make any
difference if Eisner also made room to focus on Muslim racism
against blacks. Next comes September 7, 2000:
Dear Cap: Here's a rather good article from the
Dallas Observer effectively articulating the current State of
the Industry -- sharply declining readership in the face of the
greatest creative flowering in 15 years, the reasons behind this
and possible directions for the future. Recommended reading for
It is a good article, [name withheld]. And the writer actually has
his facts straight, which is phenomenal -- most reporters seem to
get their information from half-remembered Batman TV shows from 30
Yeah, including Mr. Smith! Who’s he
kidding anyway? Worth noting that even a paper like the Dallas
Observer can be brownnoses to the modern industry, never running a
genuinely objective view of how they’re handling things,
artistically or business-wise.
Dear Cap: I missed out on the whole Superman "mass
hypnosis" thing; that's right up there with Jay Garrick
"vibrating" his face so no one would recognize him.
As regards Superman and Lois, the thing that weirded me
out when I read Superman from the '30s to the '70s were some of
the early Silver Age stories in which Superman became almost
hysterically fearful that Lois would find out he was Clark Kent,
not to mention his almost pathological fear that he might be
forced to marry her. I mean, from a psychological standpoint,
some of that stuff was just downright ODD, even by superhero
standards. I suppose to a certain extent it was because comics
in those years were more blatantly aimed at young boys of an age
were girls were still "icky".
As far as Wonder Woman goes, I'm not sure what to say. I
suppose one could ask oneself "How would I feel if a woman I
considered a respected friend did such a thing?"
I have to wonder that, too. Particularly since her decision was so
The story where it was explained that Superman was actually
subconsciously using his super-vision (through his super-glasses)
to hypnotize everybody into seeing Clark Kent as physically
different than Superman (smaller, spindlier) was during the brief
period in the '70s when Julius Schwartz was editing the Superman
titles and Kent was a GBS-TV broadcaster. His chief nemesis was
former NFL quarterback/GBS sports guy Steve Lombard, and his new
boss was skinflint Morgan Edge. I believe Lana Lang was brought in
at the TV station (in what capacity I don't recall) to put a new,
"logical" spin on the Lois/Lana rivalry of the '60s. Anyway, this
"update" of Supes didn't last long that I recall, and the
"hypnotism" thing was never mentioned again.
As to the "icky" thing -- well, the whole Superman/Lois
relationship in the '60s was written for kids, and it played just
like Lucy and Charlie Brown in a sandbox. I don't remember
thinking it too odd when I read those stories under the age of 10
-- except that I thought Superman must be a moron to date a woman
who was too stupid to know that Clark and Superman were the same
guy when she had dated (and kissed) them both. (Hey, even as a kid
there was a limit to my suspension of disbelief!). After puberty,
however, those old stories were waaaaay weird. Now, as a cranky
old Silver Ager, I just enjoy the stories both for their nostalgia
factor and to laugh at their misogynist absurdity.
Look who’s talking. The same guy who
surely thought the misogynist structure of Identity Crisis was
entertaining in every way! Otherwise, why would he have been so
sensationalistic in 2004? What a phony-baloney Mr. Smith is. I’ve
got a hunch that, as ridiculous as some of those Silver Age Superman
stories were, they were tame and nowhere near as misogynist as what
came post-2000. Why, he’s practically one of those very man-children
who considers girls “icky”, and doesn’t want to improve upon any
character flaws so he could really appreciate their cuteness in
character design! Oh wait, I’ll bet he doesn’t even like girls being
Dear Cap: I've read all the comments, positive and
negative, about the possibility of the movie version of
Spider-Man having the organic webshooters, and just thought I'd
bring a couple of points up that I don't think have been
First of all, the idea is straight from a Spider-Man comic
book: Spider-Man 2099. The series was written by Peter David for
almost the entire run, and in it, the main character, Miguel
O'Hara, gets his DNA merged with a spider's, and gains
webshooters on his arms, among other powers. This to me is more
"realistic" than Peter suddenly inventing a web-like substance
that no one else is able to duplicate.
Also, in the Cameron "scriptment" that I've read, Peter
has the organic shooters, and creates fake mechanical
webshooters, in order to try to hide from people how inhuman
he's become. It creates quite a bit of drama, with Peter
wondering to himself if he's going to become or if he already is
some sort of monster, especially with seeing Doctor Octopus turn
into a monster due to a similar situation. In my opinion, this
is far more interesting and dramatic than the far overdone, "Oh,
no. I'm out of web fluid!" situation, which Brian Kemper brought
All in all, I think the organic shooters is a perfectly
acceptable idea. It's a modern update that won't leave non-comic
fans saying to themselves "If he needs money so badly, why
doesn't he just patent his web fluid and sell it?"
Pretty good points, [name withheld] -- and ones that Mr. David
himself brings up in his CBG column this week.
Well at least we know where the organism
might’ve originally come up! How come he didn’t recall that? Just
call him “Forgetful Jones”. Now for a look at some letters on
Dear Cap: Thanks for your answer. Everyone needs to
see a representation of themselves in a positive light that is
free from discrimination or at least has the strength to
overcome it. I do not condone homosexuality as a life choice,
but I will not condemn those who are gay. Life is already hard
enough without people adding their two-cents' worth.
The only comment I have to add is that I've never met a homosexual
who considered his lifestyle a "choice." Common sense tells us
it's genetic -- after all, who would choose to face a life of
prejudice, intolerance, bigotry and often physical danger?
But that’s just the problem: it is
a choice; the correspondent is much more accurate than he is. To
make matters worse, Mr. Smith parrots the long running propaganda
that homosexuality is “genetic”, without acknowledging the leftist
campaigns in the 70s to have the AMA change their entire take on it.
That’s moonbattery for you, I guess. J. Jonah Jameson’s real life
counterpart struck again with this distortion, which also implies a
false narrative that Judeo-Christians have a take on homosexuality
that’s nasty in the extreme. Not so. He should really take a look at
how gays and lesbians are behaving today, including one who
threatened a Christian activity center out of hatred for anyone who
likes Chick-Fil-A restaurants. And if hostility to homoseuxals
matters, does he approve of the violent treatment gays and lesbians
get in Muslim countries? How come he’s never acknowledged that?
Dear Cap: Thank you for saying that homosexuality
should be portrayed in comics. Your answer was short and
matter-of-fact as it should be.
As a gay male should I not see myself represented in the
comics that I read? Earlier I had written in and said that I saw
Peter Parker as gay. I know he is married and straight in the
comics, but his hassles in high school mirrored my own greatly.
It was so wonderful to see someone going through the same
harrassment that I got. You have no idea as a gay adolescent
what it means to see positive, human role models out there to
tell you that you are not alone and what you are going through
is not new to the human condition.
By the same token (no pun intended) I think that comics
still have a long way to go in working to incorporate a wider
range of ethnicities and races in their comics. It is still a
very white world, and I love that Kurt Busiek has attempted to
address that in the Avengers.
There already is homosexuality in comics, so the point as
to whether there should be is moot. The real question is: Should
there be more? I, of course say yes. I know of the cop in
Superman ( who was also portrayed in the cartoon with her lover
-- Fox sure slipped that one by and that is great! ) I bought
Alpha Flight when Northstar came out and continued reading it,
despite the crap it became soon after. What made me mad was when
Marvel did it they got tons of publicity ( I remember a spot on
CNN ) and then they never seemed to mention it again . Someone
correct me if I am wrong, but he even had a miniseries and it
wasn't mentioned in that. Do superheroes have a don't ask don't
tell policy? I'll never forgive Marvel for that.
A question for you and your readers -- can you recommend
good gay comics? Comics with interesting portrayals of gay
characters? I seem to remember hearing that DC has more than
Marvel (which is interesting ). I also seem to remember from my
DC friend that the gay characters were mainly villains ( draw
your own inferences ).
Why is this important to have more gay characters? Well,
number one, the more you have going on in a story, the more
interesting it will be. More fodder for stories. Two, the
important factor of letting some kid out there see that being
gay is a natural part of the mosaic of life. When you are young
and gay you think you are alone, granted it is a lot better than
when I was growing up, but it is still necessary to show kids
they are not alone. The suicide rate for gay teens is more than
for straight kids. The next time you go to utter a slur, think
about that and who you may be hurting. Peter Parker was one
reason I made it through my adolescence. Three, the important
factor of reflecting life and not warping it to some twisted
vision. Now, granted this is fantasy, but I sometimes wonder if
the DC and Marvel Universe are not more white than ours. I could
go into into how the mass media shapes our perception of
reality, but I won't.
Maybe I should have just said "thank you for your answer,
cap" and left it at that. Down off my soapbox I must say that I
love SCION so far and MERIDIAN, too. These books have such
wonderful visuals! I love the floating cities of MERIDIAN. I
also love the recaps. Great idea, I wish more comics had those.
I do like SHOCKROCKETS, but did not like SECTION ZERO. But then
again I am not an X-Files fan, either.
Now that they have Jenkins doing a good job on the
massacred Spider-Man, isn't it time for Mackie to move on and
see if they can find a better writer for that title? God, I
would love to have them retcon the whole clone and Norm Osborn
being alive out of existence.
Speaking of Spider-Man, one reader wrote in saying that
they don't like the organic web-shooters and wanted James
Cameron back. Well, he is the one to throw the organic
webshooters into the mix. He also had Peter and Mary Jane have
sex on a bridge, and he had the Kingpin as the villain with
Electro's powers. Can you imagine the fan uproar had that gone
ahead? On the downside they have shoehorned Dr. Octopus in with
the Green Goblin in the latest drafts and I (bet) it does not
work and that Ock gets bad dialogue and poor character
development. It is the Batman Returns syndrome. How could a
script fit in the origin, the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus and
do it all justice? It can't, I hope they change it. But the
X-Men rocked and I am hopeful again.
One last thing -- I will never forgive John Byrne for what
he did to Spider-Man. He has wasted too much of my time and
money and he owes an apology to the fans. OK, if he apologized
then I would forgive him. Maybe.
Ah, the webshooter debate grinds on!
I'm with you though -- I've never found Mackie's writing to be
more than pedestrian, and I've hoped for a Roger Stern or someone
to ride to the rescue. Add to the mix the return of Norman Osborn,
the incredible blunder that was the clone saga and the egregious
Spider-Man: Chapter One, and you really couldn't dream up a better
way to alienate hard-core Spider-fans from a character they once
loved. Thank God for Paul Jenkins!
As to homosexuals as heroes or villains, I haven't noticed a trend
one way or the other. There's Destiny, Mystique, Starr Saxon (old
DD villain, now Machinesmith) and a couple of other gay bad guys
on one side, and the JLA's Ice (the second one), Maggie Sawyer,
Northstar, Tasmanian Devil, Apollo & Midnighter and a couple
of other gay heroes on the other side. And the Flash's Pied Piper
has been both hero AND villain. Seems a non-issue to me.
But I will agree with you that more positive role models for gay
adolescents would be a positive thing. The suicide rates for gay
adolescents are far above the norm -- in fact, alarming.
Wow, do I notice what that buffoon
correspondent said correctly? “Soon after”? Puh-leez. Alpha Flight
was turning to asphalt the moment Scott Lobdell got his mitts on it,
and the story titled “The Walking Wounded” from 1992 where Northstar
was “outed” was some of the most forced, obnoxious demands we accept
the abnormal as is possible to find. So, I guess that moonbat didn’t
care the story did more disfavors for homosexuality than favors?
Heck, it was just one reason why the series was cancelled in 1994.
He also doesn't seem to care that it's not healthy to be teaching
children that homosexuality is literally "natural" in every way. Do
I want my children to take up such a lifestyle? No! Nor do I want
anyone telling me that I must submit to the beliefs no matter what.
There can be advantages in explaining that homosexuality exists, but
writers who disagree should also be allowed to depict it as a
negative form of behavior too, which is not a condemnation of the
person per se, just a critique of his/her lifestyle, in keeping with
Martin Luther King's belief that we should be judged by personal
Furthermore, if he really thinks Lobdell was that much of a genius,
one can only wonder what he thinks of the insulting attitude
Lobdell's had towards women by contrast. An interesting paradox,
isn’t it: Lobdell cares so much about homosexual representation, yet
when it comes to women, he has a far less respectable approach. We
must truly be missing something here. Hey, what if it turns out he
doesn’t care about Muslim homophobia? There’s something to ponder!
And Mr. Smith is getting very tiresome with that insistence there be
“positive role models” for homoseuxals. Does he think marxists
should have the same? Now for some letters about the old hero called
Dear Cap: The Red Bee wore red- and pink-striped
clothes, but didn't dress like one of Saturday Night Live's
early years Bee. Oh, no (snicker-snicker) he had a beehive in
his belt buckle filled with trained bees who (ha-ha-ha) attacked
criminals. If he dressed like a bee, he probably would have been
I understand why the character's ghost was so bitter in Starman. I
mean, really -- was that a bee in his belt pocket, or was he just
glad to see us?
I’m sad the character had to be portrayed
so bitterly, but that’s James Robinson for you, a guy whose own view
of homosexuality isn’t all that different from Lobdell’s.
Dear Cap: I just read your comments on the Red Bee.
The Bee took his name, not from his suit, but from the
fact that he had a SECRET COMPARTMENT in his belt buckle and he
had a pet bee in there ... when he got in a fight, he would let
the bee out, the crooks would run and slap at the bee and he's
knock the crap out of them.
Ah, what a wonderful hero ...
He's shown up in STARMAN once or twice since then.
I think personally that FRUITMAN was the worse idea for a
hero. He appeared in BUNNY, the teenage comic Harvey did in the
1960s. He had no costume, but could turn into fruit. And he made
hideous PEARS of puns, ORANGE you glad you didn't read any of
his comics. He probably retired and tried to marry but CANTELOPE
because she didn't CARROT all about him.
I guess you can tell I started as a writer for Harvey.
RICHIE RICH, not FRUITMAN.
I have to admit, I have no idea what Red Bee comments I made set
off these impassioned memories -- but I'm glad I did! Maybe I
could become "Alzheimer Lad."
Fruitman, eh? And I thought all the good names were taken!
They are. It’s better that way anyway. All
he deserves are the bad names, like Private Propaganda. BTW, thank
goodness I’ve parted ways with the one Robinson-penned Starman trade
I used to own (the first one), and only one I ever bought! I’d
rather read about Red Bee in his Golden Age tales anyway.
Dear Cap: A number of questions came out of your 24
August column which I can address.
[name withheld] raised the question of when the adventures
of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman switched from Earth-One to
Earth-Two. Based upon the sidebar to my Batman of Earth-One/Two
comments of two weeks ago, vandaljack correctly points out that
DC's stories about The Batman did not change to Earth-One with
the adoption of the yellow circle around his bat-emblem, but
rather, sometime before. Thus, essentially, the precise issue of
the change for any of the "big three" has yet to be pinpointed
to the consensus of comics readers.
Outside of torpedoing the "Batman changed when his
insignia did" theory, I can add very little definitive
information to the discussion. But I can introduce a few facts
to help your readership make their own determinations.
Since I have no ready information on Wonder Woman, let's
set her outside the scope of my commentary.
I can submit the following information on Superman: The
late E. Nelson Bridwell, DC triviamaster extraordinaire,
considered the story "Superman vs. the Futuremen!" from Superman
128 (April, 1958) to be the last Earth-Two Superman story
because of so many radical inconsistencies with Earth-One
history. Or, more accurately, Earth-One future history, since
the villains came from from an A.D. 2000 which was depicted in
radically different ways from the future that DC eventually
presented. Moreover, as part of the plot developments, Superman
records a tape, to be left for Perry White, in which he
describes his birth on Krypton, his arrival on Earth, his
boyhood and identity as Clark Kent. None of Superman's account
mentions his career as Superboy; this is not simply an omission,
since the Man of Steel's account of his teenage years in this
story specifically rules out a Superboy career. At the same time
the June and July, 1958, issues of Action Comics (Nos. 241-242)
featured the introduction of the distinctively Earth-One
concepts of Superman's Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic and
the Bottle City of Kandor. I do not know why Bridwell did not
consider Superman 129 (May, 1958) part of the Earth-Two Superman
mythos; but plainly, the Superman of Earth-One's adventures
started no later than June, 1958.
Falling into the Why I Get So Frustrated Sometimes At Not
Being Home To Consult My Own Collection Department: in the early
1970s, during that brief period when DC boosted the regular
price of its comics to 25 cents (!) but included an extra 20
pages (!!) of reprinted material, a letter appearing in the
Metropolis Mailbag in Superman posed the same Earth-Two/One
question. Editor Julius Schwartz provided an issue number of
what he considered the last "Superman of Earth-Two" story.
Unfortuately, all I can remember from his response is the year
of the issue he quoted --1958. He may even have used the same
issue as Nelson Bridwell did as his benchmark. (Captain's
Note: It's listed below.)
It would not be unreasonable to presume that the adventures of
the Earth-One Batman began approximately the same time as those
of the Earth-One Superman -- June, 1958. Declaring that with
certainty is problematic since there are no
solely-identifiable-as-Earth-One concepts to debut in the Batman
mythos at that time. The "New Look" Batman, debuting in May,
1964, brought many changes --t he Hot Line, a convertable
Batmobile, an elevator to the Batcave and the yellow circle
around the bat-emblem -- however, as has been proven, that
cannot demark the change from the Earth-Two Batman to the
Earth-One version, since there are a number of New Look stories
which are based on or refer to The Batman, depicting him prior
to the changes. But setting the change in Batmen at mid-1958
would synchronise with the change in Supermen. (Captain's
Note: It would also dovetail neatly with the debut of the Silver
Age Flash in 1956, Silver Age Green Lantern in 1959 and the S.A.
JLA in 1960.)
The problem with just declaring this the right answer is even
DC muddied the waters on this subject. Case in point: World's
Finest Comics 271 (Sep 1981). This issue commemorated the 200th
issue of "your two favorite heroes together" as a team in
World's Finest. This story established that the first meeting of
the Earth-One Superman and Batman was depicted in the story from
Superman 76 --even though this story was published in the May,
1952. For the record, World's Finest 271 also presented the
first meeting of the Earth-Two Superman and Batman was the
adventure of their first meeting from The Adventures of Superman
radio programme, a sequence which ran in March, 1945.
Ultimately, a number of Superman and Batman stories which
were published in the late-'40s to mid-'50s could have occurred
to the heroes on Earth-One or Earth-Two, since there are no
Earth-specific details, nor topical references to pin-point it
one way or the other. Therefore, within the scope of the facts I
have presented here, the readers are free to fix the time of the
Earth-Two/Earth-One change with a fair amount of discretion.
The other subject I wanted to address -- and in an oblique
way, related to the first matter -- was the story in which you
vaguely remembered Thomas Wayne wearing a bat-like costume to a
masquerade party, thus laying the foundation for his young son,
Bruce, to take a bat motif as his crime-fighting guise. You got
the facts right, Cap, but that event was only part of a story
which contained an even more significant change to the Batman
The story you remembered was entitled "The First Batman!"
and it originally appeared in Detective Comics 235 (Sep 1956).
The plot unfolded thusly: Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson discover
a bat-costume which vaguely resembles the Batman's costume and a
journal and a spool of 16-mm film, all of which describe an
incident when Bruce was a small boy. He saw his parents leave
for a masquerade party in which the theme was "flying
creatures." Dr. Wayne was wearing the rudimentary bat-costume.
While the party was in full swing, it was crashed by gang boss
Lew Moxon, who had taken a slug in the shoulder from a rival
gangster. While his men held the party-goers at gunpoint, Moxon
forced Dr. Wayne to treat his wound. Instead, Wayne managed to
pull a Batman-type trick and subdue Moxon and his men.
Moxon was convicted on Dr. Wayne's testimony. Moxon, as
Dr. Wayne's journal revealed, swore revenge on the
physician-socialite. Discovering this information, the Batman
re-opened the Wayne murder case, and his investigation revealed
that, instead of just being the random victims of a hold-up man,
the Waynes had been deliberate victims of Joe Chill, who had
been hired by Moxon to kill them.
In the '70s, when DC was making efforts to distinguish the
Earth-One and Earth-Two versions of Batman, it established that
the Lew Moxon/Joe Chill deliberate-murder version of the Waynes'
death belonged to the Earth-Two Batman, while the Earth-One
Bruce Wayne's parents were the chance victims of Joe Chill,
hold-up man. Personally, I have always preferred the notion that
the tragedy of Bruce Wayne's life was purely random circumstance
-- that the Waynes just happened to come along at the wrong
time. Somehow the very capriciousness of their deaths seemed
more fitting to the notion that their son would dedicate his
life to waging war on all criminals.
Finally, a mea culpa --and an excellent example of why all
facts should be referenced: my friends, Jo and Terri-Anne of
Canada, made the remark that I had advised them that Batman had
become a member of the Gotham City Police Department in Batman
12. That is true; I did tell them that. And I was accurate in
the story I recalled for them -- Commissisoner Gordon did
deputize Batman and Robin as members of the police force in that
story -- however, it appeared in Batman 7 (Oct-Nov, 1941), not
No. 12. Once I was able to research it, I discovered I had been
It takes a big man to admit a mistake, [name withheld] -- or so my
mother used to tell me right before grounding me!
You've got me convinced on the Batman/Superman earth switcheroo --
after all, we can pretty much choose what dates we like, and I
think yours are pretty hard to argue with. Of course, if you're so
smart, you won't have any trouble figuring out when GREEN ARROW
switched over, will you? (Evil laugh.)
And we all know by now that Mr. Smith
ain’t no big man at all. He’s never admitted his support for
Identity Crisis was offensive to victims of rape and spousal/child
abuse, and if he’s not brave enough to do so, then he’s nothing more
than a little man who spouts off mighty big propaganda, is all.
Here’s 2 letters together:
The story you are looking for was called "The First
Batman!" which first appeared in Detective 235 dated September
1956. It was a retro story of sorts because in the origin of
Batman, Bruce Wayne's parents were killed by an unknown thief.
The appearance was of a random robbery. In the story "The Origin
of Batman!" in Batman 47 dated June-July 1948, the thief was
established as Joe Chill. In the story "The First Batman!" Dick
Grayson finds an old Batman costume in the attic. From a diary
and an old movie reel, they find that it was a costume that
Thomas Wayne wore to a costume ball whose theme was "Flying
Creatures." During the ball, Thomas Wayne was abducted and he
had to remove a bullet from Lew Moxon, a bank robber. Thomas
Wayne later causes Moxon to be caught and convicted. Moxon
swears revenge. Bruce Wayne as Batman reopens the case of the
murder of his father and brings Moxon in. Moxon pleads that he
is not guilty and offers to take a lie detector test. He passes
it. After his release, Batman finds out that Moxon had suffered
from amnesia. In chasing Moxon, his costume is tore, so Batman
puts on his father's old costume. The sight of the old costume
snaps Moxon out of his amnesia, he confesses his crime and runs
out in front of a truck. Bruce Wayne decides to put the old
costume in a trophy case and it appeared from time to time over
I do not know if there was any other changes to the origin
or whether it was further retroed. The story of "The First
Batman!" was reprinted in: Batman Annual No. 4, Winter 1963;
Batman No. 255 (100 page), April 1974; Best Of DC No. 2,
November-December 1979; and Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told
I hope this is of some help.
Of course it helps, [...]! Thanks for the info! And here's some
more on further retconning:
Dear Cap: This story first appeared in Detective Comics 235 in
1956. This story was written by Bill Finger and drawn by Sheldon
Moldoff. It was reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever
Told, and retold in Untold Legend of The Batman, an early 1980s
miniseries by Len Wein and John Byrne/Jim Aparo. Untold Legend
of The Batman was collected by Tor (Tom Doherty Publishing) into
paperback form. ...
This story (which has no similarity to the origin of
Frances Kane, but the Cap probably meant Barbara Gordon's
Batgirl) was a part of the Earth-One continuity (as per the
retelling in Untold Legend), although the Untold Legend version
is slightly different (in the original story, Batman is shown
without his gold oval on his chest; Untold Legend shows him with
the gold oval. Also, Untold Legend depicts the death of Joe
Chill in a way similar to that of Batman 47, in which Chill was
shot by his own men when they discovered that he had
inadverently created The Batman). This story may or may not fit
in with Earth-Two, as film with synchronized sound was not
invented at the time that the Earth-Two Bruce Wayne was a young
boy. It was probably not a part of post-Crisis/pre-Zero Hour
continuity, as per Batman:Year Two. This story probably is not a
part of current continuity, as the current idea is that the
Batman never caught his parent's murderer.
Although it intuitively seems so, Luthor was not the first
recurring Superman villain; the first recurring Superman villain
was actually the lesser known Ultra-Humanite. (Ultra being a
synonym of "Super", and Humanite being a synonym of "Man"...
Superman first encounters the Ultra-Humanite, who was an old,
bald man with Superhuman intelligence in a wheelchair
(presumably his original body; the Humanite developed a process
by which he could transfer his brain to other bodies). Their
first battle took place in Action Comics 13.
The Ultra-Humanite transferred his brain into the body of
the actress Dolores Winters in ACTION 20. Scientist Terry Curtis
was kidnapped by the Ultra-Humanite and forced to build an
atomic disintegrator for the villain. (Terry Curtis later became
the villain Cyclotron in the 1980s) in Action Comics 21.
Superman Family 201, in a story set in the past (the comic book
came out in the 1970s/1980s), featured a return of the
Ultra-Humanite. The Ultra-Humanite returned -- in the body of a
giant ant -- in Superman Family 211. The Humanite's post-Golden
Age appearance saw him transferring his brain into a mutated
white ape (JLA 195-197) and several All-Star Squadron
appearances. John Byrne used him in Batman/Superman:
Generations, an Elseworlds, in which he was once again
Superman's foe. An entry for the Ultra-Humanite can be found
Gladiator was adapted by Marvel for one of their
black-and-white magazines in the 1970s. I don't remember which,
exactly. DC's hero Iron Munro is the son of the Gladiator (as
per Young All-Stars 10). Whether Wylie's book is public domain
or not I cannot say.
Ah, yes, I gave a very perfunctory answer to the question
of the Earth-Two Joker. The Earth-Two Joker made his first
post-Golden Age appearance in JLA 135-137, in which he teamed up
with Brainiac, the Weeper (Earth-S villain), King Kull (not the
Robert E. Howard charachter), Mr. Atom and various other
villains from Earth-One, Earth-Two and Earth-S. The Earth-Two
Joker, if I am correct, next appeared in Wonder Woman. He did
not challenge Wonder Woman, but rather The Huntress, who had a
back-up series in Wonder Woman at the time. The Earth-Two Joker
went on a crime spree, but The Huntress and the adult Robin of
Earth-Two (who donned the Batman costume as part of a ruse to
fool The Joker; Earth-Two's Batman was dead by then) defeated
him. The Earth-Two Joker next appeared in Brave and Bold 200. In
that story, The Joker told Brimstone (see July 27, 2000's
Q&A) about the death of Earth-Two's Batman. The Joker,
appearing very old and with grey streaks in his green hair, thus
made his last appearance. His existence was wiped out by the
I apoligize about my last letter about the changeover from
Earth-One/Earth-Two for Superman. I did establish the first
appearance of the Earth-One Superman (as Superboy) in the
SuperBOYstories, but I did not establish when the SuperMAN
titles switched over.
Well, Mikel Midnight noted that E. Nelson Bridwell has
called the 1958 story in Superman 129 "the last Earth-Two
Superman story," because of its inconsistencies with Earth-One
history (this same year featured the introduction of the
contemporary Fortress of Solitude in Action 241 and of Brainiac
and Kandor in Action 242). I suppose Bridwell's guess is as good
as any. See the Earth-Two timeline on
Between you and [2 names withheld], I may never have to do any
research ever again! Thanks!
He’s never done any real research. That’s
why others have to do all the dirty work so he can languish in his
socialist mentality and not do any on his own when it really counts!
Dear Cap: I remember the original story of Thomas
Wayne's costumed exploit only vaguely. He called himself "The
Flying Fox." The name, I believe, was resurrected during DC's
first period of JSA revisionism.
Actually, Thomas Wayne was referred to as a "Bat-Man," but I
wanted to give you credit for writing in, [...]! And, while I
don't know the first use of "Flying Fox," Roy Thomas did use the
name for the "Batman stand-in" in his Young All-Stars stories.
Like I said, poor Mr. Smith, showing just
how well versed he really is in history. Next comes September 21,
Dear Cap: Another great article (on Carl Barks). It's
really terrible that some of your best work this year has been
I'm not the biggest Disney fan, but as I've gained more
and more bits of knowledge of the history of comics, I've come
to very much appreciate the work of Carl Barks in particular --
what struck me the most is the sheer scope of his work,
especially when compared to the contemporaries of his day ... it
seems to me that Barks was doing the opulent splash spreads on a
regular basis in the 1940s before Kirby brought them to
superheroes in the 1960s. Jack did bring some of that to Captain
America in the 1940s, but Barks I would argue was at the top of
his game at that point, and wasn't really matched in the wild
detail until Jim Steranko came along.
Another remembrance: I remember in the mid-'80s one of the
greatest compliments given to Dick Sprang (which may have led to
his latest renaissance) was that he was dubbed "the good Batman
artist," which also served as a tribute/reference to Carl Barks,
"the good Duck artist." We lost both men this year -- comics in
heaven must be amazing this year, with new issues of both "good
Batman art" and "good Duck art" gracing them, as much as they
graced us here.
I also read somewhere that the "four pillars" of American
comic-book art are Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman and
Barks. From these four men spun out virtually everything else
seen in American comic books (not counting strips I guess). Only
one remans living, but the impressions left by them will
probably never be erased.
Certainly their influence is evident in most American comic books.
I’m not so sure. Look at how awful
storytelling has become, and if Rob Liefeld is the influence, the
art too. Incidentally, wonder what the correspondent and Smith
think of Eisner ever since his last graphic novel?
Dear Cap: That was a wonderful
article which made me even sadder than I already was about the
passing of Carl Barks. There will never be comics like that
again, sadly. Thanks for that moving tribute.
I also checked out that Dallas Observer Article, which
made me even sadder than I was after I read your column (are you
trying to depress me?). To even think of comics going the way of
the dinosaur because of inept management is really maddening. I
feel sorry for kids of America who will miss out on this
marvelous form of entertainment if all the doom-n-gloomers are
right. You were right though, the author did seem to know what
he was talking about, and he had some impressive quotes from
Oh, yeah, I read the review of the last issue of Preacher.
I know alot of people really like that comic, but I really hated
it. The sight of folks getting their noses (and various other
body parts) graphically blown off just turns me off completely.
Do we really need to see that? And if anybody used the language
around me that the folks in that comic did, I would walk away
from them. So I'm sure not gonna spend my money to read it.
Which is as it should be. If you don't like it, by golly, don't
buy it and don't pretend you like it because others do. The only
vote we have for the material we prefer is that $3 at the counter.
Which is not to say I didn't like Preacher -- I did. There SHOULD
be comics for every conceivable taste, and we don't all of us have
to like all of 'em. That's what makes horse races. I don't read
any of the wrestling-derived comics, but I'm glad they're there to
tap that market. Every little bit helps.
Where I get annoyed -- and you didn't do this, bless your pointy
li'l head -- is the self-righteous people who insist that because
THEY don't like a comic book, it has no right to exist. Phooey.
Preacher's there for them what likes it, and for them what don't,
there are other things.
Oh, do tell us all about it. The same
phony who didn’t ask why we need to see Dr. Light grabbing Sue Dibny
by the rectum, and Zatanna vomiting, among other disgusting parts of
Identity Crisis. His hypocrisy is almost like the gift that keeps on
giving, except it’s not a gift, but a curse.
And arguing that comics should be made for every conceivable taste
carries risks. Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled, for
example, were built on misogynist and anti-American mentalities.
Even if the former was metaphorical, that doesn’t make it kosher,
and if he’s saying that’s something that ought to be made for the
sake catering to prejudiced mindsets, I think that’s going way
overboard. Let’s also remember that The Truth: Red, White and Black
was built on leftist mentality that attacked the USA and denigrated
blacks at the same time. Must we appeal to a market that craves that
kind of craziness?
Dear Cap: Been following the column, so I need to get
my two bits in. Gotta start off by saying that the first three
pages of Top Ten 9 has to be the funniest scene of the year -- I
laughed so hard I was in tears for at least 10 minutes. Highest
recommendations -- "Galactapuss," indeed ...
Loved the link to the "No Organic Webshooters" website! I
signed the petition right away! Yes, we may well be arming a
fascistic Columbian army, prescription drug prices are too high,
and the U.S. public is seriously considering whether to hand
over the reigns of political power to an oil-addled idiot, but I
know where my priorities lie -- let's get that movie right!
(Hey, it's where I imagine my voice might actually be heard!)
I still must strongly disagree with you on the costumes
for the X-Men movie -- no, I did enjoy the film, but I find all
of this emphasis on leather (or rubber, in Batman's case) to be
even less realistic than the Spandex. The film's success is
attributable to a good story and good acting; it succeeded IN
SPITE OF timid costumes. Every few days, as I go dogwalking with
my roommate in the Oakland hills, we will consistently meet
several mountain bikers along the way. They do not wear black
leather, but opt instead for the most brightly colored, wildly
designed, SKIN-TIGHT gortex outfits. Why? Because they are
athletes existing in the today's world -- they want to be
visible and to be COMFORTABLE during their workout. Superheroes
have more in common with this group, functionally, than they do
motorcyclists, and should dress accordingly. To those who say
that the superhero costume won't fit into the look of the "real
world," have you seen the look of said real world lately?
Everything from candy bars to dot-com billboards utilizes the
bright colors and Mondrian-like designs of our Spandex-clad
friends. Essentially these characters are naked -- like
classical artists, we love drawing and viewing the human form in
an idealized state. The modern superhero costume, whatever its
circus-inspired origin (and what is circus, anyway, but a small,
focused world unto itself), is simply that idealized human clad
in the cacophany of life as it is lived today. If those who
translate these stories to the silver screen do not have the
imaginations and creativity to understand and realize this, then
perhaps fans are better off in settling for well-animated
On the recent Wonder Woman debate: I talked with some of
my Bay Area female friends (yes, I do have some!) and heard some
interesting insights. Mind you that most of these women do not
read comics (at least not mainstream) and mainly knew WW from
Lynda Carter's '70s television show. Nonetheless, Diana is held
in pretty high esteem, even by those of the lesbian persuasion.
(Actually, I guess that piece of info isn't too surprising,
since she grew up in the ultimate all-girl community.) What was
surprising is that everyone loved her costume. Many of the
artists actually preferred her old breastplate (with the eagle)
over the newer "WW," which has the PC advantage of mirroring her
name. As far as the skimpiness of the costume is concerned,
while the emphasis on the huge breasts was universally
ridiculed, the actual cut of the outfit was viewed as befitting
a woman who was comfortable in her body and confident with her
sexuality. Even the large breasts are seen to be part of the WW
mythos, it's just that the women wondered why fanboys can't be
content with normally large measurements, (like Ms. Carter's),
rather than slobbering over the hyperbolic fetishistic imagery
that can only be found with artificial help.
The issue of sexual confidence also plays into the recent
Legends storyline. Like you, I thought the story raised better
issues than it ultimately addressed. I was reminded of ancient
Greek culture, and the role that sexually independent women
played in it. I unfortunately forget the actual term by which
they were called, but these women were similar to geishas in
that they were far more than prostitutes, they were very well
educated, and though they couldn't vote or hold office
themselves, they were often very well respected and had a great
deal of influence on their customers and consorts, who often
were men of high office. I bring this up because it seemed that
much of the discussion was viewed from a modern perspective. OK,
Diana really IS a modern character, but I wonder if an emphasis
on a "pure" WW isn't hiding a fear of a strong, sexually
confident Diana? The point is moot; the story didn't go there
and any mischievous mortal male who would be foolish enough to
bed WW would find that she could teach Lorena Bobbitt a thing or
two with a single contraction of (certain) muscles.And why not a
bisexual Wonder Woman? If she is truly here to enlighten us,
that would certainly do the job.
As far as Clark Kent and the glasses go, I'll proceed in a
more metaphorical direction here. One of the few (if only)
contributions of the early '90s Lois & Clark television
series was the idea that often we don't recognize the most
important person in our lives, even when they are standing right
in front of us. The glasses are just a symbol for the emotional
or psychological armor that we all employ, every day, so that
our true selves can be protected and hidden. I always thought
that it was quite touching that, as strong and brave as Superman
was, he NEEDED that space to be Clark, because that's who he
truly was. It gave his character a human vulnerability that
kryptonite alone couldn't supply.
Clearly, if Supes and WW were invented today, they'd be
paired up in no time. They represent the kind of idealized
partnership between men and women that we aspire to today.
However, ... there is also a mythic connection for his
relationship with Ms. Lane. In the great tradition of
patriarchal folklore, Superman is a figure of the sky, he even
derives his powers from the sun. These are ancient male
associations. Lois, meanwhile, is absolutely mortal,
"down-to-earth," (think of the Christian Madonna) which is an
equally old feminine attribute. She represents that which he
must be connected to in order for wholeness to be achieved, or
else he will fly off into fantasy. She connects him to the "real
As fans we do tend to make our discussions tricky; we want
the realism of good fiction, but our characters can never be
real -- they exist best as metaphors. (This is why I can't
accept a character like Gambit -- the archetypal connection just
isn't that well-drawn. Obviously he's meant to be a
Hermes/trickster type, but there are just so many examples of it
being done better: The Flash, The Torch, Hawkeye, (or to stick
with the X-Men themselves) Nightcrawler, Wolverine or the Beast.
I mean, so he's "lucky" -- we've already got The Scarlet Witch,
and she's much more attractive!) Like many mythic cosmologies,
seemingly contradictory associations, such as Supes/Lois and
Supes/Diana can both exist simultaneously. In the end, they are
both approaches that can fulfill mythic needs.
As an experiment, I changed clothes before going to work
yesterday, and took my glasses off. Oddly, everybody recognized
The above correspondent’s got a very mixed
bag of views. What I do agree about is that the black leather
costumes in the movie were just as bad as the costumes in Joel
Schumacher’s Batman movies, and WW’s traditional costume is
excellent. And that there’s nothing truly wrong with big breasts.
It’s only how well written the adventure story at hand happens to
But why must Superman and Wonder Woman be paired up, past, present
or future? We’ve already seen how well that’s being handled as DC
becomes more of an insular fanfiction manufacturer post-New 52, and
pairing them up on a regular basis instead of with non-powered
humans is nothing more than a way to compound said insularity for
the sake of it, rather than genuine character development with
co-stars who aren’t superheroes.
And if only Mr. Smith’s coworkers could recognize him for what he
really is, somebody who’s not really devoted to the better interests
of comicdom…but sadly, it’s clear that they don’t.
Hey Cap'n! Just to let you know, I just bought the
new Spider-Man game for the Sony PlayStation. It is truly
"Amazing." While the graphics are a little blocky, the gameplay
and controls more than make up for that. For the first time,
Spidey can move in a completely 3-D world. Crawl on walls,
ceilings, ventilation shafts, or anywhere you can reach with
Every now and then I forget that Spidey is the coolest
hero there is. This game hit me over the head with an anvil and
made me remember. (Well, not really, but that would have been a
good marketing ploy.) I almost called in sick today so I could
stay home and play it.
P.S. Finish the game, and you can play it again with the
Well, now I'm gonna have to bug PlayStation to let me review it!
Thanks for your review!
Many people in publishing today have
forgotten how cool Spidey is, mainly because of the good writing he
used to have, and no longer does. Just look at the horrible job Dan
Slott’s done with Spidey recently. The terrible truth is that
today’s executives no longer care about Spidey as a story to read
about in a book, only as spinoff merchandise. That’s why I’m not
going to play any of those video games today.
With reference to (your sidekick) column, you were
dead on the money when you pointed out to [name withheld] that
the Congo Bill of the 1940s did not have Janu the Jungle Boy as
a sidekick. As for when Janu made the scene, it's understandable
that you, the Silver Age Captain Comics, did not hold that
knowledge. However, the Golden Age Cap (or would he be the
Captain Comics of Earth-Two?) would know that Janu made his
first appearance as the orphaned son of a famous guide left to
fend for himself in the jungle, to subsequently become Congo
Bill's sidekick, in Action Comics 191. That was the April, 1954
issue -- well before the beginning of the Silver Age.
As usual, [withheld], thanks for filling in the blanks in the
Silver Age Captain's knowledge! But [withheld] wasn't through with
me yet. Two weeks ago I wrote: "Of course, if you're so smart, you
won't have any trouble figuring out when GREEN ARROW's adventures
switched from Earth-Two to Earth-ONe, will you? (Evil laugh.)"
(Confident chuckle.) No problem, Cap.
The precise moment when the adventures switched from the
Green Arrow of Earth-Two (Golden Age) to the Emerald Archer of
Earth-One (Silver Age), like those pivotal points for Superman
and Batman, are largely within the individual discretion of each
reader; however, there are certain benchmarks which act as
After debuting in More Fun Comics 73 (Nov., 1941), the
Green Arrow and Speedy went for 16 issues before given an origin
in issue 89 (Mar., 1943). This was the origin in which Oliver
Queen and Roy Harper were thrown together when they were
confronted by gangsters on Lost Mesa. Using their archery
skills, learned independently, the pair defeated the villains
and decided to pursue careers as mystery men, taking their names
from the shouts of the crooks they captured: "Golly, that kid's
speedy!" "Watch out for the big guy! He shoots a mean green
As with Superman, the best way to determine when the
change to the Earth-One version is to look for the first G.A.
story with an element which would be incontrovertibly
The first time this occurs would be in Adventure Comics
256 (Jan., 1959) -- during the brief period the series was drawn
by Jack Kirby. Adventure 256 contained the story "The Origin of
Green Arrow!"; this was the familiar "Oliver Queen falls
overboard, swims to a deserted island, teaches himself archery
for survival, and catches pirates" version. Not only is this
clearly the Silver Age version of the archer's origin, it in no
way resembles the original origin, ruling out the idea that the
second origin was simply a re-telling or presented new facts.
This is a clear demarcation point.
Adventure Comics 258 (Mar., 1959) -- two issues later --
was the first time the name "Star City" was used for the
metropolis in which the Ace Archers operated. That is
suggestive, but not conclusive. If the earlier Green Arrow
stories had taken place in an unnamed city, then it could very
well have been Star City; if the adventures had taken place in a
differently named city, one could surmise that the archers had
moved to Star City at some point.
The clincher, however, comes in Adventure Comics 262
(July, 1959), which provides a new and completely different
origin for Speedy (the one in which Roy Harper is the orphaned
son of a forest ranger, taught archery by Brave Bow, and he
petitions Green Arrow -- already a known crime-fighter -- for
the position as his partner). Like the newer Green Arrow origin,
this story cannot be confused with the earlier origin of Speedy.
Therefore, plainly, the adventures of the Earth-Two Green
Arrow must end in January, 1959 -- the first of the two new
origins. This is seven months after the adventures of the
Earth-One Superman must begin, therefore coincides with the
approximate time frame.
Of course, nothing precludes that the Earth-One G.A.
adventures couldn't have taken place earlier than January, 1959.
This is the sticky wicket with Green Arrow, since there are very
few landmarks or references which are distinctively Golden Age
or Silver. However, I can at least provide a no-later-than date
of January, 1959.
Rats! Since I knew when the GA shift occurred, I thought I might
catch YOU for a change. Then, you wrote with a correction of your
own -- about one of yourown answers:
In my previous submission to you -- "The Supermen and Batmen of
Both Worlds" -- I made the following statement, based upon an
article about E. Nelson Bridwell:
<<The late E. Nelson Bridwell, DC triviamaster
extraordinaire, considered the story "Superman Vs. the
Futuremen!" from Superman 128 (April, 1958) to be the last
Earth-Two Superman story because of so many radical
inconsistancies with Earth-One history. Or, more accurately,
Earth-One future history, since the villains came from from an
A.D. 2000 which was depicted in radically different ways from
the future that DC eventually presented. Moreover, as part of
the plot developments, Superman records a tape, to be left for
Perry White, in which he describes his birth on Krypton, his
arrival on Earth, his boyhood, and identity as Clark Kent. None
of Superman's account mentions his career as Superboy; this is
not simply an omission, since the Man of Steel's account of his
teen-age years in this story specifically rules out a Superboy
career. At the same time the June and July, 1958 issues of
Action Comics (241-242) featured the introduction of the
distinctively Earth-One concepts of Superman's Fortress of
Solitude in the Arctic and the Bottle City of Kandor. I do not
know why Bridwell did not consider Superman 129 (May, 1958) part
of the Earth-Two Superman mythos; but plainly, the Superman of
Earth-One's adventures started no later than June, 1958.>>
However, while pursuing another topic, I stumbled across a
troubling fact, so I went back and checked all of the issues
quoted by the writer of that article. The stories introducing
the Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic and Brainiac and Kandor
did appear in the cited issues of Action Comics in June and
July, 1958. However, the story which Bridwell stated was the
last Superman of Earth-Two story -- "Superman Versus the
Futuremen!" from Superman128 -- did NOT have a cover date of
April, 1958, but rather, of April, 1959.
While researching the article from which I drew Bridwell's
comments, I encountered another article which also referred to
Bridwell's belief that the "Superman Versus the Futureman!"
story was the last Earth-Two Man of Steel tale; so, the error,
evidently, was not that of the writers of the articles. (They
tend to corroborate each other.) I believe Bridwell's fabled
memory actually led him astray in this case. I take this belief
from the fact that the April, 1958, issue of Superman -- a scant
two months before the Fortress of Solitude story in Action
Comics 241 -- featured the story "The Bride of Futureman!" While
this story had nothing in common with the Futuremen story
appearing a year later, in Superman 128, the titles were similar
enough that it is plausible that Bridwell confused the dates
when recalling the latter story.
The problem this poses, obviously, is that the reasons for
the "Superman Versus the Futuremen!" story being that of the
Earth-Two Superman are still valid. (The second article I read
on this subject listed still more contradictions to the
Earth-One Superman mythos, which I omitted in my letter above
for space.) Yet the Fortress and Brainiac stories from nearly a
year earlier are distinctively Earth-One Superman stories. What
this means -- for me, anyway -- is that there is no definite
demarcation point which divides the adventures of the Supermen;
instead the stories overlap. This makes sense, because any
distinct line drawn anywhere would be artificial. This is
because the Superman stories of the 1950s and early '60s were
written before the concept of parallel Earths was introduced;
any differences in the Superman stories to that point were
attributed to the evolution of the character and the natural
continuity errors of many different writers drafting stories
about the same character.
I hate ruining such a perfectly fitting piece of work as
my previous missive on the subject was -- and I don't know what
you're going to do with it, now that I have discovered it is
factually imperfect -- but I had to raise the truth. Somehow, I
figured the answer to the Earth-One/Two question could not be
that pat; real life never is.
Ain't that the truth. Anyway, what I did with your correction is
what I do with my own: I print 'em
Ha, he’s never printed any true
corrections, or else he’d admit he disdained DC continuity for the
sake of Identity Crisis, and Marvel continuity for the sake of Civil
Dear Cap: I just wanted to offer you a sincere thanks
for the spotlighting you've been giving a number of wonderful
non-mainstream/superhero comic books in your reviews sections
lately. Along with Black Hole, Nowhere and Berlin, Evil Eye is
my favorite ongoing title right now, with Richard Sala being one
of my favorite alternative cartoonists. And Good-Bye, Chunky
Rice is one of my very favorite comic books, ever. If Mr. Monkey
liked that one, tell him he needs to hunt down a copy of Walt
Halcombe's self-published (Accordion Press) short graphic novel,
King of Persia, from a few years back. While actually differing
in some significant ways, Good-Bye and King are nonetheless
something like kindred spirits.
And wasn't James Kolchalka's wonderful new Monkey vs.
Robot reviewed a while back, too? Other GNs and collections your
contributors should consider, I think, are: Jordan Crane's The
Last Lonely Saturday, from Red Ink; Jason Shiga's Double
Happiness, from Shiga Books; John Porcellino's Perfect Example,
from Highwater books; Jay Hosler's Clan Apis, from Active
Synapse; and Catherine Doherty's Can of Worms, from
Fantagraphics. There are so many others I'd recommend, but these
all use accessible, "cartoony" art to tell some very human (if
not always 100-percent, realism-based stories. More challenging,
perhaps, but just as rewarding would be Seth's Clyde Fans, Part
One, from Drawn & Quarterly; Brian Briggs's Dear Julia, from
Top Shelf; and Chris Lanier's Combustion, from Fantagraphics.
And two tremendous recent releases that successfully wed
the personal memoir to acute journalism really, really deserve
all the exposure they can get. Joe Sacco's Safe Are: Gorazde,
from Fantagraphics, is the beautifully-designed, flawlessly
executed and utterly heart-breaking story of the "UN-protected"
neutral town in Bosnia that Sacco visited a handful of times
during the civil conflict. It's already become something of an
"event," and rightfully so. Talk about showing what comic books
can achieve. ... But, in the midst of SA:G's acclaim, one really
shouldn't overlook the much shorter, much more low-key, but
wonderfully gripping Surviving Saskatoon, by David Collier, from
Drawn & Quarterly. As it relates the monkey-trial conviction
and incarceration, for rape and murder, of a young Canadian
named David Milgraard, and intersperses it with the authors
visit to, and ruminations on, the town where the Milgaard's
horror began, you'll feel your pulse -- and your indignation --
Well, thanks for letting me prattle. As a fan with one
foot firmly planted in Mainstream comicville and the other
equally set on Alternative soil, I appreciate your open-ness to
the smaller-press titles. And thanx for your continual -- and oh
so justified -- pushing of P. Craig Russell's current and
sublime Ring of the Nibelung adaptation. I believe there are
also some other independents you've mentioned in your columns or
This Week's Comics features, too, and if you remind me of them
now, well, then you'll be plugging them again!
Thanks for the suggestions, [withheld] -- I've posted this so that
[…] and […] can peruse them as well. And, while I'll take all the
bows in the world for posting them, it's the monkey and the
fishboy who are doing all the work -- and they do darn good
Well now, I have no respect for this
correspondent. How dare he recommend an anti-Israelist and
pro-Islamist like Sacco, whose work is so terribly illustrated I
can’t stomach it, even on an artwork level? Shame on the
correspondent for recommending Chunky Rice to boot.
Hello once again, Captain! First, you should know (if
you don't know already) that your assessment of the legal issues
at play in the Tony Twist vs. Todd McFarlane case is on point.
You concisely nailed just what the arguments would be and what
the court would have to consider. You might as we sit for the
Bar -- that is, if you don't have time to flog yourself (the Bar
is too painful to describe, and the people who nearly explode
from nervousness are too numerous to count).
My main reason for contacting you is this -- have you
heard Bob Harras has been fired as Editor-in-Chief? maybe I'm
late or maybe I'm early with this news, but I just heard this
yesterday and I was FLOORED!
Bob was one of the best Editors marvel has ever had, he
kept the X-Men on a steady track during rough time and, quite
frankly, he deserved the top editor's position YEARS before he
actually received it. Now he and I are not best friends, and he
may not remember me, but I sure remember him. Always pleasant,
usually stressed (he has a couple of children to deal with in
the art world, and he has kids of his own at home), but always
As I understand it, the final breaking points were when he
refused to take Stan Lee's name off of the masthead and splash
pages (Ichan wanted it done and he refused to do so until he had
an official statement from Arad that he was to take Stan off),
and when he pushed to have comics given to autistic children and
Ichan found that to be unnecessary and costly (I was told that
"paper clips" have been deemed a luxury -- no joke).
I don't know what you've heard, if my understanding is
incorrect, or if people are exaggerating. However, I have talked
to people who are still inside (there aren't many of us from the
old days), and other displaced Marvelites who have also talked
to people from the inside, and the stories are consistent -- Bob
is OUT! Joe Quesada is IN!
I'm afraid I will simply have to win the Lotto, buy he
company, and rehire the people who were in place from 1990-93.
At least the fans were relatively happy, the employees were
EXTREMELY happy, and the books and related merchandise were
Just thought you should have a heads up on a changing of
the guard in the House of Marvel.
It's a jaw-dropper, all right. I don't know much about Harras,
except that I enjoyed his writing when he was "just" a writer, and
his tenure as EIC has appeared (from this side of the great
divide) as being less heavy-handed and more productive than, say,
Oh, gimme a break! Harras is one the worst
in the business of editing. During his tenure, crossovers lurched
further into pointless mishmash, and Spider-Man suffered too. Why
did Harras have to reverse the decently written passing of Aunt May
Parker? It’s true that Quesada was also one of the worst EICs
Marvel’s had in the past decade. But Harras was no less so. Once,
after all the trouble Quesada caused, I might’ve said “come back
Harras, all is forgiven.” But after Harras was elected EIC for DC (a
position that’s still influenced by Dan DiDio), I will decidedly not
Shooter’s tenure as EIC did have mistakes made, but while even he’s
got to be held accountable – especially for his role in spawning
company-wide crossovers – I can’t say his run was that bad compared
to the fiascos we have now.
Dear Cap: There was an Earth-Two Aquaman, but as I
recall it, he made only the briefest of appearances. I don't
remember the precise issue number, but I do remember that in
All-Star Squadron Roy Thomas held off the effects of the Crisis
for some months as he carried out a prolonged pseudo-adaptation
of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The issue in question involved the
entire Squadron gathering for a group photograph. Aquaman showed
up for the photo shoot and was greeted with something like,
"Aquaman, so you DO exist!" At any rate, the Crisis took effect
mid-issue, and the book ended with the Squadron members looking
at the developed photo and pointedly NOT noticing that the
picture had changed and no longer included the Golden Age
characters who were retconned out of existence. And that was
about it for the Earth-Two Aquaman. One of the more effective
Crisis tie-ins, I always thought.
What made me think of it was the recent reprint of More
Fun Comics 101, which had a Golden Age Aquaman story in it. As
far as I can tell, the only difference between the Golden Age
and Silver Age Aquamen is that the Golden Age Aquaman wore
yellow gloves! I liked The Spectre story in that issue, too. I
hadn't known about his period playing "deus ex machina" for
"Percival Popp, the Super-Cop." How things have changed ...
You're absolutely right; I looked it up and it was All-Star
Squadron 59-60. My only excuse for forgetting it is that after 30
years of hearing "there is no Earth-Two Aquaman," I read those
issues and dismissed them from my personal continuity.
But thanks for pointing it out! We'll invite the Earth-Two Aquaman
to our "Comic-Book Limbo" party, once we're ALL written out of
Also, your information was corroborated also by [name withheld]
and fleshed out by the estimable [same here]:
One day, the newspaper business will write
Mr. Smith out of their ranks as they should’ve long ago.
Dear Cap: It seems strange that DC decided that Lex
Moxon did not exist on Earth-One; after all, Detective Comics
500 had a story in which the Earth-One Batman and Robin were
sent to an unnamed parallel Earth by the Phantom Stranger in
order to prevent the death of that Earth's Thomas and Martha
Wayne. (Since the death of the Earth-Two Batman's parents had
taken place 20 years before the Earth-One Batman's parents'
death, the death of the unnamed Earth's Waynes was to take place
soon, since at the time of the story, it was 20 years since the
death of the Earth-One's Waynes.) During this story, Earth-One
Batman explicitly stated that Lex Moxon was behinds his parents'
death. Also, Untold Legend of the Batman reinforces that Lex
Moxon existed on Earth-One. (As noted, it makes more sense for
this story to take place on Earth-One, not Earth-Two; after all,
film with synchronized sound was not available when the
Earth-Two Batman would have been a boy.)
There was an Earth-Two Aquaman; he was a member of the
All-Star Squadron, though he was not a member of either the
Justice Society or the Seven Soldiers of Victory. His existence
first became clear in All-Star Squadron 34, where he was
mentioned, though not seen. The Earth-Two Aquaman was seen in
All-Star Squadron 59. He last appeared in All-Star Squadron 60,
in a bit of fun. See
http://www.fanzing.com/fanzing07/feature1.shtmlin which a photo
containing the Earth-Two Aquaman changes to one of the Black
Info on Earth-2 Aquaman from
http://www2.bitstream.net/~myke4/jsa/jsachron2.html For info on
Batman 19, 10-11/43, contained a story in which, after a
Nazi U-boat commander persuades the naive rulers of the undersea
kingdom of Atlantis, Emperor Taro and Princess Lanya, to allow
him to use Atlantis as a submarine base, Batman and Robin visit
Atlantis and convince its monarchs of the Nazis' treachery.
Note: This version of Atlantis bears no resemblance to the ruins
of Atlantis that figured in the origin of the Golden Age Aquaman
(who, unlike his Silver Age counterpart, was not a native of
Atlantis), as told in More Fun Comics 73 (1941). It is possible
that on Earth-Two, as on Earth-One, there was more than one
undersea civilization called Atlantis.
Switching from Earth-Two to Earth-One, the Earth-One
switch for Wonder Woman may have taken place for Wonder Woman in
Wonder Woman 105, as Wonder Woman's origin in that issue is
different from her '40s origin. The JLA Index from Eclipse
listed that as the Earth-One Wonder Woman's origin, and DC's
Cosmic Cards Series listed it as the first appearance of the
Earth-1 Wonder Woman. This story was reprinted in Secret Origins
in the 1960s, which as itself been reprinted.
Green Arrow: Adventure Comics 256 featured an origin for
Green Arrow that was very different from his '40s origin; Who's
Who and the JLA Index point to this as being the origin and
first appearance of the Earth-One Green Arrow. (Aquaman also
received a revised origin in Adventure around this time, which
was reprinted in Secret Origins.)
Adventure Comics 275 (Aug, 1960) featured a story that had
it that a young Bruce Wayne had gone under the identity of The
Flying Fox, in which identity he met Superboy. See
Thanks, as usual, for the comprehensive info. Y'know, I own the
Eclipse JLA Index and the other sources you reference, […], but I
don't seem to have them memorized as well! Thanks again!
He doesn’t have decency memorized well.
That’s his real problem. We next turn to September 28, 2000, and a
letter that’s honestly disgusting:
Dear Cap: First, the second Ice you were referring to
is I believe the one called Sigrid who appeared in JLA's Zero
Hour era, issues 0, 93-113 (years '94-96, this was the last JLA
before the revamp that returned Big Seven returned to its
lineup). If so her name is only Icemaiden.
As far as I know, her name was never shortened to Ice
unlike her successor/predecessor Tora who appeared in the silly
Giffen '80s JLA and eventually perished. Why the slashed words?
It's because the info on both is rather confusing. It was stated
in the ZH JLA that Sigrid was Icemaiden briefly but then quit
allowing Tora to take over the name for a while until Tora's
death, sometime after which Sig decided to take up the mantle
Secondly, reading the letters on homosexuality in comics
this week got me thinking on the ambiguous sexuality of my fave
comics character Obsidian.
I myself am a straight married woman who has had little
exposure to homosexual people in person. Only in the last couple
years has that changed. I've chatted with several gay males
online and at my job I work with a lesbian woman.
In the past year or two I've seen many discussions about
Todd's sexual preference but before then as far as I knew he was
Let's look at his social relationship track:
1) In early issues of Infinity Inc. he dated a young woman
named Sharon who left him after:
a) First seeing him using his shadowy superpowers to fight
some gang members and being repulsed by him being a metahuman.
b) Then coming to the realization that they had no sparks
going in any case (actually their breakup was kind of a mutual
decision -- it was shown in Inf Inc 14)
2) Then in later Infinity Inc. issues (late 30s-early 40s)
he dated Marcie Cooper, the second Harlequin.
They seemed pretty close. It was even hinted at they might
have had sex at least one time (I believe issues 42 and 46 had
dialogue that pointed in that direction).
But Marcie turned out to be a bigtime baddie. She had
dated Todd (and previously Norda a.k.a. Northwind until he left
Inf Inc.) in the hopes of recruiting him to join the evil
Manhunters as was revealed in Inf Inc. 46. Of course his
integrity was fully intact back then (this was prior to his
villian turns in the GL/Sentinel: Heart of Darkness mini and
JSA's "Darkness Falls" arc), so he refused even after she
threatened to create a scandal that would badly hurt him. And
then he fled her angrily berating himself for being so stupid
(Ah but aren't we all fools for love?).
3) His most recent relationship took place between issues
106 and 111 of the Zero Hour JLA. He was set up with a
psychologist (LOL) named Karen by his friend Al (then Nuklon now
Atom Smasher a.k.a. Sock-On-Head Guy ;-) )
His first date with Karen was a disaster. He was forced to
fight a reptillian baddie and after defeating it was berated by
Batman for being too violent in that battle After that, he had
at least one more date with her and they seemed to be happy for
a little while.
But then Todd revealed to Al he wasn't physically drawn to
her, he was just enjoying her company. He in fact told Al that
since he had only a shadow body felt it impossible for him to
have a desire for a physical relationship with anyone, male or
female. He told Al all he had was 'love' and that he did indeed
love Al, just as he loved his sister Jennie (a.k.a. Jade). Al
then wondered if Todd meant that in a 'more than platonic' way
causing Todd to fly off in anger.
Todd told Al in JLA 111 that he had broken up with Karen.
He realized she was dating him strictly because she was a
fangirl of JLA and he was a JLA member so he let her go. I found
that interesting because some guys would be more than willing to
take full "advantage" of such a situation if you get my drift
Al later was shown giving Todd a big hug and saying he
loved him too but that didn't really give us confirmation of
anything. At the end of JLA 113, in their last scenes the two
were shown having some friendly banter and then going off to
play some basketball and that was it.
But could Todd have had lusty feelings for Al and/or Al
for Todd despite the vaguarity of what we saw in JLA? We can
I didn't think so at the time of their JLA era, I thought
they were only close platonic freinds and that was it.
Then last summer (1999) I was chatting with JSA penciller
Stephen Sadowski (who is homosexual and out of the closet) and
he told me that they were going to be dropping hints about
Todd's 'sexual preference' in future issues of JSA.
I said that sounded interesting but they should be careful
not to turn Todd into a 'flaming homosexual' stereotype. Sad (my
nickname for him) told me they wouldn't. He said they would make
sure to leave that open for some time after Todd's villian hitch
in the "Darkness Falls" story arc.
Lastly I asked JSA scribe David Goyer in a chat this past
February whether a homosexual angle was indeed being planned for
Todd, to which he replied "no." Since then I've pretty much
believed what he said was true but I keep wondering if a comics
writer might not resurrect that idea in the future anyway.
So is Todd asexual, gay, straight or bisexual? I guess
only future comics will hold either confirmation of that or just
We covered the Ice/Icemaiden thing a few years ago on the site. If
memory serves, what my research showed is that Tora Olafsdotter
joined the Global Guardians as Icemaiden, then shortened it to Ice
when she joined the JLI -- whereas Sigrid Nansen did the reverse.
In other words, Tora was the first Icemaiden but the second Ice,
whereas Sigrid was the first Ice but the second Icemaiden. I have
to stop now; my head is starting to hurt.
As to Obsidian, I found him something of a whiner in the JLI and
liked the character much better as a villain in his recent JSA
turn. I know, I know -- there's a lot of Obsidian fans out there
who'd like to tar and feather me for holding such an opinion. I
can't help it -- I don't like Bishop, Psylocke or Gambit either,
and someday these heresies will do me in.
But thanks for the dating history of Jennie-Lynn's brother! It
makes me feel better about my own ... :)
Well at least now we know where the
exploitive obsession with turning Obsidian gay circa 2004 first came
up. But that doesn’t make it any good. What’s really insulting of
course, is how TPTB depict homosexuality positively only, and
dissenting views are either not allowed, or characters that do
express them are cast in a negative light. It figures that a
crossover like Zero Hour was where this embarrassment could first be
shoved in, and later writers exploited it, making it worse a decade
later. Obsidian was written out of continuity post-New 52, which
might be worse, but then, James Robinson added insult to injury by
turning Alan Scott gay in “Earth 2”.
It should be obvious that Roy Thomas never intended to make Obsidian
gay, and if not, then later writers were insulting his work, whether
they thought so or not. Mr. Smith’s preference for depicting Todd as
a villain rather than a hero is also quite atrocious, because it
only shows how truly, he’s not asking for better characterization,
as his umpteenth attack on the aforementioned X-members makes clear.
Dear Cap: Let's see if I can redeem myself from my
flawed commentary of last week, and address the matter of the
"impenetrable" disguise of Clark Kent's spectacles raised by
I delayed this note by a day, trying to find the issue
numbers for the stories I am about to reference- -w hich is
usually possible, even 8,000 miles away from my collection, by
some assiduous online research -- but I could not locate the
Spellbinder story which you mentioned, Cap. You have the
approximate time frame correct (Lana Lang was hired away from
her field reporting job over at WMET to be Clark's co-anchor),
and as I recall, the story was published in the late '70s or
The matter of no one recognising Superman when he dons his
Clark Kent glasses is perhaps the most widely accepted
convention of comics. This conceit is so cast in stone that,
even in scenes where Clark removes his glasses, readers are
perfectly willing to go along with idea that no one sees that
they are the same person. Few even question the credibility of
it, so deeply engrained in popular culture is the idea of
Nevertheless, as comic-book readers grew more
sophisticated, DC felt it incumbent that they address the idea
somehow. That was a mistake. I remember that story quite well;
but I remember the reader reaction in the subsequent "Metropolis
Mailbags" even more clearly. While one or two brave souls
applauded the idea, generally the fans gave a resounding
"thumb's-down" to the idea that Superman subconsciously used his
super-hypnotism to make everyone see Clark Kent as a frail,
withered milquetoast. If Curt Swan had not drawn the image of
"Clark Kent" which the people of the DCU were supposedly seeing
as a virtual Don Knotts look-alike with glasses, the explanation
might have drawn more favour.
But as it was, this story joined the ranks of a select few
in DC history -- stories which are so resoundly despised and
rejected by the readers that they are never mentioned again by
DC and simply "drop off the scope." Other tales which come to
mind are the infamous "Mopee" story from The Flash 167 (Feb 67)
, the Superboy story of the late '60s which disclosed that
Jor-El and Lara had survived Krypton's explosion, but could
never be revived, and the "Black Zero" story from a late '60s
Superman, which held that a space pirate was actually
responsible for Krypton's demise.
The Spellbinder story was a case of DC going too far to
explain something which really didn't require any more
The real question which DC needs to explain is about the
original Flash -- not how he concealed his identity without a
mask, but how he managed to keep that sauce pan he wore for a
hat (actually, the name for it is a "petasus") on his head
whenever he moved at super-speed!
In the first few decades of the Man of Steel's existence,
it was enough explanation to simply state that people noticed
that Clark Kent resembled Superman -- and a handful of stories
were actually written around that premise. In the early '70s,
after Mort Weisinger retired and Julius Schwartz took over the
editorship of the Superman family of magazines, Schwartz
addressed the matter in one of his letter columns by amplifying
an excerpt from the text piece "The Superman Legend", which
Weisinger ran occasionally in his books.
In response to one of those rare readers who actually
questioned the effectiveness of a pair of eyeglasses as a
disguise, Schwartz pointed out that Superman's disguise was more
than just donning a pair of specs. He pointed out the change in
hair style; the fact that Superman slumped as Clark, to make
Clark appear shorter; that he used a higher voice as Clark. He
went on to indicate that, after a lifetime of maintaining the
pose as Clark Kent, Superman had virtually created a whole and
different personality -- with its own mannerisms and habits and
traits -- as Clark. It was these underlying differences, as much
as the obvious changes, which made Clark Kent seem like a
Granted, one had to take that explanation with a large
chunk of salt; but, keeping in mind the abilities of some actors
on the screen to completely change their persona with little
make-up, Schwartz's explanation was not too far out of the realm
of possibility. It even accounted for the occasions when someone
saw Clark without his glasses and still allowed for people to
see his "resemblance" to Superman.
Personally, I always accepted this explanation. It was
just enough to allow my suspension of disbelief to kick in.
Before I close, I also wanted to clear up Bob Besco's
confusion over "the Flying Fox." The Flying Fox was an identity
used by the teen-age Bruce Wayne in the lead story of Adventure
Comics 275 (Aug '60 -- and reprinted in Superman Giant Annual 7
in the summer of 1963). The story was titled "The Origin of the
Superman-Batman Team," and it described how Superboy, while
tinkering with his time-scope, discovered that his adult self
would be partnered with the Batman. Very shortly thereafter, the
young Bruce Wayne moved to Smallville for a brief period. (NOTE:
this must have been an unknown side-effect of that blasted
time-scope -- that everyone Superboy saw in it moved to his
town; the same thing happened with Oliver Queen and Lois Lane.)
The exact events of the story elude me, but at some point, the
situation arises where Bruce dons a fox mask and cape and,
calling himself "the Flying Fox," thwarts a band of gunmen.
Thanks for the thoughtful discourse on Supie's ID. I just accepted
the silliness of it as part of my suspension of disbelief until
the first Superman movie, where Christopher Reeve convinced me for
the first time that a good actor could very well pull it off.
Well, except for when Lois kissed the both of them, though -- I
still can't believe any woman would be stupid enough to kiss the
same man in two different sets of clothes and not know right off
that they were the same guy. Unless ... hmmm. Maybe Clark French
kisses, but Superman uses a Kryptonian technique? Never mind -- I
really don't want to go there!
It doesn't matter, 'cause he's gone
somewhere worse. I can’t believe anyone would be stupid enough to
think fictional characters are real people whom they bumped into on
the street in real life. Alas, as Mr. Smith’s made abundantly clear,
it’s possible. And that’s why he has no business arguing about Lois
not realizing Clark and Supes are one and the same.
Dear Cap: Once again we see comics fans working
themselves up into an hysterical fit over a change in a beloved
comic hero. Namely, the decision by director Sam Raimi to have
organic web-shooters be part of Peter Parker's/Spider-Man
I've seen this before: Remember the outcry when it was
announced that Gene Hackman was going to play a Lex Luthor
sporting a full head of hair?
Remember the gnashing of teeth, the rending of garments
and wailing in the land when Michael Keaton was announced as
playing Batman/Bruce Wayne?
Remember the threats of a boycott if The X-Men didn't wear
their comic-book costumes in the movie?
And last time I looked, comic book fans were hailing
SUPERMAN, BATMAN and X-MEN as three of the greatest
comic-to-film adaptions ever.
Me, I think it's a little too early to jump on this issue
and say that Raimi should do this or do that. Sure, I'd like to
see to the origin of Spider-Man done exactly as portrayed in the
comics, but it's not gonna happen and I refuse to work myself
into a lather over it. Let's take a mature attitude about it and
wait for the movie.
Jeez, you think Shakespeare fans get this worked up over
the almost yearly remakes of HAMLET that have little relation to
You pretty much sum up my attitude, [withheld], which I espoused
in a recent Comics Buyer's Guide column (heck, you even use many
of the same phrases! Great minds think alike, I guess ...). My
fanboy instinct is to react negatively to any change whatsoever,
but that's just unrealistic. And besides, you point out just SOME
of the times that I've gotten worked up in a lather over some
TV/movie adaptation of a comic book, and was proven completely
wrong. (Most recently, the X-costumes debate.) I think I'll
reserve judgment until I actually see the movie.
Personally, I don’t have a beef with the
kind of changes Raimi made to Spidey. I just have a problem when
said changes suddenly begin to influence the original comics.
Changing the components of a comic book to mirror what you see in a
movie adaptation is a publisher’s open signal they think the movie
audience is made up of unintelligable people, which is insulting,
and if I were just a movie buff, I’d be so irked I wouldn’t want to
bother about the comics where they do this.
Dear Cap: I just wanted to point out that there was
indeed an Earth-Two Aquaman. He made his first modern appearance
in All-Star Squadron 59 (July, 1986), and his final appearance
in the very next issue! He made one impressive entrance before
blending into the mob of mystery men who had gathered for the
very last Crisis-crossover ever. This came at the end of an
eleven-part story where Roy Thomas was trying to wrap up every
loose end he could before the Crisis made Earth-Two irrelevant.
It's a shame more people don't remember the Golden Age Sea King,
but at least they finally reprinted one of his stories
(Millenium Edition More Fun Comics 101).
Thanks [withheld] -- a lot of folks responded about the E-2
Aquaman, but yours was so comprehensive and well-written that I
swiped it for my CBG column!
If I were in that correspondent’s shoes
and realized what a disgrace Mr. Smith is, that’s why I’d be
embarrassed about appearing in his CBG column, and prefer to just
write it up on my own blog. Thank heaven’s today that’s more of an
Dear Cap: I read the Hulk annual on your advise, and
it was very very very good but ... it did remind me why I don't
read the book. Life as the Hulk sucks. Overall I find the
concept extremely depressing and I'd have to be into pain and
suffering to read it regularly.
On the question about the popularity of Boba Fett your
response was that it's because he looks cool. I agree but
there's more to it than that. Inside the majority of people is a
villain waiting to get out and characters like Boba Fett,
Punisher and Wolverine are not bad enough to avoid and just bad
enough to find interesting. Nobody wants to be like The Joker
but everybody wants to wreak a little havoc now and then. A
little mystery helps too cause then the imagination takes hold
and you think, "Well, maybe he isn't always sleazy, maybe he
does some good things now and then to make up for it."
Personally, I'll be lame and stick with Captain America.
Me too -- I'm a Cap-man all the way! But I read with interest your
Boba Fett comments. Makes as much sense to me as anything else.
Speaking of Wolverine, curious how I don’t
usually see Mr. Smith complaining about Logan portrayed as a hero
even when he slashes vicious criminals to death. This letter is
embarrassing, because to want to be a literal villain is disgusting.
Now, here’s some joke letters he published:
Goodbye, Cap! Me hated your column. You am not funny,
and neither am the Bizarros. Everybody can't read their comics
Me going to write more now! Hello!
Goodbye! Me am very sad about your Bizarro column -- it make me
You should do less Bizarro columns and not let Bizarro Cap
run the web site for a week, or at least not let him answer the
Me am very sad also about LONE WOLF AND CUB -- nobody
should read this book! But me LOVE the Bizarro Spider-Man movie
here on Bizarro world -- Bizarro-Spidey's organic web-shooters
came out of Bizarro-Spidey's hands, not the butt like in the
Bizarro-Captain Comics replies:
Ugh! Bizarro HATE slip-sloppy compliments from dumb readers! Him
wish Bizarro-[…] and Bizarro-[…] would stop writing mushy hate
notes and hit him on head properly, like good Bizarros! Him only
write columns so dumb readers will find something smarter to do,
like watch TV!
These may have been written as parodies
along the lines of Bizarro from Superman, but ironically, they do
sum up what Mr. Smith’s “talents” are really like. And he ironically
admits that too!
And that sums up this page for now. I’ll be adding some more on the
Copyright 2014 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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