A look back at some personal experiences and memories, part eight

October 2, 2015

By Avi Green

We resume again with the next part of this listing of old letters from the archaic Captain Comics site (previous entry here), and my comments on what I think of the MSM propagandist who ran it. This next bundle comes from January 3, 2001:

<<Most literary characters aimed at young boys take the approach that girls are "yucky." I assume it's deliberate, don't you? -- Captain Comics>>
1) Were comics really for kids? Weren't they staple reading for a lot of soldiers in WWII? We forget that the Flintstones were originally for an adult audience, and that the comics in newspapers were really for the adults who actually bought and read the paper. Adults were big fans of pulp fiction too.
2) The "girls are yucky" point of view certainly makes sense from a selling angle, but historically I think that the true "super-men" of literature are drawn sexless because it is a necessary characteristic to achieve perfection. In comic books that would divide up the heroes into two categories, the adventurer and the "super-man." Batman and Green Arrow would be the best example; one is a playboy looking for adventure and is by far the more sexually active (whereas) the other is driven towards perfection and so has cut off the emotional and physical needs of lesser men. Superman, while having great powers, is not driven to perfection, which leaves room for a Lois Lane. Wonder Woman, however, is on a mission of world peace (a version of perfection), ergo her love life has suffered. Not a pleasant idea when put in writing but it is a concept I feel to be very old. Many who seek religous enlightenment, a form of super-being, usually give up the social aspects of life.
Maybe the search for perfection of literary heroes contributed to the "girls are yucky" phase of boyhood for boys in the '40s but lacking the wherewithall of obtaining that perfection the boys were forced back into a social life in the '50s and '60s that they were no longer prepared for which led to a lack of respect for the opposite sex and in the '60s and '70s brought the feminist out in full force leading to high divorce rates, unruly boomer children, and a general lack of respect for morals and traditions. Holy Cow! Comic books created Jerry Springer!!
1) Comics were most certainly written with kids in mind -- regardless of who actually bought them -- into the '60s, when Stan Lee started writing for older teens and college kids. Eventually the headlines (and Marvel's sales) forced DC and others to write for older readers. It was the popular wisdom in comic-book publishing for 25 years that the average age of the readership was 12, that most people gave up comics by age 15, and that the readership turned over three years. (Some might consider EC an exception, since they was more literate than other comics, but I don't know for a fact that M.C. Gaines's bullpen was specifically targeting older readers.)
2) Having said that, I'll backtrack and note that I'm impressed with your "religious enlightenment" argument. While I hardly think that abstinence makes a man better -- it actually raises questions about what strangeness is going on his head, since he's able to handily dismiss the second strongest urge in the human psyche -- it's obviously quite true that abstinence is a theme running throughout religious thought as a way to rise above "the world of flesh" to divinity.
On the other hand, I still think the "girls-are-yucky" argument has a lot to recommend it, too! Here's some more:

Personally, I’m wondering where the modern “girls-are-yucky” mentality came from, and of course, I’m alluding to Mister Smith’s embrace of Identity Crisis, in complete ignorance of the nasty attitude it took towards women. And who is he to argue about the lack of respect for morales/traditions? Man, that’s pretty rich coming from a leftist who won’t even admit a lot of the feminist and homosexual propaganda emerging at the time was a product of left-liberal thinkers. Now, let’s turn to the other letter he speaks of with a similar topic:

Dear Cap:
1) [name withheld] had a very interesting letter this week about Captain America and Diamondback, and the sexuality (or lack thereof) of superheroes. I remember Diamondback very fondly -- Rachel Leighton was her name, and she was remarkably realistic considering that she was a villain-turned-love-interest in a comic that was never particularly true to life. The writer (whoever it was -- don't recall) spent a lot of time getting into her head, examining her indecision about switching from villain to hero, from bad girl to trying-to-be-good girl.
Actually, if you'll recall, Diamondback had been a member of the Serpent Society, who attempted to kill her when she "betrayed" them by dating Cap. And that whole team seemed to be hot for each other -- there was this constant indication that villains in the Society were dating each other (I remember a panel of Cap swooping in on a pair of them making out -- clever). It was a well-appreciated concession to reality -- that if there were supervillains, they'd still be looking for love, and if they worked in groups, they'd find it with each other. (Notice how you never saw the Legion of Doom getting it on on the Super Friends cartoon.)
The concept of heroes like Captain America being sexless is a really old one, the American hero archetype of the stoic male who ventures into the savage wilderness, too preoccupied with manly pursuits to indulge in the pleasures of the fairer sex. His surrogate wife is often the loyal, savage guide -- the Queequeg, the Tonto -- who really fulfills every wifely duty apart from sex (and maybe that too in some cases). But it really stems from the juvenile fantasy, the boyhood assumption, as you put it, that girls are "yucky." This is why anyone who says that Batman and Robin is some homosexual fantasy is talking nonsense -- it's not a gay fantasy, it's a juvenile fantasy (although it IS a gay fantasy if you want it to be, according to reception theory, but that's a whole other story). When Frederic Wertham claimed that Batman and Robin were "obviously" having sex with each other, Jules Feiffer responded that B&R were no queerer than the people who read them -- little boys who had no use for girls amd expressed themselves through physical violence. This is why to give Captain America (or Batman or Superman or whoever) an actual sex life (not just giving Lois Lane a kiss on the cheek) is to impart a level of realism that was almost entirely absent from superhero comics before 10 or so years ago. I'll stop now.
Well, you don't have to sell ME on the "girls-are-yucky" theory! Thanks for your comments, […]. Oh, and the writer on Captain America who introduced Diamondback was the late Mark Gruenwald, who had a five-year run on the title.

But he is sold on “girls-are-yucky” as a mindset; hence, his support for books like IC, and some of his double-talk on the subject of discrimination. What a crock. Mr. Smith, alas, is a juvenile stuck in an adult body.

Dear Cap'n: This is probably my favorite thing that ever happened in a comic book. In Thor #400 Thor and a bunch of gods are fighting some kind of false Ragnarok, complete with Midgard Serpent while, meanwhile, The Black Knight is suffering from some hereditary disease that's making him turn into the same matierial as his ebon blade, which can cut through anything, ya know. Just when things look really grim (and The Black Knight is really hard) Hogun the Grim has a stroke of genius and hurls The Black Knight through the Midgard Serpent, killing it.
That's what I call thinking on your feet. I laughed so hard I nearly choked to death, and from then on no matter what lame story Tom Defalco told, he still had that going for him in my book.
So, does The Captain or anybody else out there have an interesting superhero-type conflict resolution to share?
Hmmm. Well, there is the legendary scene in Justice League of America #9 (Feb 62) that told the League's origin the first time, in which Superman rubs a diamond creature "the wrong way" and turns him into coal. And there was the Deadman parody in National Lampoon (drawn by Neal Adams!), in which Deadman -- who's an actual corpse -- is thrown off a roof onto some bank robbers. I'm sure there are plenty more, and the floor is open for readers' favorites!

Oh, that’s pretty rich coming from a correspondent who’s a J. Jonah Jameson wannabe. For somebody who talks about foot-thinking, he didn’t think much himself about honesty in journalism. Oh, and is he insulting DeFalco? Shame. DeFalco did have flaws, but he was still very talented writing Thor.

Dear Cap: These days, everyone seems to be raving about The Authority. I don't want to go and slam the book, because I do enjoy it, but I feel like I have to present my feelings on the situation.
I just don't think that Mark Millar is a good writer. He has really good ideas, and puts in a lot of funny one-liners, but that's about it. When I think back on his Authority issues, all I can remember are the jokes and outrageous scenes. For example, in issue 14, the faux-Hulk says "Comics are for retards." The line made me laugh, but now it seems out of place. And in issue 13, Hawksmoor made a pretty horrible comment about Princess Diana, and while I have no love whatsoever for the royal family, this comment seemed like sensationalistic crap.
Millar reminds me of (fellow Scot and frequent collaborator) Grant Morrison; all ideas, no story. I liked Morrison's JLA run, but after one issue of Mark Waid, I forgot all about the first 40-some issues. I just feel that people like Waid, Kurt Busiek, Chuck Dixon and Peter David are better at telling stories without resorting to cheap tricks.
On a completely unrelated topic, I recieved Reinventing Comics for Christmas, and just finished reading it. Scott McCloud is incredible. In his first book, he forever changed the way I think about comics, art and life. Not an easy task, and then he goes and does it again. Pretty impressive.
I've gone on record before as saying that I think Morrison has conspicuous trouble plotting; his work seems, as you say, all gristle and no meat. But what great gristle! I think of Millar's work much the same way, and don't mind it either -- comics need all kinds of writers.
On the other hand, I strongly prefer capital-W writers like Waid, Busek, Dixon, David, Greg Rucka and John Ostrander to the circus tricks our Scottish friends are showing us.

Alas, not all the above writers are much good anymore, either due to their politics, or even their knee-jerk willingness to go along with the worst steps taken by the Big Two, as Waid and Rucka have recently proven. Still, I’ll give some credit to the guy for liking Waid’s work at the time better than Morrison’s. After all, Morrison was fine with Emerald Twilight, as he’d hinted in his work on JLA!

Funny as always how Mr. Smith thinks Morrison’s got difficulty plotting in JLA and such, but later abandoned that stance when New X-Men came around the bend. I think Smith’s got conspicuous trouble keeping a consistent opinion!

Hey Cap: I've heard both 1968 and 1970 proposed as the end of the Silver Age. Heck, I've even heard 1971, 1975 and 1986. And I've thought about it quite a bit, but before I tell you my own opinions, let me recommend the Web site of Cheeks the Toy Wonder who wrote a pretty good thesis on the subject himself. (Captain's Note: I've been unable to access the Cheeks site since Dec. 8. Anybody know what's up?)
All right, here we go. Unlike that of the Golden Age, the end of the Silver Age will never be precise. The Golden Age is marked by the end of superhero comic books (with the exceptions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Arrow).
But the comic books that kicked off the Silver Age didn't end. DC canceled the last of their "Silver Age" titles in 1986 but almost all of them (like Justice League and Flash) were immediately re-launched. Marvel hung on to most of their Silver Age titles until 1996, but immediately relaunched almost all of them with No. 1s as well. Almost all of the titles that DC and Marvel still publish have a clear tie back to the Silver Age. So, the Silver Age never had a clear ending like the Golden Age.
Yet, we know the Silver Age ended. We can compare today's titles to those of the 1960s and we know they're not the same. So when did the Silver Age end? Let me start with the latest possible date. In 1986, DC rewrote their history from scratch, effectively undoing most of the Silver Age stories. At the same time, they canceled such Silver Age stalwarts as the Justice League of America and The Flash (which is usually credited with launching the Silver Age in the first place).
So, the Silver Age is definitely over by 1986. However, many of the changes in comic-book characterization and story-telling preceded the DC overhaul. In fact, some of those changes are the reasons behind DC's decision to overhaul its continuity in the first place. Secondly, 30 years (from 1956-1986) seems like a long time for one "age." The Golden Age was at most 15 years (1938-1953 as the outside dates). If we use that to establish precedent, a 30-year Silver Age seems downright ridiculous.
So, we go back further. I've heard people propose 1970 because that's when Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil introduced social relevance in Green Lantern/Green Arrow, 1971 because that's when Bernie Wrightson and Len Wein introduced the Swamp Thing into the pages of House of Mystery, and 1975 because Dave Cockrum and that Len Wein fellow again introduced the world to an All-New All-Different set of X-Men.
I would have to disagree with any of those reasons. Each of those points to the start of something new and not the end of something old. It's a new way of writing stories, a new kind of character, a new breed of hero. But it's not the end of something. By now, most comics historians or journalists are willing to recognize that comics had a Bronze Age. Any of these would serve as a wonderful herald to a new Bronze Age, but the Silver Age had to die before the Bronze Age could be born. So when did it die?
I think it's important at this point to note that there is a difference between the fatal blow and the time of death. If we use the Golden Age as our measuring stick, we can see that 1945 was the fatal blow. World War II ended and so did the disposable income of a million GIs and the fascination with heroes of 10 million kids. But the Golden Age didn't end in 1945. Starman, Angel and Sandman make it to 1946, while the first tier heroes like Atom, Flash, Hawkman and Green Lantern keep going until 1949. MLJ (Archie) didn't give up on superheroes until 1948. All Star Comics kept chugging along with Justice Society stories until 1951. The Green Hornet and Captain Marvel stayed alive until 1952 and 1953. The fatal blow (the end of World War II) and the actual end (usually the cancellation of Captain Marvel and the closing down of Fawcett) are separated by a number of years.
There's a real end to the Golden Age. In the end, there's only one company still standing in the superhero field. That's DC. But even they cut back on their number of heroes and titles and started to concentrate on other genres.
Though, the finale isn't as climactic or resounding, I think that the Silver Age ends similarly. At the end of the Silver Age, there are only two companies still standing in the superhero field. Marvel and DC. But even they had to cut back on their number of heroes and titles and started to concentrate on other genres.
I think the fatal blows are first struck in 1968, and that's why so many people point to it in this debate. Actually, the Silver Age first started bleeding in 1967 when Harvey, Archie and Dell all abandoned their superhero lines but both Gold Key and Charlton were confident enough in the field that they each launched a new character that year (The Owl and the Peacemaker).
But in 1968, four major events changed comic books and superheroes. First, as [name/location withheld] noted, DC fired almost all of its writers in a dispute over health insurance and other benefits resulting in a dramatic decrease in the quality of the DC line. Second, Marvel was able to renegotiate their distribution deal. With a new deal in place, Marvel launched nearly a dozen new titles, effectively flooding the market while at the same time decreasing the quality of the Marvel line. Third, the Batman TV show was canceled, signalling the end of a nation-wide superhero fad. Fourth, in the wake of the Marvel explosion and due to internal problems, Charlton ceased publishing superhero books.
So, 1968 is the fatal blow. But comic books limped along. 1969 signalled the end of both Tower and Gold Key. At the same time, DC dumped Spectre, Atom and Hawkman. Marvel canceled some titles of their own, starting with Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel and then Uncanny X-Men and Silver Surfer in 1970.
Finally, in 1970, the only two publishers of superhero comics were each hit with bad news. At DC, Mort Weisinger retired, causing an editorial shake-up not seen since 1953. And at Marvel, King Kirby walked out.
As I noted earlier, the end of the Silver Age does look a lot like the end of the Golden Age. The corpses of former companies and titles riddle the landscape. The remaining publishers are rushing into new genres like horror and sword & sorcery. And formerly stalwart titles are being given the axe.
The Silver Age was too big to be killed by any one event. Marvel certainly wasn't affected by DC laying off most of their writers. DC certainly wasn't hurt by Jack Kirby's departure from the House of Ideas he had built. But all of those events together herald a true end. 1968 was the start of the decline, the fatal blow as it were, but not the end itself. 1970, is in my opinion, the end of the Silver Age.
Having 1970 be the end of the Silver Age has several other distinct advantages. First, the Silver Age (1956-1970) is now roughly the same length as the Golden Age (1938-1953) and the Bronze (1970-1986) which makes for a rather nice fit. Secondly, we tend to think in terms of decades as it is. So, calling 1970 the end is more natural, especially if talking to somebody who thinks that the Silver Age has something to do with retirement and not comic books. Third, it fits all companies and not just DC (after all, how could T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents not be an entirely Silver Age title?). Fourth, it's easier to reference. If the firing of the DC writers is the end, then one has to know the names of the writers involved and look at the credit box to know if this is Silver Age or post-Silver Age. If it's 1970, one can simply reference the date of publication instead of the creative teams involved.
I guess, there's one more thing. If 1968 is the end, then Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain Marvel and Silver Surfer were all launched after the Silver Age and that just doesn't seem right. Most of the titles in 1969 still feel more like the Silver Age than the Bronze and I guess that plays a part.
Well, that's my long-winded argument for 1970 instead of 1968. I guess it all boils down to the fact that the Silver Age might be done in 1968 but it's definitely over by 1970.
Sounds good to me, [withheld] -- my long-time guesstimate that the Silver Age ended in 1970 was largely based on the fact that both of the remaining Big Two had that shakeup you mentioned, not just the one (as in 1968). There's also the fact that Stan Lee just about left the writing field in 1970, leaving Marvel's flagship Fantastic Four without either of its creators for the first time -- clearly the end of an era. But you went much farther in your analysis, and made some pretty persuasive points. (I especially was impressed by the notation that Dr. Strange, Nick Fury, Silver Surfer, et al -- inarguably Silver Age titles all -- weren't launched until 1968.)

Sigh. Lee did not leave the writing field all at once. He wrote Spider-Man and Thor up to 1972 before relinquishing the reins to other writers like Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas. And even then, he kept writing sporadically; that’s why the She-Hulk came into existence!

The correspondent’s no longer correct that Marvel and DC’s books have ties back to the Silver Age, because modern political correctness mastered by Quesada and DiDio saw to it they’d be unrecognizable. Come to think of it, even in the mid-90s, they were straying pretty far from what was established in the Silver Age, as TPTB no longer cared for consistency and coherency. So what’s the guy’s point? Even back then, I don’t think he had one. Besides, the Silver Age did end at a certain point, which would be 1968-69 – that’s when they began taking on more serious issues than they did earlier, as seen when the Spider-Man issue about drug abuse debuted.

Hey Cap,
Just wanted to say you got it totally wrong when you described the Blink situation in the latest "Next Week's Comics" section. ... The Blink (limited series) will simply take place sometime in the Age of Apocalypse reality before it was destroyed at the end of that event. Then Blink will somehow get to 616 reality.
I was being facetious when I wrote that blurb about the Blink miniseries, in which I said some rude things but didn't explain my thinking fully. So here is that thinking:
Blink is a character who has died twice, and the one we're going to see in the limited series isn't from our Earth, Level 616, where she's dead. And where she comes from -- the "Age of Apocalypse" world -- she's also dead. So what we'll see is the character from her past, with the possibility of her outliving both of her deaths, creating a third timeline. If she does indeed stay here -- and Marvel says she'll get her own series if sales warrant -- that means we'll have yet another X-character, like Nate Grey and Rachel Summers, that is inordinately confusing to anybody who hasn't immersed themselves in X-history since 1994.
I assume from your letter that you're a big Blink fan, as there are apparently a lot of them. I applaud your enthusiasm, and I hope the Blink Limited Series is everything you want it to be. But my immediate take on the character is that she flies in the face of what publisher Bill Jemas and EIC Joe Quesada have stated as the goal by which Marvel is to survive: Making their comics accessible to new readers. Blink has a hopelessly snarled backstory, and cannot be explained easily to new readers.
Further, I personally have a growing concern for the relative ease by which death is circumvented in comics -- the "death of Gwen Stacy" story lost much of its power when Norman Osborn returned, and the "The Phoenix Saga" became a story without a climax when Jean Grey returned. Having a character like Blink walking around after her powerful and dramatic death(s) renders ALL stories ultimately meaningless, since death is not an immutable tragedy. Death becomes, as Nick Fury's funeral was in Incredible Hulk #434 (Oct 95), a joke.
That's just my opinion, of course. And in the interests of fairness, let me add your polite and well-written response:

Before we get to that, he sure wrote quite a head-shaker in his beginning paragraph – he was being pretty rude to the intellect when he fawned over Identity Crisis and never explained his thinking on that subject at all. That’s even worse than being facetious, it’s pure hypocrisy! Ditto his argument about making the MCU accessible, when I’m sure he knows it hasn’t been that way for a long, long time. Now for the other letter by the same correspondent:

Dear Cap: Thanks for responding. You raise excellent points about there being way too many alternate realities; I'm glad to hear from Mark Millar that Ultimate X-Men will stay away from anything of the sort.
However, the four months of "Age of Apocalypse" was for me a bright spot. Check out Warren Ellis's X-Calibre four-parter for a chilling take on Nightcrawler and Mystique. The whole world just seemed very well-thought out and well-crafted by the team that created it.
Unfortunately they decided to bring characters like Nate Grey back into 616 reality, who have no real reason for being. Now, I am a Blink fan, simply from reading the Astonishing X-Men part of AoA. Those were some excellent issues.
You raise good concerns about Blink's accessibility, but actually she is the best one to bring over because she does not have a counterpart any more in the regular reality. The 616 Blink was briefly seen in the "Phalanx Covenant" storyline a few months before "Legion Quest," as one of the new generation that would become Gen X. But she died very quickly, with no backstory really set up. Even in AoA, she has a very mysterious past that has never been explored. So she really is quite accessible. Here's all they have to say: "Blink is a teleporting mutant from a dark alternate reality where mutants ruled viciously over humans. Now she uses her powers to blah blah blah."
See? Much better than Nate, where you have to say "he's the genetically engineered son of Jean Grey and Cyclops, except not ours, the evil weird ones from another dimension, blah blah blah." She is a virtually unknown character that has no real ties to anyone not in her reality, so she could be very accessible. You wouldn't need to know much about her reality. Also, it sounds like her ongoing series will be a Sliders-type of deal with her and a team lost in realities. This could, of course, be a disaster, but remember the Cross-Time Caper in Excalibur in the '80s? That was a lot of fun because they only stayed in a reality for one or two issues, before the concept got old. Mutant X is a failure because it just beats a dead horse.
Anyway, now I'm rambling, but I honestly think she has good potential for a series. As far as her death, I totally agree with you that death should be more permanent, but it really depends on how they do it, and with Blink's powers, it wouldn't be very hard.
Now that the first issue of Blink is out, […], I'll be interested to hear your take on it. Oh, and I'm with you 100 percent on Mutant X. It defines the concept of beating a dead horse.

Man, isn’t that rich from somebody whose commentaries define the concept of dumbing down journalism, to say nothing of the internet! But hey, stay classy, I say, and keep showing people how dishonest he can be in his particular field. Now, here’s another letter by me:

Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith,
I was very surprised to discover that [name withheld] considers Psylocke’s name to be silly, seeing that it appeared via his suggestion in the Silly Super-Names section. What’s so silly about Betsy Braddock’s code name? And how is it that Mike couldn’t understand that her name simply means a “psychological mind lock” and stuff like that?
And what’s so wrong with all the bizarre physical changes that she went through in the past two decades? I actually find it very inventive that they should transform her from a British into a Chinese ninja with a lot of courage. There’s nothing wrong with making such bizarre alterations, since such things can be very clever and inventive, and were. And I find her code name to be far more sexy than silly. And hey: She still is, and always will
be, Captain Britain’s baby sister. And I was really hurt when I saw that he thought that she should be killed off by the writers, God forbid! She is one of my favorite X-girls, and I would never want her to go the way of the Gwen Stacy Syndrome. No way, she reminds me of the Etzel fighter Geula Cohen, a woman who fought the British occupation of this country without fear, and who could stand up for what she believed in. She almost was done in by Sabretooth four years ago, but she managed to escape the jaws of death. I would never want characters like her to be killed off.
If you need a silly super name that can replace that however, then I got a name or two: Douglock. The Phalanx’s name from Excalibur is a very ridiculous one. What’s it supposed to mean exactly? A lock on Doug, or something like that? It just sounds so meaningless. You can replace Psylocke’s name on the Silly Super Names section with that, there’s a good one.
And then, did you happen to see a miniseries earlier this year from DC that I think was called (The Supermen of America)? You won’t believe the name I spotted in there: a character called LOSER! That’s right, as I can recall, he was called Loser. Anyone who gives a character a name like that is completely off their rocker. Another name, and a very good one, for the section.
And then, I’ve got a very good one for the Silly Super-Togs section who can rank proudly alongside Gambit as having the most ridiculous form of dress you’ve ever seen, a character who’s really bent out of shape: Jubilee, who’s combination of a trenchcoat and shorts from the past two decades makes her look like a teenaged prostitute! In fact, it looked even more ridiculous on the cartoon show from 1992-98. To say the least, trenchcoats and shorts just don’t go together. If it were to look plausible, she’d have to be wearing either a college football jacket or a pair of jeans. And another ludicrous thing about this early form of dress that she had is that it looks to me like a MAN’S trenchcoat! Even in France, where raincoats are fashionable, that would have people roaring with laughter. And even in the realms of a comic book, it’s just too stupid for words. And why does she have to wear that pair of yellow gloves or even that pair of red sunglasses? The short-cropped haircut doesn’t help either. ... And if I’m right, Jubilee comes from California, doesn’t she? Like in Dixieland, it’s blazing hot there, isn’t it? No place for such a way of dressing, to be sure. And, not only is it unappealing, her manner of dressing is not what I’d call a good example for girls either.
And given that professor Xavier, what with all the wealth he made over the years from all his studies, is more or less the X-wallet, you’d think that he’d give her several hundred dollars and send her to JC Penny’s for some more decent clothes, or even her very own Spandex costume, but no, that never seemed to happen, and for at least the first decade of her addition to the X-Men, she kept wearing that ludicrous getup. And although my familiarity with the issues from the eighties is vague by now, did she really go ROLLER SKATING around the X-mansion in that trenchcoat and pair of shorts? If Jubilee did, then that would have to be a howler.
Luckily, by 1994, they seemed to have corrected some of those mistakes, and so Jubilee started wearing jeans more often, and growing her hair a bit longer, making her more of the pretty teenager she should’ve been years ago. And, at times, they drew her wearing a more fitting sports jacket. Sadly, they seemed to have reverted to most of the earlier style she had recently, Jubilee once again wears her trenchcoat and a short haircut. At least they draw her with jeans this time.
So anyway, considering that she’s a character that we the readership are meant to sympathise with, given the hellish early years she had after losing her parents and her inheritance, and growing up in a hostile orphanage, I’m really disappointed that Marvel’s writers have been so cruel to her. To say the least, the yellow trenchcoat has got to go. And she’s got to grow her hair longer again. If there’s anything that can remain however, it’s Jubilee’s headband, since headbands look good on girls. Yes, they do.
In fact, even Gambit’s duster has got to go. And of course he doesn’t have to wear a big coat in order to carry all his card decks. A black leather or a sports jacket could be just perfect for that.
Oh yeah, and then, another very good character for the Togs section, a villain this time, is STILTMAN! This crook with an extendable cybernetic suit has surely got to be one of the most pathetically incompetent villains I’ve even seen in the Marvel Universe in all these years. ... In short, Stiltman is a character who’s mechanical suit is more hindering than helpful. Yet another character who’s quite winning of a mention in the Togs section.
Thanks for the Silly Super-Togs suggestions, Avi -- you're right, Jubilee's outfit is a howler.
As to Psylocke, I have to admit that I find it hard to say with a straight face, too, as every time I "hear" it in my head I think of Shylock, the Shakespeare character. There is such a thing, I guess, as reading too much -- and making associations that aren't there!

One sloppy thing I said then was calling Betsy Braddock the “baby” sister instead of twin sister of Brian, aka Capt. Britain. Then again, while my intentions with this letter were good, I don’t think much of my writing style of the time. Okay, maybe that’s not such a big deal; it’s not like even today I’m the most talented commentator out there. But I do my best.

But wow, how amazing that, when bringing up Gambit in this particular letter, I didn’t succumb to the particular mentality I’d still been foolish enough to go by at the time, even if only with a handful of characters, Remy included. However, I don’t see why I had to cite Stilt-Man as worthy of silly outfits listings, because he’s a crook, and a comical one at that. It’s the heroes we expect to have better design, more so than the villains.

Hey Cap: As I've mentioned before, I'm a huge X-Men fan. I read X-Men comics when I was an adolescent and it was X-Men: Age of Apocalypse that brought me back when I was an adult and realized that it wasn't childish to read comics. Well, maybe a little childish, but in a good still amazed by the world kind of way.
So, of course, this year has brought me a lot of joy. Reading [...]'s recent reviews reminded me of that. The X-Men movie was incredible. I saw it three times in the theatre and I recently received the video for Christmas. The respectability that a concept earns from a successful summer movie is uncanny and fewer of my friends look down on my comics-buying habit than did before.
The Ultimate X-Men is deserving of its title. I was busy with work when I first bought a copy so it saw on my reading pile for two days before I got to it. Meanwhile, my wife read it. Twice. And when her sister visited us for Christmas, my wife gave it to her to read. They both loved it. And I have to say I can't wait for issue two. Grant Morrison and company are going to have to work very hard to keep up with the revamped version of Ultimate X-Men.
But in the midst of all of this praise, I've also discovered why some people don't like the X-Men. I've known for a while that some top creators like Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross don't like the X-Men. I always thought they were a little jealous of the franchise's success. Sure they gave other reasons, but rarely do we recognize or admit to the truth. One of those cover reasons was that the X-Men was never anything more than a gang war between rival factions. That criticism didn't make much sense to me when I first heard it. After watching X-Men: Evolution, it does.
Don't get me wrong. I'm enjoying the cartoon series. My wife and I are particularly fond of Shadowcat and Nightcrawler and it's nice to see them in action again and having fun. But six/seven episodes into the series and I'm worried. Up to this point, we've yet to have anything more than a gang war between rival factions. Oh sure, it's easy to figure out who's the good gang and who's the bad, but what have the bad guys really done?
Toad was a pickpocket who lacked social manners. Avalanche (whose powers were a lot closer to Rictor's than to his own) was a bully and a cheater. Neither of them would have received any jail time for their offenses. Some detention, yes; community service, sure; but honest-to-goodness jail, no. The Blob was just a misfit with a temper problem until he upped the ante by kidnapping Jean Grey. The X-Men's involvement in that affair was self-interest. And Quicksilver was a self-absorbed jerk who didn't play well with others. Finally, he actually did something worthy of the moniker "villain" when his downtown rampage damaged dozens of shops and vehicles.
So far, all of the "villains" have been simple high school nemeses. Sure, the shoplifter, the cheater, the bully and the glory hog are unpleasant people to live with. Sure, they make your life miserable, and to the children who are the intended audience, they may even seem villainous. But they aren't yet villains.
I'm holding out hope for the series though. Magneto and Mystique seem to be the true villains. They've been gathering together this band of misfits and juvenile delinquents for some reason. I hope those reasons are of a greater magnitude than simply harrassing the X-Men. Otherwise, this series will have fallen into the pit described by Alex Ross. It's nothing but a gang war between rival factions.
Interesting analysis, […] -- and when you put it that way, it's easy to see.
Actually, my problem with the X-Men ever since 1963 (which I try not to think about) is: Why do they wear masks? Why do they fight evil mutants on their own? Why doesn't Professor X just fight discrimination in the courts, using his responsible, non-costume-wearing, non-supervillain-fighting, well-behaved students as examples of "good" mutants? If Cyclops & Co. really have a jones for fighting Magneto, why don't they join the police or sign up for the military? Putting masks on kids and having them fight in the shadows just INTENSIFIES suspicion -- why don't they operate in the open, and use Martin Luther King Jr. methods to fight persecution (non-violent protest, the court system, public opinion)? This is America, after all -- I find it hard to believe that the majority of people (including African-Americans, Jews, and other minorities that have faced persecution) are all dying to "kill me a mutie!"
It's not Xavier's dream that's flawed -- it's his methods.

As for Mr. Smith, everything about his MO is flawed, from his superficial coverage to his inability to maintain a consistent and logical standing.

Dear Cap: About all that mess between Batman and JLA, and some opinions that Batman would be accepted again by revealing his secret ID:
I was reading an old edition of New Titans (I don't remember the number ... but it was when Tim Drake was being introduced in DC Universe) and the Titans called Bruce Wayne's mansion to get some news about Dick ... Well, that means that at least Cyborg, Raven and some others Titans knows that Bruce is Batman! (And it was very clear that they knew Batman was Bruce Wayne.)
Doesn't it mean that the ones who knows that Dick is Robin (and it means a lotta Titans) would easily discover Batman's secret ID? (As Tim Drake said, "When you discover Dick is Robin, the rest is easy ...")
I don't recall when those issues were, either, [name withheld] -- but I suspect they've been pretty much retconned away. I think some of the original Titans know Dick's ID (Donna Troy springs to mind), but I doubt they all do. It's certainly not common knowledge. And Oracle referred recently to how both Robin and Nightwing are being regarded suspiciously by their teammates because they won't divulge their identities. In short, I think those old New Titans issues are are no more valid than, say, an issue of World's Finest from 1960.

Umm, I think they had been in continuity up to a certain point before DiDio destroyed everything. Not that Mr. Smith cares, but I repeat myself. So let’s proceed to January 10, 2001:

I just wanted to chime in on a discussion:
<<I don't recall when those (New Titans) issues were, either, […] -- but I suspect they've been pretty much retconned away. I think some of the original Titans know Dick's ID (Donna Troy springs to mind), but I doubt they all do. It's certainly not common knowledge. And Oracle referred recently to how both Robin and Nightwing are being regarded suspiciously by their teammates because they won't divulge their identities. In short, I think those old New Titans issues are are no more valid than, say, an issue of World's Finest from 1960. -- Captain Comics>>
I think that a lot of the older Titans do know Dick's secret identity. The other four originals (Wally, Roy, Donna and Garth) definitely know Dick is Nightwing. And the Wolfman/Perez crew of Changeling, Cyborg, Raven and Starfire (and maybe Lilith) would also know the truth. Especially Starfire, who lived with Dick for some time. And it's not like you can exactly hide secrets from Raven or Lilith. In fact, the whole gang was there when Dick decided to give up being Robin.
I don't think that's been retconned away. In the current Titans series, all of those I mentioned above know that Dick is Nightwing. Starfire/Kory stayed at Dick's apartment for a while. In Titans Secret Files #2, Roy, Donna, Grant and Jessie Quick drop by for a pizza with Dick and Clancy. However, as he's aged, Dick (and his writers) has become more concerned with keeping the secret. After all, even his close friends and teammates like Terra and Jericho have betrayed the team or turned evil. So, Dick isn't sharing the information with anyone else. The newer Titans (Red Star, Pantha, Argent and Damage), with the exception of Jessie, don't know and Dick isn't about to tell them. And as he expects his friends to respect his desires in this matter, the others have kept these new Titans out of the loop as well.
There have been stories in which Wally and Roy (Flash and Arsenal) know that Bruce Wayne is Batman and stories in which they don't. Since the stories in which they don't know the truth are more recent, I'm guessing that's supposed to be the way it is. But I don't find that problematic. Yes, as Tim Drake (and Sergio) noticed, it's rather easy to find out (if you know Dick was Robin). But you still have to do the work. It's perfectly possible that the 10 who know Dick's secret would respect Batman's need for secrecy and refrain from playing Sherlock Holmes. It was Dick's decision to reveal himself to his friends. As his friends, they haven't acted on that information. Batman has similarly revealed his identity to at least three close friends: Clark Kent, Barbara Gordon and J'onn J'onzz.
By the way, Tim Drake does not have the same freedom in this regard as Dick Grayson. He is not allowed to tell anyone. Batman does not yet trust him to use his own discretion (and would you really want to trust Impulse with a secret?).
As to your statement, Captain:
<<And Oracle referred recently to how both Robin and Nightwing are being regarded suspiciously by their teammates because they won't divulge their identities.>>
I believe you're referring to JLA Secret Files #3. However, Oracle only noted that Robin, Nightwing and herself were being regarded suspiciously. She didn't give the reason. When The Flash confronts Nightwing in the same story, he wonders if Nightwing is keeping anti-Titans files. The issue for The Titans is not the secrecy but the control. And seeing as The Titans have always been more trusting with each other than the JLA, a similar betrayal of trust by Nightwing would be far worse. Similarly, Superboy wonders if Robin is cooking up "Anti-Young Justice recipes." The issue isn't "why won't you tell us your secrets" but "have you been trying to think of ways to kill us in your spare time."
Revealing their secrets will offset those fears because everyone will again have a similar balance of control. But even Nightwing, whom his friends know to be Dick Grayson, is under suspicion because he still could have created such files of destruction about his friends.
Anyway, I've been enjoying the way that DC has been using this and the
arguments that it's created among us fans.
It also reminds me that the Avengers have similar problems. Originally, nobody knew each other's secrets. Now, at least Captain America, Thor, Giant-Man, Wasp and Tigra know that Tony Stark is Iron Man. How do they ever remember who knows what? (Actually, that's more a problem for the writers and editors than the characters.)
When I'm wrong, I'm wrong, […] -- and you're right. I'd forgotten about that Titans Secret Files story where the bulk of the older Titans visited Dick in his "secret identity." That's pretty recent, and the "Secret Files" are being represented as post-Zero Hour canon, so it must be so. Well, at least until the next retcon. With DC's apparent policy of "sliding retrocontinuity," sometimes it's difficult to tell issue to issue what to believe!
Oh, and in addition to Oracle, Martian Manhunter and Superman, other Leaguers who've been established as knowing Batman's secret ID are Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Incidentally, one of the most respected and trusted Leaguers is J'onn J'onzz, who not only once kept files on all superheroes (JLA: Year One) but until recently had hundreds of secret IDs that NOBODY knew about. So we must conclude that secrecy alone is not the issue.
As to Tony "Iron Man" Stark, it would be difficult for him to keep his identity secret from the female Avengers for sure -- since he's slept with most of them! (Even The Wasp -- and she's married!)

Oh my goodness, is that “captain” way out of the loop! Janet Van Dyne was married to Hank Pym for nearly 15 years, but after that incident in 1981 where he’d gone mentally unstable and smacked Jan twice, they fell apart and divorced, certainly for a while. In fact, I’m not sure they ever remarried, or that Jan ever married another guy afterwards. But that doesn’t even begin to describe how wrong he is most of the time – from a moral perspective! Now here’s a letter with responses to one of my own:

Hey Cap: Just read your latest Mailbag and thought I'd chip in my two cents on a few issues.
[withheld] sez:
<<There was this constant indication that villains in the Society were dating each other (I remember a panel of Cap swooping in on a pair of them making out -- clever). It was a well-appreciated concession to reality -- that if there were supervillains, they'd still be looking for love, and if they worked in groups, they'd find it with each other.>>
Agreed. I like stories that explore the behavior of the villains behind the masks. If you don't get to know a little something about who they are outside of their costumes and show that they have human needs and drives, they end up being just cardboard stock characters and that's not very exciting (Vibro anyone?). We know that the heroes lead pretty complex lives outside of their superheroic identities; why wouldn't the villains? And why not let the readers get a glimpse of those lives once in a while?
Probably the best example along these lines that immediately springs to mind was the Steeljack storyline in Kurt Busiek's Astro City. It was an excellent look at what it's like to be a 10-time loser of a supervillain in a city with the largest superhero population on Earth. I remember another pretty good story in the otherwise disappointing Blue Beetle series about what it's like to be one of the faceless henchmen that serve characters like The Joker, Penguin, etc.
Of course, the major theme of the Thunderbolts series is to explore the personalities of the various supervillains as they attempt to be heroes, but, overall, I'm not terribly pleased or excited by the series. Frankly, too many of these guys did some really reprehensible things during their careers as villains for me to accept them as heroes (Goliath's attempt to beat a drunk and unconscious Hercules to death springs immediately to mind). Plus, their personalities as depicted in the series really contradict a lot of what went before (e.g., Goliath being a relatively unassuming follower instead of an arrogant jerk). Only Zemo, Moonstone, and ... um ... Mentallo's old partner (can't seem to remember his name!) were true to themselves. (CAPTAIN'S NOTE: [...] is thinking of "Techno," formerly "The Fixer.") The rest of the personality "developments" seem forced, contrived to make the characters fit the concept of the series. I haven't picked up the title since issue 12. ... Maybe it got a little more on track. I dunno.
In any case, I prefer villains to be villains, even when we are looking at them from a more personal perpective, not wannabe heroes (you can have a charming personality with a great social life and a loving relationship with your mother, and yet still be a ruthless killer, y'know!).
A little more directly on topic re: [...]'s comments. Yeah, the Serpent Society members were definitely dating each other. Black Mamba and Sidewinder had something going on, and, considering the French maid outfit she once wore for him, they seemed to have a pretty imaginative sex life. Maybe that's a little too much information about 'em! =)
Another item from Gruenwald's run that reinforces the idea of supervillain socializing: The Bar With No Name. Some enterprising crook opened a string of bars across the country catering specifically to costumed supervillains. To the general public, they all looked like run-down, abandoned truckstops and the like from the outside; inside villains swigged a few beers, made connections and swapped tall tales with their criminal brethren.
Avi Green Sez:
<<What’s so silly about Betsy Braddock’s codename? And how is it that Mike couldn’t understand that her name simply means a “psychological mind lock” and stuff like that?>>
Well, understanding what it means doesn't necessarily make it any less silly. Superhero names and their accompanying identities are meant to be evocative. They're meant to instantly conjure an image or a feeling, whether it be fear (Batman), wonder (Captain Marvel), awe (Superman), or just an idea of what it is you're (reading about): The Flash, Green Arrow.
What, exactly, does "Psylocke" evoke, other than the scratching of one's head as you pause to figure out what it means? I think that's a problem with a lot of codenames today, particularly in the X-books. (What the heck does the name Bishop have to do with his powers, identity or character?)
<<And what’s so wrong with all the bizarre physical changes that she went through in the past two decades? I actually find it very inventive that they should transform her from a British into a Chinese ninja.>>
I actually found it silly and unneccesary. One of the major themes of the X-Men is the idea of this group of young people learning to deal with this terrifying change in their lives as they develop mutant powers, and trying to cope in a world that (inexplicably) fears and hates them more than any other beings. Some of the best moments of the old series featured the mutants acting very much like real human beings, with real emotions, real problems and realistic reactions to the world around them. (Nightcrawler's interactions with his fellow mutants and/or regular humans were especially poignant.)
Then came the Wolverine limited series ...
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed that series, as well as many of the revamped, code-of-honor Wolvie stories that followed shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, however, Wolverine became so darned popular (and his background ever more mysterious and convoluted as his popularity continued to grow) that it seemed like just about every new character introduced in the X-books thereafter was a time-traveling, extra-dimensional, gun-toting, ninja-cyborg-demon-spy-thief-clone-kung-fu-master with at least two evil twins and an extremely convoluted (err ... I mean, "mysterious") origin story.
The idea that one of the characters could just be an ordinary Joe or Jane thrust into a frightening and extraordinary situation went straight out the window. Real human pathos was quickly replaced by "pithy" one-liners, assorted bad dialogue, macho posturing, "dramatic" poses and costumes with lots and lots of pouches that never seemed to actually hold anything. Even established characters got revamped to make them more "cool." (Storm shaved her head and developed a ruthless attitude and sudden remarkable skill in the martial arts; Kitty Pryde received ninja training; Thunderbird inexplicably put on a hundred pounds of muscle, lost his quiet competence and developed mucho machismo as Warpath -- blech!)
What's wrong with the revamp that turned Betsy into a Chinese ninja girl with attitude? Nothing, if you go in for that sort of thing (and apparently lots of people did for a while -- hence the early success of Image). But what would have been wrong with leaving her as a Brit WASP and trying to develop her further as a real human being instead of a psyhic killing machine in a slutty costume? That would have been infinitely preferable in my opinion. Heck, am I the only one who would have preferred to see the New Mutants title canceled rather than see them transformed into yet another mindless macho combat force under Cable's leadership?
<<If you need a silly super name that can replace that however, then I got a name or two: Douglock. The Phalanx’s name from Excalibur is a very ridiculous one. What’s it supposed to mean exactly?>>
Well, Douglock is supposed to be an amalgam of Doug Ramsey and his best friend Warlock, so they made his name an amalgam too. But, like I said before, understanding what it means doesn't make it any less silly ...
<<And then, I’ve got a very good one for the Silly Super-Togs section who can rank proudly alongside Gambit as having the most ridiculous form of dress you’ve ever seen, a character who’s really bent out of shape: Jubilee, who’s combination of a trenchcoat and shorts from the past two decades makes her look like a teenaged prostitute!>>
A teenage prostitute? I think you're going just a wee bit overboard there ...
As for the rest of the comments about her costume: When she was first introduced, she was in a shopping mall in civilian clothes and followed the X-Men through a dimensional warp to their base in Australia, where she hid out from everyone for weeks. She didn't develop an actual costume, because she didn't plan on being one of the X-Men, so the artists had to come up with a combination of street clothes that would be visually striking and costume-like. That meant lots of primary colors.
More importantly, they were doing something a little tongue-in-cheek when they designed her duds. When she finally did get involved in the action, it was to help a wounded and weary Wolverine escape from the murderous Reavers. It was just she and Wolverine for several issues. It was the writers' somewhat wry look at the idea of a superhero-mentor/teen-sidekick relationship.
What does that have to do with her costume? Simple. Her costume is essentially a copy of the costume of comics' very first teenage sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder. Think about it: She had green boots, bare legs, green shorts, a yellow belt, a red shirt, green gloves, a yellow jacket (in
place of a yellow cape) and green sunglasses (in place of a green domino mask). She even wore earrings that, to my mind anyway, bore a striking resemblence to the emblem Robin wore on his chest. I think the short hair was another tip of the hat towards the original teen sidekick's appearance.
They even made an inside joke about it during the big Marvel vs. DC series when Jubilee commented to Robin about how much she liked his taste in clothes.
<<And if I’m right, Jubilee comes from California, doesn’t she? Like in Dixieland, it’s blazing hot there, isn’t it?>>
Not necessarily. California has generally fair weather year-round. It only gets really hot in So. Cal in the summer, and not always then. This year, it was a pretty mild summer, only getting hot in late August and early October. So, generally, people can wear jackets and coats year round if they want to.
Also, many people in California, especially So. Cal. teens, are extremely image conscious. They wouldn't let a little thing like severe discomfort due to hot weather stand in the way of making a fashion statement.
(Incidentally, I never got the impression it was supposed to be a raincoat or trenchcoat anyway. It's just an oversized yellow jacket similar to a style many young girls wore in the '80s and early '90s, at least here in So. Cal.)
And, if you look at the X-Men movie, she dresses pretty much in this costume (complete with yellow jacket) and it doesn't look silly at all. In fact, she'd fit in quite nicely at virtually any high school in any good neighborhood in Southern California (I know, I went to one and still live only two blocks away from it).
Cap, if you want an example of Silly Super-Togs from the X-Men, how about Logan's eye-patch? During the post-"Siege Perilous" adventures in Madripoor, when he was pretending to be dead in order to hide from The Reavers, he assumed the identity of Patch and ran around with the sole disguise of an eye-patch (he didn't even bother to change that rather unique hairstyle of his). Yet somehow this "costume" managed to fool even people who had been quite familiar with Logan (such as the Silver Samurai and Jessica Drew -- a detective, no less!). Talk about suspension of disbelief!
Also, under Silly Super-Names, you write, under "Speedy":
<<Green Arrow's partner, introduced in 1941, has the most inexplicable sidekick name yet. ... what does "Speedy" have to do with archery?>>
Nothing. But I recall that in one of the many Green Arrow origin stories over the years, Green Arrow and Speedy both made their first public appearance at the same time and got their names from some criminals they were fighting. They were being assaulted by some hoods and defended themselves with bows & arrows (the arrows were green for some reason that I don't recall). During the battle, one of the hoods cries out something like "This guy sure slings a mean green arrow!" And a second replies, "Yeah, and this one sure is speedy!"
I'm not sure if that was the actual first origin story published by DC for Green Arrow and Speedy, or if it was something that was written far after the fact to explain the lame name, but that's where it came from. Of course, that doesn't make it any less silly ...
You also wrote in the same entry:
<<The brightly-colored Robin was supposed to offset the dark, brooding Batman while maintaining the flight motif ...>>
Um, could somebody help me out with that one? From what I understand, the Robin identity had nothing to do with maintaining a flight motif. "Robin" was not a reference to the bird of that name at all. Rather, as Dick Grayson saw himself as something of a swashbuckler, it was a reference to Robin Hood (and his costume was supposed to be some sort of Robin Hood like outfit, hence the red jerkin and the design of the shoes). In fact, I seem to remember a line where Robin is helping Batman capture some criminals and yells out something like, "I'm Robin! As in Robin Hood, not robbin' hoods like you!"
Am I just mis-remembering, hallucinating, or otherwise totally out of my wig? Anybody know?
Regarding […]'s comments: What about The Outsiders? Do they still know Batman's identity, or has that been retconned away as well? What about Kobra? He learned of Batman's secret ID from Halo during a Batman and the Outsiders storyline. Does "the second most dangerous man (he's) ever met" (as he referred to Kobra in that story) still know his ID, or has that been wiped out of the continuity too? Just wondering.
Anyway, that's it for me. Keep up the great work!
Oy! I'm 0-for-2 today! I can't imagine how I forgot the "Robin Hood" part of the Boy Wonder's origin -- chalk it up to too many late nights. Like his mentor, Robin's origin draws from many sources, including the editors' desires to have Robin have some sort of flight motif to anchor him to Batman -- but you're absolutely right, Robin Hood was the primary mythological source. I will now force myself to re-read all the '40s Batman Archives in penance for my omission.
As to your other points:
1) Here's what correspondent [name withheld] said about the Green Arrow/Speedy origin you're remembering:
<<After debuting in More Fun Comics #73 (Nov, 41), Green Arrow and Speedy went for 16 issues before being given an origin in issue #89 (Mar 43). 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 arrow!">>
Both characters went on to have different origins, which Adam believes distinguishes the GA/Speedy of Earth-Two from that of Earth-One. At any rate, the fact that we know HOW Speedy got that dopey name doesn't make it any better -- after all, you said it yourself, "Understanding what it means doesn't necessarily make it any less silly."
2) In reference to Jubilee, I find the character irritating and therefore try not to dwell on her too much. But her "costume's" resemblance to Robin's was always obvious to me, as well as the points you make about her actually wearing street clothes that are as much like a costume as the artists could arrange. It's been a long tradition in all visual media to have recurring characters have "uniforms" for quick viewer identification; Little Orphan Annie wore the same outfit for 60 years, and Lois Lane wore the same Jackie Kennedy business suit and pillbox hat (usually in a secondary or subdued color) for about a decade. Even Luthor failed to change out of his prison grays after escaping jail during the Silver Age -- THAT passed for his "costume." So nothing about Jubilee's outfit has really bothered me, especially since it was understandable what the artists were doing, and it could, as you point out, pass for street clothes in any high school in America. (Unlike, say, Gambit's inexplicable Battlefield Earth-meets-Gladiator ensemble. What ARE those spider-web thingies around his neck?)
Also, in regard to Avi's remarks about California weather, I can't resist quoting Mark Twain: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." OK, that may or may not be applicable. But I like impressing people with Mark Twain quotes!
3) Your comments on the Psylocke issue were a hair more personal vis-a-vis Avi than I would have liked, but you did allow that he's entitled to his opinions, and were careful to couch your criticisms with terms like "I think" and "in my opinion." You also buttressed your opinions with lots of factual information. And you were not asserting that you were Right and he was Wrong. But I did feel some discomfort here and there -- as, I'm sure, did Avi.
Having said that, I must admit that I'm pleased that you picked up the ball on Psylocke. I have pretty strong feelings about the character -- I actually dislike her quite a bit -- but I resisted the temptation to immediately refute Avi's original comments. As I said, Avi's entitled to his opinions, and I respect them. If he's a big Psylocke fan, more power to him. Further, I don't want to abuse the hammer I have of being able to get in the last word -- that's simply not fair. But since you went ahead and kicked in the door, I'll chime in with my opinion ...
Betsy Braddock was more interesting to me when she was a reserved, shy English lass suddenly forced into physical and emotional confrontations by her mutation, than after she became yet another Claremont warrior babe with a bizarre, complex origin. (Do you remember when, for a while, there were TWO of them running around simultaneously? What a headache!) If the purpose was to have a Chinese X-Man, why not just create a new one? As Psylocke stands now, she's indistinguishable from dozens of other post-Liefeld/Claremont Tough Chicks and -- to my mind -- adds little to the team, as even her powers are largely redundant. (Ninja skills? Unnecessary with Wolverine & Shadowcat around, not to mention all the feral types that preceded her. "Psychic blade?" Oh, please. Cable, X-Man and Jean Grey are all more powerful telekinetics -- and they're all telepathic, as well.)
In short, if you're going to revamp Betsy Braddock, do something new instead of plowing the same old ground. I found her transformation from a unique character to a redundant one not only silly, but a really bad judgment call on the part of the writer. (Oops! There I go Claremont-bashing again!)
And, yeah, I still think "Psylocke" is a silly codename -- like many Liefeld/Image codenames, it seems like two vaguely pertinent words taken from a Thesaurus slammed together because it sounds "cool." Avi, if you're reading this, I hope it's some consolation that I think "Cable," "Bishop" and "Gambit" are even worse! Those names are just random words. Two of 'em are just random chess terms! Gambit could be called Checkmate, and Bishop could be called Rook, and it would make no difference. What next? A character named Ruy Lopez? (It's a chess term, trust me.) And what about "Wolfsbane"? Wolfsbane means -- literally -- "killer of wolves," and is a Eurasian flower that Eastern European folklore held to be effective at driving off wolves. Pretty dumb name for a character who turns into a wolf. Yeah, I know, she doesn't like being a werewolf, but "Wolfsbane" doesn't mean "reluctant wolf."
Wait, I'm ranting. Deep breath. Let me just add that Grant Morrison has stated in interviews that his first step when taking over X-Men will be to drop characters with names that don't reflect their powers or personae. Beast, Iceman and Cyclops are in; Gambit, Bishop and Cable are out. Now, let's move on to another Jubilee comment:

Sigh. Based on his embrace of Identity Crisis, to say nothing of his assertion that Jubilee is “irritating” instead of how she’s characterized, I’m afraid there’s no consolation at all.

And Morrison’s jettisoning some characters by killing them off in a Sentinel attack on Genosha rather than trying to make improvements for them is cheap too, though nothing compared to the alienating story structure he used. One of the most galling things he did was have Beast shout through the phone at reporter Trish Tilby that he was “gay” as a means of getting her to keep away from the X-mansion while it was being attacked by villains. But there were a gazillion other, far more plausible ways of conceiving a scene where he urged her to stay in a safe spot without being so insulting to the intellect. Why would any sane person want to embarrass and insult himself that badly? For somebody interested in characters with codenames reflecting their powers/personae, Morrison sure didn’t seem very interested in writing them in-character, that’s for sure.

Dear Cap: Just for the record, yes, Jubilee's outfit may look stupid, but remember that she was introduced almost as a joke in the pages of Wolverine -- the joke being that she was Robin to his Batman, and at least initially, her outfit was colored to match Robin's. (That's probably also why she and Tim Drake romanced in the Marvel/DC cross-overs.) For a time (maybe still -- I've long since dropped the X-titles) she even wore her "X" where Robin had the "R."
And one more point regarding the Superman age. Maybe someone else pointed this out, but last night I was re-reading The Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told (man, I miss that series of books ...) and came to "Superman Returns To Krypton," the story where he first encounters kryptonite. He follows lightrays back to Krypton, watches it explode, and follows his infant self to Kansas. After realizing that he himself is the baby in the rocket, he thinks "Now I'll fly back to the 20th Century ..." As this story was first published in 1949, this would make him at least 50!
He certainly handles it well, don't you think?

Far better than Mr. Smith handles anything, that’s for sure. Now, I get the part about Jubilee being a semi-parody of Robin, but who ever thought her initial outfit would be so awkward at best? Some people think Dick Grayson’s original costume design was embarrassing, and it’s debatable, but who knew he’d get a female variant with a similar drawback?

In fact, now that I think of it, any problems had with the Robin costume of yesteryear were an overreaction, because he was usually wearing short sleeved shirts along with his tights, and it was all meant to be a takeoff on what trapeze acrobats wear, so I just can't understand how such a Wertham-like fuss wound up being made that later led to the tights being discarded by the end of the 80s. Plus, Robin was wearing a cape, not a trenchcoat, or it could've looked a lot more embarrassing than some must think. That's why Jubilee's first outfit is so ridiculous compared with the Robin outfit. Some garments just don't mesh well with others. If she'd been wearing jeans with the coat, it would've worked better, or, if it were a cape with the shorts...

Hey Cap: Having just watched the Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker movie a couple of times, I'm pretty impressed. Much like the X-Men movie, my comic-despising friends and anti-superhero/pro-Vertigo girlfriend enjoyed it as much as I did, which is always a good sign.
Anyway, I know a handful of scenes were cut from the final version of the movie, which I won't spoil here. As much of a supporter of artistic vision (as I am), I still think the movie is worth watching, and is more suitable for all ages without the amplified violence. I love my "adult content" as much as the next guy, but I'm satisfied with the movie as is. I'm a bit too old to be influenced by cartoon violence, but based on the cut scenes I found online, I wouldn't expect a "kids" movie to be any more violent than the released version anyways. So what did you think?
Also, Batman: RotJ and the recent JLA cameos on the Batman Beyond show have resparked my interest in the series. Other than the two Batman Beyond movies on DVD (Return of The Joker and the pilot), are Warner Brothers planning on releasing the rest of the episodes on DVD? I've been to about a thousand Web sites looking for info, to no avail.
I haven't heard anything about Batman Beyond being released on video or DVD, but Columbia House is releasing the various "regular" Batman animated series in a slick, professional VHS package that I've been snapping up. I suspect that if that Batman series is successful, then Batman Beyond could get the treatment next. I'm posting your letter to see if any Legion of Superfluous Heroes members have any hard information for us.
And I haven't seen Return of The Joker yet. In general, I think the issue of kids being influenced by violent shows is overblown; I watched a whole lot of Roadrunner cartoons (now removed from circulation in the U.S.) as a kid and never once considered dropping an anvil on anybody's head. And, despite all those women chained up in my basement, I turned out pretty well-adjusted. I think that kids generally understand the difference between cartoon violence and the real thing; those that don't or who are tempted to re-create cartoon violence or D&D scenarios in real life have a LOT more problems upstairs than what TV shows they watch. Certainly, parental guidance is called for -- but I see it in the form of discussing with the kids what they see, so they develop a healthy understanding of the world and their place in it. Banning books and TV shows isn't going to solve anything and will likely make things much worse. Of course, my suggestion requires that parents actually be parents, and we're all far too busy for that, aren't we? Much easier to use the boob tube as a substitute parent and then blame the media when our attention-starved kids start setting cats on fire.
Having said that, I also have no problem with Warner Bros. taking care that their product is suitable for all ages in whatever way they see fit. It's their product, and the market will reflect if their efforts are misguided or not. If, for example, the chopping in BB: Joker results in a movie that isn't enjoyable, then it won't sell and that will be its own punishment. From your comments, that's not the case.
Whoops! There I go ranting again! Better switch to decaf, even if it is 4:30 a.m. Anyway, if any Legionnaires want to comment on Return of The Joker, feel free to use this space.

This from somebody who clearly doesn’t think Identity Crisis could possibly be misogynistic. Sure, there are some kids who can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, but it all depends on what kind of education they’re getting. If he doesn’t think cartoon violence could influence children, does he think that Nazism, the Koran and Scientology couldn’t possibly influence anybody either? Let us be perfectly clear: if cartoons were part of a religion, they’d be used to screw up young minds too. 2 decades ago, I watched TV programs and films broadcast on Jordanian television. In some instances, they would censor sexual scenes – certainly kissing – but violence remained perfectly intact, and that may have included rape scenes, chillingly enough. There’s some things I watched on their channel which, in that specific circumstance, makes me feel very dirty in retrospect.

And here’s something else to consider: what if some of these kids he speaks of grew up to read Identity Crisis, Avengers: Disassembled and other similar horrors? Even if they didn’t turn violent afterwards, there’s still the danger of their being led to think sexual abuse is a trivial issue, while viewing the culprit’s “rights” as far more crucial than the victim’s. That’s another something Smith hasn’t pondered, and probably never will. But it’s a very valid concern, and after reading an account of a blogmistress who was harassed by a 51-year-old cybertroll who gleefully gloated that IC had the “best rape scene ever”, I think there’s a legitimate argument to be made that IC appeals to the lowest common denominators in society, and sadism can both draw and encourage sadism. And that IC has gone on to be used as a tool for sexual harassment. How can the apologists for that screed keep a straight face and continue to uphold it with all the bad influence it’s had?

And funny how WB takes care of their cartoon output, but not their comics output. I have nothing against exploring mature themes in comics, but it has to be done with a clear perspective of right and wrong, which IC did not feature, and Smith refused to tell his audience about in his paper columns.

Dear Captain: In re Canceled Comics Cavalcade and Valiant/Acclaim:
Considering I am the biggest, insane, diehard Valiant Comics fan, I ... put a fork into Acclaim Comics the day after the press release, as my E-Zine read:

Acclaim Entertainment announced yesterday in its quarterly report a loss of $131.7 million dollars, and laid out its plan for 2001 which included the discontinuation of all Acclaim Comics. To quote from the Web site:
<<... Also in fiscal 2000, the Company recorded a charge of $17.9 million to write-off the remaining goodwill associated with its comic book and strategy guide publishing business. This operation is not projected to generate sufficient operating cash flows to support recoverability of the goodwill. The Company will continue to publish strategy guides, but not comic book magazines.>>
This means it is the end of Acclaim Comics.
We won't ever see the remaining three issues of Unity 2000, or the "VH3" relaunch (a teaser for the VH3 relaunch can be seen at Sonicdan's Web site here).
Nothing. Valiant Comics stopped publishing in 1996.
It means the Valiant/Acclaim Heroes/Acclaim comic books have all ended at 878 issues.
I don't feel either way for the end of Acclaim Comics. My only regret was that we'll never get to see the end of Unity 2000. I recently spoke to Jim Shooter, who told me one day I'll get the scripts for those unpublished issues, so one day I'll at least get to READ the entire story.
Valiant/Acclaim went from a grass-roots movement started by Jim Shooter and Steve Massarsky, who enjoyed immense gratification from creating something truly unique and memorable; something that fans today, nine years later, still talk about (and when was the last time you all looked back on "the golden days" when Wildcats #1 came out?). The company prospered and grew, to be sold to Acclaim Entertainment when they were at the top of their form for $65 million dollars.
Acclaim Comics downsized a bit, and continued putting out comics. Then the gradual decline began right after "The Chaos Effect;" "Birthquake" (cut) the titles to eight and the staff in half. One memorable bright star was Jeff Gomez, the late Valiant/early Acclaim's answer to Jim Shooter, who published Magic: The Gathering for Acclaim in addition to his editorial duties on "the future books." His film, Red Light August, was released in 1998; it got 7 out of 10 stars from The Internet Movie Database, which ain't easy to do. Then one day, Acclaim stopped making VH1 comics.
Approximately a year later, Acclaim budgeted millions to develop a VH2, "Valiant Heroes" line of comic books. Although this attempt had good intentions, I would credit its failure to the lack of continuity and erratic shipping which was partly the fault of Acclaim Entertainment (the "too many cooks in one kitchen" situation).
VH3 had a weak relaunch in 1998/99 with the return of Turok and Shadowman, to be quickly followed by Unity 2000. Unity 2000 would have in effect accomplished what Fabian Nicieza intended to do with VH2 in uniting all Valiant Universes into one, encompassing Universe with all the current versions of V/A characters in it. From there, the plan was an official VH3 (or is it VH4?) with the return of Master Darque, a corporate-raiding 41st-century Magnus, a reanimated Bloodshot and so on. But this will never happen. (At least), from Acclaim Entertainment.
You know, of all the e-mail I get from Valiant fans across the world, the two most frequently said sentiments are "I wish Jim Shooter would take over and do it all over again! MAN, those early Valiants were killer!" and "I wish someone would buy the Valiant characters and do it right." At this point, I finally agree. But the reality of Valiant selling off its characters is slim, and if they decided to do it, who would shell out that kind of money anyway?
The longest-employed Valiant staffer was Scott Friedlander, who started with Valiant in 1990, elbow to elbow with Joe Quesada in the pits of Knob Row (bet you didn't know that fact) and left when they closed their New York offices. In Glen Cove there was a return to a grass-roots movement in 1998 with four people in the "comic books" department (Omar Banmally, Mike Marts, James Perham and Walter Black), then three, then two, then one, now none. They have been summarily made extinct. There are a great deal of people whose entire professional comics career consisted of Valiant Comics, who have since moved on to graphic design/advertising/films/flipping burgers. There were many who worked at Valiant and springboarded into something more successful in the same media (Bernard Chang at Disney, Sean Chen at Marvel, Rags (Morales) at DC, David Lapham's Stray Bullets and so on). There were those who worked for Valiant, as they did with several other companies over their illustrious careers (Jim Shooter, Barry Windsor-Smith, Bob Layton, etc.), one person who ended their career with Valiant (Don Perlin) and one person who died while an employee of Acclaim (Seaborn Adamson). I would like to reflect on the people who put out these books for the past decade and thank them all. The last Valiant employee, their final architect in the hopes of a revival is James Perham, who should have no problem finding employment in comic books, if that is his desire.
So what's next? Let's just hope someone wins the lottery and decides to make the magic happen again. I would recommend (to) fellow Valiant readers other comics to read, but I am not qualified, since I stopped reading comics at the end of VH2 with the exception of Unity 2000, and you comics readers have already since moved on to other titles. The VEO website will continue, as I know [name withheld]'s valiantcomics.com and Sonicdan's will.
Thanks, [withheld]. Heckuvan obituary.

As interesting as some, if not all, of Valiant’s original output probably was, Morales’ involvement makes me feel ill, because he’s the artist who should go down in history in disgrace and shame for the revolting job he did in Identity Crisis. As of now, I’m glad I parted ways with the Hawkman trades I once owned. The stories there, now that I think of it, were not what they could’ve been.

Oh, and about Unity 2000, wasn’t that the crossover Valiant did back in the day? If there was any mistake they made from a business perspective, that would have to be it. (The mistake from a story perspective would have to be the premise in the original Archer & Armstrong, which was rather disgusting.) They may have learned their lesson, but it was too late, and now, look how the revived Valiant’s making the same mistake.

Dear Cap: How about a 100-page weekly comic book for free in every Sunday paper across the country?
1) Wider audience
2) Publicity
3) It would put comic books in the hands of people who read
4) People love comic strips, maybe by putting a comic book in the newspaper it would change peoples minds about comic books.
1) The cost. I don't know what it would cost, but if one company couldn't do it then maybe two or more could. Image, Superman, X-Men, Mystic, Planetary, Witchblade, Spider-Man -- all in one free weekly book. What do you think?
I think I would have died and gone to heaven, […]. Which is probably the only place such a scheme would work, given the financial woes of both the comic-book and newspaper industries. Further, the common wisdom at newspaper syndicates (right or wrong) is that the adventure strip is dead -- and they're not too high on gag-a-days, either. There's not an editor in America who'd consider the proposal, or a comics company that could afford it.
But it is a nice thought, isn't it?

If it were possible, they’d have to be careful what kind of story structures they put in, because failure would only mean there’s no chance a general audience would buy into the idea. But don’t count on Mr. Smith to realize an ounce of that.

Dear Cap'n: First off, the end of the Silver Age should be borne from extensive thought and consideration -- it would be a tragic error as historians if we force-fit the date for arbitrary reasons (such as [name withheld]'s desire for a balance of years per era). History is never nice and neat and we should respect its complexity.
One major problem that vexes fixing definite dates for the SA is the overlap where companies developed at differing schedules and evolved along differing lines. DC has more or less evolved through content. Marvel, however, has more-or-less evolved through creators.
For DC, the Silver Age began in '56 with all new costumes. For Marvel, the SA began in '61 with an all-new approach to writing. Marvel's comics were comparably "relevant" (utilizing real-world personalities/characteristics) from the beginning. DC didn't catch on until Denny O'Neil came along in '67 (and continued with Infantino's "woe-is-me" superhero philosophy). DC informally adopted O'Neil's writing and Neal Adams's art as their "house style," thus ushering in a whole new approach to their comics. Thus, in one sense, ending DC's SA between '68-'70 seems about right.
But Marvel's approach to their comics seems fairly unchanged from '61 till about the time Frank Miller took over Daredevil. Under Shooter in the early '80s, stories and art became markedly different than the previous "house style." The proliferation of Marvel titles in '68 provided just more of the same and the loss of Kirby didn't effect the house style (which was being seen through a John Buscema lens and later a John Byrne lens). From '61-'80 Marvel was pretty much making the same comics over and over (the same way AC/DC has been remaking Back In Black for 20 years). Under Shooter, that would change. Thus, I would end Marvel's SA vaguely around 1980.
Interjection: I wouldn't give Marvel a "Bronze Age." Marvel went from the foundational "Stan Lee Age" to the advanced "Jim Shooter Age" to the eroded "Perelman Age" (where all that Lee/Shooter had built crumbled into chaos) to the current "Scavenger Age" (where pieces are being spit-shined for re-sale).
Some DC followers end DC's SA in '86 with the Crisis relaunches. If eras are determined by costumes/continuity, then DC's SA should in fact extend from '56 to '86. It's easy to break up DC's history according to costumes/continuity and harder according to story/art philosophy. Note: Alan Moore could have revamped DC's writing philosophy as O'Neil's did. But editorially DC had no clue what to do with Moore so they put him and his ilk in their own separate group called Vertigo -- leaving the superhero books in their traditional form.
DC didn't unshackle itself from its conservative creative approach until about 1990 or thereafter, well after the latest SA end. So, I think, DC should be historically divided according to costume/continuity. Marvel, traditionally being progressive (until the '90s), should be historically divided according to creative style. This doesn't make getting a definitive date easier, but it's a more accurate way of studying the companies.
Convenience shouldn't be the lens through which we study comics' past.
You make a compelling argument, [name withheld], and I appreciate your analysis. Very thoughtful, very articulate.
Although, I must defend [name withheld] when you accuse him of using "convenience" as a "lens through which we study comics' past." Nobody would disagree that history is complex and doesn't fall neatly into pre-ordained slots. But everybody involved in this debate, yourself included, are using shorthand techniques as useful demarcations to make their points quickly and digestibly. We're not writing a scholarly text here -- we are, to coin a phrase, writing the first draft of history. I think we can afford a little flexibility in our approach.
Meantime, I'd like to address some of your points. To wit: If you want to argue that Marvel's "Ages" begin and end with writing style, then I would contend that Marvel's Silver Age ended well before 1980. Here's my position:
Marvel's Silver Age was marked by a wild enthusiasm and creative fecundity, fomented by Stan Lee's spontaneous personality and loose writing style, and blown wide open by formerly-restrained artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko thriving creatively in that environment. I was there for that ride, and I remember it stopping -- abruptly -- in the early '70s. What I noticed first and foremost is that the stories had a different "feel" -- nothing was happening. I was USED to things HAPPENING. Sure enough, I checked the credit boxes, and none of the names I'd been used to seeing for close to a decade were there any more. Something was wrong! I was so dismayed, in fact, that I started looking around for a new thrill -- I started buying Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and O'Neil/Adams Batman. (It kinda looked like Marvel, anyway.)
What had happened, and became more apparent in the next few years, was that all the "old masters" had been replaced by young fanboys who merely aped what the previous generation had done. That's not a slam on the Thomases and Conways and Weins and Wolfmans and Engleharts and Moenchs and Isabellas -- the best of the bunch -- but they had grown up thrilled by Stan & Jack's work, and I'm guessing that they didn't want to change or destroy what they themselves loved. Or, to put it another way, Stan never looked over his shoulder in 1963 at some mythological Founding Father. He just did whatever he wanted. But these new guys, perforce, were always second-guessing whether "Stan would like this." That's quite a sea change, and it resulted in cautious, tentative writing. As inventive as these guys may have been, or could have been, they were straightjacketing themselves so as not to damage Mt. Rushmore. Nor did upper management want any changes, since Mt. Rushmore was making piles of money -- Marvel surpassed DC in sales around 1969.
The result of this was that by the mid-'70s the characters themselves had stopped evolving -- Spider-Man had stopped aging, for example -- and a status quo was achieved for all the "old-guard" characters that never varied from what Lee/Kirby, et al, had established. The new characters created in the '70s -- Ghost Rider, Luke Cage, Nova, etc. -- were pale imitations with less-than-stellar motivations and origins, and therefore destined for second-tier status. (Nova, for example, tried desperately to repeat the Spider-Man "formula" of young-kid-with-alliterative-name-deals-with-sudden-responsibilities -- but with none of the heart that Lee/Ditko had given Peter Parker. It succeeded only in being incredibly boring, with a "been there, done that" feel to it. Like most of the line, I might add.)
And I have to emphasize here what a traumatic thing it was when Marvel's characters stopped aging. They stopped being real. The stories didn't matter any more. Marvel's characters had always aged with me and my whole generation, my whole life. Spidey was always my age. Reed Richards was always my dad's age. Suddenly, Spider-Man was just like Superman -- a boring, unchanging icon. If you're under 35, you have never lived in an era where comic-book characters aged, and you can't imagine the sense of loss I felt. It took me years to stop looking for "old" Marvel, and learn to appreciate what was available, here and now. ("Love the one you're with ... ")
And what did that reflect about the thinking of the savants in charge of Marvel? What profound change had occurred, from Stan enthusiastically growing Peter Parker monthly for eight years, to Roy Thomas "freezing" Spidey at age 27? Isn't that a profound change in "writing style"?
Nobody at any level at Marvel wanted anything to change in the '70s, because Marvel was at the top. Nothing could change, because the driving energy and singular personality behind Marvel in the '60s (with apologies to Kirby fans) was Stan Lee -- and he was gone, replaced by various "writer/editor" fiefdoms and a constantly rotating "editor in chief" with no power. The watchword was "consolidate," not "create." Marvel in the '70s was, in fact, much like DC in the '60s -- very businesslike, and pretty dull. It had grown a bureaucracy!
In short, Marvel's creatively explosive Silver Age ended the minute Peter Parker stopped aging. That's a quick shorthand for a variety of things, not the least of which was Stan, Jack, Steve and the rest bowing to young replacements who were more inclined to entrench rather than advance. Circle the wagons where you are, don't head West.
Like a shark, Marvel's Silver Age died when it stopped moving forward. And the first warning signs of that -- such as the changing of the guard on Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man from the Founding Fathers to their wetnose replacements and the resultant creative drift -- was in 1970. The same year, coinkadently, that Mort Weisinger retired at DC, taking away the iron fist and allowing creative blossoming there for good or ill -- the first, immediate act being Superman regressing from 35 to 29 years of age. It was also the year that saw the first issue of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and O'Neil and Adams teaming on Batman.
Not that I'm saying that THE SILVER AGE ENDED IN 1970 IN A VERY NEAT AND ORDERLY FASHION. I'm just saying, hmm, here's a handy place to plant a flag. Something was happening here.
So, anyway, I see little impact from Shooter's ascension to the top spot around 1980; he was, to me, merely emblematic of a trend that I had watched in action for years. "My" era had ended already, and I knew it. I watched Shooter rise the whole time, and he was, to me, the "anti-Stan" -- he enforced rules, whereas Lee embraced experimentation; he insisted on order, whereas Kirby and Ditko had thrived on chaos; he insisted on formula, whereas Marvel had exploded in the '60s precisely from the reverse. The Bullpen -- and the comics -- were dry, static and formulaic in the '70s and early '80s. The characters were unchanging, unmoving, unaging, and simply went through the motions as various interchangeable writers recycled old Stan Lee scripts. The house art style during Shooter's tenure was neither Kirby nor Buscema nor Romita (although I agree with you that all three had their time in the sun), but rather, it was simply workmanlike -- Don Perlin, if you will (who followed Shooter to Valiant).
Not that this makes Shooter a bad guy -- to my mind, he rose to the top because he best epitomized the ossification that had already occurred, and was merely codifying it. Silver Age Marvel was already dead, killed by success and the emigration of its authors. It simply took 10 years for the corpse to cool enough so that it became obvious in hindsight that something drastic had happened between 1968 and 1980. Me, I knew it at the time.
I see the Lee/Kirby period as an easily quantifiable "Age" -- Marvel's exuberant "adolescence." And the moribund '70s and early '80s were Marvel's sober, plodding middle age. (Strangely, Marvel's wildly experimental youth was overseen by men in their 40s and 50s and 60s-- and their conservative middle age was administered by guys in their 20s and 30s. Go figure.) Things have changed since then and my analogy breaks down -- as you note, history isn't handily segmented -- but that's how it appeared to me.
Since you feel strongly about a "Shooter Era" and I don't, I suspect we'll disagree. That's probably a reflection of our different experiences.
But, hey, that's just my opinion. And, after all, the "Ages" of comics are an entirely arbitrary and subjective convenience we create for ourselves. A historian 1,000 years from now will likely look back at comic books 1938-2000 and conclude that it was all ONE age -- the dead one!
Hurm. I may be ranting again. Ah, well. At least my mail will be interesting!

And my response will be even more, though I obviously can’t guarantee it’ll be so clever. What is Smith’s problem with characters not aging? I don’t buy for a moment that it’s impossible to make the characters compelling if they don’t age physically. Besides, did he ever really think the editors – and especially the audience, no matter what age they are – want the heroes to become a bunch of toothless, gray-haired geriatrics? That wouldn’t be wish fulfillment if they did, and besides, what about character interactions with relatives, friends, business partners and acquaintances? That never occurs to people like Smith, does it?

And I disagree that DC only broke the shackles of its “conservative” approach to storytelling in the 1990s. They did it earlier in the Bronze Age, as Green Lantern/Arrow makes clear enough, and even in the 80s they handled storytelling well enough, though that doesn’t mean there weren’t questionable things turning up at the time. Some of the Vertigo output may work well, but the problem is how they basically abandoned cohesion in their superhero line for the sake of “adult” storytelling, and in the case of their superhero universe, for the sake of ideas that appeal to perverts.

Dear Cap: In regard to The Best of 2000
I agreed with you regarding your recommendations, especially Allred's AAAPOP, and (have a few to add), such as:
Cartoon Books' Bone by Jeff Smith
Rose by Smith & Charles Vess
Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
Bongo's Simpsons & related titles
Jill Thompson's Scary Godmother (the comics; the hardcovers are too pricy for me)
Akiko by Mark Crilley
Thanks. I am glad CBG added your column.
I'm glad CBG added my column, too, […]! And thanks for the "Best Of" list!

I’m glad the correspondent didn’t think of recommending Joe Sacco’s blood libels, though I’m galled at this point anybody would recommend the Simpsons anymore. Today, I’ve concluded it’s a colossally overrated cartoon, period. And a shame CBG had to add Smith’s columns when it was still around. Now here’s another letter of mind, where I brought up what makes for great “good girl art”:

Dear “Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith: On December 14, 2000, [name withheld] asked about what "Good Girl Art" means, and you responded that it has a whole lot of different meanings to diffenrent people. And so I thought I’d add my thoughts on what Good Girl Art is to me. And in my viewpoint, it means:
Gorgeous and smooth bods
Wasp-thin waists
Big, pouty lips
Lots of makeup (escpecially blue and purple eyeshadow)
A really sexy pair of legs
A beautiful pair of eyes
A heaving bosom
Sexy hairdos that fall to the waist
Plenty of cleavage, or even a Spandex suit that can lovingly hug their every curve
A shapely pair of buttocks
And even, decidedly, fighting skills. I consider girls in comic books to look better in action than being held prisoner and tied up.
And when speaking about good-girl art, it is decidedly something that should refer only to GOOD GIRLS. Meaning, in other words, ladies who take the side of good and honesty, kindness, upholding the law, stuff like that. In my opinion, villianesses shouldn’t be drawn with most of these features. ... As far as I’m concerned, only the good gals should be drawn with really sexy features, and only they should be truly gravity defiant.
And oh, if you’re wondering just what is it that’s holding up the really loose-looking costumes and keeps them glued so well to their bods, well, I’d say that it’s either the writer/artist/readers imagination or even sci-fi/magic powers, if they’ve got any.
Avi, I'm growing concerned about you. That e-mail was ... disturbing!
Anyway, if there's anybody who's seen one of Adam Hughes's Wonder Woman covers and doesn't think that the Amazing Amazon can defy gravity, they need to get their eyes checked! And I'm starting to grow strangely fascinated by The Scarlet Witch -- !

Even if that’s meant to be a positive reply, I don’t buy his own blather for a moment. He ultimately went along with the premise seen in Avengers: Disassembled, and never lamented how Rick Remender wiped out Scarlet Witch yet again in Uncanny Avengers, along with Rogue. And of course, there’s that aforementioned DC monstrosity he also embraced. As a result, I don’t think he’s very supportive of beauty if he tolerates stories that desecrate it.

Incidentally, “good girl art” is something I don’t hear or see being mentioned much these days. IMO, that’s not a good sign. Let’s go next to a letter following up on one of mine from January 17, 2001:

Dear Cap: I read your Q&A column and I was kinda intrigued by Avi Green of Jerusalem, Israel, (whose) letter ask(ed) what part of Canada Wolverine was from, or was he an American because of his slang.
1) He said we Canadians used the word "lad" instead of "Bub." I never heard anybody in Canada use the word "lad." OK, I realize Canada is big and I don't know all parts of this beautiful country. (But) I have a nice satellite dish with stations all over Canada -- (and) I get different dialects but no "lad". ... I have traveled and lived in some parts of the country, even some cities with very British descendants, (and) never have I heard the word "lad" been pronunced as a replacement for the word "Bub"!
2) Canada has the longest unprotected frontier, and we are so close to the USA that we are sometimes assimilated with the American culture and dialect. Since half the TV stations are from the USA, we can and do pick up some slang. Since some military compounds are close to the USA and Wolverine was a member of the force maybe he picked the word "Bub" from there!
3) I can't name another person who uses the word "Bub"!
4) As for the descendants of this fine country, it is a mix of French, Scots, English, Irish, etc. ... same as the USA!
5) Since Wolverine has had his origin told countless times as being Canadian
why would it be false?
6) He was part of Canada's only superhero group Alpha Flight. Why would an
American be part of a Canadian-only group?
As I said last week, [name withheld], Wolverine has shown an incredible facility for language, and his lengthy lifespan has allowed him many travels. Wolverine has spoken Russian, French, English and Japanese (that I can recall offhand), so there's absolutely no telling where he got "Bub" from. But, as far as I can tell, there's no question that he's Canadian (although everything else seems up for grabs ...)
And thanks for giving us the Canadian viewpoint, which, as you note, is often drowned out by the cultural cacophany from the south!

Wolverine may have great facility, thanks to past writers with talent, but Mr. Smith has no facility for great language or talent at all. But thanks to the guy who’d written this letter all the same, and he’s in a better position than Smith will ever be!

Dear Captain: With regards to [name withheld]'s inquiry about why the "Big Guns" don't sue other companies for "ripoffs" of their characters (posted on the Jan. 4, 2001, Q&A column), I can cite at least one other time DC sued for trademark infringement (a la their suit against Fawcett over Captain Marvel).
In the '80s, DC sued the producers of Greatest American Hero for trademark infringement. If I recall correctly, the judge threw the case out, stating that the similarities were not that great. The judge described Superman as "cool," while GAH was a klutz; also, that Superman hid his secret ID from Lois, while Ralph Hinkley (our hero) shared his secret with his girlfriend.
Great Web site! I log on every day for updates, and appreciate all your work. Thanks!
And thanks to you, [withheld], for that info. It could suggest another reason for DC not suing very often -- it might not work! Perhaps they prefer the threat rather than taking chances in court. Here's another letter on the Captain Marvel court case:

I do know that Smith’s columns don’t work, and never did since he’d begun over 2 decades ago. They’re like a car with gas-guzzling automatic transmission that runs out of steam far too soon. And another way to describe him would be the way the judge in the case described GAH, though it’d still be putting things lightly.

Dear Captain Comics: I hate to be negative but I just noticed a few little mistakes you made that I thought you should know about.
First, you suggested in Jan 4th's Q&A that the (high) sales of Captain Marvel (were) the reason that they were sued (and not other '40s Superman pretenders or Image knockoffs). However, apparently earlier than the CM court case in 1940, Wonderman of Fox Comics went to an early retirement thanks to a copyright suit over his resemblance to Superman. So I have to wonder if CM was singled out that much. Remember that if you allow people to violate your copyrights you run the risk of losing them. That is a big reason for these suits.
On a related issue, (in) Dec. 21's Q&A you say that DC never won the suit against Fawcett and that it was settled out of court. They did settle but only after the courts had ruled that Captain Marvel did infringe on rights, however the question of damages had to be settled on. How do I know all this? I read it in Bob Ingersoll's colummn at The Law is a Ass Installment # 66, originally ... published in Comics Buyer's Guide #602, May 31, 1985, and Alter Ego Vol. 3, No. 3 (also check out installment #70 for more on copyright). I have a lot of fun reading those columns (I also liked the Captain America book he co-wrote).
I hope I do not come off as too negative or not enjoying your columns or Web site. They are great and a lot of fun. I just thought you would want to know. Please keep up the good work.
You're not a bit negative, [withheld] -- I welcome errata and addenda, because you can never be too accurate -- and nobody (including me, cuss it) knows everything.
Anyway, in reference to Captain Marvel's sales and DC's lawsuit, I'm using as my source Dick Lupoff of All in Color for a Dime, who cited CM's sales as the specific reason he was singled out. If he was wrong, then he was wrong -- but he was the only historian I could find who even addressed the subject, and so I quoted him. Frankly, until DC's lawyers tell us what their criteria for lawsuits are, we'll just have to speculate.
Ingersoll is quoted in Dime also as saying that Fawcett had lost the case for all intents and purposes, but Lupoff immediately said the reverse. I didn't use Ingersoll's remarks because all the other sources I looked up -- Jim Steranko, Ron Goulart and Les Daniels -- were all careful to say that the case wasn't over, and that nobody knows the terms of Fawcett's "surrender." Without corroboration, I could only assume that what Ingersoll wrote was his opinion, rather than fact, and so avoided mention of it.

Mr. Lupoff couldn’t be as wrong as Mr. Smith is ever so often, mainly from a moral perspective, as I’ve noted at least once before.

Dear Cap: Isn't it an exciting time to be a comic fan?

I just realized this while reading the news bulletin about the Quitely/Churchill appointments. What other medium allows its enthusiasts to be this involved in its decisions?

Changes will be made that will affect the entire industry soon: the format is obselete and demands a completely different model; we're finally relaxing our conditions for admittance into our "fanboy" club so as to attract people who couldn't care whether it's Mxyzptlk or Mxyztplk; and the people in charge are finally allowing real creators to do real and important work (dead mutants in 2001, YEAH!). I admit we have a gauntlet to run, but I have faith. It's a vital artform and our icons have simply become too human to die.

You put your finger on an interesting contradiction, [name withheld] -- the industry is teetering on the brink of extinction, and yet the comics themselves have never been better written, more diverse, or more lucrative for the creators (those who can FIND work, that is).
Larry Young, publisher/writer of Astronauts in Trouble, has declaimed on another Web site that the day of the 32-page pamphlet is dead (I agree with him). Writer Steven Grant has predicted that 2001 will be "The Year of Blood," in which a decisive shakeup will change the face of comics forever.
Maybe so, maybe no. But let's hope that whatever form our beloved little hobby takes in the future, that the aspect of fan involvement so unique to comics continues.
After all, we're a special group of people! We respond to the phrase "dead mutants in 2001" with cheers, and that's simply too valuable to be lost! :) But here's different reaction to the X-changes:

Grant may have predicted something – specifically, a very awful precedent in the 21st century, but Smith’s never had any objections to what came up this past decade.

And since this was written, Marvel’s become a closed shop, and fans have been 99 percent shut out of all the proceedings.

Dear Capn: In addressing the issue of supervillains' love lives, [name withheld] says:

<<If you don't get to know a little something about who they are outside of their costumes and show that they have human needs and drives, they end up being just cardboard stock characters and that's not very exciting (Vibro anyone?).>>

I don't know, the supervillain on the make might just find "Vibro" very interesting indeed.

I myself never had any trouble with the superhero name Speedy. It really seemed to fit the spirit of a plucky child adventurer who debuted in the 'forties. Spunk, a bit of naivete, gosh-darnit-ness. And it always made immediate "arrow sense" to me, too, since arrows are quite swift when expertly shot.
Can I take this opportunity to tell you how utterly depressing I find it that Mark Millar, Frank Quitely, Axel Alonso and Mike Allred have all gone over not only to Marvel but to X-MEN books on top of it? Mike freakin' Allred -- on an X- book???

This is the part where you tell my exactly why it is I shouldn't just end it all now, Capn.

I certainly hope they make a whole heapin' helpin' of the green stuff -- I do try to look for the silver lining.

Thanks for that listing of upcoming Dark Horse releases. It was the first word I'd come across about the next American Splendor comic book! Hey, you should do a column on ol' Harvey (Pekar), if you haven't already!

Oh, also ... I read somewhere on the Net (maybe it was your site?) that Oni Press has announced the imminent return of Jetcat! The bossest superhero ever. I believe her title is to be a bi-monthly or quarterly series, each issue part color, part black-and-white. Oh, Capn, when this gets released can you PLEASE push the sweet patootie out of it? JETCAT ROCKS.

Seriously, Jay Stephens's creation is really wonderful -- fun and silly, with just enough cranky edge and identifiable "childhood" sense. If you haven't seen her yet, please do check out the Dark Horse four-issue The Land of Nod miniseries from 1997 (and I believe the material has been collected in either The Land of Nod Treasury or The Land of Nod Rockabye Book). Jetcat has also had a feature in Nickelodeon Magazine, and hopefully those short strips will one day be collected.
If you like Speedy, […], more power to you. I was never been a big fan of archer characters in general -- taking arrows to a gunfight never seemed particularly bright to me -- but at least "Green Arrow" and "Hawkeye" made sense, whereas "Speedy" sounded like he ought to be sidekicking with The Flash. Ah, well, c'est la vie.
And if you want reassurance that all of your favorite creators will now be working on X-Men, look at it this way: The books have got to improve. X-Men might actually end up pointing toward the next wave of comics evolution! And, as Warren Ellis said in one of his newsletters, you can't fault the creators for choosing this path -- they're going where they feel they need or want to go, and we don't know what those reasons are. If it's right for them, then it's right for them.
And Jetcat is indeed coming to Oni in April in a bi-monthly series. Jetcat Clubhouse will be a 24-page B&W every even-numbered issue, and have eight color pages in the odd-numbered issues. A Land of Nod Treasury, collecting early Jay Stephens material, is slated for May.

No mention of good writing that could make him enjoy the archers better than he says he did, I see. Nor has there been any improvement for the X-books, just a lot more laughable travesty, as seen with the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, a major embarrassment that put Xavier in death limbo.

Dear Cap:
<<While I find Promethea both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually stimulating, and Top Ten enjoyable, the remainder of the ABC line leaves me cold. – […]>>
Well, Mike still thinks more highly of the line than I do. The only title I liked at all was Tom Strong, and even that I didn't enjoy enough to buy more than a few issues.
I think it is a good sign that even though the regular series was canceled, Dark Horse thinks there are still enough Xena fans to put out another TPB.
<<And if [...] is right ... -- Avi Green>>
If? If?!? Is there really any question?
Sorry. Sudden ego surge. I need my medication.
<<And although my familiarity with the issues from the 'eighties is vague by now, did she really go ROLLER SKATING around the X-mansion in that trenchcoat and pair of shorts? If Jubilee did, then that would have to be a howler.>>
Not only did Jubilee roller blade at the X-Estate, but she got Professor X to join her! The professor temporarily regained use of his legs (Uncanny #297, just after the "Executioner's Song" storyline). Jubilee told him that "... you ain't lived until you've bladed." They had a pleasant afternoon until Xavier started losing control of his legs again. Jubilee then helped him back to his wheelchair. It was actually a touching scene.
<<I’m really disappointed that Marvel’s writers have been so cruel to (Jubilee). -- Avi Green>>
If you think Marvel's writers have been cruel then you should definitely avoid the Generation X TV movie! Not only did they have her in an even more bright version of her "Robin" costume, but they made her Caucasian. Now, how's that for a slap in the face?
<<What's the status on the Watchmen action figures from DC Direct that were announced several months ago? – […]>>
When Alan Moore decided to pull his support from DC's planned Watchmen celebration, DC themselves pulled the plug on the Watchmen figures and the hardcover collection. Granted, a 15-year anniversary seems like a strange thing to celebrate and I sure don't need a hardcover collection of a story that I already have, but I was looking forward to the action figures. It seems a crying shame that DC, in an attempt to appease Moore, is depriving the fans of something that they would enjoy.
<<WizardWorld.com be damned -- there's no such thing as a "comics portfolio." -- Captain Comics>>
One of the biggest problems there is that anything Wizard recommends slabbing is automatically not worth bothering (with) because thousands upon thousands of other fanboys are reading the same article. That pushes supply up and -- unless demand is abnormally high -- value down.
<<Do you know anything about this retcon Avengers team? – [name withheld]>>
The '50s Avengers also appeared in the Avengers Forever limited series. Check it out.
<<... the Sub-Mariner clone named Roman -- Namor backwards! -- Captain Comics>>
I remember reading -- I think in the pages of Comics Buyer's Guide -- that Subby was named Namor BECAUSE it was "Roman" spelled backwards!
<<Are there dealers that buy collections as a whole? – [withheld]>>
Besides eBay/Yahoo/Amazon, check out the classified ads in Comic Buyer's Guide. I've seen advertisments for dealers looking to buy collections in there before.
What's that? You don't get CBG? That's easy to solve. Check out www.comicbuyersguide.com for subscription info. It is much, much less to subscribe than to pay cover price from you retailer (if your retailer will even order it for you -- some don't carry it).
You weren't the only to write in with that Avengers Forever appearance by the '50s Avengers, […], but they were immediately "erased" from the timeline, though, so I didn't think that appearance "counted." Guess I shoulda mentioned it anyway.
And it's true that Namor was Roman backwards on purpose. Bill Everett was looking for something noble-sounding, so he started with Roman and ended up reversing it. I wonder if the kids who invented "Roman" had any idea how ironic their plagiarism was.

It’s worth noting the co-columnist who wrote this wasn’t worth bothering about in retrospect. Mainly because I don’t think he was ever as enthusiastic about GI Joe as he was about Transformers, just to give an idea what his politics were like. Say, I just remembered something! He was also accepting of Identity Crisis, which was cruel to both many superheroes and their co-stars! How’s that for a slap in the face?

Dear Cap: There are several fascinating aspects of superhero mythology. One of them being that while the mystery men and women have lost battles, they have never actually lost wars. The ability to emerge victorious with every battle or against every obstacle is a trick that no one has mastered in real life. Then again, I could be wrong. Elijah Price went looking for a person who rested on the other end of the spectrum in the movie Unbreakable. A nigh-invulnerable man to his fragile physical form. Well, what if there were such a person who rested on the opposite side of the spectrum from the rest of us? He or she has never lost in life. Call it having the luck of the gods, the ability to turn any obstacle into an opportunity, or whatever else you may want to call it, the question I ask is could life be imitating art (comic book)? And if such a person were to exist should he or be saving the day for the rest of us?
While, I must say that it would be thrilling and somewhat fascinating to see that a fantasy has become reality and hope that such a person could bring about a change for the better, the truth is that person would owe the rest of us nothing. It will be within their right to want to live his or her own life for the individual and/or whomever else that he or she wants to make a part of it.
I recall the classic issue of Superman when Destiny had prevented the Man of Steel from saving the day so that the people of Metropolis would learn to turn to themselves for help. A lesson for us all. Still, just to be on the safe side, it would not hurt to know that someone would respond to the ultra-sonic emergency calls on our pagers.
I've wanted an ultrasonic signal watch to summon my own superhero since I was seven years old, […] -- so far, no luck.

Good! He doesn’t deserve one! I’m sure glad he didn’t achieve the ability to summon a Bahdnesian hex-bolt genie like Johnny Thunder did either! Goodness knows what harm he’d cause, all at the genie’s expense!

Greetings Captain: I hope your holidays were as enjoyable as mine. Just thought I'd contribute to a few of the discussions currently active on the online comics community that is www.captaincomics.net.
1) From the ongoing debate department: It seems to me that Batman was guilty not just of dishonesty, but of supreme overconfidence in his betrayal of the JLA. The Dark Knight used his knowledge of his fellow Leaguers' weaknesses to devise plans to take them down in case any of them ever get taken over by aliens or turned to the dark side. Of course this presumes that Batman himself is impervious to alien mind control and the seduction of evil. If Bruce Wayne ever did become possessed by a malevolent force, the bad guys would have an immediate method of eliminating the Justice League, which, incidently, is pretty much what happened. Sure, Superman has tried to take over the world a time or two, but he never let Batman's secret identity out of the bag. I think at the very least Batman should have to say "I'm sorry" real sincere-like. I can't wait to see how Mark Waid resolves this issue.
2) From the stupid question department: Why exactly does slabbing increase the price of a comic? I ignore all articles and discussions that treat our mutual hobby as an investment, so I had never even heard of slabbing before last week. Since then I've done some research into the practice, and I don't understand the resulting inflation of prices. All CGC appears to be doing is guaranteeing the condition of a comic. Assuming prices were accurate before CGC came along shouldn't they stay about the same after being slabbed. It makes sense that an investor would be more willing to pay book price over an Internet auction if they know they are getting the condition described, but that doesn't explain a book going for six times the value listed in the Overstreet Price Guide (as apparently happened with a copy of Incredible Hulk #181.) I think this is probably just another of those ridiculous fads (like beanie babies), and we true fans can wait it out. Here's hoping you find those Sgt. Fury issues.
I've really enjoyed your columns lately. Keep up the good work.

1) I hope you've read JLA #50 by now, […] -- what did you think of Waid's solution?
2) As I've said before about CGC, it's enormously stupid -- so, naturally, people jump on it immediately and prices go insane. Here's another letter on the subject:

Whatever solution Waid had wasn’t much help. Not after writers like Greg Rucka exploited his storylines for even weaker ideas as followups.

Hi Cap: Going thru this weeks Q&A column I wanted to offer a couple of thoughts:
Regarding […]'s comment on "CGC pricing" -- The CGC organization is not a pricing service, but a grading service. There is a difference: the CGC does not assign or set prices on books, but merely offers an opinion as to the condition of the books they entomb. Discounting any sort of conspiracy theory, and not wanting to sound like an apologist for the CGC, but it is the consumer market that is setting the outrageous prices for CGC-graded books, and I don't think the CGC receives any kickback on any sale of the books they have graded. That said, it doesn't make the idea of MAKING READING MATERIAL UNREADABLE any less absurd.
Regarding […]'s Superhero Movie Quest: Debates aside over "What exactly IS a super-hero?" and the inclusion or exclusion of animated work in his quest, might I highly recommend the Fleischer Brothers' Superman short cartoon features (1941-43), available in a variety of collections on tape and DVD.
Those are terrific cartoons, […] -- better drawn, anyway, than the current stuff.

Better written than his awful columns too, or even some of the letters by the correspondent who wrote this, ditto the one who spoke about movies! Why? Because they’re both moonbats, much like a certain “captain” is. Here’s another letter of mine:

Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith: Okay, having read The Company Line report on how Marvel is now unleashing its new Ultimate Marvel magazine, I guess it’s possible to say that comic books are finally on their way back to the supermarkets and bookstores, right? Well, I’m so glad. When I was in Philadelphia last year, I saw that old TV shows like the Rockford Files and the Streets of San Francisco had returned to air on the local and non-cable stations after being broadcast for years on cable TV stations like A&E. And if old television shows like those can make a welcome return to local stations, then so too can comic books make an even more welcome return to the bookstores and supermarkets.
And that’s why, hopefully, even the regular Marvel comics can be returned to bookstores as well, even if it's got to be in almost the same way that the Ultimate line is making its appearance there. For example, Marvel could come up with some special magazines that could hold even some of the regular comics, such as some that could contain both of the current Spider-Man titles. And in the case of the X-Men, since there are currently a dozen in publication, they could come up with magazines that could contain at least three of each. Likewise, they could even come up with magazines that could contain the issues of Captain America, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The Avengers, and so on.
Meanwhile, turning to the other contents of the Ultimate Marvel magazines themselves, as I understand, they’re also going to contain movie and music reviews, the kind of stuff that today’s teens are interested in.
However, I think it could also be a good idea to try and publish some other subjects as well, like theater, opera music and dance. Let’s be clear, violent movies and heavy rock 'n' rap is not really what today’s teens should be exposed to. They should also be encouraged to take interest in quieter subjects as well. In fact, there are many times in comics when even the superheroes themselves are shown going to see plays, opera and dance. And it’d be a very good idea if Marvel too could publish some reviews in their new Ultimate magazine on such subjects. For also, just how well publicized is the theater these days? A few years ago, Mark Steyn, the theater critic for the New Criterion, said in his Culture Vultures column for the American Spectator on August 1997 that “theater is now almost invisible in the wider cultural medium; it’s not covered by Entertainment Weekly, or even Entertainment Tonight, and it has no stars to put on the Tonight Show or even the covers of People.”
That’s why I think that it could be a very good idea if Marvel were to show that they can give even the theater the attention it deserves. And also the opera and dance genres. There are so many kids these days who really need to know that there’s more to life than just mayhem and explosions. And in their many comic books, the characters themselves know that too. Which is also probably why they’re even shown reading comic books within comic books, a clever concept that Marvel’s editors thought of last year, and which you also mentioned a year ago. And it’s a very good thing if they’re shown taking up some quiet hobbies.
Also, thanks very much to [withheld] for his addendums on Psylocke’s tattoo (which, as I’ve noticed, she layers with makeup to conceal it when in public) that looks almost like a Chinese sai (dagger). And yes, it looks just as cool as when Marvel’s artists draw her with a purple hairdo.
I agree completely that Marvel's return to the newsstand is welcome, whatever the format or content. Industry analysts note that almost 90 percent of Marvel's total sales are at comics shops, where the audience is shrinking. And the industry as a whole is in terrible shape, having lost more than 75 percent of its sales since 1993!
There's a lot of argument on the Net (and sometimes on this site) about comics prices, but the truth of the matter is: The day of the 32-page pamphlet is over. It's not economically viable no matter what paper you use or what price you assign. Comics MUST find a new venue/format, or they simply won't survive.
Which is why I don't think we'll be seeing theater reviews in Ultimate Marvel Magazine -- whatever our personal feelings about educating today's youth, Marvel's not going to be covering subjects that the audience has already rejected. Nope, they're going to pander to the lowest common denominator -- which would be objectionable if they weren't on the verge of going out of business. But they are, so let's cut 'em some slack and hope they can grow a market where none exists by whatever method they can.

In late 2013, Marvel pulled out of newsstands yet again, or, more specifically, some bookstore chains like Borders. Not that anyone’s missing anything of their output since 2004 though.

But whoa, look who’s talking about low denominators! Exactly what Smith did when Identity Crisis came out! And let us be clear: sometimes, it’s better to just go out of business and keep our best held beliefs rather than succumb to crudeness and political correctness. And since when did the audience – save for the most ghetto-mentality-minded – ever reject topics like theater? I certainly haven’t, and find it stultifying he has to be so weak in his own viewpoints.

Dear Cap:
<<Plus, (the Thunderbolts') personalities as depicted in the series really contradict a lot of what went before (e.g., Goliath being a relatively unassuming follower instead of an arrogant jerk). – [withheld]>>
Based on what I've been able to dig up from TPBs and the Thunderbolts Monster issue, Erik Josten was relatively unassuming until he became Goliath, after which he was an arrogant, semi-intelligent jerk until The Fixer freed him from Kosmos, removing the Pym particles from Erik in the process.
Hmm. Maybe that explains the personality switch. Could there be something about mixing Pym particles and ionic enhancements that turns a human stupid, arrogant and violent? I'll have to go looking for Erik's first appearance now, just to get a feel for his personality when he was first powered up.
That sounds good to me, […]. After all, how many times did our mothers warn us about running with scissors, or mixing ionic enhancements and Pym particles? If she said it once, she must have said it a thousand times.
Incidentally, you didn't ask, but I'll tell you anyway: Erik Josten's first appearance was in Avengers 21-22 (Oct-Nov, 1965), where he played as a not-too-bright thug who mooned over The Enchantress a lot.

I wonder if there’s something about leftist education that can turn a human into a most truly awful person? And if I were the parent of a certain somebody, I’d be outraged if I found him gushing about Identity Crisis and Civil War. Also, that certain somebody might want to look at himself in the mirror when he speaks of not-too-bright and wonder why he’s little different.

Hey Capn: In your upcoming comics section, you wrote:
<<ACTION GIRL COMICS #19: I couldn't find any solicitation info on this title; I don't even know who the publisher is. But I'm betting it's either a Danger Girl ripoff, or some serious p***!>>
Actually, it's neither. It's been around before Danger Girl (although with a number like #19 and Danger Girl's shipping schedule, it's hard to tell), and p*** is pretty darn far from what it is. It's a girl-friendly (but never anti-boy) anthology compiled & edited by Sarah Dyer, half of the Dorkin-Dyer brain trust behind Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Most (usually all, but I think there was an all-boy issue in the works) of the contributors are women comics creators, and the stories range from slice-of-life stuff to light-hearted superhero adventure. I think Chynna Clugston-Major's Blue Monday (which reminds me of a manga-ized Archie comics with a little more libido) got its start there. It doesn't appear too often (quarterly, I think) but it's worth checking out when it does.
Whew! Well, when I'm an idiot, I'm an idiot -- and my ignorance on Action Girl is now a thing of the past. Thanks, folks!

Yawn. If he doesn’t admit to idiocy – and irresponsibility and near-sightedness – when he talks about Identity Crisis – a title that’s very anti-women – then his ignorance is still a thing of the present and remains unchanged. But not unchallenged. Now for January 24, 2001:

[Name withheld] finds ... The Stupidest Man In America!
It's ... hard to believe. The link takes you to WizardWorld's "News" site, which has the following press release:
<<CGC ‘PERFECT 10’ SPAWN #1 SETS RECORD Landmark Issue Goes For $810
Would you spend $810 for a comic that books for $15? Collector Matt Prucher would. And he’s tickled pink about it.
On Jan. 8, Prucher bought a Comics Guaranty Corporation (CGC)-graded copy of Spawn #1 for the princely sum of $810. The kicker? The CGC grade was 10.0, making it a theoretically perfect comic.
Prucher made the purchase in a wild eBay.com auction that saw the comic’s price rise a staggering $100 in the auction’s last two minutes.
"Once I saw [the comic] on eBay, I knew that I wanted it," Prucher says. "I put in a maximum bid of $820, thinking that this would seal the deal. But I barely won the auction by the seat of my pants."
Meaning, of course, that there’s someone willing to pay at least $800 for the next perfect Spawn #1 that comes along.
"When the auction closed, I was pumped," Prucher adds. "I had just barely won the highest-CGC-graded Spawn #1 in existence. Then once I absorbed what just happened -- it all happened so quickly -- I also realized that I officially owned the most expensive CGC-graded Spawn #1 in existence. On the other hand, I’d be kicking myself if I had lost the auction by $10."
Would Prucher have paid $830 for the comic? $850? $1,000? Prucher, who bought the comic to add to his collection of key Spawn issues and Silver Age comics, says he isn’t sure.
"If I’d been outbid, it’s hard to say what price I would have counter-offered," he says.
Prucher says he plans to keep the comic: "Think about it: This comic is graded at a perfect 10.0. You can't get higher than that. It's not like Spinal Tap, where the amps go to 11."
In the end, you’ve got to be happy with what you’ve got, and Prucher is definitely a happy man -- if a little bit lighter in the wallet area: "It’s a key Modern Age comic that’s been given the highest CGC grade possible. I’m very happy with it.">>
I hope he is. Since Spawn #1 is probably the most-slabbed comic book in America -- and one of the high-demand books for which there is a LOT of supply -- economic theory suggests that it's not likely to rise terribly much in value.

The pretentious correspondent who presented that press article from an awful magazine did NOT find the stupidest man in America; that title belongs to a certain somebody else. Or, depending upon one’s viewpoint, he did find him, and didn’t realize it! Besides, Smith’s never complained much about all this stupid slabbing and grading in his columns, if at all, and if you don’t do it up front, it’ll only continue. If his columns were comics, they wouldn’t have much value either.

Dear Cap: Just wanted to comment on a strange coincidence I've been noticing. In (the Jan. 18) Q&A, an unidentified correspondent asks questions about Justice League of America #111, citing it as his "re-introduction to DC after a long layoff."
In his August 24, 2000 column, […] talks about his recollections of JLA #111.
Add to this my experience: JLA #111 is the first superhero comic I remember ever buying. I must have been eight years old, and was a devotee of Harvey's Sad Sack and Richie Rich comics prior to that time. The Libra character certainly made an impression on my young mind, and the heroes and villains (particularly Shadow Thief and The Tattooed Man) were way cool. Twenty-seven years later, the Justice League is still my favorite comics concept, and I've followed it through all its various incarnations.
So what is it with this particular issue?
Well, the secret's finally out. Justice League of America #111 was coated with an invisible, odorless substance that acts on the serotonin receptors of the brain. More addictive than crack cocaine, faster-acting than nicotine, this highly-classified substance was introduced to JLA #111 by the CIA in hopes of developing the perfect mind-control agent. It worked, of course, and we are all currently under the control of the U.S. government. Explains a lot, doesn't it?
Actually, I have no idea why this particular book is so memorable, unless it's because it was one of the first to jump up to the 100-Page Super-Spectacular format back in the '70s. JLA was one title that really benefited from the extra space, allowing it to run old JSA stories and reprints of a host of characters who had no other berth (Dr. Mid-Nite, Wildcat, etc.). That's my best guess, utilizing my foggy memory, and otherwise The Captain is open to suggestions.

His memory can’t be as foggy as his grasp on morale. Which I should’ve realized myself years ago, and thankfully, I do now.

Dear Cap: I haven't written in a while, as I kept going to the old 80cyberhost.net address ---- you might want to leave a note there about the change over.
(CAPTAIN'S NOTE: This is all news to me! Is anybody else having trouble with 80cyberhost.net? I've been on two systems since the inception of this site, one on AOL (where, after four years, I still have a forwarding address) and the current address. Neither had anything to do with "80cyberhost.net." What is it, and is it a problem?)
But I do have some news.
As far as The Crimson Avenger as DC's first masked hero or costumed hero, well, excluding Doctor Occult (who did not wear a mask and but did wear an odd uniform once), there is another hero to consider: The Clock. The Clock was not originally a DC hero (which may be the reason that The Crimson Avenger is honored, as he is a DC creation); rather, The Clock was originally a Quality hero. The author of one of the articles below indicates that The Clock may now be in the public domain, and thus not owned by DC or anyone. However, The Clock appeared and died in Starman #17, indicating that he is a part of DC continuity.
(Yes, "The Clock" does not have the same ring to it as "The Crimson Avenger" does, as your stupid names page points out.)
Other Crimson Avenger facts: Someone actually started a Web site about the Gummi Bears (Disney '80s animated series). This person mentioned how one of the Gummi Bears, at one point, decided to fight crime as ... The Crimson Avenger! (Whether this was intentional homage or not, I can't say.)
Clock info
Finally, a quick note: it was noted in Secret Origins that The Crimson Avenger fought in the Spanish Civil War. For those who may be interested, the Spanish Civil War resulted when the Spanish people voted for a leftist coalition government, and the conservative elements of Spanish society rebelled. General Francisco Franco was the leader of the conservative victors in the Spanish Civil War, with significant Hitler (and Mussolini) assistance. Although often huffed off as a Nazi, Franco actually used black soldiers in his army!
As we've discussed before on this site, it's pretty clear that in the "real" world The Crimson Avenger was nothing special. But in the DC Universe, he is ensconced as the FIRST MYSTERY MAN -- the position formerly held at DC by Superman pre-Crisis. It wouldn't take too much effort to find lots of characters that preceded The Crimson, and certainly The Clock would be among them.
But thanks for the info, […] -- it wouldn't hurt for us Legion of Superfluous Heroes members to research this thoroughly and render an accurate timeline. Thanks for getting us started.
But I have a quick query for my own satisfaction: Wasn't The Clock among the Justice League International villains who took a bus ride to a crime about a decade ago during the "silly" Justice League era? Or was that Clock King?
As to the Spanish Civil War -- roughly 1936-39 -- it's a fascinating thing to explore if you have any interest in history. For one thing, Hitler got to experiment with the elements of his blitzkrieg against civilian populations, like the Stuka dive-bomber, mobile armor/infantry elements and command-and-control with a centralized General Staff (an idea which, believe it or not, the German High Command learned from Robert E. Lee in 1861-65 in the American Civil War, and used to great effect in the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 and World War I). But the political implications, which John alluded to, are absorbing -- and I leave it to the reader to discover those independently. As a warm-up for World War II, it's an obvious thing -- as a warm-up for the left/right political arguments (and the Cold War) for the next 40 years, it's another. Oh, and it gave us some great art, songs, literature and probably the first recognizeable 20th-century-style propaganda. Need I mention ambulance-driver Ernest Hemingway (who later wrote The Sun Also Rises set in the Spanish Civil War), or Picasso's La Guernica? Heck, The Clash had a hit song Spanish Bombs in the '80s!) None of history goes away, folks ---- it just comes 'round and 'round and 'round again. Sort of like X-Men plots.

Or, like Smith’s own dishonesty! I wouldn’t count on him to research Crimson Avengers well either. Since Starman comes up again, how pretentious and overrated a series it was when first debuting in 1994. Once, I might’ve thought it made for a great relief from that disaster called Zero Hour. But today, I know better, and reject James Robinson’s take. Speaking of which, here it comes again:

Dear Cap: Yes, most of "Bloodlines" was worthless, and I'm impressed you could name as many of them as you did, but you left out the one successful character: Hitman. There's a long and spotty history of DC creating a big event and using it to springboard new titles; New Guardians, anyone? But then, if not for Zero Hour, we might not have had Starman. So sometimes it does work out all right. We just have to wade through a lot of crap to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now that I've sufficiently mixed metaphors, I'll sign off.
I didn't mention Hitman, […], because it was a peculiar exception to my point that Bloodlines was bloody awful! He was a success story, but I submit that it wasn't such because he was a well-conceived character, but because he was subsequently well-written. Any character out of Bloodlines might have been successful if A) Garth Ennis wrote them, and B) their super-powers and origin were virtually ignored.
And I'm grateful for Starman, too -- but, of course, there you have James Robinson on the word processor. Do you think Starman would have been half as good if, say, Chris Claremont wrote him? Remember, a rolling stone is worth two in the bush. (Now you've got ME doing it!)
To which […] responded:
Dear Cap: I quite agree with you that it's about the writing. And James Robinson definitely was/is the reason that Starman has survived long past that strange and terrible Manhunter series that debuted at the same time. Starman is clearly a labor of love, not commerce. (And damn him for making me well up with tears three issues in a row ... but I digress.)
You're also leaving out Marvel, which was guilty of the same crime the same year as Bloodlines. I don't remember what they called their summer annual event, but I do remember it being touted as "a new hero in every issue!"(and I don't think anybody could name any of those heroes today). I think it was the same summer as Dark Horse's "Comics Greatest World" and possibly the launch of the late lamented Ultraverse. Something was up that year, and I don't know what. A response to Image? It might be worth a column or something.
I think it's possible -- yea, even likely -- that both Marvel and DC were flooding the market in that seminal year with lots of product to try to push the new kids off the block. But I don't have any specific info to that effect from the pros I correspond with. Anybody know?

Boy, those clowns must really enjoy wallowing in such hypocrisy! Sure, Bloodlines was awful, but so too was Identity Crisis, yet they embraced the latter. I suppose they consider it fine because, instead of creating new vigilantes this time, they forcibly replaced established heroes like Atom and Firestorm with different characters in the same costumes, namely, minority group members. Apparently, “diversity”, which has only become worse in recent times, is more important than good storytelling, and we’re supposed to care about the costume more than the character wearing it.

I don’t think Starman would be great if Claremont wrote it, but it might actually be better than Robinson’s take if Claremont didn’t resort to killing off a couple of co-stars for the sake of moving the story “forward”. I'll have to recall though that just a few issues into Excalibur, he did kill off Courtney Ross. And all after writing her so likeably! So maybe it wouldn't be that good an idea, now that I think of it.

Dear Captain: I always read your column when I'm at my mother-in-law's in Memphis, but just discovered your wonderful Web site!
I just watched Toy Story 2 (on video this time) and was again knocked out by this amazing format for telling fantastic stories visually. Is it just me who thinks this level of computer animation would be the ultimate way to bring comics to the big screen? Just imagine the first three or four issues of Spider-Man faithfully retold AND RENDERED IN STEVE DITKOESQUE GLORY! Fanboys around the world would soil themselves with joy! Not to mention the possibility of seeing Benjamin J. Grimm belting Norrin Radd though Missus Binn's upstairs wall and shouting "YOU FIGGER IT OUT" in Sensurround stereo. Whaddaya think? Could someone stick this idea under Steve Jobs's nose? It would beat Bug's Life 2.
Yeah, but so would root canal. Seriously, movie F/X are getting better and better, and comics concepts formerly unthinkable (Galactus trilogy, anybody?) are becoming possible, if not inevitable. It's a good time to be a comics-2-film fan.
Actually, I've already seen a Thing/Hulk or a Thor/Hulk fight on screen. It was in Terminator 2, when the T-1 and the T-2 were slamming each other against the walls in the basement of a shopping mall and shaking the building. I remember thinking at the the time: "These computer-generated animation guys have read Jack Kirby comics."

Root canal would be better than having to endure some of the most obnoxious visuals seen in Identity Crisis, like the part where Dr. Light grabs Sue Dibny by the rectum. And he’s wrong about FX – they’re only making things worse. No wonder I prefer to watch simpler forms of screen tales today, rather than be bored out of my skull by a lot of FX that drown out the substance.

Hello Captain! Thanks for writing about Captain America #155-156. What a blast from the past! I remember when those issues were hot off the stands. I was 11 years old, and my friend and I smashed into each other for hours in the snow with circular sleds as shields trying to see which of us was the fake Cap! Your article brought it all back. I own the original art of the #155 page where the '50s cap first belts the real Cap.
I'm currently updating the Jack Kirby Checklist for The Kirby Collector.
The Form letter:
We need the help of Kirby fans out there who have these comics. The following list of comics are listed in Overstreet but not the Kirby Checklist! If you have any of these can you please check them out for the benefit of Kirby fans everywhere? This List is growing much smaller due to the great information sent in since Christmas by Kirby fans everywhere. The information is due back by Jan. 31, 2001. Please respond to [withheld] The results will be published in the April, 2001, Treasury-Sized edition of The Jack Kirby Collector. All contributions will be duly noted.
Headline Comics #56 S&K -- cover?
Justice Traps The Guilty #27 S&K -- cover?
Justice Traps The Guilty #28 Kirby -- cover?
Justice Traps The Guilty #30 S&K -- cover/art?
Marvel Double Feature #11,12,14,15 Kirby -- art (reprint)?
Mystic Comics #6 Kirby/Schomburg -- cover? (no definitive word on this)
The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #3 Kirby -- art?
Prize Comics Western #78 S&K -- art?
Punch & Judy Comics V2 #2 Kirby -- art?
Punch & Judy Comics V2 #10 Kirby -- art? (one-page story art?
Super Rabbit #1 (Timely Comics) Fall 1944: One-page war effort recycling public service announcement by S&K?
Young Love & Young Romance -- These two are such a mass of conflicting information, only someone with access to all of the books can ever really figure these two titles out. Hopefully the majority of Kirby work is already listed in the Checklist.
Now here are the final set of questions (unrelated to Overstreet) that need to be answered. Please provide accurate story titles, credits, page counts, publishers and dates. Periodicals with Kirby articles are also needed if omitted from the 1998 Checklist. All information sources will be duly noted. Thank you for your interest and persistence in helping to strengthen the Jack Kirby Checklist.
Captain America Ashcan #1 (1994) features partial Kirby -- art (reprint)?
Complete Detective Cases #1 (July 1941) (pulp features Kirby Devil ink & wash illustration) publisher? (Timely related); story name?; other Kirby art?
The Essential Thor (according to PREVIEWS, reprints Journey Into Mystery 83-112. Page count is listed as 528 pages) (Actual entire story content including "Tales Of Asgard" would be more like 437 pages -- what exactly is in this book?)
Fantastic Four Ashcan #1 (1994) features partial Kirby -- art (reprint)?
From Here To Insanity #12 (Charlton) Kirby -- art?
Marvel Tales #21 -- Human Torch (one-page pin-up reprinted from: ?)
Mighty Marvel Western #6 (two pages of pin-ups reprinted from: ?)
Pulp Fiction #1 1997: (A-List Comics) (purportedly reprints a story called “The Vengeful Corpse” by S&K. Is this a re--titled story reprinting “Come Claim My Corpse” from Black Magic V2 #12? Or is it “The Case Of The Floating Corpse” from Headline Comics #24? The World Around Us #32 (Apr 61; Classics Illustrated) "For Gold and Glory" "Desert Treasure: Part 2" fuor pages Kirby -- art?
WOW What A Magazine!: David McKay/Hensley Publishing Co. (magazine format comics; 52 pages; features original and reprint material)
#1 Jul 1936: Kirby -- art?
#2 Aug 1936: Kirby -- art?
#3 Sep 1936: Kirby -- art?
#4 Nov 1936: Kirby -- art?
(Note: The Gerber Photo Journal designates the scarcity of these four books from “8” to “10” indicating that fewer than five to 20 copies of each issue are presumed to exist.)
From an interview translated by Fabio Paolo Barbieri: Lucca, Italy, 1976:
Nessim Vaturi: You said earlier that early in your career you used to work for a book called WOW!
Jack Kirby: Yes, it was the first magazine I worked for. Jerry Siegel and Will Eisner used to publish it. They were my bosses back then, and those were the first years of comics, and WOW! What A Magazine was one of the first comic magazines.
This mystery still intrigues. Why would Kirby distinctly remember by title, working on this comic? Has anyone ever seen one in person to dispute Kirby’s memory?
Any help that you may have is greatly appreciated by Kirby fans everywhere.
Thank You for your efforts regarding locating these final, elusive pieces of information. Which will, one day, become a definitive list of the work of the vivid imagination and hard work of Jack Kirby (1917-1994).
OK, I'll play. I looked up and scanned the cover to Marvel Double Feature #5 with an all-new Kirby cover. Any other Legion of Superfluous Heroes out there want to contribute? Tell 'im The Captain sent ya!

No true Kirby fan should ask an awful columnist like Smith for help, and it’s a pity the above did. In fact, where was Smith when Scarlet Witch was being mistreated so badly? He didn’t actually describe Avengers: Disassembled when he allegedly panned it, or say it’s terrible a wonderful girl like her was being misused, nor did he criticize Brian Bendis for a very stupid storyline where Hawkeye took advantage of an amnesiac Wanda in 2006. Yeah, some Kirby fan he is alright!

Mr. Smith: In the beginning of you stated you were asked for more opinions and less news. Tell you editor he dosen't know what he's talking about. True I, as a HUGE Ray Park/Marvel fan, already knew about the upcoming Iron Fist project. But many don't, and what I knew was just the storyline. I had never read Iron Fist and really appreciated the extra info, especially the picture of the comic itself. As a watcher of movies and reader of comics I really enjoy learning all new facts on upcoming projects, so naturally your column kicks Spandexed booty.
An X-fan 'till the end
P.S. Speaking of movies and comics, you should add something on your page about the hidden "Marvel" blooper on the X-Men DVD; it's hillarious.

Mr. Smith doesn’t know what he’s talking about either, and his editor’s still guilty of greenlighting such a phony to start with.

Dear Cap: Tell your editor that you're the BEST! Don't listen to him, Cap!
In defense of […], my harrassed editor, he really is a swell guy. He got a kick out of the column, stating "I've never been a supervillain before!"

If his editor is a leftist, he may not be so swell. I wonder if Smith would love being a supervillain? In a way, he is. Or, at the least, he’d make a great villain in TV crime series like Mannix, Cannon, Hawaii 5-0, the Streets of San Francisco and the Equalizer.

In reference to the on-going discussion about the end of the Silver Age, I would like to put my two cents in. I was involved in the same discussion about six months ago and after much debate, we decided that the end of the Silver Age was in 1970. Yes, the Big Two were alive and well long after that date, but by then that was all that was left. The public interest in superheroes generated by Batman on television (and the imitators) had died. All the other comic companies that had entered the market such as Tower, Harvey, Charlton and Dell were either gone or on their way out. The one issue that we decided, however, was defining was when Jack Kirby started his fourth world saga in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #133. Two major things happened with this. The collaboration between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that helped define the early years of the Marvel Age of Comics was over. The early creativity and exuberance that marked Marvel were now over. Marvel would retreat from a position of innovation to a position of stability that had (hobbled) DC for so long. With the introduction of the Fourth World, DC would start off in a new direction in an effort to make up the ground that they had lost to Marvel. Things would never be the same for either company.
The end of the Silver Age does not have the clear delineation that the end of the Golden Age. There were so many on going factors that have been pointed out in your column that it is hard to single out one. I think that Kirby starting out at DC is the best factor.
Since I've stated before that IMHO 1970 is my favorite date for ending the Silver Age (and for many of the same reasons you state), I don't have much to add. Comments, anyone? Questions? Anyone care for a mint?

Not from him. And the Silver Age’s end does have a clear delineation, 1969, a year earlier than Smith gives.

Dear Captain Comics: I've been reading regularly but haven't had the time to sit down and write; there are several topics that have come up I wanted to weigh in on. Here goes:
About Mr. Mxyzptlk and the spelling and pronunciation of his name: It took me a while, but I dug out the definitive source -- The Great Superman Book by Michael L. Fleisher. (For those of you who don't know -- and aren't lucky enough to have one -- it's one of a planned series of encyclopedias about Golden Age and Silver Age superheroes, although only the Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman volumes were ever published. All information is from the first 35 years or so of each hero's career, culled from the titles in which each character was a headliner.)
Fleisher writes:
<<Mxyzptlk is pronounced Mix-yez-pitel-ick. Mxyzptlk backwards -- Kltpzyxm -- is pronounced Kel-tipz-yex-im.
From Sep-Oct 44, the date of Mr. Mxyzptlk's textual debut (Superman #30/third story: "The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk!"), through Mar 55, Mr. Mxyzptlk's name is consistently rendered as Mxyztplk, i.e., with the letters "p" and "t" transposed (Superman #96/second story: "Mr. Mxyztplk -- Mayor of Metropolis!"; and others). In Sep 55, however, both spellings are employed (Action Comics #208: "The Magic of Mr. Mxyztplk"), and, from Aug 59 onward, the new spelling -- Mxyzptlk -- is used exclusively (Superman #131/first story, "The Menace of Mr. Mxyzptlk!"; and others).>>
About real-world counterparts to DC Universe cities: Fleisher again:
<<Although the name Metropolis is itself fictional, Metropolis as it is described in the texts is modeled after, and fully intended to represent, the city of New York.>>
In the earliest texts of the Superman chronicles, Superman's home city remains unidentified. Action Comics #11 explicitly identifies it as Cleveland, Ohio (Apr 39), but Action Comics #13 contradicts this by placing Superman's resident city within close proximity to the Sing Sing state prison, in Ossining, NY (Jun 39). In late 1939, the name Metropolis appears in the chronicles for the first time (Action #16, Sep 39), and the city is situated definitely in New York State (Superman #2/second story, Fall 39: "Superman Champions Universal Peace!")
Fleisher writes:
<<The evidence identifying Metropolis with the city of New York is overwhelming, despite the appearance of an occasional text identifying Metropolis and New York as two separate cities.>>
Among the common characteristics (I won't list them all): It's on an island sold to white settlers by the Indians; it's home to the United Nations; the Statue of Liberty is in the harbor; its neighborhoods include Queens, Chinatown, Fifth Avenue, the Great White Way, the waterfront and the financial district; and several New York landmarks and neighborhoods -- the Empire State Building, Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Natural History, the East Side, Hell's Kitchen, the Bowery, etc. -- appear with slightly altered names.
The same is true of Gotham City, as Fleisher writes in the Batman volume, even though Metropolis and Gotham City aren't supposed to be the same place. However, I remember reading a comment by Marv Wolfman years ago (I think it was in The Comics Journal) that he always saw Gotham City as Chicago. After all, Batman's Gotham City in the '30s and '40s was much like Dick Tracy's Chicago of the day: a dark, shadowy place, in the grip of organized crime and flooded with grotesque, deformed gangsters. For all we know, Dick Tracy was at work by day while Batman toiled by night.
Of course, everything in those encyclopedias has been supplanted by the Crisis and Zero Hour. Wouldn't it be great if they were updated?
About Iron Man's secret identity: In the Iron Man/Captain America '99 Annual, Tony Stark erased the knowledge of his secret from everyone, and revealed it to a select few Avengers and associates.
About Batman and the JLA: JLA wasn't one of my regular titles, but there's been so much buzz about Batman being kicked off the team, I picked up those stories, and I was appalled! The idea that Batman spends his spare time devising deathtraps for his teammates is monstrous!
Showing Batman meticulously crafting ways to kill his colleagues is wholly out of character. It is inhuman, and inhumane. Also, it's inconsistent. I asserted not long ago in this very forum that Batman is not a killer, and more important, is not a murderer. But this story makes him out to be just that -- a would-be murderer who lacks only sufficient provocation to follow through. Worse, it makes him out to be a paranoid sociopath who sees absolutely everyone as his enemy.
The only proper response the JLA can have isn't to kick him off the team and say he can't join in their reindeer games; they have to shut him down. That's right -- they have to put him out of business and destroy his capability of rebuilding.
How can they ever be sure he doesn't have alternate strike plans? How can they ever be sure he doesn't have a "final sanction" in mind for all those crooks and psychos he keeps sending to Blackgate Prison and Arkham Asylum? How can they ever be sure he hasn't disposed of a few, just to test his methods? And how can they ever be sure he doesn't have plans against other heroes and villains? Given who the U.S. President is in the DC Universe, the JLA should be very afraid. Their only responsible course is to take Wayne Manor and the Batcave apart, stone by stone. Having Batman share his secrets with the rest of the team doesn't come close to being a sufficient remedy for such heinous actions.
I just can't see how DC is going to write itself out of this one; this puts Batman squarely in the company of demented maniacs like the Punisher and Hitman. This story should be consigned to Hypertime, or Earth-X, or wherever stories that don't fit continuity go these days.
Well, I assume you've read JLA #50. So what, to paraphrase Spock in Wrath of Khan, did you think of Waid's solution to the no-win scenario?
As to the rest of your letter, I can offer no response except a simple bow of respect. Nicely done, [name withheld] -- well researched.

Wow, he really sees the storyline as no big deal, right? But I see it as an embarrassment. I don’t think it would work in Avengers either. It wouldn’t be plausible if Iron Man did it, so why should it be so when Batman’s depicted that way? Yet what happened to Bruce Wayne is pretty much what’s happening with Tony Stark now in Marvel’s Original Sin crossover, an extension of the notion Tony should be portrayed as some kind of rich madman.

<<I've wanted an ultrasonic signal watch to summon my own superhero since I was seven years old, […] -- so far, no luck. -- Captain Comics>>
I wanted supervillains to attack my wedding, but Jenn said I couldn't. Darn it. It turned out to be a terrific day anyway.
<<Gen13 #61: These brats still set my teeth on edge. I guess I'm just from the wrong generation. -- Captain Comics>>
It's not just your generation. […] & I dropped the title months ago and a couple more people recently canceled their "pulls" on the title at the shop I work part time.
<<... but a team that needs Zatanna to fill out its roster is a team that's in trouble. -- Captain Comics>>
It's not the team roster that I want Zatanna to fill; it's those fishnet stockings! Mrrrow!
<<Daredevil #13 was originally solicited for April, 2000 (when it actually shipped, I don't recall). Now issue #14 is arriving nine months later, and in the meantime there have been two DD miniseries. Can anybody explain this to me? -- Captain Comics>>
There's more than just two limited series. Ol' Hornhead is also a focal character in the Black Widow: Breakdowns miniseries and stars in the monthly Marvel Knights series. Who does the creative team of Daredevil think they work for? Cliffhanger?
<<When is The Void going to get here, already? For a supervillain, he sure is slow. -- Captain Comics>>
I hope I'm wrong, but the reality of The Void seems pretty obvious to me. It looks like The Void is some kind of dark manifestation of Sentry's powers. That's why he had to go underground and have everyone forget about him for all those years. Sentry himself is the source of the threat. Again, I hope I am wrong. Paul Jenkins usually isn't that predictable.
<<AREA 52 #1: Delayed from last week, and the week before. -- Captain Comics>>
It actually came out. I haven't read it, but I did see it.
<<LIBERTY MEADOWS #18: Delayed from a last week. -- Captain Comics>>
And it was darn-tootin' good. The best issue in a while. I have to question what could make this title late, though. It's not as if Frank Cho has to come up with new material. Every strip in this title was created years ago. Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot here, but how hard could this title really be to produce?
I have the same reaction to the interminable delays on the Brian Michael Bendis Torso TPB. It's a reprint -- how hard can it be to package and ship?
You're probably right about The Void, but perhaps Jenkins will surprise us. Although, if true, it would certainly make it easy to send The Sentry back to comic-book limbo after the mini is over. It's looking grim for The Golden Guardian of Good -- !
And I'm still laughing about your remarsk vis-a-vis your wedding, Zatanna and -- especially -- Daredevil. Cliffhanger, indeed!

Jenkins, as he proved with that Spider-Man story involving a PLO activist, can be quite disgusting. And isn't impatience with anything Bendis writes a moot point? He’s hardly worth the effort of reading as it is.

Ahoy, Captain! I'm a subscriber to CBG, and I enjoy reading your column on a regular basis. But you wrote something a couple of weeks ago in your year-end wrap-up column that I'd like to respond to.
You said that nothing much is going on at Vertigo other than the Brian Azzarello titles. Sadly, I generally agree with this statement. I've very much enjoyed the Vertigo line since its inception. I read as many titles as I can that claim to have mature content (i.e., titles without grownups running around in tights) and have been most consistently happy with the Vertigo line. Alas, though, gone are the excellent miniseries like Terminal City, Nevada, Enigma -- and even Winter's Edge did not appear this year. I fear the worst for the line.
But, does no one read Lucifer? I find it, hands down, the best title published in comics now. I look forward to each issue like no other. Mike Carey is crafting a completely intriguing story, filling it with totally unexpected twists and turns, populating it with an amazing supporting cast, and he's doing it with a skill I haven't seen since Neil Gaiman. This guy can write. I loved his mini-series Petrefax, but he keeps ratcheting up the bar with every new issue of Lucifer.
So why does no one say anything about it? I am completely baffled on this point. I also liked the earlier writing of Caitlin Keirnan on The Dreaming, but could understand why it might not be to everyone's taste. But Lucifer just leaves me breathless every month, gasping for more. Literally, there have been times while I've read the comic, when my heart rate must have doubled. Could no one else see what I see in the comic?
Do you have any answers on this? Do you suppose people are just not picking up Lucifer? Could people be reading it and remain unimpressed? I don't see how this could be. Have you read it and found it wanting in any way, or have you just not picked it up since there doesn't appear to be any buzz for it?
And, lastly, do you have any suggestions on what I might do to try to publicize how great I think this comic is? I would really, really hate to see it canceled, and also would like to bring it to the attention of other readers who like a complex, compelling story. I really like it more than any comic since Sandman.
Thanks for your time, and I hope if you haven't read Lucifer, you'll pick it up and feel the same as I do.
I do read Lucifer, and -- while it doesn't hit me as strongly as it does you -- I find it enjoyable. My guess as to why there isn't more PR on the title would be that few publicists or journalists feel terribly comfortable putting themselves in the sights of the Bluenose Mothers of America by championing a title featuring the Judeo-Christian Adversary. Maybe I'm underestimating folks, though, and it's simply a matter of taste.
Incidentally, I read an interview with writer Mike Carey which explained the philosophy of the series -- one I had missed entirely. Apparently, Lucifer's quest is to prove that he doesn't have to be what Scripture and (presumably) God want him to be -- in essence, he's trying to prove that he has free will. It's left open-ended whether or not that's even possible, but it does show appropriate Hubris and, in a sense, a certain heroism. And it's certainly a question that has fueled philosophical and theological debate for centuries. Too bad John Calvin isn't alive to comment.

As to how to publicize the title, you're doing it the best and most convincing way possible -- by word of mouth. Your comments are hereby printed in hopes of reaching willing ears.
If only Jack Kirby and Gardner Fox were alive to comment on how Smith turned his back on the fine contributions they made to comicdom. As for Sandman, it was not really the big deal some people are saying it was. Next comes January 31, 2001:

Hey Cap: When I checked out your site I found under Friday, Jan. 12's "The Company Line" the following headline: "CrossGen sells out for the first time."
My first thought was that the next issues would all feature foil covers, and there would be a swimsuit issue with Sephie in a string bikini. Imagine my relief when I actually read the article!
The first time CrossGen publishes a Meridian Swimsuit Issue is the last CrossGen comic book I buy. I don't think there's any danger of that, though!

Unfortunately, there was the danger they’d go bankrupt, and the worst part is how the company founder wouldn’t be honest about it till the last minute. While I think their original output had potential, it’s still stupefying how poorly Mark Alessi handled business in retrospect.

Dear Cap: Action Girl is a title put out by Sarah Dyer under Slave Labor Graphics. It's advertised as being a "female-positive, boy-friendly" superhero title for all ages.
It is not a Danger Girl-ripoff (its existence predates Danger Girl) or a p*** comic. I don't read the book, but I've seen it advertised in Milk & Cheese.
Thanks, […]! We covered my misapprehension about Action Girl pretty thoroughly in the Jan. 17 Mailbag, but your missive arrived too late to join the others banging the truth into The Captain's thick head. But fair's fair, so I gave you a shot at me, too!

And what a thick head it is indeed! So much that he fails to comprehend the misogyny in Identity Crisis. Or that, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it IS a duck.

Dear Cap: I think that interesting stories set in an alternate universe could be written about Marvel Comics' characters. Big Town is an interesting concept. I like the inside art for the book and I think that the possibility of it being a regular series could be explored. If such an avenue is taken, I think that chances should be taken to bring in bold new concepts and not re-hash familiar plot devices. I am not stating that these "chances" could be taken because it is not the "regular" Marvel Universe that we are accustomed to but rather there is a much-needed injection of originality in Marvel Comics' outtake of the superhero fantasy genre.
After all, look at what being original has done for WildStorm's The Authority and Planetary.
I've wondered since I was a youngster how come the advent of "Pym particles" and "unstable molecules" and "wafer-thin mesh armor" didn't change the Marvel Universe more fundamentally than it did. Sure, Tony Stark was willing to go through "Armor Wars" to get his technology back under his control, but if history has taught us anything, it's that what one man can create, another can duplicate. Pym particles alone would make a handy weapon for terrorists; imagine shrinking bombs or Sarin gas and putting the weapons in your ear, going through customs, and planting them in, say, Tel Aviv. And didn't Reed Richards just sell all his existing patents? Seems to me that the Gideon Corporation would find a ready sellers' market for "unstable molecules" and computer-integrated uniforms and Fantasticars among the world's military powers -- much less the civilian clothing and transportation markets!
Take a look at the concept as approached in Alan Moore's Watchmen. No sooner did Dr. Manhattan make his appearance than the world was changed fundamentally. Not only did the U.S. become the undisputed superpower as early as 1973, but the sudden existence of cheap, safe and abundant energy transformed the world's transportation systems (among other things) almost overnight.
If anything, Big Town doesn't go far enough to suit me. It seems the alignment of "powers" is still pretty much the same, with the FF and the Avengers simply more bureaucratic and centralized whereas the "bad guys" have been forced into an uneasy alliance as a counterweight. And why is there still prejudice against mutants in a benevolent technocracy? A populace that embraces technological change would probably be thrilled that their son or daughter would have the possibility of developing a "superpower" and joining the elite. I fully expected Scott Summers to be a field leader for the Avengers and Hank McCoy to be working side-by-side with Henry Pym in Big Town. But, no, all the X-Men are street punks! So the irrational and increasingly inexplicable persecution of mutants continues in even this version of the Marvel Universe, in what appears to be editorial fiat to generate storylines. We've made some headway on race relations in the real world in the last 35 years -- at least there's no overt Jim Crow or "separate-but-equal" nonsense anymore -- why can't the MU do the same?

Why can’t ignoramuses like him recognize anti-female discrimination for what it is? Hey, what if I find out he’s fine with the Satmar’s own anti-female prejudice to boot?

Hello, Captain! Good column today! I like the recent JLA storyline, too, and I can't wait to find out who that guy in the black suit at the end of #50 is. One correction, however! Batman was NOT trying to KILL the other Leaguers, just neutralize them. None of the methods were lethal, though all seemed quite painful. It even said that Bats was trying to synthesize a non-lethal form of kryptonite. (Notice what color it was? Waid's mind at work again!) Yes, the League had good reason to be distrustful, but not because of fear for their lives.
Respectfully submitted.
And respectfully received, [name withheld]. And you're right -- as JLA Secret Files #3 makes clear, all of Batman's "counter-measures" were meant to be reversible. However, when the debate began in the Mailbag, all we had to go by was JLA #43-46 -- and that was a pretty grim indictment. In fact, Wonder Woman's trap in particular was meant to lead to a massive, fatal heart attack. Of course, now we know that it is Ra's al Ghul who was murderous, not The Dark Knight. But to the League (and to us), it certainly appeared that Batman had a lot of explaining to do! (In subsequent columns I have avoided painting the Gotham Guardian as a potential murderer.)

I think Mr. Smith’s got a lot of explaining to do, about why he’s against making the Dark Knight and Green Lantern murderous, but perfectly fine with turning Jean Loring that way. What a hypocrite! And the revelation about what fate awaited WW is disgusting, and only reinforces the opinions of any detractors in that JLA story. No wonder I’m glad I don’t own the trade paperback of that bizarre dud.

Dear Cap'n: In your most recent Q&A, you wrote:
<<I could read the phone book as long as Kevin Maguire was illustrating it, so I tolerated the "silly" League as long as KM's art graced its pages. But I never thought the venerable Justice League was the proper forum for that sort of humor; a spinoff book would have been more appropriate, with the "real" JLA handling the crises that pop up every month (twice on fifth-week months). And, as you noted, it didn't age well -- particularly when less-talented (and less funny) writers than Keith Giffen took over the series. It gave us some good material, like the "Chocos" bit that was recently handled so well in Martian Manhunter #24 (Nov 00). But, like Chocos, deconstructive satire is tasty once in a while but isn't healthy as a steady diet.>>
I respectfully disagree with a few of your points.
On deconstructive satire and its place in the Justice League: It's not so much a disagreement as a clarification. The Justice League (post-Legends) was a brilliant way to bring about the resurrection of the JLA after it had been mishandled and misthought by many a writer and editor previous to this incarnation. At the time, they wouldn't let them have Superman or Wonder Woman or Hal Jordan. When given lemons ...
People tend to focus on the humor aspect far too much, I think. Look at the humanity and the stripped-down action that Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis (overlooked and underappreciated in his contributions to the book) brought to the book. One of the best moments was early on when they were fighting the Grey Man in that Vermont town. Captain Marvel had been possessed and Batman ordered J'onn to take him down. Beetle questions Batman and he replies something like, "He's been doing longer than any of us and the only one I trust to do it right." The first couple of issues where -- on the brink of nuclear meltdown -- the "villain" stops fighting and shuts down the nuclear reactor all on his own, pretty much dying in the process. Between Giffen's moebius-mind-wrapping plots, DeMatteis's gift for dialogue and story and Maguire's early contributions, Justice League was great. I was excited about comics because I couldn't wait to see what happened next month. Who would've thought that I could actually like the Blue Beetle and Booster Gold as a comedy team?
I will concede one point. There were times when you could tell that the jokes were stretched to fit the story instead of blending in (which really happened more often than not, I believe). Especially when they made two books (JLI and JLA). The jokes became far too overlapping. But I collected up to the point where DeMatteis and Giffen were summarily kicked off the book. More times than not, the book was on, especially by the time that Adam Hughes was gracing the book with his pencils and treating us to the Despero storyline. If you want to nitpick, it's the first time that we start seeing Aquaman as (an angry) undersea environmentalist. Ask Peter David where he started with that. I always felt it balanced the humor with the serious action sequences. I never got the feeling that the JLA was disrespected. It was a different perspective with the cast they were given.
I think that deconstructive satire has its place and can thrive within any medium. While Saturday Night Live's record is less than stellar, it has survived more than a quarter of a century. The Simpsons show no signs of slowing down. South Park continues to produce guilty giggles despite the same dire predictions you make (that satire feeds upon itself and eventually dies). Deadpool (while pretty schlocky now) was one of the funniest books to come along in a long time, straddling that fine line between satire and action.
I would like to know your thoughts on Black Panther. The book made me laugh harder than any book since Giffen & DeMatteis's JLA. But, it too straddles that fine line between serious action and outright slapstick. But it works and continues to do so under Christopher Priest's able hand. God forbid if he leaves and we see a new millennium version of Jungle Action.
Satire is only as good as the writing. Imagine if West Wing were written by the same writers who did Melrose Place. Yeah, it wouldn't be as good. Just as Gerard Jones and Ron Randall on Justice League weren't as good as Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire on their worst days.
You're right in the respect that satire as a sole source of entertainment is not healthy. But it implies that it's not worthy to be applied to something like the Justice League. That's the kind of thinking that has contributed to the stodgy and stagnant market we know and love as comic books. Sometimes I think that the X-Men should be given the same treatment. Set up the team with a bunch of second-stringers (Havok, Polaris, Iceman, Banshee, Cannonball, Nightcrawler, etc.) and send them out with someone like Giffen at the helm.
Anyway, hope the rambling made some sense.
Thanks for the thoughtful dialogue on comic books without resorting to silly fanboy euphemisms. I read the whole discussion on comic-book characters and their religious affiliations. I wish people who thought comic-book readers were a bunch of dope smokers, emotionally-stunted juvenile delinquents would read about the people who are talking about pre-Reformation values.
I've said it before: The readers of this site consistently impress me with their wide range of knowledge, articulate argument and respectful approach to disagreement.
And one of the reasons that's so is because I've seen countless examples on this site of readers willing to admit they're wrong. "I'm wrong" may be the two hardest words for most people to say, but I was brought up to believe it is a strength, not a weakness. If you never admit error, you never learn anything.
And in that vein, when it comes to my remarks about the "appropriateness" of the Giffen-DeMatteis Justice League: I was wrong. There was nothing wrong with taking that venerable concept and giving it a satirical makeover. You're right, that's fanboy thinking. Dunno why I said such a thing -- must be the crack habit.
Anyway, I did tire of the concept, but primarily because of lesser writers handling it less well. As someone once said, "Drama is easy. Comedy is hard." Giffen-DeMatteis had a flair for the concept that had me consistently chuckling; Gerard Jones's efforts looked labored and the plot stretched to match the punchline. By the time we had "Kooey Kooey Kooey" I found the title difficult to read. To use your Saturday Night Live analogy, Justice League became a sketch that went on too long -- and we've all squirmed through some of those on SNL. But, from my perspective, it was a talent problem, not a conceptual one.
And I also have to interject that I never said that satire isn't a workable vehicle for storytelling; I said that deconstructionist satire is self-limiting. The point of deconstruction is to reduce a genre to its basic elements, stripping away the barnacles of convention, then begin anew with a purer approach that takes advantage of what made the genre popular in the first place. By definition, you deconstruct to reconstruct, so there's a limit somewhere or you end up tearing down what others have built without offering anything constructive of your own.
Plain-and-simple satire, in the right hands, can be terrific -- as your many examples demonstrate. Oh, and I'm definitely a big Black Panther fan.

He may think deconstructionist satire has limits, but he doesn’t think the same about forcing darkness down everyone’s throats in today’s DCU, which has kept up well after Flashpoint. I doubt he was being serious when he admitted he was wrong. If he meant it, he’d never have supporting veering so far in the opposite direction with Identity Crisis, or even Countdown to Infinite Crisis, which sought to claim the satirical viewpoint in Giffen/DeMatties’ League was merely manipulations by Max Lord. This made no sense, and was nothing more than Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Judd Winick’s way of tarnishing past writing to suit Dan DiDio’s narrow viewpoints. Not to mention they also ruined some of the best 4th wall breaking jokes in their publication history. Yet Smith was fine with that, simply by failing to condemn it in his columns. Nor did he condemn how the Countdown story wiped out Ted Kord.

Dear Cap: I think this is news all B5 fans have been waiting for.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
<<But a more intriguing announcement from Sci-Fi Channel general manager Bonnie Hammer concerned a new project she's developing with Babylon 5 executive producers J. Michael Straczynski and Douglas Netter. Hammer said nothing is final, but the parties are having discussions.
"We're talking about a lot of things, and the thing we're focusing on most ... is (an) exclusive Babylon 5 movie for Sci-Fi, a new one," Hammer said. "That's one of the things. Everything is open for conversation. We love that creative team. Take a look at how Babylon 5 is doing on Sci-Fi in its gazillionth repeats -- it's doing amazingly well."
Hammer said she's also thinking about picking up rerun rights to Crusade, Straczynski's B5 spin-off that was aborted by TNT. (Straczynski also is developing a new series for Showtime.)>>
The Digital Bits.com has confirmed that B5 will be released on DVD but not before the summer. Now with news that the series might be reborn with the Sci-Fi Channel, things are looking good!!!
Thanks, […]!

Ugh, more JMS nonsense to contend with at the time. I’m definitely not a fan of B5 after the terrible job JMS did on Spider-Man!

Dear Cap: You wrote:
<<Remind me to do the "Chant of Making" for you sometime.>>
That wouldn't be "annal nethrok, oothsbahn bethud, dostiyay deyenvey" would it? Haven't seen (Excalibur) in maybe 15 years, but I can still remember the Chant of Making! (Well, some of it.)
Keep up the fun stuff. I read your column in CBG; just popped onto the site today. Looks like I'll be a regular visitor.
That's the Chant of Making, all right. I'm curious to see what posting ancient Celtic spells on the Internet will do. Maybe Bill Gates will turn into a lizard, or something.

Maybe a certain “captain” will be demoted to the ranks! Wishful thinking, to be sure, but that’s where he belongs, in the janitor’s service.

Hey Cap, here are some of the things that I want to see in 2001. Some are distinctly possible, some are patently ridiculous. But then again, you never know. Last year, one big wish was to see Grant Morrison write the X-Men and I didn't think there was a snowball's chance of that one coming true.
1) It's time for Giant-Man to be the chairman of the Avengers. Every other founding member has held the chair as well as plenty of Johnny- and Jenny-come-latelys. Let's see: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Wasp, The Black Widow, the Photon Captain Marvel -- and even Dr. Druid, for crying out loud! Hawkeye and The Scarlet Witch have both served as deputies or led other teams, but never Henry Pym (as Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath or Yellowjacket). I thought that at the end of the latest Ultron saga he might get a shot, but now he's got a whole other Yellowjacket running around. Don't get me wrong, I'm loving this sub-plot, but when it's finally resolved, maybe Henry Pym can get his due.
2) New issues of Astro City. For that matter, I wouldn't be disappointed by new issues of Section Zero, Superstar, Top Ten, Tom Strong or Rising Stars.
3) Starman/Black Canary. Both of these are well-rounded, well-written characters who operate outside of the normal Spandex. Yeah, their parents had an affair back in the day, but I think it'd be a pretty interesting miniseries, one-shot or sub-plot.
4) The end of the Fifth-Week Event. When DC started doing these events, they were always new and different and exciting. They were headed up by top creators like Dan Jurgens (Tangent) or James Robinson (the Justice Society) who wanted to try something different. Now, they've become a showcase for new talent and about as predictable as the average crossover. I know that DC will keep them around as long as we keep picking them up, but very few of them are deserving of the name "event" anymore.
5) An X-Men title I can both look forward to and read without complaint. They've given me one in Ultimate X-Men. I'm hoping they can pull off the trifecta with the new gangs in April.
6) Firestorm. Oh, he probably wouldn't hold up in his own title and he's too powerful to be a team player, or so the theory goes. As long as you abandon the split personality, the character has a lot of potential. It would be particularly fun and appropriate for him to drop by The Titans. They traded titles for a while in the '70s and are products of the same generation, so it just might be a good match.
7) Tony Harris. Where's he been since the Dr. Strange miniseries he did for Marvel Knights?
8) Jim Lee. Where's he been since Divine Right? Didn't he sell WildStorm to DC so that he could go make to making comic books?
9) More Phil Jimenez on Wonder Woman. More Carlos Pacheco on Fantastic Four. More George Perez on anything.
10) A real and consistent creative team on Wolverine. Yeah, yeah, the book keeps selling in the top five so why fix what ain't broken, but any title with no direction isn't going to last long. Maybe Steve Skroce would sign up for a long-term deal.
11) No more Marvel teams. The Defenders is already redundant with both Thunderbolts and Marvel Knights on the stand. One of the three is probably going to get squeezed out. Why does Marvel insist on competing with itself?
12) An industry award that doesn't either A) pander to the fans and simply tell us what was the most popular (something we already knew without the Wizard Fan Awards, thank you very much), B) come from a company that also makes comics (once again, thank you Wizard and marvel.com) or C) pander to the independent scene, refusing to acknowledge that the corporate behemoths make a few good books of their own. In the comics industry, we're being told that we don't need the Oscars because we have the Sundance and the People's Choice award. Instead, the Eisners and the Harveys seem to go out of their way to exclude anything that's selling well (Lone Wolf and Cub being a deserving exception).
And finally....
13) JLA/Avengers.
Mark Waid wants to do it. Kurt Busiek wants to do it. George Perez has it written in his contract that he can be excused if the project moves ahead. DC and Marvel are at least on speaking terms, recently letting Steve Rude make his Superman/Fantastic Four book. The fans want it. And the two books have never been more popular.
What's the hold up? Where's the problem? Why can't we get what we all want? Thanks for letting me rant!
That's quite a wish list, […]! But few of your choices are ones I'd disagree with. Here are my comments:
1) Remember that Hank Pym has been demonstrated to be mentally unstable. Note that with the current Yellowjacket sub-plot, his wife and teammates' first fear is that his "old problems" are re-surfacing. He doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Who knows -- being chairman might be just what he needs. But don't expect it soon.
2) Astro City has been delayed by Kurt Busiek's health problems, but supposedly he's given Brent Anderson a plot to work on. All the Gorilla Comics are being delayed by their ongoing problems with financing. I have no official excuses for delays of "America's Best Comics" (except that Alan Moore's workload is enormous) or Rising Stars (and there, presumably, Michael J. Straczynski focuses more on projects that make more money, with Joe's Comics at the bottom of his priority list).
3) Sounds good to me -- presuming that Jack Knight is still alive and/or Starman at the end of the series.
4) I agree: "Fifth-Week Event" has become an oxymoron.
5) The X-titles are slated for some serious changes; I cannot even imagine what X-Force (by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred) will be like. But I'm looking forward to the end of the current status quo.
6) Firestorm was never one of my favorites. Hope you get what you want, though.
7) Don't know where Tony Harris is. Presumably making more money elsewhere than he could in comics.
8) Jim Lee is probably enjoying the life of a very, very wealthy young man. The good news is that he will be doing one of the "Stan Lee Creates ..." books.
9) You'll get all three.
10) Skroce would be my choice -- and Marvel's. He's declined.
11) I agree: Defenders is redundant. Marvel Knights already has the "non-team" niche sewn up, and does a terrific job of it. Who needs Defenders?
12) Hmmmm. "Captain Comics Awards," anybody?
13) The last I heard, contractual problems between DC and Marvel are the last hangup (albeit a big one) preventing JLA/Avengers.

How about a Razzie award for dishonest journalists, ditto hypocrites? Namely, one that’d be reserved for correspondents like the above, who had the sick gall to support Identity Crisis a few years later.

Mr. Smith again fails to note the elephant in the room, long after it came up and trumpeted in his face: why doesn’t he complain about the problems 1981’s story with Hank Pym slapping his wife twice led to? Or, more to the point, why doesn’t he complain about how Jim Shooter just HAD to come up with that embarrassment at all? A storyline that keeps boomeranging, and surely the worst place was in Chuck Austen and Brian Bendis’ writings. Why can’t it just be put to bed already, and a storyline written where Hank’s confirmed as a rehabilitated, remorseful man, ready to take up leadership for a change? Then again, with Joe Quesada and Tom Brevoort running the store…

And I’m quite disappointed with his take on Firestorm too. But, what can you expect from such a charlatan?

Hi Cap! I am a big fan of your site and enjoy it every week. A few of the topics raised in the Mailbag and Q&A in the past few weeks made me think of (something) I would like to share:
Batman is a failure.
Batman is supposed to be one of the (if not THE) smartest and greatest hero in the DCU. According to Wizard magazine and various fans, he can beat any member of the JLA and any enemy you throw at him. He is virtually unstoppable and one of the the most dangerous men alive.
Then why is he such a failure in his war on crime?
Basically he keeps fighting, then locking up, and then fighting again the same various psychopaths over and over and over. Each time one of his enemies get out they usually manage to kill a few (or more) Gotham citizens (so the writers can display how "cool" and "tough" they are). Batman is stuck in an endless, murderous loop with his opponents with no end in site.
Batman is supposed to be one of the smartest men alive. Does he not realize the security at Arkham is a joke -- and maybe he should do something directly about it? After a decade of fighting The Joker with hundreds of people dead at The Joker's hands maybe his current methods of dealing with these supervillains are not working? He dressed up like a bat to scare "superstitious and cowardly" criminals, but this has also attracted many homicidal maniacs to dress up as well and commit multiple crimes and murders to challenge/annoy/torture The Batman.
I mean, if Batman is ruthless and daring enough to set up (potentially) lethal protocols against the JLA, why is he so tepid about fixing the mess in his own backyard? Given his wealth, resources and intelligence he could, behind the scenes, run Gotham if he wanted.
I have heard people say if Batman was not there Gotham would be a lot worse than it is -- but I am not sure about that. While I would not condone his methods, if The Punisher showed up and starting knocking off the various Bat-foes wouldn't Gotham be safer than it is now? At this point is reforming The Joker going to make up for all the people he killed and lives he damaged? He would have to live the life of Mother Teresa to atone for his past sins.
In the past it has been established that many of (Batman's) foes (Riddler, Joker, etc.) enjoy playing these mental games with Bats, almost like a game of chess, in order to show they are smarter than he is. Maybe a more powerful but "dumber" hero, like Green Lantern or Firestorm would be more effective in Gotham? They could use their super-powers to outmatch and outpower the non-powered villains, and they would less of an authority figure for the villains to feel inclined to challenge.
A lot of this is limitations in the format of the current superhero comic. (Can't change too much: Can't give The Joker the death penalty, Batman has to keep fighting his war on crime and stay angry about it, he can't age, etc.) But for someone with such an attitude he really is not that impressive compared to some of his peers -- who can manage crime in their respective cities ...
Thanks again for a great Web site!
Thanks for a great letter, […]! You bring up an interesting point that I'd like other readers to comment on: Is Batman a failure? Is there something more, eh, permanent he could do without betraying his devotion to justice and "nobody dies tonight" mantra?
And as long as we're on the subject, writer Steven Grant points out that Superman is going to spend the next four years as an "impotent (male member)" because he's going to simply wringing his hands while arch-enemy Lex Luthor has his way with the Constitution!
Are our heroes completely ineffective? Here's another take on Batman:

I can comment on it now, and in some ways better than I could years before: the writers and editors are the failures, not Batman. Maybe the problem is that he’s never been depicted trying to cripple the deadliest villains permanently and let them pay for their own wheelchairs, but that’s also a fault of TPTB, who’re just too cowardly to try a challenging idea like that. In fact, they came close with Jim Gordon injuring the Joker in the leg at the end of No Man’s Land, but the Clown Prince of Crime recovered from that bullet in a jiffy, and wasn’t crippled. Superman suffers the same problems, since the writers/editors can’t decide if to have him do something similar with the deadliest villains in his world.

Re: The fan who bought the CGC Spawn #1
Dear Cap: Sheesh! I bought Spawn The First about a year ago as part of a collection that I bought from a guy who was moving out of my dorm. The collection cost five dollars and contained about 80 books, so according to my non-math-major calculations I got it for about six cents, bagged, boarded and unread.
That collection also included all of "Funeral for a Friend," Batman #500, three Turok #1's (so now I've got four for 28 cents), basically anything that was hot and sought by speculators in the early '90s.
I read the comic, which was OK, if not memorable, and then threw it on the Comics Pile, a spare bedroom in which my thousands of comics sit in their un-bagged and un-boarded majesty. I'm not bragging about the purchase, I just think it's silly to regard comics as an investment.
Moving farther into the fanboy arena, a letter in your latest update got me thinking about why Batman isn't a killer. Could it be because he's never had to? Captain America killed a terrorist once, gunning him down when he opened fire on a crowded plane. Even though Cap agonized over it, I don't think that makes him a murderer.
I don't think Bats would ever become a murderer, a cold-blooded killer for some ethical, philosophical, or personal reason. He'd have squashed a defenseless and beaten Joker's skull by now for Jason Todd, Barbara Gordon, Jim Gordon's wife, etc ... He wouldn't kill even if he knew The Joker was going to escape again, just because it's the wrong thing to do.
But if Batman were in Cap's place on that plane, I think he'd do the same thing. For that reason, I don't think he really did anything wrong in taking a little extra precaution to deal with mad Justice Leaguers. "Gee, Superman just killed Cuba at superspeed and he's moving toward Tahiti. Wish I'd thought of something in advance. There goes Mexico."
Hey, Superman gave him that kryptonite. Superman saw what happened on the world Matrix comes from. He should know better.
That's just me. Do you think Batman would kill if he absolutely had to? Has he?
Oh! I almost got started about R. A. Jones, the guy who did reviews for Amazing Heroes back in the '80s, but I've thought of something more important. I have here before me what I think is the last issue of Neil the Horse, by Arn Saba, from Renegade Press, #15. The first part is a bunch of old newspaper Neil the Horse stories and other stuff. Neat! The second part, however, is a fascinating almost-textbook that details the development of the characters for a TV show. They are changed considerably along the way to fit into their new Muppet Baby world, and it's kind of sad, like watching someone pull the wings off a butterfly. What I want to find out is if this cartoon was ever made (maybe in Canada?) and what is was like. I thought about e-mailing Scott Shaw!, but he almost seems like the villain of the piece, insisting on the changes that straightjacket the characters the most. I guess it was just his job. I'd also like to find out more generally about Neil the Horse. On the Web, almost nothing on Yahoo!, Alta Vista and Metacrawler.
And finally, a Land of Nod Treasury, by Jay Stephens came out in 1994, I think, because I have a book with that copyright date. It's the cat's whiskers, but I haven't found the original Sin Comics, and some the book seems like bridging material, especially some scenes with a comic-book reading club where a character named Dave holds up an issue featuring the secret origin of the Sinister Horde. Is that in the originals? All the Jumbohead strips that a little Joey guy reads are in the book, which make me suspect a bridging device. This book saved me from a very dissapointing comic-store visit, so I'd recommend this to anyone who is stuck. And also Cud Comics by Terry Laban, Bitchy Bitch by Roberta Gregory, Dork by Evan Dorkin, any Rumiko Takashi, or old Badger and Nexus comics -- even Steve Gerber Howard the Duck. You are also free to buy a random Marvel, DC, or Image comic and cry on the pages over your wasted three bucks.
I couldn't find Neil the Horse on Yesterdayland.com's comprehensive TV cartoon site, so I dunno if it was made or not. And the upcoming Land of Nod Treasury is indeed a reprint of the '94 book you own.
And Batman did kill in his earliest days; he used to carry a gun and once threw a crook off a roof! But DC established decades ago that their heroes aren't killers. Well, except for Hitman. And Vigilante. And Deathstroke. And Green Arrow, occasionally. Hmmm. This is getting complex.
Anyway, here's another Bat-Comment:

But first, let’s note what a phony that correspondent is, since he was anti-Israel and pro-Islam. Make what you will of Batman killing or not, what’s offensive here is the correspondent’s bizarre animus towards Israel, and likely towards families of 9-11 victims. (One can only wonder what he thinks of Liam Neeson’s movie called Non-Stop.) I can’t feel too sorry for him if he wasted money on Spawn, though it was pretty worthless and made Todd McFarlane look more like he was throwing away his potential at the Big Two just for his own self-interests. If that matters.

Say, I notice he may have read Mike Baron’s Nexus and Badger! Does he still do that, despite Baron’s conservatism, which has gotten him all but blacklisted in today’s medium? I don’t know, but don’t be surprised if he shared Mr. Smith’s take on the Punisher!

Dear Cap: I finally got to read JLA #50 and, man, am I happy! Of course they gave themselves an out so there won't similar revelations in Titans or Young Justice, but I can live with that. It will be interesting to see if they explore this more or just leave it lying. While I saw this as the natural end, (it) leads to something I hadn't thought before. Like if the general team knew Bats had maneuvered Plas and Huntress on the team as pseudo-spies, why wasn't there trust issues long before this? Oh well, JLA could easily focus whole issues on team dynamics. This was a good moment and definitely comes under the heading of "re-readable."
On the news that Marvel is having a month of silence, I give kudos to anyone trying anything original. I am disappointed that they said they weren't familiar with G. I. Joe #21. To be blunt, this is one of the best comics ever and the one I remember most vividly. I can still picture the entire issue in my head. It wasn't about just good art either, (but) a very, very good story was being told and it was the beginning of one of the best storylines in that series. It was like a choreographed dance -- every frame counted, every movement, every facial expression. Its funny how whenever you turn off one of the senses the imagination runs wild. In this case you were deaf because no one was "speaking," but that just meant you had to pay so much more attention. A true classic.
Apparently Bill Jemas and I are the only two people on the planet who never read that issue of G. I. Joe! I feel ... incomplete, somehow.

Honestly, Mr. Smith doesn’t deserve to read the famous GI Joe run from the 80s, since he’s not worthy of it with his politics. Then again, maybe the reason he hasn’t read it is because he doesn’t admire the “Real American Hero” concept very much! Food for thought. A pity the correspondent enjoyed that take on JLA though.

Dear Cap: [name withheld] here. I haven't written in awhile, but still remain a devoted reader. I have been surprised that neither you or any of your (other) devoted readers have mentioned Sony's recent display of the costume they will use in the Spider-Man movie coming next year. I remember when the X-Movie costumes came out, everyone was talking about them. Yet nothing about the Spidey costume.
Myself, I think the costume is great. Sure, what has been shown is only two pictures photographed to look really, really good, but still it is very great. The costume keeps the classic look with some modern twists and looks, and makes a Spandex-like costume look very good in real life. Other than the organic webshooter debate (which really in the end is very, very minor, if they nail the spirit of Spider-Man in every other way), I think that the movie will truly capture the spirit and much of the continuity the Spider-Man mythos.
I can't wait for May 2002. Given Spider-man, and some outer-space movie coming out that month, it will be a great time to be a comic/sci-fi fanboy.
You know, it is funny that nobody's said anything about the Spidey suit. Should we assume silence means approval?
Actually, I do have a comment: It's lucky that Spider-Man (unlike the X-Men) is a character who has a great rationale for the Spandex. He started as a wrestler/performer, and needs freedom of movement akin to that of a dancer or gymnast -- hence, a gymnast/wrestler outfit. And from those two pictures, a remarkably effective one.

Funny he doesn’t lament how the X-Men movie’s director had no rationale for spandex, or how lucky it is that Sam Raimi and company were in favor of it. Here’s a letter I wrote that I decidedly regret in restrospect:

Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith,
Last year, in Amazing Spider-Man (annual) 2000, I discovered that The Sandman, one of Spidey’s earliest enemies, had returned to his old ways after joining the good side under the auspices of Silver Sable’s Wild Pack security agency for several years. While Hydroman may have remained in his evil ways all these years, The Sandman switched sides for a while. I had found out about his supposedly becoming honest a few years ago when I read an issue of Fantastic Four from 1993, in which Silver Sable and The Sandman were making guest appearances. And when I read an issue of Spider-Man from April 1998, he’d still been on the good side. But now, as I’ve discovered, he’s finally returned to the evil side. And I think I may have noticed a regular issue of the Amazing Spider-Man where he was featured as having returned to his old ways too, possibly in August.
While admittedly, some of these least expected story twists and turns can be clever, The Sandman is one of various villains who I’d rather remain the crooks they are. To say the least, he’s not the kind of character who’d fit the bill as a good guy, and in fact, it seems pretty ridiculous to depict him that way, so therefore of course, I’d prefer that he remain a crooked character. He also provides more excitement by being the dangerous villain that he is. When it comes to reforming certain comic-book crooks, I prefer that it be characters like White Queen, Hawkeye, Black Cat and Elektra, because -- unlike The Sandman -- they’re not mean-spirited and cruel like he is.
And you know something, it was amazing to discover, via Silver Sable that he “never spent any of the money that I paid you!” Really? From that, it sounds to me like he just wasn’t used to spending money that he earned honestly. Wow. A crook who’d rather spend money that’s stolen, not earned.
And speaking of villains, I just recently read the 25th issue of Spider-Man in which Peter Parker was brutally tortured by Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, and it seemed to me like he was using some sort of electrical powers to zap him into worshipping, in this case, the darkness. This is what furthers my wondering as to (whether) he’s undergone any kind of metamorphosis since the first volume (of Amazing Spider-Man). Did the Scriers give him any kind of advanced powers? It’s a very good question. And only time will tell just what’s happened to The Green Goblin.
Also, having read [name withheld]’s addendums on Wolverine, Canadian slang words and culture -- well, do you know where I saw the word “lad” being used? It was in some Toronto-based newspapers, such as the Globe and Mail. One of their entertainment reporters there was using the word “laddies” in her entertainment columns. And there was another paper where I saw someone using the term “lad magazines.” It could be that they were doing so because they were of a very Scottish or Irish background. And it was because of this that I assumed that Canadians use such slang words.
Whatever, [withheld] is quite right that a lot of Canadians do indeed use plenty of U.S. slang, and I thank him very much for his notes. One difference though, is that in Canada, (British) and French nationalism is much more noticeable than in the U.S. And also, unlike the U.S., both anglophones and francophones write words like "color" with a letter U in them, just like their European counterparts!
Oh, and I’m also very delighted with the introduction of [withheld]’s new columns, and I also thought to send him a welcome note. So indeed, you were able to find someone who could fill the gap left by [withheld], congratulations! His reports were also very interesting and are a very good addition to the Comics Cave.
I'm also quite pleased with the advent of [withheld], Avi!
As to The Sandman, your remarks echo some others on this site recently expressing disbelief that formerly hard-core bad guys like Atlas (nee Power Man) of The Thunderbolts could possibly turn over a new leaf. (Or that we should forgive them past trespasses even if they do.)
I'm ambivalent about that. On the one hand, it is pretty hard to believe that formerly despicable characters could possibly find it in themselves to be swell fellas. Nor should we forget their former abominable attitudes and actions.
On the other hand, it's encouraging to see that even a creep like William Baker wasn't completely rotten. And I do remember fondly a Marvel Two-In-One that consisted of nothing but The Thing and Sandman drinking beer in a bar and discovering that they had as much in common as different. So, pretty good stories can come of "conversions," and it would hardly be charitable of us to write off anyone as irredeemable. Further, it's a testament to common sense -- if you'd been defeated as often as The Sandman, wouldn't you consider trying something different?
I'm curious to see what others think.
As to Norman Osborn, he went through some changes in "The Gathering of The Five" in the final issues of volume one of Amazing Spider-Man that haven't been fully explained -- and probably won't be, given Marvel's current attitude of looking forward, rather than embracing "old" continuity.

Looking back at this, that’s what I thought about Marvel’s Sandman at the time? Man, was I stupid and brainless. That he reformed was actually one of the better written storylines. I’m similarly/honestly glad somebody – maybe Frank Miller – thought of putting Elektra on the path to redemption, but that’s another story.

His note on Marvel looking “forward, rather than” is ambiguous. Shouldn’t that be moving forward while respecting past history? Indeed, there’s a little slip on his part.

Having noted that, I reiterate how embarrassed I am for putting down the idea of a villain reforming. It’s goodies turning into baddies I should be concerned about, and that’s even worse.

On reference to the letter from [name withheld] in your letter column of Jan. 24, 2001, regarding The Crimson Avenger, Roy Thomas provided a timeline of the first appearance of the DC Golden Age heroes in the letter column of Secret Origins (second series) #23 (Feb 88). The first nine heroes were (including the issue of the first appearance and date) were:
1) Dr. Occult: More Fun #6 (Oct 35)
2) The Clock: Funny Pages vol. 6 (Jun 37)
3) Superman: Action #1 (Jun 38)
4) Zatara: Action #1 (Jun 38)
5) Crimson Avenger: Detective #20 (Oct 38)
6) Black X: Feature Funnies #13 (Oct 38)
7) Hop Harrigan: All-American #1 (Apr 39)
8) Batman: Detective #27 (May 39)
9) Sandman: Adventure #40 (Jun 39)
The list goes on for another two columns, but this covers the area in discussion. This list is not only for DC, but Quality heroes. The Crimson Avenger is fifth.
Before The Crimson Avenger started wearing the longjohns, he was a typical Mystery Man in the pulp school with the likes of The Shadow, Green Hornet and The Spider. He wore a fedora, a suit and a huge cape; carried and used a gun; and had no powers except a strong will, detective abilities and exceptional atheletic skills. The Crimson Avenger never made it to the A-list even when he became a member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Unlike the other heroes that DC has that are on a moving timeline (i.e., age frozen at 30, give or take a few years), DC has seemingly frozen The Crimson Avenger in the '30s-to-'40s time frame. With his mythos established in that time frame, The Crimson Avenger became the "first" Mystery Man in the DC Universe, not based upon when he was first released, but on the basis of his time frame. This is also a way that DC is paying tribute to the pulp heroes who were the predecessors of the comic books.
In reference to the letter from [withheld] about Justice League of America #111 (May-Jun 74), I am not sure what the importance of this issue was. It was not the first 100-Page issue, they started three years earlier with DC 100-Page Super-Spectacular #4 (May-Jun 71). It was not the first JLA 100-Page issue, the previous issue (#110) was. The Golden Age reprints of the origins of the members of the JSA was in the series of JLA '90s. This particular issue did not even have a JSA reprint; JLA issues 110, 113 and 115 did. The highlights of the issue was the first half of a Seven Soldiers of Victory story from Leading #2 that was finished in the next issue. Incidentally, this was the only Seven Soldiers of Victory story that was ever reprinted. The topper, though, was a battle between the JLA and the Injustice Gang of the World, led by Libra. I read it when it first came out and liked it but it was not earthshaking.
That's my memory as well, [withheld] -- I enjoyed it, but not exceptionally. I do recall that it was the first I'd ever heard of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, which answered my young fanboy concern that Green Arrow's membership in the JLA was not mirrored by his Golden Age counterpart being in the JSA. (Ah! He was already spoken for!) But others sure remember it well. Perhaps it was all that Spandex, with two super-teams vying for supremacy.
And I still think the 100-Page aspect was important; while the 100-Page Super-Spectacular format made its debut in '71, it wasn't a commonplace until 1974, when Justice League, Superman Family, Batman Family, Tarzan Family and a couple of others jumped to the format as an ongoing thing. I DO recall being excited at the possibility of lots of reprints from DC's (then) 40-year history that I'd have no other means to read. Perhaps others felt the same.
But why speculate? Here an explanation from one of those who loved it:

Yawn. He can’t consider 100-pagers important if he doesn’t think the same about consistency in characterization, ditto doing your best to work out the best characterizations possible.

Dear Cap: Just to clarify and elaborate on a few points re: JLA #111 (I'm about to set some sort of record for colons in a sentence):
I am the "unidentified correspondent" whose questions and observations about Libra and other things were posted a few weeks back in your "Captain's Mailbag" section. (By the way, what constitutes inclusion in "Captain's Mailbag" rather than "Your Letters: Captain's Q&A"?) My name and hometown are listed at the end of the missive but [name withheld] must have missed it. I'd like to send my copy of JLA #111 to Chin Ho at the 5-0 lab to check on that invisible, odorless and addictive substance you mentioned but I just love this comic too much. Actually, many of your observations as to the secret to this comic's popularity are true:
It's the first DC 100-Pager I ever remember; it had a cool new story and a couple really cool reprints featuring characters I'd never seen or heard of before.
Which brings me to why it's one of my all-time faves. Not to give you too great a glimpse into my tortured psyche, but the main reason it's so special is that my mom bought it for me when I was a sick 12- or 13-year-old, along with, I believe, a "Wrath of Spectre" issue of Adventure Comics (actually, I must have picked these out, I doubt my mother would have chosen a comic with a menacing Spectre cover) and a couple Fantastic Fours, around the #144 or #145 range (if I recall correctly, Medusa was a member of the FF, the Torch had the red uniform and in these issues, they fought a race of mountain creatures.)
But, again, along with its sentimental/nostalgic/personal meaning, this comic really knocked me for a loop. A child of 1962, my comics reading began primarily with mid-'60s Batmans and Supermans and a few other DCs, often shared with my older brother. By the late '60s I had given up DCs and sworn allegiance to Marvel, only occasionally reading some DC mags. Most of my DC reading at that time was through comics I had picked up in trades or "reading swaps" where you and your buddy would trade and read each other's collections and then trade back. Also, I was able to pick up some older, used and coverless DCs at junk shops, used-book stores, etc. I recently gave away five or six coverless DC over-sized collector's editions that I bought for seven cents each. Ah, those were the days.
But I digress: JLA #111 was the first DC, new and off the rack, I had read in a long time. I was pleased with the 100-Page format but especially excited about the new story, because for once it seemed DC came up with a real threat to its mega-powered super-team. Who among us was not disappointed to see Batman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, etc., held at bay by lame-os like Shaggy Man, Queen Bee, etc.? In one early JLA, the team was overcome by exhaust fumes from a gang's getaway car, for cryin' out loud!
So anyway, I really liked the new story and -- if memory serves -- the reprints were a "Seven Soldiers of Victory" story from the 1940s and the first JLA/JSA team from JLA #20-21. All of the stories were continued, which again, probably hacked off most DC fans. But being a Marvel Zombie, I was used to it. I loved it.
The only problem was: I didn't get to read JLA #112 -- the conclusions to these stories -- until about a year later. I missed it when it hit the stands but was able to read it later in one of those "collection trades." A few years later -- this must have been around 1977 or '78, I saw #112 for $3 at a back-issue sale at a mall. Convinced none of my friends would see me -- by this time I was a teen and had renounced comics, at least as far as my peers knew -- I bought it and an FF Annual which featured a reprint of the origin of Dr. Doom.
I liked the conclusion of the new story in #112 but it didn't thrill me like #111. I did, however, enjoy the reprints immensely, especially the "Seven Soldiers of Victory," whom I'd never heard of before. Not to wax overly nostalgic but, numerically speaking, I have a close coincidence to the story above:
I acquired Fantastic Four #112 -- a Hulk/Thing battle ish with a tremendous cover -- from my cousin Michael in the '60s and didn't read the conclusion until around 15 years later. FF #113 was one of the first comics I bought when I got back into the hobby in the mid-1980s. I was pretty disappointed with #113 and the whole "Overmind" saga. But at least I found out what happened!
No need to worry that we won't understand, […] -- every fan has a couple of "legendary" comics that he or she sought for years with increasing obstinacy (and guilt). For me, several that spring to mind are Amazing Spider-Man #56, Fantastic Four #73 and Conan the Barbarian #3. And, oh, what a feeling when you finally nail that elusive puppy!
Oh, and commentary goes into Mailbag; questions into Q&A. Commentary following up older questions ("Errata and addenda") also goes into Q&A. It's not perfect, but it does help me keep things organized.

Please, do tell us about organizing. Not if he lacks a genuine sense of morale he doesn’t keep things that way.

Dear Cap: I have not bought a Marvel Annual in years (and few DC ones either) due to the fact that every year there has to be a crossover through all annuals. If it is not that, it is a lame attempt to create more characters when (they're) not even using the ones (they) have to best effect.
I am making a call to have a summer of fun where the annuals are good. I think the Marvel staff ought to be locked in a room with all pre-1970s annuals and then come out with carbon copies of the 1960s -- NOT! I don't want to see Kirby and Ditko clones ( the only time it was done well was the 1963 series by Veitch, Moore and company), what I want to see is Marvel make a return to the sort of annuals with a single real big event, full of fun features and back-up material that made you want to give up that quarter as a kid.
As for DC, I would like them to do more of those 80-Page Giants (like they were doing with the reprints but with new stories mixed with the old). Look at Starman (I know it is ending soon) but they have material from a multitude of Starmen to use as a back-up for the new material.
While I am on the soapbox (until knocked off) I would like to say the art of the short comic story also known as the back-up is dead. I remember Action Comics in the 1970s had some killer back-up stories that were only seven or eight pages. Most of Stan and Jack's greatest works were only one issue. The Spirit and ECs were seven or eight pages at most. Restriction sometimes breed genius. There is a certain ecomomy to storytelling that has been lost and the new annuals might be a place to try to revive it.
Maybe this summer or next as a challenge the Big Two ought to try 64-Page annuals with eight eight-page stories (I know I am not counting ads). Just a suggestion.
And a fine one, [name withheld]. I've speculated before that perhaps a new format for comics would be a return to the 100-Page Super-Spectacular, 80-Page Giant or 64-Page Special with one new story and tons of reprint back-ups (which are cheap to produce). Why not a monthly 100-Page Batman comic book, newsstand-only, with nothing but G-rated reprints from the '50s, '60s and '70s? The price could be kept moderately low ($4.95, say?), and you'd get a lot more bang for the buck than the standard $2.95, 32-page, four-color pamphlet that is quickly losing ground to other forms of entertainment. Plus, you'd hook a lot of kids on Batman comics, who might seek out the comic shops for newer material.
Of course, we're not the only ones to have thought of this. Marvel's 100-Page Monsters are an experiment in that direction (which I greatly enjoy, although I own all the stories they're reprinting -- I just like seeing 'em again). And Detective Comics and Batman: Gotham Knights contain eight-page back-ups; this month Gotham Knights sports a short story by the legendary Harlan Ellison. And what is a trade paperback -- like the recent Mystery in Space -- but the modern incarnation of the 100-Page Super-Spectacular?
Let's hope these formats take off -- I'd love to see reams of reprints!

The 100-page format didn’t last long, but that’s okay, because paperbacks are better, an idea that otherwise completely eludes him. Similarly, he doesn’t have what it takes to comprehend that padded storylines –the kind Brian Bendis influenced since he took over at Marvel – have caused considerable problems for writers who might be able to tell a better story in just 2 or 3 issues. Now for February 7, 2001:

Dear Cap: A few thoughts about the whole Batman/JLA angle:
1) That this issue comes up at all brings out one of the aspects of the way Batman is currently portrayed that I personally find distasteful. I agree that no one wants a return to the "goofy Boy Scout" portrayal of the character of the late Golden Age and early Silver Age, best exemplified by the Adam West-era Batman, if for no other reason than that no one's going to play a "goofy" Batman better than Mr. West anyway. However, when I first started reading comics (circa 1976), Batman was portrayed as having respect for and even a sense of comradeship with his fellow JLAers -- in effect, a strong collegial relationship. He certainly didn't have the arrogant almost-disdain of the current version.
2) Personally, I think that a prerequisite of membership in an organization like the JLA (or the Avengers, for that matter) would be the sharing of one's secret identity with one's fellow members. Anyone who wouldn't trust the rest of the membership with the knowledge of who they are certainly should not even be considered for membership, Batman or not. Taking the Avengers as an example, it's always perturbed me that Iron Man's identity was only known to a select few. Just about anyone could be in that armor, after all. This kind of basic mistrust has no place in what is supposed to be a team.
3) Security certainly would be an issue in a world filled with shapeshifters and mind-controllers and certainly an organization like the JLA should give some thought to such things. But the problem with Batman's solution as presented is that sooner or later his secret plans would have come out, if only when next a JLAer went "rogue," as it were. A smart guy like Batman should have foreseen that his plans were bound to come out. What should he have done? That's a tougher question. I suppose he might've convened a meeting of the JLA and spoken thusly:
"As you all know, security is a major concern of mine, particularly in light of the existence of beings like Agamemno with his mind-switching powers and heroes-gone-bad like Extant. No one likes to think about such things, and no one likes to consider a comrade as a potential threat or to think of 'plotting' against one's friends. But we do have to deal with the world as it is, and as it is we must be prepared for all contingencies, however unpleasant. In aid of this, I've asked you here today to let you know that I have developed a series of protocols for controlling the situation should any one or any combination of you be drawn under outside control or otherwise come to engage in contra-indicated behavior, and to encourage each and every one of you to draw up such protocols of your own, to include protocols concerning me. I would further urge you not to share these protocols with anyone, especially fellow members, and to treat such protocols as items of the highest security. Understand, it is not my intention to create disunity or suspicion amongts us, and it is my fondest wish that these protocols will never be be used, but I feel that on the one hand it would be extremely negligent on my part to ignore any potential threat and on the other hand dishonest to create such protocols without informing you of their existence."
Would this work? Frankly, it might not. Even if Batman had been completely up front about his plans it might still have led to disunity within the JLA as individual Leaguers looked at one another thinking, "What kind of plans has he/she drawn up to deal with me?"
4) In the final analysis, however, I come back once again to my feeling that Batman as currently portrayed violates the notion of what it means to be a "superhero," as comics have traditionally presented them. Traditionally, superheroes accepted their peers as allies in the struggle against evil. Superheroes were presented as people who followed a certain code, well aware that adhering to that code left them with certain unique vulnerabilities. It was proceeding in the face of those vulnerabilities that made them heroes, in my opinion. Additionally, Batman is presented as an individual who has an answer for every situation, who always wants to be ready for anything. But a man as clever as Batman is supposed to be should know that that kind of control is impossible. I'd love to see a Batman/Captain America miniseries, one in which Batman spends some time with someone who is frankly, an even better fighter than he is, and yet has a much healthier relationship with his peers. Maybe it's true what The Joker said in the second Batman/Punisher crossover,that Batman is still reacting as the frightened child he once was.
Anyway, Cap, I could go on all day, but you're probably fast asleep by now.
ZZZZzzzzz -- uh, what?
Just kidding, [withheld], I was listening intently. As you note, the situation is not an easy one, and I want to hear from all sides on it.
Interestingly, in the '60s I always thought it was completely in character for the Marvel characters to hide their secret IDs from each other, and out of character for DC characters to do the same. I had some idea, I suppose, that DC characters were idealized heroes who were not remotely realistic and should be held to a perfect standard, whereas the Marvel characters I thought of as just plain, everyday people who somehow ended up wearing Spandex. The edginess that resulted from the Avengers not knowing much about each other was part of Marvel's verisimilitude, whereas I wanted the JLA to be the perfect club without real life necessarily intruding. I think they call this "having your cake and eating it too."
The reason I mention this is that I wonder if some of the angst directed toward the Batman/JLA situation isn't partially from some of us having our idealized club sullied by real-life situations? Just a thought.
And speaking of Bat-thoughts, here's another:

One written by me, but first let’s comment on the above, and how laughable it is that a man who accepts an unrealistic vision in Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled. Talk about having cake and eating it too indeed! One can only wonder what he thinks of people who’d rather their favorite heroes and co-stars from childhood not be sullied by the grime from real life. And to make matters worse, the correspondent who wrote that letter may have been fine with both those dirty stories to boot.

Dear Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith: This week, I think I’ll join other readers and add my two cents on Batman’s expulsion from the JLA.
So what I can say is this: Batman’s idea of concocting weapons that he could use on his own pals in the JLA most certainly does sound insane. Or, should I say, it certainly does sound as if he himself has gone insane. I know that he’s always been a very grim-minded character, escpecially these days, but why should he feel like his friends are his enemies? There are certainly many questions that can be raised by all this. Did he think that it was all necessary for if they’d been brainwashed by the JLA’s actual foes like Darkseid, for example? Come to think of it, I can’t say that even in a case like that that such weapons would be necessary. So for me, for one, it just doesn’t make much sense that he would want to build weapons for fighting his own cohorts in the JLA. If he felt that defense against his own pals was necessary, then what he should’ve done was to build some non-lethal weapons that could immobilize them, and even relieve them from the effects of brainwashing, should they ever undergo such a thing.
I don’t think however, that tearing the Wayne manor and Batcave to pieces is the answer to the problem. What the JLA would probably have to do in a case like this is put Batman under psychiatric therapy. For is it possible that the trauma he suffered from the loss of his parents is starting to become almost like slow poison that’s sending him so mad that he’s become distrustful and fearing even of his own friends?
One sure thing though, it’s hard to say if this is as controversial an issue as when DC corrupted the first Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. But one thing is certain: Batman’s ouster from the JLA could be in effect for years. For unlike Warbird of the Avengers, who was just destroying herself when she became addicted to alcohol three years ago, Batman was working upon doing something that could destroy others, in this case, his colleagues in the JLA. And in Warbird’s case, well, none of the other Avengers wanted to expel her, although they insisted upon demoting her to the less active Avengers ranks, whereupon she was unwilling to accept this, and so for almost a year, she resigned from the Avengers and went freelance, but she was always welcome to return, even if they’d still refrain from making her part of the more active team members for awhile. In Batman’s case, however, he was completely expelled, and it could be for a very long time.
And that’s why the Dark Knight is going to have to work very hard to regain the trust if his friends in the JLA if he’s ever to return. To do this, he’s going to have to study his moralities again as best as possible. I sure hope he’ll do his best to regain their trust in him in the next few years.
Hmm, I do wonder if the Batman-JLA ouster could eventually become the next subject on the Debates index? Well, of course, a lot of letters to be sure are needed for such a thing, and with any luck, this too can probably be added to the Debates menu.
I have to note, as one reader did last week, that Batman's protocols were indeed non-lethal and meant to restrain. It was Ra's al Ghul who used them in a lethal fashion.
On the other hand, most people who suffer childhood traumas -- the loss of their parents, for example -- DO get therapy to get over their trauma, moving on to normal lives. Does it strike anybody but me as odd to see a 37-year-old man weeping over the graves of parents that have been dead almost three decades? I mean, he only knew them for eight years, and probably doesn't remember much of that. Shouldn't the pain have dulled a bit by now? Sometimes when I see Bats getting all maudlin in front of his parent's portrait I just want to slap him and say, "Get over it, already." What is he, Inego Montoya of Princess Bride? "Hallo. My name is Inego Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. I say that to everybody. Sooner or later I'll be right."
Oh, and I'm sure the Batman/JLA conversation will hit the debates list, just as soon as I add the Oracle "sin-tax" debate and a couple of others. They're just stacking up like cordwood here in the Comics Cave.
Meanwhile, last week a reader asked if Batman was a failure for not being able to put more than a dent into Gotham crime. Here's one answer:

Before we get to that, I look back at what I wrote at the time, and can’t believe how unintelligable I'd been. Even if Ra’s al Ghul was the one who stole the weapons and tried to use them on the JLA, my failure to say whether I think the most apparent revelation – Batman building potentially lethal tools to use against his fellow Leaguers that could be extremely dangerous for WW – makes me feel awful and ashamed of my inability to say the writer (Mark Waid) was wrong to come up with such balderdash in the first place. Granted, he did have a positive while working on that volume – he reversed the fate of Alanna Strange from 1990’s Adam Strange miniseries by Richard Bruning – but his whole notion that Batman would do this is little more than an insulting mutation of the characterization that became problematic in the mid-90s. About the only thing I wrote in the past here I like is the note on Hal Jordan’s status, yet even that’s a bit underwhelming, making me feel sadder still. If only I grasped the full problem with GL at the time, I might’ve been able to say something more convincing.

Hi Capn: I've been enjoying your column in CBG and spent two hours on your site and links the other day. Good thing they have a computer at work, huh?
Is Batman a failure? In his mission, certainly, for the very reasons given by the questioner. Some more permanent solution, you ask, Cap'n? What, like the cells Punisher 2099 put below his HQ? Absolutely; makes sense to me. Bruce has plenty of money and he claims to want to make Gotham safe. Pull the scum off the streets and house them humanely. "Well, he can't take the law into his own hands." That's exactly what he's been doing for his entire career, and only the pocket approval of Gordon has allowed that to happen. Perhaps the current "Officer Down" storyline will change that, especially since the only thing Bruce has done so far is stand by Jim's bedside wringing his hands and let the shooter know he wasn't going to bring him in. By-and-large, the Bat-writers have shown they have a plan and I hope they'll bring a believable conclusion to this, but Bruce's problems are just beginning here.
Why doesn't Batman do something real about Gotham? Why does he let Joker et al walk? Maybe, if we get him on Hugo Strange's couch for a little while, we can see. If Batman really did clean up Gotham permanently, or at least bring the crime down to a manageable point so that his lieutenants and the police could hold their own, what would he then do? It's been said over and over that Superman is really Clark Kent, but Bruce Wayne is really Batman.Wayne is just a front, a mostly needless pretense by which Batman occasionally gathers information or works some political scheme. If Batman fulfilled his purpose, what would Bruce do?
The bigger problem may be that Bruce has no real life, having avoided all non-nocturnal-related activity of any real depth all his life. Why else would he be so attracted to Talia? Only she has lived a similarly fantastic life, and she is one of the few toward whom Bruce feels he could develop any attachment, precisely because she too has had no normal human interaction.
Dr. Kinsolving? A similar devotion to her fellow man, but now out of the picture. Catwoman? Well, that's another topic for another day. We all know it's too perfect to happen. Vicki Vale, Silver St. Cloud, etc. -- probably not even canonical anymore, let alone valid partners. Bruce's failure in his mission is not so alarming to me as is his general failure as a person; when we see him crying at his parents' graves, I don't really think he's crying over their loss. I think he's crying because he knows he is a disappointment to them.
That's an interesting insight, […]. If I'm reading you right, you're saying Batman is subconsciously dragging his feet so that he won't put himself out of a job -- and the subconscious guilt is what's making him feel so sorry for himself. Whoa, I'll have to think about that one for a while! Here's another opinion:

What neither is saying is whether they’re disappointed in the writers who brought Batman to this point; the real failures here. In which case, we can only guess who else are failures, can’t we?

Dear Cap: I wanted to rebut [name withheld]'s statements in last weeks' Mailbag.
First of all, to call Batman a failure is to call every superhero in the DC and Marvel universes a failure. Not one of them has ever really managed to take a major villain out of commission for any length of time.
To call Batman a failure because of society's inability to keep these homicidal maniacs behind bars would be the same as dismissing community watch programs because they can only drive drug dealers a couple of blocks away. Ultimately, what Batman and all of the other superheroes do is similar to community watches or the Guardian Angels or any other group that tries to have a positive effect upon society's ills while staying within the law. At least they're trying to do something.
Should Batman try to do something more permanent to his major villains, like crippling them or somesuch? If you remember, Daredevil did just that to Bullseye during Frank Miller's run, and ultimately it had no effect. In the case of villains like The Joker, I think it would have very little effect. The reason why these characters are so effective and frightening is not because of their physical aspects but because of their warped way of thinking. If you crippled the Scarecrow he could still get someone to mix his chemicals to make his fear gas.
I don't think stronger powered heroes in Gotham would be the answer either. After all, Lex Luthor has no super-powers, and yet he causes Superman more problems than anyone. There are 30 or 40 superheroes operating in New York in the Marvel Universe, yet The Kingpin thrives in the city. I think a more powerful hero would be considered a challenge, not a deterrent.
Finally, if Batman, as Bruce Wayne, decided to control the city he more than likely could. However, this would leave him no time to be Batman, and would likely involve him in business relationships that would ultimately put him in a legally precarious situation.
A good point, […], that Batman is no more of a failure vis-a-vis The Joker than Superman is vis-a-vis Lex Luthor. And you know, during the "Rock of Ages" storyline in JLA, writer Grant Morrison alluded to the fact that Bruce Wayne was battling Lex Luthor in the financial arena while the JLA was battling the Injustice Gang physically -- and that Wayne stopped Luthor cold. That's something neither Superman nor Clark Kent could have done, and I'd like to have heard more about it. On the other hand, I was a bit disappointed that it was LexCorp and not WayneTech that came to Gotham's aid at the end of No Man's Land. Never have been able to swallow that one.
Meanwhile, here's a concurring opinion:

Why don’t they ask whether assigned writers can depict the heroes trying what they speak of? Funny how Miller and Morrison are mentioned, yet not the mentality of criticizing fictional characters instead of the writers – or just as importantly, the editors and publishers – for not having the guts? Ignorant as usual, aren't they.

Dear Cap: Batman is not a failure.
Let me start by breaking the proverbial fourth wall. The reason why The Joker and Scarface and Poison Ivy continually escape Arkham Asylum and other correctional or mental institutions is not that Arkham has ineffective security, or that Gotham prisons are over-flowing or that Batman is a failure. They escape because we fans want them too. We don't want Joker to serve a life sentence. We don't even want Joker to die (and it has nothing to do with a political stance on death or capital punishment). We want to see The Joker wreaking havoc and making mayhem. We buy trade paperbacks titled The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told and graphic novels like The Killing Joke. We like a good villain.
And DC knows that we like a good villain. And DC knows that a good villain can sell comics as well as a good hero. When they try to drum up interest in Wonder Woman, she squares off against Darkseid (the beginning of John Byrne's run), Clayface or The Joker. And it works. Joker fans (and Batman fans) pick up Wonder Woman for a couple of months, and maybe a couple of them stick around. DC isn't about to take a popular character that can raise circulation out of their circulation.
Furthermore, comic-book creators like a good villain. I don't know how Bob Schreck runs the Bat-office, but under his predecessor, writers had to reserve villains in advance in order to make sure that people weren't telling two Riddler stories at once. If you, as a Bat-writer, wanted to tell a good Two-Face story in the year 2001, you had to reserve him sometime in the year 2000. A smart writer isn't about to kill him off because he may want to use him again (and his editor won't let him because somebody else has already reserved him for the next story arc).
Finally, a good villain is hard to find. Star Trek has always had a race of villains (Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians and Borg) as well as other interesting nemeses like Q. The most popular character in The Phantom Menace was the villain Darth Maul, which shouldn't surprise anyone because Darth Vader was the most popular character in the other three films. Having good villains is a necessary ingredient for success. I loved Valiant comics but they all fought the same villain (Master Darque). Without a recurring Rogues Gallery, the writers had difficulties in coming up with engaging stories.
Even when we argue about who is the best hero, we drag the villains into the debate. Who has the better class of villains? Batman? Spider-Man? Superman? The Fantastic Four?
Batman isn't a failure. He's one of the most successful characters of all time, partly because he is so well-defined that writers can create villains which are his ideological opposite.
Of course, that takes all of the fun out of the debate. What we really want to know is: Within the perspective of the fictional world of the DC universe, is Batman a failure?
Even in that regards, I say no, Batman is not a failure.
As a member of the JLA, he has provided leadership and solutions that enabled the team to counter any number of threats (including the Pale Martians, the "IT" from the Tomorrow Woman issue, the Advance Man and the Injustice Gang). He was the leader of the renewed Justice League until their public affiliation with the United Nations at which time he wisely deferred to the leadership of J'onn J'onzz. Without Batman, the world would have been enslaved by the Gray Man, the Know Man, the Lord of Time and any number of would-be conquerors.
Secondly, Batman has become the mentor of more heroes than any other individual in the known world (kind of shoots that "he's a loner" theory full of holes). He has trained Dick Grayson as Robin/Nightwing. He has trained Tim Drake as Robin. He has trained Barbara Gordon as Batgirl/Oracle. He is currently tutoring Huntress, Azrael and Batgirl. He founded, trained and led the Outsiders, including notable heroes like Katana, Halo, Black Lightning, Metamorpho and Geo-Force. The men and women under his direct tutelage have been a significant part of the success of The Titans, Young Justice, later editions of The Outsiders and the Justice League. Because of them, the world has been protected from the threats of Triton, Kali, the Extremists, Goth and many others. Yes, many of those disciples have strained relationships with Batman. But hockey players resent Scotty Bowman, and football players hated Vince Lombardi, while begrudgingly admitting that those coaches prepared them to win. More than any other hero, Batman has concentrated on training the next generation.
As to his personal War on Crime, he does appear to be losing. But if he is a failure, then so is every cop, every FBI agent, every DEA agent, every vigilante, every superhero, every superheroine and every member of any law enforcement agency up to and including Fox Mulder. To me, that is a failure which must be placed on the whole of society and not on any one individual. Batman is stopping as many crimes as he can, and probably more than anyone else and therefore he isn't a failure. We as a society are producing more and more criminals, even more than he can handle and we should look at other causes before we blame the one individual who is willing to devote his entire life to a losing battle.
Maybe Batman could stop a few more crimes. But in order to do so, he would have to cross a line himself. And the Batman we know isn't about to stop villains by becoming one himself. Why else would we get into such heated debates when he or one of his disciples (like Oracle) cross or even get close to what we consider to be that line?
Anyway, that kind of losing battle makes for an interesting read. And whenever a writer wants to challenge those conventions and actually let The Joker pay for his crimes, well, that's why DC invented the imaginary story (or Elseworlds, if you prefer). Joker has gotten his just desserts in Kingdom Come and in The Nail. The DC heroes built an immense and inescapable prison in Kingdom Come, but the Batman created his own crime-free police state again in Kingdom Come. But were Batman ever to win his war in DC continuity, then the story would be over. Even if he made progress, the story would be over, because we always want our stories to be bigger, better, more momentous, more violent than the last.
Batman isn't a failure. Not by my standards.
If he is a failure according to you, ask yourself this: Would you really want to read about a successful Batman?
Thanks for listening.
When you consider how many times Batman has saved the world, […], I guess it's hard to argue that he's any kind of failure. That Joker thing sure nags, but as you say: If he did something "permanent," then he wouldn't be much of a hero, successful or not. Here's yet another opinion:

Of course Batman’s not a failure, and I already made clear who is. To which we must sadly add another somebody, that being the very correspondent who wrote the letter above; he was one who embraced Identity Crisis, which also implies Batman is a failure. So his argument doesn’t mean squat.

Hey Cap: Just read the Mailbag for Wednesday 01-31-01, and thought that I would throw in my two percent of a dollar on a few topics:
1) Re: [name withheld]'s comments on Batman's failure as a hero, the Cap'n writes:
<<Thanks for a great letter, Jeff! You bring up an interesting point that I'd like other readers to comment on: Is Batman a failure? Is there something more, eh, permanent he could do without betraying his devotion to justice and "nobody dies tonight" mantra?>>
I would have to say that Batman is not a failure. Batman is a private citizen, acting to prevent crime where possible, apprehend criminals where not. He is in most respects similar to a police officer, but without some of the legal constraints imposed by the Constitution upon police officers as agents of the state.
Like a policeman, Batman's job is to catch criminals so that they can be prosecuted by the state. In that respect, he can in no way be considered a failure. In fact, he's the ultimate success story. It's pretty much a given that if Bats puts his mind and resources to solving a crime and capturing a criminal, he is going to succeed. He has a 100-percent arrest rate, and no policeman could ask for more than that.
It's not Batman's fault if the state bungles the prosecution or, worse, secures a conviction but then allows the criminal to escape by sloppy security procedures. We wouldn't hold a police detective responsible if, despite a textbook investigation, the D.A.'s office couldn't convince the jury to return a guilty verdict (the fact that it is so easy in Gotham to get a "not guilty by reason of insanity" verdict and a trip to the most security-deficient mental hospital in the world is appalling, but not the fault of Batman or the police). We certainly wouldn't hold the detective responsible if the criminal later escaped from incarceration or was legally paroled. Why do we hold Batman to a higher standard?
By the same token, we don't want our policemen, frustrated by the "revolving door" nature of the justice system, to take the law into their own hands and start carrying out their own brand of justice on the streets. We don't want them killing suspected criminals, we don't want them framing them with false evidence, etc. Why? Because if we let them execute their own justice, rather than relying upon our Constitutionally established justice system, then what's to stop them from going after us next?
The same standard applies to Batman. Yes, it's frustrating and horrifying how often the Bat-villains escape justice, but it's not Batman's job to determine legal guilt or carry out execution of sentence. It's his job to catch persons suspected of or wanted for committing a crime and turn them over to the state for prosecution, preventing loss of life and property in the process, if possible. In that regard, he is very successful.
You can't blame Batman because he hasn't won the war on crime. That's a war against human nature, a war that's been fought since mankind first congregated together in caves around campfires. It's a social ill that's too big for any one man to rectify alone, even the Batman. All we can do is pitch in as best we can, and Batman does a lot more than most.
All that being said, I do think that there is more that he can do. Bruce Wayne is one of the wealthiest men in the DCU, and has one of the world's most brilliant minds. How much more good could he do if he applied that brain and those resources on a more global level, working with the authorities directly rather than in uneasy alliance?
Why not improve the security at Arkham? He'd cut down on the Gotham crime rate considerably just by ensuring that the Bat-Psychos stayed put. Heck, he's a former teammate and ally of Scott Free. If anyone could design a containment system sophisticated enough to make escape pretty much impossible for Batman's Rogues Gallery (who are, after all, mostly human), it would be him. And if anybody could afford to build it, it would be Bruce Wayne.
Why not work with the violent crimes unit to improve their investigative techniques (which must need improvement, since they're always 10 steps behind Batman), or to build an offender database as efficient as the Bat-computer? Why not let the police in on the secret of "those wonderful toys" he uses. I'm sure that they'd love to have weapons based upon his Bat-lasers, or kevlar suits so cunningly woven that they'll stop a rifle shot while remaining lightweight enough for someone to swim or do acrobatic feats while wearing.
Imagine what Batman could do for this country as director of the FBI ...
But, no, his insistence on maintaining a loner identity, on doing it all himself, hamstrings these possibilities. So, yeah, he does more than most, but I think Batman could do more. A lot more.
<<And as long as we're on the subject, writer Steven Grant points out that Superman is going to spend the next four years as an "impotent (male member)" because he's going to simply wringing his hands while arch-enemy Lex Luthor has his way with the Constitution!>>
Huh? Since when does the President have his way with the Constitution? There are checks and balances in place to prevent that sort of thing, you know. That's not to say that the President can't abuse his powers to push a personal agenda (as I am sure Lex Luthor will), but I think it's a far cry from having his way with the Constitution.
Of course, if you want to talk about a man who could do more, Superman is pretty much it. If he spent a little more time dealing with ordinary criminals instead of squaring off against superhuman freaks in colorful costumes, how much better would the world be?
2) Re: [withheld] letter, […] writes:
<<Moving farther into the fanboy arena, a letter in your latest update got me thinking about why Batman isn't a killer. Could it be because he's never had to? Captain America killed a terrorist once, gunning him down when he opened fire on a crowded plane. Even though Cap agonized over it, I don't think that makes him a murderer.>>
No, it doesn't make him a murderer. The rule of self-defense allows you to use lethal force to save your own life or the life of a third person. Cap would not be a murderer, under the law or morally.
On the other hand, I do take issue with the idea that Cap "had to" shoot the terrorist (or that Batman would do the same thing if put into a situation where he "had to" kill someone to save an innocent person's life).
Captain America, pretty much by virtue of who he is, never "has to" resort to killing to stop a criminal (in this case, an agent of one of the most totally lame terrorist groups in comics -- Flag Smasher's Ultimatum). He will always come up with some alternative plan for dealing with the bad guy, and, by virtue of his consummate skill, pull it off with no loss of life on either side. He's been in tougher situations than the one in that issue (Hydra agent has gun pressed to temple of innocent bystander, anyone?) and never resorted to killing as his only option. He'd bounce his shield off a half dozen walls until it smacked the Hydra agent in the back of the head, for example, or come up with any number of alternate plans. It's what makes him who he is as a character.
The simple fact is that the writers wanted to deal with Cap's emotional angst as he was forced to deal with the consequences of his action, so they contrived a situation in which he "had to" kill the Ultimatim agent (as if Marvel didn't have enough angst in their other titles, they had to go mess with the one book that was always pretty much angst free!). I mean, c'mon, Cap couldn't handle an Ultimatum agent? Even on the worst day of his life, Cap shouldn't have had much difficulty thwarting one of Flag-Smasher's flunkies (heck, even D-Man could handle Ultimatum!). It was, to me, a much-reviled storyline, and not one of the high points of the series.
Similarly, I find it hard to believe that a man like Batman, who can run through "57 ways to disable a man from this position" in his mind in seconds, would ever find himself in a situation in which he could come up with no alternative to killing his opponent. Especially since, as the latest JLA storyline attests, he's a man who always plans ahead.
3) Avi Greene writes:
<<While admittedly, some of these least expected story twists and turns can be clever, The Sandman is one of various villains who I’d rather remain the crooks they are.>>
Actually, I rather liked The Sandman as a good guy (which is, I know, a reversal from some of my previous letters about villains turned heroes). He always seemed like a likeable schlub, one who was only into villainy because he was talked into acting as flunky by "master" villains like the Wizard and the Leader. I rather enjoyed his turns as a would-be hero in Spider-Man, the FF, and the Avengers, and I'm disappointed to learn that he has returned to villainy.
On the other hand, I freely admit that I am not all that familiar with Sandman's earlier, more villainous apperances. I don't know how vicious he may or may not have been, and so have nothing to compare against to make me disbelieve the possibility of his reforming (as I disbelieved Goliath's reformation into Atlas, having read him do some pretty awful things in the pages of the Avengers and elsewhere).
Anyway, that's it for me. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for the Bat-thoughts, [name withheld] -- Batman as super-cop (and not super-jury, or super-judge) is always how I thought of him, and I wouldn't like to see him cross the line (as this site debated on the Oracle "sin tax" issue). As to President Luthor, I was paraphrasing Steven Grant, who was simply making the point that Superman was looking mighty helpless and unheroic while Luthor was looking mighty successful -- and unless Supes gets a lot more pro-active, Luthor's likely to get away with pretty much anything he wants to, Constitution notwithstanding.
Of course, what we'd really like to see is the press catch Luthor in a fling with a secretary (read: Monica) or with a DUI in his past (read: Dubya) or some illegal activity (read: Watergate) or some other scandal (Lord knows he's got enough skeletons in his closet) and thereby become undone by his own ambition. Now that he's given up the rights to privacy he had as a private citizen to become a politician (as per New York Times vs. Sullivan, 1925), he's got no legal defense against all sorts of people snooping into his affairs. That truly would be the American Way, wouldn't it? And it would justify Superman's faith in The System, as well as making him look more like a staunch believer in democracy and less like a Super-sap.

Today, I agree with the correspondent of the above on the Sandman subject. The undoing of William Baker’s past characterization was sloppy. Curious Mr. Smith, surely a stalwart supporter of Clinton, would allude to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, since you’d think a vehement leftist would rather refrain from condemning his fellow leftist for the most part. And now that I think of it, he probably would and does, since it's not like leftists of his standing have ever panned Clinton for another shocking scandal only discovered later. However, note that there’s two rightists cited here as compared to one leftist, and he chooses rather easy examples for citation, so you can figure what drives him.

Dear Cap:
<<Wasn't The Clock among the Justice League International villains who took a bus ride to a crime about a decade ago during the "silly" Justice League era? Or was that Clock King -- Captain Comics>>
It was the Clock King. Don't forget, that's my favorite Justice League era.
<<Many longtime readers may remember a "silent" issue of G. I. Joe from the mid-1980s. – [withheld]>>
There were actually two issues of G.I. Joe that were silent. The first one was #21, "Silent Interlude." The second was #85, "SFX." John Byrne wrote a rather excellent issue of Batman, #433 (part one of "The Many Deaths of the Batman"), that was also silent as were the first several pages of the following issue.
I think that, like most company-wide events, there will be exceptionally good issues, exceptionally bad issues, and a wide range of stories in between. I am struck by how far in advance they're announcing this particular event.
That is interesting, isn't it? I'm fresh out of theories why that would be. Brian Michael Bendis has alluded in interviews that it's to allow creators plenty of time to work it into their plans, and maybe that's actually true. And here's another mention of the "silent Batman":

Ahem. Only Bendis gets the time to work anything into his plans, and whatever that is, he’s long made clear it’s nothing good at all.

Say, is the correspondent – also a onetime writer for Smith’s overrated site – praising company-wide crossovers? I must shake my head in despair.

Dear Cap: I just read the other day about "silent" month happening at Marvel later on this year. I had heard about the Snake Eyes G.I. Joe issue but never read it ... looked at it ... read it ... whatever. However, I do recall DC doing something similar about 11 or so years back with Batman. I think it was a small arc that saw several bodies turning up at the morgue wearing Batman costumes. The rest of the arc had dialogue but the first issue (written by John Byrne) was either entirely silent or had no dialogue except for one balloon on the last panel. Just thought I'd share.
Thanks for sharing! It seems that Batman issue was as memorable to readers of this site as G.I. Joe #21.

And a lot more memorable than Smith’s pedestrian sugarfests, that’s for sure! These days, save for the value of examining how pretentious his work is, his columns are a major borefest. As are his responses to the next letter from February 14, 2001:

Greetings Wise One: I've always been an X-Men fan, and in fact it's because of the X-Men comics that I got back in the game about three years ago. Back around when Excalibur disbanded and Excalibur's "Big Three" came back home (Uncanny X-Men #360, X-Men #80), I decided it was high time I gave the industry another chance. So I started reading/collecting again. Marvel's MC2 helped spur me into action as well.
But I'm beginning to wonder if it was worth it. After the tremendous success of the X-Men movie this summer, Marvel has started to adapt the comics to the movie. I thought the movie was supposed to be an adaption of the comics! Suddenly Toad has the extended tongue power. I have to admit that it was cool in the movie, but they should at least explain it before they plop it into the comics. If you look at Mystique in a couple (of) panels while she's shapeshifting (the exact issues slip my mind at the moment, sorry), you will see that part of her body, usually her arms, have the little scales that she had in the movie. Due to the "Maximum Security" story arch, Rogue now has the power to use any power she's absorbed before, but she can't control it. When she first gets Wolverine's claws and healing factor, she becomes a scared little girl and it's up to Wolverine to become her mentor and calm her down. I thought this was kind of interesting, but it's still just trying to make the comic into the movie. It's not to say that I didn't like the movie, I did like it, very much. BUT these were supposed to be two separate continuities, or so I thought. I suppose if the Spider-Man movie does well we can expect Peter Parker to go through some kind of new mutation or evolution and instantly have organic webshooters. If DC did what Marvel is doing, Batman would be showing up at charity auctions for publicity with his MasterCard and Superman would be constantly turning back time to defeat his enemies.
Anyway, back on the X-Men: In the "Dream's End" storyline a few months back, the Brotherhood consisted of none other than Mystique, Toad and Sabretooth. Not only that, the Cerebro room suddenly looks exactly like it did in the movie. I realize that Marvel is trying to hook new readers who liked the movie by giving them some better parallels, but I feel insulted.
Some of my other gripes:
MC2: Spider-Girl is the only book that has survived, and this "powerless" story arc is kind of getting dull for me. I wonder how long it will be before they decide to put the Spider back in Spider-Girl. I don't know how well The Buzz and Dark Devil miniseries sold but I somewhat enjoyed them and I hope that Marvel either does more or brings back some A-Next or J2 or something! They left some slight story threads unresolved in A-Next and it'd be nice if they'd answer them with a recurring series or a book published every now and then with micro-stories.
(SPOILER WARNING: Don't read beyond this point if you haven't read up through Uncanny X-Men #390, X-Men #110 and X-Men Unlimited #30).
Recent X-terminations: How many recurring characters have died in the past few months in the X-books? Moira McTaggart, Pyro, Senator Kelly and Colossus. And that's only if you count the past couple months. Before that we had Synch and the pseudo-death of Cyclops.
Removing Excalibur from the "core" X-books: Colossus, Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler were some of my favorite characters. Colossus is dead -- curing the Legacy Virus, a noble death -- but I'll still miss the character, but I'll get over it. Kitty Pryde has been AWOL for a few months now and then we find out where she is in X-Men #90 only to discover that she isn't coming back to the X-Men. In X-Men Unlimited #30, we find that Nightcrawler, in grief of Colossus's death, has decided to take some time off. So Colossus, Kitty and the Fuzzy Elf have been removed.
GenX: I have to agree with the comment you made in your canceled comics section. I liked the old GenX when they were happy-go-lucky, but this gritty version was getting on my nerves, especially when all it had effectively done was to wipe out Synch in a storyline where we didn't get to find out exactly what happened for eight issues. I'm still kind of sad to see the book get canceled though -- the recent "Four Days" story was starting to get me interested in the team, especially the scene were Monet and Jubilee had to deal with
Synch's death and the fact that they both had had feelings for him.
I'm sorry if this sounds like a massive gripe fest, but I just wanted to voice my opinion on the matter and see what you thought.
I think griping is pretty healthy, [withheld] -- if you didn't care for the characters, then none of this would bother you, right?
Further, I think you have a right to gripe. You've been loyal, paid your money, learned your continuity. And then Marvel alters the comics to reflect the status quo of the movie -- which could be construed as a slap in the face to the existing fans.
But notice I said "could." It's clearly in Marvel's best interest to reach out to new fans -- but it's equally clearly in their best interest not to alienate the old ones. So I wouldn't assign evil intent to the X-editors; they're doing the best they can to keep old fans while attracting new ones.
Which, unfortunately, is about the only way Marvel is going to survive. Saddled with debt as they are, and in a declining market for both comics and toys, they are struggling mightily to keep afloat. In desperate times, desperate measures are called for -- and these are clearly desperate times, so I can forgive them a great deal. Further, as Mr. Spock would say, "the only constant in the universe is change." For our heroes to continue to stay in print, to continue to attract a healthy fan base with each succeeding year, they have to change with the times. Look how many changes Batman has been through in 60-plus years -- or ask Hal Jordan. A static, unchanging X-world would be one dying a slow death.
The upshot is: The X-Men are going to change. Not only now, but with each generation on into the future. As loyal older fans, that might not sit well with us, but it's the nature of the universe. The only question is: Are the changes GOOD ones?
Hal Jordan turning into Parallax? Bad change. Batman becoming a creature of the night again? Good change. Colossus getting killed ... ? I doubt it's a good change, but I'm willing to give Marvel some room to experiment and grow. Let's see how they handle it. After all, death isn't really all THAT permanent in comics, is it?
I understand your complaints, [...], and sympathize. Frankly, I was disappointed to see Colossus bite the big weenie, as he was always one of my favorites. But I do understand Marvel's desperate need to do SOMETHING, and all we as fans can do is adjudge whether we still enjoy reading the titles or not. If we do, then all is well; if not, then we vote with our wallets.
As to your other remarks:
On MC2: The letters page of Spider-Girl #30 (presumably written by Assistant Editor Frank Dunkerley) said, "While we love Dark Devil as much as you do, we're sorry to report that his recent limited series didn't sell well enough to earn him a regular series ..." Presumably The Buzz sold no better.
On X-terminations: There will be more. Here's what Rich Johnston's "All The Rage" rumor column at www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com has to say:
"As for those that will die, in his plot outline Morrison just revealed there would be a 'Culling of many mutants', but as the first issue script is the only one which has yet been seen by anyone, so far only Cecilia Reyes and Husk have been killed, 'though from what's been going 'round the Marvel offices it's reported that by the end of the arc around a dozen X-Men will be dead. The only ones assured of safe passage are those that were in the first X-Men movie, as even Quesada agreed that it would be bad for new readers to not find the most commercially known characters in the comics, so as a result Rogue, Storm, Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey and Professor X have been made off limits from Morrison's culling."
Note that "Rage" is a RUMOR column, and Johnston only assigns a probability of four in 10 that the above is true. Still, it's safe to say that more X-Men will be X-punged.
On Excalibur: Y'know, I hadn't noticed that the first three characters X-cised from the X-books were the Big Three of Excalibur. Maybe it's coincidence -- none of the three were in the movie, which is a more likely reason for their X-cision than some unspoken Marvel jihad against Excalibur.
On GenX: I also thought "Four Days" was the best Generation X story I'd seen since the glory days of Lobdell/Bachalo or Faerber/Dodsons. But, alas, the axe was already on its way down. If it's of any comfort, Banshee, Jubilee, M and Chamber are all believed to be X-Men in the revamped X-books, Uncanny X-Men and New X-Men. I hope it's not as cannon fodder, though!
For another take on your X-Men continuity conundrum, here's another perplexed fan:

The X-Men changed, alright, and not for the better. In fact, the way they changed only proves why the old adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” are ever so relevant – if there was something that remained, it was the darkness, and the X-Men became more like isolationists than they’d ever been in most earlier iterations.

Interesting how he cites Morrison’s statements without comment or opinion on whether “culling” is tasteful, creative, or even respectful to readers who may have liked the specific characters to begin with. Also note that towards the end of Morrison’s nearly 3 year run, he did get rid of Jean, all so that Scott could hook up with Emma Frost, and all the while depicting her with a very questionable, shallow personality. Though even if he hadn’t, it still wouldn’t be any excuse for throwing Jean away like used tissue paper. Needless to say, I’m quite disappointed with him for viewing unnatural death at all costs in comics as perfectly fine, and even justified.

Oh, and about his take on Colossus: that story was one of the worst, mainly because it was dull, and the gimmick for getting rid of Piotr was laughable. So why’s he saying he’s willing to give it a chance? No, it wasn’t like the more gratituous deaths at hands of villains and such, but it was still very stupid and uncreative. And his inability to argue why it wasn’t necessary is a real head-shaker.

Dear Captain: I read something that made me feel slightly ashamed in your Canceled Comics Cavalcade.
In the part of March 2001 cancellations, you wrote a well-thought-out description of X-Man, the strengths of the title and its very apparent reason (convoluted continuity from SOOO many different writers dipping in the X-pool) for being stopped in its tracks.
You wrote in conclusion:
<<If you understand all that, then you're one of the roughly 150,000 who've been studying X-Men like it's James Joyce's Ulysses for the last decade or so. And if you don't understand all that, you're among the 277 million Americans who don't read X-comics, and probably won't ever try.>>
When I was 10, I just started reading comics. The first one I picked up was (Uncanny) X-Men #123. I was in awe. It had real people, not just Spandex-clad buffoons saying really silly things. It had black humor (for what I could discern at the tender age of 10) in the form of Arcade, Spider-Man guest-starred and the coolest superheroes who had the greatest abilities (a man with retractable claws, another who could turn to steel with a thought and a demon-looking teleporter). I just remember that I needed to know more about these guys. How did they come together? How did Wolverine get that cool set of claws? How was a Russian in the United States (remember I was 10 in the early '80s)? I wanted to know it all. I became a continuity geek without knowing it.
I spent something like the next 10 years gathering every piece of the continuity puzzle without going broke. I obtained all but the rare and prized issues of Uncanny X-Men (from about '94-'97) and filled in my own gaps with the Classic X-Men series once it started. I had an original run at one time from #98 to #292. I had also (of course) collected most of the off-shoots and limited series (excepting Kitty Pride and Logan: C'mon, Al Milgrom draws Wolverine? YUCK!). I couldn't keep my room clean, but I could trace for you the evolution of Wolverine's costume and why he changed it (I grew up with the brown-and-orange version for the most part). When the Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe came out, you know that I read them like the Bible, especially issue #15 (the technical guide to weapons and other sundries like Wolverine's claws and bone structure). To be fair, I did this with most of the comics I liked, but we all know that the X-Men hold a special place in our hearts.
I took a special pride in knowing this kind of junk, walking into the specialty shops and flaunting my knowledge like a loud shirt. X-Men Forever should have been more of a joy to me. But I will have to admit that in the last four or five years, that enthusiasm has dipped. (Scott) Lobdell and (Howard) Mackie and Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio and Larry Hama have made the appeal to knowing something a bit of shame. They introduced elements that split and contradicted already established continuity. Much like watching the X-Men cartoon, they just made me mad with stories that didn't make any sense with what I knew. It's like they'd never read Claremont or cared about the integrity of the characters. That's why I quit reading the majority of them.
I picked them up again a couple of years later and found that I liked some of the new blood, but every time they talked about something that I didn't know about. And I was used to knowing everything. I found that these new story elements were confusing and they didn't tend to lend to the story. Your example of the Nate Grey/Rachel Summers/Cable analogy is perfect. I would add to that mix, "Where did Wolverine come from and why?' I used to care, but if I came on the tail end of that and had to explain to someone (with the off-chance they might be enticed by the books), I wouldn't read them either.
Comics are a big soap opera in four-color. I noticed that I have occasionally gotten sucked into prime-time soaps, mostly because I've been conditioned by comics. But the ones I stay with are the ones where I pick up the gist of it fast (West Wing, X-Files in the first three seasons, ER) and stay entertained on a consistent basis without having to know everything about everyone on the show (strike X-Files from that now).
I now see that comics salvation is to let go of some of the preconditions of continuity that bog down any medium (X-Files now and certain aspects of the Star Trek franchise). Is it any wonder that they wanted a stripped down X-Men? Who wants to go through where Storm has been and how many hairdos she's been through? Remember the FIRST Punisher series from Marvel Knights? Take a look at the second. If continuity had to be addressed strictly, what a mess that would be.
So as of now, I let go of the ego that comes with knowing and hope for comics that entertain without having to buy a Bible to understand how good the material is. It should stand on its own.
Thanks for letting me rant and confess all at the same time.
Thank you, [withheld], for a letter that probably addresses [same here]'s concerns better than I did.
Yeah, continuity is a great thing -- no, a NECESSARY thing, particularly in science-fiction/fantasy soap opera. If you have characters doing impossible things -- Superman flying, for instance -- you have to be especially consistent on how you portray that ability, and when and how it can be used, and what its limitations are, or you completely destroy the audience's suspension of disbelief. If you suddenly have Lois Lane flying around with no explanation, then all the drama is sucked right out: It's a dream fantasy with no rules, and about as interesting as listening to somebody else talk about their dreams. ("I was in school -- no, it was church -- and I was a really big hat. No, first I was a hat, then I was a carrot. Oh, and it was school, at least for that part. Then I was a hat again, but this time I had a big, blue bow. No, wait, it was pink. Then I was a blue carrot, in church. With a bow. No, wait, it was school again. And I was naked. Gee, what do you think it means?") Dullsville, baby.
Further, I insist that the creators pay attention to What Has Gone Before. If THEY don't care enough about the characters to present them more or less consistently, why should I?
So, too little continuity is a Bad Thing -- no soap opera can survive if the stories don't make sense and don't intrigue the audience. But too much continuity is a Bad Thing also -- it becomes a noose, strangling potentially good stories. How many creators have we heard complain that they had a great idea but they couldn't use it, because Snot Boy was busy in another title, or because Mucus Man had temporarily lost his powers, or because the editor said it would conflict with Sneeze Lad's established history?
If I was to choose to err, it would be on the side of too LITTLE continuity. I'd rather have entertaining stories, even if this year's Captain Phlegm #23 doesn't quite jibe with Sgt. Phlegm and his Howling Horkers #116 from 1973.
I think it's extraordinarily mature of you, […], to realize that you'd become a continuity fetishist without realizing it, playing Continuity Cop and Trivia King instead of simply reading the stories for entertainment. And that you're acting on the realization. In my weaker moments, when my fanboy continuity fetishism surfaces, I may be calling you for counseling.
And now, for some comedy relief on the X-front:

I hate to say it, but I’m mighty disappointed with this correspondent, who seems to think continuity only cripples. If anything, when coherent characterization is abandoned and denigrated, that’s when it’s really bad to be unconcerned with continuity. That’s precisely why Identity Crisis was one of the worst books of the past decade, and in fact, the century: because it depicts the cast of heroes and co-stars very badly in a story that’s contrived and forced at worst. Besides, don’t we want to like and appreciate both the heroes and co-stars? And that’s one of Mr. Smith’s biggest problems – despite what he might tell you, he doesn’t like heroes or co-stars. Otherwise, he would never have turned a blind eye or limited his gaze to the simplest of details in that notorious miniseries.

Hi Cap: I was just entering my last few months' worth of comic-book purchases into my database when I noticed a fun goof. The cover of X-Men Forever #1 says that it is "one of three." Seems that someone in the House of Ideas wasn't paying attention when they did the layout for that issue's cover.
Whoops! The X-office must be pretty nervous these days!

And the Smith office must be feeling that way too, since he knows there’s folks on the internet courageous enough to confront his dishonesties. That’s what Clark Kent would do too if he existed in real life.

Greetings Captain:
Wow! One of my humble e-mails was included in Captain Comics' weekly colum! My life is now complete. Now on to a few responses to recent statements made on your site.
1) In your response to my last e-mail you asked what I thought of (Mark) Waid's solution to the "Justice Protocols" dilemma. It makes sense that DC's Big Seven should all know each other's secret identities (although Plastic Man being privy to that knowledge seems kind of odd), and I hope it lasts longer than one issue. I'm looking forward to seeing what's up with that last page (in JLA #50).
2) [name withheld] raised some good points with his treatise on Batman's ineffectiveness. It seems irresponsible to lock up The Joker in Arkham Asylum when you know he's just going to escape and kill another half-dozen people. On the other hand, Batman comics wouldn't be nearly as cool if Gotham City wasn't such a crime-infested pit. I'll take the current Batman over the campy '60s version any day. Maybe this is one of those continuity issues you just have to ignore to enjoy the story.
3) "... writer Steven Grant points out that Superman is going to spend the next four years as an 'impotent (male member)' because he's going to simply wringing his hands while arch-enemy Lex Luthor has his way with the Constitution!" Is DC really planning on dragging out this concept for that long? One of my big gripes about the Lex-Luthor-as-businessman concept is that Superman never actually gets to defeat his arch-enemy. Back when Lex was an evil genius he could be completely humiliated and hauled off to prison, and then next month he would break out and invent another Earth-threatening death ray. If the current Luthor ever lost his fortune he would be harmless. It may be cheesy, but I like to see the good guys win at the end of a superhero comic. If I have to put up with the Man of Steel losing every fight with Luthor for the next four years I'm going to be real upset. Also, if Superman lets Luthor serve his full term then Lex will end up pardoning everyone in Arkham the day before he leaves office.
4) I think Batman would kill if he had to. The Gotham Guardian shot a street thug in The Dark Knight Returns in order to save an innocent child's life.
Thanks for the Bat-comments, […] -- the debate rages ever on!
On "Bat-killer," I'm of two minds. In the real world, I'd expect Batman to carry a gun and use it as needed -- otherwise he really WOULD be a loony. (Who brings a "Batarang" to a gunfight?) But in the comics, I still want my heroes to be heroes, and I want Batman (and Captain America, to name another) to live up to their principles and find another way. Otherwise they ought to hang up the masks and join the FBI.
As to Luthor, occasionally Superman's impotence in dealing with him annoys me -- I really think the writers should let the Man o' Steel win SOMETHING once in a while, or at least make Superman a little more pro-active in trying to take Luthor down -- especially as Clark Kent, reporter! After all, isn't it usually the press that humbles politicians? Watergate, Monica Lewinsky, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Teapot Dome, Tammany Hall, Iran/Contra -- the list is endless! And why isn't super-reporter Lois Lane doing anything about the greatest evil in Metropolis? Why isn't super-editor Perry White assigning armies of reporters to research every business deal and interview every victim in Luthor's shady career? As a newspaperman, I'd love to see it.
But on the other hand, I also remember how deadly dull Luthor was in the green-and-purple armor days, when he was absolutely no threat whatsoever to the Metropolis Marvel. In the '70s I dreaded Luthor appearances, since I had to watch the writers jump through hoops to keep Supes from handing Lex his head by Page Three. And I still didn't believe it that it took Supes a whole 20 pages to kick Luthor's can. Heck, even the '70s Batman would have done it in six.
The Lex-as-businessman angle isn't perfect, I agree. But I maintain -- as a guy who lived through the Luthor-as-mad-scientist days -- that the Modern Age beats the Silver Age hands down on this particular point.
What do the rest of you think?

I think Mr. Smith’s ignorant of the real picture – it’s the press that coddles politicians, based on what politics either/both sides go by! In Clinton’s case, it was the leftist press that would let him off the hook for his affair with Lewinsky, because he’s a leftist too. If Ronald Reagan had been the president when this happened, you can be sure they’d never stop attacking him till the day he resigned and went into recluse. On the other hand, if conservative press dared turn a blind eye to anything worse like Islamofascism and the failure to combat it properly, they’d be doing themselves a terrible disservice.

Dear Cap: As for your Batman "debate". Yes, any "real" person would put The Joker out of our misery a long time ago. If nothing else, Gordon would have done it at the end of No Man's Land. But, this is comics. That is something they get right over the movies. Don't kill all the promising Bat-villains and leave the annoying wannabees alive! See, unlike what passes for heroes today in comics, Bats has morals. Sure, Spawn would fry The Joker and not think nothing of it. That is why Spawn, The Punisher and all those "killers" are (just) protagonists, NOT heroes. Sure, heroes are put into situations that force them to kill -- i.e. the Captain America/terrorist story, the Starman story where Ted (Knight), Jay Garrick, & Alan Scott "kill" The Doll (while not meaning to), Superman and the Phantom Zone criminals. The point is, they show remorse. Not that remorse makes it right, but call me old-fashioned, a hero doesn't kill unless he has too. Batman (the character) is not a killer. If the state decides to kill The Joker (here's a story idea), he would NOT stop the killing unless it's something The Joker didn't do (like a recent Elseworlds that I can't recall the title to). In the real world, we would probably all cheer when The Joker is fried for his crimes. (Guess that make me look at Magog in a slightly different light.) But, we aren't in the real world when we read comics.
Lastly, I would like to thank John Byrne for one incredible thing he did during his run on Wonder Woman. Thank You for putting Hippolyta in the JSA! Now, if we could get Batman and Superman in there somehow ... Doubtful, considering the JLA/JSA: 2000 crossover. Gosh, I miss those ...
Thanks for hearing my ranting.
And thanks for adding your thoughts, […]. Given what I said above, I tend to agree with your concept of heroes vs. protagonists. Oh, and the graphic novel where Batman saves The Joker from execution for a crime he didn't commit was called Batman: Devil's Advocate -- and it wasn't an Elseworlds!
Now here's some thoughts on superheroes as icons, or as "real" people:

Actually, Batman is at fault, in a way: he’s never slammed the authorities for failing to make sure the Joker will be done away with at their hands! Seriously though, that’s what I think is a problem with the writing efforts DC’s turned out.

Dear Cap: I think you're right. While I still read and enjoy DC Comics, I definitely felt as though I lost something at the time of the Crisis. I started reading comics around 1975 and the period from then until the Crisis is one I look back to with great nostalgia. I never had a problem with the whole "multiple Earths" scenario, even when I was a little kid. I always felt that the way the Crisis was handled betrayed a lack of imagination on DC's part. I still believe it might've been possible to have cleaned up DC continuity without destroying large chunks of it, especially when you consider that, whatever DC says, the whole thing came undone 10 years later anyhow.
As far as Marvel's characters are concerned, I guess I'm in the minority in that I never wanted my heroes to seem like "real" people. The reason I read comic books was for escape, not to listen to some hero whine about his personal life. Don't get me wrong, I've read and enjoyed a lot of Marvel books over the years (particularly the Avengers), but I always tended to tune out the "soap opera" side of things. I guess that's why I never was a huge Spider-Man fan, especially since so many of his problems seemed to be of his own making.
I agree the JLAers seemed more like icons or archetypes (although if Captain America and Thor aren't "iconic" characters, then I don't understand the term.) -- Superman was the strongest, Batman was the cleverest, the Flash was the fastest, the Elongated Man was, was, was ... what was he doing there anyhow?
Well, at any rate, it's all a matter a personal preference, I suppose, and I haven't read the "Batman" books on a regular basis in a long time. I just remember the old Brave and the Bold as an example of how Batman could be a serious character and still relate to his peers as equals.
Elongated Man had the happiest wife. Here's more on the nature of heroism:

Well well. Look who’s bringing up Elongated Man and his wife Sue Dibny, 3 years before DC published that horrorfest called Identity Crisis – Mr. Smith himself. You’d think reading the above line that he actually liked Ralph and Sue Dibny, but, as he made clear 3 years after, he does not. Otherwise, he’d never have approved of a story where she was turned retroactively into a rape victim, and had her memory wiped.

Incidentally, his assertion Sue was a happy wife is far from true: in some of the older stories, it was told how she was sometimes mad and annoyed over not being the Number One Debutante since she’d married Ralph. So I’m not sure how or why anyone would think Sue was some utterly cheerful chick at every turn, nor why nobody ever thought to point that out.

At least the correspondent had something to say here I can agree with – I’m not demanding Marvel’s heroes seem like “real” people in every way, shape and form either, nor do I read the Marvel universe solely for “reality”. Anybody who insists that's how it has to be has no business reading the books at all.

Dear Captain: Your readers posed some interesting questions and comments last week and I just had to catch up and respond.
1) A Captain Comics Award for great comics?
In theory I think this is a good idea. However, awards are rarely anything other than popularity contests. The mainstream books are the one that most readers buy, thus mainstream books would win.
Sometimes the categories come down to personal tastes and personal experiences. Carmine Infantino and George Perez were the first artists that made me take notice of the beauty of their work. Steve Leialoha has held a soft spot (in my heart) because of the lushness of his art. The Captain mentioned Alan Davis and I have to admit, he is impressive. Very impressive ... but guess who I would vote for?
I am cynical. After Linda Fiorentino wasn't nominated for The Last Seduction in 1994 and the award went to Jessica Lange for Blue Skies, I lost faith in award shows. Just because it wins an award doesn't mean its good.
If the Captain proceeds with an award, I will be eager to assist and vote. I just feel the whole thing would be one-sided before it even began.
2) Batman: To kill or not to kill.
The writers, for the most part, have been good about making sure that The Joker isn't actively killing anyone in Batman's presence. At the end of No Man's Land, The Joker was turning himself in when Batman would have had a chance to kill him. Is it noble to kill someone who is handcuffed and surrendering? Of course not.
I agree with DC on the belief that heroes shouldn't kill. The Punisher hunts his victims and kills them. Wolverine gets angry, hunts his victims and skewers them. These aren't heroes. These are mad men who need to be restrained.
Batman does not view himself as the judge, jury or executioner. He is the protector of Gotham City. It is not his right to decide who can live and who can die. If the criminals keep escaping from prison, that is a problem with the "system." We've had a lot of prison escapes this year in the United States. Should it be legal if some guys got together with shotguns and hunted them down? You can say they are hunting down murderers, but I certainly wouldn't want to look out my window to see my neighbor leaving with a shotgun to go shoot someone. Should prisons have a reform program? Yes. Should they have higher security? Yes. Is it my responsibility? Only through my tax dollars, profession and votes.
Batman also leads by example. Nightwing, Robin, the Justice League (especially during the Giffen/DeMatteis period), Young Justice, Teen Titans, Outsiders, even Superman all look up to Batman. They may not like the intimidation, but they know he does a good and effective job. Killing criminals does not set a good example.
Superheroes should only kill when its absolutely necessary, and if it is within character. An example of this is in Wonder Woman (second series) #5 (that Perez art again). During the course of the story, Wonder Woman is attacked by Ares's son Deimos. She is tied down by a thousand poisonous snakes, controlled by Deimos, who are strangling her and poisoning her. Simultaneously, Deimos is also releasing all the nuclear weapons to cause the "Ultimate War" for Ares. Diana is passing out from the snake venom. She does what she has to do. She removes her tiara and decapitates Deimos. She then moves on to stop Ares. This is within character because Diana is an Amazon, a race of female warriors. This was also a situation were more than herself would have perished if she did not act.
3) Can villains be reformed without changing their character?
I don't know, but the book Thunderbolts makes me want to find out.
The book has pointed out several issues as to why these people "went bad." Lack of self-confidence, want of a better life, child abuse, etc. I remember in Omega the Unknown, there was a character named Blockbuster that robbed banks so his son could profit and not turn out like him. Omega thought this was a valid reason to rob banks and let him go. It only feels like the Thunderbolts characters have been changed because we haven't looked at them this way before. The purpose of the book is for the characters to FIND change.
Should they still be punished? I am not sure I can answer that one. I recently have been reminded that people rarely are the same people they were a year ago. People change. Should someone still be punished for a crime they did 5, 10, 20 years ago? I don't know. Maybe we should ask the Captain!
Thanks for letting me rant ... at least I didn't sing Shaft!
And we are all thankful for your restraint, [...]. (A reference to [withheld]'s letter to Comics Buyer's Guide, apearing in the Feb. 23 issue.)
1) Yeah, awards of any stripe are almost pre-determined by the questions. I was wondering aloud if it might not be a fun exercise, though -- after all. WE'D get to frame the questions! If there's no interest, though, it's moot.
2) I think I've pretty much accepted that I think of Batman as a cop (albeit somewhat, um, non-traditional) and I prefer he not stretch his extra-curricular activities to being a freelance judge or a freelance jury. As a cop, all he can do is arrest The Joker -- it's up to "The System" to impose sentence. If he did started acting like a judge, I think the other super-cops would feel the need to shut him down. And I would be pretty scared of him, too.
3) Terrific point on Thunderbolts. You may have hit on the underlying point of the series, which is to see these characters as people instead of stock "villains." Here's more on the same subject:

That’s all Batman can do? Is Captain Charlatan sure he can’t be depicted performing activism to get the local justice system to mete out sounder justice if that’s what it takes to get the Joker a serious punishment for his crimes? Or at least to get a better maximum security prison developed? Honestly, Mr. Smith’s failure to think big is a major disappointment.

Dear Captain: I know this is a little late, but I was reading your description of Erik Jostein/Atlas/Power Man's first appearance. And I instantly remembered it from reading it in Essential Avengers Vol. 1. I thought he was fun with his ironic distain for the silly accoutrements of super-villainy. He protests to The Enchantress about having to wear a costume, and protests that he does not want a "cornball" name like Wonder Man, inspiring her to name him Power Man. Also, his exclamation upon the appearance of The Enchantress before him, "From this moment forward I do believe in Santa Claus." So, see? He is not all bad he believes in Santa. :)
One image that sticks in my mind from those stories is Captain America swining on a pole kicking Power Man and saying "Listen to me when I am talking to you!" Makes me wonder what would happen if Foghorn Leghorn became a superhero. :)
On the question of villains converting to the side of the angels, I think that villains changing to good guys (or at least non-bad guys) can be inspiring, reaffirming and hopeful. It is horrible to me to imagine that people would be stuck in such an empty and destructive existence. If characters with such big problems can make changes, (then) maybe we can too. Also, it is interesting to think what kind of thinking would go on in that kind of process -- what convinces them to throw off their criminal past? Love, conscience, inspiration by others, exhaustion, God? The temptation to return, lots of gripping psychological drama here, great depths to plumb. Also, it does happen in real life (if that matters). I get the impression even violent criminals can change. Still some villains are clearly so twisted or cast in stone that for them to change would be unconvincing without a full frontal lobotomy (like, say, The Joker).
Also, it is important to remember just because you realize the error of your ways does not mean you get a pardon for all criminal misdeeds, even if you have saved the world a hundred times that does not mean you earn a get-out-of-jail-free card. I think a powerful indication of such a change in someone's life would be their willingness to face up to the consquences of their actions and put themselves at the mercy of the courts. That being said I am not a believer in the need to extract a pound of flesh from criminals, but I think consquences are needed and society needs to ensure that it protect its citzens. The point being that if a villain sees the light and then goes conspicously without any legal (and other) consquences for their past misdeeds, it weakens the story of redemption, ignores the painful unavoidable consquences of criminal acts and strains credibility. However, if people can truly overcome their mistakes, faults, foibles and dark side, it seems a poor return to reject them because of their past misdeeds.
We (well, you at least, judging from your comments on old Hal Jordan) do not forgive heroes gone bad their crimes because of their past good deeds and character. How much sense does it make to refuse to recognize the heroism in people because of their past villainy?
Of course, part of the reason I like redemption stories is that I am not particularly a fan of villains. Sure they can be exciting sometimes, they can impress, they can make me laugh and they can even evoke pathos. However I am not sure I have ever felt that they were someone I wanted to be like or could really admire. Really they are all just sad little men who take their problems out on others. Give me a hero any day, someone who knows what the right thing to do is, has the courage to do it and sometimes even manages to pull it off. That is what I want. Sure, there are some impressive and fun villains but they still are not the same as even the lowliest of heroes. So a villain trying to turn over a new leaf gives me something to root for and something to appreciate. However, I am a big sap, my favorite heroes are of the true-blue and noble type and those that never ever ever give up.
Mine too, [withheld]. I learned my moral lessons at the feet of men in brightly-colored boots.
And I'm a believer in redemption, too; if Sandman says "I'm sorry I robbed all those banks, I don't want to rob banks any more, can I have a do-over?" then I'm inclined to give him a hand. After all, it was just money. Put him to work as a superhero for 3-to-5 as community service and then send him on his way.
I have a little harder time with murder; if The Red Skull decided to give up being a Nazi and plant flowers, I'd be reluctant to let him off the hook for the many people he's killed. It's a pretty unlikely scenario, but one worth pondering.
Which is not my problem with Hal Jordan. He was clearly a Looney Tune in "Emerald Twilight" -- he needed therapy, not a jail sentence. My chief problem is people like Superman saying things like, "Don't you believe in redemption, Batman?" and "He was the greatest Green Lantern of them all!"
Hal Jordan isn't in need of redemption; he was crazy at the time. "Emerald Twlight" was a sad end for Jordan, it had horrific consequences for others, but he's not a villain. He was insane. And, unlike The Joker, his acts while insane were completely out of character and resulted in deep remorse. He didn't need punishment, he needed Prozac.
The part that bugs me is that he was NOT "the greatest Green Lantern of them all." Frankly, even Sinestro has a better track record as a GL -- at least he never managed to wipe out the entire Corps. He tried, sure -- but it was Jordan who succeeded. Hal Jordan is the greatest traitor the Corps ever produced.
No, he wasn't the "greatest Green Lantern of them all." He was at one time. But whatever he was BEFORE "Emerald Twilight" is irrelevant. I mean, does anybody know anything about that day-trader in Atlanta before he went postal? Did he love dogs? Was he a Boy Scout? Did he help old ladies across the street? Who cares? All he's remembered for is that one terrible day.
I think that should be true of Jordan as well. He should be one of the most hated guys in the galaxy, not one that people remember fondly. As written, Hal's a guy who went postal and killed all of his friends and co-workers before killing himself (albeit somewhat later). As it happens, his friends and co-workers constituted a police force, so add "cop-killer" to his list of transgressions. As it happens, his friends and co-workers included an entire alien race (the Oans), so add "genocide" to his list. No, Superman should not be overlooking these little matters; he should feel sadness, yes, but not admiration or loyalty. His loyalty should be to his (sane) friend Hal Jordan, not to whoever that unhinged guy was in "Emerald Twilight," who did some pretty awful things.
No, my problem isn't with Hal Jordan, who clearly had some mental problems and should have been helped long before he snapped. My problem is with Superman & Co., who persist in ignoring their own moral codes and embracing Jordan as a worthy, if somewhat tarnished, colleague. For shame! Somehow I don't picture Kilowog's parents or friends or lovers seeing it that way! I don't picture other cops seeing it that way! I don't see all the races who've suffered because their Green Lantern is dead seeing it that way! No, I gotta go with Batman on this one. It isn't a matter of redemption, it's a matter of how you regard a mad dog after he's put down. Sad, when you remember when he was a happy, playful puppy. Grim and bitter, when you remember his final, brutal acts. Hey, even Josef Stalin was a cute little kid once. At no point does lionization as "the greatest Green Lantern of them all" come into play.
Hey, I got to rant that time! Now some more on Batman-as-failure:

Umm, Hal didn’t develop those mental problems himself because he doesn’t exist. It was the writers/editors like Kevin Dooley and Ron Marz who came up with that. Another commentary he wrote laced with defeatism, because irrelevancy is exactly what DC’s editors decreed would be the case: they didn’t care whether new readers took interest in the older stories or not; all they cared about was money. Of course the weird way DC’s cast kept acting like Hal’s a hero is implausible, but that doesn’t mean we wanted Hal to become a villain in the first place any more than we’d want Steve Rogers to become a criminal. So why was he acting as though Hal’s denigration must become fait accompli, never to be contested? If he hadn’t been so defeatist at the time and argued in his columns why Emerald Twilight should be reversed, maybe the mess by Geoff Johns wouldn’t have come to be.

So I was the only hard-liner who said Batman is a failure, huh? Maybe we should define our terms.
As a commercial venture, Batman is obviously a huge success. But it is that very commercial success that prevents him from realizing his goals. As [name withheld] (and others, historically) pointed out, any hero is only as good as his villains. Batman's villains are among the best, and it would be disastrous to eliminate them from continuity. Miraculously, that has not prevented DC from making significant changes to those villains over the years, while allowing them to remain active; however, it does prevent Batman from finding a more permanent solution to their activity. Like [withheld], I maintain that Batman could be a more effective hero, but I think his failings are primarily within his ability to resolve.
[withheld] says Bruce Wayne's fortunes could be better expended in his crime-fighting campaign; absolutely true. Yes, the weapons, garments, etc., would be a godsend to Gotham police. In fact, much like the "retired" Batman of Kingdom Come, I have to think Bruce could do more good already working behind the scenes instead of going out every night. Face it: If crime is really so prevalent in Gotham that Batman can go out every night and bust up a mugging, a kidnapping, drug shipments, numbers rackets, etc., etc., how much good has he done over the last 12 years? Especially when you factor in three Robins, two Batgirls, a Huntress, Azrael, Spoiler, Butcher, Etrigan -- the only way I can't see him failing in his mission is in that he won't give up hope!
Speaking of his lieutenants, is it not also psychologically revealing that he keeps training these youths, then summarily turning his back on them, sometimes before their training is even complete? [withheld] believes it's one of Batman's great triumphs to have trained so many heroes; I can't imagine a worse role model among DC's classic characters to train youngsters than Batman as he's now being presented. We're supposed to believe Tim Drake is the great failure in his life (again, a Batman's-universe-vs.-the-real-world contest), because he didn't protect him, even set him up to fail to a certain extent. What if Batman has persisted in lining up these junior partners because he wants a surrogate child to die as he feels he should have died with his parents?
Back to the permanent-solution question. [name withheld] wrote that Daredevil sought some final solution for Bullseye, but it didn't stick. The above argument again: Bullseye is too good a character to leave crippled, so Marvel had to pull the adamantium rabbit out of its hat, making Bullseye even more powerful. In the real world, had DD actually had this mass murderer by the scruff -- why not take him to the Slab, or ask the Avengers to drop the guy on a deserted planet with the proper atmosphere? Yeah, Murdock's a lawyer, not a judge, blah blah blah. Again, suit up in red leather every night and tell me you're not taking the law into your own hands.
By the way, [name withheld] states that "it's (Batman's) job" to apprehend these criminals and crazies; minor quibble, maybe, but really, it's not. It's his hobby. It's the cops' job. His relationship with the police has varied throughout his career, but I don't think many of them truly see him as a peer. A nuisance, a comrade, a vigilante; but without the badge, I can't believe many of the police truly accept him as one of their own.

Now we've seen the resolution of the "Officer Down!" arc; what a great opportunity for Jim Gordon to join Batman in the cave and add more directly to his campaign. At last, without his hands tied by bureaucracy, and with no personal ties who aren't already involved in the war on crime in Gotham, Gordon can seek justice for his wife, his daughter -- even perhaps greater advances against the maniacs of Gotham whom he has previously left to Batman.
Despite all this, don't think I don't enjoy Batman. As a study of one of fiction's best-developed characters, I think he and his cast are fascinating. I just don't think his methods are appropriate for his stated goals.
Phrased that way, […], it's hard to argue with. It's the same complaint I have with Professor X, who wants to make humanity trust mutants by training teenagers in masks to battle in secret. Huh?
And you raised a heckuva a prospect: Gordon in the Batcave, a full partner. Whoa! Jim & Barbara working side-by-side, with Gordon eventually -- dare I say it -- running for mayor? Talk about behind-the-scenes control ... they could establish their own secret police state, in both senses of the word! The Penguin would be forced to turn to the courts for protection from an organized secret government that was persecuting him ... Man, that could be fun! And the legal debates between Bruce and Jim ...!
Here's some more Bat-thoughts from […]:

I must very seriously disagree with the claim every superhero is only as good as his/her villains. No, every hero and heroine are only as good as the scriptwriting allows them to be. This is just what they’ve been missing for a long time, and I wouldn’t expect them to make an improvement in their observations.

Hey Cap:
1) I've been reading the downright visceral reactions many of your readers are having to Batman's "Justice Protocols". I find one simple flaw in the logic of several readers' arguments: The assertion that the JLA are Batman's "friends" or "pals." Co-workers, yes. Confidantes, in a few cases. But I don't believe a guy with such control issues and obsessive tendencies has the capacity for friendship. I think he knows that and I think more than a few of the other Leaguers know it. So his secret plans, while probably a violation of some unspoken trust or code among the team, should not be portrayed as some personal betrayal.
For example, how many of you out there have contingencies in mind if Janet in marketing takes that new job in accounting? Who gets the office, who jockeys for position, who gets her days off, etc. I think we all have plans for "if this, then that" floating about our gray matter. Hopefully none with such sinister undertones as The Bat's. But again, nothing we intend as a personal affront to someone else, just ideas to protect ourselves if the need arises.
2) In response to why the advance warning on Marvel's silent stunt, it was suggested by someone at Marvel (although I can't remember by whom) that the early notice not only gave creators plenty of time to make it happen, but also helps build interest and gives readers time to get used to it. The thinking being that instead of picking up Avengers in December and saying, "There's been a horrible printing error, what have these fools done?!?" readers will be more inclined to say, "Oh! here's that silent thing they've been touting for months! Golly, have been looking forward to this!!" Makes sense to me.
1) One of the subtexts to this debate is that some people seem to really dislike the modern characterization of Batman. They don't like to see him as the grim, Spock-like, friendless machine that he is, as written. But that IS how he is written -- and that means that the "Justice Protocols" are something that the other members should have half-expected.
2) If […] says it, it must be so. Let it be so written.
Now, here's some more Bat-thoughts:

I’m afraid many of the people let down by the unfriendly manner he was written in since the 1990s, if any time, are the ones with a point here. Since then, he’s seemed a lot less human, and Identity Crisis rendered him less so: he cared more about Dr. Light than Sue Dibny. And people like Mr. Smith gave it their seal of approval, proving they never cared for a more human Batman despite any arguments to the contrary.

Hi, Cap: I haven't made comment on any items in your columns lately, since my comics forte is principally Silver Age; if the topic doesn't go there, there's not much I can contribute.
However, the recent "Is the Batman a failure?" issue and the surrounding ancilliary discussions raised a few points of consideration which I would like to submit.
1) I have to disagree with [name withheld]'s opinion that a hero sharing his vital secrets (the most potentially damning, of course, being his alter ego) with his fellow team members is requisite. At least, as far as the Justice League is concerned.
One has to bear in mind that the Justice League of America is, conceptually, a different kind of team than most of the teams in superherodom.
In most superhero teams, the members primarily exist as heroes as part of the team, in support of the team, essentially because of the team. Examples of this would be the Blackhawks, the Challengers, the Doom Patrol, the Legion of Super-Heroes. While the members of teams like this may act heroically independently if the circumstance arises, their raison d'etre is to be part of the team. In the real world, this equates to a police force, or a Navy ship's crew, or a squad of Marines.
The Justice League, however, is comprised of individual superheroes -- people who primarily act as independent heroes, who only come together at regular intervals or when the need arises. The Justice Society and the original membership of the Avengers fits this description. Being a member of one of these teams would be like you or I being a member of the Knights of Columbus, or the Shriners, or a city's Disaster Response Team.
In the former case, the members are more likely to become close and know each other well -- because they work together virtually every day. Personal secrets are bound to be shared. But in the latter case, with members who only see each other occasionally, the closeness is not as necessary, nor is it fostered.
Realistically, if Superman is unwilling to share the knowledge of his secret identity with people he sees every day and trusts, like Jimmy Olsen or Perry White, why would he disclose it to Aquaman or Green Lantern, whom he might see only once or twice a month?
As far as the JLA's ability to function in crises, there is nothing to be gained by the mutual divulging of secret identities. (Yes, at least one story has been written purporting to illustrate why this need exists; however, the circumstances were contrived and, in any event, the recurrence of which could have been circumvented without revealing secret identities to each other.) Frankly, in a group like the Justice League, each member's right to privacy outweighs the group's right to know.
2) Cap, your observation that Bruce (Batman) Wayne should have come to terms with the trauma of his parents' murder by now again shows the clear thinking of comics -- respectful but not adulating -- which attracted me to your column in the first place. After being The Batman for so many years, his motivation would have shifted, from pursuing a course of vengeance to doing his job because he is a professional and because few others can do it. Although the number of writers could not have had that in mind, the first 15 years of Batman stories reflects this change: from a dark, secretive shadow of vengeance to a public, professional lawman.
Unfortunately, the concept of an idealized hero -- thereby giving the reader someone with virtues to admire and to strive to emulate -- or the early-Marvel-type hero with a personal problem to overcome, thus showing the reader than hardships can be defeated, are not popular today. My own feeling is it is because heroes of this type subtly imply that work is required on the reader's part -- work to strive to be a better person or to overcome hardship. However, today's readers prefer heroes who are not just flawed, but seriously bent, psychotic and who, instead of overcoming such negative qualities, revel in them or capitalize on them. Going back to my pet opinion, I feel this is because the fan of this kind of hero can think to himself "Hey, maybe I can't lift a panel truck over my head, but at least I'm not as screwed up as this hero is."
The best depiction of the Batman in the comics was in that brief, halcyon period between Jack Schiff's alien-of-the-month Batman and the camp Batman inspired by the television show --that two-year period (1964-65) that showed the Batman acting like a professional lawman and detective, but possessing sufficient distinguishing skills and resources to make his aid respected by law-enforcement agencies and superheroes alike.
3) The concept of the Batman being an "urban legend" is patently absurd. There have been too many instances of The Batman's public presence to deny that (at least, not without some very long leaps of plausibity to "explain" them). It is also less advantageous than being known as a superhero. Who is a criminal going to be more afraid of: some vague legend or of possibly running afoul of a hero tough enough hold his own with the other, super-powered members of the Justice League, a hero who has saved the world on a number of occasions, a hero who has outwitted and brought to justice countless other criminals, and a hero who watches over this city? The only advantage of the Batman being an urban legend is that it is "cool".
1) If I were The Batman, and my life and the lives of those around me depended on my identity remaining secret, I certainly wouldn't reveal it to, oh, Kyle Rayner, who can't even keep his own identity secret. And as pointed out elsewhere in this Mailbag, it does seem ... odd ... for Plastic Man to know who Batman is, particularly when Commissioner Gordon, Renee Montoya, Harvey Bullock and other, closer partners of The Bat don't. In short, I agree with you: I don't see any reason why Justice Leaguers must trust their closest, deadliest secrets to people they see only occasionally, any more than I would tell the features editor I work with on Tuesdays anything about my personal life at all. And, as the expression goes, a secret ceases to be a secret when two people know it. If Batman tells seven Justice Leaguers who he is on Monday, by Friday 30 Justice Leaguers, their spouses, their lovers, their children, two postmen and a clerk at Wal-Mart will know who he is. And by Saturday morning Alfred, Barbara Gordon, Tim Drake and Leslie Thompkins will all be dead.
2) Once upon a time there was a type of entertainment called "The Geek." This was a guy at circuses who would bite the heads off chickens or perform some other creepy act for the "rubes" who would pay to see the freak show. The psychological underpinning of The Geek's appeal is that the audience members felt reassured after witnessing his act -- no matter what their problems were, they were still more "normal" than a guy who bites the heads of chickens for a living. The freak show is still with us; it has evolved into The Jerry Springer Show and the like. Those who watch such shows do so to see people with more problems than they have and to feel relatively superior for an ephemeral moment.
Interesting that you take the same line of reasoning when talking about fans who like screwed-up heroes. More interesting still, "geek" is a term liberally applied to comic-book fans. I'm not making any kind of point here, just an observation.
3) I actually see the utility of Batman being an urban legend; with less scrutiny comes more freedom, and fear (his primary tool) is driven by the unknown. On the other hand, Batman as a Justice Leaguer must assume some sort of public role, and must be an entirely different kind of superguy if he is to work with very public heroes like Superman. In short, I don't see Batman-as-urban-legend being a problem, but I do see Batman-as-urban-legend and Batman as-Justice-Leaguer as a prima facie contradiction. A Justice League Batman couldn't possibly be an urban legend; an urban legend Batman wouldn't trust the League and they wouldn't tolerate him. He couldn't possibly function (and be accepted) in both roles unless he was bi-polar. Maybe Two-Face should apply for the job.
And, for the record, the short-lived Julius Schwartz-Carmine Infantino-Joe Giella Batman of 1964-65 is when I first liked the character. In fact, it was the first place I ever discovered that being smart could be cool.

Such big words from somebody who’s not as smart as he thinks he is, and does nothing to protest bad writing that also rates as dumb. Much like his own columns, which are so not cool. I think I can understand why he brought up Springer as an example.

Years after this was written, Bruce Wayne did reveal his identity to the world not unlike how Tony Stark did in a story by Mike Grell that was sloppily and hastily written (it may not have lasted). Interestingly, the correspondent is a man who embraced Identity Crisis, contradicting any claim he made that he was a Silver Age fan. As a result, I’m beginning to wonder whether he really did stop reading DC and Marvel for a time in the late 1980s, as he once said he’d done.

Dear Cap: I just wanna make a few points:
1) An interesting fact: Do you remember one of "Armaggedon 2001" stories where in 2001 Superman becames the USA President after a shot at Pete Ross, the candidate? Doesn't it sound funny that in 2001 Luthor became the President and Pete Ross his vice?
2) About all that mess JLA vs. Batman ... I was thinking about one point: If when Superman was accusing Batman about the Protocols (and Batman's original plans weren't lethal), Batman looked at Superman and said: "At least I never intentionally killed anyone. Did you?"
3) Unbreakable is a concept movie just like Scream. While Scream was always enumerating the horror/thriller elements while they were happening, Unbreakable was always enumerating the comic-book elements, while a comic-book story was happening.
Thanks for the points, […]. And, yeah, Batman could have whipped out a number of points to Supes that he didn't, like 1) Superman has killed, and Batman hasn't, 2) Superman had given him kryptonite as a kind of rudimentary Justice Protocol already, 3) that Batman is the only Leaguer who has no defense against a simple bullet, 4) that his life and career depend on secrecy whereas half the League (Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern) have no secret IDs to speak of, 5) that Superman and Martian Manhunter both keep a LOT of secrets, 6) every one of the League's Big Guns had been mind-controlled in recent memory, etc. But I think it was handled very, very shrewdly, when the artist drew a three-panel scene of Batman just THINKING. It implied to me, anyway, that Batman's lightning-fast mind whipped through all the possibilities and permutations and he decided that revealing his ID was the best plan. And then, with no second thoughts, he implemented it. We still don't know what Batman's reasoning was, but you can bet it was chillingly methodical.
Here's still more:

Oh, this brings to mind something else Mr. Smith ignored: a few years later, when Wonder Woman broke Max Lord’s neck in a most contrived and forced Infinite Crisis tie-in, Superman and Batman turned against her, after all the trouble she went through to save Superman from the brainwashing effects Lord put him under in an otherwise out-of-character rendition. Lord may not have been a saint, but he was no outright villain either in the days of the Giffen/DeMatties Justice League. Simply put, he was a comedy relief co-star.

One of your Mailbag letter writers last week mentioned that Batman had trained more heroes to follow him than any of the other main heroes in comics today. He's so effective in training because his skills are those that, theoretically, anyone can learn, with enough dedication. Superman can't teach heat vision to aspiring young do-gooders, but Batman can teach crime scene investigations and criminology to any that wish to learn.
This teaching ability might be just the answer to both the problems of Batman's paranoid preparations against his teammates and his "failure" to better control the criminal elements in Gotham City. Instead of having just a few students training under the Dark Knight, he could open sort of a crime fighting school. Legions of new heroes would then take to the streets of Gotham, adhering to Batman's ethical codes of no killing or extreme violence, but still eliminating most of the crime that plagues the city.
Even established heroes with superpowers of their own would benefit from Batman's school. Batman is the least likely it seems to become controlled by an evil alien, a superpowered criminal etc. This resistance isn't necessarily a natural trait. It could be taught to others, making Batman feel more secure about trusting the JLA and the superhero community at large. The powered heroes could also benefit from Batman's other learnable skills. Superman could use martial arts on those frequent occasions when his powers are gone; a Green Lantern with knowledge of chemicals could make all sorts of unique ring creations; and all the powered heroes (with the possible exception of the Martian Manhunter) could use better detective skills.
With his army of Gotham recruits, and his trained powered heroes, Batman the teacher would do more for the world than even Batman the Dark Knight would. Bring on The Bat-School!
It seems one of the points that has cropped up in this discussion over and over is that Batman is an incredibly competent guy going about his business in a remarkably ineffective way. Bat-School? Great idea! Outfitting the GCPD with Bat-gadgets? Outstanding! Batman as mayor/FBI chief/NSA chairman? Criminals beware!
Man dressed up in Halloween costume hanging out on rooftops? Um ...

Batman may be able to resist mind control, but that’s still a lot more than can be said about certain leftists who can’t resist their own indoctrine.

<<I'd like to hear from younger readers, though -- does the new/old Krypton have any appeal, or do you prefer John Byrne's version that's been in place for the last 15 years? -- Captain Comics>>
I don't know if I qualify as a younger reader (I just turned 30 last year), but I like them both.
The old Krypton appeals to me in the way that the original Flash Gordon spaceships and tail fins on 1950s cars do. It's eye candy. Plus, it's hard to imagine people of pure science belittling Jor-El for being overly concerned, rather than saying, "Explode? A strange theory, but if it is correct, something must be done. Send everybody a copy of your notes, and we will attempt to verify your conclusions. We re-convene in two days."
But Byrne's version produced such neat toys. The Eradicator, the birthing matrix ... (Hmm. Matrix. Naah ...) things that wouldn't make sense in the bright, sunny Krypton that was.
Then again, The Eradicator could be from a time before the Kryptonian race "grew up," accepting that emotions were valid reasons to make a decision.
If I had to choose a place to live, the choice would be easy. But choosing which one is real isn't.
Same here, [withheld] -- I'd rather wear a sunburst on my chest than those silly ruffle things Byrne's Kryptonians all wore.
By the way, you reminded of a scene -- maybe in Man of Steel? -- where one of the Science Council guys says something like, "We've looked at your data, Jor-El, and it simply doesn't support your alarmist claims." In other words, in this version Jor-El was a crackpot to the Science Council, who actually were reasonable guys who looked at his findings and found them, well, lunatic. I remember that scene because it was the first time I ever considered the possibility that maybe the Science Council guys weren't just being short-sighted jerks, but maybe, just maybe ... Jor-El WAS a crackpot! What if Krypton blowing up was simply coincidental with a delusional man's wild ravings? I mean, the guy carrying the sign "The end is near!" will accidentally be right someday!

I think Mr. Smith should look at himself in the mirror after saying that.

Dear Cap: I posted this (with some alterations) to a message board (ifanboy.com) in response to a query about the rights Todd McFarlane Productions (TMP) owns with respect to Miracleman:
Todd McFarlane doesn't own the complete publishing rights to Miracleman, and therefore literally has no legal right to reprint it.
Much of this information based on a feature from issue #128 (Dec 2000) of the UK magazine Comics International, and the Usenet rec.arts.comics FAQ list:
Since the early 1980s (when Marvelman was revived in England's WARRIOR Magazine) the rights to publishing Miracleman stories have been have been split in various percentages between the publisher of the story and the creative teams involved. The rights have been owned by various combinations of Quality Communications (WARRIOR Mag's publisher, MM's UK publisher), Alan Moore, various artists during his run (including Garry Leach, Alan Davis and John Totleben), Eclipse Comics (MM's eventual U.S. publisher) and Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham the last writer and artist of record on the title.
The Quality share eventually was bought out by Eclipse, as was the "Warrior artist" (Leach/Davis) share, and these combined shares were bought by Todd when he bought the assets of the going-bankrupt Eclipse Comics. One could argue that if he did not purchase these assets they would have faded away -- the amount he paid for the entirety of the Eclipse assets was in the tens of thousands of dollars. The total claim on the MM publishing rights by Todd, according to CI, is 70 percent of those rights. The Moore share (the remaining 30 percent) was passed on to Gaiman/Buckingham, where it has remained.
The REAL roadblock preventing MM's return is that 70/30-percent split of ownership and the animosity between the two owners, reportedly over rights to the creation of the Angela character in SPAWN. If Todd and Gaiman could mend their differences, perhaps we'd see MM again, and no amount of publicity stunts will bring MM back -- only a 100-percent agreement by ownership will do that.
The breakdown goes like this:
1982: Quality (represented by Dez Skinn) revives Marvelman in Warrior Magazine with Alan Moore and Garry Leach.
Ownership breakdown: Quality: 20 percent, Moore: 40 percent, Leach: 40 percent
1984: Alan Davis becomes artist, an equal share from all is given to Davis.
Ownership breakdown: Quality: 10 percent, Moore: 30 percent, Leach: 30 percent, Davis: 30 percent
1985: Eclipse brings MM to the US: Eclipse becomes the main publisher of MM, renaming Marvelman to Miracleman to avoid problems with Marvel Comics, and buys the Quality share, and the combined Leach/Davis shares. Moore splits his share with his artist, most notably Totleben, and control of this share is effectively retained by Moore.
Ownership breakdown: Eclipse: 70 percent, Moore/Totleben: 30 percent
(The publishing relation between artist and publisher remains cordial during this transfer.)
1989: Moore leaves MM, completing his stated run on the title, and passes share to Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, who arrange a similar relation as Moore and Totleben did, with Gaiman in effective control of the Moore share.
Ownership breakdown: Eclipse: 70 percent, Gaiman/Buckingham: 30 percent
(The publishing relation between artist and publisher remains cordial during this transfer, as MM stories continue to be published. Eclipse and Gaiman even allow others to produce MM stories, including Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross in MM: Apocrypha)
1993: Gaiman creates Angela for TMP; rights battle over Angela ensues, unrelated to MM, leading to a breakdown in the Todd/Gaiman relation.
1996: Eclipse declares bankruptcy; TMP buys all of Eclipse's assets, including MM.
Ownership breakdown: TMP: 70 percent, Gaiman/Buckingham: 30 percent
(The poor publishing relation between Todd and Gaiman established before spills over into the MM publisher/artist relation, leaving the MM property in limbo.)
Even these figures may be in doubt, as, Mick Anglo, the original MM publisher between 1954-1963, according to some reports, has asserted a claim to MM. But Anglo's claim is not considered here, as none of the other parties have considered the claim themselves. (MM was not published between 1963-1982).
Thanks, […]. The Miracleman fiasco is one of the perennial questions that crops up, like "When will they do JLA vs. Avengers?" and "Why won't Alan Moore do a Watchmen sequel?"

No, the perennial query is why Mr. Smith can’t be honest and transparent about the content of certain stories he’s fawned over. Why he won’t address the complaints of institutionalized sexism in the industry in depth. And why he doesn’t ask for better formats for comics like paperbacks? Who’s the real fiasco then?

Cap: I just wanted to congratulate you on your site. A lot of Web sites make claims about updating their content daily, but you truly do! And the updates are both substantial and meticulous. I would have more to say, expect that you've been so right-on in your comments lately! Keep up the praise for Batgirl, Black Panther, Lucifer and Marvel Knights (though the latter could stand a bit more heft, no?). I'd also add Fantastic Four and Green Lantern, two books I'm buying monthly for the first time in years. If you haven't already, maybe you could drop in a kind word about the artist on Hellblazer (I forget his name), whose clean lines and characterizations signify a star on the horizon.
Thanks for the kind words, […] -- sometimes that's all you need to edit ... one ... more ... letter. :) Oh, and the artist you're thinking of is Marcelo Frusin, whose faces, postures and atmosphere in Hellblazer are distinctive and memorable.

Gee, whoever wrote that letter sure has no idea how to tell bad storytelling effects as seen in Green Lantern at the time. Fantastic Four was still okay at the time, but GL was in very bad shape, thanks in no small part to the editorial mandate, much more tangible than most others from that period. Let’s go on to February 21, 2001:

Dear Cap: Greetings from London!
Helping the good Captain out a few weeks ago with his super secret '70s project (about which I'm sure he will tell in his own good time) got me thinking about how the heck I ever got interested in the four-colour world in the first place. Adding to this was coming across the December 2000 issue of Comics International, where Dez Skinn mourned the fact that the ways British fans got interested in comics have almost completely disappeared. So bear with this crusty curmudgeon as he steps back in time 30 years and relives some childhood memories ...
I grew up in a town called Linlithgow, nestled in the Forth Valley between Edinburgh and Stirling. If you are a true-blue and long lost Trekkie, then yes, it's the same Linlithgow that many years in the future is allegedly the birthplace of one Montgomery Scott -- but that is a tale for another place. In 1971, it was a sleepy little provincial town in which a far too shy and bespectacled 8-year-old was beginning to find his way around. At that time, there were four newsagents in the town, and in the main the only comics you could get were the weekly D C Thomson (Beano, Dandy, Beezer, Topper) and IPC ones beloved by all in the UK. In 1971, however, I began to notice that three of these newsagents were stocking strange new things in racks that spun -- US comics! All going for the cheap price of 6d old money, or 3 pence new money. The fact that today the same comic would set you back about 2 pounds in the local Forbidden Planet is a tale for another day.
The strange thing was that of these four newsagents, they all stocked different comics. I started to get into the habit of checking them all out to see what I could find. First up was what I used to call Wee Wilson's -- setting the Scots aside for a minute, it was the smaller branch of the main newsagent in town. It was famous both for stocking Airfix model airplanes, and for the fact their racks were full of Harvey comics -- the original Casper, Wendy the Good Witch, Richie Rich and all that fun crew. Now remember that I was 8, and the artists were never clearly identified in those days (I know it wasn't Dan DeCarlo, but the artwork was very similar).
All this young lad knew was they were bright, they were funny and they told good stories. I was hooked -- completely, totally and utterly in love with this new-found medium. The fact that they got deliveries of these wonders only every three months just made me more determined to hunt the things down.
I started to look in the other newsagents, and the next one down (Dairymples) didn't stock the colour comics. They had thick, small black-and-white comics in their racks, filled with tales of strange phantoms, terrifying monsters and (even to a little nipper like myself) badly-written superhero comics. This was the world of Alan Class, and he introduced me to the likes of Steve Ditko before I even saw Spider-Man. Alan Class is a man who served a valuable place in the UK comic scene, and his reprints were still going storng in the mid-'80s. You don't see them anymore -- which is a shame because it means the only way to find the early Charlton and Atlas/Marvel stuff now is to scour the Bargain Bins and hope you find a decent copy. To me, however, it opened up more worlds of wonder and excitement.
Further on our travels and another newsagent (Baxter's) -- this was the one that had NPC/DC and Marvel in their rack -- and a proprietor who would not sell them to under-tens! Fortunately, I had an older brother who was a delivery boy for them, and he used to get me copies of the likes of Captain America, Teen Titans, JLA and the other "cool cat" titles of the time. This was to my young eyes the greatest eye-opener of all, and I remember following piecemeal tales such as the "Michael Saga," Warlock and Captain Marvel under Jim Starlin, and all the JLA/JSA crossovers. It had to be piecemeal -- Baxter's had no control over what they were sent, so you took what you could find both through my brother and (once I turned 10) on my own. I even managed to get some Atlas/Seaboard comics when they first came out -- I suspect the only place in the UK you could get them.
So it was that Casper, Alan Class and Jim Starlin opened my eyes to the wonders of American comics. It was soon after that that Mighty World of Marvel started up in the UK, and we got proper reprints of the '60s Marvel tales. Before that it was three-colour reprints in UK comics produced by IPC. That was not to say we did not have full-colour UK comics, mind you. When I was 11, at the end of term at school we were allowed to read vast piles of a magazine called Look And Learn, which was full of the sort of things proper boys and girls should learn. That wasn't what caught my eye though -- it was Don Lawrence's The Trigan Empire, possibly the finest UK-originated strip of the 1960s. One of my greatest finds in the '80s was a bound copy of the first of those strips. There was also the gorgeous Century 21 adaptations of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, etc -- but that is a digression for another day.
I re-visited my home town recently. Wee Wilson's -- now a wine bar. Dairymples -- a branch of a chain of newsagents that does not stack comic books these days. Baxter's -- a fashion boutique. The fourth newsagent is still there, but they don't stock these books any more. The first exposure my kids have had to comic books is with the last remnants of a collection I had to sell to pay off some debts -- things like Greatest Superman, Greatest Batman and a copy of Star Wars Episode 1 that I got as a Father's Day present. You can't find boxes of comic books at market stalls any more. Marvel UK does not really exist. Even I don't buy too many comic books these days -- I wait and get the collected editions, although if anyone has a copy of Watchmen or V for Vendetta going spare I need to replace my moth-eaten copies.
So let's do all we can to help today's eight-year-olds to look on with wide-eyed wonder -- it means we have put back a little of the pleasure we got.
Thanks for the anecdote, […] -- it reminds me of my own misspent youth, searching from one drugstore to another to collect my favorites. Distribution was so helter-skelter in my neck of the woods that sometimes it was possible to find three consecutive issues of a single title in one store, and none at all in six others. The thrill of the chase was part of the fun, and it certainly kept me healthy pedaling all over Memphis and Chicago on my little Sting-Ray bike searching for that elusive issue of Sgt. Fury or Superboy I was missing. If my mother had known just how far I went, she'd have had a heart attack -- and then grounded me for life!
It is a shame that the li'l nippers of today aren't exposed to comics as we were, and that realization alone makes me fear for the industry. I do my bit to introduce kids to comics, but that's not the same as that thrill of discovery one has on one's own at the magic age of eight or so.
And, of course, I'm fascinated by the titles you mentioned that never made it across the pond. Beano? The Trigan Empire? I wonder if my little Sting-Ray would've carried me to Scotland ... ! Anyway, you might want to offer some input on [name withheld]'s letter in the Q&A this week (Thursday), which references Night Raven (which did make it to the US, as Nocturne) and a 1995 Nick Fury/Black Widow comic book that I seemed to have missed completely and may well be Marvel UK.
If anybody else wants to contribute any anecdotes on how they got hooked on this wacky hobby, I'd love to hear 'em.

He misspent his youth alright, on leftism! That’s why he has no ability today to hold onto a solid stand. I can’t say I’m comfortable with the correspondent’s reference to V for Vendetta either, if only because of it’s questionable politics towards conservatism. It’s a shame the li’l nippers of today don’t have an honest journalist who can explain what’s wrong with modern comics, and doesn’t act like he/she is obligated to side with the publisher’s visions at all costs.

Dear Cap: Another interesting point: Did you know that the DC editors here in Brasil decided to not publish the JLA story arc "World War III"? Here JLA stories (that are presented in a 160-page Superman comic that includes Superman, JLA and Flash with luxurious paper and cover that costs 10 Reais, or about $5 US) will jump from the-White-Martian-as-Bruce-Wayne story to the "Tower of Babel" story arc. They said that the story (WW3) was bad, the Americans (you) really dislike it, and that it wasn't important for JLA's chronology. What do you think of it?
That's fascinating info for us here in the States, […] -- I didn't know local editors could make such sweeping decisions.
Was "World War III" a bad story? I didn't think so. It didn't live up to its hype -- "Grant Morrison's final, best JLA story!" -- in that it was only so-so. In fact, Morrison's faults (incoherent plotting) were more on display than his strengths (believable dialogue, spot-on characterization, inventive use of powers). But I wouldn't call it "bad." The good news is that the trade paperback will be available (in English, anyway) online at Amazon.com and other places in a few months.

Maybe WW3 wasn’t bad, but Morrison’s portfolio still has a big portion of perfectly dreadful items, and if the Brazilian translators decided it wasn’t worth the paper, I don’t mind. I’ve got a feeling most readers in Brazil probably would’ve fallen asleep anyway. Now another letter I wrote:

Dear Cap: In this week’s new comics for February 21, you wrote:
<<I've complained before of superheroines who seem to gain the ability to fight hordes of armed thugs and perform incredible combat gymnastics by the simple of expedient of pulling on a pair of tights.>>
I don’t get it, what’s wrong with that? A woman who’s an effective combatant is usually something to admire. And for the male audience, it can come as pretty entertaining to see a girl getting the best of thugs who’re bigger and seemingly stronger than her. And for the girl audience, it can be entertaining if it’s something that they’d like to be able to do too. I’ll say this though, that current Batsuit that the current Batgirl’s got looks pretty scary!
And now, let me add to the debate upon the X-changes to be worked on in the next few months. I’ve noticed some of the storylines that are meant to be almost like what’s in the movie, and the "Dream’s End" storyline is one of them. And before Colossus kicked the bucket, it was Sen. Kelly who did. I’ll have to note that he actually had it coming to him all this time, mainly because it’s probably time to introduce a new political villain who’s more under-the-table than he is, just like Lex Luthor. In my opinion, the drawback for Kelly is that he displays his hostility towards mutants out in the open. That’s why I’ve often thought that a villain who planned his evil intentions towards mutants under the table could have more advantages in storytelling, and could prove to be more of a challenge to the X-Men, just like Lex Luthor is to Superman. At least Chris Claremont’s writing surprisingly improved a tad by the end of the year. And now that he’s about to launch X-Treme (formerly Maximum) X-Men, in which they become a traveling team, well, I guess here’s his chance to both show that he can make some writing improvements and also put some things back to normal -- like switch Jean Grey and Psylocke’s powers back, and also explain how Cable suddenly joined the team after more than a decade of refraining. One thing that won’t be easy to explain however, is how Gambit became a trusted team member!
But most of the other developments that are meant to parallel the movie were decidedly unnecessary, and in Rogue’s case, a bit too hard to swallow. I can certainly buy if she’s able to duplicate Wolverine’s healing powers, but that she should be able to develop her own claws like his is too theater-of-the-absurd.
I’m also concerned that Marvel will even make the same mistake that the movie industry has made all these years -- that bigger is better. Not at all. Too often in fact it becomes overwhelmingly tiresome and ridiculous, and it just doesn’t make the story any better. And while I’m delighted if moviegoers can convert to comic readers, I certainly hope that they don’t start wanting the comics companies to top every idea of theirs all the time. I mean, hey, is it every issue that Spider-Man and Superman take on titanic beings? Of course not. And it helps that they don’t always do so.
On the death of Colossus: I was certainly sad to see that he kicked the bucket, he was one of my favorite X-Men too, and it’s worrisome for me that it’s apparently setting a precedent for more deaths in the coming year. But OK, not all the deaths have bothered me, since if it’s characters that I don’t care about, than it’s excusable to some extent. So let me see, Cecilia Reyes is also biting the bullet? Well, I have to admit, aside from not trying to write a code name for her, they didn’t try to make her an interesting addition either (Cecilia dear, we hardly knew ye). She first appeared in 1997 when Bastion was trying to vanquish the X-Men, as a character who found herself caught in the middle, but she wore out her interest pretty fast, and became a very redundant supporting character. And her force shield is hardly the most effective that I’ve ever seen. And as for Husk, well, her abilities were even more useless.
In regard to Joe Quesada’s claim however, that Colossus is “gone and goodbye,” well, let me point out that that’s really only during his tenure. It is quite possible for any of his successors in the future to resurrect the Russian giant, so there’s no telling if he’ll ever show up in the Book of the Dead section that easily (although you’re probably working on the possibility of adding him there already). And there was an artist who once said that it’s hard to kill off any of the characters since, as he’d said, “they’re your friends!”
Cecilia Reyes could turn up in the Book of the Dead someday though, since like Omega the Unknown, she’s not a character who anyone’s asking be resurrected. Also, I’ve been doing some thinking recently, and now that I think of it, if a character like Gambit is ever killed off, I won’t mind, because even I’ve never been particularly fond of him, and also, because Rogue deserves far better than him. So they could introduce a new boyfriend for her, and even a new southerner/Cajun too, with both a better background and costume! Oh, and won’t mind if even the mutant named Maggot kicks the bucket, since he, too, wore out any interest he had pretty fast too.
I remember that a few weeks ago, you said in Next Week’s Comics that you were hoping for some fun in the X-Men. Well, if Marvel’s going to kill off a few of them, then sadly, it doesn’t look like there’ll be any in such a hurry. That’s why I sure hope that maybe X-Treme X-Men, in which several of the team travel on a quest to find the missing volumes of the “Books of Truth” could try to offer some happiness during their travels. Yes indeed, it’s about time that some real fun came around again in the X-World.
Also, in your latest column, you wrote:
<<Since the standard 32-page monthly comic book may soon be facing economic extinction, it could well be that trade paperbacks are the form comics will take in the future.>>
Well, not necessarily. If any companies can follow Marvel’s example with the Ultimate Marvel Magazine, including DC, then it could be that their sales could improve too. But I do agree that TPBs can be a much easier way to store comics around the house, since they’re easier to fit on bookshelves. In fact, TPBs could be one of the best ways these days for independent artists, such as those whose works Son of Salmon reviews, to get their works published.
I also read your extra column about Crossgen, and it was great. And chairman Mark Alessi is to be commended for his marketing and scriptwriting schedule strategy, which makes it a lot easier for the writers and artists to get their work done on time, and his strategy could serve as a good example for many other comic-book publishers on how to plan ahead on publishing and marketing. I’ve been able to see some of their work so far and it’s fantastic. And it’s certainly what can help draw new readers who prefer characters who don’t wear Spandex. I’m sure that this is the start of a successful new independent comic book business, and I wish CrossGen a big success in the next decade.
CrossGen is certainly doing everything right. If nothing else, they actually act like a professional publishing company interested in selling their product! Marvel, DC and others have never acted that way -- in fact, for most of the decade I've done the newspaper column, Marvel Comics hasn't even had a public relations department, which is almost unheard of in American business.
On the X-Men X-tinctions, it certainly is a lively topic, with everyone crossing their fingers for their favorites. I'm game for it, though, if it'll improve the books -- even if they take Pyotr Rasputin from us. And, as you noted, his death could be undone at any time, especially -- as is inevitable -- a new regime takes form.
Oh, and given your remarks about bigger-not-being-better, it echoes my own thoughts. X-Men has always been more soap opera than Sturm und Drang, and what I want to see is more personality in the books -- especially believable ones that follow the characters as we've come to know them. (Gambit as trusted team leader? Oh, THAT'S gonna take some explanation.) And as it happens, I'm happy to report that a recent interview with Frank Quitely at Fandom.com said essentially the same thing: Morrison and Casey are looking to emphasize personality over power conflicts. I certainly can't complain about that!
And Colossus is heading for the Book of the Dead -- Fanboy volunteered to write it. In fact, if any readers have a dead character they want entered into the BotD, they need only submit something that includes the general information the other ones do and I'll be happy to edit it in and provide appropriate credit.
Finally, in addressing the girls-in-Spandex thing, I believe we're talking at cross-purposes here. I don't have any problem with effective female characters -- but I have a problem with any character, male or female, who suddenly develops the ability to do a triple-backflip out of the way of a bullet with no explanation. My classic example is the original Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), who was a librarian, for Pete's sake, and the only mention of any training in her debut in 1966 was that she was "pretty athletic in college." Well, gee whiz, so was I -- but I certainly couldn't do what Batman does! I think it's asking a lot of our suspension of disbelief to accept that simply calling yourself "Crimefighter Boy" suddenly makes you as athletic as Batman, who's trained since he was eight years old -- and I think it diminishes Batman's achievements as well, when anybody can get them by just pulling on longjohns. It's laziness on the part of the writers, and sexist as well, since that syndrome seems to apply largely to female characters, like the original comic-book Batgirl, Huntress and the Alicia Silverstone Batgirl in the movies. Granted, most of these characters have been retconned to show intense training -- but when they debuted, no mention was made of any special effort, yet suddenly they could do amazing things, and that is what I find annoying.
So that's what I was referring to with my remarks on the new Batgirl. One of the things I find refreshing about the character is that the writers took the time to establish her abilities and motivation -- which makes her a solid, plausible, three-dimensional character, and not just an excuse to trademark the name "Batgirl."

That whole Book of Dead feature from his original site was pointless, and since then, Colossus was resurrected almost 4 years afterwards, and other dead characters, regardless of whether their curtain call was badly written or not, came back along with him. In case I hadn’t said so before, killing off Colossus, even if not in the worst way possible, was still pretty badly done, and Marvel did it just to “prove” they could keep a hero dead or something like that.

And whoa, look who’s talking about sexism! Did it ever occur to Mr. Smith how sexist it is to have a story where a costumed supervillain rapes a woman and her plight is swept under the rug like nothing happened? A syndrome that may apply to female characters more than the idea they could develop serious combat skills overnight, I might note.

Dear Cap: I just wanted to do a quick reply (to the repentant-criminal debate). On the question of murderers and the like who repent, as I said they should serve the time for their crimes. For people like the Red Skull that would mean at least life in prison if not execution. Still, a reformed criminal can make the most of his time in jail, and do all kinds of useful and fufilling stuff. I recall that one of the biggest contributers to the original Oxford English Dictionary was confined to a madhouse. Harder for people who are executed to do much with their new found attitude, but it is an imperfect world and then again I do not believe in capital punishment.
Your comments on Hal Jordan reminds me of the ancient Athenian lawgiver Solon who said roughly "Call no man blessed before he dies."
Just one last thing to shift topics; on Batman as failure. It seems to me the best way to fight crime is to prevent it and while effective law enforcement will do that to some extent I am not sure it can be a whole solution -- well maybe in a universe where beings like the Flash and Superman exist it can be (at least until they commit the crimes). Really, to reduce crime I think their are almost certainly social causes (like poverty) that have to be addressed and often the solutions to those problems are not known themselves.
Really, Batman -- if he has not already done so -- should be funding research into the root causes of crime and (begin) initiatives to attack those things at the root. As Bruce Wayne he should lend his voice and energies to helping groups that do this kind of work as well. That being said, I do not think he is a failure in his nocturnal prowling; he has undoubtedly personally saved hundreds if not thousands from the deprivations of crime, but it is only part of the solution to crime. Just as the local cop, the sociologist who studies crime and solutions to it and the politcian who tries to get legislation enacted to stop crime all play a different role, success for one is not success for another. I think Batman has probably been more successful in his efforts than most. Still Batman's war on crime should -- if genuine -- proceed on many fronts and in myriad of ways.
Finally, though, crime is something that will almost certainly exist as long as men live and are free. If to succeed Batman must wipe out all crime then he is doomed to failure -- just like a doctor, he can only delay the inevitable. Here is to delaying the inevitable!
Well my reply was not as quick as I would have liked. :)
Thanks for the additional thoughts, [name withheld]. A number of readers seem to agree with you that Batman isn't crazy for fighting crime, or a failure -- just that, given his resources, he could be doing a much better job of it on a much broader scale than pulling on a Halloween suit and popping muggers.
As to redeemed villains, I need to note for the record that in Thunderbolts, Hawkeye's first act as leader was to insist that Mach One turn himself into the authorities for a murder he committed as The Beetle. He did indeed surrender to pay the piper -- and the government put him to work inside the jail doing other things than making license plates. (Apparently, no other Thunderbolts were known to be guilty of murder.)
Here's another letter on the subject of Batman's effectiveness -- and, believe it or not, our only letter this week from a resident of the US:

The correspondent may not think Batman’s a failure, but does he think the writers are failures for not exploring the ideas he’s got in mind? And we can only wonder what Mr. Smith thinks of the modern mindset that heroes are crazy for crimefighting, leading to embarrassments like Civil War?

Dear Cap: It seems to me that Batman is very effective at his job -- catching the criminals. The problem is that (the authorities) those the criminals are handed over to are incredibly incompetent.
My problem with Batman is that he doesn't do something about that incompetence. As Bruce Wayne, he has the resources to make sure that Arkham would be staffed by those who would be able to do their jobs and have the equipment to insure the incarceration of the metahuman loonies (such as Poison Ivy). Let's face it: Wayne could buy Arkham and not break a sweat.
Granted, I don't think he could (buy) the local prison (Blackgate?) but he could make sure that their funding was well off enough that they wouldn't have to worry about break-outs from their metahuman population. And he could buy his way onto the board of directors to make sure that the prison's policies are in line with his ideals of how prisoners should be treated.
I've made it very clear before that The Joker should die. The fact that no one has just walked up to him while he's in handcuffs and put a bullet through his head just amazes me, even more than I'm amazed that the courts haven't sentenced him to death for crimes he did commit. Just how much abuse will the citizens and authorities in Gotham take before they break?
The recent issue of Harley Quinn in which someone dressed as The Joker is shot to death by security guards is more in line with how I think things would happen. (OK, sure, the real Joker wouldn't have been standing around like a schmuck, but that is how anyone should treat him. Shoot first; ask questions later.)
Another thought is that Batman (should) not turn The Joker over to authorities next time Bats captures him. I remember reading a pre-Crisis Superman story in which Supes had made a special cell for The Parasite because no regular means of incarceration would be safe or effective. Why doesn't Batman do that? Make a special cell in some deep recess of the Batcave. Joker could be fed and have cleaning facilities but no human contact. Ever. If someone were to ask Batman where The Joker had gone to, all he would have to do is lie. He's very good at lying.
Oh, and as to the Justice League of Arkham one-shot: Never happened. Would never happen. Could never happen.
I found Justice Leagues: Arkham unpalatable as well. And as ridiculous as it is for Batman to work with The Joker, think about Barbara Gordon! My suspension of disbelief went south in a hurry on that one, and the best I could do to manage my way through the issue was to try to remember that the whole world was under telepathic mind control, so that wasn't really "our" Batman doing it, right? OK, that's weak, but it's all I could come up with.
As the previous correspondent noted, it does seem that Bruce Wayne could do a lot more to make his alter ego's life (and Gotham's life) easier, such as funding anti-poverty programs and -- as you noted -- buying Arkham and fixing that darn revolving door. I do draw the line at Batman taking it on himself to incarcerate criminals though -- not only would we have to change the name of the book to Punisher 2099, but he would be crossing the line from policeman to judge, and I'm uncomfortable with that.

Did his suspension of disbelief go south after Identity Crisis told how the JLA covered up a crime entirely and wouldn’t tell the world about it? How they cowered in fear of the notion Dr. Light – who never killed/raped innocent women and children within the first two decades of his existence – would threaten their families and other bizarre gibberish he’d never been written with before? His commentary crashes to earth with a deafening thud because it’s pretty clear he suspends his disbelief at all costs when PC dictates the final say on a story.

I find it fascinating the correspondent would argue that Joker should die, because the guy who wrote that is somebody who opposed the Iraq war, and probably doesn’t think Saddam or even jihadists like al Qaeda should die for all the mass murder and sexual abuse they committed. He probably doesn’t even think ISIS should be punished severely for their own crimes against groups like the Yazidi. His paradox illustrates a serious double-standard some leftists have when dealing with fiction and reality. So let’s proceed to March 7, 2001:

Dear Cap: I just read a bunch of issues of Iron Man. I kind of enjoyed the last arc, but as much as I love retro changes I'm not wild about these "life-long old friend of a long-running character that we readers never knew about who comes back and turns out to have hated the hero all these years"-type tales. Is that a sub-genre? On the other hand, I've enjoyed the "Protocide" story in Captain America. Do I sound confused? Well I usually am. It's my normal state of mind. Thanks for your time, Cap.
And thanks for your letter, […]! The "old friend we've never heard of" story must be some kind of cliche, since it happens all the time in comics (and soap operas) and it's never convincing. In fact, I wouldn't even call it a sub-genre as much as I would just plain old bad writing.

And I wouldn’t call Mr. Smith’s arguments sincere so much as I would call them a smokescreen. Such a buffoon he is, yet not even amusing. It’s also never convincing when it’s claimed the JLA covered up a violent sexual crime. In fact, it’s never convincing to make it look as though the supervillain who committed said crime had always been as sick as Identity Crisis makes him out to be.

Dear Cap: The plot for the movie Galaxy Quest was rather interesting and original. Take actors who who only, well, act in a television show where they are depicted as heroes and put them in a "real life" space opera where they have to prove themselves to be the heroes and constant victors that they always appear to be. Sigourney Weaver's acting was not bad as a character who was frightened and cautious of actually being engaged in battle against a ruthless enemy.
Well, imagine (and pray that it remains an imaginary story) whereby Captain Comics and his Legion of Superfluous Heroes are actually thought to be the real thing. Imagine we are being called upon to save an alternate universe where their champions of truth and justice have fallen against a multiversity-destroying threat that makes beings like Galactus, Nightmare, Thanos, Darkseid and The Stranger (to name a few) look like the Vienna Boys' Choir.
In which case, we'd all be dead, and that would be our answer, [name withheld]! Unless, of course, this multiversity-destroying threat wanted to engage in contests involving comics trivia or beer swilling, in which case my money would be on the Legion of Superfluous Heroes.

Oh please! Who’d mistake Mr. Smith for a “hero”? Only the most naïve. IMHO, it’s more likely he’d be perceived as the villain he actually is, even worse than J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow, and some supercrook planet would probably want to recruit him so he could menace the superheroes. Which, judging from his acceptance of Identity Crisis and Civil War, he’d probably have no qualms doing. The Legion of Superfluous Heroes, on the other hand, would do well do abandon ship not unlike some crooks hired by an awkward alien who appeared in the 4th Avengers issue in 1964, when Captain America returned to active status in the MCU.

Dear Cap:
<<Some will argue with me here, but comics like Alley Cat, Fathom and FemForce seem to me to have little reason to exist other than to show improbably structured women in various sates of undress. -- Captain Comics>>
You were right -- some will argue with you. While I agree that titles like Alley Cat and Fathom fall under the T&A heading, FemForce had more going for it than just scantily-clad heroines with big (breasts and rear ends). There were actual stories there, and character development. Personally, I think all those "Bad Girl" comics like Lady Death and that kind of thing are more T&A than FemForce. Of course. if you're a heterosexual male who happens to be a breast man, I think you'd rather see your heroines with some curves, showing some skin, rather than a woman with an ironing board-shaped body swathed in yards of fabric.
You've got a point, [name withheld] -- FemForce did actually try to tell stories. (Although, you have to admit, there was quite an emphasis on the female physique!) Still, I'll adjust my thinking accordingly, and let's just substitute Lady Death for FemForce as an example of T&A. Howzat?

Boy, this correspondent doesn’t know what he just implied! Sure, big breasts is something guys like in gorgeous women, but big rear ends? Umm, I think cute little rear ends are something guys prefer. Big butts just aren’t appealing. And while Michael Turner did at least one thing that galls me (the covers for Identity Crisis), I don’t think we should be complaining about T&A. Besides, Identity Crisis suffered from far worse.

Dear Captain Comics: Not to beat the Batman thing to the ground, but you hit the nail on the head with your remark in the Feb. 14 Mailbag of the dislike for the modern characterization of Batman.
I recall an issue of Detective Comics, written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by the late Don Newton, in which Batman rescues someone from drowning, and he says, "What's with you? I thought you were only about catching crooks." Batman responds, "You're not alone in thinking that. I wish you were." By the end of the story, he catches the villain -- a wannabee mob boss staging a takeover -- and the gangster says, "What's with you? I thought you were only about helping people." Batman responds, "You're not alone in thinking that. I wish you were."
That's what's lacking in this modern interpretation of Batman. The writers have gone so far with this grim-and-gritty stuff, especially in the years since The Dark Knight Returns, that there is no balance. Several of your readers question why Bruce Wayne doesn't use his money to fight crime from the other end. Well, the Bruce Wayne I grew up with often used his family money for civic projects around town. Moreover, he established not one, but TWO charitable organizations to do just that -- the Thomas and Martha Wayne Foundation and the Victims Incorporated Program. Not that most readers ever see any evidence of this, because the writers rarely show Batman out of costume doing anything but punching out thugs. When Bruce Wayne appeared in Gotham Knights #4 visiting a man on behalf of V.I.P., I was startled; I'd bet every Image title I own that it was the first time V.I.P. was mentioned in a Bat-title in 25 years. (Many thanks to writer Devin Grayson.)
But then again, as I've pointed out before, Bruce Wayne himself has nearly been written out of the Bat-titles, too. And without him, we readers are cheated of a three-dimensional rendering of the character. Take any 12-month run of any of the core Superman titles and the core Batman titles, and compare: How often would Clark Kent appear, and how often would Bruce Wayne appear? I'd bet Clark would show up in at least half, and Bruce in one or two, or maybe even none. Sure, there have been some token appearances of Batman's Brucie-the-Party-Boy act, but there's a wealth of story potential there -- Wayne the business mogul, Wayne juggling his party act with his mission, Wayne steering the work of VIP.
But with or without Wayne, we have seen Batman gradually being changed from a hero into something else. Now we have people questioning whether he's a failure, because the writers are failing to present all the good of the characters. Now we have even prominent people arguing that Batman could beat Captain America "because Batman cheats." And I notice that no one in this forum -- even critics of the Justice Protocols -- has suggested that Batman show remorse for the harm he caused, let alone admit he was wrong.
I fear that Batman is being pushed into the same place Hal Jordan is, where one more bad, ill-considered story will ruin the character for good. Sure, Batman's popular, but has Spider-Man recovered from the damage from the Clone Saga? Aren't the X-Men and their tangled continuity popular to an ever-shrinking pool of fans, and irrelevant to everyone else? That's what I fear is happening to Batman. Thanks for listening.
And thanks for writing […]!
You've raised some more interesting points -- and far from "beating this Batman thing into the ground," I think they deserve further discussion.
I wouldn't worry too much about Bruce turning into Hal -- Batman's far too valuable a property (as opposed to the lesser-known Green Lantern) for Warner Bros. to allow that to happen! If the character becomes unpopular, they'll just pull the plug, fire everybody, and start over with more accessible aspects of the character -- as they appear to be doing with the movie franchise.
And a number of folks on the site have suggested Batman was wrong, and [name withheld] even suggested a few weeks ago that "I think at the very least Batman should have to say 'I'm sorry' real sincere-like."
Anyway, one thing I've mentioned on this site before is that I'd like to see a lot more of Bruce Wayne outfoxing bad guys (like Luthor) in his corporate-mogul mode. (I'd like to see more of that from Tony Stark, too, but that's a different discussion.) It's been mentioned before (like in the "Injustice Gang" story in JLA), but we never get to SEE it and (outside of Tony Stark) it's not something other superheroes can do. Perhaps one reason Bruce doesn't do more with the Wayne Foundation and VIP is that his corporate time and money is working constantly to keep Luthor or Ra's al Ghul from taking over the world quietly! That would certainly add a new dimension to the Dark Knight -- Corporate White Knight working overtime to keep the Bad Guys in check. (Gee, it even makes a good chess metaphor!)
On the other hand, I'd also like to mount a mild defense of the Batman-as-anti-social-creep characterization. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like the current Batman if I met him, but it DOES make a certain story sense.
For one thing, for Batman to have the precise, Spock-like mind he does, able to winnow information and derive accurate conclusions without his ratiocination being tainted by emotion (his and others') -- why, wouldn't he be a lot like Mr. Spock, or Sherlock Holmes? With "normal" folks it's usually the case -- in fact, very human -- that you see what you want instead of what is in any given situation, and for Batman to filter that out ... well, he wouldn't act very human, would he?
Secondly, I think we all know how dedicated one has to be to become the best in a given field -- like Olympic competitors, who virtually give up anything resembling a normal life for at least four years in their pursuit of the gold. Now think of Batman, who's good at EVERYTHING -- and consider what he'd have to give up to achieve that. In fact, I would find it hard to believe if Batman/Bruce was remotely well-socialized -- becoming a nice guy takes time, effort and compromises. A man who frequently compromises or is greatly concerned about the feelings of others doesn't become Batman (he becomes a therapist).
Clearly, Bruce Wayne has given up the things that the rest of us take for granted as the sweet things in life -- good meals, companionship, romance, peaceful evenings at home, a family life. That being the case, wouldn't he be a bit stand-offish? None of the normal drives and considerations that motivate the rest of us are of any use or interest to him. In fact, all that social white noise would be an impediment.
Thirdly, the "spooky" act is necessary for his continued effectiveness. It doesn't come as a surprise to me that he doesn't turn it off when around the JLA -- it's probably ingrained in his behavior. And, while he can certainly trust Superman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and possibly The Flash -- what about the perpetually adolescent Green Lantern? The absurd Plastic Man? What does he know about peripheral Leaguers, like The Ray or Captain Atom, that he should trust them? I can fully believe that he would routinely keep his cards close to his chest armor as a matter of course.
Fourthly, his inhuman focus makes Batman unique, and not just another costumed athlete. He's the one guy that nobody, friend or foe, can figure out. I think it's kinda cool that Ra's al Ghul and Kobra are contemptuous of the Big Blue Boy Scout -- but Batman has them worried. For a guy with no super-powers, that's just awesome.
Fifthly, he IS a guy with no super-powers, which means he has to do something to compensate. If Batman was written as just another Nightwing, I wouldn't expect him to be very effective at much more than stopping muggers. But as the uniquely-focused Dark Knight, disciplined beyond anything we regard as normal, I can utterly believe that he can look at a situation frustrating the whole JLA and come up with an outrageous explanation -- which inevitably turns out to be true, and, in retrospect, obvious. Obvious, that is, if your computer-like mind is filtering out the usual social amenities and concentrating on Just The Facts, Ma'am. I would expect someone with that disciplined a mind to eschew chit-chat.
In short, I don't really expect Batman to act normal -- because nobody normal could do what he does. And, from a writing standpoint, I like that he has to pay a price to be that good -- and is willing to pay it for the sake of protecting human life. (Which is one reason, as I've mentioned before, that I'm turned off when they depict him whining over his parents' graves. That sort of self-pity isn't a very admirable motivation.)
I think one of the things that is a turn-off about the grim-and-gritty aspect is that so MANY characters are doing that riff now. If he was the only DC character doing it -- and, by all rights, he certainly deserves the franchise -- then he would be unique, and certainly a show-stopper.
Which is not to say that I wouldn't like to see more of Bruce Wayne, or that I'm not occasionally disappointed that Batman is such a hardcase, especially around Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon and Tim Drake. (Geez, lighten up, fella! That's your surrogate family!) But I do appreciate that his behavior makes story sense, and it sometimes results in some terrific comic-book moments -- like the Justice Protocols, or just staring down Guy Gardner. When Batman is written as just another hail-fellow-well-met, Captain America-in-a-cape type, he's a lot less impressive -- and I WANT Batman to be impressive.
Well, that's sure to stir up some hornets!

Oh, you better believe it. My issue here is with the correspondent, whom I may recall being among the supporters of Identity Crisis. What business does he have then complaining about grim and gritty when he obviously never meant what he said?

Dear Cap: A quick thought about the death of Colossus in the Marvel X-books: I was also saddened to see Piotr killed, as he's always been one of my top five favorite characters -- visually and conceptually, at least, as his personality/characterization had become somewhat murky lately. I'm still finding it hard to believe that Marvel would let one of their more recognizable icons slide away. I think I remember, though, that Piotr actually fathered a child in the Savage Land during one of his X-adventures. Am I correct? And if so, it's not much of a stretch to imagine that Marvel would plan to quick-age his son and bring him into the mutant-hero fold sometime soon.
There was an implication that Piotr got a little mischievous with one or more of the ladies of the Savage Land, and that a child was the result. But given that it was never mentioned again, I'd lay money that a higher power saw that and said, "No way."

I’m skeptical the correspondent cares about Colossus, because this was a far-left moonbat who sympathized with jihadism and wrote an article in a weekly paper that was hostile to the US military and their campaign in Iraq. It’s not too hard to guess where he could stand on women who were victims of rape under Saddam’s reign (and, probably not hard to guess where he stood on Identity Crisis either!). Who’s the real savage then?

Dear Cap: I want a Major Bummer (DC Comics) action figure. Perhaps I should say, "inaction figure".
LOL! That's exactly what I thought about Toy Biz's Professor X "action" figure! ("He sits! He sits some more!")

While I don’t really care for superhero worlds as toy merchandise, and think that’s one way famous comics became victims of their own success, if I did want some action figures, I’d ask for ones based on co-stars sans superpowers! Yeah, why not Iris West Allen as an action figure? But seriously, I think it’s time to stop emphasizing superhero worlds as licensed merchandise and get back to basics of storytelling. Next still another by me, about a onetime hobby I had in the early 90s:

Dear Cap: We’ve all heard of people who collect comic books, right? But how often have you heard of people who collect comic strips from newspapers?
Back in the early '80s, when I was little, that’s what I did, I used to collect comic strips that I cut out of the daily and Sunday newspapers. While I’d always had plenty of comic books around the house, such as several issues of Fantastic Four, Justice League of America, Spider-Man and The Flash, we had comic strips like Peanuts, Garfield and more coming into the house via the newspapers which we bought a lot more. I was very much into humor at the time, always looking for something (to) make me laugh, and I read quite a lot of comic strips from the newspapers, and also borrowed the compilations of them from the Free Library of Philadelphia many times too. And then, when I was eight years old, I got an idea: to collect comic strips by cutting them out of the newspaper.
I first began by collecting the Sunday strips from the now defunct Evening Bulletin, and then from the Philadelphia Inquirer. I cut out such strips as Peanuts, Garfield, Momma, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Dennis the Menace, B.C, The Wizard of Id, For Better or for Worse, Shoe, Blondie and Hi & Lois. I cut them out of the Sunday comics section and put them in piles in one of my bedroom drawers.
But then, in late 1983, we moved out of Philadelphia and came (to Israel), and so I had no comic strips to collect for about five years, although some of my relatives from the US brought me some Sunday comics sections from the Philadelphia Inquirer two or three times. I was living for almost two years in the development town of Kfar Adumim (which in English could translate as Reds Village) and didn’t travel outside the area much, so I couldn’t get to visit the newspaper and bookstores very much. So all I could do then was resort to reading the compilations of past strips my parents had bought me years ago, such as Charlie Brown’s Super Book of Questions and Answers, and Garfield Takes the Cake.
But then, in late 1988, I had luck at this again, my family started reading the International Herald Tribune, which is co-owned by the Washington Post and The New York Times (and which can be reached at http://www.iht.com), and they had a lot of what I’d grown up with in the US, and I took to reading them there as well. And then, suddenly, I was encouraged once again to collect newspaper comic strips.
This time my scope was a bit more limited, and the strips I began collecting this time were just Peanuts, Garfield and sometimes The Far Side by Gary Larson (now defunct), soon to be followed by Doonesbury. When I resumed my hobby, it was just a few months after Charles Schulz had changed the panel format from one to five panels, which was how it’d continue for its final 12 years. My parents would often bring home the IHT, and there was also an office building in town where the workers read it too, and where I could get them to give me a lot of their discarded copies, and I brought them home to work on as well, and this helped me to fill the gaps many times. I’d sit in the living room or on my bed and I’d take a scissors and snip the comics of my choice out of the paper, and put them in piles according to which strip they were, whether it be Peanuts or Garfield or Doonesbury. And sometimes, courtesy of my relatives in the US, I could even get some of the comic strips, including those from Sunday, I wanted from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and even the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and New York Newsday.
To store them better, and to prevent them from turning yellow, I got myself an airtight plastic bag, and also a shoebox, and I put them inside. And even now and often, I’d take them out and read them, and get lots of laughs out of them.
And I enjoyed it. All these funny little drawings and all these goofy characters. And I kept doing it for at least seven or eight years. During 1990 and 1993, I was reading more comic strips than anything else. It was so fun to build up this collection and I must have had more than 5,000 strips in all. And I remember some of these storylines pretty well, such as when Snoopy’s daffy brother Spike imagined the cactuses of the desert county of Needles talking to him, the “ugly dog contest”, in which another of Snoopy’s brothers, Olaf, was a contestant, Charlie Brown’s first kiss at summer camp in 1995 (finally!), Garfield’s getting caught in a time warp because he was suffering from loneliness, and his new habit of squishing spiders, the introduction of Mr. Butts, who somehow popped out of Michael Doonesbury’s imagination, J.J’s birth of their daughter Alexis, and B.D’s drafting into service during the Gulf War. It was such fun for me.
In 1994, I even tried to start collecting Calvin & Hobbes, which had drawn my interest for a few years already. And so I also got to see about the short-lived introduction of Calvin’s uncle Max, and even see him grow so big that he fell off the planet.
So you can imagine how disappointed I was when Calvin & Hobbes ended in early 1996, after about ten and a third years, because Bill Watterson’s bag of tricks was running out. The mistake he made was that he was trying many times to top many of his storylines, such as the ones involving the babysitter Rosyln, a problem that both Charles Schulz and Jim Davis had managed to avoid very well. In fact, by 1994, Watterson had lessened the more imaginative fantasy sequences and had all but relegated them to Sundays. A real pity, because it was one of the best strips of its kind, even at times featuring some intelligent words and vocabulary.
By late 1996 though, I began to drift away from my childhood hobby. I’d been trying to devote more time to reading comic books as well, and it was becoming a bit harder than it had been before for me to get newspapers to work on. And my mother was finding it to be a bit messy. So eventually, I sadly had to part with my collection of daily and Sunday strips and dispose of it. And whenever we got Sunday comics sections, from then on, I started giving them to my mother, who’s a tutor, instead, because she often found them useful when teaching her young students.
When you collect newspaper comic strips, you probably wait until the yearly compliations come out in bookstores from companies like Ballentine Books, mainly because they’re much tidier to keep around the house, and it’s easier to put them, and even comic book TPBs, on a bookshelf. And that’s something that I hope I can do someday too. Someday, I hope I can get back all those comic strips I collected in book format and could this time store them on my shelves at home. I do still have some of the old compilations I mentioned before, and I hope that someday I can add more to those.
It’s an amazing story, isn’t it? For indeed, how many other people do you know who collect newspaper comic strips by cutting them out of the newspapers? Not many, to be sure, but it was a lot of fun for me, and it’s a shame that it had to eventually end. But someday, with any luck, I’ll be able to get them back; the older Peanuts strips are available in books for example, as well as the newer ones, and someday, maybe I’ll be able to form a collection of all those once again.
This letter has been a labor of love for me. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
And it was a joy to read. I love anecdotes!
Believe it or not, I also cut out newspaper strips and collected them as a kid. Dozens of strips. Tumbleweeds I remember in particular, because my effort wasn't being duplicated in paperback. I savored those stolen moments from the past ... then Tumbleweeds paperbacks started coming out, and all my carefully pasted notebooks, annotated and lovingly filed, became irrelevant.
Ah, well, we all grow up. But it sure was fun!
Incidentally, in defense of Watterson:
He didn't quit because he was going stale -- he said it was because he feared growing stale (and, rightly or wrongly, he used Charles Schulz's Peanuts as an example). And the fact that he was a millionaire after only three or so years made it possible for him to "retire". Plus, Watterson had always had an ongong feud with the syndicates (and the newspapers who ran him), because he felt the American comic strip was being run too small. The reason his more outre fantasy sequences were reserved for Sundays was because he didn't feel the shrinking hole he had in dailies was sufficient room for what he wanted to draw. So you only saw dinosaurs on Sunday, when he had a panel big enough to draw one. And since that hole was shrinking as well, he just said the heck with it and retired.

Boy, I sure wish I could give more credit to this man for taking the same kind of hobby as I once had. But with his belief system, I cannot, or no longer can. Mr. Smith, alas, made himself irrelevant long ago by adhering to PC tactics.

Hi Cap: This is in response to your Q&A statement that Will Eisner is the Tiger Woods of comics. He's actually more like Arnold Palmer or Ben Hogan or Bobby Jones, if you want to stay with golf, but ...
I must warn you this is my Grand Theory of Comics Artists -- you will surely think I am nuts after reading this.
I probably watch too WAAAYYYY much basketball and read WAAAYYYY too many of (Frank) Miller's books, but I'm throwing this out to my fellow Miller nuts:
I've been calling Miller "The Jordan of Comics" in conversation for many years now, and I believe with good justification. Looking at both of their careers closely to this point, the similarities are uncanny ...
Both are tremendous successes at their chosen professions, and are considered by many the very best of all time at what they do:
MJ: comics
FM: basketball
Both are considered among the greatest ever at the essentials of their profession. On a fundamental level they are impeccable and exemplary -- you can find little wrong in what they do, and moreover almost everything is done perfectly right. And because of their strength in the fundamentals of their craft, they are able to be spectacular at times, almost at will:
MJ: scoring and defense
FM: drawing and writing
Both combine in their work a rare mix -- an intense ferocity over-reaching his peers, reminiscent of:
MJ: basketball's greatest winner, Bill Russell
FM: comics essential storyteller, Will Eisner
And a sublime elegance, beauty, power and spectacle, reminiscent of:
MJ: Wilt Chamberlain, a legendary, larger-than-life figure in basketball history, and owner of basketball's gaudiest numbers (100 points in a single game is most notable)
FM: Jack Kirby, a legendary, larger-than-life figure in comics history, and owner of comics' gaudiest artistic achievements (100 issues of Fantastic Four is most notable)
And both have acknowledged the influence of the two men in their work.
Each cut his teeth and refined his "chops" early in his career during the early 1980s:
MJ: at the University of North Carolina
FM: drawing, then writing, Daredevil
Both shortly after moved onto a different stage in an unorthodox setting:
MJ: at the 1984 Olympics, showing his stuff against international competition
FM: moving to DC, to create the creator-owned project RONIN, showing the influence of international artists Moebius and Goseki Kojima
Fans still rave about things he did in the spring of 1986:
MJ: scoring 63 points against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs
He began a breathtaking, show-stopping creative assault on his profession at large shortly after this work:
MJ: winning two slam-dunk competitions, winning Defensive Player of the Year, showing his all-around talent, and setting the highest season scoring average by someone other than Wilt Chamberlain (37.1, also the best of his career) between 1987-1990, becoming probably the most prominent star in basketball.
FM: puting out a varied body of work ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN, BATMAN: YEAR ONE, DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN, DAREDEVIL LOVE AND WAR, ELEKTRA LIVES AGAIN (personally I think this is his high point yet as an artist), mostly as a
writer, showing his all around talent, between 1987-1990, becoming probably
the most prominent star in comics.
Both have had a significant effect on the larger economy:
MJ: thru his success as a commercial spokesperson. Fortune magazine once estimated the contribution of Jordan to the success of the businesses he was involved in as $10 billion US.
FM: thru his success at revitalizing Batman as a character, he revitalized the Batman merchandising franchise, leading to movies and TV series that owed more to DARK KNIGHT rather than Adam West. He also inspired the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (largely a parody of his series RONIN), indirectly building one of the most successful line of toys and merchandise from the '90s.
Both have been under the long-time commercial association of a company located in Oregon:
MJ: Nike of Beaverton, OR
FM: Dark Horse of Milwaukie, OR
Major color schemes:
Chicago Bulls: Red, White, and Black
Sin City: Black, White and Red
Both took major break at the height of their career and power from their chosen profession:
MJ: to try and play major league baseball (1993-94)
FM: to try and become a Hollywood screenwriter (1989-90)
And did not do as well as they did away from the profession that brought them fame:
MJ: barely breaking a .200 batting average in double-A level baseball
FM: Robocop 2 and 3
Both returned from that break and sucked originally coming out of the gate, with one really spectacular moment:
MJ: that whole #45 jersey thing, and getting knocked out the playoffs for the only time in the '90s; 55 points against the New York Knicks
FM: Martha Washington and Spawn/Batman; HARD BOILED
And after the bumpy restart, got down to business and came out with a more efficient, yet still devastating style:
MJ: developing a fadeaway jumper, posting a record 72-10 won-lost record for a season, and winning three more NBA championships for a total of six over the decade
FM: developing the stark black-and-white SIN CITY style, producing 300, and producing a total of nine SIN CITY graphic novels over the decade
Entered the 21st century making a controversial move to work on the "establishment" side of his profession:
MJ: as director of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards.
FM: returning to DC to produce (work-for-hire) a sequel to BATMAN:THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.
They have had one very significant collaborator through the bulk of their career:
MJ: Scottie Pippen
FM: Lynn Varley
Other significant collaborators:
MJ: Dean Smith (college coach), Phil Jackson (pro coach, championship era), Horace Grant (workhorse power forward, pre-baseball), Dennis Rodman (gonzo power forward, post-baseball)
FM: Denny O'Neil (editor at Marvel and DC), Diana Schutz (editor at Dark Horse, SIN CITY era), Klaus Janson (workhorse inker, pre-Hollywood), Geof Darrow (gonzo artist, post-Hollywood)
And really stretching it... both played themselves in a movie:
FM: Jugular Wine: A Vampire Odyssey (1994 -- find it on the IMDB)
Other comic-book hoops:
Brian Bendis: Vince Carter
Alan Moore: Larry Bird (80s) AND Charles Barkley (90s)
Todd McFarlane: Shaquille O'Neal
Neal Adams: Doctor J
Warren Ellis: Kobe Bryant
Howard Chaykin: Charles Barkley (80s)
No individual is quite like Chuck -- or Alan Moore for that matter ...
Yes, I have lost my mind: SIN CITY = Bulls Tickets for me when the issues came out.
After careful consideration of your points, [...], I've come to conclude that you're right: You ARE absolutely nuts.
Actually, I've long nursed my own comics comparison. In my mind, the John Lennon-Paul McCartney team (The Beatles) = the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby team (the Marvel Age of Comics). Consider:
Both teams began in the early '60s and broke up in 1970.
Both members of both teams were good at every aspect of their craft, only one could do something the other specifically couldn't:
Lennon/McCartney: Both were good lyricists, musicians, composers and producers -- but Lennon could only play a few instruments, whereas McCartney could play anything
Lee/Kirby: Both were good storytellers, writers and editors -- but Lee couldn't draw and Kirby could draw anything
Both were astonishingly good as a team; as solo artists, one became a commercial mediocrity while the other had occasional inspired brilliance but mostly spiralled into stuff that was just awful
L/M: The Beatles made precious few missteps; but McCartney solo gave us Ram (medicore but commercially viable) but Lennon solo gave us mostly awful stuff like Plastic Ono Band with the occasionally brilliant piece like Imagine
L/K: The Marvel Age of Comics made precious few missteps; Lee solo gave us Savage She-Hulk (mediocre but commercially viable) and Kirby solo gave us mostly awful stuff like Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers and Devil Dinosaur with the occasionally brilliant piece like "The Fourth World"
Both teams inspire fanatical arguments about who was "really" the genius of the team, whereas the principals themselves stated repeatedly that it was a give-and-take collaboration
Kirby recognized Lee's ability, but felt betrayed by him when Lee wouldn't support him in his struggle to get his artwork back; Lennon recognized McCartney's ability, but felt betrayed by him when he embraced the pop aspect of The Beatles's music when he wanted to go elsewhere
In both teams, the strengths of the individuals were played up and their weaknesses covered up until they went solo:
L/M: McCartney's songs were catchy but sappy and Lennon's were profound but self-absorbed; as The Beatles you got profound songs that were catchy, and nobody knew McCartney was shallow or that Lennon was a whiner until the team broke up
L/K: Kirby couldn't write dialogue and Lee couldn't draw; the comics they produced were dynamically drawn and superbly written, and you didn't know that Kirby had a tin ear for dialogue or that Lee was so dependent on his artist until the team broke up
Both teams transformed and revitalized a formerly fading youth-culture sub-genre that had become so co-opted by corporations as to be boring:
L/M: Rescued rock & roll from pre-fab corporate singers like Frankie Valley and Frankie Avalon
L/K: Rescued comic books from the boring pap forced on comics by the Comics Code
Both teams had one member who stayed "establishment" and did well financially, while the other didn't do so well:
L/M: McCartney went on to own his own record company, own the rights to Beatles songs and be a multimillionaire by "playing the game"; Lennon became a "house-husband"
L/K: Lee stayed on as the "house brand" at Marvel and eventually went on to make millions of dollars for doing nothing; Kirby struggled financially until he died
My even-handedness in discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the members of both teams will result in flame mail:
L/M: There are virulent McCartney-haters out there who will not accept the idea that he had anything to do with The Beatles' '60s success and think Lennon did it all
L/K: There are virulent Lee-haters out there who will not accept the idea that he had anything to do with Marvel Comics' '60s success and think Kirby did it all
And now for something completely different, as a correspondent explains DC's All-New Collector's Edition #C-62, which purported to be an adaptation of the first Superman movie but was something else altogether:

Before we turn to that, I wonder what the correspondent and Mr. Smith think of Miller now after he became more conservative, and penned Holy Terror? Smith was curiously quiet and wouldn’t cover the subject at all, not even in his onetime Comics Buyer’s Guide column, which he didn’t deserve to get. The correspondent probably hates Miller now. No matter. I won’t say Miller is the best there could ever be, but his willingness to understand certain issues these days makes me want to think of him as the Michael Jordan of comics. That’s a 3-pointer in the basket for you!

Dear Cap: DC never actually adapted Superman: The Movie. Due to some weird contract signed with Mario Puzo, they weren't allowed to do anything more than a behind-the-scenes look at the production, which was ANCE #C-62. (This was in effect for Superman II, as well. III and IV were allowed comics adaptations, which were far superior to the actual films.) The same thing happened for the movie novelization. Elliot S! Maggin had to (okay, got to) write an original novel called Last Son of Krypton. The cover was a photo of Christopher Reeve, the book had an eight-page insert of movie photos, but the story had nothing to do with the movie. Great book, though. So was the follow-up, Miracle Monday, which introduced the character who later became Superwoman in pre-Crisis continuity.
Fun facts to know and tell. Thanks, […]!

I wonder if the Supergirl movie - which WB did not try to produce per se, but rather, transferred to Tri-Star in their early days for distribution - ever got an adaption? I'm not sure if it did either. But would it have been better than the finished film product? Who knows? It really doesn’t matter in the end, because adaptations like those aren’t my forte.

Hey Cap'n: In your most recent Q&A, someone asked about Mysterio's death and you indicated it was not totally known whether he was really dead. The recent Spider-Man: the Mysterio Manifesto miniseries cleared up the confusion. Quentin Beck definitely died by shooting himself in Daredevil #7. The Mysterio we have seen since then was another person who Quentin had used as an assistant or something, and then the person picked up the mantle of Mysterio. It's just a suit after all, so anyone who's crazy and villainous and good at illusions can be Mysterio. I didn't read the miniseries closely, so I don't know who the other characters in particular were, but it definitely established that Quentin Beck died.
By the way, you may have remembered me defending the idea of bringing back Blink. Although I thought it could have been a good idea, I found the first issue of the current miniseries pretty bad, so I'm not even buying the rest of it. I might try out the upcoming Exiles series starring Blink however, since Judd Winick will be writing and the concept sounds good.
I also didn't care for Blink the limited series, but then, I didn't find the character compelling enough in the first place to WANT a limited series. Since you did, and also don't like Blink the LS, that says a lot more about its relative quality than anything I have to say. Thanks for writing in about it.

And I also read Spider-Man: The Mysterio Manifesto, but didn't come away with the certainty you did that Beck was dead -- in fact, I rather got the impression that Marvel was deliberately leaving the door open. Different interpretations, I guess. Maybe I should phrase it that he's probably dead. As if that means anything in comics! Look how many times Norman Osborn has come back from the "dead" ... !

Here we go again, as Smith perpetuated the criticize-character-instead-of-writing routine. And no mention of whoever scripted the Blink mini either!

As for the whole Mysterio mishmash, what makes that more important than the decidedly unwarranted death of Karen Page?

Dear Captain: Your 3/2/2001 CBG column contains the sentence, "To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, I can't define T&A, but I know it when I see it." That is somewhat akin to a music reviewer writing, "to paraphrase Madonna, 'Bye Bye Miss American Pie'". The person quoted may have said those words, but they didn't coin the phrase.
Although Justice Brennan was a member of the Court in 1964 when that now-famous phrase was written, and I wouldn't be surprised if sometime later in his life he eventually said or wrote it too, he wasn't the writer who made it a famous part of our language. That credit belongs to his fellow Supreme Court member Justice Potter Stewart, who penned the "I know it when I see it" line in a concurring opinion in the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 US 184 (1964).
Justice Stewart was expressing his frustration with the lack of a clear standard for determining whether a film was obscene. The words he used hit the mark so well that they became publicized and quoted both in legal opinions and in the popular press. I'd guess that they now rank only a few notches below Miranda rights on the list of legal cliches (right or wrong) that citizens and comic-book readers remember.
Unfortunately, while Mr. Miranda's case made his name famous, Justice Stewart isn't given credit very often for this contribution of his to our popular discourse. The injustice (!) is even greater when someone actually bothers to look up the name of a Court member, but then gets the wrong one! Justice Brennan wrote some great pieces during his 33-plus years on the Supreme Court, but Potter Stewart's original wordcraft during his 22-plus years of service shouldn't be overlooked.
So how about taking a line or two in the forums where you publish, and using the space to give Justice Stewart a little thanks for coming up with a great line paraphrased by all of us? Even by Justice Brennan.
Well, shave my head and call me Curly -- you're absolutely right. You're not the only one to point out my faux pas, [...], and I hereby present your letter to acknowledge my error, and to give Potter Stewart his due.
In my own defense, I'll note that I did indeed list Justice Stewart as the author of those words, strictly from memory, when I first filed the column. But, anal-retentive newspaperboy that I am, I got nervous and asked the Library at the newspaper I work for to double-check my (often-spotty) memory.
Now, the modern newspaper Library is what used to be called the "morgue," where old stories went to be filed. But, compared to the ratty, poorly-organized, dimly-lit morgue of yore (now seen only in comic books), today's newspaper Library is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Staffed by highly-trained, professional researchers and librarians, equipped with the finest in electronic and hard-copy databases, there isn't much in the way of obscure data that the modern Library can't find -- and usually within the hour, on deadline, serenely confident in the face of nervous, fire-breathing editors.
And, sure enough, they found a hard copy of the "I know it when I see it" line, in an official, hardbound copy of SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) quotes. Within the hour. And the line was attributed to Justice Brennan.
Horrified, I wheeled into frenzied action, zipping an e-mail to Uber-editor Brent Frankenhoff, pleading with him to change the attribution from Stewart to Brennan. With his usual efficiency, he did just that, slipping the fix in before presstime.
And it was wrong. Gah!
So, [withheld], it wasn't sloppiness on my part that I was wrong. I went to a great deal of trouble to be wrong! I snookered Brent, the Library and the vast resources of our electronic age into being accessories to my being wrong! By heaven, I was HEROICALLY wrong!
Does that entitle me to a plea bargain?

After he fawned over Identity Crisis and later Civil War? I don’t think so. In fact, if a judgement of his writing is in order here, I’d say it’s some of the most cowardly slop to litter the face of journalism in quite some time. On that note, let us now proceed to deliver judgement over his commentaries with correspondents from March 14, 2001:

Dear Andrew Smith: I'm an omnivorous comics reader and manager of a comics shop in Olympia, Washington. One of our customers brings us your column from the Tacoma News Tribune which Pat (the owner) and I always read. So I want to first go on record as enjoying your writing and being glad that you are out there fighting the good fight for the comics medium in the mainstream media.
Okay, now that's out of the way I can show myself to be an ungrateful (person). The impetus for this letter came from reading your column on the new Green Arrow comic. Don't get me wrong, I was really looking forward to Green Arrow as well and thought it was a pretty cool comic. It's just that Love & Rockets Vol. 2 #1 came out that same month.
This did not get even a mention from you. I don't get it. As big as G.A. may be, Love & Rockets has got to be the most anticipated alternative comic of the year. And certainly in terms of raw sales, we're going to sell more copies of L&R than even Green Arrow (or X-Men for that matter). I realize that taste is subjective and I really don't mean to tell you what you can and can't write about, but given that you are one of very few of us fans whose opinions are read by the mainstream, I sure wish your column covered a greater variety of comics. Partly, I'm responding to my own personal taste, (a comics omnivore as I mentioned) and partly I'm responding out of general concern over the comics industry. I hate to see you ignore comics that I feel are the most likely to interest a non-comics reading audience and thus grow the comics market. I manage a shop that, unlike far too many, actually makes more money every year and makes it on comics -- not Pokemon or toys. A good part of our strategy for this has been promoting comics like Castle Waiting, Safe Area Gorazde, Acme Novelty Library and Sock Monkey. All those titles, and several more, sell at or above X-Men levels in our shop almost effortlessly. With so many non-superhero comics on the market -- that are really good! -- I hope you consider including them in your coverage.
Please don't interpret my remarks to mean I wish you didn't write about superhero comics. I enjoy stuff like Ultimate Spider-Man, Powers, The Atomics, Top Ten, Detective and plenty more as much as anyone.
Okay, I've said my piece. Let me wrap up by complimenting you on the Queen & Country article. I loved Whiteout also and am really looking forward to this one, despite the absence of Steve Lieber. Glad you mentioned Chaykin's new series as well. Sure wish he was drawing it too.
Thanks for the letter, […] -- and for reading the column!
And don't worry about sounding "ungrateful" -- if there's one thing about writing a national column gives me, it's a thick skin. In fact, I'm grateful for your opinions. If I ignored readers' opinions, I'd be a fool. Not only would I be working in a vacuum, but it wouldn't be long before I was talking to a vacuum, as well.
I'm especially pleased that you phrased your opinions in a polite and reasonable way. It's sometimes difficult to keep a civil tone, especially when one feels passionate about something, as you obviously do about Love & Rockets. A lot of fans forget the old homily about catching flies with honey instead of vinegar -- it's more than a homily; it's common sense. If you want to persuade someone to your point of view, it does little good to "flame" them with accusations of stupidity, or professional incompetence, or more creative insults.
(Yes, I get a few of those occasionally. That's what the "delete" key is for.)
Anyway, I did indeed concentrate on Green Arrow moreso than Love & Rockets, as 1) Green Arrow is more likely to be a character that Joe Newspaper Reader (and more importantly, Joe Newspaper Editor) has heard of, and I might keep his attention that way, and 2) my enthusiasm for L&R has waned. The former is a professional necessity if I want to keep the column going, the latter is a matter of taste. And in defense of the former, I have to note (with envy) that the Great Northwest tends to be more educated, more upscale and more sophisticated in its tastes. In my local shop [store name withheld] in Memphis, TN, Love & Rockets #1 may sell two or three copies, whereas Green Arrow will sell in three figures. In fact, one of the reasons that [name withheld] is doing the "indie" reviews on my Web site is precisely because he lives in an area where they are available -- most of the books he reviews I've never seen and can only be had by mail order in the Mid-South. I post Randy on the Web site, where he's likely to reach a receptive audience. In the newspaper column, though, I write for a national general audience, not simply comics fans or the Northwest. It's a tougher sell.
So does that mean I'm blowing you off? Not in the least. Since I have little to say about L&R -- again, a matter of taste -- I'll let YOU say it. I'll just run your letter in the next column I file, and let YOU sell Love & Rockets to the great unwashed. Fair enough?
And if it helps, my next two newspaper columns are on non-superhero fare. The first is about three of NBM's offerings (Mystery of Mary Rogers, Boneyard and Wake Vol. 1) and the next is on Humanoids Inc. (The Nikopol Trilogy, From Cloud 99).
Thanks again for taking the time to write. Don't hesitate to write again -- and feel free to check the Web site, too. There have been a number of letters and articles there extolling the virtues of Love & Rockets. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if your letter provokes a few more!

Oh, how cheap to defend his disinterest in talking about L&R just because it’s not something widely recognized! Isn’t that what he’s supposed to be the business for, so it could garner wider recognition? And Kevin Smith’s take on GA was overrated, as were Brad Meltzer and Judd Winick’s takes on Ollie Queen, so honestly, what was the whole point of bothering at the expense of L&R?

Hi Cap: FAX Finds: an interview with legendary artist Neal Adams (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, The Avengers, Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future), dealing with his latest project -- a graphic novel about the earth's geologic evolution, a work that Adams claims will revolutionize science! This was presented in the March, 2001, WIRED magazine but is now available online:
I picked up the magazine when it was on newsstands just for the Adams bit (never been a big WIRED reader), and the print version has two pages from the above-mentioned book, "A Conversation Between Two Guys In A Bar, OR, A New Model Of The Universe" (yes really ...). Now, I'm a nut for Adams art, and it was pretty cool to pick up Adams artwork (never mind NEW Adams artwork!) off the newsstands rather than a comics shop, but it was a bit sad to see him skewered (and subsequently schlump away in denial) rather easily -- and plausibly, even by my laymanship -- by, well, you know, ACTUAL SCIENTISTS. The article is instructive as to what all the hoo-hah is about Adams and why he was "all that" in comics to the young-uns, though ...
(Plus), the regular comics column by Douglas Wolk in Publisher's Weekly continues:
The spotlight is on cultural diversity: the emergence of manga from Japan as a force in the North American comics business (as evidenced by the successes of Lone Wolf and Cub, Akira and the publishers Viz and CPM Manga), the relaunch of Love and Rockets, the African-American pulp adventure hero Black Jack (which I've read and is a very good book), and the emergence of European publisher The Humanoids Group (The Incal, Metabarons, The Nikopol Trilogy). Plus a bit on the recent Alternative Press Expo (APE) held in San Francisco.
PS. Cap, they put over Eagle (from Viz) again. I don't recall if you're reading this, but you absolutely should. Worth the seven buck every month.
Thanks for keeping an -- ahem -- Eagle eye out for cool stuff, […]! I haven't gotten my grubby mitts on a copy of Eagle yet, and kick myself for how much I've missed. Perhaps they'll release a TPB at some point, and I can catch up.
And yes, I've heard of Adams's, eh, unconventional geological theories, and suspected he'd get shot down if he made enough noise to be noticed. But you can't fault Adams for hiding his light under a bushel -- he certainly deserves all the credit he gets for screaming about work-for-hire years ago and making profound changes in how the comics industry does business. And certainly the established scientific community can have blind spots, as Monty Python would say, by "hanging on to outmoded dogma which perpetuates an aristocracy." But Adams's "scientific" theory seems more fancy than fact, and his protestations remind me more than a little of the Flat Earth Society. I'll have to check out that article!

Has he ever heard of lying? Because that’s what he does as a journalist, even when he’s talking about Adams. And speaking of flat, that’s what his writing is like. Much like a pancake!

In reference to your commentary (in the JLA/Avengers column):
Oh, Cap -- from you, of all people, I scarcely expected such calumny. Such a perpetuation of an untruth -- tsk tsk. It's as bad as when some insist that Kennedy was the youngest President or that Lindburgh was the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
Cap, ol' buddy, Snapper Carr was not -- repeat, not -- the Justice League "mascot".
From his inception, in The Brave and the Bold # 28 and for 75 adventures thereafter, Snapper Carr was an honorary member of the Justice League. He actually appeared in a higher percentage of Fox/Sekowsky stories than J'onn J'onzz or Aquaman. And never -- not once -- was the word "mascot" applied toward Snapper.
Not until JLA #77, when Denny O'Neil -- who by that time had established his penchant for not knowing, ignoring, or jettisoning the established histories of the JLA characters -- called Snapper a "mascot". O'Neil, who had already butchered the Martian Manhunter's background and history and was now about to rewrite Snapper a completely unbelievable personality all for the sake of a "neat idea," didn't even know enough about the character to establish his true status with the League. He could only have made that change out of
ignorance, since it would not have affected the events of his story one whit to have called Snapper an honorary member, instead of a ... "mascot".
Yet, after 76 stories with Snapper properly listed as an honorary member, what do the readers remember? O'Neil's woefully inaccurate presentation. Shades of Mencken's Bathtub Hoax!
OK, so the general readership can be taken in; but I never thought that such a comics expert like yourself would fall for such drivel.
I know! Yesterday's commentary was written by the evil Captain Comics of Earth-Three! Who are you and what have you done with the real Captain Comics?

Well, I don't recall ever claiming that Kennedy was the youngest president (he was the youngest elected at the time, I believe, but if memory serves Teddy Roosevelt was younger when he acceded to office after the assassination of McKinley in 1901 but older when he was elected in his own right in 1904). Nor do I ever remember ever claiming that Lindbergh -- ahem, that's the correct spelling, ahem -- was the first to "hop" the Atlantic in an airplane (he was the first to do it solo, beating out a lot of competition). But as to Snapper ... well, perhaps he wasn't ever referred to as a mascot by Gardner Fox, but I think I was calling a spade a spade. Since I'm too polite to argue the semantics, I'll turn it over to the Captain Comics of the Crime Syndicate of Earth-Three, who has no such compunctions (and did indeed write that column):
"So, puny mortal, all those years at sea have rotted your brain with salt water! Of course Snapper was a mascot, which Webster's defines as 'any person, animal or thing adopted by a team to bring good luck.' Add 'comedy relief' to that definition, and you've got Snapper, a retro-beatnik whose dialogue was some ersatz '50s hipster nonsense that was not only passe in the '60s, but never actually heard in use by real people on any planet, including mine! (We killed the Beatniks, starting with Jack Kerouac, and ate their brains. We spoke in bad quatrains for a few days after, but otherwise it was a satisfying experience.) He participated in a precious few adventures, mostly appearing at the beginning and end of each story, brown-nosing the JLA and picturing Wonder Woman naked. And citing his appearances as superceding Aquaman's -- well, HA!, I say! We've had our Aqua-boob cleaning fish tanks for the last 30 years. We'd have killed him and eaten his brains, too, worthless sea slug that he is, except we were afraid we might actually start hearing what fish had to say and it would drive us mad."
Perhaps a bit harsh, that CC of Earth-Three. But you have to give him points for style. Here's a related comment:

Curious how the correspondent – a pretty pretentious one at that – talks about how the audience can be taken in. People like him and Mr. Smith sure seem taken in by his propaganda that Jean Loring, Snapper Carr, Aquaman and other characters like them were just crap, yet they continue in their refusal to visit the forest to see the trees. And what’s with that dumb nonsense about Snapper picturing WW naked? Why does he claim Snapper fantasized stuff like that but not that he’d want to ask her out on a date and make love to her? Yeah, seriously, how doesn’t that figure in? But hey, it gets worse:

Cap: You wondered, "how do you become a super-team mascot?" I believe that you become a Super-Team Mascot by:
1) Finding and hanging around the Compound or Hideout. Since superheroes don't usually kill, this provides a blackmail option if one is rejected.
2) Mastering the art of being likable and equally irritating as to not getting beat up or arrested as an Obsessive Fan.
3) Being bright enough to be periodically useful and dumb enough or overly curious to regularly get in trouble, so the heroes don't get bored between galactic battles.
4) Probably most important. Being willing to mop the floor, clean the kitchen and work for free. Wouldn't you like to see the address for the Fortress of Solitude on the janitor's W-2?
Fortress of Solitude
123 Cold Street
Secretsville, North Pole
So THAT'S how it's done! I always wondered how the incredibly useless and irritating Snapper Carr got the gig, before the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League established him as the handyman. Still, I'm pretty sure it's Aquaman's job to clean the pool at JLA headquarters.

Another moment he should’ve looked in the mirror to see who the real irritant was. What a dummy, denouncing Carr as worthless and grating, yet never calling out Gardner Fox for failing expectations. Hey, if Carr’s “useless” then so too is Betty Brant!

Dear Cap: One of the worst "crimes" that a person can do to oneself is to waste his or her talents and thus end up not actualising the potential for growth. It is even worse when the talent given is to have a natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes. It may not be a paranormal ability but it is no less "super-human" of and in its own existence. This ability is what made the DC comic-book character Mr. Terrific (Terry Sloane) so interesting to me when I first read about his ability. I had considered it to be a matter of loss when they killed him off in the classic JLA/JSA annual team-up when they faced the Spirit King. That is why I tried as much as possible getting my hands on reading material that had him playing an active role. Terry Sloane may be gone but there is a new Mr. Terrific with yes, a natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes and he too has taken up the mantle of being the Defender of Fair Play. That is no easy role to play in an imperfect world where things are not seen in black and white but in shades of grey and compromises have to be made.
(Also), I hope that the collaborators of the highly-anticipated JLA/Avengers crossover would not have the two teams fighting each other. It is a tired old plot device. I could see the teams seeking to be informed of the powers and abilities of the individuals on either side, so that they could be effective in accomplishing their goals and reducing the possibilities of dire consequences due to mistakes.
No need to worry about JLA/Avengers becoming JLA vs. Avengers, [name withheld] -- Kurt Busiek is on record that he's not doing Marvel vs. DC/DC vs. Marvel, because, as he correctly notes, "That's already been done." His approach, as announced at MegaCon, is to develop a threat that will test the two teams in terms of both raw power and their ability to work together. Sounds great to me!
I'm also enjoying the new Mr. Terrific in JSA, […] -- he is arguably the most versatile character on the team (including Sentinel), able to pull off a MacGyver at any time in convincing fashion. ("Let's see, I've got duct tape, a broom and three spools of thread -- think I'll build a tank!")

If Mr. Smith had any “talent”, he threw it away long ago, showing no courage to tackle hard issues like whether the medium’s reps are capable of doing really bad things. Incidentally, I wonder why he’s comparing Mr. Terrific to MacGyver? Whatever inventions Michael Holt sported, they weren’t built the same way Richard Dean Anderson’s hero did it. No, they were mainly tech-based.

Hi! I am a relative newcomer to your Web site, and so far I`m enjoying all features. Just a little correction, though. I see that you`re using the adjective "uber" quite a lot these days. The pedantic monster in me must direct you to put umlauts over that "u", the German preposition is written "(u-umlaut)ber". All right?
Right you are, [...], and thanks for letting me explain why I do certain things. (I'm something of a pedantic monster myself!)
There's no need to correct me on Deutsch, as I took several years of it at university and still can speak a smattering. ("Ich verstehe nicht!") I don't use the umlaut because A) I have to go through keycaps gymnastics to type it, and B) a great many US browsers can't handle it, and it will convert it to nonsense symbols when a reader pulls it up on the screen. I also don't use the tilde and Spanish and French accent marks, and a great many other uncommon symbols (well, uncommon in English, anyway). I only recently started using the number sign (#) after five years on the Net, as that symbol has finally become universal (thanks to Word2000, which is ubiquitous enough that most browsers have become compatible with it). I even have to replace long dashes with "--" on all incoming press releases, mail and columns, or it will read as "&(7;" on a great many systems. (If you ever see that, it means I missed one.)
We're still in the Model-T stage on the Internet, and it will take a while for everything to shake out to where I'm confident to use symbols that might ALSO be used in HTML, Java and CGI programming -- and confuse the heck out of browsers. "Uber" without the umlaut may not be technically correct, but at least it's legible -- whereas "&(;7ber" is not.
But thanks for the gentle correction. Trust me that I'm eager to use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation in all cases, English or not. I can't wait 'til we get to the Ferrari stage of the Internet!

No, he could, because he didn’t bother to upgrade to that level!

Hi, Cap! I just wanted to tell you that you have made a big mistake at your silly names section. Rodimus Prime is a crappy character, you´re right about that, but the "imus" ending, and the "prime" surname means that that autobot has the Matrix. When Optimus Prime "died" after his battle with Megatron, he gave the Matrix to Ultra Magnus, who just carried it around for about 20 minutes before being killed. While dying, he gave the Matrix to Hot Rod, who was the biggest autobot (jerk) at that moment, but he was also the only autobot nearby. By some reason, the Matrix accepted Hot Rod, and transformed him in Rodimus Prime. Which means that he passed from transforming in a sportscar, to transforming in a cannon, or some kind of mini-van. And he still sucks. Anyway, that´s why he's called Rodimus Prime, although he started as Hot Rod.
Not being a Transformer expert, [name withheld], I turned your letter over to someone who is: [name and location withheld], who wrote a column on this site for two years. He said:
Well, I wouldn't have used the "colorful metaphors" (as Spock would put it) but what he wrote is pretty much on the ball. Yes, Rodimus Prime is a still a silly name. There is a logic -- however twisted -- behind it, though. – [withheld again]
And now we've all learned something!

Another correspondent goofs: robots are no different from flesh-and-blood humans/aliens, and any errors in their ascribed personality traits must be attributed to the assigned writers and software engineers as much as any other malfunction. If you don’t like their current file setup, then for crying out loud, reprogram it! Something tells me if a robot tried telling Mr. Smith and his correspondent their error in logic, they’d reject even a machine’s argument. In that case, not everyone’s learned anything! Not even on March 21, 2001:

Dear Cap:
<<GA suddenly had an irritating personality in Justice League of America like the popular Hawkeye did in Avengers. -- Captain Comics>>
See? It's just what I've always said: Hawkeye's better. He even had a personality before Green Arrow did. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!
That being said, I did enjoy Green Arrow #1. It was an excellent set-up issue because it told the readers the most important details of the main character's history, setting us up for the issues to come. Knowing Kevin Smith's writing, there was probably some nearly-hidden foreshadowing in the issue. (If anyone missed it, they should pick up his run on Daredevil. I believe Marvel has already put it into a TPB.)
"Also in fiscal 2000, the Company recorded a charge of $17.9 million to write off the remaining goodwill associated with its comic-book and strategy-guide publishing business."
Can someone translate this into non-businessman language? What do they mean by "goodwill?" And does this mean that Acclaim would be willing to sell their characters as assets?
I can't translate the specifics of Acclaim's business double-talk -- perhaps another correspondent can explain what "goodwill" means in this context -- but the last line about their publishing plans "not including comic books" is pretty straightforward.
On GA: Y'know, I've always preferred Hawkeye to GA, and never really wondered why. You'd think I'd prefer Green Arrow, since he appeared first and has a more iconic look (Robin Hood). (Hawkeye's carnival get-up always seemed impractical to me, not to mention that it's in "villain" colors.) I guess it's subconsciously because Hawkeye ALWAYS had a personality -- even dating back to his Tales of Suspense appearances, where he was a lovestruck boob -- whereas GA was a cipher until 1969 when he had a personality surgically (and abruptly) added. (For 74 issues of JLA he was a get-along superguy; suddenly he was arguing with everybody.) I guess subconsciously I always thought of the Emerald Archer as a pale copy of Hawkeye, even though he debuted 20-something years earlier. It's the same reason I never warmed up to Mockingbird; she appeared to be a clumsy (and implausible) attempt by Marvel to give Hawkeye a "pretty bird" girlfriend like Green Arrow.

While I’m a fan of Hawkeye, I should note he could’ve been written with the same “irritating” personality these clowns say Green Arrow was given later, and that would not have been his fault. In fact, it wasn’t even Danny Chase/Phantasm’s fault for having any annoying characteristics in New Teen Titans later on. No matter how much I respect Marv Wolfman as a writer, it was his fault, and any readers who took out their anger against Danny instead of voicing disappointment with Wolfman for being slapdash acted ridiculously. Including Mr. Smith. Funny how he almost –but not quite – admits Marvel’s writers made what he thinks is a “clumsy” attempt to give Hawkeye a paramour in Mockingbird, even though it took at least a decade after her creation in 1971 before the twosome paired and wed, and proceeded to lead the West Coast Avengers in the mid-80s. Now let’s focus on another letter by a possible moonbat:

Dear Cap: I, too, am looking forward to the upcoming Justice League/Avengers crossover (has it been 20 years ALREADY?!?) -- especially in light of the disappointing Marvel vs. DC/DC Vs. Marvel from a while back. Kurt Busiek & George Perez are, I believe, taking the right approach here: The fact that these heroes WON'T fight each other, instead saving it for whatever cosmic menace they face, is a huge plus!
My biggest beef: it just isn't the same JLA without Barry Allen (darned Crisis!), Hal Jordan, Katar Hol from Thanagar or the Silver Age Aquaman. I must be in the minority in my preference for Aquaman as the blonde, beautiful swimmer who "talked to fish" & NOT the raging, pirate hippie he's become in recent years! (Yes, I'm gay.)
On the other hand, Mssrs. Busiek & Perez state that this will be the very FIRST meeting of the two teams -- so I guess ANYTHING'S possible!
As it stands, the possibilities are endless! Just imagine:
Snapper Carr & Rick Jones hanging out, swapping stories about their days as sidekicks, etc.
Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp) having the hots for Ray Palmer (The Atom) ...or vice versa! They both went through messy divorces & could very well find solace in other: to the envy on one Henry Pym! By the way, are Hank & Jan still divorced or did they reach some kind of reconciliation? It's been so LONG since I've read an Avengers comic.
Highly unlikely, perhaps, but I think an Alfred Pennyworth/Edwin Jarvis teaming would be a real hoot! Granted, Alfred never worked for the Justice League, but his employer is a VERY prominent member of said group, no?
Superman could find himself leading the Avengers (what would THEY make of such an immensely, powerful man?), while Captain America leads the Justice League at one point (Batman's not one to take orders from someone he'd view as just ANOTHER Big Blue Boy Scout!)
Just a few suggestions of my own, is all.
This Justice League/Avengers crossover should, hopefully, be on the scale of the best JLA/JSA team-ups of yore, considering the talent involved in the project. And for four large-formatted issues at nearly six bucks apiece, it SHOULD be!
Heh! I can just imagine the Jarvis/Alfred scenes! ("So, Edwin, how do you handle large amounts of debris?" "I tell Lockjaw it's a doggy treat. Say, what do you do when Master Bruce comes home with a plasma burn?" "Oh, I find a little butter works wonders!")
Fine suggestions, and my only regret about a Snapper/Rick Jones scene is that neither Peter David nor Tom Peyer would be writing it. That's not a slight on the immensely talented Mr. Busiek, but David & Peyer are the only writers in close to 40 years who've managed to make me like Jones and Carr, respectively.
Oh, and Hank & Jan have indeed reconciled (although Busiek has a subplot currently where a mysterious second Henry Pym has appeared as Yellowjacket, kidnapped the first Pym and surreptitiously taken his place as Goliath in the Avengers. Where that's going is anybody's guess.) Incidentally, Jan did take solace in the arms of another superhero during her marital separation -- with Tony "Iron Man" Stark! As far as I know, Pym has never discovered this infidelity, and the issue has never been addressed. It was hinted at in the "Elseworlds"-like Fantastic Four: Big Town, where Van Dyne and Stark were having a full-blown affair behind Pym's back -- but again, there was no resolution. Fodder for the future, I suppose.
Oh, and speaking of sidekicks, [name withheld] still takes issue with the term as applied to Snapper Carr:

Oh good grief, this brings to mind one of the worst problems pursuing mainstream comics today – LGBT activists have been trying to hijack them. We could do without that sleazy talk the correspondent brings up, which is a basic emphasis on his sexual orientation (and people say heterosexuals shouldn’t be big on their views! Such hypocrisy). Now about the next letter with Snapper Carr:

A tip of the chapeau to you, Cap, for noting the distinctions about Kennedy and Lindbergh that most folks do not (and for identifying the true youngest President). But as for the issue of Snapper Carr's status and his JLA appearances superseding some of the other members, your evil counterpart on Earth-Three needs some enlightenment.
Captain Comics of Earth-Three:
Perhaps Snapper Carr was an inane, language-impaired benchwarmer on your side of the misty borderland, pal, but that was far from the case with the Snapper of Earth-One. First things first, however.
Whatever definitions for "mascot" one may produce, there is no escaping the fact that the conclusion of the JLA story in The Brave and the Bold #28 plainly depicted Snapper being made an honorary member of the Justice League. Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! And the text of every JLA story in which he appeared thereafter -- up to the slanderous JLA #77 -- stated he was an honorary member. Snapper may have fit the definition of "mascot", but his status was honorary member. Granted, Snapper remained behind in the Secret Sanctuary on many a mission; but to use that to deny his JLA membership is as incorrect as it would be to state that Lieutenant Uhura was not a crew member of the starship Enterprise just because she stayed on the bridge more often than not.
No doubt the Snapper of your world was a loser, since good must always triumph over evil -- a lesson your fellow Crime Syndicators learnt back in 1964, when they tried to conquer the Justice League and the Justice Society, and got their cowls handed to them on a platter. But the record on Earth-One shows a Snapper who did more than just dust off the inert Amazo android in the Trophy Room. A review of the 65 Justice League stories written by Gardner Fox (as well as the JLA's appearances in other Silver Age comics) shows that Snapper was right there in the thick of things, alongside his fellow JSAers, when they fought:
The Lord of Time and Felix Faust, in JLA #10
The Tornado Tyrant, in JLA #17
"I", in JLA #27
The Key, in both JLA #41 and #63
Warring tribesman, in JLA #57
Dr. Destiny, in JLA #61
T. O. Morrow, in JLA #65
Not to mention tackling Kanjar Ro with the rest of the League in Mystery in Space #75 and a bunch of gangsters, with some surreptitious help from The Atom, in The Atom #4.
Besides just joining in the action, Snapper actually saved the day for the Justice League and/or a world in the following adventures against:
Despero, in JLA #1
Pete Ricketts, in JLA #8
The champions of the Micro-World, in JLA #18
The Royal Flush Gang, in JLA #43
Two Felix Fausts, in JLA #49
Moreover, the rest of the membership sufficiently respected Snapper's maturity and judgment to permit him to sit on the court of enquiry -- along with Superman and Batman -- to determine if Green Arrow had betrayed the Justice League, in JLA #5; and he was the subject of envy from no less than Robin, the Boy Wonder, for his League membership (JLA #50).
Pretty good record for someone "incredibly useless and irritating", eh, evil Cap? Now, shoo back to Earth-Three, before somebody places you in a impenetrable bubble, too.
Heh heh.

Well, you've convinced me, […], that if nothing else Gardner Fox intended for Snapper to be regarded as a full League member -- although later writers clearly thought less of him. JLA #77, which you mentioned, even made him (implausibly) a traitor to the League, and he's been more-or-less a joke ever since. In fact, JLA: Year One established that he was no more than a handyman in the Secret Sanctuary. But for your rousing defense, I'll dub thee Snapper Carr Fan #01, and -- awp! It's the Captain Comics of Earth-Three!
"Shut your sniveling mouth, cousin! Your get-along, mealy-mouthed reasonable attitudes disgust me! I'm ashamed to share your name! If I wasn't worried that I'd warp the space/time continuity and somehow wipe myself out, I'd shut your fetid trap for good!
"As to your goody two-shoes [...], I have to say that I much prefer our Earth-Three version, who currently has Snapper Carr cleaning out the heads of the USS Benedict Arnold -- with his tongue! And there are hundreds of them! Hah! No more than he deserves! And -- Awp!"
Thank God the Comics Cave is equipped with impenetrable bubbles. I don't think we'll be hearing much from the Captain Comics of Earth-Three for a while. Now if only I can find somebody to transport him to a misty borderland, and write all those signs in multiple alien languages warning folks not to free him ... !

Gee, just several letters earlier, Mr. Smith was calling Snapper irritating and useless, and here too, he can’t seem to let go of that stupidity. It’s not just the successive writers who held low opinions of Snapper, it’s Smith too. And, I’ve a sad feeling that, despite what the correspondent’s telling, he’s not a Snapper fan either, because, as mentioned before, he supported Identity Crisis with little or no misgivings. His is an argument I don’t place a high value on. Don't be surprised if he holds similar thoughts about Edwin Jarvis, butler for Tony Stark and Avengers mansion.

Dear Cap: Thanks for printing my letter. When I read the letter and your response concerning continuity, I knew I had to write.
Don't even get me started about continuity. I hate it when I spot something an editor should've caught. I try not to be too anal when it comes to it but, sometimes, when the mistake is so stupid or so unnecessary, I write in.
If there's any group of titles that definitely needs a continuity cop, it's the Bat-titles! Here are two examples:
Pre-Crisis, Barbara Gordon was the daughter of James Gordon. At some point post-Crisis I-- 'm not exactly sure when -- Barb suddenly became his niece, and he adopted her when her parents, his brother & wife, died. Now, in a recent issue of Batman: Gotham Knights, it's been revealed that James Gordon is her father because he had an affair with his brother's wife. This, from the cop who was once pure as the driven snow, changed by (Frank) Miller in "Batman: Year One" into a disgraced Chicago cop come to Gotham for a second chance. Thanks, guys. Were any of these trips really necessary?
The other example refers to the Bat-vehicles. Once upon a time, pre-Crisis, Batman had, among his arsenal, a Batplane and a Batboat. Sometime prior to Zero Hour, if he had to go either out of state/out of country on a case, (unless it occurs in JLA where he still has a Batplane) he has to borrow the Waynetech company jet. To go up against a modern-day pirate menacing the Gotham waterfront, he had to borrow a drug dealer's powerboat that had been impounded. Why should he have to steal either (well, since he is Bruce Wayne, he really isn't stealing the Waynetech jet) when he should still have a Batplane & boat at his disposal?
Speaking of continuity, that panel you reprinted from Avengers Annual #10 ... do you or [name withheld] know if that particular plot point, the little darlin' Maddy Pryor, was ever resolved or cleared up? A friend of mine pointed that out to me after Scott Summers began dating Madeline Pryor, during the Paul Smith run on Uncanny X-Men.
[name withheld] is referring to a Comics Buyer's Guide column I wrote, in which editor Brent Frankenhoff dredged up a scene from the 1981 Avengers Annual #10 (the first appearance of Rogue) which showed a young Maddy Pryor. Since Maddy has since been established as a clone of Jean Grey, I can only say, "What th -- ?" I guess we must assume that Mr. Sinister -- who's been planning his "ultimate mutant" for decades, remember -- cloned Ms. Grey shortly after birth and had his Maddy Pryor grow up independently. We have to guess that, because as far as I can recall, that scene (written by Chris Claremont) hasn't ever been addressed.
As to the Bat-continuity -- I'm not aware that the Bat-vehicles have been written out in any way. I assumed in the instances you mentioned that Batman used the vehicles he did for expediency and/or secret ID purposes.
And Batman: Year One didn't establish Gordon as a disgraced cop -- quite the contrary. The reason given for Gordon's leaving the Chicago PD is that he turned in a fellow cop for corruption (and refused to be bribed himself), resulting in his fellow officers ostracizing him. He was too CLEAN for Chicago, not too disgraced.
And Barbara Gordon's post-Crisis status as Jim's niece was established as early as Secret Origins #20 (Nov 87). Jim's affair with his sister-in-law is an eye-opener, but it does explain a closer bond with Babs -- and it makes Jim that much more human in my eyes. His troubled marriage is long documented, and it's disappointing, but not surprising, that he would seek comfort elsewhere. In short, Jim has always been portrayed as an unhappy, unlucky, imperfect man doing his best -- in stark contrast to the always-perfect Batman -- and gives texture and humanity to Bat-stories that might otherwise be fairly sterile. I'm OK with it.

But I’m not OK with his pretensions. Even his claim Batman’s always perfect is exaggerated at best, because there are times when the Masked Manhunter got injured.

And this wraps up the current batch of letters. The next one will be coming soon.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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