Old School vs. New School

Over the weekend, Newsarama posted a New Avengers: Illuminati themed Q&A with Brian Michael Bendis, in which the writer answered questions posted by fans and readers alike.

The talkback section was preceding normally until She Hulk writer Dan Slott appeared to defend the idea that The Hulk had, in fact, never caused anyone in the Marvel Universe to die (an important plot point in the Illuminati book). Then all hell broke loose.

What came out of the madness was a central question: Which kind of comics do people prefer — old school or new school?

One poster described the two classifications thusly:

The Marvel universe as Slott describes it in his posts here is basically a Silver Age style superhero universe. The superheroes are good, noble people and amazing totally unrealistic things happen on every page. but who cares? It’s meant to be fun, uplifting, exciting adventure and fantasy. It’s best illustrated by a Mark Bagley or a George Perez. For a long time this is what superhero comics WERE. Think of Busik’s Avengers, or Neiceza’s New Warriors, or Slott’s Thing and She-Hulk.

The Marvel Universe as Bendis describes it is a post-modern, self-concious place of stylized-realism. Superheroes talk and act more like real people but they are also usually much more screwed up, and frequently seem to be embarassed about putting on the spandex and being superheroes (if they really do it at all). When they do (often because of personal issues) the results are just as often dramatic, morally compromised and/or disturbing. Realism is enforced when the writer wants, but most frequently when the results would be really bad. Best illustrated by a Fitch or a Van Schriver. Think Ultimates, Morrison’s X-Men, Identity Crisis, Daredevil, ect…

Having waded through the majority of the posts in that Newsarama thread, I was frankly quite shocked at some people’s viewpoints. Not just about storytelling style, but about The Hulk, and why kids don’t read comics, and the state of the industry in general.

Newsarama seems inordinately packed with Dan Slott fans, so the deck, in this case, is stacked against Bendis. Yet, somehow Bendis’ books far, far, far outsell Slott’s books. That must mean something.

I’m not going to spell out my viewpoints, or those of the rest of Team iFanboy. I think the three of us fall along three different points of the storytelling spectrum (and I think it’s a spectrum, it’s not black and white — whoops, that’s a viewpoint!), but anyone who has listened to the podcasts can probably figure out where we stand. We will certainly jump in here, but I want to see where this unfolds first.

Now, I love Newsarma, and I might be biased, but I think we here at iFanboy can have a (slightly) more intelligent conversation without resorting to the petty [my thing] is the best, [your thing] sucks! routine that Newsarama often dissolves into.

To me, my fanboys (and girls)!


  1. Both Old School and New school comics offer up their own uniqueness, and thus it’s really hard to choose one over the other.

    Old School (AKA, The Silver Age)– The silver age should be known just for giving us the ground work for great stories. The silver age gave us Barry Allen as the Flash, and Spider-man, and so on and so forth. Comics during this period were just plain fun. They had wacky villians, and sometimes ridiculous plot lines, but they also delivered powerful, defining stories which actually caused waves within the comics industry (IE The Death of Gwen Stacy, Dark Pheonix Saga). During this time, we also had thought out plotlines and crossovers. If a crossover occured, it wasn’t a cheap marketing ploy, but a storyline in progress. They weren’t just thrown in there for no apparent reason, like we find in some of today’s comics. But this era should be remembered most for introducing us to our favorite characters, and setting the damn standards for this industry.

    New School (AKA, The Golden/Modern Age)– Again, this ‘era’ delivers some of it’s own genius, yet is weighed down HEAVILY with bad points that the prior era was not privy too. Of course, during this era we have great stories, and because of the added touch of realism we get a more human side of the heroes, when they’re not in they’re spandex and tights. One has to realize that this was the way the industry was eventually heading; Silver Age stories can only hold interests for so long before becoming repetitive. Now we have darker more human stories with twists and turns that leave us wanting more, and leaving us satisfied once it ends.
    But then there’s the bad. The Goldern/Modern Age attempted to many crossovers and marketing ploys, all of which decimated continuity and the stories for years (IE Clone Saga). Now, as previously stated, during the silver age and occasionally during this age, we get stories which actually strike a cord with us, causing waves in the sea of comics. Nowadays, we have so many stories which offer gritty murders, rape, swearing, and other ‘realistic’ items so often, that’s its become so banal and trite that it really doesn’t mean anything anymore when a character dies (that point is especially justified by the returns of Bucky and Jason Todd, who, when they died, left such an impact on their respective heroes, and now that they’ve returned, who’s to say anyone elses death isn’t permanent or has any lasting ramnifications?). Of course the modern age has great stories, Daredevil, Identity Crisis, and The entire Ultimates Line (too name a few), but after so many years of continuity and monthly/weekly stories at a time featuring a character, it’s almost as if they have nowhere to go (As deomnstrated in ‘The Other’, where Peter is given new powers and a new ‘psuedo-origin’ for his spider powers), making it really hard to have a good story. Of course DC has huge events that always leave ramnifications, but whilst Marvel also has events of this calibur, it’s really hard to see hardcore lasting ramnifications. House of M really hasn’t changed the status quo of the X-books that much (aside from a page or two of the teams dealing with the depowerment), yet DC is constantly morphing and changing their entire respective communities. (This issue probably has to do with Marvel’s more consistent Movie Release schedule, seeing as how Superman Returns/Batman Begins are the first movies for like…9 years or so(?), and Spider-Man 1/2, X-men 1/2, Daredevil, Hulk, Fantastic Four, all came out within this prior decade, usually at a movie or two a year, thus it’s a marketing decision too give the readers stories that are familiar with the characters in the movies. This causes Marvel to avoid any huge, lasting changes that would cause a potential ‘addict’ to be turned off of the comics because they don’t know the characters histories or personalities, due to the difference between the book and the movies.)

    In short, the silver age gave us breathing room to write good stories without having to worry about continuity, and give us new concepts (Multiverse; Crisis on Infinite Earths) and heartfelt stories which made us care for the hero (Gwen’s Death;Spider-Man). Now in the modern age, we still have great stories which we can use more realistic tones to assist in storytelling, we are now bogged down by multiple stories over 40 years which have covered almost every ground possible for the mainstream universes (Which brings us the concepts of What If? for Marvel, and Elseworlds for DC). Marketing, now more then ever, is also affecting the way Marvel writes their comics, making it hard for them to experiment and go way out of their way with crazy concepts and new, drastic changes. DC, on the otherhand, has a multitude of jumbled plot points (AKA Power Girl (formely confused plot point)) and has a bunch of dark, dark, dark stories which are all too common these days, meaning that they have to increasingly mess around with events and resurrections making it harder and harder for a reader to jump in, due to plot points spread over EVERY title (Seriously, do I need to buy a million books to understand that Alexander Luthor is a bad guy?).

    All I can say in the end is that comics are still good, and that both jewels and piles of shit can be found in the Silver Age and Golden/Modern ages. So which is better? It all depends on what YOU prefer. There can be no penultimate conclusion to this conversation, because different people like different things, and it’s all a matter of opinon.

  2. You know, the whole idea that comics should be this or that is utterly rediculous. I loved me some 80’s claremont x-men, but did i need 20 more years of it? absolutely not! stories like these, the serialized, long-form story, needs to breathe and evolve.

    That’s the same reason I applaud DC for trying to tell some different stories than they’re used to. And I applaud Bendis for doing something different in the Marvel U, even if it isn’t my thing.

    But damnit, I don’t want to pay 3 bucks a month for the same fucking story. show me something new, even if continuity is toyed with, a la Illuminati special.

    (hooray for my first post!)

  3. And it was a good post too.

    You’re absolutely right in that, even if something is good, it isn’t good indefinitely. The nostaligiac people tend to want things to always stay the same and feel the same as they did when they started reading comics. It isn’t going to happen, and I couldn’t be happier. Everything new and good will eventually get old and rote.

  4. If you gentlemen will pardon my complete cop-out, I’ll have to say I’m very much in favor of a little of column A and a little of column B.

    Grim and gritty, everyone’s out to get me all out angst is just not my thing. That said, I cannot for the life of me make it through more than a few 50s-60s era comics at a time (one can only take so much expository dialogue after all). Realistic characterizations with engaging plotlines and moments of levity here and there on the other hand? Excellent.

    I suppose I don’t have much issue with the “silver age nostalgia” thing because I haven’t been reading comics for nearly as long as you guys. I can see how it would bother you to have to deal with writers who would very much like to take things back to the status quo circa their eleventh birthday (and before you were even born to boot) and when you look at it from that perspective, yeah, it does sound awful. Still, I love Brad Meltzer who professes himself to be a member of like the Silver Age Fanboy Fraternity or whatever, so in cases where stories like The Archer’s Quest or Identity Crisis result, I’m not inclined to think this type of writing is the Worst Thing Ever.

    Also, I suppose I should pad this by mentioning that I am absolutely the sappiest of romanitcs, and in that vein, what REALLY gets my goat is the obligatory disfunctional tripe that everyone and their mother feels they have to write into comic relationships to make them “realistic”. Do Ollie and Dinah really need to deal with each other like they’ve been plucked from As the World Turns? Come on people.

  5. I’m not sure if it is a debate between modern comics and actual Silver Age comics, rather a debae between two philosophies:

    – Superheroes should always be good and do the right thing and never hurt or kill anyone, even accidentally.

    – Superheroes are real(ish) people with faults who make mistakes, sometimes really serious mistakes.

    I think it’s a question of how much realism does one want in comics?

    To me, the claim that no one is ever killed when The Hulk goes on a rampage, or when The Rhino throws a bus at Spider-Man is utterly ridiculous. But apparently – at least according to that Newsarama debate – there are lots of fans out there who feel otherwise.

  6. Is there a difference between superhero stories and stories that are about superheroes?

    I think the Golden and Silver Ages established what a superhero is. They gave us the Who, What, Where, When and How of a new type of hero. I think they were marketed to kids and that explains the Good vs Evil that are easy to understand. In the Modern Age of comics, stories and characters became accessible to adult readers and I think we can thank/blame Alan Moore and his Watchmen. That series took silly/gimmicky characters and put them into a psychological story that was grounded with realism. Of course there were dark moments in superhero comics that came before Watchmen (Gwen Stacy getting tossed off a bridge wasn’t Peter’s best day), but I look at Watchmen as the point when comics became more and more gritty and dark.

    I think it was a natural progression, comic readers from the 60’s and 70’s grew up and still wanted to read stories with their favorite characters. They found stories that were grounded in dark realism to be more engaging than a slugfest between the Hulk and Rhino. However, chances are that the reason that those readers picked up their first comic book was the find out who was faster Superman or the Flash. Younger readers come to comics looking for battles of good vs evil. I think stories with clever grayish characters appeal less to young readers and when the industry shifts to put out more and more mature-ish stories, they isolate the young readers and make it difficult for a ten year old to come into comics.

    I think at this point in time there has been enough progression in comics that the industry can publish comics of different styles and find an audience (maybe I am being naive). I think Kurt Busiek and Brian Michael Bendis can both write kick ass Avengers stories. I was one of those fans who groaned at the idea of putting Spider-man and Wolverine into a “New Avengers”. It changed what I was used to about the title. It also seemed like too much of a marketing decision. To put Marvel’s two most popular characters into one title just felt more like an economic decision than a creative one. But I gave it a shot, and damn it, it has been good. I still miss Thor and they killed off Hawkeye (OMG a major character was killed??? How can they do that he was so cool!?!?), but eventually the “New” Avengers will get old again. Things change every 5 years or so. Heroes Reborn came and went and returned as Avengers Disassembled.

    One thing I would like to know. Since there are more than one Spider-man, X-Men, Batman, and Superman series, doesn’t that make enough room to write stories in all sorts of different styles? I think what we have today is an amalgam of styles and characterizations from past Ages.

    One thing last thing, and I am not sure if it is relevant or not, but it was Spidey’s who actually killed Gwen Stacy. There is that “SNAP” in the panel when he snags her. Yeah, it was Green Goblin that threw her off the bridge, and she would have died when she hit the water, but his webbing was what technically killed her. Her death was probably the most significant moment in Peter’s life since Uncle Ben’s death.

  7. I’m 22 when I was a kid I read Ninja Turtles X-men etc. all based on the catoons that i watched on saturday morning. I read them for years, couldnt tell you many times they made me think a whole lot, that was my silver age and if I do go back and read old actual silver age comimcs i get the same feeling. It’s like watching old war movies like The Dirty Dozen or The Great Escape or Bridge over River Kwai. They presented an image of war that was romantisized, we all know that war is a little more like Platoon or Saving Private Ryan. Which brings me to my point I dont remember being moved by silver age stories, but I remeber like it was yesterday reading “A Death in the Familty” like it was yesterday, because it was the first time
    I read a “New School” comic. “Old School” bothers me because Mark Millar told me so.

  8. Superheroes are sort of an antiquaited notion anyway aren’t they? Your point of view really depends on what you’re looking for. Some are looking for escapism, and some are looking for a compelling story. Occasionally they are one in the same.

    Sociologically, these stories are a marker of the time they live in. In the 30’s and 40’s superheroes came about because americans needed something to look up to. Life sucked. There was the depression, and an impending war. The 50’s? idealism makes hokey DC comics. 60’s and 70’s, revolutionary thinking and trippy drug influenced cosmic stories. The 80’s, depending on your point of view, it could either be economic properity, or severe crime and economic hardship, which I think is reflected in the “grim and gritty (cliche)” comics born in that time. In the 90’s and now, after the boom, we’re looking at a more post-modern type of comic book trend that looks back on it’s past and comments on itself, just as we do with the web, and nostalgiac television, and DVD extras. Everything gets examined from all points. The past is present as well as future. Comics are attmepting to be all things right now. The fact is that comics aren’t largely “realistic” now, but post-modern, in that they are what they are now, largely because of what they were in the past.

    It’s odd to me to complain about how comics are, since they’re going to be what they are. In that spectrum of comic styles, there will always be something for you, and something you don’t like, but there will also be overall trends which you can’t fight. And there will always be a group of people who want to stop the changes, which of course is futile.

    It’s funny, because Dan Slott’s work IS NOT a return to the silver age style, it’s a modern version of that, and therefore, it’s something new, born from something old, and it’s just referencing an earlier style. I for one, don’t really like that very much, but I hardly think She-Hulk is burning up the charts, and I know the Thing is on the verge of cancellation. What we’re really seeing here on Newsarama is that it just happens that these kinds of vocal people tend to be on Newsarama, and tend to post more, but it doesn’t indicate that they’re a majority in the comics reading public. They’re not. Otherwise Bendis would be out of a job, and Dan Slott would be the only guy writing more titles than Kirkman.

    Basically, get with the new, because it’s going with or without you. If you don’t like it, don’t buy new issues, and spend your money on old Marvel Masterworks and DVD’s of the Fantastic Four from the 60’s.

  9. What I find really interesting is that this seems to be a Marvel-only debate. I know that Marvel likes to consider themselves the more “realistic” of the two, but c’mon…

    It’s not. They’re both equally unrealistic, just in different ways.

    Not entirely pertinent, but just something that occured to me.

  10. It really depends on the hero at hand, Superman can play in a little of both fields, but a character like the punisher can go as crazy and people would say “Well yes, it’s the Punisher” it depends on the hero at hand and what you’re looking for at the time, in my opinion.

  11. Is the Punisher really a “superhero”.

    Maybe the problem is the definition of that term. Is the She-Hulk a hero, or just a genetic abnormality, resulting in the ability to be a superhero?

  12. I think that for the purposes of this discussion, anyone with their own book is a “superhero”. At least it seems that way from the argument on the other website. Are The Punisher, Catwoman, or The Hulk superheroes? I’d say no, but I think we’d have to say yes for these purposes.

  13. I disagree. That’s the whole point. If a character isn’t a do-gooder superhero, then why do the story if you’re just going to have them act like a superhero. I’m saying the argument is moot, because the notion of a superhero is an overused term. Yes, Superman is a superhero, and so is Batman, so the question of whether or not they should be good and only good is valid. If you come up with a character is not really a superhero, rather an ambiguous person in a costume, the whole point of the character is the question of whether they will do good or bad, and why they do it.

  14. I disagree. That’s the whole point. If a character isn’t a do-gooder superhero, then why do the story if you’re just going to have them act like a superhero.

    While I agree with this statement – those in the Newsarama thread do not, and that is where this discussion has sprung from.

    The Hulk doesn’t put on a suit and fight crime, he gets really angry and smashes stuff. Catwoman is a thief. The Punisher guns people down (Though never innocents! Again, according to the thread). These are not superheroes, yet they are being held to an unrealistic standard.

  15. What do people think – are The Punisher, The Hulk and Catwoman superheroes?

  16. I think that those three count as Superheroes. Technically, at it’s core, a superhero is someone with ‘super-human’ abilities (Such as Supermans strength, or Catwoman/Batmans physical attributes and skills) who perform ‘heroic’ stunts (aka fighting the bad guy). Hulk does that, Catwoman does that, Punisher does that, but in each of their own, different, psuedo-evil way. Just because they’re more extreme in their means of ‘superheroing’, doesn’t make them any less of a hero. Just because Superman is way more of a ‘boyscout’ then say, Daredevil or Batman, does that make him less of a hero?

  17. Gotta stop you right there Mav. Those people are “superhumans”. To be called a hero, I think they have to be doing things to help other people. Heroic things. Punisher is a vigilante, and I would hardly call his actions heroic, even if he has a streak heroism in him from time to time. Catwoman is a thief whose conscience gets the better of her from time to time. Hulk is a rampaging beast who has no control over his rage, so that’s hardly heroic either.

    Spider-Man is a hero. he forces himself to use his power to go out and do good for no other reason than that he should.

    I would say that acts of heroism constitute a hero. Now, currently that’s not the way we usually define it, but like I said, we define it too broadly.

  18. Well you have to think about what each ‘hero’ has done.

    The Hulk has almost always been there to help the other Marvel heroes. He sacrificed himself during Onslaught, he fought against the Mutant oppresors in House of M, and he was a founding member of the AVENGERS, one of the most heroic teams known to man.

    The Punisher, whilst more gritty and violent, doesn’t just go out and slaughter people. He’s attempting to make the streets safe. He kills criminals, gangsters, mob bosses, drug dealers, all in an attempt to save anyone from going through what he had to, the death of his entire family.

    Catwoman, is probably straining the definition. Sure, she’s a thief, but she’s also a hero, for she helped Batman on multiple occasions (No Man’s Land), but she’s also protecting Gotham’s East End. Sure, she’s also a catburglar, and a murderer (the murder, however, was under extreme circumstances; See Catwoman #52, for her last act as Catwoman.) So, she’s a hero, but also a thief…but theif’s aren’t EVIL, just morally bankrupt.

    Actually….scratch that (no pun intended). Catwoman was a horrible, horrible movie, and thus it’s obvious she’s a villian for unleashing that upon the world.

  19. helping do the right thing doesn’t necessarily qualify one for hero status. It think it goes beyong that. You’re expected to do the right thing. That should be the norm. The Hero is the one who goes above and beyond, sacrificing themselves to do what they know to be right.

    Also, that thing they know is right, actually has to be a good thing. Because I’m sure Hitler considered himself a hero. Not sure that’s germaine, but I had to cover my bases, and what academic argument is complete without Hitler?

  20. Okay, first of, I have to just say that I LOVE Dan Slott’s She-Hulk and Thing books. I also have to say I LOVE Bendis’s Daredevil, New Avengers, USM, etc. stuff. Short of the Shulkie/Hulk debate, I don’t understand why these two storytelling devices/POVs can’t coexist.

    I mean, look at Astro City. Now, I think Buseik hqs outed himself as one of the “Neo-Silver Agists,” and yet tells stories, in that series, in both ways — depending on what best fits that particular story or characters.

    Now, the whole Hulk body count thing . . .

    I think that’s where storytelling takes precedence over continuity. One thing that I know Joe Q is all about, because he’s said as much. In She Hulk, she needs to beleive that Hulk doesn’t just take out innocents. Maybe she’s not counting collateral damage. Maybe she is talking about when he is in his right mind. Maybe she just doesn’t even know.

    But hey, if in G.I. Joe, NOBODY ever gets killed when a tank explodes, or their plane gets shot down, then why can’t the Hulks victims survive? I mean, no doubt, the Hulk goes on some destructive rampages, but why can’t they have super-medics? I mean, we’re in a world with Reed Richards and Forge and such, so one would assume dying might be a bit harder sometimes. Maybe there is an agency that follows after the Hulk and helps people — like the Green Cross.

    But hey, She Hulk needed to understand that murderous rampage bad, she couldn’t live with herself if she did it, and she had to think that Bruce Banner didn’t either.

    The Illuminati have always had a rough time with the Hulk, and they needed an excuse to blast him off to Paradise — oh wait, I mean to Planet Hell. And Hulk SMASH! But, it seems to me that Hulk is maybe learning a bit too.

    We’ll see.

    But, I comfortably straddle the fence. I like both types of stories, and I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive.

  21. The Hero is the one who goes above and beyond, sacrificing themselves to do what they know to be right.

    The Hulk did that, as did The Punisher. Bruce Banner saved Rick Jones from that Gamma blast, prompting his first change into the Hulk. That’s heroic right there. Now, the Hulk has helped the Avengers (again, above and beyond what he could have done). He’s sacrificed himself, and yes, while he is a savage destroyer primarily, he’s also always struck out in self-defense (the military) or with good motives (To avenge the death of Betty Ross). Who’s to say the Thing isn’t also a hero? The Hulk is practically a less intelligent version of the Thing, so it would be like saying a ‘handicapped’ person isn’t as human as a ‘normal’ person.

    The Punisher totally sacrifices himself. He gave up his soul to Death, and he has thrown away any remnants of his past life as Frank Castle in favor of being the Punisher. He thinks that elimnating criminals is a good thing, and it IS. Like I said before, just because he’s more ‘hardcore’ in his methods, doesn’t make him a hero. He’s attempting to rid New York and the world of this infestation.

    A hero is someone who is attempting to help others, at all costs. I think that qualifies the Hulk and the Punisher. Sure, they both let selfish reasons get in the way sometimes, but then again, who doesn’t? I think these two are heroes.

    And Hitler could prove to be the perfect analogy. Hitler was performing a cause that some people believed was right (Nazi’s), whilst the rest of everyone else belived it was wrong. The Hulk/Punisher were performing acts that some people believed was right (You can’t say the Hulk and Punisher HAVEN’T helped), whilst the rest of everyone else believed it was wrong (cops, army, government. But then again, this applies to all the heroes!) The only difference is that Hitler was a very, very bad man, and The Hulk/Punisher/Spider-Man/Whoever else are good, good people. (I am not a Hitler Sympathist, if that is what any of you are thinking)

    ….Oh my god, I can’t believe I said that…I am totally going to get yelled at for using Hitler as a positive analogy for heroes, aren’t I?

  22. I think it is silly to believe in a world where the Hulk rampages across the country for years and there has been no loss of innocent life. However, these are silly stories to begin with and I think it is that bizarre take on reality that makes the fantasy so appealing. Some of the time, what makes a good story is Earth’s Mighiest Heroes rallying together to go kick Ultron’s ass and that is all that we need to be entertained. Other times we want the suspense of trying to figure out what will happen to Bruce Banner because the trashed Times Square. The reason we go into our comic book stores every Wednesday is to find some stories that are going to entertain us. We pick our titles by looking for what we see being reflected back at us. We look at the Punisher and see a hero who is gunning down criminals and pick up that comic because bad guys don’t deserve a second chance. We pass on Punisher and pick up Batman because no matter what terrible deeds a criminal has done people deserve a chance for redemption. We read comics because we see reflections of our our ideals and philosophies getting into conflict with other ideals and that engages us. It stimulates us and entertains us.

    Is the Hulk a superhero? Which Hulk? Green? Gray? Intellegent? Angry? or Ultimate? He is uncontrollable and extremely dangerous. He could kill a lot of people very easily and that is why he was sent into space.

    Is the Punisher a superhero? Hell no, he is a psycho. Everyone is guilty of something. No one goes through life without break some rules. Run a red light and the Punisher just might put a bullet in your head. Depends on what that lunatic has in his head that day.

    Is Captain America a superhero? Of course, he is God damn Captain America. He wears the American flag as a costume. He punched Hitler in the nose. He stands for truth and justice and all of the great things that the best country on the planet has to offer. However, lets go to Iraq and hear what those good people have to say about the great things of America.

    I like the New Warriors. I didn’t like Morrison’s X-Men. I really like the Ultimates but I don’t read the Thing or She-Hulk. A superhero is a character who can do fantastic things with the intention of making the world a better place. A superhero goes back into the world the day after his girlfriend gets tossed off a bridge, because he can change things for the better in ways that no one else can. A superhero saves the day and I really think it is as simple as that.

  23. Um…no… you won’t get yelled at? I tried, just not very hard.

  24. Bruce Banner could be heroic, but Bruce Banner isn’t the Hulk, just like Dr. Jeckyll isn’t Mr. Hyde. So anything Banner did doesn’t count against the Hulk.

    Furthermore, on the side of Hulk kills…if no one is in danger from the Hulk, where does the drama come from? If he doesn’t kill anyone, who cares? That’s the danger.

    Exactly right about the Punisher. He’s trying to do the right thing, but he’s NOT doing the right thing. He’s a zealot. More often than not, he falls on the right side of things, but even as Ennis writes him, he’s a murderous wack job.

    There is scale here, and the murderous wack-jobbiness counts against the good things you do. For every person you save, you lose credit for that when you gun down a shopliter. Same thing with Hulk….help fight Ultron? Good. Knock down a city block? Move back 2 spaces, do not collect $200.

    Oh god, I used a monopoly reference. My cliches are unhinged!

  25. Best iFanboy Thread Ever!

  26. The Hulk…well, what hero DOESN’T cause collateral damage? Cyclops has his widespread optic beams, Spider-man’s foes love jumping around and using explosions…The Hulk causes collateral damage as does everyone else…sure, he probably does MORE damage per strike, but everyone does it, so why are they still considered heroes while he’s not? In fact, that’s one of the causes for Civil War.

    The Punisher IS doing the right thing, in his own twisted way: He’s eliminating criminals which in turn should make the streets safe for normal people. Spider-Man does it, Daredevil does it, but they just don’t kill their opponents. Sure, he may ice a shoplifter, but that a) sends out a warning too all others who attempt to shoplift, causing them not too and b) prevents a potential big shot criminal from rising to power. I think the Punisher is totally telling the criminals ‘Go Directly To Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do NOT Collect 200 Dollars!’

    (You keep pulling out those references, and so will I)

  27. OK, so let’s say that later tonight, I decide, you know what, people who drive too fast in their cars are a nuisance to society, and the system isn’t doing anything about it.

    So, I, in a tremendous Hulk like fit of rage (a rage I can’t control due my my heredity), go out and start doing what, in my soul I know, is the right thing. So I start driving my car around, and when I come upon a person going over the speed limit, I drive up to him, and gun the living hell out of the driver, killing him or her, and anyone else who happens to be in the car, as well as damaging property, and possibly landing some bullets in innocent bystanders. Now I, in my heart, know that I’m doing the right thing, and believe me, in my neighborhood, you know not to speed again.

    Am I a hero?

    Let’s take it one step further. Let’s suppose that in addition to what I just described, the previous night, I had been on my rounds, and saw a burning orphanage. I went and saved all the burning orphans before proceeding back on my anti-speeding rampage.


  28. You’re not a hero because you are human. Heroes are ideals. Superheroes are ideals with laser beams coming out of their eyes.

    The reason why Punisher appears heroic is because he can gun down someone who is speeding too fast down the highway and somehow that guy was a mafia crime lord or an international assassin. Chances are that the guy you could be gunning down, is speeding to the hospital because his wife is about to give birth and she is in the backseat.

    Josh, you are totally right, if there is no threat of the loss of life then why would the Hulk be scarey at all? Maybe that is an aspect of the character that has become lost. Maybe too many of us are picking up Hulk comics because he is a Marvel icon, not because of what is going on in the story. Has there ever been a Hulk story that showed the aftermath of a Hulk rampage?

    Mav, your Monopoly metaphor is flawed because the Punisher does not send criminals to jail without collected $200 for passing GO. He sends them into the ground in a pine box (I think that is a Chance card).

    A supehero fights monsters and opposes corruption. He works outside of the system. He does more good than he does evil, but he does do evil. He does cause property damage and at times loss of life. The Hulk in general is a monster because most of the time he is an out of control monster. A beast that tears apart communities, but he did oppose Thanos when the Mad Titan was killing the universe with the Infinity Gauntlet. Now Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, Black Bolt and Namor are intellegent and compassionate characters. We have to assume that their reasons for acting the way that they did when they sent the Hulk into space were motivated because there has been loss of life and there was no doubt that there would be more in the future. They acted in the interests of others for the greater good, which makes them heroes. The Punisher does not choose to kill criminals, he has been pushed into it. He has been put through events that have crushed his ability to reason with the logic that society considers to be normal. He reacts to being caught in horrible circumstances by gunning down criminals and making them suffer like he has suffered. The Punisher’s brain has been damaged and even though he has been trained to fight in a cool and calculated manner, he is still lashing out. The Punisher does not do what he does for the good of the people, he does it because he has a damaged psyche.

  29. The reason why Punisher appears heroic is because he can gun down someone who is speeding too fast down the highway and somehow that guy was a mafia crime lord or an international assassin. Chances are that the guy you could be gunning down, is speeding to the hospital because his wife is about to give birth and she is in the backseat… The Punisher does not choose to kill criminals, he has been pushed into it. He has been put through events that have crushed his ability to reason with the logic that society considers to be normal. He reacts to being caught in horrible circumstances by gunning down criminals and making them suffer like he has suffered. The Punisher’s brain has been damaged and even though he has been trained to fight in a cool and calculated manner, he is still lashing out. The Punisher does not do what he does for the good of the people, he does it because he has a damaged psyche.

    So… are you saying that The Punisher is a superhero or not? I’m confused.

    I think that Josh’s point is: At what point does The Punisher stop becoming a superhero (if you consider him to be one)? He only kills “criminals”. Which criminals? Only really bad criminals? Who decides that which lawbreakers do and don’t fit into that classification? Is it all law breakers, or just the ones who break the really big laws? At which point does it stop becoming okay to kill someone who breaks the law?

    I’m saying this as someone who broke at least one law on the way into work today…

  30. First of all, I’m pretty sure the Punisher doesn’t gun down a JAY-WALKER, much less someone who speeds. I’m pretty sure he sticks to killing big time criminals, such as drug lords and mob bosses. But I do think that he’s straining the definition, no doubt. But I think that if I lived in the Marvel U, and the Punisher was gunning down MOB BOSSES and DRUG DEALERS who could kill me or a family member one random day, i’d consider him a hero; Hell, I’d probably be scared to commit a crime in his city!

    As for the Hulk…there’s also something else you have to factor in. Hulk’s psyche has been raped by the authors. There’s times when he’s been banner-hulk, and times when he’s been savage-hulk. At different times he acts differently. I think that at all times he performs heroic acts, but at different times during his different psyches, he causes more ‘splash damage’, because he’s less in control. Let’s just say for a moment that we’re using Josh’s method of bad outweighing good/vice versa. I think that in all the time Hulk has been around, I doubt that he’s purposely or constnatly destroyed an entire city. Yes, I admit there’s totally area damage, because something that big just can’t move without damaging something. Yet, with all of his ‘helping with the heroes’, I think he justifies himself as a hero. I also think because Banner is a part of the Hulk, and he’s TRYING HIS HARDEST to control this ‘monster’, it add’s somewhat of a heroic aspect to Banner. The Hulk is still Banner, and vice versa, even if their psyches greatly differ.

  31. First of all, I’m pretty sure the Punisher doesn’t gun down a JAY-WALKER, much less someone who speeds. I’m pretty sure he sticks to killing big time criminals, such as drug lords and mob bosses. But I do think that he’s straining the definition, no doubt. But I think that if I lived in the Marvel U, and the Punisher was gunning down MOB BOSSES and DRUG DEALERS who could kill me or a family member one random day, i’d consider him a hero; Hell, I’d probably be scared to commit a crime in his city!

    What about bank robbers? Okay to gun them down? Burglers? Con men? Pick pockets? Muggers? Drunken bar brawlers? Overly agressive panhandlers? I’m just wondering where the line is and who gets to set the line.

  32. Well, I’m not the Punisher, nor have I read ALOT of Punisher books (as opposed to Spider-Man or Flash books), but I don’t think he guns down those types of criminals. From what I’ve read, he only goes after the head honcho. Why? Because most of the time, Spider-Man or Daredevil or someone like that is dealing with those low-level muggers. (Hello, the ‘events in Spider-man 2?). As for who set’s the line, i’m pretty sure the Punisher sets it himself. His vendetta, I think, is against gangsters and high level crooks, because it all stems back to the day his family was murdered

  33. What makes a character a supehero is that what the acts that the character does are generally accepted by society as “good”. Swinging into a burning building to pull the occupants to safety is heroic. Stopping Kang or Galactus from detroying the planet is heroic. Plotting torture and assassination is sadistic and demented even if it is against criminals. The Punisher does do a public service, but his methods are considered criminal. Killing is not heroic and the Punisher is all about killing criminals.

    So I do not consider the Punisher to be a superhero. I am not anti-Punisher, the character is great and the stories are fun, but I don’t consider him to be a good guy.

  34. What about Spider-Man, Daredevil, or Batman? Do you consider him a hero? If so, you’ve just flawed your arguement. The societies of these respective heroes generally frown upon them, and slam them in the press. Matt Murdock (like the iFanboy’s have pointed out) has been constantly faced with government officials who are just biased against his actions as Daredevil. Peter Parker is constantly being yelled at by citizens on the street, and of course being slammed by the Daily Bugle. Batman, being a vigilante, is feared by Gotham, and you know how it goes, people hate what they fear or scares them.

  35. Mav,

    Exactly how much Punisher are you familiar with? Are you just referring to the movie? Because I’ve read a lot of Punisher, and the dude is a criminal. I think Dave and Conor are both saying it. I know I am. The thing that makes that character appealing to readers is that he’s a gray area. He’s neither good nor bad. He IS, I would say, incorruptible, but he’s also psychotic. I’m also pretty sure that in his first appearances, he was going after small time crooks with a bit more oomph than was absolutely necessary. He’s a compelling character.

    Also, those three you mention, DD, Spider-Man, and Batman don’t kill anyone. For the most part, they’re turned over to the authorities. While they work outside the law, their breaking of it is fuzzy. They’re not the same as the Punisher, and if you think they are, you should probably read some more Punisher. If Frank Castle came to Gotham and pulled that shit, Batman would take him down so quick it would be silly. (Then when Bruce breaks his back, he would make him the temporary Batman. Points for history!). I think the only time they’ve made Frank more heroic is when they needed so sell more Skull based underoos.

    And as far as the Hulk goes, you’re right, there are different takes on him over the years. So some arguments only apply to some writer’s takes on the character. But I don’t consider that rape, I consider that evolving creativity. Thank god these characters can evolve. Have you read Batman from the 50’s?!?!?

    And that’s the cruz of where this started. Do you want modern characters, or silver age characters?

    For my money, no question, go with Bendis.

  36. Oh shit, I did say ‘raped’ didn’t I? I don’t think I meant it like that. I love character evolution, don’t get me wrong. I don’t know what I was trying to say. Batman in the 50’s was weird, and I’m glad he evolved. Don’t get me wrong, I love evolution. Please excuse the terminology I used 10 minutes after I woke up.

    As for Punisher, I think we can agree on him being a gray area. There’s no definitive arguement for his actions. HOWEVER, his first appearance was not after a two-bit crook…it was after Spider-Man himself! Come on man!

    And please, I know that those three don’t KILL ANYONE. I’m familiar with the backstories and exploits of many heroes, Punisher included. I know for a damn fact he’s on a whole other side of the ‘justice’ spectrum. But I wasn’t refering to their actions, but how they are viewed upon by society. Remember, that’s what Dave was saying, was that Punisher can’t be considered a hero because society hates him. I was just counter-arguing with three examples of societies having a negative attitude towards a hero.

    And in short, I believe that Modern comics are probably going to be the best, but then again, i’m a reader in this era, meaning I’m more in tune with these books. Don’t get me wrong, like I said before, Silver Age also has great stories too offer, as does Modern, but both have their downfalls.

  37. I like both Slott’s and Bendis’s stuff. I think they’re both talented writers who do very different things. But not opposite.

    Just because characters are black and white doesn’t mean that they can’t and aren’t confronted with grey decisions. I mean, I am not that familiar with Silver Age comics. I started reading comics in the 90s, so I missed out on that era. But, heroes are faced with choices all the time.

    For example, let’s say Spiderman is faced with the decision to save Mary Jane or 20 innocent people in a bus that is falling off a cliff. He’s faced with a difficult decision. Is he still a hero if he saves Mary Jane and not the 20 people? In order to be considered a hero or do something heroic, does he have to do both? I think that Modern Age comics just take that concept and don’t take the easy way out. Ok, he saves Mary Jane and now he has to deal with the guilt that comes from choosing to sacrifice others.

    As for stories about bystanders, Astro City deals a lot with out regular people function in a society obsessed with heroes. Busiak does a good job giving us an idea of how normal people would act in a world like that.

    I agree with most everyone on this forum. There’s a market and pros and cons about each writing style. I happen to enjoy both. It’s good that there is both present in both DC and Marvel universes (even though I sometimes think that the reason that Joe Q has it in for Speedball is because he’s not dark and brooding). It creates diversity in the industry and allows them to grow and explore and usually correct themselves.

    The greater issue here, as I can tell is the discussion of what it takes to be a hero. Is it enough to do heroic things, or is it the consistancy in which you do them? Is it how you do them? Is killing ever justified for a hero?

    Just as an example, Justice (formerly Marvel Boy of the New Warriors) used his power to kill his father, who used to beat him because he was a mutant. Clearly not a heroic act. He killed someone with his powers. Does that negate all the good things he has done with his powers?

    I don’t have any answers and I don’t think there is an answer. For someone that the Punisher saves from a criminal, he’s a hero. I think that’s part of what dominates a good story, keeping these issues in mind and dealing with them through a character’s psyche.

  38. I prefer the modern style of comics. Gray characters and plots provide so much great material for dork discussion.

  39. On the podcasts a few episodes back the guys said what their favorite trades were. The Dark Phoenix saga was brought up and even though I’ve been reading comics for 23 years now, I am embarrassed to say I had never read this classic story. I bought the new trade paperback and reprint based on the boys suggestion and I was BLOWN away. John Byrne