The iFanboy Letter Column – 01/02/2009!

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means you have to spend the next 48 or so hours with your horrible horrible family, begging to go back to the sweet mind numbing sanctum of the corporate office. For others, Friday is the day you start jogging again because this year it’s totally going to be different.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming –

When you look at the Marvel and DC Universes on paper, both seem very similar. Each has worlds of superpowers, costumes, decades of history, pop culture appeal. But they’re very different. Each universe seems to have its own secret recipe or DNA that’s been carried on through their histories. What is it exactly? In your opinion, what’s the je ne sais quoi that makes Marvel and DC feel so different?

Leonard from New York

We talk about DC and Marvel a ton and on paper, they’re almost the exact same company publishing comics about super heroes in our present day. But you’re totally right, and to anyone who knows anything about comics, the worlds of DC and Marvel couldn’t be any more different.

The biggest thing that differentiates the two publishers is their geography, which we’ve discussed before in the past. DC, historically has taken place in fictional cities such as Metropolis, Keystone City and Gotham City, while the Marvel Universe takes place in the “real” world of New York City and other real world places. But as the years have progresses, both DC and Marvel have swayed. DC has accepted New York City as a real place and even has heroes based out of there, while Marvel has introduced fictional places such as Madripoor, Genosha, and Latveria. It’s that “real” vs. “fake” distinction though that continues the differences in the companies beyond simple geography.

Since Stan Lee was writing Marvel Comics, their stories tended to be more realistic and relatable to the reader. Spider-Man is broke and needs to pay his rent, the X-Men suffer from racism, the Fantastic Four are a family. While over in DC, the stories are more mythology and fantasy based, much less relatable. Superman has the powers of a god and comes from another planet, Wonder Woman is an Amazon woman, Batman is a billionaire. It’s this basis of stories that have driven the distinction between the two companies. Sure both meander towards each other as the years have gone on, for instance Marvel has Thor and DC has done many “street level” type stories. But to me, the simple distinction that the Marvel Universe could be real in the world as I know it, where DC is purely fantasy with its pantheon of godlike heroes. That may differ for others, but it’s how I view the two and I bet many others agree in theory.

Ron Richards


It is obvious to anyone connected to the comic world that there are many ways to write a comic, none of which are necessarily better than the others (though we all have our opinions). Lately I have been observing a difference in styles. More specifically; comics that are initially written to sustain themselves and their characters indefinitely or until the creators run out of things to do with them (Noble Causes for example) and comics that are pre-structured stories with a definite lifespan/ending predetermined and plotted (such as Kingdom Come). Which do you prefer and why, also what effects do you feel each approach has on its success or reader popularity?

John B. from Minneapolis, MN

PS – My fiance really enjoyed New Frontier, thanks ; )

John! It appears you did not abandon us for our good natured joking about prudishness. Good lad! New Frontier is an excellent non-puerile choice for a comic book. The same cannot be said about its creator Darwyn Cooke. But then, this is neither the time nor place.

On to the actual question. It is a good question, and one that I often think about. For me, like many other things, it’s not an either/or situation. I feel like the length of the story depends on the story itself. If a story is incredible at 5 pages, there is no reason to make it go on longer. If the experience is valuable, 5 pages might just be enough. Similarly, there are many stories that fit within a longer time frame, but still have an ending in mind. I’m thinking of a lot of Vertigo books, like Transmetropolitan (60 issues), Preacher (66 issues), Sandman (75 issues), Starman (80 issues), which is not Vertigo, but you get the point. Other titles, often superhero titles, are made to go on indefinitely, like a soap opera. It really depends on what the creator has in mind. Some people plan something, come up with an ending, but leave lots of time in between to play and explore.

In the case of Bill Willingham and Fables, he had an ending in mind, and just hit it with issue #75, but decided he had more story in him, so he’s still going. Robert Kirkman, on the other hand, claims to have no ending in mind for either The Walking Dead or Invincible, and it’s working out so far.

The obvious benefit of the “no end in sight” model is that, with good enough writing, it can go on indefinitely. Doing this lets us see so many iterations from so many minds, and really serves to create a long lasting bond between the character and reader. Do you really want to see the end of Batman’s story? If we did that, we might not have seen the wonderful and diverse versions of Bruce Wayne we’ve seen from Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Dennis O’Neil, Paul Dini, Alan Moore, and so many others. I love those kinds of comics, but obviously they have their ups and downs. If you’re asking what I enjoy more, I would probably lean towards the long drawn out story with an ending. When the writer knows where they’re going, and doesn’t have to sustain an artificial status quo, I tend to find it a richer overall experience. You don’t tend to end up with the little unexpected interpretations and diversions as much, but a long, full story with a definite end is one of my favorite things.

The same carries through in all the media I consume. My favorite books and TV shows are long multiple volume stories that are very involved with beginnings, middles and ends. I’m thinking of The Wire, and The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. And while, I’d certainly love to see the further adventures of Jesse Custer or even Vic Mackey, I’m content with the endings of those stories, and realize that trying to go home again might be entirely futile, and ultimately disappointing.

Josh Flanagan

This week in comics, left me with feelings of dread. Final Crisis is at the point where I can’t believe things can get any worse… but things are getting worse, with the whole 5th world destroying everything going on. The Detective Comics and Nightwing this week make me miss Batman. The baby stealer in Green Lantern Corps is creepy as all hell… even though Ethan Van Sciver’s original concept for Krib, is a whole lot creepier. Man what a dark and great week in the DCU.

To cheer myself up I can up with a few questions I’d hope you’d help me answer:

Okay, let’s do this!

If Superman gets nervous while giving a lecture to a group of heroes, does he use his x-ray vision to see the audience in their underwear?

Superman doesn’t get nervous when public speaking. He has no reason to, as when he speaks a heavenly light shines and the Harlem Boys Choir slides in behind him to add the appropriate aural accompaniment.

Is that why so many heroes wear their underwear on the outside of their pants?

Have you ever worn just one layer of spandex?  Let me put it this way, we’re all glad that they have decided to double up in the crotch area.

Does Batman know this and wears lead lined undies just in case?

Even though Batman knows about the holy light and the Harlem Boys Choir, he does wear lead lined outerwear… just in case. He does this while grumbling under his breath about how much he misses the all-black costume from the late 1990s that was supposed to be “permanent.”

What does Zatanna do if she needs to cast a spell that’s a palindrome? Let’s say she knocks over all her pots in the kitchen, does “Pots Stop!” work? And what if she accidentally says a palindrome like “Dammit I’m Mad!” does she get even madder?

Zatanna had a third date once that found her saying, “Egad, no bondage.” And then things got really interesting.

Gotham City has a baseball team the “Gotham Knights,” right? So shouldn’t the bat boy of that team also be in line to become then next bat man?

What do you think Jean Paul Valley has been up to all these years?

Is the Gotham City Knights the one team players refuse to be traded to?

Nope, it’s still the Seattle Mariners. But it’s close.

With the rising cost of paper printing and the declining dollar, won’t it just be easier to print comics on old dollar bills? Is that why Marvel did Secret Invasion so everyone in the Marvel Universe is green and they don’t need to buy extra ink?

You bring up an eerie parallel to the late 1980s and right before the fall of the Soviet Union when Russian comics were printed on rubles that were pasted together with the tears of the children and the infirm. I’ll see you on the bread line, comrade.

Why did The Flash (Wally West) stop going to hockey games? I know that isn’t that funny, but I loved it when in Geoff Johns run on The Flash, Wally and Linda would go see the best game on ice.

Wally, like most people who aren’t Canadian, never got over the 1994 strike.

If Lex Luthor is the second smartest person in the DCU, then why hasn’t he cured Male Pattern Baldness yet? Mr. Terrific is the third smartest and he still has all his hair.

Male pattern baldness will never be cured. This was confirmed by Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Why doesn’t Wonder Woman put the lasso of truth around herself and ask “What story about me is worth reading?”

If she did that she would create a paradox that would rip reality asunder.

Do Green Lanterns dream in color or do they just dream in green? Do they find that using an old Apple IIE is soothing?

Green Lanterns dream of a universe with no color green at all. Also, whenever anyone comes over to a Green Lantern’s house to watch TV they are always complaining that the color settings are off.

Is Neron holding Sue’s and Ralph Dibny’s unborn child’s soul as a bargaining chip? Will any comic book writer remember that in Identity Crisis, Sue Dibny was pregnant when she was murdered?

I think it’s safe to say that this issue is being avoided at all costs.

Will the baby Spider-Man had with Mary Jane, be the key to reversing “Brand New Day” in about 10 years time?

Nope, it will be due to the tireless efforts of W.A.R.M. (We All Require Mary Jane).

Are we happier as readers to have events happen in the monthly series, i.e. “New Krypton,” “Batman R.I.P.” and the “Sinestro Corps Wars,” or do we love the event books that could easily have been included in a monthly series, like Secret Invasion and Identity Crisis?

Are speaking of the royal “we” here?  I don’t know; I know what I like. It would be impossible to answer that question in any other way than just for myself. Try asking five comic fans that question and you’ll probably get five different answers.

Will anyone at the table in Dark Reign tell Norman Osborn to head to the nearest SuperCuts for a new cut and color? Are we all waiting for The Beyonder to show up and tell him?

They actually ran out of space and had to cut a page out where they all complimented him on finally having hair that didn’t look utterly ridiculous. Look for it in the inevitable Dark Reign Omnibus.

Can we really call them the “Runaways” anymore, since they technically are all orphans and choose to stay in California? Does the “Runaways” still come out?

I wasn’t aware that this book continued on after Brian K. Vaughan moved to the island.

Does it really annoy Scott Summers when after dating two different telepaths, for all these years, he still hasn’t got a birthday or Christmas present he wants? Come on, how many pairs of sunglasses do Emma and Jean think he needs?

“Just once… just once I wish they’d just look at my Amazon Wish List.”

Do you think Darkseid is this evil because High Father didn’t have the foresight to name him Lightseid? Or do you think it’s because High Father didn’t buy Darkseid a pony?

Highfather isn’t actually Darkseid’s father — he’s his mortal enemy. Darkseid’s parents are Yuga Khan and Queen Hegra. His real name is Prince Uxas and he named himself Darkseid after he killed his own brother in a struggle over control of the Omega Effect. Clearly, he could have used a few more hugs as a child.

(Although it may sound it, the preceding paragraph is not a joke.)

Wouldn’t flying at near the speed of sound with your eyes open, dry them out pretty fierce? So how does The Sentry have any tears left? Shouldn’t he be the sponsor for Clear-Eyes, instead of Ben Stein? Would Ben Stein and The Sentry make a good Marvel Team-Up book?

One of The Sentry’s many super powers is that no matter how much flying he does or how many times he watches Bryan’s Song or how often someone taunts him about The Void, his well of tears will never run dry. He must be stopped. For the love of god, someone step up the plate and take him out.

Did I go on too long?

Paul M.

Yes, Paul. Yes, I believe you did.

Conor Kilpatrick




  1. Conor, that was priceless. The Mariners line alone is worth the price of admission.

  2. Bravo Conor!!!


  3. "Egad, no bondage."  Excellent.

  4. My poor Mariners. 

  5. Is the W.A.R.M. real?….. and very funny conor.

  6. …I was about to scroll down to comment "That was priceless"

    And then I saw that it had been said already…

    Oh, well.  Still true!

  7. Love the Zatana palindrome notion.  Kudos to both Conor and Paul McGowan.

     Got to take issue with the geography equals real world notion being the difference between Marvel and DC.  As Ron stated, both companies have acknowledged fictional and real cities but beyond that: if DC didn’t exist in "our" world what were all those Golden Age comics about where Superman was swatting the Nazis?

    The differences between the companies were very apparent when Marvel began publishing superheroes again in the sixties. But the differences blurred as writers, editors and artists began moving back and forth between the companies.  For instance, Roy Thomas alone probably had more to do with establishing ongoing continuity at both companies.  

    As to real and fantasy: DC is hardly the "clean and shiny" world compared to "nitty, gritty, Marvel"; some of the bloodiest moments of recent comic history have been published  by DC.  Relatable heroes?  Let’s see, Thor is a god, Hercules a demi-god and Tony Stark a billionaire.  How can people relate to that?

     Easy, readers relate to well written characters.  The size of the bank accounts of Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark have never been a block to enjoying their adventures as super heroes.  As far as comic book gods, once a character has super powers they become "super" meaning "above" men.  Their stories become epic compared to mundane reality -even if Peter Parker gets the flu or is short on cash.  Early on, Marvel made the most of character flaws and personal relationships but now you find the same sort of writing at DC.  The new Blue Beetle could easily be a classic Marvel Book.

    So I agree that TRADITIONALLY there was a big difference between the companies, but a new reader might not see much difference outside the respective galleries of company-owned characters. 

  8. A story with an ending in sight is what I enjoy – I’ll give as an example the cartoon series Digimon. It might seem like a rip off of a children’s idea or a stupid cartoon series but it was great.

    A bunch of kids in a camp somewhere get sucked through some hole to another "dimension". They discover they have monsters that protect them and that this dimension is inhabited by other weird creatures. The different monsters can evolve based on the children’s needs.

    I know they look cute when they are in a normal state and cool when they are monsters making this a gimmick, but the first story went for long until the main people returned to their dimension and continued a bit after that when they tried to figure out what was that dimension and the end was towards the battle that took place there.

    Anything after that I never saw since I don’t need it. The first story had a bunch of kids thrust into a weird and dangerous place and they had to defend themselves and sustain themselves, and there was a time when they separated.

    What I mean to say – it combined a story that goes to a certain point but had enough time to look like a series that goes forever. It took little unimportant routes that might happen in a series but still maintained a clear goal – it wasn’t a bunch of kids wandering around in nowhere, or that the end  wasn’t ever reached – when I got tired of that series it got to th end and it was rewarding for a constant viewer and it had an ending. If people wanted to continue to watch it there were serial episodes – like a soap opera with no intended end that were added because of the popularity of the franchise.

    Even Pokemon had a goal in the beginning and it was to show us the world and to take a bratty kid and to teach him a few lessons, but nowadays the world was expanded to the size of the milky way and every pokemon has 17 versions.

    It needs to be rewarding of the reader even if it continues past the "end" point.

    Look at great and suspenful series like "Strange Days at Blake Holsey High" – it  never ended and the mystery seemed more like a gimmick than a plot line that goes somewhere. If it’s a serial it needs to be rewarding in some way.

  9. over acheiver.  hahah.  one of the best letter answers yet.

  10. Good stuff. The guy makes me wonder, however, why people still want to reverse OMD/BND. Oh well. Some folks will just concern themselves with what it isn’t (MJ) instead of what it is (good comics).

  11. @J4k3 – Can’t we have both?

  12. I had a bit of a revelation on the difference between the two companies styles in a theology class of all places.   We were talked about differnt approaches to reading the Bible when the similarities hit me.  Marvel takes a more realistic approach with its characterizations which make the characters more relateable as people, while DC takes a symbolic approach which makes telling grandiose stories of Good vs. Evil, such as Final Crisis, possible. 

    Both approaches can be very effective at making you care about the characters, but they do so in very different ways.

  13. Superman deals with important current topics that effect us all! Here he deals with the native-american situation:


  14. @Ron

    One other difference between Marvel and DC that has often been noted is the power level of the average character. DC is generally perceived as having multiple characters with god-like powers, such as Superman and other Kryptonians, Green Lantern, and The Flash (at the height of his powers). On the other hand, many Marvel characters are tough but quite beatable. At the top of the Marvel power structure, there is Thor, the Invisible Woman, and Namor, all of whom are beatable. The Hulk may be an exception, but he is more of a force of nature than a hero in the strict sense.

    Outside of the street level characters, the average Marvel hero seems more fragile. Interestingly, at the street level, the power is shifted, and the DC characters seem more vulnerable. Although Batman uses fantastic technology, he and his cohorts often seem one step from death. Bucky and Hawkeye, who are essentially unpowered, seem to be much further from imminent doom. Perhaps this is because there is much less difference between the greatest and weakest powers in the Marvel U.

  15. I Like both styles mentioned in the second letter.

  16. The Sentry has the power of a million tears.

  17. And that can get pretty slippery.

  18. In space no one can hear you cry.

  19. The Sentry can!

  20. Awesome column!

    My personal preference on the long story with a definite ending vs. neverending soap opera, would be towards the latter. I like and can relate to characters more than following a particular story for the full length. It’s probably why I can’t watch an anime series to save my life. Batman is my favorite character of all time, even though I don’t by the book(s) in singles every month. I think the character’s story is open enough to allow for multiple interpretations without getting away from it’s core values. The countless writers and artists who’ve placed their own stamp on the character’s look and history, not to mention all the Elseworlds series, are a testament to the timelessness of Bruce/Batman.

    Another thing that brings up is the idea of stories that are either too long or or too short. Obviously, writers have a lot of responsibility to plan some of this out ahead of time and have the foresight to know when a story or character has run its course. One preson I have in mind is BMB. I like his writing in short bursts, but most times I feel like he’s drawing events out way longer than really need to be. Whether that’s in order to fit story arcs into the six-issue cutoff for trade or he’s just not payin attention, I think it does a disservice to fans. Sometimes, like in Suburban Glamour, which was very good, it was cut off too quickly. Tied up in a nice little bow in the last few pages. Too soon. Give us at least another issue to bring it all to more organic close. Anyways…


    Does John’s wife know that he’s been spending an unusually long, some obsessively long, time thinking about superheroes’ underwear habits?

    Wonder what Zatana’s safe word would be?

    How do I join up with W.A.R.M.?

    The Beyonder’s hair vs. Norman Osborn’s hair! That’s a Secret War I’d pay $3.99 per issue for.

    Maybe the next Runaways arc should go the grim and gritty route, be written by Jason Aaron with art by Jae Lee, and be renamed "The Children of the Night".

    And, although I loved the Secret Invasion storyline, I didn’t like it as an event book. Despite all the marketing for it, the best way to go would’ve been to keep it all under wrap and just let it happen. No titles on every issue announcing the Secret Invasion tie-in. Just let them creep into each series like they have been in the Marvel U anyway. That would’ve been a big shock and led, possibly, to a better climax and resolution in the end. Plus, it would’ve kept most of the naysaying about "Secret Invasion" being just a way to get people hooked into another event, "Dark Reign", at bay. But, maybe I’m just trying to turn a summer blockbuster into a Christmas opening Oscar contender.

  21. @Leonard

    Fantastic question! i’ve been thinking about this for hours now. someone should write a paper or if they have already tell me where it is. one difference is the attitudes of regular humans to metas and mutants, so much so that in jla/avengers when flash is sent to marvel earth he almost gets the shit kicked out of him for helping some mutie scum. but there’s so much the same, yet not deriviative somehow, it’s brilliant. like hawkeye and green arrow, on the outside both archers and both trained in martial arts, both have died, both are blonde, yet i never think of them as being similar. odd.

    maybe the universes could do like a swap for the sentry. dc could add him in to jsa or something and marvel is forced to take superboy-prime!

  22. You will believe that….. That Even A Sentry Can Cry!

  23. The difference between DC and Marvel is that one has lame characters(like the Hulk), while the other has awesome characters (like Batman);)

    But in all seriousness, I was never able to get into marvel because of the conoluted the universe has become. And the "grounded in reality" arguement is irrelevant. It was realistic in 60’s, but not nowadays.

  24. Superboy punching reality is realistic? Comics were realistic in the 60s? I sense a joke…

  25. Chuck Norris is collecting the tears of the Sentry to fill the sea of tranquilty on the surface of the moon. Chuck Norris will then drown the Sentry in the sea of traquilty. Amen

  26. @chlop

     I never said DC was realistic. DC was easire to get into for a newcomer like me, someone who hasn’t been reading comics for the past 20 years, especially because of DCAU. I only started reading 3 years ago.

    As for the "realistic in 60’s", I think I mis-stated my point. I was talking about the "Grounded in reality" comment everyone makes about Marvels comics. It’s not. Compared to the current output, the 60’s stuff is certainly more "grounded in reality". Right now, there is hardly any difference between the DC and marvel universes. Both are convoluted with continuity(one more so than the other) and both rely on yearly stunts to increase sales.