The iFanboy Letter Column – 01/09/2009!

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 take that last bottle of whiskey and pour it down the drain.

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 —

I’m starting to explore comics from the ’60s and ’70s a bit, but I’m having an awfully hard time getting over every line of dialogue ending in an exclamation point. In Denny O’Neil and Neal Adam’s collected work in the Deadman hardcover, it’s particularly distracting. Any idea how long it takes to stop noticing this? Did you stop noticing it? Did you even notice it in the first place?

Drew M.

This is a question that comes up a lot! Well, not this specific question, rather the idea of having problems adjusting to entertainment from different eras!

This is something I hardly ever have a problem with or notice! Maybe it’s because I consume a lot of media — comics, films, TV, books, music — from different eras, and have since I was a kid, that I just instinctively filter out and/or I just appreciate the anachronisms?! I’ve always appreciated the differences in eras and how language and art have changed with the times! I like those differences, it makes for a richer culture! I know that not everyone is like that and some people can’t enjoy art from older time periods but I’ve never been that way!

It’s funny, though, I must have never really noticed all the exclamation points! After reading your letter, Drew, I pulled out my Green Lantern/Green Arrow Hardcover Collection by Denny O’Neal and Neal Adams and looked and sure enough, almost every sentence ends in one! I’ve truly never noticed that before! Perhaps it was their way of making the dialogue seem more dynamic?! Or perhaps the letterers were paid by the pen stroke?! Whatever the reasoning, perhaps in 50 years when every sentence ends in exclamation points again, someone will send a mind-mail into their favorite braincast asking why all the comic books are written with periods!

Conor Kilpatrick


While the talk about reading in trades has been on going for sometime, it has really been picking up steam since the talk of the $3.99 price point was created. One time I saw Bill Willingham talk at a local show and he mentioned that he wished trades had black pages in them saying in big white letters ‘STOP AND PUT THIS BOOK DOWN FOR 24 HOURS’.

The point he was making is that comics (along with reading) are one of the few entertainment media that the creative team cannot control the pace of. Nothing stops us from reading 1 issue in 5 mins, or taking 15 mins. It’s our own way of reading. The only way they can control the pace of the story is by the the serial nature, i.e. they can make us stop reading, think about what we saw, and anticipate what is happening next by forcing us to wait a month.

Think about it, we get super excited with the “Last Son of Krypton” story, because it’s doled out in parts. Anticipation is our pacing.

Now most trades I read in one sitting, because I really just look at it as a pile of six comics (which I usually read in one sitting). The pacing of trades is left entirely to the reader, and the forced breaks don’t exist (as Willingham suggested). The only trade that I’ve read regularly to make anticipation between volumes is The Walking Dead. This is an exception to the norm.

Do you think if we move to a more trade heavy market, will we have to re-learn to read comics, or find more trades ending on a cliffhanger (and not necessarily a happy ending)?

Martin Scherer from

It’s a good question, and it’s definitely one I’ve thought about a lot as I consider my various reading experiences over the past few years. We so often find ourselves remarking on a book with the term, “it reads better in trades,” and while I know Ron thinks that’s not a valid concern, I think it’s a valid effect of the changing face of comic book storytelling. The way in which a story is consumed, either in 22 page chunks every month, or 180 pages every 6 months, creates a different challenge for the creators. I truly believe it’s impossible to write something which works perfectly in both iterations. Some writers certainly come close, but I cannot believe the experience is the same. When I hear your story about Willingham, what I hear is the frustration of a writer trying to win an impossible battle of serving two contradictory masters. There are people who do it extremely well, and Willingham is among the best. But, if you take Y: The Last Man, for example, I think you’ll find that people had very different reading experiences depending on how they read it. I read the whole story in issues, and if you’re familiar with Brian K. Vaughan’s work, you know the guy knows how to craft an individual issue, leaving you with something surprising or a twist on the last page of every book he’s ever written. That “Oh shit!” moment at the end of each issue made the title so much fun in monthly issues. And after reading it, you had to wait. That creates anticipation and excitement.  Conversely it can also create boredom and a feeling of stasis, as we’ve seen with other monthly series. Add late books to the mix, and it can feel like forever.

On the other side of things, imagine you’re a writer or artist who’s worked on a project for 2, 3, 5, 7 years and out of it, you get a single, although massive, book, in one volume. Such is the case with Bone, or Local, or Box Office Poison. Now imagine that this thing, which has been your life’s work for years at a time, and someone goes and reads it in one sitting. Well, you could understand why why Bill Willingham might feel some frustration at people speeding through a volume of Fables. If you spend all night cooking an elaborate, gourmet meal, and then see your guests wolf it down in 15 minutes flat, it might be hard to take.

But the thing is, the writer can’t ask us to consume their material in any other way than what we’re going to do. They can try all the tricks in the world within the pages to make you slow down and speed up where they want you to, but at the end of the day, the reader is the one with the book in his hands. So yes, there’s definitely some re-learning that we as readers and they, as creators have to do, at least in terms of how content is created and presented. I think it can make certain stories seem worse than they might actually be, depending on the way you choose to read them. When it’s all said and done, I really like having the choice in how I want to consume my stories. So while there are certainly some growing pains, the good news for readers and creators is that there are multiple ways to consume and sell comic book product, and the artists often have a choice in how they want their stories presented.

Josh Flanagan


  1. Nice answer, Conor!  Though for full effect you should have — bolded random words!

    Actually, I think I read somewhere that the exclamation points were used on purpose, that it had something to do with letttering/printing and making it clear where sentences ended and began.  Periods didn’t always show up, or something like that? 

    I agree with the larger point, too.  Some people find it more natural to allow for the conventions of particular eras than others do.  And also, there will certainly be things in comics that we look at in 5 or 10 years and go — "what, really?  somebody thought that was a good idea?"

  2. I got it in my head a few years ago to sit down and read every single issue of Amazing Spider-Man from #1 to the present. (I made it to about 1986.)

    Several years into the run, they decided to "try out" periods instead of exclamation points for an issue, and it was such a big deal that they made an editorial announcement about it as if they’d decided to switch to black and white for a while. As noticeable as the constant exclamations had been at the beginning, the shift to periods was completely disconcerting to me at that point; it was like the end of a roller coaster ride, when you get to the bottom of that last drop and they slam on the brakes. After dozens of issues of everyone yelling at each other, it was like being attacked by Morbius had lost its sense of urgency and was nothing to get too flustered about.

  3. You know who else used to always end his sentences with exclamation points?! Stan Lee!! To be fair, the man is a loud-talker, but he wrote that way as well! Take a look! Ol’ Professor Xavier sure likes to shout at his students during those old X-Men issues! Reed and Sue may love each other, but in those old FF issues it seems that all they do is scream back and forth! Even in their thought balloons, all the early Marvel characters seem to scream at themselves in their minds!! What tortured souls they must be!! Sometimes the sentences do end in elipses, but have you noticed that a good number of them have an exclamation point tacked on afterward…!?

  4. What was the breaking point, Jimski? Why’d you stop?

  5. Curious. I actually have to say, I don’t think I would have read Fables or Jack of Fables in single issue form. If left to fend for myself for a month between issues, I would just move on to a more engaging book. But Fables, collected, doesn’t feel serialized. It’s one of the few books I read trades only.  I’ve begun reading Ex Machina as well, trade only, and find it oddly paced in its collected form. A complaint none of my single issue friends have.

  6. @PraxJarvin: Interesting, I find that once I switched form issues to trades I started enjoying EX MACHINA more than I did before.

  7. @DaveCarr: deciding to finish a 450-issue run sounds fun, but it soon takes on the quality of eating an entire bag of Halloween candy for every meal. When I got to the issues I had read before, in the actual eighties, I opted to take a little break.

  8. @Jimski  That’s still impressive.  WAY further than I got with my 40 years of X-Men DVD.

  9. OhCaroline is right about the exclamation points being used to make up for iffy printing.  I never even noticed them because all comics were that way.  But then I never mentally emphasized words in bold print either.

     I prefer reading in trades although I know that reading the first two arcs of Hellboy had a completely different feel in issues because many of the short stories collected in the third TPB actually came out before the arc collected in the second TPB.  As a result, a reader knew the characters better when reading the second major arc.  


  10. I knew there had to be a reason for all those exclamation points!

  11. Only two?!

  12. @ohcaroline: I got that DVD and immediately declared, "I’m a’gonna reread the issues from my childhood, and then after all these years find out what happened when they left Australia." Within about five issues, I was heard to cry, "Bring me the head of this Christopher Claremont!" As an adult, I see that he has some developing idiosyncracies as a writer that would make for an almost certainly lethal drinking game.

     @robbydzwonar: They give and give and give, and it’s never enough! Ron is on the road! You can’t take blood from a stone, man!!

  13. @Jimski: But you can get blood by hitting someone with a stone rightr?

    Flaw in your theory……:)

    Nova has incredible endings to each issue. So if they went to trade-only and Nova was a series only release then the endings would even had more impact when the next trade come out. So yeah there are some exceptions to what Martin was saying.

  14. @Jimski   Yeah, I was cruising through issue 150 or so (which is less than it sounds like because like 40 of them are reprints).   Then it gradually turned into *skim skim skim* Cyclops! (read) *skim skim skim* Starjammers! (read) *skim skim skim* What the hell is with Storm’s hair??? . . .etc, etc.  Though if they ever put out 20 Years of X-Factor, I will be all over that, because I am incapable of learning from experience.

  15. Actually I find it annoying when in modern comics characters constantly say, "–who?" or "–how?" when startled or surprised.

    Gah! Who the hell ever says that anyway! yanks me right out of the story.


  16. @JJ: I know! I usually say: ‘BWAH!?’

  17. @conor Laughing Out Loud at your response to the first letter! Well played good sir!

  18. Wow, thanks for answering the question Conor; I’m definitely glad it was a hit.  

    I should have clarified something though.   I’m putting myself through grad school working as a copy editor for a professional journal.  It’s turned me into a punctuation fiend.

    (Did anyone else notice that Joss Whedon is HORRIBLE with commas?  It’s a sickness I have, I just know it.) 


  19. Oh man.  I just outed myself. It’s like an episode of The Simpsons.  

    "We’ll call her L. Simpson. No, that’s too obvious… We’ll call her Lisa S."

    Double "oh man!"  I outed myself as a copy editor AND I screwed up an apostrophe in my email.  

  20. It was my resoluton to read all my Marvel DVDs this year. I’m at issue 100 each of ASM and FF, all read within the last two weeks. Or, that should be LAST TWO WEEKS! And I’m exhausted, even though I haven’t even taken the X-Men or Captain America discs out of their boxes yet. I’m also working through all the Hellblazer trades, which I’ve never read before, and while they make a nice palate cleanser I may be losing my mind. 

    And @AMuldowney, we need more copy editors in the world; you’re doing God’s work. I used to clerk for a judge and the sheer volume of bad grammar/punctuation in works by alleged pr ofessionals was astonishing. G/p errors in professional works piss me off. A forum post? Not so much (as evidenced by my often sloppy work here and elsewhere.) The best thing about Bendis going to Marvel was him getting a set of editor eyes reviewing his god-awful spelling and word misuse. That man still doesn’t know the difference between their, there and they’re. 

  21. We need more "real" spell checkers don’t we? I have noticed that more and more errors crop up now in the books, especially indies, but the big two are not immune either…since the advent of computer spell checking! How many time do you gloss over a word and your brain automatically corrects it….that’s how it makes it into the books. Anyone else notice this and want to make of it?…see i did it too…..

  22. I know there are stories that dont read as good in issues as they do in trades. Are there any that dont read as good in trade as they do in issues? I understand the Vaughn puts in those twist and whatnot that dont have as big of a impact in trade but they still hit you, what books just flat out dont work in trade?

  23. @RobAbsten Thanks! Also: I hear you, on the legal field.  I worked as an unofficial hired gun for a buddy of mine when he was the managing editor for the UIUC Law Review, I was stunned at the quality of work to which people felt secure signing their name and submitting for publication. 

  24. I like Machina in trade also. I was reading someold book or something by Stan the man Lee and he said exclamations seperated sentances more visibly, so you are right, ohcaroline

    I think writers don’t have to change pacing for trade if they have a problem, more the artists.

  25. Some late comics, such as 100 Bullets, can only be read in trades.  Reading so many comics, and moving around alot, I just forget too much of the details in each book (and past issues are inacessable, in boxes) to pick up the story again after 5-6 months.  Too much is forgotten.

  26. @AMuldowney – Keep the faith, my friend. I was an editor/copy editor for about 5 years + earning a journalism degree, and had to stop. People just didn’t pay attention in high school English class, and you have these punk journalists who think they know everything but don’t know the difference between it’s and its. Hang in there, though.

  27. I just started reading the first Fourth World Omnibus I got for Christmas today and I didnt realize what seemed so off about the dialouge until right now.  I just assumed Jimmy Olsen thought everything he said was so awesome that he had to yell it.

  28. The thing about pacing, even with single issues, is there’s nothing preventing us from collecting an arc and waiting to read it once ALL the issues are out.  The TPB readin option has always been there, though maybe not so obvious.

  29. From what I understand, people had a real problem with Kirby’s dialog in general.  He would put in commas where they didn’t belong, and bold strange words, and of course, there were lots of exclamation points.

  30. The practice of random boldage is still rampant in comics today. I makes me want to throttle.