The iFanboy Letter Column – 01/30/2009!

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 try to figure out how to be in two places at once.
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 just read a 2008 graphic novel called Joker which was VERY dark and disturbing, even compared to Killing Joke. I was wondering if you guys have read it and if so, what do you think of it?

Zachary E.

Timed to come out near the release of The Dark Knight, DC Comics gave free reign to Brain Azzarello and Lee Bermejo to go nuts on a Joker-centric original graphic novel that is essentially an Elseworlds tale if that was something that Dan Didio allowed people to say out loud anymore.

You bet your ass I read it. You’re totally right, Zachary, it was really dark and really disturbing and I really liked it.

Brain Azzarello has made a name for himself in gritty stories of misery and crime, most notably with 100 Bullets which is ending its epic run soon. He has occasionally dipped his toes into DCU proper with a short run on Batman, and most famously for a year long run on Superman with Jim Lee that is going to be collected in Absolute Edition soon and I defy anyone to tell me what that story is actually about.

But back to Joker.

Azzarello and Bermejo have crafted a truly sick and twisted Joker here. There is whimsy in Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight. There is whimsy in The Killing Joke. There isn’t a whole lot of whimsy here. Sure The Joker does his evil clown routine as he robs, beats, rapes, and murders his away through Gotham City upon his release from Arkham Aslyum. But it’s rarely funny because it’s all so terrifying. A lot of that has to do with Bermejo’s gorgeous art that takes its visual cues from The Dark Knight as here too The Joker’s grin is a result of scarring.

This is definitely not a book for everyone. But if you like Azzarello’s bleak style, or are perhaps craving a more brutal take on the denizens of Gotham, or even if you just enjoy alternate versions of popular characters you might want to check it out. At the very least take a glance at the pages, this book is worth it for the art alone.

Conor Kilpatrick


So I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Captain Britain and MI:13 is getting canceled in, I think, 6 issues. The iFanbase loves this book so I’m thinking we should start a letter writing campaign. It seemed to work with Spider-Girl right? We have to save this book guys. Let’s get the word out. Let’s show Marvel the power of this fully armed and operational community.

Jeff from Texas

Ah, the Captain Britain and the MI:13 brouhaha. For those not following this story, last week there was a bit of an eruption on the CBR message boards about the fate of one of our favorite books, Captain Britain and the MI:13 by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk. Based on the discussion in our podcast with Jim McCann of Marvel, there was some questioning of the future of the book. It got picked up by the masses on Twitter and by the time I got to work last Friday morning, the word on the street was that Captain Britain and the MI:13 was canceled.

Well, it wasn’t true. Captain Britain and the MI:13 isn’t canceled. Yet. The reason why I say “yet” is because usually where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Based on Jim McCann’s comments to us in the fall, and by looking at the sales of the book, it’s clear that Captain Britain and the MI:13 isn’t one of the top sellers. Hovering around 20,000 copies per issue, it’s one of the lower selling comics (ranking #130 on the top 300 comics in December 2008). Let’s not forget that comics is a business, and when a title doesn’t sell, they stop making it, regardless of how much we adore the book. So while the ax hasn’t fallen on this title yet, it’s probably a good bet that it may fall at some point.

So Jeff, your call to arms for a letter writing campaign is a great and noble idea, and I encourage you and everyone to tell Marvel what you think. You can tell them on Twitter at Or you can send them an e-mail or an old fashioned letter, for which you can find all their contact info on their website. It would be rad to see all the fans of this book rise up and flood Marvel with how much you enjoy it and save it from cancellation.

But sadly, I don’t think it would do anything unless it affected the sales numbers. So in addition to the telling Marvel what you think about the book, keep buying it! Tell you comic book store owner how good it is and tell him to keep ordering it from Previews. Tell your friends about it or tell the other customers in your shop about it.

And for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, now is the time to jump on to Captain Britain and the MI:13. The next issue starts a new arc which features Dracula as the villain. That’s right, Dracula. Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk are creating a great comic book that is unlike any other comic Marvel produces. A combination of superheroing (The Black Knight from the Avengers is on the team), to mysticism and magic, to vampires (Blade The Vampire Hunter is on the team, along with Spitfire, a female hero who IS a vampire, creating a great source of tension) to secret government type missions (thanks to the wonderful Pete Wisdom character). Captain Britain and the MI:13 is easily one of the top 10 books Marvel is publishing right now, and as far as I can tell, there are at least 80,000 of you who aren’t reading it.

So my challenge to you, the new reader to Captain Britain and the MI:13 is to pick up issue #10 which ships on February 11, 2008 and give it a shot. If you like it, tell your store owner to order it. For those of you currently reading Captain Britain and the MI:13, tell Marvel you love it! But also tell your store owner and anyone else who will listen.

Ron Richards


I’ve always been more of a writer guy than an artist guy, and I’ve figured out a potential reason: My eyes tend to dart from word balloon to word balloon, taking in the art peripherally. I have to actively remind myself to spend time soaking in the whole panel — especially when I have a big stack. My question is: do you guys read the word balloons and boxes first or look at the panel first and then read the words? Does it differ for different comics? For old Marvel Method comics, I’ll look at the whole flow of the page and then go back and read the words on the page.

John V. from Brooklyn, NY (John42)

I can certainly relate to where you’re coming from. I follow writers. If a writer whom I like is on a book, I will definitely check that book out, regardless of the artist. The same is not true vice versa. I like a lot of artists, but there are very few artists who are good enough that I’ll buy a book with a writer I don’t care for just for the art. For me, story comes first, above all else. Still, that’s not really what you’re asking.

I suppose it depends on the book. The effect you’re talking about is certainly valid. I would assume it comes about from the way the page is craft. Of course, that starts with the way the writer plans it, down to the way the artist crafts it, and finally how the letterer decides to lead your eyes. In the old days, when the Marvel Style was employed, things were very different from how they are now. For those who don’t know, the Marvel Style would involve Stan Lee having a brief conversation with Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko about what the book was about. Then the artist would go back to their table, and draw the book out panel by panel, telling the story in sequential style, concentrating on storytelling. After that, Stan Lee, or Roy Thomas, or whoever, would come in and add narration and dialog. Of course, these days, for the most part, the writers do a full script, blocking out the number of panels on the page, and controlling the pacing to a much greater extent.

Being a person who reads a lot of comic books, I definitely fly through a lot of them, often concentrating on the words, and skipping many of the nuance in the pages. The more I try to understand how this whole art form works, and the more I want to know how to make good comics, the more I pay attention to those things. Conversely, I think better writer and artist teams know how to pace their pages in such a way that you rush through them when intended, and take your time when intended. It’s all in the way you do it. When I see a page that’s very light on dialog, I make sure to try to really follow the panels and pay attention to what’s happening in those panels, and what the artist is trying to show me.

Then, the last line of defense is the letterer. That’s the guy who is really controlling where your eyes go. The placement of those balloons is what tells you where to look. Put them all in the upper left hand corner, and the chances are very high that you’ll just skim down the left side. But place a balloon in the upper left, and then the lower right, then you’ll be scanning the whole page left to right. A skilled letterer will be able to control that pace, according to the writer’s intentions.

But yes, for the most part, I think modern comics are all about the words as a default. But the truly great guys can control your reading experience moving those pieces around.

Josh Flanagan


  1. I cannot believe this. Literarly before I sent an email asking you guys about ‘the Joker’ graphic novel I hear so much about, I decide to check out the letter column. AND THERE IT IS! spooky…

  2. We’re always watching.

  3. but WHO is watching YOU

  4. Joker is indeed awesomness.  Fun and scary in so many ways.

    And lets all read more Cap Brit and MI:13, we need to make sure that book sticks around!  Its great stuff

  5. I loved "The Joker" as well & pretty much all of Azzarello’s work. I’ve been meaning to re-read his "Superman" arc to find out what it is actually about. Now I may have to do it sooner rather than later after Conor threw the gauntlet down. I do know as I was reading it in issues thinking to myself, "well, if I read them all in one sitting it will make sense then." We’ll see.

  6. Josh, when are you going to try and read 100 bullets again huh?

  7. at what point did 100 bullets start going downhill?  I’m looking to pick up some of the trades.

  8. I didn’t have a date in mind.  I wouldn’t categorize it as….soon.

  9. "Then, the last line of defense is the letterer."

    No pressure at all. 😉

  10. @cigarandscotch — I’m a true believer & I don’t necessarily think "100 Bullets" ever went downhill, but once all the main characters were introduced and the focus of the story shifted to that of Graves’ machinations within the 13 families it did seem to lose some of its intensity. I will say I prefer the earlier, more crime oriented stuff to the shadow conspiracy of the later issues. Azzarello’s work improves tenfold on a second (or third) read. That’s kind of an evasive answer mainly because until I re-read this last arc it’s hard to judge if the shift hurt the book. And all that said, "100 Bullets" is an all or nothing entity, once in, you may have to stick around to the (sure to be) bloody end.

  11. Is it sad that I can tell whos writing the answer before i look down and see who it really is?  I was 3 for 3.  I can just tell by the tone.  I look at this site way too much.


    I can’t wait to read the Joker book.  Looks so sick.  I havent read a good GN for a while. 

  12. Hmm…tried to send an effusive email of support regarding Captain Britain…however, the page just kept resetting to instruct me to select my Category.

  13. I wonder what the oppinion of the Joker having a few of those painted pages is…?

  14. Great questions and answers. As for the art "don’t make it boring" seems like a good way to make people look at the panels… a lot of detail but not exaggerated.

  15. For Tomorrow was about Superman’s continuing quest to make a perfect world. And him always failing at it in some unforeseen way. In the case of For Tomorrow, Supes tried to make an alternate Krypton as refuge and screwed things up in so doing. Various forces took advantage of this shortcoming in ways I can not/choose not to remember.

    Pretty simple if you forget how awful it was in the telling.  

  16. I think Azzarello’s Joker is so devoid of humor is because humor counteracts what he intended with the project. With most interpretations of the Joker, he’s prancing around and laughing and pretty much looking like he’s enjoying himself and it gives the character an oddly likeable quality.  So, Azzarello strips him of that to show, no, he’s really a miserable, horrifying nutcase that you should hate with every fiber of your body as Frost finds out.

    On the other hand, the main plot of For Tommorrow was watching a crime writer being thrown into something completely out of his element and then having him flail about for 12 issues with fancy Jim Lee art to back it up. 

  17. most of my friends got Joker for Christmas.  an attempt on my part to turn them into comic book guys.  while that might not have happend they did all enjoy the book.

    I of course had to go back and re-read Lex Luthor: Man of Steel after this.  Another great story from azzarello and bermejo

  18. Joker didn’t do it for me.  Yes, the art was really nice, but like the other part of this article states, you need a story too.  Joker just didn’t have one.  Joker gets out of Arkham. Joker stirs up some shit.  Batman shows up at the end and saves the day.  Blah.  I’d rather watch the Micheal Keaton/Jack Nicholson Batman flick if I wanted to endure that story again.  I read it once and sold it on Ebay for eight dollars and paid the shipping costs.  Just wanted to get rid of it.

    I might give For Tomorrow a chance though.  Superman is one of my favorites and I liked the first three trades of 100 Bullets so there you go, it could be my thing.  Just so you know, I didn’t read anymore 100 Bullets trades yet so I don’t know if they are good or not.  Although, I finished reading Y: The Last Man a hell of a lot faster and have a lot more interest in picking up more Preacher trades before I even bother with 100 Bullets so that doesn’t mean well either.

  19. Joker was one of, if not, the best graphic novel of 2008.

    The only thing I had a problem with it, and Gabe mentioned it, was some of the painted artwork. Bermejo’s pencils are absolutely gorgeous, and so are the painted pages of the book as well. I cant remember who did those painted pages, but there is a second artist to this and if anyone could tell me who it would be very helpful. Anyways, while those two styles are beautiful to look at, it can be a bit distracting when your looking at pencils on one page and then painted pages the next. It doesnt hurt the experience by any means but it’s just a nitpick.

    I’d like for people to find how many times Batman appears in the background in this book….Bet you wont get them all.

  20. Captain Britain > You

    So pickup issue #10 or prepare to have your head imploded by a man in a spandex British flag.

  21. I really enjoyed the Joker GN.  Definitely a different take on the character, but it was still excellent.

  22. Youse mugs need to read some Captain Britain (if you’re not.) 

  23. @robbydzwonar-Didn’t have a story?  Something wrong with you.

    "More rendered, painted stuff generally slows your eye down, so you look a bit more at those image and they tend to stand out…They also provided a bit of impact in places where I wanted people to really look at something. This didn’t always just mean big shots"-Lee Bermejo, IGN Comics

  24. @ Drake– It’s a trap!

  25. Someone call me when Pete Wisdom dies.