The iFanboy Letter Column – 03/04/2011 (All Josh Edition!)

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means dinner with mother. For others, it’s the regular orgy night down at Cupid’s Retreat. For others still, cold pizza alone.

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 —

This week I’m owning this whole thing. It’s going to be fast and I can’t promise it’ll be pretty.

Josh Flanagan

With Wolverine appearing on almost every Marvel team and Spider-Man following on his heels, I was wondering what DC character has appeared on the most teams at the same time! And what could be the consequences of work burn out for a costumed hero?

Logan D.

The answer is Batman. And he ran a corporation during the day, and has numerous ginger ale fueled trysts with lithe starlets. You know, for show. The answer might not actually be Batman, but who else was on the Outsiders and the JLA? No one! Except Martian Manhunter. But then Mr. Terrific was on Checkmate and the JSA. I think there are only like two teams in the DCU. Outside of Suicide Squad I mean, but then what would Batman be doing on that team?

DC has had some of the greatest classics in comics history, particularly Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, and it seems All-Star Superman may be put into that group, possibly along with The New Frontier and/or Kingdom Come. I was wondering if, in your opinions, Marvel has any classic stories like these. Marvel doesn’t seem to have many out-of-continuity mini or maxi series that I hear much about. Is Marvel more about in-continuity runs, or are there some classics too?

Tony S. (suicidalkangarooz)

You’re not making it up. When I look at my shelves, I’m usually surprised that the actual hardcovers, trades, and collections I end up buying from Marvel and DC are decidedly in favor of the latter. And you nailed why, I think. Marvel have more stories in continuity, that tie into the universe as a whole. When I was younger, I found that much more intriguing, but as far as “evergreen” properties, I don’t tend to want them in a more longterm volume. I have a few for sure. I have the Captain America Omnibus, Young Avengers, The Infinity Gauntlet, Alias, Marvel Zombies, and some others, but I’ve got a lot more from DC. On the other side, I have Starman, DC: The New Frontier, Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, V for Vendetta, Gotham Central, stuff from Wildstorm, and more, not to mention Vertigo, where I have runs of trades. It feels like, when you look back, Marvel really focused on keeping their universe rolling, and DC tried a bunch of different things that seem to have longer and more independent lifespans. It’s not that I didn’t like a lot of stuff from Marvel, but I didn’t want to go back and own nearly as much of it. Maybe DC’s much maligned trade program isn’t so bad?

I have been watching the interviews with the DC editors, and I began to wonder “Who is in charge of scheduling and deadlines?” Judging by the delays in books, it does not seem like management is concerned. Why is this allowed to continue? Is it the readers’ fault for not holding companies accountable by voting with their pocketbooks? Of course on time books wouldn’t solve slumping sales, but anything that can be done to make the customer happy is always a plus. Lastly, should we even care? Thoughts?


You know what’s getting far worse for me than late books, Kendall? Complaints about late books. I’m not picking on you specifically, but people act like it’s this epidemic, and if it was just fixed, comics would be all better. It’s certainly a problem with some titles, but unless it’s repeated and egregious, I don’t usually notice it. It’s part of the comic book industry right now. And yes, it’s partly the readers’ faults, I suppose, because they’re going to buy what they’re going to buy. If it bothers you, don’t buy books that are late. But I tend to think the editors are doing their best. It’s a massive workload, and to a certain extent, lateness is tolerated as a reality of the business. The issue business will shrink, and is becoming a less important revenue stream and those monthly deadlines will matter even less and less. At the same time, the comic book industry is more akin to episodic television than anything else. And the people who make TV are rarely late. It’s not like you go to watch a show one week, and find out it’s not on because they missed a deadline. But then, TV has a run up to production, and time off. Comics, like the mail, never stop. There aren’t hiatuses and pre-productions built into schedules.

Should you care? I don’t know. I don’t really care. There are lots of ways to consume comics. If you want a monthly comic to come out every month like clockwork, make sure to read whatever Mark Bagley is drawing. Other than that, I tend to lean towards creators I really like, and if it takes them an extra two weeks, I’m cool. I’ve got other shit to do in the meantime. With people who are habitually late? Stop buying their stuff. Comics have much bigger problems than lateness though. Publishers don’t want it either, because it’s basically lost revenue to put out 10 books in a year instead of 12. I say, go for a walk, or read something else.

Of all the current creators, which ones continue to grow and get better over time, consistently learning and mastering the craft?


You’re back? I thought I sent you for a walk. Fine!

Honestly any creator worth their salt should be growing and getting better all the time. If they’re not, then they don’t care, or they’re really one trick ponies. I think a good example of this is Brian Bendis. Like his stuff or not, that guy tries a lot of different things, and is constantly growing, at least in the superhero genre where he concentrates most of his work these days. I’d say the same about his DC counterpart Geoff Johns, over at DC. There’s a reason those two guys stay on top of the industry. But even more than that, Grant Morrison has never stayed stationary long enough to find a rut. When I think of artists, the first name that comes to mind is Stuart Immonen, who can do every style you can think of. Skottie Young is always pushing his style. It still looks like his work, but look at the early stuff, and things have definitely changed when you compare the two. In some veterans, I think they do hit a wall where they’ve reached the end of what they can do within the Marvel/DC systems, and they just run with that. But then a bunch of people will go to Image or somewhere else to explore what else comic books can do. Look at David Mazzuchelli’s work on superhero comics in the 80’s and then look at what he did with Asterios Polyp recently. That’s definite growth.

One thing I’d enjoy you all talking about is the lack of power evolution. What I mean is that in the comic world our superheroes, go around fighting bad guys traveling through time and space and encountering all sorts of strange and powerful objects technology and wonder, but after all is said and done they normally stay the same. Why don’t they ever take these things and become more powerful?

Take for instance the Fantastic Four. Why hasn’t Reed Richards outfited the group with insane weaponry, giving the thing the capacity to fly and shot beams of cosmic power? There are tons of examples, Batman, he uses all sorts of gadgets, why not upgrade him into an Iron Man type? Batman, or Spider-Man, just seem like a frustrating situation. A guy like Daredevil or The Punisher who could be killed at any time and would be much more powerful if they went to some of their super buddies for a leg up. Thor’s got to have some magic gizmo that he can give to a lesser powered being to give them a leg up.

Okay thats my two cents, I’m sure the obvious answer is that these non-super powered characters are so popular because they don’t have god like power, but I know I’d try to amass as much hardware as I could if I was going to save the world.

Daniel F.

Superhero comics are in the business of maintaining the status quo. Things don’t really change because they don’t really want them to change. Also, stories aren’t necessarily good when you give the protagonists infinite power. Realistically, between The Flash and Superman, they could handle everything and no one could beat them. But mostly, it would be boring. And that’s why.

I love comics but I am overwhelmed at the amount of titles. I’m a DC guy, I like Green Lantern, Batman, and Superman. I don’t have the money to buy all the different comics, I really don’t get to buy many. But take Batman, there are tons of Batman titles I don’t know which one to get. Can I stick to one title and it make sense? Superman is pretty easy but Batman and Green Lantern confuse me, especially Green Lantern with all the Blackest Night/Brightest Day stuff. I don’t really know which one to follow. Also the Hastings where I am at doesn’t always get the comics each month, very frustrating, being that I am from a small town and have no other bookstores to go to. What are your recommendations as far as streamlining my reading? 

Gaby M.

A Hastings reader! Who is vaguely unsatisfied! Basic advice: read what you like, and if you stop liking it, read something else. There is an element of chance at that though. You’re going to have to pay for some things you don’t necessarily like from time to time. We do this audio show, where we talk about stuff we like every week, and presumably you could glean some suggestions from that, but you’re going to have to go out and try some of the suggestions to see if they fit in your tastes. I’d say buy Detective Comics, and you’ll be all set. Conor would say to try something else. Well, maybe not in that instance. But then in 6 months, maybe it’s not true anymore. You’ve got to ride the wave, and the fact is, it’s not cheap to read comics, and depending on where you live, it might not be easy either. Buy collections, and utilize online retailers. Get stories in one big chunk. Don’t worry about being on the monthly issues if that doesn’t work for you. Don’t worry about buying stories that “matter” as much as stories “you like.”

Do you think that new alternative comic artists can become big name artists like Chris Ware or Daniel Clowes? Or do you think that they would have to have begun to made their bones back in the day. I’ve been really thinking this over lately. Could I ever be on the same level as my heroes? Or is it too late?

Noah Van Sciver (Noah’s comic Blammo)

Not too late at all. I think the definitions have changed a bit, as far as alternative and mainstream. I mean, Scott Pilgrim was a massive success, and for some reason, Bryan Lee O’Malley isn’t spoken of in the same way that guys like Clowes and Ware are, but it’s certainly not superhero comics. The walls are breaking down a bit as the industry shrinks. There’s nothing to stop anyone from becoming a superstar, other than it’s harder to become one because there are so many other people competing for those spots on the larger stage technology has provided us. Basically there are more things vying for everyone’s attention, and it’s harder to stand out. But could someone break out? Absolutely. All it takes is one writer at Time Magazine or the New Yorker to take a shine to someone, and call them a genius. The book publisher graphic novel boom seems to have petered out though. So it’ll take hard work, and most won’t make a living at it. It’s up to you to take that challenge. But as always, you do the work because you have to and want to, not because you want to get famous. That never works. Well maybe it does, but the art doesn’t last in those cases. But no, there’s still hope. Definitely.


That’s all for now folks. Thanks for indulging me, and I hope we all learned something. Other than that you miss Ron and Conor.

Josh Flanagan


  1. These are well done.  I imagine that took some time. 

    I’ve noticed the differences in where my collected editions come from, too.  I have one collected book from Marvel (Civil War).   

  2. I’ve never understood the “i’m not going to support creators who ship late books” thing. I understand that late books are frustrating and inconvenient, but really i have to wonder if you love the stories or the schedules more? There have been a few titles that i’ve noticed were late, and i was bummed because i was really into the story. I was totally excited when it finally came out again. Not buying it was never an option for me. 

    I just don’t get some comics if you you’d rather have a crappy book ship on time than a really good one ship a week late?

    With how little money there is in the comics industry we’re lucky to get anything at all on any kind of regular basis. I have no problem with creators trying to make a real living by pursuing other opportunities with their talents. 

  3. Josh, one HUGE Marvel landmark/classic book you missed was Busiek’s Marvels. Unquestionably one of the best books of the 90s.

  4. @Wally Same here. I’d rather wait for a good book than have art by committee or a rushed story.

  5. @pyynk  — i actually really dislike it on things like brightest day when its different artists just to make a schedule. hate it, makes the comics generic and uninspired. 

  6. @pyynk  I didn’t miss anything. I was reading off books I have. I don’t have Marvels. Still, it’s a good example of what Marvel doesn’t do much anymore.

  7. I love the re-curring, “where do I start?” question. I totally understand where this comes from and I even ask it myself when ever I start noticing a new character or creator. It does say something interesting about comics readers that many of us have this fear of being left out of the loop.  What is that? As Josh said, the best advice is to just dive in.

  8. “All it takes is one writer at Time Magazine or the New Yorker to take a shine to someone, and call them a genius. “

    Wow…seems like you’re saying Ware isn’t a genius. Blasphemy, gosh darnit. 

  9. @Koen  –i didn’t read it that way. Most artists get “discovered” when one person of influence sings their praises. You land a New Yorker cover, your career as an illustrator just went to the next level. 

  10. @Wally Interestingly, this is where I’m the reverse. When a book is weekly (or bi-weekly in this instance), as long as the art style is fairly consistent, I can handle it because the release date is part of the gimmick. Doesn’t mean I don’t wish Cliff Chiang was doing all the interiors on Generation Lost, just that I understand why he isn’t.

    @Josh Ahhh! You’re missing out then! Still, I agree with your point, my Marvel shelf is way less Gotham by Gaslight and more Captain America reprints.

  11. @pyynk I’ve read it. I just didn’t love it enough to buy it.

  12. @Gaby- Marvel’s Zombies is sort of an else world’s type tale. I got the first trade by Kirkman and Sean Philips and I found it fun in a crazy way.Also, love the Suydam’s zombie covers in the back of the collection. I didn’t get the following trades so I can’t tell if it got better or worse. As for your regular issue buying situation,I would def. go the DCBS route or if you only want to get a handful of current or last months issues; I’m kinda partial to  They have an EXCELLENT web site, and you can locate old missing issues by release date.

  13. Marvel has a few “classic” Stories, but not nearly as many as DC. i was actually looking at my Comic bookshelf last night and wondering to myself “I like Marvel more than DC. Why do I have so many more DC trades?” I think Marvel has my favorite characters and my favorite series, but DC has my favorite individual stories. Always found that a little odd.

    Here is something that is rarely brought up n the “late book” complaints. Yes, back when comics first started in the 30s and 40s up until the early 90s, comics were rarely late. Now, they are late pretty often. Next time you complain about that, though, take a look at the comics of the past and the comics of today and notice the differences. 

    Comics in the first 40 years or so of their existence were VERY simplistic. The stories were formulaic, with no real thought and two dimensional characters, most of whom were either racial stereotypes or just uncreative rip-offs of other characters. The art was beyond simplistic, with very little detail, no real thought about perspective or composition. The coloring was muddled and bland.

    Look at the comics of today. The characters are much more defined, their personalities far more developed. The stories are vastly more complex and geared for an adult, sophisticated audience. The amount of detail in the artwork is light years ahead of what it used to be. Comics of today are so much more involved than the comics of the past, it’s hard to even describe the difference. However, the time frame given to complete these comics is the same: 30 days. When you are doing a story that is mostly a fight scene, with very amateurish art that is geared towards an audience of children that is thought of as disposable product that nobody will give a second thought to, it is very easy to hash one out in 30 days. When you have to do a well plotted, well scripted, visually stunning work of “art” that people will read over and over, analyze, critique, and save to be hashed over again in the future, it is FAR more difficult to crank those out on a monthly basis. 

    Obviously, I’m talking in generalizations here. Not EVERY comic from the 50s was disposable with no real thought. There were people like Will Eisner and the team of Simon and Kirby putting real effort into their craft. Obviously, there are comics being made today that aren’t much better than the comics of yesteryear. But on the average, far more work is put into a comic today than a comic in the past, yet the deadline remains the same. 

    So next time you complain your book is 3 weeks late, take a look at the artwork, read the story closely, and try to realize WHY it was late. 

  14. @JohnVFerrigno  –also back in the day they had full “bullpens” of staff artists/writers who’s job it was to just crank out product in a house style. Now we have individual artists working freelance. There’s a huge difference as well. 

  15. “You know what’s getting far worse for me than late books, Kendall? Complaints about late books.”

    Thanks, Josh.

  16. @JohnVFerrigno  Also each book had much shorter stories tan todays standard 20-32. Golden Age ones were usually only a few pages per feature, Silver Age main features would be around 15-17 pages.

    They would cram a lot in there, each panel would be a story beat, not nexcessarily a reaction shot or a repeated panel etc.

    A lot of the folks were able to crank things out a lot faster because of backgrounds in commercial illustration and other industries where time was of the esscence!


  17. On lateness; obviously there are the extreme that live to go mental about these sort of things and they should be left to argue amongst themselves. But, I do think that it is perfectly legitimate to voice moderate reasonable complaint over issues such as lateness. 

    There does seem to be a prevalence among some comic fans to act as a vanguard for the industry, whereby criticism should be done quietly, or preferably just silently dropping the offending book. It’s good that alot of us feel this attachment, but first and foremost we are consumers and it’s perfectly valid to treat an unsatisfactory experience in as forthright a way as we would any other transaction. Often moulding our behaviour (such as waiting for the trade to combat lateness) is the only option open to us, but to use an exagerrated metaphor; this is a bit like the battered wife constantly moulding her own behaviour in the hope that her partner will treat her better. At the end the day it’s perfectly okay if you’re handing over your own money to not just quietly withdraw custom, but to make your dis-satisfaction clear. After all, if it has no influence or affect you haven’t lost anything.

  18. @sidach (thumbs up) I remember being a fan of the Sopranos on HBO and the wait for the next new show or season would just kill the momentum but I enjoyed it nontheless.
    WAIT is the worse 4 letter word (ask any toddler)

  19. I too feel the same way about how DC has much better canon, out of continuity stories. But I’m hoping that Marvel’s Astonishing line is what we’re looking for. The line seems to be a replacement for the second version of Marvel Knights. It would probably be great thing to have to help lure in new readers.

    Anybody that says they want to read Batman, I point them at Long Halloween. But if someone wants to read Spider-Man I don’t have a great place to point them to. I would probably end up saying Brand New Day or Slott’s Big Time. 

  20. regarding marvel books, does the squadron supreme miniseries from 1985 by mark gruenwald count? i haven’t read it but it sounds like it should be a pretty landmark series and i’ve only heard good things about it.
    man, now i’ve got myself interested! i think i’ll order that next.