The iFanboy Letter Column – 03/20/2009

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 it all frakking ends.

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 —

First off I love your show, both audio and video. My question has to do with collection formats. I was looking into picking up the Fantastic Four collection starting with #1 and I ran into the problem of getting it in Masterwork or Essential. Is the quality different between the two, or do you just pay for the format and name of the Masterwork?

Kyle U. (drummerman1126)

Thanks, Kyle, for enjoying what we do! Since you’re an avid listener/watcher of our shows, I’m sure you’ve heard us talk about formats of books and the like. I was browsing in my local comic shop the other day and the thought did occur to me that there are just so many formats for comics reprints these days. Paperback, hardcover, omnibus, oversized hardcover, essentials/archives… I’m pretty surprised at how skilled the publishers have been in coming up with new ways to package comics into collections. It does make it quite difficult for one to decide. For your specific question, let’s focus on Essentials vs. Masterworks.

Marvel Masterworks is a line of collections that feature reprints of old comics stories (like the Fantastic Four and other 1960s comics) and collects them in a very high quality hardcover format. The books are full color and super nice to have on a shelf. There is an entire grouping of collectors who collect the Masterworks line (and you can find out about this line of comics from the very fine Collected Comics Library podcast). Each volume runs about $50 list (of course you can find discounts on sites like Amazon or InstockTrades) and is about 250 pages.

Marvel Essentials are basically the economy option. Reprinting the stories in black and white on cheaper newspaper-esque paper, the Marvel Essentials pack in double the content, about 500 pages, at a fraction of the cost. One volume will run you about $17 list (so imagine how cheap you can find it with discounts).

Basically it boils down to how much money do you want to spend. If you want to collect the entire run of Fantastic Four, going the Masterworks route is going to cost you quite a bit. If you go the Essentials right, you can probably get every volume for the cost of two Masterworks book, but they’ll be in lesser “quality” losing the color and the nice paper/packaging. Personally I don’t own any Masterworks books at all (opting for the Omnibuses when I can) and I own a bunch of Essentials, because they’re cheap and I actually enjoy the black and white art as coloring back in the day isn’t nearly as good as it is now. But as always, the choice is yours and how much your wallet can handle.

Ron Richards


Looking at picking up some trades and I was wondering what you guys thought should I pick up: some volumes of the Grant Morrison JLA or the Justice series by Alex Ross. I’ve heard you guys say a lot of good things about the Morrison JLA but I’ve heard very little about the Justice series at all.

Darin G.

The answer to this question is an easy one. Grant Morrison’s JLA is, for my money, some of the best modern day super comics. It is Morrison’s most linear and non-heady work, and it proves that at the end of the day, Morrison really loves the DC Universe. And he gets it, he gets it and the characters therein better than most writers currently drawing a paycheck in comics. We spoke highly of it in our Grant Morrison video show if you want some more in-depth discussion of that book. But if you’re a fan of the big guns of the DC Universe it’s hard to go wrong with JLA, which is currently available in both trade paperback and brand new deluxe edition hardcovers.

When it comes to Justice, my opinions are a bit more complex. Alex Ross’ 12-issue mini-series celebrating the Justice League of America in all of its Silver Age glory was something that I eagerly bought every… few two months that it came out.

I’m a big fan of Ross’ art so the idea of his doing a book that not only featured the Justice League of America and its sprawling, Legion of Super-Heroesesque Silver Age roster, but a book that featured just about every major character in the Silver Age DC Universe elicited my patented “oooOOOoooh!”

And boy, did the book look great.

But here’s the problem, Darin. You put a gun to my head (please, don’t) and I couldn’t tell you what the story was in Justice. I remember that it was vaguely complex and featured a cast of thousands and the erratic publishing schedule certainly didn’t do it any favors. I remember at the time thinking that I’d probably enjoy it more if I sat down and read the issues all together, which never happened because I never actually do that with single issues. I remember that Aquaman had a really badass moment.

The good news for me is that Justice is coming out in Absolute form this year and I’ve already preordered it. I love the format. I love Ross’ art. I love how Ross’ art looks in the format. I look forward to reading the series all the way through.

So, Darin, unless you want to wait until the end of the year to hear my thoughts on Justice‘s story — and if I only had to pick one — I’d go with a few volumes of JLA.

Conor Kilpatrick


Are comic books no longer for kids? When I was listening to the Wonder Woman podcast, it began to make me think: This movie and along with others like Watchmen are very grown up and not for kids at all, and then I look through some of the comics in the past months I’ve bought and compared these to other books in the last 10, 20 years and have noticed a significant difference in the sort of things they allow in most canon books. Batman is a prime example here, he is known to be the kids favorite superhero, but 90% of his in-continuity books are much too adult for kids, and most kids would need a parent who likes comics to learn about kids comic books, and it makes me think: how would a kid who watches something like Batman: The Brave and the Bold get into comics if almost everything is too adult for them?


I’m going to preface my response with the fact that I’m not saying this to be mean, but seriously, where have you been since 1986? It is one of my most giant pet peeves that every time a new comic book movie comes out, or some comic story breaks into mainstream coverage, we’re hit with a barrage of ill-informed articles declaring that “BIFF BAM POW! Comics Aren’t For Kids Anymore!” I mentioned 1986, because that year signed the death knell for mainstream comics as kids fodder with the release of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns and its Nazi boobs. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is another matter altogether.

For me, personally? I don’t have kids. I don’t even know any kids. I don’t want to read kids books, so I like having books that are written with my age in mind. It’s great. If you were to ask me for recommendations of good kid’s books, I’d be pretty stuck after I said Bone. From what I understand, comics for kids are a very big growth area for publishers. Both the traditional publishers like Marvel and DC are looking for ways to sell to kids, and they’ve got Tiny Titans, Franklin Richards, Marvel Adventures, and the like. Even Image is getting into the game with books like The New Brighton Archaelogical Society.

You are looking at mainstream superhero titles and seeing that they’re not kids books. Is that a problem for the future? It might be, I suppose. But then, maybe when kids start to become teens, and they liked Spider-Man and X-Men in movies and cartoons, they’ll wander into a comic shop and start buying comics. That being said, there are kids books out there. But they’re a subset of comics, rather than the dominant category. And again, this is great, because I hate the idea that a medium as wonderful and versatile as comics would be beholden to just one type of comics. Why should it necessarily be the rule that Marvel and DC Comics should necessarily be for young readers? The key is having comics that they can read. Those comics exist, and a good comic shop or bookseller should be able to identify and sell them to potential customers. And parents should be informed that just because something has pictures and word balloons, that doesn’t mean it’s “safe.” The same goes for video games or cartoons. I see it all as “there’s something for everyone,” but “not everything is for everyone.”

Josh Flanagan


  1. Morrison’s run on JLA that I was able to pick up from my local library is what brought me back to comics! I thought it was great writing, reintroduced me to a number of characters that I had missed over the years and was totally enjoyable.

    I have not picked up any Absolute’s, but I did pick up the softcover trades of Justice and really enjoyed the artwork. If I had known, I might have waited and picked up the collected works.

    Is there any other Absolutes that any of you suggest picking up? Do you know if All Star Superman is coming out in Absolute?

  2. A good kids title (that a 23-year old also can enjoy) is Lions Tigers and Bears. It’s cute and its fun, the art is pretty sweet and the story is interesting.

     Has anyone read New Brighton? I was checking it out the other day and couldn’t tell if it was good for all or good for kids.

    I read somewhere a couple years back that most people don’t start with comics until college aged or a little before. Is that still the truth today? That’s when I got into all this and it seems like it makes sense.  


  3. I don’t think Justice was ever late as it was never solicited as a monthly besides Alex Ross’s art

    was well worth the wait

  4. Ross’ Justice was horrible. No two way about it. Just terrible.

    Morrison’s JLA was the height of the superhero genre at it’s time. 

  5. I just want to comment that they’re starting to put out "Marvel Masterworks" in smaller, paperback editions, much more reasonably priced.  I haven’t gotten my hands on any yet, but I’ve seen endorsements for the format, and I think it could be a great compromise.

  6. Thanks for answering my question guys, and keep up the good work.

    @ohcaroline: thanks for the heads up, I’ll keep a look up for them

  7. @ohcaroline Are they doing that they again? Barnes and Noble released the Marvel Masterwork for Uncanny X-Men (1-2), Fantastic Four (1), Spider-Man (1-4), Daredevil (1) and Silver Surfer (1) in Soft-cover form about… 5-7 years ago. However, they never caught on. Are you sure you’re not seeing these pop up again?

    As for comics being too adult… well, I point at X-Men: The Animated Series. While it wasn’t a "hard" show, it had a very adult, Soap Opera-esque series of love stories underneath the bright colors. I know when I watched it as a kid, my mother was roped into finding out what happened next in the Cyclops-Jean-Wolverine triangle. I agree with Josh, it’s bot been a surprise to find adult content in comics since 86. In fact, I would argue comics probably only "kid-friendly" from the late 40s through the 80s. And essentially the Golden Age books succeeded with adult content on the "Parents don’t give a hoot" about what their kids are reading. "Adult" Comics exist primarily because the fanbase aged with comics to an extent, with fewer young kids being brought in, and the fact that "Adult" comics like Sandman, Watchmen, DKR, Squadron Supreme, Animal Man, Swamp Thing were the ones that were finally able to break through to the mainstream audience.

    @wulfstone Justice was a bi-monthly series. And it shipped late on the schedule once or twice.

    @Labor While it wasn’t award winning or such, it wasn’t that bad. Many people complain about it because it was technically set in "Superfriends" continuity. 

  8. Dunno the difference in format, but it’s not B&N exclusive; the first volumes are being offered for sale on Amazon, starting in February with Spider-Man Vol. 1 and staggering Fantastic Four, Avengers, and X-Men over the next few months.  $24.99 cover proice but $16.49 on Amazon.

  9. @MrNoahBdy – I only have two Absolutes (Watchmen and DC: New Frontier), and they are both awesome. I highly recommend the Absolute Watchmen. Not only is the coloring a huge improvement over the TPB, but reading Alan Moore’s scripts is almost worth the $99 price tag alone. Seeing the amount of detail he puts into the scripts gives you a unique insight into his creative process and how he structures his stories.

    I don’t believe an Absolute All Star Superman has been announced, but I’ll be first in line to preorder it when it is.

  10. I wouldn’t hold my breath for an All Star Superman in Absolute.  They JUST released the hardcovers.  It’ll be a while.  Don’t miss out the story for that long on the hopes that it’ll be released that way.  Besides, what if you wait for 2 years, spend all that money, and you don’t like it?  And if people aren’t buying the current editions, they won’t think it’ll be worth doing an Absolute, will they?

  11. Your link to CCL led me to a post about a rumour about Absolute Green Lantern: Rebirth. I didn’t like it as much but this means we might get Absolute Sinestro Corps next year 😀

  12. No Offence but isn’t the difference in the formats COMPLETELY OBVIOUS?! I mean, come on.

    So…. JLA vs. Justice? JLA.

    Morrison’s run on JLA was simply a really entertaining, enjoyable read. It’s traditional superhero comics with Morrison’s huge ideas distilled though out. The characterisation were great, I’m thinking of Wally and Kyle’s begrudging friendship. Each arc featured a definite threat or villain, focusing the story on a specific path. Howard Porter’s clean, energetic art worked to complement Morrison, create a sense of excitement and playfulness….


    And this should piss everyone off: Superman: For Tomorrow (the horrible Jim Lee Superman arc) is getting the absolute treatment while there are no plans for an Absolute All-star Superman. Ahh, enjoy that.

  13. @edward: Why do you make puppies cry!? 🙁

    Yeah as an Alex Ross uber fan….you shouldnt pick up Justice. The art is gorgeous (like everything else he has ever done), but the story?…..Ugh….Just…ugh. Dont bother. Plus it’s not even that it’s a Silver Age (or as Prax mentioned ‘Superfriends’) it’s just that the story was just boring by the definition of the word. It’s the same creative team that is giving you ‘Avengers/Invaders’ so that take for what it’s worth.

    But your telling me that story is turning Absolute? Oh I need to get that! Even if the story is dull as white paint I will buy it for the oversized Ross art.

  14. what part made puppies cry?

  15. @edward: The part where you were unneccesarily mean to someone asking an honest question?

  16. @edward: Just joking on how you made me upset that Jim Lee’s Superman is in absolute and not ASS…so cruel but it’s true.

  17. I just wanted to point out, cause I’ve heard it before, "JUSTICE" was not delayed. It came out promptly every two months. I collected it all and was amazed at the quality of work that was produced almost every 60 days. If it was ever late, it was only by a week or two.


  18. @Nate: You’re right, I looked it up – JUSTICE came out every two months.  That’s still way too long of an interval to be able to follow that series.

  19. now i’m confused

  20. There are definitely kids books out there, but I think it would be better if the mainstream publishers tried to make a few of their titles more kid friendly.  I think Marvel has found a nice way to do it with their First Class books, and DC has their Johnny DC line.  I think that, down the road, they’ll have to find some way to get kids more involved, not only to ensure future customers, but to combat the lousy economy as well. 

  21. Justice was horrible IMO. Cant believe they turn that crap into an absolute so quickly, but they seem like they are dragging their feet on All Star Superman.

  22. @Optimus187Prime: Alex Ross sells.  And don’t assume ALL-STAR SUPERMAN will be Absoluted.

  23. Why does everyone assume All Star Supes will get the Absolute treatment?  Where did this rumor start, and why did so many people take to it so quickly?

     I’ve got the two hardcovers and they’re fantastic.  Anyone that’s every liked Superman should have both those books already.

  24. @savinglala: I think it’s just that people want it to be absolute, and as edward pointed out, some pretty bad stories have gotten absolutes….so why shouldnt Morrison’s ASS be absoluted?

  25. @TNC: Morrison’s ass at that size might not be a good thing.

  26. @muddi: You know I kiss Morrison’s ASS a lot on this site… it’s not surprising I think it being oversized it a good thing.

  27. For Tommorow and Justice have been out a lot longer than All Star Superman thats why there getting Absoluted first. I reckon All Star will get the Absolute treatment but not for a few years

  28. @Conor-Yep you’re right. I had to re-read issues every 3 or 4 or so to keep up. I think it will be cool to see it ALL collected in one volume, instead of the 3 individual volumes DC squeezed out. 

  29. It actually ended Thursday. Couldn’t last one more day. Too much dust and cigarette smoke and lack of sleep and bad food.

  30. Thanks again ron. I decided to go with Essential. I also agree with you about the coloring of the 60s comics. Talk to you later.