The iFanboy Letter Column – 04/23/2010

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means freedom as the work week has ended and the weekend can begin. For others, Friday means you’re off to crawl into a bottle with a colleague.

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 was recently rewatching the old video show you did on Vertigo where you debated what the flagship title would be when Y: The Last Man ended (Fables). What would you consider to be the flagship title of the Vertigo line now? Scalped gets talked about a lot on the podcast, but Fables is still being published.

Elliott from Vallejo, California (Duraflametree)

Ah, steady old episode #16. Those were the days. You know, back then, no one had ever heard of an iPhone and Brian K. Vaughan still made comics. Things have changed, I suppose. For the better? Who can say. I mean, I did a ZeFrank joke for the ad. Wow.

I love talking like a wistful old man.

Anyway, to get the point, the flagship definitely ain’t Scalped. They just don’t sell enough issues, and when people talk about Jason Aaron these days, they talk about his Marvel work. When people talk about Bill Willingham, despite the fact that he’s done plenty of superhero work, his lines at conventions are because of Fables, and what is now a Fables universe really. No, Scalped is in that second tier, where the sales of the trades seem to support the issues, like with DMZ and Northlanders. As I look over Vertigo’s monthly slate, it’s clear that nothing touches Fables. Sweet Tooth is the up and comer, but it doesn’t have the broad appeal of Fables, or the instant one line pitch. Same with The Unwritten, and Unknown Soldier. Madame Xanadu, gets critical attention, but I never hear anyone bring it up. Still, it’s gone 22 issues! I’m sort of under the impression that if it’s not Fables, then Vertigo has no flagship. They put out some good, but not mind blowing stuff every month. I mean, Hellblazer is their longest running title by far, but even that feels niche. The whole place is probably being propped up by Preacher and Y: The Last Man trade sales these days.

Yeah, I’m gonna go with Fables.

Maybe things haven’t changed all that much. Then again, I can order a pizza from my phone. You know… but without have to actually talk to anyone.

Josh Flanagan



Recently, I found out about your site, and have caught up on all of your video podcasts, great stuff. I have some favorite books, and I’ve noticed that they’ve never been mentioned on the show. I’m wondering if you guys have read these, and if so, what you thought of them:

(I’ll add a brief sentence describing each in case you haven’t read them.)

Superman: Secret¬†Identity — Busiek and Immonen. This book answers the question, “What if Superman existed in our world”. Tells the story of a kid in the real world named Clark Kent. He somehow gets Superman’s powers as a teenager, and the 4 part series takes us through his life; how he deals with his abilities, the US government trying to catch him, marriage, kids, etc. It’s easily the best Superman story I’ve ever read, and what really pulled me into comics.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel — Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Lee Bermejo. This was a brilliant look at things through Lex’s eyes. He doesn’t seem like such a bad guy when you read it. The art adds volumes to the weight of the story.

Batman/Deathblow: Into the Fire — Another Azzarello/Bermejo collab. I know you guys have mentioned that Deathblow is corny, but it doesn’t show in this book. When one of Bruce’s friends is killed by a Pyrokenetic, he tracks down the killer. Doing so leads him to learn about Deathblow. This is one of my favorite Batman stories, as it plays to his strengths as a detective. Has kind of a “Nolanverse” feel to it, and was likely used as reference for the movies. Stunning art!!!!

Superman: Speeding Bullets —¬† Really cool Elseworlds title that explores what might have happened if The Waynes had found their son in a crashed spaceship, adopted him, and named him Bruce. The cover is an homage to Superman #1, with Batman floating in the night sky instead.

Ibrahim from Portland, Oregon

Superman Speeding BulletsOkay, Ibrahim, let’s take these one at a time:

Superman: Secret Identity — This is a fantastic book and we have definitely talked about it at some point. I can’t remember exactly when or where (it’s been five years and a lot of shows) but we’ve definitely mentioned it. [Oh, here’s one place we’ve mentioned it — a letter’s column from two years ago. But I know I’ve mentioned it on a show. — C.] I know for sure that I would have spotlighted it more, probably in a vault show, but the trade paperback is out of print and I try not to recommend books that people can’t find if I can help it. If we ever do a Top Five Superman Stories show, that will most likely be in it. I really hope DC puts that one back into print soon.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel — I think I read this, but I can’t remember exactly. I remember it coming out and I can picture the covers, but I can’t remember actually reading it. It’s possible that my friend Patrick bought it at the time they came out and I just remember that. I should probably investigate that.

Batman/Deathblow: Into the Fire — I definitely did not read this.

Superman: Speeding Bullets — Not only have I read this but it’s currently sitting on a shelf in my trade paperback book case (even though it’s a prestige volume). This is a GREAT story (as you said, The Waynes discover Kal-El’s ship and raise him as Bruce) and thinking about it makes me miss the Elseworlds line all the more. I say it all the time, and I’ll say it again now, if I was in charge of DC Comics I’d reinstitute the Elseworlds line immediately. Some of the best books that DC put out in the last 20 years were under the Elseworlds banner.

Conor Kilpatrick


  1. I just purchased the Emerald Knight Elseworlds book that has Bruce becoming Green Lantern and I loved it.

  2. Lex Luthor: Man of Steel is pretty damn good. I agree about Elseworlds too. Can you imagine some of today’s talent working on it?

  3. I have a feeling Sweet Tooth will end up becoming "Preacher" & "Y:The Last Man" . Specially if The Atom sells.

  4. @JesTr: I’ve got that one too. And you’re right – it’s also quite good.

  5. Favorite by far was Red Son. In retrospect, it’s almost a flip side of New Frontier. Elseworlds Forever!

  6. The Batman/Deathblow series was definitely a bit of an overlooked gem.  Great atmosphere.  And I’d have to argue for Hellblazer as flagship Vertigo title.  Partly for age and name recognition, but mainly because it still harkens back to the style of comics which gave birth to the Vertigo banner ie. it seems to be the very last of those late 80s mature readers, socially relevant, kind of revolutionary books like Sandman, the later Doom Patrol etc.

  7. Gotta say, Superman:Secret Identity not being in print and super rare in trade format is a travesty! Use your power, ifanboy!

  8. I second the love for Batman/Deathblow.  I remember reading and enjoying the first trade.  I also liked the first Batman/Grendel collection.

    Superman: Secret Identity is one of my favorite trades.  I own a copy and read it once a year. 

    I think Fables can still be touted as the Flagship books from Vertigo.  It sells very well in trades and the circulation at my local library seems very good.  However, I fully expect The Unwritten and Sweet Tooth to continue to gain readership.  They are both very well crafted. 

  9. Speaking of Fables, it’s almost about that time where I give in and buy that damn crossover book everybody says is terrible so I can get caught up in time for the next volume…

  10. Has to be Fables, hands down.  It’s not my favorite these days (Scalped is) but it’s still the King of Vertigo.  Mostly by default, really.

  11. @robbydzwonar – If you’re only interested in the main Fables book (and not Jack of Fables), then you can probably skip the crossover.  I didn’t think it was bad (or exceptionally good), but I also don’t think it made any significant changes in the main Fables world (in my opinion it could easily have been an arc in Jack of Fables).

  12. @stuclach  Seconded, the crossover can definitly (and I think should) be skipped.

  13. @robbydzwonar:  Allow me to stir the pot and say that I enjoyed the Crossover.  Maybe because so many people crapped on it before I read it and lowered my expectations.  But, I couldn’t allow myself to skip it.  Plus, how could I have  a volume missing on my bookshelf?!?

  14. I liked the crossover.

  15. I hated the crossover.

  16. Double-post!

    I should add that I hated the crossover, but also have never read any Jack of Fables issues. Maybe my enjoyment of the event was dependent on having been invested in those characters, but overall I found the writing to be weak and whole event dragged on for far too long. I still don’t exactly know who all the Literals were.

  17. i think Preacher and Y-The Last Man were special cases of Vertigo books crossing over into main stream popularity. I don’t think Vertigo calculates a way to do this but it’s just something that happens.

    It’s one of the things that makes comics reading exciting. Waiting and hoping for that brillant mature, intelligent title that comes around every 5 years.

    Who knows what the next awesome book will be, who knows what cool concept it uses, who knows which writer has that really unique and moving voice. Not me and i doubt Vertigo knows either – But it will happen

    Oh, and lets just take a second to remember Y- the Last Man. God Damn that was good wasn’t it?

  18. American Vampire could become the new Vertigo flagship, it depends on for how long Stephen King will stay on the book.

  19. I have slowly been amassing an Elseworld’s collection.  It’s become that "thing" that I dig through boxes for.  I think I’ve got maybe like…(turns and looks at giant stack of comics on the floor)…40 or so Elseworld isses/stories.  I’ve found some cool stuff, and I actually found a copy of Speeding Bullets at a comic shop (it was beat to hell though and they were charging full price),  I would LOVE to see Elseworld’s come back.  They are damn fun comics and a blast to track down.

    Also, Superman: Secret Identity is soooooo good.  I found all of the prestige issues in a dollar bin at a con.  So, so good.  I really wish they’d reprint that book…along with Batgirl: Year One.

  20. I’d say 80% of DC’s Best work was Elseworlds.

    Kingdom Come, Red Son, Speeding Bullets, JLA The Nail, All Star Superman(Technically) 

    Those are just the ones sitting next to me. I’ve got a bunch on my shelf. From JSA liberty Files to JLA Act of God(Okay, not all of the Elseworlds Line is great) to my most prized possesion Batman in Darkest Night. 

  21. I’ve always had mixed feelings about secret identity, because on the one hand there’s the story that i got and the story that i envisioned. it’s definitely beautiful and there’s a couple of panels that stick with me, like when he first tries out his powers at night and when he goes and rescues the people from the river. and it’s really well thought out as to how he approaches using his powers and the governments approach to him. 

    but at the same time i guess i’d imagined a more…grandiose story, where you see what happens when a superman goes public in our world. can he have a normal life? people live in awe of him but also fear him. cults and religions have begun to form around him. people around the world are jumping off buildings expecting to be saved by him, with often horrific consequences. governments don’t know what to expect, especially fearing what happens if a superman really did intervene in somalia or chechnya or east timor. on the other hand, that may not be good escapist fair or able to be dealt with realistically, or maybe it’s been done already. anyone know of a story like that?

  22. @Matrix 

    Have you read Red Son?


    Anyway, I don’t think Vertigo has a easy premise book to lead the pack. Certainly Scalped, Unknown Soldier, and Unwritten have the quality part down. 

  23. @NawidA – I have read red son and i enjoyed it, but that’s not really what i was thinking of. the closest thing i know of is the superman movies or the nolanverse (or maybe if chris nolan did superman!). That more realistic feeling of having a walking, talking god amongst men, both shocking and awe inspiring. 

  24.  Azzarello/Bermejo are a great team.  Hopefully they will do another villian-centric ogn.


  25. I’m currently reading Fables in borrowed trades – just finished the Homelands TPB.  I’ve found I’ve enjoyed the series much less once the Battle of Fabletown ended and the whole status quo shifted.  I know change and conflict is the root of all drama, I just found Boy Blues adventures in the Homelands and Prince Charming running Fabletown to be a bit dull after the excellence of the first four trades.

    Is it worth sticking with?

  26. @UncleBob : have you read Joker?

  27. I agree with Conor, both about Speeding Bullets and Elseworlds as a whole. Really miss that line.

  28. Well, I think it’s not hard to figure out where my favorite Vertigo book ranks, seeing as how you didn’t even mention it.  Have any of you ever read an issue of Air? (Though it does read better in trades)

  29. @lexid523: Josh read the first few issues of AIR and didn’t like it.

  30. I’d be first in line if they decided to reprint Superman: Sectret Identity. …that is all.

  31. I really enjoy the Vertigo line.  Infact it is what got me back into comics… well to be honest it was Y and TWD (image). but I would love to say it is Scalped that runs the line, since its my fav but Id have to say when I think Vertigo I think Fables even though I have never read a single issue trade or compendium. 

    Given enough time I think Scalped can make the move to the top tier. Books like Unknown Soldier, Sweet tooth and The Unwritten are simply to young/ new to tell.

     Also I LOVE Superman: RED SON 

  32. about 5 years ago when I didn’t really read comics, I vaguely knew what Vertigo was and I associated it with Sandman and Swampthing.  


    Also, who are these nerds ignoring Scalped and talking about Jason Aaron’s Marvel work? That’s just mental.