The iFanboy Letter Column – 05/14/2010

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 —

Who do you think are the Top 5 characters who undergone the most radical transformations since they were created? The two that come to my mind are Luke Cage, who Bendis has transformed from a cheesy, 70’s blaxploitation character to a cool, modern hero and Alan Moore’s great reinvention of the Swamp Thing. Love the website and podcasts. Keep up the great work,

Scott from Orlando, Florida

It’s almost as if any character who’s been around for last 20 or 30 years would have to have undergone a massive change, just because the style of storytelling and characterization has changed so much. You could easily lead that list with characters like Superman because they’re so radically different than when they were first created. I don’t know if you know this, but Superman was kind of a dick. That being said, there are certainly a number of characters we can point out as having had major changes.

1) Batman – Batman has undergone a great deal of change over the decades. You all remember the campiness of the TV show, right? Well, he was that way in comics too. I single out Bruce because he was really the harbinger of change for comics in general. Neal Adams started changing things a bit when he brought Batman back to night time, but Frank Miller really changed things up with Batman Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, implementing tonal changes that affected the entire superhero industry to this day.

2) Bucky – I think Ed Brubaker’s legacy is going to hinge on the gigantic task of not only making the return of Bucky Barnes acceptable to readers, but also re-writing how we think of him. From kid sidekick to mindless Russian assassination cyborg to the one and only Captain America, complete with sidearm. That’s quite a journey.

3) Starman – Part of the genius of James Robinson’s epic 80+ issue run on Starman wasn’t just creating Jack Knight, but reinventing the world around him, including that of his father, Ted Knight, and the myriad of characters surrounding him, friend and foe. Robinson took a goofy Golden Age holdout, and added layers and shape, to form a real character, where before there had been none. But it wasn’t just Ted Knight that was rebooted. It was everything that surrounded him, including the legacy that is now such a giant part of most of DC Comics.

4) The Hulk – Just try to come up with a personality that Hulk hasn’t had. From lumbering, but ultimately sweet Frankenstein, to unstoppable monster, to Mr. Fixit, to king of the world, the Hulk has proven to be an extremely malleable character when Marvel needs him to be. He’s always a presence, and always a force.

5) Barbara Gordon – While, I think the character is relatively consistent, keeping in mind she was created a long, long time ago, Barbara Gordon’s place in Gotham has changed a whole lot. She started out as a kid jumping around and fighting crime as Batgirl, but then Alan Moore decided to have her gunned down, and somehow, shockingly, she’s still in a wheelchair. Eventually, she was reinvented as Oracle, the all-knowing, all-seeing eye of Gotham, and aid to crimefighters the world over. It sounds like this should have been a big failure, but it only made her character stronger and more interesting, and its testament to that change that she’s still around and still holds an important part in the world of DC Comics. And if they ever take her out of that wheelchair, I’m not interested.

Josh Flanagan


You must get tired of hearing it, but I love the show. I discovered it about a month ago and I was instantly hooked. I am surviving on a steady diet of your past shows in order to catch up. I have been an avid read for over twenty five years, but I must confess that for the last five I have slacked off on my reading, but i continue to buy books. I keep telling myself I will sit down on catch up  (am I kidding myself?). I must admit I relate with Ron most often because I am a yellow dog Marvel reader, but Conor and Josh I appreciate your insight into the DC and Indy worlds. I have two questions for the three wise men:

1) What is your take in the meteoric rise and fall of Valiant Comics in the 90’s?

2) How did you feel when Marvel made the decision to give Spider-Man organic webbing to replace his web shooters? This is a tender subject for me because I am a HUGE Spider-Man fan and I felt the change was to mirror the first film. Ron like your X-Men, my Spider-Man collection if gapless from 1984 to present.

Tim E. from Texas

Thanks for the kind words Tim, and just to be clear to you and anyone else who’s curious: we NEVER tire of hearing that you and other enjoy our podcast, website or whatever. Honestly, it keeps us going and working to provide great comics content for you day and day out, so please, keep the compliments coming everyone! Now to address your questions:

Magnus Robot Fighter Valiant Comics1) I think my take on Valiant Comics of the 1990s isn’t very far off from the reality of the situation, and not uncommon for the world of comic books. For those who don’t remember, Valiant Comics was a publisher that was founded by some comic veterans (and ex-Marvel creators), Jim Shooter and Bob Layton, in the early 1990s after getting the rights to some classic Gold Key characters like Solar: Man of the Atom, Turok, and Magnus Robot Fighter mixed with their own creations like Harbinger, Ninjak, X-O Manowar and Archer and Armstrong. They began building their “Valiant Universe” and had some level of success. A combination of the comics boom of the early 1990s combined with some great talent like Joe Quesada, David Lapham, Barry Windsor-Smith and many others, brought about a good level of success. Unfortunately the in the mid-1990s, Valiant was sold to Acclaim (the video game company) and the comic book boom collapsed and things quickly fell apart from there.

Despite the meteoric rise and fall of Valiant, they definitely created some great comic books that are worth looking for if you’re ever at a convention and looking for something new. I think their rise isn’t too surprising as they did it right: they got great creators and let them tell their stories. Despite his reputation, Jim Shooter knew how to make to good comics and Bob Layton is a legend in the industry. With those two leading the way, I wasn’t surprised to see that Valiant comics were worth reading back in the day. If you’ve got the resources (money and support) and great creators, success isn’t THAT hard to come by. The problem becomes when the creators aren’t there or the money starts to dry up, as we’ve seen with other independent comic publishers that burst onto the scene and then disappear, like CrossGen in the early 2000s.

2)  It should come to no surprise that I was not happy when they introduced organic web shooters into the pages of Spider-Man comics. It was an obvious shoe-horning in of a detail of the character to fit in with the movie. I don’t really think that’s a startling revelation, and the fact that they have since fixed that and removed the organic web shooters from the comics, which was actually the one good thing to come from the “One More Day” storyline.

Thanks for writing in Tim and have no fear, one day you’ll be able to sit down and catch up on all your comics. You just have to make the time. It can be done! Good luck!

Ron Richards


  1. My god, I clicked on the link about Supes being a dick…. please tell me that is all made up. I don’t even like Jimmy or Aquaman, but the cover of Superman holding a glass over them dying in the sand dunes is one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

  2. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Oh, no, those are very real. 

  3. Superman is a dick site is amazing!

  4. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Josh, I completely agree with you about Barbara Gordon. I think that if John Ostrander hadn’t turned her into Oracle in the pages of SUICIDE SQUAD, I think she’d be back up on her feet by now. And I suspect that she’d be worse because of it, at least in terms of her being a compelling character. As Oracle, she’s really been allowed to take on a different role in the DCU. I mean, if she was just Batgirl, would she ever have been a part of the Justice League, like she was under Morrison’s run? I tend to doubt it.

  5. YEAH!  Letter Column is back…..I was jonesing for some comic book Q & A after there not being one last week.

  6. I agree that Oracle is a great character.  But I am such a Barbara Gordon fan from the 70s and 80s comics and the 90s animated series, that I just can’t fully embrace anyone else as Batgirl.  Now I feel like DC is backed into a corner because of the positive message her character sends, so they can’t have Babs as Batgirl again, or even get her out of the wheelchair.  Although, soliciting that mini a few years ago titled Oracle: The Cure was a cruel tease.

    I forgot about how much Superman was a dick.  Glad to see that site is still out there. 


  7. Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

    Miracleman (aka Marvelman) . . . nuff’ said.

  8. i’m glad superman isn’t my dad.

  9. agreed regarding the organic web shooters, I remember seeing this in the movie and feeling sold out.  this really took away from the intelligence of the character (my only reference was the cartoon at this point, but it made it obvious how smart PP was) and the movie rendition dumbed down the character to the Nth degree…

  10. I like that list of reworked characters. Barbara Gordon is an excellent example.

  11. Holy sheep dip Batman! Superman King of the WORLD? He is a dick.

    What I remember from Valiant was just some great character design, awesome illustrators and the fact I couldn’t afford any of the back issues ;(   Have any of these been collected in a trade??

  12. Superman Is A Dick is awesome :).


    Who is the cover artist here, oh comics gurus?  I love it and I feel like I should know who it is, but I’m drawing a blank. 

    GET IT?!  DRAWING.  I used a colloquialism that contains the word "drawing" in reference to an artist. 


  13. I think Jim Shooter’s brash, outspoken personality got Valiant a lof of attention. I think that may have also worked against the imprint as time went on!

  14. It’s like I always say, "Jim Shooter made the trains run on time."



  15. @Risible The JO cover is by Neal Adams. A great resource for checking out this kind of thing is the Grand Comics Database;

     ‘Yellow dog Marvel fan’? Is that a Democrat thing?

  16. @Mart – Thanks!  I *knew* I knew who it was, but it just wasn’t coming to me.  As soon as I read your reply I was like "Ahhh, yes, of course."  Thanks for the tip r.e. the Grand Comics Database!