The iFanboy Letter Column – 07.30.2010

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means movie night. For others, Friday means pure unbridled hedonism. For some, it’s both. For others, neither.

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 —


The LCS has a lot of Alpha Flight for decent prices(2.00 – 2.50 a piece). I picked up #3 because it’s one of the best covers ever drawn but is the story any good? For the entire run? Talk to me about that.<

Jason N. from NB, Canada

Oh, Canada. Our good friends to the north who seem to not be able to get any respect when it comes to super-heroics in the Marvel Universe. For those unaware, Alpha Flight was a team of super heroes based in Canada. Imagine the Canadian Avengers, if you will. Spun out of the X-Men books, they featured several really good characters, like The Guardian, who in his Maple Leaf and red and white uniform was as close to Captain America as Canada could ever come; Puck, one of my personal favorite characters; Northstar, who’s currently on the X-Men; Sasquatch, who despite the cliche’ name was an excellent character.

Alpha Flight’s first run at Marvel comics spanned more than 10 years between 1983 and 1994 and 130 issues, most notably, the first 28 issues were written and drawn by John Byrne, and are considered to be some of his finest work at Marvel. After Byrne left, many writers came and went on the title, such as Scott Lobdell, Simon Furman, Bill Mantlo and Fabian Nicieza. After it got canceled, there were a couple of more attempts at an Alpha Flight book, most notably one by Steve Seagle that I just simply adored. It was great.

Now, I’m not sure what volume you’re referring to for isue #3, but if it’s issue #3 of the Byrne run, then I would say, definitely go out and seek the rest of his run. Get issues #1 through #28 and you’ll be in for a treat as Byrne really did some very good, underrated work on the title. He was able to take these Canadian characters and flesh them out, work in a few surprising plot twists as well as take a unique approach to the team book, with single issues focusing on one or two characters at a time. Like I said, it’s quite underrated in its quality, probably dismissed due to the fact that it’s a book about Canada essentially.

So go check out John Byrne’s run on Alpha Flight, I’m sure you can find the back issues for cheap, as i’m not quite sure if Marvel has collected/reprinted those stories in a while. Man, they really should. I’d buy an Alpha Flight Omnibus in an instant, although I don’t think many others would. Oh well. Oh Canada!

Ron Richards



So I recently had a friend start to write his own comics, and posting on a forum with others who have done the same. Ever since doing this it seems he has been biased towards the DC/Marvel stuff telling me that he is now only going to read creator owned stories because he is tired of what these bigger companies do, in example… a person dies, then they come back; a super hero changes their costume; an entire history of a character is wiped. I tried explaining that I am in two different mindsets when reading creator owned material and reading DC/Marvel stories. He just said that he is tired of being let down by these companies. Don’t get me wrong I love creator owned comics and have plenty of them in my pull box, I absolutely agree that they are important and needed in this industry.

Anyway my question is have you ever had this happen to any of you guys or anyone you knew? Do you have any arguments against what he is saying or do you agree?

Michael G. from Corpus Christi, Texas

How do I put this? You know those people who used to look up at the sky, and think, “I can’t believe all this is revolving around us,” or the people who said, “Hey, I think there’s something to this whole mortgage backed security thing, and nothing can ever go wrong”? That’s kind of how wrong your friend is. I mean, the dude’s got a right to read whatever he wants, and taste is something only for oneself. But the incredible variety to be found among the vast offerings of Marvel and DC is much too diverse to be narrowed down to one kind of story.

There are all sorts of things that go into making an enjoyable story, a story that makes you feel something, a story that contains truth, and there’s no reason those can’t be included in Marvel or DC books. If you get some hair up your ass about how they stunt creativity, you don’t fully understand creativity. It’s very often that structure and those roadblocks writers have to get around that make great work. Further, since for most comic creators, Marvel and DC are the only way they can make an actual living, to skip those companies is to skip out on some of the most talented people doing comics today. Can you imagine all the artists you’re not going to see, and all the genius you would simply miss out on if you didn’t read anything from Marvel or DC? Very often, it’s those companies who are indirectly bankrolling creator owned work.

Plus, I’ve read a metric buttload of crappy creator-owned comics, so it’s not like you take the corporation out of the equation and suddenly the comics are free to breathe the air of unfettered wonder. Anyone out there who says they love comics, but don’t let themselves study the magnificent works of Skottie Young, Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, Chris Samnee, Jock, Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon just because they’re being paid is missing out on stuff they should be learning from.

There’s room for everyone. Just be selective.

Josh Flanagan


My question is about the free promo material that companies put out on Wednesdays. I love the Marvel Saga books and the postcard flyer checklists that both Marvel and DC put out. This week I picked up the Curse of the Mutants Saga, and as an X-Men fan was pretty impressed. There was an interview with Victor Gischler, some great pinups, a preview of X-Men #1 and a series of single page origin/explanation, by the current teams on the different books. Damn impressive. So I was wondering what you guys think of the free promo material and what some of your favorite freebies have been over the years?

Alan (AlanRob) from Austin, Texas

Ah, promotional materials.

There was a time in my life when I grabbed everything that was marked as free and that wasn’t nailed down at the comic book shop counter. At a certain point, though, I realized I didn’t want them anymore. I’m trying to think about the last time that I actually took a promotional item and has a use for it and I think it was 10 years ago when I would grab my comics during my lunch break and read Comic Shop News while I ate (couldn’t read comics back then — they might get greasy!). At some point back then the comic book internet community started happening in earnest and Comic Shop News made a deal with Newsarama and started reprinting a lot of their stuff and since I was already reading it on Newsarama, I no longer had any need for Comic Shop News.

That was really it for me — the internet killed my need for freebies. News? Online. Interviews? Online. Checklists? Online. Eventually I just stopped taking the freebies at the counter. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I did.

Clearly, though, freebies at the comic book shop still have their place in this world. You only have to look at the multi-colored Lantern rings and the frenzy they caused as evidence of that. People like free stuff and if it’s cool free stuff, all the better.

If I think back over my own history, one freebie sticks out in my mind. At some point in the mid-90s, DC gave out Green Lantern rings. I know, I know — that seems crazy considering DC just did that last year, and in the mid-90s Green Lantern didn’t rate very high on the popularity scale, but I had the ring. It was made of a bit sturdier stuff (harder plastic) than the rings that were given out last year, and the little white circle in the middle of the Lantern logo glowed in the dark. I wore that one for a while. I think I wore it until the Lantern logo part broke off from the ring. I even think I wore it to the SATs as a good luck charm, but that might have been the PSATs. I can’t remember anymore.

Conor Kilpatrick


  1. Lol, is it scary how I knew who was responding by the answers given? I didn’t even have to see the name at the bottom of to answer to know it. I thought that was funny, anyhoo…Yes, Byrne’s run on Alpha Flight is great. I too, Ron, would pick up an Alpha Flight Omnibus by Byrne. Good stuff.

  2. I agree 100% – how can you ever expect a writer or artist for that matter, get the opportunity in this financial climate to produce creator owned work without the support and the ability to make a name for yourself through Marvel and DC.

    By DC does he then also mean Vertigo? As a part of DC I will assume he is, in which case he would be missing out on lots of glorious glorious works.

    Is he saying he would rather miss out on say Skottie Youngs gorgeous work in Wizard of Oz simply because of who it’s published by? 

    For every incredible creator owned comic like STUMPTOWN (Greg Rucka… I assume it’s creator owned, either way it’s bloody awesome), you will get 5 just god awful comics from other creators. Just think where would we be nowadays without the works of Morrinson, Millar and Gainman – writers that revoloutionised comics through Batman and other DC characters over the years. 

    I’ll tell you where we would be – fucking nowhere. Tell your friend to stop being a pretentious whiny bitch and if he really enjoys comics, then he will enjoy reading whatever he wants. 

  3. Let’s give advice/responses/opinions without resorting to name calling.

  4. Sounds like the friend IS enjoying whatever he wants.  Doesn’t mean Michael or anyone else has to agree, though.

  5. The freebies have a great place right now for me.  Every time I go to my LCS with my 3.5 year-old son, I grab those books for him and let him read (ie destroy) those books in the car.  He loves them, and it has helped teach him who is who in the Marvel and DC universes.

  6. You can get the first six issues of Alpha Flight in trade pretty easily (Alpha Flight Classic Vol. 1; there is a Vol. 2, but it’s sort of rare now). Byrne’s is definitely the classic run; the book takes a big drop in art and writing quality once Mantlo’s run begins.

  7. I use the little checklists as book marks.

  8. Here’s what I think about folks that have make a stink about forsaking "mainstream" comics: they usually come back. They’ll fall in love with a writer or artist who eventually does some Spider-Man or Batman work and will decide to check it out and realize they’ve been depriving themselves of darn good product.

  9. Correction: that Alpha Flight trade has the first eight issues, not the first six.

  10. re #1:  Ron, you’re right on the money.  Alpha Flight went off the rails but that Byrne run was fantastic.  It’s also a great place to see some really early Jim Lee (I’m pretty sure his first work for Marvel was on AF, somewhere in around issue 55) and some early Mignola stuff.  Alpha Flight was sometimes bad, but had some great moments.

  11. It might be useful if everyone who is trying to work in comics stopped reading Marvel & DC for 6 months.  Just immerse yourself in other stories and get away from what is familar to you. Comics will mean something a little different to you than they meant before. Then, start reading Marvel & DC again. You will notice things you didn’t notice before. It will change your perspective on comic stories and comic art. You’ll have a different appreciation for what Marvel & DC are doing. It will make you a better writer or artist.

  12. I loved the Alpha Flight Series by Seagle.  I thought that was a great run of books.  One of the only really good runs to come out of the late 90’s for marvel.  That and the Joe Casey Cable run are just fantastic. 

  13. Thanks for the input on Alpha Flight guys. I think I’ll buy low numbers here and there. Some of the covers are just resplendant! #3 and #6 for instance. Just incredible John Byrne stuff!

  14. Byrne did some great stuff and really fleshed out Alpha Flight as a team back then. I collected it out of default as I grew up on his Uncanny stuff. The X-men had tons of cameos and remember the lead up to the death of 1st Guardian issue #12, was a really good arc(Wolvie’s "dad"!)

    now who doesn’t like FREE stuff? I remember in Jan/Feb Marvel had an awesome freebie of a 2010 calendar with beautiful art by Marko Djurdjevic and also FREE Avengers Membership ID cards!! Also I just love the Marvel Reading Chronology FREEBIE, it gives a cool timeline and puts all the trades in order, listing what issues are contained in that particular collected ed.

  15. Thanks for answering my question Conor! I feel privileged that you guys addressed it twice, both on the podcast and here.  My fridge is covered in those promotional postcards (beats takeout menus), and I decorate my office with the small posters. I LOVE FREEBIES!!!

  16. Alpha Flight:  Ah, the good old days when John Byrne was THE MAN.  He had a couple of great "forgotten" runs on Alpha Flight and Hulk.  Everyone should check them out.  I recently picked up his Legends mini-series on the cheap.  His mid-80s DC stuff was fantastic.

    As for the guy who’s sick of Marvel and DC books, I can totally relate and understand.  I was there 2 or 3 years ago.  There are only so many times you can read about Magneto turning into a good guy (or a bad guy) or Joker breaking out of Arkham for the 764th time before you start to not care.  Still, I always come around because I genuinely love the art form and the characters. 

    They key to enjoying Marvel and DC books is to not too think to hard about making sense of these character’s lives, because you won’t be able to. (Read Wolverine’s Marvel Handbook entry;  it will make you dizzy trying to make sense of it.)  Judge each story on its own merits and try not to think of it in terms of where it fits in the character’s history, and you’ll enjoy your comics much, much more.  Hawkworld practically destroyed Hawkman as a character, but, taken on it’s own, it is an outstanding comic.


  17. I loved the Steve Seagle run of Alpha Flight as well. It was awesome. Think I have all of those in one of my long boxes. Now I want to go read them.

  18. i just got done reading the seagle alpha flight run, about 8 months ago and it stood the test of time.  Still a great run!!

  19.   As for free promotional stuff I collected all the Marvel Saga issues and had them bound into one     hardcover. Now i lend it out when someone asks me "What’s the deal with Annihilation or Secret Invasion" – i did pay for a few of them but i thought it was worth it…

    includes Marvel You Universe Saga, Annhilation Saga, Daredevil Saga, Moon Knight Saga, New Mutants Saga, Runaways Saga, Secret Invasion Saga, Squadron Supreme Saga, The Ultimates Saga, March on Ultimatum Saga, War of Kings Saga, Wolverine Saga aaaaaand Astonishing X-Men Saga!


  20. I like taking Comic Shop News and other freebies so I can cut out the pretty pictures and paste or tape them on my guitar, laptop, bookshelf, whatever the hell else I think would look better with a Green Lantern or Superman drawing on it.

  21. I like using the postcard promos you get at comic shops as bookmarks in my trades and collected editions as well as other books.