The iFanboy Letter Column – 08.12.2011

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday is all about drinking away the realities of the global economy. For others, it’s about lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills and quietly chuckling to themselves.

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 have a hypothetical scenario for you. This is one that I feel has to have been brought up in a comic at some point in the last 38 years. Which is stronger: Captain America’s vibranium shield or Wolverine’s adamantium claws? Let’s say Wolverine came at Cap full-bore. His claws are out and Cap puts his shield up to block. Do Wolverine’s claws penetrate the shield? Do they bounce off? Is the shield stronger, causing the bones in Wolverine’s hands to actually push outward, puncturing his skin and making a bloody mess? Who wins!?

Jeff R. from Ohio

With the recent release of the Captain America movie and the establishment of Captain America’s shield as a symbol, I’ve gotten many hypotheticals like this one, but surprisingly, no one has come up with this exact question, which I find surprising. So let’s break it down:

Wolverine’s claws and skeleton are covered/laced with adamantium, an indestructible metal alloy. It’s often been said that since adamantium is indestructible, Wolverine’s claws could then cut through anything. But if you examine that closely, one does automatically suggest the other. Sure, Wolverine’s claws may be sharp and made of this indestructible alloy, but that doesn’t give it a license to cut through anything.

Meanwhile, Captain America’s shield is made of a combination of vibranium and iron alloy.  For those who don’t know, vibranium is a metal found in Wakanda and Antarctica. It’s known to be able to absorb vibrations in its vicinity and kinetic energy directed at it. As more kinetic energy is thrown at it, the metal becomes tougher.

So in the scenario you’ve outlined, I’m afraid the edge has to go to Captain America. Wolverine diving, claws first, would produce a massive amount of kinetic energy that the shield would absorb, thus making the shield tougher. I think Wolverine may be able to get a couple of nicks and scratches, on the shield, but he’s not going to crack that thing. To date, the only times Captain America’s shield has been destroyed has been through cosmic/mystical level ways, like when the Beyonder broke it in Secret Wars, or Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet, or more recently, by the God of Fear in Fear Itself.

Now, would the shield push back on Wolverine, pushing his bones outward and making him a bloody mess? Probably not. I have a feeling those adamantium claws and bones are pretty tough and it would take a lot to make that happen.

So in terms of claws vs shield, Captain America wins. Now if the question is, “Who wins in a fight between Captain America and Wolverine?” I’m going to go with Wolverine, because that shield is only about 3 feet wide and Wolverine is going to figure out a way to get around it, and then Captain America is toast, super soldier serum or not.

Ron Richards

How do you think Jason Todd’s character would have progressed if the fans had chosen not to have him killed in “A Death in the Family”?


Holy crap, Tom. I mean… holy crap!

Listen, we’ve been doing iFanboy for a long time and we’ve had just about every kind of question imaginable sent in to us in one form or another and not only have you sent in a question that we’ve never seen but it’s a question THAT I’VE NEVER EVEN CONTEMPLATED.

But it seems so obvious, right? It’s one of the great “what ifs” in comics and I’ve never even workshopped: what would have happened in 1988 if fans hadn’t voted Jason Todd to die 5,343 to 5,271. (And that’s a bizarrely low number of votes for the time and for the importance of what was being decided, if you think about it.)

Maybe I’ve never thought about because I was just so happy to be rid of that snot nosed brat who had sullied the good name of Robin that Dick Grayson had built up for 48 years. Or maybe it was because Tim Drake came along just a year later and he was cool and I didn’t have time to think about Jason Todd anymore.

So what would have happened with Jason Todd’s character if fans had voted he lived through The Joker’s attack? It was a real possibility considering the margin of victory was a mere 72 votes. I think that DC had to rehabilitate Jason. No question about it. They had painted themselves into a corner by making Post-Crisis Jason a street tough who acted like an asshole and who possibly murdered criminals. (He totally did.) I think that they probably would have used the experience with The Joker to humble Jason and make him a more likable character. The humbling had to be done and what better way than to use a near-death experience, and the possible — probable? — death of his mother to show Jason that it was time to man up and be a better Robin.

It’s funny — if the fans vote Jason to live then we never have Tim Drake and the ripple effects flow out from Gotham City to the Teen Titans and beyond. We’d be looking at a very different DC Universe.

Conor Kilpatrick

I’ve been isolated from my LCS by several hundred miles for most of this year, so instead of paying shipping from London to Scotland, or going through switching the order back and forth, I’ve taken big runs of series to re-read while I’m away. Things like 100 Bullets, Lucifer, Ex Machina, The Walking Dead, and Sleeper, which due to length or complexity are sometimes hard to follow month to month.

I honestly think I’ve enjoyed these much more in these big re-reads than I did first time around. I know you’re swamped with new comics as well as Books Of The Month, etc., but do you ever get the chance to go back through old issues en masse, which series do you re-read (or do you wish you had time to re-read), and if the desire struck, would you go to issues you already had, or pick up fancy new collections (eg. Starman, Johns’ The Flash, Simonson’s The Mighty Thor etc.)?

Sam from Pitlochry, Scotland

You’re not wrong that there’s not much time to re-read. At this point, I have time to read new comics when they come out on Wednesday, because that’s built into my routine. Besides that? It’s a lot of work on the website, and the family. It doesn’t leave much time to reading new books, not to mention going back and re-reading old things.

That being said, one of my favorite things to spend my cash on is big, swanky reprints of my favorite stories, and through those, I have re-read things now and again over the last few years. I’ve been reading through Hellboy again, thanks to Library Editions. I read through Starman again. I did Swamp Thing. I re-read Sleeper. I re-read Powers. I do tend to go through my Preacher trades every few years. But, if I have something in issues? Forget it. I might never read Y: The Last Man again unless I buy the collections, and I would love to Lucifer again, almost more than anything else I can think of.

Here’s the thing though. I have a long box, and in that long box are all the issues of my favorite series, like Y and Lucifer and Ultimate Spider-Man. Queen and Country is in there, but I got those collections, and they’re staying in that box. So I’ve obviously considered it, but it never happens.

The point being, I envy what you’re doing. If this website was to end today, I’d very much consider a break to go back through and read the classics. I went and put a damned library together, and I might as well enjoy it. I’d love to read comics in more of an a la carte format. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading current issues, but it is endless, like the mail. They never stop.

I say you should enjoy yourself. It sounds like great fun.

Josh Flanagan


  1. @Josh I’m about due for a Transmetropolitan re-read. Not only does it hold up, but each time the series increasingly reveals how prescient Warren Ellis was back in the late 90s.

    As for “I’d love to read comics in more of an a la carte format” — I’ve long hoped for a digital “read-only” or library model. I don’t want tons of paper in my house, and I don’t even necessarily want to keep files on my ipad, I just want to follow comics week in and week out. Something like Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited/Netflix Instant – subscription based, I pay one price (say, $20-40 a month) to read whatever I want, new books are available each Wednesday, but go away after a week.

    Ah, to dream. 

  2. @Conor I seem to remember the voting phone numbers for the Jason Todd thing were not free. I remember not voting for that reason. So the numbers actually seem kind of high to me.

  3. @frankloudly  Correct. It wasn’t free: it was $0.50 to call and the number was only live for two days. I still think the numbers are super low considering how many people were reading comics.

  4. @conor I’ve read anecdotes that DC staffers at the time would call multiple “kill him” votes from the DC office lobby phone to sway the vote, so the numbers might not have even been valid, as low as they were.

  5. I’ve never read Lucifer.  I need to grab those trades.

  6. Wolverine’s claws have met Captain America’s shield before. There’s a pretty popular shirt/poster image out there (not the one from the cover at this link).

  7. Wait, I remember that Cap’s shield was an accidental melding of vibranium and adamantium, o one of a kind mix they couldn’t duplicate. Did they ret-con that? And I think it was Doom’s bolt from the blue that destroyed the shield in Secret Wars.

  8. @MikeG  That’s a common misonception – but Cap’s shield was made before adamantium existed – I’ve checked with Marvel and they confirmed there is no adamantium in Cap’s shield. The vibranium and iron mix is the thing that has not been duplicated

    As for Secret Wars, we’re both kind of right.  Doom stole the Beyonder’s power – so while Doom broke the shield, it was with the cosmic power of the Beyonder…

    @jasondbrewer  that’s a great find – I forgot about that issue. 

  9. Thor broke the shield, too, while he was juiced up on Odin-power. Or maybe just dented it, I don’t remember.

  10. @Ron – I like to think that Marvel just has a customer service line to answer all the nerdiest of fan questions.

    The whole Wolverine’s clawas cutting through anything always sort of bugged me. Should he be able to cut through everything? His claws act like lightsabers most of the time.

  11. so, what Josh is saying . . . is that he needs a vacation. . . 

  12. @conor  I remember reading a story that some guy with an early modem on his Apple computer said he programmed it to dial the “Kill Jason” line repeatedly for a few hours or something, and DC said if he was successful, he made the difference and is directly responsible for Jason Todd dying. I wonder if that guy ever came forward?

    @flakbait  Thor definitely dented the shield at one point in (I believe) an Avengers issue like 12 years ago. Then Asgardian blacksmith’s fixed it.

    @DeadpoolFan1  It also bothers me that Wolverine’s claws can “cut through anything.” Just because Adamantium is the strongest alloy their is, and they are razor sharp, it doesn’t mean Wolverine has the strength to cut through any substance. A sharpened diamond would cut through anything if it was on a motorized drill, but if i just had a diamond in my hand, I couldn’t use it to cut through steel with my bare hands, as I don’t have super strength. 

  13. Fascinating that there are already two urban legend-ish stories in the comments about the killing of Jason Todd. I bet there are a lot.

  14. @conor Didn’t Denny Oneill tell that phone story on the Red Hood DVD? I know I’ve seen him talk about it on an interview. Might have been that DC 75th anniversary DVD

  15. @ron thanks Ron. Could have sworn it was a mix, oh well. Hey, whatever happened to the Shield Steve used as the Captain? I know USAgent used it but does he still have it?

  16. @JohnVFerrigno  Yeah, I’ve heard the robo-call story about Jason Todd too.

  17. @MikeG  adamantium was in the mix at one time. the original entry in the handbook to the marvel universe said it was the result of a metallurgical accident that combined adamantium with vibranium. the creation of modern adamantium was then an attempt to recreate that accident. Later someone realized that this contradicted  existing continuity and it was changed. Originally the sheild was neither indestructible nor vibranium. all of that is a retcon.

    it is also all wrong. the shield isnt adamantium, vibranium or unobtanium, its made of pure concentrated american dream. thats why its unbreakable. Execpt when it breaks, but even then it can be rebuilt if you believe…

  18. Someone’s dad wasn’t happy when he got a $250 phone bill for 500 robocalls

  19. I just don’t get why everybody raves about Ultimate Spiderman.  I suppose I never will.  I read like the first 5 softcovers and I had to force myself to finish them.  You’d be way better off going back and reading all of Brand New Day again!!  That would be WAY MORE fun!!

  20. Great questions (and answers) this week.

    For me, rereading is always WAY more rewarding and interesting than first-time-through reading. Only when you reread something can you really see how every scene works (or doesn’t work) in the context of the whole.

  21. I seem to be the same way with rereading. I only ever reread stuff when I have it collected, but I have many comics that I’ve always wanted to go back and reread. For some reason rescently, I’ve had a strange irking to go and pull out some short series like Fantastic Four: The End, Spider-Man: Reign, and Irredeemable Ant-Man to reread and see if I like them as  well as when I orginally read them

  22. @robbydzwonar. It’s like anything, it’s what you like, how it made you feel. I keep re-reading camelot falls and up, up and away from superman because they were the first books i’d read after getting back into comics after a few years.

  23. @KenOchalek  I don’t work for DC, but I voted to kill him twice. There was nothing preventing anyone from voting as many times as they wanted, as long as they were willing to pay 50 cents per vote.

  24. If only that number still worked. I’d vote to kill him right now.

  25. Ive heard that adamantium was an attempt to synthesize vibranium, i guess i heard wrong. Ill have to consult my encyclopedias when i get them out of storage.

  26. When I just want a quick read I’ll go back and read a Hellboy or Jonah Hex one-shot every now and then. I don’t think I’ve ever went back and read a whole run a second time, but I’ve really only been reading for a few years now. I’m sure that will change as time passes.

  27. Killing Jason seemed kind of harsh didn’t it? I mean couldn’t they have made him give up the Robin mantle instead. Well at least the annoying twerp was done with.