The iFanboy Letter Column – 08/01/2008!

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means it’s the last work day before a well deserved weekend. For others, Friday is the day you finally try to go see The Dark Knight in IMAX.

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 – contact@ifanboy.com


I’m starting to get a little perturbed with the readers complaining about Marvel’s heroes still being at the Savage Land in Secret Invasion. Yes, it’s been four months that we have been following the story, but in the actual passage of time that the story has covered, just a few hours have gone by. Bendis is covering the heroes being hit with a huge invasion that is going to take them a little bit to regroup from in addition to other story threads (Thunderbolts, New York). Do you think that the readers are being a little critical about the pacing here, or is Bendis trying to tell so many story arcs that they all suffer from not enough attention.

marvelzombie

I’m going to try to answer objectively, despite your moniker. I agree that some readers are being critical of the way that Bendis has chosen to tell this story. For others, they are perfectly happy with the way this is all going. Myself, Ron, and Conor all sort of fall into the group of people who are ready for something to happen. But I can’t speak for them, so this is just my point of view.

I was very excited for this story. There was a gigantic build up, lasting years, and full of clues. When the first issue hit, it was fun, but lacked that special moment. There hasn’t been an “OH SHIT!” moment in the whole thing yet. Perhaps for some, the reveal of Hank Pym or Jarvis as Skrulls was enough, but for me, it hasn’t hit me where I live. I think it’s going to have to be some really huge character that we’ve been watching all along, as a Skrull. So, we spend all this time waiting for the event to start, and when it does, we’re stuck in a standstill with the story, which hasn’t really progressed. Instead, the story is going backwards, telling what already happened. While this stuff is indeed interesting to me, there is an innate desire for the story to continue moving forward from the Savage Land. Even in great films, when there are flashbacks, they come back to the present and advance the plot at the same time, which isn’t really what’s happening here. All this exposition of the past makes me wish we’d just seen it happening then, so we could get on with now. (This feels a bit like Spaceballs at the moment.)

Think of it like this. Imagine you were to wake up in the morning, and find a note directing you to the driveway. You go out to the driveway, and you find that your friends have prepared an elaborate road trip. The car is jam packed with goodies, and this has been going on for six months under your nose. There’s so much explaining to be done, but at the same time, you’re excited to go. They hand you a pre-packed bag, and you hop in the passenger seat, and head down to the driveway. You get to the end of the driveway, and your friend stops the car, and starts explaining to you, in exacting detail, how they made the plans. After several hours, you’re at the end of the block and you know how everything went down. Now, at this point, are you still as excited as you were when you got outside, or is a little part of you thinking about going back home?

I am proud of my metaphor, but your mileage may vary.

My point is, I feel like Bendis needs to get on with it. Tell the backstory, but move the whole thing forward and fast. I want to get to the reveals and the consequences. I want to know that this story matters, and at this point, I’m not sure it does. You can call that too critical, but the fact is, I’ve been reading comics, and Bendis’ work for a long time, and this just doesn’t feel right. I want it to be better, and I want my excitement to be rewarded. It’s been a few months, and I think I’m due some crumbs as a reward for my attention.

Josh Flanagan


I’ve recently found a love for the Marvel Cosmic characters. I’ve never read anything with them until I read Annihilation. I was floored by how good and interesting these characters are. Ron, you got another huge Nova fan. I’ve read Both Annihilation and I am reading Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova and there both great, but here’s my problem: I have no idea what I should read before that. I understand some of the older stories are not very good. Could you guys help me out and recommend some good Marvel Cosmic stories?

Justin J. from Detroit, MI

Can I first just say how psyched I am that Marvel Cosmic stories and back and being enjoyed by so many people. Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett should be heralded for the work they’ve done in restoring the Marvel Cosmic corner of comics to its former glory. But that leads to your very question…”What former glory?” I just realized that I talk so nostalgically about the old Marvel Cosmic stories, and yet it’s been so long since they were in prominence, it’s hard to remember exactly what they are.

We can start with the obvious, which is the original Nova series. It started out very similar to Spider-Man, a teenage kid gets powers, except these powers come from a space cop and while the majority of the stories take place on earth, Richard Rider is thrust into an intergalactic world as he becomes a Nova centurion. Now keep in mind, this book was started in the 1970s, so the writing can be a bit hokey at time, but it’s one of my all time favorites.

My next recommendation is the one that you’re going to be annoyed by, so I’m sorry in advance, but the Guardians of the Galaxy series written by Jim Valentino in the late 80’s/early 90’s was just full of fantastic cosmic adventuring with a diverse and intriguing team that featured Starhawk, Vance Astro, Martinex, Charlie-27 and others. It was such a cool and different take on a team book, I remember being fascinated by it as a kid. Unfortunately, it’s not collected in trade or even Essentials yet. So you’ll have to back issue dive for this gem at the next comic con you attend. They’re not even in Marvel’s Digital Comics thing either. Shame Marvel! Get this series back in print!

And finally, the king of all Marvel Cosmic books, the character that, spun out of the Fantastic Four, started it all:  the Silver Surfer! Pretty much any and all of the Silver Surfer comics have had a cosmic angle to it (except the ones where the Surfer comes to Earth and tries to understand us). If you’re lucky, you can find the Silver Surfer Omnibus and you can see all the wacky late 60s/early 70s cosmic goodness with some amazing John Buscema art. If you can’t find the Omnibus, not to worry, it’s available in black and white as an Essential.

Many of the best aspects of the Marvel Cosmic comics, like Thanos and Adam Warlock came out of standard books like Iron Man and the Fantastic Four, but they wove such a rich tapestry of characters that many stories focused in space and on the fantastic and cosmic, and creators like Jim Starlin made a name for themselves with these characters. Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Josh’s favorite, The Infinity Gauntlet, which mixes a cosmic tale with the Marvel superheroes.

If you ask me, the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe is one of the most underdeveloped but full of potential sides of the Marvel Universe. I love science fiction, and its not uncommon for other comics fans to enjoy that as well. But unfortunately, they don’t sell as much as super heroes, and therefore the reprints are few and far between, so it makes it difficult for a fan to catch up. Also, as I mentioned with Nova, a lot of the core Marvel Cosmic stories were written in the 1970s, when let’s be honest, the writers were smoking something, because they’re pretty out there.  If you can get over that, and actually find some issues, I know you’ll have fun reading them.

Ron Richards


I just want to let you know that you have made a comic book reader/appreciator out of me, and I love it! I have only recently gotten into comics (through iFanboy of course) and have seen all your video podcasts (they kick ass). I really love what Ed Brubaker is doing with Captain America and what Grant Morrison has done with All-Star Superman. I love pretty much all things Vertigo and I ADORE Craig Thompson’s Blankets and Goodbye, Chunky Rice… thanks Ron. These are obviously only a few of the comics I love and I sincerely thank everyone at iFanboy for making me realize how amazing comics are!

I wanted to know what are some novels you guys read, if you do stray from comics every now and then.

Also, I have been reading a lot of mainstream Marvel stuff: Iron Man, Captain America, Daredevil, etc. I want to start reading Spider-Man but I want to know what a good starting point would be. It was easy to pick up Daredevil, Captain America and Daredevil for obvious reasons, but I’m having trouble as to where I should start with Spider-Man. Could you help me out?

Steven from Toronto

We always like to hear from people new to comics. It warms our hearts. 

Aaah! Prose books! I read them as ravenously as I do comic books. I always have a big stack of prose book ready to go because I can’t seem to walk past a bookstore without buying something. Also, Amazon is making it ridiculously easy for me to buy things I read about that seem interesting. It’s an addiction that I can’t help.

Right now I am actually in-between books. For the San Diego trip I brought The Last Campaign with me and there were so many flight delays that I finished it on the plane to and from San Diego. The following books are on my to-read stack and I haven’t decided which one is going to be next: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, The Chris Farley Show, The Texas Rangers, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, Mister B. Gone, and Thursday Next.

I’m not sure what to pick! It’s so exciting. Sometimes I look at my stack and I hop from foot to foot, clapping. (No, I don’t) (Yes, I do). I might need something somewhat light hearted because The Last Campaign was an emotional gut punch. (No politics in the comments, please.) The two books that I read prior to the most recent read were The Company and Tough Jews. Man, I love books!

As for where to start with Spider-Man, well his entire existence was just rebooted with the “Brand New Day” event. You could start at the beginning of that, which started with The Amazing-Spider-Man #546. Or you could just jump into any new arc and get your feet wet. The new stories are relatively new reader friendly.

Conor Kilpatrick

Comments

  1. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Josh – Best analogy of Secret Invasion ever.  Hilarious and accurate.  Can’t wait for Secret Invasion to be over.  

    @Ron – This is so timely, because in the past week I’ve become fascinated with Cosmic stories.  I’ve been savoring Infinity Gauntlet and I’m gearing up to read Annihilation.  This is the corner of Marvel I find most interesting right now.  And I want a Thanos hood ornament!  

    @Conor – Excited for all the inevitable Kennedy stuff on Mad Men this season?  I can’t wait.  Read Yiddish Policemen’s Union next! 

  2. I’m not even going to mention Micronauts or Rom.  Whoops…!

    I’d track down the books related to the Adam Warlock/Captain Marvel/Thanos conflict from the 70s.  The stories were told all over the place and I don’t know if they’ve been collected together so it might be a bit of a challenge.  I’d also recommend any of the John Byrne FF vs. Annihilus stories.  Again, it’s up to the individual to see what issues of FF they were in.  Annihilus = beautiful character design.

  3. @ron – I personally have fond memories of the Silver Surfer series that ran straight into Infinity, well, everything.  Ron Lim on art for some of it. Vol 2 or 3, I can’t remember.  Good stuff though.

  4. see, i think drugs have done some good things for us, i really do. and if you don’t believe drugs have done good things for us do me a favor – go home tonight, take all your 70’s Marvel Cosmic stories and burn ’em. cause you know what, the writers who wrote all those great stories that have enhanced your lives throughout the years? rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreal f’n high on drugs.   

  5. I too have recently really gotten into the Marvel Cosmic books.  Until a month ago, I had never read any recent Marvel Cosmic stuff, and couldn’t care less.  Then I picked up a couple of issues of Nova.  WOW– what a terrific series.  I’m now working through the first Annihilation series, and then I’ll read the second.  I’m also reading Guardians of the Galaxy, of course.

  6. I’m with Paul — "Yiddish Policeman’s Union" is great; although I haven’t actually read any of the other books on your list, so I guess I don’t have any way of knowing it’s better.  

    I just bought "Maps and Legends," an essay collection also by Chabon, and I’m really excited about it.  It looks like at least one of the essays will touch on comics, while others are about Sherlock Holmes, and the legend of the Golem (which I hope is the same essay he read when I saw him speak at the Jewish Community Center in DC a few years ago).  Together with his intro to the most recent reprint of "Mysteries of Pittsburgh", that’s some of the best essay-writing I’ve encountered recently.  I realize this is only tangentially related to the post, but I started thinking about Chabon and I got excited.  Also, I figure there are probably other fans here.

  7. I suppose I’ve been trying to think of the Secret Invasion title by itself, in which there are no flashbacks or reaveals of what has been leading up to the invasion.  I try to imagine the headache one would feel if they tried to read strait issues of just New Avengers.  Would anyone have any idea what’s going on?  No way.  Its great to support the big mini series of the summer with some other titles, but spotlighting corners of what’s going on will start to feel like treading water.  I have a sneaky suspicion that Secret Invasion #5 will start the ball rolling in the "doing stuff" category (of which I am very to happy to see as well) so hopefully this too will pass. 

    In fact, the main beef I’ve heard from anyone is the "stuck in the Savage Land" issue.  Otherwise, from what I can tell, most everyone is enjoying the story.  My biggest worry is that the final payoff won’t be worth all the work to get there, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. 

    Thanks for the thoughts.  I loved the road trip analogy.

  8. You have to admit there’d be lots of tension if you didn’t know whether the car had gotten its long overdue service.  Or what if there’s potential of a beautiful relationship at the end of the trip, would it make sense to get a wash and wax.  Or you look between your feet and realize your friend swiped the car mats from YOUR room, the ones autographed by Nascar legend, Dale Earnhardt?

     Excellent analogy.  I don’t know what the above means.

    A writer should keep in mind the advantages and limitations of his chosen medium of storytelling.  In trade, the Savage Land stuff will read with no problem (if given a satisfactory end) but putting it out in issues while other facets of the story are being told in other comics creates and entirely different sense of pace.  Suddenly the acceptable, detailed recounting of the events of a single day is no longer acceptable.   To seriously return to the analogy.  If the road trip is a great one, the frustration at the end of the driveway will be mostly forgotten but living through it could drive you crazy.

     

    Re: Oh shit moments.  I think the first issue was packed with them… actually, no.  If the first issue took just one of those moments and built to it, it would have had emotional impact.  Bendis wanted to pack the first issue and that decision might have hurt the presentation.  It’s not something you can figure out on paper, you have to try it to see if it works.   

  9. My problem with Secret Invasion is that almost every book is tied into it, whereas Final Crisis is it’s own story and does’nt affect the other books so people who don’t like big events are forced to put up with them.

  10. I’ll have to add (or reinforce) the amazing warlock and Captain marvel stuff my Jim starlin from the 70’s. Im not sure if the Life and death of captain marvel is still in print and there was a series of reprints of Starlins Warlock run a while back.

    Starlin + Warlock + Captain Marvel + Thanos.

  11. @ultiamtehoratio – I second the sweet, sweet goodness which is Rom. 

    Question – what forgotten title (a) had a long run drawn by Ditko, (b) put the main character against a cool ongoing Skrull-related foe, and (c) has a main character that looks like a cross between a 70’s cylon and my grandmother’s toaster?  

    Answer – Rom.  It just doesn’t get any better than that folks.

  12. I read the last letter & thought "Wow!", I think it’s awesome that the iFanboy show can make people start reading comics! That’s gotta be a huge compliment to you guys. I think it’s Josh, Ron & Conor’s enthusiasm & genuine love for the medium that makes this site & show awesome. Also I think people like me make this site awesome because I am so modest, and awesome.

    Keep up the awesome work! Keep preachin’ the comic gospel, even though you guys are preachin’ to the choir a lot of the time, it’s cool to see this show/site can make new comic fans!

     

  13. Books with no pictures? Get them away!!!!

    No I read as much prose books as anyone else (not many). Right now I’m hooked on Lewis Black’s ‘Me of Little Faith’ and The Beatles Anthology.

    As for Secret Invasion, well maybe for the first time in a long time…DC acutally wins in a major event? Sure there are hidden gems in the medicore pool of SI; but overall (as already stated) it’s medicore! Run of the mill! Josh’s beard! It’s all dull! Even if read on a trade, I’d be pissed that half the f’n story is stuck on the Savage Land. The victum of hype Secret Invasion is, and it’s totally not worth buying.

    Hell, Final Crisis doesn’t make much sense but at least it goes somewhere and has a big plot to it.

  14. My problem with Secret Invasion is that the invasion isn’t a secret.  Giant alien warships are invading and little green men are attacking people in the streets.  Sure they have agents hidden among us but they keep reavealing themselves to the heroes like its no big deal.  Jarvis reaveals himself to Maria Hill, Jessica to Tony Stark, etc.  Why didn’t they just stay hidden.  Couldn’t some other Skrull demand that Maria Hill surrender?  I thought this book would have been more like battlestar galactica.  Slow reveals and sabtaoge.  Key leaders being taken over.  An invasion that the public didn’t even notice.

     I am still waiting to see where it goes.  I trust Bendis too much to stop buying.  

  15. That whole "secret" part of the invasion did happen and for years, it just ended with the actual book called SECRET INVASION.

  16. I,myself, have gotten bored with secret invasion as well. I am afraid it is going to turn out to be another major event bust and Marvel is going to sit back and laugh at how much money they got us to spend.

  17. Im sick of the Savage Land, but i have faith that the story will start moving on soon.  im going to wait till the end of the series before i cheer or damn it

  18. You know, I’m enjoying Secret Invasion a lot, but that road trip metaphor was hilariously apt.  You may have single-handedly made me enjoy the series less with that comparison, but I feel like I’m better off in the long run for having read that metaphor.

  19. The Chris Farley Show is great but it is also a gut punch to the stomach. I wish I hadn’t been in public when I was reading it, it made me pretty emotional.

  20. For fear of showing my age, I will say that I loved NOVA when Marv Wolfman introduced it in the late-70s.  It started out as cool homage "light" rip-off of Spider-Man — and then became a rather mind-boggling homage/"light" rip-off of the Green Lantern Corps. 

     That said, I never thought of Nova as "cosmic" — not in the way any of Jim Starlin’s work was.  By the way, as good as Captain Marvel/Thanos/Death of Captain Marvel was, I’ve always thought that WARLOCK was Starlin’s true masterpiece — weaving in fantasy, philosophy ("How do you choose between the lesser of two evils — when the greater one is a versio of yourself!"), science-fiction and mind-blowing art.  Highly recommended — the two-part conclusion to the Warlock/Thanos saga in Avengers and Marvel Two-in-One Annuals was a true fanboy dream at the time! 

  21. I think the Secret Invasion inertia boils down to Bendis feeling *very* proud of himself for having laid all the secret groundwork for three years, and now he is extremely excited about and caught up in unpeeling the layers. Unfortunately, there’s not much story in there, and what there is has progressed about two hours. The concept of what he’s doing could have been great, but his plan for execution is falling far short of the extravaganza in his head.

  22. I think regarding Nova stories, the first 50 issues of New Warriors are worth noting. Not all "cosmic" but definitely all-Nova, with some sweet Mark Bagley/Darrick Robertson artwork. It’s possible without that book carrying the Nova torch for a few years, there may not even be a Nova to resurrect now. Ditto on the original Guardians of the Galaxy though.

  23. ‘The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly’ is one of the most rewarding prose book reading experiences I’ve ever had. Anything by Bret Easton Ellis is quality too. And if you like your war history then (and I only found this recently, so apologies if I’m outdated as it’s an older book) ‘Witness’ by Franciszek Palowski is just a terrific and heartbreaking read – the story of recreating the events that eventually became the film Schindler’s List. It’s not exactly a light read though.

  24. This summer, I’m reading anything I can get my hands on by David Sedaris. His memoirs are so damn funny. It keeps me occupied when I’m not busy reading all those damn SI tie-ins.