The iFanboy Letter Column – 08/22/2008!

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 send all the dealers to Hamsterdam.

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 currently in the process of entering my comics into a database and came across a cover I haven’t seen in quite some time. The cover I’m talking about is for Excalibur, vol. 1 issue 4. The janitor with the mop asking, “What you’d expect then saying “Sorry Mate, you’ll have to look inside for that…” Love it. Have you seen the cover in question? Is there a cover that you guys remember looking at and loving? How about The Amazing Spider-Man/Civil War crossover with Cap, Iron Man and Spidey sitting on the couch. Ron, I remember you saying how much you loved that one… 

Steve

I have a feeling, Steve, that you knew the answer to your first question before you answered it. OF COURSE I remember the cover of Excalibur, Volume 1, Number 4! One of the best things about Excalibur with Alan Davis was those covers. I love comic book covers, especially when they were representative of the story inside. I hate simple pin ups or art that doesn’t represent the story within the comic book on the cover. What Alan Davis did with the covers for Excalibur (at least in that first year) was create descriptive and often humorous scenes that don’t specifically happen in the comic book, but definitely represented what was happening in the comic book.

Despite my admiration for Alan Davis’ work on Excalibur, I wouldn’t say he drew my favorite cover of all time. No, that award goes to the great Neal Adams, not surprisingly on his run on X-Men. Specifically X-Men #56. This cover seems pretty simple by today’s comparisons, but when it came out in the 1960s it was mind blowing. Sure, I saw it over 20 years after it was published, but I believe I had the same reaction. The cover depicts the Living Monolith, towering above the X-Men and he’s grabbing the X-Men logo above him. This breaking of the fourth wall and having the character interact with the design elements of the cover was absolutely mind blowing. In this one action, you get what the story inside is going to be like. It’s striking and aggressive, you can see the villain reaching out of the comic. Absolutely amazing. It was the young age and the impression I had on this cover that makes it my favorite. As I grew up and read more comics, I saw the awesome silver age Flash comic covers that used similar effects, with the Flash addressing the reader directly. Which is a similar concept, but the X-Men #56 will always stick with me as my favorite.

And I’m ignoring your reference to that Civil War watching TV cover. I finally had purged it from my mind and I’d like to keep it that way!

Ron Richards


I just finished reading Final Crisis: Revelations # 1 and I was struck by DC’s current portrayal of The Spectre. Do you feel that the current emasculated/conflicted version is due to the ongoing problem with dealing with a character so powerful or because DC’s editors are uncomfortable with having a character devoted to vengeance in this post 9/11/Iraq War era?

Stan H. from Houston, TX

Stan, I’m glad you brought this up, because of all the comics that came out last week, that I didn’t get to talk about on the podcast last week, which I wasn’t on, this was one I did want to talk about.

Honestly, I think you’re probably reading far more into the topic than anyone at DC is. The Spectre has been around for a long time, and I just think people have a hard time getting a handle on what to do with him. The human host idea gives them a chance to change things up a bit, because The Spectre himself really has no characteristics or personality to draw people to him. In fact, the more they take the human host out, and we’re just left with the angry spirit of vengeance, the less interesting the character is. Unfortunately, in order to make him someone the least bit interesting, they’ve got to populate him with a character we know, and very frequently, that means the sacrifice of someone we do know. At one time, they tried to put Hal Jordan in there, a decision that seems horribly informed, and completely counter to Hal Jordan’s personality. But then, so was everything they did to him since Parallax.

With the current Spectre, we’ve had to sacrifice Crispus Allen, from Gotham Central, a character who’s loss I keenly feel whenever I see what’s happened to him. And perhaps that’s the point, but it does seem like a waste to me. In fact, I can’t really understand why Rucka is writing him, other than the idea that he has such an affection for the character that he doesn’t want to see any more wrong done to him. But then, I really don’t know where the genesis for Allen’s death and rebirth was spawned. Perhaps it was Rucka’s idea, although it really doesn’t seem that way. But seeing that Rucka is steering this ship, I wouldn’t attribute any national political sentiment to his portrayal, but rather an attempt to find something that works for The Spectre character, as so much has failed to work in the recent past. The Spectre has been around since the 1930’s and is a major power in the DC Universe. But right now, I think most of the writers can’t figure out how to make him with in the context of the current DCU. I’m sure Geoff Johns could do a 12 issue series that would clear all that up, but The Spectre would have to get in line with a lot of other characters.

All that being said, I think Rucka is doing as good a job as we can expect with a character who is really a mishmash of elements. Perhaps it just makes me uncomfortable to watch the storytellers continue to torture a character that I really like, seemingly with no end. I’m not interested in Ghost Rider either, but Jason Aaron is doing an admirable job with his book over at Marvel, and they’re basically the same kind of character. The Marvel version is just a little flashier. But the concept is the same.

I guess time will tell what this story is really about, and what will happen to Crispus/Spectre. It’s too early to guess where they’re going, but I do hope there’s a host change, even if it means Crispus has to die. Are there any rabid Spectre fans still out there? He can be used well, as illustrated by Kingdom Come, and probably in other stories I haven’t read, but for now, I think there’s some reimagining to be done.

Josh Flanagan


I’ve been absolutely LOVING Grant Morrison’s “Batman RIP” storyline and I’ve been trying to piece together Morrison’s plans for months. Searching around the internet, I ran into an old storyline you guys may find interesting. Have any of you ever read the old World’s Finest series starring Batman and Superman? Apparently in issue 223, it’s revealed that Martha and Thomas Wayne had two sons! Bruce had a brother named Thomas Wayne Jr. Thomas was said to have taken his parents death very badly and suffered a mental breakdown leading him to be committed to a mental institution. Due to the trauma of losing his parents, Bruce eventually forgot he had a brother entirely. In the issue, Batman uncovers Thomas Jr. had recovered and worked as an acrobat in a traveling circus where he was manipulated by mobsters into becomes an assassin for hire. The issue ends with Thomas redeeming himself by jumping in front of a gunshot meant for Batman.

Now we all know a “death” in comics means nothing, so I just thought I’d run a theory by you. Being that Morrison has said “RIP” would forever change the Batman books and that the identity of the Black Glove is said to be someone who knows Batman EXTREMELY well, Thomas Jr. looks to be a great candidate for the true identity of Simon Hurt. We also know that Morrison has a proclivity towards bringing back old forgotten silver age storylines and Thomas’ age would fit that of the Black Glove, so what do you think? Maybe Bats’ brother has come back from the dead to destroy what he called “the Wayne’s illegitimate child.”

Mike G. from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

You know what, Mike? I think that you might be on to something here.

First, let me say that, yes, I have read some of those old World’s Finest books, and in fact I have a couple of relatively old ones that might be the oldest books in my collection. Good, fun old series.

Back to the theory at hand. For those that don’t know and aren’t reading “Batman RIP,” an organization known as The Black Glove has systematically broken Bruce Wayne’s mind. The Black Glove is lead by a Dr. Simon Hurt (with a name that’s probably too on the nose to be his real one), the man who oversaw the isolation chamber experiments that Batman volunteered for, which is where the psychological attack began. One of the big questions in this series has been — who is this Dr. Simon Hurt and why is he doing all this to Batman? In the first issue of “RIP” it was suggested that Dr. Hurt was really Dr. Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, who was somehow not dead and was secretly a drug addict and sexual deviant. That theory was quickly dismissed in the comic as being misinformation designed to screw with Bruce’s mind even further. I dismissed it as well as being way too outlandish. I don’t believe that DC would ever change the origin of Batman. His father dying is the driving force behind Batman’s existence. That and the fact that Alfred what probably recognize his old, dead boss.

In discussing the identity of the mastermind behind all of this, Grant Morrison said “It’s possibly the most shocking Batman revelation in 70 years.” This has lead many people to suspect Alfred Pennyworth being somehow behind all of this, despite the fact that The Black Glove has been holding him captive and beating him. It could all be a ruse, of course, but I doubt it.

Mike, your theory is interesting. As we’ve seen with “RIP,” Morrison is enjoying picking out minutiae from Batman’s 70 year history and bringing it into the forefront. His entire run on Batman so far as featured many call backs to old Batman stories, even pre-Crisis stories. Things like “Robin Dies at Dawn”, “Zur-En-Arrh” and “Club of Heroes” are all old stories being referenced. So throwing in Bruce’s long forgotten and pre-Crisis brother would definitely fit in that vein of stories that Morrison has been mining.

It could be Thomas Wayne Jr. just as much as it could be Alfred Pennyworth (doubtful) or Dr. Thomas Wayne (extremely doubtful) or it could be someone else entirely that no one has guessed yet. I honestly don’t know who it is, and that’s why it’s so exciting.

Conor Kilpatrick

Comments

  1. The Black Glove being Thomas Wayne Jr. would be interesting.  I can imagine that the shock of a living brother would push Batman/Bruce over the edge.  I am not sure how I would feel about that.  It seems very "soap operaish", but at the same time would probably provide some interesting fodder for future Morrison arcs.  I just hope the final reveal doesn’t shatter the best (in my opinion) origin story in comics.

  2. When I read Revelations last week and after seeing The Spectre take out Dr. Light I wondered why does’nt he go take out The Joker.  But I’m glad Dr. Light is gone, the rape stuff was becoming laughable (which it should’nt be).

    My original theory regarding Batman RIP was that Dr. Hurt was a puppet and Ras Al Ghul was the guy behind the scenes pulling the strings.  The long lost brother is very good observation though. It would be a better ending.  But if the brother is truly dead, perhaps it’s a look alike to further torment Bruce.

  3. I really liked Revelations last week even though, as many have pointed out, there were some glaring problems also. I like the Spectre though and the fact that he couldnt touch Libra was cool and interesting. I like what Rucka is doing with the character for now.

    I like that idea for Batman though. Morrison has said that its someone no one would expect and honestly how many people know about his long lost brother? There are several good ideas though with the Ra’s Al Ghul beign the puppet master, the brother or his dad. Either way the series is awesome.

  4. Interesting Batman theory. I’m not reading those but that’s cool to know he had a brother.

  5. @Mike G. from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – nice f’n dig, bra. Love me some speculation.

    As far as the Spectre goes, the changing hosts is certainly his saving grace. TBS, I like the moral struggle Crispus deals with as the Spectre.

    @Kory – take out the Joker? don’t give him any ideas.

  6. @FACE- I should have used another example.  I love the Joker.

  7. I find this Batman theory interesting, but what if Thomas Wayne Jr. is the new Red Robin?  From the description of the issue, I don’t see much connection as to why Wayne Jr. would want to hurt Batman, especially after taking a bullet for him.  Also, with the way Batman’s been written the last few years, it wouldn’t make much sense to me for him to simply "forget" he has a brother.  Him dying in his arms after taking a bullet would be pretty memorable.

    I guess only time will tell with one, but it’s definitely a nice call back to a bygone era.

  8. Hm, maybe I should be reading RIP. I was just going to wait until a hardcover or trade came out, but if something this big is going to be revealed, I’m not sure I want to wait…

  9. Jeez, Wayne has family members coming out of the woodwork!  Damien, would-be son Jason Todd, and now a brother.  Do you reckon Batman Abin Sur Rah or whatever remembers that he has a brother? 

  10. Oh, I have comments on all three letters today!

    @Ron — Nobody yell at me, but I really like that Civil War cover.  I thought it did a great job of portraying Peter’s somewhat uncomfortable position between Cap & Tony’s sides in the Civil War, via a metaphor to a familiar domestic situation — serving as a buffer between two people who aren’t really getting along.   

    @Josh — I actually kind of like the Hal-as-Spectre stuff, though I’ve only read the issues that were in the JLA collections during the Morrison era, and then the beginning of "Rebirth", where dead-Hal shows up to go to baseball games with his buddies.  Pre-Parallax Hal always struck me as somebody who was very well-meaning but — how to put this kindly? — not exactly a deep thinker.  Thrusting him into a situation where he had to deal with major philosophical issues is definitely interesting, if not exactly sustainable for a franchise character.

    @Conor — So that means Martha Wayne was definitely NOT a junkie-whore, right?  I haven’t kept up with RIP, but I was hoping that was a misdirect when it first showed up.  Nice theorizing by Mike G, in any case. 

  11. I’ve been thinking for a while that Dr Hurt is really Mangrove Pierce. Pierce is a Morrison-created character who’s been referenced a few times in the run. He starred in the old "Black Glove" movie, directed by that Mayhew guy, and he was also in the supposed picture of debauchery that the Mayor showed Alfred in Batman #677. We don’t know where Pierce is these days, but since Pierce was an actor it would make sense that he’d be playing a part or two. In the most recent issue Hurt almost seems to refer to his own (supposed) identity as if it were a role: in response to Alfred saying that he isn’t Thomas Wayne, he says "No I’m Dr. Hurt now!"–which to me makes it seem that "Dr. Hurt" is just another role. Also, look at the mugshot of Pierce in 677: he looks like a young Dr. Hurt (granted, both guys do look pretty nondescript and average).

    I don’t think Dr. Hurt (whoever he is) is the supreme leader of the Black Glove organization, though. And I agree with Conor that I doubt they’re going to tamper with the origin of Batman too awful much.

  12. The Black Glove is Micheal Jackson for sure.

  13. i think Mike G. is secretly batman

  14. Batman having a brother & just "forgetting" might have worked in the wacky old days of comics, but if it happened now, when Batman is meant to have his mind at peak human condition? To just "forget" something that important, would be ridiculous.

    Not to piss on your theory, Mike, this is G-Mo we’re talkin’ about, so this theory is as possible as any other, I’m just saying it would be a horrible idea if it’s true.

  15. I think Dr. Hurt is Grant Morrison.  There, I said it.

    I actually liked Hal as the Spectre.  For one, they gave the Spectre more clothing beyond a speedo and hooded cape.  Plus, the stories he’d pop up in, it seems he was used well (especially that one JLA issue by DeMatheis.)  I’ve always seen the Spectre as a bit like the Watcher where both shouldn’t be used liberally yet their presence is a pretty importance plot development for any story.

  16. @Tork  Man, if Dr. Hurt turns out to be Grant Morrison, and he breaks the fourth wall to talk about how much he loves his cat, I will buy that issue.  Especially if he’s wearing a ridiculous bright-colored suit.

    @Conor  And I just caught the Hamsterdam reference.  Score.  Maybe I’ll start referring to weekly trips to the LCS as my ‘re-up’.

  17. @ Ron, does that Spidey/Civil War cover and your feelings towards the same come up here often? I made a comment about it earlier in the week following your Kirkman/Bendis article and Steve wrote a letter mentioning it. Just curious.

    It was an awesome rant, BTW. 

  18. @Josh, I don’t remember which ‘cast it was – either Wordballon or Around Comics – but sometime late last year Rucka was doing one of his epic-length interviews and he seemed pretty happy with the Crispus Allen-as-Spectre thing. I got the impression that it was his idea and he had plans for it, which included having Crispus hash it out with Ms. Montoya at some point. You’ve got me thinking about it now and I’ll have to replay those to satisfy my curiosity.

  19. Yeah that’s very possible.  But still unlikely.

  20. @RobAbsten I think it was WordBallon.