The iFanboy Letter Column – 09/12/2008!

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 begin your crushing weekend shift at the all-night diner.

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 recent Russia-Georgia conflict got me thinking about Joe Sacco and his comic, Safe Area Goražde. Have any of you read this or his book, Palestine? Safe Area really helped me get my head around the Bosnian War. I read a short piece that Sacco did about Iraq a few years ago, but haven’t seen any other work from him in a while. Do you or the iFanboy community know if he’s working on anything? I think geopolitics is actually a great topic for comics–as complex and exciting as any summer crossover event. Any recommendations along these lines.


I can’t speak for the others guys, but I am a big fan of Joe Sacco. That being said, I’ve only read Safe Area Goražde and Palestine. Both were enormously impressive, if for no other reason than the fact that I’d never seen anything done like that. For those of you who aren’t aware, Sacco is a journalist, who does all his reporting through cartooning. The works I’ve read feature the author himself as a character, talking to, and walking through the worlds of the people whose story he’s trying to tell. However, seeing as he spends so much time in the company of his subjects, some have mentioned that his work tends to get a little biased, but I suppose that’s natural. He’s done other subjects besides war and conflict, but those are the ones which really caught the most attention. He also does graphic reporting for such large news outfits as Time Magazine, The Guardian, and Harper’s. What he’s working on currently, I don’t know, but I would be incredibly surprised if he’s not busy, given the current world climate of conflict.

As far as other people like him, I’m not sure there is anyone, perhaps someone in the comments will know something I don’t, but I imagine it’s hard for many people to break into a field that requires both cartooning, and spending vast amounts of time in a war zone. Imagine Anne Garrels, but with a sketchpad. Either way, if you haven’t at least checked out Sacco’s work, you really should, because it’s incredibly poignant and unique.

Josh Flanagan


1) I know that at least Conor and Ron were caught up in the early Spawn run, so was I. I bought the first 30 or so issues. The one thing that I remembered from it was that Spawn would eventually run out of power and he had that little clock like thing that ticked down. Did he ever run out of power? Is that still part of the story? It’s not a big issue but I was just wondering about it. Also, did he take a huge hit to his power when Todd’s $3 million dollar baseball went down to $2.50 after Barry Bonds broke the record?

2) I would really like to read The Walking Dead and plan to start reading the trades. However, like Y, 100 Bullets, etc, I am curious if it has a planned ending? It seems like a series that might benefit from having and ultimate conclusion. I am considering waiting until that is out to start reading trades. What are your thoughts on that?


I avidly read Spawn when it first came out just like I did all the books that launched Image. I don’t remember exactly how long I stayed on the book (probably longer than I realize) but I enjoyed it when Todd McFarlane was writing and drawing it. Once he stopped doing that I lost interest. I remember as a kid being so excited about Spawn’s powers countdown clock — what would happen when it reached zero!?! Good times. And for now I have no idea what is going on in the book. I even forgot it was still being published. I leafed through an issue a few months ago and it actually looked like it could be interesting but I wonder now if there is too much baggage associated with Spawn for me. Does he still have the power countdown meter? I don’t know, but I know that there are people here that read Spawn so they might be able to tell us.

As for The Walking Dead, according to the interview we did with Robert Kirkman there is no planned ending — he has too many stories to tell. I don’t think that The Walking Dead needs a finite ending, to be honest. As soon as Kirkman runs out of good stories to tell he should absolutely end it but right now that nature of the story lends itself to being open-ended. I would jump on that book as soon as you can, it’s too good to miss.

Conor Kilpatrick


What do you make of this All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder #10 fiasco? Do we have another Billy Ripken 1989 Fleer “Fuck Face” card on our hands? My shop didn’t receive any, but I am sure the ones that did will make a killing (especially with Diamond essentially giving them the issue for free). Whose is at fault here: DC editorial (as if they haven’t gotten enough grief) or the printers? Do any of you have the explicit issue?

Chris C. (stuclach on iFanboy) from Georgia

We haven’t really addressed or discussed this particular recent bit of news, mainly because it’s a bit unfortunate and low-brow, but I think it’s worth a brief point of view from us. I sincerely hope that we’re not going to have another Billy Ripken scenario on our hands, and as far as I can tell, aside from speculators who really want that to happen (and it doesn’t look like it’s happening, a search on eBay shows a TON of issues and prices ranging from $1.00 to $100) and immature people who get a rise at being able to see naughty words through the blackout, it doesn’t look like anyone really cares. It was an unfortunate error and it completely sucks for DC Comics that they had to send out a very embarrassing and very public request to have retailers destroy the issues (which you know most of them didn’t) and have all of us giggle all over the Internet.

But the fact that it even happened will, hopefully be a wake up call to the comic book industry. At least Marvel and DC. You ask who’s fault is it? It could be seen as the letterer’s fault for laying out the text and not blacking it out completely. Although, if it’s going to be blacked out, why they didn’t layout anything but the original words is beyond me. Seems like the safest bet is to letter “Fick” or something like that and then black it out. Whatever happened to the old fashioned “*&#$!” We all know what it means. But I digress. So it’s the letterer’s fault. It’s also editorial/proofreaders fault for not catching it and allowing it to go to press. It’s also the printer and their Quality Assurance departments fault for not catching it. So basically, the blame lies on DC Comics as an entity. I’ve worked in production before and trust me, it sucks when this happen. Sucks hard. I feel bad for them, and the best thing to do in these situations is to just accept the error and do everything you can to make it right and move on.

I think more needs to be done in terms of looking at the production process of comic books. You know that due to the lateness of All-Star Batman and Robin, when they got the book, they probably fast tracked it to the printer, to get it out as quickly as possible. That’s when errors like this happens. There is a gross underestimating of the entire production process for comics, and production in general. At my day job in Web Development, this happens all the time — the Quality Assurance/Bug Testing phase gets whittled down to barely any time to ensure the project goes live. Quality Assurance/Bug Testing in web development sounds to be very akin to the Lettering/Final Proofing of a comic book. We focus on the art and the story, and while they are a huge part of the comic book, it’s just one piece of the greater machine, and honestly I’m not surprised more errors like this haven’t occurred. But of course, not every comic book has crazy Frank Miller writing them. But that’s another discussion entirely.

Either way, it’s just sad. If you want to spend 50 bucks you can have a comic book with some dirty words barely legible in black on black text. If that’s how you enjoy spending your money, knock yourself out. Me? I’d rather go spend that on some new titles that deserve the cash.

Ron Richards


  1. It’s funny, back in ’93 and ’94 when I read comics for a few months,  Spawn was the biggest thing out there.  All my friends and I read Spawn (thank God I did’nt have a mother who checked what a 10 year old me was reading) and absolutely loved it.  But what happened?  I never hear anything about it anymore, and my LCS barely carries it.  Is it like that because people think McFarlane is an a-hole?  One of the first titles I wanted to catch up on when I started reading again was Spawn, but I was told to steer clear.  Man times change.

  2. SPAWN is still Image’s top selling book in issues.

  3. @conor: That cant be…..I havent heard anyone talk about Spawn in any form….well into now actually. How can Spawn be outselling Invincible, Walking Dead, Fear Agent, and Witchblade? Granted some of these dont get pulls as much as they should, but Walking Dead and Inviniclbe should be the two most sold book by Image.

    As for the All Star Batman fiasco. It just makes me mad that this is getting so much press. So they screwed up on prinint, so what? If this was a smaller book like, Wonder Woman for example, no one would care. I’m more pissed that it’s taken this long just to get a 10th issue then any censorship problems this issue might have. Frank Miller and Jim Lee should be ashamed for giving us such a low quality product and only getting recognized for cursing in their book (aka ‘Im the god-damn batman).

  4. @conor- But it does’nt sell like it used to, or it appears it does’nt, I don’t know the sales figures from now compared to then.  I used to hear everyone talking about Spawn and I hear nothing anymore, it’s almost become an afterthought,  that was what my point was.  But I just read that McFarlane is coming back to write in October so I will be buying it then.

  5. In July 2008, Walking Dead came in at #94, with Spawn at #121.

    Of course, those numbers aren’t entirely accurate, but it’s all we’ve got to go on, really.

  6. I wasn’t aware that All Star Batman had even come out, I see it listed for the 24th on the DC site.  This is like the Conan thing from a few years ago when there was a Nude cover and people freaked out, it really isn’t that big of a deal.  If somone wants to buy it, great, if not, great too.  But all of the brewing and future arguments about the book are pointless, those who want it will get get and those who don’t won’t want to waste the effort.  Marvel had the same thing happen a few years ago in an issue of Wolverine, someone used an anti-semetic word and the book was pulled after already being sent to retail and there wasn’t a big deal made of that.

  7. Looking at those July stats, Spawn is the #3 Image comic in issues:

    77 WAR HEROES #1 30,645

    94 WALKING DEAD #50 (MR) 27,691

    121 SPAWN #180 19,188 

  8. One thing’s for sure, that’s not crazy baseball buyin’ money.

  9. This whole ASB&R hullaballoo reminds me of when I was a kid and I’d squint at the scrambled Playboy channel and get excited when I saw a boob.  At least I think it was a boob.  It might have been an elbow. 

  10. @Ron – Thank you for the detailed answer to my email.  I asked about who was at fault because I wasn’t sure if DC actually owned the printing facility or if that was a separate company.  If it wasn’t DC then there may have been some hope that they wouldn’t have to eat the cost.  However, based on your response it sounds like printing is done inhouse, so they will bear the cost of the mistake.

    Thanks again, Ron, and keep up the good work here and over at Rev3.  Recently, I have been watching more shows on Rev3 than I do on traditional TV.

  11. @stuclach I don’t know the ins and out of DC’s business, but I highly doubt they own the printer that prints their comics – they most likely have a relationship with a printer like Quebecor.  That said, the printer prints what they give them – so if they gave them something that would print in a way for the words to be seen, the printer really isn’t at fault…

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying iFanboy and Revision3 shows.  thanks!

  12. @ron – Thanks for the info.  Looks like DC is going to have to foot the bill on this one. 

    My LCBS owner was extremely irritated when he didn’t get the issues in his shipment.  The owners who actually got their issues (and didn’t destroy them) are the winners in this situation.  They are essentially getting the issues for free (I believe Diamond is giving them their money back, although, I am sure DC will have to pay Diamond) and can turn around and sell each one for nearly pure profit on eBay.  That kind of money can make or break a small shops like mine. 

  13. I’m anticipating an all F&&K issue of the Goon in the future…

  14. So who’s going to lose their job over this?  Who’s the editor on this book?

     @stuclach – Not only do I like G-MILFs with glasses but I also dig dudes with Civil War beards…

  15. How about DC justs acts like adults and prints the actual words.  All-Star batman is so clearly not a kid’s comic and has tons of other mature subject matter that doesn’t get blocked out that there shouldn’t be a problem with this.  I got the hardcover and wondered why the profanity was blacked out there (only one or two words if I remember), not being sure if the actual issues are like that.  If we all know what it says under the #@$@ or black bars, what’s the point of using them?

  16. I see DC and Frank Miller parting ways after this.  Had this been Alan Moore he’d have put a hex on DC.

  17. @devinclancy  I see the reasoning for covering up curse words in teen-marketed books.  I don’t particularly want to read a lot of F-words in my superhero comics.  I’m certainly not a person who is offended by swearing, but I’m okay with being able to make a choice between a profanity-strewn comic/movie/TV show and one that isn’t.

    That said, considering the content of something like All Star Batman, DC ought to just go ahead and slap a ‘for mature readers’ label on it and print the words. It becomes hypocritical when they’re willing to let all kinds of ‘mature’ content fly, but a dirty word or two is a scandal.

  18. @ultimatehoratio – Shit, there is no escaping you.  I will warn every female I see to shave and start wearing contacts (and to sterilize their children?).  You hear Mrs. Palin actually had giant mutton-chops in High School.  It’s a good thing she shaved those or you would be running behind the "Straight Talk Express" trying to catch up (watch for sudden stops).

  19. I was just reading this and heard an NPR promo for a Sacco appearance on the radio. Missed what show it is though.

  20. Two things about lettering:

    Substituting the "U" in the "F" word with an "I" would defeat the purpose.  Miller has now said that he included the real words so that the black bars would be the right size.  The "I" is less than half the width of the "U".  You could probably get away with an "O," though.

    Also, there’s one more technical step between lettering and printing. Production.  I don’t know if the letterers are responsible for this at DC, or if DC has a separate group that handles it, but "Production" would be the people who put the various files together — line art, color, lettering. Slap ’em together, flatten ’em down, send them to the printer’s FTP site (or however that works.) It might be their responsibility to make sure the blacks on all layers are uniformly black.

    As for "Spawn": Last I heard in an interview with McFarlane somewhere (Fanboy Radio, perhaps?), the countdown clock is long dead.  That matter has been resolved.  Don’t ask me how. I haven’t read the book monthly since McFarlane left, either.



  21. I propose that the song "why you wanna trip on me?" from Miachael Jacksons’ album ‘Dangerous’ is replaced with the lyrics "why you wanna trip on Jeeves?". This will be in revenge towards for changing their likeness to ask vs. askjeeves. i love jeeves. Why you wanna trip on Jeeves, don’t trip, please don’t trippin’, everybody please stop trippin’…..on jeeves.

  22. According to Wikipedia, Spawn was killed by the Last Disciple as his clock hit zero.  However, Mother (the creator of God and Satan… don’t ask) gave him a piece of fruit from the Tree of Life and resurrected him.  Later, he retook the Hellspawn mantle, presumably without a clock now.

  23. @devinclancy AND ohcaroline – Spot on!   To me this seems like Miller’s attempt to push his own sense of ‘normalcy’ into mainstream DCU.   The editors ought to already know what should be the type of story they want in the mainstream lexicon.  Once they found out that ASB&R was outside of that, move it to Veritgo or slap the "Mature Content" label on it.

    It’s not like the content inside is surprising anyone.

  24. @AugieDB  Unfortunately, the difference in blacks wouldn’t be evident on the computer screen.  I doubt the difference would pop up in any standard desk inkjet printer either.  So it depends on what the process is.  I know Dark Horse has sent back printed copies of Hellboy when they printed to dark – a subtle call to be sure – so they have some sort of printed quality check in their system.

      @devinclancy DC can’t just print the words because they publish all sorts of Batman books for a variety of ages.  The content matter is still problematical but printing the words without censoring would hit the evening news and the stockholders.

  25. I don’t read All Star Batman & Robin. But, that is one badass costume for Batgirl in ASB&R.

    Holy shit, DC, if you publish a Babs Gordon Batgirl (when she was Batgirl) monthly you will have my money for life.