The iFanboy Letter Column – 12.02.2011

Hi. I’m Hollywood’s George Clooney.

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday is all about hanging out with your best buds Pitt and Damon, trying to figure out whose turn it is to save the world next week. For others, it’s the night you check your calendar and realize that it’s time to trade up to an ever hotter girlfriend. For yet others, it’s a day to take your motorcycle out, pull up to random people on the street, whip off your sunglasses, look them deeply in the eyes and say, “Hi. I’m Hollywood’s George Clooney.”

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. They answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of iFanboy’s shows or answered here, in the letter’s column keep them coming to

So I’ve looked every where I could think of, maybe I’m just bad at the internet, but I couldn’t find out why DC didn’t ship any of their New 52 titles on 11/30/11. I didn’t even know this was happening, I go to boarding school and there no comic shop here so I get all my stuff digitally or through mail subscriptions, so I was taken aback when I couldn’t find any reviews about DC books. Why would they do this? Is there some kind of marketing reason or just giving their creators time to make all the books?

Matt J.

You know, Matt, you weren’t the only one caught off guard by DC not releasing any of their New 52 books this week. I had no idea it was coming and didn’t know about it until we were preparing the comics page for this week. What I’m saying is that DC didn’t go out of their way to publicize it, so I’m not surprised that people were surprised. On the other hand, DC didn’t hide it, either. A quick check of their website (or the solicitation list put out three months ago) would have made it clear that this is what they were doing.

So the question remains: why?

Justice League #1

I’m just speculating here, but it seems to me that, for the most part, DC is putting a premium on keeping their books on a regular, set schedule. They seem to have a small army of fill-in artists ready to roll on books to keep them from shipping late, and that’s in conjunction with previously announced official fill-in artists to assist those artists who can’t pull of 12 books a year, like with Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman or Yanick Paquette on Swamp Thing. That’s not to say that some books haven’t already been one or two weeks late or that it won’t happen in the future, it’s comics and these things happen, but it seems clear to me that DC is taking extra steps to make sure their New 52 books come out as close to on-time as possible.

Of course, someone might then say, “why not use the extra fifth week to put the week one books out?” My guess is that they want to stick to the schedule that they set up where certain books lead off the month, certain books end the month. The fifth week then ends up being a breather week where mini-series or special releases come out and get the spotlight.

Or, it could be some mundane trafficking or production reason that, were it explained to us, we’d fall asleep while listening to. No matter what the reason, we’ve got DC books to look forward to next week and in the meantime, I got to enjoy having a week where I spent less than $20 at the comic book store.

Conor Kilpatrick

What do you think about “mainstream” (or wannabe mainstream) artists working obvious copies of comic book panels into their art? The most obvious example is Roy Lichtenstein, but it continues to this day. Does this help elevate the medium? Or does it work against it, perpetuating the notion that comic books are no more subtle or nuanced since the days of Simon and Kirby?


I really haven’t thought about it that much, and my knowledge of that side of the art world is limited, but it relates very much to the culture of “sampling” that has developed, and how much of that is art. Recently, I saw our friend and comic book writer, Joe Keatinge address this exact problem, and he did it with much verve and passion. I’d read his Open Letter as a starting point. The Lichtenstein piece in question sold for $43.2 million.

Personally, it simply doesn’t seem right that you can take a bit of art that Jack Kirby did, paste it in place, and rejigger it, then sell it for a lot of money, and the original artist gets nothing. Presumably when an artist samples music, the original songwriter should get part of those proceeds, or somehow be involved in licensing their art.

As for what’s morally right, that’s a different story. Art is subjective and interpretation is valuable, as is reinterpretation. Who’s to say what makes art art, if it makes you feel something. We look at this question all the time in comics themselves. Is incorporating photos in your are the same as drawn comic book art. Kirby himself used a lot of photo collage at certain points in his career. How can Alan Moore complain about people using his work as a starting point when he used the work of others as the starting point for so much of his work? Where is the line between inspiration and copying? It’s somewhere, but it can be hard to define and delineate.

I think this drives the point home though. This is a bit from Joe’s letter, and really sums up where the problem. is, and it is a problem.

To illustrate my point, Heath has been quoted as saying, “[Roy Lichtenstein] did four different ones based on my panels. After he died, they found the cut-up comics with my art in his office. One of those paintings sold for $4 million.” Heath has never seen a dime off the sale of what is no doubt his work, to the point he has needed help from the aforementioned Hero Initiative. More information on Heath’s struggle an be read here.

Now is it Lichtenstein’s fault that Russ Heath doesn’t have enough money to cover his bills? No. But does the situation seem right? No, it doesn’t.

Josh Flanagan

In your recent Pick of the Week Podcast, Ron revealed his favorite X-Era was the Claremont/Smith era aka “Out of the Ashes” (Something along those lines). What are some good collections/graphic novels/etc. to obtain this era and are the eras before and after this segment worth checking out as well?

Donnie from Boston, Massachusetts

Any excuse for me to talk about the X-Men! Thanks Donnie! For those who didn’t hear on the podcast, last episode someone asked what our favorite eras of our favorite comics, and it may come as a surprise to folks that my favorite era of the X-Men is NOT the Chris Claremont & John Byrne era, or even the Claremont & Jim Lee era. No! In fact my favorite era was Claremont & Paul Smith! I referred to that era as From The Ashes, because that’s the name of the main story/trade paperback collection that collects the issues of Claremont/Smith, Uncanny X-Men #168-176. If you’re looking for the example of this era, it’s all right there in those issues.

Why do I enjoy the Paul Smith era of the X-Men so much? Well, nothing against The Dark Phoenix Saga, which is fantastic and the highlight of Claremont & Byrne’s run and a must read for any X-Men fan (As well as a great starting point), but I found From the Ashes to be a far more engaging group of stories. It opens with the classic “Professor Xavier is a Jerk!” panel, includes the addition of Rogue to the team, Wolverine’s tragically aborted marriage, the emergence of punk/mohawk Storm and finally the introduction of Madelyne Pryor who would marry Cyclops and give birth to their son Nathan, who would later become Cable.  While The Dark Phoenix Saga had some great action and was a a great story, From the Ashes was rich with plot developments that would drive the X-Men line for nearly 100 issues after it. In addition, if you don’t see the amazingness in Paul Smith’s artwork, then well, I can’t help you…

So you definitely want to track down the out of print trade for From the Ashes (you can still get copies on Amazon). Before that, you absolutely have to go back to The Dark Phoenix Saga as well as Days of Future Past, which while short, might actually be Byrne’s greatest X-Men accomplishment. After From the Ashes, unfortunately there’s not much more Paul Smith art to enjoy. But as I mentioned, the events of that storyline fueled the future stories such as Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants and Inferno, all fantastic reads.

Ron Richards



  1. I believe it would increase the monthly cost ion the book if it came out twice in a month, hence no New 52.

  2. I really hope they use the 5th weeks to make some new 5th week events. Making some one shots by different writers to fill in some of the backstory of the New 52 universe.

  3. I’m glad they are skipping the 5th weeks. Definitely gives them a great way to stick to the schedule and allow a little extra pacing every few months. Also like Conor said, its nice in these economic times to give the fans a bit of a break. Most of us were able to keep a few extra dollars in our pocket this week, or use the money to try out new things, splurge on a trade, etc. Seems like a win win scenario for everyone.

    I wonder when we’ll see the first issue come out on a delay that causes the numbering to skew.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree about Claremont & Smith’s run. I think Wolverine is at his strongest throughout this era, his fight with the Silver Samurai is fantastic and his moment of self-sacrifice with Rogue (used in the first X-Men film of course) cements her place in the team and Logan’s nobility.
    Wonderful stories throughout.

    • In regards to Smith’s work; his eye for design is fantastic and there are very few who can match him for being so dynamic and having such “weight” to his figures while employing clean lines. Both detailed and sparing, he really is a marvel.

  5. That Clooney paragraph up top had me double checking to make sure Paul didn’t put together the article. Nice job, Conor.

  6. As far as Lichtenstein, the birth of pop art was an important moment for post modernism. If anything it was saying comic books are a culturally relevant window into the world. If you’ve ever seen those paintings in person, you’ll see its a brand new work of art. I view it as subject matter…and not copying. I understand the other side of the argument, but i think its an original work. Doing that now, without any sort of new, strong conceptual reason is weak and just copying though. its all about timing and relevance.

    Also with fine art prices…those are art collectors selling to other art collectors via auction…its not the artist who’s getting the millions unless its been sitting in his studio for 50 yrs. Whatever he sold it for in the 60s…thats what he got. No royalties in the gallery fine art world.

    Really though, part of the deal of being involved with pop culture is having it parodied and reinterpreted if its relevant. It would have been great of Heath could have found a way to translate Lichtenstein’s success into success for himself, but i don’t know what the answer is.

    Is Lichtenstein any worse than the Tumblr Meme artists who create and sell unlicensed interpretations or parody’s of superhero’s? Or all those etsy artists who take comics and turn them into wallets and shoes? or Comic creators who pay “homage” in their panels and cover art? Smaller scale profit, but kinda the same thing, except the contemporaries who do it are often more decorative and kitschy than saying anything conceptual.

    sorry for the essay…

  7. George Clooney! Thank you for co-opting my favorite mega movie star to open the letter bag!

    As far as X-Men, I agree with Conner. But for my money, I’d say just start with the first essential All New All Different Uncanny X Men Essential and work your way up from there.

  8. good artists copy, great artists steal

    so i’m not sure if liechtenstein was good or great

  9. As a long-time X-fan I can’t agree more with Ron and I was really excited when he gave a shout out to Paul Smith. Smith’s style is so clean and wonderful. I always tell people that when Paul Smith drew Cyclops you understood why his nickname used to be “Slim.” He was athletic but not so overmuscled that it looked ludicrous. I sometimes take for granted that there was a succession of truly legendary artists on the X-Books for a long time (almost uninterrupted), from Cockrum to Byrne to Smith to Romita Jr to Silvestri to Lee.

  10. On Lichtenstein: Just read Comic Book Comics #3 which has a chapter on Lichtenstein, Warhol and the Pop Art movement. It was very depressing to see how the art was not just commentary, but also a mocking of the comic art. At least when music artists sample other music, they usually do it for a blend of sound, or a homage, or just an allusion; what the Pop Artists were doing was essentially hipster irony, turning “art” into “Art” at a time when comic book creators ranked below garbage men in terms of respectability. Few samplers think they’re making something better than the original, but that’s exactly what Lichtenstein was doing. Even worse, he said that wasn’t his goal at all. Maybe he wasn’t, and it was the art world hype machine that created that aura, but he certainly didn’t argue against it. Van Lente makes a much better argument, tying in the “Batman” T.V. show and all, definitely check it out if you haven’t.

    • While i agree that today its all about hipster irony, back then Pop Art and post modernism really wasn’t that self aware. All the essays i’ve read and criticisms of his work by established historians don’t really frame things in that negative light you portray.

      Comparing to samplers doesn’t really’re comparing two different mediums in radically different generations and time periods. You could frame a great argument that sampling wouldn’t have existed if not for pop art and re-appropriation.

      I havent read CBC #3 so i can’t comment on that…but i dunno, from the way you paint it, it sounds rather dismissive.

    • Also remember Comic Book Comics isn’t right just because it says it is. A lot of the factual stuff in that series is heavily disputed to begin with. Let alone one creative team’s point of view on Pop Art, what it means, and what the artists on both sides meant or thought.

      Lichtenstein used the output medium of comics in a lot of interesting ways that the original artists didn’t really envision. Not many comics have pronounced ben day dots, which is RL’s stock in trade. So it’s not as cut and dried a swipe job as CBC makes it out to be in my opinion.

      Plus it’s not like comics didn’t steal just as much from pop art. Kirby is in full on photo-collage mode for some of his Fourth World and FF stuff. Plus Steranko etc.

    • Thats a great point. CBC is a great resource i’m sure but its just the POV of two comic creators, who are a bit close to the subject matter. Those working in comics already seem to be very protective of it, so you have to qualify their opinions as being maybe less than objective on the subject.

      There are many well respected Art Historians and Critics who’ve written in depth and intelligent essays on his work. I’d suggest you read a few of those to really understand what its about. Pick up a Lichtenstein book from a library, i’m sure you’ll find good texts in there.

  11. The Australian Outback years are my all-time favourite X-Men years, but really I love everything from the Paul Smith era through JRJR, Silvestri and until Lee got his own X-Men book. If anyone is looking for Paul Smith’s run on X-Men in trade, while it isn’t in colour, Essential X-Men Vol. 4 collects his entire run.

  12. With the Clooney intro I was thinking he might be doing the answers, but while wearing his bat-nipple suit.

  13. I thought the 11/30/11 question was going to be about not having New 52 books out on the day that adds up to 52

  14. Oh, George Clooney, why do I not own Return of the Killer Tomatoes on DVD?

  15. Sorry Conner. There was never a book that was late, you’re wrong about this. JL was a special case in which they ship the first book earliest to set the tone of all 52 books. If you look at the solicits, theres one extra slot on the third week which is why when it was placed there it fits perfectly.

    Batgirl was originally a week 1 book and it got swapped to week 2 because DC felt that there were too many heavy hitters so it got swapped to week 2 and red lanterns to week 1 which makes sense because week 2 had 2 gl books and week 3 n 4 had 1 each, so swapping red lanterns to week 1 does make sense.

    I cant speak for minis, but I do know none of the new 52 books were late so you might wanna take a look at that statement.

    • Completely correct! The only change was that Batgirl swap which was simply an attempt to spread the “Lantern titles” evenly amongst the 4 weeks.

    • SUPERGIRL was late a week. I, VAMPIRE was a week late. I wasn’t talking about JUSTICE LEAGUE or BATGIRL.

    • Wait, I’ve been buying Supergirl each issue, and I don’t remember any of them shipping late . . . odd.

    • @cosmo: It was a week late. Not a huge deal.

    • But conor, Ive been buying Supergirl, It wasn’t ever late. At least not at my store, I’ve also did a brief check and people already started talking about I, Vampire the day it was out. Not trying to undermine you, a fan of your site, but I just didnt see any of the comics being late. Perhaps your shop stocked it late due to late orders or other reasons I may not know, but most of us received out issues on time. Every single issue.

      I know its not a huge deal but I just wanna give DC credit when its due. And until now, I dont think theres any issues late.

    • @MrSethypants: As someone who deals with shipping schedules and the companies every week I can tell you that yes, those issues were each a week late.

    • Wow. I guess i have no idea what shipping late means then. Because i was able to get supergirl on time every month’s third wed at the lcs.

  16. I loved the Claremont/Smith X-Men, bar the sudden change of attitude on Storm’s part … still, excellent superhero comics.

    I can appreciate the arguments around Roy Lichtenstein’s appropriation of the designs of comic artists, that he was using something in the common culture to create something new, but blimey, it just feels so wrong that they never saw any profits. As a fellow craftsman – as a human being – RL might have shared his good fortune with a ‘brother’. It’s not like his pop art could exist without the prior works.

    It was indeed rather nice to have a week off from loads of new DCs, it’s a chance to make some headway into my pile of unread stuff.

  17. I agree it was definitely nice to have a week off (I went ahead and took a week off from comics altogether), but man it took me most of Monday, keeping coming back to check the new comics listings before it sunk in there were no big DC titles. I kept expecting someone to come in and fix the Comics Shipping List.

  18. “Who’s to say what makes art art, if it makes you feel something.”

    What does this sentence even mean?