The iFanboy Letter Column – 12/12/2008!

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means you have to spend the next 48 or so hours with your horrible horrible family, begging to go back to the sweet mind numbing sanctum of the corporate office. For others, Friday is the day you make a drunken mistake at the holiday Christmas party.

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 –


With all the killing done by the heroes during Secret Invasion, will this mark a change in how the characters are written from now on or is it just supposed to be forgotten/ignored. Maybe it’s only okay to kill aliens?

Denis P.

The topic of killing is something that seems to always be present in comics and somewhat reflects the moral standing of the society that we live in. When I started reading comics, which were mainly starring the X-Men, there were continual mentions of how the X-Men don’t kill, they’re better than that, which provided a ton of conflict for a character like Wolverine, who was cut from this “modern, gritty, antihero” mold of the 1980s, like The Punisher. But as the past 20 years have continued, the killing mandate has eroded, across most publishers including Marvel and DC. In the DC universe we saw Wonder Woman kill Maxwell Lord, which is a turning point for the character. And over in Marvel, we see in the pages of X-Force, a team dispatched by Cyclops purely to find enemies and kill them.

I don’t know if the mass killing of Skrulls can be considered as a turning point in how characters approach the idea of killing. It could be argued that it was a war, and you have to kill in order to survive. That, and it’s historically considered okay to kill aliens. Not that I agree or disagree with that, but rather in comics it seems as if the xenophobic practice of killing an alien goes on on more than the killing of other humans. But the larger question should still be asked, are comics becoming more violent and is killing becoming more and more acceptable? The more I think about it, sadly the answer is yes. We see humans and aliens alike killed often without much consequence. Really the only comic to date that challenges the notion of it being not okay to kill aliens is Fear Agent, which deals with ramifications of Heath Huston committing xenocide. Even though Earth was at war with those aliens, it still hangs over his head in a realistic manner.

Now I know there is an argument to be made that comic books are make believe and more like video games than reality. And by no way am I a square. I get it, killing makes for more interesting stories. But as we see killing all around us, comics, movies, video games, it really makes one wonder if there is some some level of erosion or desensitization of our morals or approach to right and wrong. I don’t think that because I read a comic where The Punisher kills someone, I will go out and kill someone. But the more and more I read about it, the more I’m aware of my lack of surprise or shock or even disturbance at it occurring. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, to be honest. Whoa, I just got deep, didn’t I?

So to answer your question: I don’t think Secret Invasion will affect the way characters are written anymore than they already are. And yes, it’s okay to kill aliens. Well not really, but in comics, maybe.

Ron Richards


Like many I’ve bought and not bought comics for much of my life. Now with the availability of trades, I have become hooked again and want it to stick. I have discovered many excellent titles (Captain America, Fear Agent, Powers, and Criminal) through your recommendations. Thank you! I want to read an Avengers title in trade but I am not sure which title or where to start. I like Bendis and know that most of his run is available. What do you guys think?

T. Scott from Atlanta, GA

First of all Mr. T, I’m really glad you’ve found some good comics to read. The ones you list are among the best. It’s also fortuitous that you ask about The Avengers, because for the last couple of years, the Avengers books have been under some heat. As Civil War turned into the Initiative which turned into Secret Invasion, both Mighty and New Avengers have been riding that train, to the chagrin of many Avengers fans. However, since you’re asking about trades, I can easily recommend some stuff.

I credit Bendis’ The New Avengers with bringing me back into mainstream comics actually. I was pretty tired of superheroes and teams and events, reading mostly Vertigo and indie comics a few years back, and Ron called me to tell me that they had just released the trade paperback of Brian Michael Bendis’ The New Avengers, Vol. 1: Breakout, and that I should buy it. I am a cynical stingy bastard, and scoffed at him. All I knew of The Avengers, regardless of how much I liked Bendis’ other work, was that Bendis had taken over The Avengers with “Disassembled,” and he killed Hawkeye, pissing off nearly all comics fans. No thank you, sir. But Ron was persistent (you see, he knew he was right), and sent me fifteen bucks over Paypal, commanding me to pick up the book. It turns out, much to my dismay, that Ron was, in fact, absolutely right. I had so much fun reading that trade that to this day, I think of it as one of the finest batches of comics Marvel has released in years. You can go from there and buy the trades that come next, right in order. There are some patchy moments to be sure, but you won’t have to worry about them until the fourth or so volume. You can even start before the first volume and read Avengers: Disassembled if you want the whole story, but I can’t confirm it, because I’m not going to read the story where they kill Clint Barton, no how, no way.

Finally, if that’s not quite enough, you can go back and check out Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s work on The Avengers from the late 90’s. It’s a pretty good time, but will feel slightly dated. They also seem to only exist in hardcovers. Finally, you could also look at Young Avengers, the great work by Allan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung, collected in this single volume. That should give you plenty of Avengers to read for a long while. Feel free to assemble or whatnot.

Josh Flanagan


I recently read a comment on your boards or someone else’s that has me puzzled. It said, I don’t bag my comics, because the acid in the paper will rot them. That’s not a quote, just the gist. This person finished by saying that he worked in a comic shop and saw it happen all the time.

Do you know if there is any truth to this?

I think I once heard Ron say he didn’t bag and board his comics. In fact didn’t I hear him say on the last video that he wrote in his comics when he was a kid?

Name Unknown

Our esteemed writer Sonia Harris was the one who talked about the acid and the destruction of the comics books, so I thought I’d let her answer your first question. Sonia?

In its plastic bag, over time the paper in comics will break down and produce acidity. Stuck in the bag, with nowhere to go, it will stew. When I worked in a comic store, we used to take the books that had been in regular polythene bags out and rebag them. The older bags had gone all wrinkly and fragile because the acid and plastic melded into a paper-breaking down cocktail.

So there are three options:
1. Go the worky route: Swap out the backing board and plastic bag on your precious comics every few months.
2. Go the expensive route: Use special acid-free backing boards and fancy mylar bags.
3. Go the lazy route: Get rid of the bags and just keep the comics carefully flat and dry in some other way.

I opted for number 3.

And there you have it. I don’t know much about science, but that all sounds reasonable to me. (I also learned never to question Sonia. Never.) I do know that most comic book bags that people buy are polypropylene and not mylar, which cost more than three times what polypropylene bags do.

As for Ron saying he doesn’t bag and board his comics, that is actually incorrect. He is the only one of the three of us who still does. Josh and I stopped bagging and boarding our books years ago. Not for acid-worrying reasons, but just because we decided that it had become a waste of time, money, and space. You can get a ton more comics into a long box when they aren’t bagged and boarded.

I was the one who, in iFanboy episode 100, admitted to drawing in some of my comics when I was but a wee lad. I was a kid who liked to draw, and drawing in comics was fun. That’s what comics are supposed to be, right? I’d never do it now, of course, but I have lots of fond memories of laying on the floor of my bedroom… legs bent and feet swinging in the air… my tongue sticking out… adding lots of embellishment and much needed detail to an issue of Batman.

Conor Kilpatrick



  1. If a kid can’t draw in his comics, where can he draw, you know?

    An even more crucial question is the one raised on Twitter not so long ago. . .is it okay to color in your black & white printed essentials or Showcase books?  (And if you color them, do you HAVE to go with the established colors?  Is it okay to see what Hawkeye would look like in orange instead of purpose, for instance??)

  2. Showcase and Essentials can and should be colored in.  There are usually over 500 pages, and that can mean 500 alternative color schemes for Booster Gold, Enemy Ace, or even Dracula.  

  3. I bag and board for now. I want to keep my comics from being bent and torn. Until I find a storage syste I’m happy with – hoping to get a file cabinet for that – I’m going to bag and board. Didn’t know about the acid thing though.

  4. I have "Ms. Marvel: Essentials" on my Christmas list.  I just added "crayons."

  5. It’s always ok to kill during a combat that takes place during a war.


  6. Actually, it is decidedly NOT OK to color Hawkeye differently.

  7. @Diabhol – not always. There are innocent people and bystanders and you can’t justify say bombing a house just because someone is in it. There might be innocent people in that house.

    I doubt fake violence reduces someone’s morals or makes him less sensitive to violence. The only way to prove that is for someone to see violent acts performed and I doubt many people want to see that.

    Drawing in books makes them more interesting. I added word baloons to some of the animals in a book I have with information about different animals. But when I got older it was frowned upon – nobody likes seeing fake breasts on their magazines… 

  8. I went to a catholic school (grades 1-12), so I could mention something about the Vatican’s qualifications for a "just war" that says when it is okay to kill, but I’ve been trying really hard to block those years out.

    And as great as New Avengers is (or possibly was, we’ll see), Busiek and Perez’s run was what really got me into comics .

  9. Also there is the age question. Israel recruits to the army at age 18, and there have been arab terrorists in an age lower than 18, and there have been videos of people training kids to bomb Israeli people. There is the brain washing thing you can’t ignore.

    Some skrulls might have joined the war because lies their parents told them about the super heroes.

    Also there is family. Spider-Man might think he’s doing good by stopping a bank robbery but it won’t fix a thing if he won’t think why the guy did it. Also by putting a bank robber in jail he might leave a child with one parent or none at all or he might leave a pregnant woman alone.

    The people that get killed in wars can be kids. They probably have sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers. Killing someone’s dad might make a child responsible for his siblings, carrying the burden his father carried until now.

  10. So, what I got from this week’s mailbag was that it’s not ok to Kill Hawkeye, even if he colors in your acid melted comics.  Right?

  11. I was thinking of drawing over Hawkeye’s original costume so it looks like the awesome Ronin costume.  Is that okay?


  12. @ohcaroline- I think you might have caused Josh to have a seizure.

  13. Thanks for the Avengers feedback!  I just ordered New Avengers vol 1-3 and Young Avengers Vol 1-2 and Avengers Disassembled.  I bought them all as used paperbacks through your Amazon link.  Keep up the good work!  T. Scott 

  14. Hey Sonia, what if you leave the bags open where you store your comics?  Does that leave enough breathing room for the comics?  Probably safer to just go another route.  I have to look into what method works for me.

  15. I bag and board my comics (not trades).  I’ll take my chances with the acid over having the cat piss all over them.

  16. Bags eating my comics?  Like I didn’t have enough to worry about.  Thanks guys!

  17. I spend way too much between comics, longboxes and climate control storage unit to be bothered bagging and boarding unless its a particularly valuable issue.  I’m not one to sell my books anyway, and even if I did, I would never expect to get more than a small percantage of the total worth.  So why bother?

  18. I was thinking of coloring Hawkeye bright pink and let him shoot flowers instead of arrows…I’m fine with that, how bout you Josh?

  19. If those are your options, I’ll take acid over cat piss any day.

  20. What about that leaving the bag open to breathe thing Sonia?

  21. The ‘it’s ok to kill aliens’ thing really stuck out as a sore point for me in Secret Invasion.  Spider-Man does not kill.  Yet, there he is in the center of the battle.  I don’t think we see him do anything outlandish, but, he’s certainly condoning those actions.  What about Reed Richards?  Perhaps he’s become more pragmatic since Civil War, but, (and I am by no means a FF knowledge warehouse) in his many dealings with Skrulls in the past, have we ever seen him kill?    Were there no alien invasions of the Marvel U in the 70s?  I’m sure they didn’t look like this. 

    p.s. – blowing up spaceships doesn’t count as killing, as I think we all know that anyone of importance will survive such an event.

  22. Dear Marvel, DC;

    Please add color to your Essentials, Showcase books, that way I can actually buy and enjoy one. Looking at Ironman Essentials I NEED to see the red and gold armor to enjoy the book. I will happily spring for the extra$3 bucks or so.

    I used to draw goatees on kitty Pride and a mullet on Prof. X (is that so wrong?)


  23. @Crippler – so you’re saying the superheroes are guided and helped by god? Meaning they are actually in a jihad?

  24. @Jesse  I think it would be more than 3 bucks difference, but I shouldn’t pretend I know what I’m talking about.

    I do miss the color in essentials sometimes (like, the only way to tell women apart is usually their hair color. . .) but I try to look at it as giving a chance to pay attention to other aspects of their work.  I’ve found I can appreciate Steve Ditko’s line drawing on Spider-Man more without the colors (which in the four-color days were not very nuanced).

  25. when i first started buying comics i didn’t bag or board them and they would get bent or ripped. then i bagged and boarded then and i had no room in my long boxes. now i only bag them just to keep them from getting ripped or wet. i haven’t notice any damage from them being bagged, though.

  26. Urgh, you guys want solid info don’t you? From observational evidence I can say that after more than a year, I saw many bags start to deteriorate and this would indicate that the plastic in the bag is beginning to break down.

    From a sciencey perspective, Ya remember how people were freaking out about plastic water bottles recently because molecules of the plastic break down into the water over time or exposure to heat or whatever? Well it’s like that with plastic bags, the acidity in the paper helps the bags break down, and the plastic isn’t good for the paper, so they both help each other break down faster.

    I would’ve thought that opening the bag helps, but when I worked in the store, it really didn’t seem to make much difference. I guess at the end of the day, with them all smished together, there’s not a lot of air flow.

    Ultimately it’s all academic if your cat pees on them or your stupid ex boyfriend spills beer on them. I’d way rather have plastic protecting those babies than nothing if there’s any danger about. And you can always just change out the bags every year or two.

  27. Read an essay last year about how we’re all turning into plastic because so much of what we consume is enveloped in it.  The article also insured that i’ll never eat microwave popcorn again.  

  28. what about the ones that claim ‘acid-free’ and ‘archival safe’ are they lying?  am I a sucker?  and I’d agree with sonia, it seems some protection is better than none.

  29. " and I’d agree with sonia, it seems some protection is better than none."

    That’s what she said.

  30. @ chlop – You win the most off-topic response to a message award of any iFanboy thread I’ve ever seen. 

  31. the way i look at it the no-killing aspect is really down to the individual character. a lot of them are portrayed as ex-soldiers or even view their current role as soldiers, so for me it’s not hard to see them offing dozens of enemy combatants who’ve been killing civilians by the truckloads. People like wolverine, natasha, ares, thor, bucky already have this history, but even iron man and other avengers tried to execute the supreme intelligence once and at the time thought they’d succeeded, so for me it kinda builds along that character development. as for guys who don’t want to kill, like spidey or the ff, perhaps that doesn’t extend to stopping other people at least in this unique war-like environment, but then again there could be other interpretations. but that’s just me, and i like that it’s not so clear cut anymore. cap and supes are two good examples, in that supes is pretty steadfast in the no-killing rule (even to the extent of allowing joker try to kill lois once) but cap as a soldier might’ve had to kill but now let’s his shield do the talking. or spinning. or something. boing boing.

  32. I have my entire Doomsday run and my entire Knightfall, Knightend, and Knight-whatever comics, my two issues of Spawn #1, Lobo kills Santa Claus, etcetera comics in the same bags and boards for more then a decade and they’re not damaged at all.  What are you people talking about?!  You gotta change them like every 10 years, and that’s only if you don’t keep them in a cool enough place.  I got like a million bagged up and boarded up comics in my closet and not one of them has ever been damaged.

    But then again, I don’t think I have any that are even worth having bags and boards on them.  I try to keep them in good condition for when I want to sell them on Ebay, but I never do.

    To make a long story short, I should just wait for the trades to come out anyway.  It’s a lot more efficient that way.  I’m getting tired of going all the way out to the comic book store every Wednesday.  Or maybe I should just get some subscriptions.

    Anyway, who cares about anything. Their just stupid comic books, I should just throw them in with the newspapers when the ACUA truck comes every other Thursday anyway, or just give them out during Halloween.  None of them are ever going up in value unless it’s a variant cover that’s like one out of 1,000.  Alright, I’m blabbering again.  I forgot what the hell the topic was anyway.

  33. @robbydzwoner – It all depends on what kind of bag you have.

  34. @robbydzwonar-wow…great conversation you had with yourself there

  35. Just let it rot and put it in the sun and when it fades sell it as a rare variant.