The iFanboy Letter Column – 12/18/2009

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means it’s searching for the ultimate party where on the way, you and your friends get stuck in a 1980s movie-esque adventure. For others, Friday is the day you rent a pick up truck and get to hauling.

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 —



I just finished your guys’ Christmas episode and I of course loved it and I love all the recommendations you gave me. Now Christmas is coming up and I wanted to get my girlfriend something, I recalled she’s a big fan of the character Wolverine from the X-Men movies and she has shown interest in reading some Wolverine related comics so I was wondering if you guys would have any recommendations of some good Wolverine stories that are currently released in TPB or Hard cover?

Zac F.

I couldn’t help myself but to answer Zac’s question, purely since it’s the holidays and buying gifts is both fun and challenging.  Especially trying to buy comics for people who don’t necessarily read comics. I’m glad to hear that Zac enjoyed our holiday shopping episode, with our recommendations for books to buy the people in your life, but aside from the Astonishing X-Men Omnibus (which is awesome and does feature Wolverine prominently, may be a bit overwhelming for your girlfriend Zac), we didn’t really have any books that are solely Wolverine stories, so I did some research and here are some recommendations.

Before I list the recommendations I just wanted to give a slow clap to Zac for finding a girlfriend who is a “big fan” of Wolverine. Is she a fan of Wolverine the character or just of Hugh Jackman? I only ask because recently I had a similar conversation with a lady, and turns out she was a fan of Hugh Jackman… Wolverine? Not so much — heh)

Here are your Wolverine centric story recommendations:

Wolverine – The one that started it all. The mini-series written by Chris Claremont with art by Frank Miller. This one is a bit dated as it was released in the early 1980s, but that doesn’t affect how ultimately badass it is. After Wolverine started gaining popularity in The X-Men, Claremont and Miller took it to the next level by taking Wolverine to Japan and throwing in samurais and some epic fights. This where the really good Wolverine stories start and it’s a must read for any Wolvie fan.

Weapon X – You mentioned that she was a fan of Wolverine from the X-Men movies which means she may be interested in Weapon X by Barry Windsor-Smith. The majority of the Wolverine plot lines in the movies were inspired by this tale, depicting how Wolverine got his admantium skeleton. The closest “origin” story that’s worth reading, it’s also some marvelous Windsor-Smith artwork. I recommend this over Wolverine: Origin, because while Origin attempted to tell the story of where Wolverine came from, this really tells the story of how he got to be the character we know and love.

Enemy of the State – A great story by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., that asks the question, What if Wolverine turns on the heroes and becomes a villain, but in a manner that’s totally plausible. John Romita Jr. is one the best artists around so this one is a joy to read, and Millar has a blast writing Wolverine and lots and lots of deaths. I recommend this over Millar’s more recent Old Man Logan story, because while that was beautiful and great for us comic nerds, isn’t necessarily the kind of book I’d give to casual Wolverine fans.

Get Mystique – A very recent story by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney that was a fun read. I’m a huge fan of Garney’s art and Jason Aaron can just naturally tell a great Wolverine story. Throw in some flashbacks in time as well as Mystique as a diabolical villain that your girlfriend may recognize from the movies, and you’ve got a guaranteed hit.

So there you go, a few Wolverine-centric stories that aren’t too overwhelming, and yet have loose ties to the movies so that they’re accessible to someone who hasn’t read 30 years of X-Men stories and the like. Be sure to let us know which one you go with and whether or not she likes it or not! Happy Holidays!

Ron Richards

Every so often you get a bunch of e-mails that come in on the same subject. You put one aside to answer later. And then another similar one comes in and you put that one aside too so that you can answer it at the same time as the first one. And then another comes in and then another. I figured that the last letter column of 2009 was a good place to knock a bunch of ’em out:

I have only started getting into comics recently and have been mainly concentrating on trades. Can you recommend any great Superman trades as there are so many.

Russ S. from Kent, England, UK

I talked to my dad the other day and he actually admitted that he wants to get back into comics (you can imagine my excitement). His favorite superhero was always Superman. What are some suggestions for great Superman trades that will get him back excited to read comics, since he stopped back in the 70’s?


I have started to read the Superman titles with World of New Krypton and since I have been away from comics for a few years. I was wondering if you guys could suggest some good recent trades to get up to speed on what’s going on his life. I got Last Son and Brainiac and thought they were great and was looking for something similar to those.

Marcus A. from Melbourne, Australia

I’ve been wanting to pick up the trades of the older and current Action Comics story arcs, but I never seem to know what to search for in Amazon. “Action Comics” doesn’t bring anything up. Is there any sites out there that says what issue is in what graphic novel? I picked up the first issue when World Without Superman started and loved it, and would love to read the rest.


Let’s start from the bottom up and Luke’s questions. First, yep, when you search “Action Comics” in Amazon you get all kinds of stuff that aren’t Action Comics trades. What I did was refine the search to “Action Comics Geoff Johns” since he’s the writer you want to look for. That gave me Superman: Brainiac, which was the awesome Brainiac arc in Action Comics. On that page under “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” you get a bunch more trades like Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes and Superman: Last Son, all of which were Geoff Johns Action Comics arcs that lead up to World of New Krypton and World Without Superman. Now if you want to move forward and start reading trades of the current storylines you’re looking for the New Krypton trades: Superman: New Krypton, Vol. 1 and Superman: New Krypton, Vol. 2 are both out, and Superman: New Krypton, Vol. 3 and Superman: New Krypton, Vol. 4 are available for pre-order. Actually, now that I think about it, we are into Marcus territory too. All the trades listed here give you pretty good coverage on what’s been going on in Superman’s life for the last two years or so. Luke, as to your question about where you can go on-line to find out which issues are collected in which trades, I find Comic Book Data Base to be invaluable for that. You just search for an issue and it will usually tell you if it is collected in a trade, and if so what trade that is.

Superman!Barry and Russ’s questions are very similar so I’m going to tackle them both at once. But before I dive into great Superman trades I just want to say that to Barry that when Superman: Secret Origin finally comes out in trade next year, you get that into your dad’s hands as fast as you can.

Okay, on to great Superman trades. First off all, the trades that I have already listed above are very good-to-great Superman trades. Those are all worth getting, especially the two written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank. Those two — Legion of Super-Heroes and Brainiac — are stellar. I could spend all day waxing poetic about great Superman stories, but we don’t have all day so I’m just going to list five great trades.

Superman: Man of Steel might be my favorite of all the Superman stories. This was John Byrne’s classic reboot of Superman and his world following Crisis on Infinite Earths. This reboot was so powerfully iconic that when no less than Mark Waid and Lenil Francis Yu tried to revamp Superman with Superman: Birthright it didn’t stick. It wasn’t until Geoff Johns and Gary Frank and Superman: Secret Origin that a serious (and seemingly successful) attempt has been made to remake Superman’s world.

Superman For All Seasons came out at the height of the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale craze, back before Loeb’s name became something of a punching bag with comic fandom. Loeb and Sale took their retro style to Smallville to examine Superman and the world he lives in. This might be Tim Sale’s best work.

Superman: Red Son might be an Elseworlds tale and thus it might not be “real”, but what it is is simply one of the best Superman stories that I’ve ever read. And even more amazingly, it’s a Mark Millar story that lives up to its high concept — What if Superman’s ship landed in Russia and not Kansas? — and has a spectacular ending. I reread this recently and was blown away all over again.

All-Star Superman, Vol. 1 and All Star-Superman, Vol. 2 comprise Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely love letter to both Superman and the Silver Age. It may have taken forever to come out, but when it did it blew away everything else out there at the time. It won just about every comic book award possible, and nominating committees are still trying to find ways to shoe horn it into eligibility years after it finished.

So, Russ, Barry, Marcus and Luke, there you go. More Superman trade recommendations than you can shake a stick at.

Conor Kilpatrick


How do you feel about colleges and professors taking a shine to comic books, wait, I mean “Graphic Novels”? I’m all for the rest of the world joining the party that is reading comics, but something about comic books in the hands of “professionals” grates me. They’re always talked about as this revealed discovery, as if comics history didn’t start in the ’40s, but with the approval of some Harvard alumni in the last decade. For education professors it’s even worse. Graphic Novels/Books are passed around like some fad. All discussions are focused on how these GNs help reluctant readers and stimulate reading.

For me, comic books are not a fad, and I have never been a reluctant reader. I read comics because they’re awesome. I don’t need some 60 page doctorate analyzing a panel of The Dark Knight [Returns] to tell me that.

Sorry, I’m on my way to a lecture, some angst slipped out.


Forgive my bluntness, but… really? You don’t want academics to take comics seriously, and fad or no, you think there’s some sort of negative effect of people discussing the relevancy of comic books in media? I’ve got to say, I don’t see a downside for comics in general.

For me, what I want for comics is for them to be considered as valid, as relevant as any other form of storytelling, be it prose or films or television. I remember some of my favorite classes in college were the advanced media criticism classes where we really talked about televsion in a literal and academic manner. Up until that point, I’d bought in to the idea that TV was a lesser medium, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that now we’re in the middle of a renaissance of television of quality. Never before have we seen a glut of quality shows (mostly from HBO…) as we have in the last decade. Sure there’s been crap too, but that’s not the point, there was always crappy TV. But there was never The Wire.

I can only hope that the increasing frequency of graphic novel texts in the academic environment will be the seed of a new generation of people taking comics seriously.

Basically, I don’t care how or why they’re taking comics seriously, but I’m just glad they are.

Josh Flanagan


  1. Very well said, Josh. 

  2. In my first year of community college, I had a ‘famous authors’ paper in my English class. There were the obvious choices to make but my teacher said ANYONE could be discussed. So what did I decide to do? A paper on Alan Moore.

    She was not on board with it from day one, saying it will be hard to research and no one really took a comic writer seriously. I proved her wrong by finding a ton of ‘legit’ websites on Alan Moore and wrote a 7 page paper on the ‘Use of Time in Alan Moore Works’. The result of this paper?

    D+ and a note saying that although I proved her wrong on finding sources, I couldn’t win her over because he was a comic book writer. But I’m proud of what I wrote cause I was the first in the college to try to write a serious paper on comic books.

  3. Yeah, it took me a while to convince wife that comic books were a vaild medium for telling stories and was not any less sophisticated than movies or prose. Now she has picked up the cause and attempts to set people straight when they brush off comics as a whole. Usually I end up having to step in and help her with some of the facts and concepts, but at least she waves my geek flag proudly 🙂

    And I would easily recommend Old Man Logan to a casual comic book or Wolverine fan. There is no baggage with it and can be read by anyone that has even a vague knowledge of Marvel characters.

  4. That last questions reminds me of James Joyce’s son/grandson requesting that academics stop discussing Joyce’s work. I believe the reasoning was "enough has been said about it." I can tell you, Shell, I worked with professors in both Communications and Anthropology that liked the idea of comic books both as a pedagogical tool and just as a damn fun read. Indeed, my Master’s Thesis was on how comic books create communities of practice whereby novices learn from learned elders. (iFanboy makes a surprise cameo in the closing of my paper, too.) The medium is beginning to be looked at as something far more than just "kid’s stuff." The Sorbonne even lists Comic Books has a distinct, legitimate form of art (The Six classical: Dance, Theater, Painting, Music, Writing, Drawing; The 4 New arts: Photography, Film, Comic Books, Video Games) 

    As well, not all discussion of comics in the classroom is centered on READING comics. There’s a nifty program called the Comic Book Project (full disclosure: It’s run out of my graduate alma mater) that helps kids to think creatively and develop reading, writing and critical thinking skills through collaboratively writing a comic book. And man, some of the comics these young kids produced are hard hitting and about their lives as urban youth. I would urge everyone to check out

    Sorry, that got a bit long winded and a bit self-involved, but this is what I’ve chosen to study and so far I’ve met nothing but thoughtful questions and readers encouraging me to show comics can be used in any and all situations. It’s very odd to be told "No, you’re making them less awesome."  

  5. Not to toot my own horn, but if anyone is interested I have a manuscript in press. It should be published in the upcoming months.  Hopefully, this can contribute (even if a little) to the de-stigmatization that comics are a junk medium.  

    Branscum, P., & Sharma, M. (in press). Comic books an untapped medium for health promotion. American Journal of Health Studies. 


  6. I totally agree with Josh and Prax’s responses.

    Yes, on the one hand, academics can be blow-hards who have a habit of acting as if subject matter (in this case, comics) don’t have much legitimacy outside of what the academy does with them.

    But on the other hand, the idea that it’s somehow "wrong" to analyze comic books (right down to the individual panels) in vigorous, critical ways is just…anti-intellectual.

    Yeah, I know, we’re all "fans" of the medium. We all want "fun". "Comics should be FUN", and all that. But if someone wants to write a 100-page dissertation on Final Crisis (a comic that wasn’t much "fun"), then I think that’s awesome, because the work (for all its faults) is complex enough, and full of enough ideas, to justify a written intellectual endeavor. And if you don’t want your favorite "fun" comic to be analyzed in great detail–TOO BAD. Over a hundred years ago professors started analyzing FAIRY TALES: some of their findings may be boring (to me), but a great deal of them were interesting, and the fact that some professors somewhere did that didn’t prevent me from enjoying fairy tales any less when I was a child.

    Bottom line: NOTHING should be off-limits from critical investigation. If it’s a part of our society–if it contains language–then it’s fair game for literary criticism. Not all of that sort of writing is 100% worthwhile, imo, but the point is that the option should and will ALWAYS be there. And sometimes very interesting insights can come from those investigations. You just want to enjoy your comics and not think about what really smart/stuffy/snobby/brilliant professors might think that they "MEAN" in a larger sense? Then ignore what they write about comics, and enjoy the medium the way you want to enjoy it.

  7. Two additional points and I’ll shut up. While we normally look at most news on comics as negative, in the 60s Marshall McLuhan devoted a whole chapter of his UNDERSTANDING MEDIA: THE EXTENSIONS OF MAN to comic books (Admittedly, it mostly about MAD but that’s beside the point.) I have yet to track it down, but supposedly attention to paid to them in McLuhan’s GUTTENBURG GALAXY as well. Point being, people have been pointing out the legitimacy and critically analyzing comics for a long time, whether it’s been as prevalent as it is now. 

    My second point ties into this, too. I don’t think many people are aware of it, but there is an academic journal for comics outside of the Comic Journal. It’s called ImageText and is available online. It’s got some great articles, and I’ve really learned somethings about the craft from it (The article FOUR CONCEPTIONS OF THE PAGE by Benoit Peeters is eye-opening in what American comics aren’t doing!). Really, everyone interested in taking comics seriously as an art form should be checking this out: 

  8. Totally agree with Josh. The more people who study, report and observe comics the more people who will be interested in them which means more readers, more creators, mroe ideas. Hell, we may be in for a new Golden Age in 10-15 years.

  9. I was going to write something professory, but Buckeyerdid and Prax have obviously done an excellent job of that already.

    I enjoyed Enemy of the State, as well.  However, I think I enjoyed Old Man Logan more. 

  10. Slow clap, Josh!

    And Ron — come on, a lot of ladies like the Wolverine!  Well, some of us anyway.  I’d add ‘Wolverine First Class’ as a good entry-level recommendation.  Especially the Fred Van Lente issues.  And while it’s not specifically Wolverine, I’ve found a lot of the women I know who came to X-Men from the movies enjoyed Whedon’s ‘Astonishing X-Men’ a lot (yeah, it’s not actually that much about Wolverine at all, but it’s a good bait and switch.  It worked on me and now I’m a Cyclops fan :))

  11. All 3 of those questions were right up your perspective alleys. Ron x-men question Conor Superman question and Josh layin the smack down.  Good work

  12. @TheNextChampion a SEVEN page report on Alan Moore and ONLY a D+?Did this heathen even TRY and read any of his works?

    Frank Miller’s Wolverine LS was my HOLY GRAIL back in the 80’s

  13. PS — Is Enemy of the State really a good book for people who like Wolverine as a character?  Doesn’t he spend most of it under mind control, kiling stuff?  I may be misremembering.  Also, can’t resist pointing out that Zac could have an excuse to give her just about any Marvel series he wants to get her interested in, because there’s probably a Wolverine cameo in it somewhere!

  14. Actors can lead to comic reading sometimes. I knew a girl in high school who had a crush on Tom Jane after his Punisher movie came out, and I talked her into buying the "Welcome Back, Frank" trade. And she loved it!

    …not as much as the movie, of course. It’s hard to compete with Tom Jane.

  15. I loved me some Enemy of the State. That’s a nice hardcover too, with a little bonus story of Wolvie in a Concentration Camp durring WWII

  16. Greg Rucka’s Wolverine.  3 paperbacks long, it was excellent!

  17. @TNC
    That angries up my blood; you should’ve gone over her head to a dean or the head of her department.

  18. @Jesse1125/captbastrd: Well to be a bit fair she was about 65 at the time of teaching me. lol

    I mean now I am not so upset about it. In fact I have kept the paper to this day because I am a bit proud of it. I’m not saying it’s perfect or anything, but I believe it was a pretty good job considering some of my ‘restrictions’ on researching the man. Hmm…..that might be a murmur article in the future…

  19. As long as the comic fandom as whole have a cape fetish, there’s no point in doing long drawn out reasearch on comic books as anything where the good guy is not punching the bad guy in the end is dismissed. The trend has changed in the past few years, but we’re still not there.


    Oh, and a great Superman trade would be  whichever contains Action 775.

  20. Re: Superman trades.

    Byrne’s MAN OF STEEL story is still great. It might raise a few eyebrows at points these days (Bizarro got created and immediately died?), but it stands up fairly well. I also enjoyed the Kurt Busiek trades of Superman, though there doesn’t seem to be much discussion about them. Perhaps they just got too overshadowed by Johns, which is a shame. The real problem with them is probably that they don’t stand up very well on their own and need to be read in the order they were published. If you’re doing that, you’ll probably enjoy them.

  21. @JeffR: Immediately killing Bizarro was one of the best parts of MAN OF STEEL.

  22. @Barry in regards the Superman tpb for his Dad. I’ld really go for Superman: For All Seasons. It stands on it’s own without any infringements from continuity and has a retro feel to it which might appeal better to your Dad as a reader of the old comics.

  23. @conor: Older readers who loved Bizarro’s stories in the ’60s and younger fans who love him currently may be surprised by the story.  They may not have the complete context for for Bryne was trying to do by paying homage to Bizarro’s first appearance and trying to make Clark the only ‘super’ person in the DCU.  Still, that’s a minor point.  It’s a great story.  Bryne’s version of Lana is still my favorite.  At least, if you ignore the MILLENNIUM storyline.

  24. As far as Superman trades go, Superman: Secret Idenity seems to be a pretty serious omission.

  25. @Ilash: That’s because you’d need some serious luck to try to find a copy. I wanted to only recommend books that it would be possible to purchase.

  26. @ohcaroline- Yes Enemy of the State is a great Wolverine book

  27. @conor: Agreed. I was putting together a list similar to this for a friend of mine a few months back and when I searched for "Superman Secret Identity" on any of the book sites for him I use all I could find was Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of "Superman’s" Co-Creator Joe Shuster written by Craig YoeNot the book you want to give to the wrong person!

    It’s such a pity as I really rate that book and felt it never reached the audience it deserved. It’s one of Kurt Busiek’s best written stories and has beautiful art by Stuart Immonen that is a lot different than what he usually produces. I’ld really recommend it to anyone, and ebay currently has all the single issues at very good prices if anyone wants to take the time to find it.

  28. Superman: Birthright anyone?

  29. @muddi900: Totally. Loved it. It seems DC doesn’t though. Secret Origins by Johns and Frank seems to be their definitive re-telling now which is a great pity as Birthright was a great mini.

  30. I liked BIRTHRIGHT, but rate MAN OF STEEL way above it.

  31. I haven’t read BIRTHRIGHT, what was it that was different from the other Superman reboots that Byrn and Johns have done?

  32. Superman: Secret Identity needs to be put back into print, because I really want to read it. It needs to be giving a regular hardcover or ABSOLUTE treatment.

  33. Superman: Exile was quite fun, where supes has previously killed some guy and because of his guilt goes on some alien adventures where he eventually fights mongul. Godfall was a cool tale about being supes thinking he’s a normal guy back on Krypton*. Up, Up and Away from One year later was a pretty cool adventures of clark kent reporter/depowered superman story. I really enjoyed Birthright as an alternate take on the origin and kinda a year one story. secret identiy, ugh. 😉

  34. if all it takes is a bunch of academics to ‘discuss’ comics and we get a run of comics on par with The Wire then i’m all for it.



  35. Thanks for answering my question guys

  36. @timmywood: Birthright’s a much more modern take on the Superman origin. Think of it as the origin tale you’ld give to someone who loves Smallville.

    @conor: I see both as different animals despite the fact that they cover much of the same ground. Man Of Steel is more of a classic version of his origin and would appeal more to long-term readers of our age, while Birthright probably speaks better to the Smallville/O.C. generation’s tastes. Personally,, I enjoy them both equally for different reasons.

  37. Everyone can hate comics for all I care. Just as long as they shut up and let me read them in peace.  I hate getting lectured on why this is a good comic, if you enjoy it, fine, just say that you think it would be good to read, otherwise intellectuals can burn their in depth review and analysis of a comic. 

    I like comics, they can hate them, I am fine with them being wrong.

  38. @lobofan: I’m confused as to why you’re here, then. "In-depth review and analysis" is kind of what we do.

  39. @Davidtobin, conor, timmywood, anyone else interested in Birthright. While, we can debate canonicity/continuity till we’re blue in the face the reason that Birthright was summarily dismissed was because of a few off hand comments from Busiek (mainly), Didio and Johns in the lead up to Superman’s status quo in One Year Later. Birthright was a well received, well selling origin. So was Busiek’s Secret Identity. The Problem? They were released only two years apart. Anyway, during some of these prelim interviews someone asked Busiek about which origin they’d be using (Man of Steel, Birthright, etc.) and he made a glib comment that "They hadn’t sorted it yet." Speculation ran rampant, fueled by some vague references Busiek made about a second printing of Secret Identity being impossible as long as Birthright was considered the "Main origin." When it became clear that no "origin" had been picked yet, fans asked at conventions what the deal was and many other commented on the matter. This more or less escalated into an overblown debate between two "Factions." (What geek arguments don’t, eh?) I believe Busiek dropped some Secret Identity references in his run on Action Comics in an attempt to appease fans and "force" a decision. As we can see, DC just decided to go with a new (old!) origin. 😉

  40. @PraxJarvin: Didn’t know about that politics. Interesting stuff. Agreed that continuity debates are tedious at the best of times. Sometimes I feel that comic book readers (myself included) should just enjoy a good story and not get as bogged down with the details.

  41. @Conor I’m here because you guys know that not everything is for everybody and you don’t think that your opinions are undeniably correct every time.

  42. I kind of do…

  43. I totally do. 🙂

  44. I had read somewhere birthright was meant to be like an ultimate supes story and then got shoehorned into the existing dcu. does that sound right? that may be why fans or creators freaked out. there is an…interesting review at where some guy was freaking out about all the implications of the series, soul-vision, timeline(!!) etc. i enjoyed it and i liked waid’s bit where he talks about what he changed and why, and also what he didn’t change.

  45. @PraxJarvin – Isn’t Busiek’s Superman: Secret Identity out of continuity? So how was it considered an origin story for the "real" Superman that were reading about? 😐

     I was under the impression that Superman: Secret Identity was an Elseworld tale.