The iFanboy Letters Column – 01/11/2008!

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Friday means it’s letter column time. You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always if you want to your email read on the show, or answered here, keep them coming – contact@ifanboy.com


I recently got back into comics after years of being away. I have tried to catch up with storylines, characters, etc. but it’s been very difficult!

Recently I’ve been seeing the villain Monarch but I understood him to be the Hank Hall (Hawk). I also remember reading that he was supposed to be Captain Atom, wasn’t, but would eventually be. So who is he? If he is Captain Atom when did this happen? Are there now two Monarchs is DC history?

Any help you can give me would be great!

Chris from Cincinnati, OH

Oh, Monarch. He touches me right in my very soul.

1991 was the year that I started going to the comic book store every week and — minus and odd holiday week here and there — I haven’t looked back since. And what better way to begin a serous comic book habit than with a summer crossover event that sent my little 13 year old heart all a flutter — Armageddon 2001.

In that crossover, the big mystery was that in ten years time (2001), one of the DC heroes would turn evil and take on the name Monarch and kill all the other heroes and rule the world. It was a guessing game all summer long as every week another chapter or two played out across every annual in the DC line. Originally, Captain Atom was meant to be revealed as Monarch, but somehow word leaked out and spread far and wide, no mean feat in those pre-internet days. DC quickly changed the ending of the story to reveal that Monarch was Hawk, of Hawk & Dove, and one of the best crossovers I’ve ever experienced ended with a “huh?” and a thud. Captain Atom — he was potentially powerful enough to take everyone else out. Hawk? Not so much.

DC corrected its plot change in the “One Year Later” gap when Captain Atom was fitted with a Monarch suit in order to keep his radiation under control when his skin was ruptured. He then entered The Bleed and found out about the multiverse and apparently along the way he went a little crazy because now he’s leading an army of multiverse characters in the pages of Countdown as he attempts to rule the universe.

As for Hank Hall, in Zero Hour he changed his name from Monarch to Extant and was promptly killed.

Conor Kilpatrick


I’ve read and loved most of the unofficial “must reads” in comics, like Kingdom Come, The Dark Knight Returns, God Loves, Man Kills, The Dark Phoenix Saga, Maus, and Crisis on Infinite Earths. The one that I could never get through to this day is Watchmen. While it’s supposed to be this awesome seminal moment in comic book history, it just bores the hell out of me. I’ve tried on multiple occasions to get through this monstrosity and only end up spinning my wheels. The easy answer to why I seem to be the only one I know of who hates Watchmen is that I’m an idiot and I just don’t “get it”. But fuck that noise, I just think that it’s an overrated book written by a crazy Grizzly Adams lookin’ dude who has some serious sexual issues to work out (Did you guys read Lost Girls? I mean… damn.) Am I nuts?

EJ

watchmen4.jpgYou ask me? Yes. You, you are nuts. Without a doubt, my favorite work in the history of comic books is Watchmen, but clearly that makes me a biased source. But you’ve left out a possible choice. You said that either it’s great, or it’s overrated (a term I am personally starting to get very tired of). But can’t something be really good, but just not for you? There’s lots of music out there that I don’t like, but which everyone else says is genius. I think I can be fair enough to assume that not everyone who says that is completely misguided, and perhaps, since art and its enjoyment is subjective, for whatever reason, that work is just not for me. I don’t like Tori Amos. I’m not going to. Can I appreciate her? If I run into a flock of raging Tori Amos fans, will I tell them that they’re wrong, and she’s overrated? No, I can respect that, even if it does nothing for me personally.

But the thing about Watchmen is this: it just isn’t bad. You might not like it, but no one in their right mind can tell me it’s not an incredibly well crafted piece of work. There are far too many people who have been affected and impressed by Moore and Gibbons’ masterpiece for it to be a fluke. All these people weren’t duped into thinking it was a great book when it really wasn’t. However, it’s entirely possible that after everything you’ve heard, and all the regard given this work, there was no way it was ever going to live up to that expectation, especially as it might just not be something you would have ever been interested in. I say, come back to it in about five years, and see if your opinion is changed at all. It probably won’t, but you never know.

As far as Alan Moore being a weirdo, obsessed with sex, I think that’s stretching it. The man is an artist, and an artist pushes boundaries, and explores taboos. I read Lost Girls, and honestly it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I could certainly appreciate it for what it was. I respect him for getting out of his comfort zone, and by extension, taking other people out of theirs. It’s that kind of challenging work which sets the stage for growth and improvement.

Now, you want to talk overrated, how about that Jim Lee guy? What? Oh, uh, next letter!

Josh Flanagan


I recently got back into seriously reading comics from roughly a 17 year layoff and I want to say thanks for giving us a ton of great suggestions for me to catch up on. (BKV rules) I am also thinking about possibly collaborating a team towards my own project and wanted to know if any of you subscribe to a monthly periodical dedicated to the comics industry besides Wizard, or if you have one to suggest.

Matt from Bloomington, IN

P.S. Ron, thanks for pushing Savage Dragon

Welcome back to reading comics! We’re glad to have you back and Brian K. Vaughan does indeed rule. Good luck with doing your own project, that’s awesome.

To answer your question, I personally don’t and don’t believe any of the other guys at iFanboy subscribe to any monthly magazines. I do buy Wizard in the comic shop because I like to read a magazine that looks like a train wreck. It gives me pleasure. There are some other great magazines out there, like The Comics Journal (which is a little bit heady at times) or any of the magazines Two Morrows publishing puts out, but I think we all can agree that the comics industry lacks a great monthly magazine. Maybe someday someone will get that right and make us all happy. If you hear of a good magazine, let us know! I love magazines and wish I had a comics magazine to scratch that itch. There have been some new ones, like Comics Foundry (only one issue so far) and Comics Now! (they haven’t release any issues yet), but unfortunately, I don’t think those magazines are established enough to be worth subscribing to yet. Maybe some day.

Oh and you’re welcome for pushing Savage Dragon, how great is that book? Even when it doesn’t make any sense, it’s awesome.

Ron Richards


What’s “The Punisher Effect”?

Ameer Y.

“The Punisher Effect” is a phrase we coined on the show many moons ago and it just popped up recently and we were remiss to not explain it at the time.

It refers specifically to the moment in Ed Brubaker’s first story arc in Daredevil #84 when Matt Murdock was in prison and Brubaker was throwing every bad guy imaginable in there with him and at the very end, right before the powder keg burst, he threw in The Punisher in one of the great last page cliffhangers of the last few years.

In general, “The Punisher Effect” refers to amping up the stakes as far as they can go before the climax. Making the main character’s situation worse and worse and worse and then just when you think it can’t get any worse, the writer cranks it up one more notch to the point where you can’t wait for the climax.

Conor Kilpatrick


I read Preacher and I felt like you guys made some interesting points about it. As a Christian I read Preacher and I have one big problem with the series: no Christian in that book is a good guy. Every “Christian” in the series is pretty much evil, except for the main character who, well isn’t really much of a Christian. I can admire Mr. Ennis’ ability in this book (side note, I’ve hated everything else I’ve ever seen Garth Ennis write) However, I felt like this was more or less Mr. Ennis complaining about his views. Oddly enough whenever the storyline (I’m talking about Preacher here) drifted away from the “go confront God” or the portrayal of the descendant of Christ as a sex crazed drug head, I found the three main characters (as well as many of the secondary characters (Arsface and the Saint of Killers) to be a great moment in comics.

This book is at the end of the day Ennis airing his personal problems I thought and I found it tiring in the end. This is America and believe that Ennis has every right to to write this type of stuff but I just think that you guys didn’t really go into some of the book’s weak spots. I mean the villains are all very one-dimensional (including God) and I think that this is a major failing of the series.

Brian

Well, I’ll be honest with you, I probably won’t relate exactly to where you’re coming from, but I can certainly understand your point of view, and the reason I chose to put this letter in here is that it’s a valid point of view, that neither myself, Ron, or Conor had when we did the show. I mean, was Ennis working out some of his personal issues? I can’t tell you for sure, but it sure seems like it. I know he grew up in Northern Ireland, and you can certainly understand where someone would get a grudge against religion when there are bombs going off all over the place in the name of religion. So, to me, I see those evil Christian characters as examples of people using religion for their own purposes, rather than the good people. But I can only really guess at what his meaning was with all that. Subsequent work suggest that he likes to poke fun at the devices of religion, specifically Christianity, which is certainly not a new thing for artists of any stripe. For me, I think some of that, at least in Preacher made it a more honest work, where we got to see something real that the writer was feeling, and whether you agree with that or not, it can certainly be compelling, as you found some parts to be. As far as Ennis’ other writing goes, I really haven’t liked his work which tackled similar themes, but I loved his war work, which might as well be a different writer. Anyway, I hope I made it through that without offending anyone, and I am glad we got a chance for a completely different point of view to be heard on the subject.

Josh Flanagan


Here is my deal. Spring semester just started up for me. I am a psychology major and as an assignment for my Forensic Psychology class is a 15 page book report and presentation of which the book we choose has an overall theme dealing with some topic in forensic psychology. I was wondering if you could suggest any books that of that nature, preferably longer books and not just a single trade just so the book is an easier sell to my professor. I’m pretty sure none of you were psych majors in college, so here is a list of topics we can choose from that relate to forensic psychology: child assessment of sanity, competency, rape trauma, parental fitness in custody evaluations, screening and selection of law enforcement candidates, intervention and treatment programs for youth offenders, psychological profiling in criminal and civil investigations, polygraphing, cognitive interviewing, jury selection, and expert testimony in court. If you guys can think of any suggestions I would greatly appreciate them.

P.S. The paper is due in April.

Chris S. from Grand Forks, ND

Well Chris, I wasn’t aware that we had to do your homework for you. Had I known I would have worked a little harder in college and taken some forensic psychology classes. But even without your fancy book-learning, as soon as I read your e-mail, I knew exactly what book to suggest to you — Torso by Brian Michael Bendis. It’s a long trade paperback profiling the Torso killer in Cleveland in the 1930s. Should be exactly what you’re looking for. If you want something a little more out there, you could try From Hell, which is the Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell book about Jack The Ripper. Hope these recommendations help. Good luck with your paper!

Ron Richards

Comments

  1. Can’t say I disagree with Brian’s assessment of Preacher – it is definitely an anti-Christian work. However, I don’t see that as a failing of the series, but one of its strengths. Ennis tackles this sticky wicket of an issue at a time when there was a big fundamental movement to the religious right here in the US at least. Whether that was coincidental or intentional timing, it was brave from a publishing standpoint for Ennis to do it and DC (part of the huge Warner Bros. conglomerate at the time) to put it out.

  2. Chris–forensic psychology,

    You might also try “The Tale of One Bad Rat” which deals very creatively with a young girl who was sexually abused.

  3. “Anyway, I hope I made it through that without offending anyone, and I am glad we got a chance for a completely different point of view to be heard on the subject.”

    Oh, it is on now, Josh. As we used to say where I grew up, ‘ON, like a pot o’ neckbones!’ 😉

  4. Thanks for the suggestions Ron. Hopefully I can convince my professor to let me use the books. If he does I’ll be sure to let you know what I think of them. Thanks again.

  5. But I thought pastors were peaceful

  6. Josh said — “You said that either it’s great, or it’s overrated (a term I am personally starting to get very tired of). But can’t something be really good, but just not for you?”

    Thanks for this. You should print it on leaflets and hand it out at airports, and malls, and on college campuses. When people keep this principle in mind, conversations — about comics, or movies, or music, or “serious literature,” or whatever — get a lot more interesting, better spirited, and more fun.

    For the record, Josh, I’d love to read a rant against the concept of “overratedness,” should you ever feel up to one.

  7. Chuck Klosterman already wrote the best essay ever on this, but it was in regards to music. I might sometime though…

    Here’s a reprint of Chuck’s:
    http://vixi.livejournal.com/198971.html

  8. I had a rough time getting into Watchmen myself. I started it multiple times, and that analogy of spinning wheels EJ made is the perfect way to describe how it went. I eventually got through it, and I remember being disappointed with the ending. It was on my mind for a while after because I did feel like I was duped, and Watchmen was just a beast of hype, like certain films. In my case, the experience had to do with the ten years or so of talk I had building up my expectations before I’d ever even read the book. Every time something happened in the story, I was expecting something bigger.

    Then it dawned on me that there really wasn’t any other way the story could end, and still be as good as people say it is. And Rorschach was pretty bad ass. And that Night Owl guy was pretty cool. And the art, and so on. Before I knew it, I had gone from unimpressed, to really digging the book. When I read it again, I loved every minute of it. I remember reading something where Neil Gaiman talked about Watchmen, with nothing but good things to say, and what he had to say about Dave Gibbons’ art was particularly interesting. He said he loved how the art was a lot like the examples in How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, of the wrong way to draw comics. I liked that, and I think he’s right. It was just another thing that showed me how ‘against the grain’ the whole project was. But it also made me realize that there are aspects, like the art, the structure, and the end of the book, that are bound to make it a polarizing piece. .

    I’d say it’s silly to ever feel like the odd man out for not connecting to something that seems to be accepted by the masses as important in some way. If anything, mass acceptance has always made me leary. There are a lot of things people rave about like they were life changing, but in my eyes were just okay. I used to think there was something wrong with me when I was in the minority with my opinion in matters like these. The bottom line is there isn’t anything you should feel you have to ‘get’ when you take in what’s supposed to be a seminal piece of art, or literature. All that should be demanded is your attention, and if they can keep that, and you enjoyed yourself, then that’s good enough. And if you didn’t like it, or you had to put it down because it was putting you to sleep, that’s okay. The same way someone could care less about Shakespeare, or The Beatles, so goes it for the work of Alan Moore, it doesn’t speak to everyone. Doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be taken away from it. It just doesn’t speak to everyone.

  9. couple nails on the head in that Klosterman essay.

  10. Anyone who wants to read further explanation on Monarch’s origins (although Conor did as thorough a job as anyone could) should probably find and at least flip through Countdown 17 where there is a two page Origin of Monarch.

    Am I the only one who smirks when he realizes that DC’s “new” ultimate Crisis villain shares a name with the Venture Bros. character?

    I had a friend who couldn’t get into Watchmen and it utterly baffled me. I found it to be incredibly gripping from the first page. The writing just grabbed me and pulled me in. Although, I had an experience similar to EJ’s when I read From Hell. I recognized the craft of it, but I found it quite tedious, and honestly, how many times can one writer discuss the underlying pagan origins of societal structures and traditions (From Hell, Promethea, any of his “music” work)? Don’t get me wrong though I love Moore. In fact From Hell and his mini-comics/musical adaptations works are the only thigns of his with which I have a hard time.

  11. Thanks for the Klosterman link, Josh. That is, indeed, genius. CK is one of the most skilled critics I’ve ever read because he can take a statement that is ridiculous on its face and then back it up with so much detail that you have to agree with him. At least for a few minutes.

    And it does point out how absurd the whole concept of over/underrated is. Anything that’s popular enough to be really “overrated” is worth looking at because — even if you don’t like it — it’s going to end up as a cultural reference/influence for everybody who did read it. “Underrated” is a more fun game because people get to cheerlead things that they love that not everybody has heard of.