The iFanboy Letters Column – 02/15/2008!

The iFanboy Mailbox!Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means it’s payday. For others, Friday means it’s two-for-one from 4pm to 6pm at the local alcohol emporium. And for others still, Friday means it’s time to tell your friends you’ve got a hot date while you hide out in your apartment watching Monk.

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 show or answered here, keep them coming –

Alright, I have a huge problem. My problem is that I have only read three issues of Karl Kerschl’s work. I’m in love with his work in Teen Titans: Year One, and a few months ago I saw his pages in the flash and was blown away. I’m interested in reading more of his work so I looked through his comicsography on his website, but nothing really jumped out at me. So my question is can you recommend any other issues or trades with his work in it that were worth the read? My store has a pretty good back issue collection, so hunting down back issues wouldn’t be a problem for me. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

John from Worcester, MA

P.S. While I love my New Frontier Flash action figure, I would pay twice as much to get my hands on a Karl Kerschl Wally West.

Adventures of Superman #648First — oh my god, I know! Isn’t Karl Kerschl’s work on The Flash and Teen Titans: Year One just to die for? I don’t understand how I never heard of this guy until I saw him do All Flash #1. Well, I checked his body of work and confirmed that he has penciled a bunch of titles, but only or two issues of each, in most cases. Some surprising books, too, like Generation X, Ghost Rider, and that fan favorite book Deadpool from Marvel. He’s done a bit more work at DC Comics, with a long(ish) run on The Adventures of Superman (issues #641-649) as well as random titles here and there like the aforementioned All Flash and Robin. Of the books he’s penciled I have to say that I can’t recommend any of them, because I haven’t read them! But if your store does have a good back issue selection, start with that run on The Adventures of Superman as it seems to be the longest run he’s had most recently, so his art will most likely be similar to what he’s doing currently.

As for your P.S. — I don’t know, Kerschl’s Wally West is rad and all, but those New Frontier figures are pretty badass.

Ron Richards

A recent conversation with a mate of mine clarified why comic books do not appeal to a wider audience.

My friend picked up a copy of The Mighty Avengers #1, he flicked though the book then came straight out and bagged the comic saying the dialogue and story was stupid and all comics were “lame.”

This lead to a debate about the value of traditional superhero comics. I argued that having an understanding of the characters and situations of the book lend gravity to the story. My friend’s argument came down to one particular point – they look stupid. The actual books, not the characters..

I have to agree. Imagine you’re coming into comics fresh. You pick up a book called Teen Titans: Year One, All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, or even Y: The Last Man? Added to that hard pill are the ridiculous advertisements inside the books; Spider-Man fishing reels, Wolverine in boxer shorts, Fantastic Four birthday cakes, etc. The design aesthetic of the banner-heads is also extremely childish.

None of this is good news to a new reader of comics and when I thought about I realised how much I tolerate as an older reader.

I don’t know? At 25 am I now a jaded cranky old man?

Edward from Canberra, Australia

Batman BeginsI can certainly understand what your friend is saying, but the fact is, he’s condemning issues of superhero comics, not comics in general. If we’ve done nothing else on this show, it’s to show that comics are not just one thing. Comics are a method of storytelling, no less valid than any other. It’s true that, to many, mainstream superhero comics appear silly. But it’s also true that the highest grossing movies in our recent history featured Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Harry Potter (you get the idea). Those aren’t just kids and immature adults contributing to ticket revenues. It’s everyone. So the basic idea of the superhero isn’t what’s offending him. And he might think the dialog in you comic book is lame, but it’s no more lame than most scripted television or feature films. It’s just a matter of perception. The content of the silly ads? We all agree they’re silly, but at least it’s paying for the comics to get made.

Then, there’s an entire other world out there. Look at the books from our “History” or “Gift” episodes, just as an example. There’s an entire world out there with writing quality on a maturity level with anything else out there, regardless of media. But saying that people will never accept comic books because of only one type of comic book is simply ridiculous. If that was true, I’d never watch TV because I don’t like American Idol, or because the ads during The View are for things I don’t want.

So basically, you’re friend’s kind of full of it, and I don’t buy it for a second. I’ve spent huge chunks of my life devoted to comic books, and I’m pretty far from childish. I’ve met a lot of the people responsible for making these comics, and their work is great work. And I don’t qualify that. My substantial comic book reading experiences are right up there with my favorite films and prose novels. It’s all just method.

Josh Flanagan

Black Adam: The Dark Age. You guys haven’t talked about this mini. I just finished it and I have to say bravo.

Black Adam is a truly unique character in the DCU, and his evolution over the past couple of years has been a real pleasure to watch.

This mini did a great job of capturing his complexity, his power and pathos.

Love to hear your thoughts on this series and the role of Black Adam in the DCU. He’s not just a villain of godlike proportions is he?

Lewis G. from New York, NY

Black Adam: The Dark Age #6I loved Black Adam: The Dark Age! Seriously. So many books came out of 52 but this one was clearly the best. And it’s not a surprise, really. For one thing, it featured one of the best and most complex characters from 52 in Black Adam. For another thing, it was written by Peter Tomasi, who people are going to get really sick of me talking about, I can just feel it.

You’re right — we didn’t get to talk about it a lot on the show, which is a shame because it was definitely worth talking about. Them’s the breaks — some books just can’t make the show and because I was the only one of the iFanboys reading it it’s easy to cut from the rundown.  It’s always better to talk about a book that more than one of us is reading because that leads to better discussion. Of course now I feel bad for failing at even trying to get Ron or Josh to read this one. Maybe I’ll convince them to pick up the trade.

I feel like this mini is a must read for anyone who loved 52. Great writing and great art by Doug Mahnke.

As for Black Adam himself, well, he is a villain of godlike proportions. But he’s also so much more. He’s someone who, not so long ago was a full-fledged member of the Justice Society of America. That lends him so much more weight. He’s not just a bad guy, he is a bad guy who was once a teammate of some of the greatest heroes on the planet. Of course, he was also a bad guy before that but never as bad or as scary as he is now. I think the people at DC finally figured out what they had on their hands — a villain with the power level of Captain Marvel. A villain who could take out Superman.

And make no mistake about it — he’s a bad guy. He absolutely is. He may commit evil acts for what he thinks is the right reasons — usually selfish ones, but not always — but he still commits evil acts. He wiped out an entire nation. There’s no coming back from that. What it does do, though, is offer up a complex villainous character that is so much more interesting to follow than someone who is just, you know, crazy or bad or whatever.

If you liked 52, and in particular if you liked the Black Adam portion of 52, I urge you to check out this book when the collection is released (tentatively) on May 6th.

Conor Kilpatrick


  1. You know, I always balk nowadays to people who tell me that comics are just for kids.  In today’s society, with the way that some comic characters have penetrated pop culture, it’s almost hard for me to believe that Batman or Spider-Man is still childish.  As Josh pointed out, these are the same people who waited in line to see Spider-Man 3 at midnight or plunked down a few hundred bucks on games, toys, and clothing related stuff.  The iconic superheros are representative of superhero comics, but like all media there are other niches within the medium.  Also, as many of us know, both publishers put out specific titles aimed at kids.  Most of what’s written today is for an older (by older I mean, like, 12) market.  When people tell me that comics are for kids, I ask them if they’ve picked up a comic since they were a kid.  Often, this leads to that zen clarifying moment: the things we did when we were kids seem childish; it doesn’t mean that they still are.

    As for Black Adam, I’m intrigued in reading this but did not read 52.  Would I still enjoy this?  The way Conor described the book makes me think that this would be right up my alley.

  2. Very well said, Josh.

    New readers unfamiliar with comics come into it with many preconceptions. And with good reason, if they hadn’t picked up a comic since they were kid or at all. 

    Like most forms of media, things change and evolve over time. I think where we are at now in comcis is a pretty good place.

    To write off an entire medium based on such silliness as advertisements or what have you, is fairly close-minded.

  3. Hey conor, I’ll have to check out Black Adam: the dack age soon. It sounds intesting.  

  4. Conor what wrong with Monk?

  5. I agree with everything you said Josh except the bit about brushing off the advertisements because they pay for the book to be made. I’m okay with having advertisements and it’s been said before but the ads are really pretty silly and aimed at an audience much younger than those purchasing the books. Is this all done by marketing people who are just unaware or is it finding companies who want to advertise in the comics in the first place when they are considered so juvenille?

  6. My experience almost always shows me that the people who judge comics and their readers as childish or stupid are almost always the same people who don’t read in general.  These same people lack the ability to suspend disbelief and get lost in a piece of literature, movie, or a game.  Going through life only using your brain to decide who to vote for, what’s for lunch, and solving paper jams is a sad, sad way to live.

  7. @superfriend82 – Nothing is wrong with MONK.

  8. Ads in comics have always been lame. "What can you get for selling your Aunt Petunia a pity subscription to Grit? A cheap pair of binoculars!!!" "Buy invisible ink that will rot your skin off!!" "Tired of getting sand kicked in your face? Send for my book and you’ll read about the things you should be doing to look like you’re doing the same ‘roids I’m doing!!!" And I think that’s the problem – some people think the comic ads should still be like that, and when they see they’re the same companies that advertise on cable channels at 3 a.m., the response is "oh, that’s stupid."

    But to discount a medium because of the ads? Not cool. If you don’t like ads, read trades.

    But what are you gonna do – start running phone sex ads?

    @Ron: I have to go back and check, but I don’t remember Kershel’s art being quite up to his current standard during his Adventures of Superman run. The first time I remember his art popping was on All-Flash, so I don’t think his style was the same back then. Nice looking stuff – don’t get me wrong – but not what he would later achieve with his current work.

    I’ll second the Black Adam recommendation. It was a bit slow in the middle there – maybe due to reading it on a monthly schedule – but both the beginning and ending were incredibly strong, and the characterization was great. Mankhe’s art has always only been servicable for me, but this time he did an awesome job. The book leaves Black Adam in a perfect spot to become a major, major villian in the DC Universe and will probably play an important part somewhere down the line.

    Best scene – when he ‘discovers’ his new magic word. Whoever came up with that idea of being that phrase deserves a raise, and the reasoning makes 1000 percent sense. 

  9. @Dan – You’re absolutely right baout the discovery scene.  Also, the final page?  Fantastic.

  10. Not that long ago, I was teaching a class of college students — 18/19 years old — and one of the discussion topics was about how advertisers appeal to a particular audience.  I brought in a lot of diffferent publications — Vogue vs. Seventeen vs. Newsweek vs. the campus paper, etc — and I threw in a recent X-men comic I was carrying around (because it was that Brubaker issue in space that’s all about Vulcan and Deathbird and the hell?  I buy an X-men comic I want X-men; but I digress).  I assumed the class would take the superhero comic as being directed basically to their age and demographic — or that the boys would, at least.  There’s a hip, successful comics shop just a few blocks from campus; these same students watch cartoons and play video games for fun and I’m sure half of them saw X3 or Spidey on the opening weekend.  But the class insisted on talking about the comic as though it was intended for "kids" — preteens or younger.  I had to explain that this was MY comic book and I didn’t steal it from my little brother or something.

    I was completely surprised by this reaction, and I don’t think it’s just because my perspective is skewed from hanging out in fandom.  I’m about the same age as Ron and Conor and Josh, and I don’t ever remember having the stereotype that comics were for young kids.  I went to high school (in the Jim Lee era!) with guys who drew Spidey and Hulk and hung out at the LCS on weekends.  Now, I never did that myself, because (a) I can’t draw, and (b) I was told if I went into a comics shop without my brother or my boyfriend I’d be sexually harassed — but that’s a different stereotype and maybe a different column.  Anyway, I never saw superhero comics as a childish medium, and if anything the ‘look, boobies!’ aspect of some of the art made it seem grown up and risque to me as a kid.

    Thinking about this contrast, I wonder if the comics-are-for-kids stereotype is more prevalent than it was a decade ago — even while it’s less accurate than ever.

    That said, Josh’s answer is right on.  And I’ll add that, as somebody who didn’t seriously get into comics until I was well out of college and had done plenty of reading in my life — learning to appreciate storytelling in a new medium can be a really joyful experience.  


  11. @ohcaroline

    Don’t leave us hanging. What was the class reaction after you explained it was yours? And where was this?

  12. Honestly to me it seems like the advertisements in comics might be marketed to a SLIGHTLY younger age-group overall, but this is mostly because of MARVEL’S OWN merchandising (Fantastic Four birthday cakes, or Hulk or Spider-Man costumes for young children).

     Most of the advertisements in comic books seem to be the same thing they were 15 years ago: for video games and sci-fi films.

    With that said, personally, I feel that I’ve outgrown most of the advertising that I see in comic books. And it seems that most people here feel the same way. Well, DON’T LET THE ADVERTISERS FIND OUT!!

  13. yo! this is the dude that wrote the letter about comic design


    Josh is right.

    My mate is full of it. I have spent hours trying to redeem comics to this dude using the argument of Lost. It’s a favourite show of my friend and I, the fact Paul Dini, Jeff Loeb and Brian K. Vaughan have worked on the programme combined with the episodic comic-style of storytelling don’t seem to influence this guy’s opinion.

    However, that’s all well and good; it doesn’t explain why the aesthetic of comics is stuck in primary colours and 1950’s design limiting the appeal of the books. To qualify myself, I’m a graphic designer who just graduated from the University of Canberra  

     I realise that several titles today have fantastic design. Brian Wood (DMZ), Jock (Scalped), Tara McPherson (The Witching) and James Jean (Fables) exemplify artists with wider mature audience appeal.

    Mark Millar recently said in an interview that the design of Fantastic Four #554 was meant to reflect the qualities of a magazine. Imagine if all superhero comics had the same aesthetic. I guarantee Comics would be more appealing to casual readers and kids


  14. @tad They didn’t care, and then they forgot.  That’s freshman English for you.  (No offense to any freshman-fanpeople in present company, who would no doubt be happy if your teacher talked about comics). 

  15. @Edward – I think it’s inevitable that there is going to be a book waiting  someday in one of your stacks, and it’s going to hit your friend like a bomb.  I’ve got a good friend that I’ve had quite a few discussions with about the books, but they usually pertain to the quality of art in comics.  Any book I’d recommended that he should read, never seemed to grab him like it did me.  He’s bagged on a few books, but with the variety that’s out there, there’s always a title, or cover that seems to grab his attention, and he’ll check it out. Over time, after thumbing through my comics on his own, the guy has become quite a sucker for Storm Shadow from Devil’s Due.  He knows enough not to ask the very next week, but whenever he sees a bag from the comic shop it’s…"Any new issues of Storm Shadow?"  I agree there are things a company could do to make their books more reader friendly, but for now comics are the type of thing that sneaks up on somebody, and before they know it, they’re hooked.

  16. My father got me in to comics as a kid. He’d tell old Marvel plotlines like campfire stories: "Peter Parker was shocked when he realized that the man who killed Uncle Ben–was the same man he let go!" To an illiterate three-year-old that was some mind-blowing sh*t! I couldn’t wait to get at some comics! (Without eating the pages.) But, realizing that many people didn’t have that early introduction to the medium, I wonder what can pull them in as adults. What will remove that embarrassing stigma associated with sequential artwork?

  17. @gene — Wow, that’s a really good question.  I’m trying to think about it from the perspective of somebody who got into comics as a "grown-up."  I first got interested in comics because of creators I liked from other media (Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon), and from there I expanded into other titles for the stories and characters.  But I think my "a-ha!" moment about comics as a medium was reading the "Maximum Fantastic Four"  coffee table book, with an essay by Walter Mosley.  The book goes through Fantastic Four 1 panel by panel, and for the first time I could really see what that Kirby guy was all about.