Whatever Happened to the No-Prize Hunter?

I don't know about you, but I came here to have a good time.

Although it's certainly not a new phenomenon, it seems like there has been a sharp uptick lately in flaw finders and pickers of nits online. The books themselves are the same as they ever were, but for some reason a lot of the readers have decided they don't want to like them anymore. Maybe they're starting to resent that price tag. Maybe it's piracy's fault somehow, like everything else; maybe we have less respect for something when we have no investment in it and didn't even have to leave the house to get it.

Or maybe some readers just enjoy not enjoying their books. It's an easy way to feel smart, finding "mistakes" they made that you would never have made.

Pffft. This hack doesn't understand the Human Torch at all. I'm a way better writer than this g– oop, hold that thought; time to take the fries out of the oil.

Understand that when I say "mistakes," I'm not talking about things like "there is no Ninja Turtle named Gary" or "in one panel, the artist gave Superman a waxed handlebar mustache." I'm talking about the kind of thing I saw when the conclusion of Mark Millar's Wolverine story Old Man Logan was published a couple of weeks ago. For the uninitiated, this was a story set in a future in which the bad guys had taken over. It culminated in a very Clint Eastwood showdown between Wolverine and the Hulk's hulked-out family of rednecks. Personally, I like Mark Millar's writing best when it's set in the future or an alternate universe I don't care much about, as he has a tendency to get so excited by his ideas that he occasionally forgets how characters behave. Maybe Reed Richards wouldn't build a gulag and put his friends in it.

Or maybe he would! A case could be made. More on that in a second.

Anyway, because Millar was doing his thing in his own corner of the universe, maybe I was just inclined to give him more leeway than other people. At the conclusion of the story, though, I was flabbergasted to see all the questions and challenges people had for it.

Since when is Bruce Banner that strong in his non-Hulk form?

Why would the Hulk's family be rednecks?

Howcome Logan killed the Hulk's kin so easily? He and the Hulk have always battled to a draw because they heal so fast.

The Hulk/Logan/a dinosaur with a Venom on it would never act that way.

I'm not saying these are bad questions to ask, but I am saying they're pretty easy to answer yourself, assuming you actually want to do it instead of sitting there with a puss on your face. If you're reading Old Man Logan and are open to enjoying yourself and/or thinking about it for a minute and a half, you can explain all the unexplained "flaws" and write them off in real time. I would argue that these "flaws" are better known as "giving the reader credit for some imagination and intelligence." Maybe Banner's kids and grandkids were "diluted" second/third-generation Hulks, making them easier to kill. Maybe there are some injuries you just don't heal from, and the one the Hulk got from Logan definitely qualifies. Maybe after 50 years of being the Hulk, Banner had "integrated" his strong side and his green side like something out of a Peter David story, so he was strong even as a skinny ol' man. Maybe after 50 years, nobody's healing factor's what it used to be. Maybe it's a little late to start complaining about chapter seven for being written exactly like the previous six chapters, all of which you willingly bought and read.

It's not that I just blindly accepted whatever hash the writer was slinging, or that I did his job for him. It's that I gave the story's reality the benefit of the doubt because in the reader-writer relationship I wanted to be a partner, not an adversary.

I'm reminded of something I heard in a film class once. An interviewer asked Alfred Hitchcock, "Mr. Hitchcock, why don't your heroes ever just go to the police?" Hitchcock replied, "Because then the movie would be over."

At least Old Man Logan was good news for the adversaries too; after all, if you enjoy complaining, then you still had a good time, and you came to the right hobby!

If you're new to comics– actually, if you started reading any time in the last fifteen years or so– you may never have heard of a No-Prize. Back in the day, if you wrote a letter to Marvel Comics pointing out an error, the editor would award you the coveted No-Prize, which when I started reading comics consisted of mailing you an envelope with nothing in it. (Nothing says "Stan Lee's Marvel" to me better than a joke like that.) The trick was, though, to win a No-Prize your letter had to point out the mistake and then explain why it wasn't a mistake after all. "On page seven, Ultron incinerates Wonder Man's glasses, but on the next page he's wearing them again. What no one mentioned is that, between panels, he pulled out the spare pair he always keeps in his pocket for occasions just like this one," and so on.

The point is, it was all in fun. The readers had a jocular, friendly relationship with the creators instead of an adversarial one. The book wasn't on trial for its life. Marvel more or less discontinued No-Prizing in the early nineties; editors complained that people were getting too fixated on "winning" them and were combing every panel for infinitesimal errors instead of reading the damned books. (On the plus side, at least those readers were taking the books out of their polybags. The nineties sound like a magical time for storytelling, don't they?)

I would love to see a little more of the No-Prize mentality among readers these days. I'm not asking anyone to unplug his brain; I'm only asking you to make sure you plugged in your heart.

We are all guilty of this sin to some extent. I should hasten to add that. I recognize it in myself even as I'm complaining about the complaining. There's this show Glee on Fox right now, and everyone loves it. I tried to love it too, if only to prove I don't live in a garbage can right by Big Bird's nest, but the more I watched it the more I was rushing to Murmur.com to post, "Oh my God no human being would ever act that way no one who ever lived on Earth would say that line no high school kids would ever sing that song grrrr ack seizure seizure seizure." I came to realize too late that I was becoming the very troll I so despise. At a certain point, if you can't cheer up, maybe Glee's just not for you. Maybe that hour is better spent elsewhere. Comics are the same way. After a while, if you're not (philosophically speaking) looking for your No-Prize… have you tried following wrestling? Maybe you'd like jigsaw puzzles, or a nice book of sudoku.

Jim Mroczkowski does still find it a little hard to swallow, no pun intended, that the Hulk would go ahead and eat the metal skeleton. Like, Jim Mroczkowski has been starving, and someone has put a fried chicken in front of him, and he has been, like, "Holy cats, I am gonna eat the hell out of this chicken. I am gonna eat this chicken like I'm mad at it," but even when he was, you know, just going to town on that chicken like it owed him money, he never went ahead and just pushed the whole leg bone down into his esophagus, and certainly not while it was attached to the rest of the chicken. I mean, it's kind of hard for your parts to heal from being bitten off of each other. Jim Mroczkowski hasn't been to medical school or anything, but that is not his understanding of how healing works. Anyway, maybe the Hulk swallowed him whole, like a whale eating krill. Maybe he was senile. It happens when Hulks get older. Oh! Also Twitter.


  1. Man I miss the No-Prize. If any book is going to have the kind of editors that would give out one of those now it’s Amazing Spider-Man

  2. Thank you for this, lest we forget that these stories are after all FICTION, and that some suspension of disbelief is needed. I’d really like to see the No-prize make a comeback, maybe it could be an email version to save envelopes. As to the Hulk family being redneck, Its explained in the book, that quite frankly was rather disturbing but made sense. *SPOILER* Banner tells Logan the only way to make more hulks was to mate with another Hulk, which was his first cousin She-Hulk, i wont explain what else was said but merely state in case you didnt know, this book is not for kids!!. But it was a engaging story and i enjoyed it and thats all that matters in the end run.

  3. How can anybody concentrate on comics when 2012 is coming?  I was just reading about it online!  Why is no one but people on the internet talking about this???

  4. Bless you for writing this Jimski.  Bless you.

  5. I remember when I was in middle school reading Superman comics, they had something called the Baldy Award. I wanted to win one so badly, but never did. It was this mysterious and elusive prize that went to whatever letter the assistant editor thought was the best of the month.

    This whole concept also gets into the death of the letters page in comics. Letter pages are great since they stay with the book forever. I’m curious how readers at the time felt about the back-issues that I’m only now getting around to reading. Reading the letters from the time period of early Kyle Rayner adventures is actually interesting. It’s a shame that they’ve taken these out.

    On the other hand, I do enjoy a certain online comics community that exists outside of the letters page. Keep it up, iFanboy!

  6. This is the best article I’ve read in a long time from this site Jim. At least, it’s the article I agree with the most (Maybe I’m confusing the two?)!

    I have always been a huge fan of the Mighty Marvel No-Prize, and I still use the term when I’m rationalizing some inconsistency in a movie that I loved, or a video game that I’m 20+ hours into playing. People can use big words like artistic liscense or suspension of disbelief, but really it all just comes down to that Hitchcock quote


  7. "I would love to see a little more of the No-Prize mentality among readers these days. I’m not asking anyone to unplug his brain; I’m only asking you to make sure you plugged in your heart."

     I suddenly feel like I’m reading one of the lost OZ books.

    No-Prizes were lots of fun.  I’m sure their cancellation was probably more a factor of postage than writer worry that people weren’t getting the most out of their books.  The books were being bought after all. 

  8. I totally agree, im sick of people complaing how much comics suck, if the red hulk is soooooo bad why the heck are you still reading it, sure sometimes there is something done really out of charcter or sooooo stupid that you cant forgive it, but for the most part there fun books. people picked apart civil war, house of M, secret invasion, infinite crisis, final crisis, brand new day, ect….. but I enjoyed all theses stories, and if they were so bad why did you keep reading them ? ? ?

    p.s. the banner fight was amazing, the fact he was in human form made the fight scarier and raised the stakes, AND gave us a hulk fight no one has read befor, if you cant justfy these little plot points in your head, you shoud do nothing but read encyclepedioas if you need every little deyail explained to you !

  9. Thank… God. This site does it again.

     I had the exact same thoughts on Old Man Logan as you did. I thought it was actually cool that Banner had gained his stength in human form. Seeing an old dude toss around wolverine was a friggin’ blast. There are leaps of logic in even the greatest literature. Some are acceptable. Some aren’t explained because the readers should be able to figure them out. I’m just waiting for someone to come on and disagree with you and troll the fuck outta this board. It’ll be entertaining at least.

  10. Jimski, you have a magical ability to take the common sense opinion and spell it out making everyone else seem like idiots for not thinking of it before.

     Love the column.  I read my comics for fun.  There are things that bug me sometimes, but I move on. 

     Like the Wolverine movie this summer.  There were a lot of things I could nitpick, but in the end, I enjoyed myself at the theatre, and that was enough.

  11. More people here need to explain the "problems" themselves before complaining here.  Almost everything in comics is easily explainable when given thought.  No-prize is the way to go.  For example:

    "When Wolverine had all his flesh burned off, he didn’t die because his brain was still fully intact inside his dome-like adamantium skull.  It’s like an unbreakable bowling ball with a brain in it.  The only way to actually kill Wolverine would be to scoop his brain out of his skull with a spoon like eating a grapefruit!  Therefore he hasn’t been killed yet."  THAT’s "No-Prize" worthy.

  12. The question that I have for those people who complain is: If comics are your hobby, and yet it brings you no fun and you spend all your time complaining how bad everything is, then why is this your hobby? Not only are you wasting money, but youre wasting your time as well, and probably are going to get an ulcer from all your bitching.


    I’m sure everyone here agrees with me that we read comics (or do any of our other hobbies) to bring light and fun into our lives, and that bringing negativity into that seems higly counter-productive.

  13. I think increased overly negative reaction is itself a reaction to increased overly positive reaction. Miffed that some people didn’t like Old Man Logan as much as you did? Maybe those people were a bit sick of being told that it was the "BEST WOLVERINE STORY EVER!" in every goddamn solicitation and half the glowing reviews over the past year. Overall, I did enjoy OML. But I can enjoy it and yet still point out it’s flaws. Too often I find that there’s an underlying assumption that "thinking" and "enjoying" are an either/or option. But I can actually examine a work’s flaws–and be very aware of them–while continuing to enjoy the story for what it is. You make a good point about the reader using his/her imagination to explain the odd disjunctions in Millar’s story–but it’s funny that in most of the positive reviews I read of OML, the people who loved it the most never really did that. Instead, they seemed quite unaware that there WERE any leaps of logic (Jubliee having lasted "eight hours" against Wolverine in the fight!?!) to begin with. So I don’t think that Millar was "respecting his readers" in letting them use their imaginations, so much as he was playing off many readers’ inabilities to notice–let alone question–his story’s logical misfires. He knows that it sounds cool to say that the Wolv/"Bullseye" fight lasted "eight hours", and he knows that most readers won’t even think back and question that after they learn that "Bullseye" was really Jubilee. See, in this Millar actually has a very low opinion of his readers: when he reveals the big SHOCK of who Wolverine really killed, he expected readers to have forgotten that the fight lasted eight hours. And he was right.

    And yes I know that every fantasy story demands a suspension of disbelief, but there’s a limit to that. The hillbilly stuff with Banner, and his having fukked his cousin, was too much of a stretch for me; it broke the suspension of disbelief. I do think there was an uptick in randomness and senselessness in the final issue of OML, so I disagree that it was "written just like the previous six parts". In fact, many of the negative reviews of the final issue back me up on that: several reviewers who liked the story up to that point (even more than I did) disliked the final issue (also more than I did). Also, the offspring were indeed Banner’s direct children, NOT "diluted" grandkids.

    If someone happens to lack the critical–and I stress *critical*–reading skills to begin with, then it’s easier for that person to be really, really happy with things that have flaws in them, because they simply will not even notice the flaws. For those of us who like to appreciate more difficult writing–I have an English degree, guilty as charged–we kind of resent being told that easy-to-read comics are instant classics. I accept my blame for this; it’s part of who I am, that I’m a critical reader. ("Good reader’s burden, man, good reader’s burden…") And, yeah, I do enjoy criticizing things that I believe aren’t good. I actually get enjoyment out of that–BUT the enjoyment I get is based on using my brain to point out, establish and ground my criticisms. That’s a lot different than writing "SUCKS. FAIL!" in a review and giving the comic a 1/5. But that’s also different from someone giving half the comics they read 5/5s because their standards are low. Instead, I’m tough on the entertainment and art I decide to spend my money and time on. The things I like, I really, really like. And I really, really like to say WHY I LIKE what I like just as much as I like to say WHY I don’t like what I don’t like. But my standards are quite high: I don’t live in a world where 80% of the comics are 4/5 or 5/5. Consequently, I don’t read many comics (or see many movies, or watch much television) compared to other people, and I like it that way.

    I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of what you say, though. Particularly on the point of "Why would you read something you hate?" I’m puzzled by people who do that too. Like I said, even something I criticize sharply like Old Man Logan–I still got more than enough cheap enjoyment out of it to read the whole series. Otherwise I wouldn’t’ve kept buying it.

    But all of this really, at root, has to do with the divide between "entertainment" and "art". Personally, I find that this difference is something that most internet sites like this one aren’t equipped to deal with: because places like this are geared almost entirely toward the "entertainment" side of things. There’s a fixation with BUYING what’s NEW and LIKING it. This site and places like it are geared toward getting people excited so they purchase as many comics as possible and have a good time. And don’t get me wrong, that’s fine. iFanboy and sites like it are GREAT at what they do. There’s a place for this. But when it comes to appreciation of "art", that critical side of the ballgame is about picking things apart, and usually most comics, when you pick them apart, have a lot of flaws. That’s just how it is in every medium. That rigorous, critical process is what art has to be judged by so that future generations have an idea of what the stand-out works of art were. It’s how standards don’t drop. If you’re buying 20 comics a week, then by definition you aren’t really equiped to perceive those comics to the best of your critical abilities. Period. That’s not a judgement call on anyone who does that, though, and it’s not saying that in certain cases they can’t be good critics. And let me be clear: the iFanboys do a great job of reading a ton of new comics every week and REVIEWING them…but reviewing is different from in-depth (literary) criticism. And if all new comics were held to the standard of rigorous criticism, most simply would not pass muster. Because truly great works of art are not that common, by definition.

    … I dunno, maybe I’m not coming at things from the right way in feeling that I need to justify my criticisms of certain comics. I would hope that anyone who’s read any of my (negatively) critical reviews would not lump me in with haters who love hating, who don’t really even do much work at expressing WHY they don’t like a comic. The bottom line is that even when I express my dislike of a comic, I don’t like disliking the comic, but I might enjoy expressing WHY I feel the comic is flawed. Because I like thinking critically.

  14. Wow, Jim, when did you come up with this topic?  Last night I posted a comment to this weeks podcast refering to the No Prize for the first time in quite a while, and heck you write a cool essay on this very topic the next day.  (There must be something in the air.)  

    In my case, I mentioned Ron and Conor accidentally provided an explaination of Zombie-Thor for me. (See Episode #205 – Irredeemable #7 – Show Notes & Comments)

    Nice essay, Jim. Very thought provoking.

  15. Damn that’s a long ass comment

  16. Oh, flapjaxx, why must the curmudgeoning continue, especially in essay form?

  17. I kid because I love.

  18. @flapjaxx- It IS the greatest Wolverine story of all time!!!

  19. There is nothing wrong with being critical readers, thinkers or viewers.

    Just because they are comics does not mean that we willingly suspend disbelief to the point that everything is acceptable, cuz it is comics.

    That perspective degrades comics as a whole.

  20. Jim isn’t necesarily saying that people shoulnd’t expect good story and logical reasoning.. He’s saying that the complaining is more extreme in comics and from comics fans and it needs to stop. (or at least that’s how I read it.)

  21. I say we create the iFanboy No-Prize: a picture of Jimski from the opening of the San Diego vids. No body wins with that image.

  22. Woo! I was mentioned in Jimski’s article!


  23. This may officially be the article of yours that I like/agree with the most. Get down with your bad self, Jimski.


  24. Wow is it just me seeing the blazing irony exploding like a house on fire from the people complaining about this article? 

    Loved this post Jim… nice work.

    For the record that No-Prize book featured above was one I litterally read the cover right off of as a kid.

  25. So I spent 10 minutes combing over your article trying to find an irregularity to try and claim my No-Prize, but couldn’t find one.  Rest assured, it would have been a great joke if I’d been able to pull it off.

  26. The Jim I know, the *real* Jim, would never have written this.

    I call bullshit.

  27. It is not a stretch to believe that a man can gain high amount of mass according to his emotional state, regardless of the fact that mass can’t be created or destroyed, but it is a strecth that his inbred offspring’s inbred offspring have regressed in their ability to gain that same magic mass. Marvel comics are so realistic in that way. 

    I think its hard sci-fi’s fault. Everything has to be explained, everything has to fit together rationally. Dave Mazuchelli wrote at the back of the Batman: Year One HC, "Superheroes by their very nature are absurd, and the more you try to explain them, the more absurd they look." 

    Criticism is to analyze the merits of the story and its elements, not the concepts that are neither integral nor consequential to the story. For example, I didn’t like the last chapter of OML because it didn’t have enough meat to merit the price. Yes the page count had increase, but the story could’ve been a lot shorter and still achieve the same predictable results. Yes, it was predictable, like all final issues of superhero story arcs. 

    @kickass: I liked it, but that Wolverine must have some shitty stories otherwise.

    @flapjaxx: First of all, can you define "art"? Thought so. Its a loaded term created by pretentious elitists to separate what they like, categorized as high culture, to what they dislike, called pop culture. 

    Suppose you, unlike I, know what "art" means, how many of these artistic comic books from publishers like Fanatgraphics and Drawn & Quarterly. Screw that, what percentage of you monthly comic reading actually constitutes with books not involving capes and tights.

    You can write the best Superhero story of all time, and it’ll still be about bad guy doing something awful, good guy goes to stop him, bad guy traps him and there’s a lame cliffhanger for the final issue, which turns out isn’t that big a deal and the bam hero punches bad guy and its all hunky dory, back to normal. Does that coincide to your definition of art?


  28. Josh, that slander is the kind of swiftboating me and my staff have to fight in the media every day. My pollsters tell me I am trending as a "hater," and we can’t let that stand.

  29. I understand your point but I would have to disagree with it.  The Hulk being a redneck is, in my opinion, a flaw in a otherwise great series.

    My dislike for a choice the creator makes is not a nitpick.  It is a disagreement.  Nitpicks are matters of fact, likes/dislikes are matters of opinion.  The two are simply different and to call someones honest crtique a nitpick is disingenuous to both them and the discussion.

  30. Ironically I went from watching wrestling to back on comics in terms of getting ‘bored’.

    I hear what your saying Jim but I find when I criticize a book (most of the time) it’s constructive. Like this weeks ‘Batman and Robin’ on how Morrison brought up Todd was Red Hood. I wasn’t like: ‘How did Todd find this outfit!?’ or ‘Why is Jason suddenly embracing his red hair!?’ (like so many other people on the site currently). I just did a legit complaint on the way Morrison set up the scene to reveal it was Todd. That’s how people should complain about things, as civil as possible.

    I’ll admit I went a bit overboard with the whole Old Man Logan fiasco. But when I re-read it again for the HC review, I will have a much more professional review on why I thought it was a medicore comic at best. By the way; that ‘Since when is Bruce Banner this strong in his non-Hulk form?’ question is mine to all you readers.

  31. @TNC. I like what you’re saying, but I’m gonna play semantics for a sec. I think there’s a difference between critiquing, complaining and analyzing, one you just pointed out. I disagree with you in saying there’s a right way to complain, but again, I’m just playing semantics.

  32. @Anson17: I find complaining to be a form of critiquing, if handled right. Obviously if your whining or just being idiotic then it’s not serious to listen too. But if your serious about your complaints and give examples why your complaing; then it can be constructive.

    Obviously I have done two spectrums of complaings.

  33. Why don’t we live in a world in which the intrinsic hilarity contained in the idea of a family of inbred Hulks would simply be self-evident to all readers?

  34. Am I the only one who’s desperately resisting making a joke about GREEN hulks being called RED necks?

    Oh god, there are so many jokes to be had!  They would be oh so dumb, but so fun to say!!



  35. I like how TNC can make any topic or tread about himself. Seriously, that takes talent

  36. The Hulk offspring where rednecks because they were inbred. Hulk’s cousin, she-Hulk, was their mother. it was a joke, people!

    Jimski, can you for ONCE write an article i disagree with? jesus! I miss the No-Prizes. And the letters page! 

  37. oh my lord. i laughed so hard at the bit about chicken at the end, very funny! Couldn’t agree more with the sentiment of the article. I cant count the amount of times i read some poster on the marvel website being a massive troll about something that would be resolved so easily if he just remembered he was reading FICTON!

  38. God knows I miss the days of the No-Prize. But more broadly and genuinely I miss the days of the letters pages and editorial pieces which used to house them. Very very few Marvel titles have HAD letters pages since 2005. Without those the whole No-Prize concept does have a place to be aired anymore.

  39. I won a No-Prize a couple years ago from a Fantastic Four book.  It was during the Black Panther-Storm time in FF.  They had met like 12 different people in some dimension and they introduced them all.  Then the very next page had one of the characters doing something completely different than what they were doing on the previous page.