You all really came through this month. The March 2021 Mailbag Q+A is here, and it runs deep thanks to a whole bunch of reader and listener questions. So thanks to all of you! You’re the best! Let’s get to the questions though, because there are a lot!
How is your day going? – Stephen Adkison
Great! I’m writing this on Saturday the 13th so I just got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine so I’m feeling hope and excitement in equal measures. That might also be because I’m drinking coffee right now and it is extremely good, but I will take it!
When do you consider the ‘current’ period of comics to have started – and is it when you started reading? What’s the oldest comic you would unambiguously* recommend to a reader? *i.e. not recommending as historically important etc. – Ryan Alcock
This was discussed on the SKTCHD forum a little while ago and I liked the idea that the current period of comics began with Marvel launching the Ultimate Universe. I’m tempted to push it back to Marvel Knights, but that doesn’t feel right. The Ultimate U launching felt like a shift towards trying to find new readers, a changing of the guard of creators taking the lead, and a real fork in the road moment. It also was around the turn of the century, and from there you went to webcomics and manga blowing up, Bendis on the Avengers books, Infinite Crisis launching the new event era, Scholastic and First Second launching, Marvel’s event wave, Raina Telegemeier leading the all-ages fray, the New 52, Image’s rise, etc. etc.
So definitely not when I started reading! I started reading in the late 80s, early 90s, and I would definitely consider that a different era. The 1990s were a fulcrum point for change because everything broke at that time.
The oldest comic I would unambiguously recommend to a reader would certainly not be from this era. The first one that comes to mind is Walt Simonson’s Thor run. I wouldn’t unambiguously recommend Claremont’s larger X-Men work because frankly, the sheer amount of words would be alarming to the current generation and a bit of a turn off. Not that reading is hard, it’s just stylistically so different. But Simonson’s Thor is a straight up killer, to this day.
Any earlier and I’d have a tough time recommending titles, both because the 1960s are tough to enjoy from a writing style standpoint and because the 1970s are my greatest weak point in terms of historic reading. I basically have read nothing from that decade, and what I have went back to read – like the Kree-Skrull War – I had a heck of a tough time with.
A cheater answer is basically any comic strip from the 1980s, a heck of a decade for that form, and Maus started in 1980. That’s a legend for a reason. But I’m going to go with that Thor run. It’s still a boss.
You must take one character each out of the Marvel Universe and the DC Universe and swap them into the other… permanently. Which two characters do you choose? (If you choose a hero, they do not bring their rogues’ gallery with them or other superheroes. Regular human supporting characters from their titles will swap companies with them though, so if you chose Batman, he’d bring Alfred, but not Robin or Joker.) How would you use them in their new universes? – Mark Tweedale
Boy, this is a tough question, if only because the rules and vibes for each are so distinct. The best answer for each is probably approximations of the other universe’s archetypes, like Hyperion from Marvel or…I don’t know, someone from DC. They really have a type, don’t they?
This is a cheat because it’s something that saw its rights revert to the creators, but Major Bummer originally was published at DC, and I feel like Lou Martin would have fit much better at Marvel. John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke created a character there that was sort of like The Captain in Nextwave except instead of being a jerk he was just lazy, preferring to take it easy despite his alien-enhanced intellect and strength. Unfortunately for him, those same powers came with a designed, forced lure to supervillains, as they were drawn to confront Martin despite the fact he just wanted to chill and watch TV. I love that character’s fit at Marvel, because it’s both “the world outside your window” and the Superman-type archetype, just blended together. Basically, I’d just love to see that character in the modern era, as he’s only become a better and better fit for the world we live in ever since.
DC gets Stilt-Man because Marvel clearly does not respect him. I would use him by making him the leader of the Justice League and the new star of Batman. His position would finally match his greatness.