This was meant to go on Thursday or Friday, but I spent Thursday visiting the doctor and the pop up COVID-19 clinic they had set up, which was a very exciting experience (at least according to my Fitbit, which thought I was doing “Fat Burn” activities the entire time because my heart rate was elevated). All good over here, though, and it’s time to talk about some comic books and more in the March/April Mailbag Q&A. You asked the questions! I’m answering!
I asked a similar question about journalists/reporters in a previous mailbag, but who are the ten best detectives in comic book fiction? You can use whatever criteria you want to determine this list, but my only request is to include the characters’ in-story sleuthing accomplishments as one of the criteria. – Andrew Tan
First place goes to Charlotte “Lottie” Grote from the larger Bobbinsverse by John Allison and friends. Am I picking my favorite first? Yes. But Lottie is also an incredible detective, showing a force of will few can match and a determination that made her the greatest teen sleuth (14-18) according to Teenage Solver magazine.
Second place goes to Batman, but let’s be honest, it’s a distant second place. Lottie would have figured out who Leviathan was way faster than he did.
Third is Tim Drake, but if I’m being equally honest here, he might actually be a better detective than Batman. Maybe not a better Batman than Batman, but detective? I’m going to say maybe.
Four goes to Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, aka Master Keaton, a man who is technically an insurance investigator for Lloyd’s of London but is also unfathomably competent and incredibly awesome. No one beats Master Keaton…besides the three above him on this list.
Four through seven, let’s give it to a mix of The Question (both versions) and Elongated Man, as that trio is both excellent and filled to the brim with their own strengths.
Eight, I’m going to give to Martian Manhunter, but specifically Darwyn Cooke’s Martian Manhunter, as his version of John Jones seemed like a good dude and a good detective rather than a dabbler.
Nine and ten are Dex Parios and Jessica Jones, two great detectives who are also hot messes, which make them classic iterations of the form but also slightly worse than those that precede them (Renee Montoya’s The Question definitely fits this class but she’s also much more locked in once she’s in The Question form). DC really has a ton of good detectives. More like DETECTIVE COMICS, am I right?
What is the one unsolved mystery that you would most like the answer to? – Chris Burton
I don’t think I want any of the big, big answers, like “what was the real story behind JFK’s assassination?” or anything like that. Instead, I’m going to go with something from sports. There’s long been a rumor that Michael Jordan actually retired from NBA the first time because of his gambling, being forced by commissioner David Stern to retire. He used that time to try and break into baseball, before coming back a couple years later and getting back to doing Michael Jordan things. I’d love to know the real story behind that! I’m not sure if that counts as an “unsolved mystery,” but I’ve always been fascinated by that. So let’s go with that!
I just finished Preacher, so a few questions about that: What is your favorite volume of the series? Issue? What is it about Starr that you like so much? What is your favorite thing about Preacher? Are there any themes you particularly enjoy? Has Preacher shaped any ideas or beliefs you hold about, well, anything? – Keigen Rea
My favorite volume and issue are connected. Volume is Proud Americans – the third one – and my favorite issue bats leadoff in that book, as issue #18 that dives into the story of Jesse Custer’s father during Vietnam is a tremendous issue and very much up Garth Ennis’ alley. Of course, that’s my favorite right now. If I reread it, I could imagine it changing.
I love Herr Starr because he’s, simply put, an incredible villain. He’s amusing yet menacing, a man with a plan yet someone who is flexible with opportunity. He’s also visually distinct relative to the rest of the series, and that’s an important distinction on the series. Plus, the scenes where he tries on hats/wigs are hilarious.
As for the last three, you know, honestly, I’m not the deepest reader. Preacher is a story I love the adventure of and I read it at the right time in my life. I loved the characters and their journey, and I loved how each of them learned something on the path. I’ve also always been a skeptic of a sort, and so some of the things it touches on hits me in a spiritual sense, even if that isn’t a top ten reason for loving. It hasn’t really shaped my beliefs or anything, but I’m not sure how many stories have done anything of that sort in an explicit sort of way. Besides the movie Big Night. That movie permanently convinced me that I like risotto more than I do. It’s a theoretical love, which is unfortunate because I can never stop myself from ordering it.
That first issue of “Plunge” blew my mind grapes. What else from Joe Hill or Stuart Immomen would you recommend? – Alex Dimitropolous
Joe Hill’s list of recommendations is far shorter than my guy Stuart’s. It’s one book: Locke & Key. But what a comic! Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez crafted a modern comic book classic with that series, as this horror tale is both well worth the hype and great throughout.
Stuart Immonen, on the other hand, is someone I recommend nearly everything from. Nextwave: Agents of HATE is obviously a personal favorite, a short list all-timer for yours truly. If you’re looking for maybe the exact opposite in subject matter, may I suggest his much different but perhaps equally great work with his wife Kathryn Immonen in the graphic novels Moving Pictures and Russian Olive to Red King. Superman: Secret Identity is a top five all-time story for the character for me, and much different than you’d normally get featuring him. His Instagram series with Kathryn, Grass of Parnassus, is endlessly exciting, and basically every version of every character he worked on is about the best looking version of said character.
There is very little to dislike from his work, even if I don’t love every comic he worked on (for example, Fear Itself is a pretty middling event comic, even if it looks great). He’s on my Mount Rushmore of comic artists – maybe even comic creators! – for good reason.
DC has been pumping out a lot of these anniversary 100-page spectaculars lately. If you could pick one character from Marvel or DC to give a major anniversary special to, who would it be? Which creators or creative teams would you like to see tell a short story about them? Who would you like seeing on the different decade/era variants? Caveat: you can’t say Stilt-Man, unless you REALLY need to say Stilt-Man. – Adam Bogert
How dare you? I would never pick Stilt-Man. That’s absurd.
I WOULD PICK NEXTWAVE.
Next year is 15 years after Nextwave first appeared in this world, and no one will ever be able to live up to what Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen did. But what if Marvel did a 15th anniversary one-shot for all the super fans out there like me, where a whole bunch of creators who love the book tell their own 10 page stories featuring the characters. Headlined by a return of Ellis and Immonen! Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie do one! Jonathan Hickman and Chris Bachalo! Chris Hastings and Gurihuru! Let’s get weird!
All the covers would be by Stuart Immonen, and there would be different decade variant for each of the 80 years of Marvel in which he reenvisioned the team for each decade. Yeah!
What companies are doing the best job talent scouting writers in comics? What about artists? – Xavier Files
I’m going to exclude Marvel and DC from this, as they are likely the right answers, but also rarely the first to discover people. For writers, I’ll give it to Vault. They seem to jump on good writers early on in their careers, giving the White Noise boys a good spot while jumping on with folks like Chris Sebela and Jon Tsuei early on. For art, I’m going to give it to BOOM!, who always seems to find someone I hadn’t heard of and then helps them become a great, with Dan Mora and Max Sarin being two particularly good examples. The Power Rangers line particularly seems like a good feeder system for them overall. It’s very impressive.
How did you end up in Alaska? – Greg Peterson
This is an easy one, Greg: I was born here! Born and raised. I never planned on coming back after college, but when I graduated the country was in a recession and Alaska was safe because oil prices never drop.
That changed, but I stuck around because I met my wife and she hates hot weather. Alaska is very good at not having any of that. Thus, Alaska!
What’d you think of “Strange Adventures” #1, and do you think that the weighty, “Mister Miracle”-sized expectations people have for it are fair? – Alex Dimitropolous
I thought Strange Adventures #1 was promising, but it also felt a little…of the same flavor of Mister Miracle. That makes sense. Much of the same team is working on it, so of course that’s the case. But if a band keeps coming out with similar sounding songs, you start to notice. It’s too early to tell if the whole album will be like that, but I’m guessing it will be. The art was incredible, though! Mitch Gerads + Doc Shaner = gloriousness beyond compare. But as well done as it was, I can’t help but feel it needs to differentiate itself from the same sad, broken guy shtick MM had. It needs something to stand out a little bit.
That said, I don’t think the expectations are nearly as high as you might think! I feel like Tom King’s star has fallen enough that expectations were good and tempered by the time Strange Adventures arrived. So I’d say its expectations at this point are arguably fair, as some people might overrate Tom’s writing while others are drastically underrating him. It results in a properly rated Tom King, on balance.
Gun to your head, forced to choose only one: Comics or sports? – Rasmus Lykke
I’ve answered this one before, but this stretch with the coronavirus underlines it even further: the answer is sports. I plan my schedule around sports watching. One thing people don’t realize is I genuinely planned my podcast schedule around when the Indiana Pacers play, and the majority of my reading and podcast listening is related to sports. For someone who is so sports enamored, this is a very strange time.
Are there any adaptations of anything that you like more than the source material? What is a theoretical adaptation (from any media source to any other medium) that you think would be successful or more successful than the source? – Keigen Rea
I really enjoy the Starship Troopers movie, an absurd Verhoeven treat that was misunderstood upon release but now is properly rated for what it is (plus it’s just a banger of an action movie). The book was hot garbage – apologies, Robert Heinlein! – but I enjoy the movie quite a bit. Same with Big Fish the movie versus the book. Love the movie. The book lacks all of the heart the movie has.
As for adaptations that I think could be more successful than the source material, I think a movie of Jedi Fallen Order would actually be much better potentially, or even better, a mini-series show on Disney+. I really like the ideas in it, and while I like the game a whole lot, I can’t help but feel that story would have done much better minus the mechanics of video games and with more focus on character and emotions. BD-1 and Cal are good characters, but no one else gets much play. An adaptation could give it the legs it needs to get there.
Which Marvel character could you imagine being a fan of the band Nickelback? Which DC character would be a fan of Nickelback? – Andrew Tan
DC, I’m picking Superman. I love the character, but he has a very basic vibe. I could imagine him just liking whatever radio hit is out there, just because. With Marvel, I’m going to go with Wolverine. They’re both Canadian, they both have big emotions, and I could imagine Wolverine convincing himself they’re tough even though just like him, they’re a little soft on the inside. It’s a perfect match.
Do you think that DC Universe’s movies and TV shows might eventually transition to HBO (also owned by AT&T), and do you think we might eventually see a Marvel Unlimited and Disney+ bundle? I’m usually down on these corporate takeovers but am trying to find a synergistic bright side, where the resources of the parent company do the acquisition some good. – Alex Dimitropolous
I don’t think so, if only because I don’t view Marvel Unlimited as a worthwhile value add for the average Disney+ customer. Most would just get it for free, pointlessly, and it would remove the path to Disney as a whole double dipping when possible. Having them as isolated products – or DC Universe + HBOMAX or whatever – allows them to get double the money or lose nothing at all. That’s the direction they’d go every time, as these companies aren’t really looking to add value unless it adds revenue.
What’s your take on eating while reading comics? Are there any go-to snacks while reading? Or, is the mere though of eating and reading comics sacrilege? Follow up Question: Does this answer differ for reading digital? – Elias Gonzalez
Never do it! That’s my take. I take very good care of my comics. I always have. It’s not because I am trying to maintain their value. It’s just that…I respect them too much? They’re treasures to me. Eating while reading is contrary to that idea. I don’t even really drink anything around them.
And it doesn’t really matter whether I’m reading digitally either. I mostly read in bed anyways, and I’m not often eating or drinking in there.
Best 20 second chorus to wash your hands to? – Xavier Files
Truth be told, because I’ve been locked in my house pretty much since this started, I’ve been going with the classic “Alexa, set a timer for 20 seconds” line, which is easier and more precise. But lacking a true answer, I’m going to go with the two answers I first thought of: Joey Scarbury’s “Believe It or Not” but with the lyrics tweaked to match what I’m doing and Katy Perry’s “Roar,” because if there’s any time I need to feel empowered – while I’m not running – it’s definitely while I’m battling a pandemic.
How much toilet paper do you have stocked up? – Brian Klein-Q
Shortly after this all started, we went and bought an ordinary amount because we actually were running out. Now? The answer is “clearly not enough.”
Who’s your favorite Overwatch character to play? And just in general? What’s your favorite Overwatch map? What is it about Overwatch that makes it such a fun game? – Rasmus Lykke
I’ll be honest, I haven’t played Overwatch in a bit. I got into single player PS4 games for a while, and then I migrated over to NBA2K20 to play that with some comics folks I’m in a DM with, and ever since, I’ve been off it on Overwatch. It is an all-time favorite, though, and maybe I’ll reinstall given the whole trapped at home situation I’m in right now. So with that in mind…
Favorite hero to play is D. Va. I’m arguably best at Moira or Lucio, and my original love was Pharah, but D. Va is the answer. I actually have a D. Va figure on my desk as I work. She’s a beloved character to me, so she’s the answer for both character based questions.
Maps, I’m going Volskaya Industries (best for insane finishes) or Lijiang Tower (best for booping people off the edge as Lucio). I’m a big “eliminating people in weird ways” going back to Counter-Strike and the knife you’d carry, and booping/elemental eliminations are my favorite way to win in Overwatch. Perhaps to my detriment!
As for what makes Overwatch so fun, it’s the same thing that makes it so infuriating: it’s such a perfectly designed social experiment, requiring collaboration and sacrifice to achieve greatness, that when it’s really going nothing can top it. But when it’s really going poorly, hoo boy. It’s hot stinky garbage. The spectrum is wide for Overwatch, even if it isn’t really the game’s fault.
What’s your predictions for that overrated pigskin flinger, Tom Brady? Does he stay in NE? If not, where does he go? – Xavier Files
This was asked four days ago, which in March 2020 time is…*checks conversion table* three years ago, so a lot has changed in that time. Tom Brady is no longer a New England Patriot. He is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Before this week, that very idea would have seemed completely unbelievable, fiction of the highest order. But the morning that news came out – Tuesday morning, it seems, which is yesterday by calendar as I type this but a year and a half ago by brain – I honestly felt nothing. It was a perplexing feeling, but this is the new world order.
I will say: I’m fine with it in a general sense. If the Patriots didn’t want him at a level he felt respected at, go somewhere else. The Bucs have a ton of weapons for him with Evans, Godwin, Brate and Howard, and the weather is much better. The Pats probably shouldn’t have given him $90 million over three years, so they didn’t. At the same time, it just seems wrong. When the photoshops of him in a Bucs jersey started coming out, it seemed completely impossible. But this week, the impossible became real all the time.
What the heck is going to happen with the NBA (this season or next)? – Alex Dimitropolous
I believe this was asked before the season was postponed, but here’s my guess what happens.
This season is canceled. Free agency happens as per usual. Next season starts like usual. It’s just a lost season. I hope it’s not the case. I’d love to think of the season picking back up in the summer, jumping straight into the postseason with the top eight seasons doing what they do (or we can go with Spencer Dinwiddie’s plan, which I love). But honestly, it just seems unlikely right now given how things are pacing. We’ll see, though! I’m just going to assume the Indiana Pacers would have won the title, and you may never be able to tell me otherwise.
My pick for the title would have been the Milwaukee Bucks, though.
Would you rather be able to turn into any animal but be unable to communicate with them or be able to communicate with any animal? – Keigen Rea
Man, this is an incredibly tough question. Let’s make it a head to head match up. If I could turn into any animal, it would be a Peregrine Falcon, and I would basically spend all of my time dive bombing at 200+ miles per hour while doing the bird equivalent of screaming “WOOOOOO!!!!!!” all the time. Or if I could communicate with any animal, I would primarily use it to communicate with my cats, and I would do it all the time.
I would definitely pick communicate with any animal, even if I could rotate from animal to animal as I please. I just want to know what is up with my cats!
Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul? – Rasmus Lykke
I stopped watching Better Call Saul because my cable provider stopped carrying AMC, but from what I watched, I would say it was a dead heat. However, because I finished one and stopped watching the other, I’m giving the win to Breaking Bad.
Unrelated: if you want to spend 8+ minutes watching a great video, someone made a supercut collecting the totality of Breaking Bad into a single tribute video set to Ennio Morricone’s The Ecstasy of Gold. It’s awesome. Highly recommended.
Would our world be a better place if Facebook did not exist? – Chris Burton
100%. Even if it didn’t make it considerably better, it would still be minus the bad that came with Facebook. Whether you’re talking the destruction of the discourse, the advent of algorithms, the rise of…I hate this term…fake news, and the commodification of engagement, there are so many big and small things Facebook has harmed in our society that it’s really hard to parse all the ways it would improve it if we removed it.
What did it improve, really? It was cool for a bit. It gives me a job. But past that, not much. There’s nothing that’s really irreplaceable in my mind. So considering the significant downsides and the limited benefits, the answer is obvious to me: yes, for sure.