The November Mailbag is Here!

With no podcast this week, we have a stand-in article in its place: it’s the November Mailbag Q&A, in which I answer all kinds of subscriber and patron questions about comics and beyond. And this month, it hit pretty heavy on the beyond side of things, as we talk about original art, my own writing, how you can best help creator-owned titles, the NFL season, Popeye’s chicken sandwiches, and more. It’s a fun one.

But before we get into it, one programming note. With the holiday vortex taking off, we’re going to have at least one skip month for the mailbag, as there won’t be one in December at the very least. We’ll see if we come back in January, but for now, I’m just planning the one month. We shall see. Onto the November Mailbag, though!

Christian Ward’s cover to Guardians of the Galaxy #23…I owns it

What are some of your favorite pieces of art that you own? Hope we can see some pics! – Chris Cioffi

Probably my favorite is the one pictured above, a Christian Ward cover to Guardians of the Galaxy #23 that I own. It’s my favorite because it’s a very good piece of Rocket Raccoon, of course, but more importantly, there’s a personal story behind it. Back when I was at Multiversity Comics, we put together a charity art month when Guardians of the Galaxy (the movie) came out to benefit former Marvel writer Bill Mantlo. As you may know, he’s long had health problems after he was hit-and-run while riding his bicycle, and with that comes many expenses. Some are covered by insurance, but others aren’t, and so we wanted to do what we could to generate some money for his care. Thus, the art month.

We had an incredible list of artists participate, but my favorite piece was the one Ward did. When the auction came up, it ended up pricing me out extremely fast, with original art collector Michael Perlman hot on its trail. He ultimately lost out to an unknown bidder, and Perlman reached out to me to say that if the person decided they didn’t want it eventually, he’d love to buy it. It turns out that my parents bought it for me as a Christmas present, and I have it framed in my office to this day. So it’s an incredible piece, but it also has a heck of a story behind it. It also – much later – became a cover for Guardians of the Galaxy #23, which was a cool end result!

Other favorites: I have a page from Chew #27 in which Rob Guillory drew my pal Brandon Burpee and I in as a pair of semi drivers, I love my theme sketchbook of superheroes doing ordinary things, I have a Yorick and Ampersand Pia Guerra drew me long, long ago, and I have a Dustin Harbin one of a kind Max Fischer piece I quite enjoy. There’s plenty more, I’m sure (you can see a lot of them here). But those are the first ones that come to my mind.

Do you think you would have still made SKTCHD without working at Multiversity? – Keigen Rea

For those that don’t know, before I ran SKTCHD and hosted Off Panel I was one of the main editors over at Multiversity Comics. I say editor, but it was mostly a ceremonial title, as I was one of the first three members of the site (it spun out of a message board thread on that I was a part of) and really just had my own domain in which I wrote a whole bunch but didn’t actually edit anyone besides myself. I was there for six years before I quietly departed and launched SKTCHD.

To answer Keigen’s question, though, there’s a zero percent change I would have launched SKTCHD either time without that time at Multiversity. I only started writing for Multiversity because I loved comics and wanted to write about them somewhere beyond my personal blog, but having the opportunity solidified my enjoyment of doing that. It also helped me become a much better writer and one who had the perspective I’ve carried to SKTCHD, which I like to think played a part in Multiversity eventually being nominated for an Eisner. But if I’m a worthwhile writer and podcaster today, a whole lot of it is because what I learned during my time at Multiversity.

Plus, being part of a site with so many great and fun people made a substantial difference for me as well. One of my favorite moments from my recent trip to NYCC was waiting in line to get into the con on the first day when I heard my name behind me, only to find my pal and current Multiversity Editor-in-Chief (I think that’s his title) Brian Salvatore smiling at me. I hadn’t seen him in…I want to say six years? Seeing him as well as MC editor emeritus Walter Richardson at the con was wonderful. The people there made it something I shared, and if there’s anything from my time at Multiversity that I miss, it’s that (and our endless email thread with the subject “X-Draft” that we communicated in).

In 2019 with the awareness of Superheroes in culture in general via multiple continuities, I’m wondering whether the Marvel / DC shared universes help or hurt them. Should they transition to modern myths?

I’ve recently read Thor: God of Thunder (God Butcher/ God Bomb arc), rewatched Thor: Ragnarok and am rereading Thor the Mighty Avenger. All different continuities and don’t work together, but all fantastic, and it doesn’t bother me that they don’t chime.

I’ve been thinking about this in relation to King Arthur where everybody has a general idea (Lancelot and Guinevere, Excalibur etc). Does it matter that some versions Sword in The Stone is Excalibur, some not? Likewise everybody knows Batman’s parents were killed, the Joker is his main enemy etc. Beyond that should there be a definitive version? – Ryan Alcock

I feel like to a degree they already have! At this point in time, it often feels like Marvel and DC’s continuity is completely selective based on what creators choose to use or not use, sort of like what you’re referring to. There are the home row characteristics for characters like you noted about Batman, but outside of that it kind of is all over the place depending on who is writing them.

And I prefer that! Look at what Al Ewing is doing on Immortal Hulk. It’s the perfect blend of using continuity and doing your own thing, and the book is all the better for it. It uses continuity for story reasons but it isn’t beholden to it, treating it like scripture that must guide each and every action of the character and the series.

I personally am not a big continuity guy, and it’s because people mostly use it as almost a checklist of what creators failed at, it seems. Continuity isn’t meant to be used as something to ensure that what Jean Grey says about something matches up to exactly what she said about it in 1967, or that Frank Castle always references how weird it was that he once was the Angel of Death and had ghost guns. It’s meant to be the foundation upon what characters are built from, not a test from which to determine the success of a creator’s depth of knowledge.

I prefer stories that get the fundamentals right rather than focusing on minutiae, because superheroes are really just people, and honestly, the continuity of humans is always filled with inconsistencies. People change and grow and evolve, and characters do throughout time as well. As long as Spider-Man is still governed by with great power comes great responsibility and Superman is still a beacon of hope, the details around them can change. And they’re better for that, because otherwise comics become showcases for awareness of the stories that came before rather than the stories that are still to come. Who wants to just read about something you already know about? That’s boring. Give me the modern myths method any day of the week, and I think you’ll find the best comics are always handled that way.

If everyone on the planet had to have the same superpower, which one would you pick for the world, and why? – Andrew Tan

Not telepathy, my god! That would break us. It’d be like that Black Mirror episode The Entire History of You on steroids. Everyone would be fighting all of the time, and it would be ugly. Instead, it’d probably come down to a top three. Last place for those three would be enhanced durability. I don’t want to say invulnerability, because that would bring its own downsides – we don’t want the world to become 17776, or at least not totally – but enough durability where most people would die natural deaths, likely. Again, there are downsides there, but the preservation of life would be an upside. I’d like animals and trees to also have enhanced durability, though.

Second would be for everyone to be empaths, but in the sense that we all have increased understanding of others around us but not the full out ability to alter others emotions. I like this idea because the world needs more empathy, but it’s not #1 because you’d also have increased empathy for the downside, which could lead to some dark times for people.

First place would be basically Cypher’s power set. Everyone could understand all languages, we could understand body language better, we could read inflection, computer languages, etc. This would be wonderful because understanding each other’s languages would make the world a better place in its own ways, while making each of us perhaps a bit more understanding and empathetic to each other. The body language and inflection part would be big too, as it would help limit misunderstandings. While it’s not “cool” or anything like that, it is extremely useful and would help the world. I like these things. Useful and helping the world are things we need more of, even if it’d be wild if everyone could fly.

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