What made the Ostrander/Yale Suicide Squad work and others not? John Ostrander and Kim Yale, along with Luke McDonnell, Geof Isherwood, Karl Kesel and other artists. They were creators who were absolutely at the top of their game over the course of Squad's 66-issue run, and you can't really get away from the fact that when Ostrander came back for stuff like Raise the Flag and the Blackest Night one-shot, those books were immediately right back in step with some of the best stories of the run. They were, hands down, one of the best creative teams in the history of superhero comics.
But at the same time, I don't think that's the whole story. When you get right down to it, Suicide Squad wasn't just a product of its time, it was the kind of comic that could only really happen in 1987.
Q: What's the big deal with Usagi Yojimbo, anyway? - @cwidtz
A: If you're not already familiar with Usagi Yojimbo, I can see why it might be a hard sell. On paper, it just sounds weird. I mean, it's a long-running samurai story where all the characters are cute furry animals, and that's just the start of things. It's exhaustively researched and set in feudal Japan, frequently using actual historical events as the centerpieces of its stories, but also ghosts and magic are completely real, it's cartoonish and frequently very funny with great buddy comedy bits and a ton of slapstick humor, but it's also very serious and violent, with the highest on-panel body count of any comic I read, and everyone who really loves it won't shut up about how great the word balloons are when people die. Even if you're willing to believe that it's very good, there's a lot there that sounds like it'd be hard to get into.
But since you asked, here's the big deal with Usagi Yojimbo: Stan Sakai's been doing this comic for over thirty years, and he hasn't done a bad issue yet.
Q: Do you think Darkseid deserves to be considered the ultimate bad guy of the DC Universe? What are his achievements? -- @Lionel_Leal
A: I don't want to turn this into "Ask Chris About Jack Kirby's Fourth World" --- as opposed to my usual strategy of spending an entire week talking about the moral significance of Batman's utility belt or whatever --- but over the last few years, Darkseid has been a more prominent fixture of the DC Universe than any other time in his forty-year history. I think it probably started with how he was treated on Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League, but just in the past three years we've seen him as the villain that launched the New 52, and the villain who's probably going to show up in a movie about the Justice League at some point. So with all due respect, LL, it's not really a matter of "Darkseid deserves."
Q: How immediately should we should we all be buying the new Orion by Walt Simonson omnibus? -- @atnorwood
A: Every now and then I like to take a swing at a softball question, but this one is just gently wafting over the plate, taking a moment to stop offer me an engraved invitation. So here's the quick answer: Ideally, you should be buying that Orion omnibus right now, if not sooner, maybe going as far as buying it in back issues too so you have something to read while you wait for it to be delivered. As a general rule of thumb, pretty much anything with the words "WALT SIMONSON" written on the cover is something that's going to be worth having on your bookshelf.
Q: Batman RIP: What's going on in this book? I like Morrison, but I do not follow the plot. -- @daingercomics
A: My friend, you have come to the right place. I generally think Grant Morrison gets a bad rap for writing superhero stories that are too complex --- a complaint that you see about almost everything he writes going all the way back to "Rock of Ages" in JLA, and probably back to Animal Man if you go looking for it --- but R.I.P. is a story with a whole lot of moving parts that can be pretty hard to keep track of unless you're the kind of person who has been obsessing over the details of 75 years of Batman comics for their entire life.
Fortunately for you, that's exactly what I am, which is one of the reasons that Batman R.I.P. is probably my favorite Batman story of all time.
Q: Can you help an Archie skeptic understand why it's so great? - @SuperSentaiBros
A: Man, I hope so. After all, until a few years ago, Archie was arguably the most overlooked publisher in comics just by sheer volume of what they were putting out, at least among die-hard superhero fans. And to be honest, they had a good reason for it --- in a lot of ways, those comics had gotten stale, and they were in dire need of exactly the kind of shot in the arm that they got from the big name projects that have made them so engaging today.
The thing is, at least in my case, it wasn't when Archie suddenly got weird that made me such a big fan. It was when I realized that they'd been weird all along.
Q: What are the arguments against a shared universe? Like, would Hawkman be tolerable if he wasn't standing next to Superman? -- @Dan_Toland
A: I gotta say, I am probably the last person on the face of the planet that you should be coming to with this question. Not only do I love the concept of a shared universe in general, but I love it specifically in how it's evolved to become a defining feature of superhero comics, to the point where it's actually as much a part of what I think of when I hear the word "superhero" as powers and costumes.
On the other hand, I am also a dude who has never passed up an opportunity to make fun of Hawkman, so allow me to answer that part of your question first: No. Nothing will ever make Hawkman tolerable. Hawkman is the worst.
A: Oh man, Hypertime. That is something that I have not thought about in a while, although I suspect that with Multiversity going on and Convergence about to hit in a few months, it's something that's going to be getting a little more attention than it has in the past fifteen years or so. And given that at least half of these columns are about how much I love DC Comics from the '90s, it probably won't surprise you to find out that it's a really interesting concept.
As for what the hell it is, well, it's one of those weird cases where the simplest and most sarcastic answer is also kind of the most accurate: Hypertime is whatever you want it to be.
Q: What are the qualities that allow a character to sustain a solo book, and why doesn't Martian Manhunter have any of them? -- @RichBurlew
A: I gotta tell you, Rich, this is a very interesting question, and I hope you'll forgive me if I completely ignore the first half so that I can talk about the second. I mean, let's be real with each other here, if I knew what qualities made for a successful solo character, I would probably be writing that comic instead of this column, and between the two of us, you're the one who's been doing a successful and beloved character-driven story for the past decade. If anything, I should probably be asking you.
The Martian Manhunter, however, has always been a really interesting character to me, if only because in terms of being a solo character, he's the definition of an also-ran. He's been around forever, but he's never quite clicked, and I think the simple reason for that is that there's nothing he does that isn't already done better by someone else.
Q: Mister Miracle and Big Barda: great superhero romance or greatest superhero romance? --@ReverendMagnett
A: You know, Reverend, ComicsAlliance is having a poll right this very minute to determine what our readers think is the greatest superhero romance, but as we all know, polls deal in opinion, while Ask Chris deals entirely in facts. Sure, they might appear to just be opinions with a lot of exclamation points thrown in, but trust me, it'll save us all a lot of time if we just agree that they're facts and move on.
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