Q: What do you think about Harley Quinn? --@Gavin4L
I'll be honest with you, Gavin: Harley Quinn is a tough character to write about. I've been struggling for a long time now trying to figure out how to get started, because there's so much there built around a single character that gets into a lot of tricky, complicated areas, from her almost accidental creation and often mystifying popularity to how much she's changed and been altered in a relatively short period of time, and how you can almost chart the changing aesthetic of the entire company just by looking at a single character. It's a lot to get through, even if you're someone who lived through every bit of it as a fan.
Really, I guess that's as good a starting point as any. What do I think? Well, I like the character a lot, but when you get right down to it, she's one of the most misunderstood and misused characters in all of superhero comics.
Q: You mentioned "The Problem" in last week's column. So, what is "The Problem?" --@green2814
A: Last week, I dug in a little into the idea that even though they share prominent creators and have influenced each other back and forth over the course of the last 50 years, the DC and Marvel Universes have some fundamental differences in the way they're structured. One of the things I really wanted to get across in that column was that neither one is really fundamentally better than the other, they're just incompatible in a lot of ways, and I touched on how that results in something I call The Problem. Since that's still pretty fresh in everybody's mind, and since you were nice enough to set the ball right on the tee and hand me the bat, I might as well elaborate on that now. It's actually pretty simple.
To put it bluntly, The Problem is that DC wants to be Marvel, and they have for the past 50 years.
Q: Do Superman-esque characters like The Sentry or Blue Marvel work in the Marvel Universe? -- @SuperSeth64
A: You know, Seth, this is one of those questions that seems really simple when you first look at it. I mean, it's a yes or no question, so the short answer is about as short as it can possibly be. The thing is, the reasoning behind that answer has to do with how entire shared fictional universes work and how they've been influencing each other for the past 50 to 70 years, and how one character in particular has defined an entire genre that came to dominate the medium, so for the long answer, well, I hope you've got a few minutes.
If you don't, here's the short answer: No. No they do not.
Q: How can the Penguin be crafted to be a decent Batman foe without seeming too silly but still true to the character? --@phillyradiogeek
A: My first thought when I saw this question was that the Penguin is already a pretty decent Batman foe, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if that was really true. Outside of Burgess Meredith and his amazing purple top hat, I'm not sure that I've ever actually been excited at the prospect of getting a Penguin story as opposed to one of the other prominent Batman villains. Even the Riddler is someone I'm way more interested in than the Penguin, but I don't think the problem is that there isn't something good in there. I think the problem is that there's way too much.
Q: What are the best halloween themed Power Ranger episodes? --@I_AM_maxHELL
A: I'm about 400 episodes into my attempt to watch the past 20 years worth of Power Rangers, and one of the things that has consistently surprised me is that there aren't a whole lot of holiday-themed episodes. There's a Christmas special here and there and a couple of episodes where they staple a Jack O'Lantern onto some existing footage and call it a Halloween special, but those are very few and far between. Maybe that'll change once I get up to Mystic Force, the season where they use their witchity powers to battle an army of the undead. You'd think they'd be doing a lot more than they did.
Q: Would you rather your vampires and other monsters explained through magic, religious, or scientific contexts? --@CineastBenRowe
A: You know, Benny, I was all set to dive into another question I had this week about what was the best Ghost-Type Pokémon, but the more I looked at the questions I was getting, the more this one stuck in my head. I guess you could say it... haunted me. Haunted me like a Gengar, which, while actually a dual-type Ghost/Poison Pokémon, definitely qualifies and is really pretty awesome and creepy when you start reading all the stuff about how it was originally intended to be a ghostly doppelganger of Clefairy back before kids decided that they liked Pikachu about a thousand percent more than any other Pokémon. I've had a keychain of one since the tenth grade.
Oh, right, your thing. It won't surprise you that I have a pretty definitive answer, but it might surprise you to find out what that answer is.
Q: What makes a monster a Halloween monster? Why is Dracula okay but Godzilla is not? -- @chudleycannons
A: If you're following me on Twitter, then you may already know that earlier this week, I got into a heated argument with comic book writer and holiday enthusiast Benito Cereno over what does and does not constitute a "Halloween Monster." The whole thing sprang out of a Halloween-themed musical countdown that Benito's doling out over at his Tumblr -- stick around to find out how the Garfield Halloween special got him in trouble as a youngster -- that included Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla."
My argument -- which I posed to my ex-friend in a very civil and conversational manner that definitely did not start with "hey stupid" -- was that this song wasn't a good fit because Godzilla, while he is definitely a monster, doesn't fit thematically with Halloween. Benito's argument was that it was a fun song. But obviously, as we all know, you can't have fun without rules.
Q: Can you tell us about Kamen Rider Fourze? I understand if it's too painful to discuss. -- @Desgardes
A:Kamen Rider Fourze is the single best piece of superhero mass media in the past ten years. And considering that the past ten years also brought us stuff like The Dark Knight, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and that Avengers movie that everybody likes, that's no small thing for me to say.
As for how I know this -- and why Des here refers to it as a painful subject -- it's because the final episode of Kamen Rider Fourze made me cry harder than anything else I've ever seen. That last episode of Brave and the Bold put tears in my eyes, yes, but Fourze had me sobbing so hard that my neighbors started building an ark and gathering up all the beasts of the land in pairs lest my tears cause a flood that wiped away the sins of man.
Q: Outside of the opening credits to Batman: The Animated Series, what's the most effective opening to an 80s/90s "kids" show? --@chudleycannons
A: You know, Chudley, I like that you went as far as putting the quotation marks around "kids" as though being a 31-year-old who gets up every morning to watch an episode of Jem and the Holograms over a cup of coffee is something that is perfectly normal for my demographic. But there's no shame in my game, friend, so let's talk a little about cartoons and how they open.
There are, of course, more to kids' shows than just cartoons, but if we expanded out into live-action shows, it would just be me spending the next 1500 words trying to figure out why Zordon needed "teenagers with attitude" to fight against a moon-witch, and why that "attitude" mostly turned out to be "helpful and responsible." Besides, I like cartoons. Or at least, I used to. I saw five minutes of Johnny Test yesterday and now I don't know if I like anything.
Q: How do you square what happened to Bill Finger with your love of Batman? Is it a problem? -- @MikeFromNowhere
A: You know, it is and it isn't. I think the record will show that outside of a few years here and there where I just wasn't interested in what was going on in the comics, there has been very little that has stood in the way of my love of Batman. It is river deep, mountain high for me and Batman, and at this point, I don't think there's anything that's going to change that. But at the same time, there are those moments where I'll be reading one of my favorite stories, or watching Batman: The Animated Series or Brave and the Bold, and that damn "Batman created by Bob Kane" credit comes up, and I'm just angry about it for the rest of the day.
Jack Kirby said it best, Mike. Comics'll break your heart.
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