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.
Q: How would you have written the Funky/Dick crossover? -- @damnyouwillis
A: You know, Dave, it's been a long time since I've been as mad at a comic as I was at the soggy lump of anticlimax that was the Funky Winkerbean/Dick Tracy crossover last month. I mean, I'd call it a disaster, but disasters are usually exciting and have consequences. Funky/Dick was not, and did not.
Q: Since you're knee-deep in rewatching Batman '66, why is "Beware the Gray Ghost" such a brilliant episode of Batman: The Animated Series? -- @Gavin4L
A: With Simon Trent's surprise return in this week's issue of Gotham Academy, it seems like everyone's been thinking about the Gray Ghost. Or at least, I've been thinking about him a lot, and I can assure you that I've been thinking about him enough for all of us.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I'm probably involved in more conversations about Batman: The Animated Series than your average person, but in my experience, at least, "Beware the Gray Ghost" isn't one of the ones that gets talked about all that much. And that in itself is actually pretty weird, because it gives the world of The Animated Series something that it never really got from any other episode: It built a story around fandom.
Q: Can Batman defeat a pro wrestler in his natural element? --@ykarps
A: At first glance, this seems like one of the easiest questions I've ever tackled in this column. I mean, of course he could, right? He's Batman. While the rest of us were learning algebra in 8th grade, this dude was traveling across the world learning how to be the best possible expert at everything, just in case he needed it for his never-ending war on crime. Surely that would have to include professional wrestling, the King of Sports, if only because there's no other discipline that combines theatricality and combat in the way that would serve him so well back in Gotham City.
And yet, the more I think about it, the more I realize that, as shocking as it might be for me to say this as the World's Foremost Batmanologist... I doubt even Batman could beat a pro wrestler in his natural element.
Q: How did Dick Tracy solve the case of Li'l Orphan Annie's disappearance and was it appropriately insane? -- @willwise3
A: Oh Will. Will, Will, Will. I want to take a moment to thank you for letting me talk about what is unquestionably the single greatest crossover of the year. For those of you who may have missed it, the Little Orphan Annie comic strip ended a while back with what has to be the most harrowing cliffhanger to ever hit the newspaper page. After eighty years of adventures, Annie went out in the middle of a story where she'd been kidnapped by an actual war criminal called the Butcher of the Balkans, locked up on a boat bound for an unknown shore, with Daddy Warbucks wondering if he would ever see his beloved daughter again. Seriously, that was the last strip, and Annie's final fate until it was announced that Dick Tracy would step up and solve the case last summer.
As for whether or not that story was "insane," well, let me put it this way: It involves SUPER-POWERED MOON PEOPLE, ATOMIC WEAPONS, AND A TIME MACHINE.
Q: What is the lasting impact of Justice League International? Does it have one? -- @dagsly
A: Does Justice League International have a lasting impact?! Well let me ask you a question, Dags: Does Batman have pointy ears? Does Clark Kent wear glasses? Does Aquaman have pruney fingers and breath that smells like krill? Just so we're all on the same page here, the answer to all of these questions is "yes," especially in the case of JLI having a lasting impact. It's not just that it was a good book, but that it formed a foundation and a blueprint for the way pretty much every team book would work thirty years later.
I mean, I don't want to exaggerate any more than I usually do or anything, but after Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four and Claremont, Byrne and Cockrum's X-Men, Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire's Justice League is arguably the most important team book in comics history.
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