A: Here's the least shocking thing you're going to read this week: I love Cassandra Cain. That probably goes without saying, given that she's a relatively obscure member of the Batman family that made her debut when I was a teenager, but really, it goes deeper than that. She came out of the gate with a compelling edge, some phenomenally solid storytelling, and a hook for drama that put her in contrast to the rest of Gotham's assorted heroes and hangers-on, while still feeling like a natural compliment to the other characters. And then, less than a decade later, she'd gone from being a new character with an incredible amount of potential to an also-ran who only really shows up to fill space in crossovers -- something that almost never happens to characters in the Batman family, especially when they've got 70+ solo issues under their utility belts.
So what happened? Man, I can't even tell you, I just read the darn things. But folks, it got really weird there at the end.
Q: I was reading your column about New Teen Titans where you said Crisis on Infinite Earths was a mess, but a topic for another time. Care to explain now? -- @jeremyliveshere
A: The one thing you can't say about Crisis on Infinite Earths is that it didn't deliver on its promise. In a time when "event" comics were still in their infancy, Crisis came out of the gate promising to be the biggest thing that had ever or would ever hit comics, and looking back on it from almost thirty years later, it's hard not to admit that even with a comic rolling out every six months like clockwork that promises to change everything forever, it's still the one that actually did it. Worlds did live, worlds did die, and nothing actually was the same again.
It just also happens to be a story that's a complete friggin' mess.
Q: If you had to create an iconic but stripped-down version of the Legion of Super-Heroes, like for a TV show, which eight to ten characters would be on it? -- @benito_cereno
A: One of the weirdest things about the DC Universe right now -- which is full of exactly as much weirdness as you'd expect from a 75 year-old superhero universe that's less than three years into a baby-and-bathwater reboot -- is that the Legion of Super-Heroes isn't a part of it. I mean, no, they were never the biggest franchise DC had to offer, but they were a pretty constant presence from 1958 to just a little while ago, and there's a good reason for that. I mean, they're teenagers from the future. That's quite literally a concept that never gets old.
That said, it's only a matter of time before they get rebooted, so let's while away some time figuring out just who I'd put on the new team.
Q: Just watched the latest Here's The Thing. I'd love to hear you expound on some of the attempts at re-creating Spider-Man. -- @stophatinisbad
A: In case you missed it, this week's episode of Here's The Thing was focused on the idea of legacy and how it shaped the Green Lantern franchise -- and how it ultimately failed to really take hold in the way that it did in books like Flash and -- but one of the things I mentioned was that Kyle Rayner was one of many attempts to create a character in the mold of Spider-Man. It happens like clockwork, not just at DC and Marvel but across the board, and it's one of the most important aspects of how superhero comics developed.
So really, I'm glad you asked, because the reason behind this gives me a chance to dive into some of my favorite subjects, like the socioeconomic impact of the rise of the teenager as a social construct, and how that led directly to the creation of Darkhawk.
Q: Hey Chris, what's the worst story from the best writer? -- @starr226
A: I've gotten this question a few times over the past few weeks, and it's one that's really interesting to me for a few reasons, the most important of which being that nobody in the history of comics has a perfect record. Once you put out more than, say, four comics, everyone from Jack Kirby on down has stunk up the room at least once in their career, and it can be really fun looking at something to try to figure out exactly why something doesn't work, when everything else from that particular creator works so well.
For me, though, as easy as it would be to hit a soft target like Alan Moore and Scott Clark's Spawn/WildC.A.T.S: Devil Day, the biggest and most surprising drop will always be Larry Hama and Scott McDaniel's surprisingly terrible run on Batman.
Q: I'm interested in Hitman as a character in the larger DCU, and "the area of Gotham so bad that Batman doesn't go there," because Batman is a dude that has paid multiple visits to a planet literally called Apokolips. -- @kingimpulse
A: For those of you who haven't been following the War Rocket Ajax podcast, Matt and I have been spending the entirety of 2014 ranking every single comic book story ever on a master list from the best (Amazing Spider-Man #33) to the worst (Identity Crisis). Last week, we finally got around to Hitman, and while it eventually fell between The Dark Knight Returns and Impulse #3, the conversation that we had about it involved me mentioning that Tommy Monaghan lived in a section of Gotham called "the Cauldron," which was so thoroughly lawless that they didn't even really notice when No Man's Land swept through.
There's a pretty obvious reason why it went down that way, of course, but the more I thought about your question, the more I realized that it's the core of Hitman's complicated relationship with the universe where it's set, which is one of the best things about that comic.
Q: G.I. Joe: Where do I even begin with their myriad continuities? -- @Eric_R_Wilson
A: I've spent the past few weeks catching up on recent G.I. Joe comics with a stack of paperbacks that I picked up at HeroesCon, and while I've been really interested in seeing all the changes and new characters that set the IDW books apart from the original Marvel series, I'm still pretty surprised by this question. I mean, yes, there's a lot of G.I. Joe out there and a lot of different takes on that core idea, but when you get right down to it, it's no more complicated than your average superhero comic.
Which is to say that it's actually very complicated. Especially when the ninjas start getting involved.
Q: Aside from Superman and Captain America what hero is the most fitting representation of The United States? -- @white_dolomite
A: You know, just before I sat down to write this, I was reading some Judge Dredd comics and thinking about how fascinating the idea of Dredd as this distinctly, explicitly American icon, covered in eagles and flags and badges and guns and riding on a motorcycle that is also covered in eagles, flags, badges and guns is when you consider that he's a view of America created by people who aren't Americans. There's a lot that goes along with that, and it's fun to think about when you're reading through those stories and figuring out what defines them.
But when you get down to it, that doesn't mean that he's the best representation of the good ol' USA. Assuming you mean "hero" as in "protagonist" and not just as in "masked crimefighter," then the answer's easy. The quintessentially American comic book character is Scrooge McDuck.
Q: Chris, what Conan comic is best in life? -- @chudleycannons
A: Folks, I am going to be 100% real with you for a second here: I love Conan the Barbarian. It's in my blood -- long before I was born, Conan was my parents' favorite comic, and while I wouldn't really call my mom and dad "geeks" in the traditional sense, they were definitely people who were really stoked about buying Marvel Magazines with Frank Frazetta art on the cover so they could read about dudes in loincloths chopping each other up with broadswords. These were, I remind you, the people who raised me, which probably explains a lot.
But while I might've been hardwired into loving the character, I didn't really get into reading it myself until I was an adult, and I can tell you that as far as I'm concerned, there is a clear, no-contest winner as far as the best Conan story. It's not even close. It's the one where Conan gets into a fistfight with a gorilla that thinks it's a wizard.
Q: Since this is Ask Chris #200, what's the best 200th issue in comics? -- @therealdealkern
A: You know, Kern, I'm glad you asked. 200 is a really weird number, especially in comics. It should be a pretty huge deal -- as alert reader Charlotte pointed out in her own question this week, once a comic racks up 200 issues, it's pretty much going to be around forever -- but it doesn't quite have the ring of #100, and even hitting that third century mark seems way more important than breezing through the two. Maybe it's that it feels like a foregone conclusion, that once you've passed that first milestone, the second feels like more of an inevitability than an achievement. But at the same time, there's definitely one issue that sticks out as being everything you want out of an anniversary comic, and that's the subject of this week's column.
I mean, come on. You didn't really think I was going to answer 100 questions again, did you?
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