Q: Who is the best President of the United States in superhero comics? -- @SAWinchell
A: Ah yes. It's a Presidential Election year here in the United States, and with politics in the air everywhere you look, the next eight months are probably going to involve a lot of questions about elections, public offices, and other expressions of our American ideals of democracy. For those of you who aren't in America, this might seem like we're drawing things out a little bit, but I can assure you that it's been like this for like a year already.
Anyway, to the question! Given how rarely we actually see the President playing a significant role in superhero comics, there are really only a few directions we can go with this. The obvious choices are, of course, Prez Rickard and Beth Ross, the two teenage presidents who have starred in different iterations of Prez, or Calvin Ellis, the Super-President from Earth-23, and if I was up for a bit of political satire, I could try to defend the Lex Luthor administration again. But really, if we want to talk about the best Chief Executive in all of comics, then there's only one real choice: President Maria Funkhouser, from Christopher Hastings' The Adventures of Dr. McNinja.
Q: Why is "Strange Apparitions" the best Batman run? - @IanGonzales
A: See what I mean about these questions that include their own answers right there in the premise?
I have to say, though: You're not wrong. Of all the great Batman runs that have helped to define the character, the six issues that Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers spent on Detective Comics back in 1978 stand out as one of the all-time greatest. It's intricately crafted, beautifully drawn, and while Englehart's claim that it more-or-less invented the Batman of the Modern Age might seem a little overblown at first glance, it's hard to argue that it's not at least a major part of the foundation of how the Caped Crusader would evolve over the following decade. As for just what makes it so great and why it stands the test of time, it all comes down to how they were able to build on the past while creating something that still feels modern almost 40 years later.
Q: Why is the Justice Society of America of such fundamental importance to the DC Universe? -- @M_Morse
A: I've been doing this column for a pretty long time, and almost every week, I get a question like this one, where the question itself assumes a pretty specific premise. Sometimes, they go as far as actually answering the question before the end of the sentence, making my part in the whole thing pretty irrelevant --- like, say, "who is the dreamiest guy and why is it Batman?" --- but sometimes, it's that premise that grabs my attention more than what's actually being asked.
All of which is just a longwinded way to say that I'm not sure I can really explain why the JSA is a fundamental part of the DC Universe, because I'm not actually sure that they are.
Q: I've been doing a big Batman read-through and just got to No Man's Land. Why does that story work so well? -- @thealan81
A: When you consider how complicated it was to put together, how long it dominated an entire corner of DC's line, and how just plain weird it was right from the very premise, it's kind of amazing that No Man's Land works at all, let alone that it works well. You're right, though --- of all the Batman crossovers that the '90s brought to us, the one that closed out the decade by leveling Gotham City and building stories around Batman spraypainting a gang tag on ruined buildings to mark his territory is easily the best.
But as for why it works, well, there's one reason that's actually pretty simple. It is, for all intents and purposes, post-apocalyptic Batman.
Q: What are the best Die Hard tributes or knockoffs in comics? -- @chudleycannons
A: Considering how common it is for action movies to try to re-create the feeling of Die Hard, you'd probably be surprised at how little that actually happens in comics. I mean, it makes sense that it would be that way --- despite starting out life as a novel with the amazing title of Nothing Lasts Forever, Die Hard is pretty inextricably tied to being an action movie, and it's difficult to recreate what makes it work so well in another medium. The closest thing we'd have to that in comics is the massive number of characters that were created as homages or knockoffs of Superman.
But if you're looking for a story that operates on those same principles --- a single hero trapped in a confined space, dealing with limited resources and overwhelming odds --- then there are definitely a few stories that fit the bill.
Q: It's the 50th Anniversary of Batman '66! Can you rank the best episodes? -- @TheKize
A: I wrote a fair bit about Batman on Tuesday to mark the actual day that it made its debut back in 1966 --- and, you know, I've written a whole bunch about it in general --- but you know what? You're right. The 50th anniversary of what is arguably the single greatest superhero show ever produced is something that's worth celebrating for a while yet. But ranking the best episodes? That's a tough one.
It's not that I don't have my favorites, you understand, but with 120 episodes produced over three seasons, mostly divided into the two-part adventures punctuated by a deathtrap that would serve as the show's trademark, there's just too much to choose from. Even at its worst, the show was still fun, and with that many great performances and ludicrous plots, narrowing it all down to a top five is a pretty difficult task. Difficult... but far from impossible.
Q: What comics would you recommend for someone recovering from surgery? Hoping for something fun, easy, pretty episodic. -- @raebeta
A: I'm lucky enough that I've never had to go through an extended recovery from surgery, but I have spent plenty sick days in bed from the usual cold and flu, so I know exactly the kind of thing you're getting at. The thing is, while I always go into a bit of bed rest thinking that I'll use that time to catch up on reading, it never really works out that way.
Then again, that might be because every time I get so much as a mild sniffle, I want to roll myself up into a blanket like a burrito and play Super Mario Bros. 3 until I feel better, a process that's been going on ever since that time I had a sore throat in 1990. For the record, this is the most effective medical treatment that science has devised, and I'd recommend it over chicken soup nine times out of ten.
Q: How do the holiday mythologies compare between Marvel and DC? -- @crcovar
A: How did you know, Crovar?! Another excuse to drop nine thousand words about the underlying differences in the structure of imaginary universes and how they've affected their storytelling over the past seventy years? It's exactly what I wanted for Christmas!
Nah, I'm just kidding. We can probably get through this one in five or six thousand. Seven, tops.
Q: How do Santa Claus and Christmas magic mix with superhero settings, where actual magic and superpowers exist? Just how powerful is it? -- @anniezard
A: If my years of obsessing over Christmas specials have taught me anything, it's that Christmas magic is quite possibly the most powerful force in the universe. It can change the hearts of miserly ducks, open up a portal to to the mystical realm of Eternia so that kids can learn all about how Skeletor loves fights, and it can even cause dangerous levels of interference with the Morphin Grid. Outside of Batman's thirst for justice and Jughead's love of hamburgers, it might be the single most powerful force in the universe, assuming that you're measuring between Thanksgiving and January 6.
As for how Santa Claus himself can fit into a superhero setting, I actually think he's one of the easiest characters from literature or folklore to just slide right into a world of crimefighters and arch-villains. More than Dracula, more than Robin Hood, he's the one who works the best, because when you get right down to it, he's already doing the same kind of stuff. It's just that for some reason, they never call him up when it's time for a crossover.
Q: Which Christmas song would make the best Kirby comic? -- @hazbaz
A: Okay, first of all? This is literally the best Ask Chris question in the five-year history of this column.
I mean, there are very few questions I've ever gotten that hit the exact bullseye of my interests quite as well as that one. If I somehow manage to come up with an answer that involves a Christmas song about Bulbasaur - something that actually does exist thanks to the charmingly bizarre cash-in abum The Pokémon Christmas Bash - then I think I will have covered everything. But even more than that, it's an opportunity to fix one of the greatest tragedies in comics history: The fact that there just aren't a whole lot of Jack Kirby Christmas comics.
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