This week marks the 200th installment of ComicsAlliance's weekly Ask Chris column, in which senior writer Chris Sims tackles reader questions that send him delving into comics history, the metaphors at the heart of his favorite characters that have developed over decades and, every now and then, straight up fan-fiction.
To mark the occasion, we've gone back through the archives (and taken a quick poll of readers) to sort out the absolute best of the past 200 columns, covering topics like the secular humanism at the heart of Scooby-Doo, the complicated chronology of Super Mario Bros., the 75-year competition between Marvel and DC, and more. And Batman. So, so much Batman.
Q: Why do you think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has survived and thrived for 30 years? -- @ballsmonkey
A: I have a whole lot of affection for the TMNT, and I don't think that's just because I was the perfect age to drag my parents to Pizza Hut so that I could get (and subsequently wear out) a VHS tape of the one where they fought the giant robot rats. Don't get me wrong, the nostalgia's a huge part of it, but it's not something that's unique to my age group. The fact is, if you've been a kid at any time in the past three decades, you've more than likely grown up loving those characters just as much as I did. And that in itself, the staying power that this strange franchise created by two dudes in a kitchen, is interesting.
The thing is, even though I tend to think of TMNT as the archetypical unlikely success, the more I think about it the less I think that it actually was all that unlikely.
Q: Is it ever worth it to change comics canon to match the canon from other media? -- @firehawk32
A: This is a really interesting question for me, because I always think of myself as someone who doesn't really get excited about superheroes showing up in movies or TV. I mean, obviously, that's not actually true -- I mean, I cowrote what was essentially a full-length novel about The Dark Knight, Batman: The Animated Series ranks alongside oxygen and pizza as my favorite thngs in the universe, I could not have been more stoked about seeing Arnim Zola The Bio Fanatic in two major Hollywood films, and there will never be a time when I'm not still mad about Man of Steel. But at the same time, and at the risk of sounding like even more of a hipster elitist than usual, those aren't the "real" versions of those charactesr to me. I like TV and movies just fine, but when it comes to the superhero genre, I'm in it for the comics. Everything else is just a bonus.
That said, what's considered "canon" in comics changes literally all the time, and often for a lot worse reasons than because there's something out there that's resonating with a mass audience.
Q: Why is DC One Million the best crossover ever? -- @SerialWordsmith
A: Whenever I'm asked about my favorite DC crossover, the one that I always go with is Invasion!, and I think there's a pretty good argument you can make. It's done in three oversized issues, so it's quick but still feels like an epic story since they're all 80-page giants, it has a great use of some often-neglected parts of DC's cosmic side, and there are pretty fantastic tie-ins from creators doing career-best work on books like Suicide Squad and Animal Man, and it really did add something interesting to the DC Universe.
Then someone mentions DC One Million and I realize that yeah, I'm wr-- I'm mista-- I'm misremembering things, because it's definitely the best. I mean, it's not just the best DC crossover, but it's probably the single best crossover in all of superhero comics.
Q: You said something a few days ago about the genius of Judge Dredd's design--can you talk more about this? -- @lifeinsuper8
A: Can I! Regular readers of Ask Chris might recalll that it was only a couple of weeks ago that I, along with artist Erica Henderson, got into a discussion of what makes a great "iconic" superhero costume. You can flip back through that one if you'd like, but the short version is that the best costumes in comics tend to be simple and well-defined, getting across a lot of information with a very streamlined look. Generally speaking, the more unnecessary gimmicks you add to a suit, the more distracting it gets, and the less it says about the character, and I think that holds true across the board when it comes to superheroes.
But then you get to Judge Dredd, and all those rules go flying straight into the Iso-Cubes, where they're locked up and never, ever let out.
Q:What is the best redemption scene or storyline in comics? -- @yellfeat
A: It's funny, I was just talking about why there aren't a whole lot of stories where villains become heroes in the latest episode of Here's The Thing, and how they almost never work out the way you want them to. That might've been my pessimism creeping in, because there are certainly examples of it working really well -- one viewer on Twitter mentioned the Pied Piper from Flash -- but I blame the wording. A face turn and a redemption aren't quite the same thing, and if you're looking for the single best example of the latter, there's not even a question about which one it is.
Skurge stood alone at Gjallerbru, man. And that was enough.
Q: This "Connections Theory of Comics" is like *literally* all you talk about on Twitter. Can you please just explain it? -- @bigredrobot
A: Hey man, I think you're exaggerating just a little. I mean, anyone who actually reads my Twitter account knows that the whole Connections thing comes in at a distant third to commentary on whatever Power Rangers shows I'm watching that week and arguments about the definition of the word "barbecue." That said, I'll admit that it's something I have been talking about a lot lately. Connections is, after all, my favorite television show of all time. Well, except or The Prisoner, and that one episode of Brave and the Bold where Batman becomes a Dracula and fights the JLI, but I don't think those have affected the ways that I think about comics like Connections has.
Q: What do you think is the essence of making a great iconic costume? -- @thenoirguy
A: With comics being a visual medium and all, especially one that's dominated by a genre marked by its own goofy language of symbolism and iconography, I think about superhero costumes pretty often. I mean, I cannot count the number of times I have written the words "Batman's Batman-Shaped Kneepads" over the past three years, but that said, I'll admit that I might not be the best person to answer this question. As Erica Henderson (artist of Subatomic Party Girls and the Ask Chris logo above) pointed out, I'm not an artist. Then she went ahead and answered the question, telling me that "It's pretty simple, iconic is something that's quick and easy to recognize. that's why nobody talks about Cable's costume."
Listen, Erica, I don't know what circles you run in, but I talk about Cable's costume a lot.
Q: What was so good about Power Rangers RPM? -- @ykarps
A: That's right, everyone: After deciding on a whim last year to sit down and watch every single episode of Power Rangers ever produced, all seven hundred and seventy-five (and counting), and last week, I finally did it when I made it through 2009's Power Rangers RPM. I'd already seen Samurai, and I'd been watching Megaforce as it aired, so that was it. And I wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.
But while I was watching it, I came to the conclusion that as much as I like Samurai and Jungle Fury and Ninja Storm -- in which a trio of teens give up on hiding their Kiwi accents about six episodes in -- there's not even a contest about which series is the best. RPM wins that argument hands down... and I kind of hate to say that.
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