Q: Is writing comics with a lack of subtlety a good or bad thing? Or does it all depend on how it's handled? --@therealdealkern
A: This is a really tough question, because unlike a lot of things I write about, I don't have a definitive answer one way or the other, even though it's something I notice all the time. Looking back, it seems tricky to figure out why I love some things and hate others for what seems to be the exact same reason. I mean, I've got a reputation as someone who loves over-the-top stories and comics that have a complete lack of anything that even approaches nuance, full of blunt statements, raw emotions and names that couldn't be more on the nose if they were a pair of reading glasses.
And yet, at the same time, there are stories I hate precisely because they have that same lack of subtlety, or because they're eye-rollingly obvious. There's got to be a difference somewhere, right?
Q: Can Santa Claus beat Superman in a fight? Can he beat Batman? --@byharryconnolly
A: You, Harry, have been affected by the cynicism of a cynical age. Any schoolchild could tell you that Santa Claus would never fight Superman or Batman, because they are all on the same side. Then again, I suppose that's why you didn't ask a schoolchild and instead went straight to someone who specializes in providing needlessly elaborate answers to yes-or-no questions about fictional vigilantes.
So today, on this wintry Christmas Week Eve, I'm going to take up the spirit of the holiday and give you the answer you asked for. The short version? Yes. Santa Claus could beat those dudes like government reindeer. It wouldn't even be close.
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: 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.
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