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Ask Chris #189: Batman’s 75th Anniversary

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: What does Batman's 75th Anniversary mean to you? -- Caleb, via e-mail

A: That's a tough question. I mean, as you have probably noticed if you've spent more than five or six seconds browsing ComicsAlliance, I've written about Batman before. I've written about Batman before today. That's how much it happens. But to be honest, I don't really think of things in terms of big anniversaries as much as I think of them as slow, ongoing processes that see those characters change. It's the long-term view that I like, where you take a look back and see what stays consistent to form the core of the character, rather than trying to fit it all in at once.

So really, I guess that's as good a place to go with this as any. Batman's 75th Anniversary (with his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939) marks three quarters of a century of Batman's evolution as a character, from those pretty sketchy beginnings all the way to today, refining what works best to make the character. And really, it's that evolution, compressed into 75 years by hundreds of creators and corporate interests working to refine the character, is pretty fascinating to think about.

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Filed Under: , Category: Ask Chris, DC, Opinion

Ask Chris #188: Lex Luthor And The Joker

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: Who do you find more psychologically interesting, the Joker or Lex Luthor? -- Jordan, via email

A: You know, it's weird. As much as you see Superman and Batman together in stories where they're continually contrasted against each other, full of endlessly terrible first-person narration about how "Clark likes pancakes because he can't understand what it means to be vulnerable" but "Bruce always told me Alfred makes the best French toast, he has so much trouble trusting others" or whatever, their arch-nemeses don't often get compared with each other in the same way. They team up from time to time, sure, but usually the focus is just on their common goal of murdering the good guys, so you don't get too much there. That said, I like both of those characters a lot, and after thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that as the World's Foremost Batmanologist, as someone who has written extensively about the Joker and his relationship with Batman, it's definitely Lex Luthor.

Boom. Y'all just got swerved.

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Filed Under: , Category: Ask Chris, DC, Longform

Ask Chris #187: Archie Gets Weird

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: What's the weirdest thing Archie Comics has ever done, and why was it awesome? -- @darkmaple

A: It almost goes without saying at this point, but Archie's marketing strategy over the past few years has been nothing short of brilliant. All the stunts they've been pulling -- and I mean that in the most positive way possible -- have been designed to shake up the public perception of just what Archie Comics are. Most readers, even if they're casual fans of the actual Archie comics, tend to have this mental picture of Riverdale that's built around those eight-page gag strips where Archie has to run back and forth between two dates, and for good reason. That's been the core of the line for the past 70 years, so when they announce something like Lena Dunham dropping by to write a story or an adult-oriented horror comic where Archie's classmates are devouring each other's flesh, it immediately makes people wonder how it's going to work in the peaceful, idyllic world of Archie Comics.

But here's the thing: They've always been weird out there in Riverdale. They're weird as Hell.

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Ask Chris #186: The Strange Rise Of The X-Men

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: Why do you think the X-Men didn't find their audience until two decades after they were created? -- @godofthunder851

A: I've got a minor quibble with your timing in this question -- it was more like 12 or 15 years, really -- but you've got an interesting point there. I think most comics readers are well aware of that piece of trivia about how the X-Men were about to get the axe before Giant Size X-Men #1 breathed new life into the franchise and set them on the path of becoming what was probably the single most popular and influential franchise of the '80s and '90s, and that's not really how things usually work. In comics, you tend to either come out of the gate to massive, enduring popularity (like Batman or Spider-Man), come out strong and then fade away for whatever reason (like, sadly, Shazam!), or just sort of flounder in the midcard. It's rare that something sticks around on the edge of being canceled for a solid decade before it finds its footing, and nobody bounced back harder than Marvel's Merry Mutants.

But really, what you're asking here is two separate questions: Why didn't the X-Men take off in 1963, and why did they in 1975? So let's look at the history and see if we can't figure it out.

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Ask Chris #185: Superheroes Of The Squared Circle

Deadpool Team-Up #888, Marvel Comics

Q: Who is the best wrestler in Marvel or DC? -- @Mike_Zeidler

A: I'll be honest with you, folks: Over the past week, I have pretty much done nothing but watch the new WWE Network for five straight days, so it was a foregone conclusion that this week's column was going to be about pro wrestling. It was either this, or a lengthy examination of what the tag team tournament from Starrcade '89: Future Shock had in common with Secret Wars II, and I don't think any of us want to sit through that.

Now, I've written about comics that were about pro wrestling in the past, but if we're talking about which mainstream superheroes would fare best inside the squared circle, well, there's certainly an obvious answer.

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Ask Chris #184: A Brief History Of The Metal Men

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: Let's say I know nothing about the Metal Men except some of their names. Should I care about those guys? -- @_lexifab

A: On the off chance that you're wondering why this is the week that people are asking about a relatively obscure team of disposable superhero robots now, I'm going to go ahead and guess that it has something to do with their return in the pages of the brand-new Justice League #28. That's a book that I approached with a whole lot of cautious optimism, because I've been a fan of those characters ever since I was a kid. One of the very first comics I ever read was that John Byrne issue where Chemo absorbed Superman and became a giant lime green Superman that shot toxic waste out of his eyes and straight up killed one of the heroes. When you see that at five years old, that's the imagery that's going to stick with you.

So yeah, I'd say you should definitely care about the Metal Men, even beyond just my childhood affection for 'em. Not only are they one of the most perfect concepts in superhero comics, but they're also one of the most interesting, on the page and behind the scenes.

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Ask Chris #183: Thor And The Casket of Ancient Winters

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: Since you hate Frozen so much and are stuck in an ice storm, what are some good stories about snow and ice? -- @prograpslady

A: Those harsh words I had for Frozen are going to follow me to my grave, aren't they? Listen, I'm glad you like your little movie about ice puns and slapstick snowmen and I would never take that enjoyment away from you. I just like things that are, you know, good. It's not necessarily that you're wrong, it's just that I have more sophisticated and refined tastes, which is why I like the finer things that cinema has to offer. Like, say, any movie that prominently features a dirtbike or karate.

Anyway, it's true: As I write this, I'm bundled up in a Batman snuggie (the blanket with sleeves and a utility belt) with snow on the ground and ice on the roads. This, of course, is pretty unusual for my home state of South Carolina, so I've been thinking all day about stories where a bitter winter plays a central part -- and really, there's one that stands out right at the top of the list. From Walter Simonson's Thor, the story of Malekith and the Casket of Ancient Winters.

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Ask Chris #182: The Butler Did It

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: Where do you stand on the modern day love affair with "the toughening" of Alfred Pennyworth? -- @danceformyhorse

A: I've joked before about how I love Alfred more than most people love Batman, but let's be real here: that's only half-joking. Alfred is easily one of my favorite characters in comics, and I could happily read an entire series about the adventures of the Batman's Gentleman's Gentleman, even if it just focused on the problems of how to keep a robotic Tyrannosaurus and a giant penny from getting too dusty while cleaning up Batman's anti-crime basement. So believe me when I tell you, friends, the idea of a tough-as-nails Alfred Pennyworth is far from a modern invention.

Alfred's been a badass since day one.

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Filed Under: , , Category: Ask Chris, DC, Opinion

Ask Chris #181: Wolvie’s Angels

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: What's your take on Wolverine and his many girl sidekicks? Do you think it's important for their stories, and who's best? -- @manuel_mc89

A: I think it's been well-established over my time here at ComicsAlliance that I have a whole lot of affection for the X-Men, and Wolverine in particular. I love that guy, mostly because it was basically unavoidable that I would end up becoming a fan of a dude who could punch you with knives and rode around on motorcycles and didn't play by the rules, man. I mean, I was ten years old in 1992. That I didn't also enter my teenage years as a huge fan of Cable and Shatterstar (his sword has two blades!) is basically miraculous.

Point being, Wolverine's great, and on the list of things he does that I'm always eager to see, mentoring younger characters is right up there with stabbing hundreds of ninjas. And folks, I like Wolverine stabbing ninjas a lot.

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Filed Under: , , , Category: Ask Chris, Marvel, Opinion

Ask Chris #180: Love Letters

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: Lettering: who does it best and why? -- @awa64

A: Comic book lettering is up there with inking and coloring in the holy trinity of underrated comic book skills, but it's also one of those things that, once you start paying attention to it, you'll never be able to not notice it again. I'm not exaggerating even a little bit when I say that it's one of those things that can absolutely ruin a comic if it's done wrong, even if everything else is perfect. But to be honest, of those three elements, lettering is still probably the most underrated.

The thing is, when it's good, it can be absolutely gorgeous in its own right. And fortunately for us, there are a lot of people who do it very, very well.

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