Q: Do you think there's any value in defining something as a guilty pleasure? If so, what's your comic guilty pleasure? — @ykwilpodcast
A: On the one hand, no, I don't. The concept of a "guilty pleasure" has always struck me as a weird way to shield yourself from the knowledge that you like something that's not very good, and that's reductive to both your own tastes and the media that you're consuming. There's very little media in this world that's completely without value, and even when I can judge something to be completely and utterly worthless, that judgment comes from a context and a set of experiences and comparisons that are completely unique to me. Dismissing it as a guilty pleasure isn't just disingenuous, it ignores the idea that art can resonate with you despite its failing.
On the other hand, well, it's been 20 years and I still kinda love Gen 13.
Q: Why are comic book adaptations of movies a thing? Do you think any are worth reading? -- Daniel, via email
A: You don't see them around too much these days, but when I was a kid, comic book movie adaptations --- official comic book movie adaptations --- were a pretty big deal. Or at least, that's how it seemed to me. See, when you're stuck in the back seat of a Ford Escort on a 600-mile car trip and you want to know more about this new movie that you've been reading about in Disney Adventures, and you're also living in a time before everyone carried a tiny personal computer that could show them literally every comic book, television show, and music video in the world, well, picking up a The Rocketeer: The Official Movie Adaptation off the magazine rack at a gas station was a pretty solid way to kill some time.
Q: I need a Comet the Super-Horse primer. What's his deal, Chris? -- @MagiknKitty5evr
A: All right, you might want to buckle up for this one, because Comet the Super-Horse is way more complicated than you might expect, even by the standards of the Silver Age. He has a history that literally covers thousands of years in both directions, and provided what are unquestionably some of the most inexplicable and occasionally uncomfortable moments in the 78-year history of DC Comics.
So here's where we start: His name's not actually Comet, he's not actually a horse, and if we're being honest with each other, he's only some definitions of "super."
Q: Archie Goodwin is a guy who permeates comics history, but isn't much talked about. Can you talk a bit about his impact/career? -- @EvrLvnBluIdThng
A: When you get right down to it, the fact that we're not talking about Goodwin literally all the time is pretty surprising. He is, without question, one of the most influential people in the history of comics, especially the ones I tend to obsess over in this very column, and one of the things that makes him so notable is that his career wasn't limited to one thing. He had influential work at Marvel, DC, even "independent" publishers like Warren, and newspaper strips, and it wasn't limited to a single role. He was a writer, editor, and artist, and more than that, he's regarded as one of the most genuinely kind people that the industry has ever seen.
But all of those accomplishments pale in comparison to his greatest achievement: Being the inspiration for one of the all-time greatest obscure Batman villains ever.
Q: Generally, what's the difference between Batman and Detective Comics? I've heard right now Detective is going to focus more on the Batman Family, has that always been true? -- Anonymous, via tumblr
A: This is a very interesting question, because it doesn't just have to do with how the Batman titles work. It has to do with how every character with multiple monthly titles works, and the question of whether it's necessary to make those multiple titles distinct or just have them form a single ongoing narrative. It's something that you can see approached in almost every way you can approach it across multiple characters and creative teams from different eras, from Superman and Spider-Man to the X-Men, and it has a lot to do with how the approach to superheroic storytelling has changed over the past 75 years.
But let's be real here. If you've read this column before, then you already know that we're mostly just going to be talking about how it works for Batman.
Q: You've talked about playing Pathfinder recently. How long have you been playing RPGs and how did you start? - @daveexmachina
A: I've been up front about my deep and abiding love of the Gelatinous Cube and the kind of gridded-out world of dungeons that have to be cleaned by semi-sentient Jell-O blocks that dissolve everything except magic swords that makes such a thing possible, but I actually came to tabletop games a lot later than most of the other stuff that I'm into. I was in my early 20s before I really got into RPGs in earnest, and I think a lot of that has to do with how much was available when I was a kid. Comics were pretty easy to find, but for RPGs? You need expensive books, dice, and, y'know, friends, and all of those things were in short supply when I was a kid.
But long before I actually got to dragons and dungeons --- not necessarily in that order --- there was one thing that sparked a fascination with pen-and-paper roleplaying. And his name... was Lone Wolf.
Q: How does a (great) but very 90's comic like Starman hold up today, given its dated references like Chris Isaak? -- @david_wolkin
A: What's that? You want me to write a thousand words about that one panel from Starman where Jack Knight compares himself to Chris Isaak because for some reason he (and James Robinson, I guess) thought he was the single coolest person in the world in 1994, and ended up with what might be the most ridiculous piece of dialogue of the entire decade?
Q: Composite Superman: good idea or great idea? -- @aleams
So here's the thing: There's a certain kind of brilliance in comics that comes from simplicity. It's the kind of brilliance that you see in a character like Superman, where you know what he's about just by looking at him, where you only need to explain the minor details that make up his personality, because the broad strokes of who he is and what he does are right there from the very first time you see him. Composite Superman, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of that. He's counterintuitive, weirdly designed and completely ridiculous --- and somehow, some way, that's exactly what makes him great.
Q: What's your Superman preference regarding the Byrne Kryptonian Gestation Matrix versus being "rocketed to Earth as an infant?" -- @charlotteofoz
A: In the grand scheme of things, even I have to admit that this seems like a pretty minor distincton. That said, if there's one thing we've all learned over the past 300 installments of this column, it's that there are few things in this world that I love more than obsessing over what the most minor details mean for the overarching story that makes up a character like Superman.
I mean, really, if I can somehow wring a thousand words out of whether or not Batman's costume should have a yellow oval on his chest, we can probably get into a pretty good discussion of whether or not Superman should've actually been born on Earth.
Q: How would Batman fare in the world of Wacky Races? -- @sprucetonberry
A: I'm going to go go ahead and guess that this question was inspired by this week's release of DC's new Wacky Raceland comic, in which the classic road race cartoon was reimagined for the grim darkness of a post-apocalyptic future. With that being the case, I have to admit that the comic was a little disappointing for me. As much as I love that premise and the idea of going super over-the-top with it --- and as much as there were scenes in there that captured exactly what I want out of a story like that --- the whole thing left me a little cold.
But like most things in this fallen world of ours, I'm pretty sure it could be improved with the addition of Batman.
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