LETTERS. WE’VE GOT LETTERS.

As usual, we’ll start with a reminder about the “What The Hey” message board. Start writing in. I need something to during on my weekdays.

Fortunately, you people have been coming through with questions for the column, so this week it’s digging deep into the mailbag. Keep it up, guys. It’s hard to answer questions if you don’t send ‘em.

Okay, what’s first? How about this letter from LANCE BOONE at ldb5@psu.edu

I really enjoyed your work on the Farscape comic book that you did. You really nailed the characters. Is there any possibility of a ongoing Farscape book? How about another mini or one-shot? Will you have any involvement? Farscape is one of the best properties to come along in a long time; It seems it doesn't get the recognition it deserves. I want Farscape Comic books!

Thanks, Lance. I think you and two others may have seen the comic let alone bought it, but, as a huge fan of the show, I had a great time working on it. And yes, I worked like hell to nail that dialogue. One of the things I hate to see on TV or movie tie-in comics is the writer not going the extra mile to have everyone sound as they do in the original.

As for more Farscape comics, at the moment I doubt it. I’d absolutely love to do more, and though I think Wildstorm was pleased with the ones I did – as were the people at the Jim Henson company, I’m told sales don’t warrant additional issues. It’s a shame, but not a surprise.

I haven’t seen many TV/Movie comics succeed of late. Even Star Trek has had trouble selling the huge number of copies needed in order to justify paying a fee plus a royalty to the owners. With the advent of home video, I think fans of a show can get to keep the originals, so why bother with the comics.

Now, from sackett@deskmedia.com

Hi Marv....love your work!

Do you see the Crisis on Infinite Earths as a successful experiment? Did the DC universe go in the direction you had envisioned? I tried to follow the DC universe for 3 years after Crisis....and I just couldn't take it anymore. The reset button kept being pushed.

All the characters that I had grown to love through the 60s and 70s, and you and others truly brought to life in the 80s, seemed to change every other month....at least once a year. All that history so lovingly threaded together, even across dimensions (a truly original idea that I loved) ....gone.....changed....rewritten.

Is it fair to create such wonderful characters, make us care about them, then...well.....not remain true to them? I'm not talking about letting them grow, and evolve, but changing the very basic premise......

Do you wish you had pulled a Julie Schwartz, and created a whole new Earth continuity, rather than combine Earths One and Two?

Sackett, this is a very hard question to properly answer. I came up with the basic idea for Crisis because, in 1980, DC needed something to bring attention to itself. Unlike today where the sales of all comics are down, in 1980, Marvel was selling quite well but DC wasn’t, with the main exception being George Perez and my New Teen Titans comic. In fact, Marvel zombies at the time would never even think of looking at a DC Comic as if it were covered with the pox or something. Something drastic needed to be done.

Unless you’d been following DC for any length of time, our continuity was difficult to wade through. It was my feeling that if we were going to draw Marvel readers to DC we needed to A: Do something big and flashy, and B: Make the DCU easier to follow. We needed a jumping on point.

I did as good a job as I could and, based on the sales jump the rest of the DCU experienced, I’d have to say it was a success. That fans and professionals alike voted it the second best comic book story of the 20th Century still boggles my mind. I wouldn’t have put it in the top 100, let alone the 2nd (The Galactus/Silver Surfer trilogy justly came in number one). That the $100.00 hardcover book DC issued a year or so back and the paperback reprint that followed it sold out completely, indicates that we did the job we intended to do.

But something happened after we were done. The Crisis in a sense gave a sort of perverse permission to make wholesale changes, often without thinking about the domino effect that would occur. It’s my contention that before you can be a comic book writer that you need to set up dominoes in one of those long, winding, circular, mobius-strip like tracks and begin the process of knocking down the first domino. Only then do you fully realize that something you start at point A directly affects point Z and everything between. If you don’t think about the ramifications of what you start, you’ll suffer for it later.

What I didn’t think about was what the affect of my moving from New York to Los Angeles would do. With the floodgates for change opened, nothing was going to plug up the dam. That gave rise to 347 different Hawkmans, 96 different views of how to turn Hal Jordan into a drunken, murdering madman, and so many other mistakes.

Characters were changed for no reason. Some were deemed too old so a new, young version was needed. There’s no intrinsic problem with that, but you need to make damn sure the new character is interesting enough and has the potential to become something different and better than the original.

When Julie Schwartz brought back Flash, Green Lantern and Atom, they were much better thought out versions than their earlier counterparts. So, when you ask is it wrong to create something completely new, well, I have absolutely NO problem in wanting to see new characters created for each new generation of readers.

Barry Allen owned nothing to Jay Garrick (except that he read Jay’s comic). Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern is a completely different concept from Alan Scott’s G.L. Same with the Atoms. These were re-thinkings of a basic concept. The problem I see is ultimately many of the new versions of the old characters are neither better nor worse. I would have actually preferred to see some of the older stuff just go away and completely brand new ideas be introduced.

Strangely enough, I think some of the characters created for that Tangent series DC did a few years back would have made really cool new characters.

The problem comes down to continuity. I personally hate it. With a passion. I like in-book continuity where you keep characters in character and their histories straight, but I am completely against inter-company continuity. With each new concept added to the mega-universe, story possibilities are limited rather than expanded. In my mind, continuity means the best writer at a company is held hostage by the worst. We need to keep expanding what we can do in comics, not contracting it by adding more and more continuity nonsense that everyone has to adhere to.

I do believe, by the way, that you need to be true to each character. That’s why all the changes made to either Hal Jordan or Peter Parker were completely wrong. You need to remain true to a successful character’s core concepts. The further away from them you stray, the more you’ll screw up the book.

I designed Crisis to get rid of all the old continuity so there would be no stranglehold on ideas. I would have liked to have seen a deliberate desire to avoid shoving that continuity right back in again, but that didn’t happen.

Fortunately, although it took a little while, it appears that DC and even more so Marvel, have finally come to believe the same.

From: Jon Knutson <waffyjon@execpc.com>

Hi, Marv, glad to see you've joined the ranks of comics pros writing columns! I look forward to reading your thoughts and essays over the coming weeks, months and years!

My question (or questions, really) concern Nova. Yes, Nova is, of all the characters you created in comics, my favorite. I bought issue one when it hit the stands, and I've probably purchased three or four complete runs over the years.

I've long been curious about what you had planned for Richard Ryder and company, had the series not been cancelled. Were you planning on keeping Nova, Diamondback, et al, on Xandar for a while before getting them back to Earth? And what was the deal with Nova's eyebeams in the first issue? I'm sure many other Novaphiles like me would love to know the answers to these and other Nova-related questions!

Can I be honest, Jon, I have absolutely no memory of what my plans were for Nova. This despite the fact that he was absolutely one of my favorite characters. Len Wein and I created him in my old fanzine days. I came up with his story and Len designed the costume. He was known as Black Nova then. My favorite part of writing The Man Called Nova was creating the insane villains, from Diamondhead to The Sphinx. To me the series was fun, goofy, and traumaless. But as for what I was going to do with it, that’s vaporized somewhere into the ether. Sorry.

The following came from someone whose name I stupidly lost. Tell me who sent this and I’ll publicly apologize.

Hi, Marv!

I read a lot of your DC stories when I was a kid.

When you were a kid!?! Yikes! I was only two when I wrote them. Yeah. Right. Two.

In one of your future columns, could you relate the story of how you and Len Wein sold your first script and broke into the business?

Actually, Len and I sold our first story together. Of course, we had both been working in fanzines before that, writing and drawing stories, separately and together, but our first “professional” sale was a character called The Conjuror and he appeared in one issue of a magazine titled “Castle Of Frankenstein.” CoF was very much like “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” only a touch more scholarly. Of course, saying CoF was scholarly is like calling Carrottop a comedian. Still, it was, in my mind, a better magazine than FMoF if you wanted to read serious articles about movies with titles like “The Brain That Would Not Die.”

CoF was published by a man named Calvin Beck. Now, Calvin gave us our start, and I am eternally grateful, but he was a very strange man. I don’t remember him well – memory is Len’s department – but I think of him as sort of a rotund man with huge, bulging, frog-like eyes. And a mother. Wherever Calvin went, so did his mother, Helen (To Helen Beck – say it aloud - is that a movie title or what?).

Calvin would never meet us in his office. God knows if he actually had an office. He would meet us at the table near the window at the Automat on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. For those younger than the age of dead, you probably don’t remember automats, but they were these cafeterias where all the food was hidden behind clear plastic doors. You dropped your money into a slot, opened the door and removed your lunch or dinner. How it got behind the slot you don’t want to ask.

So we’d meet Calvin there. His mother would sit silently at the table next to us. Calvin would make his deal with us then tell us he was also making dirty movies and show us pictures from it with him in them – with his mother an umbilical cord distance away. We always felt like – is this the way comics are really done?

But Calvin published our story – which we wrote, drew and lettered – paid us our money, we kept our copyrights and 50 copies of the magazine. He was true to his word, if not weird.

Anyway, everyone has to start somewhere. But why did it have to be the automat?

That’s it for this week. Next week: Team Books. How and why?

See you in seven, and don’t forget to write.

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