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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #90

This is the ninetieth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous eighty-nine. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: False rumors about a new comic book resulted in the creation of that very comic book.

STATUS: True.

The 1990s were a strange decade for comic books, especially the early years, where the booming speculator craze in the direct market brought comics to incredibly high levels of sales.

Of course, with the increase in sales overall, books that weren’t selling as well were highly scrutinized, and it was around this time that the era of the “stunt” comic came about.

The Death of Superman is clearly the biggest example of this, where DC’s fairly moribund (sales-wise) Superman franchise was suddenly their biggest seller.

A book where the stunt effect was in full force was in Marvel’s Fantastic Four. The book was selling decently enough, but it was not doing a very good percentage of sales on newstands. If it did not raise its numbers, it was going to be dropped from newstand distribution.

The idea of “The Worlds Greatest Comic Magazine” not being sold on newstands was quite distressing to the writer of the comic (who also happened to be the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, Tom DeFalco), so he began trying a number of dramatic stunts to raise sales on the title.

He gave the book a special embossed cover…

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He had the “new” Fantastic Four (Hulk, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man and Wolverine), who had a quick (and very high-selling) run on the title a couple of years earlier show up….

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These were both released (or already written) when the Death of Superman came out, and took the industry by storm.

Now, DeFalco knew the best way to raise sales on the Fantastic Four.

Still, there continued to be SHOCKING EVENTS before then…

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When rumors first began circulating that DeFalco was going to kill off a member of the team, it was soon coupled with another rumor, that DeFalco was planning on cancelling the Fantastic Four and relaunching the title with an all-new #1 called Fantastic FORCE, a la New Mutants being relaunched with a very high-selling #1 as X-Force.

The rumor about a member dying came true in 1993 when Mr. Fantastic was killed off in #381…

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However, the Fantastic Force rumor was never true. But at the same time, Tom DeFalco (and his top Editor, Mark Gruenwald) figured that the Fantastic Force rumor was gaining the book some attention, so they let it make the rounds.

And make the rounds did. You practically couldn’t read any comic magazine without reading about the Fantastic Force rumor. This was just the beginning of the nascent online comic community, and the Fantastic Force rumor was one of the first ones to really make the rounds on the internet.

Eventually, as 1993 wore on, DeFalco came to the realization – people are talking about this so much, so why NOT do a Fantastic Force title? Not as a replacement for Fantastic Four, but rather, as a spin-off.

Soon, DeFalco began to sow seeds for a spin-off title, and in late 1994 (with a false start, after the original creative team left over creative differences), Fantastic Force was launched with Tom Brevoort and Mike Kanterovich as the writers and Dante Bastianoni as the artist.

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The title lasted until 1996.

So see, folks, sometimes, dreams (and false rumors) DO come true!

Thanks to Tom Brevoort for his help filling in the blanks.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The original Secret Wars had only two sentences of dialogue end in a period.

STATUS: False.

When reader Robert Eddleman wrote in with this one, it seemed extremely hard to believe, almost to the point of being a joke.

The joke was on me, though, when I actually took a look at Secret Wars.

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If you recall, the original Secret Wars was essentially a toy tie-in, with the comic released to coincide with the release of a Mattel toy line starring Marvel superhero characters.

Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter tapped himself to write the twelve-part maxi-series, which featured a wide selection of Marvel heroes and villains being sent to a mysterious planet by a being called “The Beyonder,” and then forced to fight against each other.

I do not think even the biggest advocate of the series would suggest that it was much more than an extended action sequence, and writer Shooter appeared to go along with that notion, if you look at his dialogue.

Eddleman’s figure of two sentences was wrong, but what was stunning to me was how much it was. It was off by only TWELVE sentences!

Yes, that’s right, only FOURTEEN sentences of dialogue in the entirety of the Secret Wars series ended with a period. Every other sentence ended with either a question mark or an exclamation point!!

I suppose Shooter’s intentions were that, since it basically WAS an action movie, it would make the series seem more action-packed if everyone was constantly shouting. In addition, the style of having everyone speak in exclamation marks was quite common in the Marvel Comics of the 60s, especially Fantastic Four.

What’s even more striking is that the fourteen sentences with periods belong to just about three characters only.

Doctor Doom himself has about ten of the sentences, with Professor X using up most of the rest (Doctor Octopus randomly gets a sentence). So folks like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America and Mr. Fantastic go the ENTIRE series with almost all their sentences ending in exclamation points.

It is bizarrely hilarious.

To put it into perspective, I checked out four issues of Marvel Comics released the same month as Secret Wars #1.

The Fantastic Four issue went over fourteen sentences of dialogue with a period by page six.

The Captain America went over fourteen sentences by page nine.

The Amazing Spider-Man issue only had ten sentences (Spidey was understandably excited over his new costume…hehe) for that issue. I checked the next issue, though, to see if it was an aberration, and the next issue went over fourteen sentences by page six.

The Iron Man issue went over fourteen sentences by page THREE.

So, yeah, Secret Wars was freakishly heavy on the exclamation points and question marks, don’t you think?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?

Thanks to Robert for the suggestion!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: A superhero once ceased appearing in his own comic book!

STATUS: True.

We have learned about how a superhero once lost the cover of his comic book to his own dog (refresh your memory here).

We have learned about how comic companies were hesitant to pay the extra money it cost to launch new titles (refresh your memory here).

However, it is interesting to see how a mixture of the two events conspired to kick a superhero out of his own title!!

Daredevil was the lead superhero from Lev Gleason Publications. It already had an unusual pedigree, with a first issue designed more as a one-shot (Daredevil Fights Hitler!) and a second issue that (as related in a previous installment here) was literally done over a weekend, but for the most part, Daredevil was standard superhero fare.

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However, writer/artist Charlie Biro soon added a supporting group of characters called the Little Wise Guys, who were very similar to DC’s the Newsboy Legion.

They soon became very popular (also, Biro made a move that was quite shocking for the time – he killed off one of the Little Wise Guys soon after they first appeared!).

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By the end of the 1940s, Daredevil’s role eventually devolved to the point where he was just introducing Little Wise Guys stories.

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Finally, with issue #70, even that pretext was dropped (note how Daredevil disappears from the cover without any real change in the make-up of the cover?)

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Daredevil returned for a couple of issues in the late #70s/early #80s, but then disappeared again, never to be seen again.

The title lasted another sixty issues and six years without Daredevil!!!

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That’s gotta be pretty depressing for a superhero, eh?

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!

61 Comments

If I recall correctly, most comic books in the sixties used to end sentences with exclamation points (or if required, question marks) as the printing was so dire that it was felt a full point may be lost as it was too small, so the Secret Wars punctuation may not have been that unusual

By the 1980s, it was. :)

*Was* it all that unusual in the ’80s? I thought the traditional disfavor of exclamation points lasted well into that period – not that they were *never* used, but that periods were kinda rare. How does Secret Wars stack up to a random sampling of other contemporary Marvel titles, I wonder?

(Seems like the X-Men books might be period-lovin’ outliers of the, er, period, though. IIRC, all that Claremontian verbiage was lighter on the exclamation points than other books.)

IIRC, all that Claremontian verbiage was lighter on the exclamation points than other books

Of course – exclamation marks would take up valuable space that could be used either telling the reader what they don’t need to know or can see in the picture anyway!

“Extended action sequence”…yeah, sounds about right. (I think I might qualify as “biggest advocate”, too.) Remember those days of comics? When super-heroes fought super-villains? In fight scenes? Ah, great times.

Well, off to read the “All-New, All-Dialogue Avengers!” :)

Re: “exclamation marks”… read some of those Fantastic Four issues shown mentioned earlier in the article and you’ll find they like to exclaim a lot too.

Fantastic Force should have *stayed* a rumor.

I always thought Archie Comics were the most !-riffic ones out there. On the rare occasions where I did see a sentence ending with a period, it was actually quite jarring.

Heh. Yeah. Pick up any 90′s DeFalco comic and you’ll find the exclamation point tradition was kept alive!

“All-New, All-Dialogue Avengers”

Wasn’t the latest issue virtually all action?

Back in the late 80s, around when my father finally let me start reading his old Silver Age comics, I remember reading Spectacular Spider-Man #1 (the oversized b&w magazine) and wondering why all the sentences ended with periods. I actually thought the comic suffered from it, almost as if Spidey was walking around in a stupor the whole time.

Actually, the Thunderbolts got booted out of their own title as well, in one of the most surreal re-boots ever.

I love Carl Barks’ Duck stories to pieces, but he was not a fan of the period, either. Granted, this was back in the 40s,50s, and 60s, but those balloons were filled with nothing buy exclamation points. It gets annoying after a while, in all honest.

It also happened to X-Force, but they were at least replaced by another superteam called X-Force.

I haven’t read Daredevil, but I bet the Little Wise Guys have nothing on the Little Unholy Bastards.

Besides too many exclamation marks, I’ve never been a great fan of the all uppercase lettering.

I MEAN, YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO READ THESE SITES IF IT WAS ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS! WOULD YOU?! IT’S ANNOYING! WHY SHOULD COMICS BE ANY DIFFERENT?!

I can dig it if back in the day hand letters found it neater to make everything capital because printing quality was low. But these days we have better printing, paper, and hand lettering is almost a dead art. Uppercase might have been a necessity, but now it just a choice. Down with all uppercase. MIXEDCASE LEETERING ALL THE WAY!!!

I think that Miss America (Marvel/Timely) had a similar problem to Daredevil if I recall correctly. I believe she only had stories in the 1st 5 issues of her book. The series however ran for over 100 issues.

Go back and read some of the first Ultraverse issues; specifically Hardcase, Strangers, and Prime. I honestly don’t think they ever used a period in The Strangers.

“Wasn’t the latest issue virtually all action?”

Hah. I wish. But I’ve only seen Bendis write 2-4 good fight scenes. And some of those still had tons of dialogue throughout them. Still love the new team, though.

The vast majority of sentences in Marvel comics ended with exclamation marks into the 1970′s. In fact, in 1971 they did a little experiment where they switched to periods. Unfortunately, the quality of the printing of the time was such that the periods rarely showed up in the finished product. If you look at a book like Fantastic Four #112, from July 1971, most of the sentences don’t seem to have any punctuation at all (the other books from the same month show this as well). They switched back to using exclamation marks shortly thereafter.

Is that why those issues have no punctuation? Because the periods couldn’t be deciphered by the printing process? I read that period of FF a few months ago and it was very disturbing to read them with no punctuation. I was glad to see the exclamations return a few months later. Stan Lee, either on the letters pages or in the Bullpen Bulletins, would occasionally mention the all-exclamation mark tendency of comics and he pretty much said that they were probably there to stay because a comic didn’t look much like a comic without them.

Let us also not forget Captain America’s Weird Tales…formerly Captain America Comics.
By the late 1940′s, Captain America suffered from the same fate as all the other super-heroes of the time and his comic transformed into a horror anthology…which lasted all of 2 issues.

Thanx for answering my question about Secret Wars. Now I’m gonna have to go back and reread it to find those 14 sentences.

RICHARD’S EXPLANATION IS CORRECT! PERIODS WERE USED INSTEAD OF EXCLAMATION MARKS BECAUSE PERIODS WERE NOT VISIBLE IN THE FINISHED PRODUCT! YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT THE WRITER ELLIOT S! MAGGIN USES AN EXCLAMATION MARK INSTEAD OF A PERIOD AFTER HIS MIDDLE INITIAL! I HAVE HEARD THAT THIS IS AN INTENTIONAL TRIBUTE TO THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF EXCLAMATION MARKS IN COMICS!

AND BY THE WAY! I REALLY DON’T MIND IT WHEN DIALOGUE IN COMIC BOOKS IS WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS! OR WHEN EVERY SENTENCE ENDS WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT! IT’S JUST A STYLISTIC CONVENTION AFTER ALL! BUT WOULDN’T IT BE ANNOYING IF PEOPLE WROTE THIS WAY IN REAL LIFE?!

Yes, but Secret Wars ROCKED. Shooter didn’t separate “dialogues scenes” and “action scenes”– he revealed character THROUGH action. A lot of characters who’d never had much of a personality to speak of got one for the first time in that book (Molecule Man, Klaw) and others got new shades that have made them richer ever since (Wasp, Absorbing Man).

AND all that action made it unbearably exciting. The story MOVED, and it moved in completely unpredictable directions. Everybody read the first issue of “House of M” and knew EXACTLY what the last issue would be. “Uh, Scarlet Witch is gonna just change everything back again.” You read the first issue of Secret Wars and maybe guessed: “Uh, the good guys are gonna defeat the bad guys and win the Beyonder’s prize.” NOBODY would have guessed “Doom is gonna slice Klaw into deli meat to make lenses to absorb the Beyonder’s power into himself, culminating in an asskicking/theological debate with Captain America. Wow, what a great comic.

A great example of how to write a comic book. Bendis might want to, I don’t know, read it sometime.

And hey, here’s another topic you could take on. In his introduction to the recent “Will Eisner’s New York” hardcover, Neil Gaimen coyly alludes to a situation in which a magazine editor tried to commission several different writers to do a take-down of Eisner, but they all refused so he had to do it himself. Who? When? I’d love to hear that story. Thanks, Brian!

Didn’t Superboy get pushed out of his book by the Legion?

Wow, I remember when I first found out Ultimate Spider-Man had switched to mixed case lettering. Augie de Blieck was ranting about in his Pipeline column, going on and on about how it was the worst thing ever. I honestly doubt I would have EVER noticed if it wasn’t for him freaking out like mixed case lettering was the tool of the devil. I found the whole thing quite funny.

The dirty truth: It wasn’t the quality of the printing that caused comics publishers to shun periods. It was careless prepress guys.

See, back in the old days, before there were computers and digital output and direct-to-plate imaging, there was film. Each page of comic book art had to be shot on a big camera, reduced to 67% of original size. Then a guy called a stripper had to lay the film on a lightbox and touch up all the dust spots and imperfections so they wouldn’t show up in the printed piece. Things like shadows from where corrected art or speech balloons were pasted in, stray hairs, whatever. The opaquing was done in a hurry (time is money) and was done on the reverse side of the film. The stripper (so called because he stripped away the masks to make the different color areas) did not have time to read the comic, which he was looking at in negative and backwards, so more often than not, periods were assumed to be dust specks and were touched out.

The all-caps lettering was a size issue. All caps text is more legible at smaller sizes. There wouldn’t normally be enough room in a panel for larger lettering if it were in upper & lower (I asked Tom Orzechowski this very question back in 1981, and that’s what he told me.)

Anyone know the first creative team for Fantastic Force?

Heh, I remember buying that Fantastic Four #376 as a kid just because the cover made it look like the Invisble Woman was gonna die. That makes me think of how Julie Schwartz wanted the comics to hook the reader with the cover. It doesn’t seem to happen with a lot of today’s comics.

Steve Englehart always struck me as an exclamation point-heavy writer. Check out his 70s run on Detective Comics or his 80s run on West Coast Avengers to see what I mean. I think even his recent Dark Detective mini series had a lot of exclamation points.

I honestly doubt I would have EVER noticed if it wasn’t for him freaking out like mixed case lettering was the tool of the devil. I found the whole thing quite funny.

That’s pretty much how I felt.

he all-caps lettering was a size issue. All caps text is more legible at smaller sizes. There wouldn’t normally be enough room in a panel for larger lettering if it were in upper & lower (I asked Tom Orzechowski this very question back in 1981, and that’s what he told me.)

This surprises me. I always thought – by virtue of the fact that there are more thinner lower case letters than upper case ones that they’d be able to fit in more text with mix case writing.

“Didn’t Superboy get pushed out of his book by the Legion?”

Yes, but when he left, they took his name off the marquee and it became just LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES. What was amazing about the Daredevil story above was that they kept his name on the comic, but he stopped appearing at all.

Question about this Daredevil. Any relation to the more well known DD? And why does he look like the 3-D Man character that Marvel publishes…?

No, no connection to the more well-known Daredevil, Andrew, except most likely Stan Lee said, “Hey, we ought to come up with our own Daredevil!,” which they did often.

“That makes me think of how Julie Schwartz wanted the comics to hook the reader with the cover. It doesn’t seem to happen with a lot of today’s comics.”

Indeed. At the comic store I work at, we have a display window with space for ten comics. It’s not uncommon that I have to leave one or two of the previous week’s issues in the window because the current week’s crop just doesn’t feature enough covers with enough visual appeal.

“The idea of “The Worlds Greatest Comic Magazine” not being sold on newstands was quite distressing to the writer of the comic (who also happened to be the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, Tom DeFalco), so he began trying a number of dramatic stunts to raise sales on the title.”

Don’t forget the Invisible Woman’s stripper uniform, which can be seen in full effect on the cover of #374.

…Something you left out there that’s an important factor in *why* the FF’s sales were going down the toilet. For the same reason sales on Thor turned into crap before *and* after Walt Simonson left the book: Tom DeFalco’s totally lame scripts. DeFalco had originally ruined Thor to the point of cancellation before Walt took over the book with a then-radical new approach and style, and shot the book into the top ten practically overnight. When DeFalco became EIC, he reportedly took unfair advantage of his being the Marvel EIC back then to secure two flagship titles, and because of his being embarassed over his run on Thor, decided to try again, and put the book on it’s perpetual slide that not even Oeming’s stellar work could stem away from cancellation.

…When you get down to it, the only notable thing about DeFalco’s FF run was the art of Paul Ryan. It gave the book the “clean techno” look that the likes of Reed Richards and the Baxter Building need, and in many cases managed to catch the spirit of the old “Kirby Kozmik” that made FF such a fun read. As for his Thor run, the first one was so pedestrian that the only notable points were the introduction of Marvel’s lamest villain ever, “Locus”, and the “Crusader”, who was a Christian Solder out to kill our favorite Thunder God because he was an “affront” to God/Yahweh/Roddenberry by his mere existence.

Bottom Line: People complain about Shooter’s Secret Wars being nothing more than a half-baked “decompressed” rehash of his classic Korvac Saga, but when you compare it to DeFalco’s runs on Thor and FF it actually comes out almost as a minor literary masterpiece. In fact, that Tom DeFalco was such a literary genius that it makes one wonder if he’d taught Chuckles Austen and Bruce Jones the tricks of the trade!

…Gah! Forgot one other problem with DeFalco’s run on Thor: during his second run, he pretty much used Ron Frenz for the art. While Ron’s talented, the problem was that everyone from Asgard was built like William “The Refrigerator” Perry. Now, you can argue that’s good for Thor, Odin, and some of the Asgardians, but Sif? When Jack Kirby drew her, Sif *never* looked like she could make the She-Hulk look small. Frenz just needs to quit using Sports Illustrated‘s NFL season preview issues for style guides!

“Remember those days of comics? When super-heroes fought super-villains? In fight scenes? Ah, great times.”

Look, the world’s tiniest violin is playing, just for you and your love of men in tights beating on each other.

I think what you mean is “Remember when superheroes fought supervillains, and that’s all they did. Back in the good, old, one-dimensional days?”

If I want to watch superheroes fight, I can play a videogame. When I want a story, I’ll go read a comic book.

I don’t remember Tom DeFalco writing Thor before Simonson took the book to new heights starting with #337. I think the writer just previous to Walt was Alan Zelenetz, and before that was Doug Moench. Those issues were not good, to be sure, but I don’t think DeFalco was involved on the writing end. I stopped collecting the book after Walt left because of 3 reasons: DeFalco’s wordy scripting, Frenz’s boring art, and the new coloring process that made everything so garish!

This surprises me. I always thought – by virtue of the fact that there are more thinner lower case letters than upper case ones that they’d be able to fit in more text with mix case writing.

If you have g’s and p’s and j’s and the like, dangling tails are going to cause some space issues. Capital letters all fall within the same basic dimensions.

There’s ways around it, of course. Look at the lettering in Nextwave. That uses mixed-case and is fine.

Good point about g’s, p’s and j’s

Tom DeFalco’s totally lame scripts. DeFalco had originally ruined Thor to the point of cancellation before Walt took over the book with a then-radical new approach and style, and shot the book into the top ten practically overnight. When DeFalco became EIC, he reportedly took unfair advantage of his being the Marvel EIC back then to secure two flagship titles, and because of his being embarassed over his run on Thor, decided to try again, and put the book on it’s perpetual slide that not even Oeming’s stellar work could stem away from cancellation.

DeFalco never wrote Thor before Simonson’s run that I remember. I’ve no idea where you’re getting your misinformation. DeFalco could hardly be blamed for the cancellation of the Jurgens/Oeming series, because the first Thor series ended with #502 and stayed gone for a while before popping back up with #1. I can’t really see how one writer could be blamed for the unpopularity of a character and the death of two series, neither of which he was writing at the time of cancellation.

Me, I loved DeFalco’s Thor run. Still have to track down the only issue I’m missing from it. It was a fun throwback to the 60′s, Frenz’s art was gorgeous, and it gave us the character of Eric Masterson. Yeah, some of the writing was technically atrocious, but I thought it was great anyway.

Hey Matt Bird, sure everyone knew what the ending of House of M was. But did everyone know Wolverine would get his memories back? That, to me, is more shocking than anything Secret Wars had to offer.

“Hah. I wish. But I’ve only seen Bendis write 2-4 good fight scenes. And some of those still had tons of dialogue throughout them. Still love the new team, though.”

Well, Ok. But the Boogie Girl fight in Powers is one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen, so that kinda makes up for it.

And I feel bad for poor Daredevil, but it could be worse; Wasn’t the Golden Age Green Lantern replaced by his dog?

“And I feel bad for poor Daredevil, but it could be worse; Wasn’t the Golden Age Green Lantern replaced by his dog? ”

Yeah, that’s provided in one of the links above.

“If I want to watch superheroes fight, I can play a videogame. When I want a story, I’ll go read a comic book.”

… what if you don’t like video games?

Seriously, this question bothers me when people say it’s okay for all superhero action to be delivered up in stuff like the movies, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and cartoons, so the comics should be free to be as insane and non-traditional as possible.

What if you want to see that kind of stuff in a comic book, where it started? There’s the Adventures line, but for the most part that’s pretty weak stuff compared to even average Marvel output from the 80′s, let alone a pretty above-average package (for the time) like Secret Wars.

Myself, I like Secret Wars. The totally artificial premise lent itself well both to constant action, selling a toy line, and one of Jim Shooter’s main writing strengths, the ability to characterize. Toward the end Secret Wars is about nothing but the character’s personalities, setting a pattern for later Marvel crossovers to pattern themselves after. Sadly, Secret Wars’s insane premise lent itself much better to that sort of thing than some premises Marvel and other publishers tried to use later on, although certainly some improvements on the original model happened, too.

In some ways Secret Wars was kind of the inverse of the sort of superhero mega-crossover that Crisis on Infinite Earths pioneered; Crisis was all about having a grand plot and shoehorning characters in where they fit, while still trying to fit in as many characters as possible. The result is an immense book where characters feel more or less “right”, yet characterizations tremendously lack detail.

I can remember being impressed, even as a wee lad, by the number of exclamation marks in MAD magazine. I’m sure it was deliberate: the exclamiation marks were like a sign that the thing you’d just read was a joke, the typographical equivalent of ‘geddit?’ accompanied by a poke in the ribs, or canned laughter.

I really noticed this use of exclamation marks in its absence. In the Australian edition that I read, most of the content was American, but occasionally you’d get a piece from a local cartoonist. Most of the Australians hadn’t worked out how to use the exclamation mark joke code, and their gags were never as funny.

Mixed case vs. all caps doesn’t bother me. The books don’t read any different, as evidenced by the fact that so many people don’t even notice the change. Sure, it’s easier to read lower-case text than upper case, since you can more quickly recognize the shapes of the words, but comics proved for decades that that was no impediment.

Would I get up in arms about a text-switch like that? No, not really. Just because it’s not what I’m used to, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Like they say, the only reason a complete page of italic text looks odd is because you don’t see it regularly.

So, if I want to see a super-hero fight scene, I should play a video game? May I rant about that statement?

Becase one of the things that I really enjoyed about comic books was the way they could get across story and characterization through what was oftentimes a gratutious fight scene.

Since we’re talking about SW, I remember that determination, frustration, and courage came across clearly in Wasp’s running battle against the X-Men. It was the first time that I’d ever actually cared about her.

I remember how all the other characters kinda dissed on Spider-Man, but he really came through in his fight against Titania. And, not in a power-house way, but in a way that really explained his character and why he acted the way he did.

Now, I can get that sort of thing out of Teen Titans, Justice League Unlimited, or the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoons (or, even Ben 10). But, the depressing part is that these cartoons, and movies (like Spider-Man 2) encourage me to go back to comic books. But, they inevitably bore me with endless dialogue and no action.

Seriously, I get more action out of some CD audio dramas than out of many recent comic books. So, when it comes time to decide, do I spend time reading Batman, or set my DVR for The Batman, the DVR wins out not because it is cheaper, but because it delivers the better experience.

I feel that some current comic book writers (and artists) have forgotten that the artist should express characterization with body language and poise, and have instead become hacks who tell us how a character is feeling rather than showing us.

Theno

The classic example of period avoidance isn’t comic books — it’s the greatest of all comic strips, Peanuts. For whatever reason, Charles Schulz never used periods. Sentences in the strip would end with exclamation points, question marks, ellipses (…), or nothing at all. It’s not something you really notice until it’s pointed out to you.

I love the start of Tom DeFalco’s FF run. He brought back a Lee/Kirby feel (which should be done once in a while, though not all the time). Look at issues 358 to 360: three cool new villains in as many issues. Unfortunately, he went full-blown soap opera shortly thereafter. But say what you will about the stories, DeFalco nailed the characters. I’ll take his FF over Steve Englehart’s any day of the week (and definitely his Johnny Storm over Mark Waid’s).

Like any comics writer, DeFalco’s had his good titles and his bad. He seems to be in a good patch now. I haven’t read much SPIDER-GIRL, but I hear it’s a real breath of fresh air.

- Z

Speaking to the “Exclamation points because periods wouldn’t show in the cheap printing” – remember when you couldn’t use the word “Flick” or name a character “Clint”, because the “L” and the “I” might run together and look like a “U”?

If I were to really, really, think about it, Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #90 is a great way to frame your point, especially when The Five Love Language Man Edition is taken into account.

“So, if I want to see a super-hero fight scene, I should play a video game? May I rant about that statement?

Becase one of the things that I really enjoyed about comic books was the way they could get across story and characterization through what was oftentimes a gratutious fight scene.”
What story? The old school comics were all about re-telling the same story every issue (a villain causes problems, hero and villain battle, hero wins, end of story). There was NO character development. The plots were so simple that you would think they were aimed at 5-years old kids. And the characters were so boring and one-dimentional that you couldn’t take them serious. If I wanted that crap, I would watch the kiddy action cartoons you can see on TV.

Like everything else, it’s a balance. Image was all action, and it failed. If Marvel(which I don’t read) is all dialog, that will eventually fail. Comics are a blend, and artform. Those that reach the right balance fo action and characterization invariable succeed wildly.

ParanoidObsessive

November 19, 2008 at 10:46 pm

The weirdest part of Secret Wars having so few periods is that I distinctly recall conversations that absolutely SHOULD have had periods (like, for instance, Hawkeye and Cyclops having a conversation about how they missed their significant others).

Still, it must have worked for what it was, because until I read this article, it never actually occurred to me that there are so few periods, or that the punctuattion was awkward in any way.

I totally need to dig those issues out and take another look at them.

Though, since we’re on the subject, I’d just like to point out that people can bash Secret Wars all they want, but I’ve always found it to be FAR better than a lot of stories that came before, and certainly a lot that have come since. Hell, I’d say it’s still better than a fair amount of what’s on the market NOW. I felt that way when I was much younger and just drawn to the spectacle of it all, and I definitely feel that way now even after years of reading both good and bad stories, and getting a feel for what I think works in the visual narrative medium and what doesn’t.

Periods being replaced by exclamation points in translation became a point of contention among fans of Calvin & Hobbes; the editors of Swedish the anthology mag “Serie-Paraden” said that they did it because of comics tradition and printing clarity. I’ve loved the period ever since.

Yes, that original Secret Wars was really good. It *does* seem that Bendis and Millar and the current Marvel staff has looked at it, since that’s how some of their “events” lately have gone down: as a single core series with tie-ins in the books (not “This story continues in Detective number…” bullshit, or the way Kraven’s Last Hunt was originally published, spilling over all webhead books).

I loved the Shooter era (except for the homophobia) and I’m very pleased with parts of the Quesada era, too. Glad the 1990s ended. Alonso’s beautiful X-Force reboot was the best thing that ever happened in comics—though I can sympathize with fans of the old book, and it should’ve been called X-Statix from the start to avoid that collision.

Couldn’t X-Factor be added to the list in the post of teams that turned their title to someone else?

I don’t know about all this “character development” that didn’t exist in the old days, but exists in the titles now. There seemed to be more character development in Stan Lee’s Spiderman than anything Bendis has done. (Getting characters to act completely out of character isn’t “development”). Compare any of the modern crossovers with Secret Wars for telling character tidbits (Which SW was great at), and they look awful. Heck, Bendis tried to show how outdated the concept was by doing “Secret War” and turned out a complete turd.

And I find the talking New Avengers thing humorous, because what have all the Avenger titles become but exactly what the “New” FF was back then…but all the “cool characters” put together on a team for marketing purposes. Except at the time of the FF, everyone was kind of in on the joke. Now they’re serious that Spiderman and Wolverine can be on 3 teams each.

Timothy Markin

July 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I remember making the mistake of actually telling Tom Defalco at the Chicago Comicon how dissatisfied I was with his current FF run and seeing daggers coming at me from his glowering look. I backpedaled a bit and told him, however, I loved his early 80s run on Spidey with Ron Frenz because I DO love that run. For me, it evoked the best of late Stan & Steve (and far surpasses Michelinie & Bagley in the 90s IMHO).

“The New Fantastic Four” was such a great story because Simonson knew EXACTLY what he was doing marketing-wise. The best part is that his wife, Weezie, was one of the architects of “The Death of Superman” (and if I recall correctly, Walt did some work on that story too).

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