Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The Greg Hatcher Legacy Files #23: ‘Friday With Scott and Jean and Other Sacred Cows’

[This another column that deals with current comics, certainly, but also some older comics. Close enough! Sadly, I still can’t find this on the old site, so here’s the original. This was published on 3 April 2009. I left the bit in at the end that is about what Greg would be doing at ECCC, because it’s fun, not because anyone has a working time machine and can go back and visit. So sad. Enjoy!]

Yeah, the alertnerd thing about “nerd sacred cows” again. Brian and Brad have already kind of taken a swing at it, but I thought I’d weigh in too.

Part of it is just that it’s an easy column topic — Julie and I are still trying to unpack from our move, I’m setting up my students’ booth at Emerald City Comic-Con in a few hours, and our friend Rin is flying in tonight to stay the weekend with us. Plus, I am still kind of wrestling with the problem of transporting 26 kids from two different schools to the Seattle Convention Center and back over the next two days. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for the usual column research and writing, so when this “Scott and Jean” meme hit the net I was all over it.

Anyway, I thought of two. The first is a nerdy, in-story thing; the second is a general fan-behavior thing.

We’ll do the nerdy one first. Like most comics critics who’ve really thought about this, my first impulse was to say I don’t have any plot or premise-related ideas that are inviolable. “I just want a good story,” like everyone else.

There were things I figured probably should stay the way they were. For a long time I would have thought Bucky staying dead was bulletproof.

But Ed Brubaker made us all eat crow on that one.

Bruce Wayne stays Batman? I suppose I have a fairly strong preference for that, but on the other hand I enjoyed Prodigal all those years ago, it worked okay for me.

If that had turned out to be the new status quo I think I’d have accepted it.

As for the postulate that started the whole thing? I haven’t been following the X-Men in any kind of serious way for years, not since the original X-Factor launched. Scott and Jean isn’t really a thing for me. Really if I had a horse in that race it would have been “Jean should have stayed dead and Scott should be living in semi-retirement in Alaska with Madelyne and his family,” but that ship sailed long ago. And the current status of Scott being with Emma Frost amuses me.

Or it did when I was following Astonishing X-Men, the only X-book I was keeping up with, but “Ghost Boxes” priced that one right off the pull list for me.

In other words, this is one of those things where if you can think of an exception then it doesn’t work. If I had a nerd sacred cow that was violated by a story I ended up enjoying, well, then that couldn’t really be a sacred cow, could it? So I was going to give up.

And then I thought of the obvious one. It’s so far beyond repair at this point that I should just let it go, but you know, it never fails to irritate me when it’s done wrong and I am always pleased when it’s done right. That seems to meet the Alert Nerd definition as postulated.

What sacred cow am I referring to, you ask? Probably the most famous comic-book premise of them all. Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter.

Which is to say, Clark Kent should be mild-mannered. He should be bookish and nerdy and kind of a doofus. Period. The end.

I don’t care how he dresses, I don’t care if he works for television or a great metropolitan newspaper — in fact, I don’t even care if he’s a reporter. I’m okay with him being married to Lois Lane, even … but damn it, the world at large should perceive Clark Kent as a weakling and a dork.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

Certainly, I believe that a long-running character like Superman, and thus his secret identity, has to evolve and change with the times. That’s how pop culture works. Lord knows there have been many, many iterations of Superman and Clark over the last eighty years.

But Clark as the nerd and Superman as the jock is a wonderful bit of business that Siegel and Shuster built into the character at the beginning and it still works.

See, it’s not the glasses that are the disguise. It’s the character. It should be impossible for people in Metropolis to picture Clark Kent doing the things Superman does.

The trouble is that John Byrne grew up on the George Reeves version, where there was no differentiation at all between Superman’s and Clark’s character (something that annoyed me a great deal, even when I was eight.) So Byrne built that into his 1986 revamp, he gave us Clark Kent as a George Reeves-style man of action. As a result, nerdy Clark has pretty much left the building.

There are those that say it’s outdated, but I would simply point them towards Elliot Maggin’s brilliant Superman novel Miracle Monday. Or Superman: Birthright from Waid and Yu. Or even the wonderful bits that Greg Rucka did in his brief run on Superman a few years back. I thought it was genius that Rucka realized that General Sam Lane would regard his son-in-law as a worthless pantywaist … and Lois couldn’t correct him, and Clark just had to take it. That was the most secret identity fun we’ve seen on a Superman title since the Steve Lombard days back in the 1970’s. (Incidentally, that’s an example of what I mean when I say a marriage doesn’t kill stories for a character, it just opens up different ones.)

I made it a point to thank Mr. Rucka for bringing back nerdy Clark when I saw him at a signing around that time, and he lit up. “How can you NOT have Clark Kent as a schlub??” Clearly, he felt as strongly about this as I do.

It’s not that you can’t do it or it doesn’t work. It works fine. But for whatever reason, in recent years Superman writers never really take that ball and run with it. For a brief shining moment there, I thought it looked like Geoff Johns was undertaking some solid rebuilding with the Clark Kent identity and the Daily Planet supporting cast in general … and then we get Superman off Earth for a year over on New Krypton.


Look, Superman without Clark isn’t really Superman, and Clark without the nerdiness isn’t really Clark. That’s my in-story sacred cow.

The second one is an irritating fan quirk I’ve talked about many, many times in this space. But I’m hyper-aware of it, having just completed a move, and it bears repeating.

If you keep books you don’t reread, you’re an idiot.

Lest you think I am making this as a sneering pronouncement from on high, I assure you I am not. I’ve been guilty of this quite a few times. There’s nothing like packing for a move to make you ask yourself, “Why do I even own this? What was I thinking?”

I’m still embarrassed at hanging in with Deathstroke the Terminator for the entire run.

At the time I was kind of into the Titans (though they were seriously off the rails too) and the first few issues were fun, but it got old quick.

And I’m really kind of appalled at how much of the infamous Clone Saga I have here.

Yes, even the tie-ins.

There’s a lot of this stuff I had forgotten, and looking at it now I’m pretty sure there will be no need to revisit it. So why hang on to it?

I was going to go through all these longboxes and have a purge, but the move was on us before I could do it. But as I sit here typing this, looking at the six-foot high stack of comic boxes filling the room that I have yet to unpack, I assure you, the purge is coming. My students, and probably some local library, are about to have a big payday.

At least my aide (and massive X-Men fangirl) Rachel took all the X-Men paperbacks I was going to get rid of.

I felt kind of guilty giving her some of that stuff, but she was thrilled, and hey, one fan’s discard is another fan’s … well, future discard, probably. It was Liefeld. But at least it’s not taking up space HERE any more. (I did throw in a couple of good ones because I felt so shamed at giving her all those 90’s X-Men books, though.)

The point is, none of it would have been here if I’d obeyed the “don’t keep stuff you don’t reread” rule. Comics are too expensive to be a completist about it any longer. If I don’t like it, it’s not staying. Period.

So those are my two. Clark Kent should really be Clark Kent … and those of us who are buying comics “just to keep up,” or to “not break up a run,” should knock it the hell off. Trust my aching back on that last one.


Speaking of Rachel, she will be joining us at Emerald City again this year (dressed as Rogue, she says; truly, the Dork Side is strong in this one. I feel so proud.) She’ll be rolling out her own new ‘zine, Midnight, and I bet you could get her to part with a copy if you asked her. I did the stitching on it last night for her and I have to say, it looks very cool.

(Amanda last year, Rachel this year … I’m telling you, in about five years these students of mine are going to be setting the comics world on fire if they stay with it.)

Come and see us if you’re in town. We’ll be in Artist’s Alley at J-13 and J-14, a couple of seats down from Tony Harris. I might look a bit harried from chasing after my young charges, but do say hello anyway.

And if I don’t see you at the show this weekend, well, I’ll see you next week.


  1. Der

    I do enjoy Byrne Man of Steel(In fact I just got the third hardcover) but yeah, Clark should be a big nerd, totally agree

    Also agree with the second part. I tend to get into fits of discarding, throwing things, selling things cheaply or giving them away* if they don’t call to me after a while. I mean, the best part of reading is rereading.

    *I tend to not give things away to people that I do know they are a packrat. I have a friend that I know he will say yes if I offer some book or comic, but I also know that he won’t read it and it will be just gathering dust in their house instead of mine, so no promoting hoarding behaviour from me

  2. Jeff Nettleton

    I also agree on Clark as a nerd. The whole point of superheroes is wish fulfillment and the point of Superman was the fact that he was the flip side of being a weak little schlub, like Jerry Siegel.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the latter part. I had accumulated books, comics and movies from high school into adulthood and filled up a lot of space, in small living quarters. With access to the Direct Market and a decent income, I amassed a lot. Then, after the military, I went to work for Barnes & Noble, for the next 20 years and accumulated more. The comics went first, after my interest in most current mainstream material was rapidly declining and I became more selective in what new material I bought. I was getting more in trade format than floppies, due to employee discount that was deeper than my LCS and the increase in reprinting of material. The comics, after getting what cash I could for the most collectable stuff, went to a boys’ home, where a friend was a volunteer. They got 16 long boxes of age-appropriate comics (I cleared out mature reader stuff) and I got more space. I got rid of some books, before moving to a new city and even more after lugging more than I should have to the new, roomier place. I started culling the library and donated a lot of material to the local library, for use or resale, keeping the things that were favorites or most precious. That gut culled further when my girlfriend moved in and we needed more space. Further culling came with a change of careers and another move. Now, I have two bookcases with my favorite books, which I constantly re-read, a library card to read anything new, before I buy, and an external hard drive with a digital comic collection that blows away my floppy collection. The movies went from bulky VHS to slimmer DVD, then I got rid of the cases and used sleeves to save room and now mostly get new stuff in digital format, if at all (modern Hollywood doesn’t do much for me and there are very few things that impress me enough to want to own them, including portions of the MCU). My late wife had a 16 terabyte external hard drive, which she loaded a bunch of her favorites and it still has half of its space available, to trim down my movies into something more compact. Plus, I only get digital files for anything new (which isn’t much, given the state of corporate Hollywood).

      1. Julie

        Yeah there is a fine line there between never and perhaps. I just go by what would Greg want me to do with things until Greg B unearthed this article I had even forgotten that we started the process before he passed. It is hard to let go but knowing the joy that others will get helps a lot.

  3. Julie

    I remember that con year it was a mighty fun time with Rin, Breke and Miss Ma’am. Also the young ladies mentioned, Rachel and Amanda. They both are still huge nerds but they are lighting the word of fire in different ways. Rachel is a Spanish translator for a local not for profit who serves low income families in the Greater Seattle area. Amanda is a teacher in Taipei, Taiwan. Greg and I were always honored to be a small part in these young ladies lives.

    As far as Superman goes, Greg would definitely have something to say about his current image. I know he and I were disappointed in the last movie we saw. He may have mentioned it in a previous AJS column.

    Finally, for those wondering did Greg ever cut down book, comics etc. The books did get cut down very slowly over the years after 2009. The 22+ long boxes are still here and I have finally been going through our collection. It took me awhile to start because it was (is) very hard to go in our book room and get rid of memories. It is like Greg said, if you aren’t going to read something it’s time to let it go. I am moving from the place where Greg and I spent most of our married life to a senior housing development. The apt is only 425 sq. ft., Won’t be a lot of room for to many extras but I am doing what I promised my beloved Greg and doing what he wanted with a lot of the comics. Greg’s legacy will continue in one way or another.

    Thanks for continuing your support of AJS and the great team Jim and Greg built here. Jim works really hard on technical side of the site and Greg always was proud of anything they worked on together.

    1. mike loughlin

      Hi Julie,

      I missed the news of Greg’s passing in 2021 (not being as online at the time), but I wanted to express my appreciation and admiration. I’m also a teacher, and I loved reading the stories about the comics program at the old CSBG site. What you two set up was extraordinary, and I’m glad to hear that former participants are doing such great things. I read his columns faithfully, and I’m so glad he became a published writer. I’m so sorry for your loss , and I’m thankful that Greg was able to bring so much positivity (even when complaining about bad comics!) to his students and his readers in the time that he had.

  4. Bright-Raven

    Yeah… I often find myself asking this question in recent times, as I have long boxes galore of stuff I not only haven’t re-read, but probably the same in the TBR pile. Part of it for the latter is the seeming lack of time, but I would venture to say it’s more the time suck that is the internet. I suspect I would be all caught up and pining for more, if the internet (social media especially) did not exist.

    What say you all? How much more of your time would be devoted to reading (comics or otherwise), or if you’re a creative type, to your writing / drawing, if there was no internet?

    1. Greg Burgas

      I don’t know about the internet – if you’re going to be lazy, you don’t need the internet! 🙂 I spend too much time surfing, but I do get a lot done, so I can’t say that I would get more done if the internet didn’t exist. I’d just waste time doing something else!

  5. JHL

    I had all of my comics and most of my books destroyed in a flooding incident many years ago. That pretty well excised any need on my part to own physical copies of reading materials. It’s been all digital ever since with only three real exceptions. I’ll get a physical copy of a book or comic to keep if it’s something I want to have a copy of so I can loan it friends. I’ll occasionally buy a book or comic directly from an author or artist at a con to show support and keep it as a remembrance of going to the event. And I’ll usually have picked a series or author to keep an eye out at used book stores to make stopping in to one more interesting. I recently completed finding all of Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. books and am now looking out for any Phillip Jose Farmer Wold Newton Family related works. I stumbled across his Doc Samson biography a few weeks ago.

  6. Bunk77

    Hey Greg. I’m always so behind on these that I never know if I should bother, but I often do find these on the Wayback. It takes some effort, but it’s worth it for the old comments, which are always fun to see. For this one, you can find it here –


    Thanks for posting these. I very much miss Greg Hatcher’s weekly posts and it’s awesome to revisit these.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Very cool. I do sometimes find them with a bit of work, rather than just the most basic work, but I sometimes I can’t, so I appreciate this. If you find any more, feel free to let me know!

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