Previously on Baxter Building: We made it to #200, only to discover — despite what either Jeff or I would’ve expected — that the series suddenly blossomed into the best shape it had been in for years, thanks in large part to Marv Wolfman, George Perez and Keith Pollard finally delivering on the promise the series had, but hadn’t been able to live up to, since the Kirby/Lee era. Will that quality extend past the anniversary issue? That’s a good question, but not one we’ll get around to addressing this time.
0:00:00-0:05:24: As the cold open suggests, jumping off the monthly merry-go-round to take a look at the various special issues we’ve missed in our plunge forward through Fantastic Four to date means going all the way back to 1974 and discovering that the Giant-Size issues and Annuals from that period (Annuals #11-13 and the four non-reprint issues of Giant-Size Fantastic Four, the first of which was actually called Giant-Size Super-Stars Featuring Fantastic Four) are… not really that good, a fact we talk about as we try and steel ourselves for what’s to come.
0:05:25-0:13:42: Giant-Size Super-Stars #1 is, indeed, a giant-size issue of Marvel Two-in-One in all but name, as the Thing and the Hulk swap bodies and a very long fight ensues. The highlight of what Jeff describes as the “least objectionable” of the issues we’re covering this episode — aside from a re-appearance of Thundra, because this dates from 1974, the era when Thundra was still a thing in the regular F.F. series — is seeing Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott channel not just Kirby, but also, if you’re me, Herb Trimpe. I mean, doesn’t this look like Trimpe to you? (Although, when at the 9:28 mark, I say “when the Thing shows up, that Thing is Herb Trimpe,” I obviously mean the Hulk.) It’s not a comic that will change your life, but is that really such a bad thing, especially when compared with the next few books we’re about to cover. As Jeff points out, that’s a low bar, but it’s a bar nonetheless.
0:13:43-0:26:57: “I have a huge debt of gratitude I owe to Giant-Size Fantastic Four #2, Jeff says, but it’s not because of the lead story of the issue. If ever there was an issue that should be good, it’s this one, because there’s a lot that’s genuinely charming to be found here. Not least of which is some fine artwork by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott, who just might make you wish they worked on a George Washington comic back in the day. And Willie Lumpkin returns (giving us the chance to briefly touch on the weird distorting nature of nostalgia and legacy comic creators)! Sadly, the attempt to recapture the magic of the early Lee/Kirby F.F. end up soured by a misjudged final chapter that none of the creators really seemed to care much about. As Jeff puts it, “it’s a crap comic.”
0:26:58-0:46:24: Despite the fact that Giant-Size Fantastic Four #3 is arguably the worst of the comics we’re covering in this episode, it might be the comic we most enjoy talking about — or, at least, quoting from. “It is the most hilariously pretentious comic I think you or I have ever read,” I say, but what should we expect from a story where the Fantastic Four face off against the actual Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who represent man’s inhumanity to man? No wonder Jeff calls it “the worst idea ever conceived.” Especially when it contains vague fictionalizations of the anti-apartheid movement in 1970s South Africa that look like this:
Or Reed trying to force feed people by slamming their heads into bowls like this:
Make no mistake, Whatnauts — this is the worst comic, despite Ben Grimm’s wonderful exclamation “Comb my toupee!”
0:46:25-0:58:29: Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4 features the first appearance of Madrox the Multiple Man — co-written by Chris Claremont! — in a relatively underwhelming issue that I love because of childhood memories and Jeff is (perhaps deservingly) more critical of. It does give us the opportunity for two particular joys, thankfully: my yelling Madrox impersonation (I don’t know what brought that on, I’m sorry) and Charles Xavier and the most amazing visual interpretation of him using his psychic powers that has ever existed in comics:
We also get into whether or not the Fantastic Four are too particular to give us serviceable generic superhero comics without them being impossibly dull, or whether we’ve been spoiled by Lee and Kirby at their best.
0:58:30-1:09:55: Roy Thomas gets his Roy Thomas on in Fantastic Four Annual #11, in which the F.F. are time-traveling yet again, this time back to 1942 because it’s a Roy Thomas-written comic so of course there are Golden Age heroes. Jeff likes it, but I find it pretty much a snore, not least because — as Jeff points out — there are some very odd choices in terms of pacing and action, and some pretty underwhelming villains for the combined seven superheroes to fight. Maybe we should’ve called this one “When Nazis aren’t enough.”
1:09:56-1:30:50: Proving yet again that Jeff and I get exercised by amazingly shitty comics, FF Annual #12 — a comic described as “a drag” by no less an authority than me — lets us talk about failed attempts to merge Kirby mythologies with faux Fourth World characters facing off against the combined might of the Inhumans and the Fantastic Four, the utter disappointment that is the Sphinx, and how very off-brand it feels for a Fantastic Four comic. There’s also a weird, quasi-racist dig at the makers of the then-contemporary King Kong remake, and an extended Gong Show cameo, and Marv Wolfman not quite understanding how explosive decompression works. And an unexpected but entirely necessary Singing In The Rain reference, too, and Jeff wondering aloud what went wrong in transitioning the Inhumans into anchoring their own comic book. We really make the most out of what Jeff describes as a serious contender for “the worst comic. Just the worst.”
1:30:51-1:46:47: Okay, so Fantastic Four Annual #13 doesn’t have a title for the overall story, it does have a coloring job by Françoise Mouly, so that kind of balances out. Oddly enough, we somewhat ignore the actual plot of the issue to discuss the combination of Sal Buscema and Joe Sinnott, the way that Buscema draws Sue as opposed to other artists, and why Bill Mantlo might be the best writer when it comes to delivering stories with a message, because he’s enough of a hack to keep from getting lost in prevention. Also, how important is it to ensure that the Fantastic Four aren’t mean-spirited?
1:46:48-end: We wrap everything up by looking back at the seven books we covered and trying to choose which was the best of a bad bunch, and then look ahead to the next episode, where we’ll be getting back into the regular series and covering Fantastic Four #201-214. (I am irritatingly vague about when that episode will be, because I didn’t know at the time; the answer is “two weeks from now,” I can now tell you; there’s a regular Wait, What? next week.) Until then, thank you as always for listening and reading along, feel free to look us up on Twitter, Tumblr and Patreon, and prepare yourself for much, much more Sphinx action next time around. Oh, yes.



0:00-55:59: Greetings!  Did you miss us? We missed us.  And yet, rather than get too weepy about it, we quickly dive into a topic where we can get too weepy about it:  the selling of comic books!  Graeme let go of his collection before he left Scotland years ago, but Jeff only got rid of his entire collection of single issues in the last week, and the event looms large in his mind.  Join us as we talk big numbers (and not the Moore/Billy The Sink kind): a man turning 50 has 3 weeks to sell 8,000 books! Mentioned along the way: Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions; Neil Fucking Strauss’ The Game;  Birds of Prey; Donald Trump; collages; mortality; advertising; Luke Cage; pinkeye; and more.
55:59-1:40:59: On the opposite end of the spectrum: Graeme McMillan!  Listen as he journeys between the in-laws to NYCC in a terrifying short time.  Hear about a relatively unique con experience from Graeme in that it was constant work but somehow not as exhausting as, say, SDCC.  Mentioned along the way: Luc Besson; Jill Pantozzi; Ryan North; Erica Henderson; Will Moss; Cameron Stewart; Dan Slott; cosplay; the news and non-news that came out of the show (Ms. America, Batwoman, Warren Ellis back at Stormwatch; DC’s Kamandi Challenge; Bleeding Cool crashing our browsers; the world’s laziest IT guy; The Blindtastic Four; depressing stuff about Paul Pope; #notmyspiderman, #whoareyourxmen, Kieron Gillen in discussion with Jonathan Hickman; The Star Slammers by Walt Simonson, and Swords of the Swashbucklers by Bill Mantlo and Jackson Guice; the disappearance of cheap back issues; and more.
1:40:59-1:47:14: Getting back to the now de-singled Jeff Lester, Graeme wants to know: will this change the way Jeff reads comics?  As we all know, Jeff throws a lot of money at Comixology.  Will he know throw them more? Less?
1:47:14-1:53:51: “Should we talk about actual comics that we’ve read?” Jeff asks, “or no?”  And that’s pretty much our chance to more or less choose no, and then give callbacks to Graeme’s side of the conversation with discussion about what happened with Starslammers, Swords of the Swashbucklers, and Epic Comics, as opposed to Youngblood and Spawn, or Sex Criminals and WicDiv and Image Comics.
1:53:51-1:57:37: Oh, but Graeme has read the latest Scooby-Doo Team-Up with Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and has very good things to say about this book about which Jeff has been a long-term booster. Bonus: a joke from The Flintstones #4!
1:57:37-end: Closing comments! Next week will be a Q&A session so please feel free to tweet or email us your questions. Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! MattTumblr,  and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast.
Next week:  Baxter Building Ep. 22! Read Giant-Size Super-Stars #1, Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4,  and FF Annuals 11-13 and check them out with us!

I’ve been trying to write about Snotgirl for weeks months. Literally. I emailed Graeme and Jeff before the first issue was even released asking if either of them was covering it, and stated a firm plan to do a post about it. Then I emailed them just before the second issue was released and VERY CLEARLY explained that I would be writing about issues #1 AND #2. Since the I have written about writing about Snotgirl in a totally unrelated post here, and in a couple of tweets. I have sent poor Jeff and Graeme even more words of explanation and fillibustery.

What I have not done is “write about Snotgirl“.

Now, the usual things got in the way, of course, the litany of excuses that start every fifth blog post: the day job, life, kids, a lack of inspiration, that cruel black dog of depression or at least its smaller cousin, the dachshund of anxiety. Whatever. But part of the issue here is that I’m realizing that I have a harder time writing about Bryan Lee O’Malley than I do about almost any other creator, and especially about his post Scott Pilgrim work. This is partially because of my personal reaction to Scott Pilgrim, and partially because of something else, which it has taken me three months to realize.

I’ll get to that realization later, but let me start by heaping praise on Scott Pilgrim again.


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Previously on Baxter Building: Which was the more important event that happened in the previous episode: The arrival of George Perez as artist, or Reed Richards losing his super powers? Both cases can be made as we make our way through this mammoth episode, which will only take up a 157 minutes of your time. (We’re sorry. Kind of.)
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0:00-7:06: Greetings!  Because Jeff is an idiot, we lost the first hour and sixteen minutes of our recording.  So today’s episode will be comparatively short and it starts up with us telling you what you missed. It’s a surprisingly complete summary of seventy-six minutes jammed into six.  Discussion of what we discussed:  Batman Day (which this episode was recorded on), Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice; Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey; 2000 A.D. Prog. 2000; Suicide Squad #2 by Rob Williams, Jim Lee, and Ivan Reis; Jeff’s admiration for Superwoman #2 and Graeme’s for Supergirl; Detective Comics and Chris Claremont’s New Mutants; All-Star Batman #2; and Tom King’s Batman, which is where we catch up, since Graeme has to reiterate his point about…

batmantomking7:06-32:23: Tom King and the connection between The Vision and Sheriff of Babylon (which King has described as being part of an unofficial trilogy with his Omega Men), and how it connects to the first six issues we’ve read of Batman.  Also discussed: Alan Moore and Alan Moore’s Jerusalem; the promotional interviews with Alan Moore for Alan Moore’s Jerusalem; what would be the non-comic related questions we would ask Alan Moore; and mo(o)re.


32:23-36:13:  Jeff wanted to talks about Moon Knight #6 by Jeff Lemire, Wilfredo Torres, Francesco Francavilla, and James Stokoe (!) where Lemire finally has a take on the character that really works for Jeff.
36:13-38:16: Jeff does a loose compare/contrast between Moon Knight and the first issue of Doom Patrol by Gerard Way, Nick Derington, and Tamra Bonvilliain.  A good fun book with some absolutely lovely art by Derington and colors by Bonvillain.

countnefariavsquirrelgirl38:16-57:25: Jeff also wants to give a shout-out to latest issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl with fill-in art by Jacob Chabot and another crazily strong script by Ryan North.  And after that, we talk a bit about North’s first issue of Jughead (which sounds *amazing*), which leads us to a not-thrilled impression of Zdarsky’s Howard The Duck, Marvel and hip-hop and much more.
57:25-1:07:55: Also read and also (lightly) discussed:  The Fix #5 by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber; Paper Girls #9 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson and Jared K. Fletcher; Saga by Vaughan and Staples; old issues of Ms. Marvel written by Chris Claremont; and more.


1:07:55-1:11:33:  Sad to say, either Graeme did most of the talking in our lost hour, or maybe Jeff was out of control there too, but Jeff does too much talking this episode, even if it’s for a good cause like showing some love for the insane “Prisoners of Three Worlds” story from 1963’s Batman #153, by Bill Finger, Henry Boltinoff, Jack Schiff and Sheldon Moldoff, recently purchased during Comixology’s Road to Batman Day Sale.
1:11:33-1:15:02: I can’t adequately describe how we got to discussing Denny O’Neil’s career as writer and editor, a case Jeff tries to make by incorrectly assigning at least two Batman characters’ first appearances to the wrong era.
Graeeme has some wonderful stuff to tell us about Books With Pictures, a great little comic book store in Portland, Oregon with a back issue drawer curated by Douglas Wolk, as well as the back issues he, Graeme, picked up from said drawer.  Mentioned: Heroes and Legends; the Legion of Substitute Heroes Special from 1995; Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane issue #115; Superman and Batman: Heroes Against Hunger; and the zines from our colleagues Jay and Miles.

1:19:10-end: Closing comments! Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! MattTumblr,  and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast.

Next week:  Baxter Building Ep. 21! Read issues #184-200 of the first volume of The Fantastic Four and deconstruct them with us!  We will see you then!
Image by Ged Carroll, used under Creative Commons 2.0

Image by Ged Carroll, used under Creative Commons 2.0

I’ve been struggling–and I do mean struggling–with a post about Snotgirl. It has been in development on my computer for months, and in draft on this site for weeks. Fortunately, the most recent episode of the podcast that brings y’all to this website touched on a totally separate topic for me to yap about, while Snotgirl continues to, um, coagulate in my head. [NOTE: Now THIS one has been languishing for days. Hopefully that is still the most recent podcast episode. Eeeesh!]

In response to one of your many questions, our fearless hosts (with Jeff leading the charge) discussed the plateauing and/or decline of digital comics sales. This news makes me sad, for two reasons: (1) Digital has become far and away my preferred platform, and; (2) I genuinely believe(d?) that digital offers the best chance to truly expand the reach of comics beyond the direct market.

So why has the growth plateaued? Well, I don’t actually know (as I’m not a trained industry analyst), but I certainly have a whole bunch of half-baked guesses that feel convincing to me (as I’m a human being on the internet). So let me share those theories with you, below! (And I’ll get that Snotgirl piece finished and posted soon–I swear it!)

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0:00-3:46: We get right into it, no kidding!  There’s maybe twenty seconds of baffled recognition from your hosts, and then it’s right into answering questions.  BUT!  Before we get into the final round of questions from our Patreon supporters, Jeff has a few questions for Graeme.  First up:  how does Graeme feel about the CW shows (including shows like Flash and Arrow) leaving Hulu?  Discussed:  Seth Meyers monologues; late night TV; and just an eensy bit more before moving into a more substantive topic…

Flash Rebirth One
3:46-17:49:  Earlier in the week, Jude Terror over at The Outhousers wrote a condemnatory piece on the Direct Market that stirred up a lot of reactions and support online.  What did Graeme think about it?  What did Jeff think about it?  And what *is* wrong with the Direct Market? Discussed: Nighthawk; Omega Men; the direct market and cableization of TV; and more.  So much more, in fact, that Graeme jumps the queue on our listeners’ questions to pivot to one related to the topic at hand, and so…
17:49-51:56:  Comic Cruncher asks:  floppies vs GNs/TBPs vs digital – how do you see the market developing and what are the implications for the future?  Discussed: the sales numbers for DC Rebirth; the very strange side-effects of double-shipping; some finger-pointing from Jeff about the plateau/depression of digital comics; Graeme believes a Comixology comic was yanked from his collection (has anyone else had this happen?); Marvel’s reaction to freak hits; Angry Birds vs. DC Super Hero Girls; and more.
Dr Fate TPB1
51:56-55:29: Maxy Bee asks:  how startled are you that Levitz’s Doctor Fate is the last remaining DCYou title, and still kicking at that?  Discussed: the DCYou book that outlived Doctor Fate; Jeff decided to turn cancelled DCYou books into codenames; and more.
55:29-1:07:23:  Jeffrey Brown brings down the interrogation:  what are your thoughts about the Recent Suicide Squad movie compared to Ostrander’s run on the comics post crisis? And The Films Depiction of Harley Quinn, The Joker, Captain Boomerang & the movie’s plot + Enchantress? and lastly what are your thoughts DC Young Animal titles : Doom Patrol, Shade, Cave Carson? Discussed:  all of the above, plus a bit more.
ChaykinSketchbook1:07:23-1:22:23:  Two Qs from Paul R Jaissle:  (1) I recently reread Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg! and was struck by how innovate and influential it really was (there’s definitely a lot more Chaykin in Tom Scioli’s Transformers vs GI Joe than I noticed at first). Why don’t you think it’s more regularly recognized or cited along with DKR and Watchmen as a seminal ’80s comic? (2) Given the success of DCU properties on TV (including Vertigo stuff like iZombie and Preacher) as well as the current popularity of “weird” shows like Stranger Things, how would you two cast and pitch a Doom Patrol TV series? Discussed:  the challenges to establishing Chaykin’s legacy; our dream DC TV shows; Avatar; and more.
1:22:23-1:37:35:  And the ever-welcome Brendan O’Hare drops by to ask two questions: (1) There’s a lot to hate about Superhero comics. What do you enjoy about the new ones coming out?; and (2) For Graeme: What was your favorite interview? Discussed: DC Rebirth; Flash; Deathstroke; Unbeatable Squirrel Girl; Mother Panic; D.C. Fontana; Geoff Johns; Maggie Q; and more.
JaimeTheGreat1:37:35-1:47:55:   Long-term pal o’ the podcast Miguel Corti has quite the question for us:  Why do comics creators, fans, critics, and journalists (on the internet at least) like Archie comics so much? I’m not talking about “Afterlife with Archie” or the new series by Mark Waid, but the traditional Archie comics featuring high school hijinks that have been the staple of the comics for decades. Archie comics always struck me as a four-color version of “Leave It to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best.” They were also the only comics that church people and teachers seemed to approve of, which made me all the more suspect of them. Since my life felt like growing up in an ’80s version of “Leave It to Beaver,” Archie comics were the last comics I ever wanted to read, and, subsequently, the only comics I never saved. (I never bought them; always given them.) I never enjoyed their cookie-cutter stories, or their never-changing art style. I’d like to think this 21st-century internet love for Archie comics is some ironic hipster thing, but it feels more sincere than that (or I’m bad at perceiving ironic interest). I don’t want to denigrate anyone’s interests, but what am I missing? Are those old-school (or pre-reboot, if you will) Archie comics good by whatever definition you have for the word? After the years of accolades I’ve heard for “Afterlife with Archie” I’m sorely tempted to check it out, especially since I like zombies, but then I remember how much I dislike Archie comics and that stays my hand. When I was a kid, I wasn’t a Jack Kirby fan, but now I can really appreciate him and I rank him as one of my all-time favorite comics artists. Unfortunately, I can’t re-assess Archies comics favorably. Maybe I’m the only one, or maybe no one wants to say anything against Archie comics in public.  Discussed:  Riverdale; David Lynch; Dan DeCarlo; Bob Bolling; Jaime Hernandez; Love & Rockets; and more.
1:47:55-:  Good ol’ Ed Corcoran asks: The subscription based all-you-can-consume model seems to be where most other media types and media companies are going (Spotify, Netflix, etc.). Comixology (or at least their Amazon bosses) seemed convinced enough that it’s the future for comics so they created Comixology Unlimited. Marvel Unlimited seems to be doing well for Marvel, but what if they went all-in on subscription and put all comics on there the day they were released? They would probably still sell floppies and trades and might sell single digital issues, too. But what do you think would be the effect on what comics they publish, what comics they emphasize, etc. if Marvel Unlimited became the primary method by which Marvel distributed its comics?  Discussed:  the Marvel BOGO sales; the direction Marvel Unlimited is taking now; and more.
1:54:19-2:07:54:  Query from Cass, or to put it another way:  QUESTION. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot, as I often do, about Spider-Man. I tried reading some of the later Dan Slott stuff, post renumbering, but I can’t get on board because I can’t recognize that character as Spider-Man. But then, I started thinking, who is the character of Spider-Man really? When Cap 3: Civil War came out, everyone said “That’s it; they finally got Spider-Man right.” But Civil War’s Spider-Man was in awe of the other heroes, whereas Stan and Steve’s Spider-Man was mistrustful and even hostile toward other super-types (the first issue of his series sees Spidey calling the FF “pikers”). The Tom Holland Spider-Man reminds me more of Bendis’s goofy, generally good-natured Ultimate Peter Parker. So I guess my questions are:  (1) When people talk about “classic” teenage Spider-Man, do you think most really have Ultimate Spider-Man in mind?  (2) What would you say are the essential characteristics of Spider-Man (or any comic hero) – what needs to be there in order for it to be Spider-Man? Is it just powers? Does the character have to have significant guilt? Anything else? Discussed: the various Spider-Man actors; Spider-Man and Civil War; Spider-Man and college; cosmic Spider-Man; understatedness; Dan Slott, Hannah Blumenreich, and Matt Fraction; etc.
2:07:54-2:16:45: Stephen Lacey of the fabulous Fantasticast asks:  This is a question I posed to my listeners a couple of years ago, and I’m interested in your take on it. When it comes to the FF, pretty much everyone can agree that Lee/Kirby, Byrne, Simonsson, Waid/Wieringo and Hickman are the consistent peaks in the title’s history. But what are your underrated runs/stories, the gems that get lost in the gaps between these runs?  Discussed:  Steve Englehart’s run on the Fantastic Four; the Waid and ‘Ringo run; the Tom DeFalco and Ryan run; the Chris Claremont and Salvador LaRocca run; the run of Dwayne McDuffie and many artists including Paul Pelletier; Steve Gerber; and more.
2:16:45-end: Closing comments! Next week will be a Q&A session so please feel free to tweet or email us your questions. Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! MattTumblr,  and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast.
Next week:  Skip week! And then the week after that: Wait, What? Ep. 209!  And that ep may be an all-review podcast? Catch up with us catching up two weeks from now!

Previously on Baxter Building: The mid-70s were a strange time for Marvel’s first family, who have found themselves dealing with cosmic hockey goalies, Puppet Master-possessed heroes for hire and rampaging Hulks in the last few issues as Roy Thomas, George Perez and Rich Buckler try hard to bring a new energy to what was already becoming a flagging flagship title. But just how flaggy can things get? Oh, you’ll regret asking that question very soon…
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0:00:00-0:04:28: Welcome, dear friends, to the show that feels like it never ends — especially when we’re covering Fantastic Four #171-183 (Not #184, as I’d declared in the past; that really belongs with the next batch of issues; sorry, all). To say that I’m not a fan is an understatement, but Jeff really is, setting up the long-awaited contentious Baxter Building: Civil War: Jeff v. Graeme: Dawn of Chatting episode that Whatnauts have been hoping for.
0:04:29-0:13:47: Jeff wants to know if I’m being too harsh on these issues by disliking them so much; after all, last episode, it took me a re-read to properly appreciate what Roy Thomas was doing in them. Me, I’m not having any of it, and take a brief detour into my childhood to explain the first time I read them to set up just one more reason why I’m disappointed by them. What if Roy Thomas isn’t a thief, but is an artiste doing a homage? What if Jeff is a Roy Thomas apologist? This is what we’re all about the find out. (Spoilers: Jeff makes a case for the former, the latter I just threw in there right now.)
0:13:48-0:21:03: If this is the “Jeff and I fight” episode, we make a poor start of it with Fantastic Four #171, “Death Is A Golden Gorilla!”, an issue that both of us not only enjoyed, but feel pretty similarly about. But, really, how could anyone feel that angry about a pastiche that mixes King Kong and the first appearance of the Silver Surfer? Jeff makes a good argument for Thomas-as-Homage-King with this issue, even if his parallel argument about George Perez’s art as a true heir of Jack Kirby is let down slightly by using a Rich Buckler-drawn splash as Exhibit A. There’s also a remarkable claim about the quality of #176 made along the way that… well, we’ll get to that issue soon enough.
0:21:04-0:33:59: FF #172 has what I call “a classic Roy Thomas title,” missing the point entirely (although Jeff caught it on Tumblr earlier) that the issue was actually scripted by Bill Mantlo. Take that, “Cry, the Bedeviled Planet!” Does that affect our subsequent discussion about the flaws of this issue insofar as the lampshading of a ridiculous fight sequence or the way that info dumps replace forward momentum in the issue…? Potentially, but only insofar as we should’ve been saying “Mantlo” instead of “Thomas” when throwing around the blame. Still, at least you get Perez and Sinnott doing stuff like this:
Also, we talk about repetition and whether or not it’s okay to repeat yourself if you’re improving on the same idea each time, and Jeff introduces a metaphorical reading for this storyline that, to be honest, I just don’t think is actually there. But Jeff’s read is infinitely more interesting than what’s on the page, to be honest.
0:34:00-0:56:19: Even Jeff is beginning to falter on the quality on this storyline by Fantastic Four #173. “There is a point in #173, looking at that cover, [when] you realize that things are getting sort of dire, in a way,” he says by way of introduction to “Counter-Earth Must Die — At The Hand of Galactus!” But, guess what?!? This issue sees the reintroduction of Torgo, the I-Bet-You-Forgot-Him robot from the end of the Lee/Kirby run, when Roy Thomas cycles in the old All-Star Comics formula one more time. We also get into a brief discussion about the development of the FF’s characters, and also compare the nostalgia and continuity porn of Roy Thomas versus that of Steve Englehart (The teacher versus the trickster, perhaps…?) and touch on Thomas’s tendency to introduce interesting ideas and find himself unable to explore them fully. All this, and the sensational new oath of 1976 and Jeff talking about foot fetishes. No, really.
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0:56:20-0:56:56: We literally skate over Fantastic Four #174 with a very bare bones summary of the plot you need to know. Really, we’d said anything and everything that we needed to say earlier.
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0:56:57-1:10:32: “Let’s get to #175” I say, with the air of a man who really would rather do anything else. Even Jeff agrees that this one is a disaster, because John Buscema — who pencils and inks this issue — is really, really not the man to deliver the ending to this storyline, which is even more of a problem because Thomas completely fails to deliver in the writing, as well. How best to end a five-issue wannabe Galactus epic? With rehashes of earlier Galactus stories, a fight in the sky by two giant guys in armor, an absolutely out-of-nowhere Thing reversal and an absolutely surreal denouement where Galactus kind of dies of terminal indigestion. (Don’t worry, he gets better later, because of course he does.) For all the flack we give Roy Thomas for being trapped by his own nostalgia, I’m actually surprised neither of us really harped on more about the revival of a one-issue joke character who hadn’t shown up in more than 150 issues. I guess there was just so much to complain about this time around…?
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1:10:33-1:20:04: “Is it fun because we read Marvel Comics: The Untold Story and it’s not actually a fun comic?” I ask about Fantastic Four #176, which sees the Impossible Man terrorize the Marvel Comics offices of 1976, before deciding, “I don’t really care, because I enjoyed it.” This is essentially a massive in-joke for Marvel obsessives turned into an entire issue, with some special highlights, whether it’s a Stan Lee who reads surprisingly like J. Jonah Jameson and a fascinating scene that demonstrates, in the words of Jeff, that “Roy Thomas’s portrayal of Jack Kirby is far more generous than Kirby’s treatment of Thomas.” (We’re referring to Houseroy, the toady of Funky Flashman, for those not in the know.) Jeff also refers to this amazing What If…? issue, as well, and if you’ve never read it, you should check it out — it’s on Marvel Unlimited.
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1:20:05-1:28:36: We pretty much move away from going issue-by-issue through the “Brute” arc of Fantastic Four #177-183 (with the exception of #180, which is a fill-in), in large part because I think it’s such a mess — listen to the lack of joy in my plot description! — and in part because it’s such an odd formless run that has feels so sloppy that we’d be repeating much of our commentary across issues. But we start with #177, which is the second fun (and funny) issue in a row. Thomas does comedy very well, and this issue cements the value of the Frightful Four as really great comic relief. If only we could have more of this kind of comic and not the Brute storyline that we get. Oh, God. The Brute… Necessary to note: when I’m recapping the storyline, I say that Alicia doesn’t appear in these issues, just before talking about Sue talking to Alicia. What I meant was that Alicia isn’t part of any scenes dealing with the Thing/Tigra/Thundra/Alicia love quadrangle. Obviously.
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1:28:37-1:53:52: Jeff is entirely unconvinced by my adoration of the Ron Wilson/Joe Sinnott art team for a couple of issues, and doesn’t seem to be that interested in the Sal Buscema/Sinnott team, either. I find both more attractive than the George Perez/Sinnott pairing, but horses for courses, etc. We spend just as much time talking about the writer changeover, because Roy Thomas disappears two issues before the end of this storyline, leaving no less than four writers struggling to bring things to a close. (Jeff makes the case for Thomas having grand plans and intentions that he just couldn’t carry off, whereas I’m just seeing repeated tropes offering nothing new this time around. Which one of us is right? Your answer depends on how much you love Roy Thomas — although his triple President cameo scene is every bit as wonderful as Jeff says it is, I have to admit.) Also, Bill Mantlo is underrated, which I feel is an argument we’ve made more than once before. Otherwise, we’re stuck in the mire of the Brute — the second fake Reed Richards the series has seen in a little over a year, which works for Mr. Lester and really, really doesn’t for me.
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1:53:56-end: We bring it all home by looking back over the last few storylines and discuss how we define success and failure for comic stories, in an oblique sense. It’s something worth remembering as we head into next episode, where we’ll take a run at Fantastic Four #184-200, a run that even Jeffrey Lester is not looking forward to. Until then, don’t forget to look for us on Twitter, Tumblr and Patreon, where there will be so much less Roy Thomas talk in comparison to this episode. As always, thank you for listening and reading, Whatnauts. May none of you ever be replaced by your own concussed Counter-Earth duplicates.



You might remember, back in June, that I did bi-weekly posts about the first month of DC’s Rebirth, with the intent that I’d keep that up while the new launches continued. And then, well, I didn’t.

I have the best excuse: at the start of July, construction — actually, demolition, initially — started on my house, which meant that my wife, myself and our two dogs had to move out, and things have been ridiculous ever since (We’re still out of the house now), especially when you factor in San Diego Comic-Con in there as well. Not only has my writing schedule been off, so has my reading schedule. Updating things on a bi-weekly basis? Are you joking?

Which means, basically, I have a bunch of titles to catch up on. Let’s do the July books, shall we?

Continue reading



0:00-4:06: Greetings!  How’s the weather, you ask?  Well, Graeme McMillan and the rest of Portland, Oregon are boiling alive!  Jeff’s fine, thanks for asking, but since he knows fine doesn’t carry well—podcasts being what Marshall McLuhan would call a “hot” medium—he moves us to the towering mountain of remaining listeners’ questions!  Will he and Graeme get through all of the questions by the end of the podcast?  Place your bets now!


4:06-16:24:  Kevin Moreau asks:  I have two questions that I hope you can find the time to answer as you’re patrolling Hub City to keep us all safe from crime. 1.  It’s well known that Graeme is not a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Is there a comic-book movie (MCU, DC or otherwise) made since the dawn of the MCU (so since 2008) that you love or at least like, and what does it do right that the MCU movies largely don’t? (Primarily for Graeme, but Jeff please feel free to chime in as well.)

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16:24-27:51: Kevin also wants to know:  2. Largely for Jeff, but if Graeme has any input, please feel free: I find manga largely impenetrable, but I want to give it a fair shake. What is it that appeals to you about the form, and what would you recommend for a newbie who finds it hard to get past the cartoon-y expressions and overall exaggerated nature of what little I’ve glimpsed?
27:51-35:51:  Charles Forsman inquires:   1. Spawn/Batman or Batman/Spawn?  2. What’s the deal with all these comic books coming out every week?

35:51-47:20: Tom Bondurant queries: DC/Warners are putting out an animated version of The Judas Contract, in which a spunky 16-year-old superheroine is (spoilers!) revealed to be a stone-cold sociopath who hates the Teen Titans, is probably sleeping with the much-older Deathstroke the Terminator, and dies after being literally buried by her own rage-spawned freakout. I still have a lot of affection for TJC, especially in the context of New Teen Titans generally, but a) does it seem that problematic to you and b) what changes, if any, do you expect the adaptation to make?
47:20-55:50:  Matt Miller wonders:  Already asked one of my questions on Twitter, so here’s my 2nd: You two are starting a Crossgen-esque company dealing in popular (but non-superhero) genres. What two writer/artist teams (or cartoonists) would you recruit and what genre do you put them on?
55:50-1:02:40:   Evan Harrison Cass interrogates:  Jeff, what is your current ethical stand regarding the purchase of Marvel product? I’ve lost track.  Also:  When Tim Seeley and Tom King were co-writing their critically acclaimed Grayson run, most critics – including you two – assumed Seeley’s contribution wasn’t as ‘key’ as King’s. I know for a fact that Tim felt frustrated that he wasn’t given fair credit for bits that were his that were critically celebrated. What shapes the impression that a Seeley type writer is B-list while a King type is A-list?
1:02:40-1:11:46:  Ray Mescallado queries:   You get to greenlight a Legion of Super-Heroes movie. What era of Legion would you use (Grell 70s, Levitz/Giffen, Five Years After, reboot, threeboot, etc) and why? Would you connect it to the cinematic DCU and how? Which Legionnaires would you focus on, and who do you imagine playing their roles?
1:11:46-1:22:18:   Levi Tompkins ponders: Do you think the lack of lgbtqi characters in Marvel books now is a result of them worried about how to deal with presenting those characters in other mediums like cartoons and movies? What do you think of valiant’s plans to create a movie-verse, or valiant’s attempts at extending their brand into other media formats in general?
Celestials1:22:18-1:30:58:  Garrett asks:  My question(s) are: Could a Jack Kirby (creative output and brand new ideas) exist in today’s comic’s industry? Are there any writers, artists, or writer/artists currently working today that come close?
1:30:58-1:41:52:   Adam Wolfe inquires: 1st question: I read the first Flintstones by Mark Russell and I have the same feeling about it that I usually do after reading a Thomas Pynchon book: amused, a little perplexed, not sure if I get everything the author put in, but ultimately this feeling that I read something intellectual that I should feel smart for having read. Ultimately I think I enjoyed it but I was wondering, what are your thoughts on this series and is Russell’s Prez going to see a second volume? 2nd question: Do you think that Grant Morrison steal his idea of transporting to different universe through a musical instrument in Multiversity from the Heman Masters of the Universe movie from the 80s? There’s a dwarf like creature in that movie that uses a type of flute if I recall to travel back and forth from our realm to that Eternia.
1:41:52-1:52:48:   Roger Winston (Flasshe) cross-examines: 1) As a big time Legion of Super-Heroes fanboy from way back (Cockrum, Grell, Levitz/Giffen, beyond) I am incensed that DC doesn’t know what to do with the LSH these days. Why is that? Is the concept just not something that connects with modern audiences? Or have they just not found the correct approach or creators to make it work nowadays? What do you think DC should do with the property? (I’m counting all this as one question, though you are free to handle it as you see fit.)  (2) What is your preferred comic reading environment? For me, it’s iPad/recliner/beer/music on the headphones, usually after work and before dinner. If I try to read in bed at night, it’s snooze-land and no retention.
1:52:48-1:53:04:  Yonatan offers: when DC finally brings the Legion back, what creative team? 
1:53:04-1:56:18:  Dave Clarke requests: compare and contrast Judge Dredd big summer events with those of the big 2?
1:56:18-1:57:44:  Steven E. Chambers plays good cop:  easy one: have you two been keeping up with Rucka and Lark’s Lazarus?
1:57:44-2:01:10:  Scott Rowland is bad cop:  I’m 100 episodes behind, so you may have covered, but any thoughts on Steve Ditko’s independent work over the years? And thoughts on Ditjko’s string of modest, but successful Kickstarters to publish new material? 
2:01:10-2:06:08: Art Lyon is dramatic reading cop:  What long-run title would u analyze a la your Baxter Building eps if u weren’t doing FF or – gasp! – *after* u finish FF?
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2:06:08-end: Closing comments! Next week will be a Q&A session so please feel free to tweet or email us your questions. Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! MattTumblr,  and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast.
Next week:  Baxter Building Episode #20!  Fantastic Four #171-184!  Join us!