(Insert the “hey, this isn’t a comic book!” joke of your choice here.)
If you’re a medium or long-term Wait, What? listener, you know I’m not much of a fan of Neil Gaiman.
I mean, I’m not not a fan: Pretty much every time he comes back to comics, I’m there to try an issue or two or three…but that may be because I almost always like the artists he collaborates with, usually more than what I like from him. Gaiman’s whip-smart, he has an exceptionally strong grasp of what he’s good at, and I’d argue the politically savviest guy in comics (though whether more so than Dave Sim in his prime is an argument for armchair generals). Actually, scratch that: he’s probably one of the more politically savvier guys in mainstream media today. If he was a character in Game of Thrones–Gai of Tweethos or something–he’d still be around well into the later books, rich and beloved and seemingly without guile.
(More behind the jump due to mouthiness, inappropriate speculation, etc.) Continue reading →
With the whole series over as of last week’s tenth and final chapter, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Private Eye, A.K.A. “that other Brian K. Vaughan book, the one that’s not Saga.” I’m unsure if it’s the fact that it’s been a digital-only release, or the irregular release schedule, that’s to blame, but it feels like it’s been something that’s been somewhat overlooked in terms of the larger comic book conversation, even as Saga has become accepted as The Next Big Thing. Continue reading →
No, it’s not our new Wait, What? portrait (although Jeff does kind of covet Vartox’s hairline at this point)
Yup, here we go! Remember, if you don’t dig the player and just want the link to the episode to cut and paste into your own player, another browser window, or whatever you prefer, check out our first comment which will hook you up.
That said, let’s get cracking with the show notes! This ep. runs a bit over two and a half hours and cutting all my stammering coughing fits took a bit more time so…
00:00-5:18: Greetings! Time marches on, bringing you the podcasting equivalent of chocolate bars and cigarettes—another episode of Wait, What? Of course, you should expect us going off track almost immediately, with talk of Princess Superstar and Eminem.
5:18-39:21: It’s been a tough week for comics with Graeme declaring four minutes in, “I’m burned out.” We’re both a little bit burnt on books by the Big Two, and the Chris Sims/Valerie D’Orazio situation has made things seem quite grim. Only in the existence of Mr. T’s upcoming DIY TV show, I Pity The Tool, can Graeme find any joy. Neither of us are friends with Chris or Val but Graeme is in a “friend of friends” situation, so our discussion about the situation is a tad on the politically fraught side but considering it’s a case of comics criticism that is also an act of bullying, and so we feel it’s worth talking about.
39:21-1:02:00: “I’m feeling down on a lot of things this week,” concludes Graeme. “I totally get it, I totally get it,” consoles Jeff. “And it’s probably because you read Batman Eternal issues #49 and #50.” And such is the power of our not-clumsy not-weird segue that we’re off and having a full-on heavy-on-the-spoiler talk about those issues, the reveal of the Big Bad (which Jeff thinks was handled bigly and badly), whether either of the Big Two will be able to sustain a solid weekly comic, the collection of the Superman: Doomed event, and more.
1:02:00-1:19:03: After giving you a word from our new sponsors (depression, emotional exhaustion, and ambivalence), we move on to ostensibly talk about Superman #39 by Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr., but we really talk about Gene Yang, Superman’s incoming writer, with Jeff doing more than his share of fretting about Yang as a newcomer to DC offices, and the “collaborative” nature of creative, editorial and marketing. Also discussed: the pre-Convergence issues of Batgirl and Grayson, Jeff’s confusion about what’s a jumping off point and what’s a jumping on point, which of course is something to keep in mind considering… Convergence! Secret Wars! This summer, the Big Two are trying to disrupt themselves (it’s like Uber, if Uber was owned by the taxi companies). Graeme, being Graeme, likes the “this is what you need to know about the characters” pages that are going to be in Convergence. Another thing Graeme likes the casting of the first villain for the Supergirl show, which is this guy in the image above. Yup, Vartox. Apparently, they’re not going to do the whole pleather diaper but, really, this can only bode well for the TV show, TV, and really the state of the world.
1:20:07-1:23:20: This is a good transition to Jeff asking Graeme about the Flash TV show. Graeme has good things to say about the show: and by good things we mean “FULL SPOILERS” from 1:20:30 to 1:21:50 and skip over that section if you’re behind on the show, Graeme says, really, please do.
1:23:20-1:35:27: Quite the contrast to the Flash TV show is Graeme’s catch-up read on Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers which he calls “staggeringly bleak.” Spoilers for this storyline too? Although since I think Graeme doesn’t get beyond the confines of what’s on Marvel Unlimited, he doesn’t talk about anything that’s not six months old. We talk about plot hammers, about the difference between creators marking off their own section of continuity and ignoring established characterization altogether; and more.
1:35:27-1:44:36: Trying to stay on the positive tip, Graeme talks about two First Second books he’s just read: In Real Life (IRL) by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (who really should’ve gotten more credit for doing the full adaptation, as I recall); This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki; and Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla “Speed” McNeil, the last of which we talk about for a bit since Jeff read a quajillion years ago.
1:44:36-1:49:25: Thanks to Graeme’s recommendation, and also the free SXSW books offered through Comixology, Jeff read and really, really liked The Black Hood #1 by Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos from Archie/Dark Circle. We both think Archie is doing some smart, very readable stuff this week although Graeme is both more optimistic about the Archie horror books getting back on schedule and more into Waid and Haspiel’s The Fox than Jeff.Zer
1:49:25-2:07:21: “In another universe,” announces Jeff, “we ended up with me haranguing you about all these Silver Age Flash comics that I read.” (Graeme points out that universe was last week, just after we finished recording Baxter Building. Whoops.) In reading those issues, Jeff noticed something about the characterization of Barry Allen in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s that he wants to talk about. Discussed: a whole bunch of issues of The Flash, including Jeff’s ongoing obsession with issue #275 by Cary Bates and Alex Saviuk which is brilliant.
And we also learn that Jeff loves Superman #199, the first Superman-Flash race by Jack Miller, Wayne Boring, Jim Mooney and Edwin J. Smalle, Jr., whereas Graeme digs DC Comics Presents #1 and #2 by Martin Pasko and José Luis Garcia-López. (And admittedly, it’s hard to top Garcia-Lopez art.)
2:07:21-2:13:02: Jeff has read Howard The Duck #1 and literally doesn’t know how to talk about it. Graeme hasn’t read it, but doesn’t quite know how to talk to Jeff about it, holding back as he is a “you scab!” response. It’s fun, fertile ground on which to build an incisive comics discussion! Join us, won’t you?
2:13:02-2:18:10: Other stuff Jeff has read, talked about quickly: Walking Dead #138 by Kirkman, Adlard, Gaudianao and Rathburn; Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta #7, by Kirkman and Azaceta; Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3 by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi; Chrononauts #1 by Mark Millar, Sean Gordon Murphy, and Matt Hollingsworth.
2:18:10-2:22:29: Neither of us have read Invisible Republic #1 by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, but it looks so lovely Graeme, who hasn’t read it, chides Jeff for not reading it. Graeme has been catching up on Southern Cross by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger from Image which he enjoys but wishes Cloonan was also drawing. And Graeme also read Giant Days from John Allison and Lissa Tremain, which he also wrote about on this site here.
2:22:29-2:28:30: Through a problem with, I don’t know, similar seeming covers or confusion about where he left off or both, Jeff had trailed off on Zero, but he checks back in on issue #15 by Ales Kot, Ian Betram and Jordie Bellaire, which is a gorgeous looking issue that has a lot of rewards for fans of William S. Burroughs. Graeme, who is reading it, chides Jeff for not reading it, even though Jeff is talking about how he just read it. I’m sure Graeme would object to the characterization as “chiding.”
2:28:30-2:29:27: Ooops, we’ve gone too far and so Graeme turns into the Lord of the Flies for a few minutes until Jeff can bring himself to interrupt and suggest they reboot.
2:29:27-end: Reboot! Convergence! Secret Wait, What?! And it’s pretty much also our “closing comments!” section, with us talking about how next week is not a skip week and how you’ll be getting Ep. 173 in just a week and then a skip week. Also!
Capsule Reviews! Time for Jeff to realize it’s Sunday and his larger review isn’t coming together at all and try instead to give you shorter, entertaining things instead!
(Please note: there’s a chance some of what I blab about here also gets blabbed in the upcoming podcast? I know that’s true in at least one of these cases (but I can’t quite remember which one?). So apologies for any overlap.
FUUKA (Chapters 52 and 53): Okay, so the love interest is still dead, the woman with the same name is still off-screen, and Fuuka is still a rock band manga for these two chapters. In Chapter 52, after completely blowing their big number, the band comes back for the last show of the concert and wins over the concert promoter with their first original number, inspiring the promoter to issue one of those great sweeping generalizations this kind of manga loves to state as a golden rule among insiders: “[A] truly great concert is one that gets your body moving, even to songs you’ve never heard before!! That is where songs that sell, and bands that sell, really come from!!”
And then in Chapter 53, Yuu, the protagonist, gets advice from her brother about songwriting who says: “It’s true that some songs can only be written after your world has expanded and you’ve had more experience…but the opposite is true, too. Right now your narrow world is everything to you. That’s exactly why things that seem trivial, from an adult’s perspective…can be concentrated into really rich, passionate feelings.”
Oh, and he also accidentally walks in on his female bandmate as she’s just finished showering:
So, you know, totally formulaic manga? But also entirely enjoyable? It’ll be interesting to see if Kouni Seo gets enough of an audience with this track that he can keep at it, or if we’ll end up getting a ghost Fuuka as some fans fear.
THE BLACK HOOD #1: Got this thanks to the last round of Comixology SXSW giveaways, and god damn is it great. Graeme had talked it up on the podcast, saying that people who liked Bendis’ Daredevil would like this and while I get the comparison—as Graeme also pointed out, Michael Gaydos is drawing (and Kelly Fitzpatrick is coloring) this like he’ll lose the farm if he can’t place first in the Alex Maleev impersonation contest—but writer Duane Swierczynski is serving up something far darker. After having half his face shot off by a shotgun and accidentally killing The Black Hood in the process, Philadelphia police officer Greg Hettinger’s life falls apart. Descending deeper into isolation and an addiction to painkillers, Hettinger somehow ends up at the end of the issue facing down a gang of thugs in mid-mugging. How he gets there is somehow utterly convincing, more than a little depressing, and yet still darkly satisfying.
Anyway, god only knows where Swierczynski and Gaydos will take this, but this first issue was a genuine treat, and I’m totally on board. If you like Brubaker’s and Phillips’ Criminal—or even some of the indie gritcore stuff like Chuck Forsman’s Revenger—you’ll dig this. Definitely recommended.
Let’s not kid ourselves. These books are about as much of a celebration as a McDonalds offering a limited-time Mardi Gras burger: they are first and foremost an excuse on the part of the publisher to make hardcover dollar money. If you don’t remember that point, you might spend too much time like I did thinking about what the state of today’s world that you get a well-designed, hardcover “celebration” of a gleeful serial killer who is more or less the living embodiment of death.
Anyway, as much as I enjoyed the very early stories where The Joker is just a non-stop killing machine (in his first appearance, he’s more or less killing a person on every other page), the book spends about 87 of its 400 pages on the Joker of the mid-40s and early-50s, the non-lethal Joker of bank sprees and elaborate pranks, and those stories were pretty great, too.
It helps if you’re a fan of the “here’s an impossible thing on the cover; here’s how the story explains it happening” formula DC had going from before its Silver Age: The Joker captures Batman, so Robin has to help commit crimes to keep Batman alive; Batman and The Joker switch bodies; The Joker inherits a million dollars and quits crime…none of it is quite as good as Bill Finger’s “The Man Behind The Red Hood” which has Batman teaching a college course on criminology and recruiting his class to help solve the crime he never could. It’s filled with all those great detective-y bits Finger was so good at (one of the students deduces a suicide was actually a murder, just by noting the photo of the victim shows the hand with the gun doesn’t match the shoulder holster) even before you get to the bonus of the stealth Joker origin.
In fact, the book doesn’t get particularly leaden until it hits the modern age and the Joker once again becomes Mr. Death’s green-haired boy: both the O’Neil/Adams and the Englehart/Rogers stories are fine (and lean heavily on bits from the early Finger/Kane/Robinson material) but Englehart and Rogers are lucky the editors decided to run both parts of their two part Joker story. J.M. DeMatteis and Joe Staton only get the second issue of their four-part “Going Sane” storyline included; and Rucka/Grayson/Scott/Eaglesham only have part 3 of their “Endgame” storyline reprinted in this volume (which is itself part of the “No Man’s Land” event, so have fun with context, casual reader!). But that’s nothing when compared to Starlin and Aparo’s “Death in The Family”: not only is it just the second issue in the four-part storyline that gets reprinted, it’s not even the whole issue—the first 22 pages of the 44 page issue are left out.
Throw in only part three of Snyder/Capullo’s “Death in the Family” and the first issue of Tony Daniel’s sublimely dumb Detective Comics run, and you’ve got close to 180 pages of incomplete stories, which I imagine I would not be the only person to find more than a little disappointing. There’s an amusing paradox at the heart of this modern section of this collection: the more epic a Joker story creators try to tell, the smaller it feels by the time it hits this book’s procrustean page count.
So desperate are the editors for a halfway decent done-in-one from the modern era that there’s a John Byrne Superman issue in here. Consequently, the two writers in the modern section who come off the best are Chuck Dixon and Paul Dini: Dixon’s Detective Comics #726 (with artist Brian Steelfreeze) is light and flashy—apart from an early double-page early spread, every other page in the story is a full-page splash—but also satisfyingly constructed (good ol’ Chuck Dixon).
And Paul Dini and Don Cramer’s “Slayride” (Detective Comics #826), with Robin helpless in the passenger seat of the Joker’s Christmas hit-and-run spree, is even better. I’d read this story when it first came out and enjoyed it but in this context it doesn’t just hold up, it excels. Unlike the splash on every other page approach, Slayride uses a four tier structure to jam in all its story—the end result feels a little claustrophobic but what else do you want from a story that takes place largely inside a car?
But, still. Considering that, well, of course, you’re not going to get any of Miller’s Dark Knight Returns in here, nor Moore and Bolland’s Killing Joke, and you get a collection that’s like watching a sunset in the days following the destruction of Pompeii: what you’re looking at is the result of world-shaping explosions but you’re not allowed to see any of that directly. You’re only allowed to look at what’s in front of you and imagine.
The announcement of Giant Days — the new Boom! Studios series written by John Allison and drawn by Lissa Treiman, based on characters from Allison’s solo webcomics like Scary-Go-Round and Bad Machinery — was something that I found myself both incredibly excited, and surprisingly worried, about.
I’m a relative latecomer to Allison’s work, having only discovered it when Oni Press put out Bad Machinery in print back in 2013, but there was something about it that I immediately gravitated towards. It sounds like an insult, but it’s intended as a compliment to say that its artificiality and artifice was a big draw — the characters don’t speak naturally, the situations are wonderfully unrealistic and Allison’s art was specific and cartoonish enough that the whole thing added up to this joyful, ridiculous world that existed outside everything else, complete and wonderful in and of itself.
Giant Days, then, manages to fulfill both the fears and hopes I had for it when it was first announced. It’s not a comic book version of Allison’s web work — not only does it look very different, but there’s a more traditional narrative structure in place that alters the pacing that I’ve come to expect from his work. It all feels, oddly enough, more like a traditional comic book than what I think of as Allison’s style.
On one level, that’s not a bad thing — Giant Days #1 is actually a really cute, really enjoyable comic book, with female leads and mystery and distinct characters and some wonderful artwork from Treiman, who brings an animated life to everything. It’s fully-realized and inviting, and if I hadn’t been a fan of Allison’s other work, I’d be far less ambivalent about it and far more you guys, you have to read this, this is amazing.
And yet… it’s not the same as Allison’s other work, and that dissonance makes me wary. Is that self-defeating? I feel foolish about it, because I’m normally far more willing to let go of preconceptions when something gets adapted from one format to the other. Do I care that the X-Men that appear in the movies aren’t the ones I grew up reading? Not particularly. Am I bothered that the Barry Allen that speeds around on the CW isn’t the same Flash who runs around in the comic books? Not at all. (And also, last night’s episode was great, wasn’t it?) So, what is it about Giant Days that’s different?
I really can’t answer that, frustratingly. Instead, I’m going to keep reading the comic — which feels like a good companion piece to Lumberjanes in many ways — and trying to convince others to do the same, while I try and work out my discomfort and confusion in silence. There really is a great comic here, if only I could get past my preconceptions to be more excited about it.
Previously on Baxter Building: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced some of the greatest comic book heroes the world had ever seen, and then went on to prove that, while the series has a lot going for it, bringing villains back for second go-rounds wasn’t necessarily one of those things. You can find the first two episodes here.
I’ll be honest: for awhile there, it really looked like this was the episode that was never going to happen, due to technical problems during recording, editing and even now, as I write these show notes. (To that end, I apologize for a “MARVEL” watermark in one of the images — I don’t have access to Marvel Unlimited right now, so you’re getting them straight from the PDFs Jeff and I are reading, this time around.) Nevertheless, here are two hours of Jeff and I suggesting Mad Thinker revamps, talking about the greatness that is Jack Kirby and complaining about Reed Richards. In other words, my friends, another Baxter Building for you to enjoy (and if you don’t want to enjoy it here, then there’s always Stitcher and iTunes to fulfill your listening needs.) Show notes (and more!) under the jump. Continue reading →
Although it’s glib, I’d say if you thought of Graeme as “the DC guy,” and me as “the Marvel guy,” I think you wouldn’t be entirely right, but I think there might be more truth to that than not. (Although if you think of Graeme as “the smart guy” and me as “the dumb guy, and his self-esteem is problematic too,” I think there’s even more truth to that.)
[More after the jump if you’re inclined; once again, I imaged the crap out of this post…] Continue reading →
I keep trying to write a review of The Surface #1, the first issue of the new Ales Kot/Langdon Foss/Jordie Bellaire/Clayton Cowles/Tom Muller series that is released tomorrow, but every single time I start, my brain jams. Part of me wants to blame it on events outwith my control and Wait, What?‘s purview, but it’s the comic itself; there’s so much to unpack and talk about that I find myself stuttering and starting over, second-guessing myself: Shouldn’t I concentrate on this? What about this? Isn’t that even more important? and so on, and so on. Let’s pick things apart and leave them in pieces, instead, shall we? (I’ll do so under the jump, however; you should probably scroll down the listen to the latest episode, if you haven’t already.) Continue reading →
Greetings, Whatnauts! We hope Episode 171 finds you well, since it found us on the edge of wellness (look for the DVD marketing of Edge of Wellness to confuse everybody into thinking it’s actually called “Cough, Mute, Repeat”). Despite our professed love of the partially muted cough or sneeze, Jeff put a lot of work into editing that out so all you get are two hours and seven minutes of pure, unfiltered comic book opinionation! Look at the show notes below and see!00:00-10:29: Bonus musical opening! And then we *finally* announce the winners of our Rogue Trooper Last Man Standing contest, where the contestants told us what they would rename us if we were biochips and what piece of equipment you put us on. Listen in as we announce the winners and read their entries because they are, as Graeme so perfectly puts it, “harsh but fair but harsh.” Congratulations to Eric Reehl, Brendan O’Hare, Michael Loughlin, and Matthew Murray, and big thanks to Last Man Standing author and Whatnaut Brian Ruckley for making it possible for us to share the love (no matter how belatedly).
10:29-36:13: Graeme has been catching up on a bunch of old comics recently and one of them is the collected edition of DC’s Forever Evil spinoffs, and tells us about Forever Evil: Blight, a sixteen issue sub-event that starts out great and then burned through so much of Graeme’s good will, it’s kind of a shame. Also discussed: Alan Moore and American Gothic and John Constantine (and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice); J.M. DeMatteis; DeMatteis’ run on Defenders and Captain America; Ray Fawkes; shout outs to Jesus; Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer run; Gary Seven; the Star Trek: Vanguard series; and the phrase “come through my magical portal!” which Graeme says with such panache it really does deserve to become its own meme.
36:13-46:33: Also read by Graeme: five or so collections of New 52’s Suicide Squad, with runs by Adam Glass, Ales Kot, and Matt Kindt on writing. Also discussed: the Ostrander Suicide Squad run; Charles Soule’s Thunderbolts; Thunderbolts as being overdue for a big Marvel Unlimited readthrough on Jeff’s part; Warren Ellis as muse of Marvel Comics; and an appearance by everyone’s favorite set of barking dogs, Ernie and Gus!
46:33-1:23:28: Continued from above, but perhaps worth breaking into its own time-stamp, we talk about the idea of Marvel as a particularly American narrative, and the influence of British writers like Millar and Ellis on that narrative; Marvel’s purported distrust of The Man and its not-so-secret love of The Man; the one story Marvel can’t stop telling about SHIELD; Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the direction of the Marvel universe; the Original Sin event from Marvel (with spoilers for the final issue); Comparisons to Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales; head-scratching about what events from are “successful” and what do we mean by success, anyway?; and us talking about AXIS, Battle of the Atom, Superman: Doomed, and of course much more.
1:23:28-1:27:31: “We’ve gone horribly off-topic; how did we even get onto this?” Unsure, we turn to another set of comics Graeme tackled this week: Valiant, which Graeme especially enjoys when tackling in big chunks, as he did with Rai and Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody, as well as new titles like Imperium and Ivar, Time Walker.
1:27:31-1:34:59: More recommendations from Graeme? “Get the fuck back into 2000 A.D.,” he advises Jeff (or perhaps it’s an oblique exorcism ritual? I didn’t realize Graeme had caught on to the fact that I was 2-D Prog demon made flesh!). And people in the U.K. he tells to go get the Judge Dredd Mega Collection by being published every fortnight by Hachette; finally, for all of us with access to a Kindle or a Kindle app, he exhorts us to purchase the omnibus of Judge Dredd: Year One novellas by Mike Carroll, Matt Smith, and Al Ewing. So pushy, that Graeme McMillian fellow!
1:34:59-1:46:52: And, on the subject of 2000 A.D., Jeff finally got around to reading Zenith: Phase One by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell. So we talk about Morrison from way, way, way back in the day, what he’s doing then and what he’s doing now (such as Nameless #2 by G-Mo and Chris Burnham).
1:46:52-1:51:55: Jeff bought and read Princess Leia #1 by Mark Waid and Terry and Rachel Dodson and has a lot of ambivalent feelings about it (and Star Wars in general). Listen here to find out why! (Ha, and I said Graeme was pushy.)
1:51:55-1:57:28: Jeff also wanted to talk about Grayson #8 by Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin; and Scooby-Doo Team-Up #9 by Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela.
1:57:28-end: Shop talk! We got great feedback for our discussion on the last podcast about the first half-dozen issues of the Legion: Five Years Later. We also wring our hands over our pace on Baxter Building, our FF readthrough podcast (protip: read issues #25-36 plus Annual #2, if you want to be prepped for our next ep!), and politely insist everyone to check out the revivified House to Astonish! [link: ]
Remember, if you do not like our audio player (and many of you do not), and you don’t like retrieving our podcast from the RSS feed or what have you, check out the very first comment for a plain text link for you to copy and paste freely! As mentioned above, we will be back next week with Episode 3 of Baxter Building. So if you excuse me, I have some crazy-ass Kirby/Lee comics to attend to…but, as always, thank you for listening!
There are some characters that are some completely of their time they somehow manage to transcend that time entirely. Such is the case with Rich Buckler’s Deathlok The Demolisher, whose original incarnation I revisited recently thanks to a Comixology sale. If you’re willing to accept the premise that comic books can fail at things like story and character and thematic consistency and internal logic and still be considered good, then you might find Buckler’s Deathlok to be a great comic.
(Follow me behind the jump so I don’t swamp the main page with images?) Continue reading →