Previously on Baxter Building: It’s an all-new beginning once more, as the Steve Englehart era is behind us, and the Fantastic Four — really, five, because Ben Grimm is still part of the team despite being de-powered — is ready for some old-school adventures freed of the meta-textual war between writer and editorial that has marked the last year or so of the series. Can incoming creator Walt Simonson right a ship that’s been enjoyable, if somewhat listing, for quite some time…?
0:00:00-0:06:29: In a surprise move, we open our first episode of the Simonson era by examining Jeff’s relationship with Simonson’s work, and the fact that — gasp — he’s not really a fan! Well, it’s more complicated than that; he loves the artwork, but doesn’t love the writing. Get your disbelief out the way now, because he might end up converting you by episode’s end.
0:06:30-0:39:29: Instead of going issue-by-issue, we somehow fall into an en-masse discussion of Fantastic Four #334-336, which Jeff keeps calling the “Dark Congress” issues. (We’re unusually bad with issue titles this episode, so I’ll put them here: #334 is “Shadows of Alarm,” #335 is “Death by Debate,” and #336 is, indeed, “Dark Congress!”) I think the issues, drawn by Walt Simonson with art by Rich Buckler and Ron Lim, are “enjoyable in a way that the book hasn’t been in years,” and are gentle — if not particularly funny — comedy, but Jeff doesn’t agree in the slightest, because he sees a more sinister motive behind making fun of silly villains. We talk Mark Gruenwald, Steve Gerber, John Byrne, and then slip very much into talking about the next few issues early, in trying to talk about why these issues disappointed Jeff so much. The short version? Simonson’s writing really needs Simonson’s artwork in order to fully function.
0:39:30-0:53:31: “Once you get to the double page spread on pages 2 and 3, the scope of the book is bigger,” I enthuse as we get to the All-Simonson Fantastic Four #337, although we go back and forth about whether the writing lives up to the artwork here. (Spoiler: It doesn’t, but we’ll get to the reasons why soon enough.) Jeff can’t help but see the specter of John Byrne in these pages, although I think it’s more a shared devotion to the same source Lee/Kirby material. That said, one of Jeff’s reasons for the Byrne comparison is worth its weight in rhetorical gold all by itself.
0:53:32-1:08:51: Discussion on FF #338 opens with the idea of Simonson’s art taking the book back to its sci-fi roots, before Jeff brings up a point of continuity that I hadn’t even considered (or remembered, for that matter), and we talk about the way in which the Fantastic Four comic has somehow stopped being about the Fantastic Four, somehow. What is the central idea behind the Fantastic Four, and how much does the team called the Fantastic Four have to be part of it…? All this, and Jeff’s dislike for Death’s Head, an unnecessary Kieron Gillen slam — those two things aren’t unrelated — and our shared enjoyment for Simonson’s language, if not necessarily his plotting.
1:08:52-1:26:42: Fantastic Four #339 continues to dazzle with the visuals, with a three-page opening sequence that Jeff and I can’t help but pull apart. I said I’d share all three pages, so…
…Really. How amazing is that? (Especially knowing that the final page is a page turn from the all-black panel page.) Meanwhile, I arguably give Simonson far too much credit for giving the readers credit, before complaining that the plot for this issue comes out of nowhere and seems like a waste of time. Jeff describes it as “weirdly half-assed,” and honestly, he’s not wrong. We puzzle through the plan being enacted in this issue as we explain the plot, and it’s not as if we come to any kind of conclusion.
1:26:43-1:40:47: FF #340 opens with me riffing on where Simonson’s head is at as a writer, and what that means for the storyline going on right now. Jeff isn’t happy with this issue’s plot, and tries to argue that this is the biggest waste of time in the entire storyline because of yet another side quest that adds little to the overall story. I’m not convinced, because (a) monsters, (b) Reed’s suicide run, which leads is prompted by some clearly false jeopardy (Not one reader of the comic at this point seriously believes Sue is going to die), but does result in some amazing art, which once again gets dissected. Is this the most we’ve ever talked about the art in a Baxter Building? Possibly, or at least since the Kirby days. Perhaps that’s a clue as to where the strength of these stories lies…
1:40:48-1:56:27: Does the opening narration of Fantastic Four #341 suggest that even those responsible think that the last issue was filler? Maybe, but this issue really tries to make up for it by packing in a whole bunch of plot in an attempt to wrap everything up and destroy all of reality in the process. Well, if you’re going to go out on a story like this, I guess you’re going out with a bang — and we try to live up to what’s going on with some singing, some art appreciation, and wondering why the surprise reveal that sets up the conclusion works the way it does. (Even though Jeff calls it a cheat; I’m not sure that’s entirely fair, but Simonson is certainly playing with reader expectation in a way that both works and disappoints.)
1:56:28-end: We speed towards the end of the episode with a little piece of continuity minutiae — the villain of this entire arc wasn’t actually who she appeared to be, thanks to an after-the-fact retcon — and then a reminder that you can find us all over the internet, especially at our Twitter, Tumblr and Patreon accounts. Next time around: I hopefully won’t be sick so we won’t have to wait a week to record the next episode, and we’ll be going through Fantastic Four #342-349. As always, thank you for listening and reading along.
I wound up on Marvel Day At Sea almost by accident. Our friends went on a Disney Cruise a couple of years ago and loved it, and suggested that we might want to come along on the next one. The booking time was chosen more than a year out based on work busy seasons and cruise pricing, not the the theme day. If we had gone a week earlier, it would’ve been Star Wars, which my wife and daughter and I would’ve loved but my son would’ve been indifferent to; instead we got Marvel which has something for all of us.
I had never done a cruise before, so literally everything about the experience was new (and slightly baffling) to me. For those of you in the same boat (LOL BOAT JOKES!), our five day cruise worked basically like this: Day 1 was at sea, travelling to Day 2’s stop; Day 3 was Marvel Day at Sea while travelling to Day 4’s stop; Day 5 is very short and you leave the boat.
While you’re on the boat, you can participate in any number of activities, scheduled (shows, classes, contests, etc.) and free-form (pools, spa stuff, pictures with Disney characters, stuffing your face, etc.). It’s like a large, floating hotel/mall combo, almost entirely tilted toward Disney-owned IP. I saw The Last Jedi three more times while on the cruise. The stateroom TVs have channels including “Pixar Movies,” “Marvel Movies,” and “Disney Classics”. That kinda thing.
On Marvel Day at Sea, all of those things still happen, but with Marvel branding. And, I will tell you, it is a sight to behold. Here, for example, is a long line of people wrapping around the boat to get a picture with Loki. Not the actual Norse god Loki, of course, and not noted Taylor Swift ex-“boyfriend” (and Loki actor) Tom Hiddleston, either. Just a pleasant, official, onboard Loki.
In an ideal world, this would be where the shownotes for the new Baxter Building would go, but… Well, I got sick last week when we should’ve been recording it and as a result, there is no new Baxter Building just yet. (I’m fine now, aside from a scratchy throat.) We’re pushing the recording schedule out for the rest of the month as a result, so: Next week will see the arrival of Baxter Building Ep. 38 — the first Walter Simonson issues! — and then, the week after, another Wait, What? which will be ready to take on the news from that week’s Image Expo. It’ll all work out! Honest! Now excuse me while I go cough a little more…
Hello, friends! Skipping our way back after skip week, it is the Wait, What? Podcast, with much talk about comics and comics news for you. As per our discussion in the comments of our previous show notes, there are some time annotations in the show notes below in order to help you skip spoilers you do not want to spoil you…but be forewarned I put most of them down guessing the intro would add a minute to the time and it was only a mere fifty-six seconds. I adjusted things accordingly for the Silencer spoiler but everything else might hit four or five seconds sooner than indicated? It’s not perfect, but on the other hand I might have this wrapped three fewer hours than when I used to do full show notes.
So, with that in mind, on with the show!
- The Salt-N-Pepa Pedanticism Hour (fortunately not a full hour);
- A lot of moving parts to the comics news: first up, the announced discount for Comixology Unlimited; the aftermath of Marvel’s latest absurd Amazon sale; the joys of Hoopla; the sumptuous art of Milk Wars: Doom Patrol/Justice League of America by Gerard Way, Steve Orlando, the amazing ACO, (with a backup strip by Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew) (with story spoilers right around the 45 minute mark to around the 47 minute mark or so); Metal #5 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (pretty much the whole conversation is a spoiler, I guess? To the extent we even understand what’s going on, which is part of the problem? So I guess starting around the 48 minute mark to right around one hour and three if you want to skip the majority of the convo?) Also discussed: Bendis’s plans for Superman and DC, the Scott Snyder weekly JLA event, and some understandably nervous retailers.
- 1:15:10 (or so): We talk about the news of Dan Mintz’s DMG Group buying Valiant and the absolutely delightful typo that resulted in the reportage of that news (h/t Seth Rosenblatt), but then quickly return to our patented W,W? hand-wringing over possible DC/Marvel gamesmanship in Summer 2018 right when the market literally can’t afford it.
- 1:29:00 (or so): A *very* quick discussion about Ethan Van Sciver’s harassment of Darryl Ayo and the difficulty of nailing down an objective history of something happening 100% on social media;
- 1:39:05: Moving into talking about comics we’ve read: Graeme has good things to say about Motherlands #1 by Si Spurrier, Jung Gi Kim, Eric Canete, and Rachel Stott; Jeff mentions West Coast Avengers: Zodiac Attack by Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom, and Joe Sinnott (but really doesn’t talk about how good it is—people, it’s really good); Silencer #1 by John Romita Jr. and Dan Abnett (with what Graeme points out is probably a significant spoiler mentioned at 1:53:52 to 1:54:08) and contrasted with Jennifer Blood, as well as the first issues of Abbott #1 by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivela, and Black Dahlias #0 by Kristin Schwarz, Shad Clark, and Ari Syahrazad. But, Jeff also read vols 1, 2, and 5 of Duet of Beautiful Goddesses by Yumi Hanakoji, so why should we listen to him, if you think about it?
- 2:03:05-end: Closing comments that very quickly go off the rails because we talk about the continuity of John Byrne’s Superman and how much control a creator should have; and then back to closing comments, and then we are back off the rails a few more times.
Hey there, friends. The government may have shut down but not your friendly neighborhood Wait, What? Yes, we have a terrifyingly-close-to-two-and-a-half-hour installment for you!
- How many people we follow on Twitter(!);
- Comics news round-up featuring: the return of the red trunks; Bendis in Action Comics #1000; Dan Slott leaving Spider-Man to take over Iron Man; Kelly Thompson is now Marvel Exclusive; and, as Graeme perfectly puts it, “Wolverine is back, in the most fucking confusing manner ever!”
- The gap between Marvel’s sales and Marvel’s talent: Thompson on Hawkeye; Zdarsky on Spectacular Spider-Man; Al Ewing’s Ultimates and Ultimates2 (with Kenneth Rocafort, Aud Koch, Travel Foreman);
- Graeme’s thoughts on the first two parts of the new Avengers mega-storyline “No Surrender” by Mark Waid, Jim Zub, Al Ewing, and Pepe Larraz;
- Jeff’s thoughts on Batman #39, and a discussion about Tom King and Mister Miracle and DC’s non-Kirby handling of The New Gods overall and a discussion of continuity and character investment as opposed to an investment on a creator’s “take” on a character, which leads in its way to:
- discussions of American Vandal and the Netflix adaptation of Charles Forsman’s TEOTFW, and
- a *very* long—and absolutely spoiler-rich—discussion about Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
- Back to news (kinda): a discussion of Marvel’s new publisher;
- An all-too-brief discussion of the genius Bob Haney, George Tuska, and Vince Colletta story “Will of the Whisperer” from Worlds Finest #252, available on Comixology;
- If you like (or don’t mind) reading comics electronically, see if your library has the Hoopla service, so you can check out and read The Bronze Age Batman Brave and the Bold Omnibus Vol. 1 *for free*;
- Closing comments! Featuring Graeme’s great recap of Justice League of America #123 over at the most excellent Steve Morris’s Shelf Dust; Jeff’s not-so-great job of his half of the closing comments; and a call for you to VOTE!
Next week is a skip week but join us in a mere fortnight for Wait, What? Ep. 242, won’t you?
Previously on Baxter Building: As the result of Reed Richards’/Marvel editorial’s inability to leave well enough alone (Delete as applicable), Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman have rejoined the Fantastic Four, just in time for the Thing to turn back into Ben Grimm, and the team to be defeated by the Frightful Four and… an evil Watcher…?!?
0:00:00-0:04:58: We start with the briefest of introductions, mentioning the issues that we’re talking about this episode (Fantastic Four #328 through 333, AKA the final Steve Englehart issues), and discussing potential Englehart-inspired pseudonyms for Jeff. You know, as you do.
0:04:59-0:22:14: While Jeff appreciates what he describes as the final Englehart Fantastic Four issue that “counts”, I’m less impressed with FF #328, for many reasons including sub-par writing from Steve E, and particularly ill-suited inks from Romeo Tanghal, although Jeff’s notion of an eyebrows pass makes things seem a little better. It is, as I put it, a “shoddy issue,” but at least there are odd color choices, an unexpected Sensational She-Hulk in-joke, inexplicable hideout hi-jinks and the two of us talking about the benefits of Meta-Englehart versus Regular Englehart.
0:22:15-0:38:58: “Well, let’s move on to #329,” I say, with a tone of resignation that the issue really doesn’t deserve. Welcome to the new Fantastic Four, who are kind of the old Fantastic Four, only far creepier, as the opening pages of the issue reveal. (They really are enjoyably creepy, really. Discover our joy in the word “Bah!” Listen to the fake FF ruin our chance for lasting peace with the Mole Man! Endure us talking about the ways in which the fake Fantastic Four were ahead of their time, and feel like the Ghost of Comics Yet To Come! We also discuss the lack of clarity in dream sequences, which… might be the point, upon reflection…? Then again, I’m not sure there was that much coherency happening at this point of the book…
0:38:59-0:57:34: What can we say about Fantastic Four #330? Well, it offers up Sue’s dream, which inexplicably doesn’t feature Sue but does feature Doctor Doom vs. Doctor Doom and the destruction of Earth. (Really, do other people have dreams in which they never appear, and it’s just me?) A general apathy in this issue is compounded by bad coloring (or, perhaps, coloring mistakes), and a sense that the best hope for this issue is wondering if it’s a parody, or meta-commentary on crossover events and crossover logic in general. Plus! It’s the return of Rich Buckler, and oh, man, has he brought some swipes! Is this even more meta-commentary on the nature of recycling in superhero comics, or just an unfortunate coincidence? U decide!
0:57:35-1:06:42: Sure, there’ve been some misfires so far this episode, but FF #331 offers up Reed’s dream, which has the best reveal in comics as the Turino XL’s foreshadowing from a handful of issues back is finally explained. We get an entirely solid issue of super heroics that is likely to make you wish that Steve Englehart stayed on the book for longer, and talk about Englehart sharing Reed’s apparent belief in the FF as a team. Meanwhile, Englehart’s captions ramp up the sarcasm and his war on Marvel editorial, deliciously.
1:06:43-1:20:53: What’s that, you say? You want to see some old-fashioned catfighting? Uh… okay…? Thankfully, Fantastic Four #332 has you covered. The issue opens with what may be comics’ greatest passive aggressive opening captions, but before too long, we get to see Crystal return to fight with Sue Storm, argue with Reed, and set up a genuinely wonderful retcon of one of John Byrne’s biggest upsets to the status quo… But, of course, it’s all a dream! (Sadly.) Meanwhile, Englehart works in more meta-commentary about what the Fantastic Four, and arguably Marvel, needs to be successful, but is he preaching to the readers or the editors? (Spoilers: Probably the latter, considering the context.) And what is it that’s more important to Johnny Storm: Love or ego? Jeff and I disagree on the answer!
1:20:54-1:42:17: Perhaps the greatest unanswered question about FF #333 is why it’s called “The Dream Is Dead, Part Two,” considering we couldn’t find a “The Dream Is Dead, Part One” anywhere. (Really, does anyone know where that appeared?) But in an issue where Hercules provides two perfect lines of dialogue, Rich Buckler swipes the latter Buscema/Palmer Avengers run for one panel only, and the massive, storyline-wrap-up fight is really a half-assed discussion about the need for people to change and grow, should we really care about titles? Of course not! After all, there’s Marvel editorial’s passive aggressive push-back against Steve Englehart’s passive aggressiveness to talk about, and boy, howdy. They didn’t disappoint.
1:42:18-end: The strangeness, and strange greatness, of the Englehart run as a whole is briefly memorialized as we wrap things up, before declaring the first couple of Walter Simonson arcs in the next episode — Fantastic Four #334-341, if you’re reading along at home — before the regular reminder that we can be found on Twitter, Tumblr and Patreon. As always, thanks for listening and reading. Next time, less bad dreams, but way, way more lame villains and time travel.
Well, well, well. Here we are again. Another new year, and another round of a podcast in which the clever, articulate one and the probably-not-as-clever-although-no-one-can-really-quite-tell-because-he-is-definitely-not-as-articulate one gather together to talk about that medium we all know and love. We’re glad you could join us!
- Greetings of the New Year, for the New Year;
- Jeff’s not-quite 100% health and the Bay Area’s bad flu streak;
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the latest break between Marvel and Jim Starlin;
- The Chris Claremont Legacy: X-Men Grand Design #1 & 2 by Ed Piskor, and the three part Blade, The Vampire Slayer story collected in Marvel Horror: The Magazine Collection;
- Marvel’s not-good-at-all year, the rough year for the comics market overall, and the mysterious return of the Marvel Legacy lenticular covers;
- The coming year for DC, and DC’s traditionally not-great job at taking the pole position, featuring our complaints about Hawkman Found #1 and a very terrifying Alan Moore workaround;
- Some discussion of Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell, Mike Feehan, Mark Morales, and Paul Mounts;
- Reading for The Eisners, direct market comics, and the dreamed-for alternative to the direct market;
- The last episode of 1976 TV show, Gemini Man (as dreamed by Jeff one feverish night);
In the Great The Last Jedi Wars of 2017, I’m on the “I love this movie” side. Let me get that out of the way first. Writer/director Rian Johnson’s film was, for me, the most thematically rich, best-acted, best-directed, best-looking of all the Star Wars movies. I loved the way it played off and subverted established Star Wars tropes and expectations, from the first scene to the last, while still clearly being built around a deep love of the earlier movies. I’ve seen it four times as of this writing and will be trying to get in at least one more in-theater viewing. For whatever reason, it landed really squarely for me, and is currently my third-favorite of all the Star Wars films, pushing hard for the #2 spot.
So, that’s that part. I’m not interested in rebutting anyone’s complaints–we’re allowed to like different movies, you and I!–nor do I particularly feel like rehashing the moments that worked so well for me. What I do want to look at is one specific subversion of an iconic moment that I haven’t seen directly discussed anywhere, and doing that will necessitate SPOILERS after the jump.