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.)
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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:
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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.

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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?

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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!

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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?

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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?
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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?
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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?
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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?
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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.
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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?
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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!
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[NOTE: Blog posts are like buses. So before you read me on WicDiv, please be sure to check out Graeme and Jeff doing a back-and-forth on DC Comics anniversary books. Oops. I’ll schedule better next time, I swear!]

I always put a spoiler warning in these things, even when there are no spoilers. And I always use the page break jump, just to keep the front page here streamlined and clean.

So let me be very clear, to avoid confusion or disaster: I am going to be discussing the big ol’ spoileriffic climax of The Wicked + The Divine #22, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles. I am going to discuss in at least some degree of detail, and there may even be a picture or two depending on how ambitious I’m feeling.

If you have any interest at all in WicDiv and haven’t read this issue, just stop here. Right here. Yes, that’s good. We can talk about something else soon. For everyone else ….

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GRAEME: For those who haven’t already heard the last Wait, What?, there’s a question from Tim Rifenburg that we ended up punting on, because we thought we might need a little more reflection and/or the space to turn it into a written post. It went a little something like this:

I have recently been buying (on the cheap) a bunch of the DC anniversary compilation books that have come out in the last year or so.  Every time I see the stories (or parts of stories that are picked) I  am astounded on what they pick for a celebration book.  If you were asked, which character or title would you like to put together a compilation for and  what are some of the stories you would pick.

If you don’t know what anniversary books Tim’s talking about, he means things like this and this and this. They’re very strange books: not quite Best Ofs, but something along the lines of a quasi-historical overview, with (very) brief essays ahead of a selection of stories that try and talk about the era in which they were created and, to be blunt, fail more often than not. As Tim suggests above, the selection of stories for each book is more than normally utterly confounding, avoiding standalone graphic novels or collections but not unafraid to pick one issue of a multi-part storyline (or even, in some cases, some pages out of an incomplete issue) to use, because… well, that’s a very good question.

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0:00-4:22: Greetings from Lost Lake Loop—okay, it’s actually Portland and San Francisco but we swear LLL (a location that sounds like a love interest for Superman when I abbreviate it like that) is actually involved.  Graeme had a nice little getaway which is wonderful, but then barely managed to make it back in time to podcast which is…less wonderful by all accounts. But after that tale of terror and woe (and lunch) is recounted, we move on to the Q&A section of our podcast, and what an impressive set of Q’s you fine people have proffered. We told our patrons they could ask two questions each if they wanted, and they did indeed deliver.  SPOILERS: We don’t even make it through them all this episode.  But let’s get to them, shall we?
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4:22-25:46: Zaragosa, a.k.a. thelegendarypanda a.k.a. Glengarry Glen Panda asks: I have a few friends who are professional comics artists and something that comes up all the time in discussions with them, regarding creator-owned work, is the whole bullshit concept of the writer owning everything in terms of IP, etc.  Robert Kirkman is the most egregious example of this.  Mark Millar is a counterpoint, splitting all ownership 50/50 which clearly helps him work with top tier artists.  I don’t really think Millar does this out of the goodness of his heart, but hey, if you save a guy from a burning building because he owes you money, you’re still a hero… I guess?
 
Anyway, it seems like most big name writers are on what I believe is the only ethically correct side of this issue: Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan, Bendis, Hickman, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, the aforementioned Millar…
 
…but there are still quite a lot of writers on the “wrong” side: Warren Ellis certainly has been with all of the books he did for Avatar, I think Grant Morrison pretty much owns all or the majority of his Vertigo work outright (my understanding is that Grant has the same unique deal with Vertigo as Neil Gaiman, where he basically owns/controls media rights/IP for all of his work with them; and I heard Sean Murphy outright say on a podcast that Grant gave Murphy a 30% ownership stake in Joe the Barbarian, as if that were a generous thing); it seems like GM and Warren Ellis basically feel like if an artist is “big” enough to warrant co-ownership, they will give it to them (as I assume Ellis has done with Declan Shalvey on Injection). 
 
The worst and most craven example of this bullshit that needs to be called out, to my eye, is… Robert Kirkman, not only with TWD and Outcast, but every single book under his whole Skybound sham of an imprint — where Skybound (meaning, Kirkman) owns a majority interest in all of those books.  He controls the IP, period.  He and his business partners, not the creators.  That just seems so awful to me, as to defy all decency.  The whole reason, of course, that Kirkman happens to occupy such a rarefied position is because Image gave him (and Tony Moore) the right to have FULL ownership of The Walking Dead.  Kirkman, naturally, then screwed over Tony Moore, but that’s another story.  
 
Maybe I’m wrong here (I don’t think so), but Kirkman seems like the kind of guy who makes it across a bridge, in a warzone, by the skin of his teeth, and then blows up the bridge so that no one else can follow him.  Am I being too harsh?  It just seems like we should either be past this kind of nonsense in this industry, since we all know the awful history of the way so many of our great artists were screwed over and died penniless.  Or, at the very least, we should be, as a community, publicly shaming creators like Kirkman who hoard and snatch away IP from less fortunate creators.  I hear many artists discussing this privately, but it seems like it’s barely a thing in the online community (even after Tony Moore took Kirkman to court over Kirkman’s dishonest dealings with Moore, his childhood friend).  Is everyone just afraid of alienating the mighty Kirkman or other name writers by openly discussing how wrong this practice is?
 
As much as I find Ales Kot to be kinda annoying, personality-wise, I do appreciate the novelty/integrity of his move in splitting ownership of the IP for the comics he does with the artist AND the letterer AND the colorist AND the book’s designer (in Zero’s case, the incomparable Tom Muller).  That seems like it would be a nightmare, contract-wise, but maybe not; anyway, as far as the comics industry goes, it’s certainly a bold move to err on the side of being overly fair.
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25:46-29:16: Matt Miller inquires: What is your esteemed co-host’s worst opinion? 
29:16-49:58: Paul Spence asks:  I have three questions, but one is really aimed at just at Jeff.
Jeff – Could you elaborate on your criticism of Platinum End. At the end of an earlier episode this year, I believe you said that it was a betrayal of Death Note. I would like to hear you expand on your comments. The team of Ohba and Obata have produced great work in the past, but with Platinum End, it seems that Obata’s art is carrying the show. 
Jeff & Graeme – My favourite 70’s Kirby is Kamandi. How would the Whatnauts rank Kamandi in relation to Kirby’s other 70’s era work.
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Jeff & Graeme – Could the Whatnauts comment on Grant Morrison’s metatextual masterpiece Flex Mentallo. The Flex Mentallo beach towel brought the book to mind. I really love it and I have read it three times so far this year. Perhaps I need to get a life.
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49:58-52:18:  Andrew Bayer asks (but not very seriously: Which is your preferred Question? (See top image for context.)
52:18-56:03:  Adam P. Knave throws down the gauntlet:  You can only save one character to be brought back EVER again. This is it, the one you don’t choose can never be used in a story ever again: METAL MEN or METAMORPHO.
56:03-1:01:46:  Rick Vance wants to know: How is the subscription to Shonen Jump going Jeff, are you keeping up with it in the slightest? My second question is only if either of you have read My Hero Academia, it is a perfect fusion of Superhero Teens and Shonen Action and I think you both would greatly enjoy it, it is in print and digital and probably easily obtained through libraries.
1:01:46-1:08:55: Here’s an inquiry from JONATHAN SAPSED: My question is which, if any industry awards should we take notice of and why? Eisners or Harveys? Eagles or British Comic Awards? Or if you prefer, what’s the best way into Hellboy and the Mignolaverse for the uninitiated, or is it worth bothering at this point now it’s finished?
1:08:55-1:21:08:  Say, Steve H has two things he wants to ask and here it is: If it’s not too late, I thought of two questions for you. Here goes: 1) So, I feel like A-Force has fallen off a cliff, not coincidentally right when G. Willow Wilson stopped co-writing it. Now I can finally stop buying it. The whole idea of an all-female team, which all-too-obviously only exists so you can have an all-female team, just seems very third-grade to me, very girls-against-the-boys, ewww-cooties kind of thinking. It’s not even the case that it somehow rights past wrongs, that Marvel always had all-male teams. Not the FF. Not the Avengers. Not the X-Men. Not the Defenders. Do you find anything wrong with this kind of shoehorned, quote-unquote “diversity”? When the book was just plain good, I put up with it, but now the “no boys allowed” sign on the clubhouse looks silly and halfway to offensive.
2) Have you followed the news about Kickass Torrents? (The owner got busted and the site is down, possibly for good.) Of all the industries affected by piracy, I feel like the death of KAT is heaviest in comics. You can download “The Force Awakens” or “The Life of Pablo” anywhere, but this seems much less true of comics, especially catalog stuff. Maybe week to week the new books will still be online, but sales of trades and collections could rise. Do you think there will be any noticeable impact?
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1:21:08-1:29:53: Kenneth A Graves has a doozy of a query and it’s: What nearly-forgotten gem would you like Dover or It’s Alive to reprint? Which incomplete 80s masterpiece should get revived and finished?
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1:29:53-1:33:20: Questions and a plug from Steven Prince: Love the podcast, but am a bit behind cause I have a newborn at home and every time I try to listen he starts screaming. Is it Jeff? Is it Graeme? Or is he just trying to assert his dominance?  I dunno, but I hope to catch up soon. In any case, questions…
1) I recently re-read the entire METABARONS saga by Jodorowsky and Gimenez. Do comics get any more awesome? Are there any you can think of?
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2) Can I get a shout out for my comic, MONSTER MATADOR? (yeah, it’s more of a trick question, but you didn’t say anything about those. Next issue will be on comixology soon. I’m a little behind because baby.)
1:33:20-1:43:34:  Here’s Tomas Syrstad Ruud with the first of several LOSH questions we received: 1) What do you think DC has to to do make a new Legion of Super Heroes comic work? 2) Will Marvel be able to continue a successful comic about Kamala Khan when G. Willow Wilson eventually leaves?
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1:43:34-1:53:33:  Here’s excellent q’s from Tim Rifenburg: (1) I have recently been buying (on the cheap) a bunch of the DC anniversary compilation books that have come out in the last year or so.  Every time I see the stories (or parts of stories that are picked) I  am astounded on what they pick for a celebration book.  If you were asked, which character or title would you like to put together a compilation for and  what are some of the stories you would pick. (This might be a question better suited for a written post if you were so inclined.)
A little too ironic? And yeah, I really do think.
(2)  My other question is if Bob Haney was alive ( in his prime, writing comics) which Marvel character or title would you have liked to see him put his Haney spin on.
Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 8.25.23 AM1:53:33-1:58:53: Jason Hopkins has gazed into the abyss, and it told him to ask:  Hey fellas, who would you consider your dream creative team on Fantastic Four (if it came back today), and what characters would you like to see in the supporting cast?

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1:58:53-2:04:43: Here is the wonderful cracking wise and wisecracking Martin Gray! 1) What character can you not stand, (mine is ‘honourable murderer’ Deathstroke)  

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2) Which gone comic co would you bring back?
2:04:43-2:21:27: Here’s two parting shots from Devin King: 1. If you were a high school English teacher (as I am), which graphic novel/trade paperback would you teach and why? (Or, should they not be taught in English classes?) 2. When you’re looking about thoughtful approaches to comics criticism, who/what do you read for particularly enlightened opinions?
2:21:27-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, in two weeks, join us for the shocking conclusion!
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[Warning: this is a review of the latest Bourne movie which just came out this weekend, but I don’t think I spoil anything? But, just in case I do and have somehow forgotten…spoilers?]

I caught Jason Bourne on opening day, which is the kind of thing I don’t do anymore.  Although I want to chalk it up as putting the bow on a weeklong vacation, I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t mention the missus and I have a fondness for the Bourne franchise, even going so far as to see the Bourne Legacy with Jeremy Renner on the big screen when it came out.

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(Okay, it was a drive-in double feature with Battleship but it still counts.)

(And when I reminded my wife today we’d seen it, she looked completely dumbfounded: “No, we didn’t!” Yes. Yes, we really did.”  “No!” “Yes! Remember, Jeremy Renner punched some wolves?” “Hmm.  Was that Rachel Weisz woman in it?” “Uh, maybe?” So yeah, between us, we were able to remember maybe six and a half minutes of the Bourne Legacy, BUT IT STILL COUNTS.)

In a way, my expectations were too high for Jason Bourne: sure, Matt Damon and writer/director Paul Greenglass were back, but they’d left Bourne to do the remarkably tepid Green Zone together (also seen by my wife and I in the theater—looking back, it’s clear her crush on Matt Damon and my crush on Paul Greenglass’s action editing had cast a siren spell over us).

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How could my expectations be too high?  What do I really want from a Bourne movie? I want a streamlined little thriller that waves at current events in between car chases and scenes of two men beating each other up with improvised weapons.  This is indeed what Jason Bourne gives us, although the final car chase feels more like a tribute to The Blue Brothers, and the improvised weapon bit is saved for the last, a  final fight between Bourne and bad guy Vincent Cassel that lets the two men go at it in a sewer tunnel below Vegas, banging one another about with discarded utensils like the most beautifully shot installment of Jackass.  But there’s a reason why reviewers have likened  Damon and Greenglass’s return to the Bourne franchise to watching your favorite rock band re-form to go on tour, and that reason is the nagging sense you are watching a very accomplished show by talented dudes who are only in it for the money.

SkekSo

Somehow, every bit of the movie that feels like it should be a badge of the team’s sincerity really indicates the opposite: there’s a lot of talk made about surveillance and privacy in a post-Snowden world, and the screenplay works hard to give Bourne some personal conflict, as a tormented, exhausted Bourne is dragged into action to discover the truth behind his father’s death.  But both these elements go almost nowhere and lack conviction. Tommy Lee Jones, who’s finally completed his transition into a Skeksis from The Dark Crystal, unites both threads by being the CIA director behind the latter and the force pushing the former, as he bullies, wheedles, and cajoles a Zuckerbergesque social media mogul into building a backdoor into his crazily popular social network, Deep Dream.

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But even before the social network that sounds like a Ben & Jerry ice cream flavor comes up, there’s a big action setpiece in Athens that, even as it technically dazzles, underlines how far off the mark Damon and Greenglass are from their ambitions.  As Bourne dashes about a full-scale riot doing his best to escape with series regular (and human plank) Julia Stiles, there’s a nagging feeling all of Bourne’s actions have nothing to do with the world at large, a gap between our hero’s eternal delving into the mysteries of his own past and Greece breaking under the weight of corruption and anti-austerity pressures.

The feeling was so persistent I assumed it was intentional, and that the film was signaling us as to the need to reinvent Damon’s character so he could reengage with the world again.

But…nope.  Like some tendon-snapping incarnation of The Great Gatsby, Damon’s character beats ass, boat against the current, Bourne borne back ceaselessly into his past to learn and rectify the secrets of his origins, the scenes of him crashing a commandeered Ford Mustang through the glowing streets of ahistoric Las Vegas so personifying the character’s  high-octane solipsism that Jean Baudrillard must have been  high-fiving himself in Heaven.

And yet that’s the thing for me about the Bourne movies.  I enjoy how well they’re made—I haven’t even mentioned how good the acting is in this thing, with Damon and Alicia Vikander and Riz Ahmed giving more in every scene the fewer lines they have—and I enjoy thinking about them afterward,  turning them over and over in my head, pondering how problematic they are.  Years ago, I wrote a review of The Bourne Supremacy and without realizing it lifted some very excellent paragraphs from Don DeLillo’s Libra.  Greenglass and Damon have shown audacity—at least as Hollywood would define it—by being willing to walk away from their big franchise to do something different, but I wish they’d had the audacity to adapt DeLillo’s fictionalized biography of Lee Harvey Oswald for the big screen, in part because Bourne is to Oswald what Dracula is to Vlad The Impaler: the transmutation of a man into a daydream, the bending of a bit of genuine nightmare into a pleasurable ghost story.  Like every Bourne movie to date—but maybe this time even more so—we are made complicit in the glamorizing of the man in the crowd with violence in his mind, of the sniper on the rooftop with a mission to accomplish.

As with most of the rest of the series, women are there to be killed, people of color are hyper-competent but tools of corruption, and old white men are venal manipulators willing to sacrifice anyone to preserve their secrets.  In such a world, the rootlessness of Jason Bourne the man is matched only by the brutality of his competence.

And maybe that’s why Jason Bourne the film is so enjoyably put together but so barely entertaining, so infectious in its joylessness: in the nine years since the last Damon/Greenglass joint, MRA shitbags have really become a thing now, and it can be harder to root for the dispossessed white guy violently redressing the wrongs done to him by others.  Jason Bourne is a guilty pleasure, but one whose filmmakers don’t seem to realize what exactly it’s guilty of. I wish it had been a more fun way to feel bad at the movies.

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0:00-18:26: Greetings from Portland! More specifically, greetings from a basement in Portland!  And to run it into the ground, greetings from a basement in Portland where Jeff and Graeme both are at the same time!  Yes, it’s time for the annual “hey we are in the same room” episode of Wait, What?, an episode which always makes Graeme and Jeff even more awkward than they normally are!  Who would’ve thought such a thing possible?  When this was recorded, San Diego Comic-Con was only three days in the past, so there’s a lot to catch up on, including what movies we haven’t seen, what invisible mode of transport we have (or have not) seen, and the first Wonder Woman trailer.

Also discussed:  other trailers, what Marvel showed in Hall H that it has yet to discuss; Kong of Skull Island; and more.
18:26-39:03: And in non-movie San Diego news, Graeme talked to someone and Drawn & Quarterly the night after the Eisners where they did incredibly well, which is pretty great, and in fact the Eisners this year were pretty great overall.  Also discussed:  What the heck do we call “alternative” publishers now; more reactions about the Wonder Woman trailer; the career of Rachel Talalay; Tom Scioli doing Super Powers as a back-up in Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye; that amazing Flex Mentallo beach towel giveaway; and more.
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39:03-1:09:44:  And while we’re on the comic tip, Jeff asks Graeme if there are any comics he’s read he wants to talk about.  Discussed!  Batgirl: Rebirth #1 by Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque.  Of course, thanks to Brian Azzarello, we more or less can’t even mention Batgirl without having to talk about that really terrible change to The Killing Joke in its animated adaptation. Also discussed:  Garth Ennis doing a Dastardly and Muttley comic; the tonal dissonance of Pete Tomasi’s scripts for Superman; and Jeff’s recent realization while reading The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina issues #5 and #6 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack; and the first volume of Batman: No Man’s Land by lots of people but most pertinently Bob Gale and Alex Maleev.  Also discussed: Tom Scioli and John Barber’s Transformers vs. G.I. Joe; the pilot of Riverdale; revisiting Hoopla; Injustice and Tom Taylor; Craftsman Bolt-On Systems Saves The Justice League; and more.
Craftsman BoltOn
1:09:44-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:  Wait, What? Ep. 206!  Just like we said above!  Ask us your goofy questions! We will give you goofier answers!
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Previously on Baxter Building: Hey, the team’s back together again! After a surprisingly long time, Sue Richards has rejoined the Fantastic Four, replacing Medusa who’s decided to go back to the Inhumans for reasons that basically come down to “Let’s get the originals back together.” It’s yet another All-New Beginning for our quirky quartet, and rascally Roy Thomas and richie Rich Buckler are prepared to make the most of it — as long as we all agree “making the most” of something is code for producing a number of exceptionally uneven comics!

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But before we get started… Let me just take a second to take responsibility for the obvious: these show notes should have been up on Monday morning, and this is Friday evening. I have reasons called “I was sick and tired (literally) after covering San Diego Comic-Con for work, and then I had a backlog of even more work waiting for me, because that worked out really well,” but that’s not really any kind of defense. I’m sorry, you guys. I suck. But not as much as these comics! (Spoiler warning: these are actually some pretty okay comics, so the link is forced. Sorry for that, too. I really do suck.)

0:00:00-0:07:48: In which we introduce the issues we’re discussing this episode — Fantastic Four #160-170, for those playing along at home — and talk about how very strange they are. It’s not as if they’re classics in any real way, but the nostalgia that Jeff feels for them, having read them the first time around, and the enjoyment that I get from the moments of surreal inspiration contained therein proves to be surprisingly winning. Despite having Gaard in them, but you’ll meet him soon.
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0:07:49-0:50:06: “There’s something simultaneously really subtle and blunt” about Fantastic Four #160-163 I say at one point; it’s an epic that turns three parallel Earths (One of them being the FF’s, of course) against each other, and despite the best efforts of both Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler, it really doesn’t come off. Sure, there’s grand scope and scale here, but Thomas keeps veering away from the vastness on show for some inexplicable reason. (Jeff has a theory: “Thomas is both ambitious and lazy,” he suggests.) But there’s so much to enjoy in this four-part storyline, including not one but two alternate Earths, a human Ben Grimm that isn’t our Ben Grimm, some dinosaurs, watching Roy Thomas really impressively undersell his own exciting premise, and an antagonist I describe as “the sensational character find of 1975.” Which is to say, this guy:
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Also! How did Not Brand Ecch help Roy Thomas prepare for writing the F.F.? How did this storyline predict Jonathan Hickman’s Marvel career four decades early? And what is the best cliffhanger this title has seen to date?!? Really, there’s a lot to chew on in this storyline, which might explain how we managed to talk more than half an hour about it, if the simple fact that Jeff and I like to talk doesn’t already do that. (One plus side about doing show notes so late this time around is that we’ve already been corrected that despite what we said in the podcast, Reed has, in fact, used Doom’s time machine. He did it back in Fantastic Four #19. Thanks, Evan!)
0:50:07-1:13:18: We get slightly sidetracked as we start talking about Fantastic Four #164-165 by the fact that Jack Kirby provides his first FF cover in 63 issues for the first half of this storyline, but can you blame us? We are but beasts of habit, like Roy Thomas, who (of course) resurrects a 1950s hero for this two-parter that started life as an issue of Giant-Size FF and… feels like it. Yeah, this is an overlong mess of a story with a confused moral where Marvel Boy — or “the Crusader,” as he calls himself here — wants revenge because… banks are shitty and by the way, his planet also died? Something like that. Don’t worry, there’s also this amazing outfit from a young George Perez and Joe Sinnott:
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Johnny, you’re definitely the fashion plate of the superhero set. And your date — the debut of Frankie Raye, years and years before John Byrne does anything with the character! — definitely seems to appreciate it:
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Oh, and Jeff reveals his inner-12-year-old. Never has one 49-year-old man had such joy with the word “Uranus.” But he has a theory about why these issues are the anti-Roy Thomas at work that’ll make you forgive him anyway.
1:13:19-1:25:09: “I think these issues are just lousy,” I proclaim as we start talking about FF #166-167, and I’m standing by that. A two-parter guest-starring the Hulk that requires you to believe that Ben Grimm is a sociopath that feels even more like unnecessary filler than the last couple of issues — including some mismatched art from George Perez and Vince Colletta.
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You can tell that Jeff doesn’t dig it because he compares it to Silver Age DC, which seems to be his favorite insult for FF issues he doesn’t like, and honestly, it’s hard to blame him. That said, this storyline does lead into the final three issues of this episode…
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1:25:10-1:59:56: There’s a lot that could’ve gone wrong in Fantastic Four #168-170 — a storyline that requires Ben Grimm to be suspicious of his replacement in the team, only for his replacement to turn against the team for mind controlled reasons, which is could be particularly problematic considering his replacement is the book’s first black character ever, Luke Cage — but it… kind of works out…? There’s some surprisingly subtle character work going on here, with a self-pitying Ben Grimm (and a hilarious bar fight) and a very welcome smart Alicia, who works out what’s going on before anyone else, and even if Luke Cage feels particularly dull compared with his portrayal in other books of the time. Oh, and we get a new status quo for the Thing that looks as if he’ll be allowed to grow for the first time in… years, if not decades. Will it stick around, and we’ll have genuine character growth for the character? Don’t get too excited: remember that whole credo about “no change, just the illusion of change.” Before you get too downhearted, we talk about Roy Thomas seemingly finally working out the right tone for Fantastic Four after a particularly rocky run.
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1:59:57-end: We finish up by talking about the issues in this run and how much we enjoyed them despite their uneven nature, and then announce that next time, we’ll be doing Fantastic Four #171-184. In the meantime, we can be found on Twitter, Tumblr and Patreon, and I apologize once again for the lateness of the show notes. Really, I was very, very exhausted after Comic-Con, although that’s not really an excuse. Thank you very much for your patience, dear Whatnauts, and I promise to try harder next time. (Honest.)

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CleanRoomSpalsh

When I think of Vertigo comics–I think when most people think of Vertigo comics–I think of the … um … goth-ier stuff. Tarot cards and rings of salt and stories about stories about stories and whatever. If I’m not thinking of it in those terms, I tend to think of it as an auteurist imprint where artists and writers could indulge their idiosyncratic visions.

But that ignores the other, much simpler fact about Vertigo, which is this: sometimes, it’s just a really reliable source for propulsive, pulpy entertainment. Y The Last Man might be the best example, but even books that are usually lumped under the “auteurist” category were successful because they were gotta-read-the-next-issue engaging–Transmetropolitan and 100 Bullets and stretches of The Invisibles and Hellblazer, and even, for all its many flawsPreacher all may be associated with specific creators, but they’re also just really entertaining stories.

That’s what came to mind when I read these three new(ish) Vertigo collections–the first volumes of Unfollow, Clean Roomand Jacked: these books felt like trad Vertigo to me in that sense, even though there’s not a single wise talking cat to be found.

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