Hey, everyone.  Don’t be fooled–this isn’t an episode.  It’s just seventeen minutes of Graeme and Jeff talking about when we will next be podcasting and the reason for the delay.  (Hint: international travel is involved.)  I mean, I hope it’s amusing…because goodness knows it goes on long enough?  And it even touches on comics news and other things…but it’s more of an amuse bouche at best, rather than one of our usual super-sized meals.

As we say in the non-episode, we hope you have a great Thanksgiving if that’s a holiday you celebrate, and look for us on December 15th!

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Previously on Drokk!: We’ve made it nine years into the comic book career of Judge Dredd, and we’ve watched the character come into his own after a number of missteps, with the eventual return of co-creator John Wagner midway through his second year being the turning point. With that in mind, the prospect of tackling a collection of one-off stories from throughout that same period, originally published in annuals and special issues, sure sounds like fun, right…?

0:00:00-0:03:34: In which we briefly introduce ourselves, the intro gets away from me — note that I’m literally in the middle of a sentence when throwing it to Jeff to introduce himself, and he just runs with it — and we briefly touch upon the fact that both a dog’s breakfast and a dog’s bollocks are somehow noteworthy, but not as the layman might expect. More importantly, we talk about the fact that neither of us really liked the volume we’re talking about this episode, Judge Dredd: The Restricted Files Vol. 1. It’s… not good.

0:03:35-0:11:04: Stumbling into a discussion about the book, we talk about the unevenness of the book, especially as it relates to the (high) quality of the artwork versus the not-so-high quality of the writing. Are stories intended for annuals and specials by their very nature underwhelming, even if they’re written to be (as Jeff puts it), “visually big”? We also talk about how long it takes to get to the good stories, and our different ideas of what that actually means. (Spoilers: Jeff is far more forgiving of early Alan Grant than I am.)

0:11:05-0:17:37: Perhaps a little later than would be useful, I give a little bit more context about 2000 AD annuals in general, and their prospective audience and purpose, before we talk about the appalling casual racism on show in one of the stories — really, it’s astonishing — and whether or not “Pinboing Wizard” is the first actually enjoyable story in the volume — “only” twelve stories into the book itself.

0:17:38-0:30:47: If annuals and specials were intended to act as introductions to the characters, then surely a collection of those stories would be a great introductory volume for a new reader, right…? Well, not exactly, and we start to break down quite why that might be the case. Is there a lack of nuance in these stories, or simply a lack of darkness? It’s surely no coincidence that the stories Jeff and I enjoy most in the volume are the more downbeat ones, and the moments in the comedy stories are the more… grim jokes…

0:30:48-0:42:25: We take a brief diversion from the meat of the volume to talk about the Strontium Dog strip in 2000 AD — also created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, with Alan Grant co-writing the majority of the stories — which, for me, heavily influences some of the more supernatural stories in this volume. Also discussed: My odd head canon concerning the limits of Dredd as a strip, Jeff seeing an influence on Simon Bisley from the stories contained in this book, and “William Nilly”’s success as a pseudonym.

0:42:26-0:49:06: We return to the idea that the value in this volume is almost entirely in enjoying the visual stylings rather than the writing, talking about the ways in which the off-model early stories have a lot of things to enjoy in them, at least in how they look, such as Kevin O’Neill drawing in what looks like a quasi-early McMahon style for a couple of stories, or a wonderfully pop-art Brett Ewins/Brendan McCarthy collaboration.

0:49:07:-1:13:05: Can everyone take a moment to enjoy the fact that Jeff and I take quite so long discussing one 14-page story, purely because we cannot get over quite how bad the John Byrne artwork for it actually is? And, oh, friends; it’s very bad artwork indeed, all the worse for being presented next to some truly great stuff from the likes of Brian Bolland, Mike McMahon and Ian Gibson. I mean, just take a look.

This was when he was being considered one of the finest artists in the American comic book industry. Just think about that.

1:13:06-1:23:46: Jeff is clearly trying to wrap things up early, but I won’t let him; instead, we end up talking about how surreal the story from the Dan Dare annual is. It’s so off-model that it reads like a parody that accidentally got published, but it’s also one of the meanest parodies you can imagine, making everyone depicted — and involved — seem a little worse by comparison. Of course, we come up with some conspiracy theories about the story’s creation and just who was actually behind it, because it’s us.

1:23:47-1:34:21: If this is, as we describe it, a book for completists only, then what kind of completist? (An art-lover, if nothing else.) Do we think that because we’ve been spoiled by “better” Dredd in earlier Case Files volumes, or is this genuinely lacking — and if so, is that the case because these stories exist outside the context in which they were originally published? All of that gets brought up, if not necessarily resolved, here!

1:34:22-end: We have a long, meandering trail towards the end by talking about the inherent flaws of the annual as a narrative chapter in an ongoing story, talk more about just how disappointing this volume is, and then finally wrap things up by talking about the Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Patreon of it all. Next month, we get back to the Case Files proper with the 10th volume, and let me just tell you, Jeff and I are very much looking forward to it, thank you very much. And while I’m thanking you, thank you for reading through all these show notes, as ever.

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[Sorry, we didn’t get to discuss this on the episode, but Jeff read a couple of terrific “Superman has taken on a new secret identity stories” on DCU, courtesy of intel from Martin Gray and Doc Beechler. Thought those of you who enjoyed hearing about the Secret Year imaginary event might get a kick out of seeing this.  Thanks, Martin and Doc!]

0:01-7:14:  Greetings from Graeme “Excited Slash Cautious” McMillan and Jeff “manic chatterbox” Lester! Jeff is coming off a daylong manic tear, and Graeme is, well, Graeme, so we try to spend a bit of time setting up a safeword. Sadly/Happily, things get a lot more conventional from there but at the time we were pretty sure we would *all* be in for a very wild ride!
7:14-45:33: Comics news!  It’s the kind of thing we’ve been kinda/sorta veering away from for a while, but decide to officially start things off with the news of the upcoming 12 month limited series, The Best of 2000 A.D. launching in North America in 2020.  It’s an exciting announcement in a lot of ways, but there are a lot of factors that could help its chances of success.  Also discussed: comics anthologies; dreamcasting American creators on 2000 A.D.; British weekly anthologies, with a focus on the Marvel reprint titles in the U.K.; The Phoenix; Alan Grant and Action Comics Weekly; the awesomeness of Rick Burchett’s art generally and his work with Greg Rucka on Detective Comics in particular; and more.
[asterix]
45:33-1:03:25:  Other big “from overseas to the U.S.” news:  Papercutz has cut a deal to bring Asterix to North America in 2020!  Graeme, who is fluent in the ways of the small Gaul, fills in Jeff (who is not all).  And since Graeme is Graeme, our discussion about beloved-comics-international-treasure Asterix quickly becomes a discussiong about the-opposite-of-that: Doomlord!
1:03:25-1:10:05: Graeme talks about Prestige Plus, the title DC’s giving to their larger size Black Label titles, in particular the upcoming release Wonder Woman: Dead Earth by Daniel Warren Johnson.  It sounds terrific!
1:10:05-1:27:17: Something that also sounds terrific, according to Jeff?  Mark Bagley’s Wikipedia page!  Discussed: Mark Bagley’s Wikipedia page.
1:27:17-1:37:06: Mark Bagley drew the recent well-received Spider-Man: Life Story written by current fan favorite, Chip Zdarsky.  Graeme, however, did not like Life Story, and although it’s easy to assume that’s just because Graeme doesn’t much like either Spider-Man or Mark Bagley, listen in and you’ll discover that’s not the case.
1:37:06-1:56:16: Curious what Jeff’s been reading?  We hope so, because he’s going to tell you, especially about Immortal Hulk #26, Savage Avengers #7, Ryuko Vol. 2, and the second octet of Initial D volumes by Shuichi Shigeno.
1:56:16-2:04:21: Legion of Superheroes #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook came out this week, and Graeme not only read it and has a take—he has two takes!  And he also has some spoiler-free discussion of upcoming Bendis books, the latest issue of Superman and the finale of Event Leviathan.

2:04:21-2:22:50: And on the non-comics media tip, Jeff has very quick words about The End of the Fucking World Season 2, Terminator: Dark Fate, and a very quick easy/hard comic book movie pop quiz! Plus: talk about the MCU and the Disney+ shows; Star Wars: Resistance Reborn; and more.
2:22:50-end:   Closing Comments!!  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and JeffTumblr, and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast.  (Also, don’t forget about Spotify!)  But does Graeme also let us know that you should go to the Barnes & Noble in Clackamas, Oregon so you can hear him talk with Josh Williamson about Flash: Year One?  Maybe!
Next week: Drokk!  We’re reading Judge Dredd: The Restricted Case Files, volume 1.  Join us!
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0:01-7:55:  Greetings from Graeme “Finger Guns” McMillan and Jeff “Were We Facetiming” Lester! Let us paint a picture for you—a picture painted of words—so you know where we’re at when we record that (because wanting you to know that is apparently where Graeme is at).
7:55-54:26: What could be even better than DC’s next big event, The Year of the Villain?  Could it be…a dream Jeff had one feverish night for DC’s next big event? It probably couldn’t, but Jeff makes Graeme listen to it anyway, and we talk about Year of the Villain, the nature of crossover events, truffle oil, opt-in events, the upcoming Superman reveal, an excellent point by the ever-awesome Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Naomi, whether or not secret identities are out of favor, some of the details emerging from DC’s upcoming timeline, and much more.
54:26-1:15:13: Moving out of our discussion about DC and how to handle having characters age out, Graeme answers one of the burning questions on Jeff’s mind (no, really): what the hell happened to the New52 Superman?  Also discussed:  Forever Evil, postcreditsequenceitis (not one of Prince’s later albums, although it does look like that, doesn’t it?), Spider-Man: Far From Home, the sequel for Into The Spider-Verse and Jeff’s half-assed pitch for it; the terror that is Marvel’s Spider-Verse collection; and more.
1:15:13-1:36:45: Would you believe all of Jeff’s thoughts about secret identities came out of reading a bunch of manga—namely, Shuichi Shigeno’s Initial D?  Strange, but true!  Jeff was really impressed with a lot of the structure of this car racing manga and grew to love an unconventional art style.  Here, Jeff definitely goes on at almost comedic length about a series he’s only eight volumes in.
1:36:45-1:44:53: And on the end of the spectrum, Graeme has been reading a lot of Nicolai Dante, a 2000AD series that he openly admits doesn’t work for him.  “The art’s nice, but the writing’s overlooked,” sez Graeme after reading three volumes of the material.  Discussed: Rogue Trooper, Chris Claremont, and “cringe” as an adjective.
1:44:53-2:13:17: To top things off, Graeme’s just purchased two classic late era Kirby comics:  Destroyer Duck #1 by Steve Gerber, Jack Kirby and Alfred Alcala; and 2001: A Space Odyssey #5 by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer.  Join us as Graeme walks us through these two amazing books with a lot of savage and incisive things to say about the company and industry where Kirby (and Gerber!) made his name.  Also discussed: the next Frankenstein Comic Swap; the Secret Origin of Lightray (!) by Gerry Conway (!!) and Don Newton; Supertown/Soup Or Town and the appearance of either in Grant Morrison’s JLA; Adventure Comics #460; Tom Taylor’s excellent handling of Green Arrow in Deceased and more.
2:13:17-2:25:18: Closing comments? Well, kinda—we talk very briefly about Batman Annual #4; the pain of passing on Fantastic Four: Grand Design by Tom Scioli; the upcoming John Constantine: Hellblazer book by Si Spurrier and Aaron Campbell; and a possible mystery surrounding the first issue of Joe Hill’s Basket Full of Heads #1. (Thanks, Graeme!)  And then…
2:25:18-end: Closing Comments!!  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and JeffTumblr, and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast.  (Also, don’t forget about Spotify!)  But does Graeme jam in even a few more last minute recommendations?  Maybe!
Next week: W,W?, 283 4 u!
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Previously on Drokk!: The eighth volume of Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files was the first to leave Jeff and I underwhelmed, and doubting whether it was possible that Wagner and Grant, who had seemed near invincible for the run so far, had utterly lost it completely, or whether they were just in a lull and recovery mode…

0:00:00-0:04:49: As we introduce ourselves and the fact that we’re covering Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 9 — AKA stories from 2000 AD Prog’s 424-473, from 1985 and 1986, written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and illustrated by a bunch of people — Jeff and I also very quickly get into the weeds explaining the references in the names of our particular city blocks this episode. It’s not a great start, let’s be honest.

0:04:50-0:26:56: You know what is a great start? The first story in this volume, “Midnight Surfer,” which boasts some amazing artwork from Cam Kennedy and supremely confident writing from Wagner and Grant, who clearly have their mojo back and then some. We talk about both things, and also why this story is the ideal introduction to this book, as well as Chopper’s place in the wider Dredd narrative as a hero, Dredd’s place as, as Jeff puts it, “an instrument of the government,” and also Jeff’s joy of balancing his ignorance of what’s to come with my, and the commenters’, knowledge of future storylines. All this, and whether or not Dredd shaves in our personal head canons!

0:26:57-0:31:41: The unmistakable greatness of “Midnight Surfer” is followed by the… dubious pleasures of “Nosferatu,” which I describe as being “shambolic on some level,” yet nonetheless not without its charms. Why do Wagner and Grant return to such generic monster gimmicks on a recurring basis? We talk about potential answers.

0:31:42-0:50:54: In a relatively wide-ranging section, we talk about the value of stories not outstaying their welcome in this volume, and the fact that this allows Wagner and Grant to both follow their interests and show off their diversity, even as their showing off may prove to be less showy than, say, Alan Moore. This leads into a discussion of influence — I ask whether Jeff can see the influence of Wagner/Grant (Really, Wagner) and Pat Mills on Alan Moore, and Jeff counters by talking about the clear influence Wagner/Grant had on Garth Ennis. Somehow, from there, we talk about the relative impact of Dredd as a strip relative to its strengths as great comics, and then get briefly into some of those strengths: namely, the expositionary powers of Wagner and Grant and the fact that these comics were written for children but not written down to children.

0:50:55-0:55:39: Another brief diversion, as we pit Otto Sump against the Fatties, as Wagner and Grant revive two running jokes once again in this volume, and Jeff and I have different favorites, and different reasons why each story works (or doesn’t) for us. Who knew that Jeff wasn’t into happy endings?

0:55:40-1:11:14: It’s not all greatness in this volume, as our discussion of the (almost impressively racist) “The Warlord” story underscores. We talk about cultural differences on either side of the Atlantic in the mid-80s, the failures of this story outside the racism, but also the things that come closest to saving graces: Cam Kennedy’s artwork, and also the surprising impact of continuity on this storyline’s final episode, but also the aftermath of it all. Slow world building — and the fact that Jeff and I have read nine years’ worth of this strip over nine months — means that, when the story suddenly and unexpectedly leans on the mythology of it all, the result can be surprisingly effective.

1:11:15-1:33:36: We skip through a couple of done-in-ones before reaching the story that is, arguably, the heart of the volume: “Letter From A Democrat,” which I describe as the story that breaks Judge Dredd as a strip — in a good way, I hasten to add — and which is also, potentially, a story that breaks Dredd. What happens when Wagner and Grant just wholeheartedly go in on the fact that the Judges are the bad guys? It’s a choice that has, arguably, informed so much of this volume — we touch on a few more examples — but it’s also something that resonates more today than it would have five years ago, Jeff suggests. It’s a wonderful, breathtaking story that makes what was already a great volume into something even better.

1:33:37-1:39:34: I confess that this volume exhausts me — it’s more than 400 pages long — as we talk about some other stories, including an extended Christmas episode that suggests, not for the first time, that Wagner and Grant do not properly understand how lobotomies work. Also, we talk Gribligs — not good — and Lemmings — very good — even as Jeff admits that he doesn’t like Brendan McCarthy’s art. (I know, I know; he’s ”problematic” to be very, very kind, but I still like his artwork a bunch; sorry.)

1:39:35-1:59:59: Is this a volume to recommend to newcomers? Jeff and I split on the answer, because he’d rather recommend it as a second volume, whereas I think it’s strong enough on its own merits to work as an introduction. We also list our favorite stories in the book — we both like “Midnight Surfer,” while Jeff adds “Letter From A Democrat” and “West Side Rumble,” and I go for “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (which we discuss a little) and “The Lemming Syndrome” — and I ask whether Jeff expected the volume to go quite as dark as it ended up going. Also under discussion: D notices, Ron Smith, and whether the decision to go full villain with the Judges was what revitalized Wagner and Grant.

2:00:00-end: We wrap things up our usual way, mentioning the Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Patreon, and also let everyone (including Jeff!) know that we’re not going to be doing Case Files Vol. 10 next time; instead, we’re going to be doing Judge Dredd: The Restricted Files Vol. 1, which includes stories from special issues and annuals from 1977 through 1985. Get ready, everyone; it’s like a crash course in the evolution of Dredd.

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0:01-7:17:  Greetings from Graeme “Are You Sure?” McMillan and Jeff “She’ll Be Fine, She’ll Be fine!” Lester! Edi took a tumble, Graeme has been under the weather, and we are not even sure we want to talk about comic books?  So what do we do, then?
7:17-28:07: Well, why not talk about Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw? It’s kind of like a comic book and, like many a comic book, neither Graeme nor Jeff have seen it!  So it’s got to be a great topic for conversation, yeah?  How about Joker, that seems a little more on topic, right? Even if we haven’t seen that either?  Also discussed: budgeting and The Alamo Drafthouse Season Pass; budgeting and comics purchasing database number crunching; X-Men: Grand Design; and more.
28:07-1:00:28:  “You know, Graeme,” ever-obsessive Jeff asks, “what are you obsessive about? It’s clear I’m an obsessive hoardy mess but I don’t necessarily know if we’ve talked about, what are the things that you feel uncomfortably obsessive or sweatily compulsive about?”  Discussed: work, food, training yourself off of things, heroin (metaphorical), friendship, upgrading phones, FOMO, X-Men #1, Superman Smashes The Klan #1, failing Marc Singer (sorry Marc!) for not crediting his point in our comments on air, Giant Days, obligation, and MUCH more.
1:00:28-1:17:33:  Way back when, Graeme had mentioned Matt Singer’s new book, Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular: The Definitive Comic Art Collection. And he had a point or two to make about it, so we return to more typical Wait, What? ground for a bit.  To make it even more on point, Jeff wishes that people writing these mass market character overviews got the chance to curate on streaming services like DC Universe or Marvel Unlimited.  (To be fair, Marvel Unlimited actually does something like this already, but only using their own editors and creators.)  Also discussed: Disney+, Enigma being reissued (finally!) by Dark Horse; BizarroTV; and more.
1:17:33-1:33:38:  Speaking of DC Universe and their TV show offerings, we assume you know about the contest they’re holding where the winner will create a DC Universe unscripted/reality show? We can’t enter, but you can! So listen closely as we try—mostly unsuccessfully, it should be admitted—to come up with winning pitches you can use! Discussed: Booster Gold 2020, Space Cabby 2020, Night Force 2020, Who’s Going To Be The Next Phantom Stranger (2020), and more.
1:33:38-1:47:32:  “Hey, you know who’s still alive?” asks Jeff semi-rhetorically.  “Don Perlin is still alive!”  And how does Jeff know that you might ask?  Well, therein lies a story…and a whole lot of talking about Werewolf By Night and Moon Knight.

1:47:32-1:55:46: Dipping our toes in the water of current comics news in the mildest way possible:  good on Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, and Guiseppe Camuncoli for the preorders on Undiscovered Country #1!  Also discussed: SAGA—where is it?  Also, Jeff tries to ask about something about perennial (or strong) sellers for books that only ran about 30 issues and…somehow the question doesn’t quite connect with Graeme, apparently? Hey, it happens!
1:55:46-2:11:53: Back on our bullshit (well, Jeff’s bullshit is probably more accurate) as Graeme returns to The Pitch Zone to suggest some great DC styled reality shows!  Discussed: the Legion of Superheroes 2020 reality show and (here’s the Graeme genius in action) the Legion of Substitute Superheroes reality show.   Challengers Of The Unknown 2020! Challengers Of The Known 2020!  The CW shows and their special effects budgets (2019?), and more!
2:11:53-end: Closing comments!  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and JeffTumblr, and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast.  (Also, don’t forget about Spotify!)
Next week: Drokk!! Grab your copy of The Complete Judge Dredd Case Files, vol. 9 and join us!
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0:01-6:31:  Greetings from Graeme “Burping” McMillan and Jeff “Probably Talking” Lester! It’s been a couple of weeks so we’re starting off slow(er than usual).  For example:  did you know Graeme rewatched Rocketman?  Could you have guessed Jeff would have some opinions about Rocketman?
6:31-19:21: Since Graeme admitted watching Rocketman on his flight back from New York Comic-Con, and Jeff, being an equal and opposite member of a comic book podcast, feels compelled to ask:  how was the flight?  (Just kidding, he asked about NYCC.)  Discussed:  NYCC, particularly from the point of view of an overworked entertainment industry reporter.
19:21-29:36: Arguably the big story to come out of NYCC is the news about DC’s timeline that came out at the DC Nation panel.  Graeme covers how that came about, and also touches on the other news stories to come out of the Con (such as Iron Man 2020, G. Willow Wilson taking over The Dreaming, Ruins of Ravencroft, etc.)
29:36-1:01:13: At a certain point, we segue from people being disappointed at how there weren’t more new X-titles announced at NYCC to talking about the end of House of X/Powers of X.  Spoilers?  Well, yes, I think that would be fair to assume…
1:01:13-1:13:08:  The Green Lantern also wrapped up its first season around the same time as HoxPox with issue #12, and Jeff was curious if Graeme had read it.  How the hell is a lovely book with an amazing artist and a superstar writer something so easily summed up by Graeme as “yeah, that’s a comic that happened?”  Also discussed: what happened to the spectrum lantern corps?
1:13:08-1:19:28:  How worried should we be when Jeff starts “worrying” about a comic writer? (It doesn’t always turn out well for Jeff, if nothing else!) Here, he worries about Geoff Johns’ legacy at DC?  Is it being ignored? Actively erased?  Discussed: Doomsday Clock and is it not a big deal anymore for DC?  And what does Siri think about it?
1:19:28-1:30:57: Speaking of Doomsday Clock, those of you interested in reading it without buying it *but* wanting to be legal and legit may want to check out Hoopla, where the first collection hit more or less on day of release.  And although this is the point where you think Jeff is mentioning this as a recommendation for more Whatnauts to look into Hoopla—and it is!—it is also a segue so that Jeff can talk about the Heroes In Crisis collection which he just read, in part based on Graeme’s recent post about it, and wishes to “discuss” it with Graeme (“discuss” apparently being code for “fight about”?)
1:30:57-1:40:41: “DC is all over the place,” Jeff declares, “I’m not paying really attention to Marvel except when they put Conan in something…which means I’m going to be paying a lot more attention to Marvel because apparently they’re putting Conan in everything.”  This leads Graeme to start talking about how Marvel has something for everyone considering they’re currently publishing 125 titles, but walking that back to point out Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl are getting canceled.  But at the same time they’ve announced deals with Scholastic for middle grade books.  They appear to be really upping the amount of titles they publish while at the same time narrowing the range of what they publish.  Also discussed: what is on Jeff’s comic subscription list?
1:40:41-1:45:53: Part of why we’re talking about Jeff’s sub list is because Jeff is trying *really* hard to put himself on a budget and how that works when it comes to comic books.  In theory, considering he subscribes to Marvel Unlimited, DC Universe, Comixology Unlimited, and has access to Hoopla, how hard does he really have to work to read good comics without spending any (more) money?  (Part of why this comes up is Jeff has been power-bingeing Giant Days off CU and *loving* it.)
1:45:53-1:54:33: And! Just as Jeff is bingeing Comixology Unlimited with Giant Days because of Graeme’s continued recommendations of it, Graeme read the first trade of Outer Darkness on Hoopla because of Jeff’s recommendation!
1:54:33-2:08:29: “I just love old Star Trek comics,” Graeme admits, before going on to talk about two very different graphic novels (different from Star Trek comics, anyway): Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and The Hard Tomorrow by the mighty Eleanor Davis. Also discussed:  our pending top ten lists for 2019.
2:08:29-2:15:19: A discussion of what we’ve read recently on digital pivots away  from Jeff being unable to tell time (Major X #1 came out six months ago?) to, as Graeme brilliantly puts it, the “‘Rob Liefeld threatens to sue Marvel’ part of the news cycle.”  As tempting as it was to cut the “Graeme scrolls through Rob’s Twitter feed while complaining he can’t find the tweet” and save it for what doubtlessly would’ve become a coveted Patreon extra, we decided instead to just boil it down to its richest parts for everyone.  Take that, late stage capitalism!
2:15:19-end: Closing comments!  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and JeffTumblr, and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast.  (Also, don’t forget about Spotify!)
Next week: Episode 281!!
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Previously on Drokk!: Things are all good in the 22nd century, as long as you’re a reader from today just visiting Mega-City One for the Thrill Power. After nuclear apocalypse and orangutans being elected to political office, I can only imagine what it’s like to live there…

0:00:00-0:02:44: Welcome, dear friends, to a Drokk! unlike any other, at least insofar that Jeff and I were both poorly when we recorded it, but more importantly, neither of us particularly dug Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 8, the massive slab o’comics that we’re covering this time around. It’s all the Dredds from 2000 AD Prog’s 376 through 423, which is a lot of Judge Dredd, but it was also… a bit of a slog, as we quickly get into.

0:02:45-0:07:51: Is this, as I call it, the “flop sweat volume”? Has the previously untouchable writing team of John Wagner and Alan Grant lost its way, or merely taking a breather while relying all-too-much on a medley of the greatest hits from the strip’s past? If it’s the latter, there’s a problem, as we talk about: This isn’t a book that does the greatest hits any favors.

0:07:52-0:18:42: Almost accidentally, we fall into a discussion of the first extended storyline in the book, “Dredd Angel,” which has some good gags, but little else, raising our ire — mine especially — with the missed opportunities to make some kind of larger point about Dredd’s mission in amongst Liberace references and butt jokes. (No, a different kind of butt.) Jeff, at least, is enamored with the idea of Tulsa melting because of an atomic blast, so there’s that.

0:18:43-0:23:59: If “Dredd Angel” was disappointing, then “Gator” is genuinely wretched thanks to some very poor art choices and a story that feels like it was put together by Wagner and Grant on a series of off-days. In retrospect, this really was a bad omen for what was to come, but as if to make it worthwhile, Jeff teaches me some albino alligator history.

0:24:00-0:44:45: The “Judgment” trilogy — an unofficial way to describe three stories that delve into whether or not Dredd is growing a conscience, and if that’s a good or a bad thing in the world he’s living — is one of the two highlights of this volume, and we unpick how dark the three stories are, the ways in which they subvert audience expectations for this kind of story, and the running gag of Dredd not getting on with accountants. All this plus: Robot children are scary! The creepy institutional stance on emotions when it comes to being a Judge! And: A cliffhanger that stays hung for longer than you’d expect!

0:44:46-0:47:43: Before we get to “City of the Damned,” it’s time for a brief respite when “The Wally Squad,” which boasts some great art by Brett Ewins and, for one episode, “McCarthy” (Brendan? Jim? It’s unclear, but I suspect the former.) The story is light, but Jeff suspects that’s exactly what everyone needs at this point in the book. (We also touch on Jeff’s feelings on the trope of an undercover cop going bad, which is what this story is about.)

0:47:44-1:21:24: “City of the Damned” is the heart of this book in more ways than one — it’s the longest story in here, but it’s also a deeply flawed story that sums up the disappointment of the collection in one fell swoop, with Wagner and Grant seeming disinterested in their own work and featuring some lackluster artwork from Ron Smith. That doesn’t mean that Jeff and I don’t have a bunch to talk about, especially because it brings about a return of Jeff’s obsession with the Shadow Self, which prompts a discussion about whether or not the writers were fully aware, never mind engaged, in the subtext of what they were writing, as well as whether or not Dredd is capable of change — or, at least, whether Wagner and Grant think that he is. We also talk about my nostalgia steering me wrong (not for the first time), the wasted potential of this story, how quickly it goes off the rails, and two ways in which this storyline is echoed in Dredd strips to come. Not bad for something that I describe as “literally a Scooby-Doo chase for 14 episodes.”

1:21:25-1:31:12: Again, if “Dredd Angel” was followed by something disappointing, “City of the Damned” suffers the same fate, with both “The Hunters Club” and especially ‘Monsteroso” utterly underwhelming us in terms of being overlong and unoriginal. (Really, a “robots gone wild” story? We haven’t seen those in, what, seven or eight volumes?) Oh, and then there’s the casual racism — and appalling denouement — of the firestarter storyline, as well. Jeff makes a reference to a mention in Thrill Power Overload about how burned out everyone at 2000 AD was feeling at this point, and, really? You can tell.

1:31:13-1:42:23: It’s not all bad news, though, as “Sunday Night Fever” brings Cam Kennedy on art and a story that has genuine weight to it, especially considering the era in which it was created. Out of nowhere, it’s as if Wagner and Grant have remembered that Dredd can be used to actually say something about the world. We also talk briefly about two other strips of note, both of which focus on the idea that Judges really shouldn’t have feelings — which is probably the running theme of this collection, all things considered. Also: the Judges really don’t care about the citizens of Mega-City One, but do like the idea of lasering people’s brains just a little bit too much.

1:42:24-end: We wrap up by talking about what might have gone wrong with this volume to make it such a disappointment, from exhaustion on Wagner and Grant’s part to an over reliance on gimmicks, references and cheap jokes. (Introducing my unlikely reference to Darby and Joan!) The volume is enough of a disappointment that both Jeff and I point out that we probably wouldn’t recommend it to any newcomers, but at least Jeff and I agree on the highlights to be found inside. Before too long, we’re talking about our Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon, and then looking forward to next month’s Case Files Vol. 9 read-through. (I completely forgot it has “The Midnight Surfer” storyline, despite the fact that this volume ends promising that next prog! I am a disappointment to everyone.) As always, thanks for reading and listening. Splundig Vur Thrigg, as the kids say.

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I’ve talked on the podcast about the emotional rollercoaster that was Heroes in Crisis for me; I was underwhelmed, then slightly more whelmed, and back and forth — slightly more on the under side, admittedly — until a final issue that, at the time, felt as if it earned a lot of goodwill back merely by going for a sentimental, illogical fix that felt emotionally right, even if I could see why a million fans would disagree. So, when the collected edition ended up in my mailbox, I figured, why not read the whole thing in one sitting, and see how it holds up?

So, there’s some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that Heroes in Crisis worked a lot better for me on this read-through, for a number of reasons; the bad news is that many of those reasons center around the idea that — having read the series through before, I was less distracted by things like, “Failing to live up to preconceptions set by the work and its promotional material” this time around. That seems… kind of like a problem…?

Let’s get this out of the way first: Heroes in Crisis fails as a murder mystery, I think, not least of all because the murders are revealed to be manslaughters with some evidence tampering after the fact. Additionally, there’s the fact that the comic is an unreliable narrator, with the reader seeing two (equally untrue) interpretations of the deaths at different points in the series, in an attempt to misdirect the reader while also setting up the eventual reveal. (The comic is actually so unreliable that it’s still unclear to me after multiple readings whether an on-panel death in the third issue points to a last-minute rewrite of the big reveal, or else another purposeful misdirect that’s setting up the big reveal. That, too, is a problem.)

It’s also not, despite the way the book was marketed, a “big” story. Indeed, it’s almost obtusely the opposite — it’s purposefully internal and insular, and the eventual big reveal is literally, “I kept everything to myself and then when I didn’t, it killed everybody” — and, although the “trinity” of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman appear, they’re far from the main characters of the book; indeed, Wonder Woman is barely present, which honestly feels like a mistake upon re-reading, if only to counter-balance the omnipresent maleness of the story. (It’s literally one where the phrase “Bros before Heroes” is used in two different, important, scenes.)

And yet… if you can divorce Heroes in Crisis from the context it was originally placed in — which it arguably places itself in, thanks to the fake-out of the murder mystery introduction — it’s a far better comic that it’s given credit for. Or, at least, that I was giving it credit for. There’s a subtlety at play in the writing that got lost in serialization, especially amid the expectations the series had at the time — knowing the end from the start, you can see that King actually lays clues and foreshadowing in place far earlier than it would seem; outside of the plot, there’s a lot of really nice character work, even if it can seem at odds with the way we expect some of those characters to act — and a surprising humor to the whole thing, as well, despite the obvious grimness of the whole thing.

(Re-reading this, I started to feel as if Tom King is a Marvel writer in some deep way; he writes characters as characters and eschews the good guy/bad guy dynamic that I think DC thrives on, to some extent. There’s a moral ambiguity and a need to portray everyone as flawed, rather than iconic, that feels as if it’s more suited to Marvel’s sense of mythology than DC’s. Which, of course, might be why he’s been so successful at DC. Never doubt the power of counter-programming.)

I feel like I should say something about the art, but I’m not sure what. Clay Mann is a strong superhero artist, and he draws really attractive figures that, for the most part, emote what King needs. There’s an element of female objectification throughout that’s distracting and, at times, overwhelms the moment that Mann should be selling, which is disappointing; Travis Moore is a capable fill-in to accompany Mann without the seams being obvious on some pages, and the other two artists — Lee Weeks and Mitch Gerads — are very good at what they do, and they do it capably. Yet, it’s not really an especially visual book, despite double page spreads for each title reveal that were clearly created with the intent of allowing Mann to show off. Honestly, the most notable thing about the visuals for Heroes in Crisis for me might be just how great Tomeu Morey’s colors are.

It remains a messy book, with moments where I read and thought, oh, really? even now, being more generous towards it. (Hello, the “She sent it 35 seconds ago” line, or Gnarrk quoting Keats in a full page splash.) It’s definitely overly ambitious, and could have benefited from a firmer editorial hand to keep it from losing focus. Yet, for a book about trauma and the pressure of living up to expectations — of, really, failing to live up to expectations, in many ways — it feels right, in some way, for it to be such a mess in the ways in which it’s a mess. It feels consistent, or coherent, perhaps. Right, in some way.

I’m glad I re-read it, and found new things to appreciate in it, but doing so also just made it particularly clear how Heroes in Crisis failed to measure up to what it appeared to be, when it first launched. How much that matters — how much it will matter to readers going forward, reading it separate from the pre-release hype of the original run — is, I suspect, something that will up to each and every individual reader’s personal preference. YMMV, as the kids once said, in other words.

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Hey, everyone—Jeff here.  My apologies for show notes on the truncated side of things this time around:  as alluded to in this ep., I’m kinda running around in all directions this week (hence the video above) for good reasons I hope to explain one day (before the end of the year?).  For now, I hope you’ll be able to get by on the shownotes below and your just-about-weekly dose of Graeme and me fussin’ and feudin’ comic book style!

0:01-13:49:  Greetings from Graeme “Sound of The Underground” McMillan and Jeff “Coasting” Lester! We’ve had a day, and Graeme has had a week, a week filled with situations like the one he goes on to describe involving some very good thoughts about working hard, and some very silly interjections from Jeff.
13:49-27:29:  Because we were engaging in some gossipy bitchery, Jeff felt compelled to mention how much he enjoyed Mr. Sinister in the latest issue of Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva and Marte Gracia. And Jeff also enjoyed Gwenpool Strikes Back #2 by Leah Williams, David Baldeon, Jesus Aburtov, and Batman #78 by Tom King, Clay Mann, and Tomeu Morey. There may or may not be spoilers for the City of Bane storyline, depending on how things go? And there’s definitely discussion about whether DC will have a reboot, and where it’ll come from.
27:29-35:29:  Remember last week’s discussion of Doomsday Clock?  It’s back, kinda, because Graeme re-read the first eleven issues of Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson.  Also discussed: landing the ending; how many copies of Watchmen Graeme owns; and more.
35:29-42:19:  To prove that we are lovers as well as haters, Jeff asks Graeme about Graeme’s tweet asking what Marvel and DC books are being slept on:

And there was also this lovely little thread by Gail Simone on Twitter re: 25 great things about being a comics professional:

42:19-51:07:  As long as we’re  talking about the good shit, both Jeff and Graeme read the five issue run on Mars Attacks by Kyle Starks, Chris Schweitzer, and Liz Trice Schweitzer.  Starks has said that this storyline is one of the best things he’s done and we’re compelled to second that. Jeff compares and contrasts it with Mars Attacks Popeye from a few years back with *tremendous* Popeye art by Terry Beatty.
51:07-57:09: Thanks to the tweets of the talented Sarah Horrocks, Jeff was turned on to the first issue of Ryuko by Eldo Yoshimizu.  Graeme likes what he sees from the previews, and Jeff loved the brio of the art and the expressionistic storytelling. Great stuff.
57:09-1:12:23: And speaking of great stuff, holy cow, Batman Universe #3 by Brian Michael Bendis, Nick Derington, and Dave Stewart.  The cartooning, the coloring, and the fun of BMB’s scripting of this makes this one of our DC faves.
1:12:23-1:17:07: Another book Jeff has all the feels for:  volume 2 of Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey by Akiko Higashimura, which was just released in English by Seven Seas.  Higashimura is better known as the creator of the popular Princess Jellyfish but the first two volumes rocked Jeff’s world and as he says here and elsewhere is fantastic reading for anyone who’s tried to become an artist.
1:17:07-1:20:18:  Graeme re-read the first two issues of  SFSX (Safe Sex) by Tina Horn and Michael Dowling, the book that was supposed to be launched as part of Vertigo’s legendary Last Wave but is now coming out soon from Image.  Graeme definitely recommends not just the book on the first issue alone as the one-two punch is part of what sold him, as did Tina Horn’s straight-up awesomeness and the fact that, as he puts it, “it feels like a book that needs to be out there.”
1:20:18-1:32:50: And Jeff is going to mention that he digs the second volume of romance novel turned manga, Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray and Yusaku Komiyama. He also talks about Star Wars in a Japanese context and how nicely Komiyama’s adaptation fits into that.  We also talk about the current crop of American Star Wars comics, and Kieron Gillen’s recent run with Salvador Larroca there.
1:32:50-2:05:00: Speaking of Marvel and licensed properties, Graeme has a question for Jeff—why is Marvel doing a Conan/Moon Knight event, called Serpent War.  (With Solomon Kane! And Dark Agnes!  And also…Dark Agnes?)  But in order to dig into that, we look briefly at the recent sales figures and trends in the marketplace.  Pick a side in the battle between Dear Justice League Truthers vs. Conan Truthers, cue up Pump Up The Volume, and wade into the melee!
2:05:00-end: Closing comments!  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and JeffTumblr, and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast.  (Also, don’t forget about Spotify!)
Next week:  Skip week, but join us in two weeks for Drokk!!
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