0:01-6:15:  Greetings! After a very long time, Jeff “Black Friday!” Lester and Graeme “Small Business Saturday!” McMillan are back with their non-Fantastic-Four-focused comics podcast that starts off  being *especially* unfocused. Within the first few minutes, we’re debating what constitutes a device, what kind of liquor you’d find in a Molokov Cocktail, and more exciting not-comics-at-all-we-admit-it topics.
6:15-26:09: But “fortunately” we have The Suicide Bomber Sits In The Library, a book by Jack Gantos and Dave McKean to discuss.  Also mentioned:  G. Willow Wilson’s thread on the same on Twitter; the dissolution of Telltale Games; what publishers can and can’t get away with; and more.
26:09-45:13: Speaking of what publishers can and can’t do, we look a bit at Marvel’s 2018, with an eye toward the strength of the books they’re publishing, which leads us to discuss The Immortal Hulk #9 by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Martin Simmonds, Ruy José, and others; Mister Miracle #12 by Tom King and Mitch Gerads;  Heroes in Crisis #3 by Tom King, Lee Weeks, and Clay Mann; and more.
45:13-1:03:07: Graeme mentions he’s seen Bohemian Rhapsody to make a larger point about how your experience of a work can be influenced by its reception but Jeff totally goes crazy with the interrupting because OH MY GOD he just saw Bohemian Rhapsody as well, and how can such a terrible movie be so damn enjoyable?  Of course, we’re going to talk about that!  Also discussed: Huey Lewis and The News; and more.
1:03:07-1:18:00: Comic books!  Quickly discussed:  The Green Lantern #1 by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp; Avengers #700 by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness; Superman #4 and #5 by Brian Bendis and Ivan Reis; and why Jeff gave up on Justice League.
1:18:00-1:36:10: Jeff wanted to Graeme to talk about Electric Warriors #1 by Steve Orlando, Travel Foreman and Hi-Fi.  Also discussed: creators that don’t work for us and why;  the last page of Electric Warriors #1 (which Jeff accidentally spoils at 1:32:27, so be warned).

1:36:10-1:45:58:  Jeff mentioned seeing three movies in one day (one of which being Bohemian Rhapsody).  What are the other two? Discussed:  the second movie Jeff saw, plus Tom Scioli’s Go-Bots #1.
1:45:58-1:52:14: And rather than talk about the last movie he saw that day and have to work hard to slip another comic book review into it, Jeff just decides to openly talk about how much he enjoyed Outer Darkness #1 by John Layman and Afu Chan.
1:52:11=4-2:13:11: And what’s the third movie Jeff saw?  The answer will surprise you! (Maybe? I mean…it’s not impossible, right?) Also discussed: pre-show “entertainment,” movie theaters we go to (or not) and why, a lot of other stuff very un-comic booky…
2:13:11-end:  Closing comments!  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! 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.  And then we’re out!
NEXT WEEK:  Baxter Building! Read Fantastic Four Annuals #24-27 and join us!
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Previously on Baxter Building: Was there ever life before Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan’s Fantastic Four run? By this point, it’s genuinely hard to remember what this comic used to be like, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t involve Reed Richards being dead and his place in the team kind of being taken by Scott Lang, Ant-Man. Or… did it…?

0:00:00-0:12:24: We open with an exceptionally brief cold open — because we’d just recorded the minicast about Stan Lee — before getting into a discussion about whether or not the following comics, which are very, very bad, are better if you fall into a Stockholm Syndrome-esque feeling of apathy about the whole thing. (Spoilers: Jeff is wrong. These are bad comics.)

0:12:25-0:31:31: Fantastic Four #397 opens a four-part storyline that asks the important questions like, “Does anyone actually care about the Watchers?” and “Has their stolen Skrull spaceship always been called the Stealth Hawk?” Along the way, Jeff and I also discuss Lyja’s poor self-esteem, cheap travel tricks for shape changers and whether or not Nathaniel Richards is everyone’s Daddy, not to mention the one thing you really shouldn’t do with deadly technology.

0:31:32-0:46:21: You didn’t know that you’d tuned into this podcast for Jeff’s impression of Tom DeFalco as Beat Poet, but with FF #398, you’ll soon understand. But don’t lose interest after that, because there is an especially lame reveal about Flaming Sue, the start of Jeff’s love affair with Kristoff, and the debut appearance of some Inhumans you’ll almost certainly immediately forget about, as well.

0:46:22-1:05:54: If nothing else, Fantastic Four #399 proves that, when it comes to this series, all roads lead back to the same asteroid floating around the Negative Zone, as well as the fact that, try as it might, this series can’t rid itself of Reed Richards, even if its evil versions called the Dark Raider. Also, there’s more of Margoyle, which is worth the price of entry all by itself. (As well as another reason to adore Kristoff, who has already had it with Scott Lang, just three issues in.)

1:05:55-1:09:05: We take a brief interlude as I summarize what little everyone needs to know about Fantastic Force #7, which crosses over with the current FF storyline and reveals why Sue isn’t dead, while also exposing how stupid the Fantastic Four apparently is.

1:09:06-1:26:24: It’s Fantastic Four #400, the final anniversary issue of the entire run, and one spent with a story that is exhausting in its ridiculousness. It’s the Watchers versus the Celestials, except it’s not; it’s the Fantastic Four and Fantastic Force versus… Aron the Watcher, I guess? And the innards of a Celestial, even though it really shouldn’t be like that? But at least there are random guest appearances, an essay about the history of the series that suggests that no-one actually wanted the job of writing it, and a memorial for Reed Richards. Is this… progress…?

1:26:25-1:27:54: Another aside, as I introduce Jeff to the plot complexities of Fantastic Four: Atlantis Rising #1, the first issue in the crossover that’s going to swallow the book whole for a couple of months. Come for the destruction of the Watcher’s house, stay for… I don’t know, actually. Maybe we should all leave.

1:27:55-1:35:27: Atlantis continues to rise in FF #401, in which Maximus seems to think there’s something more special about the Human Torch than Jeff and I do, and we discuss Nathaniel Richards’ novel approach to theft, especially the theft of tiny little miniaturized cities. Thor’s appalling costume is commented upon as well, and not for the last time.

1:35:28-1:37:02: Fantastic Force #9 continues the storyline, and I once again tell Jeff all he needs to know, as he was smart enough not to track down an issue to read it. (In my defense, at least I didn’t read the Warlock and the Infinity Watch issues that tied in; I’m not that much of a completist.)

1:37:03-1:46:28: What is the most enjoyable thing about Fantastic Four #402? It just might be the fact that Namor really doesn’t take directions to just calm it down a little very well, unless somehow leaping through windows and having fights that aren’t quite as dramatic as Tom DeFalco wishes you thought they were is his version of calming things down. Which is… not impossible, really. Also! Sue Storm without Malice is being written just like she’s still possessed, and the Fantastic Four has the perfect solution for getting rid of the Norse God on the roof of your space ship.

1:46:29-1:47:45: I could exaggerate and pretend that I recapped Fantastic Four: Atlantis Rising #2 to close out the crossover, but I’ll level with you; I mostly just complained about how bad it was. Sorry, all.

1:47:46-1:59:27: Hey, who remembers that whole thing about an archaeologist finding a statue of the Thing from 20 issues or so ago? Tom DeFalco, who tries to bring that storyline to a close for reasons that defy explanation in Fantastic Four #403. But who cares about that when Kristoff and Johnny Storm are flirting with Scott Lang’s daughter, who is of an entirely indeterminate age because Paul Ryan can’t draw anyone between the ages of, say, 5 and 35? Not Jeff and I!

1:59:28-2:03:41: FF #404 sees the Thing take on lots of other Things, and Sue Storm as a Thing take on both Namor and her feelings, because… oh, who even knows at this point. Meanwhile, Boris, Kristoff’s faithful manservant proves that he can’t do something as simple as say, “Eh, I haven’t seen your kid,” and all hell breaks loose, because why not? That’s just the kind of comic we’re reading by this point.

2:03:42-2:13:36: An exhausted Jeff and I finally arrive at Fantastic Four #405, in which Ben Grimm turns human — again!— and Boris reveals his true colors, if “true colors” actually means, “Tom DeFalco changed his mind at the last minute and even though everyone can tell it’s supposed to be Doctor Doom, it’s not.” Don’t think that I’m not upset about that, either…

2:13:37-end: We careen towards the end of the episode by talking about last-minute rewrites, the sense of exhaustion apparent in everyone by this point, and look forward to what we’re doing next episode, which is… Fantastic Four Annuals #24-27. The end is in sight, dear friends…! But don’t forget our Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter in the meantime, not to mention our Patreon. As always, thank you for listening and reading along, and I promise, our DeFalco/Ryan nightmare is almost over.

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As you know, Stan Lee passed this week, and it seemed impossible for us to overlook the event, since Stan had such a huge influence on the American comics market.

Stan was a complicated guy with a complicated legacy so maybe it’s not surprising our feelings about his passing—and how people handled his passing—are similarly complicated.  So join us if you want for a quick chat about the long life and amazing career of Stan Lee.   It’s only about 37 minutes or so?

Oh, and because we mentioned it in our discussion, I should at the very least link to Tegan O’Neil’s piece on Stan over at The Comics Journal. There are, as you probably know, a lot of pieces about Stan out there this week, but if you enjoy our mumblings, you’ll probably appreciate it as well.

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[Not actually the bear bathing image Jeff talks about in the episode,  but let’s roll with it]

0:01-15:53:  Greetings! After a very long time, Jeff “Japan!” Lester and Graeme “NYCC!” McMillan have returned after a hiatus!  And we’re starting off with a relatively detailed story about…kidney stones?! Wait, what?  (Plus: a patreon giveaway like no other?)

15:53-28:13: But, as mentioned in the shout quotes above, Jeff has also been to Japan, and Graeme has also been to NYCC, so we turn the topic to the strangeness that was this year’s New York Comic-Con, which Graeme attended, and why, if nothing else, he thinks that show may have replaced San Diego Comic-Con as the year’s TV and movie convention.
28:13-1:06:23: We start to catch up on news that’s happened in our absence, but Graeme really boils it down to one topic of discussion: the firing of Chuck Wendig from Marvel because of his social media presence.  It’s the opening for a larger talk about the industry’s history with creators and with unionization, with Graeme using as a springboard for discussion the excellent American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s by Keith Dallas and Jason Sacks.
1:06:23-1:07:56: The other thing Graeme has been reading is Poisoned Chalice by Pádraig Ó Méalóid, the history of Miracleman / Marvelman and who owns the copyright to the character.  He takes a few minutes to recommend the book, and the we’re off to…

1:07:56-2:09:41: Japan!  Or to be more precise, Jeff’s impressions and recollections, about the country and his recent nineteen day visit there.  He mentions time spent with pals of the podcast Miguel and Cormac, Japan’s tremendous visual culture, conbinis (and more specifically the amazing onigiri), and, perhaps above all, Golgo 13 and manga.  (A lot of my info about Saito and his publishing company is badly paraphrased from Jason Thompson’s excellent entry on Golgo 13 over at House of 1000 Manga).
Also discussed: liking oneself more in Japan; Shibuya Crossing; the suicide rate in Japan; the awesomeness that is Mandarake; the language barrier; the story of our soft no, and much, much, much more.

Me at Mandarake (Shibuya).

2:09:41-end: Closing comments!  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! 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.  And then we’re out!
NEXT WEEK:  Baxter Building! Read issues #397-405 of volume 1 of Fantastic Four by Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan and join us!
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Previously on Baxter Building: It’s all change with the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine with the issues we’re covering, and not just because there is no way to describe the Fantastic Four era we’re reading as the world’s greatest anything anymore. Reed Richards is dead! Reed and Sue’s son has been kidnapped to a dystopian future, returned with an entirely vague mission and possessed by something that is either an evil part of his mother’s personality or an entirely alien entity, don’t worry we’ll never find out! The Human Torch and his alien wife have had a baby egg! The Thing has half his face melting because he was attacked by Wolverine! How can anyone put up with this level of excitement? Funny story; it’s actually almost unbearably boring.

0:00:00-0:09:24: We open up with a pre-credits conversation that becomes a post-credits conversation about the same thing: How very, very bad Fantastic Four #389-396 actually are. Spoilers: They’re very, very bad.

0:09:25-0:33:21: We open with Fantastic Four #389, a comic that opens with a reminder of how terrible the Watcher actually is — don’t worry, there’ll be many more reminders throughout the next few issues — before introducing a mystery for the FF to explore that they will almost immediately forget. But why should they remember when there’s the Collector’s terrifying new look and the introduction of an exciting new hero to deal with? (Note: Said new hero is not particularly exciting, as he has what Jeff describes as “absolutely no kind of backstory in any form.” He also has an origin that makes no sense, as will be revealed in the very next issue.) Oh, and Sue, Ben, Scott Lang and Namor all end up in a strange new world that… let’s be real, makes very little sense if you think about it too much. Meanwhile, I accidentally sum up this entire run of issues with the phrase, “On the one hand, it kind of makes sense, but on the other, it’s done so poorly.” Well done, me!

0:33:22-0:46:58: In which I describe FF #390 as “a “What? No” issue,” which is perhaps being too kind to something that is, basically, a comic of three different expositionary scenes, all intercut in an unclear manner that manages to rob each thread of backstory of any true narrative tension. To make matters worse, there’s a case to be made — and I half-heartedly make it — that DeFalco and Ryan have actually set up an interesting scenario with this storyline, even if it’s something that they never actually take advantage of, or even really spell it out for themselves and the readers. Seriously, this is an impressively frustrating run for all kinds of reasons.

0:46:59-1:30:12: I argue to Jeff that we should cover Fantastic Four’s #391 and #392 together because we’ll cover them really quickly, and then… we don’t. In my defense, there’s not that much plot in #391, but we found a lot to talk about, anyway, including the “in-text bitchiness” about the value of Johnny Storm’s stupidity, the debut of Fantastic Force and just how useless they actually are in action, the deaths and immediate backtracking of the rest of the Fantastic Four, the true identity and final fate of the Dark Raider, the immense stupidity of the final fate of Malice, and whether or not Tom DeFalco is trying to make a point about Reed Richards with what he does about the absence of Reed in the book and on the team. Oh, and yeah: The Fantastic Four splits up one more time, too. The highlight of the whole thing is certainly Jeff’s accidental summary of this run of issues: “I don’t know what you’re trying to say here, Tom DeFalco, and I’m sure the answer is nothing.”

 

1:30:13-1:45:53: FF#393 opens with a back-up strip recap of what’s literally just happened in the book, because… Oh, I don’t even know at this point. But as the series goes from hacking Lee/Kirby to hacking John Byrne — and oddly revisiting ideas from the end of the Steve Englehart run, as Jeff and I get into briefly, discussing whether or not DeFalco is in the same camp as Englehart or just the very opposite — we talk about the major disappointment of the issue: Not letting the Johnny/Lyja storyline die a death, or at least pretend to be dead for at least one fucking issue, for the love of God.

1:45:54-1:55:36: How bad is Fantastic Four #394? Bad enough to get Jeff to declare ”This is what I want from my comics! Just cultural appropriation and goofiness!” But what else could we expect from an issue that seems to be inspired by all the worst elements of the backstory of Wyatt Wingfoot, only with the sheen of the arguably more progressive 1990s? Elsewhere, Jeff tells me about the link between Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Claremont’s X-Men (I played it cool during the recording, but this fucking blew my mind, I have to tell you) and we rewrite the Lyja subplot in a couple of ways that would’ve made more sense and arguably been more entertaining. “In a collection of shitty comics, it’s the shittiest,” I say about this issue, and I stand by my belief.

1:55:37-2:07:TK: Out of nowhere, FF #395 is… pretty good…? I mean, that’s inside the context of, “It’s actually terrible, but we’re grading on a curve here,” but still. It’s an old school Marvel Two-in-Oneissue, basically, but we address that the Mad Thinker is actually a really bad genius who doesn’t understand what “unforeseen” means, and the implication of the new suggestion that Doctor Doom may just be the half-brother of Reed Richards. While Jeff and I kind of love it as a concept, neither of us trust the creative team to pull it off, which only seems just and sensible at this point, let’s be real.

2:07:53-2:30:33: Fantastic Four #396 is “an issue that you kind of immediately forget after you read,” according to me, and I’m not wrong in that. There’s some stuff in there worth reading, nonetheless, including the astonishing and needless return of the Flaming Sue and the far greater return of a very cocky and Steve Englehart-esque Johnny Storm. We also discuss whether or not DeFalco is dedicated to making this book sell even if it goes against his own instincts, and what is missing as a result. Is it heart? Is it spirit? Or simply quality…?

2:30:34-end: Next month, we edge ever closer to the end of the run — and the end of the Baxter Building itself! — with issues #397-405, but before we get there, there’s a Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Patreon to go check out. Plus, an all-important programming note that we don’t cover in the show itself: There will not be another Wait, What? or Baxter Building until November, because one of us is out of the country being an international jet-setter. (Patreon supporters, expect some Baxter Bungalow material in the meantime. If I have to suffer through Fantastic Force, I’m not doing it alone…!)

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0:01-7:07:  Greetings from Jeff “Bottle Episode?” Lester and Graeme “Clip Show!” McMillan!  Yes, due to a very unique October for us, this is being recorded a week in advance!  We start off by discussing some tendered suggestions about follow-up episodes for Graeme’s more elliptical comments.
7:07-33:48: Graeme has a couple things to ask Jeff on the eve of NYCC:  Graeme knows about the end of Jeff’s convention going days….but what about the beginning?  What was the first con Jeff attended?  Discussed: Willie Ito; Terry Austin; the odd business of selling movie stills; comic book adaptations of movies; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; and more.
33:48-1:09:34: Jeff has a question for Graeme: since Graeme is familiar with both the 100 page Giants of the ‘70s, and the British Marvel anthology titles of the ‘80s, what would be his pick for titles for similar reprint books (with some new material) for DC, Marvel, and another publisher?  Discussed: Morrison and Porter’s JLA; Chip Zdarsky’s Spider-Man; Jack Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; The recent Titan Books reprint of The Prisoner by Kirby, Englehart, and Kane; comics that don’t age well; Finder by Carol Speed McNeil; and more.
1:09:34-1:24:04: Graeme mentions 2000 A.D. as a science fiction themed anthology, which leads Jeff to wonder about a horror anthology where there are recurring characters. So crazy it just might work? We talk about some of the big successes (and many, many failures) of horror comics with recurring characters. Discussed: The Ghost Rider; The 13th Floor; John Constantine; the Castle Rock TV show; fan service and the Gotham TV show; and more.
1:24:04-1:35:02: Jeff managed to get his wife to watch the Justice League movie with him.  Why would he do that to his spouse?! Why would he do that to himself!?! Discussed: Justice League; The Avengers; Guardians of the Galaxy 2; Captain America: The Winter Soldier; and more.
1:35:02-2:13:49: Since we’re talking superhero movies and which ones we found better or worse than others, Jeff asks Graeme: top five comic book superhero movies? Top five comic book movies?  Also discussed: upcoming untitled Deadpool film project for December; Dark Phoenix and the X-Men movies; the Spider-Man movies; and more.
2:13:49-2:23:58: And since we’re talking about the Spider-Man movies, we talk about…Spider-Man! But maybe not in the way you would expect.
2:23:58-end: Closing comments!  (But also: CheeWees!)  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! 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.  And then we’re out!
NEXT WEEK:  Baxter Building! Read issues #397-405 of Fantastic Four by Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan and join us!
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0:01-20:26:  Greetings from Jeff “We Must Talk About Batman’s Penis” Lester and Graeme “Really, Jeff?” McMillan!  We get right to the meat of it immediately, and talk about the appearance of “Lil Wayne” in Batman: Damned #1 by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, DC’s attempt to do a Mature Readers label featuring characters you can still buy underoos of.  How’d that turn out, you might wonder if you had no access to the Internet until now?  We are more than happy to enlighten you, even as we struggle to keep the double entendres to a minimum.  Also discussed: Dongtor Manhattan; DC’s decision to automatically censor the book; and more.
20:26-33:43: Jeff worries if between this, Ben Percy being yoinked from Nightwing, and the three month delay after the rejection of the art for Justice League Odyssey if DC is returning to some bad habits they had foresworn before Rebirth.  Discussed: all of the above, and Dan Didio getting a bad rap, the artist lineup on DC’s Age of Heroes book not even a year in; whether the Nightwing controversy would’ve landed harder without Marvel’s Vision controversy; what fans want from Nightwing and what DC gives us with Nightwing; and more.
33:43-1:10:35: On what Jeff suspects is a related note, Graeme has a quick spoiler-free bit of feedback about Heroes in Crisis #1 but not before  we discuss what’s going on with Nightwing these days, especially as presented in the pages of Batman #55 by Tom King and Tony Daniel. Then we turn back to Heroes in Crisis and the fates of midlevel heroes we’re roughly grouping here under Wolfman-era New Teen Titans.  From there we go on to discuss the return of Wally West in DC Rebirth #1, and to what extent that return is a signal of a need for “loose” continuity or “tight” continuity, to what extent the DCU “self corrects,” and with a bit of a comparison to what’s going on over at Marvel with regards to their continuity issues, especially with regards to the current Infinity Wars event.
1:10:35-1:21:08: And, relatedly, Jeff picked up Thanos Wins by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, and Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 and #2 by Cates and Dylan Burnett, which he thinks ties in to some of these ideas about continuity, what works, and who it works for.
1:21:08-1:39:28: Don’t get him wrong, there are comics that Jeff really liked last week and he runs through them briefly here:  Immortal Hulk #6 by Al Ewing and Lee Garbett; Mister Miracle #11 by Tom King and Mitch Gerads; Avengers #8 by Jason Aaron and David Marquez; Batman #55 by Tom King and Tony Daniel; The Seeds #2 by Ann Nocenti and David Aja; and most of the first volume of Seto Utsumi by Kadzuya Konomoto.  And in celebration of the Killraven Masterworks arriving on Comixology and DC potentially completing the digitization of Kirby’s Kamandi, there’s a brief bit of comparison and contrast between the two.  They start off a little closer than you might think? Come for the comparison, stay for the re-creation of a McGregor-Russell Killraven issue.
1:39:28-1:47:39:  And while we’re comparing stuff, did you ever notice that Smokey & The Bandit is pretty much just a wacky remake of Vanishing Point? Also, Jeff saw Her and thinks Graeme would like it, but Graeme in inclined to disagree.
1:47:39-2:07:41: And as long as we’re talking movies—the footage from The Joker film! That Captain Marvel trailer!
2:07:41-2:12:13: Closing comments fakeout #1!! Graeme has a quick review of Wonder Woman: Earth One, Vol. 2, by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette.
2:12:13-2:15:56: Closing comments fakeout #2! There is a direct sequel to Judge Dredd: Trifecta starting in 2000 AD prog #2100.
2:15:56-end: Closing comments!  Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! 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.  And then we’re out!
NEXT WEEK:  We are…pretty sure we will be back next week?  Stay tuned!!
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Previously on Baxter Building: I could make reference to just how bad the Tom DeFalco/Paul Ryan run has become by this point — trust me, both Jeff and I will do so many times in the episode ahead — but what everyone really needs to know for the issues ahead are: Franklin Richards was kidnapped into the future by his grandfather Nathan, only to be returned as a telepathic teenager with high-tech armor and a mysterious mission. He’s been followed by someone called Hunter, who is like Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane’s Angela if she were even less interesting, but she has a mission that’s involved here teaming up with Devos, Paibok the Power-Skrull and Klaw, who are like a new Frightful Four with no clear agenda other than screwing with the Fantastic Four. As it turns out, though, they’re out of luck — because Doctor Doom’s just apparently killed Reed Richards in a last-minute suicide move!

0:00:00-0:26:31: What I genuinely believed would be a shorter episode than usual gets immediately derailed when Jeff asks if I’d read Fantastic Four #2 — the current series — and what I thought of it, leading into a discussion about the first two issues of the series, Dan Slott’s strengths as a writer, and what Jeff doesn’t like about Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman. Staying on target as ever.

0:26:32-0:42:01: That conversation leads into our talking about the era of FF that we’re now covering, and how (poorly) it stands up compared with the versions of the book that existed when we first encountered it, and the flaws that the DeFalco/Ryan era has. Or, as I put it somewhat unkindly, “It’s progressively getting a worse and worse comic, and by worse, I mean boring.” (I’m not actually wrong, though.)

0:42:02-0:55:26: We finally get to the point of the podcast and talk about Fantastic Four #382, only to pretty quickly regret it, and the many questions it raises: What’s the point of killing off one of your central characters if you immediately move on from the topic? Why is technology modular for easy updating in Castle Doomstadt? Is the Franklin/Huntara material intentionally obtuse? And why should we be bothered about a cliffhanger quite so underwhelming as this one?

0:55:27-1:18:10: Ignoring the nonsense title, FF #383 brings an unexpected conclusion to the plot line about Sue’s powers failing, a wonderful moment of concern from Jeff about other aliens jailed by the Skrulls and some particularly unlikely strategy working out when it comes to following random people running away from trouble. It also provokes us to attempt to make sense of the mythology that’s been built up around Franklin and Huntara, and to say that it’s complicated and not exactly coherent is certainly a polite way of putting it. Could it be possible that… this wasn’t exactly the most well-planned comic? Surely not.

1:18:11-1:23:40: We speed through Fantastic Four #384, which technically has a couple of big reveals in it — Sue really was being corrupted by Malice, which is maybe an alien perhaps possibly — except that they are utterly undercut by poor execution and a creative team that seems categorically unable to actually offer a definitive conclusion to anything. Still, at least Scott Lang has showed up to be the team’s new science guy, which is… maybe something…?

1:23:41-1:52:24: Both FF #s 385 and 386 interrupt the ongoing storylines with a crossover called Starblast, which — judging from these issues — is all about things happening underwater, but looks are apparently deceiving. As we try to get through the issues as quickly as possible — for #385, at least — there are some things that stand out… not least of which is Lyja the Lazerfist finally giving birth to her and Johnny’s child after issues and issues of teasing, which also means an answer to what a Lacaroo is. Don’t worry; it’s exactly as underwhelming as you think it is, if not moreso. Meanwhile, why is everyone creeping on Sue? Her husband died just a few issues ago!

1:52:25-2:19:37: Even the appearance of the Watcher fails to entertain us in Fantastic Four #387. Indeed, Jeff seems to have problems with his appearance altogether, perhaps because of his long-standing suspicion of bald men in togas. While “Nobody Gets Out Alive!” is, in many ways, a set-up issue for what’s to come, there’s a bunch to chew through here, not least of which are Murphy Brown allusions, the gullibility of our heroes, Namor’s desire to get naked and the inherent creepiness of Paul Ryan’s attempts to make Sue Richards sexy. Oh, and a cliffhanger even more underwhelming than that of #382.

2:19:38-2:31:41: There’s no way to get around it; FF #388 is a mess amongst a run of messes, and manages to make the team look both stupid and also uncaring. It’s also the most curiously, the most retro issue in a run that has been astonishingly retro to date, with appearances from the original Avengers and the early Fantastic Four, and a villain who’s stolen his entire look from a previous FF villain without anyone commenting on it, strangely. There’s certainly some kind of aesthetic at play, even if it’s an inexplicable one.

2:32:42-end: We finish by being once again very unkind about what we’ve just read — “These issues are so devoid of inspiration or fun or anything good,” I say, apparently particularly unimpressed — and looking ahead to what we’re covering next month, which is to say, Fantastic Four #389-396. Disaster is awaiting, and not just in the sense of this comic continuing to go downhill! While you wait for the episode, why not check out our Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter or Patreon? You can collect the set, or something similar…!

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0:01-27:04:  Greetings from Graeme “Self-Embargoed” McMillan and Jeff “Self-Impetigoed” Lester, who move relatively quickly into this news discussion dense episode, starting with the passing of Gary Friedrich and the mighty Marie Severin, two workers in comics with very different careers who nonetheless managed to pass away within a day of one another.  We start discussing the career of Gary Friedrich and his life and times, including his creation of Ghost Rider, his lawsuit with Marvel re same, his last comics credit, his long interview in Comic Artist, an on-point digression about the 90s Kirbyverse comics and Ultra comics, and much more.
27:04-37:21: And then we talk about Marie Severin, how absolutely amazing her work is, and how essential she was to Marvel in the Sixties and Seventies.  We coo in awe over the suppleness of her line, her amazing house ad work for Marvel, her flawless pastiche work for Not Brand Echh, her sense of design, and discuss her ties to both Marvel and E.C, and how that perhaps one to inherit the mantle of the latter.
37:21-41:05: And from there, we move from discussing dead comics creators to the crib death of a nascent fandom with an article over at Graphic Policy about David Wray, better known to Twitter followers of this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con as Tom King’s bodyguard.
41:05-1:20:15: So perhaps it’s unsurprising we move on from there to talk about Comicsgate, the topic (unfortunately) on social media’s mind.  Graeme wants to write about it, but is that just stoking the fires? Or does the industry need a definitive article that can prevent dozens of bad faith arguments? Also discussed: the lack of official statements from major comics publishers; other statements from Marvel; David Uzumeri’s article at Medium about the road to Comicsgate; and more.
1:30:25-1:40:54: And then…there were comics!  Graeme sat down with Marvel Unlimited and caught up with Charles Soule’s run with Ron Garney on Daredevil (“caught up” having that asterisk of Marvel Unlimited’s six month delay, of course).  Graeme also covers Letter 44, Poe Dameron, and Soule’s work on Lando.
1:40:54-2:00:05: By contrast, Jeff has made his way up to the mid-sixties of Master of Kung-Fu, and tries to sell Graeme on the book.  Moench! Gulacy! Marlon Brando! Fleetwood Mac!  It’s Seventies Marvel Comics at its Seventiest!  There’s also some talk about Marvel’s westerns, and the BOGO sale going on over at Comixology through September 6.
2:00:05-2:10:43: Sure, but what about more current comics? Well, we talk about wave 2 of the DC/Looney Tunes crossover books, with us recapping (to the point of spoiling, it should be said) Catwoman/Tweety & Sylvester; Joker/Daffy Duck; Harley Quinn/Goassmer; with a special focus on Lex Luthor/Porky Pig by Mark Russell, Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, and Andrew Dalhouse.
2:10:43-2:21:20: Jeff caught up with the latest issues of X-Men: Grand Design by Ed Piskor.  Are these recaps of the first several hundred issues of Uncanny X-Men a good introduction for someone wanting to get into the comics?  Jeff initially thinks so, but Graeme makes a pretty good case against.  Also discussed: TOM SCIOLI!
2:21:20-end: Closing comments!! Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! 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 due to travel! But join us in two weeks for Baxter Building! Read issues #382-388 of Fantastic Four by Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan and join us!
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0:01-11:45:  Greetings from Graeme “Jury Duty” McMillan and Jeff “Read a Tom King Comic About Jury Duty” Lester, for reasons those impromptu nicknames probably make clear, leap right in to discussing Batman #53 by Tom King, Lee Weeks and Elizabeth Breitweiser.  Like most of King’s Batman, the issue continues to hit Graeme in the feels, whereas Jeff is a little…more…uh, reserved in his praise, shall we say? Discussed: emotional pin-ups; Kirby immediacy plus Moore formalism equals…profit?  (I’m leaning pretty heavy here on the ellipses I’m noticing.); Batman: Year One; and more.
11:45-23:30:  Jeff, who admits to being crabbier than usual, cedes the ground to Graeme, which is a good thing for us all, as Graeme has read some upcoming graphic novels we should be on the lookout for, and talks about them in exciting (but non-spoilery) ways:  the amazing sounding Bastard by Max de Radiguès; Coyote Doggirl by Lisa Hanawalt; Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal; and the complete collection of Berlin by Jason Lutes (!!!).
23:30-31:18: Graeme has finally read all of Snagglepuss: Exit Stage Left by Mark Russell, Mike Feehan, and Sean Russell.  Remarkably, we manage to keep the discussion spoiler-free, despite Graeme talking about how much th ending really makes the whole work really that much stronger.
31:18-46:21: Speaking of Russell, Graeme mentions Russell’s recent appearance on the 2000AD podcast (in part, although not wholly, because of the work Russell is doing on Dredd for IDW), and that spurs us on to talk about Judge Dredd, the Simpsons, and the changing nature of satire and Mega City One.
46:21-1:05:21: Graeme spins off from all this to talk about something he did not love: the coming collection of Batman: White Knight by Sean Murphy. Also discussed: Mark Millar; Mark Millar and Grant Morrison’s Swamp Thing; Batman: The Damned; Batman: Hush; Legends of the Dark Knight; all those god-damned Batman books; and more.
1:05:21-1:22:38: Talking about who we might want to see about Batman leads, oddly, to a new theory Jeff has about the success of Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men and why they work better than the original Lee/Kirby X-Men.  And from there, we end up discussing the switch on the book’s focus from gay culture to (maybe?) Israel?
1:22:38-1:41:23: Turns out this is the right week to be talking about old X-Men stories and creators like John Byrne, because this is the week it was announced C.B. Cebulski/Akira Yoshida signed John Byrne to return to Marvel and do an X-Men book.  What the hell is going on?  We discuss, and that also leads us to talk a bit about sales of Superman under Bendis, Pearl #1 by Bendis and Alex Maleev, and more.
1:41:23-2:00:43: The wonderful Leef Smith of Mission: Comics and Art asked us to read Hey Kids Comics #1 by Howard Chaykin and share our thoughts.  Graeme didn’t read it, Jeff did, and…hoo boy.
2:00:43-2:06:36: Jeff also read Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun, Vol. 9 by Izumi Tsubaki.  He’s also read Prison School, Vol. 3 by Akira Hiramoto, and believe you me, you won’t mistake one series for the other anytime soon.
2:06:36-2:12:08: Graeme has a recommendation for Jeff:  the first two books of Brink by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard, a 2000 A.D. series that’s kind of a detective story, kind of not: Graeme mentions someone else’s description of it as “True Detective meets Outland.”
2:12:08-2:27:24: In “news,” Jeff wants to know if Graeme knows anything about this weird and more than slightly suspect TokyoPop sale on Comixology.  Selling digital versions of books currently available from other publishers? Licensed comics featuring characters they surely can’t still own the licenes for? What is up with this sale?  Graeme doesn’t have any answers, but he does point out some strange stuff about the Project Superpowers sale.  And we talk about some reading options currently available on Marvel Unlimited, including the entire run of Master of Kung-Fu, which leads Graeme to ask a question—“Jeff, I’ve never read Master of Kung-Fu.  Should I?”—Jeff has literally never thought of before.
2:27:24-end:  A classic closing comments fakeout!! Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! 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. (And then! We talk about the sentencing of comics writer Gerard Jones to six years of prison, which is admittedly a very, very weird way to end the episode.)  And then we’re out!
NEXT WEEK:  Skip week! Rest up and join us in September!
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