Wait, What? Ep. 111: Things That Go Wrong...

PhotobucketIt's....not easy to explain. Trust me.

Oh, man.  Remember all the questions you guys asked us and we didn't get to?  Well, don't say we didn't start 2013 right!

After the jump:  Show notes,  no more terrifying photos, still kissing with saliva, etc., etc.

0:00-12:00:  Greetings!  Before the comics talk, Graeme and Jeff catch up with what they did during the holidays.  Unsurprisingly, Jeff got sick and moped.  Even less surprisingly, Graeme worked. And worked.  And worked.  Other exciting topics covered:  inadvertent tech problems, deliberate tech problems, Cocoa Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, and Cocoa Krispies and Honey Monster, the Sugar Puffs mascot. 12:00-29:03: Jeff talks about the first season of American Horror Story, which is another "what we did during the holidays" topic, and that leads into a discussion about things that go wrong, TV, and includes mention of The West Wing and Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence.  And, just as we almost start talking about comics, we swerve and talk about Misfits about which, in a weird reversal of the status quo, Jeff is caught up on and Graeme is not.  Also, you will never know how much coughing I had to edit out to make this sound at all listenable, but it was kind of a lot.  Some of them I had to keep in so we could (sort of) hear Graeme.  Sorry about that. 29:03-36:16:  Graeme lists the comics he's read! Hey everybody, we're talking about comics!  Well, starting to talk about comics! Well, almost…starting to…talk… 36:16-36:52: Intermission Uno! 36:52-38:52:  Hey, who has two thumbs and has been interviewed again by Canadian Television? This guy….Graeme McMillan, whom we all know.  Yes, CL Cool Graeme (Canada Loves Cool Graeme) is burning up the airwaves. 38:52-56:58:  Comics!  We were supposed to talk about all those books Graeme listed so of course…we don't talk about them.  Instead, we talk about Amazing Spider-Man #700. 56:58-1:05:35: And from there, we talk a spot of news--the promotions of Bob Harras and Hank Kanalz over at DC. Also, those great lists of CE's top-selling books for 2012. 1:05:35-1:05:50: And so…we finally get around to talking about the list of comics Graeme bought!  Or….do we? (Hint: we don't). 1:05:50-1:06:38: Intermission Two! 1:06:38-1:07:23: And we're back…and the sound is a bit hinky for some reason? Have we thanked you for continuing to listen to us recently?  We really should! 1:07:23-1:23:23:  Remember that list of comics Graeme mentioned way back when?  Here it is! A delightful batch of old issues Graeme picked up at his local comic book shop's sale: Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 (1984); DC Comics Presents #60 (Superman and Guardians of the Universe);    Machine Man #10 by Marv Wolfman and Steve Ditko; Micronauts Annual #1 (1979); Mr. Miracle Special by Mark Evanier and Steve Rude (1987); and the DC Comics Mystery In Space DC Presents One-Shot (2004) featuring Elliot S! Maggin & J.H. Williams III, and Grant Morrison & Jerry Ordway. 1:23:23-1:39:12: Also, something comics-related(!):  Graeme and I talk Final Crisis since both of us (weirdly enough) had re-read it in the last month or so:  ccontinuity, the New 52, reverse time, and issues of race, are among the subjects of our conversational hand-wringing. Then…techpocalypse forces us to cut things short in mid-convo and try again. 1:39:12-1:39:32: Intermission 3! 1:39:32-1:42:35: And we are back! (After a few failed attempts, which were a bit on the crazy-making side of things?)  So it's back to more Final Crisis talk--where are those Batman issues?  What about the Legion of 3 Worlds? 1:42:35-end: And now on to some quick chat about new comics--Flash #15 and its amazing second half by Francis Manapul; New Avengers #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting (including a shout-out to Abhay's fantastic commentary on Hickman's Secret); Sachie-Chan Good!! by Akira Toriyama and Masakazu Katsura (which inspires Graeme to recount the "Miss Universe" pitch from the Downey Files podcast); Batman Inc. #6; Saga #8; Wonder Woman #15; Fatale #11 by Brubaker and Phillips; Prophet #32; Godzilla: The Half-Century War #4; Witch-Doctor: Mal Practice #2; and (digitally) the first volume of Kikaider by Shotaro Ishinomori (sooooo good!)  And then a little after the two hour mark--we are finished!  For now. [Cue ominous music...]

As I'm a bit out of practice, a bit sick, and staring down the barrel of an early wake-up call, let me just cut through the niceties and say: it's good to be back!  (Hold up, brain: isn't that a nicety right there?)  And blah blah blah blah iTunes, but also right here, and so on:

Wait, What? Ep. 111: Things That Go Wrong

Ah, but no worries we will be back next week--here is to a Happy New Year to all and, as you may have guessed, we thank you for listening!

Wait, What? 11.1: We've Got Soul, but We're Not (Seven) Soldiers...

Photobucket Yep, it's true--somehow Graeme and I are still managing to make time, talk, record, edit, and upload episodes without utterly descending into utterly braindead gibberish noises--I mean, sure, Episode 11.1 starts off with us talking about the weather (and Wolverine!) but we also talk about the Final Crisis hardcover, New X-Men, and Graeme's re-examination of Seven Soldiers is really interesting, excited stuff. You can grab it off Itunes or, if you prefer, listen to it here:

Wait, What?, Ep. 11.1

My apologies to those of you who've been kind enough to leave feedback in the comments that we haven't had a chance to respond to directly (VoodooBen, I've been meaning to give you a direct response to your Kick-Ass question for days now....) but I wanted to let you know it's much appreciated by both Graeme McMillions and myself...

Anyway, thanks for the feedback and for listening and we should have another installment for you soon!

I don't want to be Left Behind...

Hey, all of the cool kids are doing it, so I might as well join in too! What I thought of FINAL CRISIS #7 after the jump...

I pretty much agree with all of the gang; even Abhay in the comments -- I liked it, I disliked it, I loved it, and I hated it. All at various points, and sometimes even at the same time.

Sure, it's sometimes barely coherent, and you kind of NEED to read the annotations and commentary and interviews to really get all of the points of what's going on. But that's pretty standard for a Morrison comic, really -- I felt the same way about THE INVISIBLES or much of his JLA run, for example. But I always ALWAYS come away with a line of dialogue or an image or a thought that will stay with me, pretty much forever, and that's what a proper piece of art does for you, anyway.

I'm not a good enough of a critic (or, even more properly, a reviewer) to really handle a writer like Grant -- it feels to me like he casually threw out more ideas and concepts in just the last issue alone than pretty nearly the entirety of the non-GM/Johns-written DCU did in the whole of 2007 -- so I'm going to approach the rest of this as a retailer as well as with what my customers having been saying as well.

The major problems with FINAL CRISIS have less to do with the work itself, and more to do both with how it was POSITIONED into the marketplace, as well as its CONNECTIONS TO the DC Universe. None of this is Grant Morrison's fault, or even something he as a creative person should have thought much about.

But FINAL CRISIS wasn't ever positioned as "just a cool big story" or whatever -- it was positioned as the culmination of the narrative thrust of the DC Universe over Dan Didio's tenure. I don't want to go digging through old interviews to find specific lines, but certainly this is the sense that Dan has given over the last, dunno, 18 months or so, or at least I think any reasonable person would agree.

FINAL CRISIS is buried under the expectation of the "Crisis" in the title; it had to bear the weight of having a 52-part weekly lead-in (plus several other series like DEATH OF THE NEW GODS) to the series that ended up contradicting Morrison's story; and it had to suffer from the branding that not only impacted FC itself, but also RIP in BATMAN as well.

None of this is Grant's fault, of course, but it is inevitable that it will color the audience's reception of the work.

Y'know, art is supposed to challenge the audience's expectations. But commercial products are supposed to conform to them. Well, or at least support them.

If you add up all of the comics that are meant to be part of this overall plotline as Didio has positioned it in interviews, starting with that TITANS mini where they killed Donna Troy, through the build up to INFINITE CRISIS, IC itself, 52, COUNTDOWN straight through to FC, you're talking hundreds of dollars - perhaps in the $500 range. If you tried to READ it that way, you'd probably go insane, being given only crayons to write with in your padded cell. Extremely little of it adds up, or builds to anything of real lasting significance.

That's why I think FC was "the last straw" for a really large chunk of my DC readers. I have customers dropping DC titles left and right, and they tell me the reasons are that they're confused about DC continuity, and they feel like they're being sold things that are not what they were told they are.

Of course some commenter will suggest that this is the audience's own fault for not being discerning enough in the first place, and while as a human I might not disagree with you all that much, as a retailer who has to deal with the ultimate financial outcomes of these decisions, I'm not at all enthusiastic.

What FC is, in a lot of ways, is the culmination not of Didio's path, but of Morrison's. If you read this as the capper to an arc that began in ANIMAL MAN, through SEVEN SOLDIERS, and a number of other DCU books that Grant has written, then this reads a whole lot differently. In fact, I think he has utterly reversed the paradigm -- in ANIMAL MAN, Buddy is ultimately shown to be powerless because of his writer, while by FINAL CRISIS, the stand-in for the writers are undone by their own story.

Anyway, this and RIP were just positioned badly, with a tidal wave of expectations that they crumble in the face of. If there's any mistake that Grant himself is guilty of here it is that SUBMIT, SUPERMAN BEYOND and that two-parter in BATMAN are actually plot-essential to the story, but aren't included IN the story. BEYOND especially -- I'm not sure if FC works AT ALL without reading that. But I think all of those have plot points which were critical to have in the main series itself.

You can understand FC just fine without reading REVELATIONS or LoTW (and especially without REQUIEM or the SECRET FILES or whatever I'm forgetting) -- I don't think that is at all true for the other Grant books.

As an individual consumer myself, I'm not going to buy the announced FC collection -- because it doesn't have those in there. And I'm not going to buy a separate "companion" book, just like I refused the buy the split season sets of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Maybe maybe when they finally get around to putting out the Whole Schmeer Edition, I might still be interested in it, but who knows if I'll still care by then?

Beyond the EXPECTATIONS, the other prong of the problem is the CONNECTION TO the rest of the DCU. As much as everyone complains about being "forced" to buy umpty-jillion tie-in books, it is really worse when you throw a Crisis in the DCU, and THE REST OF THE DCU DOESN'T EVEN NOTICE.

The DCU will supposedly sync up "over the next few months", is, I believe, the phrasing, but that's really too late.

And I suspect that 98% of the kajillion ideas that Grant threw out there will never be followed up again, unless Grant himself does so.

At the end of the day, I'm personally happy with a comic where Superman destroys the embodiment of evil with a song, then uses the magical-wishing-machine to write us all "a happy ending". Superman is fucking awesome. I'm maybe a little sad he didn't wink at us after doing so, but that's about it. That makes it for me a GOOD comic.

But the retailer in me, who has watched the erosion of his DCU reader-base, and is looking ahead to the next quarter, and the next year, and the next decade, well I think this was AWFUL -- a confusing jumble of great frustration and no immediate follow-through, culminating the last couple confusing jumbles of great frustration and no follow-through.

I love Grant Morrison's DC Universe. I want to read much more that is set in that mold: where epic deeds of heroism are done in astonishing ways by bold & fantastic characters. But I don't see anyone else approaching the DCU that way... least of all the editors.

What do YOU think?



Why I loved Final Crisis

I've been enjoying the online discussion of Final Crisis, especially as the last three parts have been coming out over the last three weeks. But one thing I think is particularly interesting about the reaction to the series is that a number of people who disliked it seem angry about it, or convinced that people who "actually enjoyed" it have somehow been duped. And even though I've been posting notes on every issue, I realized that I haven't actually said much about what I thought of the series since the first issue. I really did enjoy it enormously--as much as I've liked any superhero comic in the last few years. I thought it was problematic in a lot of ways, although I might not say "deeply" as many times as Jog did. But I love a lot of art that's seriously flawed, as long as 1) it's sufficiently ambitious and 2) it does some stuff very well. I found myself looking forward to every issue of Final Crisis, and reading and re-reading it with pleasure. So here's what I liked about it:

*It's incredibly densely packed. There's a lot to mull over in every issue--including a ton of plot--and earlier parts of the story reward re-reading in the context of later ones. A few people have commented that Morrison's writing style here seems like a puzzle or game; I don't think it's that, exactly, just a bunch of cues that let the story unfold in the reader's head. I think #7 is the only issue that's seriously non-chronological, and there the organization works really well dramatically: that opening scene is fantastic (and beautifully timed for a periodical coming out right now), and much more effective than picking up with #6's also-excellent cliffhanger would've been. The outcome of the great big physical fight is a foregone conclusion--by the time we get to it, it's not just past-tense narration, it's literally a bedtime story being told to children ("and no one was hurt").

*Morrison's dialogue is pitch-perfect. He juggles a gigantic cast, but he's great at establishing who they are and how they think about things with just a few lines. (Green Arrow and Black Canary get barely any on-panel time, but their characters and relationship are totally there.) The dialogue also delivers a lot of exposition that doesn't read like anyone's stopping to explain the plot. See, for instance, the conversation between Turpin and the Question in the first issue: "Didn't the Question used to be a guy?" "Lung cancer. From smoking." If you're meeting these characters for the first time, that reads as "you're not the person I was expecting"/"yeah, fuck you too," and also opens up the idea that we're in a setting where characters' identities are roles that can shift from person to person. If you know the Question from his appearances on the Justice League animated series, it clarifies why the Question's a woman here. If you know the characters well already, it's following up on a plot thread from 52, and showing the way Charlie's sensibility has rubbed off on Renee. And, in any case, the conversation sets up the position the Question will occupy by the end of the series--a kind of liaison between the human and superhuman worlds, who's tight with the law-enforcement community but isn't really one of them any more.

Speaking of which:

*It's a massive event comic that's totally self-contained. I realize that could sound odd coming from somebody who's been annotating every little extratextual reference in FC for nine months, but I'm serious: every essential part of the story is right there on the page of Final Crisis and its five Morrison-written tie-ins (Superman Beyond, Resist and the Batman two-parter--and I also think not including Superman Beyond in the collected edition sabotages the project). Everything else is just Easter eggs--and there are a ton of them. But, for example: there are a few sequences (in the first and last issues) involving a caveman. Is it fun to know that this particular caveman had his own series for six issues in the late '60s? Sure--but all you need to know about him for the purpose of this story is that he's a caveman. And, just on an analyzing-craft level, I enjoyed seeing how Morrison introduced all of this story's important characters and ideas for the benefit of readers who hadn't encountered them before.

*The art is mostly really good. (Aside from the dreadful sliver cover for the last issue.) I mean, yes, it would've been nicer to have an all-Jones (or all-Mahnke) project, but I enjoyed the look of almost all of it, and Alex Sinclair consistently hit the color out of the park. The coloring on Superman Beyond, in particular, is just fantastic--even the 2-D scenes stick to a color scheme that looks cool with the glasses on.

*It invites a whole lot of ways of reading it. Sean T. Collins has a really interesting post here about the elaborate light-as-information/darkness-as-dogma motif going on in the series, and how that was ultimately less interesting to him than the "crazy-ass superhero story" aspect. (And under the circumstances, I'm surprised that there wasn't a prominent Lightray analogue in this story.) I also share his frustration with Morrison's "why aren't there right-brain comics?" quote--but I think it'd be fairly on-the-mark if it were phrased as "why aren't there more right-brain superhero comics?"

Another good quote, from amypoodle of Mindless Ones: "the symbolic/thematic reading is just as important to [Morrison's comics] as the literal one." I think that's true, and in Final Crisis those readings bleed together: parts of the story are more or less literally about internal and ground-level struggle against darkness (Batman, Submit), others are grand symbolic treatments of the cosmic "what stories do you tell?" question (Superman Beyond), and they become the same thing by #7. There's a deus ex machina ending, of course, but only in the literal sense; it's been fastidiously set up from the very first scene, with its divinely inspired technology turning will into reality.

*It's totally entertaining, panel-for-panel. Final Crisis tosses an amazing number of fun ideas out into the idea-space of the DCU; you know, if Lord Eye only gets two panels, so what? Somebody else can play with that later. Frankenstein on a motorcycle with a sword in one hand and a gun in the other, quoting Milton as he kills Justifiers, is my idea of quality entertainment. Morrison writes great endings, too--not a surprise coming from the writer of the final scene of We3, the last page of "Batman R.I.P.," the conclusion of his Doom Patrol, etc., but Jesus did this series ever have some killer cliffhangers. The story accelerates steadily, from its police-procedural opening to the insane fireworks of the ending ("what the hell, let's throw in Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew. And the Host of Heaven, too"). And when Final Crisis cranks up the volume, it really cranks it up. Superman's entrance in the final scene of #6? It's like having three symphony orchestras in the balcony that you didn't know about suddenly join in with the two playing triple-fortissimo on stage.

*It opens up a lot of possibilities for stories, and doesn't close many off. That's something an "event comic" should do, I think. I don't know which of those possibilities will actually be fulfilled--and even Morrison seems dubious about the prospect--but they're there.


Graeme's 10 Thoughts About Showcase Presents: Brave And Bold Volume 3

1. The title - SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD BATMAN TEAM-UPS VOLUME 3 - feels as if DC was trying to win some kind of award for longwindedness; would it have killed them to just call it SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD VOLUME 3 instead? I know, they're probably trying to plan ahead for when they do Showcases of the non-Haney/Aparo issues, but still.

2. If, like me, you've been following the series eagerly up until this point, Bob Haney's weird and poetic way with words has not only become normal by now, but also comforting in a way. "The Brave and Bold Beat continues! Miss it never!" Miss it never? It's like Bizarro Stan Lee, but it works.

3. Also wonderful: The operatic, emotional Batman that Haney writes. Never mind the dour, grim Dark Knight people are familiar with, this is a Batman so filled with life that he'll literally shake a fist in the air and swear an oath if needs be... but also one so secure in his manliness that he's got no problem calling Aquaman beautiful at the end of one story.

4. To be fair to Bats, Aquaman is pretty beautiful in that particular story, thanks to Jim Aparo's lovely, lovely art. Aparo's work in this collection is variable; you can see when he's rushed and hacking it out, at times, but there are also some pages that just make you wonder why he's never really gotten his due as an artist. As someone who first came across his work in Batman and the Outsiders, but soon came to consider his Batman as "the" Batman of my childhood, it's somewhat gratifying to see that the preteen me wasn't entirely lacking in taste.

5. Something that's very apparent in black and white: What a magpie Aparo could be, stylistically. There are some very Neal Adams-ish panels in this book, and during the Sgt. Rock issues, some great Joe Kubert-style touches in the inking.

6. The Batman scene in last week's Final Crisis that everyone's not been talking about? Add in some ridiculous narration and that could've easily been the opening to one of the stories in here; the follow-up, of course, would be precisely the same follow-up that Morrison is inevitably going to end up doing himself - Batman lost in either time (the Forever People solution) or the Life Trap (Morrison's Mister Miracle solution), and fighting his way out by being the Ultimate Man. Morrison's Batman was pretty much always Haney's, but a little bit older and grumpier, anyway.

(6.5. I pretty much think that FINAL CRISIS #6 was Good, all of the problems with it, aside; I liked the choppy sense of immediacy that Morrison brings to the writing, the genuine sense of emergency and everything happening at once making it feel like a Crisis, if not necessarily the "Final" one... Whether that's intentional or the result of rewrites, I'm not entirely sure, but it still worked for me; I also like that a lot of it happens off-panel, but not in such a way that you feel completely cheated, or at least, not yet. It's a shame that deadline issues and stupid production mistakes - Since when was Mister Miracle white? How is Hourman in two places at once at the end of this issue? - have killed a lot of this series' momentum, because it's really kind of awesome, in its own way. That said, I still think that it's definitely not the kind of thing that linewide event books are made of, and that it suffers from its more overt attempts to fit into that hole.)

7. Haney's choices for guest-stars is enjoyably B-list, for the most part (Wildcat, Mister Miracle and the Metal Men all appear in more than one story in this collection), and when big-name heroes appear, it's not as fun (Well, with the exception of the Green Lantern story).

8. That Green Lantern story, though... Man. It made me realize how much of this book - and the previous two collections -don't fit into what we now think of as the superhero formula. For one thing, they're mostly devoid of supervillains; lowlife hoods or criminal masterminds, sure, but guys in costumes with superpowers? Not so much. And, as over the top as the emotion may be, there's no angst or soap opera; it's literally "Here we are introducing the concept, here we are dealing with it, now we're done."

9. That economy - and, to be honest, also the way in which you get the idea that Haney might be ripping off whatever the movie or TV show he saw last night may have been (Seriously, how else do you get a story where Batman gets mentally tortured with the latest brainwashing techniques and almost breaks after following Green Lantern once he defects?) - really reminded me of early 2000AD, especially John Wagner and Alan Grant's stuff before they started taking themselves more seriously. On the one hand, they were hacking the stuff out, trying to write as many pages as possible as quickly as possible while still being entertaining, but "hack" is too much of pejorative to use, because the stories are still readable - enjoyable - and successful in what they set out to do decades later. Someone needs to tell me what this kind of thing is called when you're trying not to insult it (Pulpy? No, that's not it, either).

10. If these collections were weekly, they wouldn't come out quick enough for me. Fun, stupid, thrilling and never-really-giving-a-fuck, this book was Excellent.

The weight of Expectations

So there's two ways to look at FINAL CRISIS #1.

The first way is as the end of a "trilogy" of Crisii; the culmination of Dan Didio's editorial vision which, at this point, would make this issue #122.


(That's me being nice and not counting AMAZONS ATTACK, or 52, or all of the individual crossover issues that happened in various comics, or event things like the JLA "Crisis in Confidence" storyline. You could certainly make the case that this is the 250+th issue if you're less charitable)

(And, of course, that's not counting the 30 issues of SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY, which really feel more like the lead-in to this than most of that other stuff...)

There's a lot of me that thinks that is a very very fair way indeed to look at it because that's exactly how they pitched it, and, to a large degree, the very title of "Final Crisis" puts that very weight upon it.

By that thinking, yes, I think this comic is largely a failure -- it is a slow build, it doesn't appear to have any direct focus, has seemingly important things happen in a small small, and lets seemingly unimportant things happen at a dawdling pace. It also appears to either directly contradict, or just ignore things that have happened in the last 2-6 months in the DCU universe -- the New Gods have already been dropping like flies, why is the GLC and JLA just noticing now as if it were the first time? Since SALVATION RUN is shipping late, a lot of these characters really should be running around, right? Where's the C-List Monitor Posse, starring Ray Palmer, who said they'd be the ones Monitoring the Monitors? And so on.

Plus, as Graeme notes, there ain't no explosions. And yeah, I think it a company universe-spanning crossover, especially one with a name like "Final Crisis" there shore should be some of dem purty spolsives, lordy yes!

I mean, honestly, after reading the issue, my first, gut-level reaction was "Well, where's the 'Crisis'?"

So, from the "Man, we've been reading the unending event from like 2003 now, where's my payoff?" POV, I can't give much more than an EH for this first issue.

But of course, the other way to look at it is without the weight of expectations, to completely let the last year of comics slip out of your brains, to not have the weight of a "Crisis" upon it, and just judge the book by itself.

And as that kind of reader, I'd call this a fairly GOOD book.

Because I think if it had come along with a different name, or not had a year-long lead-in (kinda sorta), or not been pushed as the conclusion of a trilogy, or even not come out in comparison with Marvel's string of similar events -- if people did not have the weight of expectations upon them, then I think the general internet reaction would have been very different.

Another book with a big Weight upon it was GIANT-SIZE ASTONISHING X-MEN #1, the big wrap-up to the Whedon/Cassaday story. And it, too, suffers I think, because of it. After all of the long ass waiting for it, I think it fails to impress, but that is because of the long-ass wait. I suspect someone reading it in TP form for the first time is going to think that was a pretty solid story and a GOOD ending to the run; me, I've been living with that wait, so it too was kind of EH, for me.

What did YOU think?