Wait, What? Ep. 91: Trip

Post1 Okay, super-super short here as I am in the process of, even now, packing and panicking like a full-fledged fool in preparation for the upcoming vacation to Portland. (And, yes, if it is not a waffle-filled one, I will be very, very pissed.)

We actually talk a little bit about that in this episode so I won't bore you with it now.  Instead, I will bore you with a fast list of the things Graeme and I talk about in good ol' ep. 91:  a long discussion about Casanova 3.4; Zaucer of Zilk by Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing; Matt Howarth, Lou Stathis, and Those Annoying Post Bros. (from which the above image has been lovingly nicked); why the song remains the same; copied characters, satire, and analogues; the point of a first issue in modern comics; Spider-Men #1; that old Parker luck and the Spider-Man movie franchise; the evolution of Marvel's edgier heroes; Saga #4, Avengers Vs. X-Men, and more!

It's....probably on iTunes?  In fact, hell, let's just go ahead and say yeah sure it's definitely on iTunes.  But let's also make an amazing leap of faith and say that it is also right here, just below, and available for your listening pleasure:

Wait, What? Ep. 91: Trip

As always, we hope you enjoy and thanks for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 82: The Problem With Problems

Photobucket Hola, chicos!

The above image is from Dave Sim's Glamourpuss #24, just one of many fine comic book hoohahs under discussion in episode 82 of the latest podcast from the brilliant (but presently ill!) Graeme McMillan and the generally slow-on-the-uptake (but mostly healthy!) yours truly.

I gotta say, we pretty much drove right in on this one, and ended up talking Action Comics #8 in the first three minutes of this two hour twenty-five minute blabapalooza, and also managed to hit topics like OMAC #8, the colorization of  Scott Pilgrim, the battles behind the TV show Community, a great blog post by Steve K. about the state of the comics Internet, Casanova #3, Supreme #20, Fatale #4, Strike Force Morituri, and that stunning issue of Glamourpuss mentioned above.

Also!  We have the first (and hopefully last) installment of Listen to Jackass, in which I respond to blog posts I haven't even read yet! It's a bit like that old Johnny Carson 'Carnac The Magnificent' sketch, except instead of cheap laughs it kinda goes more for the "feeling ashamed for Jeff and, in a way, the whole human race" kind of feeling.

iTunes?  Well, of course!  But also right here and now, ready to be cradled like a baby bird that has tumbled from its nest:

Wait, What?, Episode 82: The Problem with Problems

Oh, and I should warn you--because Graeme is feeling very under the weather, and I am feeling like I want to watch The Raid: Redemption over and over and over until they drag me kicking and screaming out of the movie theater, we won't be recording this week, so there won't be a podcast next week.  You understand, don't you?

In any event, we hope you enjoy this latest installment, and thanks for listening!

Wait, What? 56.2: Let's Go Backwards When Forward Fails

Photobucket As our old pal Reid Fleming used to say: "Ungawa!"

We've got the gripping ninety-two minute finale of Ep. 56 available for you, with Graeme and I talking Action Comics #1, G. Willow Wilson's Mystic, the Wolverine: Debt of Death one-shot, IDW's G.I. Joe: Cobra series, Kirby Genesis #3, our worries about the conclusion to X-Men: Schism, and a pretty sustained discussion (which will come as no surprise to long-time listeners) of Casanova #3 by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.

In case you have no need for this thing puny hu-mans call "iTunes," you are hereby formally invited to listen to our fine audio programme right here, should you so choose:

Wait, What? Ep. 56.2: Lets Go Backwards When Forward Fails

And as ever, we thank you not just for listening, but also for the fine comments you contribute here at the website and at waitwhatpodcast [AT] gmail.com.  It is greatly appreciated!

Bewilderment Inc: Featuring The Malingerer!

After the break I’ll be not knowing what the Hell I’m doing with some comics you probably didn’t read. Remember, kids, if you want me to stop before someone gets hurt contact Mr. Hibbs.

First though, a vain attempt at professionalism (always worth a chuckle):

Key to abbreviations:

(w) Words

(a) Art

(c) Colours (NOT colors, coloUrs)

(l) Lettering

Now let’s me and you do The Do!

CASANOVA II: GULA #4 by Matt Fraction(w), Fabio Moon(a), Gabriel Ba(a), Criss Peter(c) and Dustin K Harbin(l) (Icon/Marvel/Disney, $3.99)

The guy who writes this usually gets all the tickertape and thrown knickers but, for me, it’s the art that makes this one essential. And by “art” I’m referring to the combination of pictures, colours and letters that coalesce to create a unified whole most pleasing to mine eye in that way that, surely, only comics can do so sleekly and satisfyingly. The writing’s good, don’t get me wrong. Heck, I’m all for Kirby/Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D, Morrison  etc. being mashed up and garnished with a fat old heap of Daddy Issues (Killing Daddy makes that gumbo sp-sp-spicy!) but it’s the art that sets this one apart. Also in this issue you get both the riper linework of Ba and the complementary gaunt contours of Moon;bargain!

I was excessively pleased when the backmatter was dropped as that stuff brought to mind some guy trying to get a girl’s attention by posting her parts of himself (It was a bad time for me, okay?). But I liked the one where he interviewed Mr. Howard Victor Chaykin. So, yeah, shocker! I guess you can ignore all my whining though as according to the sub(!ha!) text of the last story he isn’t writing it for “me”! (Maaaaaaaan!). All perceived authorial preciousness aside this was EXCELLENT!

FIRST WAVE SPECIAL #1 by Jason Starr(w), Phil Winslade,(a), Lovern Kindzierski(c) and Rob Leigh (l) (DC Comics, $3.99)

Starring my personal favourite character in the recent chart-topping record-setting FIRST WAVE fiesta of success: The Avenger! His wife’s dead and so is his face! He is totally old-school pulp madness. The kind of guy who if he existed I’d want gassing like a badger but when confined to fiction really lights up my life. Look, he just wants to help criminals, really. Help them to…(shouts:)DIE! Wow! That bit was just like a film wasn’t it!?!

Oh, the story? It’s basically a graphical dramatisation of that old “To kill, or not to kill. That is the (dodged) question!” routine. The Avenger wants to kill the Big Boss. The Bat Man and Doc Savage realise that there are “complications” and “grey areas”, y’know, all that moral relativism cockcobblers that’s served us all so well recently. The Avenger hears them out but things don’t go too well and hi-jinks ensue. “The guy’s completely demented.” The Bat Man says this of The Avenger. The Bat-Man! That’s how crackers for maracas The Avenger is. Mr. Jason Starr does a great job delivering the neurosis-ago-go and Mr. Phil Winslade’s brittle jitteriness gives good pulp; the stand out panel being the one of The Avenger lurching off into the city of night undeterred in his dementia despite the failure of his (admittedly really quite poor) plan. Despite a last page that seemed unsure what it was trying to do this was VERY GOOD!

PUNISHERMAX#14 by Jason Aaron(w), Steve Dillon(a), Matt Hollingswoth(c) and VC’s Cory Petit(l) (Marvel/Disney, $3.99)

While (“They Call Him…”) Mr. Hibb’s rightly ballyhooed the great work Mr. Jason Aaron is doing on this title I’d like to shine my love light on the work of Mr. Steve Dillon. It’s not often an artist pays such lavish attention to world building but we certainly have an instance here. See, the MAX universe isn’t like the Marvel Universe; a harsher harder place is this. In the MAX Universe death, maiming or harsh language could put a crimp in your day without warning. Men, women and children are all as likely to be minced by the frightful despair fuelled grinder that is the MAX Universe. In the MAX Universe the only “mercy” comes from the mouths of polite French people. Little wonder then that the residents of said place neglect interior decoration almost totally. In the MAX Universe the only difference between your home and an abattoir is that the abattoir has more cracks in the wall. Steve Dillon knows this. Steve Dillon shows you this. And despite this it is still VERY GOOD!

(Pause for a cuppa tea.)

Due to Austerity Measures I have been rooting around in my Archive (i.e. the garage) where I found these (i.e. they fell on my head when I was moving the dead guinea pig’s cage) issues which together form a story not yet collected between two covers:

WARLOCK#1-4 (2004/5) by Greg Pak(w), Charlie Adlard(a), Sotocolor’s P. Serrano(c) and VC’s Cory Petit(l) (Marvel,$2.99ea)

It’s about realising that if God is Dead (He is. I sent flowers.) then that effectively makes you God and how you might want to think about what kind of God you want to be if you don’t want to end up with a ball of dirt studded with piles of smoking offal instead of a world. Metaphorically speaking. It’s about growing up and working out how to live in a clearly insane world without going insane. Not so metaphorically speaking. Hey, I’m not claiming it’s Teilhard De Chardin (because I don’t know who he is, mostly) or anything but it does raise interesting questions and if the answers it gives are a little pat it’s important to remember it is a comic churned out by Marvel; the very fact it even raises questions (beyond the usual, “Why are these characters talking like morons?”) is pretty applause worthy in itself.

Mr. Pak does a fine job giving the story youthful protagonists which are neither cloying nor hateful (not an easy thing), an eventful plot and some good Warlocking all round. Alas, Mr. Adlard fares less well as his natural inclination artistically seems to be towards the mundane but Serrano’s colours link their fingers together and boost him up so his art does at least graze the necessary level of awesome Warlock demands! Okay, WARLOCK (2004) isn’t even close to Roy and Gil Kane’s (sexy sweaty space Jesus) or Jim Starlin’s (Evil = Purple Afro!) but it’s still VERY GOOD!


Ha! I can see your thoughts! But, no, unless my mother has led a far more eventful life than I have been led to believe, I am not related to Gil Kane.

Next time: More flailing in the abyss!

An Essay About Essays: Jeff Looks at Casanova #7 and Phonogram #5

Now that it's my turn on the wheel of "blog until you drop" here at SC, I probably can't get away with the whole "somebody someday should write an essay about so and so" that I just dump in the lines of one of the 3700 reviews we do every week--there's really no reason I can't take the time to actually take one of those ideas and expand upon it. So rather than getting Part II of my review of last week's books (and I'm starting to worry there may be a very paltry Part II if it ever does show since my memory of last week's books has faded radically), I thought I'd try something different and look at PHONOGRAM #5 through the reflecting prism of CASANOVA #7, and vice-versa. Casanova #7 came out a few weeks ago, the last issue in the first miniseries by Matt Fraction & Gabriel Bá about a reality-hopping super-spy dealing with hilariously complex family issues, and as I recall I left a placeholder in a blog entry in the hopes I'd get around to reviewing it. Phonogram #5, which came out just last week, is the next to last issue in the miniseries by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie about a music-based magician battling to keep his self intact as a group of other music-based magicians create a perversion of the Britpop movement to which he's tied. Phonogram utilizes a fatter version of Casanova's Image Slimline format, where the writer fills the page count in back with essays about the work in front; whereas Warren Ellis (who came up with the format) invented the idea I think out of money-saving necessity, Gillen piles on all the material on top of a full twenty-two pages of story & art.

Many of my earlier complaints about Casanova centered around these back page essays from Fraction; although very enjoyable reads, these essays threatened to overwhelm and overwrite the reader's impression of the issue he'd just read. By contrast, Gillen's essays have moved from explaining references the reader might not understand to explaining plot points the reader might have missed to, ultimately, being the point of the whole exercise--Phonogram's densely coded emotional autobiography, although terrifically illustrated by McKelvie, is far more obtuse and has far less drama to it than reading Gillen write about Britpop like a man possessed, alluding at several points about a very personal emotional event from which his ideas for Phonogram--and the bitter, arch protagonist at its center--sprang.

Now, here's where I reach the branching fork in my essay and tell you a little bit about the road I'm not going to go down. On that road, I talk about DVD commentaries, opening weekend box office numbers, Newsarama and these essays. I talk about how, for better or for worse, consumers of story-driven art today consume it in a very multivalent way, as both traditional spectators and informed contemporaries; and thus there are two fantasy experiences the audience goes through simultaneously, the fantasy experience of identifying with the protagonist and experiencing the story, and the fantasy experience of identifying with the creator of the story and experiencing the story's creation. And down this road somewhere I probably suggest that whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, it's something that isn't going back in the box anytime soon, but that eventually a more complex form of criticism is going to have to emerge, one which is going to be able to ascertain the extent to which a work succeeds or fails based on the dimension in which it's working. Because the DVD commentaries and the essays presented in both Casanova and Phonogram (among all sorts of other ways in which professionals interact with fans) are already working on how the fans receive the work, and is also in some weird way part of the work itself, but is either being excluded from the criticism of the work or else included with the criticism of the work incorrectly, leading to a lot of muss and fuss and bother and frustration on the part of everyone involved.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about, unfortunately, although I needed to say all that as justification for the stuff I am going to talk about, so you know where I'm coming from and hopefully can understand why, hopefully, what I'm going to say about the essay pages in both Casanova #7 and Phonogram #5 is worth talking about, and relates to more than just the essay pages of both works.

In the text pages of Casanova #7, Fraction talks quite movingly about his wife's pregnancy and miscarriage, and the ways in which both affected the work he did in Casanova and the way he perceived the work he did in Casanova.

For example, Fraction writes about suddenly quitting his regular job with the company he helped start:

Just like that, the whole I love my job theme that Cass fought throughover these seven issues took on a new context. I saw for the first time, what I really wrote about. Cass, me, the jobs and the identities we chose to identify ourselves with...I hadn't been writing about free-spirited Cass not wanting anybody to tell him what to do...I wrote about me. I dunno, maybe a shrink could nail that from 100 meters but it sure as shit blew my mind. 

Interestingly, to my eyes, the first issue of Casanova reads to me like that, but the series comes to be overshadowed by a completely different set of themes. In fact, Casanova spends most of the arc (Fraction uses the term "album" so I'll probably use that from here on out) caught between the demands of his controlling father and his vast government organization, the evil scientist who similarly has Cass under his thumb, and Cass's own complex desires to save his family. In short, I'd say that it's not I love my job so much as here's the life of a freelancer: telling people what they want to hear while I try to figure out how to get what I need out of the situation and also provide for me and mine.

Similarly, although Gillen writes extensively about Britpop in his back pages, it's interesting to me that The Afghan Whigs pop up repeatedly. It would be interesting to me, of course, because I'm one of those guys who played Gentlemen over and over and over, listening to it with gradations of awe and dread and shame and relief. (As Gillen perfectly puts it: "If you listen to Dulli's lyrics, it's like crossing the event horizon into the black hole of the male psyche.") The Whigs were not Britpop, unless there's some weird definition of the term that allows a band from Cincinnati to be included. Rather, Gillen keeps including them because it's central to understanding the psyche of his intensely male protagonist--the re-awakening of the Goddess that the protagonist fears is symbolic of the not-quite misogyny at the core of the protagonist--but it's a topic he can barely bring himself to address in all those thousands of words about The Manic Street Preachers and Oasis and Blur and Pulp (although I'm also a huge fan of Pulp's This Is Hardcore and can see how they fit into the protagonist's psyche as well). It's not fair to put all this on Gillen as I haven't seen his last issue yet (and, to be honest, my eyes glazed over at some of his earlier text pieces) but, like Fraction in Casanova, I wonder if Phonogram is really about what Gillen thinks it's about. Phonogram reads like it's supposed to be a dense, allusion packed meditation on the way pop culture, for better or for worse, matters, but it actually reads like a comic written by someone who would rather talk about anything other than what they're really there to talk about. (And although I can't quite get a grip on what that is, it has something to do with that event horizon of the male psyche and its relationship to pop culture--something beyond the stuff we find in Nick Hornsby's High Fidelity, where the pop fanatic uses his obsessions to hide from both responsibility, his fear of responsibility and his fear of his fear of responsibility. Phonogram has something even darker at its core and I can't quite get a handle on it.)

In the Savage Critic way of things, I'd give Phonogram an OK and put Casanova #7 on the high end of Good. But in this ultra-extended "how-the-hell-does Jog-do-it?" essay, what's more important is why both books aren't Great, even though I think they (and their creators) have the potential to be. They're both starting out, these guys, and it's easy and probably preferable to attribute a lot of it to just them learning the ropes, pacing problems, newbie blues, and there's a very good chance we won't see those problems as much or again as their careers go along. But there is also the chance--and that chance makes it worth putting all those words down, I think--that they might get tangled in the nets of their own essays, interviews, websites and commentaries, and let all their proclamations blind them from what's really going on in their work, and prevent them from taking those things and refining them. Because I do think the shit you can't bring yourself to talk about is precisely the shit that's most interesting in your art (and it's in your art precisely because it's so important to you and yet you can't bring yourself to talk about it). It'll continue to come up, of course, but whether or not it may or may not become fully realized and ferociously utilized--and every piece in an artist's work has to become fully realized and ferociously utilized if the work is to make itself indelible--is another matter altogether, a matter for which any number of essay pages, commentaries of blog entries may not be able to compensate.

Whew! Okay, now that's off my chest, let's see if I can remember anything all about GHOST RIDER: TRAIL OF TEARS #2...