Wait, What? Ep. 73: Thicker Than Forget

Photobucket We didn't even come close.

Don't get me wrong--we certainly tried.  But give Graeme and I more than four dozen questions with an amorphous time deadline and you're not going to get the bulk of those questions answered even with us putting in two and a half hours to get it done.  [Though we do so at the expense of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84: if you are currently reading that book, please skip over the 20-25 minute section of the podcast to avoid some ship-sinking spoilers.  (Sorry again, Luke.)]

So consider this Part 1 of our answers to your questions, with Part 2 to come next week.  If we go to Part 3, I give you permission to begin hunting us as the most dangerous game.  (Although, really we're a far cry from that: I'd say I'm about on par with hunting sloths or maybe opposums, and Graeme might be at the level of a squirrel, though the squirrel might be rabid, maybe.)

The Ancient Prophecies foretold this episode would be found in the land of iTunes. But lo, also shall ye find it here:

Wait, What? Ep. 73: Thicker Than Forget

As always, we thank you for listening, and for your questions, and for your patience.  We hope you enjoy!

Wait, What? Ep. 65.1: I Think We're All Bozos in this Podcast

Photobucket Yup, and so we are back with Wait, What? which some of you might remember from the days of antiquity as a thing like unto a radio play, enacted by Mr. Graeme McMillan and myself for the amusement of listeners.

Episode 65 was supposed to be a piercing search by the two of us for the more-than-two-of-you for the secrets to the considerable success of one Steve Gerber and his run on a Marvel series from the '70s popularly known as The Defenders. I would like to say we were successful but, um, well, you will hear for yourselves.

We do discuss it, mind you, but alas we also discuss Carrier IQ for the first batch of minutes, a big pile of books by Kieron Gillen, Batman #252 from nineteen-seventy-something-or-0ther, and the first collected volume of the amazingly filthy and brilliant webcomic Oglaf.

And yeah, something-something-Steve-Gerber-something.

Badoon Brothers and errant Headman may have encountered us already on iTunes, but you are also invited to listen to us here, should that be your kind of thing:

Wait, What? Ep. 65.1: I Think We\'re All Bozos in This Podcast

Part 2 of 2 is right around the corner!  As always, we hope you enjoy.

Burble Burble Burble, Hibbs fufills a promise to review

I said I was going to review, so here's a few quick hits. I've been spending a lot of time this week on the back end of the site, you'll notice some of the real estate has changed. That "uncategorized" number will shrink over the year as I go through the older, blogger-era posts (sheesh, we have nearly 2000 posts here at this point!), but the tag cloud will really only be utilized properly going forward from here.  

If you have any mechanical/aesthetic suggestions for the site, now is the time to do so.


Putting that aside, what stuck with me in the last two weeks?


PUNISHERMAX #14: I wrote up #13, but #14 compels me to speak again. Jason Aaron has found this astonishing sweet spot to tell the origin of the Punisher that neither directly involves 'nam nor that fateful day in Central Park. I had thought that all veins of the Punisher were as mined out as could be, but Aaron has found a genuinely new place to get us into Frank's head that feels resoundingly realistic to this reader. What's great is just how well Aaron has mastered the language of comics here (ably aided and abetted by Steve Dillon) -- at least I'm assuming that all of the awesome scene transitions and juxtapositions are in Aaron's script. The story is centered around what must be Stock Punisher Cliche Story #1: Frank's in Jail! and yet at no point am I thinking "Damn, been here before". This is possibly the weirdest recommendation coming from MY lips, but I think that this book is one of the five best appearing on the stands "monthly" these days, and, certainly and BY FAR the single best title that Marvel is publishing today from a perspective of craft. This is seriously bravura work on this storyline -- Eisner level work, in spite of the character -- and should be selling 4 or 5 times what it is currently. Flat out EXCELLENT.


FEAR ITSELF: FEARSOME FOUR #1: Is really everything that Graeme said in his review, but, damn it, he didn't bring up the fact that half (or so) of the issue is drawn by two wicked awesome illustrators: Michael Kaluta, and Simon Bisley. And each of those sections are gorgeous looking (for wholly different reasons). I mean, talk about two tastes that don't even remotely go together -- soaring, delicate fine linesmanship of Kaluta bouncing against the explosive putrid grunge (and, hm, I mean that in a good way) of Bisley. There's a third artist involved (Ryan Bodenheim) who looks like the same artist that drew the last Howard mini (or was it a one shot? It blurs) in that strange small-bill version, but Kaluta and Bisley are drawing the "real" Howard (mostly). I wonder if it is now more important or less important at Disney HQ that HTD properly looks like Donald? Serously, there could not be a more jarring looking book that makes no visual sense of any kind, but you have to admire the king size stones of an editor that's commissioning pages from such disparate sources and thinking for a second that it might work. It's really and truly an AWFUL comic to try and read, but as a curious-ass artifact of how comics are made? I'll say GOOD. This is something ten years from now you'll kick yourself for not having this issue.


GHOST RIDER #0.1: For a "and this is how Ghosty becomes a chick!" comic, I thought this was remarkably entertaining (even though the chick-ing comes in #1, I think, and this is just a way to get Johnny Blaze to not be Ghosty any longer) (is it just me, or is this a really short second run for JB?) -- even though I wouldn't want to hazard a guess if the series to follow this might be any good or not, since it won't be about these characters. I had low-to-no expectations here, and, yeah, I thought it was a low GOOD.


KIRBY GENESIS #1: As you will recall I was so-so on #0, but I thought this one was a tremendous comic. Part of it is that the Kurt Busiek that is writing it is the "Astro City Kurt", and the choice is made to squarely focus on the human character. I know that Jack Kirby's worst ideas are probably more compelling that many guy's best ideas, but I'd generally suggest there's a reason that most of these concepts on display didn't go anywhere. I mean, the market has had a few chances to decide it didn't want Silver Star, right? I really didn't care much about the JK characters running around, and yet I still thought that KIRBY GENESIS #1 was the best comic I read the week of 6/15 because of the human heart centering it. So, yeah, a strong GOOD.


AVENGERS #14: plot-wise, I dunno, it's really just a bunch of punching, but I thought that Bendis was really smart here by counter-pointing the big stuff with the little-insets-of-oral-history-interview technique that I've previously thought was kind of cloying. This time it worked pretty well, as Romita JR really does excel at the two-big-guys-punching stuff -- it is just wonderfully kinetic -- while the insets let the pacing to work out so that it isn't a 30-second read. I don't find a Worthy-fied Thing nor a Red Hulk at all compelling, and I kinda moaned when the new Avengers Tower came crashing down (plus, like, how does it have force fields that can protect the people inside, but not protect the building itself? Buh?) since that just seemed so cliche, but this was a rare issue of AVENGERS that I thought was (if on the lower end of) GOOD.


OK, I have to get back to editing old posts, and getting ready to go into work... what did YOU think?




My Scott, Your Jean: Jeff Takes A Quick Look at His Sacred Cows.

Because I follow several of the Alert Nerd people on Twitter, I had the head's up about their "what's your Scott & Jean?" event they were planning for March 30th. Unfortunately, because I'm still a waster with terrible time management skills and the world's worst book to re-draft, I didn't realize that March 30th would somehow end up being, y'know, today.

I think the question is relatively comprehensible to yr. average comics geek. As Sarah puts it in Alert Nerd's master post:

Said phrase means, essentially, “That is my geek sacred cow, the one topic I cannot discuss rationally because it makes me too insane/angry/scary-eyed.”

So what's my geek sacred cow? Let's find out together shall we? After the jump.

Being the "Raised on '70s Marvel" geezer that I am, my list of geek sacred cows back during that time would've been something like:

(1) Bucky stays dead; (2) Gwen Stacy stays dead; (3) Uncle Ben stays dead; (4) Howard The Duck does not wear pants, and wears a hat too small for his head.

Howard the Duck Pictures, Images and Photos

In the '80s, I think I would've added the following to the list:

(1) Jean Grey stays dead; (2) Nobody but Frank Miller writes Elektra; (3) You never learn Wolverine's origin; (4) You can't break up Nightwing and Starfire (Hey, my entry point into DC was Wolfman & Perez's Teen Titans).

In fact, this may have been the true joy of being a young comic book geek: stepping out each fine morning and looking out an entire herd of geek sacred cows happily grazing before you--nobody but Kirk will command the Enterprise; the Man From Atlantis will never remember his origin; in the end, Godzilla never loses; you can't have a Planet of the Apes movie without Roddy McDowall; you never see the Human Fly's face. There's something thrilling about coming down from Mount Sinai with those two tablets of shall-nots and will-nots. Every parent will tell you about the phase their kid goes through where their response to everything is 'no!' But there's also something satisfying about these rules because you learn them, basically on your own. Unless you're reading a John Byrne comic, nobody would ever say, 'Reed can never cure Ben! Iron Fist will always love Misty Knight! Scott will only love Jean!' They're the things you learn on your own--that's why they're so powerful, something so similar to sacred.

But over time, as you get older, you watch most of your sacred cows get a bolt in their brain, hung upside down and bled, cut into parts. Then you are offered the chance to plunk down some cash so you can bite into that extra-thick and juicy hamburger formerly known as your sacred cow. And some of us bite deep into that burger just so we can complain knowledgeably about what a horrible waste, a sacrilege, a defilement of the divine, the burger's production is. And some of us realize the sacred cows were never grazing in our pasture, and we either stay because we like the view, or we split.

Or, you know, every so often, in mid-self-righteous mouthful,we find ourselves going, 'this is one damn tasty burger.' I was not a big fan of bringing Bucky back, but god-damned if Brubaker didn't grill that shit up and serve it to me with thick-sliced onions and a side of bacon. I was incredibly annoyed at how lame 'One More Day' was, but on the next-to-last page, I was a little bummed Gwen Stacy wasn't right there next to Harry Osborn--as long as you're gonna defile the church, people, fornicate on the altar, not in the pews.

Sex With Gwen Pictures, Images and Photos (ugh, no, not literally.)

Now, it may be that I have some list of geek sacred cows that I am hiding from you--that I am, in fact, hiding from myself, so that I don't have to worry about saying them out loud and having today's writers go, 'Wow. That would blow everybody's mind if it turned out that Dick Grayson was gay, wouldn't it? Hmmm...'

Because in a marketplace that caters exclusively to the disciples, sacrilege sells. If you can sell the sacrilege in a way that stays true to the characters, then you've got a pretty good future in this business. But if you can't? Find the cow, man. Find it and kill it.

But I came to this meme to honor it, not to bury it. I'll give you two Scott & Jeans, in fact: a bugbear and a meta-bugbear, either of which I'll happily argue about until the [WARNING: STOP TALKING ABOUT FUCKING COWS!]... new comics come in.

Scott & Jean Number One: Lois Lane and Superman and Clark Kent must always be a love triangle.

Why? Because apart from his constant inherent goodness (which is only interesting now because no other hero is considered constantly, inherently good--fifty years ago, that was par for the course) it is the only fucking interesting thing about Superman, that's why. Nearly every other single interesting thing about Superman (Kandor, weird 'L.L.' fixation, lost civilization of Krypton, the Legion) is an odd external facet, some little idea that stuck and crystallized in a really interesting way.

But the fact that Lois loves Superman and Clark loves Lois, but Lois doesn't love Clark the way she loves Superman and so therefore Superman can't love Lois the way she loves him, comes from Superman/Clark himself, and not from any external geegaw or fifth-dimensional whatsit or from being exposed to some rare strain of Kryptonite that makes him peevish or capricious. You can spend a lot of time and energy thinking about why this weird dynamic exists (and believe me, I have) and you'll never get to the heart of it, but you can, like an actor, pick a reason that makes sense to you and craft stories that suggest your explanation.

The bizarre love triangle (or maybe it's better to say Bizarro love triangle, since it's not a triangle at all) is not only tied to the internal drama of the lead character and multivalent, it's also real. (In fact, it's better than real--it's super-real, in that "a wheel is a leg" kind of way.) Remember that person who liked you enough to hook up with you (repeatedly, even!) but always had some weirdo explanation as to why they couldn't be with you? Remember that person who adored you, and you realized all you had to do was adore them back and everything would be fine, but there was something--the way they slouched or the way they laughed, or your unrequieted love for someone else, or the fact that you were still five years away from realizing you were an emotionally damaged alcoholic who had to keep everyone at arm's length? Sometimes, later on, you figure out why things didn't happen, or maybe you never do and you think of that person--not so much the one who got away as the one you let go--and you accept it because that's the way things are, you guess: Lois loves Superman and Clark loves Lois, but Lois doesn't love Clark the way she loves Superman and so therefore Superman can't love Lois the way she loves him.

Scott & Jean Number Two (the meta-bugbear): Continuity matters.

Continuity is a noose. Continuity is a trap. I believe that, I really do. It's one thing to have continuity for five years or ten years in your superhero universe--maybe you can split your Earths in two, and you can double that. But it's like entropy--sooner or later it gets you. At a certain point, it renders the system useless as every transaction in the closed system is made and no other transaction can be made. A noose. A trap.

But even though I know that, continuity matters to me--without it, the idea that what happens now matters to what happens next, and what happened last month is important to what's happening now. The noose of continuity is what has raised superhero comics to such spectacularly successful heights. More and more, I enjoy the craft of a fine done-in-one, but that's because there aren't that many continuity driven stories I enjoy these days--maybe because I'm not personally invested in them, since there's either a good chance they'll be undone in the next two years or because they ignore some piece of former continuity, or the continuity they had to wipe in order for the story they had to have happen. But as much as I enjoy sitting around high on the drug of my choice reading Bob Haney Brave & The Bold showcases (and I'm enjoying it these days probably more than I should), I totally would've ditched comics when I was twelve or fourteen or seventeen if that's all there had been to it.

(Yes, really.)

I wish I had somewhere further to go with this point from there, but I don't think I do. This is where I have to remember that those cows don't belong to me--they belong to the guy next door, the one who assures me the cows are sacred to him, too. (You know, the guy running the slaughterhouse.) He's gotta make a living, or he closes up shop and there are no more cows. [HOW THE HELL DID I END UP ON THE FUCKING COWS AGAIN? STOP, STOP, STOP.] Maybe this is why I'm more vegetarian these days--18 volumes of Urasawa's Japanese mushrooms; Jaime and Gilbert's strange burrito joint with the tear-summoning hot sauce; stranged aged cheeses from the '40s and '50s. I dunno.

And, anyway, the stupid settlement says that Howard has to wear pants, so what are ya going to do, right?