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Wait, What? Ep. 114: Everything We Could Stand

Jeff Lester

Jaxxon drawing by our very own renaissance man, Graeme McMillan…

Skip week is over so we are back for another episode or two (we will probably skip Valentine’s Day, I am betting that right now). Before we get into it, though: look at that Jaxxon! What a great drawing of a very old, obscure Star Wars character that I dearly love! Well done, Mr. Graeme McMillan, well done.  Please email me if you want to be part of the crew that tries to peer pressure Graeme into drawing more comics…

After the jump: Love! Links! Show notes!

So, yes.  Links first, eh?  Long-time listeners should be not at all surprised that we are fans of ol’ Jaxxon (the space bunny portrayed above).  And, similarly, you may remember that we both have much love for Mike Russell’s Sabretooth Vampire.  So imagine my delight to come across the link for “Jaxxon’s 11,” a Star Wars fan comic by Russell and David Stroup–it’s currently incomplete but, hey!  68 pages of old-school Star Wars nerdery.  For free!

All right.  Let’s get our show notes on, shall we?

0:00-3:03: “Previously on Wait, What?”  An introduction/apologia/master plan/what have you with a super-brief discussion of our skip week time off and then moving right into…
3:03-25:33:  issues of Green Lantern‘s Rise of the Third Army crossover that Graeme has read, and our befuddlement about Geoff Johns and the current state of the Green Lantern franchise generally.
25:33-32:31: Graeme also received a copy of the Batman & Robin Annual and quite liked it! Jeff read Batman Inc. #7 and was squirrelly about it!  Also, thanks to the continuing recommendations of Martin Gray over at Too Dangerous for a Girl, Jeff also read Superman Family Adventures issues #8 and 9 and greatly enjoyed those! Yep, you should think about picking those up.
32:31-38:59:  Speaking of cute, Graeme points out that the Comixology collection of Superboy has gotten up to issue #50 of the ’90s run, which means Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett’s “Last Boy on Earth” storyline is now easily available for Kirby fans like me who’d missed it the first time around!  Also, currently on sale (at least by the time I initially post this) and verrrry tempting at .99 an issue:  Green Lantern Mosaic.
38:59-39:34: Soulful Intermission #1
39:34-51:48: And we’re back: with more Green Lantern talk (for a moment or two).  And with more personal chit-chat, as Jeff tells how he and Edi survived their first sleepover with their three year old niece.  Somewhat longish, very little comic book talk is involved (although there is some chit-chat about Dora The Explorer) and obviously should be considered optional and bonus material.  Will not be covered on the final exam.
51:48-54:34:  Comic book news! There’s…not much.  Although we do discuss the terrifying process of WTF certification DC Comics is putting forward.
54:34-59:22: Wonder Woman #16!  Jeff has some words about it.
59:22-1:06:57: By contrast, Jeff has other words that he has to use about the other comic, Flash #16.  Some other chit-chat ensues about the DC New 52 books (specifically, Action).  On a similar-but-different note, Graeme picked up the trade of New Deadwardians after hearing Jeff singing its praises and also quite liked it. That means New Deadwardians is two-for-two on the Wait, What? Approval Meter and you should considering picking it up.
1:06:57-1:14:29: We’re just about ready to get to questions (no, really) but we thought it perhaps prudent to talk about Uncanny Avengers #3 first.
1:14:29-1:32:11: Oh, and Avengers issues #3 and #4. Yeah, a lot of talk about Avengers #3 and #4.
1:32:11-1:36:59:  And then there were….Questions!  Kid Showbusiness on December 6th, 2012 at 1:48 pm asked:  What’s your take on this Jonathan Hickman quote: “Most of the talent creating books at Marvel are fairly progressive, so generally we all want diversity in the abstract,” he said. “The problem comes from the fact that the catalog of Marvel (and DC) characters are predominantly straight white male because of the era they were conceived in — and it’s the basic building blocks of what we have to work with. Which begets the question: Well Jonathan, if this is really one of the root causes of the problem, if you really feel that way — if you’re not a fraud — why don’t you just go create some new, more diverse characters?
“Which is where things get tricky,” he continued. “In light of numerous historical examples, contractual realities, and the shelf life of creators, is it really in a creator’s best interest to be making brand new IP for the big companies on the cheap? I mean, we still do it sometimes, because, frankly, we can’t not…it’s in our DNA as storytellers and problem solvers — but is it the ‘right’ thing to do? Would it be right for people to ‘expect me’ to do that? I don’t think so. But that’s just one example — There are others (some even more negative, plenty positive).”
1:36:59-1:48:49:  George T on December 6th, 2012 at 1:54 pm asked:
1) I have never read an Avengers comic. If I were to read one issue of the Avengers what should it be?
2) I have never watched or read any Dr Who. What is a good place to pick it up? Other than 1966…
1:48:49-2:06:33:  Mike Loughlin on December 6th, 2012 at 4:41 pm said:
1) Which Marvel and DC characters that headline their own books or are members of a team should be put aside for a year or two? Which Marvel and DC characters have been poorly-written the longest?
2) If the Big 2 super-hero comics were redesigned to be more all-ages- and woman-friendly, do you think sales would increase? Has the new readers ship already sailed?
Also mentioned in there somewhere, is Chad Nevett’s amazing blog-a-thon over at Graphic Content   and Comics Should Be Good, where you can catch Graeme and Chad talking Peter David’s Star Wars books, Chad and I swapping thought on Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar, Tucker Stone bringing the pain, and much, much more.
2:06:33-end: Closing comments! Natalie Imbruglia! Our first podcast without any discussion of Misfits in almost a month. And only twenty some-odd questions to go. Wow!

Amazing, eh?  Yes, Graeme and I thought so too, undoubtedly.  As you know, we’ve got ourselves a little ranch out on the iTunes/RSS frontier, you can stop by any time you like.  But you can also kick up your boots and sample our wares below, if preferred:

Wait, What? Ep. 114: Everything We Could Stand

As always, we hope you enjoy and stop by next week for the next one!

27 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 114: Everything We Could Stand ”

  1. RE: Hickman.I haven’t listened to the podcast, so I apologize if I repeated anything you two might have already said. I find the IP perspective an interesting take on the lack of diversity, but I do find it bit disingenous.

    Hickman has produced a handful of creator owned titles, and I am hard pressed to remember a single prominent character of color (or femal characters for that matter).

    Also, a long standing workaround to the IP issue at Marvel, has been to take underuntilized characters and revive them. Marvel does have black characters that have been thrown into the dustbin of history. True, in today’s market, none could anchor their own series, they could be easily integrated into an ensemble series like the Avengers.

    A good example is Jeff Parker whose Marvel work did a great job dusting off minority characters and putting them to use (Jimmy Woo, Centurius, hell he even made 3-D Man seem pretty cool).

    I haven’t yet listened to the podcast, so I apologize if I repeated anything you two might have already said.

  2. Great show, gents. Loved the Green Lantern talk, and while I’m enjoying Hickman’s AVENGERS work (truthfully, this is the first Hickman book I’ve actually enjoyed), your critisisms are inciteful and well stated.

    And the Jaxxon is amazing! More Graeme Lanter art!

  3. “Lantern.”. Teach me to hit ‘post’ before I re-read what I wrote.

  4. My problem with Azzarello, which it sounds like he’s still guilty of, is that he’s just so relentlessly cynical, and can’t write a character unless he makes them as relentlessly cynical as he is, or at least gives them a relentlessly cynical foil to work with. Even worse, his relentless cynicism seems so damn self-satisfied and self-congratulatory.

  5. Hi Jeff, whom I know, and Graeme, whom I don’t. At long last I have a question for Wait, What!

    This is for long-time, old-school Spider-Man fans who have recently fallen off the bandwagon, like me. Looking back on Spider-Man continuity since the early 80s, I would say the narrative integrity of Peter Parker’s life made fairly good sense up to a certain point, after which it began to degrade. For instance, reading today’s Spider-Man comic books interspersed with Spider-Man books from the 80s, or even 90s, would feel so discontinuous it would be jarring. Somewhere along the line, the many stories being told about Spider-Man stopped feeling as if they described the same person. I wonder, have you and Graeme noticed this about Spider-Man in particular, or about other Big Two characters? Is this just part of a grumpy-old-man phenomenon where everything used to be better than it is now, or did something happen to Spider-Man as a character? And if so, when?

    Thanks, guys!

  6. I can’t believe Graeme can make such a critique of Jonathan Hickman and his fans (that his books are for people who want to feel smart, but the work hasn’t earned it, and it’s self-consciously trying to be smart in such a self-congratulatory way) yet be such a Grant Morrison fan, whose work and fans fall into that exact same category as well. Jeff is a Morrison fan too, but I credit him for being self-aware enough to say that he has those tendencies as a fan himself.

  7. I agree with what Jeff says about being sick of Iron Man, but at the same time, how amazing is it that we can even say that? Besides Green Lantern, Iron Man’s surge in popularity has to be the Silver Age comeback success story of the decade. I guess that’s due to Favreau and Downey’s work on the character in the movie, but the comics really seem to have taken that ball and run with it. Or is Warren Ellis and Granov to credit for the surge in popularity? Or is it New Avengers? Unlike Green Lantern, there isn’t one person you can point to for the surge in success so I’m not sure who to credit.

  8. I for one look forward to the taut, complex narrative constructs produced by Space Cop (and Middle Management of Space Espionage) Graeme Greene Lantern.

  9. The funny thing is that I use Savage Critics as a way to get the Backpack Song out of my head. It is very odd that I listen to it while my son watches Dora. I’ve begun to picture Dora as Graham and Benny the Bull as Jeff.

    – G

  10. Wonder Woman is one of the few New 52 books I’m still enjoying, though it does seem to be meandering now. That giant caveman guy has been standing around the arctic for like six issues now. Am I supposed to know who he is? I also agree that the re-introduction of Orion seems surprisingly low-key. But my real question re: Orion is, is he at all related to the version of Darkseid we saw in the first Justice League arc? For that matter, is the Azzarello Wonder Woman the same character who’s knocking boots with Superman in Justice League? The Wonder Woman who appeared in Batwoman seems like the same character as Azzarello’s, but that story also featured a bunch of Amazons, who all got turned into stone in the first WW arc. I got over my obsessions with continuity a long time ago, but the main WW book just seems completely disconnected from the rest of the DCU.

    I think I may stick with Avengers for another issue or two because I love Opena’s art, but I think I’m done with Uncanny Avengers. I used to love Cassiday’s art, but something’s gone missing from his work. My favorite thing from the latest issue was that in the first issue, Scarlet Witch got impaled by one of the bad guys. In issue 3, she’s walking around, but still injured. You can tell because she has bandages wrapped around her mid-section … OVER HER CLOTHES!

  11. I was so into Hickman/Opena’s Avengers #1 when it came out…but since then my interest has waned to the point where it’s now in “maybe I’ll check out the trade” territory. I think back when he was writing FF I remarked that Hickman had gone beyond “writing for the trade” and into “writing for the omnibus” and it feels like he’s doing the same here, so that may be the best way to read it anyway.

    @T: It’s kind of weird to compare Green Lantern and Iron Man when I think about it. GL’s movie wasn’t well-received, but now supports a four-title comic franchise that (along with Batman) survived the switch to the New 52 more or less intact. Meanwhile, Iron Man’s movies did really well, he’s arguably the most popular Avenger to the outside world, but the comic remains in the middle of the list and attempts to add a spinoff haven’t worked. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the tastes of comic fans are different from everybody else.

    But yeah, I think any elevation in status is partly due to the movie and partly Ellis/Granov and maybe Fraction/Larocca’s work as well, at least the earlier parts of their run (it didn’t feel like people were talking about it as much in the latter half or so). In a weird sort of way, I wonder if Millar should get some of the credit for it in Civil War as well — even though IM was portrayed badly and everybody hated him for a while, it really sort of positioned him and Cap as kind of the “big two”.

  12. What is the difference between Hickman and Morrison? I feel smart when I read a good Morrison comic. I feel like I’m missing something when I read a Hickman comic. Maybe its because Morrison does action well. He demonstrates his story with good acting and set pieces. Hickman barrels you with text and design. Morrison writes plays. Hickman designs a brochure.

  13. Hickman and Morrison are often trying for the same goal – a flashy, frequently superficial product that seems like it should mean more than it does – but through pretty different means. Morrison hypercompresses his scripts to the point where some of his stories begin to look like gibberish (and not in a fun way – I’m looking at you, endings of Final Crisis and Seven Soldiers); Hickman decompresses his story until you become stunned to realize you’ve just spent four issues looking at Dr. Doom and Reed Richards staring at powerpoint presentations. Morrison frequently distracts readers from the shallowness of his weaker stories by battering them with dozens of Zany Ideas, which should be distinguished from actual ideas in that they have little to no content to them; Hickman frequently chooses to place one or two fantastically stupid ideas directly in the center of his stories, but then treat them with ponderous gravity in the hopes that readers will take them as seriously as the characters in his comic book conference rooms do. When Morrison stories go wrong, they’re apt to seem clumsy, rushed, brimming with barely-disguised panic, tossing out sudden last-minute revelations and metafictional gags amidst the flopsweat; when Hickman stories go wrong, they’re apt to seem dull, ponderous, self-serious, both overly constructed and badly constructed, with pacing issues that make the whole thing feel simultaneously bloated and rushed.

  14. Im let the negativity train roll on with another catty comment. Chu! Chu!

    Complaining about Green Lantern comics being inwardly focused feels a little like complaining that Nolan’s movies are too ponderous, or that McDonalds is unhealthy, or that water is wet. Green Lantern got big on the back of its own navel gazing, big enough to warrant a feature film and to be untouched by the nu52 reboot, why would they change the formula now?
    And sure you could make a great comic out of Green Lantern if you completely changed everything about its current identity in the market place and how it was written, but you could say that about any comic. Why expect that change to come from Green Lantern?

    Re: Whats the difference between Morrison and Hickman?
    Could it be that Morrison gets better artists?

    Lovely Jaxxon drawing Graeme.

  15. If Jeff Lester can say “grotty,” then Ben Grimm should be allowed to say “pear-shaped.”

  16. Anyway, this argument about “art that makes dummies feel smart” — which you hear about all manner of things, from Animal Collective to NPR to Lars Von Trier — always strikes me as simultaneously condescending and a sign of near-tragic insecurity. What you’re basically telling me (if I enjoy this thing that you do not) is not only am I a bit dense, but I’m also a big poseur and probably wear some kind of dumb hat.

    I’m not saying that this phenomenon doesn’t exist — or that such PEOPLE don’t exist — but it strikes me as a particularly petty and spiteful way to deride another’s taste.

    Hickman’s Avengers comics (new, old, borrowed, or blue) don’t make me feel smart, because I don’t think THEY are smart. They’re superhero tentpole comic books: if this was all I needed to get my brain buzzing I’d likely do just as well with a shiny rock or Sudoku.

    But, god help me, I’m enjoying ’em. I happen to not be bothered by the off-kilter structure (WHO IS THIS MAGIC LADY WHO LIKES PIE?!?), but I totally get why loads of people are not at all into it. But that’s a taste thing: let’s not kid ourselves that this has anything to do with intelligence in one direction or the other.

    Having said all that, another fun episode and thanks!

    [For the record: I think Animal Collective is crummy, like NPR just fine, and have never seen any of LVT’s movies]

  17. Re: Hickman.

    To follow up on a previous comment that got me called out for humblebragging: part of my point was that Hickman intentionally chose the _name_ Oppenheimer, for its associations, but then totally didn’t bother to look into what made Oppenheimer Oppenheimer, and then build on that. The man himself was a mess of contradictions, brilliance, and nearly fatal lack of awareness in some ways. But all of that was overwritten in “Manhattan Project” to the point that this could have been any scientist, or a made-up one, on the same project. Hickman wanted the intellectual cred for using the “name brand”, but didn’t put any actual work or reason into that choice.

    As for Hickman v. Morrison: m’n’s’s point about hypercompressed v. hyperdecompressed is a good one, but I was thinking more in the sense of how the two authors see the stakes boiling down. In Hickman, the UNIVERSE is in peril and it’s THE UNIVERSE that’s at stake. So, yeah. Go save, uh, everything. As I mentioned before in the context of Final Crisis (and this is just my feel for it, so your response may vary), Morrison is really good at making the cosmic feel personal. We may not care about the soap opera romances of the Super Young Team, but the placement and hyperteenangst in that context reminds us that it’s not just the multiverse that may be destroyed, but every chance we have at caring about something or someone. Anti-Life isn’t just massive mind control, it’s made of depression and doubt and the things we each fight against every single day of our lives.

    So, despite the messes, Morrison tends to work more for me. He puts in the work (setting up context, finding the one panel to include that makes a character a character), and pins crises to our selves.

  18. Dan, I think that’s just a fundamental misunderstanding of what Manhattan Projects is trying to do. I’m sure you’re 100% correct about Oppenheimer and his fatal lack of awareness and so on, and it’s entirely possible that Hickman has no idea what a rich mine of drama he’s missing out on there.

    But none of those characters is remotely similar to their historical counterparts (one of them is a radioactive skeleton, for instance). Manhattan Projects is basically an absurdist comedy, and Hickman doesn’t use these characters for “intellectual cred” (which I believe they give at MIT) but because he can ping off their various resonances in the popular conception of them. (Feynman being the obvious example, since he’s such a beloved guy and a total sociopath in the comic.)

    Much like Avengers, Manhattan Projects isn’t particularly SMART. In fact, it’s pretty dopey in a lot of ways that I wish Hickman would let himself be more often. And to expect biographical accuracy from it is bound to lead to disappointment.

    [NB: Don’t see that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie.]

  19. RF: point taken. But I do think Hickman is trying to have it both ways, w/o earning it. So, it might be a bad idea, or a good idea executed badly… if he does parlay Feynman’s persona as you say, that’s a step more in the direction of executing, but I did not see anything of the sort in MP w/r/t Oppenheimer.

    As for AL: VH — well, that’s comedic incongruity, so that’s not quite the same issue (and remember, that book was kind of a copycat of the Jane Austen/zombie book, which I think came out first, right?).

  20. That’s a great piece Graeme, looks like something Samnee would draw.

  21. “But none of those characters is remotely similar to their historical counterparts (one of them is a radioactive skeleton, for instance).”

    One of the things I love about comics is seeing sentences like this in intelligent discussion.

  22. Also, hey, just for the record? The suggestion that the Captain Universe Pie Issue is somehow racist is preposterous and kind of embarrassing.

    Which is another sentence you don’t often hear.

  23. Thanks for answering my questions! I thought of Hawkman when I asked about which characters need to go away for awhile. My Marvel choice is The Fantastic Four. It would be nice if they really were in another dimension until someone had a good story for them.

    I asked about new readers because I worry that the content of most super-hero comics is quite insular, and decompression and high prices make many comics seem like rip-offs. I don’t think readership can grow without kids or women picking them up, and there are very few big 2 comics that I would recommend to either group. Even with better stories and art that isn’t exploitative, I wonder…

    The Avengers issues I’d suggest would be issue 227 (1st Roger Stern issue, with ongoing plots and subplots addressed while still being accessible), 270 (beginning of Under Siege, my favorite deadham,ma,usAvengers story), and vol. 3 #4 (Busiek & Perez assemble the team).

    Hickman may repeat some of Morrison’s worst traits, but Morrison comics are often more entertaining. It might be the density (although the storytelling can get clogged), but I don’t think Hickman has a grasp on characterization that Morrison does (at least in his best work). Morrison is very good at suggesting a wider world outside of the immediate story. Hickman does sometimes, but only in direct service of the main plot. I like Manhattan Projects, but it’s no Doom Patrol.

  24. “I think any elevation in status is partly due to the movie and partly Ellis/Granov and maybe Fraction/Larocca’s work as well”

    Everybody probably knows this, but any elevation in status is from the depths of the “teen Tony” 90s. Of course, you could argue that Kurt Busiek already elevated Iron Man from that, but his run seems to have vanished down the memory hole along with everything else pre-Quesada. Before the 90s, however, Iron Man was as big or bigger than any non-Spider, non-mutant character in Marvel, commercially and critically. Even in the era of Simonson’s Thor, Byrne’s FF and Claremont’s X-Men, Iron Man holds up well in any comparison.


  25. ” I thought of Hawkman when I asked about which characters need to go away for awhile. My Marvel choice is The Fantastic Four. It would be nice if they really were in another dimension until someone had a good story for them.”

    Y’know, I wonder if Marvel or DC would ever do something like that again. Part of the reason why I loved Heroes Reborn is that all the non-mutant big guns were off the table for a year from continuity. Superman was gone for at least a year and a half from continuity during Death of Superman. Cap was gone for 2 years. Barry Allen was gone for 21 years from continuity. I always thought that whenever they took the big guns off the table, the entire continuity felt refreshed. The FF and the Avengers gone for a year really brought titles like Heroes for Hire and Thunderbolts into the forefront and made the Marvel Universe interesting when the heroes did come back from their sabbatical. Batman, WW, and Superman were “gone for a year” after Infinite Crisis and 52 series that chronicled that year was like reading a DC version of Lost.

    I don’t know if they could do it again. Maybe going back to this particular well would poison it pretty badly. But it might be nice to see the Big Three shunted off to a parallel dimension (where their books would be published by…I dunno…Boom Studios?) for a year while NuDCU had to figure out things for themselves. Or maybe it would be cool to have a Marvel Weekly series about the year that the Illuminati had to fight the Beyonder for a year.

    – l.k.

  26. This was a brilliant and entertaining episode gentlemen. Even more so than usual.

    I have a couple of thoughts in response to some of the discussion:

    I think Geoff Johns is cognizant of the fact that he has created a Green Lantern “Universe” in the style of Lucas and Star Wars and Rodenberry and Star Trek, etc. He’s obviously enjoying playing with the toys he himself (for the most part) created (or like Legos, rearranged into new configurations). It’s an achievement of which he should rightfully be proud even if the current storyline leaves much to be desired given his tendency to recycle story/plot lines (just like Spielberg and Lucas).

    As to your comments concerning how Grant Morrison’s leaving the DCU will not leave much of a trace of him, I agree are accurate. See, e.g., New X-Men, Marvel Boy, etc. I wonder if it’s a purely editorial edict or whether most writers who follow him on a series are intimidated.

  27. …could Geoff Johns have heard this podcast?
    Him annoucing his leaving Green Lantern less than a week after this goes live? Hmmmm :P

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