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Wait, What? Ep. 133: Born Before ’61

Jeff Lester

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As I reacall, Patti Smith shit-talked the Bizarro Movement in Just Kids, didn’t she?

yes yes yes this is a real thing that was published and yes yes yes it is Steve Gerber how did you know?

After the jump, another episode of our humble little show, complete with show notes that are even more humble and, um, even more little?

0:00-4:26: A weirdly off introduction! Words are exchanged about the weather, albeit briefly.There were some Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs I was going to drop here in the show notes because she sings some song where the chorus mentions the weather, right?  I owned that Maniacs record where she sings about  beat writers and I don’t know why, but thinking about that now makes me wish I could travel back in time and punch myself in the face.  I mean, technically, I could just punch myself in the face right now without the time travel (and god knows, there’s plenty of times where I do exactly that, most days) but it seems like it would be letting the me of the record-buying era off far too easily.
4:26-17:20: “You know what it is?  It’s nature preparing us for James Spader as Ultron.” And with that, we are officially off to the races!  Also covered: Variety headlines; Nextwave: Agent of Hate; Ben Stein; every Ultron story ever; and Dan Slott’s interview on the Nerdist.
17:20-26:47:  This leads to us talking more specifically about Superior Spider-Man by (you guessed it) Dan Slott and various artists.
26:47-33:57: By contrast, Graeme also has a lot to say about Young Avengers #9 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.  Graeme also is loving Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw (with heavy-duty spoilers at the 31:01 mark for about a minute?)
33:57-40:00: And we had positive things to say about Justice League #23 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis and the conclusion of Trinity War. (And there are spoilers here at 35:52 until about 37:00, if you want to avoid having one of the book’s big moments revealed.)
40:00-43:31: The Batman Inc. Special! Dear god, am I going to list the times for every one of these books, and also whenever we spoil an important moment in that book?  I wonder who will find my desiccated corpse in this chair? Anyway, we talk about this grab bag “epilogue” with a special shout-out to the terribly executed afterword by Grant Morrison.  What the fuck, DC — that is basically the special shout-out (spoilers!) — what the fuck.
43:31-55:09: The American Vampire Anthology! Adventures of Superman #4 with stunning work by Chris Weston!

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Action Comics by Scott Lobdell and Tyler Kirkham!  Superman Unchained by two unknown newcomers whose names escape me!
55:09-1:12:02: Superman related!  Jeff grabbed Superman: Phantom Zone by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan and he has mixed feelings about it.  Adoration, sure, I mean how can you not adore stuff like the image that heads up this entry but….well, there are things, and Jeff talks about them. (Oh, does he talk about them!)
1:12:02-1:25:42:  Graeme has read the latest Batwoman collection, Batwoman Vol. 3: World’s Finest. And this leads to us talking about the fruits of collaboration, the current difficulty with seeing today’s work as such, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, and more.
1:25:42-1:34:59:  Speaking of Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps:

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Jeff speed-reread all eight issues of OMAC and oh man that is glorious, glorious stuff. Since this was recorded the day after Jack Kirby’s 96th birthday, we had to talk (all too briefly!) about the wonder that is the man’s work.
1:34:59-1:38:03: Jeff also read the collected The End of the Fucking World by Charles Forsman, finally getting a chance to finish it many months after loving the first issue.
1:38:03-1:44:21: Jeff has read Batman 66 and walks to talk about it, and tries to instigate a bigger conversation about digital motion comics that, sadly, neither Graeme nor Jeff himself are really ready to have yet?  Oops.
1:44:21-1:53:53: This does lead us to discuss Infinity’s infinite comic, which leads us to discuss recent work by Jonathan Hickman for Marvel, which leads us to discuss Matt Fraction’s work for Marvel, which leads to…
1:53:53-end: Closing comments!  Ben Affleck as Batman! Scary fingers! And…scene.

Look to the skies! (By which I mean: iTunes!) Look to the skies! (By which I also mean:  our RSS feed, which is absurdly long now.  It’s like the opening scrawl to Star Wars — it just scrolls into the horizon forever, at this point.)  The candy-coated skies!  (By which I mean, uh… you are also welcome to check out the episode below, should you choose, at your leisure?)

Wait, What? Ep. 133: Born Before ’61

As ever, we thank you for your kindly attention!

31 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 133: Born Before ’61 ”

  1. It ain’t working…

  2. @Paul: Argh… You are right. Thanks to the head’s up (from you and Ian Brill), it should be working now!

  3. I hate to break it to you guys, but 8-OPUS is already a character — in fact, the lead character of Tom (“Godland”/”American Barbarian”) Scioli’s amazing, self-published NEW GODS pastiche THE MYTH OF 8-OPUS! Packed with distilled essence of Kirby, and VERY GOOD stuff.

    And if you like yourself some BIZARRO rock, RUN, don’t walk, to your nearest back-issue bin for Gerber’s oddball 1999 “A. BIZARRO” miniseries, wherein imperfect duplicate Al Bizarro becomes a pop sensation thanks to his love song dedicated to a Mother Box. (True story. We can’t make this stuff up.)

  4. Man, who would have thought a couple years back that Marvel would have risen like a Phoenix firm the ashes (pun somewhat intended)? I’ve been saying for a while that after the “everything’s different and kind of fucked but stick with us” nu52 announcement, Marvel NOW! just felt like the company was re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic – and somehow, that particular rearrangement of deck chairs TOTALLY SAVED THE TITANIC. It’s some kind of crazy mojo they’ve concocted, but it’s working. And between the Dan Slott Nerdist interview and Jeff waxing eloquent, I’m now picking up Superior Spider-Man.

    Between this week’s discussion of Spidey and the Trinity Wat and last episode’s tremendous discussion of the modern Marvel Universe and the FF’s place therein, it is a golden age of Wait, What? pea-slingery. Keep it coming, gents.

  5. Jeff Lester: Is that how one pronounces “solipsism?” Like “suh-LOP-sism?” I tend to go with “SAH-lip-sism,” but I only have occasion to say it about once a year so I may be the one goofing it up.

    Anyway, that Gerber comic sounds terrible. I find I quite enjoy RETURNING to Gerber things I already absorbed in my misspent five-years-ago (when I plowed through tons of weird 70s things), but trying to read fresh (to me) SG comics nearly always results in objects thrown across the room and exasperated sighs and a yearning for semi-hard drugs.

    Anyanyway, I’m honestly not sure what’s so darn weird about James Spader being an evil robot in a movie. He’s a pretty sinister dude and I’m sure he could do a great, affectless I-AM-ROBOT voice if he was getting paid enough. Is there a delicious irony I’m missing here?

    Furthermore: nice podcast!

  6. re: Ultron — Yeah, I thought that the reason for the collective non-reaction of the internet to James Spader’s casting was that it made a kind of logical/non-exciting sense. For what’s primarily a V.O. job, with the main notes being seething jealousy and controlled menace? Spader’s pretty much your guy. Who the hell else would you cast?

  7. Jeff, give it up, you aren’t boycotting anything. A boycott is an act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for social or political reasons. you actively read and recommend marvel comics, you’re just suckering other people into paying for them. it’s kind of disgraceful, really. if people were just giving them to you to be nice, that’s one thing, but last podcast you actively asked for infinity. Buy your own and stop panhandling for comics.

  8. Voodoo Ben: To be fair, I think what really saved the Titanic was that as it sank it settled onto the rusting hulk of the Lusitania, which was sinking even faster.

    (OK, the history behind that is completely fucked but you know what I mean. It’s easy to cling to the top of the sales charts with a bunch of books that sell 60K or 70K when your chief rival’s big desperation play is starting to falter.)

  9. That Slott interview and this post by Stephen Wacker really pointed out the differences between Marvel and DC: http://askwacker.tumblr.com/post/59484298973/what-would-you-consider-the-biggest-risk-youve-taken

    You have The Powers That Be making a decree, be it that Slott has to lose a year of story, or that Marcos Martin may not be a fit on Amazing Spider-Man. But Slott was given a chance to fight against it. Wacker was allowed to take a chance with Martin. In DC, as indicated by erratic creative changes, there seems to be a lot of “my way or the highway” going on. There’s no push and pull, there’s just PUSH.

  10. I read that DC Presents when it came out and it was advertised as a sister book to Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. I read this issue before Moore’s and I thought Moore was tame.

  11. Great show as usual.

    So glad I didn’t pick up that Batman Inc Special. I knew it was going to be a trainwreck one way or the other. Whatever good stuff there was in it — and I’m sure there was some good stuff, as you guys alluded to — would have been overwhelmed by the shoddiness, timing, and rationale of the whole project. Curious about the Morrison farewell letter, though.

    The Batwoman discussion was great. Only… I don’t really think that Rucka really did all that great of a job with the characters, either. I think he outlined an interesting blueprint but never even filled in the foundation, even though he did have a year on the book. I didn’t feel I knew anything about who Kate Kane was or what motivated her until Rucka did a specific issue of that origin arc, which was over halfway through his run. And even after that the characters often felt hollow, like they were just going through the motions because the writer wanted them to. The JH-drawn issues were always great overall, but that closing 3-parter drawn by Jock? That was rough. But maybe Rucka just did a better job of suggesting depth and coherent characterization than the current writers have been able to achieve. For what it’s worth, though, I think that the most recent 4-5 issues, since JH has left art duties, have actually been the best written issues yet. I was really happily surprised that they stepped their game up. I agree with almost everything you said about the character and title post-New 52, but, please, check out the most recent stuff. I think they’ve finally turned it around.

    I also like what you guys had to say about Superior Spider-Man and Marvel in general. I haven’t read every issue, but Superior Spider-man seems to be thoughtful and well done.

    I have to say, though, like another poster says above, that Jeff should just kill that noise about a “boycott” already. It was a valiant effort but you just seem like a hypocrite at this point.

    And I hate to pile on, but I think there’s an interesting parallel to be made in terms of whatever allusion you made about Superior Spider-Man and the “NYC surveillance state” being of concern to you because you’re a “pinko leftist”. I’m not sure if I really even understand what you were insinuating, but I hope it wasn’t some idea that only lefties actually put up concern or resistance to police state tactics. And, yeah, it isn’t just NYC, it’s the whole country now, under a president who obviously isn’t right-wing.

    Please don’t misunderstand me in any of this. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m not raising my fist and calling for you to take up a REAL stand against Marvel, or against government spying or whatever. But I am saying that it’s awfully hypocritical for someone to say that they boycott Marvel for ethical reasons, but then promote their (good!) comics on their weekly podcast. And it’s even more dubious to pretend to be a “pinko” who opposes (or is at least concerned with) police state stuff, after having voted for the same crony capitalist politicians who put it in and keep it in place — whether they be “liberal” or conservative or whatever, no elected politician is trying to stop this stuff.

  12. Good to have you back, lads. I’m only about 15 minutes in, but I have to ask – why the incredulity about James Spader as Ultron? You seemed to take it for granted that everyone would be in agreement, whereas I needed one of your ‘Here’s the thing ‘ explanations. Is there some baggage of which I’m unaware? Perhaps to do with that lawyer show with William Shatner? It never really showed up on UK (proper) television, so I’m likely missing something.

    So far as I can see, Spader’s a good actor and a bright guy? I’m sure he can do more than smarmy.

  13. In his prime, I would have had Spader down as the perfect Matt Murcdock Sort of Sex, Lies & Videotape-era).

  14. Personally, I appreciated Jeff’s comments about Superior Spider-man and the NSA/post-9/11 parallels, which I totally did not pick up on somehow. I have no idea if that’s deliberate on Slott’s part – it may or may not be; I do suspect that Slott, as a somewhat old-school kind of writer, isn’t overly fond of the post-Millar, post-movie militarized Avengers. But regardless of intent, the effect of Slott’s story is to undercut the idea of the omniscient, omnipotent militarized hero – in Slott’s run, the tactics and strategy of a militarized superhero become increasingly indistinguishable from the tactics and strategy of a supervillain. When we see a bunch of dudes with guns in identical uniforms running around in comic books, we’re trained to treat them as evil minions; when we see the same in real life, we’re told to treat them as respected authority figures. The effect that Slott achieves here – particularly by presenting his Spider-minions as authorities respected by the people they’re policing, even as we know the reality of where they come from and what their loyalty is based on – is pretty subversive, even if accidentally so.

  15. Considering the amount of conspiracy theories floated on the podcast and comments section, I’m surprised no one has brought up the idea that Jeff’s “boycott” could be a conspiracy to get others to subsidize his Marvel reading.

  16. Another great show guys. I thoroughly enjoyed Jeff on OMAC, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN and especially his thorough reading and interpretation of the almost unreadable PHANTOM ZONE by Steve Gerber. That was a truly “brain-breaking” experience! I also liked Graeme’s takedown of BATWOMAN. A series I am not sorry I abandoned after the first five issues.

    I just reread my copies (issues 1,2,4,6 & 7) of OMAC my interest peaked by Jeff’s enthusiastic mouth watering review. To me, this is Kirby at his most reductio ad absurdum and also his most bitterly angry (at least in the pretty fair amount of Kirby I’ve read). Except, perhaps, for the Royer inked and lettered first issue, this largely reads like those notes Kirby left for Stan Lee on the borders of his 60s Marvel pages. There are lots of captions explaining the action and Omac explaining his actions. Except for issue #6 there aren’t many people for Omac to talk to during the action sequences. The villains are ugly old men who have enough money to do whatever the fuck they want and use beautiful young people for their own selfish whims. Even Buddy Blank isn’t asked if he wants to be “Omac,” he is irregardlessly transformed to be the muscle for a bunch of faceless international do-gooders. Yup. In a lot of ways it feels like today.

    There just isn’t that beautiful weird music of the best Kirby writing from the Third World stuff or even 2001 or THE ETERNALS. There is a lot of petty bickering and mustache twirling. Omac executes his assignments with all the enthusiasm and verve of taking out the garbage. It feels like Kirby is pissed at the DC patriarchy (which he had every right to be) and is running out the clock on his contract. OMAC was the series that replaced the unsuccessful DEMON which replaced the unsuccessful FOREVER PEOPLE. I don’t think it was entirely intentional (like Ditko’s deliberate Randian slant in his stories), I think his drawing hand was so fused to his unconscious mind, it just comes out like that. The appearance of D. Bruce Berry’s thin-gruel inking from the second issue on doesn’t help. OMAC is pretty bleak and prosaic, yet it does have those visionary Kirby ideas and at least a few pages per issue worth the price of admission. It’s kind of a “knocked off bummer.”

  17. It was good to hear praise for Scott Lobdell’s Action, and his Superman is even better.

    I loved the Phantom Zone mini, read it as it came out when I was a teenager, and thought the Colan art fitted – I love Curt Swan but I can’t see him conveying the mood of unease so well.

    @wattan: ‘So glad I didn’t pick up that Batman Inc Special. I knew it was going to be a trainwreck one way or the other. Whatever good stuff there was in it — and I’m sure there was some good stuff, as you guys alluded to — would have been overwhelmed by the shoddiness, timing, and rationale of the whole project.’

    I don’t think Graeme said it was a train wreck, you’re really blasting out an opinion based on not much here. I didn’t think it brilliant all the way through, but the Batcow and, even more so, Batman of Japan stories were great fun. And ‘British dialogue’ apart – Keatinge seems to think ‘em’ equals ‘im’ ie ‘him’ – the Knight story was good. (I did agree with pretty much everything else you said in your post, mind.)

    Jeff, I’m thinking it’s time to put the boycott to bed too – you’re enjoying Marvel, you’re praising, you’re plugging. They’re not getting your coin, true, but this is now the World’s Most Rubbish Boycott (and I’ll send you a few X-Men issues later…).

    @RF: ‘Jeff Lester: Is that how one pronounces “solipsism?” Like “suh-LOP-sism?” I heard ‘sOh-lop-sism’ with equal emphasis on all syllables, pretty much as it looks. I was once at a con and couldn’t get over Pater David referring to some guy named Oquaman, said very quickly.

  18. FYI — Rick Veitch, who penciled that last Steve Gerber PHANTOM ZONE story, has some great notes about it at his blog:

    “I don’t think anyone in publishing or editorial gave a hoot what was in it. With no one paying attention, Steve turned in an absolutely nutty script… I don’t know what was going on with Steve at the time, but it was written in a wildly disjointed style… and came in pieces; three or four pages at a time. Julie was fretting, Steve wasn’t returning his phone calls and the whole project was wildly late so I hammered the pencils out in record time so Bob Smith could get them inked.”

    Veitch also interprets it as a vision of the Jungian concept of the Self. More here:

    http://www.rickveitch.com/2013/03/01/drawing-steve-gerbers-jungian-phantom-zone/#comments

    Some additional notes on the story at Westfield Comics:

    http://westfieldcomics.com/blog/interviews-and-columns/for-your-consideration-dcs-superman-phantom-zone/

  19. I have to say, some of my favorite moments in this podcast are listening to Jeff describe comics he finds terrible and/or batshit insane. I desperately want to read that Gerber series now.

    And Jeff, I know that every time you mention your boycott, there’s like three or four people in the comments talking about how your boycott doesn’t make sense and you should give it up already. Well: I don’t care. Buy Marvel, boycott Marvel, whatever – it’s your money and your choice, and I don’t care if it’s personal or weird or doesn’t make sense (it’s not like Jeff is thundering at us listeners for all of us to stop buying Marvel along with him). Do what you feel, man.

  20. I think I’m going to start boycotting this podcast and hope that people will give me free download codes for it so I can keep listening on the sly.

  21. @Patrick: Doesn’t “on the sly” imply that you’re not telling anyone? Because for the analogy to really work, you have to then tell everyone you’re still listening and/or recommend it.

  22. I also don’t care if Jeff buys or doesn’t buy Marvel comics.

    But I am glad people are calling him on his Gerberian-Bizzaro-World version of a boycott. Maybe it will get us more discussion of comics that are worth talking about (Copra!) and less about how Graeme and Jeff are too old for Hickman. (I’m also too old for Hickman, fwiw.)

  23. Hey…any big controversies for you guys to talk about for the next show?

  24. Hey you guys divined Batwoman being canceled. Or ‘canceled’ in the cultural relevancy sense for all intents and purposes. I agree the writing was terrible. I gave it a lot of shots.

  25. Too old for Hickman? I never thought Hickman’s target demographic was the young – I thought his target demographic consisted mainly of robots and spreadsheets.

  26. I don’t have a problem with Jeff boycotting Marvel but his seeming deference to DC as somehow morally better is just fucking infuriating, especially when he feels so guilty about talking about Marvel books he has to buy some shitty Peter Tomasi Batman comic to feel clean again. I mean, Graeme at least implies that someone at Marvel’s been personally harassing him, so his big M hate-on has some justification. DC’s “business practices” are just as harmful to creators it seems, but they get a pass because that’s how it always works: DC is Soviet Union powerless and driven to evial before the predatory might of the united States of Marvelica. This Chomskyian view of the world may relieve something in you, Jeff, but it isn’t convicing anyone else, which is what boycotts are supposed to do.

  27. I have no strong thoughts on Jeff’s boycott one way or the other, but I am still holding out hope for some Man of Steel movie talk. Old news, you say? Well, the same could be said for Gerber’s Phantom Zone comic, OMAC, etc, etc. (And don’t get me wrong, I truly do love me some Gerber and Kirby pea slingin’. I guess what I’m saying is, nothing that *I* want Jeff and Graeme to talk about is old news.)

  28. Robots and spreadsheets—I like that one.

    The “too old” line came from Jeff and Graeme often mentioning their confusion about younger critics’ love for Hickman’s Marvel stuff, combined with a sharp divide at about 30 years old in my own hanging-out-on-Wednesday conversations.

  29. Nextwave IS classic!

  30. Yeah, I don’t care whether Jeff reads Marvel comics or not either, but there is a big disconnect in the logic of his reasoning that gets bigger and bigger the more oppressive DC becomes. Yes, Marvel editors have to share a bathroom and reuse paper clips, but by and large they seem ok with that and with working at Marvel despite these conditions. DC creators are actually quitting at a monthly pace because of the unreasonable working conditions.

    I haven’t bought or read a DC comic in years, not because of a boycott, but because I their bizarro editorial decisions have led to a line of shitty comics.

  31. Yeah, I don’t care whether Jeff reads Marvel comics or not either, but there is a big disconnect in the logic of his reasoning that gets bigger and bigger the more oppressive DC becomes. Yes, Marvel editors have to share a bathroom and reuse paper clips, but by and large they seem ok with that and with working at Marvel despite these conditions. DC creators are actually quitting at a monthly pace because of the unreasonable working conditions.

    I agree. I wouldn’t mind Jeff spending months detailing all the reasons why he can’t bring himself to support Marvel if he wasn’t simultaneously downplaying all the stuff DC does that in my humble opinion seems far worse, as detailed below:

    http://guttersandpanels.com/gutters-and-panels/2013/3/23/the-new-52-timeline-of-departures

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