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Wait, What? Ep. 18.3: Emperors, Jokers…

Jeff Lester


You know when you’re trying to post something and you’re having an even worse time than usual finding something that will sort of obliquely reference the point of your post, and you’re digging through your relatively paltry photobucket library and you come across an old comic book cover that you like but is totally irrelevant to the topic at hand and you figure, “ehhhh, why not?”

Lord, I sure do.

Anyway, welcome to Wait, What? Ep. 18.3, wherein Graeme and I take an excellent question from the witty Adam Knave–“if you could pick anyone to be EIC at DC and Marvel, who would it be?”–and prove ourselves ridiculously uncomfortable with the idea of reshaping reality. I don’t think anyone will be greenlighting our “Infinity Gauntlet: Now Everything Tastes Like Cheeseburgers!” cosmic event any time soon, let’s put it that way.

It is very nearly an hour and 15 mins. long, it is absurdly insider-basebally (recently, in trying to tell her friends what kind of podcast I do, Edi had used that term to describe it, and also that it was the kind of show where we discussed not just our favorite comic book characters, and our favorite writers and artists, but actually would debate who our favorite editors were…and she had done so without knowing we had recorded this very podcast) and it is already up and wailing away on Itunes (as Ben Lipman, and hopefully others, have already discovered).  You can also listen to it here:

Wait, What, Ep. 18.3, Emperors, Jokers…

We hope you enjoy, and thanks for listening!

23 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 18.3: Emperors, Jokers… ”

  1. I gotta say, after thinking about this myself for a while I come down to Waid at DC, just for his love of the characters and ability to hold them to their core and all. For Marvel, again if we’re just drafting people regardless of desire, I’d slap Fraction in there. That forward thinking, try new things but still know the characters and not break the toys view he tends to have would make things really interesting, I think.

  2. Martinex is *always* relevant.

  3. Wait– did you guys say that the 150th issue of Ultimate Spiderman is only the 149th issue of Ultimate Spiderman? Is that true?

  4. For the funniest results, I’d like to see DC run by Alan Moore.

    But although I think Mark Waid is the solidest pick, I actually have a suspicion Grant Morrison would do a pretty decent job. I don’t know why I think this–heck, I’ve tried and tried but can’t actually stand to enjoy his Batman–but for some reason I still think it might be great.

    Oh, and huge slam on Valiant out of nowhere! Does thinking that the first year of Magnus Robot Fighter is the apex of superhero comics make me a total square? Very likely. But Magnus Robot Fighter was the apex of superhero comics. And Valiant *was* a well-run company… for a little while. Basically until Shooter was forced out for the sin of resisting his investors’ desire to overextend the company line.

    For some fun alt-history, I wonder what comics would look like today had Shooter been successful in purchasing Marvel,instead of Perelman.

    More serious Marvel EIC pick: how about Kurt Busiek?

    Finally, I’m amazed it took you 55 minutes to pick yourselves. If nothing else, though, I think it’d be great to hear a weekly DC/Marvel EIC podcast.

    P.S.: I’m amazed no one made a U-decide joke.

  5. And here I saw that cover and thought, “Finally! Jeff and Graeme are going to talk about Gerber’s run on The Defenders for an hour plus.” Oh well.
    My choice for DC’s EIC (and I thought of this before you brought him up in the ‘cast) is Darwyn Cooke, and my Marvel choice is Robert Kirkman. Runners up: Mark Chiarello at DC (even though that’s a bit too plausible), and Kurt Busiek at Marvel (he’d do equally well at DC but there’s all sorts of people I could plug in there – Waid, Giffen, etc. – whereas like you Marvel sort of stumps me).

  6. Abhay – The first series of Ultimate Spider-Man ran 133 issues. The second series ran 15 issues before renumbering. That makes USM #150 the 149th issue of a comic called Ultimate Spider-Man. (There’s a couple of workarounds that Marvel has claimed to deal with this – Either they’re counting the Wizard-branded half issue, or the USM Super Special that was really just the giant-sized final issue for Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, and reprinted in USM #150).

    James – Considering Jeff’s and my tastes, I’m surprised we’ve not done a Defenders podcast yet. Oh, Jeff…!

  7. I don’t think G-Mozz would want to be an EIC, but I don’t know he’d be as disastrous as you think – with JLA, New X-Men and now Batman, he’s basically set the direction for entire lines, revamping them and making them work better, and sell more.
    The Diamond top ten is almost entirely Bat-books at the moment. I don’t even think they did that when Dark Knight was out.
    And with Seven Soldiers, he basically set up a mini-line within DC, great characters and concepts, and then even gave them a crossover (kind of).
    I don’t know he’d be great at making trains run on time, but for the creative direction, he’d be tops.

    Mark Waid would be great for the role though – I’d love to see the DCU under his direction.

  8. I can’t see Waid working in the roll at all, at either company but especially at DC. Maybe it’s just his public persona, but I think his “love” of the characters would get in the way of him approving of other writers exploring different, but equally valid, interpretations. I’ve liked some of his comics in the past (not for a while, though), but definitely don’t want to see a line full of writers like Brian Augustyn and Tom Peyer trying to fulfill his vision of the characters. Cooke has similar issues, I like some of his comics fine, but don’t see how he’d be able to run a line of 60+ books a month.

    If for some reason I was to to hire for those jobs, but not allowed to hire myself, I think Karen Berger would be my first choice at DC. Not sure if there’s a chance she’d take the job, but I think she’d do a great job. For Marvel, McDuffie actually seemed like a good choice I wouldn’t have thought of right away. My choice among people you didn’t name would be Mark Millar, but that’s just because sometimes I dig the chaos.

  9. “That forward thinking, try new things but still know the characters and not break the toys view he tends to have would make things really interesting, I think.”

    I think the X-Men are MIGHTY broken under Fraction. But – only marginally more so than they’ve been for roughly the last twenty to twenty five years with notable breaks and exceptions.

    Fraction has a rep as a forward thinking comic book writer – Is he really? Picked up most of his reputation off of an Iron Fist re-boot that kind of reverse engineered the hero. He went back and gave Iron Fist more of a classic Doctor Strange type journey / story. I don’t know I just think that when you look at Fraction it’s been a little bit downhill from there. Iron Man was neat and all but Ellis pushed that sucker over to the new status quo with Extremis and the movies did the rest.

    (((Prepared to duck)))

    BobH – Read the foreword to All Star Superman? Waid can appreciate the goods. But you know, it needs to be good. Why go to Dynamite and do all those nasty things with Superheroes unless you’re looking to do things a bit differently? I’m confused as to what you mean by “valid interpretations.” Understanding core does not mean unwilling to explore via Elseworlds (criminally underused concept given Grant’s multiverse foundation) and other means. Superman: Earth One is the perfect proof of concept despite being an utterly CRAPPY book. Alt takes sell to both sides because they’re immediately inclusive – offbeat – and have an “anything is possible” vibe.

    All this said without being able to listen…yet. Sorry!

    Marvel Choice – Dan Slott
    DC Choice – Karen Berger with Moss and Idelson as left and right hands for the main line books. I would say Marts since he oversees Batman but there were some pretty sloppy copy editing mistakes in Grant’s B&R and I would think the writers handle the majority of the direction there. Losing Rucka off Batwoman was inexcusable as well.

  10. Can you guys throw me the link to the Paul O’Brian Weapon X article you mention? Google has failed me, and I’m curious.

  11. VoodooBen! It’s here:

  12. “action has a rep as a forward thinking comic book writer – Is he really? Picked up most of his reputation off of an Iron Fist re-boot that kind of reverse engineered the hero.”

    Actually, he got the rep from Cassanova, and Five Fists Of Science.

    His X-Men is suffering due to Marvel editorial’s odd decisions with the franchise for the past decade.
    I think he was quite clever to move them all into one city – with every mutant there, you can ignore that there’s barely two hundred of them in a world with billions of people.
    He’s just changed the setting, so he can keep going in the direction Morrison was going, with mutant culture, and moving the characters forwards.
    Only, unlike G-Mozz, he’s gotta deal with a different crossover every year.

  13. Graeme – Thanks! You’re a prince.

  14. Graeme – thanks, man! This was a fantastic podcast, by the way; I’d like to know what you guys would think of Steve Wacker taking over the EIC at Marvel.

  15. Apologies for the double post; I am indecisive and my computer doesn’t like me.

  16. “I’d like to know what you guys would think of Steve Wacker taking over the EIC at Marvel.”

    That would be awesome – but only if he kept up posting on message boards.

    There is nothing funnier on the net than when he replies to upset Spider-Man fans on message boards.

  17. Oh, Fantasy Football Manager… er, I mean Editor In Chief.

    Looking at the actual realistic options available (after all, as you so rightly realised, the other option inevitably leads to me, no matter who ‘me’ is) Mark Chiarello at DC and Mark Waid at Marvel.

    Chiarello because he has proved that he has an understanding of how to let a creative team go off and produce quality work. And also because DC would probably be the best looking collection of comics going

    Waid because, while he has great affection for Marvel’s characters, he probably has a bit less overall love for them as he has for DC. This is the writer, remember, who destroyed Captain America’s shield and killed off Ben Grimm, no matter how temporary they may have been. Final proof, of course, is that he wrote the God of the Marvel universe as Jack Kirby. ‘Nuff said.

    I was trying to think of other editors who have produced good runs on comics recently, but Alonso hasn’t been the same since Romita Jr left the Spider-man books; Wacker has totally messed up the Daredevil universe despite producing the goods with the three times a week Spider-man series; I’ve no idea where Warren Simons is and Nate Cosby has left editing.

    Meanwhile, in the DC Universe, I can’t really think of any editors other than Chiarello who have been responsible for lengthy runs of quality work that don’t have Grant Morrison working for them. And for Karen Berger it would be a step back: she’s done the successful superhero bit (remember when she was editing Perez’s Wonder Woman, Levitz and Giffen’s Legion of Superheroes and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing at the same time? There’s a quality editor)

    The tragedy with Marvel as a company is that it’s at its creative best when it has nothing to loose. The 60’s with Stan Lee, the early 70’s with Roy Thomas and the early 2000’s with Jemass and Quesada are all similar periods because sales were plummeting and the executives gave the creatives a huge amount of freedom to help save Marvel as a company. And at all three times they succeeded. Unfortunately, Marvel then get into a rut and the ‘voices’ created during these periods dominate their output until they’re at a point of crisis again (Lee’s voice was the writing voice of Marvel for the 60’s and 70’s; Claremont’s in the 80’s and 90’s; and Bendis in the 2000’s so far) to the point of tedium.

    Unfortunately DC’s tragedy through the decades, to paraphrase William Goldman, is that in comics nobody knows anything. They seem to have a “sling something out there and hopefully it will be successful” publishing strategy with little to know knowledge of why something worked, other than to repeat it until the audience tires of it. The advantage of that is that we get comics such as Watchmen; Dark Knight Returns; Sandman and Morrison’s output. The disadvantage is that we get Countdown and Cry for Justice. And to the comics reading audience it looks like the overall quality of the Marvel line is superior to DC, but at a price that DC’s heights are usually higher than Marvels, while their depths are lower. After all, has Marvel produced perennial sellers that have stood the test of time as much as Watchmen, Dark Knight returns or Sandman? Marvel seem better at character development, but not actual stories. And even then, most of those characters were developed over thirty years ago now.

    And it’s not as if Marvel doesn’t make mistakes either, just that they’re never as visible as DC’s, and even when they are they’re easier to dismiss.

    Oops, got carried away there. But can I be another to request an all singing, all dancing Steve Gerber appreciation podcast including, but not just limited to the Defenders)– the greatest comics writer of the 70’s, and still sorely missed.

  18. Ben,

    I’ve read some Cas but not the Five Fists – I’ll have to look that up. My feeling is that Fraction’s ideas are more reductive. Keep in mind that I’ve not read the whole run but isn’t Casanova largely Nick Fury Agent of Shield (Steranko) with attendant 21st century bells and whistles?

    His X-Men are Hated, Feared, and Isolated from humanity. That’s been done. That was the original premise of the series! Morrison’s whole bit was the X-Corporation. Looking to more successfully integrate into society by being visible and available. To say he’s “continuing Grant’s ideas” is kinda like saying DC REALLY capitalized on 7 Soldiers and the new multiverse.

    I will give him credit for linking Namor into the mix as his arrogance kind of plays that Sunfire role from years and years ago. I just can’t say I think the X-Men as some kind of isolationist army plays very well at all considering Steve Rogers is now the “security watchdog” for Marvel. Shouldn’t he be wondering quite openly about that militarized island off the coast waging war with Vampire nation? Cripes, before I get carried completely away let’s just say I see Fraction as a classicist who knows the moves but doesn’t move ME.

    I think we’re assigning blame to “editors” for story direction when in reality their role has never been less important. Editorial direction is now largely picking which writer’s pitch goes on the book for the near future, isn’t it? Wasn’t the Messiah thing Brubaker and…(snaps fingers) I can’t think of it. If they’re intent on breaking new ground with X-Men they need to be prepared to take risks. I wasn’t a fan of the Siege Perilous but if they can clap on clap off the Peter Parker identity reveal from their biggest crossover of the last 10 years then they should be able to breach new territory with the X-Titles.

    I was a big fan of taking the Hulk out of Marvel proper – go ahead and do it with the X-men. Plunk them down on some planet via a Magik deal or something. Have them do the LOST bit away from the rest of the universe. A real question the X-Men have never answered is “What do you do when you finally have what you’ve always wanted?” No more hate, no more persecution from homo sapiens. Are you the next evolutionary step ready to leave your human foibles behind or are you just genetic lottery winners spoiling for a fight?

  19. Smitty – I don’t think Waid appreciating ALL-STAR SUPERMAN is that much of an indicator, since it is a comic book done by a friend of his (one with whom he apparently spent some time years ago discussing possible directions for Superman) and is very much an homage to the Silver Age Superman that I’m saying I’d think would dominate a Waid-as-EIC era, only mostly done by less talented writers. And the less said about IRREDEEMABLE the better. Unless it’s gotten much better in the year since I’ve read it last, that sort of serial-numbers-filed-off “ain’t I clever ain’t I cute” isn’t indicative of direction I’d want to see for a single DC book, much less the whole line.

    Alternative suggestion for DC I just thought of, lure Diana Schutz over from Dark Horse. She always seems more than competent, and well respected enough that she could probably get some creators to be more likely to want to work at DC.

  20. Smitty!

    I think Cassanova is much more than Steranko’s SHIELD, although that’s a clear influence.
    I mean, if we want to be that reductionist, isn’t Moore’s Marvelman just Capt. Marvel but with naughty stuff?
    Maybe the difference isn’t that profound, but Cassanova just uses Steranko as one of many influences, and it rises above it’s roots to become it’s own thing.

    Maybe the crossovers have changed things for Fractions X-Men, but for his first year on the book – before they moved to an island – it was all about the X-Men setting upshot in San Francisco, with stories focusing on Scott liaising with the mayor, characters exploring the mutant culture of the town and plots involving them exploring what it means to be a proper embassy.

    This is all very in tune with Morrison’s New X-Men – in his they were doing it to the world, but Fraction reduced their world to mostly being in the one city – with 90% of Mutants being in that city, it becomes a microcosm for the whole world.
    The problem is, he’s not writing the only X-book, and Marvel sure do love their mini-line crossovers.
    I’ve not read past where they set up on the island, but until then, it was the most forward thinking X-Men since Morrison’s – which shows how far ahead he was, that the most forward thinking is looking back to his!

    Fractions problem, mistake maybe, was signing exclusively with Marvel so early on – he’s new, and is now having to fit in with a bigger picture, right as he was getting known for being a great ideas guy.
    (Though, as he’s started a family and moved to writing comics full time, I can’t really blame him for looking for security, and working with the biggest company in the game).

    He’s still considered, a talent, and rightly so, but one we’re seeing it through a filter.

  21. “Unless it’s gotten much better in the year since I’ve read it last, that sort of serial-numbers-filed-off “ain’t I clever ain’t I cute” isn’t indicative of direction I’d want to see for a single DC book, much less the whole line.”

    Waid was an editor at DC in the 80’s, and saw to the modernizing of several of their books, to varying success.

    Also, that only describes one book he’s writing – nothing at all like the DC books he’s written in the past.

    Just seems an odd example to use to say he definitely shouldn’t be an EIC.

  22. “Oh, and huge slam on Valiant out of nowhere! Does thinking that the first year of Magnus Robot Fighter is the apex of superhero comics make me a total square? Very likely. But Magnus Robot Fighter was the apex of superhero comics. And Valiant *was* a well-run company… for a little while.”

    It’s a shame that Valiant has sort of been written out of the collective memory of 1990s comics. Along with the Ultraverse, it was an effort to bring super-hero storytelling into the modern era without largely bastardizing it. Then the speculator bust destroyed it and I don’t think people really understand that super-hero comics didn’t have to become what they are today.


  23. Thanks for giving it some thought, Ben!

    I’ll perform the due diligence on Casanova. I suppose it’s a tougher sell for me when I see something start so clearly as an update on idea x. Should know better than to judge so early on. Still given that it’s a creator owned I was hoping for something it apparently grows into. I tend to give writers more leeway with mainline super books because they do tend to have a set starting point handed to you as a writer. BUT If anybody is so inclined Steve Bissette has a crazy blog run chopping up the early issues of Swamp Thing that he, Tottleben, and Moore put together.


    I link to the metafilter “collection” because I find Bissette’s blog maddeningly difficult to navigate, myself. I came to it via (I think) Colin Smith’s site and reproduce it here to show how Moore and his editor Len Wein just took about a single issue to slam closed the previous year + work on the book. This quick turnaround resulted in some of the most visceral and vital comics work of the time / any time and it brings me to your next point –

    “The problem is, he’s not writing the only X-book, and Marvel sure do love their mini-line crossovers.”

    They most certainly do – they also love their product synergy and the sales numbers that interlocking narratives tend to generate. It makes mainstream comics a bloated beast of a vehicle and picks up a bit on what MBunge says about Valiant. That 180 degree turn Moore took was only accomplished via a willingness to sweep away what had gone before. In Valiant’s case it was taking advantage of an obscure line of characters and the attendant lack of continuity bloat. By not having a track record of success and failure (ie; knowing what sells) Valiant was able to make comics they wanted to make. Sure, risky as all hell and prone to utter collapse but the payoffs can be good reading.

    The question, I suppose, is – Where do we fall as people who appreciate the medium? I’ve tended to enjoy the smaller arcs, done in ones, Ennis’ Punisher was a great example of 3 – 4 – 6 issue arcs. However, the rewards for writers / artists are largely tied to being linked to a major title. It’s led, I think, to some very talented people taking the approach that movie stars have for years.

    “Two for them – One for me”

    Leads to a lot of work where I’m thinking, “Is this what you really want to be putting out?” Fraction was so quickly pulled to Marvel’s breast and plugged in I wonder what he might have been (might still be!) if not plugged into a slot in the wall.

    We need more passion projects from these folks. The juice isn’t there on the creative side on the main tentpoles (Morrison excepted) and it’s showing – really showing. Comics is now big business and that’s kinda terrible for what made the medium great in the first place!

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