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Wait, What? Ep. 53.1: Why Are They Smiling?

Jeff Lester


I kinda like that I’ve decided to call this installment, “Why Are They Smiling?” and I have a this illustration of someone asking “Why are they smiling?” and also maybe someone says it in the very podcast, too. It’s a bit like “Merv Griffin!”, that most excellent Milk & Cheese cartoon, and it’s a bit like that “turtles all the way down” meme, and a bit like that faux-Jack T. Chick Cthulhu strip, and it’s a bit like I have headache and can’t really think of anything especially subtle. So.

Due to said headache, I will skip the program notes which I’ve been trying to add (not really sure if they’re helping anyone or not, anyway) and, hmmm, maybe I just need a banana or something to eat. Maybe it’s a blood sugar thing. Yes. Existential blood sugar.

But don’t let my hypoglycemia throw you: this is actually a mighty fine installment of Wait, What? we’ve got lined up for you. In it, Graeme McMillan and I reflect on Fear Itself #5, and Marvel’s plans for its post-Fear Itself future; Flashpoint #4, Flashpoint: The Secret Seven, and Flashpoint: The Outsider; X-Men: Schism, Wolverine #13, PunisherMax #16 as well as the work of Jason Aaron; and the truly enjoyable Daredevil #2. It should be on iTunes, and it is most definitely here for you to listen to:

Wait, What? Ep. 53.1: Why Are They Smiling?

Oh, and I mentioned it there, so I mentioned it here–should you wish to drop us an email at waitwhatpodcast@gmail.com and send us comics or waffle-related gossip, we would certainly love to read it.  Mmmm, waffles…those have got to be better for your blood sugar than a banana, right?

Anyway, Ep. 53.2 should be here very, very shortly so there’s always that.  My hope is that I’ll have eaten by then.  Oh, and as always, thanks for listening!

17 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 53.1: Why Are They Smiling? ”

  1. I can’t remember if it’s this podcast or the next one, but I would just like to thank Marvel for releasing the cover of Uncanny X-Men with Cyclops on it the day after we recorded this, in which I talked about my conviction that Cyclops would die in Schism because he hadn’t appeared in any pre-release post-Schism material. Oh, timing.

  2. Fear Itself is the new millennium’s Secret Wars, except no one is making any toys.

    Even before issue five, I though the nonsensical, illogical, plot-hammery (if that non-word makes any sense), poorly characterized and repetitive story beats were all hallmarks of Marvel’s first pre-planned HUGE EVENT. Then, lo and behold, the bad guy breaks Captain America’s shield! Just like Dr. Doom! Hell, it even has Titania in it!

    I guess this is short-hand to convey how bad the God of Fear guy really is, without him actually doing anything, y’know, bad. It’s an improvement on everyone talking about how bad he is, as per the past few issues (Warning, it is not actually better).

    And I can’t shake the feeling that this was supposed to be a Red Skull/Loki story, or that the God of Fear was going to be Fraction’s take on the Surtur story from the Simonson days, but was changed at a Marvel-ous Architects retreat into the STORY OF THE SUMMER!

    On the plus side, Stuart Immonen can take comfort that he is the new Mike Zeck. That’s pretty rad.


  3. “And I can’t shake the feeling that this was supposed to be a Red Skull/Loki story, or that the God of Fear was going to be Fraction’s take on the Surtur story from the Simonson days, but was changed at a Marvel-ous Architects retreat into the STORY OF THE SUMMER!”

    That’s more or less it, actually. According to interviews and such, it was originally cooked up as a pitch for a Thor/Cap miniseries by Fraction and Brubaker, and Quesada thought it should be an event.

    As for all the followup stuff, for some reason I just found these lines really telling:

    from CBR’s Shattered Heroes article:
    “Avengers,” the 12-part “Fear Itself: Fearless” (formerly just “Fearless”), and “Battle Scars” (now minus “Fear Itself” branding) will also fall under the new banner.

    and from iFanboy’s coverage of same:
    Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Avengers, Avengers Academy, Jason Aaron’s Incredible Hulk and The Defenders will all fall under the Shattered Heroes banner. And don’t forget Fear Itself: The Fearless. Battle Scars is just Battle Scars.

    “We couldn’t make this more confusing if we tried,” Brevoort concedes of the branding.

  4. I was going to suggest that maybe, as pretty as Stuart Immonen’s art is on “Fear Itself”, he should absorb some of the blame for how bad the overall storytelling is… until I read Iron Man 507. That book is an absolute mess. Fraction is in over his head. ‘Nuff said.

  5. Jeff should just start a waffle blog or maybe even try and find a decent artist and do a waffle webcomic and you can HobOdin as a narrator/host or something.

    Also, I think you guys doing a podcast dedicated to Millar’s influence would be great.

  6. With Fear Itself #5– if Odin’s workshop can make weapons that are sufficiently powerful to defeat the Worthy and Evil Lemmy and fake Red Skull– if Odin’s worshop is that awesome, then why didn’t he go run over to it in issue #1 and just start churning out the Bazookas Cosmic, instead of being the All-Pussy the entire series?

    There are only 6 Worthy– all you have to do is make 12 hammers, and you’ve outnumbered the Worthy 2:1.

    (But I don’t remember that issue where Odin makes the new hammer for Beta Ray Bill enough to remember how long they said hammer-creation takes in that, so maybe there’s math I’m missing that more hardcore dudes would know …)

    But I guess where I differ with you guys is that… people complained about the characters in Civil War being out of character, and I didn’t really care. Fun is fun. I like when the characters act out of character, if it arises out of a “And then THIS happens” smashing-action-figures-into-one-another spirit, which is where I felt Millar was coming from and what I think we’re supposed to feel Fear Itself…? So Spiderman’s a coward now– I don’t care. If that’s the story, fine– I don’t care about Spiderman. Based on Civil War, I have to say I put my own pleasure ahead of characters … making sense or acting consistent with how they’re “supposed” to be written.

    Which isn’t to say Fear Itself is any fun because… well, I’m not into it. But I don’t think the out of character thing is one of the reasons why, I don’t think.

    Oh, with the exception of Captain America saying “I reckon” because THAT IS BULLSHIT. The real Captain America doesn’t talk like that!!!!!

  7. Also: I think Cyclops might have had a jetpack in the Fraction issues. Didn’t he have a jetpack in that crossover about mutant Prop 8? I want to say I remember seeing that in there… I wasn’t a regular reader of that book but I read, like, 4/5ths of the Prop 8 crossover…

  8. It was a whole big thing. Sif had to do a favor for some dwarves and then they (the dwarves) made the hammer for him. Odin didn’t actually do anything except hit it with the not quite all father juice.

    I’m reasonably sure it took some number of weeks to get it done because Thor and Bill were doing the rest up after a big fight bit.

    Simonson, Abhay!

    As to the podcast I have to say I disagree with Abhay’s statement about characterization. If this type of dialogue or personality choice were presaged in the character’s series – at all – then it would be one thing. Similarly, I have to accept that they may very well be moving towards a MUCH more casual written style and this series may be the starting point for that. If that’s so, then ok as well it’s a deliberate choice. I won’t be buying much Marvel but fine.

    My issue is that it just seems so tossed off and lackadaisical. Weak sauce – unconcerned.

    Gillen’s UXM 542, I felt, was pretty consistently GOOD. The story clipped along, bounced between 3-4 different points of view, had many jaw drop moments showing all the various tries the X-Men made to stop Juggernaut, made me largely forget Greg Land was drawing it except when Emma was inexplicably in full gear getting out of a hospital bed and when he decided to showcase Danger (robot) with an ass-shot.

    Finally, it nailed a cliffhanger change to the status quo. If this is X-Men I will take it over most recent characterization.

    Daredevil’s lawyer speak is great. It reminds you how infuriating he can be as an opponent. A formidable mind that can justify nearly anything by being versed in sophistry. That bending of truth within the letter of the law. It’s an angle that gets left out way too often. You can’t win an argument with the guy. There has to be little worse than being reminded the guy who is kicking your ass is also making you look dumb.

    Thanks for all you do.

  9. Jeff and Graeme – I had a question on the prior podcast so sorry if misplaced here. You guys talked about how making Cap relevant in the real world in the early ’00s was a mistake, but don’t you think that Brubaker has done the same thing?

    Thanks again for the podcast. Yes Daredevil rules as does Mark Waid as he did on Captain America and Fantastic Four and Flash (first run).

  10. Jeff, Graeme _asked_ if you had waffles at the beginning of the podcast, and you said no, and see what happens?

  11. I second a podcast on Millar. But if you wanted to expand the scope of it past him, you could do something about the influence and success of hucksterism in modern comics. I read David Brothers’ piece on Morrison’s Rolling Stone interview, and finally read the thing for myself, and was struck by how Morrison has a fair amount of the Funky Flashman in him. (I haven’t followed much of his press, so forgive me if everybody knows this already.) I can kind of see a through-line from Stan to Ellis to Morrison to Millar, if that makes sense.

  12. I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but I’d love for you guys to (when you do your DC retrospective) to have something about Impulse/Kid Flash. I just read the Kid Flash/Flashpoint thing and he seems like the perfect character to discuss the ups and downs of the DCU. It is amazing how his character seemed fun and exciting when he debuted, but became a seriously screwed up character to the point where they kill him a couple of times over again. This latest issue just pushed that last “Rage Against DC” button to the point where I can’t see myself buying the new DC books if they refuse to figure out how their characters can be fun and joyous.

    DC seems incapable of allowing their characters to have fun and be funny. There is no levity in DC Comics and it is starting to feel like the NuDCU will have less fun characters in it.

    I mean, seriously? SPOILERS

    Turning Bart into a Black Flash that kills Max and Wally’s kids? What is wrong with you DC? How could you turn a basically fun-loving, carefree character into a killer? Why would you do that or make someone do that?

  13. Texas governor (and presidential candidate) Rick Perry just signed a pledge saying he is in favor of waffles over pancakes. Suddenly politics is looking up. No?

  14. Please disregard that last comment. Apparently, Rick Perry signed a pledge confirming that he is strongly against yummy waffles. And abortions. My bad.

  15. @Gary: please tell me you are making this up (the spoiler).

  16. Nope. Wish I was. He goes back through time and absorbs all of their powers, killing them one by one (and sometimes the “speed force” had already killed him, so technically the speed force is killing the other speed characters then Bart absorbs their powers. It is a technicality, but it is one where Bart still has to go through seeing Jay, Max, Jesse and her unborn child, Wally’s kids, and possibly Jenni and then gives all of his power (and his life) for Barry Allen in one final push to defeat…I guess…the villain of Flashpoint that he’s running against in the speed force.

    I usually love Sterling Gates, but this story makes me feel like crap for enjoying all the previous stories. Even if Bart didn’t “actually kill” the Flash Family (it was the speed force), it is like the speed force is making Bart watch a snuff film where all of the victims are people he loves and cares about. That’s even worse. Take the character that is the most fun and make him watch his family get killed as he vampirically steals their speed force to give to a grandfather that doesn’t even really know or care about him all of their power.

  17. Yeah, Cyclops’s jet pack first showed up back in Fraction’s Dark Avengers crossover. At the time it felt like an odd bit of whimsy dribbled into an otherwise stultified and straitjacketed-by-editorial storyline – like much of Fraction’s run, and much of the post-Morrison X-Men in general, for that matter.

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