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

Jeff Lester

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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.

14 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 65.1: I Think We’re All Bozos in this Podcast ”

  1. Good call on Oglaf; i don’t know how i came across it but it really is an amazingly well-done, humorous fantasy comic with a surprising amount of NSFW-ness. Glad to see it getting some notice!

  2. Really enjoyed the Gerber talk. Curious as to your thoughts on the Foolkiller mini from 1990. I read that recently and it was one of the most f’ed up stories I have seen from a mainstream comic.

  3. Hey Guys. The Marvel Kiss stories were in that Kiss Compendium that Jeff mentioned passing up in the bargain bin at a bookstore. It can be found cheap on the Barnes and Noble website. The Marvel stuff was fun to see again and the other stuff was ok in small doses. Worth the price in a bargain bin. Loved the Defenders talk though I’ll disagree with you on Dollar Bill. The character is super annoying and I think is one part of the Defenders that doesn’t work for me. I think when I was reading it an issue at a time he was ok but reading the Defenders in big chunks I found him annoying. The Gerber stuff holds up really well and I always have loved those Giant size stories that dovetailed with the regular title. Great stuff and a fodder for a fun pod cast.

  4. Thanks for the great podcast.

    I live in a NYC apartment so the comics I can keep with me are limited. However, the Gerber headmen issues of Defenders are included (as is is Phantom Zone mini and Nevada and Essential Defenders volume 2).

    If you anyone can recommend great issues of Batman or Detective by Irv Novick I would really appreciate it. The Neal Adams stuff has been reprinted (the highest quality reprints probably in the Saga of Ras and Brave and Bold Baxter from the 80s) but I think the Novick material is limited to Showcase volumes. I’d rather hunt down a few great back issues.

  5. I’m curious about your thoughts about Keith Giffen. If Gerber was trying to extend the Marvel Style to its ultimate extension that heroes must deal with realistic problems in the same way we deal wtih realistic problems, then is Giffen basically doing the same thing, but extending the DC heroics to its ultimate extension: heroes are Gods, even the ones that aren’t that powerful.

    I liked your discussion about Steve Gerber. It is interesting that in McCloud’s Understanding Comics that McCloud uses Gerber’s Defenders as a way to discuss how nuanced relationships and friends came into play in comics in the late 70s.

  6. Another great show gentlemen! And thanks for the idea to check out Gerber’s run- I really did enjoy it. This run of Defenders is a rock solid superhero book from the 70s- a thing I’d begun to think didn’t exist outside of Starlin’s cosmic stuff. Gerber really seemed to be enjoying (yes, enjoying- I got dark amusement much more than any anger) the month-to-month creation of these issues, as he merrily keeps piling on event after event.

    That piling on is a big part of what I think what makes this book work- it’s plot driven in a way that many books aren’t The story here isn’t so much about characters and their (usually tortured) introspection, but the hero’s response to events as they happen (and keep happening!) As Jeff said, this makes the read much more… uplifting? Is that the right term?

    And the craziness of of it! From the madcap genius of that harmonica to the elf with the gun to brains in bowls to bozo masks- I can’t help but think that Gerber’s not just commenting on the world around him (the stories have a great NYC in the 70s feel) but also on the inherent silliness of the very super-hero genre he’s writing in.

    This kind of plot driven mania is something I think is lacking today. Not only does most of today’s superhero stuff tend to be all character— not as angst-ridden, but almost painfully self-deprecating— but the plots are driven, relentlessly, by editorial, or even marketing. The result is that while parts of books might be ok, there’s nothing really dynamic or as organic as Gerber’s Defenders work.

  7. Blaming Frank Miller for ‘ruining’ Daredevil & Batman is like blaming John McTiernan for all the bad action movies that followed in the wake of Predator & Die Hard. Hate the terrible not the inspiration for the terrible that is amazing.

  8. I think ‘ruin’ was being used in a very specific way here, to do with the sesimic impact they had on the characters. Because Miller redefined the characters so boldly, future writers felt indebted to try and continue in taht vein – often with vastly diminishing results.

  9. What I’m hoping is that with the recent success of Waid bringing back the old school swashbuckling Daredevil, DC may feel ready to break free of the ultragrim Batman mold themselves and use aspects of previous more well-rounded Batman interpretations as well.

    However since DC has a big fanbase that never tires of this interpretation of Batman and it continues to sell like gangbusters, I doubt it. On the Marvel side I think fans got tired of the Miller-style Daredevil while the same doesn’t seem to be happening at DC with Batman.

  10. Echoing The Beast Must Die – you can see yet another further point that maybe using properties like DD and Batman in such a way it closed them off thematically from being anything other than that specific iteration.

    It’s like taking the reins of a TV program for a writing gig and delivering the two-parter that gives you everything you wanted. Big action scene – Riker and Picard finally kiss – you know whatever big stupid thing that qualifies it as being “the LAST” or “the DEFINITIVE” take. It’s so big and so loud that people foolish enough to follow in that extremely popular vein are doomed to be decidedly LESS.

    Simultaneously you’re left with a wounded, lame, property that will never be the same nice sustained and continuing narrative. Who wants to (or can) see Batman go to Scotland and solve a murder mystery once you deliver the end game where he beats the shit out of Superman and topples the World Government?

    Everybody can write the “last” story (to greater and lesser success obvs) but it kind of closes off that character – right?

    To appropriate a fine Futurama quote, “You watched it – you can’t un-watch it.”

  11. Which is why I give Moore (or whoever made Moore use Charlton knock-offs) for Watchmen – it truly is a vacuum. You don’t damage anything – it stands alone.

  12. Pretty much loved your long-awaited dissertation on Steve Gerber’s Defenders run. I particularly like that you both gush over it like fanboys but completely back all the praise up in your analysis. I think he was having a lot of fun here, and where you can see the axes he wants to grind in his other major ’70′s works (Man-Thing, Howard the Duck), in Defenders you only see the sparks of his imagination that are flying off those axes. After a couple of dry runs in other titles, he really nailed how to write a Marvel superhero comic in the mid-70′s on his own terms; BD Montgomery has the right word for it: “organic”.
    Concurrent to Gerber’s teaming of the Headmen in Defenders, Marvel was dumping out anthology titles of old Atlas-era stories to fill out its horror line, and there’s one issue of, I want to say Weird Wonder Tales, that reprints each of the original appearances of Chondu, Arthur Nagan, and Jerry. I’ve never read it, so I’m probably off to eBay now to find it…
    George, regarding your search for good Irv Novick Batman, I’d recommend the Marv Wolfman-penned “The Lazarus Affair” from Batman #332-5. It’s a worthy successor to the O’Neil-Adams R’as al Ghul stories, and Irv draws a good Catwoman.

  13. Steve Gerber once said Howard the Duck was his serious comic and Defenders was his comedy book. While I think Howard resonates more due to how intensely personal it became (notice the leap in quality when Gerber moved from parody to stories about his fears and anger), Gerber sold himself short on Defenders.

    The characters became more believable.Valkyrie’s quest for identity and Nighthawk’s growth gave them extra dimension. Dr. Strange became a father figure, or at least a cool big brother. The Hulk, who showed up less than the other 3 mainstays, became more endearing while the scary implications of how a super strong child would function.

    The sheer range of Gerber’s stories was impressive. It’s a shame that so few comics since have come close to the ambition he displayed. I’m not the biggest Sal Buscema fan, but his art worked great on Defenders. In fact, I far prefer Gene Colan’s art on Howard, but I think Buscema’s style was better suited to Defenders. He could render any environment, and bring some of the weirder concepts down to earth.

    (Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but if only Jim Starlin had been the artist for Gerber’s run on Guardians of the Galaxy.)

    Thanks for taking a look at one of the best super-hero comics of its era.

  14. Gerber admitted on his old AOL board in the 1990s that “I didn’t know where I was going with the elf.” He said Sal Buscema was getting kind of bored with the ongoing storyline and Gerber threw that in for variety in hopes that he would figure it out later.

    I did once run into Giffen at a convention and said of those late period Defenders issues, “That’s quite a Kirby riff!” And he responded, not gently, “Well, I WAS TOLD TO.”

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