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Wait, What? Ep. 78: Quotes From Pandora Three-Sixteen

Jeff Lester

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(This installment’s accidental shout-out courtesy of Action Comics #7)

Normally, I try and pitch some rhetorical woo at you as a way to encourage or remind you to listen to this miniature stage play of the mind  Graeme (with his smooth, Noel Cowardesque line delivery) and I (with my stammering Method Actor incoherence) offer up each week.

However, as the soul-stealing monster known as Daylight Savings Time has arrived to demand the tribute of an hour from each of us trembling villagers, I fear I’ve got nothing especially fleet-footed with which to charm you, merely the verbal posturings of the maladroit and the overwrought.  The sundial? Tis broken.  The hourglass? Now hollow.

But if you wish to remember me fondly, then give Wait, What? Ep. 78 a chance:  it has Graeme and I discussing what Savage Critic rating we would give The Bible; spinoff books that can never seem to escape their progenitors; drug use and Dr. Who abuse; Action Comics, The Legion of Superheroes, Birds of Prey, and spinoff books that can never escape their progenitors; Fairest; the first issues of Saucer Country, Hell Yeah, Manhattan Projects (with spoilers for the first issue), and Superbia, Fatale #3; Fantastic Four: Season One; the amazing King City trade paperback from Brandon Graham; Detective Comics; G.I. Joe: Cobra; Wolverine #302; the DC Nation block on Cartoon Network, and much, much more.

iTunes is a wish that your heart makes (when your heart wishes for a cumbersome and inept media management program that gets totally fuxxored if you download the same update more than once, anyway) and so our latest episode should be discoverable there, but you are also invited to lasso that ethereal doggy right here, below:

Wait, What? Ep. 78.1: Quotes from Pandora Three-Sixteen

As always, we appreciate your patronage and hope you enjoy our latest offering!

34 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 78: Quotes From Pandora Three-Sixteen ”

  1. I saw that panel in Action Comics last week and it took me right out of the story… damn you Lester!

  2. I think I have a similar feeling to Jeff about The Manhattan Projects. I think the mad science stuff is pretty cool, but the whole “twist” just feels like one high concept too many. Basically, the book just makes me want to read more Atomic Robo instead.

    Which is kind of a shame, especially when combined with my generally ambivalent reaction to some other books like Fatale and Thief of Thieves — I really want these kinds of higher-profile, creator-owned books to succeed, and it’s a bummer when they don’t grab me.

    I’m actually kind of intrigued by the Infinite Comics stuff; I think Waid’s involvement is a hopeful sign that it could be something interesting and not just a gimmick. I’m hoping they’ll do more than just crossover tie-ins, though.

  3. This was my favorite episode of the podcast in awhile, thanks gents! Seriously, “The Old Testament is a Good to Very Good. The New Testament is an Eh” was among the best goddamn things ever. The title of The Greatest Comics Podcast of all Time™ is once again yours.

    And regarding the whole Hickman thing… I can still remember calling you guys old men many many moons ago for not liking him… and I must be getting old myself now or my tastes have become more discerning, because I really don’t see anything there beyond a bunch of weird tics anymore. I just don’t get that thing from him that Morrison usually has, which is the strong emotional beats to go along with the fun ideas. I think I was willing to give Hickman the benefit of the doubt earlier on in his career and “ride along with him” or however you guys put it. But now? He’s written so many comics in that mode that, like you’ve said, his aim and focus are clear, and just he’s not for me. He really seems to just be for himself, if that makes any sense.

    About FF:S1, the thing is competent, but seems to me to be a for-the-fans-by-the-fans sort of thing. Which means to me that it’s kind of shit. It was your bog-standard retread of those tropes and structures by a wordy scripter and Marvel-comics-circa-mid-to-late-aughties art team. It moves, looks, sounds, and feels pretty much how you’d expect it to. It’s boring, basically. If you’ve already got those characters up in your head it gives them their stereotypical speaking roles or whatever, but never has the balls or the gumption to do anything interesting with them. And hell, given what the project is, how could it, right?

    On a final note, there is a “Kubla Con”. It’s a gaming convention. I’ve never been, but am kind of embarrassed I even know about its existence.

    Thanks for the excellent podcast, gentlemen. Ya’ll are the best there is at what you do!

  4. I’m completely, 100% in agreement with Jeff on the Action Comics thing. Those two issues with the Legion seemed to come out of nowhere, and Morrison’s winking little “oh ho ho, it’s time travel, that’s why I can put this out of order!” thing is just a stupid cheat to cover for the fact that he wrote a fill-in story for Kubert to draw in the middle of his Brainiac/Kandor/Collector of Worlds arc, which I was finding a hell of a lot more interesting.

    And the thing is, I know I’ve read as many Grant Morrison comics as Graeme has. But my reaction to this isn’t, “Wheeee, he’s playing with chronology!” It’s, “oh, he’s pulling the same old bullshit gimmicks he always pulls when he’s in hack mode.” “Playing with chronology” is what Morrison did with the last issue of the Invisibles, or with the last arc of New X-Men. Putting a two-issue arc in the middle of another storyline in order to accommodate fill-ins from another artist isn’t playing with chronology – that’s Morrison being a good company man.

  5. As for the Bible, this is one of my favorite things from the old testament:

    “By the word of the LORD one of the company of the prophets said to his companion, ‘Strike me with your weapon,’ but he refused. So the prophet said, ‘Because you have not obeyed the LORD, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.’ And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.”

    It’s Bible Fight Club! The first rule of Bible Fight Club is, don’t talk about Bible Fight Club. The second rule of Bible Fight Club is, if you don’t talk about Bible Fight Club, you will be eaten by lions!

    It’s not just that the Old Testament is full of crazy violent evil shit – it’s that it’s just full of random shit, period. Back when these stories were written (or rather, told orally from generation to generation until people started writing them down), they weren’t meant to be bound together as one book. So you’ve got what amounts to hundreds of different myths, legends, and stories, some about people who may have existed, some about people who obviously never did, all of them originating from different time periods and different religious traditions and being rather sloppily edited together so that in one scene you have some magical prophet man healing a village of plague and in the next you have him magically summoning bears to eat the local children.

  6. Thank goodness someone else didn’t get SHIELD. I was tremendously disappointed by the 1st series… and I kind of like Hickman’s stuff.

    Is he the poor man’s Grant Morrison? I dunno… maybe. If you had to come up with vaguely dismissive shorthand for comic creators, that might not be a bad start.

  7. First: I am so happy to see you put that Action Comics panel right up front. That was my first thought when I saw it in situ.

    (The rest should be preceded by the statement that I am not a religious person at all, so do not take any of this as either evangelism or a criticism of religion.)

    Second: It’s the Book of Revelation, not Revelations. Common mistake, but it bugs me.

    Third: Impressive goal, reading the Bible through. There’s a feature at Slate of Blogging the Bible (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/blogging_the_bible/2006/09/the_complete_blogging_the_bible.html), if you want to see someone more insane than yourselves. You could also check out the thoroughly enjoyable works of A.J. Jacobs, including “The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible”. I’m sure the Portland Library has it… GRAEME.

    Fourth: I am about to blow your minds. Did you know the Bible is a mashup (or cut-up, in the Burroughs sense)? The utterly readable and fascinating books “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman and “The Gnostic Gospels” by Elaine Pagels read like mystery/conspiracy novels, but are pure facts about how people cobbled together all these weird and disparate fables and decided what would and what wouldn’t become canon. It’s almost as messy as DC continuity (zing!).

    Fifth: You guys might enjoy reading the Slacktivist annotations of the “Left Behind” series (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2011/08/07/left-behind-index-i-posts-1-50/). The whole Armageddon thing is historically based, but filtered through a fever dream — and then sanitized and made into the Worst Novels Ever.

    …this has been another episode of “Waiteth, What?”, the podcast-adjacent more-than-you-want-to-know notes for exegesis.

  8. Awww. I love you guys. I don’t have an Eisner-worthy limited series where I can pimp your program in print, but I can (and do) recommend Wait, What? to every MTA rider from Los Angeles to San Gabriel.
    And completely unprompted.
    I half-kid.

    But seriously, at work I pass on the good word about the dulcet tones of McMillan & Lester to all those interested in good comic talk.

  9. @ddt – I love that Bible DC comparison. As an apostate of the New 52, can I have dibs on being Superpope of the Post-Crisis Orthodox Church?

    Anyway, I loved the discussion of Hickman as compared to Morisson. Reading his Marvel stuff, I initially thought that he had big ideas and someone was holding him back. After that issue of FF that was just about Black Bolt floating around in space and yelling for dramatic effect, it became clear that my perception of Hickman’s ideas were much better than the reality.

    I also really didn’t care for Action #6. The too-cute way of wedging a fill-in into the first arc combined with the idea that Superman needed some condescending space teenagers to make him a hero all proved too much. I’ll be done with issue #8. Weirdly enough, its spot on my pull list will be taken up by Batman, Inc. Damn you, Grant Morisson.

  10. When you were talking about what Marvel’s Infinite might mean, all I could think is what a reflection it is of their absurd over-hyping of every single they do as “revolutionary”, wondering if their next revolutionary comic event will be “Marvel Infinity Plus One”.

  11. @Matthew: the nice part of the maths of it? Infinity plus one equals… infinity. Hey, maybe this is why Marvel editorial can’t seem to learn from the past — it never _is_ the past to them.

  12. Ddt, Fred Clark is a hell of a guy, isn’t he? Along with Savage Critics, it’s in my top blog-things/people-post-stuff-on-the-Internets-deals.

    I don’t think Clark’s started the third book yet–at his current rate he should make it to book fourteen or however many there are by about the time of the real Rapture, but by Jove the man is thorough.

    No, I haven’t listened to the podcast yet but I rate it an EXCELLENT. (Don’t let me down.)

  13. RE: DC’s labels

    I think DC’s going backwards for their labels. They seem more and more like pulp genre categories than anything else. And that would make sense that they would invoke a pulp aesthetic for their comics. Crime = Edge Titles, Dark = Mystic/Beyond style comics, Superman Titles = Sci Fi comics, Batman Titles = detective stories…they all seem to fit along pulp genre lines than anything else. I think this is intentional.

    – g

  14. Jeff is insane. The example of the library book is absurd after you’ve already discussed the difference between books priced $2.99 vs $3.99…library books are free, after all. Some creative types are simply better in one form of media than another, even if they seem like they should be the same to the novice user. No one cares that David E Kelley is absolutely terrible at feature films because he’s so damn good at creating TV series that people like to watch. Similarly, Marvel is doing Bendis no favors by shoehorning him into books with too few pages.

    It’s crystal-clear that if you take advantage of readers by both (1) substituting high concept for storytelling and (2) charging the extra dollar or so, that at some point readers will just say WTF and walk away. Gah. I think I just convinced myself to give up the habit.

  15. Break free Jeff!
    I stopped with Detective Comics, and don’t miss it at all… well, I didn’t until you started going on about it!
    But I’ll remain strong. It’s a dog of a book.

    Graeme – I’ve not read FF Season One, but unless someone has a library as cool as yours, which I don’t think exists outside of Sandman, then to have read it, they’d have to have bought it – and from your description and the page count, there’s no way they could separate the cost/format from their enjoyment of it.

  16. FF: Season one came out February 22nd, and this was recorded last week. So your library is getting the comics on the day they come out, and processing them immediately. I’m impressed. My partner got out Volume 4 of Locke and Key from the library, except it was actually Volume 3. We brought it back, and they said they’d fix it and put us at the top of the waitlist. Several weeks later it still hadn’t come in, so she gave up and just bought it.

    Also, Wait, What? and House to Astonish are the only comic podcasts I listen to. Hurray!

  17. Was interesting to see how close Graeme was with the infinite comics prediction.

    Im on a similar page to Jeff when it comes to the Doctor Who finale. I enjoyed watching it, but at a certain point I just had to tell myself “It doesnt actually make any sense, but thats ok, stop thinking about it or you’ll go insane”. That being said the Van Gogh episode is better.

    Could part of Hickman’s overloading on high-concpets just be an attempt to stand out? Its not like there arn’t tonnes of neat sci-fi concept comics out there. Kinda gives you a little more you can use in promotional material.

    Like Graeme I was just able to resist the siren song of the King City paperback, though not sure about next time I go in the store.

  18. There was another “Wait, What” shoutout in Defenders #4, too. Shame you all dismissed Fraction’s work in that issue, because it was the best Dr. Strange story in many, many years. Say what you will about Fraction’s excesses in his non-creator owned work, he definitely gets Dr. Strange, as a character and as a story engine.

    Also, Lark’s art in the issue is excellent, and the issue is free of the storytelling problems that have plagued some of Fraction’s other work, which lends credence to Graeme’s theory that Fraction’s artists may have something to do with that.

  19. Guys, great podcast as always. Normally, one can only find this much entertainment in a dark alley outside of a strip club at midnight. Better yet, this is free!

    One minor thing? Is there anything you can do about the echo/feedback when Graeme’s talking? Is that feedback coming from Jeff’s headset? It’s a bit disconcerting. Thanks.

  20. It is so bizarre how similar the trajectory of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine is to Morrison Batman isn’t it?

    I mean the Weapon X stuff is the early Three Ghosts of Batman Stuff (each arc is a different twist on a part of what makes Wolverine tick as assassins)

    Then he has to fight off all his friends as he is possessed by a Demon before going deep within his mind on a journey of self renewal in Wolverine RIP

    Then he goes right into a story all about his relationship to his kids with Wolverine & Scions which ends with him wanting to be more positive and happy not to mention re-branding himself with a corporation the Jean Grey Institute in Wolverine Incorporated.

    The only bit I haven’t found is The Return of Logan throughout Time story? Anyone?

  21. Rick, Return of Logan might correspond best to Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine. There’s time travel, “savage” Wolverine, and a Kubert brother involved…

    I’ve read a lot of Hickman lately, mostly his Marvel work, and find him a very frustrating writer. He has ideas, but has trouble buildIng them into complete stories. The more I read, the more I’m reminded of , yes, Morrison, and Bendis. Hickman has similar trouble with pacing, writing satisfying endings, and differentiating characters’. voices. Unlike Bendis, though, he often skimps on the main action. The most frustrating part of SHIELD for me was Galileo’s showdown with Galactus. Galactus got shot with, what, soul rays or something? It took maybe 5 pages, and the action was very static. The set-up was powerful, but the follow-through was lacking.

    I liked his Fantastic Four enough to get the first 4 trades, but it could have been much tighter. Too much space was wasted on world-building (and I like world-building!) when we readers just wanted the story to progress. I think Hickman had a good handle on the characters, and some issues were entertaining, but the decompression was too evident.

    Contrasted with The Flash 1-6 (which I just bought and read), the slackness of the writing is jarring. Francis Manapul’s writing isn’t perfect, but the comics are eventful, the storytelling is ambitious, and the action is kinetic. He put in splash pages and pages with only a few panels, but he seemed to have a good reason for them.

  22. (oops, hit “post” early & before I could edit down that last paragraph)

    In terms of perceived value influencing what I buy, it does to a ridiculous degree. If 2 items I want to buy cost the same, I’ll use page count as a deciding factor. I loved that 1st Uncanny X-Force trade, for example, but I won’t buy the next collection of 4 issues for $17. I might not feel the need to read an ancillary X-mini from 2 years ago, but at $10 for the hardcover? Hell yeah!

  23. It’s perfectly obvious but price counts more than format. I’d much prefer to read the various Runaways series in trade but after reading them as part of my Marvel digital subscription, I don’t see splashing out on them.

    And look. The prophet Elisha only had the bears maul those kids, not eat them. And if you had a gender-confused name, you’d be sensitive too.

  24. I’d quibble with translating it as merely “mauled,” especially when most English translations represent that word as “rend” or “tore.” What’s clear, though, is that the “Elisha summons some bears to attack a bunch of children for calling him bald” story is meant to be framed as just yet another story of how badass Elisha is – he cures a village of plague! he brings a kid back to life! he sics a bunch of bears on some kids, just ’cause he can! – and the fact that he happens to be feeding children to bears is meant to be taken as somewhere between value-neutral and awesome.

    (Keep in mind, this is the same Bible in which Job’s children are killed as part of a bet between Yahweh and Satan, but it’s alright in the end because… he gets new kids? That is one of the most fucked up endings to any story ever.)

    Anyway, yeah, the Bible isn’t a book, and it’s not even a collection of books – it’s a bunch of sloppily edited together pieces of narratives. Everyone knows about the multiple creation myths in Genesis, but really, this stuff is all over the old testament (note how every time a king dies in Samuel/Kings, the text helpfully cites a number of no longer extant ancient texts from which his story was lifted), and yeah, even in the new testament, where only half the gospels have a version of the Christmas story in them, and only one of them actually presents Jesus as a divine being.

  25. My take on Johnathan Hickman is pretty simple. Hickman is to Morrison what ‘The Event’ is to LOST.

  26. Just want to point out that Scarlet Spider #3 featured an instance of “Wait, what?”

  27. As a feature of my little interview show about comics, I talked to David Marquez. He was generous with his time and access to the art. It meant that I could include a load of art without jamming books onto my scanner and watching a progress bar for a full day. Here’s what the final product looks like.

    http://vimeo.com/37433026

    I read FF: Season One when it came out and I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. The art is sharp and there are a few funny character bits. In terms of pacing, there needed to be a more focused ending. For awesomeness, what the story was lacking was a hint of Doctor Doom.

    That story could have been changed with two more comic pages. Page One, the mayor is proclaiming FF Day in the city. The city cheers their heroes. Page Two, Doctor Doom watches the whole thing on his giant TV and says something cryptic. If we’re going to run out of real estate with the story, better to hit the wall with a new threat than a hug.

    The ending is the most important part of a story to get right. If you can stick the landing, you go from good to great. The cherry on the Watchmen cake is the scene with the sidekick finding Rorschach’s journal which details Veidt’s scheme meaning that the hoax will collapse just like the monument to his namesake Ozymandias.

    Bill

  28. “Hickman is to Morrison what ‘The Event’ is to LOST.”

    So… they’re both derivative and gimmicky, but only one of them was able to string along a cult of devoted followers long enough to be a serious commercial success?

  29. Y’know, just finished reading the latest issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and they finally gave me a good twist on the whole pregnancy issue that I didn’t really expect. I’m not going to spoil it, but the whole issue opened up the whole story to something completely different than what you would think and I think it would worth picking up.

    It is an old school twist for Joss, but still a good one.

  30. Robert G: The echo is driving me nuts, too. I’m going to go back to my old busted headset (which creaks every time I turn my head but did not echo) and see if it makes a difference. I suspect it will.

    I’m hugely grateful to everyone else’s contributions, esp. w/r/t the discussion of The Bible which has been pretty damn fascinating and enjoyable. (And also about Hickman, which is both somewhat affirming but also vexing since the idea that I’m not the only one frustrated by his work means there are others out there shelling out cash for a less-than-satisfactory result.)

    Oh, and big ups to Rick Vance for blowing my mind with that Wolverine/Batman RIP comparison. I simultaneously want to believe and disbelieve that you’re onto something!

    Now, if you excuse me I need to go freshen up (by which I mean, lay out a plate of snacks by my headset) before Graeme and I begin the whole thing over again!

  31. I like the echo sometimes. It’s like Graeme is giving an inspiring speech at a baseball stadium.

  32. You guys are more entertaining than house to astonish.

  33. I find Hickman’s FF satisfactory. But that’s it, just “Satisfactory”. And I am not paying Marvel prices just to get the ball over the plate.

  34. I think Graeme’s discussion of the FF:Season 1 pricepoint echoes Hibbs’ questions about serialization vs graphic novel presentations. Hibbs has said about other OGNs (forgive my paraphrasing) that publishing such a comic, 100+ new pages, as 4-5 issues of a mini series, then publishing it as a hardcover collection, would make more economic sense from the perspective of reader, retailer, or publisher. So why do it?

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