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Wait, What? Ep. 87: Tiny Yellow Boxes

Jeff Lester

Untitled

It’s funny. I keep thinking we’re going to hit our “proper” hundredth episode any minute now and we’re still only eighty-something percent of the way there. (It’s probably the high-weirdness of having 145 entries accessible on iTunes that’s throwing me off…) But we will get there!

Yes, neither rain nor snow nor sleep, nor screwy Skype, nor half-maintained hardware, nor early morning airport visits, nor crazy screeds by prominent webcomic cartoonists where the phrase “we won!” really means, “stop harshing my mellow,” can keep us from our appointed rounds…unless we decide to take a week off.

Whatevs: we have a two hour episode for you, full of complaints about some of the above, but also delightful discussions of Reverse Aquaman, Saga #3 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Avenging Spider-Man #7 by Kathryn and Sturart Immonen, the history of kitty cats, Saucer Country #3, Wolverine by Jason Aaron, Bakuman, Batwoman, Watchmen Toasters, the fabulous oral history of DC’s Countdown to Final Crisis over at Funnybook Babylon, The Zed-Echs Spectrum, Thor, Thanos, fanfic, Fraction, Bendis, and the perennial favorite:  more, more, more.

It is on iTunes (let’s assume for the sake of argument) but it is also here, for you to download and listen to, and to raise as if it was your very own child, albeit one that chatters on endlessly and never really seems to hear what you say (yes, very much like your very own child, indeed!):

Wait, What? Ep. 87: Tiny Yellow Boxes

And as always, we hope you enjoy and we thank you for listening!

39 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 87: Tiny Yellow Boxes ”

  1. Not that this matters, but I suspect the fun recap page copy you quoted from Avengeful Spidervenger comes from the mind of Simperin’ Steve Wacker. However you feel about his behavior in comments sections and seedy motels on the outskirts of town, his books consistently feature goofy, delightful junk like that in the recaps and letters pages.

  2. I WAS actually asking about the Steve Bissette anthology! I should have qualified it. But now I know about Jeff’s taste in incest porn! And knowing is half the battle.

  3. I think you can go back in more recent history to see the split. While I think you’re right about Stan Lee, I believe that the artists were prized more after a time where you got to the 80s and suddenly the top artists were the ones demanding market share instead of, say, Chris Claremont. But when we got to the 90s, we saw a definite shift. Vertigo and Image grew up at the same time. While Image were big and eventually floundered, Neil Gaiman and the Vertigo guys got outside press recognition. That’s the tipping point where I saw fans of comics art become fans of comics writing and you saw people following writers instead of artists. I remember I used to buy everything Jim Lee, but in the 90s I began to buy everything that was Peter David or NeiL Gaiman instead.

  4. The really weird thing about Thanos turning up as an Avengers movie villain is that Thanos is just such an oddball creation of a pretty idiosyncratic creator. Nowadays fans typically lump him in with the Infinity Gauntlet, but really that was Thanos’s last hurrah as an actual villain – when Starlin was introducing him, it wasn’t in blockbuster-style smash-em-ups, it was in trippy headcase comics like this. My appreciation of Thanos – and the rest of the Marvel cosmic characters, from Warlock to Galactus and Eternity and the Celesials and the rest of them – is so tied with an appreciation for the outrageously bizarre and outlandishly surreal that I’m kind of appalled at the notion of them appearing in anything as mundane and necessarily dumbed-down as an action flick.

    This is pretty much why I never cared for Abnett and Lanning’s cosmic books, either, by the way – their approach, all too often, was to take some of the most inventive and bizarre characters in the Marvel Universe and make them as mundane and pedestrian as possible. I just don’t see the point of doing characters like Warlock and Thanos if you’re going to essentially play them straight.

  5. The Avengers movie. It’s so good. But not really. It exceeded our expectations. But our expectations were low to begin with. Go see that Tom Cruise movie instead.

  6. I’m still not sure that I’ll see Avengers but I’m definitely checking out Ghost Protocol.

  7. Re: Bendis, Bendisosity and Benditude-

    I’ve said this elsewhere about Bendis, but the moment I realized the emperor had no clothes was when I missed an issue of his (return, it was like issue 57 or 58) of Daredevil and didn’t notice. I believe there was an issue of Powers around the same time that had a page missing, and, even he joked that the scene was overwritten because no one noticed.

    Huh.

    Powers (for me) peaked with Sellouts, and never came back. It couldn’t find it’s feet again. Alias became the Pulse, which tore the heart of the book out, etc. This was all around the same time, or thereabouts… all of these things added up for me. I very specifically remember not ordering Secret War in Previews when it cropped up because things had been getting more and more dismal on the Bendis front for me, and feeling vaguely guilty or bad because I had been a Bendis booster for quite awhile. When I saw that Secret War solicit, I thought to myself, “This is too much money for what will undoubtably be a story with no payoff.”

    I think history has proven me correct in that regard.

    Then Avengers Disassembled hit. That was it- I never looked back. Lucky for me- I didn’t have to sit thru House of M, the Illuminati business or any of the other character-breaking nonsense that has followed since.

    In regards to fan fiction and the “the characters are what we say so how could we have got them wrong” era we seem to find ourselves in, I guess that’s pretty much why I don’t read Matt Fraction Marvel Universe comics anymore (a shame, as Iron Man started off well, if slowly, and I loved his Thor one-shots and that Spidey Annual he did), or Bendis books of any stripe. They seem to think that their interpretations of the characters are somehow better or more valid than work from the past. It’s like they want to reap the benefits of being continuing, serialized fiction, but they don’t want to do the groundwork to make it organically continue from what has gone before.

  8. Sorry for the dbl post- the site freaked out.

  9. @DJ_Convoy: Took the dupes out for you, sir. That okay? Wouldn’t want anyone missing your fine points.

  10. I appreciate it, altho’ the only fine point I have is prob’ly on top of my head. ;)

  11. I can’t help but wonder if Thanos is also a way to pre-empt using Darkseid. Much as you described Harry Potter/Tim Hunter’s publish-ability, DC trying to film their first JLA arc would meet the “we’ve seen it already” factor.

  12. Gary’s comment above said most of what I wanted to note re cult of writer vs. artist. I think the switch happened when all but the least discriminating readers of super-hero comics got sick of terrible Image books. Besides Vertigo, I think Marvels was a game-changer; we came for the awesome painted art and stayed for the story. Waid & Co. on Flash and James Robinson’s Starman, among others, gained traction. Morrison went from Vertigo weirdo to JLA writer. Heroes Reborn failed. Finally, Marvel Knights happened, and real-life celebrity Kevin Smith was the biggest draw. Meanwhile, the Marvel Method went out of fashion. Writers with styles that carried through regardless of their artists wrote more and more mainstream super-hero comics. Overall writing quality went up.

    Super-hero comics began having rotating art teams and different artists every storyline in the early ’00s. The writer became the individual identified as driving the comic. A Bendis script, for example, read like a Bendis script whether drawn by Finch or Immonen. At the same time, Marvel & DC began promoting writers, and here we are.

    Now, the events and direction of each Universe may have usurped the writer, which kind of brings us back to Stan Lee and his promoting Marvel in the ’60s & ’70s.

  13. Re: writers vs artists
    Excellent points raised by both of you. Theres also the fact a big name writers is more valuable to an editor than a big name artist because they can lend their selling power to more than one book.

  14. Yes I am with Dave Clarke, I always thought Publishers pushed the writer myth solely because they tend to have more on the rack at any given time than their pencil and paint wielding brethren. Name one artist in the great to legendary category that is putting out even twelve books a year total let alone on a single title. Not too many that I can think of. That is why Bendis was so keen on selling Mark Bagley as a decent cartoonist. Just having the consistent name on the book for any amount of time brought recognition and he didn’t have to carry all of the weight himself.

    While guys like Quitely and Williams III are doing what like 6 books a year tops?

    And the market has shown that the most important secret to snagging the fanboy dollar is “MORE!” not quality.

  15. Haven’t heard the ‘cast yet, but thought I’d share this:

    http://alt3redegos.com/?powerpress_pinw=3499-podcast

    Steve Englehart giving a VERY detailed interview about his career in comics. Some fascinating stuff about his Batman run and the Ultraverse.

  16. Awesome again, M n’ S at 4. I put that THANOS page promiantly on my Facebook page as soon as I saw it.

    I haven’t listened to the podcast yet. I’m about to start, so I’m assuming DJ_Convoy is on topic in post 7.

    I cracked on Bendis in the middle on an issue of Ultimate Spider Man.

    I remember two pages in the #70’s… I think… where the reporter character was bit by a vampire, so Spiderman brouGht him to a hospital. He spent two pages arguing with the doctor whether to treat him or not in repeats and sentence fragments, and I quit right at that page, never to finish the issue.

    He’s got a vampire bite!
    A wha
    A vampire bite! You have to t
    I can’t just
    You just take the thing and
    Did you say a
    I SAID A VAMPIRE
    B LOOK JUST JUST jUST JUST
    You took him into here You took him into a
    Look just give him a
    What did you say
    I said he has a vampire
    Why did you
    He has to be
    I can’t just
    Give him a
    What did you say he
    HE HAS A VAMPIRE B JUST INJECT HIM WITH THE THING THAT
    A what?

    I exhaled. Put down the comic. And I knew.

  17. Why do people say Bendis is weak everywhere else but strong on dialogue?

    He’s strong on dialogue? THAT’S HIS STRONG POINT?

  18. I have to clarify something because I feel you guys were creditting Abnett & Lanning in place of the guys who started that whole shebang.

    Annihilation the 2006 one was really the thing that jump started the whole cosmic line and that was heavily organized by Giffen. Not to mention Giffen also wrote the original ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Star-Lord tie in to Annihilation: Conquest and personally I feel that Abnett & Lanning’s stuff lost steam so quickly after they were really put in charge of running it that I feel the original Annihilation is where the credit should go.

    Also to totally back MnS’s point about writers/artists I can’t name an artist for any of those books, not a single one. Totally a problem that you don’t notice the significance of until it comes to bite you in the ass. Also I think Gaiman was a huge part of the culture of the writer Vertigo I think for all the good it did largely contributed to that more than people want to admit.

  19. Zory, you’re gonna pull a muscle getting so excited. And honestly, no one says that. As I’ve said ’round here in the past, I like Mr. Bendis’s comics just fine, but even I can recognize his goofy, tic-filled dialogue is a weak point.

  20. @Zory – I laughed at that mock-Bendis dialogue. Actually, I’m pretty sure there were some two-page spreads in Powers that easily exceeds that in witless incoherence; Bendis is a hard guy to parody.

    I’ve always thought that Bendis’s success was the result of a combination of factors: (1) his relaunch of Avengers, which, while fundamentally destroying its soul, gave it a major commercial boost by turning it into the “here’s where all the famous characters are” book; (2) Marvel’s decision to turn just such a book into the linchpin of a neverending slew of company-wide crossover sludge, making him by default one of the most “important” writers at the company; (3) Marvel’s increasing corporate and editorial torpor, which has lead to the same handful of “Big Name” writers being handed project after project after project, regardless of their individual strengths and weaknesses, which has kept Bendis involved in “major event” type projects simply by dint of the fact that he has written previous “major event” type comics.

  21. Does anyone remember that Oni Press Color Special with Bendis and Oeming doing a Powers parody? There were a few pages of parody dialogue that could pass as regular Bendis dialogue now.

  22. Or, indeed, then. :)

  23. Just listened to the ‘cast. Another good one guys.

    Except… the hand-wringing about “creator’s rights” has gone from legit griping about the Kirby situation to what I think are absurd levels. I’m supposed to feel sorry for Jim Starlin now? Why, exactly? Because his name wasn’t on Avengers or he wasn’t called about Thanos appearing or something? Really guys?

    Starlin’s a modest talent who paid his dues and developed his chops doing modestly successful work for Marvel, including the creation of the modestly interesting character Thanos, which he used as a springboard for his own modestly successful creator-owned stuff. I have every reason to believe he’s done ok financially through all that, and I have no reason to believe anyone anywhere has gotten particularly wealthy (or lost big) on his stuff one way or another. Seems to me that while the comics industry may have screwed people over the years, Jim Starlin ain’t one of them – it seems to have done right by him, at least.

    So I hereby issue the following challenge to Jeff and Graeme (and, heck, the commenters too): Can we have just one podcast without ANY hand-wringing about whether so-and-so got enough credit for such-and-such, or adjudicating contract and IP rights disputes between people we don’t even know? I’ve got enough of that in my real life to not want to be bothered worrying about anyone else’s. Please? Just one?

  24. Chris Brown, I’m calling bullshit on that.

    First, Starlin was hardly a “modest talent” – go back and read that old Thanos and Warlock stuff, it’s some of the most visually inventive work Marvel was putting out at the time. And in terms of establishing Marvel’s cosmic characters and setting, his contributions are probably just under those of Kirby and Ditko.

    But the broader point is that when we talk about “creators’ rights,” we’re not just talking about the rights of the most famous creators, or the most beloved creators, or just whatever creators Chris Brown happens to give a shit about. There isn’t some magical arbitrary threshhold for caring about a worker getting fairly compensated for the product of his or her work. If Marvel makes a surprise billion-dollar blockbuster out of fucking Darkhawk, I want Mike Manley to see a piece of that, not because I love Darkhawk or because I love Mike Manley and weep bitter tears for his troubles, but because he did the fucking work and deserves to profit off that work more than some suit at Disney.

  25. Gee, moose, how did I know you’d be the first one to furiously disagree?

    The bottom line for me, moose, is this. I have no reason to believe that Starlin wasn’t ‘fairly compensated’ for his work. But I’m leaving the definition of ‘fair’ between him and the folks he dealt with at the time (back in the 70s). Unlike you, I don’t have my own definition of Cosmic Fairness with which everyone else must agree, or else they’re guilty of a crime. Starlin’s a grown-up and the folks at Marvel were grown-ups, they came to an agreement, and off they went. In contrast to something like the Kirby situation, I’ve never heard anyone say that Starlin’s the victim of a broken agreement, or a contract dispute, or anything like that.

    Now look, I’ve read all your tedious, low-rent, arrogant, pseudo-Marxist crap over the past few weeks, so I get where you’re coming from. I don’t think we’ll come to an agreement because we’re coming from different places. I’m just getting bored with the whole topic. Again, with the exception of cases where there’s particular evidence that someone broke a particular agreement – unlike you, I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with ‘The System’ in this regard.

    By the way, I have read all the Starlin Captain Marvel/ Warlock stuff lately and I agree that it’s cool stuff. It’s actually right in the sweet spot of the kind of thing I like. But let’s not overstate its Cosmic Importance – it’s a niche of a niche of a niche of a creation. Good for Starlin, but ain’t nobody making a billion bucks off it.

  26. There isn’t some magical arbitrary threshhold for caring about a worker getting fairly compensated for the product of his or her work.

    Au contraire: It’s called “public domain” and it’s been artificially extended throughout the 20th century to “life of the author + 70″ in the US.

  27. Bendis probably bugs me more than any other writer, mainly because he controls so many books that would otherwise be automatic-pulls for me. John Romita Jr’s Avengers, for example, should have been my dream book, but I made it all of two issues before waking in a cold sweat; the writing is just toxic to me.

  28. “it’s a niche of a niche of a niche of a creation.”

    And yet it’s a niche that Marvel plans to build a multi-million-dollar sequel to a multi-million-dollar blockbuster around. And Starlin deserves a piece of that.

  29. @Chris Brown: “I have no reason to believe that Starlin wasn’t ‘fairly compensated’ for his work. But I’m leaving the definition of ‘fair’ between him and the folks he dealt with at the time (back in the 70s)… Starlin’s a grown-up and the folks at Marvel were grown-ups, they came to an agreement, and off they went.”

    Except, odds are, they didn’t. Smack dab in the middle of Starlin’s tenure at Marvel, these things were happening: (a) the 1976 Copyright act redefined many creator’s rights and corrected many assumptions about the nature of “work for hire”; (b) Steve Gerber engaged in a heated feud with Marvel about control over Howard the Duck and other characters; (c) the only real “contract” Marvel had with many (most?) creators was a legally dubious rubber stamp ON THE BACK OF THE CHECK for work accepted, paid for, and in some cases ALREADY PUBLISHED stating that the signee acknowledged it was work for hire (and some creators made a policy of crossing out this statement when they signed checks).

    Creators’ rights were a moving target, and a hallmark of this era is that creators and publishers frequently had different opinions about their rights, which were heightened by a shift in the laws.

  30. (Not that I know that Starlin was ever a major player in the creators’ rights battles… just context, is all.)

    Also, in terms of “pseudo-Marxist” rhetoric, I have to point out that most of the things people have been suggesting should be numbered among comic creators’ rights are things that WGA screenwriters have had for DECADES. (In fact, I’ve been hugely disappointed that, as Hollywood has turned increasingly to comics for content, and as WGA writers have been enlisted by the Big Two, and as comics publishers have increasingly become major subsidiaries of Hollywood studios — the Guild has remained silent about the inequitable practices towards comics-creators.)

  31. @Steve D:

    Fair enough. The pseudo-Marxist crack was directed specifically and only at moose. Just to be clear that I wasn’t trying to smear the board.

  32. If Marvel really wanted to screw with people now they’d go pay out a few million to Starlin and send the Kirby heirs some free tickets to The Avengers.

  33. Not that DC are heroes (obviously) but I read on The Beat somewhere a while ago that Len Wein gets paid more for co-creating Lucius Fox than for co-creating Wolverine, because DC/Warner gives some kind (probably not enough, who knows) of film royalties and Marvel/Disney is like “hahaha, whatever dudes!” (Except apparently for Cap, there was some kind of successful lawsuit there).

    Anyway, if the guys who think Before Watchmen is a great idea also think you should (or at least, might as well) pay the various creators for the films, then… that says something right?

  34. In case anybody had any doubts–Starlin got no compensation for Thanos’s appearance in the Avengers movie:

    http://www.comicsbeat.com/2012/05/24/jim-starlin-on-avengers-film-compensation-or-lack-thereof/

  35. Chris – There’s nothing pseudo about my Marxism, but nothing I’ve said on this thread has stemmed from any kind of radical set of politics – as Steve points out, the notion that an artist who creates a concept which goes on to make millions of dollars for a company should receive a portion of those profits is backed by some fairly conventional capitalist institutions. And this particular conversation didn’t start with any dastardly commie agitation on my part – it started with you saying that people shouldn’t apply the exact same standards to Jim Starlin and the characters he created at Marvel that they apply to Jack Kirby, Jerry Robinson, Siegel and Shuster, and pretty much everyone else when these creators’ rights discussions come up, because he was merely a “modest talent”, or perhaps because he isn’t living in the Dickensian levels of poverty that would allow him to claim that his dealings with Marvel were unfair.

    And it doesn’t work that way. You don’t have to have a particular affection for Howard the Duck to think that Steve Gerber got fucked over, for example, nor would one have to make a case that Don Heck or his family were living in some kind of dire squalor to argue that his heirs should make some kind of money off the success of Iron Man. In a just world, artists should get fairly compensated for the art they create. That goes for all artists – not just the “legit griping over the Kirby situation” but everyone. And you don’t have to be a communist to believe that.

  36. Actually, there’s a very strong pro-capitalist argument for compensating creators for the later success of the characters they create: it encourages creators to create new characters which can they be made into movies, toys, etc. As it stands now, because of the treatment of creators like Kirby, comics creators are less likely to introduce new concepts through DC and Marvel and instead publishing those concepts through Image and the like. That’s inevitably better for those creators–Kirkman benefits from owning the Walking Dead, clearly–but the big two lose out. Because the cost of offering some kind of royalty payment/creator participation deal might be that you might only get 19 new Darkhawks, but one new Wolverine that can make your company lots of money. The current system doesn’t favor that happening.

  37. It might be interesting to discuss creators who use a previous work and construct something new, only to run up against corporate or creator ownership (even more confusingly when those are two separate things) of the prior work. Such things as Negativland’s U2, Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, the Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony, and many episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 all relied on work that the creators/owners then fought the adaption or recreation of. Who is the hero in this case?

  38. Moose, for the third time, all I’m saying is that someone isn’t being ‘screwed’ if both parties are abiding by the terms of an agreement freely entered into. I have no reason to believe that Starlin is being ‘screwed’ by this standard, even if he isn’t getting one thin dime for Thanos’ Avengers appearance (which I was assuming was the case, Marc). If that was part of the original agreement, then it’s ‘fair’.

    The difference between Starlin and Kirby has nothing to do with whether I like one or the other. The difference, as I’ve already stated, is that in one case we have reason to believe that someone has violated an agreement, and in another case we don’t. But the presumption on this board always seems to be that creators are ‘screwed’ if they don’t get what we think they ought to have gotten, knowing nothing about what was actually agreed to by both parties. Again, in some cases we DO have particular facts, and then we can argue those cases. Starlin wasn’t one of them.

  39. Moose, I’m gonna call BS on this:

    ““it’s a niche of a niche of a niche of a creation.”

    And yet it’s a niche that Marvel plans to build a multi-million-dollar sequel to a multi-million-dollar blockbuster around. And Starlin deserves a piece of that.”

    Multi-billion-dollar, sir. By the time it’s done with box office, licensing, cable and DVD/Blu-Ray/3D Blu-Ray…multi-BILLION-dollar…

    ;)

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