Wait, What? Ep. 91: Trip

Jeff Lester

Post1

Okay, super-super short here as I am in the process of, even now, packing and panicking like a full-fledged fool in preparation for the upcoming vacation to Portland. (And, yes, if it is not a waffle-filled one, I will be very, very pissed.)

We actually talk a little bit about that in this episode so I won’t bore you with it now.  Instead, I will bore you with a fast list of the things Graeme and I talk about in good ol’ ep. 91:  a long discussion about Casanova 3.4; Zaucer of Zilk by Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing; Matt Howarth, Lou Stathis, and Those Annoying Post Bros. (from which the above image has been lovingly nicked); why the song remains the same; copied characters, satire, and analogues; the point of a first issue in modern comics; Spider-Men #1; that old Parker luck and the Spider-Man movie franchise; the evolution of Marvel’s edgier heroes; Saga #4, Avengers Vs. X-Men, and more!

It’s….probably on iTunes?  In fact, hell, let’s just go ahead and say yeah sure it’s definitely on iTunes.  But let’s also make an amazing leap of faith and say that it is also right here, just below, and available for your listening pleasure:

Wait, What? Ep. 91: Trip

As always, we hope you enjoy and thanks for listening!

29 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 91: Trip ”

  1. Graeme I will answer your question about analogues, they have been happening as long as people have told stories and have been accepted as long as they are told well and utilized well. It extends much before comics and all the way through its life cycle.

    A Fistful of Dollars is an analogue to Yojimbo, they are both great films because of different things within them yet they are fundamentally the same basic core. I think there is a whole group of people who also believe a lot of the characters in Shakespeare’s plays are analogues to political figures at the time that he was taking shots at.

    Quality of story is more important than individuality of idea. That feels like it should be wrong yet it usually ends up being true.

  2. Re: limited scope of creativity

    I think its got less to do with limited room in the ideaspace (to borrow that wonderfully pointless term Graeme used) and more to do with just similar influences. Its only natural that similar ideas would spring up between Fraction and Hickman because they have a fairly significant overlap in their influences (if only from a sheer volume of work-related background-reading). Also the multiple universe versions of the same dude showed up in Chris Robinson’s run on Superman (in the Fortress of Solidarity) and also more recently in Joe Keating’s Hell Yeah. Also seemed to be happening in that Alan Moore relaunch issue of Supreme.

    Re: Analogues
    Following on from my previous point, given how much Marvel and DC writers know about superheroes the use of analogues only makes sense. You spend that long thinking about how Superman works then you’re going to want to do cooky stuff with him. As far as the acceptability, could it have anything to with the formation of Image comics in general? Granted most of the original Image properties arnt as transparent copies as the stuff we have today, it seems like it would be some sort of factor.

  3. I just wanted to point out that Hickman’s council of Reeds didn’t have anything to do with one of them trying to kill all the others, but there was a storyline during Defalco’s time on the Fantastic Four about an evil alternate universe Reed going to different dimensions trying to kill all the other Reeds. This was during the time when the normal Reed was thought to be dead.

  4. Wait, what? I actually re-played the first part of your conversation about Casanova to confirm that I correctly heard Jeff say that he’d paid money for the latest issue. But when I look at the indicia of my copy of said comic book, it clearly says: “Published monthy by MARVEL WORLDWIDE, INC., a subsidiary of MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT, LLC.” I guess the copyright to the actual material is still held by Fraction (I’m assuming that’s who Milkfed Criminal Masterminds is); is that why Casanova gets an exemption from the Marvel Boycott?

  5. When did it become a trope, as far as creating copies of a “type” of character? Alan Moore’s Supreme.

    A.M.’s Supreme was very specific in how it recreated a Silver Age comic as a way to discuss current comics. Many people liked the Silver Age reboot of Supreme as a commentary to the current Superman comics that were very continuity-bound. This seemed to open up this type of storytelling to Wildstorm comics specifically, where Alan Moore took ABC but also where it seems like Ellis and others liked that trope. Planetary is all about commenting on the genre of comics. This lead to a lot of others sort of doing this (like the writers of Monarchy or The Establishment) as well as DC putting together their own version of it (from Kelly’s What’s so Funny about Truth Justice and the American Way and JLElite to the Superman comics that split into different time periods).

    I think that’s when it become interesting…when people saw Alan Moore take the Watchmen-style of reevaluating/revamping characters and positioned it in a specific continuity that was in its own universe, but also a commentary on the medium itself and did their own version of it.

  6. Graeme, there’s only one response you need to make to Brevoort:

    “I’ll take my voice out of my reviews when authors start taking their voices out of comics.”

  7. I’m pretty sure Watchmen went a long way to legitimizing the use of analogues in mainstream comics. That sounds snarkier than I intended.

    Marvel & DC used analogues of their own, and each others properties prior to that. But those stories tended to be novelties.

  8. YES! LIVE FROM THE WAFFLE WINDOW!

    Re: analogues – I think the appropriate use of analogues is basically to do something with them that (1) can’t be done anymore with the actual characters, and (2) hasn’t been done already to death, and (3) above all, is something interesting. More than, say, Ellis’s Apollo, I think of Ellis’s The High here – an analogue for the Golden Age Superman, or what the Golden Age Superman might have become if he kept being an activist/populist crusader well through the sixties and into modern times. That was an interesting use of the character that allowed the writer to comment on the history of Superman and superhero comics in general, and on their evolution from rougher but more political figures to well-polished but fairly apolitical corporate icons. Or Moore’s Supreme, which allowed Moore to play with Superman’s history in an entirely different way, but still a way that you’d never be able to do at that point with the actual character.

    I’m actually fairly bored with Moore’s use of analogues in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which at this point seems utterly uninterested in doing or saying anything interesting with these various fictional characters, but instead just functions as very well-illustrated fan fiction, taking a bunch of Moore’s favorite action figures and smashing them into each other while he makes “ka-pew, ka-pew” noises.

  9. As far as when and why analogues became so common – or, let’s face it, overused – I think that’s a result of the development and subsequent ossification of the direct market, where we’ve gone from having a flow of comic book readers who’d age in and out of comics and be replaced by younger readers, to having a largely insular and static mass of aging comic book readers (and creators) who are increasingly obsessed with comic books as a subject in and of itself, to the extent where we have writers who have built entire careers not only on commenting on the works of other writers in their comics, but commenting on the commentary of other writers in their comics. In such an environment, creators are bound to increasingly use (and abuse) analogues in order to comment on other stories, since more stories are being written about other stories than ever before.

  10. Re: The latest developments in Avengers vs X-Men. Is Marvel really betting that no on remembers The Asgardian Wars?

  11. “I’ll take my voice out of my reviews when authors start taking their voices out of comics.”

    Careful – he might take you up on that.

  12. As far as Casanova goes, I at least half-agree with Graeme. Since book two at least, I’ve appreciated the comic, but largely at an emotional remove (with some notable exceptions, which I’ll get to). The thing that derailed the comic emotionally for me was when Fraction removed Casanova from the book for volume two,* leaving only the supporting cast to carry the title. The problem was that every character other than Casanova himself was (hell, still is) so thinly drawn, I always needed Cass’s presence to ground them, to give me a reason to care about them. I care about Cass’s dad to the extent that I care about Cass; I care about Cass’s sister to the extent that I care about Cass; by the time we get to characters like Kaito – the kid living in the giant mech in the last issue of volume one, who I’m supposed to accept as an acceptable replacement protagonist at the start of volume two – things are getting really damn thin on the ground, character-wise. That the entire emotional climax of Gula – and much of the motivation for the supporting cast in Avaritia – hinges on the decisions and the fates of characters I can’t plausibly be expected to care about, the book feels like it’s missing its heart. I can admire it for its ambition and for its craft – and for its art, because, let’s face it, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon are fucking amazing, and are the real reason this comic is as adored as it is (insert here my usual complaints about the cult of the writer) – but I can’t make a long-lasting emotional connection to it.

    The thing that always got me is that apparently Fraction decided to pull the whole “the protagonist is missing” trick in volume two because he liked what Brubaker was doing with Captain America, which kind of misses entirely why that trick works – because the removal of a main character only works after an audience has had years and years of exposure to that character, to acclimate to them to their presence, to grow emotionally connected and invested in them and their world, so that their absence is keenly felt. Fraction tried to pull that trick off in Casanova in the equivalent of its fifth issue – way, way too soon for it to do anything but leave his readers standing around with the cast of thinly-drawn caricatures that is Casanova’s supporting cast.

    I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here by saying Fraction is more interested in ideas (or “ideas,” in the Morrisonian sense) than he is in characters. That’s not to say that he can’t produce good character work, or that parts of Casanova – even post-Gula Casanova – don’t connect with me. For example – and here’s where I disagree with Graeme (and Jeff I think) – the part of this latest volume that I connected with the most were the first two issues, even, maybe especially, the first issue, which Jeff (I think) called nihilistic, and Graeme said “came from pain and had nothing to say about pain” (or words to that effect). See, to me, that whole extended sequence with Casanova glumly and woodenly murdering whole universes (and then just Young Newman Xeno) over and over again – hit me in a way that nothing in the book – or for that matter, nothing Fraction’s ever had his name on – has ever been able to before. I think anyone who has ever hated their job, especially a job which leaves you morally compromised, or leaves you with the regular and unmistakable reminder that you are deeply entwined within and dependent upon a corrupt and morally compromised system, can relate to the current of frustrated rage and misery that runs throughout that sequence, and then delight at Casanova’s refusal to rebel against that system, and at the form that rebellion takes (essentially, a refusal to keep doing evil shit for his bosses). In the same way, I appreciated the recapitulation of that “multi-murder” sequence at the end of issue four, the sort of confirmation that the system inevitably eats its own.

    But like Graeme, I find most of the characters so wildly removed from any attempt to get me to care about them that I don’t think any reasonable person should expect me to treat them as anything more than character designs with word balloons attached. I mean, Sasa Lisi? That Lady Modok-like robot with the eyepatch? The villain with the bowl haircut? Even Luther Desmond Diamond, who this volume’s throughline depends on pretty heavily, is pretty much a total cipher – which is why that story kind of crashes with issue three, once it stops being about Casanova’s rebellion against a shitty system and starts being about his relationship with this person we don’t know and don’t care about but are being asked to emotionally invest some kind of something in.

    *And yes, I know he was “actually there,” only in a form I didn’t care about.

  13. Excellently entertaining show as ever, lads. If JK Rowling complains about the Harry Potter figure in the new LoEG comic, Moore might claim that actually he was using an analogue of bespectacled, magical, owl-botherer Tim Hunter.

    Wasn’t there some Fantastic Four storyline in which Nathaniel Richards was killing other versions of himself? I’m so over This Sort of Thing.

    And so are the other Marts.

  14. On Spider-movies:
    I don’t think the new creative team for the Amazing Spider-man movie was a mistake, I think the only mistake in the movie is not pushing its indie hipster cred enough. Way too much of the marketing is covered with the abnormal Spider suit with the basketball textures or a “Dark Knight” style shadow and ominous tagline when all the movie poster needs say to sell this movie is “EMMA STONE. ANDREW GARFIELD. AND THE GUY WHAT DIRECTED 500 DAYS OF SUMMER”. If the poster said that instead of “unlearn what you have learnt about Spider-man from those other movies we’re going to now pretend don’t exist” then I’m pretty certain everyone living in the inner city area where I reside would get up from their soy lattes and wooden ear piercing to buy a ticket.
    Every hipster girl I know has gushed over being able to see Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield in a superhero film but not one of them has told me how excited they are to learn a new facet of Spider-man’s origin.

  15. Good point, Julian. This marketing plan…all the hyper cuts. It is literally so ramped up that it borders on parody. The best bits have been awkward Parker through and through.

  16. Except for Moore’s Supeme, I prefer analogue characters that riff on archetypes rather than those that have a 1:1 correspondence. Astro City works in part because it can play with different types of characters without having to say something about specific super-heroes owned by other companies. The Confessor and Altar Boy, for example resemble Batman and Robin but Altar Boy’s story is his own. It’s not Robin’s story told sideways. Kurt Busiek started with a dark hero & teen sidekick but t
    put the characters through a unique set of paces. Most other Batman and Robin analogues end up being either excuses to put Batman & Robin in stories published by companies other than DC or tired parodies.

  17. I almost hate to jump into the discussion regarding analogues and when it became acceptable, because it’s almost like shooting fish in a barrel. If one studies the history of mythological figures, analogues have been commonplace since antiquity, especially regarding critical cultural trans-formative mythological figures such as Jesus Christ, Mithra, Dionysus, Osiris, etc. They are all analogues.

    These mythological figures share many common traits such as: virgin birth; celebrating the birth of their god on the winter solstice, the 25th of December; purification through baptism; resurrection on the third day; cosmic rivalry between a God and Satan figure; turned water into wine; healed the sick; killed on a cross or tree; performed miracles; etc.

    To me, the distinction is that these mythological figures, while being analogues, are archetypes. Like Superman. Like Batman. Archetypes are often used in myths and storytelling across different cultures. In psychology, an archetype is a model of a person, personality, or behavior. Archetypes are supposed to have been present in folklore and literature for thousands of years, including prehistoric artwork.

    So to answer your question Graeme, analogues have been around since the beginning of recorded history. Some perspective is in order perhaps. In a lot of ways, comic books are nothing more than drawings on cave walls.

  18. I liked Casanova! I thought it was good.

  19. As a person who gets paid for his creativity, it sounds very cynical when I say “there’s no such thing as a true new creation — only past knowlegde mixed with new understanding presented in a new light.” Nothing sprouts full-formed from nothing. Never has. The Flash was an analogue of Mercury. Batman was an analogue of Zorro. DC revolutionized Hawkman by saying “He’s Indiana Jones with wings!!!” The Green Lantern Corps are superhero cops in space. Etc. No “new” ideas.

    I think the trend in analogues you’re reacting too involves using them without nuance or skill. Just telling the same old Batman story using a non-copyrighted name like Mouseman isn’t interesting and has no artistic merit. But using Mouseman to make the audience think differently about Batman? Or placing Mouseman in situations Batman could never be in? Those stories are interesting “creations.” The character high-concept is never anything more than a 2D sketch in the back of your gradeschool notebook. It’s what you do with it that’s important.

  20. @Robert G: Good point — and let’s not forget that the Romans pretty much imported Greek Mythology wholesale, changing only the names to protect their egos.

    In more recent vintage, though, “analogues” seem to simply be a fine shading at the intersection of “homage,” “parody” and “rip-off.”

    In its modern incarnation, it goes back AT LEAST to 1906 or so, when Maurice LeBlanc discovered that his master thief Arsene Lupin could “legally” cross paths with Sherlock Holmes through the simple expediency of some jumbled letters (Lupin’s nemesis became “Herlock Sholmes” after Conan Doyle threatened legal action).

    Of course, Holmes inspired legions of rip-offs, homages, parodies, and “analogues” — such as the long-running Solar Pons series (begun by August Derleth in the 1930s) featuring a detective clearly “analoguing” Holmes, but also referring to Sherlock as his rival and betraying clear hints of attempts to differentiate the character. Other characters, like long-running penny-dreadful hero Sexton Blake and Nayland Smith, of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series, were clearly modeled on Holmes.

    And there’s a reason that Alan Moore went to such great lengths to namedrop John Kendrick Bangs in PROMETHEA. The “Bangsian fantasy” tradition creates an arena (usually the afterlife) wherein famous historical, mythological and literary figures (sometimes “homages” to then-current characters) can rub shoulders in new adventures.

  21. @Dasbender: Indeed — lest we forget, many of Shakespeare’s plays appear to be “unauthorized” adaptations of stories that had appeared in earlier versions. The playwright achieving universal renown, while his sources and (in some cases) his competition’s “alternate” versions have fallen by the wayside — is a clear example of the teller improving on the well-worn tale.

  22. “Astro City works in part because it can play with different types of characters without having to say something about specific super-heroes owned by other companies.”

    I hope the way The Dark Age fizzled doesn’t put people off Astro City in the future. The bulk of the book’s run is absolutely outstanding because Busiek is playing by the rules real storytellers follow and makes sure the story can stand on its own merits independent of its commentary/analogue quality.

    Mike

  23. Attention Jeff & Graeme: I just wanted to make sure you were aware of this developing story at the rare intersection of comics fandom, taunting Dan Didio and, most importantly, WAFFLES.

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/06/27/sending-waffles-to-dan-didio-in-support-of-stephanie-brown/

  24. Jeff, in #90 it sounded like your wife had given you the New Yorker article a month or so back by Larissa Macfarquhar, “When Giants Fail”? The economic theories of Clayton Christenson it described seemed to have some relevance to the comics world.

    If you (and Graeme) read it i’d be interested in hearing how you would the basic ideas to comics.

  25. This has probably been asked before, but would you consider putting timestaps for the different topics in your descriptions? The podcast is a little long for me to listen to straight-through, and when I try to skip ahead to topics I want to hear, it can be difficult to locate them. (Your speaking styles can be a little ambiguous, making it difficult to figure out what you’re talking about if you didn’t hear the introduction of the topic.)

  26. As someone who likes to blame Warren Ellis for Everything That Is Wrong With Superhero Comics, I would say, yeah, the Authority is where ripoffs became acceptable, although in his defense, I don’t think he intended them initially to be anything more than a one-off joke.

  27. Has anybody mentioned Superduperman yet? If not: Superduperman.

  28. @Coyle: Seriously? By the time The Authority had come out, many of the other Image partners had made their bones by actively creating “extreme” versions of popular characters. Liefeld’s Supreme (psychopathic Superman), Glory (half-demonic Wonder Woman), Larsen’s SuperPatriot (grim-’n-gritty Capt. America), etc. (And all of the above are far more obvious riffs on the originals than ANY of the Authority characters — Apollo and Midnighter were famously recognized as Superman & Batman as a “gay couple,” but they were very different characters in many other respects (including behavior & origin). Okay, in PLANETARY, Ellis used far more obvious “analogs” of characters like Doc Savage, John Constantine, Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, etc. but cross-universe satire/meta-commentary was half of the point of PLANETARY.)

    Besides, Marvel and DC had been playing this game for years. The Squadron Supreme started off as a Marvel U. alternate Earth satire of the JLA. Marvel’s Invaders had faced a World War II era super-team called the Crusaders, clearly modeled on DC’s Freedom Fighters; while the Freedom Fighters were fighting a team called the Crusaders, clearly modeled on The Invaders.

    And there were also plenty of cases of “in-universe” analogs — like when Roy Thomas felt compelled to create 1940s analogs of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. in THE YOUNG ALL-STARS, to replace the “Golden Age” versions of the characters that had been wiped from continuity.

  29. You guys have addressed some things I’ve felt with Fraction’s work since I first picked up a World’s Most Wanted trade and my only reaction was “I thought this would be stronger…”

    Could the souring on Cass have something to do with the format change? When it was a $1.99 slimline effort that was packing ideas (or if you like “ideas”) in like sardines in a can, I thought it was fantastic. When the price doubles-and-half-over-again and the intimacy of the backmatter (and despite the hand waving you guys mention as Fraction trying to control how people view his narrative, I always felt that those initial backmatter pieces were very intimate even if Fraction could only look at his work in one way) for something more formal, a lot of the scruffy appeal of Cassanova is lost.

    Maybe the youthfulness Graham is looking for isn’t just in himself but also in the writer of this series?

Leave a Reply


nine + = 14