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Wait, What? Episode 16.1: “Talk like a comic book.”

Jeff Lester

Hey, everyone.  Jeff here, and I bring with me a new episode of Wait, What?


Our schedule got a bit off-track, what with my time in New York and all, but we should (fingers crossed) be getting back into the rhythm of more episodes (and maybe slightly shorter ones? This one is a horse-choking 87 minutes, as it turns out) shortly. We hope.

But for now, sit back and listen to the masterly Graeme McMillan and myself talk Judge Dredd, Tucker Stone, and–at almost terrifying length–Matt Fraction.  You should be able to cop it on iTunes, or listen to it here:

Wait, What?, Ep. 16.1

As always, we appreciate your time and patronage and thank you for listening!

15 Responses to “ Wait, What? Episode 16.1: “Talk like a comic book.” ”

  1. Don’t you guys think that the real issue is the increasing corporate commodity structure of the big two’s product? Don’t Bendis, Fraction, and Brubaker all live in Portland or something. I can just imagine these guys going to marketing seminars where they are given “innovative tools” to hock their wares. Then they all hang out with one another in a very small community with little outside influence telling each other how great they are, counting their money and swapping “strategies”. Writers for the big two are sort of independent brands in and of themselves and I am sure they are encouraged to expand thier “brand presence in the market”. That is why they come across as shysters peddling themselves just as often as their work.

    It works too. If someone who has been away from Marvel for a few years hears “I am writing the best Thor run since Simonson” it might be empty rhetoric but I bet it raises interest more often than it rolls eyes. It grates on people who pay close attention to the industry because we are inundated by this on a regular basis but I’d say we are a really small portion of the market dollars. At the end of the day that is all the corporate structure is designed to care about.

    It is much different when creators are only doing it for the love of doing it, but once they get that regular pay check to worry about losing forget it, it is silk pajamas all the way down.

    I am not begrudging them a living, these guys deserve evertything they get but it does have a negative affect on the quality of their work.

    Mid-Ohio Con was this past weekend and diving into $.75 issues of Kirby’s The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, Machine Man…Really reminded me what I love about the medium. Comics should be throw away pop culture that is pure innovation and imagination because it has no baggage or expectation just for the love of it. Not precious commodities that need to stay the same so that John and Jane Doe recognize them on t.v. just to get at that Hollywood money.

  2. Totally off topic.

    Was anyone reading the Madame Xanadu Vertigo series? Not Matt Wagner’s best work or anything but I am just amazed that he and Vertigo are not getting more attention for showcasing so much fresh artistic talent. This has been, for the most part, a really exceptional looking book. I for one (the only one?) am sad to see it go.

  3. Guys, please, please do a podcast on the Mad Men season finale. Because the audience gets its shit fucked up from that episode, or at least I did. And I’m still not sure if it was a Jump the Shark moment or not.

  4. AL – I don’t think it was a Jump The Shark moment, but I think it came really, really close. It depends on what happens next season, but after some thought, I think it actually worked really well as a close for Don’s arc this season, and the way that he’s still telling himself stories about who he is (and can be). “Who is Don Draper?” was the first line of the season, and the point of the last episode was, “Whoever Dick Whitman thinks he is at that moment, apparently.”

    Jason – Read (and liked) the first trade, but haven’t kept up with it lately. Really looking forward to Amy’s Batwoman, though.

  5. I haven’t heard the podcast yet but the Mad Men season finale was genius. They ended their darkest season (arguably, last year) with a comedy, and they ended their funniest season (arguably, this year) with a tragedy! Every effort Draper makes to learns about himself over the year, he literally rips out of his notebook and throws away! It’s consistent with every single thing they’ve told us all along, but was still totally surprising and terribly sad to watch. It was like this solid hour of cringing.

    My favorite part was how he betrayed Peggy, in the end, which was extra terrible after the season’s best (series best?) episode, the Suitcase…

    Also, also– everyone who said Eastbound and Down wasn’t as good this year shouldn’t be allowed to watch TV. The last two episodes of this season especially were perfection– I’ll that finale over most of the “dramas” on TV. Plus, Wayne Kramer’s contributions on the music– the soundtrack that show has… Plus: I really loved how those two series ended up being essentially the SAME SERIES…!! In the future, all TV shows should be about the Great Weak Man’s Adventures in Avoiding Self-Knowledge…

  6. – I hadn’t heard Fractions comments about critics before – that’s a really silly thing to say, and reflects poorly on him.
    I’m glad I wasn’t the only utterly confused by that villain popping up to fight Maria Hill in Iron Man… that was so pointless and unexplained that it really knocked the legs out of the build up the arc was going for.
    Even if it was set up for an issue to come, it was still poorly conceived – even set up should still make sense in the issue it happens.
    I quite liked his first Iron Man arc, and liked the idea for the second, it’s just it went for waaay too long and – I’m surprised Jeff didn’t mention this – ended on a cliffhanger.
    a cliffhanger, which I assume led into Siege.

    The over-hyping comments from pros doesn’t bother me so much about books coming out – they are trying to sell them – it’s the lack of genuine reflection after a book has been out that bugs me.
    Joe Q still defends One More Day, not just for what it did in resetting the character, but as a good story in and of itself.
    Years after it happened, to launch OMIT, he was still defending it and talking it up.
    At this point, what’s to be lost by just admitting ‘it wasn’t great, but it did what we wanted, so we’re moving on’.

    Jumping to DC, they also seem unwilling to learn, or admit to learning, the mistakes from some of their more editorially driven storytelling – I’ve not seen them ever admit to ballsing Countdown, or the New Krypton story arc.

    Heck, they fired Dwayne McDuffie for daring to say, over the course of years, that JLA was getting dicked around by a constantly changing roster decided on by editorial.
    Their solution was to replace him with James Robinson, who had his roster constantly changing – three different teams in six issues.
    McDuffie was actually writing good stories, the only problem being every few issues he had to stop to change rosters due to events – so it’s not like he revealed anything you couldn’t clearly see for yourself – so it seems DC fired someone for mentioning a problem, got a new person in the role, and did absolutely nothing to fix the problem.
    Heck, if anything, it got worse – at least McDuffie got a small grace period to tell a couple of stories before crossovers took over (and quite frankly, wrote much better stories than any other writer since this JLA series launched).
    Robinson launched with a three issue crossover, then had a story about forming a new team, and then the team disbands mostly off panel.
    And yet they still try and sell the trade like it’s the start of a new era!

    And don’t even get me started again on the oddness of JT Krul writing truly terrible comics, critically reviled and not setting the sales charts on fire, yet being rewarded for it with new titles and a contract.

    Yup, it’s the lack of reflection from pro’s/companies that bums me more than pre-release hype.

  7. Graeme/Abhay: That finale totally made me stop seeing Don as a flawed but sympathetic character and as a villain instead, which kind of pissed me off a little. After thinking about it for a few days, I realized that was the intention, so mission accomplished, I guess?

    So I had to recalibrate and will now enjoy the series watching Don completely fuck his life over by utterly destroying everybody who dares to enter his orbit.

  8. Listening to this– had to pause when you brought up that Dave Eggers piece in hour 3 of talking about Iron Man. Because in some ways, it’s a terrific piece, and Eggers really states his case vigorously. But… It’s definitely a piece that… It hasn’t held up for me much over the years.

    There’s merit to so much of it– saying yes to things, doing things for yourself being more important than trying to “look cool”, the perils of trying to look cool, regret, etc. The “keep it real” question that starts his rant was obnoxious and … I actually believe there is such a thing as “selling out”, but it took me a LONG time to figure out for myself what that was because that’s just a term that’s been ruined and crapped on by, like, adolescents like the one that asked that question.

    And I like Eggers the writer, and I certainly admire the various institutions Eggers has created. I admire the hell out of the guy, really. But at the end, he kind of loses it and it turns into Eggers– critic of CRITICS– is just… Oh, it’s just the worst.

    Like, “don’t dismiss a movie until you’ve tried to make a movie!” It’s so hopelessly classist, in a way that I didn’t understand when I first read it. It essentially makes the only valid criticism that from other rich artists. “Only famous people can judge me because they’ve walked in my shoes.” It robs everyone else of having a voice. It’s a celebration of celebrity over ideas. And it’s completely anti- everything that’s great about art. It’s a celebration of star-fucking.

    He’s so passionate in those last couple moments, but so oblivious to how… You know, any great critical pronouncement from a 20 year old– of course it’s going to be full of crap. It’s from a 20 year old! But that’s an important part of BEING 20. Nobody goes straight from 5 to 30 (outside of Big or that one Jennifer Garner movie). And there are some lessons you don’t learn without making the mistakes…

    So… That’s my rant about that Eggers piece. Which I really do love as much as I hate. But I guess, with that one (even worse) Vendela Vida anti-James-Woods piece lead ultimately to the Believer, which is a pleasant enough magazine so…

    Sorry. Also, yes, Mad Men: Don is absolutely going to destroy everyone who comes near him. But to me, he’s still sympathetic. Even if he’s failing, he sure does TRY. I don’t know that “villain” is the right word, like, epistomologicaly for that show, though. But I don’t even know what epistomologicaly means or how to spell that so…

  9. One minor benefit to the art on Iron Man (and I think the bulk of the credit goes to the colorist) is that the humans really are just unsettling piles of flesh. It sells Stark’s cybernetic posthumanism way more than the writing does by making humanity look so unappealing.

  10. Graeme – Reeder/Friend have been amazing but the most recent arc “Extra Sensory” has featured a different artist (doing the complete art) each issue. There is really only one weaker link and the contrast in styles has been a real treat. Check out the interiors on recent issues next time you pop in a LCS.

    With the loss of this and even worse Unknown Soldier this is a real bummer couple of months.

    But, as you say we still have Batwoman to look forward to.

  11. I just wanted to compliment you on this particular podcast. A great listen and a really intelligent discussion that will keep me thinking for several days.

    One thing I wonder about Fraction and Casanova is that the book had a tighter narrative structure than his Marvel work. Casanova was not something originally written to go on in perpetuity and was done in the “slimline” 16-page format. On the other hand, his Marvel stuff can’t have a definitive ending since these properties are (theoretically) going to outlive all of us and he has much more freedom to let stories stretch on for way more than 16 pages. I just wonder if maybe having more strictures placed on his writing again would help him to turn out a more focused and engaging work. Of course, his stuff sells like crazy, so it’s not like he *needs* to worry about that sort of thing.

    It seems to me, the major problem with a lot of these big-name creators, from an artistic standpoint, is that they don’t seem to evolve mainly because they don’t have to. Everyone tells them what they’re doing is the best work of their career, fans show up to conventions just to hear them speak, and they keep getting more work. There’s no one stepping back and saying, “you know, this kinda sounds like something you’ve written before. Don’t you have anything new to say?”. They just keep repeating themselves artistically, rearranging the surface elements (characters, plot devices, etc.) but not actually showing any new insights to life. I mean, maybe that’s a bit much for a genre where most stories end with one guy punching/zapping another guy into submission. But if these guys are going to open the door to that sort of interpretation of their work they should understand that they will be critiqued accordingly (and perhaps savagely). Well, except for Morrison who seems to have transcended all of this.

    By the way, the hour and a half length was fine for me as I listen to this on my 45 minute drive to and from work. Personally, I’d rather you guys kept it free-form and didn’t have a definite end time. You got on a roll during this podcast and it would have been a shame if you’d stopped yourselves because you’d hit your hour time limit or whatever.

  12. Christ, Graeme. Your first reason to avoid doing comics is fine*, but the second is plain weak. WHAT WOULD JUDGE DREDD DO? Now, swap “take that perp down” for “do something”. The only real reason not to do something is that you don’t want to do something.

    Regarding the main thrust of the debate, I just had another look at issue 1 of Casanova’s icon run, as swore it was at least misrepresenting it a little. The quote you’re picking over:

    “Falling in love with art empowers its creation. There is far too much subtraction surrounding us. Snark and derision have consumed discourse; contempt is bred from the entitlement borne of access. Mockery and meh-menship are tolerated, somehow, and treated as being more valid than the purported abominations at which they are aimed.

    I am tired, I am exhausted, I am repelled by the subtractive. It is cheap and it is easy and it is so far beneath what we are capable of creating. Do not be cheap. Do not be easy. You diminish yourself; you diminish us all”.

    Strikes as worthwhile to have here, as your debate nails it *specifically* at critics/reviewers and there’s nowt that’s specifically about reviewers/critics. As such, I think you’re being a little over-defensive. In fact, that reading doesn’t even make much sense.

    There’s relatively few prominent snarky critics working in the mainstream part of the industry. They’re all relatively underground – I mean, Chris@Comics Alliance is the most prominent, but he’s far less barbed than someone like Abhay or – especially – Tucker. It seems to me – and I could be wrong – it’s about the primarily about discourse in the wider sense, of the conversation that surrounds us. Compare and contrast the comment threads at a major site with the reviews at a major site. Which one is consumed by snark, and as such, is the logical target for what Matt’s talking about.


    *I’d disagree. You face derision as a critic any time you put your heart on the line or say something you know your audience won’t like. You’ve never worried about putting out your opinion, man. Criticism is art too.

  13. […] Thought! Jeff Lester and Graeme McMillion$ delivered their best episode of Wait, What? with episode 16.1. Go listen, it’s […]

  14. […] like the Phantom Zone shout-out at least, which places him slightly ahead of Matt Fraction’s much vaguer letter column rant about the internet, which I’d rank as EH, but both obviously, way, way behind Dan Slott telling that one dude to […]

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