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Feb 5

House to Astonish Episode 152

Posted on Sunday, February 5, 2017 by Al in Podcast

Hot on the heels of our chat with Mike Quackenbush, we’re back with another regular House to Astonish, talking about the New York Times dropping its comics bestseller charts, the lack of an Image Expo in 2017, December’s sales estimates, the retirement of Bernie Wrightson, the relaunching of Rocket Raccoon, Valiant’s upcoming Secret Weapons miniseries and the casting of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger and Runaways TV series. We’ve also got reviews of Bullseye and The Spirit: The Corpse Makers, and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe is a poor workman. All this plus the re-dubbed American House to Astonish, Scott Lobdell killing and eating a homeless person and a potter in a Jacobean tragedy.

The podcast is here, or here on Mixcloud, or available via the embedded player below. Let us know what you think, either in the comments below, via Twitter, by email or on our Facebook fan page. And hey, it’s February, the month of love – and you know what else we love? How good the t-shirts from our Redbubble store look on you!

Bring on the comments

  1. Martin Smith says:

    I agree with Paul, that the base story concept of Captain America’s form of nationalism as potential prey for being subverted into Nazism is perfectly solid. And it being (unintentionally) even more topical makes it more valid. Cap being twistes into a Nazi is small potatoes compared to the fact that there are neo-nazis (sorry, “white nationalists”) in the actual real White House.

    Are all the Rocket Raccoon trades numbered 1? A quick look on Amazon shows Rocket Raccoon v0-2 and then Rocket Raccoon & Groot v1 onwards. Which at least distinguishes them from each other. Marvel were savvy enough to number a lot of pre-Secret Wars new launches that got curtailed and relaunched (like Howard the Duck and Spider-Gwen) as volume 0 in trade.

  2. Thomas says:

    Great show guys. A side comment you guys made is something I want to comment on. Marvel really need to start editing Bendis. I find all his books to be an aimless mess. I have this mental image of him sitting down to write hammering out 20 pages and being like let’s see three lines of snippy dialogue, good enough.

  3. mark coale says:

    I tried reading the civil war:oath book, but hydra taking over the country was too much for me, given current events. I really want no part of secret empire.

    Definitely agree more w Paul over the NYT thing, but i have taken their list with a grain of salt ever since they rigged the list to keep Howard Sterm from being #1 in the 90s. I found the whole debate being a lot of “my ox being gored”.

  4. Damien says:

    M.O.N.S.T.E.R. does appear in New Defenders 142 but only features one character who is great at playing the piano because he has 5 fingers and a thumb on each hand. Obviously it turns into a bigger thing in the novel Paul mentioned.

  5. The eureka moment that comes when Paul and Al collectively reach “Great Lakes Wrecking Crew” is wonderful.

  6. jpw says:

    Navigating Marvel’s back-catalogue has become impossible. It’s all volumes 1; Milk and Cheese has become reality.

  7. Carl says:

    The situation with Marvel’s direct market comic book sales is even more dire than you gents make out. Basically, any book that elicited an “Oh, those are unexpectedly strong sales” from you is because of free over-shipping, not actual demand from retailers. For stuff like Hawkeye #1 and Mosaic #3, Marvel, unhappy with the orders they were getting (despite the old tricks of variant cover shenanigans and extra discounts to pump up sales on new series), just doubled retailers’ orders to get more issues on the stands–and more units on the sales charts.

    I remember Marvel doing this in the past with the odd book like the Marvel Now Point One special or the Fraction Defenders #1, but now they’re apparently doing it all over the place.

    You can tell from the charts when this free over-shipping is going on by comparing the unit rank to the dollar rank. So while Hawkeye is ranked 16 in terms of units shipped (many of which weren’t ordered or paid for by retailers), it’s 48 by dollars, even though it carries Marvel’s standard high $3.99 cover price.

    Bleeding Cool has actually done a good job covering all this:
    https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/01/13/indepth-look-overships-distorted-marvel-comics-numbers-december-2016/

    Regarding the continued publication of low-selling series like Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur and Patsy Walker, the best explanation I’ve seen is that they are, or perhaps Marvel hopes them to soon become, big sellers in collection via Scholastic Book Fairs–that is, selling books to kids in schools, which doesn’t go through Diamond.

  8. […] Hey, we did a podcast, and it’s one post down!  Meanwhile, it’s Dua Lipa Week on the UK top 40. […]

  9. Si says:

    Aw, starting with a disagreement. I hate when Mum and Dad fight.

  10. Si says:

    By the way, I accidentally turned on the descriptive audio on an episode to Daredevil, and it was very good. Like a jaded Chicago private eye. I almost left it on.

  11. Joseph says:

    I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed Patsy Walker. I bet it’ll do well in trade, Brittney Williams is going to blow up. Basically everything Wil Moss edits is worthwhile.

    On the matter of the Times lists, apparently these things take a lot of energy to put together. So, fair enough. Someone should do it, but why the NY Times? I can understand why someone decided it would be a reasonable cost saving measure. That said, folding it into the main lists is a terrible solution. Comics aren’t a genre but a medium. So we might have sci-fi or superhero or noir or whatever novels, comics, films, etc that are linked by a genre or style, but they are different the same medium and would never appear on cross-media charts, so why should comics be on a list with prose just because they come printed on paper and bound between two boards? In this regard I agree with Al that it can’ help but seem like backtracking the progress that’s been made with ‘mainstream’ acceptance. Then again, reactionaries are rolling back so many other societal gains, why not comics too…

    As far as the back catalog goes, I haven’t had too much trouble with digital (comixology, marvel unlimited) as the years are included, which makes chronology very easy. This will be a problem in the book stores and libraries, but going forward I suspect that part of the business will shrink and shrink. Like the music business, I think a digital subcription model makes a ton of sense with comics. For those of us who have been reading these things as long as we can remember but are now semi-responsible adults with limited storage, accruing long boxes just isn’t practical. And younger readers are less and less likely to get hooked. Back to the media question: when comics were ephemera sold at the newstand it was a very different ball game. They were cheap because they were an impulse buy or aimed at kids or a general audience, and as such the stories had to be self-contained and without much if any continuity (Archie being the prime example). But as soon as they moved from the newstand to the LCBS, the market changed. Now they’re just way too expensive. It’s niche, it’s speciality, it’s not going to be what it was in the early/mid 20th century. The speculators boom of the 90s was the end of that. If the Big Two are going to cultivate a next gen of readers, digital subscription (and library trades) is the way to go, it seems to me.

    One thing I like so much about Panel Syndicate: they embrace the medium (the format of a laptop computer so no scrolling or post-production), digital colors look great, and it’s a Pay What You Want/Can model, which doesn’t exclude anyone based on a high barrier. Of course it took big names to make it work economically (the In Rainbows argument) &yet&yet…

  12. Chris says:

    We went Godwin’s Law with comment one.

    Zeus’s balls…

  13. Paul C says:

    I think it would be a bit of a nightmare to any casual comics fan to try and pick up the correct Volume 1 from over the last 10 or so years from Marvel. Especially if done by the same writer, for example Ed Brubaker on Captain America has at least 2 different Vol 1s.

    I’m glad that you touched on the sales charts and amazing the figures on some of those such as Uncanny X-Men being that low down. I miss the monthly sales analysis that Paul used to do way back when.

    I had a good chuckle at the ‘Great Lakes Wrecking Crew’. I sometimes turn on the Audio Description just for a chuckle, it’s particularly good for things like action shows.

    @Thomas: Bendis has needed reigning in for years now but he is one of their top sellers and has tons of tenure with Marvel so he is seemingly allowed to just do whatever he wants. His work on team books and ‘events’ is still really terrible. Plus the way he sets up plots and just drops them with no resolution as soon as he thinks up of something he reckons is better. I’m still annoyed there has never been any valid explanation of how Spider-Woman got her powers back when as shown in Secret Invasion it was the Skrull Queen that got operated on.

  14. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Godwin says “If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler when you talk about Trump. Or any other politician.”

    Right now, there are actual neo-Nazis in the White House. Trump probably isn’t one of them (the idea that Trump believes in any form of ideology is kind of weird), but saying you can’t call Bannon a Nazi because Godwin is depriving the word Nazi of all meaning just as much as using it to refer to anyone you disagree with.

    Anyway, comics! I can see where Al’s coming from on this one. On the other hand… I remember when this started, people were saying Simon and Kirby would be horrified, and someone tweeted a picture of Cap, clearly drawn by Kirby, with an actual swastika on his chest. I admit I don’t know what the full story there was, though. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl‘s Golden Age pastiche, meanwhile, suggested that back in the day, Cap was mind-controlled into being a Nazi every second Thursday and twice on Saturdays. It’s a parody, of course, but I trust Ryan North enough to assume it’s a parody of actual stories.

    Another interesting theory I read somewhere was that this was some kind of epic troll: “You have deep philosophical objections to Sam Wilson being Captain America? Fine, here’s Steve Rogers back just for you. And he’s a racist now, because I assume that’s what you want, right?”

    Talking of racism, how is Ebony White portrayed in this version of The Spirit?

    That got heavy, must end with a cheap gag: I remember when Moses Luton parted the seas in order to build a third-tier airport.

  15. Tomas says:

    Perhaps Cap being evil is the *only* Captain America story that makes any sense these days? What would you have him do instead, just working with the government as usual?

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