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May 21

House to Astonish Episode 155

Posted on Sunday, May 21, 2017 by Al in Podcast

We’ve been away for a little while longer than usual, but that just means that there’s plenty for us to gab about. We kick off by discussing the sad death of Rich Buckler, then talk a little about the extra issue recently granted to Secret Empire (as well as the execution of the story so far); the upcoming “Doomsday Clock” story (as well as “The Button” and Watchmen more generally); the abrupt cancellation of Black Panther and the Crew and what it says about Marvel’s line overall; the announcements of Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa’s Mech Cadet Yu, Ted Naifeh’s Heroines and Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle; Scott Snyder’s last “proper Batman” story and Sony’s Venom movie. We’ve also got reviews of Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks and Generation X and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe shows three heads are not necessarily better than one (or none). All this plus Shogo Warriors, an evil interior decorator and a country that’s not doing an industry.

The podcast is here, or here on Mixcloud, or available via the embedded player below. Let us know what you think, in the comments, on Twitter, via email or on our Facebook fan page. And don’t forget, you can buy our terrific tees at our Redbubble store. You’ll look amazing.

Bring on the comments

  1. Martin Smith says:

    I agree about FF. I like the rough, early silver age issues of most Marvel titles (for their quirkiness and the academic intrigue of seeing Lee, Kirby, Leiber et al work out the concepts on the page) but FF’s early ones are less interesting than the really odd ones and it doesn’t get properly good until at least the mid-20s or so, when Kirby really goes for it.
    I read them for the first time in Masterworks volumes and I nearly bailed after the second and only picked up the third cos I saw it cheap. Glad I did.

    The Road Runner-esque concept for the Terrible Trio was used for the surprisingly fun Tangent Comics Flash (well, the first one-shot was fun. The second managed to ruin it, as all the second wave Tangent one-shots did), as Liane’s father continually tried to capture/kill her while she went along, seemingly oblivious to his schemes.

  2. Suzene says:

    Hindsight is supposed to be hapa, according to Strain. So yeah, he is Asian. And Jono’s going to mostly pop up as Jubilee’s confidant. So… a regular, but not really a major part of the book.

    I was half-considering picking up GenX, but I realized I’d mostly be doing it just to get momentary glimpses of the characters I still care about. And I think I’d be happier just buying a full book from another publisher that I’ll actually like.

  3. Will Cooling says:

    I’m surprised how much I like the DC/Watchmen crossover. Maybe its because my stepson’s love of The Flash tv show has really got me into that character, but I thought The Button was quite well done. I think Al/Paul did Flash 22 a disservice – it did include the return of Jay Garrick which is a fairly important plot point – and further hinted that it really is Manhattan behind the scenes. I like the way DC is bleeding its super-narrative into individual episodes in a very methodical way – actually reminds me a lot of Claremont’s X-Men.

    Also the brief discussion about Claremont makes me ask – is there any chance we could have a special where Al and Paul talk in detail about the X-Men? I’d be fascinated to know both’s thoughts about the concept – its strengths & weaknesses, the series highpoints and lowpoints, and what they would do with it in the future

  4. mark coale says:

    All this Asbestos talk and no mention of Asbestos Lady? 🙁

    My Doomsday Clock joke: imagine Superman’s face after Dr Manhattan regenerates the arm Supes has just ripped off.

  5. Voord 99 says:

    Early Fantastic Four:

    Hmm. I’m going to speak in a qualified way for the “Al Kennedy should be sent to the reeducation camps” position.

    OK, it doesn’t read that well. And it’s short on the “Mind-Blowing Epic” stuff that was going to come in what we *think* of as Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four. We’re very much in a world in which superhero menaces are small-scale. It’s the comic in which Doctor Doom is introduced, and the first thing that he does is – umm – use time-travel to try to get hold of Blackbeard’s gold.

    But I think you can detect the comic feeling its way towards what it will be. There are, after all, a bunch of things introduced early on that will be mainstays (as well as things like the Terrible Trio…). There are some great Kirby panels, and in some ways the roughness of Ayers’s inking is refreshing compared to how slick it will look when Sinnott really gets going.

    But I think the best way to understand the impact that it made at the time is to contrast it with what DC superheroes looked and felt like at that time.

    To take something that is considered a “classic,” Superman #149, “The Death of Superman” – there’s a lot that’s good about it as an exploration of the character, but it’s curiously short on drama in how it’s presented compared to what should be much less dramatic things that happen in the early FF issues. And it does that thing that DC did of proudly announcing that all-issue stories were “three-part novels,” when Lee and Kirby produced those as a matter of routine.

  6. Joseph says:

    Does anyone believe that World of Wakanda or The Crew were ever anything other than limited series? I understand why they’re trying to build “the world of Wakanda” but that book didn’t really work for me. The Crew, on the other hand, has been much more interesting. We’re only two issues in, but as by focusing on Misty and Storm, back stateside, the book has a lot more potential for telling street level stories that one might argue are closer to Coates skill set than the sci-fi/fantasy of the main title.

  7. SanityOrMadness says:

    Scott Synder’s been on Batman for more than five years. He was on Detective Comics pre-N52.

    During which time, contrary to something you said, they’ve cycled out Batman TWICE. (replacing him with Dick & Gordon)

  8. Paul C says:

    The timing of those Black Panther cancellations is funny given Brian Hibbs recently wrote a really good article (link below) and used them as an example of how Marvel have been in quite a bit of a mess. It was basically what you guys said as well that Marvel just expect that folks will automatically buy a secondary or tertiary ongoing, when the opposite is near enough true in that it erodes sales on primary book.

    Adding an extra issue of Secret Empire is going to lead to the same problems as what has happened with their last big events – it will run late, they will start their relaunch anyways, and nobody will care about its conclusion. It’s just unforgivable really not to have this mapped and planned well in advance.

    Yeah I really love those early Fantastic Four issues, they’re quite silly of course but that is all part of their charm. You get nonsense like The Impossible Man, or The Infant Terrible which is really quite heart-warming, or the panels where The Thing wears a wig so that he can look like one of The Beatles, which is just ludicrous.

    I’m glad you mentioned that Jubilee is still a vampire as I often wonder from time to time if that is still a thing.

    Just on the Synder long tenure, how long has Slott been doing Spider-Man now, must be near a decade? What are people’s thoughts on him, did he burn out long ago and has there been a constant recycling of his stories?

  9. Taibak says:

    I’m another fan of early Fantastic Four. Yes, it gets a lot more epic when Galactus shows up, but the early issues are just… weird. I give a lot of credit to Kirby for this. There’s a kind of tension is his art that makes their world seem a little unsettling, as if you never know what sort of strange menace will appear next. The fact that the stories were grounded in a semi-realistic version of New York only added to that.

  10. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Agree with Al about the problems of Geoff Johns writing metafiction about darkness in comics. I mean, the Rebirth oneshot was basically the primary architect of the New 52 saying “Hey, have you noticed how grimdark the New 52 is? Bloody Alan Moore, eh?”

    I haven’t read the Terrible Trio issues, but was the hearing guy’s thing supposed to be that he could tell where Sue was? That … kind of makes sense, I guess.

  11. Damon says:

    It’s interesting thinking about Doomclock on a meta-level as you say. When Tom King appeared on the scene it was exciting to see someone taking the formal deconstruction of comics and applying them to superhero comics again. Alan Moore is definitely his main influence, which is weird when you think that the work he’s done in comics are things that Moore would say are creatively worthless and parasitic.

    (Watchmen spin-offs, Omega Men he knew “the characters very vaguely almost solely through Alan Moore’s interpretation of them”, even just the use of deconstruction and grid layouts is all Moore)

    What’s Tom King going to talk about if he ever met him? “Hi Alan, big fan, you might have heard of me, I’m the guy who made the Vision gritty and violent then did a bunch of projects leeching off your work. I owe my career to the work you’ve done, it’s a real honour”.

    But then again, isn’t his background CIA work in the Middle East? Taking orders and doing work that is morally objectionable is probably in the job description. Maybe DC should recruit more people from there.

  12. odessasteps says:

    As opposed to Alan Moore, who made his name revamping Marvelman, Swamp Thing, the Charlton characters, wrote pastiches involving Superman, Doc Savage, victorian literary characters and an arguably pornographic book using adult versions of famous literary young girls?

  13. jpw says:

    I love early FF. I’ll concede that it lacks the epicness of when Lee and Kirby really hit their stride, but c’mon! It’s so just goddamned wacky.

  14. Chris V says:

    I loved early Marvel, when it truly felt like anything could happen in the books.
    Just wild, crazy ideas being thrown out, to see what worked.
    Aliens, extra-dimensional beings, monsters….anyone and anything could show up at random in the Marvel Universe.

    Then, Lee had established a core of enemies for each character, and for a time, it seemed like every issue featured the hero versus one of a core cast of villains.

    Following that boring period, things picked up again, as (especially) Lee and Kirby’s imagination hit a peak point.

  15. Chris V says:

    I’d say Tom King’s work on the Vision owed more to Philip K. Dick than anything done by Alan Moore.
    Alan Moore is the creator and sole owner of the concept of deconstruction in fiction.
    Not everything is a direct copy of Moore’s work, even though Moore is associated with the style within the world of comics.

  16. Chris V says:

    Alan Moore is not* the creator….

  17. SanityOrMadness says:

    @Al & @Paul

    BTW, Tom King did NOT write the second Batman issue (third part) of The Button. Josh Williamson, the Flash writer, did.

  18. Voord 99 says:

    Chris V: I think that the chronology of the development works a little differently for at least some Lee/Kirby titles, including the FF.

    In the FF, you can see the drive towards recurring villains quite early – once both the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom have made their appearance in #4 and #5, they start coming back a lot. The FF enters its most significant period of “Wow! Anything could happen!” well after that, I think.

    More extremely, once Magneto makes his reappearance with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in (if I remember correctly) UXM #4, they are ridiculously recurrent for quite a while.

    In other words, recurring villains seem to be something that Lee and/or Kirby were looking for probably from the start, and if one seemed successful, the first impulse was to bring that villain back.

  19. Chris V says:

    Fair point.

    Yes, Magneto first appeared in issue #1. The Brotherhood first appeared in issue #4. Then, they were the villains in issues #5-7 also.

    It seems like there were quite a few one-off villains from that early period, who were just plain weird or goofy.
    It may be a case of Lee trying to find good recurring villains for the heroes to fight, and obviously that’s a difficult task, so he just went with throwaway villains in between, trying to come up with another winner.

    I just remember a period in FF where it seemed like they were fighting Dr. Doom constantly.
    The same was true of Thor and Loki.

  20. Brendan says:

    There is some pure gold in that early FF run. #2 is where the FF’s act of mercy of the invading Skrulls is to leave them permanently as cows. Or Doctor Doom inventing time travel to steal pirate gold. Or Reed and Ben breaking the fourth wall to tell readers to watch Foxy Boxing if they’re sick of Sue having a passive influence on the narrative. Actually, the less said about how Sue was portrayed in that early run, the better.

  21. Voord 99 says:

    Chris V: It may be a case of Lee trying to find good recurring villains for the heroes to fight, and obviously that’s a difficult task, so he just went with throwaway villains in between, trying to come up with another winner.

    I think that’s probably right. Except, without being too hard on Lee* and attributing everything to Kirby, I suspect that sometimes it may have been “Jack, come up with something for the FF to fight this week, will you? The kids are really into dragons – can you do something with a dragon in it?”

    *I’m really not. It’s easy to forget that managing and promoting the overall line in the way that Lee did took skill in itself, and Lee did it with enormous success, even if that success is inseparable from his self-promotion. And Stan Lee is unequivocally responsible for the creation of one enduring character, which is of course Stan Lee.

  22. odessasteps says:

    I wonder if the pattern of villains returning every 3-4 issues could be related to an examination of sales/reader feedback.

    FF fight Doom in May issue
    Marvel gets fan mail in June about Doom
    Sales figures maybe in July?

    Stan says “people like when they fight Doom. Lets do another Doom issue.”

    IIRC, that is kind of how DC did try-outs in Showcase. Why characters appeared every few months until they were deemed successful enough to get their own title (flash, gl, atom, etc)

  23. Emmanuel says:

    So you commented on Snyder leaving Batman, but what is your take on Snyder’s run ?

    I personally loved it (except All Star that I found only OK)

  24. SanityOrMadness says:

    > *I’m really not. It’s easy to forget that managing and promoting the overall line in the way that Lee did took skill in itself, and Lee did it with enormous success, even if that success is inseparable from his self-promotion. And Stan Lee is unequivocally responsible for the creation of one enduring character, which is of course Stan Lee.

    The thing about Stan’s influence is… well, look at the Silver Surfer for an example. True, Kirby inserted him into the story as a complete shock to Stan. But the *character* of the Silver Surfer – Norrin Radd, Zenn-La, etc – is almost entirely Stan. Jack intended him to be a robot-like wholesale creation of Galactus who had no other life.

    This is sometimes given as one of the reasons for Ditko quitting Spider-Man – Stan was scripting the stories in a way that changed things, such that Ditko didn’t like the results.

  25. Chris V says:

    I give more credit to Stan Lee than some people are willing to grant.
    It was a team effort. The genius of Kirby and Ditko was filtered through Stan Lee, to create one of the most imaginative worlds in literature.

    Sometimes a genius like Jack Kirby can be overwhelmed with their creations, and those wild ideas need someone like a Stan Lee to pare them down, and find the gold mixed in with all the frenzy.

    It’s why a lot of fans were hard on Kirby when he returned to Marvel and had full creative control. There were plenty of awe-inspiring ideas mixed in with those books (regardless of if you’re a fan or not*), but there wasn’t someone like Lee to get to the ore at the heart of the chaos.

    *I am a fan of Kirby’s 1970s Marvel work, overall.

  26. Omar Karindu says:

    In other words, recurring villains seem to be something that Lee and/or Kirby were looking for probably from the start, and if one seemed successful, the first impulse was to bring that villain back.

    It’s also a very Golden Age style of superhero storytelling; lots of villains in the 1940s made a bunch of appearances several issues in a row in otherwise unconnected stories, then they’d just vanish.

  27. Voord 99 says:

    On the Silver Surfer, it’s worth noting that Lee introduced all those character details in the Surfer’s own book, which of course was drawn by John Buscema, not Kirby.

    If you look at his original appearances in Fantastic Four, especially in the original Galactus story, the Surfer is not only compatible with Kirby’s intentions, but is written in a way which (at least to me) seems positively to reflect the idea that he’s Galactus’s creation rebelling against his creator. I suspect that quite a lot of the dialogue might be Kirby’s (he at least sometimes wrote suggested dialogue along with his pencils), and that he was exerting a lot of control over the stories. But we’ll never know for sure where the exact balance lay.

    The Ditko/Lee thing is extreme, of course, since by the end they apparently weren’t speaking. There are, I think, likely instances there where Lee’s dialogue is utterly rewriting Ditko’s intentions. I found it an interesting exercise to read the last issues of Ditko’s Spider-Man work (Peter Parker goes to college, meets Gwen Stacy, etc.) and try completely to ignore the word-ballons. If you do that, it seems to be telling a different story about how Gwen Stacy cannot help herself from being fascinated by this abrasive (look at how disgusted Peter looks with the protestors) isolated figure who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Very Ayn Rand.

  28. Brendan says:

    I was never sold on the ‘Norrin Radd’ backstory until I started reading Dan Abnett’s run on Silver Surfer. One of the consistently best books Marvel is putting out at the moment.

  29. Martin Smith says:

    Voord 99 – I’ll have to look at those issues again, I hadn’t thought of it like that. There are several moments in that run where Stan has clearly misunderstood what’s going on in art – one where the Green Goblin has stunned Spider-Man springs to mind, with Stan describing the obvious dazed effect as “tiny sparkling metal flakes” or some such. I can imagine that would get frustrating for an artist like Ditko.

  30. […] reviewed Generation X on the podcast a few weeks ago, but it turns out that the book is opening with a two-parter, so here we are […]

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