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May 5

House to Astonish Episode 163

Posted on Saturday, May 5, 2018 by Al in Podcast

We’ve been away for a long time, but House to Astonish is back for Free Comic Book Day, and we’ve got news of DC’s upcoming streaming service, DC dropping the digital codes on most of their $3.99 books, Man of Steel‘s returnability, Jeanine Schaefer joining BOOM! and John Barber rejoining IDW. We’ve also got reviews of Avengers and Coda, and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe has put a spell on you. All this plus Donut Showdown, an international crisps competition and what it’s like to eat an entire box of Weetabix.

The podcast is here or on Mixcloud here, or available via the embedded player below. Let us know what you think in the comments, on Twitter, via email or at our Facebook fan page. And remember that you can get our t-shirts at our Redbubble store, and that you’ll look great in them.

Bring on the comments

  1. Joe says:

    The Dark Sun setting for AD&D was high fantasy gone post-apocalyptic. Of course, there’s room for multiple takes on the same basic idea.

  2. Martin Smith says:

    The two month wait was worth it for Donut Showdown talk.

    I agree that the end of this Transformers era doesn’t seem particularly planned. The Visionaries mini (which is dreadful btw) ends just in time for the entire continuity to get wrapped up. What was the point in that?
    I’d like to see James Roberts write for Doctor Who in the future. The show, rather than the comics. Maybe after Chibnall’s gone though.

    I totally agree with what you’re saying about the Avengers team line-up. It’s like cutting cocaine in a way – you can get away with throwing most things in there (bar a few toxic choices) as long as there’s enough of the real thing present to mix it in with.

    There’s a story in McNee having the last page of the Darkhold – admittedly it’s that library book episode of Hancock’s Half Hour, but it’s a story.

  3. mark coale says:

    Pedant alert: the swamp thing cartoon had the wild thing theme, not the live action show with Mark Lindsay Chapman and Kari Wuhrer.

    I’m one of those folks happy to see an avengers with the old guard. I’m surprised there was no reference to the JLI version of the team (leather jacket wearing Black Knight, Sersei, …).

    Which traditional superhero concept does Paul hate more: Superman or the FF? 😉

  4. Brian says:

    My first thought on the book vs. digital debate: you guys have houses, ergo space for books. I got out of collecting comics specifically because I didn’t have space in an apartment for long boxes. In an era where many young people (or even middle-aged folks who missed the boat on buying homes because of when the financial and housing crisis hit in terms of their own careers) are in small apartments instead of houses, digital comics — even for fine products that would be better in a book — are the compromise to follow the form without having any space to store them.

  5. Al says:

    Brian: Our debate isn’t really digital vs physical – Paul in particular gets all of his comics digitally these days – it’s more about whether a digital code is an attractive thing for a person who has already decided that they’re going to buy a physical product.

    (And tbh, I don’t really have space for a lot either – I do still get most stuff physically, but it doesn’t spend long here before it goes to the charity shop, largely because there isn’t space to keep it. I totally appreciate where you’re coming from though.)

    Mark: It was the cartoon I was talking about – I didn’t even know about the older live-action series until just now, and having googled it, wow, that was a thing, huh?

  6. BobH says:

    I think Al misunderstands DC’s digital codes thing. It wasn’t the higher selling books that had codes, it was the lower selling ones. The high sellers remained, for the most part, at $2.99 and twice a month with no codes, the low sellers that were twice a month dropped to once a month, and they all went up to $3.99 with codes.

    Anyway, it was an experiment that DC tried for a year, and while there may be isolated complaints about it, they’re the ones with data about the redemption rates. Anecdotally, I know three people who buy a significant number of DC single issues, and none of them regularly used the codes, so I’m guessing the redemption rate wasn’t high.

    We know from when they offered combo packs with codes for $1 extra on their higher selling books that those only sold a small fraction (under 5%) of the regular editions on the rare times they even made the Diamond charts, and I think even those were more selling as variant editions than for the actual codes.

  7. Al says:

    I may have picked it up wrong, apologies if so!

  8. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Based on DC’s other prequel-tv-shows-named-after-locations, I would be amazed if Metropolis was Superman-free for long. Remember when the skinny Wayne kid was a minor character in Gotham? That lasted about a season and a half. And then it took another season and a half for him to put on a cape; even less time than Smallville‘s Clark. But as long as they don’t use the codename it’s still technically a prequel.

    Totally agree about gathering-of-the-team issues where the team isn’t gathered. I still get irritated thinking about the first issue of Geoff Johns’s Justice League (and the only issue I got, because Life’s Too Short), which gathers Batman and Green Lantern. That’s it. Oh, and then Superman appears on the last page.

    I agree with Al about the Avengers being a close-knit team, rather than the biggest characters (Bendis’s Avengers always reminded me of when Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spidey and Wolvie were the Fantastic Four, only not a joke), but I’m not so sure about the Justice League being different; I think it’s more that DC doesn’t really have non-JLA Big Names the way Marvel has non-Avengers ones.

  9. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Oops, HTML fail, sorry.

  10. mark coale says:

    To me, the difference used to be:

    Avengers: a discrete team where membership changed ever6 so often, when a person left of their own volition or a team line-up was mandated, by Gyrich or other reason.

    JLA: once a member, always a member. It just so happened that this issue features a,b,c and not p,d,q. And it was rare for someone (hawkman, Jonn) to quit.

    I think both had merits, so I liked the difference,

  11. PersonofCon says:

    Image had a series a year back had kind of the inverse premise of Coda: Elves and orcs and so forth invaded our world and brought about a post-apocalyptic state. It only made it 8 issues, which isn’t great, by Image standards. (By Marvel standards, that’s “it looks like there may be an audience but let’s cancel it to be safe.”)

  12. Alastair Binyon says:

    1. Al really should watch Taskmaster as early as possible eg.uktv play it really is the best thing on TV and the new series is shaping up well. Though you don’t notice the language level till you show it to a 7 year who wanted something like the button.

    2. Just read Mystic Arcarna on unlimited following the handbook entery I know it is the exact book you outlined an anthology of how bigger characters came in to contact with artifacts the Ian the used to tackle a big bad in back up stories

    3. Wolverine never felt like an avengers mainly because he was spread to thin and still an x-man you can’t be an avenger and on another team it never works (apart from the brief time she Hulk was crossing back over with FF but she was already an avenger stalwart). Spiderman fits the avengers but only for short runs he works well with the team has the smarts but is flakey and jokes to much the reservist status he had in the 80s was just the right level

  13. Brian says:

    I imagine that there’s some long-time reader who’s still upset about Cap’s Kooky Quartet, who reads our comments about Wolverine on the Avengers and goes, “See! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you about that carny thief Hawkeye for fifty-five years!”

  14. Thomas says:

    So I think I’m the person digital codes are for. I am a collector but prefer to read digital. I also get a discount from my retailer for preordering comics, it’s a tiered system and the more I buy the bigger the discount. Getting the physical copy satisfies the collector in me and the code gives me my preferred reading experience. Comics get bought redeemed and stored, no longer sitting in piles waiting for me to read. Now for smaller publisher or independent books I will buy a physical copy and usually a month later buy digital cheaper.
    I dropped all DC books at new 52 and when I started reading again at rebirth I went digital only.

  15. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Coda is alright, but reading it I couldn’t shake the feeling that Spurrier had already done a sort-of-post-apocaliptic-fantasy in The Spire and I much preferred that. But let’s see where it goes.

    By the way, The Spire also had the fading out lettering mentioned in the podcast, and since The Spire and Coda had different letterers, I’m now thinking it might be a Boom thing?

  16. Sol says:

    I went all-digital for comics a few years back, but for sure if print books had the real copy and digital copy together for the price of one, I’d be absolutely thrilled. While for some books I only get digital copies, for my favorites I want a hardcover. In those cases a digital copy would still be very handy, but I’m pretty resistant to paying $10 for a digital copy of a book I already own.

  17. Moo says:

    Well, the industry is going to abandon print comics altogether eventually. Possibily sooner than anyone anticipates.

  18. Si says:

    I bought Coda on the strength of the podcast, it’s good. I think it’s trying to have its cake and eat it a bit though, it’s still firmly high fantasy even if it mocks the D&D-style.

    By the way, Walt Simonson’s Ragnarok is a post-apocalypse fantasy comic. It’s good too, even if it does suffer slightly by tying itself firmly to Simonson’s Marvel Thor work. And before that of course there’s Dragonlance, set in a world where all the gods are gone and a giant meteor smashed the world. And well before that, Atlantis sank, and before that the gods flooded the world because they were sick of humans …

  19. El Bryanto says:

    I just recently reread the Mystic Arcana trade for reasons I have difficulty explaining – a good short for Magick – sort of – and the framing device artwork was pretty good. Oh the art for Nico Minoru was pretty good even if the story was not much. I was very irritated by the 5th issue – i.e. the Marvel Tarot – which printed stuff in weird fonts (strike #1) and then rotated the text so that it’s hard to read right on my kindle (strike #2). If you read only one comic book a year, there’s something terribly wrong with you. And don’t make it this.

  20. Brendan says:

    I’m very much in favour of an Avengers comic including all their ‘big gun’ (famous) characters. But unlike the JLA, the selling point would have to be how dysfunctional a group they are. It could only last 6-12 issues, with the central theme being what a terrible idea it is to have an Avengers team with Deadpool, Rocket Raccoon and a reformed Thanos.

  21. Chris says:

    A Marvel team comic with their big gun characters on a dysfunctional team?

    That’s the Defenders

  22. Brendan says:

    I don’t think you could ever accuse the Defenders membership of involving Marvel’s big guns.

  23. Moo says:

    So, Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Namor and the Silver Surfer are what, lightweights?

  24. Voord 99 says:

    In terms of Q-rating. The true power is celebrity.

    A while back, one of our hosts (Paul O’Brien) wrote something about the Avengers that I immediately thought was 100% true and stuck with me — that there basically isn’t a core concept there, except for “This is a superhero team book.” The Avengers are not (at their core) *about* anything, in the way that Spider-Man or . But because the Avengers have been around so long, what makes for a good Avengers story is that it’s about the history of the Avengers in some way.

    I’m paraphrasing, but that’s what I remember. It was (if I’m remembering correctly) not too long after Busiek’s run ended, and around the same time as Millar’s Ultimates was appearing, so you can see how it fit the moment.

    But I think it still holds good, and if you push the argument a little further, you can say that what the Avengers have come to be about is memory. Which makes them suitable to be the über-Marvel book, because an awful lot of what’s at stake in the MU now is about how to cope with the memory of the past: how to deal with the vast accretion of continuity, how to deal with the fact that the iconic characters, so self-consciously “modern” when they were created, now seem dated, how to introduce new characters successfully when they don’t have the force of nostalgia behind them.

    I think this is why Bendis’s conception of the Avengers seems so wrong to me when it starts, but (as a conception – there are very serious problems of execution) gets better over time. At the beginning, it’s saying “You know what the Avengers were when Lee and Kirby created them? All the big characters, in one book. Let’s do that again!” Which misses the point, which is that it’s the accumulation of stories since then that’s the Avengers, not Lee and Kirby’s Avengers #1.

    But that “wrongness” comes to be the point, part of the overall wrongness of the MU in the overall arc from Avengers Disassembled through Siege. There’s an awful lot of conflict in the period over the Avengers as a name (the post-Civil War split; the Dark Avengers). It adds up to a message that none of these guys are really the Avengers in the sense of having continuity with the pre-Disassembled past. Then the post-Siege moment, when the Avengers reintegrate is clearly meant to be “Now, these *are* the Avengers,” integrating Bendis’s new Avengers with the history of the old Avengers and healing the wound. I’m thinking especially of the moment when Hawkeye turns to Spider-Man and says “See! That’s what it’s like to be on the Avengers with Thor.”

    Again, serious failures of execution, particularly in Bendis’s tendency to throw characters in for whom he has no story. (Anyone remember that Storm was an Avenger for a while there?) But I think the overall conception is sound, and fits the Paul O’Brien thesis as being a story about the weight of the Avengers past.

    What I’m not sure of is how the Paul O’Brien thesis looks in the context of the behemoth in the room that’s around right now: the MCU.

    Does it enhance the connection of the Avengers in the comics with memory that there’s this huge other thing that’s about reenvisioning the Avengers and (for the Marvel comics fan, as distinct from the everyday normal cinemagoer) derives a lot of its interest from seeing how it redoes classic material from the comics?

    Or does the fact that the MCU Avengers *are* the Stan-and-Jack model of “Here’s all these heroes who appear in their own solo stories, and now you’re going to see them together!” fundamentally destabilize the “long” history of the Avengers in the comics and make it less compelling as a point of reference?

  25. Taibak says:

    The thing is, while I think Paul was onto something, I’m not sure that’s the whole story. I mean, if you ask a comics fan of, ahem, a certain age about the Avengers, they’ll probably start talking about the adventures of Captain America and Hawkeye and the Wasp and Iron Man and the Scarlet Witch and so forth.

    On the other hand, we also got Avengers stories with Marrina, Doctor Druid, and random members of the Fantastic Four.

    There’s always been a tension between the classic Avengers lineup (say, some combination of Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, Yellowjacket, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye) and the utterly random new characters that got added in. Some of them, like the Beast or the Captain Marvel du jour, stuck. Otherwise, like Gilgamesh the Forgotten One were forgotten. Hell, the lineup with Cap, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye seems classic in hindsight, but must have been utterly bizarre when it first debuted. I mean, the Avengers went from Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to a story about villains reforming.

    So with that in mind, I’m not sure that the problem was with Bendis and his successors throwing in random characters. I mean, the Avengers would have been a perfectly good landing spot for, say, Sunfire or Doctor Strange. But when Storm shows up and then doesn’t do anything, that’s a problem. Or when Daredevil joins the Avengers even though there’s no reason for him to do so, that’s a problem. Or when Wolverine joins even though it doesn’t fit the character, that’s a problem.

  26. Person of Con says:

    @Voord99: First, great comment. I don’t really have a direct answer, but the issues you raise reminded me of something.
    During the Bendis Avengers run, I had a really strong “they’re not really Avengers” response. But there was a team that *did* feel like Avengers to me–the Marvel Adventures Avengers, the all-ages books written first by Jeff Parker and then Paul Tobin.

    Notably, though, the majority of that team were not traditionally Avengers at all. It was perhaps more of the “heavy hitter = popular characters” team: you had Captain America and Iron Man, but also Spider-Man, Storm, Wolverine, and Hulk–there was a Giant Girl, but she wasn’t even identified as Janet until twenty some issues or so into the run.

    It all “felt” like an Avengers team to me, much more so than the MU proper titles. It doesn’t quite work with the “memory” theory, since the team is populated by so many characters that aren’t there in any normal history of the team. But they are dealing with traditional Avengers villains–Ultron, MODOK, Hydra, Zemo, Morgan Le Fay. And it did very much feel like a “how do we do Avengers today” exercise.

    So I guess I’m coming down on the “enhance” side, without ever actually considering the MCU.

  27. Scott says:

    I second the notion of Voord99’s post being great.

    And again on the topic of what feels like the Avengers, the Mighty Avengers post-Bendis was the only one that felt right for the Benis era. I can’t exactly remember who wrote it (Slott?), but it had Hank Pym, Jocasta, Hercules, Quicksilver, USAgent, but then also new/non-historic members like Amadeus Cho, the Young Avengers Vision and Stature. But most important of all – Jarvis!

    There was connection to the history, the characters who should have been were familiar with each other, and the ones who shouldn’t have been weren’t.

    Which leads me to my biggest complaint of post Disassembled Avengers (and Marvel in general) – the way it seems that every character knows every other character, and no meetings/team-ups ever seem novel – whether the characters have met or not!

  28. Moo says:

    The Avengers own history can and has made for good stories, but that’s not what Avengers is about. It’s not about it’s own history. The Avengers films aren’t popular with comic readers and non-readers alike because the stories concern themselves with digging into the history of the team. It had no history when the first film came out. The team formed in that film.

    And the Avengers IS about something. It has a premise. To combat the threats no single hero superhero can withstand. That’s the premise. If you’re writing stories about the Avengers combatting threats that a single superhero could withstand, then you’re doing it wrong.

  29. Omar Karindu says:

    The Avengers own history can and has made for good stories, but that’s not what Avengers is about. It’s not about it’s own history. The Avengers films aren’t popular with comic readers and non-readers alike because the stories concern themselves with digging into the history of the team. It had no history when the first film came out. The team formed in that film.

    And the Avengers IS about something. It has a premise. To combat the threats no single hero superhero can withstand. That’s the premise. If you’re writing stories about the Avengers combatting threats that a single superhero could withstand, then you’re doing it wrong.

    Except that this doesn’t hold true for either the comic or the film. The Avengers form essentially because Loki, a guy Thor can defeat on his own, does something that drags in the other heroes.

    More generally, the first two issues of the comic have the same plot: a deceptive villain pits the heroes against each other until Thor puts a stop to things because he’s a god. What holds them together is the idea that these characters have formed something of a formal organization together, an institution that they share in. The opening scene of Avengers #2 isn’t the heroes setting off to battle a major villain; it’s a committee meeting.

    And the most famous of the Silver Age issues, the ones that really defined the team, have never been the ones about menaces beyond any one hero’s ability to fight: they’ve been the “important new member joins/roster change” stories.

    The Avengers was about “institutional super-team” pretty early on, and even the films have largely put this front and center. The first film has the bit where the heroes are squabbling and starting to question SHIELD, and then get it together because of Coulson’s sacrifice (and Fury’s manipulations). The second movie is about Tony Stark trying and failing to make the Avengers obsolete.

    That’s why the Avengers aren’t the Champions of Los Angeles, or the Defenders: the *kind of institution* they are is ultimately the thematic that distinguishes the book. After all, getting together to fight the foes no one hero can take on alone is also the premise of failed series like Secret Defenders and any issue of Marvel Team-Up).

    The Avengers has something else going on that accounts for its longevity, and that something is the idea that “being an Avenger” is being in a significant organization or some kind, an institution with history and prestige.

  30. Kelvin Green says:

    As well as Dark Sun, you’ve got Evernight — aliens invade and destroy a high fantasy world — and Midnight, which is more or less “what if Sauron won?”

    There are post-apocalyptic elements to Eberron, and although it never comes across that well in any of the published material, Dragonlance is supposed to be post-apocalyptic.

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