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Aug 26

House to Astonish Episode 166

Posted on Sunday, August 26, 2018 by Al in Podcast

Paul and I have got an absolute truckload of news for you this time round, as we pay respects to Russ Heath, chew over the announcements of Uncanny X-Men, Marvel Knights 20, Conan the Barbarian, Best Defense, Riri Williams: Ironheart, Batman & the Outsiders and the Green Lantern, as well as the creative shuffle on Return of Wolverine, Dark Horse losing the Buffy license, Aftershock comics’ first-issue returnability, IDW losing another senior member of staff and Legendary Entertainment’s option on My Boyfriend is a Bear. We’ve also got reviews of Cold Spots and West Coast Avengers, and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe is its own best friend. All this plus a major Bunnfight, Pets Win Parole and Border Television’s finest game show singalongs.

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, if you want to support the show our fabulous merch is available at our Redbubble store.

Bring on the comments

  1. Joe says:

    Amazon are planning a Conan series, headed by Ryan Condal. There are a couple of problems, though. I remember Conan being somewhat rapey. That really wouldn’t fly with modern audiences. A lesser problem is that some stories are more exposition-heavy than others. Ihave no idea how Condal will juggle being true to the original stories but also palatable to your regular viewer.

    With Disney buying Fox, I suspect any future Buffy comics will be Marvel. Which is odd, since Marvel parted ways with Whedon several years ago. God knows what will happen there.

  2. Brian says:

    Given the question of “is it the reboot or the prelude to the reboot?,” I have to wonder why use the Uncanny name for this — why not have a X-Men Disassembled maxiseries (with the rest of the line on pause) and then properly relaunch Uncanny out of it?

  3. mark coale says:

    I’d have thought Vertigo was the first boutique imprint since Berger was editing a lot of the books and is usually credited with cultivating the British talent that formed its core philosophy.

    There was also the Helix imprint, perhaps now only remebered for Transmet, which has been retroactively made a Vertigo legacy title.

  4. PersonofCon says:

    In terms of Conan’s ability to team up with superheroes, a Gail Simone-penned miniseries where he teamed up with Wonder Woman came out within the past year. It was admittedly a little softer than the usual Conan and a little rougher than the usual Wonder Woman, but he works pretty easily with characters who are more on the fringes to begin with–he’d fit in fine with a Thor crossover, or Guardians of the Galaxy.

    The first thing I thought of when you mentioned Aaron said he’d be looking at the overall history of the character is what he did with the past, future, and present Thor during his run. I hope there’s more to it than that, though.

  5. Moo says:

    Marvel did a Conan vs Thor story back in ’83. What If #39.

  6. mark coale says:

    I think one problem with Hal is that when you take him out of the Right Stuff era, he loses some of his appeal. When he is left there, like with New Frontier, he still works.

    Although having read Morrison’s 80s Grim n Gritty Dan Dare reboot, i hope we get less of that and more All Star Superman.

  7. Thomas says:

    Thanks guys. Great show as always.

  8. DannytheWall says:

    Manikin was in that sweet spot of the original Alpha Flight just as I was entering comics, and so he remains in a warmly nostalgic part of my fan-heart. Which makes me want to point out that I thought Manikin was from Beta Flight, not that it raises his profile. (It’s possible he got a promotion when I wasn’t looking.)

    I was kind of waiting for a laboured sigh when reviewing West Coast Avengers, but you both seemed pretty bullish on it. I really love silly comics, but this one didn’t work for me at all. I think it had to do with this version of MODOK, which was just a silly bridge too far.

  9. DannytheWall says:

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that Santa Monica *is* technically Los Angeles, or at least is a city within the county of Los Angeles. (Most people refer to the county as a whole when referring to “LA,” which is made of many little cities or boroughs or whatever) With plenty of palm trees.

  10. Voord 99 says:

    Disclaimer: I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, so apologies if some of this duplicates our hosts’ discussion.

    But, on Conan and superheroes….

    There’s also, in the main Marvel Universe,* the Conan-adjacent Red Sonja/Spider-Man team-up in Marvel Team-Up #79. Easy to rejigger the plot (magic sword transforms Mary-Jane Watson into Red Sonja so that she and Spider-Man can fight Kulan Gath) to swap Conan in for Red Sonja. Well, not easy from a legal perspective at the time, but otherwise.

    I don’t really see teaming Conan up with superheroes as more problematic than the tonal clashes and genre mix-ups that Marvel superhero stories have dealt with all the time, and represent one of the great joys of reading them. E.g. having classic ‘70s Dracula (not the curiously dull and uninteresting ponytailed current version) in the Marvel Universe.

    Actually, any problem that Conan poses I think is worse with the Punisher. Certainly, Conan is defined by his comfort level with solving problems with his Savage Sword. But he’s from a different “historical” time, when that was (extremely) normal, and in a genre in which it’s part of the ground rules. It’s no different than Marvel’s Western characters usng their six-guns.

    I hope they do go whole hog with Conan as a Marvel Universe character, and don’t worry about keeping him confined to characters like Thor who fit easily into his genre. Conan, as everyone knows, is built around a contrast between decadent civilization and vigorous barbarism — you can make that work really well with just about any character who’s part of the modern world. Spider-Man, for instance, who’s so closely associated with the Big City.

    I have a feeling that some prissy sense that Conan is better off as part of his own pure unsullied world will probably mean that doesn’t happen, though.

    *Although What If #13, the “Conan in the present day story” that (I believe) introduced the Marvel version of the character is not really in an alternate universe. No real superhero team-up, though, although Peter Parker has a cameo.

  11. SanityOrMadness says:

    The thing about Kulan Gath, since you mentioned him, is that while he was a Marvel-owned character… Marvel either sold or leased him to Dynamite for use in Red Sonja, and I’m not sure which it was.

  12. Rich Fabula says:

    I love your show, have been listening for years, and will keep listening. But I’m just angry enough that I have to vent about the Russ Heath v Lichtenstein thing that started off this episode. I’m just sick of hearing it.

    Lichtenstein is the last person who should be mentioned when talking about the death of Heath, because it frames Russ’ entire career as failure. Heath worked for years, made a decent living, BUT because of the sh*tty way comic companies treat their workers, suffered health problems he couldn’t properly address. Lichtenstein didn’t do that to him. DC wasn’t out hiring Roy Lichtenstein to draw comics and taking work away from Russ. Heath even outlived Lichtenstein, who died in 1997 FFS!

    Nothing Lichtenstein did diminishes or takes away Heath’s achievements. The entire Lichtenstein debate has really been overblown and ignores that artists 30 years career and his progress and achievements. All artists steal and work with the ephemera around them, Lichtenstein’s work is no different. Comic fans act like the only paintings he did was a single batch of comic panel blowups. Look at Lichtenstein’s entire catalogue, see where he wound up and think about how artists grow. I’ve included a link to Lichtenstein’s work from the MOMA, please look at his work, from even as early as 1967.

    There’s also this assumption that Lichtenstein made millions and millions from selling those few early pieces, because they see what they go for at auctions now. It’s not the same thing–it’s not like he got a cut of those resale/auction prices. Lichtenstein’s work kept maturing, his subject matter expanded and made amazing work his entire life.

    Is it crappy Heath didn’t make more money and live worry free for his life? Yes. Would it have been better, in retrospect, for Lichtenstein to give credit to the comics creators he got those early compositions from? Yes, but to be frank, that’s work for critics and historians to do–and boy howdy do they. Should we frame the life and career of one of comic’s greatest talents as a continual fight and failure against another person? No, because it diminishes what Heath made and his own legacy.

    Thank you for reading this, I appreciate this opportunity to vent.

  13. Chris V says:

    I’ve never seen confirmation of this, but Michael Moorcock co-wrote the issue of Conan that introduced Kulan Gath.
    I could see Moorcock retaining some sort of creative ownership over Gath.
    I’m guessing that might have bene how Dynamite ended up with the rights to use the character.

  14. Tom Shapira says:

    I’ve read most of the original stories and while they have their problems (there is more than slight undercurrent of racism) I can’t recall anything involving rape (by the hero).
    Howard, in general, didn’t really seem to be very interested in writing romance of any kind into his stories. Women seem to be there mostly because the editors demanded it – he wouldn’t ‘waste’ a scene on sex when he could write another bloody battle or have Conan ponder about the failures of civilization etc.

  15. Omar Karindu says:

    There is the early story “The Frost Giant’s Daughter,” where a dying Conan chases after Atali, a goddess,and even there it’s implied a kind of supernatural seduction is affecting Conan and Atali is a Siren-like figure.

  16. Si says:

    Conan’s interesting, because he’s a canonical part of the Marvel Universe, not just in a “met Spider-Man once” way, even I’ve done that, his mythos is woven in with the Elder Gods, the sinking of Atlantis, all sorts of integral stuff.

    But, at the same time, Conan is canonically the same universe as the Cthulhu mythos, with the snake people and whatnot (also canonically in the Marvel Universe), from right at the start when it was still Howard and Lovecraft writing in the pulps.

    What I’m saying is, if I ever get to play the Call of Cthulhu RPG again, I’m playing as Iron Man.

  17. Brendan says:

    I came for the news. I stayed (and cheered) for the savaging of Green Lantern.

  18. Brendan says:

    I came for the news. I stayed (and cheered) for the savaging of Green Lantern.

  19. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Someone on Twitter was saying that the problem they had with Morrison on GL was that “space cop with magic wishing ring” makes it too easy to go Full Grant Morrison, and it’d be more interesting to give him something where he can’t just say “and then extradimensional weirdness happens” without needing to think about how it fits the premise.

    It’s interesting that I automatically tend to agree with Al about Dull Uncle Hal, even though when I stop to think about it, it occurs to me that I don’t remember him ever being written this way; Johns in particular tried to push that he’s a freewheeling sky jockey with a string of girlfriends. It’s not like Dull Uncle Barry, who really is written as the guy with the crew cut and the bowtie. It doesn’t matter how they’re written; that’s what the Silver Age characters are like.

    “Nobody wants to read Paw Patrol: The Dark Ages.”

    Without looking, I’m prepared to bet that a trawl through and Archive of Our Own would prove this statement incorrect.

  20. mark coale says:

    Some of us old folks would prefer “Dull Uncle Barry” or “Right Stuff Hal” over their angst ridden, tragedy based modern versions. 🙂

  21. Joe S. Walker says:

    The Green Lantern conversation never gets old. But I don’t think Paul and Al have ever gone in depth into the O’Neil-Adams Lantern/Arrow, which at the time were considered the height of “relevance”.

  22. Joe S. Walker says:

    WAS considered the height of relevance! And I don’t know, the Official Handbook may have dealt with that story where the villain was Richard Nixon as a little girl.

  23. Karl Hiller says:

    Surprised by the love for Death of the Inhumans in this one, kick in the crotch to Al Ewing’s work that it is. It’s easy to hate on the Inhumans after the past few years, but Ewing had finally started to turn that boat around. And really, killkillkill stories are as boring to read as they are simple to write.

  24. Moo says:

    Well, Marie Severin just passed away so it looks like the podcast won’t be getting away from obituaries next time around either.

  25. mark coale says:

    And Gary Friedrich, both today.

  26. Voord 99 says:

    Ah yes. Green Lantern/Green Arrow.

    It’s 1970. The psychedelic era has been in full swing for half a decade-ish.

    You’re DC Comics. You’re feeling the pressure from a more Zeitgeist-ish Marvel.

    And you have this character. Success when he launched, but sales have been very unhealthy lately. You tried blowing up his original status quo and making him an insurance adjuster, but for some reason that didn’t seem to fire the imagination of comic-book readers.

    So this character’s thing is, he’s a space, science-fiction version of magic. Like, cosmic, you know? There are these little ancient blue guys at the center of the universe, and they gave him this ring. And this ring, it can do anything. It can make all these weird trippy shapes if you want it to, and it protects you, and — just anything, man. Anything this guy can imagine.

    The only limits to the ring’s power are, get this, the limits of the character’s own mind. That’s the real battle, man! And this guy, his head has so many limits. He’s a real square, company man type. But just think about what happens if that guy gets his consciousness expanded.

    Oh, but I forgot, the ring does have this one other weakness. It’s like his Kryptonite, but it’s not a substance, it’s a color. That is some trippy [expletive deleted].

    And then what you do is decide that this character is best suited for exploring labor issues.

    Basically, Hal Jordan is a character who’s time has come, and then gone.

  27. Chris V says:

    Yeah, there are elements of that to Hal Jordan, but don’t forget, he was working for The Man.
    He needed to have his consciousness expanded and learn to tune in, man.
    Green Arrow was just the guy to blow that narc’s mind!
    Too bad there was that bummer story about “don’t do drugs!” that belonged to the Reagan years.
    Otherwise, things could have gotten really trippy.

    Actually, those early GL stories by John Broome were pretty crazy. It felt like a proto-version of Grant Morrison to me. Broome actually was interested in the occult too.
    Look at a story where the villain makes Hal look like him, and everyone thinks that Hal is the villain, and he goes to jail. Hal sees himself in the mirror, and starts to question his own identity. If he can’t trust his own senses, then what is true?
    Man, far out!

  28. mark coale says:

    IIRC, Broome also dabbled in psychedelics.

  29. Voord 99 says:

    Yes, they’re restricted by being within the limits of DC’s bland Silver Age style, but there’s good stuff in the early Green Lantern stories. (Also racism, of course.) E.g. the parody of Superman in the stories about Hal’s brother with the glasses and his reporter girlfriend who’s convinced he’s really Green Lantern.

    I’ve often thought that Green Lantern is really better suited to be a Marvel concept. The DC universe, at its heart, is very small. It’s a Buck Rogers universe from the Buck Rogers era, which is to say that it’s a universe of significant individual planets: Krypton, Rand, Thanagar (and Oa, obviously). It doesn’t wrestle with how big even our galaxy is. Which is where you get the idea that it makes sense for Hall to be responsible for 1/3600 of the *universe*.

    Neither does the Marvel universe really wrestle with just how big “space” is. But it pretends to. It’s a universe of vast interstellar empires: the Kree, the Skrull, the Shi’ar, and it associates space with “unimaginably” powerful entities like Galactus, etc. It sort of seems obvious that you might feel that you had to give an individual something as absurdly powerful as a Green Lantern ring to put him or her on a level with what was out there, and it would feel appropriate to the scale of the background, aesthetically.

  30. Taibak says:

    FWIW, my personal theory is that Green Lanterns are like peanut butter brands: you like whichever one you grew up with.

    That said, to me, the biggest problem with Hal isn’t his personality – “fighter jock” is a perfectly good archetype – it’s the way his personality intersects with his powers. He simply tends to use his ring to fly around and shoot things, just as if he was in his plane. That’s all well and good, but that doesn’t make him all that different from a character like Starfire or even Adam Strange.

    Compare that with Kyle Rayner. I forget if it was Grant Morrison or Mark Waid who pointed this out, but Kyle is an artist and his ring is the most powerful paintbrush in the universe. Even if Kyle’s tactics still boil down to flying around and blasting things, he’s a much more visually rich character who, in the hands of the right artist, can really shine in a visual medium like comics.

  31. Chris V says:

    Have you read Green Lantern: Willworld? It was written by J.M. DeMatteis and with art by Seth Fisher.
    It is truly my favourite GL story.

    It features Hal Jordan, but shows how Jordan can use his imagination as well as an artist.
    It does touch on that dichotomy of Jordan’s limitless potential with the ring versus how he is often portrayed in the comics, but basically subverts those ideas about Hal.

  32. Billy says:

    I’m not the biggest fan of Kelly Thompson, and the ending of West Coast Avengers is a good example of why.

    Most of the book is okay, but that ending just brings the ride to a screeching halt. BRODOK isn’t funny, it is just stupid.

    I don’t think the larger-than-normal (but not MODOK-large) head works as intended either. The first thought upon seeing an oversized head in a comic book isn’t “This character has an oversized head”, but rather “This is bad/lazy art work.”

    I’m also a bit worried for the rest of the team in what already appears to be The Kate Bishop Show.

    After only a few pages, it already feels like Thompson has run out of excuses for why Quentin doesn’t immediately solve (or at least try to solve) a situation. This does not bode well for the future.

    There are also hints of Gwenpool being demoted to a background gag character. The pushed Gwenpool/Quentin antagonism just doesn’t work. The “everyone hates Quentin” already seems a bit forced, and Gwenpool has been stuck with being the character who actively acts on it. To the point that I can easily see all her future annoyances being with Quentin.

    As for America Chavez, so far she’s a transportation device that acts as a deus ex machina for when the others screw up. I already tend to forget she’s even a team member.

    (As Kate’s boyfriend, Fuse’s sheer existence already revolves around Kate. Hawkeye is only around because of Kate.)

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