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Jan 19

House to Astonish Episode 170

Posted on Saturday, January 19, 2019 by Al in Podcast

We’re sorry we’ve been away for such a long… wait, two weeks? Are you sure? What is this, 2014?

Anyway, we’re back, talking about Batton Lash, Dark Horse’s upcoming Definitive Moonshadow, Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s Sex going straight to OGN, the return of Section Zero, Marvel’s upcoming Thanos mini, Kieron Gillen leaving Star Wars, the upcoming Age of Rebellion one-shots and Rob Liefeld’s return to Marvel. We’ve also got reviews of Criminal and Invaders, and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe can make you a man. All this plus Capital The, the X-Majorettes and the personnel link between Gorilla Comics and NPR.

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 at our Facebook fan page. And hey, it’s never too early to start thinking about buying one of our snazzy t-shirts! And if you’re in the Southern hemisphere, it’s never too late!

Bring on the comments

  1. mark coale says:

    Section Zero technically returned already via Kickstarter last year, reprinting the original 4 issues and 2 new ones to finish the original story. There is also a new Kickstarter coming soon for the next new story. The Image book is reprinting the new collection.

    (disclaimer: karl is doing our pod soon to discuss it.)

    Gorilla Comics also included Crimson Plague and Tellos, which had started at other publishers.

    We used to define what was “independent” by where they were the catalogs. If you had you own section (DC, Marvel, DH, Image), you were not an independent. Everything else, from Archie to Fantagraphics to Oni was “an independent.”

    Batton Lash is also fondly remembered for the Archie v the Punisher book.

  2. BobH says:

    Good to see the podcast back on a regular schedule. Though now that you’ve mentioned it, that means you’ll probably take six months to get another one out…

    Lash’s WOLFF & BYRD / SUPERNATURAL LAW actually lasted at least 45 issues as a comic, plus 5 of the spin-off MAVIS (featuring their secretary). Although, as is the style of the time, some later issues aren’t numbered on the cover so they look like one-shots. I have to admit I lost track in the last decade, between my comic shop visits going down to near zero and some of Lash’s unfortunate political cartoons in the early Obama years, I guess I’ll have to see if anything new came out after #45 in 2008.

    I’m glad to see SECTION ZERO continue. I liked the book, but not enough to pay US$45 plus shipping to Canada for the Kickstarted hardcover. I just hope it comes out, I’m kind of afraid that the already shipped Kickstarter edition will satisfied demand among the readers most likely to pre-order the book.

    I think the big thing that prevented Epic from continuing along the lines of MOONSHADOW and becoming a permanent pre-Vertigo Vertigo is Archie Goodwin leaving for DC around 1990. Not sure if Carl Potts took over right way, but eventually he was in charge, and he was definitely no Archie Goodwin. See the Heavy Hitters line for his vision of the imprint. There were a few good books in there, but mostly it was a warmed-over version of 1980s First Comics fare.

    Anyway, MOONSHADOW is right up my alley, all-time Top 100 series for me, but I never picked up the overpriced Vertigo collection as it was hardly an upgrade over the individual issues ($40 twenty years ago for a softcover, while the new version is $30 in hardcover with more pages, effectively less than half the price with real inflation factored in, never mind comic book price inflation). I try hard these days not to re-buy stuff I already have, but I’m picking this one up day of release, plus whenever Dark Horse has one of their regular sales I’ll probably get it in digital if it ever dips below $10.

  3. Voord 99 says:

    Reading along with Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men has given me oddly positive feelings about Rob Liefeld. Not in the sense of really *enjoying* his work on New Mutants and X-Force, but…

    Basically, it seems to me that at the time, there were the following options on the table.

    1) Claremont’s version of “doing new things”:, which was of old characters leaving and new ones coming in, along with new settings such as in the Australia era. The problem is that Claremont was basically doing different characters and settings, but the same stories in the same style. His late work is full of motifs such as squicky mind control that he’d done over and over again. And the way in which he writes verges on a parody of itself. In other words, it’s “new,” but in a very superficial way.

    2) Jim Lee’s vision, which is a nostalgic one that the X-Men should go back to what “everyone knows” that the X-Men are about, fighting Magneto and Sentinels in defence of a world that hates and fears them. Part of the problem is that this corresponds very inexactly to the actual history of the X-Men — it’s going back to an imagined past. But to the extent that it is accurate, it’s still got the problem that it’s about catering to the nostalgia of long-term fans at the expense of doing anything new.

    3) Rob Liefeld’s vision, which is, more or less, “[Expletive deleted] the past:”: new characters, new tone, new style, new macho action-movie style, aimed directly and exclusively at the tastes of a teenage boy.

    The subsequent Harras/Lobdell/Nicieza era discovered a fourth option, which is sort of 2a: Lee’s vision, but terribly joyless. constrained by a constant sense of looking back at Claremont and doing the sort of angst that is “supposed” to be in Claremont comic

    (And in Nicieza’s case, frustratingly devoted to Claremont pastiche, especially in his language —frustrating because one knows from his non-X work how much better he can be. In Lobdell’s case, I have no evidence that he can be better.)

    I find myself feeling that while I don’t *like* Liefeld’s X-work, I sort of respect its underlying sense that what the X-books needed at this point was something different that didn’t *care* about what Claremont had been doing, and I end up respecting it more than I respect any of the other options on the table.

    I just wish that the same impulse had expressed itself in a way that was less Kewl and more cool.

  4. Taibak says:

    I’ve always thought Liefeld was the Ed Wood of comics: He’s completely inept in practice, but this is some spark of talent buried in there that he has no idea how to actually use – and learning how to use that spark might kill it.

  5. Thom H. says:

    I worked at a comic shop around the time that the original X-Force was hitting big — pouches, broken backs, no-feet, and all. One customer at my store commented on how much he really liked Liefeld’s style because it was just so “realistic.” I’ll never forget that.

    I have to admit under the guidance of a strong and more experienced inker like Karl Kesel (as on Hawk and Dove), Liefeld’s art looked really nice. Sure, it didn’t stray too far from DC’s house style at the time, but Kesel was able to reign in some of Liefeld’s worst impulses (see previous paragraph).

  6. mark coale says:

    Now, I need to watch Plan 9 to see if Ed Wood shot people’s feet or not. ..

  7. BobH says:

    I still have fond memories of that HAWK AND DOVE mini-series. It started just when I began making trips to comic shops a regular weekly thing, it might be one of the first books of the era I started with #1. I was a bit on the high side of his target demographic (18 years old), but I really liked the work. His George Perez influence was still prominent (wouldn’t be surprised to learn if it was full of Perez swipes), and as noted Kesel must have been restraining the wilder tendencies. I remember some months after that series ended a clerk at the comic shop said “Hey, you liked Liefeld on HAWK AND DOVE, right? He’s doing NEW MUTANTS now” and I very quickly went from “Cool, let me take a look” to “No thank you”. Oddly, I also went to “No thank you” on the Liefeld-free H&D ongoing by the Kesels around the same time, though it took a bit longer (maybe two issues), but I picked up some more later and it seems okay. Needless to say I was pretty perplexed when within a few months Liefeld was the hottest thing in comics.

  8. Chris V says:

    I know. I dropped New Mutants when Liefield took over.
    It wasn’t the sole reason, as I was starting to lose interest in comics for a time, being in high school, and thinking I was getting too old for them.
    The Liefield art on New Mutants didn’t help.

    It’s a shame, as I would have loved to have had a copy of that first appearance of Deadpool to sell when that character, also inexplicably, ended up becoming so hot.
    I don’t tend to sell comics to make money, but if I owned that issue, I would have sold it, as I have no attachment to Deadpool or Liefield.

    I would start picking up X-Force when it started though, as I had decided to start reading some comics again.

  9. Jerry Ray says:

    I disliked Bret Blevins so much that at the time, even Liefield seemed like an improvement. (It didn’t help that Louise Simonson’s plots that Blevins was drawing weren’t much good, either.

  10. Si says:

    I think the secret of Liefeld’s success is that he was all sizzle and no sausage. Deadpool, his biggest creation today, was a good costume design and a character made of about two bullet points. Everything else that makes him popular was added in later. The good stuff stuck, the bad stuff was put aside and forgotten, until the formula became perfect – but also mutable, so you can pick and choose which traits to use in any given scenario, and still have him identifiable as Deadpool. That’s arguably why Batman’s popular too.

    Then again, take Bishop for example. He’s tied to all sorts of continuity from the start, his personality takes about a paragraph to describe, but he’s still just a Badass With A Gun. He’s almost exactly the same character as Cable, except all of Cable’s backstory came well after his introduction, so is less integral, so is more easily ignored.

    I don’t think any of this is genius or foreplanning on Liefeld’s part, beyond his talent for making a drawing exciting. What made his three or four hit characters memorable also made his dozens of other characters obscure two issues after they were introduced. He just got lucky I think.

  11. Thom H. says:

    I agree. Blevins was not great, and Simonson seemed intent on destroying the team as quickly as she could. Such a waste of potential.

    The New Mutants honestly seemed to lose direction shortly after Sienkiewicz left, and Liefeld was the first to find something to do with the characters other than kill them, make them miserable, and/or write them out of the book.

  12. Andrew says:

    For all of Rob Liefeld’s faults as an artist, his revamp of the New Mutants gave the comic a serious shot in the arm. Reading the previous 18 months of New Mutants gives the strong impression of a title going around in circles and doing nothing worthwhile with its characters.

  13. Moo says:

    I don’t even really consider Deadpool to be a Liefeld creation. Deadpool didn’t start to take off until the late ’90s. Joe Kelly made that character.

  14. Walter Lawson says:

    Simonson was originally just meant to take over for six months or so before Claremont returned to NM—only Claremont got so busy with new launches (Excalibur, Wolverine, the first MCP serial) that he never did return. I agree her New Mutants work wasn’t very good, but between how it began, the crossovers it had to accommodate, and the apparently Harras-mandated “all the secondary X-teams spend a year off earth” requirement, I can see why it never came together.

    Liefeld had so much enthusiasm and such a powerful artistic vision—ripped off from better artists, to be sure—that he really did give the book a jolt for a few months. But Liefeld loses interst in things pretty quickly, and about six months in his NM run is pretty dull. That changes in the last three issues, but Liefeld was only ever capable of sustaining his interst for about three issues at a time. X-Force sold well but isn’t memorable except for how bad it was.

  15. Thom H. says:

    I’m not sure things would have been much better if Claremont had returned. He was the first to kill the team (for Secret Wars II of all things), and then regressed their ability to control their powers. After all the character development in the series previously, what was the point of that? He assembled this great team and then apparently had no idea what to do with them. I heard he really didn’t have any interest in expanding the line beyond the core X-Men book, and it shows.

  16. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Section Zero, that takes me back.

    I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever actually read it, but in the 2000s I was reading a lot of Wold-Newton Family websites, and if you put the surnames “Challenger” and “Wildman” in the same superhero team, then obviously the Wold-Newton people are going to be all over it.

  17. WOLFF AND BYRD also ran for many years as a strip in Comics Buyer’s Guide, which greatly increased its visibility within the comics industry.

    Rob Liefeld’s work, for all its failings of credibility and discipline, has a manic energy that makes it strangely compelling. (I believe that Peter David made the Ed Wood comparison back during his war with the Image founders; he was building on Tim Burton’s presentation of Wood as someone so certain of his own genius that it blinds him to the practicalities of actually making a work of genius. I’m not that unkind to Liefeld, but I do wish he would pay more attention to things like “anatomy” and “panel-to-panel continuity”.)

  18. And in re: The Sorcerer and his Synthetic Man, as far as I’m concerned, it’s now canonical that in the Marvel Universe, Dahomey is the world’s leading manufacturer of humanoid robots. (SOMEONE has to be making all those LMDs.)

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