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Apr 8

House to Astonish Episode 173

Posted on Monday, April 8, 2019 by Al in Podcast

A little bit of a gap between our last episode and this, but it turns out it’s been a relatively fallow news period in any event. We’re remembering Mark Alessi, talking about Jai Nitz, chewing over the announcements of House of X and Powers of X, the new Death’s Head series, Erik Larsen’s return to Marvel, and DC’s Wal-Mart giant-size books being repackaged for the Direct Market. We’ve also got reviews of Marvel Team-Up and Section Zero, and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe wants to give you its digits. All this plus a dog called Hickman, the crumpets of comics and an impromptu tribute to Harry Belafonte.

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 hey, if you want to buy a t-shirt, don’t let us stop you (and if you would buy a hoodie… let us know?).

Bring on the comments

  1. Zachary Adams says:

    Thank you so much for the Whizzer and Chips digression. That was actually my first exposure to UK comics, a couple issues that a neighbor got me on a trip to London.

  2. Ben says:

    Section Zero felt like an antique. The art, dialogue, plot, character designs, etc are all extraordinarily dated.

    Marvel Team Up- How did Spidey burn himself on hot coffee?

  3. Martin Smith says:

    It’s quite remarkable how Marvel UK took a character with so much goodwill behind it as Death’s Head and managed to turn it into such a fiery trash heap that is Death’s Head II. Apparently it was all Paul Neary’s idea.

  4. mark coale says:

    Surprised there was no mention of Deaths Head being in Gillen’s SWORD.

    For those who might want to hear more about Section Zero, kesel was on our podcast a little while ago discussing Section Zero, it’s new kickstarter and such.

    And spoiler: when the first SZ book gets to new material, it jumps to be set in the present.

  5. Si says:

    Deaths Head was in one of the Infinity Wars books recently. Darkhawk? The space bird robot crystal guy. It seems he got a redesign though. I’m not British so I have no history with the character, but his design is so fundamentally UK you can’t help but admire him being in with the all-American superheroes. His big circular eyes, the ridiculous tusks, you don’t get that aesthetic outside of UK comics. But in the above comic he was just a generic skeleton robot. I hope that look doesn’t stick.

    As for Ms Marvel’s secret identity being so obvious, that’s such an old silver age superhero trope I’m surprised it rates a mention. The Squirrel Girl comic does the same thing as a joke. But I actually have a theory that Ms Marvel uses her stretchy powers to make her face look just different enough to get away with it.

  6. Jerry Ray says:

    I enjoyed the passing reference to Major X and look forward to the full review. It was terrible. Maybe not the worst comic I’ve read in years, because _America_, but certainly bad in that uniquely 90s, Liefeld way.

  7. Sol says:

    EVIL CHEESE!! That bit made my day, still have a big stupid grin on my face.

  8. SanityOrMadness says:

    Drawing together a few threads you mentioned but didn’t link – DeMatteis & Ploog didn’t get the rights back to Abadazad. What happened was that Disney bought CrossGen’s corpse JUST for Abadazad, which is why there were some books of it afterward. And why nothing happened with any other piece of CrossGen until Disney bought Marvel, who took it on for a bit with some mostly-hard-reboot miniseries.

  9. Joe S. Walker says:

    That letter in Section Zero was excruciating. I didn’t like the “24 hour bug” bit either – for the sake of a one-liner, it’s giving the character a restriction which will surely become a nuisance.

  10. Moo says:

    It’s weird, I never did read any Crossgen titles back in the day, but I sure seem to recall reading a lot *about* Crossgen. They seemed to be in the news quite a bit as I remember. One thing that springs to mind was the “American Power” debacle. I recall Paul covering that in one of his Article 10 columns.

  11. Karl_H says:

    I’m assuming that both the awkward suit scene with Peter, and the presence of all of Kamala’s classmates, are setting up some farcical situations for the next issue, as the two have to pretend to be one another around their friends.

    Much worse was the actual plot involving the Jackal and the technology macguffin, which didn’t rise very far above a fruit pie advert or a superhero RPG session thrown together Mad-Libs style at the last minute. You could insert any random villain into the Jackal’s spot and it would make about the same amount of sense (possibly more, because one of the Jackal’s hooks is that he knows Spider-Man’s secret identity, a fact this story shows no sign of acknowledging). So overall, maybe a fine story for a younger audience, but terribly generic.

  12. Luke says:

    I laughed out loud a lot during this episode.

    The way you described people thinking that Crossgen was a cult… because they wanted everyone to all share an office…
    Plus you talked about one of my biggest pet peeves, which is artists just not knowing how to draw suits.

    We get it, comics! The real world is not your world!

    Also, 12 year old me loved Deaths Head 2. Liam Sharp!

  13. Dave White says:

    What’s also strange about the whole field trip in MARVEL TEAM UP is that in Kamala’s regular book her classmates *kind* of know she’s Ms. Marvel, or at least strongly suspect she is, but never really come out and say it.

    My favorite Death’s Head appearance is his guest spot in Walt Simonson’s all-to-brief FANTASTIC FOUR run, as part of the escalating series of guest stars and guest villains.

  14. PersonofCon says:

    I swear I heard Paul say “an itchy TUTU” that transforms the character, which creates a very different mental image.

  15. Omar Karindu says:

    The guy from the Englehart Avengers, issue #130, was alternately called the Slasher and Buzzsaw. Naturally, he appeared again in the 90s a Mark Gruenwald story, where the Buzzsaw name was solidified just in time for the guy to vanish back into comicbook limbo.

  16. Chris V says:

    He was clearly called the Slasher on the cover of Avengers #130.

    Somehow he is now officially known as Razorblade according to MarvUnApp.
    I’m pretty sure he was never referred to by that moniker in any comic.

  17. Moo says:


    The “Buzzsaw” in Gruenwald’s story was a black guy. A member of the *giggle* “Power Tools”.

  18. Moo says:

    @Chris V

    The Slasher was referred to as Razorblade in Captain America 419.

  19. Moo says:

    I can remember this worthless shit, but do you think I can remember my wife’s birthday when it comes around?

  20. Omar Karindu says:

    He’s called the Slasher on the cover of Avengers #130, but some of the interior captions call him Buzzsaw. This probably tells you how much Engelhart was interested in him as a character,

    And, yeah, I forgot that Gruenwald changed it to Razorblade because Gru had already introduced a Buzzsaw. That’s a lot of codenames for a guy who was essentially a throwaway villain in an allegorical anti-war story from the 70s.

  21. Chris V says:

    I’m sure he had to change the name from Slasher due to the Iron Man character with the same name.
    Everyone remembers that Iron Man issue.

    Oh well. Regardless, I thought it was a good Avengers story.

  22. Moo says:

    “I forgot that Gruenwald changed it to Razorblade because Gru had already introduced a Buzzsaw”

    So, Mark Gruenwald read Avengers #130 and believed that Engelhart intended for the Slasher to have two codenames (as opposed to putting it down to a mistake) but then forgot about this many years later when he created a character named Buzzsaw, but then remembered again when he decided to use the character and this is why he changed his name to Razorblade? I suppose it’s possible, but it seems really unlikely to me.

    Perhaps he just thought Razorblade was a better name than Slasher. Maybe he wanted to go with “Chandelier Cosplayer” or “Unsafe Christmas Tree Ornament” but his editor told him no. Who knows?

  23. Omar Karindu says:

    My sense is that Gruenwald changed names for a variety of reasons. For example, switching minor Hulk antagonist Jackdaw to Blackbird was probably about finding a better name.

    But switching, say, the armored arsonist Blockbuster over to Heat-Ray was likely more focused on avoiding confusion with the Marauder of the same codename, since Heat-Ray is hard to defend as a stronger character name than Blockbuster.

    Whether Gruenwald was avoiding a name conflict with Buzzsaw/Slasher or just upping his “cool factor” — kind of a lost cause, if you ask me — is hard to say.

    Now, onto more important matters, like whether the Marvel Handbooks got Arclight’s powerset wrong by stating that she had generic superstrength, instead of the shockwave power she clearly has in her early appearances. after all, Maddy was able to boot her in the face and it seemed to hurt her back in Uncanny #218 or #219 (can’t remember which is the one where the Marauders put Maddy in a coma).

  24. Jason says:

    “Uncanny #218 or #219 (can’t remember which is the one where the Marauders put Maddy in a coma).”

    It’s neither of those. 🙂

  25. Omar Karindu says:

    Bah! Issue #215, then, with those first few pages of art where Dan Green manages to make Alan Davis look oddly like early-career Marc Silvestri before Davis’s style reasserts itself for the rest of the book.

    Anyway, int hat issue #215! — Maddy manages to slap Arclight, who goes “Urrggh” or some close variant thereof, and later knocks Arclight over with a trash can. So was Arclight originally meant to have super-strength, or just a shockwave power?

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