0:00-51:46: Greetings! Greetings from the first day of the Marvel Legacy announcement, and if you think we’re not going to lean into that piece of news, well, I suggest you listen to our other two hundred and twenty-two episodes just a little more closely. So settle in as we we talk about what Graeme justifiably calls “the most Marvel version of DC’s Rebirth you could imagine.” A one-shot! A reboot! Legacy numbering! Value stamps? FOOM?! To quote ourselves, “Wait, what?”
51:46-1:02:34: On the DC side of the fence, we have the announcement of Dark Matter. Just as Marvel is in some ways doing stuff we’ve been suggesting for years, Dark Matter looks like DC picking up the mantle of new IP generation, getting the artists more involved in the creation and crafting of books, and (we’re hoping!) more creator participation in the generation of new IP. And yet…it also has some stuff worth scratching your head over…
1:02:34-1:18:24: “Graeme, let’s talk about comics!” is the exhortation from Jeff, and so we discuss the just-released Batman #21, the first part of “The Button” by Tom King and Jason Fabok. We are pretty decisively split on the book, and discuss it, as well as King’s run on Batman since Jeff has now also read “I Am Bane” in Batman issues #15-20, and part 2 of the story in Flash #21, which Graeme has read already.
1:18:24-1:57:27: And, of course, we discuss the also-just-released Secret Empire #0 by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna. Also discussed: Fear Itself, Secret Invasion, the Nazi Superman section of Multiversity, Civil War II: The Oath, and much more. Oh, and as long as you’re here, scroll down (or click here) and check out Matt’s take on the issue.
1:57:27-end: Closing Comments! Look for us on Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! Matt! Tumblr, and on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast.
Oh, but before we go, we work in a quick thumbs up for two comics we’ve read: the first issue of Rock Candy Mountain by Kyle Starks, and the most recent Stumptown collection by Greg Rucka and Justin Greenwood.
Next week: A skip week! And then in two weeks, a Wait, What? Ep. 224! Join us, won’t you?
Since it was mentioned in the episode (me, a “Marvel booster”?!? I need to reevaluate so many life choices now), I’ll explicate a little further: everything about this announcement reads like a desperate appeal to nostalgia, which by extension sounds unwelcoming (bordering on actively hostile) to any audience that is NOT 40+-year-old white men.
To pick one easy, stupid example: FOOM ran from 1973-1978. It is currently 2017, so let’s call it an even 40 years ago.
In 1999, faced with comparable sales troubles and customer apathy, Marvel launched the Marvel Knights imprint that basically saved the company and moved mainstream superhero comics into their modern form. If they had chosen instead to appeal to a similar level of nostalgia then, they would’ve rolled back to the familiar globe-and-banner logo of Atlas Comics and scrapped superheroes entirely in favor of science fiction anthology books. This would have been rightly regarded as asinine.
I’m reserving final judgment until we see what this is, but the initial press makes me sad and disinterested.
Yeah, I’m in that 40 year old white man target demographic, came up on Marvel, and nothing about this sounds appealing to me. Frankly, I don’t think there is anything Marvel could do to get me back onboard to the universe as a whole, and I say this as a Marvel Unlimited subscriber who technically wouldn’t have to pay anything extra to read the books. I’m much happier reading old stuff and outlier, continuity-lite series like Squirrel Girl, Vision, Hellcat, She-Hulk, Superior Foes etc. The closest I’ve come to core Marvel titles in the last 10 years were things like Gillen’s Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers, Fraction’s Hawkeye, Waid’s Daredevil, Parker’s Thunderbolts and stuff like that, and I read them 100% because of the creative teams. You could not pay me to read the gobbledygook crossovers and event books or to try to get back into X-Men continuity that I dropped shortly after Claremont left.
Sad too, because Marvel still publishes a lot of good and even great stuff, it’s just almost always on the fringes.
BTW, I’ve been reading Cap Am: Sam Wilson on MU after you guys talked up how Gruenwaldy it was. I enjoyed the first batch of issues, but since then it’s been something of a grim slog. Sounds like it gets worse, not better, based on your discussions. Is that fair to say? Because if so I’m going to drop it.
Ditto, really. My Marvel reading and indifference is much like yours, except I’m closer to 60 than 40. I was member of Foom when it began and I was hungry to know more about the comics I liked. I can’t imagine it’s function now.
To give Jim Steranko some paying work?
I think it’s a little less unwelcoming (to use a double negative) than you do, mostly because I think the things they’re adding for nostalgia, for the most part, are complete window dressing. No one gives a damn about FOOM, but young people aren’t going to go “I’m not buying this now that there’s FOOM in it.” Other than that, the “classic” versions of characters, I suspect, are the “movie” versions of the characters more than anything else.
Sorry I totally forgot to add the link for cutting and pasting purposes. Here you go:
Any chance that, you know, Secret Empire just fails? I mean, has there been any positive buzz about the series?
Also, how representative is Batman #21 of Tom King’s work in general? Because I thought the comic was basically a waste of time. The whole “nothing happened” critic of modern comics has never felt so perfect. The nine-panel grid King used also felt really weak to me. The fight with Reverse Flash just underscored to me that Batman should be dead after that, not that it was an interesting way to convey a sense of time, which I thought the opening sequence with Batman fiddling with the button did a lot better.
As far as Tom King goes, I bailed on his Vision comic halfway through when it seemed like every dramatic twist seemed to be premised on smart characters having to momentarily act like idiots (oh no, a superhero’s family had to kill a supervillain in self-defense, while he was trying to kill them! I guess their only option is… to lie to everyone and hide the body somewhere?). Between that and the horribly stilted formalism – which made the whole thing feel like a sort of Baby’s First Watchmen – I just couldn’t finish it. King might be a lot better elsewhere, but after that series I haven’t exactly sought him out.
The larger problem I have with comics that revisit Watchmen has to do with the vast gulf that seems to exist between the quality of Watchmen as a book and the way Watchmen has been received by its admirers in the decades since its publication. There’s this really weird thing that’s happened in superhero-reader circles where “Watchmen” has become shorthand for a superhero story that deconstructs superheroes, and I don’t know how to break this to people, but Watchmen isn’t that interested in superheroes at all. It happens to use superheroes and their genre conventions, but in the same way that The Prisoner used the conventions of spy shows, to raise a series of arguments about the real world (in Moore’s case, this includes a critique of power, from the level of the imperial nation-state to the corporation to the individual). Probably the least interesting thing about Watchmen is whatever it has to say about superheroes, but for thirty years that’s largely what superhero readers and writers have talked about (the godawful “what if superheroes were really real in the real world?” thing, which is a road that just leads you to Mark Millar). It’s a testament to how insular the world of superhero comics is that a book that’s steeped in cold war geopolitics and nuclear paranoia with references as varied as Mad Max and Fail Safe has largely become a jumping off point for yet more debates about how to write superhero comics.
For god’s sake… King’s “Vision” as “Baby’s First Watchmen”! I’ve never heard it described better. THANK YOU for that. I mean, at the time, sure, it was very possibly Marvel’s best book of 2016, but that’s not saying much at all. I enjoyed the first half-dozen issues or so, but then the promise of “something important’s gonna happen” wore off and it became increasingly obvious that Tom King didn’t really have a story here, just a bunch of vaguely interesting tropes and nostalgic callbacks. I still LIKED it and would give it maybe 3 or 3.5 stars, but the fact that so many other people raved about it to the extent they did really makes me distrust them as critics, especially since I know they’ve read better stuff in the past.
Tom King is a very pretentious writer. I’ve read entire Batman run simply because I’ve subscribed to the title for ages. It’s empty. It’s somewhat interesting formal stylings (interesting because they’re so stiff) can’t really conceal the underlying emptiness and the fact that he has nothing to say. The dialogue and inner monologue is embarrassingly bad, with the Catwoman two-parter being the worst of the bunch. If people can read this stuff and not roll their eyes at how pretentious it is, then… wow. I think my entire sophomore year writing workshop turned in better less pretentious writing than this, and we had multiple goth students.
I agree that King’s writing is pretentious and hollow. Just read the Darkseid War Green Lantern One-shot. Hoo-boy was that filled with a bunch of pap theology and philosophy. Not to mention a literal deus ex machina resolution to a pointless story.
I am also not a fan of his portrayal of Batman. The “I am Suicide” storyline was premised on a number of unlikely variables all falling in place at the same time, and an obvious deception that fooled no one. Batman continually stating he was going to break Bane’s back ad naseum was the use of a poor literary device. As was the juxtaposition of Bruce Wayne and Bane’s childhoods. King’s Batman is also portrayed as almost super-human. Instead of using his wits to outmaneuver Bane, he beat him by…being stronger than Bane? By barely surviving a beating at both Santa Prisca prison and again later in the conclusion of “I am Bane” at Arkham? And then surviving a beating by the Reverse Flash?
People are giving King way too much credit.
So that blood splotch on the button…is that still blood? Or are they just really fixated on a piece of Watchmen memorabilia?
That blood splotch is going to get crusty and flake off after awhile, yeah?
This Watchmen stuff being shoehorned into the DCU is like some form of endocannibalism. It makes a little squeamish.
Me too. I’m picturing Geoff Johns with the seven lantern rings on his fingers AND a Watchmen button on his hat.
Oh, just wait until the seven different colored Dr. Manhattans show up from the various multiverses and are linked to each ring, Brendan!
Please nooo. I don’t think I can handle orange Dr. Manhattan.
Orange Dr. Manhattan…he’s the kooky one that hordes all of the buttons, right? :)
If I remember correctly, people were feeling pretty much the exact same disappointment and anxiety after the DC Rebirth announcement that they are feeling for Marvel Legacy. Elle Collins really captured those feelings in her write up about it on Comics Alliance, which is still up. Rebirth didn’t get its praise until creative teams, sales numbers and regular titles came out, and even still there was dissonance between the blogs and the greater readership for a while.
Personally, I’m not digging Rebirth that much, but I do see it as a stronger foundation to launch DCYou-type projects off of than the NEW 52 was. Young Animal is pretty much all I read from DC atm.
I also remember Marvel Now being a huge success, taking the legs out from under the New 52 except for Batman before long. Funny Marvel is going back to the corner box when their Marvel Now approach was “every cover is a movie poster” or something like that. Anyway, if they do eventually flood the market, the corner box will be good from a pragmatic standpoint at least.
Great pod guys!
Funny, the only core Rebirth title I find particularly interesting is Deathstroke, solely because of Priest. Every other DC item I find interesting is super out of the mainline Rebirth, like the Tom Scioli Super Powers backups, or the Kamandi Challenge. People seem to like Rebirth, I’m just indifferent.
I’m behind on Deathstroke, but if you just add Suicide Squad (which I have because of Williams and the art team), you pretty listed my full Rebirth pull list, d.
How’d you like the Kamandi 4? For one of the writer/artist teams I was least excited about, I thought it was solidly stuff.
It’s in the queue but I haven’t read it yet due to the writer/artist team underwhelming me. But I also wasn’t a Palmiotti fan, and I thought he and Amanda Conner did really nice work on issue #3. “Solidly stuff” makes it sound like I should fast track issue #4 at least a little bit.
Yes! Kamandi is good. I read that. I will eventually get the Suicide trades. Williams is boss.
I’ll be really curious to see how they read in trades: Williams had to do some really interesting things with the pacing in the first three arcs in order to accommodate the artists and the fortnightly schedule.
Top Ten Reasons People Don’t Like Secret Empire:
1. Cap is Hydra, but Hydra are really Nazis, you guys!
2. Cap’s creators were Jewish and would be offended and shocked (shocked, I say!) by Cap being Hydra. Sorry, I mean, a Nazi.
3. The timing of this story is wrong. (Apparently, for some reason which no one has been able to clearly articulate).
4. Secret Empire wasn’t supposed to be a line-wide crossover, but Marvel really hates you, so there.
5. Something, something diversity…
6. That Nick Spencer guy is kind of a dick on Twitter.
7. No one wants to read a story about a tragic heroic figure, I guess. (Apologies to William Shakespeare and the Greeks).
8. Did I mention that Marvel really, really hates you?
9. Sweet, sweet righteous indignation looks good on you.
10. All of the above.
It sounds like most people are opting for #10 above.
I opted for Reason 11 – it looks super fucking boring and I don’t give a shit about reading a long ass story with a million crossovers where Cosmic Cube Cap Am fights a bunch of good guys, then magically gets turned back to normal and feels bad about it for a while.
But, by the end of Secret Empire, the Marvel Universe will never be the same! There will be far reaching implications and there will be a change in the status quo! The internet will break in half! Etc. etc.
Regarding Secret Empire, I want to comment on two related things – our political climate and Marvel cowardliness. I disagree with our current climate being wrong for this. To me, this is a comment on exactly that climate. While the origin of this story predates the election, it still grew up in the same atmosphere that led to this election result. To me, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 is very much an exploration of what could lead someone to vote for someone like Donald Trump (or worse). That’s why I think the timing is perfect. The two “bad guys take over” events are a little different in that way. Dark Reign was a comment on the Bush administration. It was fear from the War on Terror and a desire for security that led to Norman Osborn’s rule. This is much more a tolerance for bigotry leading to Hydra Cap (I’ll admit the execution with the surprise betrayal undercuts that to a degree, though).
Now what about Marvel cowardliness? Would it be better if Nick Spencer was allowed to just flat out say what it is? I would love to argue that they’re really being subversive by burrying it, but I don’t really believe that either. However, it’s nothing new. The original Secret Empire was going to be led by Richard Nixon and Marvel flat out refused to allow that either. At a minimum, I would separate what Nick Spencer writes and what Marvel Marketing says. To me, he’s telling the story he (mostly) wants to tell and Marvel is trying to market it as something else for their own reasons not related to the story.
I do think it’s sad how toxic this has become. A few years ago, it was funny that Brett Dalton would wear a Hydra shirt at a convention and rep Team Hydra. They were acknowledged as Nazis, but it was still just a cartoony thing. Now people are acting like wearing a Hydra shirt is the equivalent of wearing a Swastika.
Just after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” came out, I was out shopping for some new clothes for my kids. (If you think comics are expensive, you should see what stores charge for a t-shirt that’s too small for a hand puppet.) I was struck by how much of the merchandising clothing for kids depicts Storm Troopers, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and all the other Empire characters. Isn’t the Empire really just Space Nazis? And should kids wear that? Do kids like Space Nazis? Where are the Yoda and Yaddle shirts for them? I say that, but I’d still buy an Empire t-shirt for my kid over a BB-8 one. I have morals.
I totally relate to Hibbs’s complaints about Dark Matter. That’s not *good* IP creation. It’s a handful of throw-away generic concepts segregated into their own ghetto. DC couldn’t try harder to label them as “don’t matter.”
I miss the old method of IP creation, either done one at a time, so marketing could focus on the intro of that one book and readers/retailers could take a risk with one book, or with characters introduced in another already successful series. But as an entire line, it’s way too easy for me to write it all off as “not my thing,” same way I do with Avengers or X-Men.
There are times when having a line of books works. Either by encouraging readers to follow a shared continuity, or helping us identify other books with a similar vibe (e.g., Vertigo or Young Animal). But what storyline or theme do these books have in common? “We won’t be here in 12 months” is the only thing that DC seems to be communicating with this announcement.
Abhay summed it up for me:
I found it funny when Graeme said Marvel would be trolling if they ended their Legacy comic with a Watchman button as I had felt trolled when DC introduced the button at the end of Rebirth. I’d rather liked the issue until then, but it felt like a big ‘Fuck you’ for people who’d been annoyed by ‘Before Watchmen’. I thought Graeme was straining a little saying ‘legacy’ is about looking to the past. Isn’t it about leaving something to the future? However you define the word, I’m not excited by the announcement.
I also would buy a LGBQT Avengers book. Can I suggest ‘gAy-Force’ as a title?
gAy–Force is a terrific title!