Wait, What? Ep. 172: Vartox to the Rescue!

March 23, 2015

No, it’s not our new Wait, What? portrait (although Jeff does kind of covet Vartox’s hairline at this point)

Yup, here we go!  Remember, if you don’t dig the player and just want the link to the episode to cut and paste into your own player, another browser window, or whatever you prefer, check out our first comment which will hook you up.

That said, let’s get cracking with the show notes!  This ep. runs a bit over two and a half hours and cutting all my stammering coughing fits took a bit more time so…

00:00-5:18: Greetings!  Time marches on, bringing you the podcasting equivalent of chocolate bars and cigarettes—another episode of Wait, What?  Of course, you should expect us going off track almost immediately, with talk of Princess Superstar and Eminem.

5:18-39:21: It’s been a tough week for comics with Graeme declaring four minutes in, “I’m burned out.”  We’re both a little bit burnt on books by the Big Two, and the Chris Sims/Valerie D’Orazio situation has made things seem quite grim.  Only in the existence of Mr. T’s upcoming DIY TV show, I Pity The Tool, can Graeme find any joy.  Neither of us are friends with Chris or Val but Graeme is in a “friend of friends” situation, so our discussion about the situation is a tad on the politically fraught side but considering it’s a case of comics criticism that is also an act of bullying, and so we feel it’s worth talking about.

39:21-1:02:00:  “I’m feeling down on a lot of things this week,” concludes Graeme. “I totally get it, I totally get it,” consoles Jeff. “And it’s probably because you read Batman Eternal issues #49 and #50.”  And such is the power of our not-clumsy not-weird segue that we’re off and having a full-on heavy-on-the-spoiler talk about those issues, the reveal of the Big Bad (which Jeff thinks was handled bigly and badly), whether either of the Big Two will be able to sustain a solid weekly comic, the collection of the Superman: Doomed event, and more.
1:02:00-1:19:03:  After giving you a word from our new sponsors (depression, emotional exhaustion, and ambivalence), we move on to ostensibly talk about Superman #39 by Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr., but we really talk about Gene Yang, Superman’s incoming writer, with Jeff doing more than his share of fretting about Yang as a newcomer to DC offices, and the “collaborative” nature of creative, editorial and marketing.  Also discussed: the pre-Convergence issues of Batgirl and Grayson, Jeff’s confusion about what’s a jumping off point and what’s a jumping on point, which of course is something to keep in mind considering…  Convergence! Secret Wars! This summer, the Big Two are trying to disrupt themselves (it’s like Uber, if Uber was owned by the taxi companies).  Graeme, being Graeme, likes the “this is what you need to know about the characters” pages that are going to be in Convergence.  Another thing Graeme likes the casting of the first villain for the Supergirl show, which is this guy in the image above.  Yup, Vartox.  Apparently, they’re not going to do the whole pleather diaper but, really, this can only bode well for the TV show, TV, and really the state of the world.
1:20:07-1:23:20: This is a good transition to Jeff asking Graeme about the Flash TV show.  Graeme has good things to say about the show: and by good things we mean “FULL SPOILERS” from 1:20:30 to 1:21:50 and skip over that section if you’re behind on the show, Graeme says, really, please do.
1:23:20-1:35:27: Quite the contrast to the Flash TV show is Graeme’s catch-up read on Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers which he calls “staggeringly bleak.”  Spoilers for this storyline too? Although since I think Graeme doesn’t get beyond the confines of what’s on Marvel Unlimited, he doesn’t talk about anything that’s not six months old.  We talk about plot hammers, about the difference between creators marking off their own section of continuity and ignoring established characterization altogether; and more.
Bad Houses
1:35:27-1:44:36: Trying to stay on the positive tip, Graeme talks about two First Second books he’s just read: In Real Life (IRL) by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (who really should’ve gotten more credit for doing the full adaptation, as I recall); This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki; and Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla “Speed” McNeil, the last of which we talk about for a bit since Jeff read a quajillion years ago.
1:44:36-1:49:25: Thanks to Graeme’s recommendation, and also the free SXSW books offered through Comixology, Jeff read and really, really liked The Black Hood #1 by Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos from Archie/Dark Circle.  We both think Archie is doing some smart, very readable stuff this week although Graeme is both more optimistic about the Archie horror books getting back on schedule and more into Waid and Haspiel’s The Fox than Jeff.Zer
1:49:25-2:07:21: “In another universe,” announces Jeff, “we ended up with me haranguing you about all these Silver Age Flash comics that I read.”  (Graeme points out that universe was last week, just after we finished recording Baxter Building.  Whoops.)  In reading those issues, Jeff noticed something about the characterization of Barry Allen in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s that he wants to talk about.  Discussed:  a whole bunch of issues of The Flash, including Jeff’s ongoing obsession with issue #275 by Cary Bates and Alex Saviuk which is brilliant.
Real Flash Run
And we also learn that  Jeff loves Superman #199, the first Superman-Flash race by Jack Miller, Wayne Boring, Jim Mooney and Edwin J. Smalle, Jr., whereas Graeme digs DC Comics Presents #1 and #2 by Martin Pasko and José Luis Garcia-López. (And admittedly, it’s hard to top Garcia-Lopez art.)
DC Comics Presents 1
2:07:21-2:13:02: Jeff has read Howard The Duck #1 and literally doesn’t know how to talk about it.  Graeme hasn’t read it, but doesn’t quite know how to talk to Jeff about it, holding back as he is a “you scab!” response.  It’s fun, fertile ground on which to build an incisive comics discussion!  Join us, won’t you?
2:13:02-2:18:10: Other stuff Jeff has read, talked about quickly: Walking Dead #138 by Kirkman, Adlard, Gaudianao and Rathburn; Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta #7, by Kirkman and Azaceta; Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3 by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi; Chrononauts #1 by Mark Millar, Sean Gordon Murphy, and Matt Hollingsworth.
2:18:10-2:22:29: Neither of us have read Invisible Republic #1 by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, but it looks so lovely Graeme, who hasn’t read it, chides Jeff for not reading it.  Graeme has been catching up on Southern Cross by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger from Image which he enjoys but wishes Cloonan was also drawing.  And Graeme also read Giant Days from John Allison and Lissa Tremain, which he also wrote about  on this site here.
2:22:29-2:28:30: Through a problem with, I don’t know, similar seeming covers or confusion about where he left off or both, Jeff had trailed off on Zero, but he checks back in on issue #15 by Ales Kot, Ian Betram and Jordie Bellaire, which is a gorgeous looking issue that has a lot of rewards for fans of William S. Burroughs. Graeme, who is reading it, chides Jeff for not reading it, even though Jeff is talking about how he just read it.  I’m sure Graeme would object to the characterization as “chiding.”
2:28:30-2:29:27: Ooops, we’ve gone too far and so Graeme turns into the Lord of the Flies for a few minutes until Jeff can bring himself to interrupt and suggest they reboot.
2:29:27-end: Reboot!  Convergence! Secret Wait, What?! And it’s pretty much also our “closing comments!” section, with us talking about how next week is not a skip week and how you’ll be getting Ep. 173 in just a week and then a skip week.  Also!
Under The Tote Bag! Places to look for us at—Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter! Tumblr! and, of course, on Patreon where, as of this count, 98 patrons make this whole thing possible.
We hope you enjoy and we’ll see you next week!

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25 comments on “Wait, What? Ep. 172: Vartox to the Rescue!

  1. Frankenhobo Mar 23, 2015

    Your discussion of the Sims/D’Orazio situation was especially interesting to me, since I remember being very deep into the comics blogosphere when the initial events occurred. Back in the day, Fanboy Rampage turned me on to a lot of the bloggers and writers involved, and it’s strange to see all of this re-emerge after all these years. There does seem to be a definite “There but for the grace of God, go I” element to the response by various comics journalists, and I think it has definitely shaped the discourse around the controversy.

  2. Stefan Mar 23, 2015

    Haven’t had a chance to listen to this one yet but just wanted to drop by and say how much I am enjoying this run of weekly shows. Just checked and you’ve put out 5 episodes in 5 weeks and I very much appreciate it.

  3. Jeff Lester Mar 23, 2015

    Oh, right!


    (but it’s not the first comment. D’oh!)

  4. Matt M Mar 23, 2015

    I was actively dreading the D’Orazio/Sims discussion (considered offering to up my Patreon contribution if you’d skip it entirely), but I thought you guys navigated the waters very well. I was also surprised that more people didn’t point out the discrepancy between D’Orazio’s original blog post and CA’s statement (especially given how knives out people were for CA immediately following the release of the latter). The difference, to me, is “jerk” vs “creep.”

  5. Rob G Mar 23, 2015

    Guys, I love the podcast. I love your banter. My only complaint/constructive criticism I have is that you oftentimes fail to put things into context for the listener. Take for instance, the “Sims/D’Orazio situation.” I had no idea what you guys were talking about because you never explained the nature of the dispute or controversy, how it arose, when it arose, what was said, etc. You were talking in generalities. I had to go online and look it up. It’s not that I’m lazy, but framing the context of your discussion in a 30 seconds or less synopsis of what the “situation” or feud was about, would have been helpful in me better understanding the nature of your conversation. You seem to assume that the listener knows what you are talking about when you should assume the listener has no idea what you are talking about. You’ve done this numerous times in the past, especially in reviewing books. You assume the listener has read the book, or is familiar with the premise, plot or storyline. I’m not suggesting you reveal “spoilers” but some brief summary or background would be helpful in putting your discussions or criticisms in context.

    Thanks for listening.

  6. My podcast catcher caught this episode twice. Are the two versions different?

    • Jeff Lester Mar 23, 2015

      Yes! (Sorta, kinda.) We got a few comments that the first ep. had a bad mix between my sound levels and Graeme’s: I’d cranked him up too high and me too low.

      So the second episode is mixed more evenly…but in my haste to upload I kept the wrong ep. in the ID3 tags. It’ll read as ep. 167 on your player, despite being ep. 172.

      Sorry! Pick your poison, I guess? I corrected the tag but the server’s too busy to let me overwrite the current file so it may be a few days before I get a go at correcting it (and undoubtedly I’ll screw something up in *that* version too, I bet).

  7. Rob G Mar 23, 2015

    I have to further comment on this so-called “Sims/D’Orazio situation”, specifically as to how you guys handled it. You guys spent over a half hour dancing around the subject and saying absolutely nothing of value or substance. I still don’t know what the issues are, what was said, etc. Graeme’ s unwillingness to opine on the topic (despite the fact that he clearly had one) because of perceived and/or real personal and professional ramifications was disheartening. I appreciate Graeme’s honesty in admitting as much, but he come’s off looking like a coward who wants to pretend nothing happened, simply because he doesn’t want to deal with the fallout. Like a witness to a crime who doesn’t want to get involved. Way to go Graeme. If you weren’t going to voice an opinion (and it’s not like you guys are not opinionated), why even bother broaching the subject? It was not entertaining nor profound. All I know is Graeme copped out and I lost much respect for the both of you for failing to state an opinion when you clearly have a strong opinion one way or the other. A true low point in Wait, What? podcast history.

    • Jeff Lester Mar 24, 2015

      Sorry it didn’t work for you, Rob.

      For better or for worse, this podcast is almost entirely spontaneous: it is rare that we even discuss possible topics beforehand. And although Graeme and I didn’t discuss whether or not we’d talk about the conversation coming up, I think we both felt it was important enough to at least acknowledge the situation (although, as you pointed out, we really weren’t the best source for providing any kind of context or background whatsoever) and to discuss it, since part of the problem with the whole situation is how long it went unacknowledged by Sims, and by people who probably should’ve known better.

      But that doesn’t mean that we can talk about it freely and fully or without biases or blind spots. I can see how that might be incredibly disappointing to you and other listeners. But I think what we gave you was a very complete picture about where we stand and what we feel, ambivalence, depression, frustration, and all. We tried to do the best we could to put all of it in context, including ourselves. That might prove absolutely useless to you, or it might help others understand the complexity of uncovering these topics.

      Either way, we’re sorry it didn’t work for you. With luck, and with effort by everyone, harassment and bullying in the community will decrease and it’ll be a long, long time before we end up discussing stuff like this again.

      • Zaragosa Mar 24, 2015

        A very classy and honest response, Jeff. Impressive, given the tone in which you guys were “called out” for this supposed low point. I actually found the reticence that you and Graeme displayed in fully engaging with this issue to be illuminating in its own way. And you both still managed to say a bunch of stuff that was absolutely insightful and germane, while not explicitly “taking sides” in any kind of provocative way. Your parallel with the soul searching feelings you had during the Brian Wood imbroglio was particularly fascinating. Contrary to the wishes of some listeners for you guys to be all reductive and shouty about things, you both made it clear you had more nuanced feelings on this issue than at least part of the public “narrative,” but did not feel it was a hill worth dying on. For those of us who are highly opinionated and find ourselves in the public eye, this sort of discretion is far from cowardly; it is, in fact, smart; you guys have both shown no hesitation in frequently expressing contrarian views on myriad topics, when you deem it necessary, and indeed, that is exactly why many of us adore the show.

        • Rob G Mar 24, 2015

          Framing this as “taking sides” is misguided and I never suggested any such thing Zaragosa. I’ve researched this controversy since my last comment, and it seems clear cut to me. Bullying is wrong, disgraceful, and should not be tolerated in a civilized society. Sims to his credit admits as much. He admits in contrition that the behavior he engaged in was deplorable and constituted bullying, which he belatedly regrets now that he has a higher profile as a writer for one of the big two..
          There really is no room here for a “nuanced” discussion as you suggest. There is no defense for bullying. There are no sides to take other than to acknowledge that Sims engaged in bullying (as he himself admits) and that we should call out bullies for the emotionally stunted, small-minded people they are. Graeme equivocated so much on the topic, I really walked away from this podcast without any clear understanding as to his position on bullying. My take away was that he didn’t want to comment on this topic because it could result in negative personal and professional consequences for him, which is a shameful and deplorable position to take on the subject.
          As far as Sims is concerned, the chickens have come home to roost. It’s karma. You get back what you put out into the world. You put out hate and bile and that’s what you’re gonna get back.

      • Rob G Mar 24, 2015

        Jeff, when it comes to bullying, there should be no ambivalence. What exactly are you “ambivalent” about? This is not a complex issue as you seem to suggest. Bullying is bad and what Sims did was just plain wrong and ugly. His belated apology is especially suspect given the passage of time and the timing of his mea culpa, which coincides with his new high profile gig at Marvel.
        Does the ambivalence come from the timing of the release of this bullying? If someone has threatened Sims with this issue to get retribution and possibly derail his new career because of jealousy (or whatever), their motives may be misguided, but the truth is undeniable. Like I said in my reply below, karma can be a bitch. You reap what you sow. Sims made his bed. He is not the victim here.

  8. Matthew Mar 24, 2015

    Yeah, I am a fan of Sims, so its’s sort of be even handed when I think about how this affects my opinion of him. Otherwise, I probably would look at the surface and write him off forever. As it is though, I kind of have trouble seeing what he did wrong, other than not realizing the power he held in relation to D’Orazio, then only apologizing when it was made apparent how much he had hurt her.

    I’ve seen people talk about how intentions don’t play into committing a wrong, only the effect, but I just haven’t seen that ever explained in a manner that I find comfortable. Or rather, there are degrees to it. Some things are clearly more harmful than others.

    Brian Wood invited a woman to his room to ‘talk shop’, and called her out the next day. That can be seen as awkward weirdness around women, but it’s also clearly creepy. Sims was a troll on the internet. He thought she was a bad writer, called her out with a lot of jerky language, and some other people with smaller voices harassed her worse. How was he a ringleader? He didn’t point people at her. A big chunk of the comics internet was having a circlejerk about how much they hated D’Orazio’s writing at the time. He’s stated that he stopped as soon as he realized that she was actually being emotionally affected by this.

    I feel weird right now. Like I’m totally ‘supporting the patriarchy’. But I think there’s been a general overreaction to this thing. CA’s sidestepping conspiracy BS, Graeme’s fear of long term career repercussions, people saying to kick him out of comics forever. Should we actually be directing this much guilt and hate to someone for giving joking, bad reviews that got too personal a couple of times, and putting mean comments on a blog? I get that internet harassment is real harassment, but real life harassment hurts a lot more quickly and its damage is more immediately apparent. I think Sims’ actions weren’t cruel. Jerky yes, but that’s it.

    I’m also bothered that D’Orazio’s complaints about Sims’ apology to her husband gave passerby critics with no knowledge more easy ammo. Like you guys said though, this is different if Sims did say “Are you gonna cry, little girl?”, because then that means he had some conception of the power he held as he continued to hurt. It also brings gender politics way more into the forefront. If he didn’t say it, then D’Orazio gave more false ammo to people. Sorry for the rant. I get that this stuff actually won’t matter at all in a week or so.

    • Matthew Mar 24, 2015

      wow thats long

    • Steve K. Mar 24, 2015

      Pretty much every criminal justice system in the world is built in part on the idea that intentions do matter – first degree murder is worse than manslaughter, etc. – so you’re well on-point to point that out.

      Not that the absence of malice is a get-out-of-jail free card by any means, but there are such things as Wrong and Even More Wrong.

    • Frankenhobo Mar 24, 2015

      I have a similar ambivalence. Sims definitely crossed the line in his behavior and he should own up to that, but it seems like he’s being made to take sole responsibility for what was a pretty widespread trend at the time. As I recall, there were a few popular bloggers, including some women, who were consistently critical of D’Orazio and could also be regarded as contributing to the harassment she received. It’s a uncomfortable, complicated subject, and I don’t blame people for being circumspect when talking about it, but I feel like there’s more to be said about it in the future, once we’ve had time to process everything.

      • I read the reports of the bullying business, and Chris Sims’s apology, so I had a bit of context for the discussion. I’m glad you’re going to try harder to lead the listener into subjects, though. Thanks. I totally get the ambivalence as regards having an opinion but not wanting to put it out there; that said, it is irksome when we hear that you’re going to discuss the ‘juicy’ stuff off air … how about, when that happens, you edit out the ‘we’ll talk later bit’ so we don’t get frustrated?

        It sounds as if Jeff and I gave up on Hickman’s Avengers storyline at exactly the same point – the heroes established by Marvel would never contemplate killing parallel worlds to save their own, they’d rescue as many people as they could from as many worlds as they could reach while – as, I think it was Jeff, said – remembering that they have a massive amount of knowledge about the Multiverse and potential saviours. Hell, I still don’t see how the mass of Marvel readers can accept the idea of the Illuminati – patriarchal heroes sneaking around behind their partners’ backs, making massive decisions because They Know Best. The Illuminati’s arrival was when it became difficult to separate Marvel’s good guys from the bad guys. Hickman’s Avengers – at least, from what I read and have heard – seem to have become no different from the despots they once fought.

  9. Mike Loughlin Mar 24, 2015

    I’ll echo two sentiments expressed by other commenters: please explain current events as if we listeners haven’t read or heard about them, and please edit out any “I’ll tell you later” stuff. I was listening to the first half hour of the podcast in the car and found it frustrating that I couldn’t follow the discussion.

    Also, thank you for providing me with hours of free entertainment. I hate offering up any criticism to you guys because I enjoy the show and don’t pay for it. Your batting average is still .999.

    Now that I’ve read about the Sims/ D’Orazio situation, I’m disappointed in Chris Sims. I’m not saying he’s a bad person but he treated Ms. D’Orazio horribly. Even if he wasn’t the ringleader, he should never have made his issues personal. I’ve read his writing and listened to his podcast but I might not next time I see his name pop up on Comics Alliance, even after he offered up a sincere apology. I’m not writing him off, but I’ll see what happens next.

  10. What I can’t figure out is how we got from Jeff boycotting Marvel to Jeff having no problem buying a non-Gerber HOWARD THE DUCK comic, which even Graeme refuses to read…

    • Rob G Mar 27, 2015

      I refuse to read it because of the character design. The duck looks horrible. Half his charm was because he looked like Donald. A surly, horny, cigar smoking Donald Duck. A cartoon trapped in reality. Now he looks… Ehh. Doesn’t Disney own Marvel? Can’t they give them a pass on this?

    • I was under the impression that Jeff”s boycot was over. Isn’t it?

  11. Dan Coyle Apr 3, 2015

    “[Gerber] has no family…

    His daughter would be surprised to hear that, Jeff.

    And count me in on being disappointed with Graeme (though I’m always disappointed with Graeme). If you didn’t want to say what you really think, fine. Just delete all the prevaricating.