Yup, here it is: our 174th episode (by one count, at least), just in time for you to snort some Hitler and celebrate Mary Jane Watson’s birthday!


*taps mic*

Well, since I’m sure you’ve got a busy day ahead of you, allow me to present to you…without further ado…our show notes!

00:00-6:00: Greetings! Death threats! As Jeff says, “Listeners! Welcome to what may be the last episode of Wait, What?” Yes, it’s a bone-chilling opening for a podcast that jumps right in and barely looks back, with an introduction of what we’re going to be talking about length: a frank (and profanity-filled) discussion of Avengers #1-36, New Avengers #1-24, and Infinity #1-6, all written by Jonathan Hickman and a elite cadre of Marvel’s shock troops!

6:00-25:42: But first, before we do that, since this was recorded on the day the second Star Wars trailer dropped (embedded above), we have to talk about it first. Also discussed: Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek Into Darkness, the franchise that taught you not to trust franchises, class struggle in Star Wars, the Mad Max: Fury Road trailer (also embedded above), Terminator Genisys trailer, the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, the weird fragmented point trailers are at right now, the second Ant-Man trailer, and more.
25:42-1:11:05: And now we get back to Jonathan Hickman, Avengers #1-36, New Avengers #1-24, and Infinity #1-6, with liberty and spoilers for all.  Because we are trying to be better with context, fasten your seatbelts as we try to describe everything that’s going on and break down our reactions. (And if you want to read along, all issues discussed are currently available on Marvel Unlimited). Discussed: plot hammering, what Jeff characterizes as the “contemporary American spirit” at the heart of Hickman’s story, the powers and drawback of repetition, a story about the inevitability of mortality as told in a story featuring characters who we know technically will not actually die; Marvel’s former series What If, #NotMyTonyStark, shared universes, D&D references, Stan Lee’s pubic hair, Secret Wars, the Nick Spencer train, the latest iPad update for the Marvel Unlimited app, the 500 Star Wars comics dropped on the app this week (seriously, if you find yourself hankering for the Dark Horse Expanded Universe, or you just want to re-read that issue where Michael Golden drew a really keen lightsaber fight, it is now exceptionally easy to get your hands on with a subscription to MU), and more.


Very, very, terrifyingly easy.

1:11:05-1:20:58: The mention of the iPad (and more specifically, Jeff’s not-subtle hint that Graeme should get one) leads to a story from Graeme about what he’s been up to since the last time we podcasted. (Spoiler: a lot of what he’s been up to involves sitting in the Apple Store.) Throw in a cameo from Ernie and Gus-Gus and you’ve got a lovely non-comic intermission!

Here is Herbie

(Did not crop after ganking; probably should’ve)

1:20:58-1:43:20: Returning from that intermission, patron Scott Ashworth requested that we read one of the oldest cult comics, Herbie the Fat Fury, by Richard Hughes and Ogden Whitney, which Graeme with his superior library skills (and superior library) is able to do! Discussed: Alan Moore, a certain type of “satire,” Groundhog Day (the movie, not the holiday), JFK (the person, not the airport), Stockholm Syndrome, Gold Key Star Trek comics, Daniel Pinkwater, pre- and post-war America, and coming up next on our to-read list: Opus by Satoshi Kon, as requested by Eric Rupe.  Also, not mentioned in our discussion, but let me throw in a counterbalancing opinion about Herbie from Bill Reed, and an uncovered connection between Herbie and Watchmen. Those “Comics Should Be Good” guys are great, aren’t they?

1:43:20-1:55:21: Graeme also read the first week of Convergence titles from DC, which he wrote about for the website  but also discusses at a bit more length here. Mentioned: Alisa Kwitney on Batgirl, Lee Weeks on Superman, Jeff Parker and Tim Truman on Hawkman (upcoming), someone’s butt talking to someone else’s boobs, editorial inconsistencies, Convergence as an event where you can read the crossover books without having to read the main event title; and more.


To quote Jackie Kennedy:  Sigh.

1:55:21-2:06:51: Although he didn’t have anything special planned to say (or anything planned at all), Jeff nevertheless wanted to talk about the passing of Herb Trimpe, comic artist, writer, and teacher who managed to fuse the imperatives of a Marvel house style with his own more unique one, and gave us a lot of great comics along the way: the Incredible Hulk, Shogun Warriors, Godzilla, and G.I. Joe, a fill-in issue of Captain America written by Bill Mantlo (issue #291, which Jeff does an impressive job of partially misremembering here (and again, thanks to Marvel Unlimited, I dug up that issue, read it and screenshot it just now), the Phantom Eagle in Marvel Super-Heroes #16, issues of G.I. Joe Special Missions that he wrote, and more. Thank you, Herb.

2:06:51-end: Closing comments, a.k.a., “when the hell is our next episode, we honestly have no god-damned idea.” (Hint, it’s a skip week coming up, so look for us in a fortnight.)  The Small Tote Bag! Places to look for us at—Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter! Tumblr! and, of course, on Patreon where, as of this count, 102 patrons make this whole thing possible.

Next Week: there is no next week!  (As far as a podcast episode is concerned) but then come back the week after that! And the week after that!  Etc., etc.  And remember, if you need just a straight text-only link to cut and paste into your browser or program of choice, check out the first comment!


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18 comments on “Wait, What? Ep. 174: Beyond the Valley of the Action Figures

  1. Jeff Lester Apr 20, 2015
  2. Tdubs Apr 20, 2015

    So I guess my big problem with the Hickman Avengers is that these aren’t the characters as I want to read them. I have the same feeling from this that I had from Man of Steel, the drama comes from the character doing something drastic and I feel it’s unearned.

    I feel like these comics are the equivalent of plate spinning trick up until they couldn’t figure out what to do so we got an 8 month jump and told major developments happened and we will never ever know what happened.

    • Jeff Lester Apr 22, 2015

      Great points (especially with the comparison to Man of Steel): although for what it’s worth, I don’t think Hickman was spinning plates per se. Rather, I think Hickman really, really thinks the meat of his story is all about exploring the implication of every action and story beat (through relatively spry dialogue and utterly inert character development). He just prefers to cut away from the stuff he thinks is less interesting, like action scenes.

      That said, the Eight Months Later jump was some pretty robust bullshit. I’d almost buy it as a way to generate tension and leak what happened out bit by bit, but let’s face it: if anyone knew the Secret Wars event was coming it was clearly Hickman. This really does become the easiest, laziest way to get to the darkest timeline without having to do an ounce of heavy lifting.

  3. I watched the original trilogy on VHS when I was a wee lad in the early 90s (over and over of course). Granted, of all the films, I’ve only rewatched Empire as an adult, but I never understood why Jedi was somehow implicitly the worst of the original trilogy. I imagine there is a memo which gets sent out to every film critic saying “By the way, Jedi is the worst, and this must be mentioned every time Star Wars comes up.”

    And yet, no one seems to articulate why it is the worst. What are its flaws that the first two don’t have? When I was a kid, New Hope was by far the worst, as it looks and sounds the most obviously cheap. I remember being so bored by ponderous Ben Kenobi clacking his wooden light sabre against that of the equally ponderous Vader. It’s no comparison to the sleek movements in Empire and Jedi, and the sound design in those movies is much stronger and more immersive (the iconic light sabre sounds that everyone does in impersonations were introduced in Episode V). Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, “hey the fights look and sound a lot better,” would have been considered a stupid critique, but isn’t this how we look at movies now, evaluating the spectacle on display? So where’s Jedi’s reappraisal?

    All of that being said, I don’t know what y’all are talking about with the new Star Wars trailer. It looks terrible, or rather, it looks like nothing new at all. Every word – nay, every SOUND – in the trailer comes from a previous installment. It’s deliberate, of course, but still, It’s like they’re telling us directly that they have nothing new to say with the property.

    Speaking of lolbad trailers, I’m a bit bummed that you guys didn’t slag off Batman V. Superman (excuse me, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice; no wait, the Fabulous Fantatisic Four Present the Mind-Staggering Battle of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice). “Tell me, do you bleed?” Hooo boy, I know what movie I’m taking my little nieces and nephews to.

    • “And yet, no one seems to articulate why it is the worst. What are its flaws that the first two don’t have?”

      That’s easy. The first two movies both have unified storylines with satisfyingly complete character arcs; Jedi is dedicated to wrapping up old business and doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Its big set pieces are basically restagings of the set pieces from the last two movies, only with more characters and ships added in. It’s filled with extraneous new characters whose presence is dictated by marketing and merchandizing decisions rather than story logic. And it’s derailed by Lucas’s infantile humor, with the entire Jabba storyline fizzing out in a sequence pratfalls. Basically, everything fans hated about the prequels starts in Jedi. (Other than the retcons, I guess.)

      What the first movie lacked in special effects (and, with a few exceptions, acting ability), it more than made up for with a unified storyline, propulsive plotting, and absolutely clear story arcs for all the principals. And, you know, it built the foundations that all the other movies depend on. I’ll take that over empty spectacle every time.

  4. Re: Jeff describing the plot of Hickman’s Avengers
    Ive linked to this series before but that whole section made me think of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GXv2C7vwX0

    Re: Apple products
    I have a weird issue too. Whenever I plug my phone into a charger it will charge for a bit but then say ‘this accessory is not supported and stop charging’. Except sometimes the charged number goes up? And sometimes 5% charge will last for half an hour. The whole thing is super annoying. If anyone can suggest a good android phone to get I’d (and possibly Jeff I guess) would be all ears.

    Re: Herby
    The original form of the Chuck Norris joke?

    Also it looks like I have to watch Beyond the Valley of the Dolls man, that was some crazy shit.

    • Jeff Lester Apr 22, 2015

      That’s a solid little essay, Dave. Thanks for the link!

      Interestingly, it’s clear Hickman is actually trying to do most of what that essay talks about: Avengers and New Avengers are definitely two stories that cut back and forth between one another (although New Avengers influences the course of Avengers much more than the other way around) and Hickman relies on the “But” turn way more but also pulls a lot of “therefore” moves.

      The problem is that storytelling is like science: if you start from a flawed premise, it doesn’t matter if your logic is sound after that, you still end up with a hypothesis that is technically valid and yet still untrue: by making my saving throw against the suspension of disbelief (or would that be failing?), I just didn’t buy the plot-hammered premise and everyone’s reactions to the get-go and so the whole thing, no matter how Hickman labors, just maybe can’t ever work for me?

      Also, although Hickman does play out how his characters react to a hopeless situation (his “therefore”), it may be that the hopelessness of the situation takes the agency of choice out of the feeling of his character’s reactions: they feel inert and passive, exactly the way characters in a story probably should not. In that regard [spoilers], it’s no surprise that the most affecting moment in the story is when Namor makes his heel turn because it is effectively shown as an active choice.

      • Ahhhhh… ok
        I havnt read the comics in question and only had your summary to go off, it just sounded like there was a lot of ‘and then these guys show up’, ‘and then these guys show up’, etc.

        If the plot makes sense and things are followed up on and paid off and the only issue is that the characters were super passive then maybe thats some sort of artistic point hes trying to make….? How the universe is a big confusing scary place and the idea of a handful of guys trying to be in control of and manage all of it is kinda ridiculous….? Part of me wants to read it now to see if that reading bares out, but then I would hate you as much as you hate Graeme now :P

  5. Oh man, sure, embarrass me with that old column. (But no, really, thanks.)

    I still maintain Herbie is awesome.

  6. Graeme’s Apple-store odyssey: “To Save My iPhone, Why Must I Kill My iPhone?”

    Also, regarding Herbie’s popularity stretching into the ’80s — I don’t think he directly inspired the Chunk (from the early days of Wally West Flash), but a resemblance was definitely noted.

  7. Rob G Apr 21, 2015

    Blurbs that this episode bring to mind:
    “Kudos gentlemen! The most entertaining episode ever. EVER!”
    “An explosive cameo appearance by Ernie and Gus-Gus!”
    “Downside: no waffles.”
    “Sock! Pow! Bang! Take that Hickman!”
    “‘Random shit’ is funny!”
    “All this and a classic Talking Heads deep cut!”

    • Jeff Lester Apr 22, 2015

      Thanks, Rob! We give your blurbs five stars!

      • In the spirit of the Mother Box bot on Twitter (which I find genuinely comforting and reassuring), I was toying with the idea of a Ernie and Gus-Gus Twitter bot: each time @waitwhatpodcast is mentioned in a tweet, the bot would tweet out a “Bark Bark” or some such. Then I realized this could be seen as antagonistic, not a tribute — aaaaand now we’re veering into emotional responses to Convergence.

  8. Our culture of internet memes as humor means that Herbie the Fat Fury is way, WAY overdue for a reboot.

  9. Stefan Apr 23, 2015

    If I’m remembering correctly, I’m sure Mr Moore drops a Herbie cameo into Albion.

  10. Re: Herbie. The Wikipedia entry for Ogden Whitney doesn’t mention Bob Burden’s preface to a Flaming Carrot issue, in which he recounts with some sadness his discovery that Whitney had died in an asylum.

    While I no longer own it, I remember reading the preface at the time, partly because, IIRC, Burden ponders if his own fate is to follow Whitney into the same downward spiral of madness and obscurity.

  11. Archibald Apr 29, 2015

    On the subject of HERBIE and Jeff remarking that the fanciful stories sounded similar to those of children’s book author Daniel Pinkwater. Well, I was curious myself and feeling a little like a douche I wrote Mr. Pinkwater (in earnest, NOT as a douche) whether he had encountered the comic series earlier in his life. This was his reply:

    “You want I should bop you with this here lollipop?”

    Sounds like an “affirmative” to me.

    • Jeff Lester Apr 29, 2015

      Holy hell. That’s amazing on all kinds of levels. Thank you for asking and reporting back, Archie!