First and foremost, a very big *thank you* to superhero Graeme McMillan, for throwing together the edit for this show after recording it in his house. It’s like he gave me two vacations!
Second (and eightmost? Am I understanding the progression correctly?), I’m going to ride that vacation out to the very end, so the shownotes are complete but a bit truncated! Nonetheless, all the questions are there in the right place, so you can skip to where you want as you choose or even listen to the full thing, if you like!
0:01-12:30: Welcome to our sorta-annual “in-person” episode! Jeff is in Portland, Oregon to vacation and talk with the mighty Graeme McMillan! So, of course, we talk about some of the great Portland attractions: Salt & Straw ice cream!
The Waffle Window! Blue Star Donuts! Some surprising disagreements about Voodoo Donuts!
12:30-38:39: While on vacation, Jeff re-read 33 issues of Werewolf By Night, a book he loved dearly when he was young and returns to find it, uh, promising? But what does it promise, and to whom does it deliver?
Also discussed: “bro’s gold,” Christina Z vs. Christy Marx, an amazing scene from You Are Deadpool #4, and more!
38:39-1:07:46: Listener questions! Eric Rupe launches the first volley: Did Jeff ever finish reading the manga Fuuka? Did he watch the anime? Would he be interested in reading Fuuka: The Official Erotic Short Short Collection in full color?
Is Jeff still reading Prison School? It seems like a very Jeff comic and I’m curious about his opinions on the series.
Any thoughts on the current state of the Direct Market and it’s potential future? Doom and gloom? Rainbows and sunshine? Somewhere in between?
Does the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the failure basically every other attempt say anything in particular about doing a shared universe outside of comics and the Direct Market?
And for some just general podcast stuff, any chance of reading and discussing the Jim Lee/Wildstorm Fantastic Four run given the discussion you guys had about the retro-ness of the FF and Image at the end of the last Baxter Building?
1:07:46-1:14:18: Matthew M asks: What series do you find surprising that it lasted as long as it did? For me, I’m always kind of shocked that the late ’80s Starman series lasted for 45 issues. (Though I’ve never read it, or heard anyone mention it, so maybe it’s a hidden gem.)
1:14:18-1:19:22: DDT asks: I always wondered why the 2000AD 8-page-or-so story format is so UK and never caught on in the US (I know it feels like I have to rewire my brain to appreciate that format’s tempo).
1:19:22-1:21:21: James Masente says: Comics are shit nowdays vs. Comics are better than ever. Pick a side and pull no punches!
1:21:21-1:32:57: Skye wonders: Do you think Big 2 comics would be more successful at bringing in New readers if there were mail order subscriptions like magazines? If not, what distribution model would you want to see implemented?
1:32:57-1:42:52: Yonatan wants to know: With an increasing number of big creators at DC being bringing things back from/being nostalgic for the post Zero Hour/Pre Infinite Crisis DCU, what characters/concepts/books would you like to see return from that era?
1:42:52-1:47:58: Skye also wonders: If someone forced you to make a miniseries reboot or movie adaptation of Starbrand, what would your pitch be? And: If you can’t work with this, give me a Micronauts pitch instead.
1:47:58-1:49:38: And Yonatan also wants to know: Also, question more for Graeme: a #LegionofSuperheroes collection is coming out in July that finally collects the Earthwar arc. (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #241-245) Where does it fall on your top Legion stories list and would you recommend it for new readers?
1:49:38-1:51:03: Chad Nevett asks: With SHIELD finishing with the final two issues coming out, are there any other unfinished/cancelled too soon books you’d like to see have a chance at a proper ending?
1:51:03-1:54:26: Troy Wilson drops by via Baxter Building: Of all the FF issues you’ve read so far, which would you each consider to be your top five individual issues? (Or top ten, if you’re low on questions.)
1:54:26-2:01:11: Flasshe queries: Have you ever given up reading comics? If so, what was your longest inactive period, what made you stop, and what made you start back up again?
2:01:11-2:03:57: Here’s one from the excellent Bill Reed: If everything on Earth was destroyed except for one comic book issue, which comic book issue would best represent humanity for the alien archaeologists who find it?
2:03:57-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.
NEXT WEEK: Wait, What? Ep. 249! We answer more questions! I’d love to say all but let’s just see how it goes, shall we?
Link to the episode for your cutting and pasting needs?
Mail subscriptions: My memory is that the issues would often arrive in even worse condition that could be found on the drug-store spinner rack. And about a week later?
Micronauts: That first year is all that needed to exist. There’s probably another year’s worth of ideas in the remaining series (and second series) combined, if someone wanted to distill it down.
I wouldn’t pitch a movie, though. Live-action isn’t going to add anything interesting to it, and shrinking it to 2.5 hours is going to just leave it feeling like a Star Wars ripoff. A one-season animated series would work. Working out the voices for Acroyear and Bug is probably the most interesting challenge.
You know, I’ve just started listening, and am immediately confronted with the ice-cream flavor “Strawberry Honey Balsamic Vinegar with Pepper.” This may be the most Blue America podcast opening ever. When Trump is re-elected, and everyone* says it’s because of coastal elites flaunting their snobbish distaste for the preferences of Real Americans, I will know who to blame. :)
*By “everyone,” I of course mean journalists who are in fact members of coastal elites.
I had happy memories of ‘Mazing Man, but was pretty shocked how raw the sexism was when I read a couple of issues recently. Nice cartooning by de Stephano, though. Graeme’s shock revelation about vegetables put fast-cast and purge-cast in a whole new context…
I know there’s a Squirrel Girl in the Marvel Universe, but the SG comic is not in 616. I think it’s close, maybe 615, or 617, but it’s just the company line that this is the same universe.
How much is comics literacy an international problem, or is it primarily a problem for comics in the US tradition? It seems to me that European comics and manga tend to be more accessible for the general reader. I’ve experience of people who love things like Calvin and Hobbes, or Dykes to Watch Out For, but struggle with the superhero page, because they don’t know what to read or look at next. Creators are free to decide if they want to pitch their work to a small number of people like ourselves who are comfortable with eccentric panel composition, or present their stories in a form that’s comprehensible by a much larger audience. The real literacy question is whether the creators know they are making that choice.
Which OMAC #1? Kirby’s?
Teens know when they are being marketted to.
The problem with creating feeder lines in Superhero comics is that it ends up Teenage Targetted _______
People are aware especially in a comic store when they are reading the ‘real’ book and when they are reading the kids version.
UK and Shonen stuff doesn’t feed you into the more mature version of the same series has always been the major difference.
Also the kids are clearly Watching/Reading My Hero Academia the best Superhero anything that exists at the moment.
On the subject of comics that lasted a surprisingly long time, I’d like to remind everyone that the Sonic the Hedgehog comic under the Archie imprint ran for 24 years, and 290 issues.
Excellent show, I always like it when you get together. The sound was a little low but there was no problem from dogs or gentlemen scrabbling around.
The Eighties Starman, mullet apart, was a rock solid superhero soap and I loved it. And first writer Roger Stern’s Power of the Atom was great fun in and of itself and extra-appreciated for getting us away from the stupid ideas of a hero wearing a loincloth over his tights, a shrinker staying in a place where everyone is tiny, and cheating Jean Loring. PotA saw Ray stop moping, reclaim his life and move on – I wish this book had run a lot longer.
I’ve no Instagram account either, I’ve never been curious enough to look at it. What’s the USP, how does it differ from Tumblr or a Facebook page in being a place to post stuff? I’d be happy just to have one place to find all your content.
The Waffle Window always sounds amazing, but doesn’t Graeme ever pine for a mild chilli haggis supper or deep-fried Mars Bar?
Having listened to the podcast, a couple of thoughts:
– Comics literacy. I remember that, when I first noticed that Silver Age DC thing of putting little arrows to guide the reader when the panel layout wasn’t 100% obvious, I thought it was extremely awkward and a straightforward case of the art failing to guide the eye correctly, But it may be that things like that are needed.
One complication, though, is the rise of digital comics and especially guided view. There are two separate ways of reading that a successful comics page should accommodate nowadays. There’s an entirely additional literacy problem when one reads digitally and encounters e.g. a complicated double-page layout and has to think about how it *would* be effective to take it in at one glance at a larger size.
That’s not an easy conversation to have with a new reader: “OK, you’re wondering what you’re supposed to get out of this. Well, if you think about how it would look if you blew it up…. But what you’re going to do instead is switch to guided view so that you can zoom in on all the plot beats and know what happened before you can move onto the next page. Which will work better, I promise.”
(The closest equivalent to this that existed before is maybe the collected reprints of newspaper strips like Doonesbury or Bloom County that had long-running plotlines, but when reprinted required one to be aware of the original format, to account for a peculiar staccato story structure in which there was a beat every four or five panels, always at the far right.)
Right now, in mainstream superhero comics, the printed page is clearly still primary and the digital version is handled as a secondary, ersatz substitute for it. So one gets all these comics where one has to have this additional counterfactual literacy of thinking about how it would look in a different format. I’m always (pleasantly) surprised when I encounter a comic where the artist has clearly thought about building in things that work in digital.
But I’m not sure that’s going to stick. This may be the worst possible time to think about ways to promote comics literacy among the general public, because comics literacy may be a moving target.
On another note, picture books for small children are still essentially comics, so it’s not as if children aren’t being introduced to basic comics literacy at a very young age. I think that what I would focus on is that section in the children’s bookstores for slightly older children where suddenly everything becomes prose. It seems to me that there’s still a great deal of strength to the narrative that pictures are for when you can’t read very well, but older children should move on to pure prose. Some may pick up e.g. manga or YA comics like Nimona later on, but I’d say that a fair number of young readers probably never come back to comics.
On another note, one can justify comics literacy by pointing out that it has important applications when reading the instructions for putting together IKEA furniture.
– My memory of the New Universe is that after the implosion when it shrank to (I think) four titles, DP 7 didn’t last any longer than the other three — they were all wound up at the same time.
I’ll mention also that I loved that second period at the time. (I was, obviously, quite young.) I could afford to buy all four titles, and they took advantage of the format tightly to integrate the universe. Dropping Shooter’s original “world outside your window” remit allowed the line to develop as a whole in a much more interesting way. with plot developments across the titles that foreshadowed the way that the “main” superhero universes would later be driven by central editorially-mandated developments. But here there were only four titles that could be handled coherently as a unity (or three, anyway – Star Brand under Byrne stood apart from the others and was, well…..). So this didn’t feel (after the initial “Let’s retcon everything to be about paranormals” moment) like it was “outside” interference being shoehorned into titles with their own storylines, but people “realistically” having to react to a world that was changing radically all around them.
Obviously, we all know that they blew up Pittsburgh because it was Shooter’s home town, but, leaving that aside, it was actually a great idea, because it suddenly made the New Universe the place where one got to read people explore the day after the sort of thing that was always *almost* happening in the Marvel Universe did actually happen.
While DP 7 had clearly been the strongest of the NU titles before the implosion, it arguably wasn’t after the implosion. (Justice and Psi-Force were pretty good. Although DP 7 was definitely better than Star Brand, which in hindsight I realize that I was buying entirely out of completism.)
I think some of this can be traced to Gruenwald’s vision for DP 7. Our hosts are right that Gruenwald comes across as having the strongest ideas of what he wanted to do with the New Universe from the start (well, except for Shooter, who certainly can’t be said not to have had a vision for Star Brand). And Gruenwald said at the time what it was: DP 7 for him was going to be a comic liberated from the need always to reset to a status quo. There would be no status quo.
So they start off running from the institution and its evil director, and the stories are about that, but then they end up defeating the evil director and taking over the institute themselves, and the stories are about that. And so on. Characters get written out, and new characters take their place.
This is, obviously, exactly the same thing that Claremont was trying to achieve within the confines of the Marvel Universe in X-Men at this same time. But I think Gruenwald was sensible to perceive it as something that would work better outside those confines, with characters that were designed for the purpose and would not be likely to become valuable IP that would have to be brought back again and again. There would be no Wolverine in DP 7.
The problem with Gruenwald’s vision was Shooter’s idea that the NU would be closer to our reality than the MU, which was making those confines more constraining, not less. So once Shooter was ousted, and the NU started to be treated as a massive [expletive deleted] to him, that incidentally allowed Gruenwald’s ideas to be generalized to the whole of the NU.
Which renders DP 7 itself a little rudderless. Because a comic whose premise and cast are supposed to change continually, in a setting that itself is changing continually, probably does err too far on the side of incoherence. Also, if (like me) you had been following the title from the beginning, and liked the original characters and their dynamics, removing some of them and introducing new ones didn’t always work. Which I think is why Justice and Psi-Force may have worked a little better in the second New Universe era.
I’ve read comics for nearly five decades and believe me, it doesn’t help you put together an IKEA shoe tree – not even the Avengers could assemble it.
The Tjussig shoe racks are very easy to put together (and inexpensive). Go for those.
One day, I hope to write an epic fantasy novel in which all the names are just taken directly from IKEA:
Hemnes, prince of Liatorp, is in love with the sorceress Laiva. But when Liatorp is embroiled in war with the rival kingdom of Ingatorp due to the machinations of the demon lord Färgrik, Hemnes and Laiva have to embark on a quest to find the lost sword Brusali. Their journey will take them across the mountains of Gnedby, the desert of Klimpen, and the forests of Oxberg until they face their final confrontation with the forces of evil in the dark citadel of Morliden.”
Great episode as always. My youngest brother was the perfect age to enjoy ‘Mazing Man, so I encouraged picking it up to talk comics. However, we both gravitated toward the Giffen-fueled insanity of the Ambush Bug minis and left ‘Mazing Man behind. I loved how the Blues Devil and Beetle offered a ground floor approach, where a 50-year knowledge were not required to enjoy some fun stories.
I would love to see an American anthology series like 2000AD or Shonen Jump. Not sure if the big two can market a sustainable superhero series in that way. Marvel and DC are barely able to get fans interested a series outside some core titles like Batman or Spider-man. Books like Amulet or anything Raina creates are crushing the book market and libraries, so maybe a different genre is in order?
Off the top of my head, here’s a list of post-Zero Hour/ pre-IF DC comics featuring new characters (including those who shared names with old ones):
Starman. Impulse, Hitman, Primal Force, Chase, Hourman, Vext, Xero, Aztek, Young Heroes in Love, Major Bummer, Challengers of the Unknown (Steven Grant version, not the Kirby characters), Ressurection Man, Batgirl (Cassandra Cain), Monolith, Chronos
I didn’t read all of those, but I remember most of them getting positive word of mouth. I think the late-’90s/ early-’00s were good years for DC.
Of course you’d pick OMAC #1! Makes perfect sense. My answer would’ve been New Gods #6, “The Glory Boat.”
Mail subscriptions still exist. I still get Superman in the mail. When there’s a sale like at discountmags.com it often works out to about 1.25 per issue.