0:01-2:52: Greetings! Stressful, stressful greetings! Jeff is still working the kinks out of his new system and is easily stressed and easily defensive. (In other words—same ol’, same ol’.).
2:52-40:55: Fortunately for all Graeme easily steers us away from Jeff’s overdeveloped fight or flight response by immediately starting in about what he’s been reading which is the X of Swords event, all of which has meandered its way onto Marvel Unlimited. FULL SPOILERS for this recent Hickman led X-event which many loved but Graeme…well, Graeme not so much, frankly. And it also led Graeme to consider things that happened in the event with the finale of Wandavision where similar things were going on. FULL SPOILERS as well for Wandavision although since these two pieces, X of Swords and Wandavision, are used as the backbone for the topic that unfolds, I’m not sure what to flag as spoiler-free or when? In short, if you don’t want to be spoiled about either/both topic, maybe put this one of the shelf and come back to it when you’ve experienced either/both pieces for yourself? Because although this starts as a discussion about X of Swords for the first chunk of time, Wandavision factoids drop in and out occasionally. I’ll try to let you know when we move from the X of Swords-heavy stuff to the Wandavision-heavy stuff but if your concerns are spoilers, tread carefully! But this early part focuses on X of Swords, what Graeme found frustrating, what the appeal seems to be for those who found the event rewarding, and more.
40:55-49:51: And here, around the forty minute mark, is where we move very solidly into the Wandavision series on Disney+ which Graeme has completed and Jeff hasn’t even started but with which I think[?] gets fully spoiled in our conversation. So, yeah, FULL SPOILERS.
49:51-1:02:05: And so this is where Jeff steers the convo into a different area. The SPOILERS are still in effect, though with a very high degree of frequency, but what begins as a discussion of narrative swerves and when a story swerve is too much, it becomes a larger far-ranging talk about public reception, private experience, and Jeff’s inquiry into what, if any, anxiety Graeme experiences about the frisson between the two, seeing as he’s a guy who makes his living putting his latter right in the middle of the public’s former. (Oh yeah, and there’s a mention of someone who’s seen the Snyder Cut but this is a very spoiler-free mention so no worries there.)
1:02:05-1:46:55: This is where it really goes more into Graeme’s personal history and how it influences his reactions to what he’s watching: he was a pioneer in the methods of writing entertainment journalism online as a full-time job (though he prefers to characterize himself as pioneer-adjacent)? To what extent is MCU’s fanservice pandering and the fan/press reaction things he was doing long ago and is long since tired by? Or is what he sees as trends something very separate from what he did and does for a living online?
1:46:55-1:50:15: “It’s been a very weird episode,” Graeme says, apologizing for what he calls his “therapy session” (despite me poo-poo’ing that and talking about all the copious self-revelation I’ve put listeners through over the years). But perhaps because of this—or perhaps because it’s not necessarily a bad thing to talk about comic books on a comic book podcast—Graeme talks about the most recent issue of Suicide Squad and how it brings more of what he’d hoped he would see in Infinite Frontier: a sense of something new.
1:50:15-1:58:15: And for his “eh, what the hell, why not talk about comic books?” moment, Jeff talks about reading the first issues of BRZRKR and Jonna & the Unpossible Monsters (thanks, Hoopla)! Both worth reading, though maybe not in the order Jeff read ’em in.
1:58:15-end: Closing Comments! Look for us on Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! Tumblr, and on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast (and if you want to read the article Jeff references in his comments, here it is!
Next week: Drokk it!! Vol 23. of Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files! Join us!
Need a cut, a paste, in this ever-changing world in which we live in?
That was really interesting discussion about the feeling of no longer being part of the audience. I’ve been there as well in recent years, even as friends who are well-steeped in the stuff – or even more so – continue to find fresh delights in the MCU and various print ventures. I wish sometimes I better understood what leads to me falling off and them marching on happily.
I too liked the conversation about being part of an audience, and whether that’s a necessary, or even desirable, qualification to write about media. I think Graeme’s right to say that it’s neither necessary nor desirable; the important thing for most media writing is to recognize what a product is trying to accomplish and for what audience, and to engage it accordingly. If you’re part of that audience you run the risk of writing shallow, “this is so cool”,” type reviews. (Not surprisingly, this describes most online writing about comics, probably because it’s a labor of love, which means most writing is fan writing.)
One problem I have with a lot of writing about mass entertainment is that it pretends to have a genuine critical perspective when it’s really just explaining or summarizing. Usually this takes the form of pointing at themes obvious to the most casual observer and saying “this is cool,” usually as part of an imagined argument with someone who thinks the theme is uncool. That discourse is really just a grown up version of the “that fight scene was cool/not cool” writing you’d expect to see in a Newsarama listicle.
As for the MCU, every new movie and tv show brings me back to something Adorno and Horkheimer wrote about movies back in the 1940’s:
“…mechanically differentiated products prove to be all alike in the end. That the difference between the Chrysler range and General Motors products is basically illusory strikes every child with a keen interest in varieties. What connoisseurs discuss as good or bad points serve only to perpetuate the semblance of competition and range of choice. The same applies to the Warner Brothers and Metro Goldwyn Mayer productions… Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be art. The truth that they are just business is made into an ideology in order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce. They call themselves industries; and when their directors’ incomes are published, any doubt about the social utility of the finished products is removed.”
Adorno and Horkheimer would apply this to all movies, (seriously, they’d laugh at us for arguing that there’s a meaningful distinction between Whedon and Scorsese), it strikes me as applying especially to Marvel movies, which are basically the Funko Pops of cinema… Mass produced objects with minor tweaks that delight audiences in their uniformity, and congratulate them for noticing the little differences. They congratulate us for having been good consumers, and the reward is more product to consume. It’s like a pie eating contest sponsored by the pie company, that we all pay to enter, where the reward isn’t even more pies, but instead an invitation to participate in the next pie eating contest. But if you play your cards right, you might get a sponsorship from Marie Callender’s.
I don’t think I understood what you meant by ‘the swerve’ in Wandavision, it pretty much was what I expected from the trailer and having read a lot of comics. I could have done without so much fighty-fight stuff at the end, but that’s my usual feeling about the MCU. Since after Ruth, my wife, died, I would pretend at times she was walking with me, because it was comforting, I could sympathise with Wanda, in the ‘Would I do that if I could?’ way. My loss doesn’t elevate my understanding of the story or willingness to glide past the obvious deep problems of the MCU narrative (for instance, your population doubled 6 weeks ago, how’s everyone eating?), it’s possible it was something I experienced without fully understanding, much like many stories.
I haven’t ‘aged out’, as a result I’m not sure how useful a term it is. I know younger people whose tastes have changed concerning the MCU. My niece, who is in her early 20’s, now has a withering scorn for it, when she liked it a lot in her teens. There’s a lot I don’t care for in mainstream superhero comics. The closer it gets to the centre of the business plan, the less likely I am to want to read the results. There still seem plenty of comics to read far from Marvel and DC and the occasional eccentric niche within them.
I would acknowledge that my preferences are unchallenging. Part of the reason for this is how I react to media. I find I am left tense and on edge after seeing depictions of certain types of violence. I was unable to complete a novel some years ago, as the humiliation of the central character seemed so unbearable, even when I was assured it would get better. I lack some filter others seem to have. I enjoy the novels of Gore Vidal, but I’ve never knowingly understood them. My pleasure comes a delight in wit and incident mixed with a sensuous pleasure in reading his prose. Some of these kind of things may change in unexpected ways and then my taste could transform, but I don’t think more years will do it.
I fervently hope Graeme will produce a master cut of Jeff’s ‘Live and Let Die’. Brightened my day.
Wandavision benefited from lack of content, Marvel and otherwise. Also the weekly installments seem to be a boon for Youtubers and definitely encourage rampant speculation and theories. It’s the thing to do.
I’ve seen people shown the door in some channel’s comments for verifying that the show is basically following decades-old stories by Steve Englehart and Bill Mantlo or Allan Heinberg and that a cigar is just a cigar. They say some people want to experience the MCU differently without having to hear from people who have “researched” (read:grew up reading the source material in the 80s) and know all of the ins and outs. That their sister has read the comics and she’s so smug about it. My observation is that people are preferring the activity of filling their week with countless hours of fandom.
As much as I feel the rewatchability for Wandavision is very low for me (the sitcom nostalgia chews too much scenery) I’m willing to say that a deep dive into a character like Vision and the Scarlet Witch is astounding to me considering my complete antipathy for DC’s attempt at their highest tier characters, sans Batman. Wandavision is a competently and well-resourced product vs. hardly watchable garbage coming out of WB/DC.
I mean, I can get white Vision suit and I can’t even get a viable Superman.
the Vision bit with that ship of Theseus stuff…logic fights are the best.
Perhaps, I should start with the end of the show, because for reasons unknown to me, I was thinking when the podcast opened that it’s been a few weeks (months?) since we’ve been treated to Jeff’s singing voice. (I can’t believe you don’t insert “Snyder Cut” into every episode where it’s mentioned.) Then, lo and behold, Jeff slams us with a rendition of “Live and Let Die” right at the end. Given my age, my head cannon had him doing the Guns N’ Roses cover and not the Mcartny original.
I like how this episode opened with a discussion of swerves, and you almost gave us one yourselves. In the opening, Jeff warns we’ll be getting a spoiler-filled discussion of X of Swords and WandaVision. So Graeme spoils X of Swords right out of the gate, and then two minutes later he moves to WandaVision. Since I didn’t know you were going to come back to X of Swords, I thought that two-minute bit was all we’d get. “What a swerve!” I thought. But then after five minutes of WandaVision, we came back to X of Swords. Double swerve!
If I can add my two bits to the fan service part of the discussion, I find a lot of it downright annoying, mainly because it doesn’t serve any narrative purpose other than, I assume, generating free marketing by getting culture writers and YouTubers to make content about it. That’s it. And, to Graeme’s point, that’s exactly what the introduction of Pietro felt like (especially after that reveal). There’s even a scene where Faketro says something is “kickass” before running off, and Wanda is left standing there saying “kickass” to herself. (Because the actor who played Pietro in the Avengers movie also played the titular character in Kick-Ass. Surprised they didn’t do a Godzilla shout-out since that same actor played her husband in the 2014 Godzilla film. And now I’ve grossed myself out thinking about all that meta stuff.) But more than those fan service/baiting moments, what irks me the most is the cherry picking of storylines from 50 years of comics without the concomitant emotional heft that those stories have. How can you do the return of Winter Soldier and lead that into Civil War when A) we never even got to know the original Bucky, and B) Steve Rogers and Tony Stark have barely known each other for more than a movie and a half? And that’s just two of the biggest and broadest strokes, I don’t have the time or energy to get into all the actual narrative cherry picking that only serves to please the hardcore fans of the source material, but ends up being narratively slight, and not remotely resonant for either movie-only fans or comic book fans. Is there some executive fiat whereby the writers of these films have to lift X number of elements from the comics in order for Roy Thomas to give his blessing?
While I find most of the MCU to be average at best, I find it funny that my non-comic book friends who maybe played the X-Men arcade game or watched the Spider-Man cartoons growing up seem more interested/invested in the MCU than I am. I also find it funny when they see something in the films or the trailers that they just *know* is an Easter egg and ask me to explain it. I just have to laugh because after I’ve explained, their reaction is just, “So, it doesn’t have any meaning?” Nope, none that I can suss out. I also have to repeatedly warn them that the characters as portrayed in the movies are completely different from the ones in the comics (try explaining comic book Thanos, or better yet, Drax!, to people and watch their eyes glaze over), so even if I recognize an Easter egg, I have no more insight as to what they portend nor how the characters will behave.
Finally, you mentioned how the MCU has gotten people to accept comic book publishing practices (every one counts; you have to see them all), and I won’t argue there. But it has also created fatigue and barriers to entry, just like the comics themselves! I know many people who gave up on the MCU just because it was too much, or other who’ve only seen a few entries and don’t want to have to “catch up” just to make sense of the latest Spider-Man movie. (“What’s ‘blipping’? Wait, Iron Man’s dead? Where are the Avengers? Is Daredevil in it? I thought Andrew Garfield was Peter Parker. Is this the one with Jared Leto Joker?”)
Tim says above that WandaVision benefited from lack of content, and I think that’s absolutely true, in the sense that it made it more of an Event! than it would have been, but also not quite true, in that WandaVision was not terribly well-designed to be an Event! It was a decent little show, but that’s all it was.
Pretty much all the things that I’d say were good about it were *small* things: the sitcom pastiches were well done, there are some effective cliffhangers, there’s a good little trick with having a laugh track follow a line that’s not a laugh line, having the show continue through and past the credits, and, yes, the Evan Peters substitution. Nothing ground-breaking, certainly nothing insightful or profound, but nice little moments, well-executed, with decent performances.
It wasn’t anything that was ever likely to say anything particularly interesting about grief, because Wanda’s grief isn’t really anything more than the intradiegetic reason for the show’s premise, and the premise is the point, not the grief. My criticism is not that it doesn’t say anything interesting about grief — it’s that it doesn’t say anything interesting about the family sitcom.
As regards the first half of X of Swords being irrelevant, didn’t we have this work like that in Scott Snyder’s Justice League – about 40 issues leading up to Death Metal that you didn’t really need. In one tie-in a character literally waved away all the Totality stuff as unimportant.
Unlike Graeme, I hated the new Suicide Squad comic – I am so sick of Amanda Waller without any nuance, she’s just a sadistic, monstrous, murderous megalomaniac in this one. Crime Syndicate is very good though, as were Joker and Wonder Woman, if you ignore the back-up strips.
The X-Men needed to gather all the swords so Saturnyne would let them into the tournament. The biggest swerve in X of Swords is that swords are not weapons, but keys. One of the best things about X of Swords is that the competitions were much more than just swordfights (which would have gotten repetitive). It led to great stuff like Cypher’s wedding and the drinking competition between Storm and Wolverine. It meant that we had an X-Men event crossover that was genuinely funny at times (on purpose), and when had that happen? You also got plenty of action, especially in the issues drawn by Joshua Cassara, which were beautiful.
I would concede that the story could have gone to the tournament faster, but then you wouldn’t have the great story where Storm goes back to Wakanda. Also, the ending hinged on what Cable, Cyclops, and Jean discovered in S.W.O.R.D.’s headquarters.
Also, let’s not forget the best thing about X of Swords: it explains why Apoclapyse has spent his life making sure that only the fittest survive. That’s a 35-year-old payoff!
As for text pages: I get the personal preferences. I will say that text pages seem like catnip for X-fans. A lot of fans, myself included, came to the franchise because of the trading cards, and if not the cards then the action figures (with their bio info on the back), or the video games, etc. A lot of people have consumed X-Men media via other media that came with some kind of text that told you who the characters were. I suspect that Hickman knows this, and is now using that type of communication to the comic franchise’s advantage.