Pick of the Week Podcast

Pick of the Week #512 – Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

Show Notes

Conor Kilpatrick and Josh Flanagan don’t get the homage in the Pick of the Week. This is no surprise, but it’s clearly right there. Listen, there are a lot of things. And we’re gonna talk about all of them. We’ve all got our things, okay?

Running Time: 01:02:07

Pick of the Week:
00:01:24 – Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

00:10:52 – Secret Wars Too #1
00:17:30 – Batman: Europa #1
00:21:21 – The Mighty Thor #1
00:24:28 – Huck #1
00:29:46 – I Hate Fairyland #2
00:31:47 – Titans Hunt #2
00:34:26 – Extraordinary X-Men #2
00:37:45 – Spider-Woman #1
00:39:39 – Captain America: Sam Wilson #3

Star Wars Corner:
00:41:20 – Star Wars #12
00:44:32 – Star Wars: Vader Down #1

Audience Questions:
00:49:06 – Wakonda wants to know if we’re in a comics renaissance.

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  1. Hickman NEVER has an ending.
    At this point I just want anything to do with secret wars to just go away.
    Secret wars too first story is cute and all- but its all a bit much at this point- for all his confidence he can’t stick the landing
    and this event should be emabarrasing for everyone involved.
    Yes we got some great What Ifs out of of it- but we could have that just by bringing back What If.

  2. Conor kind of summed it up perfectly.
    Comics pirmarily functioned as r&d for bigger media.
    And for awhle we saw a clear separation the allowed comics a fair amount of independence.
    It really is about the execution of the repetition we can see the same stories again and again if done well we’ll see somehting new in that telling but more and more we’re seeing Movies and tv forcing comic stories to fall in line and experiment even less.

  3. re: comics renaissance. You point to 1986 as the last big moment and that while there are good things here and there these days, there’s not much that stacks up to 1986.

    One question I have about this (which comes from complete ignorance), how many other things can you point to from the 1986-ish era beyond Frank Miller and Alan Moore? Those are the two I always hear being talked about, but how much more was there really? Or is it that there really were only those two authors who represented the renaissance, and everything that followed were poor imitations?

    In my limited view, I agree that DC and Marvel have been largely lackluster. Where I see a renaissance is in the proliferation of non-superhero comics, which is something the industry hasn’t seen in quite some time. The sales of the issues might not be great, but single issue sales are in general low. Much more is being sold through the trades. When was the last time comics had sci-fi (Black Science, Descender), horror (walking dead, wytches, afterlife with archie), romance/slice-of-life (sex criminals), historical/war (rebels), comic (chew) —and other things that blend genres (saga, invisible republic). That seems to be something special that’s going on that does represent a kind of rebirth.

    • 1986 might have been the last singular year of sea-change in comic books, but we spent a lot of time on this show talking about the last big comic renaissance occurring from the late 90s to the early 2000s.

      Actually, to tell the truth, I have no memory of talking about 1986 during that particular discussion.

      But to answer your question, while WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS are the most important things about that year and would, without any help, be enough to make 1986 the most important year in comics because they completely reshaped the industry and continue to be imitated, 1986 also saw, among other things, the end of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and the (successful) reboot of the DC Universe with the premiere of MAN OF STEEL, the “Born Again” storyline in DAREDEVIL, the debut of Dark Horse Comics, the first collection of MAUS, and ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN.

    • There was also Miller on Daredevil which brought back that character from being pretty mundane. Moore was also doing Swamp Think & Miracle Man. Morrison started doing Animal Man, and later his Doom Patrol run. Relauch of a great run on Justice League with Kevin McGuire. Neil Gaimen on Sandman began. Paul Chadiwck on Concrete. Mark Schultz on Xenozoir Tales. Grim Jack on First Comics. TMNT and many other black and white independents were being read. I remember the mid-80s pretty fondly.

  4. Really enjoyed the renaissance discussion but I don’t entirely agree with any of you guys. The fact is that we’re in the middle of a seismic shift in comics. On the one hand, the “corporate overlords” taking over the Big 2 means that, for now at least, superhero comics are going to be largely static. Sure, there will be good, even stand out, series, but they’re blips rather than sea-changes. Talking about Big 2 comics, therefore, is only really worthwhile in terms of comics as a business, rather than as an art form – again, even if there are some fine big 2 comics out there.

    What is crucial though, is that even as the Big 2 have fallen artistically, there has been a very major rise in creator owned comics. It is here where we really need to look to understand the true current state of comics. On an industrial level, the very fact that creator-owned comics are now both viable and attractive to creators is a huge deal and should not be overlooked. Nor should the increased sales, market share and book store presence of Image, Darkhorse and smaller publishers like Drawn and Quarterly.

    Most importantly, on an artistic level, this new found freedom for creators is a monumental change. Yes, Ron is correct in that the last few months of Image solicits haven’t exactly been mind blowing, but that does a great disservice to the dozens upon dozens of comics they put out every month – which must be at least three times as many as Vertigo put out even in its hey-day. And sure, not all of them are great but plenty are – some of them are even daring, even groundbreaking in their way. No, there’s nothing as massively groundbreaking as Moore’s Swamp Thing or Gaiman’s Sandman but the mid ’80s thru early ’90s saw mainstream comics taking a giant leap forward in the same way that pop music took its own giant leap with the Beatles or Dylan in the mid 60s. It’s the kind of revolution that so fundamentally changed the way we looked at comics and pop music respectively that we probably won’t see anything so monumental happen again on either front.

    Here’s the thing though, I kind of feel that it’s like we’re in 1983/84 again, in that the revolution hasn’t quite come just yet but the rise of creator-owned comics have very much sowed the seeds. Not only do we have established creators being allowed to stretch their wings in the way that even Vertigo never really allowed them, there’s a sense that this new-found freedom is still in its early days; that the water is still being tested. More importantly, shifting the goals away from DC and Marvel means that up and coming creators will have very different expectations of their chosen industry, favouring creating the next Walking Dead over being the 658th guy (or gal) to write Batman.

    I may be wrong, of course, but to me these feel like exciting times to be reading comics and I can’t help but wonder if your guys’ viewpoints are not as gloomy as they seem to be because you’re still focusing too much on the Big 2. It’s understandable, of course, but I think that more and more the focus needs to move away from DC and Marvel to truly appreciate the current comics scene. And even if I do agree that the industry is currently lacking in an onslaught of new, exciting voices that has as much to do with the inevitable gap between generations as the fact that being in the midst of it makes it easy to overlook the fact that guys like Joe Keating, Jason Aaron and even Matt Fraction haven’t actually been around THAT long, in the grand scheme of things.

    • I want to second this. I remember when it was DC, Marvel, or nothing. Eclipse, Dark Horse, and maybe Comico were the only even mildly viable publishers and they were pretty much a joke.

      I think it is HUGE that we are seeing all of these non-Universe books. I’d wager that a number of publishers now do better than the best of the troica of Eclipse, Dark Horse, and Comico from the old days.

      And I agree with the final paragraph above that creators are only beginning to test the waters of this new freedom. I’m hoping there is a about to be a new wave of young creators that go straight to Image, although Ron a few weeks ago seemed to think that business-wise Image is getting more not less difficult for first time creators to work with.

      Anyway, I cannot remember a time when so many quality books with such a wide variety of themes were ever appearing in the comic shops. Or when a third publisher shared equal shelf space with the Big 2 (and even dominates them in the Trade Paperback section).

    • “Or when a third publisher shared equal shelf space with the Big 2…”

      You don’t have to go back *that* far — since 1992 Image has been sharing equally prominent shelf space with DC and Marvel–in many, not all, stores. (Even now many stores are still straight up Big Two stores.) Image even challenged DC for the #2 spot at the beginning of their launch.

      “…(and even dominates them in the Trade Paperback section).”

      2014 Bookscan Sales*:
      DC Comics – $19.2M (Fifth year in a row of revenue growth)
      Image Comics – $17.5M (Continuing to trend down from a high of $20M in 2012)
      Marvel Comics – $8.3M (They have a shamefully terrible trade paperback program)

      *Source: http://www.comicbookresources.com/article/bookscan-numbers-show-big-book-market-growth-for-comics-in-2014

    • I also enjoyed the discussion.

      When we look back at the great shifts that have happened over the years, did we recognize all of them at the time? In the context of the moment, did it feel the same as it feels when we look back?

  5. Almost forgot…VADER DOWN!

  6. Eh…this may be the turkey talking but really any discussion about a “comic book renaissance” should really be started with a discussion about what you think qualifies as a “renaissance”

    There was and has always been great comics being published at all times if you search for it, especially outside Marvel and DC (just glancing at my boxes from the 80’s you could’ve been picking up Yummy Fur or Pacific Presents with the Rocketeer; then during the dark years you had Stray Bullets or Eightball) So any talk that there’s “nothing good to read” at any point in time in history really just reflects on ones limited unadventurous tastes or lazy habits more so than as a reflection of comics output at that time.

    The artwork in comics today is so clearly more polished and professional across the board than at any point in the history of comics. The production values everywhere in comics is at the highest that I’ve ever seen. (and this comes from a man who daily laments selling off his Marvel Comics Presents and Machine Man series because I can’t accept the look of BWS “improved coloring” in the trades) A large mistake of comparing the past to the present comes in cherry picking the best of the past and comparing it to the most commonplace of the present.

    Access to comics has never been easier than anytime in the past either. When was the last time you cut up an add and sent a self addressed stamped envelope and cashier’s check to anyone in hopes that the drawing in an ad was indicative of an entire comic you’ld hopefully get back in the mail? Just getting information about independent comics was difficult in the past let alone getting to see or buy them. Now its a few key types on a phone.

    It seems to me that, what you think of comics current state, is directly proportional to what you expect from comics.

    If you are looking for Batman and Wolverine to entertain and distract you each week in a manner reflective of your fond youthful memories, they will inevitably disappoint you.

    But if you think everything has been done with the art of comics; panel layouts, page pacing, coloring. lettering, paper texture, etc. and nothing new is on the horizon; well then I say you need to expand your horizons.

    I think asking about a “comics renaissance” is probably the wrong question. Since it must generalize by its definition. Take and aggregate of now and try to compare it to a supposed aggregate of the past.

    1986 had some really crappy comics being published also, I know because I bought a lot of them.

    The underlying discussion here may really well be “Hey it’s sad we might have to stop reading Marvel and DC”. Which is sad. But many people have gone through it before you and many shall do it after. And there will always be something out there to read.

    like seriously are you reading Jason Shiga’s Demon?

  7. Finally got around to reading VADER DOWN! and it actually has 1 of 6 right on the cover. Star Wars #12 has nothing so reading order shouldn’t be an issue.
    Really looking forward to how this cross over pans out.

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