169 – Bad Kansas

Art by David Wynne. Wanna buy the original? Drop him a line!

In which Justin Thyme is a forgotten superstar of comics; Nazis should pretty much never be used as a metaphor; Charles Xavier is somehow even worse than usual; Excalibur may lack object permanence; Phoenix defeats Hitler with the power of gayness; we may have hit Peak Nocenti; Brett Blevins should draw Boom Boom forever; and the New Mutants get a taste of media theory.

X-PLAINED:

  • The exact nature of Shatterstar and Longshot’s relationship
  • Excalibur: Weird War III
  • New Mutants Summer Special: A Mutant in Megalopolis
  • Justin Thyme
  • Bad Kansas
  • Nazi Charles Xavier
  • Kinda-Nazi Moira MacTaggert
  • The Reichsmen
  • Lightning Squad (again)
  • Naked Space Xavier
  • Largely unsuccessful denouement
  • The Wobbly Sneaker Gang
  • Megalopolis
  • Media theory and several of its anthropomorphic personifications
  • Socially conscious comics
  • The Gifted
  • The New Mutants trailer

NEXT EPISODE: Lockheed X-Plains Excalibur!


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30 comments

  1. Joe says:

    Based on the context and name, I’m pretty sure the Richard Meyer guy mentioned in the episode is that “Diversity & Comics” Ass-wipe.

    …Yikes.

  2. Si says:

    I didn’t get into the comic at all, but the Longshot/Shatterstar family tree is brilliant and beautiful and I will fight for its honour.

  3. Strephon says:

    For the adjectival form of Nocenti, I’d suggest “Nocentian”.

  4. Erakthoth says:

    Does anyone know if New Mutants Summer Special: A Mutant in Megalopolis exists on Marvel Unlimited? Or anywhere else?

  5. You guys are like the self-appointed social justice Warrior X-POD of the X-PODs

  6. THE GIFTED: I couldn’t even make it through the first episode but everyone keeps saying the second episode is better so all I’ll least give that episode of watch before I give up on it.

    • RaikoLives says:

      It’s a network drama. I’m enjoying it because their Lorna/Polaris is pretty good (minus the “shocking revelation”) and Clarice/Blink is pretty cool once she gets up and running. There’s little bits and pieces that are cool within it, but it’s only about as good as Agents of SHIELD was.

      Basically, if you like some/all/any of the characters then you’ll probably be able to stick with it. If you don’t, there’s not going to be anything groundbreaking or amazing within the story/action stuff.

      The kids will be the main drag, I think, and by the third episode the show has already moved onto the parents and the adult mutants with the kids more secondary characters.

      People will always tell you “it got good” just beyond where you stopped watching. People have been saying that to me about Arrow for years. If you don’t like it enough to keep going, don’t. There’s both PLENTY more X-media to fill the gap, AND there’s plenty of good TV out there, un-X-related.

      But hey, Gifted has my girl Polaris, it’s got Blink and Thunderbird, it’s got Sage, and it’s got who I think is a newly created mutant for the show called “Dreamer”, who is keeping the Red Head representation in X-men going. The little connections are building up which might make it more interesting.

      SPOILER – The “dramatic revelation” for Polaris was that SHE’S PREGNANT! It’s quite possibly the laziest writing device I could imagine. I get why, but yeah. The fact that “the men” use that as part of their reason for saving her – almost fridging her at this point – worried me but she’s getting some better stuff in later episodes.

      • Devin says:

        My rule of thumb is that I will give a show 4 hours (aka, the length of Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, etc.). If I need to watch longer than a classic, critically acclaimed (albeit socially problematic) film to get to the part worth watching, no. (Unless the person tells me I can easily start at a jumping on point rather than from ep 1, then the 4 hours begin there).

        This usually works out to 6 episodes of a drama, 12 of a comedy, 24 of a short cartoon (like Steven Universe), or 4 of a prestige show.

        This isn’t to say that I will always give it all 4 hours. But merely to say that I will argue that I DEFINITELY gave it a fair shot if someone gets on my case about it and my various reasons I stopped watching it.

        I personally loved the soapiness of early Arrow, so I was on board relatively early. It wasn’t GOOD, but it was fun. It definitely took about two Gone with the Winds to get good.

        • Voord 99 says:

          Disclaimer: I have not seen the fourth episode yet.

          I think The Gifted is, to be fair to it, quite a bit better than the first episodes of Agents of SHIELD. That, however, is not a high bar – it remains remarkable to me how badly AoS mishandled the first three-quarters of its first season (and I am a *defender* of AoS). I say this because there are significant numbers of people who will read “only about as good as Agents of SHIELD was” as “Oh my God, stay away!”

          One thing that grates with me a little is that The Gifted owes so much to Claremont in its tone and concept (it’s Days of Future Past: Year One), and yet doesn’t contain a single character that Claremont created. They couldn’t call him James Proudstar and say that he has a dead brother? If this is because all of the Claremont characters are reserved for the movies *and* they’re going to cut him in on some of that money, all is forgiven. (The positive way in which Claremont talks about the New Mutants movie gives me some hope that he is seeing some of the money, although history makes me inclined to doubt it.)

          As far as the “privileged characters only question their privilege when it affects them” trope that Jay raised as a problem:-

          The show is, for better or for worse, definitely going there. YMMV on whether or not the following counts as a defense. But it’s pretty clear that the Strucker family *should* have questioned the way in which mutants were treated, but didn’t because they were implicated in structures of privilege that made it easier for them not to. In other words, the show is interested in portraying the occluding aspect of how privilege functions, minimizing its inevitable exposure to the “white saviour” trope, etc.

          An aspect of this is that the Struckers are presented as privileged in more ways than just being non-mutants (and white): the parents are upper-middle class lawyers and doctors, with a nice house in what looks to be an expensive suburb in which to buy a house, and the one relative that we (or I – haven’t seen the fourth episode yet) have seen onscreen seems similar. They are people with a lot to lose by questioning how things work, who don’t do that until they are forced to, and even then are shockingly/realistically naive and anxious to hang onto remnants of their prevous worldview.

          Choose your poison, I suppose – it is easy to see the arguments that might have been made against the show if it had not gone down this route.

          • RaikoLives says:

            Your review is far better than mine! I agree with it totally.

            As far as AoS goes, I really liked the characters straight up, so the meandering chunk of season 1 didn’t bother me as much as it seems to have bothered you. I definitely meant the good parts of AoS, of which there have been a few.

            I’m hoping – I can be an optimist at times – that shows like Runaways and Cloak & Dagger will take more of a chance and delve into the issues surrounding them. C&D already seems to be looking towards police violence on African Americans for ideas. The Gifted… ain’t that show.

            And Episode 4 of The Gifted really nailed it, for me, so if anyone is giving it a go, the first 4 eps make a nice arc to try out. It definitely improves from the first ep.

            • Voord 99 says:

              Thanks for the nice comment. That wasn’t meant as a review, though. In a review, I’d have to be much tougher on the show’s representation of women.

              Every single one of the three named members of the Mutant Underground (in episodes 1-3) is most significantly defined by a romantic relationship with a man — in Dreamer’s case, essentially to the exclusion of anything else. I’ll give the depiction of Polaris a *partial* pass, because there’s a fair bit more to her, and it goes both ways: the character-who-isn’t-Havok-but-basically-is-Havok (OK, OK, “Eclipse”) is equivalently most significantly defined by his relationship to her.

              As for the Struckers, Mom Strucker is exactly that — defined as a mom. (Secondarily defined as a doctor, but she gets the “caring, nurturing” profession while her husband gets the “aggressive, tough” profession of prosecutor.) I’m sort of semi-quasi-OK with that, because I think the show means us to question the price at which the Strucker parents have achieved their idealized ultrasuperheteronormative nuclear-family-tastic existence in suburban paradise. That they come across as happy in a deeply conventional way is, I think, important to the overall effect.

              I will say, I’ve been cheered by the handling of Daughter Strucker – no pining over her boyfriend from episode 1 and above all, no scene in which she alerts the authorities to their location by calling her boyfriend. If anything, the problem is that it’s a little boring how capable she is at adapting to what might be considered a somewhat trying situation 🙂

              • Voord 99 says:

                That’s “three named female,/i> members of the Mutant Underground,” obviously.

              • RaikoLives says:

                My major hope is the show keeps being about “the Mutant Underground” rather than “The Strucker Family runs from Sentinel Services”. Sure, have that part of it, but I want to see Polaris, Thunderbird, Dreamer, Eclipse, Sage, Shatter and all the others continuing to help OTHER mutants, and have the Struckers be a part of that. Do the work. Rather than just run away from scary bald man for 3 seasons.

                Like, where did the lady with anaesthetic powers go? Wasn’t invisible bartender taking her to the Underground? Is she at HQ? Much like how the X-Men books really came alive once they had a fully fledged school, have the Mutant Underground continue to work for and with new mutants.

                The fact that we have as much to SAY about this show is at least a small good sign.

                • wow! lotta responses. i havnt had a chance to read these, i will, but b4 that heres my thoughts after watching the 2nd EP: 2nd EP was better, but still don’t care for this show.
                  The show needs some freakin L E V I T Y. This is so douuurrr & grim. How about just a FUN cool upbeat take on mutant life instead. Drama city, cranked up to 11, with bad tv acting. Special effects look hurtin/amateur (thought at least the FX were gonna be on point). Feels like a cop show. Just want one EP where u don’t see anything to do with cops/strike forces, guns being fired in shootouts. Not interested in any kind of cop/investigations type show (people getting grilled in stereotypical confession/interrogation room scenes for 1/2 an EP, etc)

  7. ElBryanto says:

    Was listening to the podcast and realized I probably had access to that issue of Excalibur. Since I had a few minutes I took a read through it. At the end I wasn’t entirely sure what had happened with naked sky Xavier but was so annoyed at the comic I decided not to reread it to see what I had missed. Fortunately your explanation made everything clear.

    I did like the bit where nazixavier showed how he had killed the original X-Men; that was actually chilling in the right way. But that was 2 pages and the rest of it was pretty turgid and not at all why I read an Excalibur comic (my definitive run is the Alan Davis run I have to admit which is considerably lighter fare). I guess that makes me wonder if this were not Excalibur but X-Force or something along those lines would I like it better; I think I would still have been annoyed and naked skynazi xavier.

    • Voord 99 says:

      I think it’s more than just the lightheartedness. Excalibur’s Britain is already a fantasy generated out of American stereotypes (mostly positive ones, or at least ones intended as positive) about British culture. So making it Nazi doesn’t have the same gut-punch that making the US Nazi in one of the “main X-titles would have* – it’s turning a light and bubbly fantasy into a dark and sadistic fantasy, but you’re not really ever meant to be invested in the first fantasy as anything more than a fun stage for Excalibur’s adventures to happen in.

      • Icon_UK says:

        As a Brit, I’m not so sure about that (Though I admit that might make me a little biased).

        A Nazi occupied Britain was a very real possibility for much of WWII, and so I think that had much more of a gut punch than a Nazi conquered America which would be more of a “Really? How on earth would WWII have progressed in such a way that the Nazi’s would have won?” (As opposed to how, regrettably, their ideological descendent seem to have managed to achieve power in the present day)

        • Voord 99 says:

          Oh, I think a Nazi Britain could have that effect, and has in a number of treatments. More than a Nazi US, in fact, because important as World War II is to American identity, it’s nothing to the salience that the war has had in Britain. Or used to have, anyway. Including in comics – when I was a young child, war comics were almost as dominant in British comics as superheroes were in American comics.

          My comment is specifically about Excalibur’s “Britain,” which is a fantasy of Britishness as filtered through American perceptions shaped by PBS and the like.

          • Voord 99 says:

            Additional thought to clarify the point:-

            Imagine if, at about this time, 2000 AD had decided to reboot Invasion! from its early years – pretty much as they did around this general time (a little earlier) reboot Rogue Trooper (using the brilliant strategy of removing the main thing that made Rogue Trooper interesting).

            In this hypothetical reboot, instead of having having Bill Savage lead a resistance group against Nazis thinly disguised as “Volgans,” Invasion! is a straight alternate-history story depicting a Britain in a world in which the Nazis won World War II, Mosley was installed as a puppet dictator, etc. The strip is full of your classic 2000 AD subtle and not so subtle comments on pop culture by filtering aspects of contemporary late 80s/early 90s British culture through a Nazi/Fascist lens.

            That strip would have had every bit the “gut-punch” that I’m talking about – much as (with its slightly different premise) Moore’s V for Vendetta does. But it would have been written from a completely different, much more intimate, perspective on Britishness than the one from which Excalibur has ever been written up to the point at which this story appeared.

            Note how Brian Braddock’s patriotism in this story, as in Excalibur generally (up to this point – haven’t read the later stuff), is pretty much contentless. One is never given much sense of what Brian’s idea of Britishness is (not wanting his country to be run by Nazis is pretty vague, I think). In contrast, Steve Rogers can’t be in a story for five panels before he has to agonize about the complexities of America. Claremont has used Brian largely as straight man and figure of fun. All the stuff that Paul Cornell reacted against here: https://www.cbr.com/super-spy-weekend-captain-britain/ Michael Higgins seems consciously averse to that Claremont version of the character so far, but he doesn’t seem to have much to put in its place beyond “generic patriot.” (I don’t actually know if Higgins did more Excalibur

            I’m probably overconscious of this, because when I moved to the US (I’m from Ireland), I was shocked to discover just how much the twee tea-and-biscuits, very white, version of the UK in Excalibur was something that Americans really thought Britain was like. Britbox seems determined to keep it that way, which irritates me almost to the point of cancelling my subscription.

            (I also had to do a ridiculous amount of explaining that no, I don’t hate English people, I have English relatives and this is not unusual in Ireland, and by the way, English does not mean the same thing as British and it’s not that hard to keep the distinction straight.)

  8. Anthony Damiani says:

    To me, one of the joys of The Gifted is the “Days of Future Happening Right This Second” nature of the storyline, as it creeps slowly forward almost every episode. Sentinel services hunting mutants with robots? Rory ‘Ahab’ Campbell? Tattoo-branded mutant Hounds?

    My fingers are crossed for Rachel Summers by the finale.

    • Psyche says:

      Oh gosh. I just realized. Is this possibly in the same “bad end timeline” for the original films we saw inFirst Class: Days of Future Past? I mean, they had Blink there.

      The X-Men & Brotherhood ARE missing (likely just constantly on the run), anti-mutant hysteria is starting to allow for all sorts of extra-judicial nonsense, the actual safety of baseline humans is falling by the wayside….

      My only concern is that Rachel is hard to explain with this setup (Scott having died in that timeline already), and I so want Rachel to happen.

  9. Eocene4Ever says:

    Dracula as played by George Takei? 😉

  10. VIDEO of my X-ActionFigure displays in my apartment, to randomly share 😀
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1e1aGqTK1o&t=140s

  11. John Derrick says:

    On the New Mutants media special: not having read the story, Sunspot’s inclusion makes perfect sense to me, in so far as he’s a teen superhero whose idea of heroics is largely defined by Magnum P.I.!

    On the New Mutants movie trailer: I’m nervous about this one. To be fair, horror doesn’t really work for me personally as a genre. But in seems to me that the kind of horror they’re portraying in the trailer is largely about powerlessness. Superhero comics, by contrast, are power fantasies. The best, I’d argue, are Power and Responsibility fantasies. You can certainly blend the two, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer did very well, but I’d also argue that Buffy is the exception that proves the rule. Buffy is about what happens when the traditional horror victim has the power, and functions more like a superhero show in horror clothing. I love the New Mutants largely because they’re kids who want to take the gifts and/or curses they’re stuck with and use them to make the world better. Much of the series is about them insisting on getting out and being superheroes while their mentors keep trying to make them stay inside and study. That’s what I’d like to see on screen as well, rather than seeing them locked up and fighting to stay alive.

    Related tangent: I also really, REALLY want to see long-suffering, trying so hard to own his past crap and be a good dad-figure headmaster Magneto!

    • Voord 99 says:

      That’s a really interesting observation about superheroes, horror, and power.

      That kind of conflict between genres can be interesting in itself, though, and there’s a reasonably long history of superhero/horror mashups, going back to that classic ‘70s period when the approach of (especially Marvel) creators to launching new characters was “What B-movie did I see on Saturday night? Let’s pitch a superhero version of that.”

      In X-Men, there’s a definite shamelessly-stolen-from-Alien body-horror element to the Brood Saga that I think works pretty well. I think the trick here, or a trick, anyway, is to play off the expectation that the character will be powerful so that the powerlessness of horror hits harder. Which is probably why so many horrific moments in X-Men stuff turn on mind control. (Well, it’s one reason. Let’s not explore the other reasons too much, OK? I’m too young and innocent.)

      But it’s still a really interesting observation that you make. Since we’re all remembering the late Len Wein at the moment, I’ll mention that it gave me a new way to look at one of the most interesting things that he ever did, Giant-Size Spiderman #1 (and only). It’s on Unlimited and well worth reading.

      (Although warning: contains some cringeworthily awful depictions of women imported pretty much directly from Hammer horror movies. “Please be gentle.” — actual dialogue.)

      I won’t spoil the central conceit, but it’s a comic co-starring Dracula (alongside Spider-Man, obviously). But it makes very good sense to view it as an exploration of whether or not Spider-Man, the ultimate “power and responsibility” superhero, can exist in the same story as Dracula, the ultimate “takes power away from his victims” figure of horror.

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