182 – Lunch With Technet

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

In which Alan Davis spins dangling plot threads into gold; comics artists are storytellers; Technet is a feature, not a bug; Brian Braddock’s issues reach their boiling point; if you’re going to learn about Earth from TV, you should probably stick with PBS; and our Lila Cheney t-shirts are officially canon!

X-PLAINED:

  • An unlikely alliance
  • Jay & Miles at Emerald City Comic Con
  • Alan Davis’s return to Excalibur
  • Excalibur #42-44
  • Breakfast with Excalibur
  • Hard-Boiled Henry
  • Horatio Cringebottom
  • Bert
  • Earth-148 (Ee’rath)
  • Kylun (Colin McKay)
  • Unlikely houseguests
  • A romance
  • A fracas
  • The trial of Captain Britain
  • Multiversal moral relativity
  • Micromax (Scott Wright)
  • Lunch with Technet
  • Why public television funding is important
  • How Shadowcat’s phasing interacts with extreme temperatures
  • Our opinions on X-Men: Gold Annual #1

NEXT EPISODE: Omega Red!


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40 comments

  1. SCOTT SALSMAN says:

    Regarding Claremont’s ongoing threads instead of story arcs, I much prefer his writing style. I’m really tired of the current MO of story arc after story arc. You know any loose ends will probably be tied up in a few issues, and things will mostly go back to status quo. It’s less fun for adult readers.

  2. thepariaheffect says:

    This was my very first issue of Excalibur. It’s also the only issue of Excalibur that I actually own. At the time, I had no clue what was going on or who any of the characters were (outside of Nightcrawler, who was in the excellent arcade game). This was just too weird for a very young me. As an adult, though, I love it.

  3. Brandon Harbeke says:

    One reason I don’t much like Technet’s appearance in Excalibur is their odd speech patterns. Rogue and Gambit get a pass because their characters more than make up for the strange phonetic speech bubbles they have, but otherwise, I want my comics characters to have their dialogue be as readable at a glance as possible.

    • Icon_UK says:

      I’d agree if they were anything other than aliens, who probably SHOULD have difficulties explaining things from a completely alien langauge context. It’s not like English is a terribly cohesive language to begin with.

      • Count_Zero says:

        It’s not like English is a terribly cohesive language to begin with.

        Agreed. Considering I’ve heard English described multiple times as a language that “…picks the pockets of other languages in back alleys for loose syntax.” or some variation thereof, I’d say it’s probably not the easiest language to learn if it’s not your native language.

        • M says:

          Actually English is fairly straightforward to learn as second language. I’m saying this as someone who learned it that way. The only marginally hard thing is that pronunciation and spelling only vaguely correlate.

          Compare this to German that arbitrarily assigns gender to words like “table” and has approx. half dozen variations of “the”. Or Hungarian which has totally different verb conjugation depending on the sentence having an object or not.

  4. Tomas Syrstad Ruud says:

    I don’t like Technet. I get that their powers are favorable for bounty hunting, but to me they always seem like Claremont’s body horror-thing launching itself from subtext, through text, and into the supertextual realms beyond.

    • Voord 99 says:

      That’s interesting. I was going to speculate that the reason was that Technet weren’t Claremontesque enough for what people were expecting to be an X-book, being Alan Davis creations from the Marvel UK Captain Britain comic. To me, they feel somewhat 2000 ADish in their particular brand of tongue-in-cheek weirdness and not terribly Marvel. I can sort of imagine them competing with Johnny Alpha to bring in some criminal or other.

      On a related note, I took Davis’s decision at the beginning to have Nightcrawler complain that Excalibur were getting too much of the glory as a nice little nod that this was going to be even less of an X-book. Because obviously that reverses the normal way X-things work: the fact that three out of the five team members are mutants “should” preclude this possibility. Cf. the way in which Davis centers the book on his recreation (if not creation) Captain Britain as first among equals.

      I’ve read as far as #50, and I’ll be curious to see how far this goes — I have a sense right now that Davis’s Excalibur could actually be argued to be outside the remit of the podcast as much as e.g. The Avengers when Beast and Scarlet Witch were members, that it’s just not an X-book at all.

      But I would never say that our hosts should adopt that view, for their sake. They deserve a break from the “real” X-books to read something this good. (I’m having whiplash going from X-Force to this to X-Men.) In fact, I would go further than our hosts in saying that this shows that Davis was making a major contribution to the Claremont/Davis Excalibur. If this is anything to go by, *most* of what was good about that period might have been Davis…

  5. Jen Wolff says:

    I think I did a whole page of Bert doodles as a kid. Kinda wish I’d spent more time copying Davis, but I was pretty focused on Maduriera with a bit of early Bachalo and Pollina. The Kubert’s were fine to read, but I never wanted to draw them. (Why yes, I was well into college before I took a non-X comic seriously. How can you tell?)

    Also, Boo-ray is a totally valid response to puns.

  6. Count_Zero says:

    I was thinking about what you said on the show about Alan Davis being really good at drawing crushes in particular, and not many artists being good at that, and that got me thinking, and lead to another installment of Count_Zero Contextualizes Comics through Anime & Manga.

    In particular, what got me thinking is that while in the US there used to be a big grand tradition of Romance comics through the 1940s, ’50s, and into the early ’60s (with even Marvel putting out a few romance books, with Patsy Walker debuting in one of those comics, dedicated romance comics of any variety eventually trailed off, with perhaps one of the few long-running mainstream romance comics being the various Archie books (in particular, the ones you see – or used to see – on the newsstand in grocery stores).

    By comparison, in manga (and anime, naturally) pretty much every genre was still fair game, so from the ’50s all the way through the present you had a slew of romance manga for various audiences (men and women, adults and teens, straight and GLBT – though generally leaning more towards G & L, and with from what I can tell the majority of manga with homosexual themes being arguably targeted towards a heterosexual audience, but that’s probably a topic for another site, much less another thread, as I don’t want to derail too much).

    Anyway, because you have a flourishing romance genre in Manga that has material for all audiences, this means that with that you get the construction of a visual language for the important themes in that genre. You get visual and narrative shorthand for a female or male character having a crush on another character, both in terms of how those characters react and how those characters perceive the object of their romantic attraction, and that language develops on a spectrum from “highly stylized” to “fairly realistic”, and evolves to reflect the times. Eventually, the parts of that language that works persists and may up cross pollinating across genres. By comparison, by the time these issues of Excalibur came out, the dedicated romance comic was pretty much dead, so the language hadn’t evolved the same way in the US.

    This leads to me wondering, and maybe some of the European listeners and commenters might able to answer this – in the ’80s, what was the state of the Romance comic in Europe (not just the UK, but on the Continent as well). I’d be interested to see if there was a stylistic language there for romance comics that had the opportunity to build up and evolve, compared to US comics where things appeared, at least through the ’80s and ’90s, to have stagnated.

    • Miles says:

      Good points regarding markets that kept the romance genre alive having a much larger and more varied set of visual crush iconography – I hadn’t thought of that!

  7. Icon_UK says:

    Guys, you disappoint me just a little by not elaborating on Emelia Witherspoon’s inspiration, She is a direct homage to the magnificent English comedic and character actress Dame Margaret Rutherford, perhaps best known for her sterling, if not exactly book accurate, performance as Miss Marple in the 1960’s movies.

    A powerhouse of unapologetic eccentricity in real life as well as on screen (She once gave a reading at a ladies jail, and was disappointed that her planned performance of “The Ballad of Eskimo Nell” was not deemed entirely appropriate). She also dealt with a life marred by mental illness (both her parents had serious mental health issues, and she herself was prone to depression throughout her life.

    If you’ve ever seen her in as Miss Marple, or as eccentric medium and clairvoyant Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit (a role Noel Coward wrote specifically for her) and which may have inspired her appearance her as a psychic, you’ll know exactly the tone she says the “My, my… blue velvet” line in. 🙂

    • Miles says:

      I had no idea! Thankfully, she shows up again, so we’ll get a second chance.

      • Icon_UK says:

        Sorry, I’m just so used to you guys already being up on even the most obscure pop culture references! 😀

        • Damien says:

          Everyone should be forced to watch Blithe Spirit and all of Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marples. They’re amazing. And she was in the St Trinian’s films as noted when you covered Girls School From Heck. Davis does reference a lot of UK-specific stuff in his run. So I bet those of us listening in the UK will be doing a lot of um actually-ing.

          • Icon_UK says:

            I think the first “um actually” is going to be me noting that Margaret Rutherford isn’t in any of the St Trinians films.

            The role of St trinians Headmistress Miss Fritton was written for her, but she wasn’t available, so in a stroke of genius they gave the role to Alastair Sim who peformed it in one of the most inpired bit of cross-dressing the cinema has ever seen.

            You might be thinking of Rutherford and Sim being in a different boarding-school comedy together though, “The Happiest Days of Your Life” a few years before the St Trinians movies.

    • David Morris says:

      The nod to Margaret Rutherford and the inclusion of Horatio Cringebottom make me wonder if Davis is having a little quiet fun with his US audience. Is he putting characters and types from 1950s films because that’s the kind of thing that happens in US comics about Britain? Incidentally, I have heard that police will credit psychics with providing information to disguise and protect more mundane sources.

  8. Peter Willard says:

    If you hadn’t mentioned the Rocket series I was going to bring it up myself. I picked up the first issue solely because of the Hitchiker’s Guide and Stainless Steel Rat references in the first few pages. When the Technet showed up it was just icing on the cake.

  9. Darth Pseudonym says:

    I generally agree with your comments about police psychics, but what I’ve heard is that the police never really bought into psychic powers. Rather, in the ’80s and ’90s, a lot of times if the police had a lead from a source they couldn’t reveal — often a close family member who gave up information — it was useful to publicly claim that they got the tip from a psychic. Information that’s too accurate could reveal who gave it up, so claiming it came from a supernatural source gave them a way to conceal it.

    • Ggodo says:

      That is. . . Actually sorta stupidly clever. It’s like police from around the world have been actively perpetuating the longest episode of Psych ever. That makes me feel way better about it. Aside from the fictional, and fake, Harry Dresden and Shawn Spicer the whole concept is rather worrying.

    • David Morris says:

      I should have read further down!

  10. W. H. Rad says:

    Earth-616 Beast, I think we can all agree, is consistently drawn with fur. I have only ever seen Earth-616 Nightcrawler drawn with blue skin. The contrast is especially noticeable in something such as Nightcrawler volume 3 #3. So, I have a challenge to issue. Please, if you can, find one comic where Nightcrawler is drawn with fur. To clarify, do not find a comic where Nightcrawler is only described as having fur, such as Excalibur #44 discussed in this episode. Bonus points will be awarded if Nightcrawler is also called, “fuzzy elf.”

    • Icon_UK says:

      His fur has always been very, very short, like velvet, so I don’t think it would even be possible to show it drawn as fur per se.

      • W. H. Rad says:

        What about, for example, inking Nightcrawler with a less solid outline around his skin? I feel like there were probably tricks used with Wolfsbane which could be applied to Nightcrawler.

        • Icon_UK says:

          The closest thing that popped into my head for that would be the oft maligned What if? (2nd series) #98 story which is about Mystique raising Kurt (or Micahel as he’s called in this timeline, since Raven named him). The colouring on him, and later on Rogue she she absorbs his powers, is a little different from others in the same issue, perhaps hinting at a different texture to his skin

          If you google images for What if #98 Rogue you’ll find the images easily enough.

  11. Mullet Man says:

    Miles thanks for giving Brother Britman some love! He is my favourite Excaliber joke of all time, and my favourite thing from AD’s second run. I’ve considered commissioning him to do a sketch of the brother flying. Imagine that hair and beard streaming in the wind! As for him being more effective from his limited appearances, we’ll never know. But I would like too. In my dream world AD would do a mini series in a sort of indy head comixs style.

    And I’m glad you guys are savouring this slowly. It was my favourite ever run when I was a teenager. And I had read all of the Marvel superhero comics from the silver age onwards published up to that point.

    Also, a point of interest. There was a house ad for a Technet series that never happened. I wonder what the story behind that was?

  12. David Morris says:

    Okay, so a strong agreement with Jay’s position on Davis as a writer. However, there are so many lovely things about how he tells the story visually. The panel arrangement showing Kurt and Meggan moving through the dream gym is elegant. The clarity and economy of the three panels where Kurt flips onto Brian’s back, bamfs and releases him are masterful.
    I’ve just random notes apart that-that pier in Brighton burnt down in 2003. Let’s blame Technet. While he’s much more handsome I’d cast Richard Wattis for the role of Horatio C. That book Brian’s trying to read is real (Philosophical Foundation of Quantum Mechanics by Hans Reichenbach), but I don’t get the joke/story point of it. OG Masterfrom Dr Who (Richard Delgado) watched children’s programs (the Clangers) but did not learn much.

    • Icon_UK says:

      As I recall, the Master was very disappointed to discover “The Clangers” was puppet show for children, not a documentary as he rather liked them and whistled back at the screen.

      For those unfamiliar with them, The Clangers was an utterly charming stop-motion animation series from the 1970’s about a group of knitted aliens living on an alien world who only communicated by whistling (and narrated by the sublime tones of Oliver Postgate, an amazing man who amongst other skills had a voice which meant he could have read reports about gas explosions wiping out adorable kittens and _still_ manage to make you feel warm and safe). It was recently remade and since Mr Postgate is long gone, the UK got Michael Palin narrating and Canada got… William Shatner.

      There’s a deliberate homage in the new Doctor Who where the John Simms Master watches Teletubbies and is impressed that a life form has evolved to include a television in their stomach.

      This has been a pointless digression, we now return to our usual, somewhat more pointed, digressions. 😉

    • Icon_UK says:

      Oh, and since I’ve been a Doctor Who geek for even longer than I have a comics geek, I HAVE to mention (Literally HAVE to, it’s not even a choice.. help me!) the Master was Roger Delgado, rather than Richard Delgado.

      Richard Wattis as Horatio is a terrific choice BTW.

    • Voord 99 says:

      I wonder if the point of having Brian read that particular book is to re-establish his background as a physicist?

      [Spoilers for the next few issues, up tp #50]

      I have a theory, which I’ll maybe argue for when our hosts get to the next slice of issues, that Davis is trying to move Brian away from the buffoon that Claremont had tended to box him into being and re-emphasize other sides of the character. Keeping humor, but also making Brian less relentlessly a character that exists only to lose his temper, have embarrassing things happen to him, and generally come across as a bit of a [expletive deleted] in a minor sort of way, without compensating redeeming features.

      This may seem improbable on the basis of these opening issues, especially given the way that they start, but just wait: Davis displays a charmingly old-fashioned regard for continuity, trying to explain the way Brian came across in the Claremont period without contradicting it.

      Disclaimer: I’ve only read as far as #50. But based on that, stressing that Brian is also supposed to be a brilliant physicist would suit the agenda that I’m detecting in Davis.

  13. John Derrick says:

    Yes, Alan Davis’s solo run is so delightful!

    Some random reactions to specific points:

    1) As much as I adore Davis’ Meggan, my own favorite take on both Meggan and Brian is Paul Cornell’s from Captain Britain & MI:13. I like how they both got to grow up a bit there, even if Brian is way more heroic and together than when anyone else writes him. I miss that book SO MUCH. Especially Faiza Hussain, one of the greatest characters ever. (Only a couple of writers have used her since, and only Al Ewing did so recognizably. I wish he’d relaunch Excalibur as a blend of classic and MI:13!)

    2) As for the annual, one thing that confused me – last time I saw Brian Braddock during Secret Empire, he’d lost an eye somehow? And now it’s back? And he went from blond to redhead at some point? What’s up with all that?

    3) As a parent of a precocious 3 year old who is determined to do everything herself ASAP, Meggan’s worry in the annual that her baby only needed her due to a lack of fine motor skills definitely rang true!

    4) Farscape did a great bit with its alien crew on Earth for the first time watching Sesame Street to help pick up the language! Also because it’s own Henson-created characters found Kermit somewhat literally familiar.

  14. Si says:

    The Rocket miniseries is amazing. Both writer and artist get the Technet perfectly. Except Gatecrasher’s fingernails. And Bodybag’s bodybags. Best bit is the bizarre sexual chamistry between Rocket and Gatecrasher.

    I want to also add that I’m eagerly anticipating your show about Excalibur #50, which may be the single greatest single issue of comic art in existence. What Alan Davis does with frames and scale is just awe-inspiring.

  15. Damien says:

    I have a question for the X-Perts for the next Excalibur episode. Yesterday I cheered myself up by rereading the entire Alan Davis run of Excalibur just before bed. This morning I awoke with the image of Brian Braddock singing McArthur Park. So my question is Excalibur karaoke party, who sings what?

    And who left Captain Britain’s cake out in the rain?

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