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LINKS & FURTHER READING:
- We do weekly video reviews of current X-books! You can find those here.
In which Brett White joins us for a look at the current state of the X-line; Dennis Hopeless helps shed some light on a persistent mystery; Brett has a lot of feelings about the Dark Riders; All-New Wolverine is our everything; All-New X-Men is the new New Mutants; X-Men ’92 is the prize at the bottom of the continuity cereal box; we speculate on potential fatalities in the upcoming Death of X; and everything is probably going to be more or less okay.
NEXT WEEK: Continuity Has Its Eyes on You: Live from ECCC with Kris Anka, Al Ewing, Scott Koblish, and G. Willow Wilson!
EDITED: NOODLE INCIDENT SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW CLOSED. We’ll be announcing the winners sometime between 4/18 and 4/22. Thank you to everyone who participated!!!
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POST SECRET-WARS STORY DISCUSSION, AHOY!
A whole lot of you have been writing in to ask what we think of the recent revelation that the Terrigen Mists are gradually killing off the mutant population of the Marvel Universe. The popular theory of choice seems to be that Marvel has it in for the X-Men: that this is at best a pointless rehash of the M-Day storyline, and at worst a corporate grudge-fueled fictional genocide.
And look: Is Marvel putting more time, energy, and resources into the properties whose entertainment rights they control, and moving those lines front and center in shared-universe stuff? Yeah. But that has been happening roughly forever. In fact, it’s what made the X-Men so prominent in the first place: putting more resources into a line that was at the time tied significantly to the company’s financial success.
This is one of the main liabilities of investing emotionally in a company-owned superhero property: narrative resonance is often going to take a backseat to business. (To an extent, this is one of the main liabilities of investing emotionally in anything that someone else owns or creates: its development will ultimately be informed by priorities other than yours.)
Is Marvel actively sabotaging the X-line? Probably not. Occam’s Razor, y’all: I seriously doubt anyone there has the time–or the imperative–to plan a major arm of a publishing program based on sheer malice. That would be a baffling business move and a phenomenal waste of resources–and it really doesn’t jive with the creative attention that seems to have gone into the post-Secret Wars X-line we’ve seen so far. If Marvel wanted to destroy the X-line, they’d quietly back-burner it, whittle it down to one or two titles–or absorb the headlining characters entirely into other books–and walk away. That’s obviously not happening.
There have been five ongoing X-books announced post-Secret Wars, and we know of at least one other that’s going to be joining them (shhh, don’t tell)–and that’s entirely discounting the many X-affiliated characters who are part of other lineups. You may not like the direction the line is taking–which is fine; again, not every story or arc will appeal to every reader–but the line itself? Probably not going anywhere.
Okay? Okay. So, let’s talk about story.
A lot of the “Marvel is trying to destroy the X-Men” arguments are based on a few preview pages from Extraordinary X-Men, in which it’s revealed that the Terrigen Mists are killing and sterilizing mutants. Which, yes, sucks for mutants, and certainly bodes ill: remember the time Marvel introduced an incurable mutant-targeted virus that devastated the mutant population, destroying the X-line and permanently removing every mutant character from circulation?
Adversity is the bread and butter of good stories, especially good superhero stories. Two of the all-time best–and best loved–Daredevil runs are Born Again and The Devil in Cellblock D, and both of them are framed around horrible things happening nonstop to Matt Murdock. This did not happen because Frank Miller and Ed Brubaker hate Daredevil: it happened because adversity makes for good stories. As a writer, the more you love a character or group of characters, the higher the chances that you will throw them to the tigers just to watch them fight their way out. When you love a character, you give them challenges worthy of their narrative potential–and the X-Men, in particular, are a team and a line that historically have shined brightest with their backs to the wall.
The X-Men have been around for more than 50 years. They’re not going anywhere. The quality–and lineup–and the quality of individual titles will ebb and flow, as will their personal resonance for any given reader. (Remember the ‘90s? We do.) You’ll drift away, or you won’t; and you’ll come back, or you won’t; and either way, odds are good that the X-Men will still be around.
In which Magneto makes an official alignment shift; Claremont does a court drama; Professor Xavier makes poor choices; Rachel Summers comes by her communication skills honest; the Strucker kids are the evil Wonder Twins; and the podcast hits a major milestone!
NEXT WEEK: Emerald City Comicon special with Kris Anka, Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen, and Peter Nguyen!
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In Episode 43, we talked at some length about Stewart Cadwall, the Steve Gerber caricature from Secret Wars II. As a follow-up, it’s our great pleasure to welcome Douglas Wolk for an extended look at the real-life context around the character. -R
As Episode 43 mentions, Stewart Cadwall–the whiny ex-comics-writer-gone-Hollywood who comes in for special opprobrium in Secret Wars II #1–is very clearly based on the late Steve Gerber. A little historical background is probably useful here. Gerber and artist Val Mayerik created Howard the Duck in 1973 (he first appeared in a Man-Thing story in Adventure Into Fear #19). Within a few years, Howard had become a pop-culture mini-phenomenon, getting his own comic book series and, in 1977, a daily newspaper strip. Gerber never actually won the Shazam Award that Cadwall brandishes (those were presented by the Academy of Comic Book Arts between 1971 and 1975), although he did win an Inkpot Award in 1978.
Marvel fired Gerber from both the Howard comic book and the daily strip in 1978; this article and its supporting documents go into extensive detail on that period. Subsequent Howard stories were written by Bill Mantlo, Marv Wolfman and a few other people, while Gerber went on to create the animated series Thundarr the Barbarian (of which Secret Wars II‘s Thundersword is a parody).
In 1980, Gerber wrote a graphic novel called Stewart the Rat, starring a Howard-esque character, drawn by former Howard artist Gene Colan and Tom Palmer (with permission from Marvel!), and published by Eclipse. The same year, he filed a suit against Marvel over the rights to Howard; the short-lived Destroyer Duck series, initially written by Gerber and drawn by Jack Kirby, was put together to raise funds for Gerber’s legal bills. By the end of 1982, though, Gerber and Marvel settled the case.
When Gerber returned to writing for Marvel a couple of years later, it was for a 1983 graphic novel and (what was to be a) six-issue 1984 miniseries published by Marvel’s adult-readers imprint Epic, Void Indigo, with Mayerik once again drawing. Void Indigo, set in L.A., was more or less the kind of “blatant gore” that the Stewart Cadwall character talks about; it was axed after two issues of the miniseries were published.
Secret Wars II #1, written by Jim Shooter, who’d become Marvel’s editor-in-chief in 1978, was published in March, 1985. (Shooter has noted that Stewart Cadwall’s last name was originally going to be Gadwall, as in the duck, and claimed that “Steve loved it. He even sent me a rave fan letter.”) Relations between Gerber and Marvel had by this point thawed to the point that Shooter asked Gerber to write a new Howard the Duck story in advance of the Howard movie that was then in the works–a planned two-parter called “Howard the Duck’s Secret Crisis II.” The script for the first issue appears here. It’s a very direct parody of Secret Wars II, involving the Brotherhood of Evil Prepositions: the Arounder, the Withiner, the Amonger, the Underneather, the Betweener, and Of.
Shooter admired it: he later called it “fitting, perfect revenge for Secret Wars II #1.” But he wanted to change the part of the script where Gerber savaged the Howard stories he hadn’t written. They couldn’t come to an agreement on it, and the new Gerber story was never drawn. The next Howard the Duck comic to be published, #32 (which appeared with a January 1986 cover date), had been written by Steven Grant, apparently several years earlier.
Gerber didn’t write anything else for Marvel until 1988, after Shooter had been fired as editor-in-chief. He eventually wrote a few more Howard the Duck stories, including an issue of Spider-Man Team-Up that unofficially crossed over with a Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck one-shot (here’s Tom Brevoort’s commentary on it and Gerber’s response), and a Marvel MAX miniseries in which Howard became a mouse.
Douglas Wolk writes about comics and music for a bunch of places, and recently wrote Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two. His favorite mutant is Martha Johansson. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
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In which we correct a startling omission, explore the current state of the X-Universe, and speculate wildly; Quentin Quire has excellent fashion sense; Rachel gets a new accessory; Miles goes off-brand; the X-Men are somewhat complicated; Iron Man has poor decision-making skills; Charles Xavier dies for real; Beast might be a supervillain; we briefly forget Marc Guggenheim’s first name; and the future remains a relative mystery.
For purposes of continuity, it’s probably worth noting that this episode was recorded before the SDCC Marvel panel.
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