The Roundtable

NOTE: The individual opinions of each Roundtable contributor are their own, and is not representative of anybody but that contributor.

RUMOUR: Peter David to launch X-FACTOR INVESTIGATIONS later this year, following on from the MADROX mini [Credit: All the Rage]

WILL “TROUSER SNAKE” COOLING: Seeing as Iain won’t talk to me on AIM I’ll respond to this:

X-Factor Investigations – well MADROX is the only second-tier X-Men title to have gotten good write ups across the board so I guess this is a good move although again do we really need another X-Men title? Marvel really doesn’t seem to be able to follow the logic of their recent successful movie deals i.e. if the money in comics is to be made in movies/licensing (which it is) then it follows that comic companies should be trying to create as many franchises to licence out as they can… after all ROAD TO PERDITION may not have sold as many copies as ELEKTRA but I wonder which movie is going to make the most money? Concentrating their efforts on the X-Men to the extent that Marvel does not make sense on artistic grounds or on commercial grounds.

JOHN “READ MANHUNTER” BABOS: While I’m not big of fan of decompressed writing with its TPB-focus, I certainly don’t think companies should be creating properties on the sole basis of leaping to the Silver or small screens. There isn’t much diversity at the big 2 in terms of “how” they tell their stories. It’s all TPB-focused with the exception of Byrne’s (DC) DOOM PATROL which has 2-part not 6-part arcs. When I was a kid I liked some of those old one or two issue stories. Why does every story need to be 6-parts?

We need more diversity in story mechanics as well as diversity in properties (this gets to Will’s “another” X-book comment about MADROX). Many of us have chatted about this on the message boards – Marvel’s almost single-minded focus to expand the X-Universe and over-expose Wolverine and the (non-X) Spider-Man. Don’t they have other properties?

I know with DC’s lesser known properties that have or will be on the Silver Screen (e.g. ROAD TO PERDITION, CONSTANTINE, etc.) they were written originally just to be good stories. That should be the springboard.

Does Marvel need another X-book? Probably not, but with the exception of the name “X-FACTOR” is this Madrox title really an “X” book? If it’s a very new and very different type of X-book then at least we’ll have diversity in the type of stories David tells. Peter David has proved that he can write in many genres and in many mediums. He can deliver something fresh.

Companies should focus on telling good stories (X or otherwise) and if they are solid then people will take notice, e.g. fans, Hollywood, whomever.

WILL COOLING: Yeah, you’re right about good stories, etc., but my point was that Marvel trying to maximise revenue by milking the X-Men franchise makes no sense because they could stand to make more money developing new ones.

I also agree with you on decompression; if you look at all major forms of entertainment from film to TV to sports to wrestling even to your paper all have became more focused, more concise and faster-paced – the old Crash TV idea of introducing ideas at such a rate that if one fails to connect with a reader they won’t care because oh look another’s on its way. Sometimes I worry that comics are setting their face against the zeitgeist present in all pop-culture and that in part explains why sales are so poor.

“ACADEMY AWARD WINNER” TIM STEVENS: Regardless of the decompression debate, I’m not sure if I thrill to this opinion. First of all, sales of comics were “poor” before the recent trend of the 6 issue arcs, so that does not support that theory. Second of all, I object to any idea that essentially consists of “in order to be popular, we must do what everyone else is.” Even with TV, film, and literature, that sort of smash mouth approach to storytelling tends to be the focus of much criticism. Some of it may prove popular, but more often it ends up savaged critically and ignored at the box office. One of the worst things newspapers ever did was try to “compete” with TV. The mediums are so mildly different, it is impossible. Flash forward to now, circulation sales have plummeted while newspapers continue to attempt to drum up sales through flashy graphics and smaller/shorter news stories. I don’t think writing for trades is the solution (if that is in fact an actual movement/agenda), but I also don’t think attempting to ape other mediums is going to prove salvation either.

WILL COOLING: The difference between newspapers and comics is that newspapers were going for an entirely different demographic than what TV, etc. was aiming at… indeed they were precisely the people that would be annoyed with the speeding up of, well, everything. However, the fact remains everything aimed at young males in the past 10 years has been sped up (TV, film, wrestling, sports, music), made more direct, made more aggressive, more violent and in most cases “sexier”. However, in the same sort of time span, comics have became slower, take longer to present/develop an idea, less aggressive and violent with the emphasis switching from fighting to talking and thanks to the liberation of comicdom from the Image Clones less sexually explicit.

Now I’m not saying on a quality point of view that is a bad thing, I
enjoy many of the comics that take this approach but then again I
would. I am not a typical male – I’m bi, obsessed with politics, my favourite film is a foreign language indie film and in the past five
days I’ve read 400pages of a 600-page biography of William Pitt the
Younger. And to be honest I think that’s the same for all of us
(writers and readers alike), we’ve all got an aspect of our
personality that is closer to the same critics and people that moan
about the “dumbing down” of cinema, TV, etc. And that would be fine if comics were actually intent on focusing on people like us and developing more on the lines of the wider publishing industry but they’re not. The Big Two are still intent on focusing on the elusive young male audience despite the fact they’re titles are diametrically opposed to what young males demand in every other form of entertainment. Either comics should switch from seeing itself in competition with the entertainment industry to seeing itself in competition with the wider publishing industry or it should make its content more suitable for the audience it desires.

Devil’s Due obtains the Transformers licence [Credit: Lying in the Gutters]

JAMIE “FRIEND OF DOROTHY OF OZ” HATTON: That was expected, and good for them for getting it – Dreamwave was doing the series a decent service, but I feel that DD is going to take it to where it should be – and that means one, maybe two titles with a more concentrated story.

IAIN “THE HUNGOVER HOST” BURNSIDE: As long as they don’t feel the need to launch an ongoing G.I. JOE/TRANSFORMERS series, then we’ll be okay. I really hope that the legal mumbo-jumbo doesn’t prevent them from finishing the WAR WITHIN: AGE OF WRATH mini and from wrapping up the loose ends from Dreamwave’s GENERATION ONE (such as – who was Sunstorm exactly? What happened to Optimus Prime? What did Starscream discover? Why was Unicron interested in Earth? What were the Quintessons plotting? What happened to the Scourge found by the US government?). Sadly, I think I’ll most likely be in for a disappointment on that front and we’ll have to sit through yet another origin story before DD get into their story proper. Fingers crossed they get some decent artists involved in these titles too. Dreamwave managed to get decent writers for the most part, but their manga style artwork was far too muddled to make out several important developments in the strips…

JESSE “MAKE MINE BENDIS” BAKER: Hopefully they’ll strike a deal to use the Dreamwave cannon and continue their books ASAP.

PAUL “PETRIFIED WOOD” SEBERT: I can’t but wonder if this deal has been in the works for sometime and that’s the reason why Dreamwave went belly up. I mean, outside of the TF line DW didn’t really have that many books.

RUMOUR: The numbers of mutants in the Marvel Universe will be greatly reduced in HOUSE OF M [Credit: Lying in the Gutters]

JAMIE HATTON: Seriously?! How about all of the mutants that died in Genosha?! Geez we’re going to be down to a random handful after this. *rolls eyes*

I appreciate the concept here, as the X-Universe has a mutant for everything, and it doesn’t make it interesting when a new one is
introduced. (Remember how cool it was trying to figure out if Gambit
had hypnosis powers?) The problem is – it doesn’t work. Now, with books like X-FACTOR and DISTRICT X out there, it’s even harder. Why? Because they are based on the fact that mutants are hated/feared and have a status of second class citizenship. If you get rid of all the mutants, you get rid of the premises of these books.

The other amazing fact about this news is that every mutant you haven’t heard of shall be killed, yet hundreds of ones that have interacted with the X-Men before will have survived. The exception will be the cast of ECALIBUR whom we had not heard of and didn’t care about either.

ANDY “I DON’T DO DRAGONS” CAMPBELL: The first thing that came to my mind, too, was what’s going to happen to DISTRICT X? No more district, no more book. Should they rename HOUSE OF M to MUTANTS DISASSEMBLED?

IAIN BURNSIDE: Okay, so what X-Men do I actually give a crap about (and by that I mean that the characters themselves genuinely interest me, as opposed to only interesting me when someone like Whedon or Morrison comes along)… Well, there’s Beast, Mystique, Kitty Pryde and… Nope, that’s pretty much it. All the rest I can quite happily not connect with (Wolverine, Nightcrawler, etc.) or actively despise (Jubilee, Gambit, etc.), and since I reckon those three are safe from harm then I still have no reason to care about HOUSE OF M. Then again, since they recently had a number of perfectly chromulent ways to kill off numerous X-Men such as the Nano-Sentinels, Sublime, The Cure and Wolverine’s Mega Berzerker Rage Of DOOM in “Enemy of the State”, I am rather curious to see what feeble way editorial has decided to bump off all the nobodies (and presumably one token “meaningful” character to boost sales). Hopefully in the last issue of Bendis’ latest opus, Dr. Strange will turn up to give a lecture while everyone stands around shuffling their feet. Then Magneto can jump up and yell “Booga, booga, booga!!” without anybody noticing him…

Also, who wants to bet me that SECRET WAR will still not be finished by the time this thing wraps up??

JESSE BAKER: Am I the only one who likes the large amount of mutants in the Marvel Universe? That being said, I fear this because this is Bendis we are talking about and God knows Bendis loves to kill off characters while masturbating at his computer, singing “I AM SO GREAT! I AM SO GREAT! EVERYBODY LOVES ME! I AM SO GREAT”[*] as he shoots his load all over his desk as the braindead horde at the Bendis board type out verbal fellatio towards how great Bendis is for doing this…

That being said, given that HOUSE OF M is also supposed to be the current Marvel power structure’s ego-driven attempt to purge everything they have prejudice against (i.e. they hate but the fans love) from canon, am I the only one who fully expects Marvel to just erase half of the Marvel Universe from cannon? Hell – that will make the X-Men even more confusing continuity-wise if they do that…

[*] A shiny dime to the person who names what episode of the Simpsons I took that from…

MATT “STARMAN” MORRISON: Oh no! Marvel is going to kill a whole lot of people for a big crossover story…

…who will then come back to life next month…

Forgive me for being the cynical devil’s advocate here, but… meh. Outside of two Spider-Man titles, I don’t care about Marvel anymore aside from anything Dan Slott is writing.

PAUL SEBERT: In other news, Rich Johnston is reporting a rumour that either Travis Clevenger or Richard Dragon is really the Identity Crisis killer…

Ok, I know its bit late to make fun of the umpteen-dozen false IC rumours that got posted on Lying in the Gutters but… it’s still fun.

Anyway I think this would be a pretty spectacularly bad idea as…

1. It’s just too soon after what happened in Genosha during the opening of Grant Morrison’s arc.


2. It would pretty much establish that editorial staff at Marvel has kind of lost touch with the notion that Mutants are the Every-minority, a concept that was fairly brilliantly demonstrated in the X-Men Evolution cartoon of all things.

WILL COOLING: I must admit to loving the idea of a Mutant Massacre (hmm… what an interesting alliteration… maybe someone should use it as a title?) but only due to the irony of the fact that Iain was telling me on Sunday how much he wanted HOUSE OF M (is it me or does that title suck?) to be a cull of lesser mutants.

However, on any other grounds this is a terrible idea. Firstly, as
Jamie points out it destroys the basis for almost all the serious/worthwhile X-Men spin offs and some of the more interesting elements of both Morrison’s and Whedon’s runs. Secondly, this is just going to further antagonise old-school fans already sore for Bendis
pulling a similar stunt with AVENGERS DISSED further reducing his credibility. Thirdly, after the spate of revivals in the past year no one in their right mind is going to believe that any of this will
stick so rendering the story devoid of meaning or drama. Finally, the
whole basic concept goes against what the X-Men are meant to be – the
next stage in the evolution of mankind. [*] If they are that then their numbers should be progressively growing to the point where they
outnumber humans. A reduction to me seems like a step back to the
status quo of 10-20 years as Marvel takes fright from developing the
dynamic of the series.

[*] BTW, I’ve always found the “next stage of evolution” to be a bit hard to take. Evolution on the whole happens in incremental steps over thousands of years and even fairly large shifts happen in a uniform way (i.e. the evolution of men from monkeys). Neither is true of mutants with mutants being in their third generation [**] and yet there is vast a variety and strength of mutations from humans. This simply goes against the nature of evolution as presently understood. Now personally I’ve always thought this opened up a great story of an evangelical Christian preacher using this as evidence to undermine evolution and promote creationism, i.e. that mutants are gifts (it’d be more interesting with a positive spin) from God and their powers are parts of his plan. It would be far more interesting than the usual Spanish Inquisition mind set they’re always written as having.

[**] Based on the premise that Xavier & Magneto were among the first generation of mutants. I have no idea where Apocalypse fits into this.

JESSE BAKER: Marvel has long since abandoned the notion of Xavier & Magneto being the first generation of mutants. The current standing is that mutants have been around since the dawn of man but in ultra-rare numbers (this is where Apocalypse fits in since he is one of the earliest mutants and depending on how the retcon weather is blowing, has survived into modern times either do to him having a long life span as part of his mutant powers, using alien technology to become immortal, or has body swapped repeatedly over the centuries). That being said, it wasn’t until Magneto and Xavier’s generation that mutant birth rates began increasing to their current levels.

WILL COOLING: Then the idea of mutants as the next stage of evolution is utterly meaningless and nonsensical… You then get to the point where you say they are either gifts of God (if only a writer would rise above the uniform knee-jerk hatred and mockery of religion [*] they could produce an awesome story on the basis of this) or they are an entirely different species from homo sapiens. If that were the case then it basically means that the anti-mutant humans are right – mutants are a threat that threaten the territory and rights of man and must be defeated.

[*] As opposed to my principled and reasoned hatred/mockery of religion

IAIN BURNSIDE: I don’t think that any writer can delve too deeply into the dynamics of why mutants are feared and hated in the Marvel Universe. Certainly they couldn’t do it without coming across the eternal conundrum of why people love the Fantastic Four, the “old” Avengers and various other super-powered individuals that have no real way of denying that they are or are not mutants. For example, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are supposedly quite the popular couple in the Marvel U nowadays (certainly appears that way in YOUNG AVENGERS #1) – but how on earth could the public be expected to know they aren’t mutants? Or are they, in fact, mutants? And what if Matt Murdock claimed to be a mutant during the inevitable trial over this Daredevil secret ID fiasco? What a can of worms that would open up… What was I talking about again? Oh yeah – stay outta my beer.

WILL COOLING: Its less about why there are hated (which let’s face it is obvious; mutants are an exclusive club of super-powered beings that on the whole isolate themselves from humanity whilst popular non-mutant superheroes are fully integrated into human society) but why they are around! Using evolution as a reason makes no sense whatsoever and it’d be brilliant if one day a writer would address it.

IAIN BURNSIDE: Yes, but your only hope for that is the Ultimate Universe.

And they’re still firmly in the ‘high-school’ stage of things.

And even then it wouldn’t last.

But VAUGHAN still rocks my socks.

WILL COOLING: True… to be honest Millar so f***** ULTIMATE X-MEN up with his rush to the Magneto/Xavier confrontation that I have very little interest in it. They could’ve done so much more with the concept… update the Magneto/Xavier conflict to being something more on the lines of “Zionist”/Integrationist and do a far more gradual break up of the relationship. To me I’d have done it where Magneto was far more laid back about the future of mutants because he was so convinced that humans couldn’t reverse the process of evolution. However, when the Sentinels are first used he begins to fear that man & machine could in alliance defeat mutantkind… thereby creating first a desire for a mutant homeland (Genosha) and then after the Ultimate version of the Genoshian Genocide to declare all out war.

Garth Ennis & Clayton Craine to do new GHOST RIDER mini-series [Flame: On]

WILL COOLING: Ennis on GHOST RIDER is cool… let’s just remember to remind everyone that the Nexus broke this about seven months ago in my interview with Garth!!!!!!!!!

What!?! I’m just saying!

JAMIE HATTON: GHOST RIDER in Marvel Knights – that’s proper. I think MAX might be a bit better, but that’s because I have this belief that Ghost Rider could easily be the Urban Legend character – like a Marvel version of Candyman. I can honestly say, I’m looking for a good intense kind of horror story out of this though – we’ll see as the details come.

PAUL SEBERT: Ennis and a biker with a flaming skull for a noggin? Sounds like two things that go together as well as chocolate covered marshmallows and crackers.

On a side note… someone really ought to put Danny Keth’s face on a milk carton.

WILL COOLING: My only problem with Ennis on GHOST RIDER is that they didn’t make Frazer Irving artist. Honestly this guy is the man when it comes to horror comics and would be sooooo awesome on GHOST RIDER. Still at least we get him with Morrison on SS… er, not the best abbreviation there.

Gail Simone & Dale Eagleshamn to do VILLAINS UNITED mini-series, featuring some mind-wiped villains seeking revenge [Didio Speaks: Here]

JAMIE HATTON: See, this is what DC does better than Marvel. Crisis is over – it’s done with and in the history books – but there is now this whole legion of stories that needs to be picked up and carried, and hopefully not forgotten about. Add in that I love stories about villains hanging out, and this is solid.

ANDY CAMPBELL: Now this I’m excited about, for a few reasons: the concept is cool, I loves me some villains, and Gail Simone rocks the party that rocks the house. Her love of comics as a medium is very evident and infectious. This should be awesome.

PAUL SEBERT: Love the talent involved, love books about villains, but honestly… I’m completely burned out on IDENTITY CRISIS fallout. Was it a great mini-series? Yes. But honestly, I’m ready to move on with my life.

JAMIE HATTON: I think this is going to bother you for a while. The idea, at least as I’ve perceived it, with IDENTITY CRISIS was to not only give you a great story – but to actually have lasting effects on the world around it. One thing I dislike about our little “comicverse” is that these long term effects we hear about on a yearly basis.




We swallow these with the knowledge that in a year, I’ll be able to pick up the book and go, “Oh, Superman died?! Who knew…” I respect
DC 100% for having a storyline that truly is changing status quo and
giving a batch of great writers a batch of great new stories to tell
that weren’t accessible to them a year ago.

Just my opinion.

ANDY CAMPBELL: I’m going to agree with you here. The majority of the time there is a “major” event, it can quickly be forgotten afterward (like you said, “Oh, Superman died?! Who knew…”). I think the Bat-books are some of the most guilty here. It seems that the only reason certain Bat-crossovers are remembered is for some minor character that got killed.

Yes, a few “minor” characters were killed in IDENTITY CRISIS, but that’s not why the story will be remembered. The status-quo truly has been changed, and I think it’s just what was/is needed.

PAUL SEBERT: Points well made.

But to be quite honest after all of the bleak tragic stories that came about, not just in the DCU, but in comics in general last year… I’m kinda ready for a crossover where the JLA get turned into gorillas or children again.

ANDY CAMPBELL: There is certainly something to be said for
light-hearted stories. Long live JLApe!

JESSE BAKER: I disagree. Given how generic and “safe” the JLA has gotten since Morrison pussied out on “World War III”, I’m all for the JLA getting involved in ultra-dark, ultra-consequence filled stories. Hell, that one of the reasons why I loved IDENTITY CRISIS since it was at the heart of the story a JLA story that had real weight towards f*cking shit up and not producing a cop-out ending where nothing bad happens and none of the other titles are affected by the consequences…

IAIN BURNSIDE: I half agree with you there. I appreciated the effort they put into making sure that there were lasting ramifications (at least for a few years, nothing ever truly sticks these days…), and I did appreciate that they wanted to try and make the characters and the reader feel more than they had done lately… but… It was a cop-out ending. The mystery was very well-written for the first issue, had absolutely head-banging moments of inanity from #2-6, with the Deathstroke fight scene and Firestorm’s “death” being particular low-points, and then the seventh issue… Oh, lord, the seventh issue… You know what? I can’t be arsed going through the ins and outs of it again. Let’s just say that in my view, it was a well-intentioned but poorly-executed story. I just hope that the fall-out is worth all the attention DC is giving it. Having read the latest issues of TEEN TITANS and ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, I’m quietly confident that we are in for some good times.

PAUL SEBERT: Actually Iain, while I’m tired of reading about IC on a weekly basis and its merits, I have to disagree with you on its “faults.” I’m a little shaky on the logic used in taking down Kyle, but to see no reason to delve into the logistics of how Deathstroke might kick the crap out of the Justice League beyond “he’s freaking Deathstroke.” It’s what Slade does for a living, and it’s nice to see the guy portrayed as DC’s number one badass again after frequently getting smacked around in his own title in the ’90s.

And to be honest, I think a lot of people who complain about the ending being a cop-out tend to make the point. (I’m reminded of a fan on one message board who wanted the book to end with a Slug-Out with Amazo.) The first rule of a good whodunit is that killer must be someone no-one suspected, yet can’t come right out of nowhere. If the killer turned out to be someone like Luthor or Nightwing who hadn’t played a real role in the story, well then that would have been a cop-out.

By having the killer turn out to be someone who was neither a super-villain, nor a hero who had crossed the line I think Meltzer was making a simple profound statement. All too often in our society fears tend to be misplaced, and things that truly do threaten us tend to lurk right under our noses.

That said my biggest problems with IC don’t lie with the story itself. It’s with the timing in which the story was told and the manner in which the title was marketed. Is there any justifiable reason why DC still hasn’t adopted a ratings system for its titles yet? Shouldn’t this title have shipped with a “Mature Readers” label? It’s a heck of a lot more graphic than your typical issue of BOOKS OF MAGIC and much more jarring than the “Whirlwinds” issue of AVENGERS that Marvel delayed and added a MAX rating to.

Furthermore, from a pure business standpoint is it really in DC’s best interest to be depicting a villain that currently appears in the Teen Titans cartoon as a rapist? That’s the kind of thing that bothers me a lot more than whether Deathstroke really could get the drop on Wally West or not.

And finally while I enjoyed this story, to be honest I’m ready for some actual, you know, fun comics again? C’mon “Sins of Youth” remains my favorite “event” of the past 10 years. Why not do something like have the DCU JLA and Titans meet their “animated” counterparts. I know Grant Morrison loves Bizarro World… maybe an event surrounding that, continuity be damned. Something that doesn’t make me want to pop anti-depressants.

WILL COOLING: Personally I use real life to escape the horrors present in everyday comic books…

Preview of AGE OF APOCALYPSE 2005 artwork released [Pretty Pictures: Here]

JAMIE HATTON: Is it me, or am I the only person looking forward to this a lot? I mean, Jonesing for it. I saw the Bachalo version of Rogue and just sighed contently. Maybe it’s because the AOA was when I was falling in love with the medium, and not just enjoying it. (The time period, not the story specifically) Maybe because it seems that Yoshida wants to make me happy. Maybe because Lobdell does make me happy.

PAUL SEBERT: The art looks swank, and I’ve enjoyed Yoshida’s work since THOR: SON OF ASGARD started but… eh, the only thing I liked that came out of AOA was Blink so this is just another mini-series I just ain’t feeling the love over.

Mike Oeming to draw Judge Dredd story for 2000AD [Details: Here]

WILL COOLING: Wahey!!! I love Oeming’s art and the news he’s going to be doing a (proper) Dredd story is great news, especially as it further confirms the robust state of Rebellion’s finances… once again wahey!!! Now if we could only get Bendis to do a story we’d be all set.

BTW, everyone should be reading 2000AD/JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE… these are the greatest comics at the moment. Go on, try them, I dare you.

IAIN BURNSIDE: While I wouldn’t go quite as far as Will with the kudos, I do concur that 2000AD is worth checking out. I only started buying it regularly this month for the first time ever and I have been quite impressed with the storytelling to be found within. I’ve yet to check out the MEGAZINE but it’s good to have weekly confirmation that there are not only decent comics to be found outside of DC and Marvel, but there are decent comics to be found in the UK too. Weekly, cheap, widely available, hugely varied, very enjoyable, sweet, sweet comics… Mmm, comics…

Stan Lee and Ringo Starr to create a superhero comic [More: The Guardian]

WILL COOLING: I think I’ll speak to anyone who is sane will be thinking the same thing – uh-oh!!! Looks like its going to be another flop for old Stan. The way he’s going harder its going to be bloody hard for anyone to say with a straight face that he was responsible for the Golden Age of Marvel more so than the artists.

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