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Podcast / House to Astonish

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House to Astonish is a podcast (originally fortnightly, but less regular following its last hiatus) about comics, presented by Paul O'Brien (The X-Axis-) and Al Kennedy (One Hundred Days of Comics). Both formerly wrote for the Ninth Art comics webzine before it folded.

The podcast takes an irreverent (and UK-based) look at comics news (which invariably leads them on some strange tangents), looks through Previews, reviews a few titles that the presenters think look interesting (which does not necessarily mean "good"), and concludes with The Official Handbook to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which digs up deservedly obscure characters and imagines how they might fit into the modern Marvel Universe.

In 2021 they announced that, to make up for increasing Schedule Slip, they were going to alternate the regular podcast with House to Astonish: The Lightning Round, in which they discuss Thunderbolts in chronological order.

It can be found here (with earlier episodes here), and an associated blog here.


  • Amalgamated Individual: Wondering why The Nefaria Protocols makes a point of establishing a random kid Iron Man rescues is called Andrew Rasmussen, and suspecting it might be a Tuckerization, Paul reads out the acomplishments of all the Andrew Rasmussens he can find on the internet, leading Al to conclude "This is one talented kid."
  • Ambiguous Syntax: In Episode 153, while discussing Image's then upcoming Shirtless Bear-Fighter!, they get into a riff about whether it's the bear or the fighter who's shirtless, and if the former, does this mean the bear isn't normally shirtless? Because if the Shirtless Bear Fighter is going to fight Winnie the Pooh, The Hair Bear Bunch and Talespin Baloo, then he's a dick.
  • ...And That Would Be Wrong: After a Literal Metaphor about the comics industry being "on fire" during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Al says politics are also on fire, and politicians are harder to burn than comics, although there have been attempts over the years.
    Paul: Which is A Bad Thing.
    Al: Well, depends on the politician, I suppose...
    Paul: No. No.
  • Appeal to Obscurity: In Episode 12 of The Lightning Round they get distracted by an advert for Rock Raiders:
    Paul: What was Rock Raiders?
    Al: Well, I think the question 'What was Rock Raiders?' really answers the question 'What was Rock Raiders?'
  • Ascended Extra: The Official Handbook to the Offical Handbook is all about how oneshot villains might Ascend.
  • Caustic Critic: Sometimes. They're quite happy to declare how much they liked a book, but they'll really put the boot in if they didn't.
    • Although this was before House to Astonish, Paul's reviews of the last few issues of Mutant X (an X-Factor spinoff series) are classic, and will leave you convinced that Plan 9 from Outer Space must've been an absolute masterpiece compared to that comic.
  • Cliffhanger: The last episode before the hiatus ends with the House catching fire. The first post-haitus episode establishes that they and the recording equipment were unharmed, but they hadn't been back until now.
  • Clip Show: "The Handbook Tapes" during the hiatus was a one-off collection of early Official Handbook of the Official Handbook entries.
  • Crossover: was one of the podcasts involved in Secret Convergence On Infinite Podcasts.
  • Dead Man Writing: "The Handbook Tapes" were supposedly sent to Wait, What? on 8-track, along with a letter saying "If you're reading this we are probably dead or retconned out of existence."
  • Dramatic Reading: Occasionally, when they review a really bad comic, they decide that simply telling the audience the dialogue is bad doesn't let us appreciate just how bad it is. Cue House to Astonish Theatre. In the live show, this was done with Audience Participation.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first three Homies awards episodes have a gimmick: in the first one it's supposed to be an actual awards show, in the second they're watching the awards show on TV, with Al complaining they weren't invited, and in the third the awards are announced by carollers visiting the House. From the fourth year onward, they just discuss what people voted for normally.
    • As the above reference to "visiting the House" suggests, there was a slight suggestion in the early years that the House to Astonish was meant to be an actual place where the podcast took place. This never really came across (in part due to the fact the early years were also notable for repeated sirens in the background and resultant apologies for recording in a flat opposite a hospital) and was eventually more or less abandoned, although Al in particular returns to it occasionally.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: The Netherlands has an entry in the Official Handbook. Therefore, the Netherlands was made up by Marvel writers.
  • The Firefly Effect: They often comment on the tendency for no-one to buy less conventional DC and Marvel books, even when they're highly acclaimed and recommended, because they're only going to get cancelled, because no-one buys the less conventional books...
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: In addition to the milestone episodes that abandon the standard format entirely, in Episode 203 "Onepiece Monroe" they start discussing Uncanny Avengers (2023) during the news section, and decide that they might as well do the review now and get back to the news aferwards. Paul even calls it "format breaking".
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Their reaction to some of the Flashpoint books with "X and the Ys" titles.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In the middle of their 2012 awards episode - in which the winners are announced by Belfast Nick Lowe, Australian Gail Simone, Glaswegian Jim Lee, Received Pronunciation Brian Michael Bendis, Midlands (mostly) Geoff Johns, Cockney Frank Cho (of course), French Alan Moore, and Welsh Stan Lee - Al criticises the way Bendis writes Emma Frost, because you can't just take someone with an established accent and give them another accent at random.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: When discussing Lotus Shinchuko from the "Sons of the Tiger" strip in The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu:
    Al: She's so archetypal in that token female role that it's been known ever since as the Lotus position.
    Paul: Oh, dear lord...
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: Always opens with "And in the week when [genuine news event], we ask: [strange comics tangent]?", except the return from hiatus, when they open with "And in the eight months when [every piece of comic book news in the last eight months, taking well over five minutes], we ask: How have you been?".
    "And in the week when riots and flames engulf the whole of England, we ask: Are these Fear Itself tie-ins going a bit far?"
  • Metaphorgotten:
    • On the cancellation of Morbius the Living Vampire after less than a year:
      Paul: Basically, straight out the gate it's fallen off a cliff. And that's a stupid place to put a gate.
      Al: {Laughter} That is very, very true. Perhaps the cliff wasn't there before?
      Paul: Well, it's there now.
      Al: Maybe it's been subsidence. Maybe it's been one of those things where an entire cliff face has fallen into the sea.
    • On the comics stituation during the COVID-19 Pandemic:
      Al: Over in comics, everything is ... largely on fire, as far as I can tell.
      Paul: I mean, to be fair, that's true of everything at the moment, but is is especially true of comics.
      Al: And comics are made of paper. Paper burns really easily.
      Paul: Well, comics are currently made of paper, but to be fair, many comics are now made of pixels. Pixels don't burn quite so easily, but when they do, it is much more expensive.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Episode 166, when they realise they're going to be mentioning Cullen Bunn a lot, is a Bunn fest. And if they disagree about his comics, they'll have a Bunn fight. Paul snarks "Cullen Bunn has never heard any of these jokes before."
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Mocked in the episode "Zombie Pirate Ninja Monkey Viking Cowboy", in which they complain that this sort of thing often isn't nearly as awesome as it sounds, and diminishing returns are setting in on how awesome it even sounds. What set them off was a comic called Werewolves on the Moon Versus Vampires.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: "Jason Todd, everyone's fourth favourite Robin."
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: While Paul makes jokes, there's a tendency for Al to go off on bizarre flights of fancy and Paul to stoically wait for him to finish and say something like "Okay. Back in the real world..."
  • Red Skies Crossover: Discussed, regarding Thunderbolts #45 as a Maximum Security crossover:
    Paul: Again, I do love the fact that these subplots are literally taking place while people are fighting Ego outside the window. That's your crossover!
    Al: Absolutely. It's not a Red Skies crossover, really, it's sort of a Pink Pavement crossover.
  • Released to Elsewhere: Apparently, DC Comics have sent WildStorm Comics to live on a farm, and it's very happy there.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: In Thunderbolts #45, Moonstone and Hawkeye have a conversation that still leaves Carla with enough time to rescue their teammates, a time limit that is specifically given as fifteen seconds. When The Lightning Round gets to that point, they experiment with how long it would take to rattle out that dialogue as fast as possible. 25 seconds, it turns out.
  • Title Drop: The title of each episode is the most bizarre phrase used in it, such as "A House Made of Baked Beans" and "Is the Nazi the Donkey?" (Exceptions: the first post-hiatus episode is called "What We Lost In The Fire", referring to the brief acknowledgement at the start that they ended on a cliffhanger. And the 10th anniversary Milestone Celebration is called "House to As10ish".)
  • Verbal Backspace:
    Al: I have read one comic before that features any incarnation of Prez.
    Paul: Which was Sandman.
    Al: Er, I have read two comics before...
  • Verbal Tic: Paul says "to be fair..." a lot.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Al does this sometimes.
  • Word Salad Title: "House to Astonish" looks like the names of two comics were dropped in a blender. Which is precisely the case: it comes from a proposed Amalgam Universe title by Mark Waid that would have combined House of Mystery and Tales to Astonish.