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Meet the Elite Beat Squad: Paul O’Brien


Our Elite Beat Squad spotlight week continues with implacable Paul O’Brien Best known in these parts for charting Marvel Comics sales (which he has been doing since 2002), Paul is also a respected comics journalist, with his long-running X-Axis site reviewing every X-comic known to humankind, and contributions to Ninth Art. His current ruminations on comics, wrestling and more can be found at If Destroyed. He recently began a podcast with fellow Scotsman Al Kennedy, a brisk, intelligent discussion that also feature Al’s strong Scottish accent for those who enjoy that kind of thing. In his secret identity, Paul is a lawyer, so we really, really don’t advise getting into an internet argument with him. We tried it once. Once.

Name: Paul O’Brien

Residence: Edinburgh

Occupation: Freelance pedant

Elite Beat Squad Codename: Won’t be much of a codename if we tell them, will it?

Website(s): These days? That would be my blog at http://ifdestroyed.blogspot.com and my fortnightly podcast House to Astonish with Al Kennedy at http://housetoastonish.podomatic.com (or you can subscribe through iTunes)

The first comic book you ever remember reading: What, ever? The Beano, probably. If you mean something American, that would be an issue of Web of Spider-Man where he fights a villain called Magma. I’ve just googled it and apparently it’s issue #17 by David Michelinie and Marc Silvestri. Never did read the rest of the storyline. Couldn’t find it.

Name three of your favorite graphic novels: Um… no. You know how Nick Hornby characters wouldn’t be able to answer a question like that without sitting down and working out a really thorough list, in order to make sure that the three graphic novels they mentioned were indeed their favourite three graphic novels, and not, for examples, numbers one, two and four? And then they’d actually sit down and work out that list? In fact, they’d probably spend hours in the pub working on the list, and arguing about the list, and most of that argument would be a conversation they’d already rehearsed in their head? And then they’d know, with absolute certainty, what their three favourite graphic novels were?

Well, like a Nick Hornby character, I am too neurotic to answer this sort of question without working it out in painstaking methodical detail. But, unlike a Nick Hornby character, I can’t really be bothered.

Name a movie that made you cry: I’m sure there’s been a romantic comedy somewhere, but nothing in particular springs to mind. I walked out of the Blair Witch Project because it was giving me motion sickness. Does that count?

Name a movie that made you laugh: That’s easy. Grosse Pointe Blank. Heathers. Election. Zoolander. Oh, ever seen the Generation X TV movie? It’s quite something.

In my spare time I like to: Be with my girlfriend.

Betty or Veronica? No idea, I’m afraid. Couldn’t even tell you which is the blonde one.

World of Warcraft or City of Heroes? Never played either of them. I don’t really understand the appeal of online gaming, to be honest.

Lost or 24? Never watched either of them.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Hmm. I’ll sidestep giving an honest answer to that.

Blogging — boon to mankind or a clear and present danger?
Oh, boon to mankind, definitely. It’s never been easier for people to reach an audience simply by having something interesting to say.

In five years comics will be… In the middle of another phase where big crossovers are out of fashion and creator-driven stories are in – the cycle’s got to come round sooner or later, it always does. And at least on the way to online distribution as a major force.

  1. “That one says he’s Eddie Vedder, that says he’s Eddie Van Halen, that one says he’s Eddie Munster, and she says she’s Edie Brickell.”

  2. Paul,

    1 – I totally feel you on the Hornby/neurosis about list-making thing.



    – KP

  3. Is that photo recent? Because that is not totally how I imagined Paul looking after hearing him on the the podcast (which everyone should check out).

  4. I believe that’s one of only two known extant Internet-accessible photos of Mr. O’Brien, and the other one is purple. Combined with the quality and quantity of his output, this pretty much makes Paul the Mutt Lange of X-Men reviews.

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