THE GREAT PODCASTING SUMMER OF 2007 – An Old-Timer Recollects
PART I – HEROES CON
by Bruce MacIntosh

Set right down, here, youngster, and let an old timer tell you about the days when podcasting was just starting, back at the turn of the 21st Century. Back then we loved comics and admired their creators - we just didn’t have a way to listen or see them, or talk about them with other comic fans! That is, until podcasts like Comic Geek Speak, Comic News Insider, SciFi Dig, and Golden Age of Comic Books came along!

Way back at the turn of the 21st Century, podcasts were the biggest thing to come to comics fans since the internet, and was the perfect complement to it. It brought comic lovers together from all over the world: You could download a podcast and listen to people talk about the same things you loved while you drove in your car, worked out, or just relaxed. Why, I can safely say that the marriage of the internet and podcasting was the start of everything big for comics. It helped bring all of us together as a big family.

What’s that - you want to know how podcasts all began? Well, I can remember way back in aught-seven in Charlotte, North Carolina, at a thing called Heroes Con. Many of us who loved comics came together in a crowded convention room to meet the pioneers of podcasting. Many of the greats were there. Let’s see, there was Jimmy Aquino from Comics News Insider. Next to him was Peter Rios from Comic Geek Speak. Aaron Macom from the SciFiDig podcast sat to the left. And then I can remember the great Bill Jordain, from the Golden Age of Comic Books podcast. Ahhh. That was the Golden Age of Pocasting.

I can still remember what they talked about, like it was only a week ago… [FADE TO FLASHBACK SEQUENCE…]

Bill Jordain began by introducing himself as the man behind the curtain at the Golden Age of Comic Books podcast (www.goldenagecomics.blogspot.com). When asked why he wanted to start his own podcast, Bill reminisced, “I’ve been collecting comic books since I was about 14 or 15 years old, and… I started collecting Golden Age comics somewhere along the way. About ’96, I did a Golden Age Batman website.” (www.goldenagebatman.com) He continued, “I heard about podcasts and I said, ‘You know what? There’s not a podcast out there for Golden Age comic books. I don’t know if anybody is going to listen to it, I don’t know if anybody is going to be interested in it, but I thought it would be a nice thing to complement what was already out there. So, I started getting on and talking about Golden Age Comic books!”

Jordain mused that he’s been, “really amazed by the kind of response I’ve gotten from folks… around the world. It’s amazing how this podcasting has become sort of the new wave of fandom, and we all communicate and talk over the internet. It’s really an awesome thing.”

Peter Rios from Comic Geek Speak (www.comicgeekspeak.com) chimed in with agreement: “Podcasting… was just a blog – an audio blog. Nobody knew what it was going to be like when it first came out. It’s personal, it’s what we want to do with it.” He then added, “Because it’s been how many years later and certain shows have gone different directions, there are paths that you can take. But when it starts with what you are interested in, that’s when I think it is most successful.”

Aaron Macom from SciFiDig (www.scifidig.com) podcast agreed: “The listener has to connect with you. You have to have the content, but they have to have the connection with you.”

Rios added, “I still listen to Comic Book Noise with Derek Coward (www.comicbooknoise.com) and Bruce [Rosenberger] from Komicskast (komicskast.libsyn.com), and these are the guys who [started it all]. And it’s because I know them, and I guess this must be what the listeners feel, too: Because I know them, I want to listen to you guys. That’s what I think is so neat about the format: It gives everybody a voice and if that voice catches something that I want to hear, I’m there!”

Macom explained why he wanted to start his podcast, SciFiDig: “There wasn’t a lot of good science fiction podcasts out there. My show is mostly science fiction, but I cover comics. It seemed like some of the shows that were out there were just kind of ridiculing the fans a little bit. I got a little irritated with that, so I started up a show and a little community popped up around it. That’s what I wanted.”

He added that one of the best parts of podcasting is the fact that he has listeners all over the world. The world is a big place, and it seems to get just a little bit smaller once you get in a community [like podcasting]. I am amazed about the people overseas… It’s really interesting to learn about their culture, too. I’m really into other people’s culture; I’m constantly emailing them and saying, ‘What’s an average day like over there?’”

He went on to describe one interesting method of connecting with his listeners from all over the world: “We have this box of trades and videos that has made its way around the United States, and as soon as I get home it’s going overseas. Everybody puts some stuff in, takes some stuff out and it gets sent on to the next person.” The response has been interesting: “They say, ‘We need some of this, we can’t get any of this.’ The thing that they want is peanut butter M&Ms… So I’m packing the box with comic books and candy. What else can you ask for, right?”

He noted that the most popular items for his international Care Packages is American DVDs: “A lot of times they don’t have access to the American releases… They don’t get the special features. So that’s what they want… It’s kind of cool to see what they have to offer, and what they can get from us. It makes the community that much tighter, I think.

Bill Jordain concurred about the international community fostered by his website and podcast: “I’ve had emails from as far away as New Zealand and Australia. Not just who listen to my show, but from people who go to my website and are interested in the Golden Age Batman. Really all over the world – It’s just amazing. You… communicate with folks on the forum, and really it’s incredible where everyone comes from.

“It’s amazing how this community has become so small, and this connection that we have through comics.”

Macom backed that up with a list of listener locations: “I’ve got Australia, some in Ireland, some in the U.K., France.” He then asked the rest of the panel whether they had any listeners in Japan, to which Peter Rios affirmed, and Jimmy Aquino joked, “Well, I’m Asian, so they have to listen!”

Rios added, “I know we have somebody in China, but I’m waiting for Africa. I don’t think we anybody from Africa yet.”

Jimmy Aquino from Comics News Insider (www.comicnewsinsider.com) said that most of his listeners, in fact, are from the U.K. and Australia. “It’s cool. We’re sitting there looking at our emails or Myspace messages, or the website, and it’s from Mexico or Japan, Australia, the U.K… I can’t even walk down 42nd Street and it’s too far for me, but here people are writing in from all over the world!”

Aquino then mentioned CNI’s big 100th podcast event, coming up in August: “If you’re in New York City August 4th, we’ll be recording live… We’ll have plenty of guests… like [John] Cassaday and [Paul] Pope.”


He then went on to describe the format of Comic News Insider, which he hosts together with his good friend, Joe Gonzalez: “Comic News Insider started back in ’05, Joe thought of it – and we’ve been friends for 12, 15 years, former roommates.” Joe had wanted to start a podcast with Jimmy’s help, but “at the time I was really involved in sketch comedy writing… So I said I can help out on occasion. [Joe] started out with his friend Julio… but by Episode 5, I was already chomping at the bit… so I came on as the ‘roving reporter’.

“By the end of ’05, Julio couldn’t do it anymore and Joe really wanted to re-vamp it, and said, ‘Well, are you available now? Your sketch comedy thing seems to be sucking.’ So, I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’” Jimmy continued, “Since then, we’ve recorded every Tuesday night, release it every Wednesday morning. We have a set format: We’re a news show, we cover the news of the industry. I’m up scouring a hundred sites a night for news… We try to make the interviews fun, we have [them] almost every show… We always get really great guests…We’ll ask the serious questions, the career stuff [and] we try to make it fun.”

Aquino cited one example of an interview with Alison Bechdel that they feared would be a serious subject, but turned out light and entertaining. “If you haven’t read Fun Home, get it! It’s a graphic novel and Alison Bechdel is the writer. Basically it’s the story of her growing up and realizing she’s gay and so is her father… ‘Fun Home’ is short for ‘Funeral Home’. [Her father is a funeral home director.] Time Magazine picked that as the Best Book of the Year. Not ‘Best Comic Book’, not ‘Best Graphic Novel’, but Best Book. So, it got a lot of mainstream press.”

The topic of Fun Home, is “really heavy, so we were actually really nervous. We’ve interviewed Stan Lee and [John] Romita, Sr., but we’re sweating with Alison Bechdel… But she was laid back, it was cool, we threw some fun stuff in there. She had fun with us, and it was cool!”

Aquino described CNI’s format further: “We pick a Top Three every week… We try to keep it under an hour every week. Sometimes we go over… but sometimes I just want to hear these guys or girls talk – because it’s so interesting! We also do listener questions [for the interview subjects] so we’ll try to get in as many questions as possible, because I’m interested in it – and I think a lot of people are too.”

Peter Rios interjected with a comparison: “Someone likened it to how these shows become like time capsules, in a way. Especially when you’re talking about current stuff, or reviews, or even when new [Golden Age] material is discovered about older artists or creators.”

Aquino added, “Chris Staros [co-founder of Top Shelf Comics] – we were talking with him earlier about that, and he said the same thing.”

Rios: “It’s like, ‘I want to know what fans were like when Civil War came out.’ You can go back and listen to an archived episode and listen to people rant about seven issues of Civil War… That aspect of podcasting is something that has only just recently dawned on me, because most of us have only been around for about two years now,” and you need some distance first to get the perspective.

Aquino agreed: “Yeah, I’ll go back and listen to an episode of Geek Speak or Indie Spinner Rack (www.indiespinnerrack.com), where I didn’t realize they had this guest, and… it might be a year old… but y’know what – it’s still interesting to me. I may know the results of what happened, but I want to hear the actual person talking about it and hear what they’re saying.”

Rios: “I remember watching Babylon 5 before even podcasting was even starting, and then [SciFiDig] did a whole series on Babylon 5. It’s awesome because I can go back and listen to [the podcast] and then go back and watch the episode.

“Again, it’s always there, the medium is portable, it’s on your time, when you want, what you want, and in whatever order you want. And it’s all free!”

Jordain then opined: “Part of it is preserving history, too. What I’d love to be able to do is go back in time and interview all these Golden Age creators who have long passed. Of course, we can’t do that. Having folks around like Jerry Robinson - it is so awesome to be able to talk to them, and hear about what happened way back then when comics were brand new. Ten years from now, when people are listening – hopefully to our shows from ten years ago – there will be so much history involved.”

Aquino agreed: “Talking with these old guys about when they were just getting started in the business – it’s amazing. They have all these great stories – it’s so interesting the stuff they did. Just listen to Jerry Robinson tell about how Bob Kane [found Robinson] at a Tennis Club wearing a painters coat, and how he hated drawing Lassie so much…”

“Podcasting is almost like the new form of fanzines – that same community,” Rios opined, “They are different than when we all gather and talk at a convention, because not everybody knows each other at a convention. We listen to each other because we know each other, but what were the fanzines? They were just people who shared information, and that’s what we do – either audio-wise, or on the forum.”

Aquino assured us, however, “It’s not a competition, we’re all friends and we all try to help each other out.”

“Podcasting is so new, it’s like – let’s educate people on what a podcast is. None of us are making money on it,” Rios commented. “It’s a hobby that’s exploded for a lot of us – which is great – and we’re passionate about it.

Jordain agreed: “That’s the key: We’re passionate about it. I do it because I love Golden Age Comic Books. That’s why I do it. When it gets beyond that, I think it becomes less of a family and more of a business – which I hope it never becomes.”

Then someone from the packed room asked how you can find out about the different kinds of podcasts available. Is there a single reference or resource? Macom suggested going to iTunes and starting with a search there, or Google – which requires some filtering to get what you want. “We try to put up links to what we like or would be similar, and you just find your way once you figure out what you like.”

Rios suggested one of the earliest available resources, Comics Podcasts Network (www.comicspodcasts.com) created by Neil Gorman, the originator of one of the first comics podcasts, Comicology (www.comicology.net). “We all just come together and have on that site our newest episodes, mixed in with other podcasts and hopefully an explanation of what their show is about… It’s a great way to just sample the newest episode.

“Podcast Alley (www.podcastalley.com) is another way you can go in and do a search, Podcast Pickle (www.podcastpickle.com), and then the forums. We’ve been fortunate enough to create an awesome community where we have space for all the other podcasts. It’s an alphabetical list of all the [comics] podcasts that have forums. There’s about 20, maybe 25.

“It’s a great thing, because the listeners start to bounce around: One of them is called the Amazing Spider-Cast (www.theamazingspidercast.podomatic.com) – If you’re a Spider-Man fan, there you are; The Uncanny X-Cast (www.uncannyxcast.blogspot.com); Raging Bullets (www.ragingbullets.com) is all about DC comics; Collected Comics Library (www.collectedcomicslibrary.blogspot.com)... Birds of Geek, (www.birdsofgeek.libsyn.com) they are two women who talk about comics, [and] Geek Syndicate (www.geeksyndicate.libsyn.com).”


Rios continued his analysis of the surfing habits of a typical comics podcast listener: “It’s awesome, because someone will come in [to the forum] from, like, Comic News Insider, and they’ll post… and then they’ll go: ‘Let me see this forum.’ And then they’ll go listen to that show. I love looking around, and I’ll see similar avatars in a lot of forums, but then I’ll look at somebody and say, ‘I’ve never seen that avatar before!’ That’s awesome, because it means [that podcast] is building their own audience. You can go to Comic Geek Speak’s forum ( www.cgspodcast.com/forum2 ) … We also try to play promos from other podcasts.”


Jordain: “Comicspace (www.comicspace.com) was created by a guy to be kind of a clearinghouse for all kinds of information for the artists, primarily. But I think a lot of us have created a Comicspace site where our podcasts are featured. You can limit your search by ‘podcast’.

Rios continued that theme: “Plus they have ‘user tags’ where you can click ‘podcast’ or ‘podcaster’ and all these profiles will come up, and then you can sample [podcasts] through that way… ComicBookDB (www.comicbookdb.com) has a space for podcasting. It probably is the most comprehensive list for podcasting so far.”

Someone in the crowded convention hall then asked what each member of the panel would consider their favorite episode or interview. Bill Jordain cited the interview with Jerry Robinson, which had taken place that very weekend. “I’m probably one of the oldest, greatest Batman fans around, and meeting Jerry and getting a chance to sit down and talk with him… that was just an awesome interview.” He also mentioned interviewing Roy Thomas, and a show that he did for the Comics Podcast Crossover ( http://comicspodcastcrossover.libsyn.com ), which is a “montage of comics podcasters. We’ve all featured a snippet of our show on the crossover show. I even did one on the Bat-Hound!” He added that the Comics Podcast Crossover is a good way to sample various different podcasts.


Macom said that his favorite show was “the last one I just did with my daughter: I decided to do a show on things she likes to do… sites she likes to play on.” He explained that he “like[s] to keep the show family-oriented. I’ve found that there are so many people out there who love science fiction… but have kids now and are having trouble trying to fit that into their lives. Let’s face it, there are a lot of things that I like to watch, that I wouldn’t watch with her… Yet there is a lot of stuff that we can sit down and enjoy together.” He gave as an example that they were going to see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer when it premiered, and then would do a podcast with her impressions about the movie.

“I can connect with other parents out there,” Macom continued, “and try to give them some ideas of what we’ve tried, what we know works, the sites she’s tried – that they could have fun doing.”

Rios said, “My favorite podcast that was not part of Comic Geek Speak, was when Indie Spinner Rack interviewed Dave Sim. I thought it was just so phenomenal to hear his voice. He does a lot of print interviews, but you’ve never really heard him or had the avenue to hear him anywhere…” until podcasts. “He was so funny, and so gracious and generous with his time. I’ve listened to that podcast probably three times now.” Rios explained why he likes Indie Spinner Rack because of Charlito and Mr. Phil: “If you love indie comics… their tag line is ‘Indie Comics are art comics without the snobbery.’”

Rios noted that his favorite CGS episode was when they talked with Joe Kubert. “That was one of our finest interviews… We realized we could talk to these masters, and they are so willing to talk with us. They are so respectful, and their body of work is so incredible. I was so nervous about the interview, [but] my co-host Brian [Deemer] was really right-on with the questions and did his research. It was fun, and it was fun to hear [Kubert] laugh and tell some stories. I still go back to that one every now and then, just to remember the flow of that interview. It was spot-on.”

Aquino expounded on his favorites: “We’re a big interview show. We’ve gotten really lucky and gotten a lot of big names, so Stan [Lee] was a big treat… Jerry Robinson, of course.” But he added that he is a comic geek at heart, like the rest of us: “I’ve nerded out a couple of times. I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan… and when I was, like, ‘You’re awesome’.”

He also named Garth Ennis as another interview subject who was fun to talk with at the bar which serves as Jimmy’s “day job” as a bartender, and then consented to do an entertaining podcast interview. He concluded, “It’s really hard to choose [my favorite interview] because I feel really lucky that I get to talk to these people.”

An intelligent and astute audience member asked about what technical aspects make for a good podcast. Peter Rios shared his thoughts: “I struggle with this, because it is such a personal thing to begin with. I get emails sometimes from people who will say, ‘I want to start a new podcast, can you help me out?’ I love that. I feel very honored that they come to me and they want to know about podcasting. I think about all of our first episodes, because a podcast is a personal thing and I see reviews of a first episode and a listener goes, ‘Your show stinks’ – I don’t believe in that: I think you’ve got to allow a show to grow…

“What your goal is for your show, can and should determine what the quality is. If it’s just you, and you want to record ten minutes or a half hour and put it out every week, and somebody says to you, ‘You’re audio is scratchy and I’m never going to listen to you again’, don’t take that to heart – because you’re doing what you want to do… If you are gearing up to do a show and you want to build your listenership, then yes, you have to invest in [decent equipment].”

Rios continued: “I think the rawness of our show – dogs barking, people sneezing, somebody’s not on the mic more than the other person – if we really focused on all that stuff and snipped it all out, we would be doing the show 24/7, and we can’t do that.”

Aquino elaborated: “I think it’s funny when things happen, like we’ll be sitting there and we’ll lose track of when we ordered our food… [Joe] will ask, ‘Should we edit that out?’ and I’ll say, ‘No, keep it in – it’s fun!’”

Jordain added another comment which exemplifies the seat-of-your-pants appeal of podcasting: “Not only that, but when you’re a single-host podcast, I’ll plan it out and I’ll do it. If something sounds terrible that I just said, or the broom falls over in the corner… I’ll pause it, back it up, delete it and record it over again! You all don’t have the luxury of doing that on your shows… Mine is not what you’d call a live show.”

Aquino agreed that a minimal amount of planning is necessary, but that his show is most entertaining when it is more impromptu: “I print out all of the show notes, but it’s just a guideline. If it’s a review, I’m not going to write the review out. I’ll just say, ‘We’re going to review this this week’, and we’ll start talking about it. If it’s the news, I’ll have all the news written out, Joe will take a story and I’ll take a story, and we’ll add our takes to it… So, we do have our set topics, but we’re still casual and laid-back.”

When asked if they had any regrets about any particular podcast, Peter Rios had a candid and telling response, which summarized the appeal of the nascent podcasting field: “These are our thoughts, and… when we started off we didn’t know if people was going to listen. One thing that hasn’t changed… when we’re just a bunch of guys hanging out talking comics, comments fly and we pick on each other and we goof on each other, we yell at each other and we argue. Because it’s real and we’re honestly talking to each other about these books… I don’t ever want to change that, because that’s what makes podcasting different that almost anything else: It’s real and it’s spur of the moment talking.”

[FADE FROM FLASHBACK SEQUENCE…]

And that’s how it was at the podcasting panel at Heroes Con way back in the summer of 2007. There were other podcasts and podcasters who I talked with and were at the San Diego and Chicago Wizard World conventions later that same summer. Would you like to hear about them, youngster? Where did you go? Oh, well, maybe I’ll tell you some other time… Right now it’s time for my nap.

Were you there in the Great Podcast Summer of 2007? Would you like to reminisce with this Old Timer about these and other comics podcasts from way-back-when? Then post a comment!