Utah has its fair share of geek-related shows and podcasts, almost to the point where we should consider ourselves a leading authority on the format. --- Panel shows made up of experts, some with experience in one of many entertainment industries to some extent, others made up of diehard fans with extensive memories and connections, and the rest a mix of the two -- all designed to update you on the ever-growing culture and every facet of geek-related enjoyment that comes down the pipe. One of those shows is about to hit a very special milestone this week.
"Wednesday Warriors" started up just a couple years ago as a project assignment for a college course, bringing four friends together to discuss comics over six episodes for a recorded podcast. Since that time it's grown into a one of the most popular podcasts in Utah, keeping people up-to-date on the latest storylines and developments from every company and title available, while also educating "comic virgins" on the fictional and real world histories behind it all. I got a chance to chat with the panel about the show's secret origins, the evolution of the show, the 100th episode (coming out this week), and their thoughts on podcasting and the comic-book industry. (All photos by Brian Powell)
Sean Leslie, Bryton, Sean Black & Jonas
Gavin: Hey, guys! First thing, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Bryton: Together, we're a group of fellas that gather in a room once a week to talk about comic books. Oftentimes we even remember to record it and release it to the masses as a podcast. Individually, I'm a freelance video producer, currently working with The Leonardo in Salt Lake City.
Sean L: I am a web designer at Overstock.com and a freelance videographer.
Sean B: I work as 104.3 KSOP, and as an illustrator for SLUG Magazine, and I also do artwork for the Salt Lake City Film Festival.
Jonas: My name is Jonas, and yeah, I HAVE heard of Weezer.
Gavin: How did you each first take an interest in comics, and what were some of your favorite titles growing up?
Bryton: I think my story is similar to a lot of people my age. I was a kid, saw a G.I. Joe comic in a 7-11 and begged my dad to buy it for me. This was probably around 1987. I didn't care about continuity or jumping-on-points or the "investment value" of the book, but I read that thing until it disintegrated in my hands. Nowadays, no matter how I feel about the modern comics industry, I can always come back to G.I. Joe and feel that same pull on my imagination as I did when I was a boy.
Sean L: I got started on G.I. Joe as well. When I first learned about G.I. Joe comics when I was in fourth grade I was hooked. I loved how combined with the cartoon, they gave all my G.I. Joe toys personalities and a history. After only buying G.I. Joe for a few years, I slowly started trying other titles and quickly became a comic fanatic with books like X-Men and Punisher. Of course, that soon moved to Vertigo comics and self-published books like Bone and Strangers In Paradise. I was such a fan that I even prepaid for all my comics for two years before I served an LDS mission so I wouldn’t miss an issue. Today, I have a room in my house solely devoted to storing all my boxes of comics.
Jonas: In my fifth grade class, we earned a “freebee” read-a-thon. My friend brought an entire backpack of comics. It was my first introduction to Ghost Rider (90’s Story Arch). He had issues1-14 and I just went bonkers over them. I remember buying issue #15 the next month, the one with the glow-in-the-dark flaming skull on the cover, and thinking I was the most amazing kid in the universe. I sort of have a weird fixation with that issue because it was what started it all for me. I’m pretty sure I have bought that thing like 20 times.
Sean B: I found out about comics as a kid, then Dungeons & Dragons, then girls, then punk rock, then bars, then comics again. Never forgot my roots. My first love was the Uncanny X-Men. Kitty Pryde till casket drops.
Gavin: How did all of you meet up and eventually become friends?
Sean L: I went to junior high with Sean Black. We would skip out on class all the time to go read comics. After high school, we would run into each other occasionally but it wasn’t until we started doing the podcast that we started hanging out again.
Bryton: I had known Sean L. for a while, and then I happened to bump into the other guys at San Diego Comic Con 2009 when I noticed we were all wearing Salt Lake Bees hats.
Jonas: I have known Sean Black since I was 12. I met Sean L. through him and as Bryton stated, we were both wearing Bees hats at SDCC '09.
Sean B: Sean L. was the only other kid I knew that liked comics in junior high. Jonas is my BFF, and I must admit that the name “Bryton” does ring a bell.
Gavin: When did the idea come about to start up a podcast and what was it like planning out how it would work?
Sean L: I was taking an Authoring For Digital Devices class down at UVU. One of our assignments was we had to produce a six- episode podcast about anything we wanted. I wanted to do a comic book review podcast and decided to give Sean B. a call to help me out.
Jonas: I remember Sean B. calling me and asking me to do this. We did the first six episodes in one night, and guess what? It shows.
Sean L: We did all six episodes in one night because I had waited until the last minute and had to turn in the assignment the next day. But it was a lot of fun. A week later, I asked Sean B. if this was something everyone wanted to continue. Lucky for me everyone said yes because they had as much fun as I did.
Sean B: We are pretty spontaneous and try to make the show sound like a bunch of friends just hanging out and shooting the breeze, cause that's pretty much what it is.
Gavin: How did you come up with the title "Wednesday Warriors"?
Sean L: We got ready to record our first episode and realized we still didn’t have a name yet. I think we spent a total of two minutes coming up with a name because we needed it right then. We decided on "Wednesday Warriors" because, as all comic fans know, new comic books come out on Wednesday. In fact, I can’t remember a Wednesday where I have not gone to my local comic store in the last 10 years. We added the Warriors part because we thought it was catchy and still tied us to Utah a bit because of a similarly named local musical.
Jonas: The comic-book medium is slowly fading away. Even " the big two" are having issues with sales. We feel we all need to do our part and FIGHT FOR COMICS before they go away.
Sean B: We have big things planned for the name and the show in general in 2011. It is a golden time to be a Wednesday Warrior.
Gavin: Considering Utah already has a couple geek-related podcasts, what did you intend to do to separate yours from the rest?
Sean B: Whoa, whoa -- wait a minute. There are other Utah geek-related podcasts???
Sean L: When we started two years ago, I only knew of one local podcast. There might have been more but I was not aware of them. There have been a few that have popped up since we have started but that is fine.
Bryton: I don't think we've made any conscious decision to stand out. We're all good friends and we have a great on-air chemistry together, and I think that's obvious to our listeners. Another thing, we're not afraid to go wherever the conversation takes us. We don't have a time limit and we don't try to force the conversation to stay "on-topic," and that can lead to some pretty wild discussions.
Sean L: This is true. Plus, we were the only one at the time that was only for comic books. We don’t cover all things geek because of other podcasts in the area and we really wanted to spend all off our time devoted to what we really love. Plus, another thing that sets us apart is we give out a signed comic book on every episode. Now that we are older, we travel to a lot of comic conventions and have a chance to meet creators. We always get lots of books signed to give away to fans by e-mailing us an answer to a trivia question about the latest episode. So many fans are not able to make it to the San Diego Comic Con or wherever so this is a great way to let fans get a little something special for their collection. And we give out books signed by top creators like Brian Michael Bendis and Grant Morrison. We have also given away sketches from artists, as well, like Terry Dodson and Bob Layton.
Jonas: I do it for fun. It gives me a chance to get together with my friends and just talk about something I love.
Gavin: What was the process like in figuring out the format of the show and how you'd record it?
Bryton: Trial and error and error and error and error.
Jonas: Yes, two words. WING IT.
Sean L: We knew it would be like a round table discussion, but it wasn’t until we started feeling comfortable in front of the mics and with each other that we knew what strengths to start going toward. We kept getting new ideas for different features, but it wasn’t until we kept getting feedback from fans that we realized how much they liked it when we go on humorous rants and funny stories that happen to us on a weekly basis. So we make sure we keep to certain formalities every episode but we give room for funny adventures like when Jonas and Sean went to the Renaissance Festival.
Gavin: How was it for each of you after the first few recordings, and what made you decide to continue?
Sean L: It started as a homework assignment, but we had so much fun we decided to keep doing it. We were still trying to figure out the show a few episodes in, but now we are more experienced and used to having the mic in front of us. It really is just a lot of fun to have a venue to talk about your passion every week and be able to geek out doing just that with your friends. Back when we started, we had John Powell with us, who has now left the show, but luckily, we picked up Bryton, who has been on the show for over a year now.
Bryton: No matter how the end result turns out, recording has always been fun. By and large, getting together to record is an absolute blast.
Jonas: I agree, and I feel that our episodes really reflect that.
Gavin: Being a panel-based show, how is it for you to interact with each other during a recording and balancing out the input and reactions with every show?
Bryton: I think it's super important that we're all in the same room when we record, instead of Skyping in or whatever. After 100 episodes, we're pretty good at being able to pick up on each other’s body language and taking turns speaking. At the same time, we don't feel too bad about marching right over each other’s words! Again, we don't have a time limit for our show, so in the end, everything works out and everyone has a chance to say their piece.
Jonas: We tried Skyping once. The quality was terrible and the interaction wasn’t natural. I’ll never understand why other shows do it.
Sean L: We have always encouraged fans to write in and we really value their feedback. We have a forum called the Againstum/Forum where we have a lot of fans give us suggestions on books to review and feedback on episodes they like and dislike.
Gavin: Considering the material you discuss and how it's been a part of your lives for so long, do the discussions ever become heated or is there an understanding that it's just about comics?
Bryton: The conversations often become heated, and I think that would be the case no matter what medium we were talking about. I don't mind because I know that no matter what any of these other jerks say, my opinions are always right.
Sean L: Things do get heated sometimes, but I think it is normal when you have four guys who are so passionate about comics. But I think listeners like that. They prefer two people stating strongly both reasons why they should or should not pick up a comic. I think our better episodes are when we disagree with each other. But at the end of the day, we still respect each other and there are no hard feelings.
Jonas: We try to maintain a level head and hear each other’s point of view. Eventually, one of us will say something just to play devil’s advocate or push each other’s buttons. Then the magic happens.
Sean B: I prefer the heat.
Gavin: A lot of shows bring creators and other influential names onto their shows, but you've stayed true to the format and kept it based around the panel. What influenced that decision?
Jonas: We don’t need to interview creators; there are a hundred other podcasts you could listen to that do just that. Plus, with the Internet, anything you really want to know is already at your fingertips. We feel there is a lot of chemistry that happens when everyone is the same room. So, if a creator offers to participate in our discussion, they would have to be willing to do it face to face on our turf.
Sean L: We decided when we do get a comic creator on the show, we will want them to just be a part of the discussion and join in on our banter and review some books they have been impressed with lately.
Gavin: Do you prefer the open-panel discussion style, or do you wish you had more time to edit it up like it were a more produced show?
Sean L: I think that if we ever did start doing a more produced show it would make us change a bit and that isn’t always a good thing. Most of our feedback from fans has said they don’t have friends who are into comics but when they listen to our show they do because it feels like hanging out in a comic store with friends.
Bryton: Personally, I don't like that over-produced style of show. There are a few podcasts that do that but I feel like they come across as a cut-rate morning zoo. We try to polish each show up as best we can but I like our fast, loose, warts-and-all approach.
Jonas: The thing that our show really has going for it is that it sounds like what it is, a group of friends talking about comics. We don't pretend to be professionals; we just let the conversation progress naturally.
Gavin: Are there any plans to expand the show or include more material as you go, or are you sticking to the format you have now?
Bryton: We have lots of big plans! Now we just need someone to come in and enact them for us.
Jonas: Our show has always sort of evolved as we go. We have added different features and material that we didn’t plan on from the beginning. So, yeah. Things will be added, things will be removed, and things will change.
Sean B: A podcast is like a shark, we have to keep moving or we die.
Gavin: Moving onto localized stuff, what are your thoughts on the podcasts coming out of Utah these days, both good and bad?
Jonas: There are some really great podcasts that come out of Utah and it's awesome to see them competing so well on a national and international level. If you do a good podcast, it doesn’t matter where you are from, people will listen.
Sean B: Whoa, whoa -- wait a minute. There are other local podcasts???
Gavin: Do you have any favorite local shows you listen to and recommend?
Sean L: I am a fan of "A Damn Movie Podcast". I love that they review older movies as well as new ones. I know I am not the only one who might just discover an old 1960’s French movie for the first time and be excited to talk about it or read up on it. So much emphasis is put on all kinds of media when they first come out but then it drops off sharply. So I really enjoy that podcast since it is constantly helping me discover some older gems I may have missed the first time around.
Jonas: Yeah, that’s a good one. I also like the "80s Cartoon Podcast." They are always talking about cartoons that I never knew existed or had completely forgotten about.
Gavin: Where do you see the medium going both locally and nationally over the next few years?
Bryton: I think more and more people are going to discover just how simple podcasting can be and more podcasts will be released. That will mean a lot of chaff to sort through but it will also allow some great new voices to emerge. It's exciting.
Sean B: And just to clarify, when Bryton characterizes podcasting as “simple” he means “incredibly difficult.”
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you and the show the rest of the year?
Sean L: When we hit episode 50, we got a lot of friends together and did a complete read-a-long to Marve's Siege mini-series with music and sound effects and it turned out awesome. We didn't know how we were going to top that with our 100th episode. But we knew we wanted to make it special by celebrating with our fans and wanted to find a way to get them involved.
Bryton: Episode 100 is going to be nothing but us answering fan-submitted questions. It's gonna be buckwild. A real free-for-all. We're also going to make some big announcements. Keep our anarchic tone but focus it a little better. You can probably expect to hear more non-comic related talk about our personal adventures. Not too much, but we gotta keep things fresh in between talking about fictional characters that have been around for 70 years.
Jonas: I don’t want use the word overhaul. But the show is getting a huge overhaul.
Sean B: I want to have a pizza party, not for the podcast per se, just in general… but that isn’t really show related, I suppose.
Jonas: PIZZA? Oh man, you are going to love Episode 100.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Sean L: I have to throw out a recommendation for two of the best books out on the stands right now. Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt is a supernatural Western that is more fun than any other books being put out right now. Plus Locke & Key by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) and Gabriel Rodriguez is really doing some amazing things in that book.
Bryton: Yeah I gotta say, if you read no other comics, you gotta pick up Locke & Key. On a personal note I have a never-updated website with some notoriety as the original home of Twilight LOLcats.
Jonas: Read comics. If you already do, then read more comics. Support your local comic shops. You can start by heading to one of our favorite shops, Black Cat Comics or Dr. Volt's Comic Connection.
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