As we push the the earbuds back in and head into podcast territory once more, its no grand
secret that the majority of shows revolve around the geek culture in
every aspect you can throw out there. Whether it be gaming or
movies or role playing, even covering all of the above and then some,
podcasting has given those passionate about those topics a forum and
a tech savvy audience. So it would only be natural that one revolving
around comic books would come around.
The aptly titled “Tales From The Parents' Basement” takes you back to the days of sitting around a room with a bunch of comics and talking about your favorite titles... or yelling about why they suck. Delving deep into both the storylines and artwork, along with the knowledge of hundreds of works from various companies and every cultural reference you could swing Thor's hammer at, the show has become one of the most comprehensive guides to all things current in the industry. I got a chance to chat with the men behind the show about starting it up and their time recording so far, as well as thoughts on podcasting and a few other topics here and there.
Ryan Doman, Jim Schwitzer, Cally Cason, Mark Douglas, Spencer Douglas & Nathan Wright
Gavin: Hey guys, first thing, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Mark: I like to think that I am the sex appeal of the podcast. I'm sure the other guys like to think that too. I have always enjoyed comics as well as podcasts so it seemed that doing the show was the next logical step. I have a full geek resume which includes "World Of Warcraft" and X-Men fan fiction. Actually, the fan fiction part isn't true but it sounds like a good idea now that I brought it up.
Spence: I am what you might call an avid podcaster and wannabe artist. I do two other podcasts in addition to this one. "80's Cartoon Podcast" and "King Of Queens" podcast. I have read comics since I was very young and love talking about it with the guys.
Ryan: Ryan here. I'm the one on the podcast who unfortunately has the saltiest language. I'm not one of the original members of the podcast, but I joined in episode five and have been slowly trying to take over ever since. Soon I hope to have enough pull to fire everyone else off of it. And I love watching "Ninja Warrior" with my wife!
Cally: My name is Cally, and I'm a man - not a woman. I love my wife Ashley and two daughters. I love comics - especially the way they smell when you open the issue for the first time out of the plastic. But more importantly, just comics in general! I also like long walks on the beach and podcasting!
Jim: Hi, I'm Jim and I love my wife and daughters, music and comics. I also really love hot wings and I miss Paul Newman terribly.
Nate: I'm Nate and I have a wife and a three year old boy. I attend Weber State and have many hobbies such watching movies, reading, writing short fiction and just all around laziness. I've been quite depressed lately because this is the final season of "Lost". I also try to watch "The Big Lebowski" at least once a month.
Gavin: How did you first take an interest in comics?
Mark: I am part of the "X-Men" cartoon generation and I have loved them ever since. I had a wall in my room that was covered with X-Men pictures that I cut out of old comics. My father is a comic collector as well so I suppose it was inevitable.
Spence: Our father (Mark and I) was an avid comic book collector when he was growing up so it was pretty much hereditary.
Ryan: I've loved comics and superheroes my whole life. My first Halloween costume was Batman, and my mom made me a Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman costumes that I wore year-round. I have pictures to prove it. O.G., for sure.
Cally: My father used to talk about when he was kid and how he loved the "Batman" TV show on primetime. He wished he still had the comics and toys from his era to pass down to his kids. So I decided I'd do just that from a young age. It just kinda grew up with me.
Jim: Underoos. No kidding. I loved my Flash underwear. My first comics were Batman, but I really started collecting with Uncanny X-Men in 5th or 6th grade.
Nate: I've been into comics since I was in fourth grade.
Gavin: What were some of your favorite titles growing up?
Ryan: Batman was my first love. I always really loved The Hulk, and Conan as well. I've gone through periods where I've really been into one character or another, of course. In junior high, I was crazy about Wolverine - like every junior high kid is.
Cally: Spider-Man (whom I now have a high dislike for), Jim Lee's stuff like W.I.L.D Cats and X-Men, and pretty much any kind of random comics I could get for cheap.
Nate: I started off buying Batman and Wolverine titles obsessively but have since branched out to read more "independent" titles like The Walking Dead, Y: The Last Man and anything else that looks interesting.
Gavin: How did all of you meet up and become friends?
Cally: My wife and Spence's wife were friends in high school. I was at Spences house one night randomly wearing a Flash t-shirt. Spence's wife said "My husbands into comics too" - I thought he was a poser so I shrugged it off until we actually met and we clicked. He introduced me to Mark (his brother) and Nate (Mark's old friend) first, then Ryan (old coworker with Spence) wrote into one of our shows and we decided to let him stay. Jim (old pal of Ryan)... well he's not really a part of this cast anyway. Haha! But seriously these are my best of friends.
Jim: "Friends" is such a strong word...
Gavin: When did the idea come about to start up a podcast and what was it like planning out how it would work?
Spence: I had always been a fan of podcasts and wanted to do one myself. I tried and failed once with Nate. We were going to do one called "The Comic Book Geniuses" or something. We recorded one episode and never released it. So a couple of years passed and I decided I would try again. I called up Cally, because I thought he knew more about comics than anyone I was acquainted with, and suggested we do a podcast. At first we swiped ideas from other podcasts we liked until we began to develop our own persona. We have gone back and forth from being very structured with a typed agenda to kind of freestyling it. We now try to stay somewhere in the middle.
Cally: One day I had called Spence to catch up and talk some geek. In the middle of our conversation he said "Let's do a podcast!" I said "Serious?" We started recording that Friday.
Gavin: Considering Utah already has a couple geek-related podcasts, what did you intent to do to separate yours from the rest?
Mark: I think the fact that we have Cally separates us from every podcast. You will never experience anything like him anywhere else. We are aware of other geek podcasts but I think that our low-key buddy feel gives us a unique charm and allows us to connect with every level of comic fan. We tailor to comic experts and noobs alike.
Spence: In the University of Geek, we majored in comics and minored in funny. We are focused on comics. If we do branch out to games or film, it is comic book related. We have one of the funniest people on the planet on our show in Cally. That is a huge contributing factor to the success of the show. We also try to make the podcast feel like you are just hanging out with friends and talking comics.
Ryan: I think that we're funny as hell, especially Cally, and we try to keep it light and fun. Also, and most importantly, we are not snobs. We like what we like, whether it's "cool" or not. We try our hardest not to be pompous or pretentious, which I think really sets us apart.
Gavin: What was the process like in figuring out the format of the show and how you'd record it?
Mark: We actually all contribute to the format of the show and everyone has brought great ideas to the table. We always wanted to have the show split into segments such as reviews and news and the like. When we first started the show we had no equipment and the shows sounded terrible! But now that we have moved up in the world, our recording equipment and software have increased the quality of the show.
Gavin: How was it for you after the first recording? And what made you decide to continue?
Spence: It was very hard hearing yourself and analyzing everything you said. That was the hardest part. I still don’t think Mark has listened to a show since the first one because he can’t stand listening to himself talk. We mainly continued because it was an excuse to talk comics for an hour or two. Then, when we started getting some downloads it fueled the fire.
Ryan: My first recording was a blast. I've always loved comics but could never really talk about to anyone. It was so fun and refreshing for me to be able to get together with some people and talk about something I loved and never really had the chance to discuss. I really look forward to every recording because it's the funnest part of my week.
Jim: Well, I came into this after they'd all been recording a while. More than anything I just enjoyed hanging out and talking with someone else about comics. I guess I decided to stay when the guys put my profile up on the site!
Gavin: Being a group, how is it for you to interact with each other during a recording and balancing out the input and reactions with every show?
Jim: It's a really loose atmosphere. We have things that we do regularly like "Cold Storage" or "Top 3", but for the most part it's just an open discussion. Whenever you see someone lean in, you know that's the queue to let them speak. Most of the time we are already talking about something and Mark will just start recording and we keep it rolling from there.
Gavin: Considering the material and how a lot of it has been a part of your lives for so long, do the discussions ever become heated or is there an understanding that its just about comics?
Jim: You mean like when Cally flipped Spence off and Spence threw his cordless mouse at him? Yeah, things can get heated, but we know what the podcast is about and it never gets out of hand. It's good to have some heated banter. It makes for good radio.
Mark: Oh yes! We all have very different and very passionate feelings about what is and is not good in the world of comics. But in the end I think we always agree that my point is always right. I'm sure the other guys will tell you that as well.
Spence: I once threw a computer mouse at Cally’s head! Oh man, yeah it gets heated sometimes. I think it’s mostly between me and Cally though. We usually just let it happen though, because it’s funny. It really is just part of the experience and everything goes back to normal when the mics are turned off.
Gavin: What persuaded you to bring on comic creators for interviews on the show?
Mark: We are comic fans first and foremost and the decision to bring on creators was purely selfish. We just wanted to talk to them! We have had some great conversations with some great creators and the interviews have become one of the better parts of the show.
Spence: Selfishness. These creators are our celebrities. We idolize these guys and gals and it is the ultimate geek high to be able to talk to them. I get crazy butterflies before calling them every time.
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?
Ryan: Well, we try to be organized so Spence doesn't have to edit much - but sometimes we're awful and he has a lot of work cut out for him. We try to have an outline for each show with segments pre-planned. Sometimes we aren't the best with staying on task - we like to go wherever our asinine conversation takes us.
Jim: Open panel. Definitely. You never know what you're going to get. Especially from Cally. We're pretty honest in recording. By that I mean that we like to edit as little as possible. What you hear is what you get.
Cally: I definitely would prefer open panel. I mean, there are advantages to editing and being more structured, but like Jim said what you see is what you get. We want to be real with our listeners.
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?
Spence: It seems like we are always tweaking it. I would like, in the future, to add a segment where we count all the money our listeners send us.
Jim: We're always kicking around new ideas. This year we've already begun to expand with the review site, produced our own comic, and took our show on the road to Emerald City Comic Con. We're always up to try new ideas.
Gavin: Going more local, what are your thoughts on the podcasts coming out of Utah these days, both good and bad?
Spence: I think there are some great shows coming out of Utah. The one thing I wish we had is more of a community. There are so many cool shows, it would be good to see some cross-pollination or even a Utah podcaster golf tournament.
Jim: You know, there are only a couple of other local podcasts that I listen to. "Groundbreaking Shit" is one of my favorites. If that's how most local podcasts are, I think Utah is in good shape?
Gavin: Do you have any favorite local shows you listen to and recommend?
Mark: I was hoping you could recommend some to me!
Ryan: Man, there is lots of great ones out there. The "Groundbreaking Shit" gang are really funny and great at what they do, and have always been very kind to our show. Bless their hearts. "A Damn Podcast" are total pros and kind of the measuring stick for all of us. Our guy Spence is the king of podcasts, and he has a bunch of them. His "80's Cartoon Podcast" is EXTREMELY popular and successful.... we're hoping some of their numbers might rub off on us.
Gavin: Where do you see the medium going both locally and nationally over the next few years?
Spence: It’s hard to say. I think it has come a long way to get where it’s at now but I think it will be available on more platforms. Hopefully you’ll be able to easily access podcast directories on your TV, video game console, car stereo, toaster, whatever. People want on-demand services and the availability to listen to your favorite talk show wherever you are will advance podcasting immensely. As people begin to accept podcasting more as a credible source of information and entertainment, you will see more people making a living off of podcasting. I want that.
Nate: I think podcasts are great and you can find a podcast for just about any interest you might have. There is a lot of crap out there that you have to wade through to find a show that really fits you. But if you find one you like, it is exciting and it becomes something you can look forward to every week or so. My wife and I have thought about starting up our own podcast this summer. So look out for that, hopefully!
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you and the show the rest of the year?
Mark: We are insanely excited about the future of the show! We have plenty of creator interviews on the way and as long as they keep making comics, we will keep reviewing them. Also, all our Jerry Springer fans can look forward to Spencer and Cally battling it out on a regular basis.
Spence: You can probably expect more computer parts being thrown at Cally. Seriously, we have made some amazing contacts and I think people can expect to see excellent creator interviews.
Jim: More news, astonishing reviews, and a TON of creator interviews. A few of us are taking our hand at writing and drawing comics beside our 8AM anthology. We're hoping to hit the road at least one more time to report from another convention.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Mark: I have a personal blog that anyone can check out. We also have an online review site as well.
Spence: Our comic 8AM. I do another podcast called "80’s Cartoon Podcast". We watch a different 80’s cartoon every episode. It’s very funny to go back and watch some of those old shows.
Ryan: Please check out our site. We're on iTunes as well, so please subscribe! We should have the second printing of our comic available soon, and we'll link that on the website when we can. Also, my wife is a special-ed teacher, and one of her students recently had a tragedy occur and could really use some help. Click here to get more info.
Jim: Accent UK Comics and Com.X Comics. I'm a sucker for British comics. Also, contact us if you want a copy of 8AM!