Friday, March 4, 2016

Recommended Listening for 3/4: The Matt Signal Podcast Picks

So, I'll be up front with you: I've had a really busy week, and thus haven't been able to settle down and do the extensive reading and/or research required for a recommended reading this week. But I want to put up a post every Friday this year, so I went and sat back and tried to think of something to write about or recommend. And then it hit me: Podcasts! I spend much of my day listening to podcasts, and while I don't listen to a lot of directly comics related podcasts, I listen to a lot of great ones that I think you, the reader, might enjoy, and so I'm going to write about a few of them, and since most aren't directly comics related, I'll toss in a comic that shares something with each podcast, so if you're already a fan of that show, you might check out the comic.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour- The Thrilling Adventure Hour (TAH for short) is the show that got me into podcasts aside from listening to NPR that way. I've written about it before, both the recommended reading that is linked there and reviews of the tie-in comics, but if you haven't read those, TAH is, "a new style podcast done in the style of old time radio." A live show, recorded in front of an audience, most episodes are one short segment, featuring a comedic mash-up of classic radio drama tropes. The two regular features were, "Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars," a cowboy in space yarn, and the other, my personal favorite, was "Beyond Belief," featuring Frank and Sadie Doyle, a pair of drunken high society mediums, sort of The Thin Man meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Various other segments recurred throughout the show's run, and they were all witty, hilarious, and clever. The show also featured a wildly talented cast of regulars, and amazing guest stars. Read the recommended reading for way for detail. Thrilling Adventure Hour stopped regularly releasing episodes over the summer, but there are over 200 available in the shows archives. If you like TAH, you can check out the TAH graphic novel, the Sparks Nevada and Beyond Belief series from Image, and the upcoming Deadpool Vs. Gambit mini-series from TAH creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker.

Welcome to Night Vale- I was introduced to Welcome to Night Vale through a crossover with TAH, and while it shares a tongue in cheek sense of humor with TAH at times, it is a completely different animal. Welcome to Night Vale, created and written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, is a community radio show from the odd little desert town of Night Vale, a town that has everything you'd expect from a small town: a bowling alley, an old lady, a store, a five-headed dragon, a faceless old woman who lives in your house. You know, the usual. OK, so Night Vale isn't a normal town. One description I read of the show described it as "Garrison Keillor's News from Lake Wobegon by way of Stephen King," and that's a decent, if a bit narrow, elevator pitch for the show. Each episode is narrated by local radio host Cecil Palmer (played by Cecil Baldwin), and while many episodes feature guests, the series really is Cecil's story, about his relationship with his boyfriend Carlos, the scientist, his brother-in-law Steve Carlsberg (don't get him started on Steve), his friend Dana, and all the other people on Night Vale. Cecil's a good guy, and the show develops a deep emotional life for him. But aside from the funny and weird townsfolk and Cecil's day to day life, Night Vale can be honestly very scary, and the horror is used sparingly and to good effect. Welcome to Night Vale is released biweekly on Mondays. If you enjoy Night Vale, check out the Welcome to Night Vale novel, and while I can't think of any comic with the same mix of horror, small town life, and humor, if you want a great small town horror, check out Dark Horse's Harrow County.

You Must Remember This- I love the movies, and I love knowing more about the people who make them. You Must Remember This is the story of, "the secret and forgotten history of Hollywood's first century." Loving researched, written, and narrated by Karina Longworth,You Must Remember This features themed seasons, some of which include stories of stars at war in World War II, Charles Manson's relationship with Hollywood, and the current season, long anticipated by me, about the Hollywood Communist Black List, which has certain terrifying echoes of America as it is now. The history is fascinating, and Longworth's writing and narration are sharp, crisp, and a pleasure to listen to. There are certain episodes that have very direct ties to comic books and Hollywood, such as episodes about Bruce and Brandon Lee, both of whom played comics and pulp characters, Warren Beatty and Madonna's relationship while making the (in my opinion anyway) under-rated comic strip adaptation, Dick Tracy, and Eddie Mannix, MGM's "fixer" who may or may not have been involved in the death of TV's Superman, George Reeves. New You Must Remember This episodes are released weekly on Mondays. One of my favorite comics of the past year has been Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips's The Fade Out, a Hollywood noir set in the late '40s, and if you enjoyed that, you should definitely check out the current season of You Must Remember This, and vice versa.

Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men- This is the only purely comic podcast on this list, and there's a reason for that. Jay Rachel Edidin and Miles Stokes are lifelong comics fans, specifically X-Fans, and their whole goal with their podcast is to untie the seemingly impossible knot of X-Men continuity. They have a great rapport, great authorial voice to their writing, and know their stuff. They clearly do a lot of research to keep up with the X-Titles. They started at the beginning, with the early Stan Lee stuff, but quickly moved froward into the Claremont era, and are now cycling between three titles, Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, and New Mutants, in the run up to the mid-80s X-crossover "Inferno." Their excitement about the material is so contagious, listening has gotten me to go out and purchase a complete run of New Mutants (up to the Liefeld stuff. I already have all that in trade) and I plan to start reading it soon. New episodes come out weekly on Sunday. Important note if you're about to start listening: as of this Sunday's new episode, the series name will change to Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, but all existing links should probably redirect. It's harder to pick a particular comic to say to read to get into this show, but a fourth comic is about to enter the rotation, the original run of Excalibur, and both Jay and Miles seem pretty excited about it, so you might want to track that down.

Talkin' Toons with Rob Paulsen- You might not know the name Rob Paulsen, but if you're a fan of animation, you know his voice. Rob Paulsen is one of those great voice actors who has a tremendous catalog of work, from Pinky in Pinky and the Brain, Yakko Warner in Animaniacs, and specifically comics related Raphael in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, and Donatello in the current one. And because he's been in the voice actor for the better part of thirty years, he has a lot of friends who do the same work. So, what Rob likes to do is sit down with his friends (some at their home, some in front of a live audience) and talk about their experience as voice actors, their process, and their favorite voices. Some of my favorite episodes include one with the creators of Rick and Morty, one with the cast of Adventure Time, and ones with various members of the classic DC animated universe cast members, including Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor), Jeffrey Combs (The Question), and Mark Hamill (The Joker). Talkin' Toons has had a less regular release schedule recently, but there are plenty of episodes on the archive and new episodes appear when Rob can fit them into his busy schedule.  If you love cartoons of any kind, Talkin' Toons is a must listen, and many of the guests have comics that tie into their work, so just check out that list and pick a comic.

These are just five of the numerous podcasts I listen to regularly, and it's an amazing time where there's such a variety of different options to listen to. So I ask you readers: Do you have a favorite podcast? I'd love some new recommendations. Comment here, on Facebook, or Twitter, where I'm @mattlaz1013.

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