From Max Funsters irondavy, Chris Eckert, and one more (who never identified themselves but whose name I will add to this post if he contacts me) comes Funnybook Babylon [iTunes link] — great title — the show that informs me that there are guys who take comics more seriously than I will ever be able to, even if I suspend all other projects, bathing included, and devote my remaining waking hours to the study of the comicular arts.
I hate to generalize, but my experience shows that, besides podcasts, Max Funsters like basically three things: comedy, movies, and comic books. While I do know a thing or two about the cinema, I’m more or less the Man who Fell to Earth when it comes to stand-up and superheroes. You might think this would make a podcast where a bunch of dudes heatedly discuss the merits of one X-Men writer versus another a total snooze. On the contrary; it’s actually big fun to be able to listen in to the talk of a subculture that’s passionate about their art form of choice. It’s a bit like visiting a foreign country, except I can put off getting a passport one more year.
Since I’m something of a film geek, I can tune in to Battleship Pretension and know exactly what they’re talking about, at all times, no exceptions. Listening to Funnybook Babylon, I recognize maybe — maybe — thirty percent of what they reference. But that’s the fun! It’s like how novels set in elaborate fantasy or sci-fi worlds intrigue you by hinting at the existence of so much more than you’re given the details of at any one time. Going in, I didn’t know my pull list from my laundry list, my Vertigo from my Wendigo, my New Avengers from my New Adventures of Beans Baxter. But, with each episode listened to, I’m getting there. I especially like that they cover both the art and the industry of comics; there’s a lot more Machiavellian maneuvering going on in there than I’d ever suspected. It’s a sector of the economy that’s seen better (and worse) days, which makes for rich discussion about how and why the situation might be turned around.
Plus, the crew are pretty funny guys. Not only do NYC’s Joseph, Pedro, Jamaal, Chris, and whoever else they happen to bring on board all have distinctive enough voices to easily tell apart — thanks for that, guys — but they sound like they’d have a good time discussing most anything. They just happen to be talking about comic books. Over time, I’ve learned to much from them that I’ve begun to laugh not only at their general-interest jokes, but some of their comic-book-insider jokes as well. I’m sure loads of their discourse is still flying over my head, but I’m going to keep listening; the passion these guys show for comic books makes me want to read more of them myself.
Format: cultural panel discussion
Running since: February 2007
Duration: 1h to 1h30m
Frequency: semi-regular, sometimes slightly more than weekly, sometimes less
From Max Funster s-quotes comes Square Quotes [iTunes link], a slick arts-and-culture program from Montreal. The show scores three big points with me immediately by (a) being geographically grounded in a kinda-sorta unusual location, (b) covering rarities of cultural experience, and (c) seriously bringin’ the production value. The episodes sound legitimately well-funded-public-radio-quality, although with perspective sufficiently off-kilter that you know it wasn’t beamed down by the NPR mothership.
Square Quotes‘ composition is a little hard to get a bead on, but it’s early days and clearly the cement hasn’t quite dried. From what I’ve heard, the core content is hosts Alexander Buckiewicz-Smith and Jay Watts’ conversations with local creative types: musicians, dancers, cartoonists, cosmologists, sculptors and a guy who displayed his dead cat as an art installation. (You probably want a direct link to the [MP3] of that one.) Each episode also contains a handful of tracks that play between the verbal segments, though these selections can be a little — how to put this — strange. Then again, I consider any band that isn’t The Whispers “a little strange,” so don’t listen to me.
Also wedged in here and there are little semi-comedic interstitial bits, which are awkward and quickly scrapped in most podcasts that try them but work well here. My favorite has to be the series of phone calls made to psychics in order to contact the spirit of enigmatic jazzman Sun Ra. [MP3] Good stuff. If us Gen-Yers took over public radio tomorrow — and, if all goes well, we will — we’d do well to give Square Quotes a prime time slot.
Format: interviews, music, etc.
Running since: June 2008
Duration: 40m to 1h30m
Frequency: semi-regular, every 3-15 days