Mike’s Podcast Survival Guide


So, this past Saturday, I got on the line with Conor and Josh to do the Pick of the Week Podcast. Though I try to sound fairly calm and collected when I record, the road leading up to actually doing the podcast is a windy one, and I thought I would spin that particular yarn for this week’s article…

Let’s got back a few years ago… to, what, 2006? Sometime in 2006. The whole podcast thing was just starting to go crazy on iTunes — yes, podcasts were definitely around before that, but I would argue that iTunes made it a lot easier to search for and subscribe to podcasts — and I found myself adding 2+2 and going, “Hey, maybe they have ‘poddywhatevers’ about comics!”

And lo and behold there was the iFanboy podcast. I remember listening for the first time and realizing, “Whoa — you can actually talk about comics?! There are other people out there that really like comics, too — this is fantastic!” It was a big moment for me, since, as I have mentioned before, I was kind of a shut-in when it came to my comics habit. So, I spent a few weeks listening to older podcasts — the guys were basically commuting to work with me for awhile there — and then, all of a sudden Comic-Con 2006 comes up. My wife Whit and I were planning on going anyway, so I was doubly stoked to see that the guys were doing a meet up one night during the con (see pic below — we look so young and fresh!). On the way down, Whit and I listened to a few episodes and Whit kept laughing at me because I kept talking back to the show, laughing and agreeing with, “Yeah, exACTly,” and “I mean, of course, totally — so obvious!” She said that I should try to get on the show and I just laughed, “Yeah, right, it would be awesome, but…” 

So you can imagine my surprise (and delight, of course) when I was asked to be on the show back in June (June?!). I had just been asked to write a column and now I was gonna be on the show??Somewhere, there’s a character sheet, and, on the character sheet, someone went up a level.

Now, while I have been on radio shows and podcasts before for my day job, but I gotta say, getting ready to talk about something you like with people you have literally been listening to talk about the same thing every week for over a year… well, it’s a bit nerve-wracking. You have to be part of the conversation, sure, but you have to actually contribute to the conversation as well, as opposed to just saying, well, the stuff I would say in the car — it works by yourself, but it doesn’t make for a particularly interesting podcast.

Here’s how life changes, just a bit, when you get asked to be on the podcast:

1) You get an email, “Hey–____’s gone, you haven’t been on in awhile, do you have time to record the podcast on ____?” and you reply, HOLY CRAP WOW YAH TOTALLY THAT WOULD BE AWESOME and then you delete that and go, “Yeah, I can do that.” You do this because, you know, you’re not some kind of geek.

2) Wednesday approaches and you basically have to get your books that day. Now, because I live in LA, I have no problem driving 20-30 minutes completely and utterly out of my way to get my books on the way to work (I’m cheap and I have no idea — none — how I could ever “break up” with my comic book store owner and go someplace nearby — and, seriously, I actually do have a problem with all the driving, but that’s another article for different website). After you say hello to your surprised comic book store owner, you pick up the books you normally pick up and try to figure out how you are going to squeeze in all that reading in one or two nights. You realize you are lucky you are not Josh, Ron, or Conor, who have to read all of their books that night and actually write about them in the Pick of the Week feature. You realize that they have been doing this for years — even before the podcast; long before the podcast — and realize that these guys might be kind of crazy.

3) Later, like the next day, you get a list of the comics that are gonna be discussed. You compare the list to the books you bought and realize that if you really wanna participate in the show and even have a chance to sound like you know what you are talking about (perhaps a futile task, in my case), you gotta pick up a few books that you’ve never even heard of. The flip sides are: a) they don’t expect you to buy a book you don’t normally read, so it’s artificial pressure in the first place, so just calm down and b) the book is probably good (case in point, the Magneto book). This means an extra trip to the store, but in my case, I just went to the one that’s closer to my shop since it was only a few books and, like, it’s not like I am dating my comic shop owner.

4) Somehow, you get all of the “show books” read. (Note: no one uses the term “show books.) What I like to do is read them, and then flip through them again, making notes. This is similar to when I write articles about certain books, but those notes are actually embarrassingly extensive. These are just talking points. I actually have deleted my notes from the show, but they mostly were like:

  • Green Lantern – rushed ending? Sinestro — always red? The brother ending — good for trade, kinda lame page waster for comic? Funny Oans with their jumping and their anger.
  • Action Comics – Gary Frank’s art slipping a bit? Supergirl reaction shot — lame; Braniac was so awesome, now… wet? Ending awesome, quiet. Pa gripped the arm just like the movie! whooa!
  • Magneto – what comics do best, personalized history, was tired of Magneto, much more interesting now, still hate Ultimates #5
  • End League – wtf is this book about? Laughing Man as Joker, lame name, tiring rehash of heroes, didn’t we see this in The Boys? Art — amazing, wish the book stayed with opening scene, so confused not sure will continue

5) Suddenly, it’s time to record. This is where I wish I had taken a picture of my setup. I tend to sit at our dining room table with my Mac (we do the show using Skype and I always, always screw up my microphone settings before we start, but I guess everyone else does too so I don’t feel too bad), with the stack of books in the order they are to be discussed with the show notes on one side of the screen and my notes next to them. I have a large glass of water, I turn off the phones, and sit on a pillow. The show is recorded in one go, so you don’t want me to be the newbie that makes everything stop to answer the phone or use the bathroom.

6) Recording the show is actually super trippy because you are so used to just listening to the show in the first place that it’s kinda a surprise when you are now expected to talk back to the guys. The real trick is figuring out when to speak — you can hear me sputter a bit in the show when I time a response wrong — and how long to speak. It’s kinda like being on the cell phone — when you are talking you don’t hear the other person (at least I don’t), so if you speak too long you become very aware of the silence on the other line and then you think, “Oh my god, I am just talking gibberish, I am making some obviously lame point or it’s totally irrelevant and I bet that they want to talk about the next book but wait I am still talking I hope I am not actually saying these thoughts out loud instead of the thoughts I had started a few seconds ago.” Actually, maybe that’s just me talking about Magneto: Testament #2. Eventually, however, you get kind of in the rhythm of it, and you relax. What was interesting is that I really didn’t refer to my notes at all, and, as you can hear, I never actually got out some of my criticisms of the book because: a) Conor would have beat me up the next time I saw him if I ripped on Gary Frank’s art (though I am a huge fan) and b) overall, my negative points were more nitpicks when compared to how successful the book was as a complete piece of work. I still feel that Green Lantern finished too quickly (I really thought we had at least one more issue — when Sinestro and Hal got summoned back I thought the consequences were going to be a lot more interesting than, “Hey, you guys are ridiculous!” “Oh yeah, you’re right — nevermind, we’re just grumpy because, well, we’re short and many of us have been balding for many, many years.”)

7) When we play the voicemail, we have .wmv files that we all listen to — it’s the only time the show gets paused — and then someone says, “I’ll start with this one.” Josh rocked the Watchmen response, for example, after we all kinda discussed it a bit. The email is kind of the same way and it was fun to get my butt handed to me when I ripped on 52 — for the record, I thought 52 was a good weekly book for the most part but I admit that I was still feeling cheated by Countdown, which, as Josh correctly states, was a totally different thing. But I still don’t think you need to read the thing as a trade…

8) And then… it’s done! It’s all done and then Josh has to go get dinner and you just sit there, wondering, really, “They do this every week?!” I mean, it’s kind of an astounding thing, really, since then they gotta insert music, edit it up (Josh and I had a discussion about hair gel that was cut (mercifully, I think)) and then post it. A lot of work… thanks guys

All in all it’s a good time and, honestly, I feel very lucky to have had a chance to do it even once. I am thinking it would be fun to do some podcast “meet the iFanbase” interviews sometime… I’ll have to bounce it off the crew, but until then, I hope this description gave you a bit of a feeling of what it’s like.

So there it is! Hope you are having a good week and thanks for reading!

 


Mike Romo is an actor in LA. He just pulled his comics for this week and is hoping that the next president will offer a major comic book tax credit because he’s gonna need the help. He can be reached at mike@ifanboy.com.


Comments

  1. That was a really interesting read!  Thanks for pulling back the curtain a bit (I prefer that somewhat to the sausauge metaphor.)

    You did a great job on the podcast (through you’re still wrong about 52; the trades are great and the writers’ and editors’ commentaries are some of the most interesting I’ve ever read).

  2. haha–point taken..I had not heard about the commentaries–that DOES sound very interesting..I will have to check them out!

     

    thanks,

    m

  3.  I genuinely recommend that anybody at least flip through the 52 trades for the commentaries — Rucka, Waid, and Johns all contribute, as I believe does Keith Giffen and (?) Wacker(?) who was one of the editors.  Unfortunately, nothing from Grant, though there are some good anecdotes about working with him.

  4. Nice article Mike.  I’m sure it’s very surreal to be on the show after listening to it for so long.  I can imagine that the feeling is like when they highlight an e-mail or review I wrote only amplified much, much more.

  5. Hey I hope your recovery from Josh’s "harouken" attack is going well.  I can’t believe he did that to you.  He looks so sweet in that photo.

    When are we going to get a "director’s cut" ep with all the extra bits in it?

  6. Great article Mike.  I was always wondering how guys prep for podcast.  Sure some of them are on the fly, but others you can tell that the pros go in there with notes and are competely prepared.  Nice to know that you got nervous before the show.  Couldn’t tell at all during the podcast though.

    And by the way, that picture of you with all the guys…awesome.  Look at Ron with that cute shy little boy smile!  And Josh with his "come hither" look.  And of course Connor, as tough as always.  Priceless.

  7. Holy lol @ Josh in that picture.

  8. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Great article, Mike.  I just listened to the show today on my drive to Virginia.  You did a great job and all the prep paid off.  One of the funniest shows in a long while.  You’ve been the best guest so far and really fit in well with Josh and Conor.  

    Is it time for Ron to move on to the solo Morrissey podcast?  😉

  9. @Paul – I would totally listen to Ron gush on a Morrissey podcast, even though Morrissey isn’t my cup of tea.

    Great piece, Mike. Glad to see I’m not the only one who audibly discusses the podcast to the podcast itself while listening. Unfortunately, it’s almost always while sitting outside my boss’ office with him just leering at me.

  10. Nice article, man.  It would be nice to get a follow up or a sequel to this, however, detailing what happens after the average panelist logs off the show and waits for it to be available on the website.  The editing process, how long it takes, how much is cut, who makes those decisions, who picks the music, how much the methods have changed from the first episode.

    Not so sure about the meet the iFanbase idea though.  Even if some of us arent the stereo typical socially inept comic book fan, its still hard to be on a show like this and not stutter and make good points and not embarass yourself.  If it was easy to be on a show like this, everyone would do it. 

  11. "and you reply, HOLY CRAP WOW YAH TOTALLY THAT WOULD BE AWESOME and then you delete that and go, "Yeah, I can do that." You do this because, you know, you’re not some kind of geek."

     

    Hahaha! The same thing happens to me every now and then.  Great read!

  12. @dredscott33 – I have to tell you, that would be the most boring thing of all time, I think.  It’s all technical stuff, and we’re not really here to do a "how to podcast" show, because frankly, it’s a bit boring to talk about.  it doesn’t mean we never do, but there are plenty of places on the web that explain that.  You want some information though?

    Who edits:  whoever has time that weekend.  That person picks the music, based on what they feel like putting in the show.

    How much is cut:  Not much usually.  You usually hear everything, but sometimes there’s a delay, and we fix some of the awkward pauses.  sometimes the phone rings, and we cut that out, and start over.  That’s about it. We’ve done 154 of these, and we usually stay on time, and keep track as we go.  To edit, we use the free program Audacity, and export to MP3.

    How much the method has changed:  It hasn’t.  We do nearly exactly the same thing we always have, using the same script and planning format for at least the last 2 years.  The only difference is we barely planned the first one.  

    I certainly wish (or probably don’t really) it was more exciting, but it’s just not.  The content is what excites us.  The planning is just work.

  13. There was a time that Ron and I had Mozcast – I think that we did two or three shows.

    I guess if there is demand we can bring it back…

  14. @gordon and ron: Yes! Thoughts on the forthcoming album and such!

  15. Finally! Some insider info. Great job, Mike, really funny and interesting stuff.

    @Josh – Dude, you look like you’re posing for a boyband press shot in that pic! And yet, you still rock it!

    @Gordon – I demand Mozcast!

  16. That was awesome.

    And you, Mr. Romo, have increased in my esteem greatly for the "character sheet" and "level" comments. Keep rollin’ those twenties!

     

  17. See why I went with the beard?

  18. I don’t recall approving pulling back the curtain Mike…tsk tsk

    @gordon Ixnay on the Ozcastmay

    @DaveCarr @Eyun keep dreaming…

  19. @ron – Well, he did leave out all the parts where you kept going on and on about three-ways and it had to be edited out.  Some mysteries shall remain mysteries.

  20. I don’t know what the norm is, but the week I was on they edited out all those DC books I kept talking about.

  21. @ron – oops.

    @mikeromo – I loved your post.  The funny thing is it made me realize I’ve never listened to the audio podcast.  I guess I’ve got some catching up to do…

  22. You know Ron, the more you ignore me the closer I get.

     

    Okay, I couldn’t resist that one. Oh and Mike charming post here. Behind the scenes delivered with a  dash of self effacing humor. Well done.

     

    You ain’t seen nothing yet, Gordon. 

  23. Josh looks like Rachel Maddow in that pic

  24. This was awesome–pulling back the curtain.  Great post, Mike!

  25. @Mikeromo– great article, you don’t happen to buy comics from Katz in the valley do you?  When I left LA it seriously did feel like a break-up leaving that shop.

  26. hey guys!

    thanks for the nice comments! @Kimbo–YES! that’s exactly where I go…that’s hilarious that someone else can identify with that feeling…sounds like an article idea… I am glad you guys liked the show, I felt really off and rusty and wanted to live up to Paul, Jimksi’s and Sonia’s appearances, whhich I really enjoyed.

    Now I gotta head to the shop, I cannot believe how many books I am apparently supposed to be pulling…

     (@Diabhol–stoked you liked the character sheet comment…I do miss playing D&D, I really do..)

     

    take care, all!

    mike