Ron Rant: Marvel Podcasts

I know, I sound like a broken record (or more like a crazed lunatic on the side of the road), but that’s the point of these Ron Rants. And the point of this rant is this: I like Marvel Comics. I like podcasts. I want to like Marvel’s podcasts. But for some reason, Marvel either doesn’t “get it” or THEY don’t want me to like their podcasts. And yet, I never learn. Recently I was excited to listen to the X-Men Podcast with Ed Brubaker, the new writer on Uncanny X-Men. I knew my track record with previous Marvel podcasts, but this was something I actually cared about, so I was optimistic. And I was let down again. Keep on reading to hear why…

So here I am, flying down the Merritt Parkway on my way to New York City and I hit play on my iPod and cringe at the awful opening music of the Marvel Podcasts that we’ve come to know and “love.” But whatever, this is the scoop on the new direction of my favorite book, Uncanny X-Men, so I can deal with some bad music. Luckily the music’s brief.

The editors at Marvel introduce the podcast and explain what creative changes are going on, and I know all this, but I sit through it patiently waiting for Brubaker to start talking. At the 1 minute, 30 seconds mark they bring Ed Brubaker on board who is obviously dialed into the podcast from another location. His first statement out of the gate is:

“I didn’t realize we were doing a full-on retailer podcast thing. This is kinda cool. This is a much bigger thing than I thought it would be. I thought it would just be a bunch of us cracking jokes…”

Now, I’m no genius, but I went to college for communications and media production. I’ve worked in marketing for like 7 years now. Why on earth would they not brief Ed Brubaker on what he was dialing into and why on earth would they leave that in the podcast? Oh sure, it’s funny and got a laugh from the frat boy atmosphere of editors, but I’m sorry, it just smacks of unprofessionalism to me. If you are producing a piece of media to be consumed by your customers, why would you allow it to appear as if everything wasn’t tight and smooth, even if it isn’t? Hell, the iFanboys are basically amateurs at this podcast thing, but I take pride in our level of professionalism and in the quality of the product we offer to you. Why shouldn’t Marvel do the same with these podcasts? Oh that’s right, it’s because these aren’t actually podcasts.

Anyone whose listened to any of the Marvel Podcast probably figured this out already, but I’ll restate it for those new to this: What Marvel releases as “podcasts” are not actually true podcasts, rather they’re recordings of conference calls — be it either with the comics press or with retailers — where the creators come on to discuss their upcoming books (along the schedule of the Previews solicitations.). Now I’m not totally criticizing this. I realize the creator’s time is precious and to have them do these conference calls AND do a dedicated podcast takes away from time where they could be writing, drawing and creating. But the reason this irks me so right now is they’re passing it off as their podcast because podcasts happen to be new and cool and hip right now. But what happens is we get a sub-standard product, and a disappointing throwaway to the geeks and nerds who actually listen to podcasts.

When they first began releasing these podcasts they were full recordings of the Marvel press conference calls, and we heard from our favorite members of the comic journalism community, which is like 90% from the internet. We heard all the all-stars from Comic Book Resources, Newsarama, someone from The Pulse, and even the illustrious Heidi MacDonald. We heard them ask their questions and sometimes kiss a little creator ass, which gets annoying, but at least we could hear the questions.

Brubaker’s podcast for Uncanny X-Men was not a press conference call, rather a retailer’s conference call. I can only assume it’s a gathering of the big stores and comic distributors? I couldn’t tell you for sure because for whatever reason (privacy perhaps), the questions were edited out of this podcast! So what we got were a series of answers from Brubaker separated by that ultra hip electronica music. I cannot begin to tell you how irritating this is. To feel my pain, try having a question and answer session with your buddy or girlfriend or boyfriend or parents, whoever, I don’t really care. All you have to do is have a quick interview and be sure to record it. Then, edit that recording, removing the questions. Then find someone who was not there or involved in the original conversation and ask them to listen to it. Watch their face contort and generally look uncomfortable as they try and listen to one half of a conversation and figure out what the heck they’re talking about.

Or you could just listen to this podcast. Because that’s exactly what I was doing as I crossed the Triboro Bridge into New York City. Now I’m an intelligent guy, I could figure out what was being discussed, but it’s really annoying and irritating to have to work to listen to something.

Now maybe I’m in a bad mood right now, but I sat on this for about 2 weeks to see if I still felt the same way as that night I listened to the podcast originally and yep, it still pisses me off.

So now I address Marvel directly:

If you want to do a podcast, DO a podcast. Don’t throw us scraps of your other marketing efforts. It cheapens the medium and insults me as a fan of both your comics and of podcasts in as an art form. And if you try and actually do an honest to god podcast, do not do another one like that fiasco of the “X-Office” podcast of a bunch of editors making inside jokes and giggling at each other. That’s how you alienate your audience. All I know of the editors at Marvel are what they say and how they act on these podcasts, and I’m sure they’re mature and professional people, but on these podcasts, they sound like a bunch of unprofessional frat boys, and frankly that turns me off. I’ve never dropped a book because of the editor, but keep this up, and it may happen.

*End Rant*


  1. I was really pumped when Marvel first started putting these out, because, like many, I thought they were Podcast, they even tricked us, I think, by putting out that Daredevil round table discussion, which, though not great, was interesting to hear all these creators talk. But since then we just get a bunch of sloppy marketing ploys, disappointing to say the least.

  2. I ran out of podcast content for my morning commute by mid-week, so listened to Brubaker and the Civil War Frontline “discussion.” There isn’t really any extra value to listening to these as podcasts, might as well have read transcripts that I’ve seen posted–heck, at least the transcripts include the actual questions (!)

    As you say, they are not trying to make full use of the medium, and it’s clearly just a slap-and-dash production.

    They’re really missing an opportunity to allow fans to get to know creators–they just come off as shills following Corporate orders, when we know they’re more interesting than that.

    Plus I think I heard that creepy electronica in a nightmare the other night. Seriously.

  3. I’ve commented on this previously. The X-Office podcast was absolutely the worst thing that I’ve ever heard. It was worse than frat boy, it was infantile.

    The Bru podcast wasn’t as bad as the X-Office one, but it was bad. I said on a previous post that I might kill someone if I hear another person say “[insert creator here] knocked it out of the park.”

    At least the Joe Q/Gaiman one was on topic, these just have lame jokes. The Mike Carey joke at the end…

  4. I didn’t even want to bring up the stupid Mike Carey thing at the end, it just made me even madder..but that’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

  5. I thought I posted this earlier, but apparently not:

    While the podcasts don’t drive me nearly as crazy as they do you (I didn’t see your complaint until I heard the x-office one a while back; now I understand) there is one aspect of them that just adds insult to injury: because they are all interviews with members of the comics press, and it takes the podcasts so long to get put online, by the time I hear them I have already inadvertently read them two or three times on various sites. “Why does this sound so…? Did I already listen to this one? Waaaait a second!”

  6. That’s a great point.

  7. Did Mike Carey do something stupid? What’s the Mike Carey thing?

    I mean, I’m not going to listen to these now.

  8. I was excited when I first saw the Marvel podcast too. A couple minutes into it I just realized it was stupid. I was new to the world podcast at the time and after hearing the iFanboy podcast I realized I was right. I say throwdown between the iFanboys and the Marvel editors at San Diego!

  9. The only one of these I’ve heard is the Brubaker one and suddenly it makes a lot more sense why that’s the only one I’ve heard. I subscribed to the “Marvel Podcast” when I first read about the new X-Men runs and I did notice a distinct feeling of deja vu, probably because one of the sites I read had transcribed the whole thing, missing questions and all. But that was the last podcast iTunes downloaded from Marvel. Even though there’s been another since then, I only just found out about it. Since these are just promotional tie-ins, there’s no point in subscribing because each one is completely separate from the others, even though they all say “Marvel Podcasts”–cleverly disguising a promotional tool as a weekly Marvel podcast. And I ate it up, diligently updating my fake podcast every week, always so sad and disappointed that a new episode never came.

    I feel cheap now.