Hey everyone! As I begin producing the occasional new material, I thought it would be good to cover some additional subjects. One thing that I really wanted to take a look at was podcasting. Thanks to the limitless resources of the internet and technology today, anyone can start a podcast. You want to broadcast about gardening? Go for it! Is space your thing? Great! What about comics? You bet! Thousands upon thousands of podcasts are out there, waiting to be discovered by like minded people that want more from a broadcast. For comics alone, I can think of about 15 different shows that I know of, I am sure there are countless others out there. Each has their own flavor and style. One name that comes to mind for me is Derek Becker, host of Comic Pros & Cons.
I first met Derek near the end of 2015, he was just about to launch the show and we have several mutual friends in the comic industry. I remember Derek speaking about the plans for the show and his vision in such a passionate way that his energy was contagious and I was getting excited for him. It's always a great experience to see people going after exactly what they want. Here we are, just passing the one year anniversary of Derek's show and he has consistently delivered on content, on every level. He puts out new episodes at the same time and day every week, thoroughly researches each guest, and creates an atmosphere that is both entertaining and professional. I reached out to a dear friend of mine, Bob Salley, and asked him what he enjoyed about being on Comics Pros & Cons and this is what he had to say:
"He's a pro. He does his homework and makes sure he knows the creator that is coming on the show. He doesn't leave any dead air. Some amateurs wing it, leaving the interviewee with the task of filling that space. Derek was a perfect host, I'd like to be on the show again."
Derek is truly dedicated to his craft and I am honored to know him. I wanted to share his story because I felt it was unique and that he would offer some good insights to some of the behind the scenes look at podcasting. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Without further delay...
What was your first experience with comics?
My first experience I can recall would have been around the age of 5 or 6. I remember the Spider-Man tv show from the late 70's, and my dad would pick me up a Spider-Man book or something that had a Spidey crossover in it when we were going on fishing trips.
Who were your favorite characters when you began reading?
Surprisingly enough considering he was the first character I really remember liking, I never stuck with Spider-Man growing up. However, I did come back to him again recently when Ryan Stegman was put on the Superior Spider-Man title, and then again a few months ago when he started drawing Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.
While I never stuck with Spidey growing up, I certainly stayed loyal to Marvel.
Daredevil has been my lifelong favorite, and John Romita Jr.'s run on that book is hands down my favorite of all time, especially any of the issues written by Ann Nocenti. I know most people will look at the Frank Miller years as the quintessential DD era, or maybe the Bendis run if they are looking more recently, but for me it was in the late 80's when those DD comics pulled me into a world I never knew existed before.
My first experiences with Wolverine really stuck with me too. One of them was Daredevil 196 where Logan had an appearance in that issue. I must have read that book a few thousand times by now, but the book that issue that I blame for my love of this medium and is probably my single favorite issue of all time is Uncanny X-Men 213.
In fact when I met Alan Davis - the penciler on that issue - at Motor City Comic Con last year, I literally bumbled my way through the worst interview I've ever done. I couldn't talk. It was 29 years after I picked that book up and I went right back to being a kid again because the guy who made something I loved so much was standing in front of me. It's insanely embarrassing as an interviewer, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. And for as terrible as it was, I still aired it. Because at the end of the day, I got to talk to one of my heroes.
What is on your pull-list now?
My pull list changes regularly, but as far as titles are concerned, DD, Saga and The Walking Dead are the only ones that have consistently made the cut month after month and year after year.
My pull list isn't as much about the titles anymore as it is about the creators themselves, which makes keeping a pull list a little harder to manage. However, things like Empowered by Adam Warren and Fearless Dawn by Steve Mannion are books that don't come out regularly but I am always jumping for joy when they do get released.
Also, I'm starting to buy books in trades more than I have in the past, but also I am many times waiting to be able to buy things directly from the creators at conventions when I have the chance.
So if you're looking for a list of people that are making up my pull list, if they have been a guest on my show, I'm probably reading whatever it is they are putting out.
When did you begin reading indie comics?
My first real experience with indie comics was in the 90's. There was this little company called Image that began and really opened the door for a lot of non Big 2 books to get some shelf space on the comic shop walls.
And while I read plenty of Image - because honestly at that time anyone that loved comics was reading Image - I really got into books from Caliber like The Crow and Kabuki, as well as some really odd titles like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad from Slave Labor Graphics.
There were a ton of other books too like Razor by Everette Hartsoe that I would grab whenever I could find an issue.
Indie books were inconsistent in being able to find them, knowing if another issue would ever come out, and even a crap shoot if they were worth the couple bucks you were dropping on them. But at the same time there was this pure joy that you may have found some kind of secret treasure that not everyone would ever know about.
Indie books and the people that like them almost felt like a secret club at that time, which only made me want to find more.
How did you begin reviewing comics?
Haha, on accident really.
A little over 4 1/2 years ago I had the idea to start a podcast about comics. I was living in a new town about an hour away from where I had called home for all of my adult life, and I knew no one. I didn't have cable, and in fact didn't have a TV for the first few months down there either. What I did have for entertainment was podcasts that I would download onto my phone while I was at places that had wifi.
I had recently gotten back into new comics for one primary reason: the best thing about the town I lived in was they had one of the best shops I've ever been to. And just to give them a plug because they deserve it, it's Fanfare in Kalamazoo, MI. (http://fanfareland.com). Fanfare not only had every Marvel and DC book out there, they also order more indie books than just about any other shop I've ever seen.
So now not only was I getting back into comic books, I started listening to different podcasts about comics, specifically shows like iFanboy and Comic Book Club.
With my renewed love of current books (I was still buying back issues), I started talking comics again with a few of my other fanboy buddies when we would see each other at the bar, and one day it hit me: We might not know everything about comics, but I thought we were funny and entertaining and people might want to hear us give our insight into the books we were reading.
How did that transition into Drunk on Comics?
A little easier than it should have but a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would!
Drunk on Comics was my brain child, but it never would have worked without my friends. I hit up Tony McKay first as he and I were the ones that were always bullshitting about the books we got that week anyway, and he was game. I really wanted my buddy Kevin, and Tony hit up his brother, and the team was put together.
After that, we did some research on equipment, recording, how to host a podcast on a website, how to get it on iTunes, created our social media pages, bought a domain name and went off running.
We really didn't know a damn thing, and looking back, I can't believe we actually were able to get it to even work, but we were all invested, and I know I was personally determined to see that show make a splash on the comic scene.
How long did that show run for?
It's still going actually, but as far as my involvement, not counting "special editions", which were probably in the 40-50 episode range if I had to guess and were comprised of interviews, convention specials, and sometimes just us being silly, I left after the 175th regular weekly episode of the show.
It was 3 1/2 years of insanity and hanging out with some of the best people I know.
As I said, they are still going strong and last I knew they were over 230 episodes. Kevin has left, and I don't think Matt is as involved as he once was, but when people start growing their families, kids have to take some precedent. Tony is still there, and has added a few new co-hosts on the show to keep them chugging along. Chugging! Get it! It's a drinking joke!
When did you decide to create Comic Pros and Cons?
Man, this is tough to pinpoint a specific time, but it was probably around the 3 year anniversary of Drunk On Comics. And I can't say that I decided to create Comic Pros & Cons at that specific time, but I knew I wanted to do something else. Something more than we were already doing.
To be honest, DOC was my baby, and I didn't really want to leave, but I knew it wasn't exactly what I wanted either. It was a great show, but for me, I wanted to get more into the guts of a comic book. I didn't want to rehash a story and call it a review. I wanted to talk about everything from the story itself to the character development, page layouts, colors, pencils, inks..... I wanted to know why this book was made the way it was. Why did they make this artistic choice versus that one? Sometimes it turns out it's as much a logistical choice as it is artistic. But that's what I wanted to know.
So after sitting down with the team and all of us talking about what we wanted DOC to be, where we wanted it to go, etc., I realized that what I wanted wasn't what Drunk On Comics was or necessarily should be either, so I decided it was time for me to move on.
I didn't know what I was going to do, nor did I know exactly how I was going to do it, but I knew I would do something. The real question was what exactly that thing would be.
(Derek actually converted a small closet in his home to his dedicated podcasting area. I have no idea how he made this work, but he did and its glorious.)
You've certainly made it grow vastly since its inception. What is your ultimate vision for the show?
Ideally, my original thought was that my audience would be made up almost exclusively of people just like me - fanboys and girls that loved original art, the process behind the making of a comic, and the creators that brought these books to life. While that makes up a good portion of my audience, I've also found that there are almost as many creators listening as fans, which both thrills and terrifies me at the same time haha!
My true vision for the show is first and foremost the tagline of the show: Celebrating the true superheroes of comic books - the creators themselves.
I already told you I almost wet myself meeting Alan Davis. I think if fans had more access to "get to know" these creators through interviews like mine, they might feel more comfortable being able to walk up and say hello at a con. Maybe they'll stop just seeing Spider-Man and start seeing how someone like Ryan Stegman brings that character to life.
Beyond that, my goals are simple.
I want to share my love for this art form to anyone that will listen.
I want people to look at all comics - from the Big 2 to Image to Dark Horse to Source Point Press to self published books and anything in between - and have more insight into what makes one comic different from another.
I want to learn why creators do what they do and what inspires them to make comics.
Finally, I want to have fun. Money, downloads, recognition and the like are great but they are not the reasons I do the podcast. As soon as this stops being fun I will stop doing the show no matter how large of an audience I have or how much money may be left behind.
You've built a successful and respectful reputation for yourself, and for the show. What would you say are some key factors for your success?
It really goes back to 5 simple rules, and looking back these are rules apply to everyday life as much as they relate to podcasts.
1. If you don't have honesty and integrity, you have nothing to offer anyone ever.
2. Keep it positive, and promote the work of people you respect and love.
3. Be consistent and don't miss release days or times.
4. Pick one subject to focus on so you can become an expert in your field rather than a novice in many
5. Network. In the end, it's the relationships you create, build and strengthen that will help pave your path to success.
What are your methods for promoting your podcast?
Social media - Twitter in particular. Facebook is brutal unless you want to pay to advertise.
Also, I attend as many conventions as I can and I talk to as many people as I can while I'm there. If it's possible, work with the best conventions you can. I have a wonderful relationship with Motor City Comic Con and am proud to be a sponsor of their show for the 2nd year in a row this year.
Lastly, ask people you know, guests that are on your show, and your current listening audience to spread the word. Word of Mouth advertising is by and far the best form of advertising anyone can get.
What would you say are best practices for a creator looking to be interviewed?
That is a fantastic question, but I'm not going to answer it.... yet!
I'm not sure what specific day of the weekend it will be on, but at some time to be announced, I will be doing a panel at Motor City Comic Con (happening May 19th-21st in Novi, MI - www.MotorCityComicCon.com where I will be giving advice for creators on how to reach out to podcasts.
Not only will I be discussing that question, but I will be going over things the creators should do in advance to prepare for their appearance as well as what they can do help increase awareness after it is released. I will even go farther back than that and talk about how to determine which are the best shows to reach their audiences.
AND! Last but not least, I will be joined by a creator who will be able to give some insight from his point of view as well.
So stay tuned, and if you aren't able to make it to Motor City this spring, I will be recording it and releasing it at a later date.
What are some things you do in preparation for an interview?
Read, read, read, and read some more!!!
I don't have any kind of art education. I can't draw, I never took any art history or art appreciation type classes, and to be honest, I'm still learning every single day.
I basically educate myself as much as I can on the art form itself. Well before I ever started Comic Pros & Cons, I read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. So much of it I already knew on a subconscious level, but not only did this book help me break down sequential storytelling in a new light, it will also gave me the proper vocabulary so I didn't sound like a total idiot.
Then, for each creator, I read as much of their work as I can. It may be they only have one issue out or they could have been working in the industry for decades. No matter what it is, I dive in and get to know what they have done, are doing, and are going to be doing next.
Also, I find out as much as I can about the creators WITHOUT reading or listening to other interviews they have done. I have found that I can be easily influenced by other interviews, so in the effort to keep my show completely fresh and different, I avoid them whenever possible. Easiest way is do some research on their website and public social media pages.
I have tons of questions handy. Far more than I would ever get to in the allotted time. Some guests will burn through that list faster than you can imagine, and if you run out you can be left in a very uncomfortable situation trying to fill the final 20 minutes of your show.
Lastly, ask your guests before you begin if there is anything they don't want to discuss. Some creators don't want to talk about past works, partnerships, etc. While this is incredibly rare, it's is better to know that in advance rather than open a Pandora's box and put yourself in a an awkward predicament.
What equipment and programs do you use?
I'm insanely simple, and I can already hear some of the podcast purists out there ready to scream that what I'm doing is wrong, but I'm extremely happy with my audio quality, so I'll share what I'm using.
My microphone is a Blue Yeti USB mic, that if you look around enough you should be able to find for under $100 without too much work. One major benefit to this mic is that you can plug your headphones into it directly so there isn't any audio lag which can be extremely distracting.
I also have a boom arm to keep me from picking up ambient noise when I bump my desk, and a pop filter to keep words that start with things like P and B from blowing up my mic. Both of those I got for around $8 each on Amazon.
Also, when recording at home I use Sony MDR-7506 headphones. I struggled for a while to find a set of headphones that not only were noise cancelling but also didn't leak sound out. The problem I was running into was that Blue Yeti was so sensitive it would pick up the audio of my guests talking. This set, while fairly pricey around $100, work wonderfully and are worth every cent.
For recording on location, I use the ZOOM H4n, which retails for around $200. This is a super easy to use handheld recorder which is incredibly durable and gets a nice warm sound in situations like the convention floor or even bars and restaurants.
There are a few things I think are necessities with the H4n:
Make sure you use headphones when recording with this as well. You can easily tell using headphones how to position it between you and your guest(s) for optimal sound and it will save you a lot of headaches in post production. I just use a standard pair of earbuds for this as noise cancellation isn't an issue and I am using them more as a guide for volume levels.
Also, there is an options handle/microphone stand that you can buy for about $8 that is incredibly handy to help stabilize the unit if you are sitting at a table when you record.
Lastly, I did purchase a windscreen that looks like someone scalped one of those weird Luck Trolls. I have yet to find a situation where it has helped, so I can't recommend that one.
As for software, I conduct all of my interviews that are not face to face via Skype, and I record the audio using MP3 Skype Recorder. The program is free, and not only does it record and save it as an MP3, but it also records in stereo tracks with your guest(s) on one channel and me on the other. This makes editing out coughs, bumps and other unwanted noises a lot easier as well as being able to isolate background noise on one track versus the other.
For editing, I use Audacity. Again, this is a free program that has more bells and whistles than I know how to use. The best part is there are tons of YouTube videos on how to use and master this program, but it's incredibly user friendly and simple to learn.
What was your favorite panel you've moderated or put on?
Probably the Podcasting with the Pros Panel at Motor City last year. Being joined by my friends and fellow podcasters to help share our knowledge with other people trying to make a name for themselves in the podcasting world was a blast. Not to mention, having Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen from AMC's Comic Book Men ask to be a part of it was incredibly humbling.
If you could choose anyone to host a panel with, who would it be and why?
If it was a panel on podcasting, probably Chris Hardwick. I was lucky enough to meet him a few years ago and he was just a real genuine guy who seems to have so much passion for what he does. And to be honest, I wouldn't mind if a handful of his listeners gave me a shot too haha!
If I was to moderate a panel/interview a creator similar to what I do on my show, I'm not sure if there is one person that would be the end all and be all. To be honest, there are so many creators that I haven't interviewed yet that I want to, it's far too long of a list to narrow down to even a top 10.
What are 3 to 5 pieces of the best advice you have ever received?
A lot of the best pieces of advice I ever received have been co-opted into the 5 rules I laid out earlier, but there is one piece of advice my dad once gave me that I hope translates well and that I can properly relay to you. It was specifically pertaining to relationship advice, but again, the basis here can be translated to so many things and multiple types of situations.
I remember this conversation so vividly. My dad and I were standing on a beach in Northern Michigan surf fishing for Steelhead. He and I were talking about the fact that he and my mom had been married for pushing 40 years at that time, and I was struggling with the relationship I was in at the time. He said to me that the best relationships are 60/40. You can never give 100% of yourself to any single person. You have other responsibilities that require your time and attention: family, friends, your job, daily chores and necessities, and even yourself. You need to have time to yourself as well, thus the 60/40 split.
But there was a catch: there's actually another 60/40 split: While you will give someone 60%, you're only going to get 40% in return.
I remember this confusing me, but he explained it very simply.
First, many things you do for someone will go unnoticed. It may be something as simple as replacing the wet hand towel in the bathroom with a clean one, or maybe you emptied the dishwasher even though the game you wanted to watch was starting, but there are 100's of things you will do for someone every week or every day that they will never even realize you did strictly because you were thinking of them.
Second, and this was most important, if you ever expect to get back just as much or more than you give to a relationship, you'll never be happy. But when you can find someone that is also willing to give more than they receive, that's when a relationship will work because both of you will always put the other person first.
Where can we follow Comics Pros and Cons on social media?
What are some links to various listening outlets?
All of my episodes are archived on my website, www.ComicProsAndCons.com
The show is also available through most podcast apps as well.
New episodes are posted at 5 am EST every Wednesday.