May 4th, 2010 by | Tags:

It’s tough to make a superhero movie.  Once upon a time you only needed was spandex or tinfoil, a few wires, and actors willing to wear spandex and get lifted by wires.

Lately, though, the superhero movie and the big-budget action movie have merged, to the point where you shouldn’t even bother looking at a cape until you have the kind of money that can buy you and exploding helicopter.  TV shows, after Smallville, aren’t much different.  Some people say those shows look cheap.  I’ll go ahead and quote Dolly Parton on that:  It takes a lot of money to look that cheap.

At the same time, there are other media that, because of these new-fangled visual telegraphs that the kids call ‘computers,’ could make a come back.  Everyone has already discussed the coming of the new age of webcomics being produced on a daily basis.  Yeah, the money isn’t huge now.  Wait.  There will be ways to wring dollars out of this, especially when conventional media is dying down.

Mostly, though, I’m waiting for the new version of the radio plays that they used to have way back when.  It didn’t work once stories moved to TV.  Radio became the exclusive domain of songs.

Now it’s not the domain of anything much anymore.  You can download songs from your computer and listen to them anytime.  If you want to discover new music, there are hundreds of websites devoted to just that.  I asked David the other day how long it’s been since he’s purposely listened to the radio.  It had been years.  Same for me.  The times I do listen to the radio – in stores or in a friend’s car – the only ads on right now are mattress discount warehouses, non-mainstream concert promotions, and debt consolidation services.  It is grim.

At the same time, though, podcasts are getting more and more play.  And they’re getting it for stuff that no one would put on the radio.  Is there a station on earth that would play me and David talking about comics and whatever sitcoms pop into our heads at the moment?  Really not.  And yet we have thousands of people listening to us jabber for a half an hour a day.

It can’t be that much harder to jabber out a story.  Think about it, the editing programs and sound effects could be pretty much gotten for free, and all that it takes to record is a script, a laptop, a couple of microphones, and a few people willing to sit around a living room for an hour every week.

It seems like the way to go for doing dramatic stories on the cheap.  All of you out there on the visual telegraph.  Have you heard of any podplays like this?  Would you listen if you did?

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9 comments to “Pod-Plays”

  1. Graphics Audio is one of the few commercial audio book stores that does adaptation of DCU novels. Their dramatic interpretation of 52 was such a great take on a very large story. I would recommend it for any comic fan.

    What I wouldn’t recommend is the podcast fan fiction plays. I’ve heard a few DCU-cenetered podcasts and I’m not that enthusiastic about it. Stagecraft and Acting still play a part in audio and it really shows when it is done poorly…even moreso when you listen to the audio. Audio points out the flaws in mediocre stories, and bad acting is just bad acting.

  2. I know I’ve heard of people recording their fanfics as podcasts, but I have no idea if there’s a segment of comics fandom that does it.

    As for whether or not I’d listen, that would honestly depend on the quality of the recordings and the voice-work.

    It’s an awesome idea though. I think it’d be an interesting challenge for the people crafting such a thing, because nowadays we’re so accustomed to the visual aspect of superheroes. I mean, think of the fight scenes! It would call for a very different sort of writing than comics, TV and movies, but could be potentially very cool.

  3. A couple years back, I was a semi-regular listener to the Decoder Ring Theatre podcasts, one of which is a superhero-themed serial. The shows are pretty good for what they are, which is intentionally campy throwbacks to old-fashioned radio shows, with full casts that are at least skilled amateurs. The superhero show, the Red Panda Adventures, is very much in a 1940s Green Hornet/low-powered JSA vein.

    Decoder Ring’s stuff is fun, but it’s pretty inconsequential cheese. If you want a more serious superhero show, it might not be the ideal thing.

  4. There’s a podcast for Girl Genius that’s on iTunes that’s basically an old-timey radio play the creators and their friends put on starring the characters from the comic. It’s really great and exactly what you’re talking about.

  5. Y’know, I’ve always wanted a comic creator to do this with their comics, in the same way that people do this with books. I’ve heard of book people read/dramatize their books online as podcasts, while selling their books through online vendors. Why haven’t comics creators done the same thing? I remember Mark Ricketts in his release of his graphic novel, Nighttrippers, did a wonderful BBC Radio-style retelling of the books events as a small radio documentary. But that’s really the only time I’ve seen an independent creator use a podcast as a way to market their product before it hits stands.

    I’ve always thought Comics and Radio Theater were heavily linked mediums. Note that all the main comic creators in the 1940s were people who worked in the Jewish theater (from Siegel and Shuster to Stan Lee to Jack Kirby) and many of the main actors coming into radio drama were people coming in from the Jewish Theater and Vaudville.

  6. @garyancheta: I’ll have to check that out.

    @Montreuil: Worth looking at. I like campy.

    @Lincoln Hamilton: I am so on that.

    @garyancheta: It just seems like an opportunity, but the ad dollars have to be there and right now it doesn’t seem like they are.

  7. It’s not comics, but video games are also a visual medium – the producers of the Tex Murphy adventures (Mean Streets, Under a Killing Moon, the Pandora Directive, etc) made a couple audio dramas back in the day. Like the ones Montreuil mentioned above, they’re intentionally campy, an affectionate parody of noir, with science fiction themes.


  8. @Esther Inglis-Arkell: I’ve actually covered a handful of the Graphic Audio releases. The quality is really good, considering they always use at least 30 voice actors, sound effects and a good score, but overall it depends on the novelization it’s based on. 52 and Infinite Crisis came out really good, especially IC, but the one for Crisis on Infinite Earths is awful. Currently, I’m sitting on a copy of the Graphic Audio for Countdown and I’m too scared to sit through it.

    There’s also an out of print radio play of Kingdom Come which is fantastic.

  9. Oh, duh! I can’t believe I forgot about the mid-90s Spider-Man radio play that the BBC put on, with music from Brian Mays. That thing’s incredible. It may even be good.