This episode I’ll mention Comics Alternative, Saturday Review and Desi Geek Girls.
But first, why am I doing this? The final six months of work on the book was a very intense period of effort. That’s actually an understatement. There has been no comparable period of work in my life in terms of the necessary discipline, delicious intensity, steep learning curve, and so much more that is needed to do about 200 pages of the remaining final art needed to complete the (248 page) book. (While still doing my professoring gig and being a new dad.) I absolutely loved it – such challenges are just a delight to me.
I listened to music a lot, and discovered a lot of old parts of my music listening habits, which was fun (I’d have days where I’d listen to (and sing along to) all of Kate Bush’s albums in order, then maybe same for Sting, or Lee Morgan…. or scream along to Jeff Wayne’s awesome “War of the Worlds” Rock musical.) But then I got to a certain point in my workflow where I wanted voices, and I reached for radio, and podcast.
Since I was a child, listening to spoken word radio has been a core part of what I do when I dig into one stretches of work. The right kind of work, I hasten to add. In modern times, the podcast has become a large part of that kind of “radio” listening, although the radio is still a huge component for me (mostly NPR and BBC Radio 4). I don’t mean a couple of DJs babbling on amiably between playing records… I mean actual talk.
So anyway, I listened to lots of old favourites (including radio shows that have podcast “listen again” versions of their episodes) but looked for some new ones too. And by way of thanks to some of those tireless podcast producers (most of whom are just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts), I thought I’d share mentions of them with readers.
A lot of the new discoveries I’ll mention are comics, graphic novels, pop-culture related. There’s a reason for this. I discovered that when I was deep into the mode of simply drawing, drawing, drawing, painting, painting, painting, lettering, lettering, lettering… tasks I was doing to churn out final pages when most of the core art and story decisions had already been made… there was something really great about listening to people talk about the very form I was working on. Interviews with comic creators were especially interesting for that reason. There’s something great about hearing that we all go through very similar struggles too.
Anyway, that’s enough preamble. I’ll do a few each episode of the series. The ordering I mention things in has no meaning.
Comics Alternative: (website)
The comics alternative is a refreshing change it to the usual comics podcast. There’s a lot of comics podcasts out there, as you might imagine, and there’s probably one out there for you that’s a good match for what you’re interested in. The vast majority of comics podcasts talk about superhero stuff from the big publishers. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I do catch up on a bit of news from that world here and there. But I’m much more interested in discussions about other aspects of the comics world. As you may know from things I have written here on the blog before, I’m very keen for us all to get away from the prevailing perception that comics are a genre (usually assumed to be superhero stuff, especially in the USA) as opposed to a powerful and flexible form for expressing ideas in a wide range of subjects and genres. You know, like words and sentences are. The Comics Alternative is one of the best examples of a podcast that embraces this. I was so delighted when I found it, and I’m constantly enjoying the great discussion that the various hosts have about comics, comics creators and the diverse subject matter that can be treated with comics. Andy Kunka, Derek Royal (the primary hosts) and the others that help sometimes with co-hosting are all scholars in fields such as comics and related fields, and so the discussion has a welcome dose of nuance, backed by a good knowledge of the subject matter’s history. A really excellent feature of the podcast is the organization into various foci. There’s the main umbrella series of reviews, but it is joined by sections on interviews, webcomics, manga, european comics, and comics for young readers. They’ve also done a great job of making detailed shownotes that allow you to find topics by timecode – a very useful feature.
Saturday Review (website)
Tom Sutcliffe’s Saturday Review is an ever-renewing box of delights. It is a BBC Radio 4 program, one of many that I listen to every week, but the podcast has a bit extra beyond the broadcast version. It’s ever renewing because host Tom Sutcliffe has three new guests every week. The guests (who can be critics, but are also likely to be writers, artists, etc. – sometimes even scientists) are required to consume (for want of a better word) some pieces of entertainment or art, such as read a book, see a theatre show, a movie, or maybe a tv program or visit an art exhibition. Then they come to the studio and discuss them, often very passionately. This is a wonderful alternative to the usual format of a critic or critics delivering a verdict on a piece of art. Rather, the act of them discussing it (and sometimes arguing over it) brings it alive and engages you. Whether I’ve an interest in a particular piece (book, exhibit, movie…) or not, I enjoy listening to it being discussed, as though I’m enjoying an interesting conversation at a party. After the broadcast portion is finished, the podcast extra is them having a casual off-the-cuff discussion ant what they might be reading (or watching, etc.) for recreation at that moment. That’s always interesting too, and gives you a bit of extra connection to each guest. It’s a podcast I look forward to with great anticipation every Saturday.
Desi Geek Girls: (website)
Aside from the fact that they’ll talk about everything from superhero comics to Star Wars to Bollywood movies (and absolutely everything in between), I just love the raw energy of Swapna Krishna and Preeti Chhibber. I’d felt like I’d got to know them a bit before from another podcast, Oh Comics, which I listened to for a bit before its parent, Book Riot (which has a bunch of really good podcasts too… more later) changed things in some way I did not keep track of and it disappeared (including some of the other great hosts from there – I must track them down). Anyway, earlier this year I was delighted to learn that Preeti and Swapna had teamed up to make this great podcast. It does not really count as one that I listened to during the depths of making the book, but since I’d heard them on other podcasts during that period, it makes sense to mention them here.
A key element of their show for me is the joy of listening to two friends share their passions with each other. The each agree in turn to spend time consuming a bit of something that the other likes, and then they talk about it excitedly, sometimes veering off into all sorts of interesting related territory. It’s a high-energy delight.
There’s a hugely important aspect of their podcast that I have to mention as well. Sometimes what is classified in the US as core nerd culture is usually also not thought of as the province of women and especially people of colour. Things are changing in this regard, but there’s still a long way to go (just look at the outcry when a woman or black person is cast as a character who is “supposed to be white”). So it is refreshing to hear two Indian women talking excitedly about a superhero comic or Star Trek Discovery, as a nice balance to the usual. I’m also pleased to learn that they’re connected to the Nerds of Color (NOC) network, where you can find a diverse group of people also discussing and broadcasting about various aspects of pop culture. And yes, there are discussions on DGG (really good ones) about representation and diversity in various media and entertainment (and also on NOC, of course), an issue I care a lot about.