N is from a city in Sudan. I met her during our training course in Cairo. N was a media student for two weeks and I had to opportunity to know her well. In Sudan, N has a reputation as a hard-working and warm-hearted activist. Her loud voice was heard and noted by the UN and the international community, but was largely ignored by the Sudanese government. Until she witnessed corruption and spoke too loudly.
Illustrator David Lloyd at NYC Comic Con 2013
Illustrator David Lloyd talks with Hazarai at NYC Comic Con 2013 about the ideological origins of his classic V For Vendetta, devising the iconic Guy Fawkes mask, and his ongoing anthology of great stories, Aces Weekly.
Learn more at Hazarai.com, and find more interviews like this at @DanPatterson.
Thanks for listening.
A conversation about what the #Occupy movement means today, and what it needs to do to survive.
There’s a hint of nostalgia in crisp September air. As the fall leaves show the first signs age, police, who far outnumber a few singing and chanting protesters, form a continuous ring around lower-Manhattan’s Zuccotti park. Today, #S17, is the second anniversary of events that inspired a season of protest across the country.
Today’s gathering at Zuccotti park was a demographic cross-section of previous years. The morning hours included a smattering of college-age protesters, neo-hippies, musicians, gutter-punks, and union organizers marching between various downtown protests. The General Assembly, a semi-regular meeting conducted as a unified chorus of synchronized shouts, was smaller than previous years, but is still a great spectacle and example of organizational ingenuity. The protests were no more rowdy than in the past, and the police I spoke with all agreed that in spite of a few arrests earlier in the week most demonstrators remained peaceful.
In which Andy Bowers reveals the history of Slate podcasting, how he grew a content empire, and the true origin of Slate’s anti-Panda agenda.
The New Oxford American Dictionary deemed ‘podcast’ the word of the year in 2005. During the early, hyped days of podcasting and ‘web 2.0’, tech companies raised money at crazy valuations, and were poised to break semi-famous hosts in to the mainstream, finally replacing a generation of cheeseball radio DJ’s.
And then nothing happened. A medium ahead of it’s time, early podcasting fizzled as quickly as it popped. Consumers were uninspired and confused, and traditional news organizations couldn’t successfully shoehorn old advertising models on to niche and deeply-vertical content. Podcasting was largely abandoned by many of it’s early evangelists and common wisdom stated that video and YouTube had won.
After a career covering politics for NPR, Andy Bowers moved to public radio’s cultural cousin Slate in 2003, and began work podcasting in 2005. Instead of getting lost in the hype, Bowers focused on creating shows that simply reflected Slate’s sparky editorial vibe.
An opinion-driven news magazine, Slate’s contributors follow the same ethical standards of traditional news organizations, but are also encouraged to form and fight for opinions. The initial impetus behind Slate podcasts was to capture this opinion-creation process on tape, and record this behind-the-scenes editorial chatter in a live discussion environment.
The format is simple: commentators from cultural verticals – Sports, Culture, and Politics – gather weekly in a round-table environment to discuss topical news. Slate hosts know the audience well, and programs often emphasize nuanced discussion over shocking clickbait. Success is derived from a balance of consistency, integrated live-read advertising, and informed banter.
Tight focus on smart conversation has helped Slate hosts develop intimate relationships with large audiences. During a recent live episode of the Political Gabfest in New York City fan and subscriber Stephen Colbert remarked on the personal bond between listeners and content, stating, “I’m so excited to be the fourth person at this little table.”
Andy Bowers’ strategy has worked. Slate programs grew slowly and consistently during podcasting’s post-hype years. Over the past decade, podcasting has matured organically. Like Slate, personalities like Marc Maron, Jesse Thorn, Kevin Smith, and Leo Laporte all leverage the the medium’s inherent intimacy to talk with large audiences. And Slate has become a cultural proving ground for ambitious personalities, professional athletes, politicos, and fellow podcasters.
In conversation, Andy is as cool and consistent as his content strategy. He’s somehow managed to grow an innovative product by avoiding the hype and hyperbole of technology. Listen, as we discuss his formula for success.
“Comic books are about presenting the illusion of change,” once said Stan ‘The Man’ Lee, “without ever actually changing a a thing.”
…Or maybe he didn’t. The origin story of attribution for this portentous quote has been as ambiguous as Wolverine’s. And that’s kind of the point.
The illusion of perpetual change without ever actually changing reveals the contemporary state of the comic book industry, and of the institution that is Marvel Comics.
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is about the mechanics of myth-making. Packed with McFarlane-like detail, Howe reveals the joyous hyperbole of Marvel’s super-sausage-making process. While the human characters are sometimes as mundane as the Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods where they lived, the story of Marvel is as exciting as the comics themselves.
The House of Ideas has always been home to scrappy innovation. From the early Golden Age pulp days of Timely Comics, through the creation of historic character archetypes like the Fantastic Four in the 1960’s, Lee’s Marvel was a boisterous, break-neck bullpen that helped birth contemporary myth.
And, somewhere along the way, emerged the Marvel Comics story, a fascinating tale about a cast-off company comprised of forgotten geniuses, creative malcontents, and business bamboozlers.
By the 1970s, in an attempt to either escape or sell the characters he helped create, Lee escaped from New York City’s publishing industry to the film business in Los Angeles. In his wake Lee left a hole in Marvel filled by business innovation and a creative renaissance. In a sage-like move that would make today’s Apple proud, Marvel embraced the burgeoning Direct Market, an innovative approach to fostering the independent retail stores across the country. The Direct Market allowed retailers to obtain non-returnable product at deeply discounted price. The deep discounts allowed comic book retail stores – and Marvel itself – to focus on more specific, target markets. Of target marketing attempts fell flat and lead to silly pulp stores.
While silly and cynical products failed, the Direct Market helped foster the burgeoning fandom industry, and lead to a creative boom by some of Marvel’s writers and artists. Creators, some famous, many now long-forgotten, were left to invent wildly imaginative stories, and to adapt characters from a previous generation. Creative muscle flexed on cast-offs like Wolverine and Daredevil lead to a commercial explosion that helped define the industry through the 80’s and 90’s.
Marvel’s true identity today is as a company trapped somewhere between blockbusters movies and the old retail Direct Market. As comic book store across the country shutter, the intellectual property of the characters and stories has never been more valuable. The Direct Market threatens to choke digital evolution, and young fans are just that: fans, not consumers, of the core product.
Last week I sat down in the studio with Sean to discuss where the Marvel story began, and where it’s going.