Something old and something new, a few of my favorites — Part 1: Podcasts & Web Comics
I have am currently subscribed to 35 podcasts, 31 YouTube Channels, have 68 TV shows in my Netflix queue and 29 Animes in my Crunchyroll queue. Add following 38 artists on Spotify and the high-jinx of lurking on Reddit and my own social feeds you could say…
I consume a lot of media.
And, I don’t think I’m alone in that either.
We’ve entered a renaissance of content creation. More creator driven content is being produced than ever before with nearly instantaneous streaming access.
Graphic Novels have blossomed with self-published web comics and interactive storytelling. Radio dramas have made a revival in the form of Podcasts. Japanese Animation isn’t just Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z and what’s playing on Toonami/Adult Swim anymore.
Now, I know you’re busy trying to catch up on that podcast about the murder case where the accused might be innocent— Or that crazy competition with the chefs from around the work or no… they were British, was it bakers? — Or finally catching up on that show with the dragons? Zombies? Both! Let’s be honest, you’re probably just watching old episodes of The Office or 30 Rock on loop. Who really has time to keep up with best of lists for this year?
So for part 1, I’d like to celebrate a few of my favorite series that you can’t find on Netflix. We’ll kick it off starting with the king and queen of free media — Podcasts and Web Comics. A few of these received some critical acclaim but by and large they didn’t get the signal boost they deserved. For each category I present a completed series and something current that could use a few more shares.
Completed Favorite: Minus
If Rice Boy is a comic that takes you back to being a kid, Minus captures the actual experience of childhood. A kindred spirit of Calvin & Hobbes, Like Calvin the title character Minus has a limitless imagination, but unlike Calvin she can literally do anything she wants. In one page she plays queen of the ants and literally shrinks herself down to their size, in the next her mother calls her home for dinner and and she leaves her new kingdom to fend for itself. The contrast between her powers and the everyday realities of childhood — getting bored, trying to make friends, obeying her mother (who is never on panel à la Charlie Brown) makes for really authentic storytelling that’s underlined by the fact that she doesn’t have an adult understanding of consequences or fully developed morals. She throws one of her classmates back in time, makes food sentient so it wages a war on humanity, she even creates the existence of an afterlife.
The artwork is beautiful hand drawn watercolor frames with soft pastels and luscious blues that really pop on digital.
Minus’ adventures are typically 1–3 pages, but you can’t help but wonder at what happens after Minus goes home and how life goes on for those around her. Tragically, that same sense of wonder permeates the creator, Ryan Armand, who disappeared about six years ago, when his website domain kiwisbythebeat expired.
In an age before Patreon and constant connection on social media a truly talented creator disappeared without a trace, although a helpful commenter on Reddit confirmed he’s doing fine and well seven days ago, he just let the domain lapse so that’s good. Thankfully the entire comic is backed up on a mirror of the site here.
Completed & Current: Rice Boy
I know I’m breaking my format already, but Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy is an epic adventure that looks like it was drawn by Dr. Seuss and somehow written by J.R.R. Tolkien if he was only allowed to tweet. Complete with a reluctant protagonist who just wants to watch sunsets and eat sandwiches. The world building is deep, the characters relatable and the art is simple yet incredibly imaginative. At it’s heart, Rice Boy is a perfect introduction and focuses on the fulfillment of a heroic prophecy to save the world, but on the way takes us through a series of vignettes that feel like fables, but somehow manage to move the plot along in a good pace. Reading Rice Boy makes you feel like a kid again mesmerized by fantastic world but with the narrative mastery of the Harry Potter series. I know it sounds like I’m overselling it, but this really is a delightful and masterfully crafted read. The added bonus is Evan Dahm is still creating stories in this world!
Honorable Mention: Hanna is Not a Boys Name
Just a single page of Teresa Stone’s urban fantasy web comic Hanna is Not a Boys Name captures the vibrancy of colors only possible on the screen with a style that’s so cool it wears sunglasses at night.
A little dark, funny and self aware this one feels like a hipster Buffy the Vampire Slayer set in New York you’ll be heartbroken that the story cuts off abruptly, but each panel delivers a promise even if the comic ended before fulfilling it. Yet another expired domain read in on Tumblr here.
Completed: Well Told Tales
Well Told Tales is a flash pulp fiction podcast. Each episode is less than 20 minutes promising a cocktail of 1 part hard boiled detective, 2 parts noir and science fiction splashed over rocks with a garnish of spooky. It ran 60 episodes from 2007–09 with rich audio that goes toe to toe with current production values, which is impressive because some of these were user submitted. Each episode stands alone with premises like: what is the worm in the Tequila bottle was alive, there was a Parliament inside your brain decides to elect a new you, a company that promises to deliver you a baby in 30 days or a thought provoking time travel take on a miraculous World Cup goal.
This one was a short run of 60 episodes and you can only find it in the Internet Archive. Creator Kevin Cooligan, who also ran a blog by the same name, now runs his own digital consulting firm.
Current Favorite: Toasted Cake
When talking about Flash Fiction podcasts, it would be impossible not to mention the delicious Parsec winning podcast, Toasted Cake from Tina Connolly. The sweet spot for Tina’s story selections are talking appliances, cats, unlikely protagonists and whimsical premises. Each is iced carefully by an authentic outro where Tina discusses the process of writing (she’s a published YA author in her own right) and the everyday of her life in Portland with her own family. After you get accustomed to your weekly cake you’ll be disappointed when Tina takes a break from recording over the summers, but that really makes you appreciate this is a show baked with love and really is a passion project.
If you want to cry start with the sentimental take on memory, Caroline M. Yoachim’s After the Earthquake is a great place to start, looking for a laugh The Empire Builder aptly summarized as “This morning, I woke up next to an Amtrak train.” or a personal favorite Nahuales which seamlessly incorporates magical realism with grandma’s advice and the every day fears of commuting. No matter where you start, it’s worth searching by author as Tina regularly features a few favorites.
In part 2, I’ll provide a peak into my Netflix queue with some recommendations from the Golden Age of American Television and some fun Japanese Animes which are great place to start for those who aren’t familiar with the medium or are looking for some shows from the 2018 season.
If you have a favorite series or want to gush about the ending of Minus (because seriously I need more people to talk to about this with!). Shoot me a message or leave a comment!