Podcast

The Fantasticast Episode 2: Special Edition

 The Fantasticast Episode 2: Special Edition

The Fantasticast Episode 2: Special Edition

Welcome to the special edition of episode 2 of The Fantasticast. This is the sonce in a series of re-releases of our early episodes, tidying up the editing and improving the audio quality as much as possible. In addition to this, we've restored the outtakes that have been missing for nearly five-and-a-half years and, at the end of the episode, Steve provides a Producer's Commentary on the episode, in which he looks at some of the unusual choices made early on in the life of The Fantasticast, and discusses the apparently-casual dismissal of in-comic sexism that took place in this episode.

Listen to the episode at http://www.thefantasticast.com/podcast/2016/1/25/the-fantasticast-episode-2-fantastic-four-2-and-3

The Fantasticast Episode 1: Special Edition

 The Fantasticast Episode 1: Special Edition

The Fantasticast Episode 1: Special Edition

Welcome to the special edition of The Fantasticast Episode 1. This is the first in a series of re-releases of our early episodes, tidying up the editing and improving the audio quality as much as possible. In addition to this, we've discovered a couple of outtakes that never made it into the original episode and, at the end of the episode, Steve provides a Producer's Commentary on the episode, explaining why a special edition has been released, and giving an update on the current status of the podcast for new listeners.

You can find the update episode at http://www.thefantasticast.com/podcast/2016/1/25/the-fantasticast-episode-1-introductions-origins-and-fantastic-four-1 or on our podcast feed.

The Fantasticast @200: Your Questions Needed

We're a little over a week away from recording our 200th episode, and we need your contributions for our giant-size anniversary podcast.

We're giving you the chance to pose your questions to us for our 200th episode. We'll be answering your questions on almost any subject. Questions don't have to be Fantastic Four related - this is your opportunity to get into our heads, quizzing us on almost any aspect of our lives. If you want to know what comprises our pull lists, please ask. If you want to know what we get up to when we're not podcasting, quiz away. And if you want to know what we really think of each other... well, if you don't ask, you won't know!

Please send you questions to fantastic4podcast@gmail.com. You have until the end of Sunday September 25th to get them in.

The New Fantasticast Website

 A completely redundant image

A completely redundant image

Announcing TheFantasticast.com, the new home of The Fantasticast.

Thanks to our Patreon backers, we are proud to launch our new website for the Fantasticast, combining our libsyn page and the former Fantastic Flame On blog.

TheFantasticast.com will be the new home for show, containing our episode directory, blog posts, creator bios, guest profiles, and more. Funded by our Patreon backers, who took us past our second milestone goal within a week of launching the campaign, this new site replaces our functional-yet-plain libsyn site, and the poorly-designed wordpress blog. We'll still continue to host with libsyn, and episodes will be duplicated there for the sake of ease, but as of today, the wordpress blog is finished.

The site is still a bit of a work in progress. Everything works, but there's still a lot of work to do. We need to properly fill out our creator bios and guest host profiles. There's a lot of formatting to be done on the old blog posts. We'd really love to have a gallery for the podcast episodes, browsable by cover. We'll get to these things over the next few weeks. In the meantime, please have a browse around the site, and if you have any comments or content suggestions, please e-mail us at fantastic4podcast@gmail.com 

The Fantasticast Patreon Campaign

Introducing The Fantasticast's Patreon Campaign!

Hi, we are Steve Lacey and Andy Leyland, and we are the hosts of The Fantasticast, a podcast guide to the Fantastic Four from the beginning of the Marvel Age of Comics. We aim to work our way through each issue of The Fantastic Four week by week, along with the various spin-off titles, guest appearances, cameos, and more.

We've been producing the show for the past four years, and over 150-odd episodes we've gone from 1961 to 1973, taking in every issue and annual of the Fantastic Four, every Human Torch story from Strange Tales, and a whole bunch of cameos and guest-appearances in titles including Marvel Team-Up, The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man. As we move into 2016, we'll be expanding our coverage to include Marvel Two-In-One, as well as continuing to chronicle every appearance of Marvel's first family across the mid-1970s.

The Fantasticast is free to listen to, and we have no intention of changing that. However, after four years, we've realised that we need some help to move the show on to the next level, and that's where we're hoping that you might come in.

We'd like your help to cover our immediate costs, namely hosting the show, before looking to fund upgrades for the show. We'd like to consolidate our podcast site with our blog into one website. We'd love to upgrade our equipment. We absolutely want to send some money in the direction of those who provide for the show out of generosity, especially our episode cover designer, Sam.

We're not asking for a lot, but if you can send something our way, we'd be very grateful. We're hoping to give you something in return - we have plans for special Patreon backer-only content that will enable you to feel superior to other podcast listeners - whilst making The Fantasticast better than ever. Please head on over to our Patreon site to see details of the pledge levels and reward tiers.

The Fantasticast: 2015 In Review - Part IV

With only a few hours to go until the end of 2015, we're taking a look back at 2015 in the life of The Fantasticast. On Monday, we covered January-March, on Tuesday we covered April-June, and yesterday we took a look at July-September. Today, we're focusing on October-December, which features a lot of Roy Thomas...

October

We started October, and Roy Thomas's tenure as Fantastic Four writer, looking back to the origins of the series, with Fantastic Four #126 - The Way It Began. This issue retold the origin of the team, with a few updates, to launch the next couple of issues worth of stories. To celebrate 100 episodes since he took over the podcast cover design, we invited Sam Savage back to help us look at this issue. We also had some fun playing an excerpt from the Power Records adaptation of this issue.

It didn't come as much of a surprise to us that, after recapping the origin, Roy Thomas chose to feature the Mole Man heavily in Fantastic Four #127 - Where The Sun Dares Not Shine. And not just the Mole Man - Tyrannus and Kala as well. Don't worry if you've not heard of Kala, she's obscure even by 1970s Marvel standards!

Fantastic Four #128 - Death In A Dark And Lonely Place was the subject of our landmark 150th episode. The cracks are beginning to show in the previously happy Richards marriage, thanks to Roy's insistence on writing Reed without any form of subtlety at all. There's also some underground shenanigans with more betrayal in one page than at a Stark wedding.

The furious Femizon from the future, Thundra, made her debut in Fantastic Four #129 - The Frightful Four Plus One, becoming the latest person to fill the fourth slot on the Frightful Four. Roy's mission to break the classic team apart continues, as marital strife becomes the first challenge the Fantastic Four can't overcome. Well, it's actually the next issue. Or the one after. It's become rather difficult to recall what happened in the issues we only read a couple of months ago...

Thundra and the Frightful Four battle their way to the heart of the FF in Fantastic Four #130 - Battleground: The Baxter Building. With the team seemingly broken apart and defeated, can the combined force of Franklin and Sue Richards save the day? What unthinkable consequences will their actions bring? And has Steve just nicked the copy text from the original post to beef up the word count for this episode?

November

Marvel Team-Up #6 - As Those Who Will Not See saw the Thing team up with Spider-Man to tackle both the Puppet Master and the Mad Thinker. Rather unexpectedly, this issue revealed the origin of the Puppet Master and how he came to be Alicia's stepmother, in a sympathetic and engrossing flashback. Shame about the rest of the issue... Our cover artist Michael Georgiou returned to the show to investigate this comic.

One plot line that's been bubbling away for a few issues is Johnny wanting to reunite with Crystal, going so far as to invade the Great Refuge to get back with her. Fantastic Four #131 - Revolt In Paradise, drawn by fill-in artist Ross Andru, revealed that Crystal has been shacking up with Quicksilver, and is a member of a hierarchy that created a slave race and systematically oppressed them for thousands of years. Hard to work out which is worse...

The confused story of slavery in the Great Refuge concludes in Fantastic Four #132 - Omega The Ultimate Enemy, as does Roy Thomas's first run as FF writer. Relationship statuses change, creative teams change, costumes change, this issue is all about change. And, in one very brief moment, this issue is also about Black Bolt's Coffee Shop, but you'll have to listen to the episode to find out why.

One of our favourite issues of the year closed out November, as we looked at Fantastic Four #133 - Thundra At Dawn. With phenomenal guest art from DC legend Ramona Fradon, this wonderful one-shot issue sees Thundra call out Ben Grimm for a punch-up on New Year's Eve. The artwork is superb, and have I mentioned the great art? A highly-recommended issue of the Fantastic Four, and the first for new writer Gerry Conway.

December

Our year of covering the Fantastic Four closed with a two-part story that featured the return of Gregory Gideon as the villain. Yes, the return of Gideon. You remember him, right? Anyway, he returned in Fantastic Four #134 - A Dragon Stalks The Skies. We invited Resurrections: An Adam Warlock And Thanos Podcast host Al Sedano onto the show for this episode, which turned out to be rather fortuitous, as we also had to look at Jim Starlin's first issue of Captain Marvel, which also featured an early Thanos appearance. On top of this, we also looked at Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #9, where Cage went after Doctor Doom for a $200 bill.

Fantastic Four #135 - The Eternity Machine was our final Fantastic Four issue of the year. It also featured Gregory Gideon, which immediately biased us against it. 

Finally, we closed out the year with Marvel Team-Up #10 - Time Bomb!, in which Spider-Man teamed up with the Human Torch to defeat time-travelling missiles launched by Kang The Conqueror and Zarrko The Tomorrow Man. Despite the run of Marvel Team-Up issues covered this year being rather low in quality, our enthusiasm for Marvel Two-In-One, arriving early in 2016, has not been dampened!

Well, that wraps up our look back at the year in podcasting. We'll be back tomorrow to launch 2016 with some huge news, and we can't wait for that!

The Fantasticast: 2015 In Review - Part III

As we trudge ever-closer to the end of 2015, we're taking a look back at this past year in the life of The Fantasticast. On Monday, we covered January-March, and yesterday we covered April-June. Today, we're focusing on July-September. We had two Fantastic Four movies to cover, did a whole bunch of Fan-Splaining, and started our regular Marvel Team-Up coverage...

July

 

July started with our first-ever fill-in issue, Fantastic Four #119 - Three Stood Together. Roy Thomas provided his first Fantastic Four script, a neat and effective tale of racism, intolerance, and a thinly-veiled apartheid-era South Africa analogue. The cover format had recently changed, but this was also the first appearance of the new Fantastic Four logo and, thanks to our designer Sam, our own new logo. Just in time for some special episodes...

After a few months away, Stan Lee returned to the FF with Fantastic Four #120 - The Horror That Walks On Air. Stan's final run on the FF isn't a high point, and this story gets underway with a limp retread of the first appearance of the Silver Surfer. And, with our special episodes just around the corner, our decision to start a four-part story just before taking a few weeks off shows that our ability to plan ahead is, as always, impeccable.

Despite the movie turning out to be terrible, we decided to celebrate its release with a series of special episodes, kicking off with Steve And Andy Fan-'Splain The FF Part 1. Taking more than a little inspiration from Rachel And Miles X-Plain The X-Men, we decided to run through the first 51 issues and 3 annuals of the Fantastic Four in just under an hour. It was something a bit different for us, and we hope that it was a lot of fun to listen to.

Our second special episode was Steve And Andy Fan-'Splain The FF Part 2, bringing our recap of every Fantastic Four issue covered on the show up to date. In just under an hour, we rattled through Fantastic Four #52-120, along with annuals #4-6. Huge thanks go to our designer Sam Savage for these wonderful covers, and to Michael Bailey of From Crisis To Crisis for counting slowly and clearly for us.

August

Our final special episode was our commentary on the unreleased 1994 Fantastic Four movie, produced by Roger Corman. It's not a great movie, but history is unlikely to judge this the worst Fantastic Four film. The film featured some phenomenal glove-acting, a terribly-animated Human Torch, and we added some more fun to the mix by turning Youtube's automatic subtitling feature.

After much anticipation, we finally got to start our coverage of Marvel's 1970s team-up comics with Marvel Team-Up #1 - Have Yourself A Sandman Little Christmas by Roy Thomas and Ross Andru. We also took this as the excuse to invite back onto the show Avengers Inspirations host Jon M. Wilson, as the show has taken so much inspiration from Jon's former show Amazing Spider-Man Classics.

It's at about this time that the Fantastic Four movie was released into cinemas, to some of the worst reviews seen since After Earth. Steve got to see the movie just before release, and managed to get his conflicted, angry thoughts in order to produce a midweek minisode, reviewing the film. After a very long time away from the core FF title, we returned for Fantastic Four #121 - The Mysterious Mind-Blowing Secret Of Gabriel. It's another Stan Lee runaround issue, frantically looking to fill time until the glorious final splash page by John Buscema. Sadly, at the end of everything, it turns out that the secret of Gabriel was neither that mysterious, nor particularly mind-blowing...

Fantastic Four #122 - Galactus Unleashed turned out to be one of most physical confrontations between the Fantastic Four and the World-Eater seen in comics. Making Galactus someone that the team can take on in combat may remove some of his mystique, but it lends itself to some great artwork from John Buscema. After two issues of very streamlined storytelling, Stan Lee remembers that he's Stan Lee and splits the team up to give greater story possibilities.

Our final episode in a very busy month looked at Marvel Team-Up #2 - And Spidey Makes Four. The Frightful Four are invading the Baxter Building, and only the Human Torch and the Amazing Spider-Man can do anything about it. Assuming, that is, that Spidey can shake off his brainwashing and stop fighting as part of the Frightful Four! We also brought along Cinematic Universe co-host James Hunt to take a look at this packed issue.

September

September was all about bidding farewell to Stan Lee as regular writer of the Fantastic Four. We kicked off with the conclusion to his latest Galactus story in Fantastic Four #123 - This World Enslaved, featuring a return of our favourite FF guest-star - Richard M. Nixon. We also had a brief peek at Captain America and Falcon #150, and a longer look at Incredible Hulk #152, the prelude to the Trial of the Incredible Hulk.

Fantastic Four #124 - The Return of the Monster was the start of Stan Lee's final story for the FF. It's fair to say that wasn't a huge clamour for the return of the Monster from the Lost Lagoon, which led (in this issue) to a lot of running around for no real reason at all. We also spent some time looking at Incredible Hulk #153, in which the Fantastic Four find themselves participating in the Trial of the Incredible Hulk, and Reed faces a moral quandry.

Morbius, The Living Vampire was the villain for Marvel Team-Up #3 - The Power To Purge, in which Spidey and the Torch teamed up, attended lectures, drank tea, and took on the not-quite-undead. Continuing our theme of teaming up with other podcasters, we invited Stacey Taylor of Stacey's Pop Culture Parlour onto the show to help make sense of this issue. Spoilers: We didn't. And we still don't really know what an enzyme vampire actually is...

This is it - Stan Lee's final issue of the Fantastic Four as regular writer. What a shame we couldn't get something a little better than Fantastic Four #127 - The Monster's Secret. With more running around and a rushed, nonsensical conclusion, this certainly isn't a good example of Stan's writing. Bidding farewell to our Fearless Leader, we also took a little bit of time to compare and contrast Stan's return to the book with his return of Amazing Spider-Man.

Well, we're nearly there. Check back tomorrow for the final episodes of 2015, and then come back on Friday for an exciting announcement about the future of the podcast.

The Fantasticast: 2015 In Review - Part II

As we trudge ever-closer to the end of 2015, we're taking a look back at 2015 in the life of The Fantasticast. Yesterday, we covered January-March. Today, we're focusing on April-June, as we moved closer to the release of the Fantastic Four movie, and a lot of people started to pay attention to what we do.

April

We started April with a feeling of deja vu, as we covered Fantastic Four #108 - The Monstrous Mystery of the Nega-Man. Why? Well, Fantastic Four #108 saw the unfinished Jack Kirby artwork for a rejected issue of the Fantastic Four repurposed and enhanced to provide the origin of Janus the Nega-Man. This led to an unusual episode, where a lot of the visuals had already been covered by us (Fantastic Four - The Lost Adventure), but the context (and Stan's scripting) was new.

No prizes for guessing who the villain in Fantastic Four #109 - Death In The Negative Zone was! To celebrate the return of Annihilus, we invited Chris Thompson, host of Orbital Comics In Conversation, to join us for this episode and the next. Chris is a fantastic podcaster, and his interviews are some of the best in comics podcasting. He's also a huge FF fan and, as an extra bonus, works at my local comics shop. We had a lot of fun looking at this issue and the general craziness that comes with any return to the Negative Zone.

May

After a few weeks off for personal reasons, we returned in May with our coverage of Fantastic Four #110 - One From Four Leaves Three. We also invited Chris Thompson of Orbital Comics In Conversation to return to help us finish off this episode. Thankfully, by this point, Janus the Nega-Man had left the story, never to return*. Instead, we got to have more fun with Annihilus and Agatha Harkness. Fans of Steve's singing (We're not sure you actually exist) will be pleased to know that this is the episode to feature his version of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme.

*Janus returns. This knowledge haunts us all.

A plot line that had technically be running through the last few issues finally came to the fore in Fantastic Four #111 - The Think -- Amok!. With Ben Grimm turned against the Fantastic Four - and humanity itself - the remaining team members scramble to contain his rampaging. As well as this, we had a rare solo appearance for Sue Richards, in Sub-Mariner #38, and we started our brief, erratic cover of the Kree-Skrull War with a peek at Avengers #89.

100 issues after their first battle, the Hulk returns to battle the Thing in Fantastic Four #112 - Battle of the Behemoths. As might be expected, this is a big action issue, with plenty of punching, statue destroying, and hurling of carousels. Oh, and the Thing dies at the end. Yeah, spoilers for that one.

Fantastic Four #113 - The Power of the Over-Mind was the first appearance of the super-villain Over-Mind. And if your response to that question is 'Who?' then you're  not alone. It seems fairly certain that neither Stan Lee of John Buscema quite knew who or what the Over-Mind was when they created him, as it would take until the final issue in this story for the Over-Mind to present a consistent and credible threat to the team. Oh, and the Thing gets resurrected at the start. Yeah, spoilers for that one.

The Over-Mind story continued in Fantastic Four #114 - But Who Shall Stop The Over-Mind? With the population of New York turned against the Fantastic Four by the power of the Over-Mind, the team must scramble to return to the Baxter Building, and to discover more about their foe, a task made harder by the Over-Mind's ability to remove memories of his existence from them. We also checked in with the Kree-Skrull War in Avengers #92, where the team make appearances in court to defend Captain Marvel.

June

June kicked off with a new writer for the Fantastic Four, as Archie Goodwin arrived for a short run on the book. His first task was to create an origin for the Over-Mind, which became the focus of Fantastic Four #115 - The Secret Of The Eternals. To delve into this, we invited W. Blaine Dowler of the Unofficial 75 Greatest Marvels Podcast to come on the show. Sorry about that Blaine - we should have found a better issue for you! Also, the Eternals in this issue have nothing to do with the Jack Kirby Eternals from later in the 1970s, just to be clear.

Doctor Doom - in charge of the Fantastic Four? That can only mean one thing - it's Fantastic Four #116 - The Alien... The Ally... The Armageddon! In an oversized issue, the Over-Mind finally presents a credible threat to the team, and only the assistance of Doctor Doom can save them. We also took some time with Avengers #93, another oversized issue, which guest-starred the Skrull cows from way back in Fantastic Four #2.

The short-lived flirtation of oversized issues left a feature-length story to be spread across two issues, which is probably why Fantastic Four #117 - The Flame And The Quest felt so unsatisfying as an issue. It sort-of-but-not-really brought Crystal back to the Fantastic Four, and committed one of the cardinal sins of any Marvel comic - it featured Diablo as the villain. We also had a detailed look at Sub-Mariner #44, and a far briefer look at Avengers #94.

June closed out with our coverage of Fantastic Four #118 - Thunder In The Ruins. This was Archie Goodwin's final issue, and although the conclusion to the Diablo/Crystal story was about as good as you might expect, the final five pages of this story turned out to be something rather different. The Thing and Lockjaw briefly visited an alternate universe - Earth A - where Reed Richards had been the one to be turned into the Thing by the cosmic rays.

We'll be back to take a look at July-September tomorrow, as we revisit our first dealings with Marvel Two-In-One, the Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie, the Josh Trank (and others) Fantastic Four movie, and a whole heap of fan-splaining!

The Fantasticast: 2015 In Review - Part I

We've got a handful of days between now and the end of the year, so this felt like a good time to stop and reflect on what has been a crazy year for The Fantasticast. Over the next few days, we'll be looking back at 2015. The comics, the episodes, the guest-hosts, the ripping-off-of other podcasts!

January

It seems like such a long time ago, but at the start of 2015, we were still covering Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's classic run on The Fantastic Four. We started January with Fantastic Four #98 - Mystery On The Moon. Produced to celebrate the 1969 moon landing, this issue wilfully ignores established continuity, and earned Marvel a letter from NASA pointing out that they were perfectly capable of landing on the moon without any fancy-schmancy superheroes lending a hand, thank you very much. Did I say NASA? I must have meant J. Jonah Jameson...

The last few issue of Stan and Jack's collaboration on the Fantastic Four were not their best work together, and Fantastic Four #99 - The Torch Goes Wild is a particularly strong example of how out-of-sync the two creators were. We also took a brief peek at Silver Surfer #17, and had some fun answering the 1970 Marvel Readers' Survey. Most likely because we really didn't want to talk about this comic...

We our first major milestone with Fantastic Four #100 - The Long Journey Home. This was the first big Marvel anniversary celebration. I think it's fair to say that they learned a few lessons from this one, such as 'how not to do an anniversary celebration comic'. We learned, after the recording, that this comic had originally been planed to be an annual-sized issue, which accounts for some of the problems with this one. But not all...

Late January saw the release of the first full-length Fantastic Four trailer, and we sat down to give our thoughts on it for a Midweek Minisode. It's worth remembering that there was a point when one of us still hoped that this film wouldn't be terrible...

Finally, we finished January with a late resurgence of quality, when we covered Fantastic Four #101 - Bedlam In The Baxter Building. This issue featured The Maggia, the organised crime syndicate who definitely aren't the Mafia, and a real sense of danger and fun, which is more than can be said for the Inhumans feature in Amazing Adventures #1, which we also covered.

February

February saw us welcome our first guest-host as Micheal Leyland of Heykids Comics joined us to bid farewell to Jack Kirby. Together, we covered Fantastic Four #102 - The Strength Of The Sub-Mariner, the first of a three-part story that would require some significant help to finish off. We also took a look at the Inhumans feature in Amazing Adventures #2.

Things took a brief diversion, as we took an episode to review the achievements of one of the greatest runs of comics - Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four. As well as our own thoughts and critiques, we also solicited feedback from our listeners for a bumper episode. And, to wrap things up, we also took a look at the 2008 one-shot Fantastic Four - The Lost Adventure, which recreated a rejected Fantastic Four comic from Jack Kirby's incomplete artwork.

Fantastic Four #103 - At War With Atlantis saw the first appearance of short-term Fantastic Four penciler John Romita Sr. Picking up another artist's plot and running with it is not a great situation, but Romita managed to bring focus, pace, and Richard M. Nixon to the story. We also took a brief look at Sub-Mariner #30 and Fantastic Four Annual #8, for those keeping track of Namor's solo title, or reprints.

Stan Lee and John Romita concluded the first continuing FF story in over a year with Fantastic Four #104 - Our World -- Enslaved! Handily, Roy Thomas mirrored this invasion of New York with one of his own in Avengers #82, which afforded us the opportunity to compare Lee and Thomas's approaches to similar plots. We also had a look at Sub-Mariner #31.

March

March kicked off with our coverage of Fantastic Four #105 - The Monster In The Streets, the first post-Kirby issue and the first signs that the book would be able to continue without one of the major creative forces that brought the title into being. Despite the editorial shenanigans that suddenly removed Crystal from the book, this was a surprisingly strong issue, considering that it came at a time of great change.

The post Lee/Kirby era continued with Fantastic Four #106 - The Monster's Secret. I recall rather enjoying this issue at the time, but details of what happened or why I enjoyed it escape me eight months later. The show-notes suggest that Andy and I had a disagreement during the recording, but again, I forget about what. I suspect Andy hasn't, though - he tells me he's tattooed my transgression on his arm so that he will always be reminded of it. Unless he's wearing a jumper.

Fantastic Four #107 - And Now - The Thing! marked the debut of regular Fantastic Four penciller John Buscema. Unfortunately, it was also the first of four issues to feature the villain Janus, one of the more underwhelming adversaries of the Fantastic Four that we would encounter this year. Come for the artwork, stay for the spelling mistakes and the consequences of said spelling mistakes.

We'll be back tomorrow to take a look at what happened to the show in April, May and June!

The UK Podcast Awards - 5 Hours To Go

FF Banner New We want your help, and there's just a few hours left to give it!

The UK Podcast Directory is running the first UK Podcasters Awards, to be awarded at New Media Europe in September. We're up for nomination in the 'Games and Hobbies' category, and we would really like your help to get us nominated.

Simply head over the The Fantasticast's page at the UK Podcast Directory, and click the 'nominate' button. You'll need to provide an e-mail address, or verify yourself via Facebook or Google. As you can only nominate once per day between now and the end of July, there's only a few hours left to make a difference

We'd love the opportunity to stand amongst our peers, and who knows, we might even do well out of it! Please do head over and vote for us. There's only a few hours left...

The UK Podcast Awards - 3 Days To Go

FF Banner New We want your help, and there's just 3 days left to give it!

The UK Podcast Directory is running the first UK Podcasters Awards, to be awarded at New Media Europe in September. We're up for nomination in the 'Games and Hobbies' category, and we would really like your help to get us nominated.

Simply head over the The Fantasticast's page at the UK Podcast Directory, and click the 'nominate' button. You'll need to provide an e-mail address, or verify yourself via Facebook or Google. The really cool thing is that you can nominate once per day between now and the closing date, which is the end of July.

We'd love the opportunity to stand amongst our peers, and who knows, we might even do well out of it! Please do head over and vote for us. Then come back tomorrow and vote again. And again on Friday!

The UK Podcasters Awards - 5 Days To Go

FF Banner New We want your help, and there's just 5 days left to give it!

The UK Podcast Directory is running the first UK Podcasters Awards, to be awarded at New Media Europe in September. We're up for nomination in the 'Games and Hobbies' category, and we would really like your help to get us nominated.

Simply head over the The Fantasticast's page at the UK Podcast Directory, and click the 'nominate' button. You'll need to provide an e-mail address, or verify yourself via Facebook or Google. The really cool thing is that you can nominate once per day between now and the closing date, which is the end of July.

We'd love the opportunity to stand amongst our peers, and who knows, we might even do well out of it! Please do head over and vote for us. Then come back tomorrow and vote again. And again. And again!

The UK Podcasters Awards

FF Banner New We want your help!

The UK Podcast Directory is running the first UK Podcasters Awards, to be awarded at New Media Europe in September. We're up for nomination in the 'Games and Hobbies' category, and we would really like your help to get us nominated.

Simply head over the The Fantasticast's page at the UK Podcast Directory, and click the 'nominate' button. You'll need to provide an e-mail address, or verify yourself via Facebook or Google. The really cool thing is that you can nominate once per day between now and the closing date, which is the end of July.

We'd love the opportunity to stand amongst our peers, and who knows, we might even do well out of it! Please do head over and vote for us. Then come back tomorrow and vote again. And again. And again!

The UK Podcasters Awards

FF Banner New We want your help!

The UK Podcast Directory is running the first UK Podcasters Awards, to be awarded at New Media Europe in September. We're up for nomination in the 'Games and Hobbies' category, and we would really like your help to get us nominated.

Simply head over the The Fantasticast's page at the UK Podcast Directory, and click the 'nominate' button. You'll need to provide an e-mail address, or verify yourself via Facebook or Google. The really cool thing is that you can nominate once per day between now and the closing date, which is the end of July.

We'd love the opportunity to stand amongst our peers, and who knows, we might even do well out of it! Please do head over and vote for us. Then come back tomorrow and vote again. And again. And again!

The Fantasticast: The End Of Lee/Kirby - Final Chance

The King Hey folks, we need your help.

We're fast approaching the end of Jack Kirby's 102-issue run as penciller for The Fantastic Four, and we're planning something a little special to commemorate the conclusion of his tenure on the book. We'll be producing a special episode, immediately after our coverage of Fantastic Four #102. We'll be taking a look at Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure, and taking a look at the Lee/Kirby era as a whole.

And this is where you come in.

As well as our musings and ramblings, we'd like to hear from you. We'd like to know your thoughts and opinions on the Lee/Kirby era, your highlights, lowlights, surprises and favourite moments.

Please e-mail these to fantastic4podcast@gmail.com. If you're feeling brave, you could record an mp3 of your feedback for us. Due to time constraints, please keep your feedback to a couple of paragraphs or about 90 seconds of audio, to ensure that we can include as much as possible.

We will be recording on Wednesday 4th February at 19:00 GMT, so you've got about two days or so to send your feedback in. Thanks to everyone who's sent something already, we look forward to including all of your contributions in this special episode.

Steve and Andy.

The Fantasticast: The End Of Lee/Kirby

The King Hey folks, we need your help.

We're fast approaching the end of Jack Kirby's 102-issue run as penciller for The Fantastic Four, and we're planning something a little special to commemorate the conclusion of his tenure on the book. We'll be producing a special episode, immediately after our coverage of Fantastic Four #102. We'll be taking a look at Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure, and taking a look at the Lee/Kirby era as a whole.

And this is where you come in.

As well as our musings and ramblings, we'd like to hear from you. We'd like to know your thoughts and opinions on the Lee/Kirby era, your highlights, lowlights, surprises and favourite moments.

Please e-mail these to fantastic4podcast@gmail.com. If you're feeling brave, you could record an mp3 of your feedback for us. Due to time constraints, please keep your feedback to a couple of paragraphs or about 90 seconds of audio, to ensure that we can include as much as possible.

We're planning to record on February 3rd at 19:00 GMT, so please get your feedback in before then.

Steve and Andy.

The Fantasticast at 100: A Peek Behind The Curtain

This week, we released the 100th episode of The Fantasticast. In a break from showcasing tropes of The Fantastic Four (nearly) ever day, we're celebrating this milestone with a week of special blog posts taking a behind-the-scenes or sideways look at the show. Today, we pull back the curtain and pay rather a lot of attention to the man hiding behind it...

Episode Editing
Episode Editing

An hour of audio takes an awfully long time to produce. At an estimate, from the moment I start writing notes to hitting the 'publish' button on Libsyn, each episode takes 8-10 hours to produce. That's a lot of time, each and every week. I don't have the time to 'not be in the mood', to want to do something else. There are times when producing the show feels like a burden, when I wish I could ignore the release schedule and spend the night vegging out in bed, watching DVDs and eating crisps.

Step 1: The Reading

We record two episodes of the Fantasticast in one sitting, meaning that every two weeks, we sit down and cover two months worth of Marvel comics. A month a week. You've probably noticed, we briefly summarise each and every original Marvel comic towards the start of the episode. The idea behind this is to context each issue of the Fantastic Four with the other Marvel books that share it's cover date, so if you know your Amazing Spider-Man back-to-front (as Andy does), you should be able to line this issue up in the grander scheme of things easily. Of course, that means that someone's got to go and read these comics. Some are available commercially (as I've said before, I own all the DVD collections from the mid-2000s, so I legally own all of the main titles). Some have synopsises that are easily available (Official Indexes, marvel.wikia, etc.), but there are a handful of titles (such as Captain Savage) for which there exists no way to read or receive a plot summary. So... yes... I use torrents to ensure that I cover everything with a modicum of accuracy.

Right now, reading for episode 102 (cover date July 1969), there are 13 books to cover, all of which are densely-dialogued (and, in the case of Doctor Strange, fairly incomprehensible to me). This takes time - I can read a trade of Bendis-era Avengers faster than I can read two Roy Thomas Avengers issues. Thankfully, I have bus journeys to and from work every morning, which allows me to squeeze most of the reading in, but when I hit a run of comics that I don't enjoy, it can be a chore.

Step 2: The Writing

Somewhere on my hard drive, I have the full script for episode 1 of the show. And when I say full script, I mean full script. Andy and I used to share a document and write out (long form) our notes for each issue. Thankfully, we don't do that any more. The only bits of full scripting I do now are the introduction (that's a very recent thing, as the majority of the the episodes will attest), the history blurbs, the 'elsewhere in Marvel' blurbs, the issue synopsis, and the summaries of the Bullpen Bulletins and the letters pages. The rest... well, I let it come to me during the record, although for key information, I'll have a couple of bullet points scribbled down in front of me.

Step 3: The Recording

This is the most enjoyable bit of the whole process. I treasure the opportunity I have every two weeks to sit down and record with Andy. We spend about three hours on Skype together, lots of which doesn't get recorded or doesn't make it into the show. If you've listened to the show since the early days, you'll have noticed a huge improvement in the quality of the audio. In August 2013, we stopped using various Skype call recording software to record the call itself. I was irritated with Skype compressing the audio quality, with the latency that would pop up (normally whilst Andy was talking, which is always difficult to deal with). Instead, we started recording our individual microphones directly, using Skype only to facilitate the two of us talking. It slows the editing down a little, but I hope the difference in audio quality is noticeable and better.

Step 4: The Editing

Welcome to the most time-consuming and tedious part of producing the show. Ask any podcaster what the worst part of their workflow is, and 'editing' will be top of the list. If not, then they don't do the editing!

As you can see from the screenshot, I use Audacity on a Mac. I tried Garageband, but the reduction in speed from learning a new system was too much, and I've managed to customise Audacity to make the edit as quick and painless as possible. If it's just Andy and myself, then I work at a rate of 1 hour's editing for every 15-20 minutes of audio. It varies, as monologues (reading the history, bulletins, synopsises, etc.) tend to be very easy to edit, whilst back and forths tend to have more audio issues to contend with, such as flubbing our words, talking over each other, long pauses whilst we gather our thoughts, and the inevitable arguments!

On top of this, there's the time spent manipulating the audio (equalising, normalising, compressing, and rendering into mp3 format) which, depending on how my computer's feeling, can take only a few minutes each... or up to half an hour each!

Step 5: The Publishing

This part is normally a case of filling in a web form, uploading the episode, and scheduling it for release. Before I submit the audio, I embed the audio file with the cover artwork provided by Sam Savage, using elements from the original cover as well as the show's artwork by Michael Georgiou. The hardest part of this whole process is writing the episode description. I like them to be informative and fun, and hitting the balance can be a bit tricky, especially if, at the time of writing, my recall of the tangents and funny moments is rather poor... as it is most weeks! Libsyn also handles the social media notifications, which means that everything can be queued up in advance. The episode goes live at midnight UK time, late afternoon/early evening for the US (depending on time zone). I'll almost always be in bed at that point, trusting that nothing will go wrong!

And that's how a podcast is made. Every week. For nearly three years.

I need a break!

Tomorrow... the cycle begins again, with the release of episode 101!

The Fantasticast at 100: Andy's Not-So-Secret Origin

This week, we released the 100th episode of The Fantasticast. In a break from showcasing tropes of The Fantastic Four (nearly) ever day, we're celebrating this milestone with a week of special blog posts taking a behind-the-scenes or sideways look at the show. Today, Andy arrives on the blog (426 posts late... work shy fop...), and reveals how a cheap, black-and-white reprint changed a comics fan forever...

Fantastic Four Pocket Book 9
Fantastic Four Pocket Book 9

Fantastic Four Pocket Book #9 is one of the best comics ever published.

A bold statement, you say. Better than Amazing Spider-Man #33? Fantastic Four #51? Daredevil #47?

Absolutely. I’d read the FF before I read Pocket Book #9, but, as I pored over this issue as a lowly 10 year old, this was were I stopped being simply a reader and became a fan.

For those not in the know, Marvel’s Pocket Book line was initiated by Dez Skinn, back when he was Editor In Chief of Marvel UK in the early 80‘s. Reprints of old material cost nothing so they were money in the bank for Marvel and as such a range of competitively priced pocket books would, presumably, pay for themselves. These Pocket Books couldn’t hold a candle to DC’s line, then licensed to Egmont Publishing - they were 100 pages of full colour, square bound, cardboard covered awesomeness for 75p. But the Marvel editions scored on one major point - they were cheap. For 15 British pennies, the eager purchaser received, in one compact A5 booklet, 2 complete 20 page stories, in glorious black and white.

For reasons known only to Marvel, the FF pocket books, unlike the Spider-Man line, did not start with reprints of FF#1, rather they leapt straight in with a reprint of FF Annual #3, “Bedlam At The Baxter Building!” and proceeded from there. This was probably a wise decision as this is, by general consensus, where the Fantastic Four truly became ‘The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!”  I devoured these pocket books. From Spider-Man to the FF, The Incredible Hulk to the Star Heroes, here was a chance to read complete tales from the early days of Marvel, plus more recent Micronauts adventures, for a decent price. But none were devoured quite as eagerly as Fantastic Four Pocket Book #9.

For one, this issue was double sized. 100 glorious pages for only 30p was still a bargain and this issue had it all. After turning the cover, a magnificent image of Dr Doom and The Thing pounding the shit out of each other, the reader was treated to DOOMSDAY! Now, more knowledgeable FF readers will know this is smack dab in the middle of an epic, 4 part story in which DR DOOM steals the phenomenal Power Cosmic from the Sentinel Of The Space Ways, the Silver Surfer! If, in reading this for the first time, I was confused by the fact that we begun halfway through the story, it barely mattered. Jack Kirby’s powerhouse art conveyed the seriousness of the situation as Dr Doom, infused with power, threatened the entire world. THE PERIL AND THE POWER lived up to the cover as one magnificent page has The Thing and Dr Doom go toe to toe in an all-out battle for supremacy. One would think anything that came after this would be a come down but WHERE STALKS THE SANDMAN featured one of my favourite Spider-Man bad guys so seeing the FF match powers with him was just as exciting as seeing Dr Doom riding the Surfer’s board. The continuing plotlines compelled the reader forward as Reed was sucked into the deadly Negative Zone where they met one of my favourite FF adversary’s - BLASTARR THE LIVING BOMB BURST.

Incident piled upon incident as the FF conquered their enemies but always at a cost. The family dynamic was never more potent, the drama never more heightened, Kirby’s art never more exciting than in these issues - at least to my 10 year old mind. I think I learned everything I needed to know about the Fantastic Four in these 100 stunning pages. From the extended family of The Inhumans and the Surfer to the most vile of villains, the FF wasn’t just about the four core characters - it was a book about the many different people, both good and bad, that came into their orbit. Each had their own relationship with the other and none were the same. There were no cookie cutter relationships here, no bland sameness to the characters, they lived and breathed. The stories were all over the place, they bled into each other, people drifted in and out, important one minute, gone the next - It was like life if we all had a Negative Zone portal in our basements.

It was the World’s Greatest Comics Magazine and Fantastic Four Pocket Book #9 was the best of the best. I literally read that comic until the cover came off and to my 10 year old self, it was one of the best comics ever published.

30 years later, it still is.

Thanks Andy! Tomorrow, we'll take a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Fantasticast!

The Fantasticast at 100: The Fantasticast By Numbers

This week, we released the 100th episode of The Fantasticast. In a break from showcasing tropes of The Fantastic Four (nearly) ever day, we're celebrating this milestone with a week of special blog posts taking a behind-the-scenes or sideways look at the show. Today, we go counting... with some help from Blandine Francois...

100 episodes of the Fantasticast is a lot.

It's the first time I've hit 100 anythings. I stopped just shy of 100 comics reviewed on the World of Superman. The 20 Minute Longbox had 38 episodes. This 100 is a big deal for me. But, it's not the only big number involved in the show. If I were a fancy graphics designer, I'd come up with a nice, shiny info graphic. But I'm not, so you'll have to settle for good old text instead.

The Episodes

If you sat and listened to all 100 episodes on the feed (not including the trailer, or the compilation episodes), then you'd be listening for 135 hours and 43 minutes. If you've been listening since episode one, then congratulations: You've spent over 5.5 days in our company. Try not to think about that too much... If you listened to Dr Martin Luther King Jr's famous 'I Have A Dream' speech 485 times in a row, you'd be spending the same amount of time. And you'd have less Galactus.

The Comics

If you take into account 86 issues of the Fantastic Four, 6 annuals, 34 issues of Strange Tales, one annual, and a whole selection of guest-appearances and cameos, we've covered 172 comics. 176, if you count our Christmas Podcasters' Choice episodes. Oh, and 2 movies. But we'd rather forget about those.

The Guests

We've supplemented our deranged ramblings on 27 episodes with the deranged ramblings of 16 good friends, roped in as co-hosts. We recently took a look at these friends, check out the posts from yesterday and Monday.

The Breakdowns

Apart from my regular fits of despair at the amount of editing required to get this show out at midnight every Friday night, the episodes break down like this. Sort of. A bit.

40% total running time spent commenting on the comics.

24% total running time spent making geeky references, including our regular obscure Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy references.

12% total running time spent reading e-mails, giving the history of the month, introducing the show, the UK number ones, etc.

12% total running time spent making innuendos (this number rises sharply if you take a look at the episodes before I clean them up).

8% total running time spent by Andy sniggering, snorting and guffawing at the above innuendos. Hey - in you end oh!

4% total running spent singing the Airwolf theme.

Like all good statistics, 71.6% of the above is made up, 64% was based on actual research, and the remaining 32% was supplied to me by my girlfriend.

Come back tomorrow when we'll... well, I don't actually know yet. There'll be something, but at this moment, I have no idea what!

The Fantasticast at 100: The Fantastic Guest Hosts (Part 2)

This week, we released the 100th episode of The Fantasticast. In a break from showcasing tropes of The Fantastic Four (nearly) ever day, we're celebrating this milestone with a week of special blog posts taking a behind-the-scenes or sideways look at the show. Today, we continue to take a look at our friends...

Professor Alan Middleton became our first listener-turned-podcaster when he joined us for episode 34. We like to claim credit for the extraordinary success of the Professor in the world of podcasting, as (if you ignore his contributions to The Book Guys) we were the first show to give the Cultural Attache for the State of Latveria his podcasting break. And what a break it was... Inspired by infamous pro-Doom stance as revealed in his numerous letters to the show, we decided that to not invite him on to reveal the origins of Doctor Doom, as seen in Fantastic Four Annual #2. We also took a look at just how useful the team were when Spider-Man needed their help whilst battling the Sinister Six. Alan hosts two shows on the Relatively Geeky Network - the random and brief Quarter Bin Podcast, and the commentary show Shortbox Showcase - and his writings can be found at Alan's Eyes And Ears.

Christine Hanefalk became our first (and, so far, only) female voice (something we hope to remedy next year) on the podcast when she joined us for episode 44. Christine is the writer and editor for The Other Murdock Papers, an incredibly enjoyable Daredevil blog and, thanks to Chris Samnee, turned up a a corrupt juror in Daredevil last year. I met Christine in the most random and delightful way - over a curry in Leeds the night before my first Thought Bubble convention. I'd gone out with some friends and lots of strangers, got chatting to Christine, and after half an hour it suddenly clicked that we knew each other through twitter - we just hadn't realised who we were in real life. Christine joined us for a prominent Daredevil guest-appearance as Doctor Doom neutralised the powers of the Fantastic Four. We enjoyed recording with her so much that we invited her back for episode 45, to wrap up Daredevil's appearance in the book, and join us for the final issue of Strange Tales to feature Johnny Storm.

Sam Savage was our next guest host, joining us for episodes 48 and 49. You've probably noticed the artwork for each episode progress over the course of today's post and yesterday's from just the cover of the relevant comic, to a ridiculously basic template, to something rather lovely involving some original artwork from Michael Georgiou (see below) and some subtle editing of the comic cover itself. Well, that's all down to Sam. Like Christine, I met Sam at a convention. Whilst queuing for a signature from Edgar Wright, I got chatting to the people around me. The conversation moved around and eventually settled onto superheroes, at which point Sam realised that he recognised my voice from my appearances on Amazing Spider-Man Classics. A few months later, Sam offered to have a play with the episode images, and after a couple of false starts, we settled on the look for the show as we've been using ever since. Sam joined us for one of the middle chapters of the Frightful Four/Inhumans saga, as well as for the madcap craziness that was the marriage of Reed and Sue in Fantastic Four Annual #3.

Charlie Niemeyer joined us on the show for episodes 50 and 51. Other than recording a deadly Doctor Doom for our trailer, Charlie and I had never collaborated on anything before this episode. I'm really glad that Charlie joined us for these two issues, as they mark a real turning point for the Fantastic Four. The Inhumans, previously only represented by a sultry and sexual Medusa, step forward, revealing a complex and riveting backstory that rivals almost anything seen in Marvel comics to date. Charlie is the host of the recently-completed Superman In The Bronze Age podcast, a show well worth checking out if you have any interest in the pre-Crisis Superman.

Alan Middleton returned for episode 66 and episode 67. Knowing that we were going to cover the opening chapters of a truly epic story featuring Doctor Doom stealing the Power Cosmic from the Silver Surfer, we knew that we would need an extra-special guest host to join us for these episodes. We couldn't book one, so we got the Professor to join us instead.

Michael Georgiou was dragged away from his very literal drawing board to join us for episodes 73 and 74. Mike's one of my closest friends, and if you've been listening long enough, you may be aware of a bet he made with me in 2013. He bet me that I couldn't release four episodes of my solo show within a month, and if he lost the bet, he had to create artwork for one of my shows. I won the bet (I released another four episodes, just for kicks!), and on my 30th birthday, whilst waiting to take our seats for The Man Of Steel, Mike presented me with the artwork that now adorns the show. Mike joined us for two issues featuring the debut of the Kree, the Supreme Intelligence, and Ronan The Accuser. If you like Mike's artwork (and let's face it, who doesn't!), you can see more at mikedraws.co.uk and follow him on twitter.

Seb Patrick joined us for episodes 75 and 76. Seb's a journalist, writer and blogger who knows a heck of a lot about the Marvel universe. Rather uniquely for our guest hosts, he's not a great fan of Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four, and I really wanted to have a guest host join us with a different point of view. I ambushed him in a signing queue for Garry Leach in late 2013, and he was up for joining us. To sweeten the deal, I offered him two issues featuring the inhabitants of the mysterious Beehive (sadly, not actual bees) and the debut of Him (or, as he would go on to be known, Adam Warlock).  Seb's writings can be found in many places, including on the Doctor Who review blog Unlimited Rice Pudding, and his comic site Panel Beats. His time-travel sitcom, A Brief History Of Time Travel, is available on a pay what you want basis, and is highly recommended.

Christine Hanefalk returned to the show for episodes 84 and 85. We did something very rare, and had an entire episode without a single Fantastic Four (or spinoff) comic in it, as we rattled through four issues of Daredevil in an attempt to make Fantastic Four #73 make sense. We tried...

Luke Jaconetti joined us just before my holiday for episodes 90 and 91. Luke has been a regular e-mailer into the show, and we roped him into joining us for two episodes featuring The Thing regaining his human form, with the Wizard attacking with what would be the first of many indestructible androids. We also encountered the most offensive Irish stereotype in 1960s Marvel Comics - yes, even worse than Blarney Stone from Captain Savage. Talking of which, we also jumped back in time to take a look at some of Ben Grimm's wartime adventures, as the Leatherneck Raiders are sent to rescue his not-yet-rocky backside from a Japanese internment camp. Luke can be found as the host of Earth Destruction Directive and of The Vault Of Startling Monster Horror Tales Of Terror.

Al Kennedy was our most recent guest host, joining us for episode 93. I've been a huge fan of Al's for a number of years, as he's one of the hosts on my favourite comics podcast, House To Astonish. A big part of my Thought Bubble 2012 experience was getting to meet Al in person and chat with him. And go crazy on the dance floor to REM's Bad Day, but maybe we'll move on from that... I'd been wanting to ask Al to join us on the show for a long time, and I finally decided on a tempting offer: the first appearances of both Annihilus and Franklin Richards. The recording was ridiculously enjoyable, and if I have to pick a favourite episode from the past 100, then this one would be a strong contender. House To Astonish is currently on hiatus, but that shouldn't stop you from trying the show and discovering the joy that is The Official Handbook Of The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe.

Well, that's it for guest hosts from our first 100 episodes. Before the end of the year, we'll be adding Shagg Matthews (The Fire And Water Podcast) and Emily Middleton (Shortbox Showcase) to the list, and in 2015... well, we'll see!

Tomorrow, we'll be taking a esoteric look at the statistics of the Fantasticast.