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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!

Secret Convergence on Infinite Podcasts

Art by Brandon Graham
Art by Brandon Graham

Announcing (sort-of, it's been out there for a few days) Secret Convergence on Infinite Podcasts!

As mentioned on this weekend's Fantasticast, a whole slew of amazing podcasts are coming together from October 29th for a massive podcast crossover. We're very pleased to signal-boost this event for a number of reasons. First, it sounds amazing. Secondly, one of the podcasts taking part is the excellent Rachel And Miles X-Plain The X-Men, who have taken the time on their show to give us some promotion, and we are more than happy to return the favour. Thirdly, one of the podcasts taking part is the excellent House To Astonish, and Al Kennedy joined us last summer for our coverage of Fantastic Four Annual #6.

So, without any further ado, here are the full details of the crossover:

The Event

Mark your calendars for 29 October – nine of the top podcasts in the world of comic books, including The Fan Bros Show, Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men and War Rocket Ajax, are coming together for a blockbuster crossover series of round-table discussions.

The event, titled “Secret Convergence on Infinite Podcasts”, will feature each show in the line-up hosting one episode, with guests from the eight other shows making special appearances to chew over the weighty questions (and some not-so-weighty ones too).

The crossover will see the Beyonder transport the podcasters behind The Fan Bros Show, Into It with Elle Collins, SILENCE!, Less than Live with Kate or Die, Journey into Misery, Wait, What?, House to Astonish, War Rocket Ajax and Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men to the podcast arena of Battlepod, to help him better understand the worlds of comic books and comics culture. If they succeed, all they desire will be theirs…

Secret Convergence on Infinite Podcasts features specially-commissioned art by top comics creators Brandon Graham and James Stokoe.

The Plans

It all starts on 29 October with Episode One (Fan Bros), which sees host DJ BenHameen welcome Graeme McMillan, Rachel Edidin and Chris Sims to finally answer the question of Who Would Win In A Fight?

Episode Two (Into It with Elle Collins) features host Elle Collins alongside Helena Hart, Rachel Edidin and Matt Wilson and consideration of the best of Comic Book Movies.

Episode Three (SILENCE!) has host Gary Lactus accompanied by Al Kennedy, Chico Leo and Kieran Shiach as they mull over Are Things Better Or Worse?

In Episode Four (Less Than Live with Kate or Die) we join host Kate Leth as she talks The Comics We Sharewith The Beast Must Die, Elle Collins and Al Kennedy.

Episode Five (Wait, What?) brings together host Jeff Lester and guests Paul O’Brien, Chico Leo and Gary Lactus to talk about Characters We Used To Love (Or Hate).

Episode Six (Journey into Misery) gives host Kieran Shiach and his guests Graeme McMillan, Rachel Edidin and The Beast Must Die the chance to name their favourite D-List Good Eggs and Bad Eggs

Episode Seven (House to Astonish) sees host Al Kennedy discussing comic book Guilty Pleasures with Helena Hart, Jeff Lester and Elle Collins.

Episode Eight (War Rocket Ajax) features hosts Chris Sims and Matt Wilson and guests Elle Collins and DJ BenHameen going in-depth on the topic of Comics Characters We Identify With.

And Episode Nine (Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men) assembles a formidably knowledgeable team, as hosts Rachel Edidin and Miles Stokes are joined by Paul O’Brien and Kieran Shiach to discuss matters of Complex Continuity.

The Shows

The Fan Bros Show is the "Voice of the Urban Geek". Fan Bros discusses the week in geek while keeping an ear to the street for the topics and controversies that affect the world of fandom. Hosted by DJ BenHameen, Chico Leo and Tatiana King-Jones. http://fanbros.com

Into It with Elle Collins is a weekly podcast about pop culture by Elle Collins. In each episode, Elle talks to a guest about their pop culture obsession.  http://intoitpodcast.com

SILENCE! is a podcast featuring cosmic comic book discussion and songs from Gary Lactus and The Beast Must Die of Mindlessones.comhttp://mindlessones.podomatic.com

Less Than Live with Kate or Die is a bi-weekly podcast about comics from all angles, hosted by New York Times best-selling comic creator Kate Leth. http://villagesoundcast.com/less-than-live-with-kate-or-die/

Wait, What? is a podcast ostensibly about comic books and graphic novels, in which hosts Graeme McMillan and Jeff Lester swap stories, theories, and jokes about all aspects of pop culture...but especially comics. http://waitwhatpodcast.com

Journey into Misery is a podcast that seeks to unravel the continuity mess that comics have wrought upon themselves, with Kieran Shiach explaining the worst offenders to comics beginner Helena Hart. http://kingimpulse.com/journey-into-misery/

House to Astonish is a bi-weekly podcast about comics hosted by Al Kennedy and Paul O’Brien, covering super-hero and non-super-hero books alike, with a round-up of comics news, reviews of new books and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which is where things get silly. http://housetoastonish.com

War Rocket Ajax is a podcast about comics and pop culture, destructive in its awesomeness, hosted by Chris Sims and Matt Wilson. http://warrocketajax.com

Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men is a weekly podcast where hosts Rachel Edidin and Miles Stokes walk you through the convoluted continuity of our favorite superhero soap opera (because it’s about time someone did). It was recently named “The One Podcast To Start With” for comic books by Vulture.comhttp://rachelandmiles.com

Further details can be found at http://secretconvergence.tumblr.com or by following @scoipodcasts on twitter

Nine Worlds GeekFest 2015 - Find Steve

cropped_9a95988a24 Hey folks, Steve here.

The Nine Worlds GeekFest 2015 will be taking place this weekend at the Radisson Blu Heathrow Hotel. If you're there, then there's a good chance of tracking me down for the purposes of making me really embarrassed and awkward. Also, nice things as well, but I can definitely guarantee the awkwardness! I'll be working as a full-time steward during the days and evenings of the convention, and as the evening becomes the night, you'll probably find me in or near a bar.

On Saturday 8th August, I'll be taking part in three panels as part of the podcasting and comics tracks of programming.

First up, at 10am, I'll be taking part in:

Show, Don’t Tell: Wordless Comics - Why make wordless comics? What do they represent?
Connaught A, 10:00am - 11:15am (Comics)
Tracks: Comics
Sally Jane Thompson, Sarah Gordon, Kieron Gillen, Howard Hardiman, Steve Lacey

From sign-language to space to animal speech, why make wordless comics and why are they so effective?

Yes, that's Kieron Gillen on the panel. Of Phonogram, Journey Into Mystery, Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine fame. And Howard Hardiman of The Lengths fame. And Sally Jane Thompson of several awesome UK small press comics. And Sarah Gordon, who is, admittedly, a creator I've not yet experienced. If you're wondering if I'm feeling a little out of place and under qualified to be on this panel, then you're a little right. But, having spent the past few weeks reading comics without dialogue (including more comics from Marvel's 'Nuff Said event than I'd really like to have done), I'm looking forward to seeing what the discussion turns up.

At 11.45am, I'll be pulling on my podcaster hat and participating in:

The Second Annual Podcaster Games - The ultimate geek quiz
Room 32, 11:45am - 1:00pm (Podcasting)
Tracks: Podcasting
Simon Potthast, Anne Louise, Alasdair Stuart, Dan Marshall, Barry Nugent, Gavin Jones, Marguerite Kenner, Steve Lacey

Come see Dan and Gavin from the Sidekickcast preside over the second annual podcaster games, and see which of our teams are worthy of winning the coveted 'Golden Mic'.

I'm not sure what to expect from this panel, other than that I'll probably either do really well or really terribly. Either way, I'm looking forward to having a lot of fun!

Finally, at 8.30pm, it'll be an evening of discussion on space and comics, with the wonderfully-titled:

Laika biting Thanos: Galactic Comics - Five ten-minute talks on SPACE and AWESOME Updated!
Connaught A, 8:30pm - 9:45pm (Comics)
Tracks: Comics
Ed Fortune, Hazel Southwell, Natalie Wilkinson, Steve Lacey

Four speakers present different aspects of cosmic comics: from whether tech leads comics or the other way around, to why we can’t stop thinking about Soviet Space Dogs, via a whole lot of prog headgear.

I'll be talking about the first comics I read which took me into space, how they influenced me, and why they're amazing comics that genuinely transcend the medium. As for what these comics are... well, I don't want to give too much away just yet. But don't worry - all will be revealed on this weekend's Fantasticast.

I hope that some of you (admittedly, it's going to be a very small portion of our audience) are heading over to the convention, and I look forward to meeting you there!

Elemental Micah by Michael Georgiou

Michael Georgiou is one of my closest friends, and the man behind the wonderful Fantasticast artwork. I first met Mike at my first Thought Bubble Festical in 2012, where he was sharing a table with Fantasticast guest-host David Wynne. We quickly become good friends and, for my 30th birthday, he presented me the artwork for use in the show. We decided to thank him by having him join us as guest-host for episodes 64 and 65, featuring the first appearance of the Kree, their Sentry, and the Supreme Intelligence. Mike's creator-owned comic series is Elemental Micah, published through Orang-Utan Comics:

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When you lost your virginity, did you feel like a God? Micah did. For a guy who is overweight, slobby, gay with very poor eyesight, a very broken nose and a name people never seem to get right, you wonder whether the Fates were on the ale when they were choosing him. Or did the Fates choose him? How did he gain these powers? Did he earn them mystically, inherit them from his family or was he in contact with a radioactive animal of sorts? And what's the purpose of having these powers? There aren't any super villains around, so who does he really have to fight? Is there actually a need for a person with such luxuries if, as it is believed, he is the only one? Until he finds out, he'll keep having his misadventures with Dana, Simon, and his dog Alfonzo, and hopefully he'll discover the meaning of his existence.

This weekend, he's redesigned and relaunched the website for Elemental Micah, and to celebrate, the first four issues are available on a pay-what-you-want basis. Please do head over and give the series a read, and throw some money in the direction of one of our guest-hosts and of someone who has done some wonderful work for our show!

Fantastic Four #29: Property Damage 26

Fantastic Four #29, page page 4, panel 4
Fantastic Four #29, page page 4, panel 4

Fantastic Four #29: Property Damage 26

Written with a dash of greatness by: Stan Lee

Drawn with a hint of glory by: Jack Kirby

Inked with a touch of drama by: Chic Stone

Lettered with a bottle of india ink by: S. Rosen

Does the Fantastic Four get more classic than this? An angry, emotionally fraught Ben Grimm causes unintentional property damage in a pique of self-pity. The drama crosses the line into melodrama, but it's broadly drawn emotional dilemmas like this that encapsulate the appeal of Marvel Comics in the 1960s.

Talking of broadly drawn... the standard convention is draw The Thing with many small rocky elements. The larger plates, as seen across his back here, are a great example of how he was envisioned by Kirby before he settled on the greater detail a couple of years down the line. I rather like it, as it plays to the strengths of Chic Stone, allowing for some great detail on the shading to suggest variations in depth.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #29 on our thirty-second episode: Now With Genuine People Personalities

And... We're Back!

It's been over five months since a new post popped up on here that actually matched the mission statement of the site: To chronicle every 'Flame On', 'It's Clobbering Time' and more. I took a break from writing posts because the slog of doing a post every day, along with editing a new episode of the show each week, just got to be a bit too much. But over the past few weeks, I've been feeling more and more uneasy about stopping writing for the blog. At its most basic, my work here was not done.

So, we're starting back up again. There won't be a new post every day, but I'm hoping to present three posts a week, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Other material will appear on the off days, on an ad hoc basis. And, of course, Saturdays will feature new episodes of the podcast.

So, check back here tomorrow as we continue our journey through the crazy ol' Silver Age with... oh... it's likely to be a Strange Tales entry.

Bugger.

Fantastic Four #27: Sue's Force Fields Of Awesome 13

Fantastic Four #27, page 22, panels 4-5
Fantastic Four #27, page 22, panels 4-5

fantastic four #27: sue's force fields of awesome 13

Presented by the most talked-about team in comics: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, author and illustrator extraordinary

Inked by: George Roussos

Lettered by: S. Rosen

Our final entry from Fantastic Four #27 returns the focus to the object of this story, Sue Storm. I use the word object very deliberately, as, up to this point, this is how she's been portrayed. She's a thing for both Reed and Namor to covet, from the cheesecake portrait at the start of the issue, to Namor's stalking and kidnapping, to Reed's uncharacteristic rage when he can't have the thing he considers his. At one point, she was literally put into a glass display case in Namor's throne room.

What saves Sue is her defining moment of awesome shown here, stepping up and using her fields to force her combating suitors apart. A rare moment of authority from Sue, these two panels allow her to be actualised somewhat, although the conclusion of the story has her committing to Reed and him being distrustful of her intentions, rather than a more interesting dramatic twist of having Sue temporarily reject Reed following his behaviour in this issue.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #27 on our thirtieth episode: Horny Namor

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.

The Fantasticast at 100: The Fantastic Guest Hosts (Part 1)

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 take a look at our friends...

One of the joys of running a podcast is being able to chat with my favourite podcasters. Over the past three years, I've had the hosts of many of my favourite shows come and join Andy and myself on the show. My podcasting career started by guesting on other people's shows - Teenage Wasteland: An Ultimate Spider-Man Podcast and Amazing Spider-Man Classics, both sadly departed - and before we'd recorded our first show, I'd already pencilled in a number of podcasters to join us on the show.

I've been very lucky with guest hosts on The Fantasticast. Nobody has turned me down*. Everyone has been up for reading comics of varying quality (Should I apologise to everyone from the Strange Tales era for forcing those strips on them?), writing detailed synopses, and singing the Airwolf theme at the drop of tenuous segue. I've had the opportunity to record with podcasters, bloggers and artists that I respect, and had the most amazing time whilst doing so.

So, I'd like to thank every one of our guest hosts from the past three years, offer a reminder of when they turned up on our show, and let you know where they can be found today.

*Someone managed to agree to be on the show then fail to turn up for the record. Twice. Which is even more embarrassing when you realise that he lives in the same house as Andy. But we love him anyway, the work shy fop...

Joshua Lapin-Bertone was the first podcaster to join us on the show, jumping on board for Episode 6. A former member of the Amazing Spider-Man Classics crew, I first met Josh at about 2 in the morning when, having had about four hours notice, I turned up to join the team on one of their earliest episodes. Josh has been a great support to the show, never short of a good word, and never afraid to utter that good word in public. We subjected him to the first appearance of The Wizard and his alarming facial hair, the Puppet Master and his alarming lack of any hair, and Alicia and the creepiness of having her look just like Sue Storm. Josh can currently be found as a member of the Comic Book Film Revue podcast, and has just launched a new podcast covering the TV series Gotham, over at BatmanUniverse.net.

Donavan Morgan Grant was our second guest host, joining us for Episode 8. Amazing Spider-Man Classics was a huge influence on The Fantasticast (and, in fact, an early episode features Andy and I 'meeting' for the first time, when we both have e-mails read out.), so it was no surprise that another former member of the crew would join us on the show. Together with Don, we broke the fourth wall for the first time as Doctor Doom met Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and were introduced to the villainous Paste-Pot Pete. Ahh, the days when paste was regarded as the supreme weapon... Don and Josh still podcast together on their Gotham podcast at BatmanUniverse.net and at the Clone Saga Chronicles. You can also catch him on the phenomenally successful The Next Dimension: A Dragonball Z Podcast.

J. David Weter was our next guest host, joining us for Episode 10. I first encountered Dave as the host of Superman Forever Radio, but it was his Incredible Hulk podcast, focusing on the work of Peter David, that led me to ask him to join us for this show. Fantastic Four #12 was the first 'crossover' book in modern Marvel history, as the recently-cancelled Hulk found himself in the best-selling Marvel book. We had great fun with secret identities, the lack of effort taken to conceal those identities, and were introduced to one of the greatest villains ever to appear on the show - The Acrobat, or, ZANTE! Dave's taking a break from podcasting at the moment, but you can check out his most recent show, Dave's Daredevil Podcast, or read his contributions to the Legion Of Super-Bloggers.

Considering the influence of Amazing Spider-Man Classics on this show and the fact that he gave me my first podcasting breaks (both on ASMC and Teenage Wasteland: An Ultimate Spider-Man Podcast), it was pretty inevitable that Jon M. Wilson would turn up as a guest host for the show, which he did for Episode 16. Our longest episode to date saw us tackle the first two Marvel superhero annuals of the 1960s. One was a tightly-written superhero epic that made use of the extended page count to develop characters and present a superb plot involving the invasion of New York by Atlantis, showing off some of the best artwork produced to date by Jack Kirby. The other was Strange Tales Annual #2. If I were to list all of Jon's past and present podcast projects, there would be no room to showcase other hosts. So, I'll settle for his latest shows - Avengers Inspirations and The Star Wars Saga Cast.

We took a break from podcasters when we invited David Wynne onto the show for Episode 21. I'd met Dave at the first London Super Comic Convention, about 8 weeks into the show, and we bonded pretty quickly over our love of classic comics and podcasts. Flash forward a few months, and knowing that I had an episode involving Hitler, the first modern appearance of Nick Fury, and... er... Strange Tales... I couldn't think of a better person to invite on. Dave's appearance coincided with the arrival of inker George Roussos onto the book, and it was great to have an detailed artistic perspective on the change in inker. Dave's current work includes providing artwork for the superb podcast Rachel & Miles X-Plain The X-Men, and the webcomic Spacescape.

Another dead cert for joining us on the show was Michael Bailey. From Crisis To Crisis has been the keystone for so many podcasts - it was mine and Andy's first podcast we ever listened to - and we wanted to have Michael on for something special. Little did we know that two planned episode would explode into four, meaning that we rounded off our first year of the show by devoting the entirety of December 2012 to Mike's episodes - 25, 26, 27 and 28. It was the first great Marvel crossover, as the Hulk and the Avengers turned up for a truly epic smack down. Grandiose storytelling in the Mighty Marvel Manner doesn't get any better than this. There were also some issues of Strange Tales to round out the episodes. From Crisis To Crisis still continues on its mission to chronicle the post-Crisis Superman comics, and Mike's solo show Views From The Longbox recently featured myself on a Forever Evil retrospective. You can also check out Mike's blog at Fortress of Baileytude.

Our second year of guest hosts kicked off with Shawn Engel, who joined us for episode 31. Shawn leapt onto the podcast scene with his Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner-focused podcast, Just One Of The Guys. We asked Shawn to join us for the Fantastic Four's first crossover with the X-Men, and for a Strange Tales issue featuring the most underwhelming team of super-powered henchmen in Marvel's entire history of publishing. As well as chronicling the 1990s Green Lantern comics, Shawn also wrangles a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine discussion podcast, Listen To The Prophets, and is a co-host on Parallel Lines: The DC Comics Tangent Universe podcast.

Dave Walker is the final guest host we'll look at today, and he joined us on episode 33. Dave become the first (and only) guest host to cover an issue featuring the line of dialogue that he recorded for the trailer - in this case, the unforgettable Burgomeister and his warnings about the castle of Diablo. Talking of Diablo, the big surprise this episode was that the second-rate sorcerer's debut appearance was a pretty decent comic, helped by the inks of incoming inker Chic Stone. We also covered another Paste Pot Pete story in Strange Tales, but at this point, I'd struggle to describe any of the Paste Pot Pete stories from Strange Tales. Dave is the host of the Wally West podcast, Flash Legacies, and is part of the panel for Who True Freaks.

We'll take a break here, and return tomorrow to take a look at the second batch of guest hosts who have helped Andy and myself get through the last 100 episodes.

The Fantasticast at 100: In Pursuit Of Happiness

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 take a look at the first thing we ever released...

One of the first things I did when planning the Fantasticast was to try and come up with a unique idea for a trailer. I knew that I didn't want a portentous narration (although I ended up flirting briefly with one in the final edit), I didn't want obvious music, and I didn't it to be boring. There were a lot of podcast trailers around at the time that hit at least one item on that list, and with the amour of podcasts I was listening to, I was hearing those trailers a lot. The idea that stuck with me was creating a very brief narrative of The Fantastic Four's origin, then showcasing several notable villains. I'm still not sure how good a trailer it is for the show as it is now (it's definitely too long, and it does rather suggest that we're dramatising the issues rather than analysing them), but I think that as an interesting and repeatable piece of audio, it stands up.

The key to this, I think, was in choosing the right piece of music. As great as the acting is in the trailer, without the driving escalation of the music behind the voices, the trailer is simply a collection of villainous pronouncements. But the music - the introduction and orchestral break from the Divine Comedy track In Pursuit Of Happiness - is what holds the trailer together and makes it, if I may be a little vain here, something a little special.

The Divine Comedy are a special band for me. They were the first 'current' band that I started following, off the back of their hilarious song 'National Express'. Pretty much the only constant element in their music, aside from vocalist and front-man Neil Hannon's amazing voice, is their refusal to conform to any kind of genre. Their 1999 Greatest Hits album was a wonderful mix of deliberately-cheesy pop, dark and twisted love songs, Noel Coward remixes, and stunning orchestrations. And this is where I first encountered In Pursuit Of Happiness.

I love this song so much. It's the lead song from A Short Album About Love, and for the most part, it's a gleefully joyous song about confessing the feeling of being in love with someone for the first time. It's upbeat, it's got a great piano riff, and it's even got castanets. Neil Hannon's vocal is, frankly astonishing - the way he he ends each verse on the word 'happy' makes my spirits lift no matter what the mood, and his attack on the third verse is just wonderful. But something starts to happen to the lyrics in that third verse: "Hey, I'm not so blind / that I can't see where we're all going / and it's no fault of mine / if humankind reaps what it's sewing." There's a darkness coming into the song, which resonates throughout the instrumental section, which lasts for nearly two minutes.

The orchestrations on this section are utterly gorgeous. There are so many little touches that I love during this section. The staccato of the xylophone. The way the drummer sounds like he's having the time of his life without ever once overpowering any element of the orchestra. The brass section drives the entire piece, gently discordant and keeping the darkness from the lyrics present throughout. And then there's the climax to it all, that driving crescendo that was so damn good, the BBC nicked it for their science and technology magazine show Tomorrow's World. I love and adore this section of the song, especially when the brass kicks in at the top of the melodic progression to top it all off.

As anyone who's listened to an episode of the show will be aware, the climax of the song stops suddenly. Normally, Andy and I then chime in with a grand 'Hello!' and rapidly improvise an introduction. But the original song ends with a dark coda:

Hey, don’t be surprised
If millions die in plague and murder
True happiness lies
Beyond your fries and happy burger

 It's a perfect example of the Divine Comedy's refusal to be categorised, to turn on a sixpence and flip the mood of a song entirely.

The music gave me everything I needed for the trailer. It opens brightly, underscoring the theme of being explorers that runs throughout the best Fantastic Four stories. It starts to darken as the villains appear, and the final section starts to build as the villains get stronger, ending pretty damn epically when Galactus appears. The final notes, underscoring the battle cries of 'Flame On!' and 'It's Clobbering Time!' still make me shiver with delight three years later. It was only later that I remembered the use of this track for Tomorrow's World, an incredibly happy and appropriate coincidence.

I'm very proud of the trailer. I consider it to be pretty unique, and whilst I am certainly biased, I never tire of hearing it when it turns up in other podcasts. This is due partially to the great acting of various podcasters who volunteered their voices, but mostly to the music, which worked better than I ever could have imagined. I've taken delight in including the whole song a couple of times in the show, and I hope you'll click on the above video for an amazing live performance.

Fantastic Four #26: Hulk vs The Thing Round 4

Fantastic Four #26, page 1
Fantastic Four #26, page 1

fantastic four #26: hulk vs the thing round 4

Unforgettably Written In The Grand Manner by: Stan Lee

Powerfully Drawn In The Heroic Manner by: Jack Kirby

Inked by: George Roussos

Lettered by: Art Simek

Putting Strange Tales to one side (a wise thing to do with any issue of Strange Tales!), we're back to the Thing/Hulk fight. It's round 2 of this battle, round 4 in total, and it's a rather lovely splash page as well.

I'm hesitant to call this round for The Thing, as he really only wins when he's got the rest of the Fantastic Four, the entirety of the Avengers, and Rick Jones popping pills, helping him. But the Hulk ends this issue defeated, and the heroes survive, which makes it a victory, of sorts, for Ben Grimm.

As with the previous issue, I'll devote a few pages to the best Hulk/Thing moments from this battle.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #26 on our twenty-seventh episode: Hulk Goes Home And Plays With His Trains with special guest-host Michael Bailey

Mike McKone's Thing

Mike McKone Thing

Mike McKone Thing

Isn't this just beautiful?

This past weekend, Andy and I visited the London Film And Comic Convention. In amongst the ridiculous overcrowding and, frankly, piss-poor organisation, I found time to track down the wonderful Mike McKone. McKone has had a long a varied career, including a spell as penciller on Fantastic Four during J Michael Straczynski's run on the book. As well as getting several comics signed, I also got my name on his sketch list for a head-sketch of The Thing.

And it's amazing. There's so much I love about this, but it's the eyes that do it. There's such a sadness in the eyes, and the line of the jaw just brings to mind a moment where Ben's decided to commit to Alicia, only to find out that she's finally moved on. Thank you, Mike!

Normal blogging will resume tomorrow - but why not check out our latest episode before then?

Fantastic Four: Cutting Off Marvel's Nose To Spite Fox's Face?

For the last week or so, comics fandom has been up in arms over rumours that Marvel would seriously consider cancelling The Fantastic Four to avoid giving Fox any free publicity for their upcoming Fantastic Four film. Due to the time between recording and release (normally at least two weeks), this is something we're unlikely to cover in any detail on the show, for the simple reason that we will not be able to keep up with any news or developments as they happen. However, I've been asked by several people what my views and opinions on the situation are. This blog doesn't seem like the place for those opinions, so when former Fantasticast guest-host Seb Patrick asked me to write a piece on the situation for his comics website Panel Beats, I leapt at the opportunity. The piece is up, so please do head over and have a read of it.

In other news, this blog is taking a short break for the next few days. With the exception of the episode postings, there'll be no new content for the next week or so. I'll be away seeing my family and celebrating my birthday.

See you soon!

The Fantasticast: Where On Earth Is The Episode?

Episode 82 of The Fantasticast was released at 1am BST on Saturday 30th May. Two hours later, it was pulled from the internet, with only a couple of drunked tweets and Facebook comments to mark its passing. What happened?

Well, the simple answer is that Steve cocked up. Twice.

First of all, he set an expiration date for the podcast, rather than a release date, meaning that his timed release failed and the episode went out for three minute on Thursday evening. One fast delete later, and all was fine. Unfortunately, whilst re-uploading the episode, he accidentally selected Andy's raw audio track, rather than the finished episode that he had spent several hours editing.

At 3am in the morning, as his epic all-night game of Cards Against Humanity entered it's 7th hour, he noticed twitter messages and Facebook comments, and pulled the episode.

The correct one has now been uploaded and will be released at 1am BST on Sunday June 1st. Sorry US listeners, you're going to have to do the time-zone conversion yourselves!

Steve

Fantastic Four #19: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 8

Fantastic Four #19, page 13, panels 3-5 Written by: Stan Lee

Drawn by: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: S. Rosen

I'm a big fan of this transformation from the Thing to Ben. Unlike several in the past, this is not really random, and it serves the plot. Without this happening, the Four would likely still be slaves of Rama-Tut.

However, it is a bit surprising that the inciting element for the transformation would be a really hot sun. If this was all that was needed, then Reed would be able to put Ben on the next ICBM to modern-day Egypt and let him enjoy being himself. A better way of looking at this would be that it was a combination of Rama-Tut's will-sapping ray and the hot sun, causing a unique reaction within The Thing's body. With all those caption boxes, Stan surely could have squeezed in a better explanation than 'it got really hot'...

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #19 on our eighteenth episode: Pharoahs And Plants, Spiders And Soldiers

[audio FF_Episode_18.mp3]

Strange Tales Annual #2: The Moment That Made Steve Walk Off

Strange Tales Annual #1, page18, panels 1-2 Written by: Stan Lee

Drawn by: Jack Kirby

Inking: Steve Ditko

Lettering: Art Simek

So, this is the moment that made me walk off the show (thankfully, towards the very end of the story, so Andy and Jon weren't left high and dry for too long). I've always found the idea that roller skates popping out of shoes make someone uncatchable to be pretty ridiculous. For the record, it's my least favourite of Iron Man's gadgets. The guy can fly - why does he need roller skates?

Here, a master of disguise also turns out to be a master of a miniaturisation technology, as he fits perfectly balanced wheels, a control system and actual rocket propulsion into a standard pair of shoes. To catch him, Spider-Man once again makes a connection with the speed force and overtakes him. Instead of, say, webbing him.

Stan, Jack and Steve were fairly straight-laced, but it's hard not to imagine that this issue was cooked up after a heavy night of drinking, or some specialist smoking...

Check out our coverage of Strange Tales Annual #2 on our sixteenth episode: The Best Of Annuals, The Worst Of Annuals. It's the one where Steve walks out over the utter ridiculousness of the story, leaving the show in the hands of Andrew and guest-host Jon M. Wilson.

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ffcast/FF_Episode_16.mp3]