Comic book culture has grown so much in the past decade that it's becoming near-impossible to stay knowledgeable about everything. Thankfully, there's an abundance of podcasts available, with panelists who have made reading their treasured tomes their livelihood. The World's Greatest Comic Book Podcast
(formerly Hold 322
) features a panel of five people from around Utah and North America discussing the latest news and storyline developments related to as many titles as they can get, from DC and Marvel to the independent publishers. Today we chat with three of the show's hosts about their geekdom, starting the show and where they hope to take things down the road. (All pictures provided courtesy of DefenMedia.
J.M. Bell, JC Carter & Holly Braithwaite
Gavin: Hey everyone! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
I was trapped in a cave for decades, with nothing more than a steady stream of comic books to read, but no forum in which to discuss them. Then one day, a light! A very large Viking-like hand reached down and brought me into my very own podcast. Now I can share my decades of comic book obsession with the world!
From the dawn of time I came; moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the Podcasting; when the few who remain will babble
to the last. Not too many have ever known I was among you ... until now.
I danced out of the womb and never stopped. I learned to read at age three by recognizing Coca-Cola logos on the sides of delivery trucks and then got way into fairies at age 13. Then gargoyles. Then vampires.
What originally got you into comic book and geek culture as you were growing up?
My dad was functionally illiterate, and loved comic books because he could follow the story just by studying the images. Since there were always comic books lying around I knew who every superhero was long before I could read their names. I got my first comic book when I was six, and started regularly buying them when I was seven. I haven’t stopped for 40 years. My dad also loved westerns, and there was one western, in particular, I loved watching with him: Star Trek
. From Star Trek
came Space: 1999
, Star Wars
, Battlestar Galactica
and a horde of other geek-films, culminating with my one-true-love, Doctor Who
, whom I discovered long before he was cool. Kinda like J.M., whom I discovered long before he was cool.
I have never been cool. It was 1978, an auspicious and impressionable year. My first contacts with geek culture were Star Trek: TOS
and the Adam West Batman
series, both in syndication. I loved the seriousness of Kirk, and the (no shit) drive for justice in Batman. My first comic book was 1978’s Green Lantern #101
with Green Arrow. I was in Jackson Hole with my family, had nothing to read, and only 50 cents in my pocket. I was 6 years old, would only answer when addressed as Batman, and knew that nothing could stop me from being a starship captain. I didn’t know what a “Republican Party” was yet, and that space travel would be murdered in the face by an ignorant and silly succession of Congress-critters.
I used to steal my brother’s copies of Sherlock Holmes
and then eventually stole his Duran Duran albums. It wasn’t until 1993 when I became a goth and traded in my neon jelly bracelets for burgundy lace tops, black silk skirts and fake fangs at Sugar House’s Club Confetti. After years of clove cigarettes and Bauhaus, yeah pretty much still that, 20 years later.
I’ve seen the pictures. She was an epic Grim Trooper.
What titles or series are each of you currently reading and enjoying right now?
It might be easier to say what I’m not enjoying. My decades of geekdom make me a pretty-easy date for most things comic book and sci-fi. At least a very forgiving one. That being said, Saga
by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples is "The. Best. Book." being created right now. I love almost anything written by Brian Michael Bendis. Even his shopping lists are intriguing. I’ve recently fallen for the writing talents of Kelly Thompson, who’s currently penning the adventures of Hawkeye
. No, not that Hawkeye, the other Hawkeye—the girl Hawkeye.
A small sampling of books I’m usually excited to read. For Marvel: Mighty Thor
, Unworthy Thor
and Old Man Logan
. For DC: Hellblazer
. For indy, Reborn
, Bitch Planet
and Sex Criminals
Holly: Jem & The Holograms
, James Bond and Yakuza Demon Killer
. A metaphor for life? I think so.
How did everyone eventually meet each other and become friends?
I met J.M. Bell in 1988. We bonded over Batman and Star Trek
. I also had a car and was willing to take him to Denny’s at 2 a.m. to smoke and drink coffee. We lived in Pleasant Grove, what else is there to do at 2 a.m. in Happy Valley? I met Holly several years later through mutual friends in the theater,
and started stalking her. The problem is that I’m really lazy, so my stalking was limited to her Facebook page. Fortunately, she thought we were cool nerds, told us that she, too, was a cool nerd, and wanted to come on our show and podcast with us.
You mean, “How did we meat
each other?” JC and J.M. were both drawn in by my tractor beam of quirky awesomeness and geek-girl hotness.
Actually, I don’t completely remember the first time I met JC, but he tells me I called him an “asshole.” Then he directed me in a short play and during rehearsal, he asked, “Can you do that again, but without the suck?” Then we drank shots. It was love at first swig
. I remember J.M. from the first time we played with a Ouija board in a radio station on Halloween morning after I had spent the whole previous night in a haunted room at the Shilo Inn downtown. It was love at first sight. I’m not kidding.
The Ouija board was at 7:30 a.m., live on the radio. The morning I met Holly was also the first morning I had grits for breakfast. I love grits. LOVE THEM. I think sometimes my love for them is so big, that I give Holly the excess love, based on the simple fact that I met both within an hour of each other. What was the question again? Robert J. Defendi (aka Bob 616) has been with JC and me since the '80s. We were all part of a group comprised of geeks, drama kids, long hairs and artistic types, banded together for protection in the oppressive wilds of Utah County. Ultimate Bob Easton is and old pal of JC’s, and thinks that Superman has worth and value. He is obviously wrong. Canadian Thom Floyd we picked up from The LEFT Show
. He was safe and insured in Nova Scotia, looking south with a worried eye, wondering WTF this Romney guy was all about and found The LEFT Show
on a Google search. He’s got a great mind and a sharp wit for politics and world events, so, we put him on the World’s Greatest Comic Book Podcast, like you do.
What made you decide to start up a podcast? And for those who don't get it, explain the original name Hold 322.
JC: Hold 322
was my hold box number at my friendly neighborhood comic book store. A “Hold” at a comic book shop is a place where patrons can ask the proprietor to place the comics they don’t want to miss, so they don’t have to rush over on Wednesdays—I still rush over on Wednesdays. J.M. had invited me to be on The LEFT Show
in its infancy. I naturally said “yes.” A few months go by and we were invited by Night Flight Comics to cover their event for the 75th Anniversary of Archie Comics. We baked out in the brick oven that’s Library Square, and spent a good part of our podcast discussing comic books. A few weeks later, J.M. asked me to start a new podcast for the network. We needed shows if we were going to start a media empire and one day rule the world, after all. I pitched him a few show ideas, and in among a bunch of boring and terrible ideas, was Hold 322
. The initial concept was that we’d just talk about the comics that I picked up in my hold each week. But that evolved very quickly into industry news, movies, television and video games discussions. We still cover the week in comics, but now I have three co-hosts and the occasional Canadian contributor, who tell us about the books they read as well.
JC buys comics every week to talk about on the show, plus I get to borrow those comics, equals huge savings.
I have no hold, I’m all digital baby! I regret nothing.
What were the first few episodes like getting everyone together and figuring out the direction of the show?
It started with just me and Jeff. Then my friend Ultimate Bob listened to an episode and demanded that he be on it, if for no other reason than to defend Superman from Jeff’s barbs. The dynamic was very quickly realized. But then Ultimate Bob needed to take a leave of absence, so we “killed him off” on an episode and very quickly realized we needed a third voice. Holly’s name was brought up, but we thought she might be too busy. Then one day she reached out to me and asked to be on the show. One episode and we knew we had a new harmony. Then Holly had to go and move to Seattle. Fortunately, Ultimate Bob was back, and we could go back to the old dynamic for a while. Somewhere in there, we picked up our Canadian correspondent, Thom Floyd. Now Ultimate Bob is gone again, we’ve got another Bob, Bob Defendi, and Holly’s back.
We got Holly’s front, too, which is also quite nice. The show is ever evolving in an effort to tighten it up to 90-minutes. Then we come up with more gimmicks, segments, and topics, and it goes out of control again.
It’s a sausage fest without me. How many times have we killed off Ultimate Bob?
Three times, I think. He’s allergic to bullets, time travel and mainstream Grant Morrison titles.
How was it feeling each other out and nailing down the dynamics to your conversation?
That didn’t take too long. There were some fights to talk in the early days, but we’ve worked through that.
I talk the loudest, so I usually win the show.
What was the early response like from listeners, both local and abroad?
We got a Canadian right away, so that was fun. It took a while before listeners let us know we were out there. In fact, it wasn’t until we decided to play a Marvel Trivia game I had that any listeners really contacted us. Of course, they contacted us to say “Never do that again.” But hey! We got letters!
A bit of a slow burn honestly, because most of the world didn’t know what a “Hold” was. Most places, we’ve been told, call them a Pull Box. Changing the name last year boosted comprehension of what the hell the show was about, and numbers started climbing.
How do you go about deciding topics each week? Do you always go for what's new or do you try to bring in random subjects people may not know anything about?
It’s a bit of both. Jeff finds various news articles for us to discuss that are usually relevant for the week. We try to cover this week in comic books and TV, but there’s often somebody behind in their reading or viewing. We have a “Question of the Week” segment that lets us talk about “Back in the Silver Age,” but that’s now in the hands of the listeners to submit questions.
I’m the decider. I make the decider-isions
The show has been going almost five years now, how has it been watching it grow and succeed?
I think I was shocked the first time Jeff told me we had over 1,000 listeners. Now we’re even bigger. We had a good heyday with the first few Salt Lake Comic Cons and were able to pick up new listeners there. At least until we were no longer invited to play. Still, it’s always cool to be in a comic book store, at the Con, or even at a movie and meet a fan. I’m grateful for anyone who’s willing to listen to us and love each and every one of those special snowflakes for it.
Frustrating as hell, actually. I listen to more than 30 podcasts a week, and I know what we’re doing is quality original content. That said, it’s difficult, given our geography, to hit the stride that equals constant growth. In Utah, word of mouth is smothered with the Small Lake City effect. Advertising dollars have a frustratingly low ROI here, and when I watch our percentage of growth out in the world vs. growth in Utah, it slams effective promotion to a halt because it’s too expensive. Unlike The LEFT Show
, World’s Greatest
doesn’t have a Bush, Romney or Trump to galvanize and grow an audience.
Where do you hope to take it down the road? And what do you hope listeners take away from it?
We are The World’s Greatest Comic Book Podcast
, and we are out to prove that. I want us out on tour with the con circuit, and I want everyone to see just how amazing and awesome we are! I hope listeners hear that they’re not alone in their fandom. That we love all the stuff they love, even when we’re critical of it and make fun of it. I hope a listener hears me going on about how great a comic book is and takes a chance on reading it.
With our national audience growing, and, lately, our international audience becoming more than a statistical blip, we’re looking to get out of town. Denver, Seattle, London, New York, Melbourne and São Paulo are all in the development plan to get this show on the road. As to take-away, look, when I was growing up, the geeks, nerds and dorks were the oppressed subclass of the American education system. I took more shit for a Batman t-shirt than I did for singing songs from musicals. Now the Gen-X geeks rule the world. It’s important for kids now to realize that there is no difference
between geek culture fandom and wearing team jerseys while saying shit like, “We played a great game.” Hell, there are better odds of me becoming a mutant that most football fans ever touching a ball in a stadium. Time to let your freak flags fly; be proud, love what you love and never be afraid to scream “SPOOOON!” before battling the forces of evil.
What can we expect from all of you and The World’s Greatest Comic Book Podcast over the rest of 2017?
Lots of love for Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Thompson. More from Ultimate Stan Lee. Inappropriate behavior in public. World domination.
Dick jokes, boobs fetish and not liking very much of anything. Calling Zack Snyder a giant wanker will probably come up a lot, too. Pimping our exclusive Patreon
content (which is often the best content we make every week), and working to get Defenestrate Media
moved into a better, slightly bigger, more accessible office space.