Tagged: John Siuntres

Ed Catto: Podcasts… and an Enduring Favorite


john-siuntres-150x190-8726065I’ve been driving a lot more since my move to the Finger Lakes and I’ve been trying to use my time wisely. For music, I catch up on Pete Fornatale’s Mixed Bag from WFUV and ComicMix’s own Mike Gold’s Weird Sounds Inside the Gold Mind from The Point Radio. Both offer great tunes and insightful, thoughtful commentary.

And for thoughtful discussion, I’ve been really enjoying John Siuntres’s Word Balloon Podcast. John’s an incredibly passionate interviewer with a deep knowledge of and respect for pop culture and comics. Each week, he sits down to have an extended conversation with a creator. John has the uncanny talents of getting people to open up (often a creator will say “I haven’t told anyone this before”) and for making the listener feel like he or she is part of it all too. When I listen to Word Balloon, I feel like I’m sitting right there with them, but just can’t get a word in edgewise.

batman-king-146x225-7831740celebrate-eisner-week-150x197-3707283Recent interviews have included:

  • Tom King – one of the industry’s hottest writers, talking about his recent work on the Vision and Batman, and all the while framing it against his real life as a husband a father of young kids.
  • Danny Fingeroth – talking about Spider-Man and Will Eisner Week. It was so compelling, that I’m now working with my local librarian on an Eisner Week event. (More on that soon!)
  • Rob Liefeld – a polarizing figure who provides great insight into his creation Deadpool and the box office success of the movie. No longer a “young punk creator,” Rob is now able to offer a unique perspective to his success and the marketplace’s wants and needs
  • cursewords_01-1-146x225-3272401paul-dini-jingle-belle-144x225-2161893Ryan Browne – on Image’s new Curse Words Normally, I have passed over this series, but the passionate discussion and insights on the Word Balloon Podcast got me excited enough to give it a try.
  • Paul Dini – providing great insights into his new animation work on Justice League Action and his Jingle Belle character.

I’ve been doing more writing, and I just finished my first article for TwoMorrow’s Back Issue! magazine. Editor Michael Eury asked me to write about the 80s comic series from DC called Thriller. Created by Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden, Thriller was one of those innovative series that DC launched during the excitement of non-traditional comics like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns & Ronin, Barr and Boland’s Camelot 3000, and Howard Chaykin’s The Shadow. During my research, it was amazing to find out how many fans fondly remember Thriller too.

thriller-01-00-fc-147x225-6104927Maybe it was the tagline. Fans vividly remember how the series announced, “She has seven seconds to save the world!” This actually had a double meaning. On one hand, Trevor Von Eeden’s innovative page layouts pushed the reader along the page with a real sense of urgency. And we were all soon to find out that the main character had seven agents, called “seconds” that she guided on her Mission: Impossible-like adventures.

Maybe it was characters. Robert Loren Fleming packed Thriller with so many unique characters. Most series would build a story around one fresh new protagonist. Fleming had eight heroes, two villains and another half-dozen supporting characters that the reader was dying to learn more about. And that was just in the first story arc.

Maybe it was the creative risks the creators took. Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden were trying something new and different. They took risks on a very public stage. They didn’t play it safe. They gave it 110% and left it all onstage. We all can applaud that. And even after all these years, that’s just so very impressive.

And I was able to dig up some fantastic insights and track down the startling truth behind a secret Thriller rumor. Back Issue! #98, focusing on DC in the 80s, will be on sale this July, just in time for San Diego Comic-Con. It should be a lot of fun.

Ed Catto: It is Balloon!

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There are many ways to secure a seat at the big Geek table. Young fans often start by scribbling in their sketchbooks with dreams of drawing the adventures of their favorite characters. Cosplayers create costumes and attend conventions through the year. Today’s on-ramps include drawing, writing, coloring, publishing, retailing, reporting and cosplay…there’s a myriad of ways to participate in the grand Geek tapestry.

gene ha drawingHere’s a fan who has found a fascinating seat at the table. He talks to his favorite creators about his favorite things – and then lets us all listen in. And it’s great entertainment. The Word Balloon is an interview podcast hosted by a bright guy and with a lot of ideas named John Sinters and I wanted to find out how what drives him and how he created this podcast.

John’s a guy who loves all facets of comic culture. He was born just a smidge too late to fully embrace the debut of Batmania in ‘66, but definitely enjoyed the long tail and quickly leapfrogged into comics. “My allowance was 50 cents, and so each week I could buy two 20 cent comics.”

John drifted out of fandom a couple of times. When an inevitable interest in dating took hold in high school, he lost interest, only to be drawn back during college. “A local comic shop was giving away Xeroxed copies of Watchman.” It was short hop over to Frank Miller’s Batman opus, The Dark Knight Returns and mainstream comics.

John Siuntres in a Spider-Man comicBy the mid-nineties, he had drifted away once more, but hearing that Kevin Smith’s new Daredevil was just as good as Frank Miller’s mid-80s run, he jumped back into the pool and will probably never climb out.

John always loved radio. Having started as a disc jockey, he quickly shifted to talk radio. “Talk will always endure. I gravitated towards Sports Talk Radio first.”

In the early 2000, John was working for CBS’s The Score and then Sporting News Radio, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The company always encouraged ideas that would leverage Allen’s other holdings. Siuntres realized one of Allen’s other holding was the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle Washington. (It has since been rebranded as the EMP museum.)

He suggested that Sporting News Radio create an audio podcast to help promote this Science Fiction museum. Management declined, but thought the idea had great potential and suggested, “Why don’t you just do it yourself?”

Word Balloon originally started as a documentary. But when those plans fell through, John turned to the local Chicago scene and creators like Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) and Max Collins (Ms Tree, Road to Perdition). The movie Batman Begins was in production locally and Moonstone was a local comics publisher ramping up at that time.

In the early days, he used a lot of elbow grease to get the word out. “I’d just post on CBR and various message board communities,” said John. “I started with Azzarello – very early on. I liked the Jeff Parker’s The Interman and at the time he was just getting Marvel work.”

He posted that interview and then clearly recalls getting a message from comic artist Mike Wieringo, who asked for help downloading the podcast. John quickly invited him onto Word Balloon as a guest.

principal siuntresJohn really enjoyed the conversations, and fans did too. “By that point, I was doing Chicago radio for about 12 or 13 years. I was interviewing Chicago athletes in the fields, at the games. I had my 10,000 hours of experience in that,” said John, referencing Malcolm Gladwell’s contention that 10,000 hours of practice is needed to achieve mastery in a field.

He was inspired by magazines like The Comics Journal and Amazing Heroes. And in music, magazines like Rolling Stone were focusing on the creators and creative process. “Those were great,” he recalls. As the era of creator owned comics dawned, an interview show like Word Balloon made all the more sense.

“I’ve got an audience and it keeps getting bigger. People are becoming more Podcast savvy. In 2010 they said it was the end of podcasting, but it keeps on going,” said Siuntres.

attachmentWhat’s his secret? “I make it very social. lt’s like spending an evening with someone I wanted to get to know better anyways,” said John.

Siuntres does have concerns about today’s comics. He gives a lot of thought to the amount of time it takes to tell a story. “An hour long (TV) episode of The Flash tells a whole story. But a comic reader just gets part of story and has to come back.” It might take five or six weeks to read a complete story. He feels the big two have to really look at the competition for storytelling.

Siuntres also has an opinion on the upcoming changes to DC’s publishing. “DC is about to do another rebirth. The wheels have come off the wagon, “ he said. “I don’t think a lot has happened <since the last reboot>. The chess pieces haven’t moved that far. The recent Superman story was bloated. It didn’t have to be that bloated.”

I asked John what was coming up next. Like a gleeful child the week before Christmas, he became even more animated. He teased me and told me to stay tuned for his with interviews with comic writer Rick Remender, Maria Carbado on her documentary Better Things: The Life and Times of Jeffery Catherine Jones and Joe Henderson, the showrunner for Fox’s Lucifer.

“I’m excited for the now and for the next five years,” said John. “It’s kind of like a one-on-one cocktail party.”

Take a listen here: http://wordballoon.blogspot.com

Line art sketch of John Sinters drawn by Chicago’s own Gene Ha.