The Killing Joke Review (Yes, again)

The Killing Joke Graphic Novel Cover

Preamble

To Batman fans, “The Killing Joke” is one of the most quintessential comics in recent years. Comic book readers tend to agree: The Killing Joke is Joker’s true origin story. Last time you heard Zane’s thoughts on one particular Killing Joke adaptation found on YouTube. This week’s review is the same story, but with a different cast and crew  behind it. Whether it be adaptations or reviewing the same exact audio stories, I’d like to do more of this in the future. Call it a spin on the saying: “Different Strokes for Different Folks.” With that said, let’s get down to the review.

“The Killing Joke” Review

The only way to mess up an audio adaptation is with over-the-top acting and bad sound effects. When you’re adaptating a story from a comic book, people tend to gloss over sound effects and go straight for the acting itself. In this particular adaptation, every line of dialogue comes straight from the comic. Like the last “The Killing Joke” review (written by Zane Sexton), this one is also on YouTube. As the title of this one will say, it’s a motion comic and audio dramatization. While the visuals aren’t required, it might’ve helped with the performances.

Not to say they were bad, but they were no Mark Hamill or Kevin Conroy, which they seemed to be trying to emulate in their performances. The actors playing Joker and Batman/Bruce Wayne were over the top is some instances and melodramatic in others. It was hit or miss, more often than not, and a struggle to get through the entire story. The first 10-15 minutes were the most awkward, as if the actors were finding their way into character.

That said, it’s hard to live up to the graphic novel’s acclaim. Even the animated movie failed to capture the story, according to most critics. The general consensus was the off-putting scene in the “prologue” with Batgirl that wasn’t in the original story. Unlike the animated movie, this audio adaptation is faithful to the source material and it’s perhaps its greatest flaw.

If you’ve never read The Killing Joke or know nothing about it, you might enjoy this. Aside from those two reasons, you’re better off listening to the one Zane Sexton reviewed on the site or reading the graphic novel.

It’s as simple as this: if you know what’s going to happen in a story, then the only thing that can make it engaging comes through with the production itself. As far as this adaptation goes, it barely scrapes by.

3.5/5 Stars

Interview: Fault Line Players, Youtube and OTR Serial Homages

With the vast majority of audio dramas being on iTunes and other Podcasting applications, why YouTube? Are there any plans to publish on other platforms?

Ted Falagan – YouTube was simply the most accessible and, most importantly for a troupe that produces everything out of their own pockets, it didn’t cost anything.  We’re also on SoundCloud (where folks can download free MP3’s of our latest works.).  We’ve tried ITunes, Pod-O-Matic, Podbean, and even our own website, but found that YouTube simply reaches the most people and requires the least amount of effort on our part in terms of marketing.  Don’t get me wrong, we do as much social media marketing as humanly possible, it’s just that YT is easy to format and has a bigger reach. Our website is down for the time being, but we plan on re-launching it soon.  But it’s a lot of work to maintain.  Currently, FLP has a staff of two – myself and my wife, Debbie – and we do all of the writing, editing, the majority of the voice acting, and all of the marketing, so we have to try and keep things simple.  Or we collapse!

Talking about the Silver Fox, what made you want to tackle such a classic archetype of radio drama, which some would say has been overdone. Were you going for an homage or something different?

T.F. – I’ve always been a comic book fan and wanted to try a super hero tale.  It seems that the mysterious, lone vigilante hero – armed with only his fists and guns (ala The Green Hornet, Shadow, etc.) is the easiest to translate into an audio format.  ‘The Silver Fox’ is definitely an homage to that form of storytelling.  I suppose it is overdone to a certain extent.  I simply wanted to create a world where this character could exist in and then co-exist and interact with other heroes (many of which will be introduced in future ‘S.F.’ episodes.)  I loved comics specifically for the connectivity of the stories, the characters all existed in the same universe.  Now that Marvel has finally taken the step into translating that to a film universe, I wanted to try and do it with an audio one.  A lot of future threads in my ‘S.F.’ stories will connect in small ways to some of my other audio stories.  And, for those brave souls who follow our works, perhaps they’ll notice and be excited by it. Or not.

Do you record the actors at the same time in the same room, or is this an online endeavor? If you had the chance to do it the other way, would you?

Deborah Fabiano-Falagan – We record everything in a little office / studio in our apartment.  When using outside actors, we have them come in one at a time (there isn’t room for multiple actors) and then they record their lines in one session.  We’ve had actors record lines on their own, using various recording methods, and actually from spots all over the world, but it began to get problematic getting the different recordings from varied sources to sound right, so we discarded that approach.  We have moved recently and now have a bigger space, so we hope to get a troupe together and record some works live in the future.

What are some of your personal favorite productions you’ve done so far. Are there any in upcoming projects you’d like to share?

D.F.F. – My favorite episodes to write are the ‘Asylum of The Mind’ episodes.  That’s our horror anthology series.  Since it’s an anthology, I get to really stretch my imagination and go very dark.  As far as the future goes, we are currently auditioning for new troupe member so we can get more voices into the mix and, hopefully, to get some more writers.  Ted & I can write and act in many shorts, that’s fine, but having more voices both behind and in front of the mic would be the ideal situation.  And that’s what we hope to do.  Right now, we premiere a new short once a month, but we’d love to get enough new talent added so that we can, perhaps, move to a weekly – or at least bi-weekly – schedule as far as content output goes.  That would be ideal.  We always have ideas and new scripts, and will keep creating works of all genres.  We have a 1950’s era, sci-fi series coming called ‘The Aquarians,’ and a continuation of our popular vampire web-series ‘brood,’ called ‘The House of Kaine.’

 

Michael: Thanks to Deborah and Ted for taking the time to answer these questions. A review of The Silver Fox will premiere over at Audio Drama Reviews on December 4th, 2016.

Kakos Industries Episodes 1-5 Review

A fictional broadcast for a made-up corporation, Kakos Industries is the evil love child of The Bright Sessions and King Falls AM and that’s not because it’s structure and style match those two titans of newer audio dramas.

Kakos Industries easy-to-follow format is one of its hallmarks. On average, there is only one character. That of Corin Deeth III, voiced by creator, Conrad Miszuk. The show’s format is focused on corporate announcements about Kakos Industries and its operations in the world. There’s a lot of dry wit humor and dark comedy sprinkled throughout, adding a Pratchett-esque feel to the episodes as a whole.

Continuity between episodes is easily forgotten if you’re not listening back to back and is quite subtle. Most of them take the form of running gags like Kakos Industries shareholders being the only ones who are able to listen to the announcements. Anyone else should end their lives in a black comedy kind of way. Obviously, this is not for the faint of heart and contains explicit language such as the occasional f-bomb and humor that makes you “that’s just wrong” throughout. Personally, I love it. If I ever get more free time, this goes on my list.

Each episode is more or less standalone and releases each month along with the full text on their website.

5/5 Stars

Press Release: Radio Drama Creator Tom Lopez Launches New Audio Drama Streaming Website

Influential radio dramatist Tom Lopez has launched a new website for lovers of audio drama.  The website allows subscribers to stream a total of 238 hours of radio drama for a small monthly or annual fee.  

Lopez has been producing radio/audio stories for 46 years – comic and cosmic adventures, science fiction, mystical mysteries, some with spiritual wisdoms, and some that are just down right fun, family entertainment.  His intention has always been to raise consciousness by using the media, radio and audio.

The dramas include performances by a stable of talented actors from the worlds of Broadway, television and avant-garde theater; original music by composer Tim Clark; and real-world ambient sound Lopez has recorded around the globe.

Lopez’s non-profit foundation ZBS produced original stories for Public Radio, Internet Radio, CDs, and MP3 downloads. When radio drama peaked in the 1980’s many of his series aired on the BBC, CBC Canada, ABC Australia, National Public Radio & Armed Forces Radio, including over 500 stations in the US.  As radio drama began to disappear from the airwaves, Lopez sought out alternative avenues of distribution that were consistent with his adventurous nature including podcasting.

Over the years Lopez has kept ZBS alive with government grants and commissions for audio books. Fans have played a critical role by donating money and buying his finished radio dramas online.

“People actually give us money to continue to produce,” Lopez says. “These are all public radio listeners. They understand that you have to support not-for-profit arts organizations.”

Fans of radio drama can check out Lopez’s catalogue and find out more information at www.zbsmedia.com.

 

Jazz Beitler

School of Deaths

The first book in The Scythe Wielder’s Secret series, School of Deaths is the spiritual successor of young adult fantasy books like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. At the same time, the book is also its own thing, subverting the tropes you’ve come to expect in YA fiction and fantasy as a whole.

School of Deaths starts off strong in the normal world. Far better than most fantasies which begin in everyday normal life. There’s an instant connection with Susan Sarnio that doesn’t involve making us feel sorry for her. While the similarities to Harry Potter are immense, the reader isn’t bombarded with how bad the main character’s life is right off the bat. One of the ways this tries to separate itself from tropes is by giving Suzie Sarnio a relatively good life. Once we enter the magical world of the deaths, things start to slow down a bit too much. Honestly these chapters blended together.

It’s after the reader learns about Lovethar that the comparisons to Harry Potter continue full force. That being said, this is not a carbon copy of Rowling’s famous boy wizard. Unlike Harry Potter, Susan is hated in the magical world of the deaths. She is by no means the girl who lived or anyone famous. In fact, most people would call her infamous due to gender constraints.

The apparent and sometimes over-the-top sexism from the characters makes Susan that much more compelling as she has to literally start from the bottom because of the deaths’ biases against woman. That being said, the thing which doesn’t make sense is why almost all the students at the college hate Susan. Professors are understandable as they have the knowledge of the world, but most of these children are from the world of the living. Did they suddenly become more sexist because they were taken to the land of the deaths? It’s one of those things that doesn’t bother you in the moment, but upon closer inspection, yanks you out of the story.

All in all, School of Deaths is a great start to a YA fantasy. While some parts in the middle sagged a bit and Harry Potter comparisons were aplenty, the fact that this story stands on its own ground and subverts many of the tropes found in YA fantasy novels is a plus in its favor.

4.5/5 Stars

200th Review Results and a New Reviewer?

The results of who would win the spot for 200th review on the site have been determined. Actually they have been for a while. There was a great turnout, a lot more people than I expected showed their support for these great audio productions. I guess that’s the power of social media for you.

I bought the production on audible almost two years ago, after finishing the show’s second season. It’s now time to reopen pandora’s box and resume the zombie apocalypse.

That’s right, We’re Alive – Season 3 is the winner of the 200th review determination poll The review will go live on January 29, 2017.

The next announcement to share is that Audio Drama Reviews has a new critic. In addition to myself, Michael Bergonzi, Zane Sexton has signed on to be a critic both of and for audio dramas. Like me, he started off as a fan. In some ways he’s harsher than I am, but I’ll let you judge that for yourself when his first review on the site goes live this Sunday (July 31, 2016).

Take care everyone.

RED SUN: Hajima

At first glance, this sounds like a cool idea and upon closer inspection it had the potential to be a kick ass modern-day take on Samurai. Most of the problems lie within the short length of each episode and the odd, almost forced characterization of the main character.

Miles Moto is supposed to be an Asian American Bruce Wayne. He certainly has the skills, but they border on the unbelievable. For example, there’s no real sense of how hard he trained. This is an origin story and its hard to suspend disbelief on a guy who suffers from a haunted past in the military. The way the fight scenes were handled certainly didn’t help, but again the setup wasn’t there to make you believe he could do all those things and do them so well. On top of that, his desire to become part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is a bit forced on the page, but comes across as not all that important until the end. The opening narration for each episode, explaining who Miles Moto is and what his passions are, go a bit too in-depth with his character. It adds some depth, sure, but what’s the point aside from making him forcibly more complex.

The length of the episodes is almost too short for what it’s trying to accomplish in this five-part origin story arc and the fact you have to purchase them individually is also a pain. The shortest episode is around ten minute long, including the credits. Considering the money you put in, the investment is barely worth it–Quality not withstanding. An extra five minutes for each episode or ten minutes across all the episodes would have given a lot more context on the characters. As it stands now, I really didn’t care about any of them.

There were a number of awesome story hooks that never got utilized to their full potential. On top of that, it just wasn’t that memorable. Nothing got you excited about going out and purchasing the next episode, let alone listening to it.

The acting is without a doubt the best part and the production value is at least on par with many audio drama podcasts, if not better.

4/5 Stars

What do Edict Zero, We’re Alive, and The Beam all have in common?

They’re all contenders for the 200th review spot on the site. After looking at the stats for the five plus years we’ve been active, we noticed that the top three productions were as follows:

Rather than picking one of these titans of audio productions that span the spectrum of audio entertainment, we decided to let you choose. Let these creators know you love their work by voting on your favorite. We’re huge fans of all three, making the decision near impossible. Hopefully democracy will have better luck.

Eventually we’ll review all of them, but it felt right to do this for the 200th review. This is not the super awesome special surprise I mentioned on twitter a few weeks ago.

So look forward to that.

Cast your vote on Twitter.

Archer and Armstrong 1-4

Pendant Production’s audio drama adaptation of Valiant Comics’ series, Archer and Armstrong is both for the fans and a wild ride in general for everyone else. The four episode arc titled “The Michelangelo Code” is filled with humorous gags such as ninja nuns and a secret order of nazis with a ridiculous name. If you’re getting a Dixie Stenberg vibe, you’re not alone.

If you’re fan of the comic, you’ll no doubt enjoy this. If you have no idea who Archer and Armstrong are, you’re at a slight disadvantage. It’s like watching Avengers: Age of Ultron and not seeing the phase two films leading up to it. You’ll understand the main plot, but almost half of the characters will be unknown. Even more so if you haven’t read or know about the source material. Archer and Armstrong lies somewhere in between the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel Cinematic one, but much closer to Marvel in terms of tone.

The creativity and attention to detail in the production and sound scape alone were incredible. The moments where Archer is explaining the fighting style he’s about to use on someone were pure gold and felt right out of a comic book. Its execution played out like the first fight scene in the 2008 Sherlock Holmes film, starring Robert Downey Jr., making the listener go wow that was fun and cool. Something which is lacking in entertainment these days.

4.5/5 Stars

Archer and Armstrong is available for purchase on Amazon/Audible and iTunes.

Interview: Cristal Duhaime and Mira Burt-Wintonick of Love Me

What made you want to start a Podcast about relationships? Were shows like Serial and other podcasts, based on anecdotes, inspirational to you?

MBW: I’m always curious to hear about what’s going on in other people’s relationships. I’m a bit of a snoop. I wanted to create a show that would give me an excuse to talk to people about their private lives. And after WireTap ended, Cristal and I wanted somewhere to feature all the radio fictions we planned to write, and we figured starting our own show might be the best way to achieve that.

CD: Yeah, we were interested in having a venue in which we could explore both documentary and fiction. And relationship struggles seemed like a natural fit for a topic since it’s such a universal problem and there’s just so much to explore there. But we also wanted to make sure we were covering all kinds of interactions–not just romantic ones.

Tell us about Wiretap and its relationship to Love Me and the CBC?

MBW: Working on WireTap was an incredibly formative experience. I spent 10 years working on that show, which is pretty much my entire career. We always felt pretty lucky in that the CBC let us do our own thing for the most part so we were free to experiment and try new things. After spending so many years mixing WireTap, the aesthetic inhabits you a bit, so Love Me is definitely a continuation of that aesthetic in certain ways. But we also wanted to try to make it sound distinct so we enlisted a few musicians to help create Love Me’s sonic space with a new theme song and some scoring music.

CD: Listeners who are familiar with WireTap will definitely recognize a similar production style–for example the use of music and creative sound design to complement our stories, which can sometimes contribute to a surreal atmosphere… But it’s also a departure in that WireTap obviously very much centered on Jonathan Goldstein as the host and personality of the show and all the elements were filtered through him. Love Me instead focuses on the individual stories week to week. While we do have a host, the wonderful Lu Olkowski, she plays a somewhat non-traditional role in that we only hear from her off the top and she doesn’t interact with the pieces in the show.

How did you come across the stories for your first couple of episodes. Is there a way for people to submit their own to Love Me?

MBW: Our story ideas are a mix of us imagining things that would be fun to hear and then seeking those out in the real world or writing a fiction inspired by that idea, but then we also reached out to storytellers and asked them to pitch us stuff. We’re no longer accepting submissions for Season 1 of Love Me, but if we do a second season we’d love for people to get in touch if they have a story they want to share. They can do so through our website or at loveme@cbc.ca

CD: Yeah, when we did the call-out for season 1, we weren’t sure exactly what we were looking for… But now we have more of a sense of things and we hope listeners will as well and come to us!

What was the hardest part about creating the show, in terms of production? What was the easiest?

MBW: One of the hardest parts was selecting the stories we wanted to feature. We got flooded with story submissions and it was tricky to decide which ones to focus on and which to devote our energy to. Once we figured that out it was a little easier to wrap our heads around everything, but then of course the challenge of structuring each piece begins, which is no easy feat. Each piece went through many many drafts during the editing process before we felt satisfied with the story arc. The easiest part was probably mixing because once you get into the right flow things start to come together nicely and you have all the elements in front of you so you’re no longer digging through tape and re-arranging things. You’re just trying out different songs and sounds and seeing what resonates best.

CD: There was also a lot of heavy-lifting in figuring out the basic elements of the show, for instance the theme song and scoring music, the host’s role, the show’s logo, etc. Those elements are instrumental in creating the identity of a show and once they’re put in place there’s no going back. So that seemed to require a lot more thought and debate than with just producing individual stories. If we were to do a 2nd season of the show, I think we would have an easier time of it as that foundation will already have been worked out. We were also perhaps a little ambitious with some of our pieces which made production rather intensive–one of the toughest things we decided to do was a short drama with 12 characters. The casting alone was incredibly time-consuming, let alone the editing and mixing!  

What can listeners expect in future episodes? Anything you can reveal?

MBW: We have a great story by the ABC’s Sophie Townsend that we’re really excited about. She’s one of our favourites radio producers. And a few more personal stories that made us cry all through the editing and mixing process. But it’s not all tears! There’s some fun stuff, too!

CD: The short drama with 12 characters I mentioned before is coming up in episode 5, “Family Portrait”. It features a well-meaning family man who tries to get one decent group photo. And of course, things go horribly awry. I’m also excited about the story of a woman in her 60s who seeks out the man who confessed his feelings for her back when they were in their teens. She finds out he joined the priesthood shortly after she turned him down all those years ago…

Where can people learn more about Love Me and other works you’re involved with?

MBW: People can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or visit cbc.ca/loveme for extra content, like photos associated with each episode or a great animation about untranslatable words of love. We’re also starting production on a new fiction series for Howl.fm that will be released sometime in the fall.