Jimmy Aquino hosts the Comic News Insider, a weekly podcast covering “everything comic book, animation, sci-fi, and pop culture” (until recently, with co-host Joe Gonzalez). Jimmy has interviewed some of the biggest names in geekdom, including Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, David Tennant, Felicia Day, Kristin Chenoweth and the casts/producers of pop icons such as The Walking Dead, Smallville, Lost, Fringe, Robot Chicken and Doctor Who. We had the pleasure of turning the microphone around on him for an interview at his booth on the floor of New York Comic Con in October. What better way to interview a podcaster than in his own medium? Jimmy and Joe were kind enough to record the interview for us, which can be heard in its entirety here.
stated: We’re here at New York Comic Con, which is crazy crazy—I’ve never actually witnessed it personally, and it’s insane. I’ve already walked both rooms, and I expected the costumes, but not quite to this level… Would you give us a quick rundown of how Comic News Insider got started and where you came from? I understand you were an actor first?
JIMMY AQUINO: Yes, I was an actor for many years here in New York City. I did musical theatre in lots of national tours and dinner theatre and regional, etc. I’m part Asian, so I did lots of King and I’s and West Side Story’s. I was also in Jesus Christ Superstar. I used to have really long hair, so I did all the rock musicals.
But yeah, I’ve always been kind of a comic nerd. I love comic books and animation and sci-fi. Joe’s an old roommate—my co-host Joe Gonzalez—and in 2005 he said “Hey, I think I’m starting to get a feel for what these podcasts are,” and I actually had been listening to them. In late 2004, podcasts started happening, and I’m not very technically apt, but I like technology, so I was watching all those tech shows on now-G4—at that time it was TechTV. All those guys like Leo Laporte, Diggnation…they were great. So Joe said, “I want to do one for comics,” and I said I’d love to, but I was involved in this sketch comedy group at the time and couldn’t commit full-time. Within like four episodes I was like, yeah, I’ll come do it, so his friend Julio had started with him and by the end of 2005 they’d only done 20 episodes, so I was in half of them. By January ‘06, Julio couldn’t really do it anymore and my sketch comedy was kind of breaking up so I said well if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right. 20 episodes a year is crap—let’s do a weekly show and commit to it; we’ll do it one day a week without missing a week, and so we did. Since January 2006 we have not missed a Tuesday…well, maybe one here or there. We created a format for the show where we review comic books coming out every week, so we review three to five comic books, maybe a movie or TV show, and we cover the news of the industry, which is so expansive now. TV and film is married to comics now, so we cover shows like Lost, Pushing Daisies, Caprica, Battlestar Galactica—things like that.
stated: Yeah, there’s been this sort of resurgence of fantasy/sci-fi and it’s become mainstream, really.
JIMMY AQUINO: Yeah, it’s great because it has become so mainstream and it’s very accepted now. So we’ve expanded our coverage to a lot of TV and film and people seem to like what we do…it’s cool, we’ve got thousands of listeners around the world now, which is nice. 15-20,000 downloads a month, so not shabby, but not anything life-changing—well, a little bit life-changing, but it’s just a lot of fun. We get to meet and interview these creators we love and actors and writers and some of them have become really good friends of ours, and others were already friends and we get to showcase their work which is always fun. It’s great when someone comes up and says, “hey, thanks for reviewing my book—I really appreciate it.” If we sell a couple of books for them, it’s cool.
stated: I was just looking at your list of past guests and of course I recognize lots of names, but Molly Crabapple is another of the folks we’re featuring on STATED…
JIMMY AQUINO: She was just here for a signing. Yeah, she’s great. I met her a few years back and I’ve always liked her work and we kind of became friends. So she sat at our table [at New York Comic Con] last year and this year, and she’s an incredible artist. If you don’t know her, go to MollyCrabapple.com and find out. She’s travelled the world and learned to draw in Paris—in a bookstore…famous story—and she’s involved in the burlesque scene. She has a very Victorian style of art and does beautiful stuff.
stated: Interesting, for sure. Well, normally I would ask where you get your inspiration from, but it’s fairly clear that you get into the culture and it seeps into you. So logistically, where do you guys record—is it a home studio?
JIMMY AQUINO: Joe has a big A/V background and he used to produce shows and was always the behind the scenes guy in the acting/theatre scene. So he has two or three monitors—nothing “radio spectacular,” but we’ve got a nice mixing board and a video program to record audio. A lot of our friends who record shows, I make fun of them because they spend so many hours editing and Joe’s done in 15 minutes. Because we don’t believe in editing out—I mean, we’ll edit music in and like if this were an interview for the show we’d add in “Hey, we just talked to so and so and here it is,” but we rarely edit. The two or three times we’ve edited something out it’s been a creative move, like “oops, I spoiled something, can we take that out?” But it just takes him literally a half an hour. In fact, to get the show down when we record on Tuesday nights, the show is up in an hour.
stated: That’s great. Was it always that way? I’m sure there was a little bit of a learning curve as far as finding your format and structure.
JIMMY AQUINO: Yeah, before we created the format, we kept it loose. We just reviewed books and maybe covered a couple things of news, but now I doggedly read hundreds of websites everyday—just flip through different news sites because you never know when something is going to break. It’s rare we’ll break a story since we’re a recorded show, but occasionally we have and it’s always kind of fun… ”Hey, we got this exclusive, we got the news first!” We’re not a daily show so that’s rare, but we’ll cover what’s best of that week, so I hit sites like Newsarama, The Beat, Comics Reporter, and of course the entertainment sites…there are just all these little blogs and you never know where you’ll find something that’s interesting news.
stated: Is there anything exciting coming up on the horizon?
JIMMY AQUINO: Our 300th episode is coming up [October 2010]. We’ve been doing the weekly shows since 2006, but we will do special shows throughout the year. The regular format show, as I said, is every Tuesday, but then if I do a lot of interviews at a [comics] show or if we have a special Battlestar Galactica interview, for example, we’ll do that as a special “One Shot,” we call it—where it’s not the formatted show, but just interviews. So through all that we’ve built up to 300 now so that’s in a few weeks. We usually record live at a bar. We’ve done it where special guests will come in, or I’ll write some silly little sketch or song and we’ll sing. My friend Michael Emerson, who was on LOST, we’ve had him as a special guest, and we’ve had Molly Crabapple, and different artists and writers. We’ll have a few surprises for 300…so if you’re in New York City, look us up and join us, it’ll be a lot fun.
We’re working on some special shows…one perhaps musical in nature…you can’t escape the acting and singing…as much as some might want me to…
JD Walsh, a multimedia artist and featured stated artist, asked Jimmy...
JD WALSH: Jimmy, I really enjoyed looking at your blog as it seems to cover a breadth of info, not just regarding comics, but other cultural aspects (TV, movies, music). How would you characterize what this corner of culture is that you’re interested in? How has the world of all things comics changed (if at all) and what do you think the future holds for it?
JIMMY AQUINO: I suppose I would call it “nerd culture”. I read comic books and watch a lot of sci-fi/fantasy/superhero television and film. I hesitate to pigeon-hole it into a particular name though, as I feel I’m pretty eclectic in my tastes. Besides all of the nerdy/geeky stuff, I watch A LOT of television and listen to radio from the UK. Not just things like Doctor Who either. I suppose being a big Anglophile is the reason, but I also find their TV is done so well. Arguably better than American television. My musical tastes are all over the place as well. I grew up on rock and hip hop but used to perform in musical theater and even did a couple of operas. I’m also a big comedy fan and tend to buy up all sorts of stand-up DVDs from both the US and UK.
The world of comic books continues to grow and evolve. Most people think of comic books as superhero fodder when there is so much more. My first comics were Archie and Richie Rich. While superhero comics took over for years, I also learned to explore other genres. Since beginning the podcast in 2005, my eyes have been opened WIDE to the world of independent, underground, alternative and web comics. I still love my superhero comics, but lately I tend to enjoy the indie stuff more. Especially some of the “autobio” ones out there. People are so surprised when I turn them on to comics they didn’t think they existed! I don’t think superhero comics are going anywhere, but I’m happy to see the independent scene thriving and think it will continue to do so. The world of web comics is growing as well. Digital comics, too, but I don’t think they will replace print anytime soon. People, like me, still love the visceral aspect of actually holding a comic book in their hands. Web comics are great because most tend to be just strips like in a newspaper. Some follow a long narrative and build characters over time; others just have random episodes. Both styles can work if done well, and many are done quite well!
Comics will continue to thrive in print, on the web, digitally and even on a beverage napkin during those late nights after a convention at the bar. I’ve seen it happen. I think there are comics out there for everyone. Don’t believe me? Check out web comics online or digitally. Or better yet, go to your local brick and mortar comic book shop and enter the world. You’ll be surprised at the mix of people. We’re not all “The Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons! We have an occasional segment on the podcast called “Converting to Comicdom”. We give a random mix of comics to someone who doesn’t normally read them. They read and come on the show to review. After chatting with people for a few minutes, I can usually get a good idea what type of comic they might like. Also, I recommend many different types in our Top 3 segment. So, if you’re stuck on suggestions, give the show a listen and you might find something you like!
UPDATE, MARCH 2011: Jimmy’s co-host of five years, Joe Gonzalez, left the show in February to focus on his non-profit charity, The Project Solution. Jimmy continues to host the show with a rotation of co-hosts. Listen to Joe’s final episode.