The summer movie season is just about over, and it'll be another few months before the next superheroic epic hits the theatres. So, does that mean that you - the superhero fan - is out of luck? Well, of course not! Aside from the excellent superhero shows on television (Smallville and Heroes both start later this September.) But you can also take your favorite superheroes with you on your iPod!
There are a number of enjoyable superhero audio dramas that you can download to your PC or mobile MP3 player, and we got the chance to talk to the creator of some of the best ones out there. Pendant Audio (pendantaudio.com) is the production company behind several great audio dramas based on DC comics heroes. They currently have five superhero shows in production (Superman: The Last Son of Krypton, Batman: The Ace of Detectives, Wonder Woman: Champion of Themyscira, Supergirl: Lost Daughter of Krypton and Catwoman: The Queen of Thieves) in addition to several original dramas, and several non-superhero fan dramas.
We spoke to Jeffery Bridges, the Executive Producer of Pendant Productions, and he shared some details with us about their superhero shows and what we can expect in the future from Pendant Audio.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. So, how did Pendant get started?
The long and short of it is that a group of us had been writing stories for a while and wanted to bring our characters to life and gave audio a shot.
Then I heard some of the original Superman radio dramas from the '40s and thought "wouldn't it be great if there was a modern version of these?"
And then I realized I could actually do it myself, and I did, and people just flocked to us and we've grown ever upward from there.
How closely related is the continuity between the audio dramas and the DC comics?
That depends on the specific show, but none of them are really tied in closely, especially not to anything from the past few years or so. Our Batman show keeps basic continuity with the comics up through Hush, Wonder Woman up through Greg Rucka's run on the book, and then they sort of branch off from there.
Superman ties in a lot with comic continuity before Identity Crisis and also pulls in little bits from the movies and animated series (like an android Brainiac from Krypton).
Supergirl and Catwoman will show the largest deviations from comic continuity as they're almost entirely different characters than what DC is putting out now. Catwoman's an actual thief with a heart of gold, and not a pseudo-hero, and Supergirl has her teen angst issues but she's not a boy-chasing whiny bint.
We've tried to stay as true to the actual heart of all the characters as possible, and so we hand-pick which things from the comics (or other media) to incorporate into our continuity to best serve the characters.
On a related note, do you ever draw storylines from DC comics, the animated shows, or the films?
No, that's something we've not done. There may be an occasional reference to an old comic story to let the audience know that it's in our continuity, but we don't take pre-existing storylines and retell them. We'd much rather tell new stories.
I think the closest we've gotten is the destruction of Krypton, though that's not as much a storyline as it's just part of Superman's origin. There's a definite new spin on it, though, and it ties in with the deeper story of that season, so it's a bit new again and I don't think there's been a version like it before.
Even with things like an android Brainiac from Krypton, it's not the same story that was on Superman. I felt that was the best concept for Brainiac as he's had quite the messy past in the comics that even die-hard fans have trouble making sense of. So the general concept was used, but the story of his introduction and what happens to him are entirely different.
But beyond exploring origins when the story calls for it, no, we don't pull or adapt anything from pre-existing stories in any media.
How do you do your casting? Are the actors involved professional voice-over artists, just fans, or a mixture thereof?
We've got brand-new amateurs and professionals both. We post casting calls for all fourteen of our present shows on our website, and they're completely open to the public. Anyone can audition if they've got a computer and a microphone, and with so many shows we constantly have tons of new roles to cast. We put up new casting calls almost on a weekly basis.
What is the process like for creating an episode of one of the audio dramas?
Well first and foremost you need a script. Once that's done it goes out to the cast, who usually have about a month to record their lines. We have a central line storehouse where they email their lines in to, and then from there they're forwarded on to the director of the show who assembles them with sound effects and music and produces the final product.
That's the glossed-over version, really, as we've got our own continuity editor, several associate producers, a webmaster and countless others making sure these episodes get done on time. In four years with a total of over 250 episodes (not counting our weekly news show which is almost at 100 episodes on its own) and we've only missed one release date, and that one only by four days.
We owe it to our audience to deliver their entertainment when we tell them we will, and we take that very seriously. From script to completion, an average show probably takes a combined total of 30-40 hours or more to put together. And that's just for one episode, and we release twelve new episodes a month (again not counting our weekly news show).
We work about three to four months in advance, which has helped us meet all our scheduled release dates. It's a mountain of work and no one could ever do it alone. Everyone who works on our shows is a part of making it happen.
So, is anyone getting paid for this?
Absolutely not. We are working on offering CD sets of our original shows for sale (though you can download the web-quality versions for free right on our website), but all proceeds from that would go to the cost of producing the CDs and any extra in helping pay for web hosting, convention tables, etc.
We do not make any money off of our DC shows, because obviously we don't own the characters and it would be wrong to do so. It's never been about money, though. It's just about wanting to tell good stories with characters we love and hopefully entertain people.
How does someone get involved?
As I mentioned before there's the casting call section right on the main page of our website, and those include instructions on how to audition and they're open to absolutely anyone.
We also have a mailing list that is free and open to anyone to join, and the details on that are also on our website. I hold classes every once in a while to train people to direct our shows, and we always need folks to do cover art for our shows, so what it basically amounts to is if you want to help out we'll welcome you with open arms.
What can we expect to see in the future from Pendant?
We have a sixth DC show we're looking to start next year and another all-original show beginning in January, along with several more new shows in various stages of development.
And in July of 2009 we've got our third big DC crossover set to begin. We've done two of them before, but unlike the ubiquitous crossovers DC has been churning out we limit ourselves to one every twelve to fifteen months or so, whenever the story calls for it.
We plan so far in advance that it lets us do crossovers that actually matter to everyone involved. No one is thrown in just for cool factor or just to get them into the crossover, and they're not just random events that interrupt everyone's lives and are then forgotten about afterward. All our crossovers have sprung right out of stories from our shows and they all tie in together.
Forging a tight, cohesive universe is something else we take very seriously, which is why we have our own continuity editor. She and I look over every script before it goes out and between the two of us and our writers we hopefully keep it all straight. No retcons, no forgotten story threads, no continuity contradictions. It's a tall order, but I think that also sets us a bit apart from the way DC is going at the moment.
I miss the days of really tight comic continuity, so it's nice to be able to offer people an alternative there.
Our thanks go out to Jeffery Bridges and Pendant Productions for taking the time to answer some questions for us. While you're waiting for the next superhero film to hit the big screen, go check out some of the audio dramas for some of the best superheroic action that isn't in theatres! Episodes can be downloaded through iTunes or directly from the website at pendantaudio.com.