I know, I know, I know. I’m about to compare myself to Tony Stark, but stick with me. If I do this right, you’ll understand what I’m saying.
I have spent the last nine years trying to make Simply Syndicated work like a radio station or television channel. It doesn’t matter which, as long as you compare us to some sort of old media, you aren’t far wrong. The trouble is that media isn’t what people make an emotional connection with, and comic books have been shouting that in my face for at least the last two years.
Look at how the Marvel universe works. Marvel has a collection of characters. Those characters try to cover as many bases as possible when it comes to relatable characteristics. Whatever kind of human you happen to be, the chances are that there’s a Marvel character you can relate to. When I was younger, I was a huge Spider-Man fan. I still am, but I can’t claim to relate to Peter Parker in any way. I’m no longer a kid at school, trying to keep my head down while my mouth manages to get me into all kinds of trouble with people I’d be better off avoiding. I’m now a 35 year old man, with a business, a life, and a dog. I stay up all night working on the crazy ideas that pop into my head, suffer from mild substance abuse problems, and can be bit of a dick sometimes. My ego can get me into trouble, but ultimately people know I have good intentions at heart, and that’s why they tolerate me, and some even like me. I also have a long-suffering girlfriend that supports my crazy, but is always there to roll her eyes when I go too far. That’s not Peter Parker, that’s Tony Stark. As I’ve grown older, I’ve changed. The point is that Marvel has me covered. Are comics just for kids? Absolutely not. That’s why I’m 35 and still read them. Your life is different to mine, and that’s why there are lots of different characters in the universe that Marvel have created. There are so many, they even had to create a second universe to fit them all in.
These comparisons are important, because they show that what I’m making a connection with is the characters. It doesn’t matter where those characters make an appearance, I’ll follow them anywhere. I can read the Ironman comic, or I can read The Avengers. Beyond that, Mr Stark crops up all over the place, and is even talked about when he’s nowhere to be seen. The same goes for Peter Parker and Spider-Man. The comic they appear in is irrelevant. What matters is that they appear. When we first started to see trailers for The Avengers movie, at no point did I care what adventure they were going to have. I wanted to see what happens when the unstoppable force of Thor’s hammer, hits the immovable object that is Captain America’s shield. I wanted to know how it turns out when Tony Stark and Steve Rogers argue over points of morals and principals. I wanted to see how it turns out when you put all these people in a room together and give them a shared problem to deal with. Who gives a crap what that problem is?
Now let’s look at Simply Syndicated. We make shows where things happen. It might be movie reviews, cooking, or even watching old TV shows. How does that compare with how things work in the Marvel universe? It’s trying to make things work in the opposite way. I’ve spent nine years trying to get people to care about the problem. Come and listen to us review a movie. That’s all well and good, but you know that’s not why you listen. You listen because you enjoy the characters. The early days of Movies You Should See weren’t about whether or not we liked the film. They were about finding out what happens when the unstoppable force of my joking around hits the immovable object that is Mike Dawson. Each episode was really about Mjölnir smashing into a block of vibranium.
While Movies You Should See has changed and evolved, our podcasts are still running along those same lines. They aren’t about the points of discussion; they are about how the people on those shows deal with those points of discussion. I’m embarrassed to admit that it has taken me so long to see why I’ve been doing it wrong.
In building Simply Syndicated I haven’t created a network of shows. I’ve created a universe of characters. Granted, most of us don’t have super powers, but we’re all characters in the universe. Some characters are often grouped together, but at other times, characters might appear in other places. Some of them even have their own show. They reference each other, and they talk about events happening on other shows. In reality, Simply Syndicated doesn’t work like a radio station or television channel, it works like the Marvel universe.
This realization has huge implications for us. First of all, I’ve been wasting a great deal of time trying to think up Marvel equivalents for all my friends. More importantly than that, it means a total rethink of how I promote and create shows. Instead of trying to come up with ideas that deal with particular issues such as reviewing films, LGBT equality, or technology news, I need to start thinking about how these characters can be mixed together for the best entertainment value. Some characters work better in groups, and some need to be given space to grow on their own. There should be more crossover content. More “What if” stuff.
From now on, my mind is on characters. It’s not about what a show brings to Simply Syndicated, it’s about what the people bring. That’s one reason why I’m extremely pleased to see the return of Here Goes Nothing, the addition of [NAME REMOVED FOR SECRECY] to the federation, and a new show called FIRST! that I’m doing with Scott Matteson.