For the record, my editor, Augie De Blieck, Jr. is featured in this book because his Pipeline Podcast was the first comic book podcast ever. I had no idea, but, then again, I didn't know a lot about podcasts before reading this book. I listen to a few, but had no idea how widespread and varied they are, which is one of the reasons why Eric Houston's book is such a joy to read. The book is accessible to those with little knowledge about podcasts and, also, certainly full of information for rabid fans of the shows discussed.
A podcast, for those unaware, is sort of like an online radio show in downloadable form, but without any of format restrictions that come with radio. Some shows are only ten minutes, while others are four hours. Some shows feature a single person talking, while others feature a half-dozen or more. They're also popular ways for people to hear what others have to say about comics.
Almost the entirety of "The Comic Book Podcast Companion" is comprised of interviews with various podcasters and a few creators associated with podcasts like Matt Fraction and Gene Colan. Houston wisely groups together four interviews featuring podcasts that emanate from Chicago, which is, apparently, the comic book podcasting capital of the world. In total, Houston has interviews on nine different podcasts and one text piece on the 24 Hour Comic Book Podcast.
The interviews are insightful into the origin of each podcast and what each does that's different from the others. While Around Comics features a trio of hosts discussing a variety of comics-related topics, Word Balloon is exclusively a creator-interview show hosted by John Siuntres, Comic Geek Speak has seven members, and iFanboy also does videocasting. Houston offers a nice variety of different types of podcasts with different purposes, formats, and interests.
The interviews themselves are engaging and interesting. Houston is obviously a fan of each show and is able to talk in-depth with the podcasters, often going right back to the beginning, and various highlights that have happened over the years. One theme that he keeps coming back to is the idea of community and that podcasts give people who may not have anyone in real life to discuss comics with a chance to get some level of engagement with others who enjoy comics. Podcasts are a way to not feel so isolated, and some of the podcasters share some stories about how much of a community has arisen because of podcasts.
The book does have a few rough spots, though. In some instances, Houston is so aware of each podcast that he fails to explain certain things like the Around Comics magazine shows, and what exactly made them different from the regular shows. The interview with the Comic Geek Speak gang is a bit unwieldy because of the large group that produces that show, but only two or three of the members really contribute heavily, so, perhaps, just speaking with them would have been better. It's nice that Houston tries to be as inclusive as possible, but it hurts the interview to have random people throw in a line over the course of the interview.
All in all, though, "The Comic Book Podcast Companion" is a great introduction to the world of comic book podcasts, providing insightful interviews and overviews of nine of the most well-known and popular shows. As well, for those interested in producing their own podcasts, Houston includes details on the equipment each podcast uses, and a helpful index of other podcasts beyond these nine.