For many nerds cut from a particular type of cloth, The Thrilling Adventure Hour has been a terrific source for entertainment over the past several years. Although the long-running stage show in the form of old time radio is ending soon, the writers of TAH, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, are now taking Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars over to Image Comics for his own ongoing series. A few of us geeks have varying degrees of familiarity with TAH and naturally wanted to weigh in on the new book.
Ryan Scott: I will have a long standing regret that I never got to actually see a live Thrilling Adventure Hour during its run as a stage show. I am, however, a long-time listener of the podcast version that is on the Nerdist podcast network. The idea of a modern old time radio show was irresistible to me, and remained irresistible as I continued to consume the podcast. So, of course I’m curious to see how Sparks Nevada, one of the show’s recurring characters, translates to the world of comic books.
Dana Keels: This is gonna sound terrible, especially after Ryan talked about his love for the show, but I had never even heard of it before too long ago. Derek was actually the one who turned me on to it. Playing on my love for all things classic, a modern old-time radio show instantly peeked my interest.
I was fortunate enough (sorry Ryan) to catch one of their live shows before they ended their run. From beginning to end it was fantastic. While being a radio show/podcast, a good deal of the humor is in the visual presentation (facial expressions, held looks, and all that fun stuff). Thankfully, some of the show will live on through Sparks Nevada and I’m excited to see where they go with it. Fingers crossed that that same brand of humor will translate well to the hollowed pages of comicdom.
Myke Ladiona: I’ve been fortunate enough to have caught the live show at Largo at the Coronet a couple of times before its end in April and it’s definitely a comedy geek’s dream come true. I’ve been a fan of a number of the resident Workjuice Players through numerous podcast appearances and supporting character roles in some of my favorite sitcoms and movies. “Sparks Nevada” in particular is great because it gives the very underrated Marc Evan Jackson (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 22 Jump Street) a chance at a leading role. “Sparks” also introduced me to the very talented Mark Gagliardi, as Croach the Tracker, who might be the funniest of the Workjuice Players.
And here’s what we thought!
Scott: In the modern age of endless media, there are two things I love above all other things (not counting music) and they are podcasts and comic books. So, the idea of taking one of my favorite podcasts and turning it into a comic book was a big ol’ “fuck yeah” for me. Ben Acker and Ben Blacker wrote a geniusly hilarious character in Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars, but it worked so well as a radio character that it was hard to imagine how that would translate to comics. Well, it translates something like a wonderfully cheesy but very layered Saturday morning cartoon in comic book form, thanks to the well-executed artwork. The show must go on, and it will live on in the form of a very fun comic book.
Keels: I agree with Mr. Scott. The comic feels as Saturday-morning cartoonish as it possibly could, in a good way. It helps having experienced the show and being able to hear these voices in my head – I’m not crazy – and apply them to the text bubbles. The dialogue is what you would expect from the characters, layered with tons of witty humor and the artwork is perfect for this type of story. Rest assured, Thrilling Adventure Hour lives on through this comic.
Ladiona: I definitely agree with my friend Ryan about the artwork of the comic. Acker and Blacker also do a great job with capturing the witty spirit of the dialogue intaction in the new medium. It helps to hear the voices of Marc Evan Jackson and Mark Gagliardi when reading Sparks and Croach, but even in the form of speech bubbles the rhythm of their banter remains intact. Overall, the silly spirit of The Thrilling Adventure Hour is well-captured in the comic book medium and we all have an onus, once again, to the Bens who have made sure that their one-of-a-kind show lives on.