The Chronicles of World's Finest Podcast
By James D. Deaux IV
31 March 2011 — With all the fun to have, to live the dreams we always had. Oh, the songs to sing, when we at last return again.
— Led Zeppelin, "Achilles Last Stand"
Over the past four years, Michael David Sims and I have co-hosted arguably the most popular podcast in Earth-2.net's seven-year history: World's Finest Podcast. And what a ride it's been. Even at our single most gleefully optimistic moment all those years ago, we never could have dreamed that the show would have reached the level of popularity that it has attained. Through all the "Dick" jokes, the impersonations, the legendarily great and the infamously bad episodes, we were rarely at a loss for words. Now that the show has reached its conclusion with episode 100, I wanted to treat our listeners to as detailed a history of the podcast as I can possibly construct. After all, it wasn't like the two of us just woke up in our beds in Atlanta and Chicago one day and simultaneously thought about comprehensively evaluating every episode of The Zeta Project. No, it was not quite that simple. Sure, at its basest level, WFP sprang forth from a couple of simple one-shot column ideas, but there was a very long time between the pitching of those modest, unassuming ideas and the first official episode of what became World's Finest Podcast. There will, obviously, be details that I simply cannot remember due to the many years that have passed since we began this epic journey; and for that, I am sorry. Still, the curtain will be pulled back, and hopefully, if nothing else, this article will leave you with the feeling that you know us and the show's history just a little better. Somebody get me Mr. Peabody because we're about to take a trip in the WABAC Machine.
Late 2005-early 2006
Though I cannot recall the exact date, sometime during this period I pitched an idea to Mike about us doing a joint "Top 10 Favorite Moments in the DC Animated Universe" column. This idea spawned from a thread on the forums discussing the most "badass" moments in the DCAU. From there, to my best recollection, the idea was expanded (RE: enhanced) to a "Top 10 Batman: The Animated Series Episodes" column. Alas, life happened and this column never saw the light of day. For a year or so, nothing ever came of either of our original ideas. Then, sometime in late February or early March of 2007, Mike pitched to me the idea of discussing the first five episodes of Batman: The Animated Series on an episode of Earth-2.net: The Show. From then, the idea was that we would make this a regular segment on The Show, discussing five episodes of Batman, but not necessarily the entire DCAU (at least at that point).
20 March 2007
Earth-2.net: The Show episode 90 hit the website on day and indeed, we did discuss the first five episodes of Batman. That same night, I received a private message from Mike with an idea:
What if we expanded this project of ours into its own weekly podcast? Would you be up for that, and do you even have the time? If you can't do it, that's cool. We'll continue on as is, as part of The Show. It's just a thought.
And what a thought it was. I had my reservations about that whole weekly thing, though.
Here's an idea: what if we used the TNA style of recording? Instead of recording every week, we could get together every other week to record two episodes.
For example, let's say we recorded this Sunday (25 March). In the first episode we'd cover "The Underdwellers," "P.O.V.," "The Forgotten," "Be a Clown" and "Two-Face." We'd then take a short break (to get drinks or whatever) and return to talk about "It's Never Too Late,"" I've Got Batman In My Basement," "The Cat and the Claw," "Heart of Ice" and "See No Evil." The first of the two would air on, say, 28 March and the second on 04 April. Those having aired, we'd meet again on Sunday, 08 April to record two more shows, which would air on 11 and 18 of April.
How's that sound? Do you think your schedule would permit a fortnightly meeting? (Of course the above dates are simply examples.)
Oh, and I was thinking of calling the show World's Finest.
"World's Finest," you say? Has a nice ring to it.
Thankfully, we never did do that "discuss 10 episodes per recording" thing because you all have heard our voices start fleeing by the fifth review of any particular WFP episode. Imagine how gravelly our vocal cords would have been if we'd doubled our workload per episode. Furthermore, this also would have cut the runtime of WFP in half, which, in hindsight, would have been a regrettable decision on our part. Another interesting factoid is that Mike actually briefly entertained the idea of us making the podcast a daily occurrence where we would talk about one DCAU episode per show. Mercifully, that never happened, either. The word "overkill" wouldn't even begin to describe that. After several days of cryptic hints and teases, Mike announced on Episode 94 on Earth-2.net: The Show that he and I would be branching out our segment into its own podcast. The newly dubbed "World's Finest Podcast" would see us systematically review every episode of every show in the DC Animated Universe — from Batman through Justice League Unlimited and everything in between. (And I feel obliged to note that Mike was not always necessarily on the "in continuity" bandwagon. More on this later, though.) Finally, on 25 April 2007, under the authorial label of "Project Cadmus," the first official episode of World's Finest Podcast aired.
As I went back and started listening to the earliest WFP episodes, I was reminded of just how atrocious my recording equipment was. Listening back to our pilot episode from Earth-2.net: The Show 90 made me want to take a ballpoint pen and shove it through my ear canal. To say that my half of the recording had some issues is like saying that 14th century Europe had a few people under the weather. I was using a microphone that could not have cost more than $12 and the sound quality on my end suffered for it mightily. As I stated on the forums that same day:
Ugh, my microphone is garbage. I could barely understand myself and I was the one who SAID all that stuff. I have got to correct this before we record the next installment.
However, I did make another, more prophetic, statement in the same thread:
Ha, you KNOW down the road when we're reviewing episode 83 of BTAS, Mike and I will look back at this and laugh at "how far the series has come since that first episode."
I wound up buying a new microphone for the second episode, which was technically the first original episode of WFP considering the pilot aired as a segment on Earth-2.net: The Show. Though this microphone was slightly better (I still had the cotton-in-my-mouth sound going), there was something else I remembered, something that I am honestly surprised I ever forgot: I was incredibly timid. I have always been confident in my writing capability, but I was never comfortable with actually vocalizing my thoughts, despite having a good deal of stage performing experience. And though I would certainly agree that I still am not a strong public speaker (due to my tendency to forget specific words on the spur of the moment and my unfortunate knack for stumbling over my thoughts), I think I have improved by leaps and bounds from where I was four years ago. Listening to the second episode, when Mike asked me to talk a little about myself, I was very hesitant. No joke, WFP helped me completely get over my fear / angst / dare I say hatred of hearing my voice on recording. It was because of this podcast and my sporadic appearances on Earth-2.net: The Show that I am more comfortable with speaking as a whole. And ultimately I bought the microphone I am still currently using for all my podcasting needs and used it starting way back with episode 37. Or was it 29? Wait, no, it was 40-something.
I would be remiss if I didn't talk at least a little bit about the "controversy" that permeated virtually the entire duration of the podcast. You could probably listen to any episode of WFP after episode 24 and hear some reference, e-mail, or smart-ass remark about it. That was, of course, the black hole rant.
No, actually it was the Teen Titans in continuity / not in continuity debate that never seemed to end, no matter how many times Mike or I begged, pleaded, or sometimes demanded it to. What is funniest of all about the situation is that Mike, for a short period of time back when the podcast was first announced, was pretty noncommittal about whether or not the show actually fell into the boundaries of the DCAU. As he stated in episode 94 of Earth-2.net: The Show:
Teen Titans is kind of left outside of it because they've never actually said if it's in canon or not. James and I will probably review it; I could see us doing it, but we're going to focus on the main universe — the official canon.
As Starfire might inquire, "This is wacked-out, yes?" Shocking as though it may be to comprehend, WFP wasn't necessarily planned to be a 100-episode podcast — at least not at the onset. Still, at the end of the day, it doesn't need to be said where Mike and I ultimately fell on the subject. That didn't stop people from writing in or chiming in on the forums in droves. The general tone of the naysayers was that they were happy that WFP would be expanded by another 13 episodes, but they were bothered that we insisted on considering Teen Titans as part of the DCAU. In a fitting display of the lunacy of the whole debate, Ian Wilson, our loyal British segment compilation expert, meshed together dozens of e-mails I read on the subject into a massive incoherent ball of contentiousness during one of his montages. I think that portion of that particular clip segment summed up the entire squabble in a nutshell. There were times that Mike and I would be going over a batch of e-mails before recording and we would just sigh and rhetorically ask, "What're you gonna do?" Deep down, no matter how many times we half-jokingly declared the argument "won" by us, we knew we would still get at least a few e-mails trying to prove us wrong before the next episode. I must admit, though, no matter how annoyed we got in the moment with those e-mails, we still appreciated the fervor of all of you on the "not in continuity" side. (Buy a shirt, after all.) If we were eliciting that much response, ultimately that means people cared about what we had to say. I'll take two dozen e-mails disagreeing with us over zero e-mails every single time. If you are reading this, it is probably safe to assume that you have listened to at least one episode of the podcast. I hope, if nothing else, that all of our viewers know how much Mike and I appreciated everyone who listened — whether they sent feedback in or not. Throughout the lifespan of WFP, we received well over a thousand pieces of feedback — whether they were e-mails, calls, or texts. Now, logically, I simply couldn't read all of them on the air due to time (and vocal cord) constraints, but we both appreciated every piece of feedback we received. Even if you wrote in to tell us how unbelievably wrong we were about something (especially regarding that certain show about five teenage heroes), we were happy to hear your thoughts. We stated numerous times that we welcomed people disagreeing with us and trying to prove us wrong and we meant it. It goes without saying that we never would have had the rousing success that we did without such a rabid and loving listenership.
Most importantly, WFP gained me a lifelong friend; a friend who, though I have not met in person (yet), I can say with 100% certainty is one of the greatest people I know. Mike and I had known each other already from The Oratory, which is centered on professional wrestling discussion and is still very active today. I still frequent those forums for the regular sports discussion and because I still run the Oratory Fantasy Baseball League, but my wrestling fanboy days are a distant memory. Still, it was there that Mike and I first talked to each other, and it was us, along with several others on the Oratory — including DW, Kellen, Ian, and Sean — who first wound up joining the Earth-2.net forums when Mike created them. Soon thereafter, Mike let me become a "super moderator" on the forums, which I guess means he trusts me to monitor those rambunctious, out-of-control forums we have. (Ha.) In all seriousness, and at the risk of sounding even mushier, Michael Sims is one of the funniest, hardest working, and most down-to-earth guys you could ever talk to. It was a privilege to be able to co-host this amazing podcast with him, and I hope that any aspiring podcasters out there gets to work with someone with even 25% of the work ethic of this guy.
As I begin this final paragraph, and figuratively close the door on World's Finest Podcast for good, I am filled with several emotions — satisfaction, sadness, emptiness — but also contentment and a sense of amazing accomplishment. It seems like only yesterday that we were reviewing "Christmas with the Joker" (which, thankfully, we'll never have to watch again). Though I am a very modest person who rarely brags about anything, I am fully aware of how many people joined the forums because of WFP and how many times our shows were downloaded. Now that we are done (and please excuse the outrageous hyperbole I'm about to unleash) I feel like we're Jimmy Page and Robert Plant after we just disbanded Led Zeppelin, and everyone is clamoring for us to "reunite" already. Sure, we'll do the occasional Walking into Everywhere Tour as Page and Plant, but will it ever match the golden era? I doubt it. But that doesn't mean our occasional side projects with each other (Green Lantern: First Flight, Batman: Under the Red Hood, etc.) won't be awesome in their own rights. I know for a fact that in 2007, both of us had several moments where we asked ourselves, "Is this even feasible?" Chances are, we still had similar inklings of doubt even through the Batman Beyond / Zeta Project / Static Shock era. But knowing that we did what we set out to do four years ago — to look in-depth at literally every single episode of every cartoon in the DC Animated Universe — cannot be put into powerful enough words. It's all over now, and we managed to gush and rant our way through the greatest animated universe of all time. As a master songwriter once penned: "The time has come to be gone. And to our health we drank a thousand times; it's time to ramble on."
Indeed, it's time for us to ramble on about other things now. If I may invert a popular phrase: For Michael David Sims, I'm James Deaux saying thank you for listening to World's Finest Podcast.