Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Radio Host Interview: Mark Torres of IT CAME FROM THE RADIO by Dave Wolff

Interview with Mark Torres, host of IT CAME FROM THE RADIO

How did It Came From The Radio come to be Big Apple Con’s official radio program, as your promotional poster states?
I had known Mike Carbonaro (who runs Big Apple Con) for some time. After a few years of working together (covering his con/having him as a guest on our show), I thought that our show needed to have an official sponsor. I had come up with the idea after during one of (I forget what year) the New York Comic Cons. So I scheduled a meeting with Mike on the show floor (at one of his booths that he had there and pitched the idea. He liked it and that was that. At the time Mike was filming some kind of reality show and it was all caught on tape (somewhere in the universe).

How did you meet Mike Carbonaro and develop a working relationship with him?
I met Mike like ten years ago at the Big Apple Con when it was still at the church (it now has a place at the Penn Pavillion). I think I was either looking for advertisers at the time. Funny thing is with Mike, I have met him for the first time many times.

Who did you found this program with, and where was it meant to air? What resources did you have to work with in the beginning?
The show was originally called "The Comic Book Novice" and it was (sort of) like "The View" of comics. So with that in mind I needed a panel. I had an aspiring artist who would cover the news (Todd Wright), a person who worked for Wizard Magazine at the time (to give that insider information), Hassan Godwin, a female who served as the "everyman" (Jennifer Smith) and myself as the original four co-hosts. The show aired originally on 1240AM WGBB (Long Island's oldest radio station) which had live audio streaming. At the time we didn't have any type of archives beyond the cassette tape that they gave us after the show aired (this was 2003).
WGBB was a very small station (they have since moved to a new location and upgraded their equipment) and I was not very tech savvy (still not), so all we really had to go on was what the station had. We were a live show and could only record/broadcast during our time slot. As the years went on, we got hand held recorders to do audio interviews away from the station (to be played on air at a later time) as well as a spiffy laptop which we use sometimes as a mobile studio for live on the spot recordings.

What were the similarities between The Comic Book Novice and The View?
It’s basically the same show (at the time we started at least). It was Live, you had 4 people (Star Jones, Meredith Vieira, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Joy Behar and sometimes Barbara Walters) all with different backgrounds and different opinions on the news and the topic of the day. They had guests and also did reviews/discussions of things that they saw or interested them. I Felt I was the combination of Barbara and Meredith (being the leader and steering the ship), Elisabeth was Jennifer, the youthful one, Hassan was Joy, the cynic and the one who often clashed with Elisabeth the most, and Todd was Star (being the journalist presenting the news). Of course our show was only 30 minutes long.

Did you intend from the beginning to have a fan run show? How do you explain the increased popularity in fan run programs?
From the beginning it was planned as just the four of us with our different backgrounds talking about comics, movies, and entertainment. While we were fans, Todd was a freelance artist, and Hassan worked for Wizard Magazine (and eventually I did get two comic books published) so I wouldn't say we were "fan run". As for other shows (podcasts being the most prevalent) I say that due to the increased accessibility and decreased cost it makes it easier for anyone (or everyone's) voices to be heard.

How much promotion has It Came From The Radio given Big Apple Con since the sponsorship was agreed upon?
Quite a lot. The tag line "the official radio show of the Big Apple Con" is on all of our fliers, shirts and is now incorporated into our logo. In addition to that, on our show we always mention the Big Apple Con and their website and upcoming convention. So in essence it has become who we are through and through.

Besides Big Apple Con, do you appear at other New York City conventions to promote? Or Long Island and New Jersey?
Either by having a table or just covering the event (taking photos, doing interviews). We haven't missed a Big Apple Con for as long as I can remember. We also cover New York Comic Con, Inbeon Con, Eternal Con, Winter Con, Em Con (just to name a few) which are all New York and/or Long Island based. We also have done a few New Jersey cons, the latest being the Garden State Comic Fest in Atlantic City (we had a table there).

How long has the Garden State Comic Fest been hosting events? Did you interview any of the guests there?
I had only heard of the Garden State Comic Fest two or three years ago. They've expanded to three shows a year, the "main" one in Morristown, New Jersey, a second one in Great Adventure (of all places!) and a third one in Atlantic City. I personally hadn't interviewed anyone there, but the Bitten Apple guys have for our Youtube page.

Explain how the first panel of The Comic Book Novice formed. How much input did each member have?
I had always wanted to be in comics. Ever since I was a kid all (and I mean ALL) I wanted to do was draw for Marvel. No fireman or policeman; nothing but comics. As I grew older, I realized my penciling ability a job at Marvel was not going to get me (oddly enough, and perhaps fortunately, it was around the same time that I found out that the writer was the one who actually told the story). So one New Years' Eve (actually it was already after midnight) I was driving home from the cemetery and heard a radio ad on WGBB. It said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Do you have a passion or interest for a particular subject? Want to interview professionals in that field? Why not have your own show where you can do just that?" So I thought a radio show would help me network my way into having my own comic published; this might be a good idea. It was then that I reached out to my friends and peers (as I usually do with any big project or idea I have) to see if it was plausible to turn into a reality. Todd, Hassan, and Jennifer were on board. As mentioned before, I had a "The View" type of show in mind, and each one kind of just filled that role naturally. Everyone just was themselves and followed my lead. For the very first episode we did (what we now refer to as) a movie discussion episode for the film "Daredevil" (starring Ben Affleck). Whenever we record a full show the format was (and still is) pretty much the same. We start off with the intro, take it away with the week's news, take a break then do our "subject of the week" and then (of course) the wrap up (which hasn't changed much over the years either).

Which Marvel characters did you most want to draw? Were there any from DC Comics or other companies that made an impression on you?
Hulk was the number one guy for me. I also liked Iron Fist and maybe the Fantastic Four would have been on my list to draw. As for DC, I always liked the original Outsiders and Geo-Force specifically. You know, I was this close to getting to write for Marvel with Penciler Brian Kong and Inker Peter Palmiotti. I had pitched an idea to continue the "What If?" story about the Children of Secret Wars had the original heroes had remained on the Battleworld. The editor liked the idea, but there was something else going on where we couldn't use those characters.

Looking back, was starting out on a smaller radio station with live streaming a good way to start the program?
WGBB will always be considered my first home and I would love to go back there sometime in the future. The best thing (at the time) of WGBB was the relationship I had with the station's Manager Jeff Lo and the rest of the staff. I still keep in touch with Brian the engineer as well as Cara the intern to this day. Keep in mind that at the time WGBB was one of the few local stations that had online streaming so that our reach was more than that of just those in the listening area. We were worldwide on the internet!

Were the movies discussed on The Comic Book Novice mostly mainstream or were some independent films discussed?
If I remember correctly, the movie discussion episodes were always mainstream. We had (and still do have) the indie filmmakers as guests on our show. I prefer to talk to them and get to know their work better that way. We also cover the Macabre Faire Film Festival (also in Long Island) where we talk to (and discuss) a slew of indie shorts and films as well as the creators behind them. In addition to the radio show, there are a few videos from the red carpet on our YouTube page that you can view.

When did The Comic Book Novice become It Came From The Radio? Where did the program move to after WGBB?
September 1, 2011 was the first official broadcast of "It Came From The Radio". I'm not 100% sure when the actual change was made. After (might have been *just* before) leaving WGBB we became syndicated airing on 88.1FM WARY in Westchester County along with an online radio station BTD Radio. Starting in July we're going to be using the Grindhouse Radio Studio for all future in-studio recordings. Of course, as I mentioned before, with technology the way it is, we still have the option to use our mobile studio to do live on the spot episode recordings.

Where did the inspiration come from to name the show It Came From The Radio? Was it a nod to old pulp science fiction?
The name change came about in two phases. First, about one to two years into "The Comic Book Novice", Hassan regularly told me that we should change the name as we didn't just cover comics. Soon others (by their own accord) did the same. The second part is a little more complicated. We were on hiatus and during this time I had befriended Herman Senercia (wrestler Taz's brother). He was a HUGE old school movie guy as well as a sci-fi/horror lover. Herman also happens to be our current Senior Correspondent Charlie Saladino's best friend. Since we worked together at a movie theatre (he was the projectionist, I the manager) we talked about movies and comics all the time. During one of our many conversations he hinted an interest in bringing the show out of hiatus and being a new co-host. I reached out to Terminal Press' Brian Ferrara to also be a co-host and he really hit the idea home that we should have a new show name. So one night, just before a movie screening for the employees, Brian, Hassan, Herman and I had a mini meeting. We each came up with new titles for the show and boiled it down to two. We then took the name to captive audience downstairs and had them vote on which one they liked the best. And "It Came From The Radio" was born. It is a nod to the old timey horror movies.

What movies from the pulp science fiction era do you most remember for the impressions they made upon you?
Maybe Logan's Run, The Blob, Godzilla movies (are they considered pulp sci-fi?). I think our senior correspondent would have a better answer to this question. I'm the product of late 70's early 80's when it comes to pop culture.

Those movies you mentioned all have dystopian, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic themes. The first Godzilla movie Gojira, released in the mid-1950s, was a kind of allegory for the nuclear age. What movies of this kind do you know of from the 70s and 80s?
Return to Oz was (sort of) post-apocalyptic (at least in Oz), Mad Max (the original), and Blade Runner pop into my mind.

How much did your listenership increase upon your moving to WARY and BTD Radio? What additional opportunities did an online forum present to your show? Are there any other stations you are broadcasting on or are you still with WARY?
According the station managers, WGBB has a reach of 20,000 listeners and WARY has a reach of 50,000 listeners. As for additional opportunities, I'd say it allowed us to branch out just a bit. We can do a show at a movie theatre as opposed to waiting for the weekly show to talk about it for example. However, I do prefer traditional studio as it gives us more structure. We are currently on one terrestrial station (WARY) and one online station (BTD Radio). Soon we'll be part of the GHR network, but they haven't launched as of yet.

What is the GHR network? What format will they take on once they launch and where will your show fit into its schedule?
GHR (Grindhouse Radio) is a soon to be launched network from Entrepreneur Brimstone. I believe they are going to be another online radio station, but heavily Long Island focused. Our show will air on a yet to be determined day and time on a weekly basis. I'm leaning towards either Wednesday night, or Sunday late afternoon/late evening.

Many hosts cast live discussions on Youtube. Was there ever talk about It Came From The Radio moving to this format?
We teamed up with "The Bitten Apple" for most of the Youtube stuff. So on our Youtube page you can see that they're "convention correspondents". There has been talk about doing a "TV" show while recording, but it's just talk for now. I have done a few "live stream events", but I didn't like how they came out. We are a radio show first and foremost.

For what reasons were you dissatisfied with your attempt at a live stream? In what ways is radio and net radio preferable?
Keeping in mind I am not a tech guy, I just couldn't figure out why the actual recording of the live streams (which you can see on our Youtube page) were too choppy in video quality but during the actual live streams, the video was fine. Being an actual radio station has and continues to open doors for us that a podcast simply cannot. The biggest benefit would be the press passes and networking opportunities. As mentioned earlier, with the way technology is today, everyone has a voice. Not everyone can (in my case) be lucky enough to be on an actual radio station. The best comparison I can give is this: Despite certain Youtube channels regularly having more (or as many) views and subscribers as some of the highest rated network shows, it still "means" more to have a network TV show than a Youtube channel.

How many interviewees involved in independent productions have appeared on the show? With more independent and nonprofit movies being made, would you consider spotlighting more of them?
You have to factor that we've been doing this since 2003. Even with a few hiatuses over the years, that's A LOT of shows, A LOT of interviews. And yes, we are always looking to spotlight more of them, of course their project must be something that we can get behind (or they are a really nice person and have a passion for their work). As a matter of fact, during our 8/8 live show (in front of a studio audience at the East Meadow Public Library) we're going to have Award Winning Indie filmmaker Lee Kolinsky as our guest.

How did you arrange to have Lee Kolinsky appear as a guest interviewee? What movies has he worked on in recent years?
I met Lee at the Macabre Faire Film Festival a few years back. He's a published comic book writer and award making filmmaker. We have kept in touch over the years and I ran into him at Cradle Con in June, so I just asked if he would like to come down for our 10th Live Studio Audience Show. I've seen three of his shorts ("Junkie Heaven", "Bullified" and "Stand Up Guy"), which I believe are his most recent, but there is a lot more content that he has produced.

How would you rate Lee’s work in "Junkie Heaven", "Bullified" and "Stand Up Guy"? What are the plots of those film shorts and how would you say they’re relevant to indie horror cinema?
"Junkie Heaven" was about a Vet who through a unique set of circumstances has to fight both personal and physical demons. "Stand Up Guy" which is more of a straight forward short is about a guy from prison coming to visit an "old friend". "Bullified" which, in my opinion is the best of the three, centers on a person being accused of murder (or maybe he was up for parole) and the DA (or maybe it was a reporter) who confronts him. Lee isn't just a horror guy, but he is an indie filmmaker.

How many New York Comic Cons have you covered since you started attending them? Which of your experiences there have been most memorable over the years?
NYCC isn't that old. As a matter of fact, when they were starting out, we had the head (Lance Fensterman) as a guest. That being said, we have covered each one (excluding the very first one, only because it was overcrowded and we couldn't get inside the building). My most memorable one...... I'd have to say when I got to interview Mark Hamill. He was with the New Gen guys at the time as a consultant and I was just at the right place at the right time to be lucky enough to speak to him. Interviewing Amber Benson was a close second. Oh... and it was the first time ever I felt some Power Ranger validation/love.

What did you and Mark Hamill get to discuss when he guested? Was any of it to do with the latest news on Star Wars? Or were his other current projects discussed?
The Mark Hamill interview was well before Disney bought Lucasfilm, so there really wasn't much inside info on that. He was there to help promote "New Gen" (a Marvel Comic Project). He talked about (at the time) his current project which was "How to Train your Dragon".

What projects was Amber Benson involved in when you guested her on the show? How easy was she to work with when you discussed her recent jobs?
Amber not only was interviewed by myself at the New York Comic Con; she followed up by being a call-in guest a few months later. At the time Amber was promoting her latest book (if I remember correctly) "The Witches of Echo Park" and I think she briefly mentioned her latest film SHEvenge. She was such a great interview and it was a great experience when she called in. She even gave us a compliment during that episode.

Of the other conventions you have visited’ Inbeon Con, Eternal Con, Winter Con, Em Con and Macabre Faire Film Festival et cetera; recall the most memorable interviews you have featured on the show?
The most memorable (and best in my opinion) interview I had ever conducted for the show (which is funny because it never actually aired) was waaay back in the 2008 San Diego Comic Con. I interviewed Robert Culp. He was so amazing, had such great responses with such insight, and on top of that he was such a nice person. At the time he was promoting the "Greatest American Hero" comic (along with William Katt and Connie Sellecca). Locally, the most memorable one was with the head of the Macabre Faire Film Festival, Elsie Ginsberg. Another wonderful and amazing person. At the time she was running Immortal Con (all proceeds go to cancer patient families) and she had a few minutes to sit down for the interview. That one was aired.

Was San Diego Comic Con 2008 your first visit? How did it compare to the local conventions where you have appeared?
2008 was my first (and only) time ever going there. It was more than just a con, it was an experience. Luckily (as this interview has been progressing) I just (happened yesterday) was presented with an opportunity to go back this year and be on a panel promoting my comic!

How much insight would you say Robert Culp had conversing about his career with you? What did you and Elsie Ginsberg talk about as a guest on It Came From The Radio?
Keeping in mind I had interviewed him ten years ago, he had an insight on the (at the time) reality "stars" vs people who "paid their dues". How the craft of acting and how it is perceived and received were changing for the worse. He talked about his ground breaking TV show "I Spy" which at the time had the very first black Male lead (Bill Cosby) in a series. Robert had a "presence". Elsie, we talked about her work (as I mentioned, she runs at least three different events, Haunt-Faire, Immortal Con, The Macabre Faire Film Festival and a few other smaller events), as well as the fact that she has stage four cancer and what that means to her.

How well is Ginsberg coping with having stage four cancer? Was she being treated for it around the time you interviewed her? Is Haunt Faire another of the events Ginsberg has hosted?
Elsie has good days and bad days, but I am amazed how well (at least outwardly) she has been handling it. She keeps fighting and keep working on all those cons and events. I interviewed her almost two years ago, but I see her at all her events and still am in contact with her on Facebook. As a matter of fact I saw her at the Eternal Con on a panel that she and I was a part of. Haunt Faire is hers also. She does so much. Twitch Productions is her company.

Have your interviewees included any musical guests? If so, discuss some of the interviews you helped arrange?
Off the top of my head I can name the (now disbanded) K-pop Idol group Nova Drop, the international rock star Demon Boy, Singer Hitomi Himekawa, The Gata Negra, and my personal favorite Carole Demas and Paula Janis from the Magic Garden. Just like everything else, booking guests comes from either reaching out to them, or they reaching out to us. Some we meet at cons or events, others, I just email them. I'm always pleasantly surprised when they respond and/or follow through. Each one that I mentioned have something specific I remember about the interview. Hitomi sang for us in the studio (as did Nova Drop), Demon Boy came in full costume for his interview, The Gata Negra was just such an interesting person, and Carole and Paula sang to us. If you were a fan of the show, you know what a big deal that is!

Do your shows with musical guests receive as much of a response as your actor based shows? Do you have bands or performers in mind for future episodes?
The feedback we get is usually positive regardless of who we have as guests. Except for an author scheduled in September/October and a filmmaker sometime in August, I don't have anyone currently booked for future shows. I kinda plan guests and shows) as they come along.

Do you remember the Long Island convention I-CON that was held yearly from 1985 to 2017? If so, did you ever host an episode there?
I am familiar with the I-CON. I remember getting to interview Ernie Hudson and all the panels with Peter David and (the late) Harlan Ellison. We covered a few of those cons, but did not host anything from the actual event. Way back then, if a convention fell on a day of our live in studio recording, I had the option to call into the station to give a (brief) live update. Otherwise we talked about the con on the following episode.

Have you happened to appear at Star Trek conventions as part of your show? If not, are there any you might want to visit?
I think "Star Trek" (Creation) conventions had stopped being a thing by the time our show began. Wizard was in full swing however, and I covered a couple of those. I would like to cover a con in Japan (but probably because I always wanted to go to Japan) and (of course) would like to go back to San Diego Comic Con at least one more time, but I don't think there's any other specific con I would like to attend. Living in New York, there's just so many as it is, and there is no shortage of creative people right here.

Star Trek Creation conventions remain active today. One is taking place in Las Vegas this August. There are also the Shore Leave and Farpoint conventions held in Maryland each summer. After researching those shows would you consider appearing at one or more of them?
I was referring to any New York Star Trek conventions. That being said, any con that far out of state really wouldn't interest me (which is probably why I didn't immediately think of those). I am lucky enough to be in New York so I don't have to make those Treks (pun intended) to get to a con of that level. Maybe sometime down the line, I may reconsider doing all that traveling, but I'd probably would prefer to send one of my other co-hosts (or even the convention correspondents).

How long do you think it would be before you start traveling out of state to promote your program? Which states in the U.S. would you most likely visit first?
"Out of state" means out of the Tristate area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) as I have promoted in those places (also Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). I'm not big on flying but I suppose when the show is big enough to send (at very least) one of my co-hosts (all expenses paid) to other states, then I'd consider it heading out beyond what we do currently. If I had to pick another state/con that I would be interested in attending would be C2E2 in Chicago, Illinois.

Tell the readers about the convention scene in Philadelphia and the C2E2 convention in Chicago.
I've never actually been to C2E2 (it's one of my goals), but I can say that the cons in Philly have a different feel than the cons in NY. Perhaps it is because it is "The City of Brotherly Love", but it's just a more happy and positive attitude amongst the con goers. Remember there are three different experiences that one can have at a convention: the casual fan, the hard core fan, and the people on the other side of the table (vendors, celebs, etc). For those of you who don't know C2E2 was Reed pop's (the guys behind the New York Comic Con) second convention expanding into different cities. I hear nothing but good things about it.

Are there new local conventions you’ve heard of that you would consider visiting?
There's always new cons popping up and I'm always interested in checking them out. There always a connection to be made! Cradle Con is a great example of that. It was their first show and I think we have a great relationship with them.

Where would you like to see It Came From The Radio years from now? Do you have any plans to make the show more unique?
A daily show would be nice. Perhaps one or two more correspondents. Just recently we started a monthly book review segment called "Bookworm Batson". As for making the show more unique, maybe including an old timey episodic show to the broadcast where we have actors perform a multi-part story of some sort.

How has your Bookworm Batson segment been received since you started airing it? Want books have you covered so far?
So far people seem to like it and we're even getting some books sent to us to review, so that's always a good sign. So far she's reviewed A Simpsons trade paperback, "Survivor: Aron's Story" by Alex Teplish, "Inside Pee Wee's Playhouse" by Caseen Gaines, "Reminant" by Roland Allnach, "Warcross" by Marie Lu and our 7/9/18 show will include "Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero" by Charles E. Yallowitz.

Would you consider a nostalgia segment in which you and the others discuss classic sci fi and horror movies you like?
I don't know about a separate segment, but Our Senior Correspondent Charlie Saladino is all about the nostalgic movies and regularly, older references find their way into our weekly episodes as it stands now. 

Are there any final acknowledgements and/or announcements you want to make?
First I want to thank you for this extensive interview. Hopefully your readers will enjoy it and become fans of my show. Second, I have to thank Jeff Lo (WGBB's station manager), his right hand man Trevor Vassil, our first engineer Tom Ross, and Byran Graves (our most recent engineer) as he took the show to the next level. I would be remiss if I didn't give special mention to Hassan Godwin who was my Ed Norton (meaning I couldn't have done it without him), Jennifer Smith for all her support in the beginning, Social Media Steve (Steven Guillaume) for his help giving us a social media presence, Maria Peterson for helping us get an online presence (apparently that's two different things!), Senior Correspondent Charlie Saladino who brought that special something to the show that I didn't even know we were missing and our newest co-host Pronto Comic's Dominic Sparano who not only had his own insight into the comic book world (being an indie comic book publisher), but also managed to make the show more mobile. Those, Along with Alan Rothman, Herman Senercia, Peter Palmiotti, Jerron Smith, Todd Wright, and Sharon Batson made the show into what it is today.

-Dave Wolff

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