For more than a decade, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker wrote The Thrilling Adventure Hour, a monthly live stage show and podcast. The show gained a big following due to how it played with genre and its sense of humor in telling original stories: Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars, Beyond Belief, Amelia Earhart, Captain Laserbeam, and others.
Now, the duo is launching a Thrilling Adventure Hour ongoing comics series from Boom! Studios on July 18. The book opens with a four-issue arc starring Frank and Sadie Doyle, drawn by M.J. Erickson, before diving into a Sparks Nevada story.
SYFY WIRE spoke with the duo about translating the radio show to comics and their plans for the series.
For people who don't know, what is The Thrilling Adventure Hour and who are Frank and Sadie Doyle?
Acker: The Thrilling Adventure Hour is many things. It has been a staged play in the style of old-time radio. It has been a new-time podcast in the style of old-time radio. It is comics that are in the style of comics.
Blacker: Beyond Belief was a fan favorite part of the live stage show and podcast. It stars Frank and Sadie Doyle, who are married mediums and who love each other — and drinking — and are constantly beset upon by various supernatural things that either want their help or want to hurt them.
Why did you decide to start the series with a Beyond Belief story?
Acker: The characters tend to start in their home and get pulled into some sort of adventure, which feels like a good entry point for new people. There's something so warm about them. The subtext of everything Frank and Sadie have to say to each other is "I love you," and that's a feeling you don't necessarily get in a lot of things you read and watch. It's one of the things we think that the audience responds to that we also love writing.
You stopped doing the live shows and podcasts a few years ago. What has it been like returning to the characters?
Acker: Too easy. It was jarring how not jarring it was.
Blacker: We would often get together to work on other things or just to hang out and would come up with a Beyond Belief or Sparks or Colonel Ticktock episode just as part of the conversation. Because we lived with it for so long it wasn't just that it was hard to turn off, it was that we didn't want to. It's such fun writing all of these characters.
The Dave and Donna Henderson in the book are not the characters that longtime listeners know. Unless the comic is a prequel?
Acker: Exactly. We decided in doing the comics to take the story back a little bit in order to see in comic [form] the evolution of Sadie's best friend Donna and her husband Dave Henderson into what they become in the podcast. There's a tension for old fans for when what's going to happen to them happens to them. And now if you're a new fan and you read this, there is a tension that something is going to happen to them.
When you sat down to write a new Beyond Belief story for the comic, was there something you wanted to do or felt was essential?
Blacker: We talked a lot about what a good introductory story was. We wrote a pilot of Beyond Belief a few years ago and we did a couple of staged readings of it just to see if anyone wanted to buy it. No one did. So we had this pilot that we really liked, which was an introduction to the world. It had all the stuff that Beyond Belief did — the loving relationship between Frank and Sadie, they love drinking, they deal with ghosts and the supernatural.
Acker: There are differences between the pilot we wrote and the comics script. One of my favorite things is that the beats of the pilot were a good three issues, which meant we had to invent a finale specifically for the medium. It was one of the most fun Beyond Belief stories we ever did.
Blacker: And it's a thing we never could have done in the podcast or on the stage. That fourth issue is very specific to comic books and I think it's going to be really fun.
And after Beyond Belief will be a Sparks Nevada because you have to.
Blacker: Marc Evan Jackson would be so mad if we didn't.
You said that after Sparks is still TBD, but is there a character you really want to see in comics form?
Acker: Whichever one we're writing at the moment is the favorite, so I feel like you're asking us to pick the next favorite. It can't be done, but I really want to do more Amelia comics. I feel like that lends itself to the medium super well. There might be something about punching nazis that feels relevant to me right now, creatively.
Blacker: Anything that has a really strong visual element. We couldn't do an aerial battle in a podcast so I'm excited to get to do that in a comic. Philip Fathom does not look like a person so it'll be nice to see the physical aspects of him in a comic book. A lot of the Captain Laserbeam villains would be fun to see in a comic book.
Acker: To take comic book heroes from fake radio into real comics, I don't know, there's something subversive about it? Or completely not. I'm not sure, but it's going to be fun.
Have you talked about or done any fake ads? You always did them for the show and comics have a long tradition of the Hulk promoting Twinkies and such.
Acker: Dan Bucatino drowning his sorrows in Twinkies [laughs].