Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Thrilling Adventure Hour’s Ben Acker and Ben Blacker throw down The Martian

Illustration for article titled iThrilling Adventure Hour/i’si /iBen Acker and Ben Blacker throw down iThe Martian/i

The New York Comic Con is three days of tightly packed comics action, a quick but enormous event in Gotham City. Sifting through the content, we ask some of our favorite comics creators questions on their craft in The A.V. Club’s Comics Questionnaire.


Ben Acker and Ben Blacker have been writing The Thrilling Adventure Hour for more than 10 years, mostly as a live stage production performed in the style of old-time radio serials. Though the monthly stage show came to a close earlier this year, Acker and Blacker have kept the adventures going with comic book continuations, first in Sparks Nevada: Marshal On Mars—an interstellar take on The Lone Ranger and similar lawmen of the Wild West—and now with Beyond Belief, the misadventures of a high society couple with a seemingly endless supply of vodka and the uncanny ability to commune with the undead, though they never seem to be all that interested in the latter.

If an alien species discovered The Thrilling Adventure Hour comics as the only remnant of human civilization, what would they learn about us?

Ben Blacker: We talk a lot.

Ben Acker: Yeah, more words than pictures!

BB: That we knew about them [alien life].

BA: As pervasive caricatures in half of our culture.

The A.V. Club: Are you suggesting that Sparks Nevada would be borderline racist?

BA: To aliens? Absolutely!

BB: Although, if the aliens that found these were not Martians, they were other alien species, they might be like, “Yeah, this is dead-on!”


BA: Or they might be like, “We’re not all Martians! Where’s our representation?”

If my résumé included a whole summer spent reading The Thrilling Adventure Hour comics, how could I spin that into valuable work experience?

BB: You would learn valuable law-keeping skills. That might come in handy.

BA: And how to handle your liquor.

BB: I assume you probably had to review The Martian, and you might enjoy the comics more than that movie, so you’d have something to compare it to.


BA: Oh! Are you throwing down?

BB: I’m coming after you, Matt Damon! You can leave this in. Listen, I’m a connoisseur of Mars-based fictions.


BA: I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve seen a lot of reviews because they say, “The Martian is thrilling! An adventure!” And I feel like they’re trolling me with those words.

BB: It comes up in our Twitter feed. All I could think was how awesome gunfights would be in the landscape of The Martian. It was beautiful, and it needed more gun fights and robots! I’m a sucker for a stuck-in-a-place kind of movie. I love 127 Hours.


BA: You love, like, a “bottle episode” movie?

BB: I do! But this was more Castaway than 127 Hours, if that makes any sense. It’s more about problem-solving than about being stuck there. “Acker & Blacker Love Movies.”


AVC: I’d listen to that podcast.

BB: Doug has the rights.

BA: “Doug Loves Movies.” Could we do a podcast where we just talk about the movies they talk about that week?


BB: “Acker & Blacker Loves Aukerman & Adam Scott Loves Movies Loves Doug Loves Movies Too”

AVC: That’s going to be a really long acronym.

BA: It’s going to be a great Twitter handle, though! Sorry, How Did This Get Made?


If copyright law were no concern, what character from another game, comic, movie, etc. would you like to see crossover into The Thrilling Adventure Hour comics?

BA: That’s not even a concern of ours.

BB: It’s funny, I feel like especially in Beyond Belief we’ve gotten to do that in a sideways manner.


BA: I was just thinking, like, “Oh, we could do… no, we did that one.” We’ve done the sideways version of It, we’ve done the sideways version of Sesame Street.

BB: It’s always more fun, I think, to kind of find our own versions of these things. You can do more with it, you don’t have to feel beholden to anything.


BA: You can correct the mistakes of the original material! Like a grouch! Who wants to see a grouch when you can see a grump?

BB: That’s one where it would have been awesome to have the character. We did an episode of Beyond Belief where it was like a Willy Wonka/Sesame Street/Nightmare On Elm Street riff, and we had a character that was a “grump,” and we actually had word out to Caroll Spinney to do the voice when we were in New York and he couldn’t do it. If we could have done that and had the voice of Oscar…


BA: I thought you were going to say, “If we’d actually used Willy Wonka…” but I like what you did with it.

BB: In the comics, I would love to be able to do crossovers with Marvel and DC. I think that would be really cool. I would love to do…


BA: Adam Strange?

BB: Captain Laserbeam versus Deadpool or something. That would be really neat.

AVC: Maybe the Doyles could team up with Ghost Rider?

BA: Or put him out.

BB: [Motions pinching the flame off of a candle.] Tsssssssss…

Illustration for article titled iThrilling Adventure Hour/i’si /iBen Acker and Ben Blacker throw down iThe Martian/i

If The Thrilling Adventure Hour comics we’re the main course of a meal, what would be the appetizer and what would be the dessert?

BA: The appetizer would be the issue #0s, the dessert would be the trade paperback or the graphic novel.


BB: The appetizer would be the zero issues and dessert would be ice cream!

BA: That’s true, dessert would still be dessert.

BB: I’m not going to eat a fucking book.

BA: Here’s the thing: it breaks down, in the pretend…

BB: I don’t understand. We have comic books?

BA: What Blacker doesn’t know is… we have comic books.

BB: Do you mean the comics that I own? I call them the Thrilling Adventure Hour comic books.


BA: They’re all the prequel to us doing comics.

How would you describe Sparks Nevada’s ideal first date?

BB: We’ve gotten to do it a few times. Those were ideal for us, not for Sparks.

BA: I think he stops a crime or whatever and looks really cool doing it, and then turns and gives a wink to the…


BB: To the camera!

BA: No, to the date! To the date who is stopping her own even bigger robot.

BB: So he’s deflated, even in his own fantasy? He’s like, “Look what I just… oh… okay. No, you got it? All right.”


BA: No, he’s like “Ooh, la la!”

BB: He can swoon, yeah. He does want someone to swoon for it.

BA: He wants someone like him, but a little better.

Illustration for article titled iThrilling Adventure Hour/i’si /iBen Acker and Ben Blacker throw down iThe Martian/i

Let’s say Beyond Belief has been adapted into a Broadway musical. Describe the big show-stopping musical number.

BA: Two verses too long. Needless. Ostentacious. Problematic. Glorifies drinking in problematic ways.


BB: Like any Beyond Belief musical number, it’s going to be about drinking and their love for each other, and hopefully equating the two. I think for the show-stopper, it’s going to have more horns.

AVC: Musical horns or demonic horns?

BB: Musical horns. I don’t know the plot of this musical, so I can’t speak to demonic horns.


BA: I think people will say it’s bombastic.

BB: But just the right amount of bombast.

BA: Yeah. Finally the show finds just the right amount of bombast. Yeah, they are having a lot of problems with this musical.


BB: Yeah, I was giving our musical great reviews! Our pretend musical. I don’t know why you’re so down on it.

BA: I just know how they’re going to rate it.

BB: They’re going to call it the Hamilton of musicals.

BA: They’re going to say it’s somewhere between Hamilton and the Spider-Man that killed all those people. The musical, not the clone!


BB: A death count challenging Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. But it’s only because we’re doing it in a haunted theater, which is also the plot of the musical. Ooh! Can we write this?

BA: Yes.

BB: Someone says “Macbeth,” thus activating the ghost in the theater.

BA: The ghost of the actual Macbeth, who is sick of it. And you can’t understand a word he says because of his Scottish accent.


BB: It turns out he’s just a Shakespearean actor who couldn’t make it, who died in this theater, literally and figuratively. Oh, this is a great show!

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