Origin Story

The meaningful and important days in your life are often completely unexpected, blindsiding you on an idle Saturday. One of those days was July 23, 2009—the day I discovered the Uncanny X-Cast. At the time I was an avid comic book reader, and because none of my friends are, I was hungry for content from whomever would provide it. I had been a fan of podcasts for just under a year at that point. The medium had really only started taking off not long before that, as iPods and iPhones made it possible to listen to this new form of talk radio at the listener’s own pace and there was a huge saturation of generic comic book podcasts back then. I’d latched onto the podcast Comic Geek Speak (CGS) pretty early on and a few months into my listening tenure with the show, they had on two chumps—Rob Briscoe and Brian Perillo—from an X-Men podcast to help bridge the gap in their knowledge, as no one on CGS was really an expert.

My childhood took place in the 90’s; so the X-Men animated cartoon and the then-recent film trilogy that had came out during those years meant that even if I had never read an X-Men comic, I knew who the characters were. Wanting to dive as deep into comics as I could, I jumped at the chance to better understand the X-Men. I downloaded the episode, uploaded it to my iPod and started out on a walk, my preferred way to absorb podcasts at the time. Rob and Brian imprinted on me immediately, in ways that no other team of podcast hosts ever had—and truthfully ever has. Their personalities, humor, and openness about themselves were buried in the subtext of that episode, and I had to make the jump over the metaphorical wall to their show.

At the time, I was presented with 68 episodes of content. Not knowing where to start, I listened to their newest episode. At the end of those two and a half hours, I was not content with that sliver of time and instantly had to make my way home to go back to episode 67, then I went back to episode 1. Within a month, I had listened to every second of the more than 150 hours of content, to the shagrin of my then-girlfriend.

The Greatest Podcast of All Time

Over the next seven years, I became obsessed with the show, to a level no one I knew really understood until I met my wife. I would drop what I was doing to listen when new episodes came out and quote the cast like it was a popular television show, their language became part of my lexicon. I have listened to every episode at least seven times, and to me it was the greatest podcast of all time. I would often say that during panels I’ve hosted laying out the history of podcasting, but never quite captured reasoning in words that were intelligible to other human beings. After years thought, I think I might have the words.

The main draw most people have to podcasts is the timeliness, talking about a topic in a relatively current events way, produced to be digested before waiting to see the next episode queue up in a few days to a week. The Uncanny X-Cast was almost never timely, coming out every two weeks and often talking about comics that were a month to two months old. And better yet, the topics discussed in the first 30 to 60 minutes of the show were rarely ever about the X-Men, but the hosts themselves. Brian and Rob had known each other during their high school years, separated geographically for college, and only truly began conversing with each other on a regular basis when the podcast started. Through the show we learned about the two men just as much as we learned about Marvel’s Mighty Mutants. In my opinion, they traded timeliness for timelessness.

I think other podcasts have unintentionally flirted with this timelessness, but I don’t think any podcasts sets out to pull the curtain back on the show’s hosts and be so transparent. But I’ve never felt like I’ve known two people from across the internet like I did Rob and Brian.

The two were always open to including the fans in whatever way possible; as parents of young kids, they couldn’t make to things like Comic Con on a regular basis, so they would call fans to get their “Con Reports.” They would answer questions about just about any topic, from asinine comic history, to which number to bet on in Vegas, to life advice. Their entire 100th episode was constructed around including the fans as the hosts took a backseat. They took voicemails, so I would call in, sometimes as many as seven times in the two week gap between episodes. Rob once told me, that having never dialed my phone number, he’s pretty certain he has it memorized from how often it came up in the voicemail feed. It felt like being pen pals with the geeky uncles I never had.

A Good Ten Years

All good things must come to an end, and at the time of writing this we have had one episode in the two years since the show’s tenth anniversary. To be honest the idea that the show might have ended unceremoniously was something I denied for a very long time. I was just about to become a dad and I couldn’t imagine a world where I wasn’t going to be able to call in every couple weeks and try to pluck advice out of their heads as a method of living vicariously through their guidance. But a few months ago, I finally found peace with the reality that show that dominated my 20’s was probably over, that the hosts rightfully wanted to spend time with their wives and kids who are now reaching middle school. By the X-Cast just existing they gave us so much. They gave me so much: a forum to belong, a blueprint for how to be a father and a geek, endless laughs, and hope as I marched blind into adulthood.

I was at a friend’s bonfire a few weeks ago, probably existing a lot in my head—as fatherhood has pushed me to do more as I’ve had to rough it alone with just my wife in a group of non-parents. And there was a moment when I looked up at my friends who I value so much and realized how far I grown from them in the last year, how fatherhood had become a very lonely profession. The Uncanny X-Cast was always a show that was transparent about parenthood, that highlighted the imperfections of being a parent. The hosts would comment on how comic issues they read in their teen years meant more to them as fathers, like when Cyclops had to let his infant son be taken into the future to cure a futuristic nano virus injected into him, only to have him return as an old man, aka Cable. I looked at my friends and realized I couldn’t have those conversations with them, that at this point parenthood is a different language they aren’t fluent in. But I have hope, because if Brian and Rob could reconnect with one living in New Jersey and the other in Alabama after a decade, I felt pretty sure one day I could rebuild my relationships with only 30 miles between us.

My love for the show is honestly a little irrational to most people: a fanatic bond to two people I’ve never met in person, who I’ve only talked with once in real time on the show and who shaped my worldview, language, and parenting style in ways I will never be able to separate from. My twenties were entwined with them and improved by just having them around. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Maybe I’ll make a documentary about it someday.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.