2016 Snapshot: Anthony (Mitch) Mitchell

Interview by David McDonald.

Mitch is an Ex-man. No, not a member of the super hero group of mutants and friend of Hugh Jackman, but an ex-wrestler, ex-publisher, ex-con chair. He’s been in and about the Australian sci-fi/fantasy fandom scene for twenty years.

He was the first (and only) Gratuitous Interstate Guest of Honour at Swancon 25 in 2000.

He published four volumes of his vainly titled Mitch? anthologies, collections of short stories, one of which even won a Ditmar in 2002. 

In 2006 he (with STP co-host Ian Mond) co-chaired Continuum 4: Retrorama.

Mitch now seems to exclusively exist via podcasts; you can find out about them here if you are interested:

You’re a part of the “Shooting the Poo” podcast. For those readers who might be unfamiliar with it, could you give a brief run down on the concept behind it, and tell us the inspiration for the podcast?

Shooting the Poo is a podcast we started back in 2011 where Ian Mond, Dave Hoskin and myself with the occasional random guest hosts here and there discuss a wide variety of topics ranging from early 20th century erotic literature, Dr Who, Batman, David Lynch and comic creators whose last names end in ‘is’ (seriously, we did, that was a legit topic)

It’s a casual discussion style show where we sound like we know what we are talking about because some of us (namely Dave) does lots of research.

I won’t say it’s a relaxing show because it has been known to get kind of tense in the studios on occasions as we don’t always agree with each other.  This makes for some of our best episodes though because apparently it can be quite entertaining or so I’m told.

I can’t remember if there was any specific inspiration for the podcast.  I know we were all listening to podcasts at the time and we were all arrogant enough to suggest when we got together having conversations/rants about this and that we thought ‘we should be recording this, this is absolute gold, we are denying the world champagne comedy here by not recording it and sharing it with the masses”

Mondy was already doing the Writer & the Critic podcast with Kirstyn MacDermott so suggested that why don’t we piggy back off of that and use their equipment and make it happen.  We all agreed that was a fantastic idea and I don’t know how he did it but managed to get Kirstyn to come on board as producer which was great and ridiculously important. Not only did she make sure the record button was pushed (We couldn’t trust Mondy with something like that, seriously!) she also made us sound good and  with her editing skills, clever.

I think Kirstyn had had enough of dealing with our shenanigans and just couldn’t deal with us anymore and moved over 100km’s away.  It wasn’t nearly far enough away as we discussed the logistics of travelling up to hers to record.

At this time both Dave and I both became fathers for the first time catching up to Mondy with his two kids which I don’t know if you know this, but kids take up your time and be quite exhausting at times, who knew?

Needless to say the podcast slowed down in regularity from a monthly podcast to every two months to sporadic to not at all.

It’s okay though because I’m happy to say that we are back with brand new episodes, they just aren’t uploaded yet.  They are sitting in my computer in various states of editing because I have taken on the producer/editing role and I am definitely not as good or reliable as Kirstyn but I’m working on it and getting better and quicker.  Keep your eye on the iTunes feed because they will be popping up for your aural pleasure soon.

At one point I believe that you were a wrestler – can you tell us a bit about that? What attracts you to wrestling? Does it have any parallels with speculative fiction?

I was the right age to get into wrestling back in the 1980s when Hulkamania ran wild for the first time.  It was the same time I into all things Star Wars, Transformers and He-Man and the like. As I grew older I had moved on from childish things like that and moved onto much more mature things like Comic books.

Cut to the mid 1990s and a friend of mine went to a video library one day (remember video libraries?) we were looking for a fifth movie for the 5 for $5 gimmick.  We couldn’t decide on the last film and my friend suggested the latest wrestling Pay per View.  We had been looking around the store for about four hours by this point and had no good reason against it so said ‘sure, why not?’

We went back to my place and popped the VHS into the video player.  Three hours later I was hooked back into wrestling.  It was essentially the same thing I was watching 10 years earlier (with a lot of the same wrestlers actually) only this time I was a little more aware that wrestling may not be as real as it is portrayed.

I’m insulted that you would link professional wrestling with speculative fiction.  Professional wrestling was a sport back then which pitted athletes against each other in gladiatorial battle with wrestlers aspiring to reach for the pinnacle of the sport, the title belt.

For example, the tape we borrowed that day that changed my life a little was Summerslam 1994.

I’ll go through the card for you and you may understand why it was such compulsive and influential viewing.

Match 1

Adam Bomb Vs. Kwang

Adam was a Glowing green eyed survivor of the Three Mile Island Nuclear meltdown accident Vs. the Kwang, a mysterious masked ninja from the orient (via Puerto rico) who had the nefarious mist he would spit in opponents faces.

Match 2.

Irwin R. Schyster and Bam Bam Bigelow Vs. The Headshrinkers

Irwin, or IRS as he was more commonly known as was a former IRS tax collector from Washington, D.C., harassing wrestlers and fans as “tax cheats” and scolding them to “pay their fair share” tagged with the 180kg bald tattoed headed beast from the east Bam Bam battled it out with Samu and Fatu, the Headshrinkers AKA, the wild Samoans, AKA the Samoan Swat team, AKA The Hawaiian Beasts, AKA The Tahitian Warriors.

Match 3.

Alundra Blayze Vs. Bull Nakano

Alundra Blayze (nowadays a professional driver of the Monster Truck Madusa)retained her WWF Womens championship title by defeating Bull Nakano (nowadays a professional golfer in Japan)

Match 4.

Razor Ramon V.s Big Daddy Cool Diesel

Razor, a shady and stylish Cuban American bully from Miami (strangely very similar to Al Pacino’s character from Scarface) defeated ‘Big Daddy Cool’ diesel (formally, Steel of the Master blasters formally OZ and formally Vinnie Vegas of the ‘Half-ton of holy hell’ stable for the Intercontinental title belt.

Match 5.

Tatanka Vs. Lex Luger

T the Native American Tantanka took on and beat former friend ‘The real American’ Lex Luger who were feuding over a lack trust.

Match 6.

Jeff Jarrett Vs. Mabel

Jeff Jarrett, “That’s J-E-Double-F, J-A-Double-R, E-Double-T!” , a country music singer  who intended to elevate his singing career through his exposure as a wrestler took on the 6ft 9in 220kg rapping wrestler Mabel in a match that pitted Hip Hop  vs. country

Match 7.

Bret Hart Vs. Owen Hart

It’s brother vs. brother in this battle of 2 members of Canada’s wrestling family in a cage match.  Bret beat his younger brother only for Brett old tag team partner to attack him and he and Owen padlocked the cage closed and ruthlessly beat up Brett.

Match 8.

The Understaker Vs. the Undertaker

The main event of the night was The Undertaker, an old west style undertaker who was a man of few words and seemingly impervious to pain was generally accompanied to the ring by his manager Paul Bearer who always carried his urn which is where the Undertaker seemingly got his power from.

Months before this match, the undertaker was locked in a casket after a match with Yokozuna and not seen for months.  A few months later the evil manager “The Million dollar man’ Ted Debiase claimed he had found the Undertaker and brought him back to the WWF. He looked a little bit like the undertaker but something was a little off.  He was now evil and instead of being powered by Paul Bearers urn was now powered by Debiase’s money and greed.

Leading to this night Paul Bearer had returned and challenged Debiase that his Undertaker was an imposter and he has in fact been in contact with the real undertaker and challenged him to a match at SummerSlam.

Paul Bearer delivered his undertaker as promised and we saw a battle between 2 ‘identical’ wrestlers except for the coloured trim they were wearing and one was about 3 inches taller than the other.

Bearers classic Undertaker finished triumphant and Ted Debiase’s ‘Underfaker’ was never seen or heard from again.

OK, OK, OK, maybe wrestling isn’t as real as it is portrayed but it’s a different time and within 2 years of that wrestling show the business had seen a change.

Wrestling up to that point was quite cartoony with characters being over the top or having wrestling as a second job.  At that time there were Repo men, Dentists, Garbage men, Golfers, Base-ballers and NASCAR drivers etc.

I think as with most industries like this that have an age based fan set, the problem is, the fans grow up and move on.  This was happening with wrestling and instead of making the same product and aiming on grabbing the next lot of young fans, the business grew up a little with its fans and we saw the change from was then known as ‘the Next generation’ era to what would become the ‘Attitude’ era which was a little more realty based and saw the emergence of the likes of ‘Stone cold’ Steve Austin, John Cena and a little guy you might have heard of, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.  He’s made a couple of films of late.

How I got into wrestling was nothing as exciting as challenging someone who was impersonating me.

Before I go too far I would like to point out I was not very good and only lasted a few years in the business but enjoyed every second of it and was lucky enough to have survived without sustaining any serious injuries.

I got into wrestling thanks to me being a comedy fan and one of the regular comedy venues I used to regularly attend had a bouncer on the door who I recognized as a local wrestler Bully the Brawler. Over the next few months we talked business until I worked up the guts to ask if I could start learning to become a wrestler.

He introduced me to his instructor and for the next 12-18 months I worked my way towards becoming a wrestler.

I don’t miss being a wrestler at all but I am still intrigued by the business.  I’m still friends with guys still involved in the business, both workers and creative and am now more interested in the creative side of the business.

It is quite a fine art booking a wrestling show.  You have to match up wrestlers for the night. You are dealing with a limited talent pool and have to pit certain types of workers against each other.  Some workers are better than others, some are still a little green but you need to get matches into them so you match them up with some more experienced workers.  You have to have a reason those two people are fighting and you have to structure the match that makes sense.  On top of this you are entertaining a crowd on the night and want to send them home entertained and engaged, not necessarily happy.  The good guy can’t win all the time otherwise why would you bother watching.  Sometimes you have to upset the crowd but in a way they will return to the next show to  hopefully see the bad guys get their comeuppance.  Sometimes month after month after month.

You have to book this night of wrestling WITH anything between 4 to 8 matches and tell a big overarching storyline for the night incorporating 4 to 8 individual stories for each match.

Not only are you booking the card for the one day, you are planning on storylines that continue onto the next show, the show after that and sometimes, the stories may take a whole year to play out.  Not everything goes to plan either as you may make all these plans and part way through a storyline you will lose some talent, either to injury, travel, other work, who knows, there are no guarantees in wrestling, that’s for sure. On top of the potential injuries etc. you may have to change plans on the fly as the crowds may just not go along with what you have planned.  You put things in place but have to be flexible enough to adapt.

And deep down it’s all about manipulation.  Like writing a story or doing stand-up comedy.  You are working for an audience and you have an intention to get a reaction from that audience.

I’ve heard a rumour you might have some opinions on Batman Vs Superman. What did you think of the movie, and what do you think of the state of the superhero genre in general?

I do have an opinion and anyone who knows me even the slightest has probably heard my opinions about it.  It’s not something I have really kept to myself.

I have been a big Superman fan for as long as I can remember.  I am guessing it began with the Superfriends animated show which continued with the Christopher Reeve film in 1978.  I have continued the appreciation of the last son of Krypton since following his adventures through comics books, animated TV shows, live action TV shows, computer games, action figures etc. I’m not going to lie, some of them weren’t of the highest quality but I was a fan and was very forgiving.

After the break out success of Batman Begins, DC/Warner Brothers rushed into production Superman Returns.  Essentially a continuation to Superman: The Movie and Superman 2 from the director of The Usual Suspects and the game changing X-Men.  Needless to say I was pretty excited.  That was until about two minutes into the closing credits of Superman Returns; not a bad film, just not a good film and definitely not good enough to start a new franchise of Superman films.

I was surprised and very excited years later when DC/WB announced a brand new Superman movie with it’s intention to be the beginning of a shared DC universe of films with no Brian Singer attached and visionary director of 300 & Watchman on board. Everything sounded good so far.  This is going to be great.

That optimistic enthusiasm had a few hiccups along the way with the news David Goyer was brought in to write the script and the title was announced to be Man of Steel.

This concerned me as for a few years DC/WB appeared to be embarrassed with their characters and seemed to do everything in their power to distance themselves from everything that ‘might’ be silly/uncool 10 years of Smallville and they actively avoided flying and the costume.

David Goyer for years had been spruiking a script he wanted to make called SuperMax about Oliver Queen, Green Arrow.  The plot was that Queen gets arrested at the start of the film and is sent to a SuperMax prison filled with a bunch of guys he has put in there as his public alter-ego.

He wanted to make a Green Arrow movie, not called Green Arrow with the main character quite possibly not wearing his costume much if at all in the film.

I was excited but a little hesitant.

When the first picture came out of Supes without his trademark red trunks my concerns elevated.

I went into seeing Man of Steel with reservations but high hopes that this was going to be the Superman for the next generation.  I came away from the screening very disappointed and upset by many of the aspects of the film.

I was quite dismissive of it concentrating on many of the negative aspects of the film without looking for what was done well or right.

Cut to a few years later and DC/WB announce a second movie containing Superman.  I was happy that the franchise was not ruined and finished and that why could learn from their mistakes and improve on what had gone before.

The hesitation began early with David Goyer announced as the writer again and that it wasn’t going to be a sequel to Man of Steel but a film called Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Not only a silly title it appeared that DC again were scared of Superman and felt they need their incredibly safe bet in Batman to save him and his film.

I was not enjoying all the news and rumours that were coming out about the film.  It was more of the same things that I believed they got wrong in their first outing with the last son of Krypton.

It was at this time I also found a podcast called the Man Of Steel Answers Insight Commentary.

The podcast is a ridiculously well researched podcast that dissected Man of Steel to the most minute detail.  I was amazed at the levels to which he broke down the film and came up with positive arguments for aspects of the film that I disagreed.  Not only  was I impressed with some of his takes on themes and concepts of the film he was starting to win me over to respect the film and eventually convinced me that it wasn’t that bad at all and quite the interesting and clever film indeed.

Thanks to devouring all the MOSAIC podcasts I found myself rapt up in his enthusiasm for the new Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice film and was looking forward to it immensely, albeit with slight fears that I wasn’t going to like it.

Full disclosure, A little thing I should mention.  A few weeks before the film was released I ended up winning a life sized Superman statue from a Facebook competition thanks to the target department store.

I was now the owner of a life sized statue of one of my favorite characters that I am planning on displaying in my home that people are going to see, I really hoped the film was good and more importantly, I hoped I liked it.

Cut to midnight, the opening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with my Geek Dudes podcast co-hosts.  Not too many reviews were out yet so it was a but what little buzz was out was not too positive.

As I sat down and the time counted down to the beginning of the film I have done something I have never done with a film before.  I mentally prepared for the film.  Almost like a mantra I started to think to myself that I took way to much mental baggage into Man of Steel and that ruined my experience in watching it.  Sure, it wasn’t the Superman I wanted or expected, doesn’t mean it was wrong.  Don’t make the same mistake, this is a new Superman and a new Batman, just let it happen, embrace it and dissect it later, don’t pre-judge, don’t impose your own bias on somebody else’s product.

I consciously sat through the film and let it all wash over me.  If I had gone in with the same attitude as Man of Steel I think I would have joined in the chorus of hate that erupted once the film was unleashed on the world, but I have to thank the MOSAIC podcast for changing, not only my opinion of Man of Steel, but also changing the way I look at film.  His dissection and interpretation and break down was a new way of watching film for me.

Chatting with my co-hosts after we all seemed to be on the same page that we loved it but other people are going to hate it.

The film has hit a lot of iconic Superman and Batman moments which would be appreciated by those in the know but could be a little too much for those casual fans.

I could see the flaws in the film and admit it’s a mess, a hot mess, but for me an entertaining and ambitious hot mess that that didn’t dumb down it’s plot for the lowest common denominator. Sure, it could have been a little clearer but I was initially happy with what I saw.

I’ve heard all the arguments about why BvS:DoJ is a bad film and had all the bad bits explained to me and I have either come up with my own or read other peoples counter arguments so I’m totally cool with people hating it, that’s their problem, if you want to invest that much of your time actively hating on something.  I don’t care because to quote my Geek Dudes podcast co-host Chriss Fresh, “Fuck you, I like it!”

I am loving the fact that there is a superhero genre of films, it’s fantastic.  I’ve been a comic fan since about 1988 when what we had was the Burton Batman film.  Since then we had a fairly bad run of films of questionable quality including the Shuemaker Batman films, Corman’s Fantastic Four, Dolph Lungren’s Punisher, Shaquille O’Neil’s Steel, Halle Berry’s Catwoman and Jennifer Garner’s Elektra.

Thank god Hollywood seemed to have gotten the formula right and we can enjoy big budget movies faithfully based on comic books.  What I like most is that the whole shared universe thing that particularly DC and Marvel comics are famous for is being adopted into the Hollywood system. Not only is it cool that characters can turn up in other characters films they can also crossover with their TV counterparts. well, more in the Marvel cinematic universe, DC have set up a near perfect little corner for themselves on TV with the DC/CW slate of TV shows.

The beauty of the shared universe as a business model too is that once established the franchise can better survive a box office flop better than a straight sequel as the universe can move on with something knew but the whole meta story is uninterrupted.

My fear is too many flops and the budgets getting too big that the bottom could fall out of the whole thing but it seems pretty healthy at the moment and Marvel in particular seem pretty bulletproof at this point with the Movies going gang busters and the Netflix TV shows being some amazing television.

As much as I am liking seeing Batman and Superman, what I would rather see is a lot more smaller films with more obscure characters.  Things like Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad give me hope that Hollywood are willing to give some smaller projects a go.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

I must admit that I am not reading a lot of late so cannot recommend any Aussie writers, TV wise the only Australian shows I have watched would be Shaun MaCalleff’s Mad as Hell and I started Cleverman but never got around to finish it.

Nicola Scott is an Aussie artist who is kicking goals and doing some great work for DC comics at the moment on the Wonder Woman book and author Tom Taylor has been busy at Marvel writing some cool stuff, just finishing up playing around with the Iron Man lore and now seeing what he can do on the current Wolverine book.

The main thing I do devour when it comes to entertainment is podcasts.  I listen to them whenever I can.  At work, while driving, exercising and doing chores around the house.

I subscribe to so many shows I have to listen to them in at a minimum 1.5x times speed just to keep up.  I miss a day of listening and I it could take a while to catch back up.

Some Aussie podcasts I can recommend would be.

Paleo Cinema/The Martian Drive-In

The very first podcast I ever listened to. Terry Frost began Paleo Cinema way back in the early days of podcasting with Paleo Cinema where each episode discusses/reviews old films, well, older than 20 years old anyway. A well researched and informative show that truly captures terry’s love for films.

Steele Wars

Steele Wars is a star wars podcast hosted by Melbourne comedian and Star Wars tragic Steele Saunders that spun off from the incredibly popular ‘I love green guide letters’ that Steel had been doing for a while to live audiences around Australia.

With news of Episode VII of Star Wars in the works Steele started Steel Wars as an outlet to talk about his love of Star Wars and interview fellow Star Wars fans and discuss all the rumours circulating the much anticipated new film.

The podcast has become a hit thanks to Steeles infectious enthusiasm and passion for all things Star wars and the sheer number of quality guests he has managed to get for the show ranging from Fan club members, celebrity Star wars fans, Star wars actors and the very latest episode he sits down and has a chat with Nathan Hamill, the son of Luke Skywalker himself, Mark hamill in Nathans living room.

Steel has subsequently become the go-to Star Wars guy often used whenever shows like Triple J, Triple M, Studio 10 or the project need someone to speak about anything Wars.

I think his pinnacle was getting a gig doing red carpet interviews for Studio 10 when the episode VII junket came to town and he got to ask Han Solo himself Harrison Ford advice for his upcoming wedding.

Straight after the premiere midnight screening of The Phantom Menace Steele organised a live event/podcast recording at the pub next to the cinema.

Beginning at 2.30am to a sold out crowd, a sleep deprived Star Wars love in with many guests all trying to process what they had just seen.

6am that morning the episode was uploaded to the world.

The Weekly planet

The weekly planet is the official podcast of comicbookmovie.com.

It’s a weekly news podcast about all things comic book movies, TV and anything else they deem interesting enough to speak about that is a joy to listen to.

Melbourne based hosts Nick and Mason have an amazing rapport that feels like they know each other really well support each other on whatever crazy tangents the other decides to go down.

I also love their movie review rating system.  Being in this modern internet age, a movie is rated as either ‘Best movie ever’ or ‘worst movie ever’.

I can’t recommend the weekly planet enough it’s awesome, or it’s crap, I don’t care.

Hell is for Hyphenates

Hell is for hyphenates is ‘The Film lovers’ Podcast’ an in depth film discussion podcast with incredibly knowledgable film buffs discussing an individual filmmaker and their works with each episode.  Skewed towards the more art-house side of things it tends to be a lot more high-brow than the weekly planet.

Action Figure Blues

AFB is a weekly action figure discussion/review podcast which is exactly that.  I cannot believe how much these guys spend on action figures and statues on a weekly basis.  Makes me feel a little bit better about my little collection.

Radioactive Lounge

Recorded in the All-star Comic store in Melbourne, the Rad lounge is an entertaining weekly comic discussion/review show with a rotating roster of hosts. Very informative and when Larry is one of the hosts very not safe for work.

Zero-G radio show

I listen to it as the podcast, but it’s the downloaded version of the long running RRR Fm radio show hosted by Robert Jan.

Radio KAL

The official podcast for the Supermanhomepage.com.

Weekly news show discussing all the happenings with Superman in Comics, TV and Movies.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I think it will have to be Grant Morrison.  Not only is he a fantastic writer but I don’t know anyone else who has thought more about comics anywhere near as much as him.

I’ve heard plenty of interviews with him and he is just so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about everything comics it would be great just to hear what he thinks about anything in general to be honest.

I know a few people who have met him in person and all have reported that he is the same generous, informative, captivating and energising  self as he comes across on interviews.

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