The following is an interview with Erica McCrystal, Fanbase Press Contributor and moderator of the new podcast, Villains 101. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with McCrystal about the inspiration for the educational podcast series, her approach to analyzing the most infamous villains of film and literature, her most recent Joker-centric episode, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about your podcast, Villains 101?
Erica McCrystal: Villains 101 is an audio lecture. In each 20-minute episode, I welcome you to class and then dig into details about that episode’s chosen villain. I talk about the history of the character and analyze adaptations of the character. In researching and presenting different angles of each character, I aim to provide information that is new to listeners to create a fresh perspective on a popular character. With each episode, I also release artwork of the character (See Joker below.) drawn by my brother Jack McKeever.
BD: What inspired Villains 101, and are there any other podcasts that have influenced the show?
EM: I’ve taught English at both high school and colleges over the past nine years, so I wanted the podcast to be a classroom-like experience. In grad school, I wrote my dissertation about Gothic villains, and I’ve always wanted to teach classes about the Gothic and crime fiction. So, I thought this was a great way to research and write lectures about some really exciting figures. I love both nineteenth-century Gothic writing and pop culture studies, and with a podcast, I can talk about anyone from any time and any medium. I like the podcast, Lore, because we learn about really compelling stories that are historically rooted but have mysterious elements. And I love Imaginary Worlds because it explores so many different elements of popular fiction and film and brings experts in the field to chime in and offer their insight and analysis.
BD: What do you hope that listeners will take away from the podcast?
EM: I hope that it helps listeners gain a deeper appreciation of the characters. These villains are iconic, but some may perceive them as superficial. With each episode’s background information and analysis, I hope that listeners will realize and think about the depth of these characters. Ultimately, as is the goal of any classroom lecture, I would love for listeners to continue their own conversations about these villains.
BD: How would you describe a typical episode of the show, and who are some of the villains that you have covered so far?
EM: After welcoming everyone to class, I provide some history about the villain and then dig into analysis of the character. I like to bring in discussion about elements in the real world related to the villain. I also spend time covering adaptations of the character. The episodes are prepared lectures, so they are pretty structured. So far, I’ve covered Mr. Hyde, the Wicked Witch of the West, Freddy Krueger, The Joker, and Dr. Evil. Stay tuned for Darth Vader and a holiday special coming up in December.
BD: Your most recent episode focused on the infamous Joker from the DC universe. Why do you feel that the Joker is a character that has resonated so strongly for fans of his cinematic and comic book iterations?
EM: The Joker is such an amazing villain, because all of the different versions of him make him eclectic and unpredictable, but still recognizable. I think that fans love to see what the next writer, illustrator, or actor will bring to his character. He embodies chaos and continues to redefine eccentricity every time we see him.
BD: Given that your analysis covers both literary and filmic interpretations of characters, do you find that some villains are more impactful or resonate more deeply with fans in certain mediums?
EM: I’m trying to cover a variety of villains so that there is a little something for everyone. But I do think that the film versions of characters are certainly more recognizable. Many of the villains originated in literature, so it’s fascinating to see how they have been adapted. The original Wicked Witch of the West actually didn’t have green skin, but that is typically what we think of when imagining her character. I think that fans really enjoy seeing different adaptations. Even if you disagree with how a film version of a character was depicted in contrast to the original source material, it raises engaging conversation.
BD: Are there ways that your listeners can become more involved with the show, either by submitting questions or character recommendations for upcoming episodes?
EM: I’d love to see the discussion about the characters continue beyond my podcast, so that can happen through comments on the Villains 101 Facebook, Twitter (@Villains_101), or Instagram (villains101) pages. On my website, villains101.com, you can privately send me questions or recommendations. I set up a Patreon page, too, and I hope to develop tiers for more involvement as the fanbase grows.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Villains 101?
EM: You can subscribe through iTunes or Stitcher or listen through the Villains 101 website (www.villains101.com). I post new episodes twice a month. My website also has a list of recommended resources about each villain. There are some great articles and books where scholars and critics have analyzed the characters that are definitely worth checking out.