Page Author Bio

Benjamin Mullen is a Philly area podcaster, blogger, and all around gent. He co-hosts three podcasts as well as contributes to, and the Good Men Project. He is the founder and C.E.O. of Lazy Banana Productions. Ben currently lives outside of Pottstown, Pennsylvania with his wife and daughter.

Twitter: @BKM505


​Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast: Two Dads talk about being Dads! Join Ben and Nick every Sunday for discussions on all different parenting related topics, as well as special guests from the Dad blogging and Dad Podcasting community.

​Twitter: @PBDadcast

​Reel Comics Podcast: A podcast all about Comic Books, Movies, and Comic Book Movies! Every week Tim and Ben talk about the latest news and events in the Comic Book industry as well as discussions on all related topics.

​Twitter: @ReelComicsPod

​Sketchy Radio: The best podcast in the Philly area all about….nonsense. Ben and Bailey shoot the shit on all sorts of topics ranging from popular culture, to religion, and hotdogs.

​Twitter: @SketchyRadio610

New shows coming soon!

Review: Watchmen (Ben) Reel Comics Pod

​Lets generally sum up how I feel about it with this sentence: If the graphic novel had never happened and this movie was just a one off flick from an independent writer, I would call it the perfect movie.

​Now lets break it down:

​Watchmen is widely regarded as the best graphic novel to have ever been printed, and in a sense, it is just that. There had never been (up to that point) a superhero book worth reading where the writer gave actual life to the characters, as if they were real people living among us. Only “Kick-Ass” has come close to this level of bonding between character and reader. These are not superhero’s, they are every day individuals who have dedicated their life to making the world a better place and utilize small gadgets and flashy outfits.

​But even the outfits aren’t outlandish, as most are, when you think about it from character to character. Rorschach where’s plain street cloths with a hat and a trench coat, only utilizing his mask to hide his identity. Same goes for the Comedian. Although he where’s somewhat cheesy American flag colored shoulder pads, they are reminiscent from the late 70’s (which is the time period that fits here) when war vets, newly returned, started putting American flag decals on just about everything. The rest of his gear is completely parallel to ex-military vigilante, utilizing all of the straps and pockets and belts provided for carrying extra resources for battle. The only “superhero-ish” piece in his ensemble is his mask, which he obviously chose the easiest and less interfering on possible, a small “Robin” mask.

​The outfit for Nite Owl II is not as out of place either for a real world scenario. Many say it closely mimics the standard Batman outfit, and that’s not a far stretch. It’s primarily body armor from head to toe but with enough flexibility for effective hand to hand combat, as well as specially made night vision goggles reminiscent of Owl eyes. Speaking of the Owl design throughout the costume, it is obvious that the character modeled it after the original Nite Owl not for flashiness, but as an ode to his predecessor who so inspired him to become a hero. The cape, even, is not all for show. He can utilize it in a multiple attacker scenario to distract and intimidate the other assailants that he is not currently disposing of.

​Silk Spectre’s flash garments are purely reflective of the characters history, being that it is based off of the costume her mother wore decades before her. It is purely a matter of fashion although it does serve the purpose of function as well.

​Ozymandias is just as well wearing flash which is reflective of his personality. Believing that he is a reincarnation of Alexander the Great, along with his skills in combat as well as strength and intelligence brings out pure arrogance and self love. He carries himself as if he is the king of kings, and his outfit is purely for his ego, although (due to his massive intelligence) it is also fit to work with his dexterity.

​The only anomaly in this story is of course Dr. Manhattan, but that’s the point. He is a chemically altered being capable of just about everything, a true representation of a God. He has what many would call “super-powers”, his skin glows blue, he is the perfect example of a comic book super human, and its perfect. The perfect piece of doubt to put in the back of the mind of all these characters. Every time they put on the suit to go fight crime there will always be the thought of “well I don’t really need to do this anymore seeing that we have a God on earth” and yet they do it anyway. The perfect point of self doubt to keep these characters emotionally on their toes.

​The balance of characters is perfect, from their internal monologue to the way they interact with each other. The writing of this could have just been released as a novel and would have done just as good, if not better. Writer Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Batman: The Killing Joke) proves time and time again that he is one of the best, most creative minds in the business, and the fact that his anti-capitalism ideals get in the way of him being better known is a shame. Not on his part, but on the part of the publishing companies who have not met his every demand. Alan Moore may not be somebody you get along with, but he is sure as shit somebody you treat with respect.

​Moore’s writing coupled with the classic look of Dave Gibbons (Green Lantern, 2000A.D, and winner of two Jack Kirby awards) makes no doubt one of the greatest stories ever told through the comic book medium. Needless to say putting it to film would be a challenge. There are few directors who can accurately translate comic books to the big screen, but Zach Snyder is one of them, and he may just be the best.

​By utilizing the comic itself as the storyboard for the film, as well as a talented costuming department, and the cinematography of Larry Fong (Lost, 300) makes for a near perfect adaptation. The casting as well had dramatic effect on the outcome, as it could have had many mistakes. As much as I could highlight each of the actors individually, but all you need to do is think about who was considered for each role over the years and the outcome speaks for itself:

Rorschach: John Hurt (may have been great in the 80’s) Robin Williams (never) Daniel Craig (blech) and Simon Pegg (are you kidding?)

Dr. Manhattan: Arnold Schwarzenegger (shoot me) Dolph Lundren (strangle me with a pillow)

Comedian: Tommy Lee Jones (meh) Gary Busy (WHAT?) Ron Perlman (definitely could have worked in the 90’s) and Tom Jane (meh)

Nite Owl: Richard Gere (just no) Kevin Costner (yes, as long as he didn’t direct it too) John Cusack (meh) and Joaquin Phoenix (ruination of a character)

Other considerations that MAY have worked:

Nathan Fillion as Nite Owl
Jude Law as Ozymandias
Hilary Swank as Silk Spector

All in all, an amazing film, but there was something missing. No, I don’t mean the original ending. It was something emotional, almost like I was thinking to myself “yes, this is perfect, but it’s just not quite right”. In afterthought, it may have been that because the comic was around for so long and I’ve read it so many times, that I knew every line and every scene before it even happened. But it may go deeper than that.

Allan Moore has stated that he doesn’t want his name attached to any film project of his work, and for purely the reason that it is a different medium. He’s stated before that there are certain things you are only able to evoke in a graphic novel or comic book that cannot translate to film because it is either physically or emotionally impossible. I think, to a certain extent, he’s right. Seeing one of the greatest stories ever told play out on film is wonderful, but in the same vain as “47 Ronin” and “Beowulf” it doesn’t feel complete, and for the most part, I can’t describe it. Its an emotional connection that is lost from the original version of the story, that is: The comic version. That being said however, a whole new connection is built with the cinematic adaptation. But one cannot replace the other, so to try to sum it all up in one sentence yet again:

I love the Graphic Novel, and I love the Movie, but they are not the same thing, and it is not the same love.

-B.K. Mullen

Reel Comics Podcast

Balancing Life and Podcasts

​Balancing Life and Podcasting.

​Something that I’m asked about a bit more these days, and feel like I may be able to offer some advice to those who seek it, is how do I balance all my responsibilities plus the Podcasting. If you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, you’ll see a pretty steady stream of updates regarding each of the three (sometimes four) shows as well as blogs and upcoming events. Add that to having a five month old with my wife, a full time job, and a house to keep in order, it seems like having 3-4 shows a week plus all the Tweets and status’ and blogs to go with them is nearly impossible.

Key word: Nearly.

​So let me break it down for you, because it may surprise you to find out that none of the fore mentioned family life things get ignored, nor does my job. It’s all about finding those little moments in time that you have to yourself and don’t usually do anything with.

Before I get to into it, I want to mention that there is one major tool that I utilize for my Pods: Smartphone.

Without my iphone, none of this would be possible. The ability to interact on social media at my every whim is crucial to the success of my outreach. There are ways around this, but nothing tops it so far (except maybe a tablet, but I don’t have on of those).
On top of that, however, you need to have rules. A little discipline goes a long way.

Rule #1: Family first.
​This seems simple enough, like a no brainer. But getting a podcast out there and being heard and finally getting some kind of social traction beyond the realm of just you and your friends and your family can be really exciting. This may lead to you immediately assuming it is your ticked to “fame” and it must be concentrated on especially since you can’t stop thinking about the next episode (which is all you’ll think about constantly for a while). Be humble, and don’t forget that unless you are pulling in money from your show, it’s a hobby. It may be a hobby that you are REALLY into and perhaps may make you some coin down the road, but don’t lose sight of what’s most important.
​No episode gets recorded until I’ve taken care of the basics, and it breaks down a little differently for each show:

Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast: House gets a quick clean up. Dishes done (mostly), laundry picked up, living room straightened. Feed the baby, kiss the wife, and thank her for all she does and how wonderful she is ( I always keep in mind that she’s the main support through all this).

​As far as Reel Comics, and Sketchy Radio, it’s a bit easier because we are able to do it late at night. They usually get recorded around 10:30/11pm so I can take care of my daily routine, put the ladies to bed, then pop down to the “studio” to drop a fresh recording. But that’s as long as Emma is sleeping soundly, bottles are done for the next day, and things are straightened up a bit. At the first sound of need, recording stops.

Rule #2: Work first, then Pod

​My job is busy, and working in a warehouse environment phones are a no go, especially when there are fork lifts buzzing around all the time. Not that I don’t trust the drivers ability to watch where they are going, but sometimes we as humans get lost in the “zone” of staring down at our phones while we walk, therefore being unawares as to the giant metal forks about to puncture your skull (we wear hardhats, but still…).

​So as I said before, it’s those little moments during the day that you don’t usually do anything important with. Add a smartphone to these little moments and you’re golden:

• Standing at WaWa waiting for your breakfast/lunch to be prepared
*Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey residents only although some of you may have the inferior “Sheetz” or the sad, sad, institution that is 7-Eleven*
• On the toilet: because we all need something to occupy ourselves while “stuff” is going on down there, so why not promote your Pod? Just please, no Instagram.
• Lunch break: no better time to do it. Hit that Twitter and Facebook hard, and you can also take the time to write up a blog post for later.
• Walking to/from break or bathroom: waste not a moment.
• Elevator: If you utilize one for work. Yes its healthier for you to take the stairs, but it all depends on how proficient you are a the “typing on phone while on stairs” act.

There are some that I’ve found at home as well:

• Using the bathroom: as explained above.
• Child is sleeping: break out that phone/ laptop, because it’s now or never. You could also take this time to do up some dishes, laundry and whatnot. But taking a fifteen minutes to upload a blog post won’t hurt.
• Watching television: I’m not expecting everybody to take this one to heart, what can I say, people love tv, and getting away from it is difficult. But this time that you’ve spent sitting on your rear not doing anything except watch the Kardashian’s argue with each other or a 600lb lady isn’t making your life any better (for obvious reasons, but I won’t get into that here). Open up that laptop, and get cracking. If your Pod includes content about any of these shows….write out some commentary while you watch!

Dedicate yourself in these moments when you find yourself able to multi-task or just plain aren’t doing anything. Don’t void yourself of all the quiet down time you get, however, you’ll definitely need it from time to time.

Rule #3: Keep a Notebook

​Whenever something pops into your head, write it down and revisit it later. Don’t let the idea, no matter how good it is, interfere with your responsibilities.

Rule #4: Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel

​If you can, set yourself up with a schedule. It’ll help you gauge how much you need to do each day as far as PR stuffs as well as prep for the next episode.

​These are all basics that you can follow if you are having trouble managing your time, or if you want to start a Pod and figure that you don’t have the time at all. The most important thing is that you have fun with it. Its all about having the outlet, and having a good time. As my Dad always used to say…….

“If your not having fun, you’re not doing it right.”

– B.K. Mullen
Lazy Banana Podcasts
Life of Dad Blog

Parents in Advertising: A rant by Ben Mullen

​This morning on my way to work I was listening to Q102 like I do fairly often, and as usual they played their fair amount of commercials. Now most people these days can’t stand commercials, they’ll either turn the volume way down or just not listen or even turn the radio off completely. But I like commercials, and I’ll tell you why. I love when a commercial makes a mistake, whether it be grammatical or socially and/or politically incorrect.

​So there I was, comfortably driving in my little asian car, enjoying my energy drink, when a real humdinger graced my eardrums. I won’t say the name of the business that this commercial was representing (I don’t feel like being “that guy” right now) but I will tell you that it is a very popular ski resort in Pennsylvania. To set the scene for you, the person presenting the commercial was a woman, and by the sound of her voice I’d probably place her age around 35.

How do I place a persons age by just listening to their voice you say? I like to think it’s a natural talent, however it might have something to do with the fact that radio add people will use specific voices to reflect each age group so that their message gets across to the desired target audience. There is also the “advertising law of averages”, for instance, this woman had a younger sounding voice and was talking about her 3 kids. On average, a fairly young person these days with 2 or more children will be in the range of 30-35 years old.

The presentation is going well so far, “hip” background music, I can clearly understand the message she is putting forward and what she is suggesting to me. I know exactly what business she is promoting as well as the season in which I should most take advantage of what this business offers. So I buy into the story she’s telling for a bit, about how this ski resort is perfect for her family. She’s got three kids, one who ski’s, one who snowboards, and the last one I didn’t quite catch because I was so enthralled by what she said in reference to her second child.

She stated the following: “the slopes on (name of business) are perfect for my snowboarder, he says they are “gnarly”, whatever THAT means….”

“he says they are “gnarly”, whatever THAT means….”

Lets take a step back to where I mentioned “advertising law of averages”. You mean to tell me that the “average” parent, between ages 30-35, with three kids has no idea what the term “gnarly” means? As if she’s never heard it? I mean lets do a little math here…..

2013-35=1978…ok so this individual was born in the late 70’s.
1978 + 18= 1996….and she graduated highschool in the mid 90’s
And if we follow the “law of averages” we figure she went to college in the late 90’s (considering she’s gone on to a job where she can afford helping to support 3 kids and their vacationing habits).

Correct me if I’m wrong, but “gnarly” has been in the American vocabulary for close to 40 years. Not that it is used in everyday life my a majority percentage of the population of our country, but to think that the “average” American who attended high school in the 1990’s has no idea what that word means? That seems a bit off to me. Its like suggesting my grandparents didn’t understand the word “groovy” while my Dad and his friends booked it up to Woodstock. In the 90’s I attended Elementary school in a quiet town in Pennsylvania, and even I know what “gnarly” means. It’s one of those words that was plastered all over kid/teen culture those days, what with the immense popularity of the skateboarding industry.

It seems to me, from this commercial, that the “advertising law of averages” is either suggesting that “gnarly” isn’t as big a hit in American English Vocabulary as I thought it was, or that the “parent who is ignorant of their child’s culture” model still holds true. I’m 100% positive that there are parent/child relationships that don’t work well together, but to suggest that parents are devoid of any know-how into the culture their child is growing up in, let alone using terminology that YOUR generation utilized, is a bit harsh. It may have rung true in the 40’s, but we have grown since then.

Am I being ridiculous about this? If I am please tell me, cause lord knows I hate to waste anybody’s time. But the portrayal not just of Dad’s, but of both parents in popular culture needs to evolve a little more. Baby Boomer parents are already in the middle of being outnumbered by Gen X parents. The number of parents who listen to the Beatles are now outnumbered by the parents who listen to Green Day. The world of parental relationships and interests is evolving, so why isn’t the media?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s trying. Every news anchor and entertainer has facebook pages and twitters and whatnot. But I’m not talking about the gear they have and the programs they utilize, I’m talking about the content. I’m talking about evolving your mindset and your output. Feel free to say what you wanna say, and do what you wanna do, I won’t knock you. But when you talk about a dominantly large group (there are parents on every inch of the earth) isn’t there a certain amount of respect that needs given?

-B.K. Mullen
Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast
Life Of Dad Blog

Review: Batman Returns (1992) @ReelComicsPod

​Some may think it strange that for the first movie review on our site we go with an oldie. But with all the Batman nonsense going around these days I feel its important to remember our caped crusader roots. At this point your probably thinking “well it didn’t START with Batman Returns, what about Adam West?” and yadda yadda yadda. And you would be correct in doing so if I had forgotten to put the following sentence in this article: For my generation, Michael Keaton was the first true Batman.

​Lets face it, the Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward was amazing, and was nothing short of television and comic book history. But we must acknowledge that it was nothing close to what the character of Batman was supposed to be. We’re talking about a man who has dedicated his life to defeating evil after his parents are brutally murdered in front of him. To make the character light-hearted at all was truly a mistake. But it was what worked in that time period, so thank god for the passage of time, and thank god for Tim Burton.

​Tim Burton is a twisted, twisted individual in the most wonderful way, and he couldn’t have come around at a better time for the Batman universe. For it was in this time that, finally, The Dark Knight actually became “Dark”. The suit went from the grey/blue combo to straight black, and the tone of sorrow that was well overdue finally reached the internal monologue of our hero. The Rogues Gallery of villains was altered to match as well especially with the inclusion of Two-Face, and more violent and crazed Joker.

​One would think that in talking about this particular time period in the Bat-verse I would start with “Batman” (1989) instead of it’s sequel “Batman Returns” (1992). It would have made sense, but I’ll tell you why I didn’t. Simply because I feel “Returns” is a much stronger movie.

​Burton (or whomever he utilized as his cinematographer) had obviously zeroed in on the shooting style that was best to use for each character. While “Batman” had many great images, and the overall product is excellent, it seems to have been filmed like it was any other film. With “Returns” the shooting style seems to constantly reflect the moods of the characters, and really brings out the nitty gritty of each of the actors.

​The story, it seemed, was better written as well. The plot and dialogue flowed immensely better with the action than the previous film, which goes to show you should always let Tim Burton be Tim Burton. Because as it turns out, he didn’t sign up to do the sequel until the script met all his demands, as he was unhappy with how “Batman” came out. The chemistry between each of the characters was able to develop and by allowing that to happen, the actors became more ingrained in their roles. I was no longer watching Micheal Keaton portray Batman, I was watching Batman be Batman.

​Danny Devito hits a home run on this flick. Perhaps the writing of his dialog was made to coincide with his actual personality, because its obvious he was perfect on every level for the character. Mega cheers to the makeup department especially on little nuances like the black saliva that would splatter across his white face when he would get nasty.

​There are very few roles that actually fit the personality of Christopher Walken, this is one of them. As a billionaire industrialist with a vast empire of corruption, he could fit right in if it were a real world scenario. He walks the walk, talks the talk, and adds just that little bit of evil that is needed to put him over the edge when the situation arises.

​A word on Michelle Pfeiffer: perfect. The perfect balance of crazy, desperate, nerdy, and sexy that makes up Selina Kyle/Catwoman. The suit is the most perfect to date as far as reflecting the characters personality, and highlighting her naughty tendencies. If the series had continued with Pfeiffer, we could have seen some great things.

​Despite the fact that it was made in the early 90’s, it doesn’t seem dated at all. Sure, the cars they use are obviously from a generation that has now passed, but that has been the case in many Batman comics. The Batsuit, some would say, is certainly behind the times compared to that of the ever changing suit in the Chris Nolan series. But the suit did indeed progress from one film to the other, and perhaps if they had done another two or three sequels, we would have seen an evolution in the suit not unlike what we see today.

​All in-all, the great combination of script, set design, and cast make for an all time classic Bat-Flick that will no doubt be enjoyed for generations.

-B.K. Mullen

Learn to Live; Live to Learn

​If there is only one thing that my father has told me consistently throughout my life is that he wished my brothers and I could have “learned from his mistakes”, which I totally understand. Especially now that I have my own child, I can think of a litany of things that I could explain to her NOT to do purely based off my own experiences. Things like, if your going to walk around the whole of Rome, put on better shoes than just Converse; don’t date a horse-person if you are allergic to horses; don’t touch your tongue to the inside of the freezer door; and a wide range of relationship advice that may or may not be accurate this day and age for instance don’t break up with your girlfriend over MySpace.

​ But yet, doesn’t failing help us to learn? Falling teaches us to pick ourselves back up. So to a certain extent I would encourage her to do some of these things that at first seem like a good idea but turn out to be pretty dumb. There are endless things that we can teach our kids, but there are just as many things that would be better for them to learn themselves. When you really take a look at life isn’t it just one big trial and error scenario? For those Math professionals out there I like to use the term “guess and check”. Guess what the answer to a particular situation is and then check to see if you were right or not. Then, to put it in scientific terms, collect the data and move forward with this experiment we call life.

​I was watching Mythbusters one day and I saw a phrase which I definitely apply to life. They were crashing two big trucks into one another, a head on collision, and just as an added little treat they spray painted a phrase on the side of the trucks that read “Failure is Always an Option.” Failure is always an option, I like that. Adam Savage, one of the co-hosts went on to explain that it represents the idea in the scientific community that when an experiment fails, that doesn’t mean it ends. It’s just another set of variables to take into consideration when we try again, so that we can adjust our experiment accordingly. There are very few more satisfying things in the world of spoken word than analogies.

​We can’t knock our kids either for their curiosity. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather my daughter not find out via her curiosity what happens when you stick a fork in a power socket. But there is a great emotional reward when you witness a child’s appetite for discovery (i.e. My Nephew Discovered Physics blog), and it is especially important for you to be there whether it fails or succeeds. More often than not, even though the child will realize that we SHOULDN’T put that fork into the socket, they need someone to be there for them and explain WHY, (whether it is the actual explanation or the “lightning monster that lives in the walls”).

​I want to be the protector of my children against all things, and there will not be a single moment of hesitation when I need to put myself between them and danger. But I have no choice; I must accept that I will not always be there, no matter how much I will try. Endlessly I will teach them all I can, but I cannot always pick them up when they fall. I cannot always put a bandage on a wound, and I cannot always hunt down some prick they broke her heart.

​I would rather not see my child get physically or emotionally hurt, that’s just in my nature as being a parent and good human being. I wouldn’t wish either of those things on anybody for that matter. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, its that this life is a great big adventure full of discovery, and one of the biggest parts of discovery is danger. You might get lost, you might get hurt, you might get disappointed, but you will learn, and as they used to say on “G.I. Joe”…..“Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”

-B.K. Mullen
Life of Dad Blog

The Poppin’ Bottles Story

Nick and I have been asked a couple of times, most recently on the Life of Dad After Show, how our “Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast” podcast came into existence. Seeing as how we have this lovely blogging space, I figured it would do well to put the story down for all to know.

It all starts about two years ago, when in a crazy fit of creativity (I’m assuming) Nick Browne started the blog, where he chronicles his adventures of being a dad. Fast forward to August 2013, when my daughter was born. A few weeks prior I had started a podcast called “Sketchy Radio”, and the thought of becoming a father had ignited an idea in my head to do a podcast about that very subject. Three weeks later by daughter was born, and we moved into our new house, right next to Nick and Sarah, who had just had their second child a week or two after our daughter was born.

He and I had run into each other a couple of times out in the driveway, like neighbors do, but it took a few months before we actually got to talking. One day, in the same driveway mentioned above, we got to talking about our kids and whatnot and I thought to myself he seemed like the right person for the job to help me achieve the kind of dad podcast that had been rolling around in my noggin. Besides, why not be friends with your neighbor? So I gave him my phone number and we texted a bit about semi-meaningless stuff until finally I figured I’d come right out and ask “how would you like to do a podcast with me about being dads?” Not a split second later (he had sent a text at the exact same time) he says “I have a blog about being a dad you might like,”

It was strange moment of planetary alignment or something, a young dad with a production company, working knowledge of podcasting, and the desire to achieve moved in next door to a young dad, with a dad themed creative outlet, a broadcasting degree, a desire to achieve, and an eye for social media sharing. A few days later, the first episode of the Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast was recorded, posted on the internet, and shared for all to enjoy.

Right after our second show, we got in contact with the Life of Dad website, a social networking site for dads including many who podcast and blog, who added us to their podcast network and got us set up with blogs on their site. Since then we’ve had some of the guys from the site as guests on our show, as well as being guests ourselves on the Life of Dad After Show. Our blogs are doing better than ever, and our general layout for the next year is nothing short of exciting.

Its been a crazy exciting experience so far, and we’ve only done 10 episodes. 2014 is gonna be a great year for the Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast, and I hope you guys join us.

-B.K. Mullen
Life Of Dad

The continuing adventures of a Podcasting Dad.