Do you like podcasts? Do you like meticulous, frame-by-frame breakdowns of pop culture? Do you like both of those things put together? Good news for you: Scene By Scene with Josh and Dean exists!
Making their debut back in April 2019, celebrated cartoonists Josh Neufeld and Dean Haspiel have been setting out weekly to break down the award-winning 2003 film American Splendor (starring Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis) which portrayed the life of comic book writer — and friend of both Neufeld and Haspiel — Harvey Pekar. The podcast is an exercise in film analysis as Neufeld and Haspiel break down the movie scene by scene (hence the name!) all while keeping a good sense of humor and giving valuable insight into the period of Pekar’s life in which the movie takes place. And if that doesn’t already make this the nit-picking, analytical podcast of your dreams, the episodes are made even more rich by a deep dive comparison into the movie from the perspective of the comic — which seems entirely fitting for the role Neufeld and Haspiel played in the making of the comics as illustrators.
“We started doing the podcast to discuss American Splendor the movie and our relationship with Harvey Pekar. That’s what’s supposed to interest listeners,” Haspiel tells The Beat via e-mail. “But I think we discovered that the podcast is really about me and Josh and our 38+ year friendship growing up together learning how to make comics. We’ve created a historical, insightful document of a certain time and place in the comic book industry. It’s packed with profound deep cuts but is also a user-friendly experience that sheds light on an ageless art form.”
“Because we are both living our lives, and making new art, we sometimes overlook all those formative years when we were aspiring high school cartoonists and just starting out getting professionally published. It’s been fun revisiting that era with a more seasoned eye,” Neufeld adds.
The podcast is ostensibly an analysis of a key point in Pekar’s life, but ultimately plays as a way to reminiscence and learn more about the man who both creators view as THE groundbreaker of comics. Each episode is made up of the fascinating minutia surrounding the original comics that inspired each scene, Neufeld’s and Haspiel’s personal experiences with being professional cartoonists, and the importance of speaking truth to art.
Over the course of each 45-minute episode, they also, of course, break down the dialog, scenery, and importance of a scene of the film that lasts (on average) five to ten minutes of screen time. While the idea of almost an hour being so focused on such a small portion of a film, the tone carries each episode and makes it a joy to listen to as Haspiel and Neufeld (as well as the occasional actor, filmmaker, or producer as special guests) bounce off of each other with some great laughs and playful banter.
Having both worked as illustrators for many of the issues of American Splendor, both Neufeld and Haspiel are able to watch the movie with a newfound fondness and view into the life of their friend.
“I tend to analyze and break down all the movies I watch in one way or another. It’s a good way to understand what works and what doesn’t work and how that informs my own story-making,” Haspiel says. “But, there’s probably nothing more boring to watch than watching someone create. There’s hardly a visual ‘eureka’ moment that occurs. Ye olde ‘lightning in a bottle’ isn’t how it happens. However, American Splendor the movie does a great job conveying the creative process by humanizing it. Making the the pursuit of creativity relatable. Harvey Pekar proved that you could write about anything. And, despite making comix appear innate and all too easy, it’s actually harder than it looks.”
“Since, like Dean, I’m a lifelong movie fan, it was exciting to have that connection to the hero of a feature film I was watching on the big screen!” Neufeld agrees. “Because of that connection, when I considered the idea of doing a deep-dive podcast like Scene by Scene with Josh and Dean, the ONLY film I could imagine doing it with was American Splendor. And the only person I could imagine co-hosting the podcast with was my lifelong buddy Dean Haspiel.”
It’s not too late to jump in and listen. Scene By Scene with Josh and Dean is only up to 49:07 in the film — so there’s almost an hour left to go! And with new episodes every week, it’s easy to jump on at any point.
For fans of deep-dives, comics history, side-by-side analysis, and the minute-by-minute trend seen in podcasting right now, Scene By Scene with Josh and Dean is not something that you want to sleep on. To listen, visit scenebyscenepodcast.com.