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Watch and Listen

One last glance back a summer, now that it’s gone.

The trouble with not doing this blog for months is that I haven’t mentioned a bunch of things I really wanted to talk about.

For example, I was on the TV! Twice! I know, it blows my mind, too.

First time was earlier this summer, as part of as part of 6abc’s Action News’ Pride Coverage this year. That’s right,that Action News. It was a great interview, filmed in the now sadly closed Amalgam Comics. I got to talk not just about Galaxy, but what she has already meant to the trans community. Give it a watch if you haven’t already.

And just last month I was on TV again! This time part of our local PBS station’s program You Oughta Know, filmed in yet another fantastic Philadelphia comic store, Brave New Worlds. Once again, I’m talking about Galaxy, and how important her story is to me and the people who have read it. It’s worth a watch.

And if that’s not enough of me talking about Galaxy, here’s several podcasts I made appearances on, sometimes with artist extraordinaire Jess Taylor

All of these were very fun to do, especially for an old podcast hand like myself. It’s nice to show up and have someone else ask the questions. Also, I am a delightful guest, if I do say so myself. Have me on your podcast!

Most of these things were recorded over the summer, in a whirlwind of interviews and signings and conventions. The cold has begun to set in, as autumn makes its presence known before giving way to winter. Summer, in its heat and excitement, seems so long ago. 

But what a beautiful moment in the sun.



Intentions of the New Year

We were Haunted Houses this year for Halloween. It was my daughter’s idea.

I’ve often joked that Halloween is my Christmas; the holiday I look forward to all year and put my heart and soul into. But there’s something deeper in the pull to look at Halloween as the end of the year. It is a harvest festival, after all. A time to celebrate the culmination of all our work since early spring with treats and masks and parties. Time to tell spooky stories, for we know the year is dying. Maybe we can steel ourselves through an unforgiving winter if we can manage to make horror our companion instead of our enemy.

The calendar says the new year starts in eight more weeks, but in my heart, it’s now. Happy New Year. Time to steady our resolve.

In such a spirit, I am trying to get back into good habits. I did yoga this morning for the first time in months. I like yoga because it forces me to present, to be intentional, about the way my body moves. I used to be a runner and lift weights, and the appeal of that was the opposite. Muscle memory could take over, and my mind was free to wander and think about other things. But with yoga I have be in my body, working with with strain, reveling in every quantum of euphoria a good stretch will bestow upon you.

To live in a body is to live in constant compromise. It grows at its own pace, on its own terms. More than once, my daughter has fixed her frustrated gaze on a favorite shirt that has committed the unforgivable sin of not keeping up with her rapidly stretching frame. Friends my age talk about “no longer looking like myself” as the weight of decades makes itself known on our faces. Our bodies keep the score, yes, but they also play their own games, with rules we aren’t privy to. 

No one knows this better than trans people. Perhaps the greatest gift we’ve given to society is to be living, breathing proof that you need not live solely on your body’s terms. The compromise can run both ways.

My body carries result of years of favoring some muscles and disregarding others, the atrophy that comes from being in the wrong shape. Shoulders rounded like spinning wheels, spine bent in the hopes of hiding within myself. I am trying to unlearn those lessons, to stand tall and unafraid. Grace is often defined as movement we can predict, the arc of a ballerina’s arm leading to a place we can can expect based on where it has been, and we are pleased to be proven correct. Henri Bergson called it “the pleasure of mastering the flow of time, and of holding the future in the present.” Bodies, even ones rendered awkward by years of misuse, can achieve grace. That’s what compromise is all about.

This is my hope for the new year, then. One of grace. One of intention. I wish to prescribe an arc for the future, and I am setting my intentions in motion. Let’s see if I can stick the landing.

Speaking of intention, I made a decision to decrease my presence on Twitter. I’ve been on it for 15 years and my use of it has never been a particularly healthy. With the new management, it was worth taking a long look at the site and what I was gaining from it, which turns out to be not a whole heck of a lot. I’m not deleting the account, but the only way it makes sense for me right now is as a book promotion machine. So that’s what it’ll be. Really, the only platform I use with any regularity is Instagram (though I have had fun on TikTok upon occasion). I’ve always felt social media was best for pictures, anyway. 

Save the words for other places. Like here.



Of Batgirls and Galaxies

I have some news. DC Comics news.

DC Comics announced its Pride lineup for this June, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a heaping helping of yours truly! Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is the headliner here, still coming out May 17th (preorder, if you haven’t already). Here’s the blurb:

In the book market and available everywhere books are sold, Galaxy: The Prettiest Star from writer Jadzia Axelrod and artist Jess Taylor will publish on May 17 to introduce entirely new characters to DC’s pantheon of heroes. DC can’t wait for you to meet Taylor, the Galaxy Crowned! It takes strength to live as your true self, and one alien princess disguised as a human boy is about to test her power!

Just in case it wasn’t clear, Taylor, the girl who will become the superhero Galaxy, is trans. We get all sci-fi and metaphorical with it, which I think confuses the marketing people, but the short version is Taylor is trans. She grew up as a boy, with a boy’s body, but her true identity is a girl. She’s also queer, and her romance with Kat, the cool girl from Metropolis is the lion’s share of the book.

I still can’t believe this is coming out from the Superman people. What a time to be alive.

In addition to all that, on May 7, you can pick up an excerpt of Galaxy for FREE! That’s right, on Free Comic Book Day, a little slice of Galaxy will be available completely gratis! DC is only doing three FCBD comics, so the fact that one of them is Jess Taylor and my gay little baby is still hard to believe.

Speaking of Jess, how beautiful is this interior art for Galaxy?

The whole book is like this! Jess just killing it on every page.

But that’s not the only Pride-based news I have to share! DC is doing another Pride anthology of LGBTQIA+ creators telling short stories of LGBTQIA+ characters, and I got asked to write a new story with Batgirl and her best friend Alysia Yeoh!

Alysia Yeoh is a queer trans woman created by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf back in 2011. This bit from Batgirl #10 sums her up pretty well:

 She’s an activist and a rabblerouser and I love her. And to be able to write actual Batgirl dialogue felt like something I’ve been training for my entire life.

Illustrating my first foray into the Bat-mythos (but hopefully not the last) is the incomparable Lynne Yoshii. It kills me that I can’t show you the JAW-DROPPING art Lynne is doing. In addition to drawing what is now the archetypal Batgirl in my eyes, she gave Alysia a PERFECT gay haircut, which, as you all know, is very important to me. She also put in a Schumacher reference I asked for, because she’s an angel.

This is all to say, I am continuing on my mission to make comics gayer. 

Good luck with the dragon.


Starchild

What is this, a month later and I still haven’t talked about Episode 25? Well, it’s been quite a month.  I’ll get into that in a moment. But first, Starchild!

This is an unabashed love letter to my wife, JR Blackwell. Doctor Mercury is her character–and that’s her posing as Mercury, underneath the layers of Photoshop in the title card–and I’ve been wanting to write something with her for awhile. Doctor Mercury was already established as part of Chris Morse’s Super Villain Corner, and having recently jumped over there, it seemed the perfect excuse to have her follow me back. Like all things my wife does, Doctor Mercury is an immaculate creation, a perfectly twisted power fantasy the likes of which fiction rarely sees. I’m not sure how much of this episode was me “writing” and how much was just letting Doctor Mercury do her thing. JR has read me her Mercury stories in that thick, delicious voice, so I getting her words on the page was surprisingly easy.

This was remarkably fun story to write. The whole “found audio” conceit allowed me to pull some actual horror around JR and my vamping. And it was nice to try my hand at some Lovecraftian-style terror, while at the same time making in feminist and, well, not racist.

Props to Sonia Williams, making her third appearance on the show, and absolutely nailing the transition from focused scientist to deranged madwoman. And simmilar props to new-comer Josh Hitchens, who I daresay is the best screamer in podcasting. Seriously, I asked that guy to just give me a scream, thinking we’d have to do a couple of takes to get the energy right, but he shook out a perfect one right out of the gate. I’ve been wanting to work with Josh for awhile, I just had to find the right character. And it seems like I made the right choice.


Speaking of collaborations with my wife…

We’re looking at an April publication date. Should be life-changing.


Speaking of life-changing, if you follow my Instagram or Twitter feed, you may have noticed I’ve stopped dressing like this:


And started dressing like this:


I’ve been experimenting with my gender identity over the past few weeks, and I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  • Presenting a feminine identity, both on the street and online, makes me happy. As in, “seemingly cured my depression in one fell swoop” happy. I used to view to myself as someone who had lots of different problems, but it looks like I just had one problem that affected me in lots of different ways.
  • I’m not changing my name. You can continue to refer to me as “Jared.”
  • I haven’t come down on specific pronoun preference, yet. “He” is fine, I’m still testing the weight of “she,” and I’ve never had a problem with the singular “they.” So, really, all pronouns are fine.
  • I do intend to keep wearing ties.

Whether this a wholesale shift in my gender from male to female, or just some genderqueer wardrobe additions remains to be seen. I’m still exploring this, and there’s no real map to speak of. But the journey has been nothing but positive so far, so I’m content to continue on and see where I end up.


Son of Planet X

A post the day an episode comes out? I know, madness.

Son of Planet X was a difficult one. I reference the death of a fictional child, Hartley, in Mistaking Our Mirrors and My Wife In Hell, but this is the first time I was going to talk about into it. And it wasn’t easy.

While I have not lost a son to a ritualistic murder, I did have a son die not long after he was born. Corvin was born with a considerable amount of internal problems, and I knew he was not long for this world when I first took him into my arms. I did get to hold him, though, which is a blessing I will never forget. But I also felt his tiny, bird-like grow cold in my arms, which haunts me to this day.

Hartley is not Corvin, but in order to talk about chasing after my made-up son, I had to process my feelings about losing my real one. There’s a line in the episode that seems out of place on the surface, but utterly expresses how I felt after Corvin’s death. I’m talking about the possibilities of other alternate worlds, and meeting another me: “Maybe he could tell me what to do.”

There’s was a seemingly insurmountable feeling of powerlessness after Corvin’s came and went from my life. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, but I doubted anyone else could understand what I was going through well enough to give me good advice.

I’m glad I wrote this episode, but it was a hard thing to do. And I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.


As hard as this episode was to write, it was incredibly easy to record. I’ve been wanting to have Sonia and Taleisha on the podcast since I decided to have voice actors. Strix, who reprises her role as the Deitator’s Domo from How’s It Gonna End, is fast becoming a VFPX MVP.

Expect to hear all of these women on the show again. They are too much fun to work with.


Also, how great is that chorus of people saying “I’m Jared Axelrod?” I put out a call on the social medias, and the response was overwhelming.

I have the best listening audience. I know every podcaster says that, but I really think its true in this case.


Saturday night I was at the Beaumont Wherehouse for the Sloppy Film Festival (just what it sounds like), and I was utterly taken by the space. It was like walking into the set of a Tom Waits video: geometric sculptures hung from the rafters, three pianos of questionable functionality hung out near the performance space, ramshackle bookshelves were stocked with odd tomes and animal masks. And lording over all of it, was this impressive proscenium:

I’m not planning a live show of VFPX, but if I was, this is the only place I want to do it at.


Extra special news for those of you who are local to Philly and have nothing to do tonight. I will be a special guest at the first SUPER SECRET Geekadelphia ‘Geekeasy’ event at Tattooed Mom on South St. You probably haven’t seen anything about it, because it’s, y’know, secret.

I am told there will be drink specials, giveaways, and SPECIAL VIP SECRET SPEAKERS (one of whom is me) talking about podcasting on a mini panel that’ll kick off at 8PM. The event itself starts at 7PM. Fee free to tell your friends, but only tell them by whispering about it in dark corners, or perhaps under streetlamps on a foggy evening.

It should be a blast. I’m not sure what I’m going to talk about tonight. Podcasting, obviously. But beyond that? I don’t know.

I’ll think of something.


Rebuilt To Last

It’s the Xth anniversary of The Voice of Free Planet X! Here’s to X years more!


November 7th saw the anniversary of The Voice of Free Planet X, and, by extension, my career in podcasting. Rebuilt To Last, the latest episode of VoFPX, is a do-over of the first episode, Built To Last, done in the current GPR-style and with 10 years of skill accumulation in writing and audio production. It’s a strange thing, simultaniously forward- and backward-looking. A raise of the glass to where we started, where we are, and where we’re going.

I say “we” because some of you lot have been with me since the beginning, some even before the begining. Thanks for that.

The original story was very short, barely 300 words; the script for this episode was over ten time that, plus the improvisational segments that my amazing voice actors Krista White and Brennan Taylor came up with. The original was more of a moment in time, while this episode dives deep into the characters, poking at them to see what makes them tick. I often refer to This American Life as a touchstone for VoFPX, but this episode owes a lot more to Lea Thau’s excellent podcast Strangers, particularly her “Love Hurts” series, which I mainlined one afternoon and could not stop thinking about. You should give Thau’s show a listen, if you haven’t already.


I celebrated the anniversary of VoFPX dressed as Batman, as is the custom of my people.

Some traditions are sacrosanct.


The VoFPX Patreon reached $100 per episode! Which means, for those of you who don’t feel like clicking the link, I can now afford to commission original art. This art will be displayed on the main website, natch, but you can also get a print or a card, if you like. Patreon backers get the art as desktop backgrounds, which is another great reason to be a Patreon backer, as if there wasn’t plenty already.

We hit the $100 mark just a few days ago, so I worried I wouldn’t have art for this episode in time. Luckily, my wonderful wife J.R. Blackwell took the amazing anniversary cupcake photo you see at the top, which is definitely worth spreading around. Get a print or a card of it here.

The next milestone is video content, which I am both excited and a little nervous about; videos are an entirely different beast than podcast episodes. It’s at $200, so there’s a chance we may never get there and I am being nervous for nothing.

‘Course, I didn’t think we’d crack $100 before the end of the year, so shows what I know…


I spent Saturday morning at the Gloucester City Library, talking podcasts with Len “Cruze” Webb of The Black Tribbles and Greg Orlandini of the Philly Soccer Show. I meant to record the event, as a proper New Median, but ended up forgetting the memory card to my recorder. So now it exists only in the recollections of those who were there. The rest of you, well, you should have been there. It was pretty fun.

Okay, one thing I’ll share:  when tasked with the question “Why should anyone care about podcasts,” we came up with what I now consider my definitive answer: because anyone can be heard. Anyone can talk about whatever they’re passionate about, and be heard by people who are also passionate about it.

It’s become a bit of joke, now, in some circles. “Everyone has a podcast.” And if that’s the case, I say “Fantastic.” How great a world would that be, if everyone got to be heard by the people who share their passions? Isn’t that what we all want out of life?


Wolf Like Me


Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. Whether we’re talking trick-or-treating, adult costumes that require extensive explanations–“No, see, I’m Jesse James Brown, that’s why I’m wearing the cowboy hat”–ancient bonfire and ritual gatherings to celebrate the end of the harvest, or just a reason to revel in spooky stories, I love it all. When I was planning the episodes of VoFPX this year, Halloween was the only holiday I knew I had to do special episodes for. Industrial Dark & Magic was a nice warm-up into creepiness (you’ve listened to it, right? Go, if you haven’t.), but Wolf Like Me is the main event.

Special thanks to Kennedy of The Black Tribbles for utterly nailing Lupe the werewolf, as well as my old college chums John Kazuo Morehead and John Davis for being evil and scholarly, respectively.


I had trouble cracking this episode, mainly because I wanted to be, well, scary. But I’m not really a horror guy, despite my love for the holiday, so it took me awhile to really find the meat of the episode. Luckily, history always provides.

There’s some possible SPOILERS here, if you haven’t already listened to the episode, so feel free to scroll down until the picture of creepy bird-things to skip it.

and I happened upon the story of the Maroons in Jamaica. The Maroons were a group of escaped slaves who held off the British in Jamaican wilderness for nearly a century before the British finally relented and offered them a treaty. The treaty gave them rights as free people, as long as they personally kept down any future slave revolt. Which the Maroons did. Very efficiently, according to some reports.

It could be literal monsters deadens the story a bit. Though I suppose, if I wanted to do a history podcast, I would have done a history podcast.


I spent my Halloween in the time-honored way: scaring the bejesus out of small children who just wanted free candy. Kids don’t often come to my house, so I went to the abode of my good friends Jenn & Russell (who’s voices you heard on Industrial Dark & Magic) and joined them to be a collection of creepy bird-things.

The result of our labors was that no one, neither parents, nor children, knew what to make of us. There was a lot of “You go first.” “No, you. You’re the oldest.” and multiple dares to come up and get that tantalizing apparent candy. One girl cautiously made it up the steps of the porch, only to bolt the moment I motioned to the sweets before me. Several kids were tensed up, waiting for the jump scare that never came. As much as I liked my fabulous costume to take the credit, it was their imagination that did all the heavy lifting, finishing the story that my creepy bird-thing skull-mask only started.

That outfit you see me wearing on the left there was cobbled together from things I already had, light-collar included. Well everything except the creepy bird-thing skull-mask. I didn’t just have a creepy bird-thing skull-mask just lying around.

I guess I do now…


Scott Roche recently Periscoped about me, The Voice of Free Planet X, and the necessity of tailoring your storytelling to the medium. You should give it a watch.

The 10-year anniversary of The Voice of Free Planet X is tomorrow, and I’ve been listening to old episodes. There’s some good stuff there, even though I clearly have no idea what I was doing. You just have to look at Episode 2–Episode 2!!!–to see me already trying to gauge the shape of podcasting, seeing what kind of story it might support, what it might be capable of. I’ve never stopped doing that.

That’s part of the reason I like this public-radio-style format so much. It keeps everything pretty much contained, but I can still poke at it and see what spills out.



As part of the anniversary festivities, all of the previous T-shirts of the Month are now on sale. So if you missed your shot to pick up August or September’s shirt, well, here’s your chance.