Radio Show History
But pop culture was more than a retail concept - it became a movement. The Moondog’s shops were at the forefront of what would become Geek Culture - the "it’s cool to be a nerd trend" that fans around the world have come to embrace today.
Besides selling the pop culture concept through my shops, I wanted to promote it to the world. So before there was Internet radio, before there were podcasts, before there was social media - there was old-fashioned over-the-air radio, and that’s the platform I used to launch the Moondog’s Pop Culture Radio Hour.
Moondog’s Pop Culture Radio Hour was a one hour LIVE radio show that debuted in September 1993 on WCBR 92.7 FM. WCBR (short for Chicago Bears Radio - later we usurped the letters to mean Comic Book Radio) was a regional radio station located in Arlington Heights IL in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I worked out a deal with the station’s management to produce a weekly hour-long show about comics, TV and movies - basically the pop culture of the time (and all the stuff we were selling in our stores).
I was so convinced that my concept would be successful that I wanted to sell the show to stations across the country. Moondog’s was going to be a national brand in both media and retail. The show was getting a real following in Chicago so I had high hopes it would be a success nationwide.
Kim "Howard" Johnson was the man behind the microphone and behind the scenes. Along with PR wiz, Joanne Levine, Howard arranged to secure the guests and conducted all the interviews. His relationships with not only the comic book community but also in movies and entertainment, opened a lot of doors for the show. As the host of the show, his easy going conversational style made the show sound so good. There would have been no MPCRH without Howard.
The early shows featured Larry Marder as Howard’s co-host. Larry was Moondog’s marketing director at the time but more importantly he was one of the most connected persons in the world of comic books and moved easily through the worlds of publishing, distributing and retailing - and of course within the creative community. His beloved Tales of the Beanworld is recognized as one of the most unique projects ever attempted in the field of comics. After he left Moondog’s Larry went on to being publisher at Image Comics and ultimately worked for years as president of McFarlane Toys.
Back in the early-90s I was convinced that the mainstream public was ready to embrace comic books and all the cool stuff that went with them. So I created a new concept in comic book shops - the Pop Culture Store.
My idea of a pop culture store was a shop that had comics and graphic novels and all the licensed products that went with them. But more importantly they would be outfitted with the proper fixtures and decor and be located in high-traffic shopping areas where moms - who do most of the purchasing for their families - do their shopping. So Moondog's opened in Randhurst Shopping Center, an enclosed mall in Mt. Prospect, IL. Deerbrook Mall in Deerfield, IL, Ford City Shopping Center in Chicago, and the corner of Clark and Belden Sts. next to Tower Records in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Needless to say the concept was a huge hit right out of the box. In fact it was so successful that I ultimately sold my stores to a national company who expanded the concept across the country. Yep, back in the mid-90s you could buy stock in Moondog's!
Besides Howard, the front man of the show, the Moondog’s Pop Culture Radio Hour couldn’t have happened without Joanne Levine who was Ms. Everything behind the scenes.
Joanne and Howard would brainstorm guests and Joanne would start the process of hunting them down. Joanne’s company, Lekas & Levine Public Relations, is still a PR force in the world of pop culture. She continues to work with me and many other clients getting them needed publicity to further their efforts.
You’ll hear me on most shows as the "color guy" giving my opinions of things but leaving the nuts and bolts to Howard.
We had many of the biggest names in comics, TV and film on the MPCRH. In fact, I still can’t believe the creators and stars who agreed to be on our show. How’s this for a short list: Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Bob Hope, Tiny Tim, Peter David, Audrey Meadows, Bob Denver, Dave Sim, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Quesada and many more.
But just like many concepts before and after, Moondog’s Pop Culture Radio Hour - the original podcast - was a show ahead of it’s time. Sales to other stations in markets across the country never materialized because the program directors basically didn’t get it. Comic books? You gotta be kidding me... So after a year I had to pull the plug on the most ambitious media project ever attempted by a comic book retailer.
As you listen please be aware that this was live radio so sometimes the dreaded deadline doom would raise its ugly head and things were a bit abrupt at times. And please forgive any gaps and hiccups that you may hear from time to time. It’s only through the brilliance of Jessica Bridgewater that we got these old cassettes digitized.