What it is: A biweekly podcast about “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” Each episode, host Phoebe Judge takes on a different subject within the broad field of criminal justice. Sometimes it’s a general topic (lie detection, crimes committed by animals); more often it’s about a particular person or case. Judge interviews coroners, police dog handlers, counterfeiters, mass shooting survivors, and bank robbers to learn more about their life, work, and how they got caught up in the criminal justice system, one way or another.
Why you should listen: Criminal is deeply committed to the humanity of its subjects, and often focuses on how that humanity is erased by the criminal justice system. In this podcast you will find a lot of sad stories about crimes that go unpunished, as well as equally sad stories about unjust punishments. There’s the story of Robbie Tolan, the African-American baseball player shot by a police officer and his struggle to bring the officer to justice. There’s a transwoman’s fight to have her gender recognized by the police. A recent episode features an incredible, moving interview with Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer whose life’s work has been getting prisoners off of death row. At the same time, the podcast can also be inspiring, funny, and sometimes just strange. They are always looking for stories that are just a little weird, things that exist outside the awareness of most Americans. There’s a white collar criminal who served his sentence in a leper colony. An LAPD officer who went scuba diving in the La Brea Tar Pits to find a murder weapon. An elderly woman who volunteers as an “exit guide,” sitting with terminally ill patients as they commit suicide. Phoebe Judge is a fantastic interviewer, approaching her work with humor and compassion. Episodes often go off on tangents you wouldn’t expect, beginning in one place, and then growing increasingly weird as the subject’s story spools out–reminding the listener that danger, strangeness, and love can always be hiding where you least expect them. Two weeks ago I recommended a couple fictional horror podcasts–Criminal is a podcast about the horror and weirdness of the real world.
Jake: Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel
What it is: After decades without a clear role in the Marvel universe, Kelly Sue Deconnick finally elevated superhero Carol Danvers into what she was always meant to be- Marvel’s answer to Wonder Woman. Discarding her old alias of ‘Ms. Marvel’ and her old, swimsuit-style costume in favor of a more commanding name and look, Captain Marvel is more than just another superhero. She’s got the power to go toe-to-toe with Thor or the Hulk, but it is her strength of character that has her appointed Ambassador Extraordinary of Earth. She kicks butts and negotiates intergalactic peace treaties.
Why you should read it: Kelly Sue Deconnick turned this book into a phenomenon. Wearing her feminist credentials clearly on her sleeve, Deconnick has inspired a fan club unlike any other in comics- the Carol Corp, a group of ladies and guys dedicated to making comics an inclusive community. But that tells you what other people think. This comic is rad. Despite lacking a lot of the recognizable cues that lots of other superheroes have, the Captain Marvel of this series is mythic. She inspires people throughout history, fights aliens, supports the troops in the second World War, and hits a shark with another shark. She’s a superhero’s superhero, doing whatever she has to in the pursuit of keeping the citizens of Earth safe. What makes Carol Danvers such a cool superhero isn’t her defiance or her compassion. It’s the fact that she can embody such emotional extreme simultaneously, while still being true to herself. Pick up this comic, get inspired!