Around thirteen years ago, Lister Potter III first stepped virtual foot onto the premises of Super Smash Bros. Mercurious. A community startup founded by DK3 in 2006, the forum admin was once seen as a lord amongst squires in the fledgling Smash Bros. community, known for viral fantasy roster images. For Smash fans like Potter—better known as Zantok in the gaming-scape—Mercurious was his first bet at finding like-minded people whose passion for the series were comparable to his without going competitive.
Out of the approximated 7.6 billion people living today, 2.2 billion of them are gamers. They’ve long-shed the “nerd” descriptor’s negative context and stand respectably beside cinephiles and the booksy despite some absurd controversy still pervading quasi-political landscapes. Potter is part of that founding generation of gamers that have rung their choice pastime into a mainstream position. As day turns to night, you’ll often find him with the lights still on, streaming on Twitch or uploading to Select Start Gaming, his dedicated YouTube channel for Let’s Plays. In the digital age, he’s a founding classic, birthing his passion for video games as a child and making his online presence known before memes became dank.
Maintaining the Zantok moniker since first donning it in the mid-2000s, Potter has garnered acclaim as a presence in Smash Bros.-centric communities and in gaming at large. Part of it might be in his cadence. His commentary is affable and snaggy and oftentimes laced with a deadpan disposition. It’s not a play; the gaming notable affirms early on that his “Zantok” persona is as genuine as his day-to-day operations as Lister Potter III. Fans are attracted to his natural approach, offering commentary on video games spanning cult classics to the new hotness.
Now, he’s readying for the next step in his ongoing journey as a luminary of the gaming arts. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Zantok for nearly as long as he’s been a Mercurious member – I, myself, joined the site as “Jonno” on September 4, 2007. We’ve been long-time collaborators, jumping from one gaming-centric community to the next, and even better friends. However, our work together here on jfrahm.com will be the first that we’ve done on any official level.
Foremostly, we will be curating the Super Cast Bros. podcast, co-founded and co-hosted by the two of us. At some point, we will also be debuting our first take on fanfiction in the form of Smash Fiction, which will be uploaded straight to jfrahm.com. Between my experience as a creative writer, Lister’s inventive mind, and our combined passion for the Super Smash Bros. series, we’re looking forward to introducing Smash Fiction as soon as possible.
For starters, though, we’ll be rolling out episodes of Super Cast Bros. soon. The first episode will be up sometime in September, and once it makes its debut, we’ll be publishing a new episode every other week.
Anticipating the debut of jfrahm.com, I thought that it would be wise to interview my constant cohort as a soft launch to our ongoing collaborations.
“Gaming for me began during the days of the Super Nintendo before I even attended kindergarten and would go over to my grandmother’s house,” Potter recalls. “The main games that we would play together were Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario RPG, Super Mario World, Tetris Attack, and her favorite, Yoshi’s Island. My love for Nintendo, Mario, and RPGs all came from those early days gaming with my grandma.”
He further explains, “From there it expanded to Pokémon, Final Fantasy, Mega Man Battle Network, Smash Bros., and more. The most recent series I’ve gotten into has been Persona and man what a trip that is.”
Some of the wonder of Potter is in how ordinarily he conveys himself. There is no air of superiority when he delves into his backstory; his sheer humanity guts the archaic perceptions of the vocal minority who would perceive the gaming elite as anoraks. It’s the same charm that’s amassing him pronounced respect in his applicable circles, universally relatable.
Potter postures himself in a forward lean before dishing out his history in the Smash Bros. landscape. He streams from his bedroom, dressed unpretentiously in a muted polo, and runs his fingers through his hair with a reflective sigh.
“While I played the original to a small degree, the concept didn’t really hit me until [Super Smash Bros.] Melee when I spent the night at a friend’s house, and it was like magic. I don’t even remember if I even owned a GameCube at the time. I think it was actually that night that made me want to get one—and Melee, of course. When Brawl was announced I was hooked into the Smash Dojo refreshing as late at night as I could stay up to see what the next piece of news would be. Who could forget the joys of ‘You must recover!’”
“Like most fans, I had a wishlist of characters who I wanted in Smash, and I had ideas of how they could work. At the time GameFAQs was my main gaming site and I found a post on there advertising a site called Mercurious, which was advertised as a fun place for Smash speculators to go who wanted to share their ideas for how different characters could work in Smash. MegaMan.EXE was the very first character I submitted on that site and I was hooked to the idea of speculation from that moment on”
“It was there that I met Jonno, whose passion for characters and Smash speculation rivaled that of my own. Over these last 10 years, we’ve discussed a multitude of characters and different ideas of how future rosters of Smash Bros. could look. These have, at times, included characters such as Takamaru, Waluigi, Dragonborn, Skull Kid, and the main character from Style Savvy.”
He can’t help but laugh at the suggestion of his own “Savvy Stylist” idea to someday post on Smashtopia, a Wiki page that we’ve created to continue the creative spirit of Mercurious years on. It was a move inspired by Nintendo’s ongoing fashion-centric franchise. It’s the sort-of bizarre inclusion that he wouldn’t put past Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai, who has historically included at least one “WTF” character that has subverted fans’ expectations per installment. Ardent fans will be quick to point out the likes of Mr. Game & Watch, Wii Fit Trainer, and Piranha Plant.
A twinkle hits Potter’s eye when asked about the forthcoming podcast and fanfiction series. Enthusiastically, he decrees, “I’ve thought about trying to do a podcast in the past and have had several fanfiction ideas for such franchises as Harry Potter, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Final Fantasy. The fact that both of these dreams are becoming real possibilities? It’s an exciting time for sure! As for where they differ from our past projects… I feel like that’s a simple answer.”
“Our past projects have primarily been all about speculating about how future rosters could look and how new characters could work. But these projects are about so much more than just that. Yes, the plans for our podcast will heavily touch on speculation and our thoughts on Smash Bros. as a whole, but the big difference between then and now is all our other projects were small-scale private projects. We might have shared them with some friends, but they were never out there in the public eye.”
“Super Cast Bros. will very much be out there for anyone to see—which on the one hand is kinda scary, but on the other, it’s exciting! As for our fiction projects, those don’t hit the speculation angle of future Smash titles at all. It’s very much going to be something different. An area I’ve never gotten to hit before. While Jonno has written multiple titles before, this is going to be all new to me. We both know the source material quite well and we know the basic ideas of how we want to treat the story, but it’s a whole new endeavor which excites me!”
Regarding the forthcoming Super Cast Bros. series, the podcast will debut as a three-pronged series. As a new podcast is uploaded every two weeks, it will bounce between ‘On Topic’, ‘Smashtopia’, and ‘Smash or Dash’-themed episodes.
The former is our answer to general discussion regarding the Super Smash Bros. series, whether it be reacting to a surprise reveal or hitting a particular talking point that either looks back on the series or looks towards its future. ‘Smashtopia’ translates our Wiki into spoken word, where we hash out ideas for a potential facet of Smash Bros. with one another. ‘Smash or Dash’ is done in quicker form, wherein we set up two or more potential characters against one another and choose to either usher them into ‘Smash’ or ‘Dash’ their chances.
My personal favorite may be in our ‘On Topic’ features, since we’ll be able to dive into a mélange of discussion points that are only as limited as our imaginations and—at least, at first—to the Smash Bros. series. As for Potter, his opinion veers into ‘Smashtopia’ territory.
“I don’t think it’d be any real surprise to say that my favorite pillar of Super Cast Bros. would be the ‘Smashtopia’ segment. Sometimes I wonder if my favorite thing about Smash Bros. isn’t playing Smash Bros. so much as it is thinking about the future and what content we could see. ‘Smashtopia’ speaks to that to a huge degree.
“How would Lyndis work? What would a Bowser’s Castle stage look like? Would Splatoon’s Rainmaker make for a good item? These are the questions I like to ask myself and then come up with an answer for. That said, both our ‘On Topic’ and ‘Smash or Dash’ pillars hold excitement for me as well. With one, we’ll be discussing various topics on both the past and future of Smash beyond just the scope of how a character could work, while with the other we’ll be discussing the potential merits for different characters and choosing who we would want to add to the game and who we would leave behind.”
While a facet of many Smash Bros.-oriented and gaming-oriented podcasts today is to produce them with an audiovisual option on a platform such as YouTube, Super Cast Bros. will begin in audio format only merely for ease of use. Potter recognizes this and denotes his hopes for the future of Super Cast Bros. as such.
“Oh man, what I’d eventually love to see is for Super Cast Bros. to expand beyond just being a podcast. Big dream for me is to get to a point where we are not only releasing episodes more often, but that they’d be recorded via video as well. We could even record matches of us playing Smash as the discussion goes on. We could have streams on Twitch of us playing Smash or other Nintendo games.”
“It’d be a lot, but expanding as the future proceeds is only natural and I think that even includes expanding beyond purely talking about Smash to talking about Nintendo as a whole. Smash would naturally be a large part of that package, but we’re not going to be getting Smash content or good new tidbits to chew on every year.”
Regarding Smash Fiction, while neither of us have an opinion on most of the fanfiction pervading the net today, we both have a passion for Smash Bros. that propels us towards developing this project anyway. My writing was first published in 2006 with my debut children’s sci-fi novel, Rocket 2032, and I’ve been cultivating a knack for creative writing since, whether it be through journalism or continued attempts at seeing a fiction production through. Potter, meanwhile, holds a bounty of knowledge in the creative world by more unconventional means, working as arguably one of the most ardent Smash Bros. speculators that the community has seen – the Smashtopia Wiki has over 400 entries!
Dishing his opinion on the development of Smash Fiction, Potter admits, “I haven’t looked too hard at various Smash Bros. fanfics that are currently out there. A large reason for that is because I don’t want to get to a point where it’s like, “Hey this story did this cool thing; we should do that too.” I want this to be ours.”
“It’s certainly possible we’ll hit some of the same beats as other writers, but I don’t want to knowingly take beats from one story and just insert them into ours. Something I think that will really help our story is that while we are setting it around the idea of in-universe Smash tournaments starting with the roster of Smash 64, we know that you can’t just have a story about characters fighting.”
“It’s gotta focus on the characters! How would Mario, Samus, and Kirby really interact having to live in close proximity and fight each other? What kinds of personalities will they display and how will those interact? There’s even some characters we’d get to play around with a bit to create a personality and history for.”
“Take Melee’s Ice Climbers for example. Literally all we know about them is that they’re a duo of ice climbers who once climbed a mountain to get their vegetables back from a condor, but who are they as characters? What’s the relation between them? All these details we have to think about and put together in a way that makes sense both for our story and for what’s already established for them. As much as the battles have my interest, the little character moments and interactions are the real selling point.”
Regarding the future at large, too, Potter is optimistic. Before closing out our chat, he decides to get personal. Opening up, he declares, “In January of 2018, I took a risk. I left the job I had been working at for over three years and enrolled in a three-month technical school, which led to a jump in careers. It’s been an adjustment to be sure, but I’m now working as a QA Tester for a programming company—and you know what? I’m loving it!”
“2018 was by far one of the best years I’ve ever had and, finally, I see a direction for my future. I’m excited to see where both it and our projects with Super Cast Bros., Smash Fiction, and more go!”
Super Cast Bros. debuts in September of 2019, and Smash Fiction currently has a starting publication date of Q1 2020. Keep an eye out for both on jfrahm.com! Also follow Lister Potter III as Zantok on Twitch and Select Start Gaming.