Who is Todd Noy?
The question haunts the hosts of the podcast Finding Drago, Alexei Toliopoulos and Cameron James, as they go in search of the author of the book, Drago: On Mountains We Stand.
Yes, someone wrote an unauthorized literary spin-off that chronicles what happened to Ivan Drago after the events of Rocky IV. Of all the films, and all the characters in the history of cinema, an author named Todd Noy chose Drago as his muse.
What the hell?
Toliopoulos and James use all the clues in Noy’s author bio, book reviews, message threads on Facebook, fan fiction academics and the knowledge of hardcore ‘Noy scholars’ – they exist – to hunt the writer down. At one point someone wears a wire into a library to get answers; the spirit of Woodward and Bernstein is alive in this podcast.
Finding Drago is a wild ride, and a satisfying one, too, because I can guarantee you now, this seven-episode podcast gets results.
The project began when Toliopoulos, a Rocky fan, discovered a reference to Drago: On Mountains We Stand while reading the Wikipedia page for Ivan Drago.
Chatting to BMD, Toliopoulos said he was drawn immediately to how the book was referenced, “I read this strange sentence: ‘The book is affectionately referred to as Noy’s final masterpiece.’ I knew I had to track the book down.
“Then I found out that Todd Noy was from Perth in Australia. This guy’s an Aussie? How have I never heard of him? I was obsessed.”
James figured Rocky fan fiction would have a reason to exist. “Rocky doesn’t seem like it should have intense fandom,” Cameron said. “Even though on paper, it’s got a lot in common with Star Wars. It’s a franchise born out of the New Hollywood 1970s. It succumbed gloriously to the excesses of capitalist 1980s. It’s auteur driven and it’s now living on in legacy-sequels through Creed.”
It’s best to go into Finding Drago as cold as possible, but one thing they uncover early is that there’s an entire mythology built around Noy online. When Toliopoulos and James start asking people in the know, such as journalists and publishing professionals, nobody has ever heard of Noy. Even in Australia where Noy is said to have established his career… nothing. Everyone they interview becomes a suspect. When I began listening to the show James reached out via social media to ask if I was Todd Noy.
As the team start to connect with people and ask the big questions, it becomes clear that Toliopoulos and James are genuine about their quest to find Noy. The duo may be skeptical at times, James is a voice of reason throughout, but there’s a thrill to what happens as they start chasing leads and getting answers. Toliopoulos is so optimistic about the case that he begins to get too close with potential Noys and friendships are put to the test.
Podcasting is rife with niche concepts that go nowhere. Even the podcast that captivated the world, Serial, ended on an obscure note. Not a second in Finding Drago is wasted and the production is sublime. Situations that rarely work well on a podcast become exhilarating like Google searches, dramatic readings of book excerpts and interrogations over Skype. You’re a companion welcomed to the investigation wholeheartedly by Toliopoulos and James, two mates sharing their hilarious obsession.
All the pressure sits on locating Noy but the podcast uncovers more. Pockets of fandom in pop culture have become toxic with Rick and Morty fans throwing tantrums over nugget sauce and Star Wars fans raging about, well, everything. At the heart of Finding Drago is a story of Rocky fans connecting over an obscure book.
“I think there’s a purity to the Rocky fandom that we’ve discovered,” says Toliopoulos. “These are really emotionally resonant films especially for men… they’re the films that taught them the kindness in toughness, the care in competitiveness. The toxic nature of other huge fandoms feels strangely absent here. Cam and I, and I guess now the work of Todd Noy have been really warmly embraced by the Rocky fanbase that has discovered the podcast.”
Fan fiction is often derided as a low art form, but an appreciation grows over the course of Finding Drago that comes from Toliopoulos and James’ own work as writers, filmmakers and comedians.
Toliopoulos adds, “I have a genuine respect and enthusiasm for the creativity of people, especially those that do it just for the sake of expressing themselves. I think the lack of ego in fan fiction is what I find fascinating and absolutely charming about it all. I think it’s a really primal form of creativity.”
Finding Drago is also a masterclass in the art of lying and the lengths people will go to protect a secret. The mythology of Noy is upheld to a phenomenal degree and it all comes down to minuscule details that eventually crack the case.
“Talking to a good liar can be the best chat of your life,” says Cameron.
A big part of Finding Drago hinges on being ‘in’ on something. Once you become aware of the tales of Noy, you’ll understand why people go to extremes to maintain the mystery surrounding the author. You can hear the delight in Toliopoulos and James’ voices throughout the podcast as they realise they’ve stumbled upon something as silly as the life, times and great works of Noy.
“I think everyone wants to be in on something,” says James. “There’s something primal about the pack feeling like you’re working together to outfox someone.”
Finding Drago makes most investigative podcasts done by actual journalists sound amateur in comparison. It’s an essential listen for any Rocky fan but there’s lots to get out of this podcast if you like a good mystery. Finding Drago begins in obscurity but becomes one of the most compelling podcasts ever made about solving a pop culture mystery.