Saturday, March 28, 2009

Burr Elementary

On 3/23/09, I had the pleasure of speaking at Burr Elementary in Fairfield, Connecticut.

was article about it. Some details were a wee bit off (i.e. I write articles, not draw cartoons, for Nickelodeon; an editor, not a publisher, helps me improve my work; I began drawing earlier than age 8, like most kids; etc.), but certainly nothing that will cause anyone any heartache.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Recent school visits

This charming display was in the library at Ox Ridge Elementary in Darien, Connecticut:

Springdale Elementary in Stamford, Connecticut, kindly rescheduled a snow day for later the same week, generously ordered lots of books for the students, and offered me a choice of ten colors of Sharpie to sign them (for the first time in memory, I went with blue instead of black):

You won't get these hard-hitting stories anywhere else online.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Six Flags, more than six books

Last year, I pitched Six Flags several in-park promotions involving Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. I also asked if they'd carry the book in their stores. (Some Six Flags locations feature Superman-themed rides.)

They kindly considered my promotional ideas but ultimately said no. They were also willing to consider the book, but I believe it was coming out too late in the summer (late July) for them.

This year, however, they are taking a chance on the book. I don't think I can reveal how many they committed to, but I can say it is more than six.

I realize people don't have a book-buying mindset when they go to an amusement park, but the Superman synergy was too tempting to dismiss.

And hey, even weaker connections exist. Whole Foods was selling DVDs of Shrek 2.

2011 update: It took a while but I now have proof that the yes was real.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New York Public Library's "100 Books for Reading and Sharing" 2008

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman made the New York Public Library's 2008 list of "100 Books for Reading and Sharing" (non-fiction category). Congrats to the other authors, distinguished company indeed.

My editor told me this in October but I've been waiting until the list went online to mention it here. That didn't happen until sometime in the last couple of weeks.

Here are lists from past years.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Forbes feels it too

This blog presents me only as a writer, but I am also a (lapsed) cartoonist.

Ten years ago, after submitting hundreds of cartoons to multiple magazines for four months, I licensed my first, to a magazine you've never heard of.
I continued to draw and license cartoons intensely for three more years, but then my focus shifted almost fully to writing. I still license cartoons from my "inventory" (via my neglected other site, MTN Cartoons, which hasn't seen an update in four years, I think). However, currently I am not submitting cartoons anywhere on a regular basis nor am I creating new cartoons on spec. (I continue to jot down caption ideas and I am writing a second book of cartoons for Scholastic, only this time, someone else is illustrating.)

Last week, out of the bluetooth, I heard from one of my old cartooning clients: Forbes. They wanted to run a cartoon of mine that they'd been holding...since 2003. (And that was two years after I'd last licensed to them.) To my surprise, but then again not really, their pay rate has dropped dramatically since then, though when the economy permits, they want to bring it back up to what it was.

So here is the first cartoon of mine that Forbes has run since 2001.

Friday, March 13, 2009

How you found me: part 2

Lots of click-throughs to this blog result from straightforward searches including "Boys of Steel" and "Bill Finger."

Here is part 2 in an irregular series (part 1 was nearly six months ago) sharing some of the irregular search phrases—all verbatim, most strange—that have led people here:

  • books about pilot volunteers
  • words to say about a 95th birthday
  • what do jon bon jovi shaquille o'neal and joey fatone have in common
  • will a nobleman's wife name be in history?
  • what ages do the children need to know to become a noble man?
  • marc tyler nobbleman
  • marc tyler noblemen
  • boys of steel film
  • first superhero from New Jersey
  • what is a 9 letter word for peppy
  • verbs of steel for teachers
  • coroner vocab words
  • carbon monoxide deaths 2/27/09 - 3/2/09 near nyc

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cleveland Magazine

The January 2009 issue of Cleveland Magazine ran a scrapbook-y piece on Siegel and Shuster, focusing on the research of my friend Brad Ricca, who made the documentary Last Son.

The writer of the article, who came to hear me speak at the Cleveland Public Library in November, gave a shout-out to
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman (scroll down and click "The Death of Michael Siegel").

Monday, March 9, 2009

Super MA

The just-released Winter 2009 issue of the magazine of my alma mater, Brandeis University in Massachusetts, includes a short, sentimental article about Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. It's on page 17 of 26 of this PDF (page 62 of the actual magazine).

The book is also included in the faculty/alumni authors section, page 2 of 7 (page 28 of the magazine).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Second day of filming

On December 17, 2008, we shot the second interview.

This one was with the articulate Charles Sinclair, who was Bill Finger's longtime friend and writing partner. They met in the early 1950s and remained in touch till Bill's end (1974).

Charles sets the bar high for class. He has devoted a more-than-generous amount of time to tell me about his old friend, first in several long phone interviews when I "discovered" him in 2006 and now again on film—often graciously re-answering questions from the first round.

Memory is unreliable. I have seen proof of this repeatedly in researching Finger, among other subjects. Yet Charles's answers in late 2008 match up very well to what he said in the summer of 2006
—both of which are recollections going back between 35 and 60 years. You try that at age 84.

Charles Sinclair, early 1970s; photo courtesy of Charles Sinclair

Charles also has the patience of a house-of-cards builder. The four-man film crew and I showed up at noon and were supposed to be out by three. It was past five when I left, and the crew was just starting to break down. We'd rearranged his living room and taken up his whole afternoon. Charles didn't grumble once. He didn't even mind taking a call from his urologist while we were all in the room. (Test result: he's fine.)

Charles explaining art in his apartment to me; photos courtesy of Time Inc. Studios

I am tempted to share much more about Charles but I have to save most of it for the project(s) at hand.

In the meantime, I will share a film-making tip I learned.

When you're shooting near a fridge, you have to turn it off so the camera doesn't pick up the hum. The tip is how to remember to turn it back on before you go, so you don't ruin the interviewee's afternoon and food supply.

The solution: put your car keys in the fridge.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Clark and Dorothy

In all my posts on my January trip to Kansas for my "Superman's First Home on Earth" author tour, I forgot to mention an unconventional idea I had when planning it.

In June 2008, I e-mailed author Kathleen Krull to ask if she wanted to team up with me. I didn't know Kathleen personally but I'd followed her work for a while. (In fact, thanks to her picture book biography of Dr. Seuss, I discovered Janet Schulman, who became my editor for Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.)

Boys of Steel was due out the following month and Road to Oz, Kathleen's picture book biography of L. Frank Baum, the creator of The Wizard of Oz, was due in September—from Knopf, the same Random House imprint as my book.

Both Clark Kent and Dorothy Gale grew up in Kansas. (Maybe they even dated.) I thought it would be a worthy experiment for Kathleen and me to combine our efforts and go on the "Kansas's Greatest Characters" author tour. (A further near-coincidence: Superman debuted in 1938 and what became the classic film version of The Wizard of Oz came out in 1939.)

What I would have brought to this arrangement: I am relentless about seeking out (and later promoting) bookings. What Kathleen would have brought (among other strengths, I'm sure): as a more established writer, she would presumably be a bigger draw in securing bookings. I saw it as win-win, and I was confident such an atypical marketing effort would get press both locally and in the publishing media.

Another coincidence: the day before I contacted Kathleen, unknown to me at the time, she had (positively) reviewed Boys of Steel!

As for my Kansas proposal, Kathleen politely declined, which I understand. So I carried on alone. But got bookings. And press. And more bookings for the fall. So Kathleen, the offer to team up (for part 2) stands!
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