Our office manager Brian, his daughter, and his two grandchildren were in the audience for part of your presentation. Brian told me that on the drive home, [his] five-year-old [grandson] James asked his mom for some candy, and she told him no. Every few minutes, James asked again, and again, and again. Finally his mother asked him why he kept asking her when she told him he couldn't have any candy. His response was, "Because the man said if you keep asking, you will get it."
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
"Father of Fandom" Jerry Bails on Bill: “Bill was an avid reader and fan of good fiction, popular fiction, and action movies. He surrounded himself with artifacts and books he loved. He was not a braggart, but was clearly pleased to talk about his creations. He appeared to be more like most comics fans in terms of personality. He lived more in his imagination than in the world of hard knocks. He was not a joke-maker, but he enjoyed telling stories about how he worked. He was very dedicated to his craft. He was not shy, but he would defer to others in conversations. I’d call him considerate and the opposite of overbearing. I had no trouble believing everything he told me.”
Bill’s second wife on Bill: “Very, very warm, very sincere, very hard-working, even though he had problems meeting deadlines. He had a good sense of humor. He was very interested in the theater, and ballet, and classical music. He wouldn’t write any violent comic books. He gave an awful lot of thought to writing.”
Longtime writing partner Charles Sinclair on Bill: “He was the opposite of a sourpuss. Without being wildly jovial, he was a funny guy. Great sense of humor. Liked to joke. He was extremely well read. He deserved a lot better than he got. I enjoyed knowing him, and I miss him.”
Me on Bill: “I miss him, too, even though I never met him.”
Most of these recollections are culled from personal interviews I conducted. The last two lines of Charles's comments are paraphrased from Alter Ego #84, 3/09.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I was living in New York City at the time. The signing was about two hours away at Millrace Books in Farmington, Connecticut.
My publicist had arranged for me to take a bus.
I nimbly managed to miss that bus.
After scrambling and realizing that I would not be able to catch another bus (or train) and arrive in time, I was forced to rent a car and drive myself.
It was nerve-racking enough going alone to my own first book signing, but then having to drive a car out of the city (which I’d never done)—pre-GPS—compounded my anxiety.
Yet I made it on time and in good shape. Plus people actually showed up. I only wish I took more than the photo above.
The drive home was a victory lap I never could've taken if I was on the bus.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The kids vote and the winners are announced every April during National Library Week.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Though kryptonite, Superman’s weakness, was first used on the Superman radio program, Bill was the first to include it in a comic book story; in the same story, Superman reaches perhaps an even more significant milestone: he first learns of his alien heritage. Bill also wrote the story introducing Superman’s first love, Lana Lang.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
From 2001 to 2010, I had the honor of volunteering for an enriching New York City program called Authors Read Aloud (part of an organization called Learning Leaders). I was one of a group of authors who visited with students in underfunded New York City schools (mine were always in the Bronx).
Each author would meet with two classes per visit, four times a year; this setup allowed the authors and students to develop more of a personal ongoing relationship. This struck me as the genius of the program. It enabled more growth than a one-off presentation and gave everyone (including the authors) something to look forward to.
During the summer of 2010, I moved from Connecticut to Maryland. Authors Read Aloud doesn't (yet) exist in the Washington DC area. Sad as I was to say goodbye to that program, in my new environment I stumbled upon another program that may help fill that emotional gap.
On 11/4/10, I volunteered for the first time for a Washington DC program called Turning the Page.
It, too, sends volunteer authors to schools in humbler neighborhoods, but beyond that, the structures diverge.
A Turning the Page author goes to schools after hours, as part of what they call community nights. After we eat dinner together, the author gives a short presentation for the kids—and their parents. Then the kids leave for mentoring while the author conducts a (fairly lengthy, as these things go) Q&A session with just the parents. The families get not only a free meal but also a free, signed book.
And therein lies the genius of this program.
Moms, dads, grandparents, and/or guardians who are actively interested in writing and reading send a powerful message to their kids. Motivated parents = motivated students.
Further, TTP buys a supply of the author's books in advance, and each child whose parent attends the event gets a signed copy at no charge. Before that, however, the books serve vital purpose:
On a side note, my book about Superman has given schools an easy way to promote positive attitude, though each school I've seen pounce on this has gone about it differently. To wit:
As of now, the only TTP-related stumper I'm grappling with is this: Parents who would take the time to attend a TTP event are probably already vested in their children's education. They may still benefit from what an author has to say, but they won't need convincing of the value of their presence there.
So besides food and fun and books, what else can we do to attract the parents who don't go?
Monday, November 8, 2010
Because of Batman’s physical prowess, Bill sometimes jokingly called him "Acro-Batman." In at least one instance (see Batman: The Sunday Classics 1943-46, page 193), Batman referred to himself that way as well.
Surprisingly, "the Dark Knight" was the nickname that really caught on.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
To put it simply: thank you, Donna!
Friday, November 5, 2010
In doing so, these signs emphasize the value of higher education to kids who are still in primary education.
Every so often during the Q&A at the end of my author visits, a student asks if (and/or where) I went to college. What this shows is that a teacher (or a parent) has already planted the seed of the importance of college in a young mind. These Fiest signs reinforce that every day.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Others might argue that there is another villain in the saga of Bill Finger: Bill Finger. The Billain.
The man with so strong an imagination and so weak an ability to lay claim to it.
In this sense, he was his own archenemy.
To be clear, Finger did publicly reveal his role in the creation of Batman, and I believe it took courage for him to do so. Sure enough, when he did, Kane wrote an open letter excoriating Finger for his long-overdue honesty. This was in 1965, at which point Finger had been hiding in the Batcave, so to speak, for more than twenty-five years. (Clarification: Finger’s personal network and other comics creators had known of his Batman work, but fans didn’t.) From then on, Finger did publicly take credit for his ideas (while also crediting Kane and others for their contributions).
But what Finger did not do is take a stand against Kane. He took credit but did not demand credit.
Or, to be more accurate, if he ever did do this, there’s no known record of it. (I do have one personal letter that Finger wrote—to be fully shared here as we near publication—in which he claims he spoke firmly to Kane to correct errors of memory, but that doesn't mean he actually did it; even if he did, it didn't improve his overall station.)
But it was neither the Billain nor the Bobstacle who first publicly linked Finger to Batman. That distinction goes to editor Julie Schwartz. In the letter column of Detective Comics #327 (5/64), Schwartz wrote that Finger had “written most of the classic Batman adventures for the past two decades."
(Though Finger was profiled in Green Lantern #1 in 1941, and Batman is mentioned, the piece does not link the two.)
Then in Batman #169 (2/65), Schwartz gave Finger creator credit…for the Riddler. A popular and enduring character, yes, but no Batman. While both Schwartz shout-outs were validating, neither went so far as to call Finger the co-creator of the Dark Knight himself.
In a 1972 interview, Finger said, “Bob Kane was using me as a kind of tool all this time, to bolster his own paycheck." I believe it is Finger’s most forceful indictment of Kane on record. (And it’s not very forceful.)
After Finger’s untimely death in 1974, Carmine Infantino, the then-President of what would soon be renamed DC Comics, wrote in a printed tribute: “Few men have contributed as much to comics as Bill Finger.”
To which I add no men have contributed as much to Batman as Bill Finger.
It’s just such a shame that Bill could never vanquish the Billain.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Maybe a biography of Bill Finger, the writer. Somebody might be working on one. I hope they do.I've interviewed Jerry myself for that very project, multiple times, starting in 2006. As most anyone in comics knows, he's an unwavering gentleman; for example, in the Comics Journal interview, I think he was simultaneously giving a little plug for and being protective of my book. (I don't think he knows that it has already been announced; it's due out in 2012.)
I don't mean to make more of that minor mention than it merits. But with all that Jerry has to keep track of in his 88-year-old mind, he still was able to allude to my book without giving more away. I am impressed, but given his classiness, not surprised.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Houston 2010, week 1 of 2.
Week 2 of 2:
What to do if the wireless microphone is not picking up your voice and is too wee to comfortably hold closer to your mouth for an hour:
Here are books sold at two out of the seven schools this week; note that in the photo immediately below, the book on top of Boys of Steel: The Creators in the foreground is not one of mine:
Favorite instruction from student regarding book signing: "In cursive please."
I learned that Boys of Steel not only was the catalyst for bringing me to this school district but also was of particular inspiration at Danish Elementary, one of its schools. When the Danish administrators and teachers met last school year to discuss the 2010-11 school year, and the fact that I was coming for an author visit came up, they decided the yearlong reading would be superheroes. The principal even ordered the staff corresponding T-shirts. Here is one worn by my most kind host, Lou Canatella:
Thank you, Lou and Cy-Fair, for a fantastic two weeks.