Thursday, December 30, 2010

Super-lust

Cool & Collected is recommending certain Superman collectibles about to go to auction, and the site also has suggestions for those who want to satisfy their Super-lust on a Super-budget.

I was flattered to see that, of the untold thousands of pieces of contemporary Superman memorabilia, one of those two suggestions is Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A familiar face, two reporters ace

On 11/19/10, I spoke at three schools, all lovely. The first was Redding Elementary in Redding, Connecticut. Even before stepping foot there, it had special meaning because I have known its principal, Stephanie Pierson Ugol, since 1996.

At that time, I worked in marketing for a publishing company called Abbeville Press in New York. At the same time, after hours, I was writing what would become my first published book (also Abbeville):


Having some nervousness about whether or not I was on target with my approach, I decided I wanted to “focus group” the book with kids who spanned the range of ages the book would be intended for. My colleague told me that her sister was a teacher at a Connecticut school (not RES). Her sister was Stephanie, and Stephanie generously got me cleared to visit various classes in her school, including hers.

My first field research! I wish I had documented it better—not even a single photo taken. But it remains a meaningful if hazy moment at the start of my path to doing what I love.


When I told the Redding students that it was because of this connection that I was now speaking at
their school, they turned to Stephanie and erupted in jubilant applause. It was one of the most thrilling moments I’ve yet experienced in doing author visits, and it wasn’t about me at all.

The middle school that day was John Read Middle School, also in Redding. Two dutiful reporters for the student newspaper sat up front. The school kindly sent me a copy of their article about my talk. It was intriguing to see what from my hourlong presentation they chose to address, and how.

Friday, December 24, 2010

DC Comics holiday cards 1989-2014

I have not received any of these myself—mostly gathered them online and a few from The DC Vault (2008). 

Please let me know if you can supply any I don’t have. Please also check back every January as I will be updating this gallery with each new card.

1986 (but dont know if it was corporate or consumer)

1989
 
1990

1990 interior

1991

1992

1993
 1994

1995

1996
 1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005
 
2006
 2007

2008

2009

2010

2010

2011

2012 (animated; full version here)

2013

 2014

And related:

2000 holiday plate

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

“Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics” documentary

Released in November, this authorized documentary does mention Bill Finger, but briefly and without much detail. No surprises in that treatment.

What was unexpected was learning that a photo that I helped get for the filmmakers made it into the film. It’s the first picture here and it shows up at roughly the 29:20 mark.

Monday, December 20, 2010

One we'll hear from in a decade






On 11/18/10, I ventured almost halfway across the wilds of Long Island for what turned out to be a most rewarding school visit. They’ve got solid security at Lindenhurst Middle School in Lindenhurst; I arrived early so I sat in the car in the parking lot doing a bit of work, and a guard came up to me to ask if I had business at the school. I wish all schools had protectors this attentive!


Before the presentations, I was treated to a bounty of art based on my books that the students had created. Some pictures were hung around what was labeled as “The World’s First Six Foot Celestial Sphere”:



(I would’ve assumed that distinction would belong to a lab somewhere, but I was never a strong science thinker.)

One drawing took inspiration from the cover of Vanished: True Stories of the Missing
:



I especially enjoyed the following pair, the first because it combines the subjects (Superman and ghosts) of two of my books and the second because it pits me against Superman villain Brainiac, which is sorry news for me:


They sold books, too, some of which I, post-signing, managed to stack without toppling:

Yet the most memorable aspect of the visit was a particular sixth grader and possible (likely) future author. In my years of visiting schools and blogging about it, I’ve never singled out a student. This one, however, made quite an impression on me. I’ll call him AM.

AM’s teacher allowed AM to miss some of his lunch so she could bring him to see me specially, in between sessions. AM was articulate and confident. He asked intelligent questions and knew a significant amount about comics history—in some cases, more than me. (Though, in my defense, while I know a thing or two about Siegel and Shuster and Finger, I never claimed to know extensively about comics history in general.)

I referred him (as I do all aspiring young writers) to stonesoup.com. I told him I will be eager to see where he ends up. And so I have already made a note in my calendar to Google his (luckily unusual) name—ten years from now. (Maybe he'll work with this one.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bill Finger trading card

In 1992, Eclipse Enterprises produced a trading card series called "Famous Comic Book Creators." Bill Finger was included—his first (and still-only) appearance in merchandising! He's at card #95, when he should be #3—but they do appear to be in random order, and he is there:


Pretty good info. Few corrections:

Bill:
  • was born in Denver
  • died 1/18/74
  • didn't draw but did (by Kane's own admission) design the now-iconic costume of Batman
Thanks to Randy Scott at Michigan State University Library for the scans.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bill Finger in “75 Years of DC Comics”

In November, the coffee table book 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz came out.

It’s far too big for your backpack—and, possibly, your coffee table—yet unfortunately not big enough to properly acknowledge Bill Finger’s substantial role in creating Batman.

Of course, DC doesn’t officially credit Finger.

Yet even previous DC-sanctioned books including
Batman: The Complete History (1999) have told the story more fairly.

And granted, in a book of this scope, space for elaboration is at a premium.

Yet “co-creator” (even if that exact term is not used) is hardly a negligible detail.

This language diminishes (practically extinguishes) Finger’s involvement:

Further, in stating that editor Vin Sullivan suggested that cartoonist Bob Kane bring in Finger as writer, the book also contradicts every other source on this that I've seen, including Sullivan himself in Alter Ego #27 (8/03):
[Who wrote the comics I edited] would have been outside my range of interests. If they [MTN: seemingly meaning Bill Finger and anyone else] were writing for Bob Kane or working with him, I had nothing to do with it. As long as he brought in the completed feature.
And
…a lot of the fellas had their own writers, you might say, or writers would get with the artists. I would have nothing to do with them. I would take the finished product. If the finished product was assembled by two or three people, it didn’t matter to me as long as it was a good-looking page.
Jerry Robinson is another who has corroborated this, multiple times; one instance is in his interview in The Comics Journal #271 (10/05): “Nobody knew anything about Bill or myself until later on [MTN: specifically, at least several months after the debut of Batman].”

Therefore, it seems the book is trying to imply that Finger was
—from the get-goa DC work-for-hire with respect to Batman. If true, that would be significant because the estates of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster successfully argued in court that their original Superman strip was not work-for-hire, entitling them to a portion of profits generated by that material.

But, worth repeating, this claim that Sullivan suggested Finger is not true.

Though it doesn't make up for these oversights, the book does contains a Finger photo I’d not seen before, and a stellar one at that—a dinner gathering (circa 1945) of comics luminaries:




Close-up:

Finger is toward the bottom on the left, sporting a bow tie.

Published Finger photos are few and far between—by my obsessive tally, this is only the fifth. (I'm not counting the first of eleven Finger photos I uncovered, which I loaned to Alter Ego for issue #84 [3/09]; in 2012, I will reveal the rest of these “new” Finger photos, divided between my book and this blog.)

4/7/11 update: I recently learned that this photo was previously published in, appropriately enough, the 2008 book The DC Vault.
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